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Repression in Romania


Vlad Georgescu, a Romanian historian, had more opportunities than most of his countrymen. As a professor in Romania, he was able to travel to the West and meet regularly with intellectuals and scholars at American universities such as Columbia and Berkeley. This contact with Western thinkers gave him unique support when he was expelled from his country this spring. The Romanian government did not like his attempt to create a movement for democracy and a Free Romanian University, which were considered signs of discontent and upheaval among intellectuals. Georgescu was arrested and exiled. While at Harvard this summer, Georgescu commented on his experiences. The only way for an intellectual in socialist Romania "to survive is to come to the West," he says. His remarks on the distortion of thinking which results from the strict obligation to adhere to the party line reveals the bleak condition of intellectual life in a Marxist country. The historical perspective and the vision of the world which intellectuals of Eastern European communist countries are expected to uphold is "less that of the strict Marxist theory than of a more immediate justification of the actions of the men in power." This degradation of history into a pragmatic tool of general policy transforms historians into servants of the regime, "the historical front of the ruling class," he explains. This of course erases the autonomous scientific nature of history and makes it into plain and narrow ideology.

But if Georgescu managed to escape this fate through his Western contacts, he is "very pessimistic for the future of professors and students who remain in socialist Romania." Until 1974 many intellectuals sincerely believed that something good could be expected from the regime. Most were willing to "give it a chance." Nowadays the picture has changed. The personal nature of the regime, the "crazy cult of personality," which has developed in Romania, has totally disenfranchised the intellectuals. Few choices remain: to stay, to speak up and risk dearly, or to leave. There is indeed no easy way.

The United States policy on human rights is certainly the best support for people who dare to question the goals of their society and who denounce the abuses and injustices committed by their governments. In Romania, according to Georgescu, every aspect of expression including the press, book publishing, and intellectual life is under the control of the party.

The existence of an alternative embodied in America is crucial. But unfortunately, due to the restrictive conditions in Romania, very few people have access to material, information and ideas coming from the West. "Students are cut off from European culture and civilization which has been the traditional form of evolution in Romania," he says, adding that "stagnation and indoctrination are taking hold." Yet today the average Romanian scholar is unable to travel or study abroad.

Before the establishment of communist rule, Romania enjoyed an extremely vigorous cultural life. In the pre-communist years it produced such luminaries as: Brancusi in sculpture, Iorga in history, Lipati and Enesco in music, and better-known playwright Ionesco. Today there is a general stifling of creativity and the life of the mind.

Georgescu's message to Romanian intellectuals is "to speak out: intellectuals have the duty to speak up when they are there." There is a faint hope given by a few courageous dissidents, but in general the prospects for changes are just plain bad. "The only way is to leave," he concludes.

Victor Goetan is a teaching assistant in the Department of Romance Languages, who interviewed Dr. Georgescu on a lecture tour this summer.



* mineurs grevistes d'aout 1977.

* membres du Syndicat Libre des travailleurs de Roumanie.

* victimes des persecutions politiques et religieuses.

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