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Journal of Cold War Studies 5.3 (2003) 152-154

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Dennis Deletant, Communist Terror in Romania: Gheorghiu-Dej and the Police State, 1948-1965. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. xii + 351 pp. $55.00.

This book must be read by anyone interested in Romanian Communism or relations between the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during the middle third of the twentieth century, the period preceding the years covered by Dennis Deletant's earlier, widely praised study, Ceauqescu and the Securitate, 1965-1989 (London: Hurst, 1995). In this latest book Deletant makes extensive use of memoirs and secondary sources published after 1989, declassified Romanian security service documents and Foreign Ministry records, and interviews he conducted in the 1990s.

In the first chapter Deletant fills some gaps in our knowledge of the Romanian Communist Party (RCP) before 1930, most notably by providing details on party leaders such as Boris Qtefanov and Marcel Pauker. The second chapter brings the story up to 1944, focusing on leadership struggles within the RCP and Josif Stalin's interference through the Comintern. Deletant includes much new information on individual RCP leaders in both the "Soviet" and the "home" factions of the party, analyzing the split in the latter group between those in prison (including Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Nicolae Ceauqescu) and those who managed to avoid arrest (such as Qtefan Foriq and Lucrefliu Päträqcanu). He describes in detail how Gheorghiu-Dej managed to remove Foriq as party leader and have him murdered, actions that began "a decade- long, mafia-like struggle for power within the party" (p.33).

The third chapter focuses on the coup of 23 August 1944, demonstrating the crucial role of King Michael in dismissing Marshal Ion Antonescu and changing sides [End Page 152] in the war. Deletant clarifies the role of Emil Bodnäraq and the RCP and shows how the Communists' "superior organization" and the "lapses" of the other major parties (p.52) gave custody of Antonescu to the Communists and enhanced their status within Romania. The next chapter reveals how the presence of Soviet troops and the weak responses of Britain and the United States allowed the RCP to gain power in Romania. Deletant emphasizes divisions among the Communists, again debunking stereotypes about the "Soviet" and "home" factions of the party. For example, in March 1945 Ana Pauker and Vasile Luca (both "Soviets") were willing to cooperate with non-Communist parties in forming a government, but the "home" Communist Gheorghiu-Dej, backed by Soviet deputy foreign minister Andrei Vyshinskii, refused.

As the first half of chapter five shows, the resulting government under Petru Groza initiated a long series of arrests and acts of intimidation that would transform Romania into a Stalinist system. The second half of the chapter focuses on the persecution of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the forced merger of the Uniate and Orthodox Churches, and the controversial cooperation of Patriarch Justinian with the regime. The sixth chapter discusses the organization, methods, and leadership of the Securitate in considerable detail, describing individual security officials as well as political controversies among party leaders. For example, Ana Pauker espoused a gradualist approach to collectivization, but the extremely rapid policy that was actually adopted—against her wishes—was later blamed on her. Deletant continues to focus on politics in chapters seven and eight, showing in considerable detail how Gheorghiu-Dej proved his allegiance to Stalin and used his own loyal supporters in the "prison" faction of the RCP to discredit Päträqcanu and gain control of the Romanian political system.

Deletant's chilling depictions of the Romanian gulag—the physical and mental torture of prisoners and reeducation techniques as horrifying as any in prison literature—form the basis of chapter nine. He describes the Danube-Black Sea Canal project in detail and discusses the treatment of various religious sects in Communist Romania, complementing the discussion in chapter five of the Orthodox, Uniate, and Catholic churches. In chapter ten Deletant focuses on the armed resistance of partisans in the Carpathian...