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Romania - SOCIETY

Romania - Society


ROMANIAN SOCIETY at the close of the 1980s was the product of more than forty years of communist rule that had two primary objectives--the industrialization of the economy at all costs and the establishment of socialism. Both of these objectives forced far-reaching changes in popular values, changes wrought by a highly centralized government that concentrated power in the hands of a very small political elite. This ruling elite brooked no opposition to its program for economic development and the simultaneous destruction of national values and institutions in favor of those dictated by Marxist ideology. Socialism's tighter political control made for more effective mobilization of the country's resources and, at the same time, initiated massive social mobility. Education, as the chief vehicle of upward mobility, was made widely available, and rapid economic growth created a tremendous expansion of opportunities. The result was a new social order that gave preeminence to the working class and to manual labor over nonmanual.

To be sure, the monopoly of power by an elite few was in large part responsible for the swift modernization that took place in the first decades under socialism. But such political centralism was accompanied by cultural centralism that severely curtailed the liberties of individuals and social groups. This restriction became particularly evident under the cult of personality that developed around Nicolae Ceausescu, who dominated politics after the late 1960s. Later years under Ceausescu marked Romanian society with a Stalinesque oppression that meant government regulation of the most minute aspects of daily life and growing police repression. In addition, largely because economic reality had been subordinated to Ceausescu's personal political goals, the promising degree of modernization achieved in the early years of socialism gave way to an almost bizarre process of demodernization that impoverished the nation. This process was accompanied by increased terror and repression, resulting in an atomized society in which people struggled to survive by turning inward to themselves and their families.

The regime's program of enforced austerity and resulting demodernization flew in the face of the greater equality and material wealth promised by socialism. Egalitarian values had indeed gained widespread popular acceptance. But even if claims of equal distribution of material benefits were true, they fell flat in light of the fact that there was very little to distribute. Moreover, evidence of unequal distribution abounded, as the political elite took greater rewards and were least affected by the deprivation their policies caused. Corruption was rampant, and only those who "knew someone" and had the wherewithal to bribe the appropriate person could obtain even the most basic goods and services. Claims of equalization of status also were suspect. Social ranking, as developed in the minds of individual citizens as opposed to the hierarchy proclaimed and directed by the regime, decidedly preferred nonmanual labor over manual and urban over rural occupations. In the late 1980s, the massive upward mobility experienced earlier appeared unlikely to be repeated, and society showed signs of a hardening stratification. Egalitarian values inculcated under socialist rule had created aspirations that the regime failed to meet, and discontent at every level of society was evidence of the growing frustration associated with that failure.


Romania - Population


Demographic History

Romania's Carpathian-dominated relief, geographic position at the crossroads of major continental migration routes, and the turbulent history associated with that position adversely affected population development. The region had 8.9 million inhabitants in 1869, 11.1 million in 1900, 14.3 million in 1930, 15.8 million in 1948, and 23.2 million in 1989.

Annual birthrates remained as high as 40 per 1,000 well into the 1920s, whereas mortality rates, although declining, were still well above 20 per 1,000. Children under five accounted for half of all deaths. During the interwar years, death rates remained high, primarily because of infant mortality rates of 18-20 percent. In fact, throughout the 1930s, Romania had the highest birth, death, and infant mortality rates in Europe. The annual natural population increase fell from 14.8 per 1,000 in 1930 to 10.1 per 1,000 in 1939. These figures conceal considerable regional variation. Birthrates in the Old Kingdom regions of Walachia and Moldavia were much higher than in the former Hungarian territories, which had already begun to decline in the nineteenth century.

Demographic development in the immediate postwar period continued to show a drop in the annual growth rates. Population losses occurred through excessive mortality, reduced natality, and migration, not only because of World War II but also because of subsequent Soviet occupation. Extensive pillage by the Red Army and exorbitant demands for restitution by the Soviets squeezed the peasants, resulting in harvest failures in 1945 and 1946 and severe famine in 1947. In that year, 349,300 deaths were reported, compared with 248,200 the following year. A birthrate of 23.4 per 1,000 and a death rate of 22 per 1,000 resulted in a very low natural increase of 1.4 per 1,000, the lowest ever recorded in Romania's tumultuous history. In the 1950s, recovery from the war brought the birthrate up to 25.6 per 1,000 and the death rate down sharply to 9.9 per 1,000. In 1955 the annual natural rate of increase was 15.9 per 1,000. Again, there were significant regional variations, with Moldavia, Dobruja, and parts of Transylvania showing a higher increase, whereas the Crisana and Banat regions showed very little growth and in some cases even declined.

From a peak of 15.9 per 1,000 in 1955, the rate of natural increase declined rapidly to 6.1 per 1,000 in 1966. Several factors combined to produce this slump, not least of all a law introduced in 1957 that provided abortion on demand. Access to free abortion, coupled with the scarcity of contraceptives and the fact that society did not generally condemn it, made abortion the primary means of fertility control. After the 1957 law was enacted, abortions soon outnumbered live births by a wide margin, with the ratio of abortions to live births reaching four to one by 1965. It was not unusual for a woman to terminate as many as twenty or more pregnancies by abortion.

It was not the easy access to abortion, however, but the reasons behind the decision not to bear children that contributed most to falling birthrates. During this period, a virtual transformation of society was under way. Education levels rose dramatically, and urbanization and industrialization proceeded at a breakneck pace. As they had in other countries, these developments brought lower fertility rates. Women were staying in school longer and putting off having children. Urban areas, where the decline in birthrates was most pronounced, provided cramped and overcrowded housing conditions that were not conducive to the large families of the past. Moreover, communist ideology emphasized the equal participation of women in socialist production as the only road to full equality. Industrialization brought more and more women into the work force, not only for ideological reasons, but also to ease rising labor shortages. Fewer and fewer women made the decision to take on the double burden of a full work week and raising children.

<>Demographic Policy
<>Settlement Structure
<>Systematization: A Settlement Strategy

Updated population figures for Romania.


Romania - Demographic Policy


With a political system in place that made long-range planning the cornerstone of economic growth, demographic trends took on particular significance. As development proceeded, so did disturbing demographic consequences. It soon became apparent that the country was approaching zero population growth, which carried alarming implications for future labor supplies for further industrialization. The government responded in 1966 with a decree that prohibited abortion on demand and introduced other pronatalist policies to increase birthrates. The decree stipulated that abortion would be allowed only when pregnancy endangered the life of a woman or was the result of rape or incest, or if the child was likely to have a congenital disease or deformity. Also an abortion could be performed if the woman was over forty-five years of age or had given birth to at least four children who remained under her care. Any abortion performed for any other reason became a criminal offense, and the penal code was revised to provide penalties for those who sought or performed illegal abortions.

Other punitive policies were introduced. Men and women who remained childless after the age of twenty-five, whether married or single, were liable for a special tax amounting to between 10 and 20 percent of their income. The government also targeted the rising divorce rates and made divorce much more difficult. By government decree, a marriage could be dissolved only in exceptional cases. The ruling was rigidly enforced, as only 28 divorces were allowed nationwide in 1967, compared with 26,000 the preceding year.

Some pronatalist policies were introduced that held out the carrot instead of the stick. Family allowances paid by the state were raised, with each child bringing a small increase. Monetary awards were granted to mothers beginning with the birth of the third child. In addition, the income tax rate for parents of three or more children was reduced by 30 percent.

Because contraceptives were not manufactured in Romania, and all legal importation of them had stopped, the sudden unavailability of abortion made birth control extremely difficult. Sex had traditionally been a taboo subject, and sex education, even in the 1980s, was practically nonexistent. Consequently the pronatalist policies had an immediate impact, with the number of live births rising from 273,687 in 1966 to 527,764 in 1967--an increase of 92.8 percent. Legal abortions fell just as dramatically with only 52,000 performed in 1967 as compared to more than 1 million in 1965. This success was due in part to the presence of police in hospitals to ensure that no illegal abortions would be performed. But the policy's initial success was marred by rising maternal and infant mortality rates closely associated with the restrictions on abortion.

The increase in live births was short-lived. After the police returned to more normal duties, the number of abortions categorized as legal rose dramatically, as did the number of spontaneous abortions. The material incentives provided by the state, even when coupled with draconian regulation and coercion, were not enough to sustain an increase in birthrates, which again began to decline. As the rate of population growth declined, the government continued efforts to increase birthrates. In 1974 revisions in the labor code attempted to address the problem by granting special allowances for pregnant women and nursing mothers, giving them a lighter work load that excluded overtime and hazardous work and allowed time off to care for children without loss of benefits.

The Ceausescu regime took more aggressive steps in the 1980s. By 1983 the birthrate had fallen to 14.3 per 1,000, the rate of annual increase in population had dipped to 3.7 per 1,000, and the number of abortions (421,386) again exceeded the number of live births (321,489). Ceausescu complained that only some 9 percent of the abortions performed had the necessary medical justification. In 1984 the legal age for marriage was lowered to fifteen years for women, and additional taxes were levied on childless individuals over twenty-five years of age. Monthly gynecological examinations for all women of childbearing age were instituted, even for pubescent girls, to identify pregnancies in the earliest stages and to monitor pregnant women to ensure that their pregnancies came to term. Miscarriages were to be investigated and illegal abortions prosecuted, resulting in prison terms of one year for the women concerned and up to five years for doctors and other medical personnel performing the procedure. Doctors and nurses involved in gynecology came under increasing pressure, especially after 1985, when "demographic command units" were set up to ensure that all women were gynecologically examined at their place of work. These units not only monitored pregnancies and ensured deliveries but also investigated childless women and couples, asked detailed questions about their sex lives and the general health of their reproductive systems, and recommended treatment for infertility.

Furthermore, by 1985 a woman had to have had five children, with all five still under her care, or be more than forty-five years old to qualify for an abortion. Even when an abortion was legally justified, after 1985 a party representative had to be present to authorize and supervise the procedure. Other steps to increase material incentives to have children included raising taxes for childless individuals, increasing monthly allowances to families with children by 27 percent, and giving bonuses for the birth of the second and third child.

Although government expenditures on material incentives rose by 470 percent between 1967 and 1983, the birthrate actually decreased during that time by 40 percent. After 1983, despite the extreme measures taken by the regime to combat the decline, there was only a slight increase, from 14.3 to 15.5 per 1,000 in 1984 and 16 per 1,000 in 1985. After more than two decades of draconian anti- abortion regulation and expenditures for material incentives that by 1985 equalled half the amount budgeted for defense, Romanian birthrates were only a fraction higher than those rates in countries permitting abortion on demand.

Romanian demographic policies continued to be unsuccessful largely because they ignored the relationship of socioeconomic development and demographics. The development of heavy industry captured most of the country's investment capital and left little for the consumer goods sector. Thus the woman's double burden of child care and full-time work was not eased by consumer durables that save time and labor in the home. The debt crisis of the 1980s reduced the standard of living to that of a Third World country, as Romanians endured rationing of basic food items and shortages of other essential household goods, including diapers. Apartments were not only overcrowded and cramped, but often unheated. In the face of such bleak conditions, increased material incentives that in 1985 amounted to approximately 3.61 lei per child per day--enough to buy 43 grams of preserved milk--were not enough to overcome the reluctance of Romanian women to bear children.

