Primary Source

Letter of the Six, March 1989


In March of 1989, six prominent members of the Romanian Communist Party sent Nicolae Ceauşescu an open letter which was also leaked to the international press. In it they explicitly disagreed with his policies and suggested a number of reforms. In the context of numbing propaganda and relatively little overt resistance to his regime the letter seemed a bold move, in line with other reformers voicing criticism around the Soviet bloc. The six long-time Communist Party leaders articulated what most Romanians had been thinking for a long time. They could speak out against the regime’s policies in part because they had traveled and had connections abroad, and because their privileged status as old communist leaders afforded them some protection against the wrath of the dictatorship. Average citizens would have been jailed if not executed for much milder diverging political views. The six signatories of the letter did suffer some reprisals, such as house arrest, but they were treated relatively gently, since they were widely respected in the Romanian Communist Party and had important international connections.

This source is a part of the The Romanian Revolution of 1989 teaching module.

Gheorghe Apostol, Alexandru Birladeanu, Silviu Brucan, Corneliu Manescu, William Pfaff, and Constantin Pirvulescu, "Letter of the Six," 1989


To President Ceausescu:
At a time when the very idea of socialism, for which we have fought, is discredited by your policy, and when our country is being isolated in Europe, we have decided to speak up. We are perfectly aware that by doing so we are risking our liberty and even our lives; but we feel duty-bound to appeal to you to reverse the present course before it is too late.

1) The international community is reproaching you for nonobservance of the Helsinki final act, which you have signed yourself. Romanian citizens are reproaching you for nonobservance of the constitution, which you have sworn to observe. Here are the facts:
A) The whole plan for systematization of villages [i.e., their "modernization" by destroying existing buildings] and the forced removal of peasants to three-story apartment blocks runs against Article 36 of the constitution, which protects the right to personal property of a household, with its annexes and the land on which it is situated.
B) The decree forbidding Romanian citizens to have contact with foreigners has never been voted on by the legislative body and never been published; thus it lacks legal power. And yet our citizens are threatened with being fired, harassed, arrested, and sentenced for doing so.
C) The Civic Center [in Bucharest], the biggest multibillion lei investment made in Romania, has no public budget and is being built in violation of all existing laws regulating constructions and their financing. The cost of the immense building has tripled because of changes you order every month in the interior and exterior of the building.
D) Securitatea [i.e., the State Security Service], which we created to defend the socialist order against the exploiting classes, is now directed against workers demanding their rights, against old members of the Party, and against honest intellectuals exercising their rights to petition (Article 34) and freedom of speech (Article 28) guaranteed by the constitution.
E) Factories and institutions have been ordered to force their employees to work on Sunday against Article 19 of the constitution and the labor code.
F) Mail is systematically violated and our telephone conversations are cut off in violation of Article 34, guaranteeing their privacy. To sum up, the constitution has been virtually suspended and there is no legal system in force. You must admit, Mr. President, that a society cannot function if the authorities, starting from the top, show disrespect for the law.
2) Planning no longer works in the Romanian economy. The meetings of the Executive Political Committee are all oriented toward the past, [and taken up with] exhorting the workers to make up for the unfulfilled plan of the previous year, previous semester, or previous month. An increasing number of factories lack raw materials, energy, or markets.
3) Agricultural policy is also in disarray. Harsh administrative measures are directed against the peasants, who, according to your own data, provide 40 percent of the country's vegetables, 56 percent of the fruit, 60 percent of the milk, and 44 percent of the meat, though they have only 12 percent of the arable land. But, of course, what is now predominant in the villages is the fear of being "systematized," with seven or eight thousand villages threatened with being razed. Above all the economic, cultural, and humanitarian objections of the civilized world to that program, a legitimate question arises: Why urbanize villages when you cannot ensure decent conditions of urban life in the cities, namely adequate heating, lighting, transportation, not to mention food? A government that for five winters in a row has been unable to solve such vital problems for its population proves itself incompetent and incapable of governing. Therefore, we are not pressing on you any demand in this respect.
4) The very fact that Germans, Hungarians, and Jews are emigrating en masse shows that the policy of forced assimilation should be renounced.

5) Finally, we are deeply worried that Romania's international position and prestige are rapidly deteriorating. As you know, this is concretely shown by the decision of quite a few countries to close their embassies in Bucharest. Most alarming, embassies of such European nations as Denmark and Portugal have already been closed and others may follow. Our growing isolation affects not only diplomatic relations. We have lost the most-favored-nation status for trade with the United States and as a result some of our textile factories have no orders. The EEC is unwilling to extend its trade agreement with Romania, which will negatively affect other sectors of our economy. You have always maintained that summit meetings are decisive in improving relations between states. But how are you going to improve Romania's external relations when all the leaders of the non-Communist nations of Europe refuse to meet with you? Romania is and remains a European country and as such must advance along with the Helsinki process and not turn against it. You started changing the geography of the countryside, but you cannot remove Romania to Africa.
To stop the negative processes, both domestic and international, besetting our nation we appeal to you, as a first step, to take the following measures:
1. To state categorically in unequivocal terms that you have renounced the plan of systematization of villages.
2. To restore the constitutional guarantees regarding the rights of citizens. This will enable you to observe the decisions of the Vienna Conference on Human Rights.
3. To put an end to the food exports that are threatening the biological existence of our nation.
Once such measures are taken, we are prepared to participate in a constructive spirit in a dialogue with the government on the ways and means of overcoming the present impasse.
Gheorghe Apostol, former member of the Politburo and chairman of trade
unions; Alexandru Birladeanu, former member of the Politburo and chairman of the planning committee; Corneliu Manescu, former minister of foreign affairs and president of the UN General Assembly; Constantin Pirvulescu, founding member of the Communist party; Grigore Raceanu, veteran of the Communist party; Silviu Brucan, former acting editor of Scinteia


Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation, Westview Press 1993 p. 153

How to Cite This Source
Letter of the Six, March 1989 in World History Commons,