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Secrets and Truth

Ethnography in the Archive of Romania’s Secret Police

Katherine Verdery

Publication Year: 2014

Nothing in Soviet-style communism was as shrouded in mystery as its secret police. Its paid employees were known to few and their actual numbers remain uncertain. Its informers and collaborators operated clandestinely under pseudonyms and met their officers in secret locations. Its files were inaccessible, even to most party members. The people the secret police recruited or interrogated were threatened so effectively that some never told even their spouses, and many have held their tongues to this day, long after the regimes fell. With the end of communism, many of the newly established governments—among them Romania’s—opened their secret police archives. From those files, as well as her personal memories, the author has carried out historical ethnography of the Romanian Securitate. Secrets and Truths is not only of historical interest but has implications for understanding the rapidly developing “security state” of the neoliberal present.

Published by: Central European University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xviii

The end of Soviet-style socialism brought into public awareness a set of archives whose makers had never imagined that they would be revealed: the archives of the communist-era secret police in Eastern Europe. The archives soon entered into the political process...

Note on Pronunciation

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pp. xix-xx

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Introduction: What Was the Securitate?

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pp. 1-30

Following the disestablishment of Communist Party rule in the Soviet bloc, political pressure arose in nearly every East European country to cleanse the polity of legacies of the prior regime. Former Party officials were to be banned from office, as was anyone known...

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Chapter 1: An Archive and Its Fictions

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pp. 31-76

As I noted in the Introduction, after the fall of communism many East European countries created lustration procedures to scrutinize candidates for public office. These procedures, where they were instituted, relied heavily (even if very problematically) on...

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Chapter 2: The Secrets of a Secret Police

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pp. 77-154

“Secrecy,” wrote Elias Canetti, “lies at the very core of power.”1 In this he echoed Max Weber, who connected secrecy to bureaucracy: “Every bureaucracy seeks to increase the superiority of the professionally informed by keeping their knowledge and intentions secret. … Everywhere that the power interests of the...

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Chapter 3: Knowledge Practices and the Social Relations of Surveillance

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pp. 155-212

On April 1, 1974, Securitate officer Iosif Pall in Deva, Hunedoara county, responded as follows to a communication from Bucharest that I was collecting military information:
From the data our organs hold, two hypotheses can be raised: 1) Katherine Verdery is collecting military information, for which reason she travels in...

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Conclusion: The Radiant Future?

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pp. 213-254

These chapters have concerned a form of surveillance that spread from the Soviet Union into the East European states and was undermined by the collapse of that socio-political system known as “actually existing socialism.” We might therefore say that this book is...


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pp. 255-270


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pp. 271-289

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789633860519
Print-ISBN-13: 9786155225994

Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 873807555
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Secrets and Truth

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Secret service -- Romania -- History.
  • Romania. Securitatea.
  • Political persecution -- Romania -- History.
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