In 1989 abortion remained the only means of fertility control available to an increasingly desperate population. The number of quasi-legal abortions continued to rise, as women resorted to whatever means necessary to secure permission for the procedure. Women who failed to get official approval were forced to seek illegal abortions, which could be had for a carton of Kent cigarettes.

Despite the obvious reluctance of women to bear children because of socioeconomic conditions, the Ceausescu regime continued its crusade to raise birthrates, using a somewhat more subliminal approach. In 1986 mass media campaigns were launched, extolling the virtues of the large families of the past and of family life in general. Less subtle were the pronouncements that procreation was the patriotic duty and moral obligation of all citizens. The campaign called for competition among judete (counties) for the highest birthrates and even encouraged single women to have children despite the fact that illegitimacy carried a considerable social stigma.

The new approach, like previous attempts, met with little success. In early 1988, demographic policies were again on the political drawing board, as the Political Executive Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR) ordered the Ministry of Health to produce a "concrete program" for increasing the birthrate. The regime's drastic and even obsessive response to the low birthrates appears to have been unwarranted. Death rates steadily declined during this period, and in 1965, when the crusade began, there was little evidence of an impending demographic crisis. Romania's rate of natural population increase of 6 per 1,000 was considerably higher than that of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) at 3 per 1,000 and Hungary's 2.4 per 1,000. In 1984 Romania compared even more favorably with a rate of natural increase of 3.9 per 1,000 as opposed to East Germany's 0.4 and Hungary's -2 per 1,000.



Romania - Settlement Structure


Romania's population, which reached 23 million in 1987, was distributed quite unevenly across the country. In 1985 some 56 percent of the population lived on the plains, where population density exceeded 150 inhabitants per square kilometer. The national average was about 92 inhabitants per square kilometer. Some 38 percent lived in the hilly regions, mostly in the foothills of the Carpathians. The mountainous regions had the lowest density, although many of the country's earliest settlements were built in the higher elevations of the Sub-Carpathian depressions adjoining the mountains, which offered protection from invaders. Until relatively recently, population densities were higher in the Carpathian foothills of Walachia than on the plains themselves. In addition to the thinly populated mountains, the waterlogged region of Dobruja continued to have a low population density, with fewer than fifty inhabitants per square kilometer.

Traditional Settlement Patterns

Romania remained a predominantly rural country until well after World War II, with most of the population living in villages and working in agriculture. Just before the war, more than 15,000 villages were spread out over the territory between the Danube Delta and the Carpathians, where more than three-quarters of the population resided. Many of the villages were little changed by contemporary events, at least in appearance, and continued to be categorized into three types, depending on the terrain they occupied. Village settlements on the plains tended to be large and concentrated; most were involved in agriculture, primarily in cultivating cereals and raising livestock. In the hilly regions, settlements were more scattered. Here the main activities were fruit and wine production, and homesteads were generally surrounded by vineyards and orchards. At higher altitudes, settlements were mainly involved in raising livestock and in lumbering, and the villages were even more dispersed.

Romania's first urban settlements were founded by the Greeks on the Black Sea Coast at Tomi (now Constanta) and Kallatis (now Mangalia). Roman occupation brought urban settlements to the plains and mountains, and many towns were founded on ancient Dacian settlement sites. These towns were situated at strategic and commercial vantage points, and their importance endured long after the Romans had departed. Cluj-Napoca, Alba-Iulia, and Drobeta-Turnu Severin are among the major cities with Dacian roots and Roman development. During the Middle Ages, as trade between the Black Sea and Central Europe developed, a number of settlements grew into important trade centers, including Brasov, Sibiu, and Bucharest.

Despite some ancient urban roots, most of Romania's urban development came late. In 1948 only three cities had more than 100,000 inhabitants, and the total urban population was only 3.7 million. By 1970 thirteen cities had populations of more than 100,000, the population of Bucharest alone had increased by some 507,000, and the total urban population had reached 8.2 million. The urban population increased from 23.4 percent of the total population in 1948 to 41 percent in 1970.

This increased urbanization was not simply a consequence of the development of nonagricultural activities; for the most part it was centrally directed by the PCR under the guiding influence of Marxist concepts. According to Marxism, urbanization has important intrinsic value that aids in the creation of a socialist society, and urban areas are economically, socially, and culturally superior. Urbanization based on the development of industry enables the state to transform society and eradicate the differences between rural and urban life.

Romanian urbanization did not result in a large number of new cities spread evenly throughout the country. Although the number of cities rose from 183 in 1956 to 236 in 1977, and the proportion of the population living in urban areas increased to 47 percent, most of this growth came in the old towns, some of which doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled their prewar populations. Bucharest far exceeded all other cities in growth and by 1975 was approaching 2 million inhabitants--19.9 percent of the total urban population. Meanwhile the number of cities with populations of more than 100,000 had grown to eighteen, accounting for another 35.7 percent of the urban population. Thus by 1978 more than half of the country's total urban population lived in just 19 of Romania's 236 urban areas.

Rural-Urban Migration

Romania's cities swelled not from natural increase but from migration. Already by 1966, almost one-third of the population resided in places where they had not been born, and fully 60 percent of the residents of the seven largest cities had been born elsewhere. Collectivization cut ties to the land, forcing the young and able-bodied to factories in the major cities. Industrialization proceeded apace, focusing on rapid accumulation and quick return on investment, thus favoring towns with plants and infrastructure already in place. During the period from 1968 to 1973, nearly 2 million people migrated from one location to another, with rural-urban migrants a clear two-thirds majority.

Although the rate of natural increase in urban places continued to be largely insignificant, migrant-based urban growth was sustained, and rural areas lost population. Net population loss in the countryside grew from 6.3 per 1,000 in 1968 to 9.8 per 1,000 in 1973. Most of the movement was intraregional, drawing people away from small villages in the mountains and agricultural areas in the southern and western plains. Migration losses were particularly heavy in Moldavia, Muntenia, and Maramures.

Attempts to control migration to major cities were made as early as the early 1950s. With the advent of communist power, all Romanians fourteen years of age or older were issued identity cards, which indicated place of residence. Subsequently, restrictions were placed on establishing legal residence in the larger towns. To take up residence in any new place, it became necessary to obtain a visa from the local police. Only a few reasons could justify the issuance of the necessary visa. Work could suffice as a reason to move to a "closed city" only if the applicant's commuting distance exceeded thirty kilometers--and then only if a legal resident of that city could not be found to fill the position. A few family-associated reasons were considered valid. Newly married couples could obtain visas if one of the spouses had been a legal resident before marriage. Dependent children were permitted to join their parents, and until the 1980s, pensioners could move in with their children. Later, the elderly were prevented from joining their children.

Government restrictions, however, were not effective in controlling migration to the large closed cities. On the contrary, official estimates of population growth in those cities during the 1966-77 period, as compared to growth actually realized, suggest an amazing lack of awareness, much less direct control of population movements. Predictions for 1977 populations in those cities, based on 1966 census data adjusted for births, deaths, and registered migration, were in every case underestimated--on the average by 14 percent. The population of Bucharest, where one might expect the most effective control, was underestimated by some 200,000 inhabitants.



Romania - Systematization: A Settlement Strategy


Romania's extremely uneven development became increasingly problematic. From an ideological standpoint, the growing disparity between rural and urban life was unacceptable. And uncontrolled rural-urban migration placed considerable strain on the cities, and left the countryside with an agricultural work force composed increasingly of women, the elderly, and children.

The government responded in 1972 with a program for rural resettlement aimed at stemming the tide to the cities by extending modern facilities into the countryside, where a network of new industrial enterprises was to be established. With the ultimate goal of a "multilaterally developed socialist society," this ambitious program, called "systematization," was to dramatically change the face of rural Romania. Officially initiated in 1974, the program called for doubling the number of cities by 1990. Some 550 villages were selected to receive money and materials necessary for their conversion to urban industrial centers. The program called for investments in schools, medical clinics, new housing, and new industry.

At the same time, plans were made for the remainder of the country's 13,000 villages. Here the traditional settlement pattern presented obstacles to plans for modernization. The majority of these villages had fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, and many had fewer than 500, while plans for rural resettlement set the optimal village population at 3,000--the number of inhabitants necessary to warrant expenditures for housing and services. Accordingly, villages with few prospects for growth were labeled "irrational" and "nonviable." In the 1970s, some 3,000 villages in this category were to be minimally serviced and gradually phased out, and others were scheduled to be forcibly dissolved and relocated. The rural population would then be concentrated in the "viable" villages, where plans for modernization and industrialization could be more effectively implemented and investments in infrastructure more profitably used.

Although systematization plans were drawn up for virtually every locality, implementation proceeded slowly, presumably because of lack of funds. The determination of the Ceausescu regime to pay off the foreign debt deprived the country of investment capital. Even before the debt crisis, little money had been allocated for the systematization program. Construction in rural areas declined sharply after peaking in 1960. In 1979 only 10 percent of all new housing was built in the countryside, and in the 1980s even less progress was made. Official projections had predicted that by 1985 Romania's population would have reached 25 million, of which 65 percent would live in urban places, with the increase in urbanization a result of the systematization program. In fact population had grown to only 23 million by 1987, and of that number only 51 percent lived in urban places. Thus, despite predictions that 365 new towns would be created by 1980 and another 500 by 1985, no new towns were declared during that time.

The mid-1980s brought renewed commitment to systematization. Some villages on the outskirts of Bucharest were destroyed, ostensibly to make way for projects such as the Bucharest-Danube Canal and airport expansion. Meanwhile about eight square kilometers in the heart of Bucharest were destroyed, leveling some of the nation's finest architectural heritage. Monasteries, ancient churches, and historic buildings were razed, and some 40,000 people were forced to leave their homes with only a twenty-four-hour notice. This was done to clear a path for the Victory of Socialism Boulevard, which would include a public square where half a million people could assemble and a mammoth Palace of Government glorifying Ceausescu's rule.

Although lack of capital appeared to limit the renewed interest in systematization primarily to the Bucharest area, plans for nationwide rural resettlement were merely postponed and not canceled. The number of villages scheduled to be destroyed, whether gradually by forced depopulation or more abruptly by razing, rose from the 3,000 initially proposed in 1974 to between 7,000 and 8,000 in 1988. The citizens resented the rural resettlement program for its drastic social and cultural consequences and for the huge financial burden that even its limited implementation had already imposed.

