Primary Source

Breakdowns in Soviet-Romanian Relations

Annotation

In its final years, Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorial regime in Romania increasingly isolated itself from the rest of the Eastern Bloc. Likewise, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev distanced himself from the ultra-hardliners in Bucharest. In keeping with Gorbachev's policy of non-intervention into East European domestic affairs, the Soviets had not commented officially on the mid-December shootings by Romanian security forces of demonstrators supporting minister Laszlo Tokes in Timisoara. However, as seen in this December 21st informational note, the Soviets were finding it difficult to maintain their neutral stance. In the note, Romanian ambassador to Moscow Ion Bucur informs his superiors about his meeting with Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister I.P. Aboimov the previous day. The main issue was Aboimov's desire to obtain factual information about the situation in Romania. Officially, Romanian ambassadors had been instructed to deny knowledge of the unrest. However, Western media was reporting on the gruesome nature of the Timisoara crackdown and Soviet news agencies were picking up these stories. Aboimov was concerned that this bad press might motivate some Soviet deputies to push their government to articulate an official position on the Romanian government's actions, an act which Bucur informs Aboimov would damage Romanian-Soviet relations.

Text

Informational Note from the Romanian Embassy in Moscow to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Bucharest)
21 December 1989, 8:00 am

Cde. Ion Stoian, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Cde. Costantin Oancea, Deputy Foreign Minister,
DR1

During the evening of 20 December 1989, I was invited in audience at I. P. Aboimov,
Deputy Foreign Minister of USSR. He related to me the following:

1. Lately, the Soviet press published news in connection to events unfolding in Romania,
specifically with the events in Timisoara. It is true that some of the published materials are based,
generally, on foreign [i.e. not Romanian] sources. It is evident that the [Soviet] mass media need
information on the basis of which to inform the public. Aside from this, during meetings with
foreign journalists, there were many requests addressed to the Soviet [government] to state its
position in regards with the events taking place in Romania as they were presented by various
press agencies. Furthermore, during his recent visits in Brussels and London, [Foreign Minister
Edward] Shevardnadze was asked to state his opinion vis-à-vis those events. In London, after
the official talks ended, the Soviet Foreign Minister had a difficult time convincing [Prime
Minister Margaret] Thatcher that there should be no comments to the press on the events
allegedly taking place in Romania. The [Romanian] Foreign Ministry is also informed that
interest in this matter was expressed during working meetings of the Second Congress of the
People’s Deputies taking place in Moscow at this time. The [Soviet] ambassador in Bucharest
was instructed to contact the Romanian government and obtain, from authorized officials,
information to confirm or refute the version of the events distributed by foreign press agencies.
To this date, the Soviet Embassy was unable to obtain and transmit any such information.

Due to such problems, the Soviet government asks that the Romanian government send
an informational note, even one that is restricted [cu caracter închis] regarding the events that are
really taking place in Romania. [The Soviet government] is interested in receiving information
that is as comprehensive as possible. If information is not received, it would be extremely
difficult to create an effective set of directions for the Soviet mass media, with which there are,
even so, many difficulties. [The Soviet government] is worried that, based on the news reported
in the press, some of the deputies participating at the sessions, would ask that the 2nd Congress of
the People’s Deputies take a position vis-à-vis the alleged events taking place in Romania. The
MFA prepared for the deputies an information note in which it stresses that it does not have any
official information, but it is possible that this argument will not accepted long. Based on the
information available to the MFA, the Congress will adopt a resolution with regards to the US
military actions in Panama.

Of course, there is no connection between the two events. In Panama, a foreign military
intervention is taking place, while in Romania the events are domestic in nature. I. P. Aboimov
stressed his previous request that the Romanian government send, in the spirit of cooperation
between the two countries, an informational note truthfully describing the current situation in the
country.

2. The Soviet MFA received a series of complaints that the border between the Soviet
Union and Romania has been closed for Soviet citizens, especially tourists. The Soviet
government was not previously informed with regards to this development. [T]his omission
causes consternation. The Soviet government is not overly concerned with the situation, but
[notes that] it creates difficulties with tourists that have already paid for and planned their
vacations accordingly.

3. With regards to the above statements, I said that I would, of course, inform Bucharest
of this. At the same time, I expressed the displeasure [of the Romanian government] with the fact
that the Soviet radio, television and newspapers have distributed news regarding events in
Romania taken from foreign news agencies, agencies that are distributing distorted and overtly
antagonistic stories regarding the situation in Romania. I gave concrete examples of such stories
published in newspapers such as Izvestia , Pravda, Komsomolskaia Pravda, Krasnaia Zvezda,
stories distributed by western press agencies as well as the Hungarian Press Agency MTI, which
is known for its antagonistic attitude towards our country. In that context, I mentioned that the
Romanian government has not requested that the Soviet Union inform it concerning events
unfolding in Grozny or Nagornîi -Karabah, nor has it published any news stories obtained from
Western press agencies, believing that those [events] are strictly an internal matter concerning
[only] the Soviet government.

I expressed my displeasure with the fact that some Soviet correspondents in Bucharest—
including the TASS correspondent— have transmitted materials from unofficial sources, which
contain untruthful descriptions of the events and which create in [the mind of] the Soviet public
an erroneous impression of the situation existing in our country. I stressed the point that such
behavior is not conducive to strengthening the relationship between our peoples and
governments, on the contrary, causing [only] serious damage [to said relationship]. I brought to
the attention of the Deputy Foreign Minister in no uncertain terms that a resolution of the
Congress of the People’s Deputies [concerning] the alleged events taking place in Romania
would be an action without precedent in the history of relations between the two countries and
would cause serious damage to the relationship.

At I. P. Aboimov’s question, I described the events rega rding the situation of pastor
László Tökes, as described in your memorandum, stressing that this information does not have an
official character. I presented, in no uncertain terms, the decision of [the government of] Romania
to reject any attempts at interference in the internal matters of Romania. I expressed the decision
[of the Romanian leadership] to take any necessary measures against disruptive and diversionary
actions perpetrated by reactionary, anti-Romanian circles, by foreign special services and
espionage agencies (servicii speciale si oficinele de spionaj staine). With regard to the issue of
tourists crossing the border in Romania, I said that I did not posses an official communication in
this regard. I suggested that some temporary measures were adopted due to the need to limit
access of certain groups of tourists [in the country]. [Those limitats were imposed] due to
difficulties in assuring their access to hotel rooms and other related essential conditions. Those
limitations do not apply to business travel or tourists transiting Romania. I reminded [I. P.
Aboimov] that the Soviet government had introduced at different times such limitations on travel
for Romanian tourists to certain regions [of the Soviet Union] (Grozny and Armenia), which
[had] provoked dissatisfaction.

4. The conversation took place in a calm, constructive atmosphere.

(ss) [Ambassador] Ion Bucur

[Source: Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs— Arhivele Ministerului Afacerilor Externe
(AMAE), Telegrams, Folder: Moscow/1989, vol. 10, pp. 299-302. Translated for CWIHP by
Mircea Munteanu.]

Credits

Ion Bucur to Ion Stoian and Constantin Oancea, 21 December 1989, trans. Mircea Munteanu, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

How to Cite This Source

"Breakdowns in Soviet-Romanian Relations," in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/breakdowns-soviet-romanian-relations [accessed November 26, 2021]