An especially controversial aspect of systematization was the theory that concentrating the rural population would promote more efficient use of agricultural land. New housing in rural areas after 1974 was subject to strict regulations. Villages were to be structured like towns, with construction of housing concentrated within specified perimeters. The buildings had to be at least two stories high, and surrounding lots were restricted to 250 meters. Private lots for agriculture were to be moved outside the settlement perimeter, diminishing the ability of the village populations to produce their own food, as they were required by law to do after 1981. Moreover, because private plots produced much of the nation's fruits, vegetables, and meat, full implementation of systematization would have jeopardized the food supply for the entire country.

The international community, particularly Hungary and West Germany, criticized systematization as a blatant attempt to forcibly assimilate national minorities. Each village escaping systematization was to have a civic center, often referred to as a "Song to Romania House of Culture." These institutions promised to be useful tools for indoctrination and mobilization and were apparently intended to replace churches as the focal point of community life. By 1989 many churches had already been destroyed, and no plans for rebuilding were evident. The destruction of churches and villages not only severed cultural and historic links to the past, but also threatened community bonds and group autonomy. Much of the international criticism of systematization deplored the investment in such a grandiose scheme amidst rapidly deteriorating living conditions, which had been on a downward spiral since the 1970s. The Victory of Socialism Boulevard was replete with irony as the 1980s witnessed serious food shortages and an energy crisis that prolonged the disparity between urban and rural Romania.





Romania derives much of its ethnic diversity from its geographic position astride major continental migration routes. According to 1987 data, 89.1 percent of the population is Romanian, and more than twenty separate ethnic minorities account for the remaining 12 percent. Although many of these minorities are small groups, the Hungarian minority of about 1.7 million--estimated by some Western experts at 2-2.5 million--represents 7.8 percent of the total population and is the largest national minority in Europe. The next largest component of the population is the ethnic Germans, who constitute up to 1.5 percent of the total population. There are also significant numbers of Ukrainians, Serbs, and Croats, as well as a Jewish minority estimated by Western observers at between 20,000 and 25,000. Although not officially recognized as a distinct ethnic minority, there is a sizable Gypsy population. The 1977 census documented only 230,000, but some Western estimates put the Gypsy element at between 1 million and 2 million, suggesting that Gypsies might be actually the second largest minority after the Hungarians.

Historical and Geographical Distribution

In the region of the Old Kingdom, the population has traditionally been fairly homogeneous, with many areas 100 percent Romanian. The notable exceptions are Dobruja and the major towns in northern Moldavia, as well as Bucharest. Dobruja was an ethnic melting pot, where in the 1980s the Romanian component was estimated at less than 50 percent; it also had large representations of Bulgarians, Tatars, Russians, and Turks. Most of the Jewish population settled in Moldavia, first arriving from Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the nineteenth century. By 1912 there were some 240,000 Jews in the Old Kingdom region alone. At that time they constituted a majority in the ten northernmost towns of Moldavia. Some of the dwindling Jewish population continued to live in that region in the late 1980s-- scattered in small communities of less than 2,000, including some as small as 30-40 members. The largest segment of the Jewish population--some 17,000 people--lived in Bucharest, as did approximately 200,000 Hungarians and a large number of Gypsies, who had given up their nomadic lifestyle.

Historically the most ethnically diverse regions were the former Hungarian territories in the northwest, which encompass more than one-third of Romania's total area, stretching from the deep curve of the Carpathians to the borders of Hungary and Yugoslavia. This part of Romania, most often referred to simply as Transylvania, in fact also includes the Maramures, Crisana, and Banat regions. These areas were settled by two distinct Hungarian groups--the Magyars and the Szeklers. The Magyars arrived in 896, and shortly thereafter the Szeklers were settled in southeastern Transylvania. Although they were of peasant origins, Szeklers were never serfs and in fact enjoyed a fair amount of feudal autonomy. Many were granted nobility by the Hungarian king as a reward for military service. Awareness of a separate status for the Szeklers still exists among other Hungarians and Szeklers alike. The Szeklers are regarded as the best of the Hungarian nation; the form of Hungarian they speak is considered to be the purest and most pleasant. These two groups are further differentiated by their religion, as most Szeklers are Calvinist or Unitarian, whereas the majority of Hungarians are Roman Catholic. Despite cultural distinctions, Szeklers, numbering between 600,000 and 700,000, consider themselves to be of purely Hungarian nationality.

The ethnic German component of the population is also concentrated in Transylvania and is divided into two distinct groups--the Saxons and the Swabians. The Saxons arrived in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries at the invitation of the Hungarian kings. They came primarily from the Rhineland (and so were actually not Saxons but Franks) and settled in fairly compact areas in the south and east of Transylvania. Like the Szeklers, the Saxons were frontier people tasked with defending the region against Turks and Tatars. They were granted a fair degree of political autonomy and control over their internal affairs. In addition, they were given a land base over which they had complete administrative authority. The area, known as Sachsenboden (Saxon Land), was a sort of national preserve, which was protected from political encroachment by other groups. This circumstance, coupled with their early predominance in small-scale trade and commerce, established the Saxons in a superordinate position, which helped to ensure their ethnic survival in a polyethnic environment.

Although there were no large exclusively German enclaves to sustain group solidarity, they were the dominant group in many areas, and cities founded on Saxon trade emerged with a distinctively German character. By far the most important factor in the preservation of their ethnic identity was their adoption of the Lutheran religion in the mid-sixteenth century. Subsequently, Saxon community life was dominated by the Lutheran Church, which controlled education through parochial schools in the villages. Few Hungarians and Romanians in Transylvania converted to Lutheranism. The church became a cultural link to Germany and remained so until after World War II. Thus for centuries the Saxons of Transylvania were fairly well insulated both politically and culturally from their Hungarian and Romanian neighbors.

The Swabians, who are the German population in the Banat region, contrast sharply with the Saxons. They arrived in Romania much later--in the eighteenth century--from the Wuerttemberg area. They were settled in the Banat by the Austrians and have traditionally been involved in agriculture. Unlike the Saxons, they did not convert to Lutheranism but remained Catholic.

The Magyars politically dominated Transylvania until the nineteenth century, despite the fact that Romanians constituted the majority. Although the Saxons and Szeklers were permitted local administrative autonomy, the Hungarian nobility filled the main political and administrative positions. In contrast, the Romanian majority formed a distinct underclass. They were much less urbanized than the Hungarians or Germans. Most were peasants, and the majority of those were enserfed and had little or no formal education. Furthermore, whereas most of Transylvania's Hungarians and Germans are Roman Catholic or Protestant and are thereby more Western-oriented, the great majority of Romanians belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The ethnic Gordian knot of Transylvania, intricately bound with several religious affiliations and complicated by separate social and economic niches, was made even more complex by the desire of both Hungary and Romania to control and claim the region. Throughout the nineteenth century, while Romanians in the Old Kingdom continued to strive for unification of the three Romanian lands--Moldavia, Walachia, and Transylvania--their brethren across the Carpathians were the primary target of a Magyarization policy that aspired to integrate Transylvania into Hungary.

The unification of Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918 deeply affected the region's ethnic structure. Approximately one-fifth of the Magyar population departed immediately for Hungary, and those ethnic Hungarians who remained had their land expropriated and redistributed to Romanian peasants. Hungarian administrative and political dominance was swept aside, and a Romanian bureaucracy was installed. At the same time--and perhaps the most shattering blow--Romanian replaced Hungarian as the official language of the region.

The position of the German population in Transylvania was much less immediately damaged. Although the Saxons did eventually lose their communal land holdings, their private property was not confiscated. In Saxon enclaves, they retained control over education and internal affairs as well as cultural associations and still held economic advantages. The ability of the Germans to maintain their ethnic identity was not seriously hampered until after World War II, when all Germans were retroactively declared members of the Nazi Party. On that basis, they were initially excluded from the National Minorities Statute of 1945, which guaranteed equal rights to Hungarians and other ethnic minorities. A considerable portion of the German population--about 100,000-- fled to Germany or Austria as the German forces retreated in 1944. Some 75,000 Romanian Germans were subsequently deported to warreparations labor camps in the Soviet Union. Many died there and many, rather than return to Romania after their release, chose Germany or Austria instead. By 1950 the ethnic German element was half its prewar level, and those German Romanians who did stay suffered the immediate expropriation of their lands and business enterprises. Some 30,000 Swabians from the Banat region were resettled to the remote eastern Danube Plain. Moreover, the remaining German population, like all other national minorities, began the struggle for ethnic survival against a new force, as communist power was consolidated.

<>National Minorities under Communist Rule


Romania - National Minorities under Communist Rule


Although shifts in Romania's ethnic structure can be attributed to several factors, the most far-reaching changes occurred at the behest of the PCR, which subscribed to the Marxist belief in the primacy of class over nation. Marxist theory claims not only that national identity is subordinate to class identity, but also that as class consciousness rises, nationalism and nations will disappear. The practical problem of how to deal with nationalities in a multinational state until the class consciousness of socialism eradicates them was addressed not by Karl Marx but by Vladimir Lenin. A pragmatic response to the reality of national minorities in the Soviet Union, Lenin's nationalities policy is often summarized in the phrase "national in form, socialist in content." The policy essentially permitted national minorities to be separate in terms of language, education, and culture as long as they adhered to the principles of socialism and did not pose a political threat. Romania's national minorities at the outset of communist rule were seemingly well served by the Leninist approach. The Constitution provided them equal rights in "all fields of economic, political, juridical, social, and cultural life" and specifically guaranteed free use of their native language and the right to education at all levels in their mother tongue.

The large Hungarian minority received special attention with the establishment of the Hungarian Autonomous Region in 1952. Like many other generous provisions for nationalities, however, this concession turned out to be by and large an empty gesture and masked the true nature of relations between the state and minorities. The region was never home to more than one-quarter of Romania's Hungarian population, and it had no more autonomy than did other administrative provinces. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, even this autonomy was curtailed. In 1960 directives from Bucharest reorganized and renamed the province so that its Hungarian nature was even further reduced. The territorial reorganization, by adding purely Romanian inhabited areas and excluding Hungarian enclaves, increased the Romanian element in the province from 20 to 35 percent and reduced the Hungarian presence from 77 to 62 percent. The name was changed to Mures Autonomous Hungarian Region and thereafter was most often referred to simply as the Mures Region.

In 1965, concomitant with Ceausescu's rise to first secretary of the Partidul Muncitoresc Român (PMR--Romanian Workers' Party), a new Constitution proclaimed Romania a socialist unitary state. Thereafter, the country's multinational character was largely ignored, and the problem of cohabiting nationalities officially was considered resolved. In 1968 the regime eliminated the Autonomous Hungarian Region outright. The regime maintained the appearance of minority representation at all levels of government, and official statistics showed that the proportion of people from ethnic minority communities employed in government duly reflected their numbers. In reality, minorities had little real power or influence. At the local level, minority representatives, who were generally quite Romanianized, were mistrusted by their constituents. Ironically, although these spokespersons were routinely hand-picked by the PCR, their loyalty to the regime was often suspected. The ethnic composition of the party itself was a more accurate reflection of minority participation and representation.

From the start of communist rule, large numbers of ethnic Romanians joined the party, and their share of total membership rose steadily over the years, increasing from 79 percent in 1955 to almost 90 percent in the early 1980s. Although the regime claimed that minority membership and representation in the people's councils and the Grand National Assembly were commensurate with their size, minorities were largely excluded from policy-making bodies on both the local and national levels. Even in areas where Hungarians represented a sizable portion of the population--Timis, Arad, and Maramure judete--few were found in local PCR bureaus. At the national level, the most powerful positions in the critical foreign affairs, defense, and interior ministries were reserved for ethnic Romanians, and minorities were consigned to rubber-stamp institutions.

Ostensibly representing minority interests, workers' councils were established for Hungarian, German, Serbian, and Ukrainian citizens. These bodies operated within the framework of the Front of Socialist Unity and Democracy and were under the constant supervision of the PCR Central Committee Secretariat, which funded their budgets. The councils had neither headquarters nor office hours, and their sole function appeared to be praising the regime's treatment of national minorities. Significantly, when the councils did meet, business was conducted in Romanian.

Nation-Building and National Minorities

Even before Ceausescu came to power, PCR leaders had taken a nationalistic, anti-Soviet stance, which was important for maintaining the legitimacy of the regime. During the first decade of Soviet-imposed communist rule, the population suffered the misery of expropriations, the disruptions of rapid industrialization and forced collectivization, and the Sovietization of society. The result was an increasing bitterness toward the Soviet Union and the PCR itself, which was directly controlled by Moscow. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, as deStalinization and a more liberal atmosphere prevailed in Moscow, PCR leaders asserted their independence by ousting pro-Soviet members and refusing to accept Soviet plans to make Romania the "breadbasket" for the more industrialized Comecon countries.

As Ceausescu assumed power, the campaign for self-determination and de-Sovietization was accompanied by increasing Romanian nationalism in domestic policy. Fervent emphasis on Romanian language, history, and culture, designed to enhance Ceausescu's popularity among the Romanian majority, continued unabated into the 1980s. In 1976 the PCR launched a nationwide campaign dedicated to the glorification of the Romanian homeland--the "Hymn to Romania." All nationalities were expected to join the fete, which placed the Hungarian and German minorities of Transylvania in a grievous predicament. The campaign aimed to remove all traces of German and Hungarian territorial identification. In cities that had already been Romanianized, monuments and artifacts representing links to the Hungarian or Saxon past were all but eliminated, bilingual inscriptions were removed, and streets--and in some cases, cities themselves--were renamed to emphasize Romanian roots. Thus Turnu Severin became Drobeta-Turnu Severin, and Cluj--Transylvania's most important Hungarian city--was renamed Cluj-Napoca.

Given the socioeconomic structure of precommunist Transylvania, when Hungarians and Germans were much more urbanized and economically advanced than the mostly peasant Romanian majority, the changes wrought by the modernization program negatively affected the position of the minorities. As the needs of industrialization brought more and more peasants from the countryside to the factories, the ethnic composition of Transylvania's urban places shifted. Romanians became the growing majority in cities that had long been Hungarian and German enclaves. These changes were not solely the result of natural migration, but were carefully engineered by the state. Secret internal regulations ordered major minority centers such as Cluj, Oradea, and Arad to be virtually sealed off to the largest ethnic minorities and encouraged their outmigration while directing an influx of ethnic Romanians.

Population shifts were engendered under the guise of multilateral development, the party's byword for building socialism. The stated goal was equalization of regional development, and statistical data were often cited to show that investments in underdeveloped minority-inhabited areas were made in an effort to bring them up to the national average. Minorities-- particularly the Hungarians--claimed, however, that economic growth did not provide training and jobs for them but served as a pretext for the massive influx of ethnic Romanian workers. Thus, whereas ethnic Hungarians had to leave their homeland to find employment in the Old Kingdom region, ethnic Romanians were offered incentives to relocate to Transylvania.

The dispute between Hungary and Romania over the history of Transylvania complicated interethnic relations in the region. The histories of both countries claim Transylvania as the safe haven that ensured the survival of each nation. The Romanians contend that they are descendants of Geto-Dacians--the indigenous inhabitants of Transylvania. Although earlier Romanian historiography emphasized the Latin origins of Romanian language and culture, later pronouncements by Ceausescu and Romanian historians stressed cultural ties to this pre-Roman civilization. The regime set out to prove the so-called Daco-Roman continuity theory to bolster Romania's claims over Transylvania. Despite furious archaeological activity to discover Dacian roots, however, just as many traces of Celts, Huns, Avars, Goths, and Romans were uncovered. Nevertheless, the country's museums and history books presented the theory as indisputable fact.

Even as early as 1948, the process of rewriting the history of Transylvania to favor the Romanian version was under way. Revised textbooks gave ample coverage of the great Romanian heroes of the past, but they provided little or no information about key minority figures, and those who were mentioned were given Romanian names. The books emphasized that the struggle for unification of the Romanian fatherland had been opposed by the Hungarians and Germans, who were labeled "latecomers" and "colonists."

Amidst the controversy, the Hungarian minority of Transylvania was considered an instrument of the Hungarian government, further ensuring their second-class citizenship status. Expressions of concern for the treatment of this minority, whether originating inside or outside Romania, were branded "chauvinistic, revanchist, and irredentist." The regime increasingly limited contacts and cultural links between Hungary and Romanian Hungarians. After 1974, regulations forbade all foreign travelers except close family members to stay overnight in private homes. Violators placed their hosts at risk of fines amounting to as much as one year's salary. Romanian Hungarians found it difficult to obtain newspapers and journals from Hungary, and the Department of State Security (Departamentul Securitatii Statului--Securitate), the secret police, monitored the reception of Hungarian radio and television broadcasts and the placement of long-distance calls to Hungary. Significantly, the pervasive Securitate employed few minority citizens.

As the economy ground to a halt in the 1980s and living conditions deteriorated for both the majority and the minorities, thousands of citizens fled to Hungary. In 1987 alone, some 40,000 sought refuge there, and from June until August of 1988, at least 187 Romanians were shot dead by the Securitate while attempting to escape to Hungary.

Language, Education, and Cultural Heritage

Arguably the changes under communism that most grievously affected ethnic minorities, especially the Hungarians and to a lesser extent the Germans, were those that limited education in their native languages. In the first decade of communist rule, students could acquire an education at Hungarian-language schools from preschool to university and at German-language schools from preschool to high school. These schools had their own administration and a long tradition of humanistic education; many were 300 to 500 years old. But already in 1948 some of the policies of the new regime had begun to weaken national minority education. A purge and "reeducation" of faculty in all educational institutions was carried out. From that time forward, important teaching positions were filled only by teachers deemed politically reliable. At the same time, nationalization of all ecclesiastical and private schools destroyed the traditionally important role of the church in the Hungarian and German educational systems.

Schools in some communities were merged so that ethnic Romanians constituted the majority of the student body. The regime mandated the teaching of Romanian in all educational institutions to "prevent national isolation." Beginning in 1957, amalgamation of minority (particularly Hungarian) and Romanian schools became the rule rather than the exception. Most of the directors for the newly merged schools were ethnic Romanians, whereas Hungarians or Germans filled vice-principal or vice-director positions.

The merger of the Hungarian Bolyai University at Cluj with the Romanian Babez University in 1959 dealt a major blow to the Hungarian-language educational network. Such mergers meant a larger enrollment of ethnic Romanians and reduced availability of Hungarian-language instruction. The party determined what courses would be taught in Hungarian; many were of an ideological bent, and the more technical courses were taught in Romanian only. It became nearly impossible to study any of the applied sciences in Hungarian, restricting career opportunities for the Hungarian minority. The result was a predictable drop in the number of Hungarian undergraduates--from 10.75 percent of all undergraduates in 1957 to only 5.7 percent in 1974.

Meanwhile education laws introduced in 1973 continued the assimilation that had begun with the amalgamation of minority and Romanian schools. In keeping with the economic program of rapid industrialization, the laws emphasized technical studies over humanities. The ratio established was two-thirds technical to onethird humanities, making it even more difficult for minorities to acquire an education in their native language. In 1974 only 1.4 percent of the instruction in technical schools was in Hungarian. Technical textbooks were rarely translated into minority languages. Thus a technical education, the premier vehicle of upward mobility, became possible only for those who had mastered Romanian. This requirement and the fact that university entrance exams were given only in Romanian increased the pressure on parents to enroll their children in Romanian-language schools.

Instruction in Hungarian was further hampered by an acute shortage of Hungarian-language teachers and language experts; "internal regulations" assigned Hungarian university graduates to work outside their communities--usually out of Transylvania. The use of minority languages was restricted in the cultural arena as well. Local libraries persistently lacked literature in minority languages. After 1973, Hungarian-language newspaper publishing was sharply curtailed, and in 1985 television broadcasts in Hungarian and German were discontinued.

Romanian leaders claimed that the amalgamation of minority and Romanian schools and the 1973 educational reforms were necessary for administrative and economic efficiency and were not intended to ensure the assimilation of ethnic minorities. Although that claim appeared to be plausible, other actions that diminished the ability of minorities to maintain their ethnic identity were not so readily explained. The assimilation of national minorities into a "harmonious whole" continued, and over the decades the gap between theory and practice in the treatment of minorities widened. The state's discriminatory policies steadily diminished minority constitutional, political, linguistic, and educational rights.

Emigration: Problem or Solution?

Although the goal of the Ceausescu regime was national homogenization and an ethnically pure Romania, the regime opposed the emigration of ethnic minorities. Beginning in the late 1970s, a media campaign was launched that followed two basic tacks. Spokespersons for ethnic minorities in the workers' councils praised the regime's treatment of minorities and declared their devotion to socialist Romania. By contrast, those who desired to emigrate were depicted as weaklings with underdeveloped "patriotic and political consciousness," would-be traitors abandoning their fatherland and the struggle to build socialism. Stories abounded of Romanians emigrating only to find life more difficult in their new environment and happily returning to their homeland. Accounts of those who had emigrated to West Germany were particularly bleak.

Attempts to discourage emigration were not left entirely to the media. The official policy allowed emigration only on an individual basis, and only in specific cases--usually for family reunification. In later years, the PCR ironically suggested that families could be reunited by immigration into Romania. Obtaining permission to leave the country was a lengthy, expensive, and exhausting process. Prospective emigrants were likely to be fired from their jobs or demoted to positions of lower prestige and pay. They were often evicted from their homes and publicly castigated. At the same time, they were denied medical care and other social benefits, and their children were not permitted to enroll in schools.

In 1972, amid claims that emigration was purposefully encouraged by the West and was becoming a "brain drain" for the nation, the regime proposed a heavy tax requiring would-be emigrants to reimburse the state for the cost of their education. Although Romanian citizens could not legally possess foreign money, sums of up to $US20,000 in hard currency were to be paid before emigrants would be allowed to leave. Under pressure from the United States, which threatened to revoke Romania's most-favored-nation trade status, and West Germany and Israel, the tax officially was not imposed. But money was collected in the form of bribes, with government officials reportedly demanding thousands of dollars before granting permission to emigrate. A failed attempt to emigrate illegally was punishable by up to three years in jail.

Despite Ceausescu's opposition to emigration, the ethnic German population declined sharply. In 1967, when diplomatic relations with West Germany were established, roughly 60,000 ethnic Germans requested permission to emigrate. By 1978, some 80,000 had departed for West Germany. In 1978 the two countries negotiated an agreement concerning the remaining German population, which had decreased from 2 percent of the total population in 1966 to 1.6 percent in 1977. Romania agreed to allow 11,000 to 13,000 ethnic Germans to emigrate each year in return for hard currency and a payment of DM5,000 per person to reimburse the state for educational expenses. In 1982 that figure rose to DM7,000-8,000 per person. In the decade between 1978 and 1988, approximately 120,000 Germans emigrated, leaving behind a population of only about 200,000, between 80 and 90 percent of whom wanted to emigrate. As their numbers declined, the Germans feared they would be less able to resist assimilation. In 1987 an entire village of some 200 ethnic Germans applied en masse for emigration permits.

The Jewish minority also markedly declined as a result of large-scale emigration. Suffering under state-fostered antiSemitism and financially ruined by expropriations during nationalization, much of the Jewish population applied for permission to leave in 1948. Between 1948 and 1951, 117,950 Jews emigrated to Israel, and from 1958 to 1964, 90,000 more followed, leaving a total Jewish population of only 43,000 in 1966. Permission to emigrate was freely granted to Jews, and by 1988 the population numbered between 20,000 and 25,000, half of whom were more than sixty-five years of age. Furthermore, over one-third of those Jews still in the country held exit visas.

In the late 1980s, ethnic Hungarians clung to their ancient roots in Transylvania and, unlike the Germans and Jews, the majority were reluctant to consider emigration. Although neither Hungary nor Romania wanted the minority decreased by emigration, thousands of refugees crossed into Hungary during the 1980s, especially after 1986. This development prompted Budapest to launch an unprecedented all-out publicity campaign against Romania's treatment of minorities. Inside Romania, ethnic protest against the regime was quite restrained. A notable exception in the late 1980s was Karoly Kiraly, an important leader in the Hungarian community who openly denounced the regime's nationalities policy as assimilationist. The regime, which readily discounted such protests, labeled Kiraly "a dangerously unstable relic of Stalinism dressed up in Romanian national garb."




The End of the Ancien Régime

Before World War II, Romania was overwhelmingly agrarian. In the late 1940s, roughly 75 percent of the population was engaged in agriculture. It was a poor and backward peasant agriculture; inferior yields were eked from plots of land that grew ever smaller as the rural population increased. Although a fair amount of industrial activity was nurtured by state contracts and foreign investments, industrial development was slow and failed to create alternative employment opportunities for the overpopulated and impoverished countryside. The bourgeoisie was weakly developed. Atop the low social pyramid stood a disproportionately powerful social elite, a remnant of the nobility that had once owned most of the land in the Old Kingdom. Although reforms between 1917 and 1921 had stripped them of all but 15 percent of the arable land, this aristocracy remained a puissant voice in political affairs.

After World War II, Romania's social structure was drastically altered by the imposition of a political system that envisioned a classless, egalitarian society. Marxist-Leninist doctrine holds that the establishment of a socialist state, in which the working class possesses the means of production and distribution of goods and political power, will ensure the eventual development of communism. In this utopia there will be no class conflict and no exploitation of man by fellow man. There will be an abundance of wealth to be shared equally by all. The path to communism requires the ascendancy of the working class and the elimination of the ruling classes and the bourgeoisie. In Romania the latter was accomplished relatively easily, but the former was more problematic, as most of the population were peasants and not workers.

Following the Soviet imposition of a communist government in 1945, the first order of business was to eliminate opposition to the consolidation of power in the name of the working class. The dislocation from the war assisted the new government in this objective, as many of the ruling elite, whether from the landowning nobility or the bourgeoisie, had either emigrated or been killed in the war. Many of the survivors left with the retreating German forces as the Red Army approached. Most Jews, who before the war had constituted a large segment of the communal and financial elite, either died in fascist Romania or fled the country in the next few years.

Consequently, a few measures taken in the early days of communist rule easily eradicated the upper crust from the ancien régime. Land reforms in 1945 eliminated all large properties and thus deprived the aristocracy of their economic base and their final vestiges of power. The currency reform of 1947, which essentially confiscated all money for the state, was particularly ruinous for members of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie who had not fled with their fortunes. In addition, the state gradually expropriated commercial and industrial properties, so that by 1950, 90 percent of all industrial output was directly controlled by the state and by 1953 only 14 percent of the shops remained privately owned.

Although potential opposition from the more economically and socially advanced members of society was all but eliminated almost immediately, the task of creating an industrial working class in whose name the communists claimed power had hardly begun. In 1950 less than 25 percent of the population lived in urban areas or worked in industry. But conditions in the countryside were ripe for social change in the very direction the regime required. The ravages of war and subsequent Soviet occupation had left the peasantry on the brink of famine. Much of their livestock and capital had been destroyed. Their misery was further compounded by a severe drought in 1945 and 1946, followed by a famine that killed thousands. More important for the goals of the regime, many of the peasants were becoming detached from the land and were willing to take the factory jobs that would result from the party's ambitious industrialization program.


Romania - The New Social Order


The Peasantry

The share of the labor force employed in agriculture decreased to less than 30 percent by 1981, and this decline was accompanied by the destruction of many aspects of the peasant way of life. By 1963 more than 95 percent of all arable land was controlled by the state, either through collective or state farms. As a result, small-scale agriculture was no longer available to support the traditional peasant way of life, and the family was no longer the basic unit of production and consumption. The peasants who remained on the land were forced to participate in large-scale, statemanaged agriculture that paralleled other socialist enterprises. The peasants were permitted to till small "private" plots, which in 1963 accounted for about 8 percent of all arable land. But even cultivation of these plots was subject to state interference. Initially some violent protests against collectivization occurred, but on the whole, protest took the form of plummeting yields. This process not only adversely affected living standards for town and country alike, but increased party penetration of the countryside, further reducing peasant autonomy.

Several other factors contributed to the rural exodus and the decline of the peasant class, among them substantial wage differentials between agricultural and nonagricultural sectors. In 1965 peasant incomes were only half the national average. Although the state tried to remedy the situation by establishing minimum incomes in the 1970s, remuneration for agricultural laborers remained well below that for industrial workers. In 1979 the average agricultural worker's income was still only 66 percent of the industrial worker's, and during the 1980s it rose to only 73 percent. A persistent and wide disparity also existed between rural and urban standards of living. In the mid-1970s, the majority of rural households were without gas, not even half had electricity, and more than one-third were without running water. Even in the 1980s, washing machines, refrigerators, and televisions were still luxury items, and peasant expenditures for them and other nonbasic items and for cultural activities remained conspicuously below those of industrial workers. In addition, rural citizens received lower pensions and child allowances and had much more limited educational opportunity.

Despite Ceausescu's nationalistic glorification of peasant folklore and values, in the mid-1980s the Romanian peasant remained very much a second-class citizen. Adults perceived their lowly status and encouraged their children to leave the land. Young people were inclined to do so and showed a decided preference for occupations that would take them out of the village. The regime was unable to prevent this development because it lacked the investment capital to both provide amenities to the countryside and to continue its industrialization program. Consequently the quality of the agricultural work force deteriorated to the point of inadequacy. As the young, educated, and ambitious abandoned the fields for the factories, the laborers left behind were older and, increasingly, female. Although they constituted only 14 percent of the national labor force in 1979, women made up 63 percent of agricultural labor. The average age of adult male farmers rose to 43.2 years in 1977. Furthermore, the men who remained on the land were generally the least capable and were unable to meet even the minimum requirements of industrial work.

Many of these peasants were apathetic and, according to Ceausescu, willing to spend their time drinking and gambling in local pubs instead of working on the cooperative farms. A 1981 survey showed that some 34 percent of all agricultural cooperative members had avoided doing any work whatsoever for the cooperative during that entire year. Consequently the regime had to mobilize soldiers, urban workers, college, high-school, and even elementaryschool students to work in the fields at planting and harvest time.

Ironically the systematization program, which placed plants and factories throughout the countryside to equalize living standards, actually made the situation worse. Even as demands were made for the peasantry to increase agricultural output, commuting from village to factory became a fairly widespread practice, drawing the best labor from an already deteriorated supply. As a result, many peasant families were transformed into extended households whose members participated in both farming and industrial work. In such families, at least one member commuted to a factory and worked for wages, whereas others worked on the cooperative farm to secure the privilege of cultivating a private plot. The factory wage raised the family's standard of living, and the plot provided fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products that the family could consume or sell for extra cash. Even when members of the family had permanently migrated to nearby cities, these mutually advantageous economic ties were maintained, somewhat ameliorating economic conditions in the countryside.

Some observers argued that this rural-urban nexus boosted support for the regime in the countryside and contributed to political stability throughout the 1970s, when commuting workers constituted some 30 percent of the urban work force (50 percent in some cities). Although commuters provided labor without aggravating the urban housing shortage, having a large number of peasants in the factories had certain disadvantages. The poorly educated and relatively unskilled peasant workers could not be fully integrated into urban industrial society. Most were deeply religious, and their lives centered not on work but on Orthodox rituals and family. Commuters were often absent because of village celebrations or the need to tend the household plot.

Peasant commuting also brought an increased awareness of the differences between rural and urban living conditions--particularly during the 1980s, when the overall standard of living sank to nearly unbearable levels. Rural areas were the most harshly affected, and despite the regime's efforts to restrict migration to cities, the process continued, albeit at a slower rate. In the late 1980s, the disappearance of the peasantry as a distinct class appeared virtually inevitable.

The Proletariat

Creation of a class-conscious proletariat was a primary goal of the PCR. Explosive growth in the industrial sector, which continually garnered the lion's share of investment capital, ensured the transformation of the economy and, consequently, the social structure. In 1950 industrial workers represented only 19 percent of the employed population. By 1988 the proletariat accounted for some 60 percent of the working population.

The ranks of the working class swelled with peasants from the villages, some as commuting workers, but most as migrants who took up permanent residence in the cities. In 1948 only 23.4 percent of the population lived in cities, but by 1988 over half were urban dwellers, most of whom had been born and raised in the countryside. In the late 1970s, some 60 percent of residents in the seven largest cities had rural origins. These workers exhibited roughly the same traditional peasant characteristics as peasant workers who retained residences in the villages. They were members of the Orthodox Church, parochial, poorly educated, and relatively unskilled. Values inculcated by church, family, and village were not easily pushed aside, and rural-urban migrants had tremendous difficulty adapting to the discipline of the industrial work place. As a result, alcoholism and absenteeism were recurring problems. Moreover, neither commuters nor rural-urban migrants were interested in the political activity demanded of a class-conscious proletariat. In contrast, the small prewar industrial working class was a much more urbanized, skilled, and politically active group, which felt an affinity with the new regime not shared by those of peasant origin.

As industrialization and urbanization progressed, the working class became more differentiated by type of industry and work process and by age group and social origin. The working class as a whole continued to exhibit very little class consciousness or solidarity. Over the years, as the standard of living slowly rose, the working class was accorded special advantages, and the circumstances of workers improved compared to other social groups. Socialist income policies reduced wage differentials between blueand white-collar workers, so that by the 1970s many skilled workers earned as much or more than their better-educated compatriots. Likewise, urban workers gained the most from comprehensive welfare and social services introduced under socialist rule.

Although it was never a significant source of political leadership, the working class initially was generally satisfied with its special status and at least tacitly approved of the regime and its policies. Later years, however, witnessed a growing discontent among the rank and file of the proletariat, much of which was related to working conditions. The most common complaints concerned poor pay and slow advancement. Increasingly workers blamed the regime and the bureaucratic centrally planned economic system for problems in industrial enterprises. They believed that the system's waste and inefficiency not only affected wages and promotions, but also contributed to the precipitous decline in the standard of living. Although the late 1980s brought increases in wages, compared to other East European countries, wages remained quite paltry. Small as the increases were, they created inflation because of the scarcity of consumer goods. The regime sought to relieve workers of a portion of their "disposable income" by forcing them to buy shares in their factories, which was tantamount to confiscation and forced saving in that there was no popular control over these funds. The regime's inability to shorten the forty-eight-hour work week also provoked discontent, especially in light of the calls for citizens to devote an increasing number of hours to unpaid "patriotic work" on their day off.

In 1989 almost all Romanian workers belonged to trade unions, which were organs for worker representation in name only. In reality the unions, which were controlled by the party after 1947, functioned as transmission belts carrying directives from the central administration to the rank and file and as tools of political socialization to inculcate desired attitudes and values. Workers had to join trade unions to receive social welfare and many fringe benefits.

In 1971 workers' councils were established at enterprises, ostensibly to involve workers in economic decision making but in reality to shore up support for the regime. Few workers viewed the councils positively. Data collected in the mid-1970s indicated that only one-third of workers actually submitted suggestions to their council, and of those who did so, only 40 percent thought their recommendations could influence enterprise policy. Most workers did not even know who their representatives were and did not participate in the councils, which were dominated by the same persons who directed other party, state, and mass organizations.

Although workers shunned officially sanctioned channels, they covertly expressed their dissatisfaction through low productivity, absenteeism, and general apathy. The older and most skilled workers seemed least satisfied and frequently changed jobs in search of better positions and higher wages. By the late 1970s, some workers were airing their grievances in mass protests. In 1977 some 35,000 miners in the Jiu Valley went on strike to protest food shortages and new regulations that forced older workers to retire with reduced benefits. In 1979 roughly 2,000 intellectuals and workers attempted to form a free trade union and called for improved working conditions, abolition of involuntary labor on weekends, official recognition of a national unemployment problem, and an end to special privileges for the party elite.

Working-class discontent continued to grow in the 1980s. The majority of older workers expressed dissatisfaction with pay and wanted stronger links between individual productivity and wages, objecting to the pay system that penalized all workers if the enterprise did not fulfill its production plan. Forced "patriotic labor" continued, and each citizen was required to work six days per year at local public works or face stiff penalties. Complaints about inequitable distribution of resources among social groups became more frequent, and the perquisites for the party elite, such as chauffeured limousines and palatial residences, drew bitter criticism. In late 1987, mass demonstrations and riots occurred in Brasov, the second largest city. Angry workers protested pay cuts for unfilled production quotas, energy and food shortages, and the regime's repression. They burned portraits of Ceausescu, ransacked city hall and local party headquarters, seized personnel records, and looted party food shops. There were rumors of similar incidents in other major cities as well.

Although public protests were swiftly and brutally suppressed, worker dissatisfaction continued to smolder. But the majority of workers, perhaps because of chronological and psychological ties to a peasant past, were predisposed to react to even the most dire conditions with passive hostility rather than active opposition. At the close of the 1980s, the working class was sullen and dispirited to the point of apathy.

The Intelligentsia

Traditionally the Romanian intelligentsia--the educated elite of society--had been the children of the landed aristocracy who had moved to cities to become poets, journalists, social critics, doctors, or lawyers. Given the country's overall backwardness, any education beyond the elementary level accrued special privileges and high social status. The intelligentsia played a leading role in the life of the nation, providing a humanistic voice for major social problems, shaping public opinion, and setting value criteria. After 1918, as the aristocracy declined, the class of intellectuals and professionals grew stronger. Throughout the interwar years, many of them occupied high political positions and were quite influential.

During the first decade of communist rule, the old intelligentsia were all but eliminated. They lost their jobs, and their possessions were confiscated. Many were imprisoned, and thousands died or were killed. Those who survived the purge were blackmailed or frightened into submission and collaboration with the new regime. The intellectual arena was cleared of any opposition to communist power and policies, leaving the ruling party free to create a new intelligentsia--one that would be unquestionably loyal, committed to the communist cause, and easily manipulated. The traditional role of the intelligentsia had been irreversibly changed.

The party set out to educate a new intelligentsia that would meet the needs of the crash program of industrialization. The number of people with secondary or higher education rose dramatically. From 1956 to 1966, the total number of Romanians with a higher education increased by 58 percent, and the number of students enrolled in universities more than doubled. A quota system that favored the children of peasant and proletarian families ensured the desired social composition of this rapidly expanding student population. Children of middle-class families were kept to a minimum by a selection system that allocated more points for social origin than for academic qualifications. At the same time, the establishment of the new political system, with its many institutions necessary for administering the centrally planned economy, required an ever-increasing number of white-collar workers. The regime was eager to pull these workers from the ranks of peasantry and proletariat, regarding them as more politically reliable. By 1974 more than 63 percent of nonmanual workers were sons and daughters of proletarian families. This prodigious social advancement produced a highly diverse intelligentsia. The intellectual elite was composed of two main subgroups--a creative elite similar to the traditional intelligentsia involved in scholarly and artistic pursuits, and a new technocratic elite involved in industrial production and management.

In contrast to the interwar period, when the intelligentsia shared the political stage with the ruling establishment, the role of intellectuals in socialist Romania became one of total subservience to the ruling elite. This reversal was particularly stifling for the creative intelligentsia, whose new mission was to paint a picture of socialism that was pleasing, reassuring, and convincing to both the masses and the regime. Under such conditions, freedom of expression and creativity evaporated. As a reward for conformity and demonstrated ideological commitment, the new members of the creative intelligentsia received social and material privileges. Despite reduced wage differentials between white- and blue-collar workers and despite the regime's emphasis on the more technical professions, the new intellectual elite exhibited a marked disdain for manual labor. The intellectuals showed a marked preference for the same fields their predecessors had most highly regarded--philosophy, history, literature, and the arts. It was toward these endeavors that they encouraged their children. The interests of the intelligentsia were strikingly at odds with party canon, which maintained that the intelligentsia was not a class but a separate social stratum working in harmony with the proletariat and performing the leading creative, executive, and administrative roles.

As the technical intelligentsia grew larger and had a more powerful voice in management, its members too were seen as a threat to political authority. Although increasing the quality and quantity of industrial production was the goal of both the PCR and the technical intelligentsia, the means to that end was common cause for disagreement between loyal but technically incompetent apparatchiks (party careerists) and the younger, better educated technocrats. Indicative of the rancor between the two was the latter's undisguised contempt for General Secretary Ceausescu.

Until the late 1960s, the PCR leadership, despite some mistrust and aversion toward intellectuals, acknowledged that the cooperation and participation of skilled professionals was critical for the country's economic development. But with Ceausescu's rise to power, hostility toward the intelligentsia grew. In the early 1970s, an anti-intellectual campaign was launched to eradicate "retrograde values." Ceausescu criticized the intelligentsia for their bourgeois and intellectualist attitudes. Members of the technical intelligentsia were accused of resisting party policy, and thousands were dismissed from research and administrative positions and reassigned to more overtly "productive" work. Writers and artists were denounced for works that did not proclaim the achievements and goals of socialism and aid in the creation of the new socialist man. The Writers' Union purged members who did not show renewed commitment to ideology and patriotism.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as the Ceausescu personality cult permeated society, cultural conditions became increasingly repressive. The media were reorganized to allow for more stringent control, and the number of correspondents sent abroad was sharply reduced. (By 1988 there were none in the United States.) Western journalists increasingly were refused entry, and those who were admitted had very limited access to information. Foreign journalists who dared to be critical were kept under police surveillance and frequently expelled.

As nationalistic overtones grew more strident, restraints on scholars wanting to study in the West increased. The length of time permitted for research was reduced from ten months to three months. In later years, the regime consistently refused to allow students or scholars to take advantage of academic opportunities abroad. The number of United States lecturers in Romania under the Fullbright program dropped from ten to five, and the number of Romanian lecturers in the United States decreased from thirty-eight in 1979 to only two in 1988.

As the anti-intellectual campaign continued into the 1980s, intelligentsia membership in the PCR declined sharply. In the late 1960s, before the onset of the ideological campaign, roughly 23 percent of PCR members were from the intelligentsia. By 1976 the figure was only 16.5 percent. At the end of the 1980s, the intelligentsia was the least satisfied of any social stratum. Probably neither the technical nor the creative elite would have argued for the more heroic version of socialism, with its devotion to egalitarianism and the disappearance of class differences. On the contrary, members of the intelligentsia strongly believed that they deserved certain privileges. They were especially unhappy with salary levels, the party's stifling control over their careers, and their insecure position in society.

Despite the high level of discontent among the intelligentsia, there was relatively little overt dissent against the regime. In 1977, following the Helsinki Accords, a dissident movement involving several intellectuals under the leadership of the prominent writer Paul Goma did surface. After publicly condemning the regime's violation of human rights, many members of the group were arrested, interrogated, or confined to psychiatric hospitals. Later that year, Goma was exiled to the West. In the 1980s there were sporadic cases of dissent, but most intellectuals expressed their dissatisfaction by withdrawing into their private lives and avoiding, as much as possible, participation in institutionalized forms of public life.

The Ruling Elite

Before the Soviet imposition of a communist regime in 1945, party membership had been negligible, but immediately thereafter membership soared, reaching 250,000 by the end of that year. Most of the new members were from the working class or peasantry, or claimed to be, and by virtue of their social origins were considered politically reliable. Most joined the party for opportunistic reasons rather than out of new-found loyalty to the communist cause. These workers and peasants, although relatively uneducated, were hastily inducted into the nomenklatura-- lists of key party and state positions matched with politically reliable candidates. They were immediately eligible for some of the most powerful positions the party had to offer, and they soon had cause to develop a sense of loyalty to the political establishment and its communist principles.

After the first decade of communist rule, the PCR membership included about 5 percent of the population over twenty years of age. Most of the members were over forty years old. The social composition of the party in 1955 revealed the favored position of the working class; though workers accounted for only 20 percent of the general population, they represented 43 percent of the membership. Peasants, the majority of the population, were underrepresented at only 34 percent--still a remarkable figure when compared with their political position in the ancien régime. The intelligentsia, although overrepresented with 23 percent of the membership for their 9 percent of the population, had less influence than before the war.

By the mid-1950s, a new political elite had emerged--the apparatchiks. Most were increasingly dogmatic functionaries, primarily of peasant origin, who had from the beginning occupied the key posts of the nomenklatura. As such, they had served as the driving force behind the massive social and economic transformation of the country and had risen to positions of relative comfort and security. By the late 1950s, however, the old guard was beginning to lose key positions to a growing class of better educated and more competent technocrats. It was a more liberal climate in which technical skills were better appreciated, and important appointments were based more on qualifications than on political loyalty. For a while the apparatchiks successfully resisted this trend, but as a result of the demand for technical competence, many were demoted to less important positions or removed to the provinces. The rapid growth of higher education provided an ever-increasing number of young technocrats to replace the apparatchiks. After Ceausescu consolidated his power, however, the period of political liberalization came to an end. By 1974, with the anti-intellectual campaign well under way, the apparatchiks were again firmly entrenched.

The social composition of the PCR in the 1980s affirmed that the battle against the intellectuals had been won. In 1987, 80 percent of the 3.6 million PCR members were of working-class or peasant origins. Approximately 10,000 of these members constituted the central nomenklatura--the true political elite. This elite, especially its core--the Political Executive Committee--was empowered to steer societal development in the direction it deemed necessary and became the sole arbiter of the nation's social values.

That poorly educated bureaucrats dominated the party and government had severe consequences for society. The low standard of living and cultural repression of the 1980s were directly attributable to the attitudes and values of this ruling elite, who were anti-intellectual, antitechnocratic, hostile to change, and increasingly xenophobic and isolationist. More specifically, these prejudices were the attitudes and values of President Ceausescu, who presided over probably the smallest ruling elite in Romanian history. Ceausescu surrounded himself with apparatchiks who unabashedly contributed to his personality cult, and he installed members of his immediate and extended family in the most powerful party and government positions.

The political elite enjoyed a lifestyle much different from that of most citizens. Members of this group lived in palatial homes expropriated from the previous elite, were cared for by servants, protected by bodyguards, and whisked to work in limousines. They had exclusive access to special shops and commissaries that offered a wide variety of food and luxury items. Ceausescu lived in regal splendor. His residence in suburban Bucharest was protected by guards and traffic blockades. Several castles and palaces were renovated for his personal use and were no longer open to public visitation. He and his entourage travelled in a fleet of luxury cars, for which all traffic was stopped.

The conspicuous perquisites enjoyed by Ceausescu and his circle created resentment among the population, which was suffering from economic and cultural atrophy as well as political repression. Dissidents of various backgrounds called for the abolition of special privileges for the ruling elite, and by the late 1980s disaffection was evident at all levels of society.

In the past, nationalism had played an important role in the legitimacy of the ruling elite and in mobilizing support for its plans for the country. By the late 1980s, however, nationalistic fervor was waning. The Soviet Union appeared much less threatening, and more than a few Romanians were drawn to Mikhail Gorbachev's political and economic reforms. Ceausescu's periodic mobilization campaigns during the 1970s and 1980s had damaged relations between the ruling elite and the rest of society to the point that more and more citizens were reluctant to rally around the PCR and were less accepting of its close-fisted political control and economic policies. Average citizens were weary of sacrificing to build a socialist utopia for posterity and would have preferred a higher living standard in their own lifetimes.


Romania - Social Mobility


Declining social mobility was another important factor in the growing discontent among the citizenry. The economic development following the imposition of communist rule created considerable upward mobility. The fast-growing industrial sector demanded more laborers, skilled workers, and managers. The ever-expanding state bureaucracy required an army of clerks and administrators, and the regime needed thousands of writers, artists, and philosophers to help create the new socialist man and woman. The rapid development of free education created a demand for teachers. In 1969 more than 83 percent of the working population were the product of this mass social mobility and held positions of greater status than had their fathers. More than 43 percent of those in upper-level positions had working-class origins, and 25 percent had peasant backgrounds. In contrast, only 14 percent had roots in the intelligentsia.

As the economic transformation slowed, such phenomenal social mobility was no longer possible. Fewer positions at the top were being created, and they were becoming less accessible to the children of workers and peasants. The new economy demanded skilled personnel, and educational credentials became more important than political criteria for recruitment into high-status positions. Statistics showed that children of intellectuals and officials were far more likely to acquire these credentials than were children of peasants and workers. In the late 1960s, when peasants and workers constituted over 85 percent of the population, their children made up only 47 percent of the university student body, whereas children of the intelligentsia filled 45-50 percent of university slots. Moreover, members of the intellectual elite were more likely to find places for their children in the most prestigious universities and faculties, whereas students from worker and peasant backgrounds were concentrated in the less sought after agricultural and technical institutions.

Such inequalities persisted into the late 1980s, largely because children of the intelligentsia had better opportunity to acquire language facility and positive attitudes toward learning. Furthermore, these families were more able to prepare their children for the competitive selection process through private tutoring. Some resorted to bribery to obtain special consideration for their children. A child from an intellectual family had a 70 percent chance of entering the university; the child of a worker or peasant had only a 10 percent chance.

Despite the regime's repeated assaults on the intelligentsia and the ideological efforts to elevate the status of blue-collar work, most citizens continued to aspire to intellectual professions. Studies conducted in the 1970s at the height of the ideological crusade against intellectualism and the privileged class revealed that the majority of young Romanians planned to pursue higher education. Virtually none declared any desire for a blue-collar career. And yet as a consequence of the party's effort to channel more of the population into production jobs, opportunities for professional careers grew increasingly rare. Enrollment in technical schools had increased to 124,000 by the end of 1970, which provided a surfeit of low-paid, low-status engineers.

In the 1980s, it appeared that the boundaries between the social strata were beginning to harden. Research conducted in the mid-1980s suggested that some 87 percent of citizens born into the working class remained blue-collar workers. The intelligentsia showed an even greater degree of self-reproduction, and the rate of downward mobility from the intellectual elite into other social categories was remarkably low--lower in fact than in any other European member of Comecon. The hardening stratification along traditional lines gave evidence of a growing class consciousness, which was most evident among the intelligentsia, whose values, attitudes, and interests differed from those of other segments of society. Workers, too, exhibited increased class consciousness, as their aspirations and expectations went unfulfilled. Not only did social mobility in general decrease, it also declined within the working class itself, creating greater potential for social unrest.


Romania - Family


The Marxist position on the family is found in The Origin of Family, Private Property, and the State by Friedrich Engels. Its basic premise is that the patriarchal family and its subjugation and exploitation of women and children were born out of private-property relationships. Under socialism the abolition of private property would result in relationships between couples founded solely on love, and the emphasis on collective life would diminish the importance of the family as a unit for nurturing children.

The Evolution of Family Law

Family law in socialist Romania was modeled after Soviet family legislation. From the outset, it sought to undermine the influence of religion on family life. Under the ancien régime, the church was the center of community life, and marriage, divorce, and recording of births were matters for religious authorities. Under communism these events became affairs of the state, and legislation designed to wipe out the accumulated traditions and ancient codes was enacted. The communist regime required marriage to be legalized in a civil ceremony at the local registry prior to, or preferably instead of, the customary church wedding. Overall, a more liberal legal atmosphere prevailed, granting women greater rights within the family. The predominance of the husband was reduced, and the wife was given equal control over children and property and was entitled to keep her maiden name. The divorce procedure was greatly facilitated. In fact, if both parties wanted a divorce, and there were no children involved, the dissolution of the marriage could be accomplished simply by sending a joint statement to the local registry office. In addition to the right to divorce with relative ease, abortion on demand was introduced in 1957.

Because of the more liberal procedures, the divorce rate grew dramatically, tripling by 1960, and the number of abortions also increased rapidly. Concern for population reproduction and future labor supplies prompted the state to revise the Romanian Family Code to foster more stable personal relationships and strengthen the family. At the end of 1966, abortion was virtually outlawed, and a new divorce decree made the dissolution of marriage exceedingly difficult.

As part of the program to increase birthrates, the legal age for marriage was lowered to fifteen years for women in 1984, and yet the rate of marriage remained quite steady--on average about 9 marriages per 1,000 people per year. The divorce rate remained well below 1 per 1,000 until 1974. A study published in 1988, however, showed that the divorce rate had risen steadily since 1974, although not to the pre-1966 level. It must be noted, however, that divorces were measured against the total population and not the total number of marriages, which disguised the rising rate. The primary causes of divorce were violence and alcoholism. The study concluded that marital instability was once again a growing problem.

Much family legislation concerned women in the workplace and was designed to increase the size of families. Provisions for pregnant women and working mothers were comprehensive and generous. Expectant and nursing mothers were not permitted to work under hazardous conditions, were exempt from overtime work, and after the sixth month of pregnancy and while nursing were exempt from night work--all with no reduction in salary. Nursing mothers were entitled to feeding breaks, which could total two hours per day-- also with no reduction in pay. In addition, women were allowed paid maternity leave of 112 days--52 days prior to and 60 days after delivery. They were also entitled to paid leave to care for sick children under three years of age. Without loss of benefits, mothers were permitted to take a leave of absence from work to raise a child to the age of six, or they could request half-time work.

Changes in Family Structure

Not only did households become smaller--mostly because of a lower fertility rate--there was also a transition from the traditional extended family of three generations in a single household to the nuclear family of only a couple and their children. By the late 1960s, only 21.5 percent of families had grandparents living with them. This trend was hastened by improved old-age pensions that made it unnecessary for the elderly to live with their children and by the cramped quarters of urban living. However, in the countryside, where about half of Romanian families still lived in the late 1980s, families tended to have more children, and extended families were common. And even when parents and their children lived in separate households, the close relations of kinship were not abolished, even after one or the other had moved to the city. Strong ties between households were evident in the extended family strategies that were aimed at maximizing resources by placing family members in various sectors of the economy. This process led to jointly owned property such as livestock, joint cultivation of garden plots, and shared material comforts from salaried labor.

Family Life

The process of socialist modernization greatly affected family life. Through education and a comprehensive welfare system, the state assumed responsibility for providing assistance and transmitting values. Although the family was identified as the fundamental unit of socialist society, and it heavily influenced the values of the younger generation, its primary role had become population reproduction. Even that role was no longer a private matter, but was subject to the whim of government policy. But the prediction that socialism would provide for the transfer of domestic duties from the home to the public sector fell far short of fruition. In 1989 communal dining facilities and public laundries were still largely unavailable, and because the tertiary sector of the economy received the lowest priority, services such as house cleaning, home repairs, and dry cleaning were either inadequate or nonexistent.

Consumer durables to lighten the burden of housework were available only to a privileged few. In the late 1960s, only 7.3 percent of households had electric refrigerators, 22.6 percent had gas stoves, 9.5 percent had washing machines, 3.2 percent had vacuum cleaners, and 38.8 percent had electric irons. By the late 1980s, the situation had improved somewhat, but the majority still lacked these items. In addition to the difficulties associated with home maintenance, shopping for the family was laborious and timeconsuming . The dearth of refrigerators and freezers forced most families to shop for food every day and because supermarkets were scarce, shopping entailed trips to several different stores where the customer typically had to stand in one queue to select merchandise and in another to pay for it. Inadequate public transportation made shopping even more toilsome.

Family life for rural Romanians differed in many respects from that of urban families. Their living standards were lower, and they maintained values and behavior patterns that were firmly rooted in traditional peasant life. The unavailability of electricity to many rural households made it impossible for them to use refrigerators and washing machines, which in many cases would have been prohibitively expensive. Even when electricity was available and they could afford the appliances, many peasant women still did their laundry at the stream because it was a traditional site of social interaction. Using a washing machine gave a woman a reputation for being lazy and antisocial. Likewise, many rural families eschewed refrigerators in favor of traditional ways of preserving food. Perhaps because farm produce was a source of income for many rural families, they consumed far less fresh meat, vegetables, and fruit than urban families, and the staple of the rural diet remained maize porridge flavored with cabbage, cheese, onion, or milk. This frugal everyday diet was interspersed with feasting on special occasions such as weddings, funerals, Easter, and Christmas.

Rural family life was much more heavily influenced by religion than was urban society. Romanian Orthodoxy, rich in tradition, dictated the rhythm of life in a calendar of numerous holiday celebrations. Church attendance in rural areas far surpassed that in urban places. Most rural people viewed the civil marriage ceremony required by the state as a mere formality and lived together only after a church wedding. In addition, divorce was much less common in rural parts. Rural families spent a remarkable amount of free time in church and in church-related activities. The average sermon lasted more than three hours. Visiting, folk music, folk dancing, and listening to the radio were other popular activities. Urban families, on the other hand, exhibited more secularized values and were more likely to use their free time to pursue cultural activities.

Although industrialization, urbanization, and education did not eliminate the cultural gap between rural and urban Romania, these processes did narrow it. Rural-urban contact occurred daily though commuting, and the accoutrements of urban living trickled back to families even in the most remote areas. Furthermore, although the influence of religion was not eradicated, it certainly declined, especially in urban areas, creating an unforeseen problem. Surveys indicated that the socialist ethics and values that the state expected the educational system to instill had not filled the void left by fading religious values.


Romania - Women and Women's Organizations


The socialist plan for the emancipation of women aimed to eliminate the "barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-racking drudgery" of their lives. The subservience of women was to be ended by establishing the complete equality of the sexes before the law and by making women economically independent through employment outside the home. The legislation was easily accomplished, and Romanian women were indeed mobilized into the work force in large numbers. By 1970 some 74.9 percent of working-age women (aged 20 to 59 years) were employed outside the home. But despite the theoretical commitment of socialism to eradicating sexual inequality, working women continued to bear the burden of caring for children, home, and husband. Romanian husbands tended to regard cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping and child care as essentially female duties. Consequently women were left with the lion's share of household responsibilities and far less time to pursue educational, recreational, cultural, or social activities.

By the 1980s, illiteracy among females had long since been eliminated. Female enrollment in the primary education system was proportionate to their numbers, and a woman's access to higher education had also increased considerably. Some 44 percent of students pursuing higher education were women--up from 32.8 percent in 1945. Behind these figures, however, lurked stereotyped sex roles that were much more difficult to erase. Popularly held views continued to divide professions according to sexual suitability. Studies showed that most girls chose traditional feminine specializations, such as education and the humanities, whereas boys tended to favor technical and scientific fields. Consequently young men acquired skills and filled occupations that were held in higher regard and were better paid.

A similar fissure occurred in the industrial workplace, where patterns of sex discrimination clearly penalized women. Although opportunities abounded for those who wanted to work, women were found primarily in the ready-made clothing, textile, soap, cosmetics, and public health industries. They were also the majority in the shoe and food industries and in trade. Thus women were concentrated in light industries, whereas economic development favored heavy industry, which employed mostly men, was more modernized and automated, and paid better wages. Not only were women concentrated in branches of the economy where they labored at more arduous tasks and earned less, women were seldom employed as supervisors, even in the sectors where they dominated in numbers. Women also made up more than 60 percent of the agricultural work force, which constituted about two-thirds of the total female labor force.

This sexual division of labor was due both to discrimination and to voluntary choices on the part of women not to enter certain professions and not to seek promotions. Generally the primary factor in the decision to limit themselves was the double burden of homemaking and child rearing, which left little time for professional preparation or extra responsibilities in the workplace. In addition, men had negative attitudes toward women's careers. In a 1968 study to determine whether professional women were supported in their endeavors by their spouses, only 35 percent of the husbands interviewed valued their wives' careers more than their housework. This attitude was reinforced by labor laws designed to protect women's reproductive capacities and provide for maternal functions, which prohibited women from working in particular occupations and placed restrictions on hours and work load in general.

Although women represented some 30 percent of the PCR membership in 1980, few actually participated in political activity. Of those women serving in government, most held less powerful positions at the local level or served on women's committees attached to local trade unions, where the work was largely administrative in nature. Women were usually involved in issues of special concern to their gender, such as child care, or health and welfare matters, and rarely served on the more important state committees.

Unlike in the West, feminist groups dedicated expressly to the articulation and representation of women's interests did not exist in Romania. A national committee of prominent women headed by Ceausescu's wife, Elena, was organized to advise the government on women's issues. There were also traditional women's groups, such as social and educational associations and women's committees attached to local trade unions. These organizations served the interests of the PCR first and foremost. The PCR officially regarded feminism and an independent women's movement as divisive and unacceptable.

Clearly socialism had not resolved the conflict between the sexes, and although it provided equal access to education and employment, it did not provide equal opportunity to succeed. In that regard, Romania's experience was not very different from that of other countries, but it was ironic that such inequality between the sexes persisted in a country ideologically committed to its elimination.


Romania - Education


The PCR viewed education as the primary vehicle for transforming society, instilling socialist behavior standards and values, and thereby creating the new socialist man. The provision of free and universal public education extended social opportunity to a broad segment of the population and became a paramount factor in the regime's legitimacy. At the same time, education provided the state with an adequate labor force for continued economic development. These basic objectives--societal transformation, legitimacy, and economic development--continued to be the most influential factors in setting education policy.


In 1989 the PCR continued to set education policy and initiate changes in the system. Education was centrally controlled through the Ministry of Education and Training, which carried out party mandates and was responsible for the general organization, management, and supervision of education. Although in theory all educational activities were subject to the authority of this central ministry, many of the specific duties were delegated to support organizations, and lower party organs were involved in running the system at all levels. The degree of central state involvement varied. Higher education, because of its vital role in research and economic development, was the most directly administered. On the other hand, at the lower levels, there was a fair amount of parental and popular participation in school affairs.

Political Education and Socialization

Education was a political socialization process from preschool through university and beyond. In kindergarten ideological training aimed to instill love of country, the PCR, and President Ceausescu. In addition, children were introduced to the Marxist concept of work, largely through imitation of the everyday work world. Instruction stressed equality between the sexes in the working environment and the equal importance of physical and intellectual work. Much of the ideological training was dedicated to socialist morality, which emphasized obedience to discipline and commitment to building socialism over the welfare and advancement of the individual, as well as honesty and politeness.

Although ideological training in preschools was indirect, as children progressed through the system, it began to resemble other academic subjects. Students were increasingly obligated to participate actively in ideological training. The emphasis was placed on conformity and anti-individualism. Violations of the dress code, which dictated dress, hairstyle, and general appearance, were viewed as ideologically incorrect behavior. The primary source of teaching materials for political instruction were party newspapers, and typical topics for discussion were Ceausescu's speeches, decrees by the Central Committee, and the role of industry in the country's economic development. At the high school and university level, students read classical texts of Marxism-Leninism and studied the Romanian interpretation of them.

In addition to the ideological training accomplished within the education system, political training was supplemented by extracurricular activities arranged for young people through the national youth organizations--the Pioneers and the Uniunea Tineretului Comunist (UTC), or Union of Communist Youth --which were closely affiliated with schools but controlled by the PCR. Students in the fifth to eighth grades were members of the Pioneers, and students at the high school or university level were UTC members. Membership in these organizations, which supervised almost all extracurricular activities, was mandatory. In the 1980s, however, the youth organizations were battered by criticism because of the younger generation's political apathy and infatuation with Western values, music, and dress. The UTC was castigated for the antisocialist nature and "narrow individualism and careerism" of young people and many of its traditional responsibilities were transferred to educational and cultural organs.

Ideological profiles were kept on each student throughout his or her academic career, and failure to exhibit correct ideological behavior was noted. Upward mobility within the education system, and hence, upward social mobility, depended on getting passing marks in discipline and ideological studies as well as in academic studies. University students who demonstrated political activism, perhaps by serving as UTC officers, often were invited to join the PCR.

Education and Legitimacy of the Regime

Along with the aim of political socialization, a chief goal of the communists from when they first held power was the "democratization" of education, which meant compulsory primary education for all members of society and implied greater access to higher education for peasants and workers. Democratization of education was to serve as the wellspring of upward social mobility and an important source of legitimacy for the regime. Large investments were made in education, and illiteracy was all but eradicated by 1966, an important achievement considering that in 1945 some 27 percent of the population was unable to read or write.

At the same time there was a massive expansion of enrollment in elementary education, and universal ten-year basic schooling was achieved by 1975. In that year 100 percent of those eligible to attend elementary school were enrolled; the corresponding figure for secondary education was 49 percent, and for higher education 10 percent. By 1970 the number of teachers at the primary and secondary level was three times the pre-1945 figure, and by 1975 the student-to-teacher ratio fell to 20 to 1. The university teaching staff also expanded dramatically--from approximately 2,000 teachers in the 1938-39 academic year to more than 13,000 by 1969. Teaching, especially at the university level, had long been a prestigious profession. Teachers were required to be qualified in two specialties and were trained in guidance and counseling.

Throughout the 1970s, efforts were made to link more closely the education system to the requirements of the economy and the industrial development of the nation. This had a dramatic impact at all levels of the educational structure, as the desire for close ties between the school and real-life situations meant greater emphasis on technical and vocational education, whereas the humanities and liberal arts suffered. This polytechnic approach favored basic education with more courses in mathematics and natural and physical sciences, factory and farm work during school hours, and special courses aimed at instilling love and respect for manual labor and eliminating bias in favor of academic work. As a result, the education system of the 1980s openly discouraged higher academic education and favored training that would produce workers and managers as quickly as possible.

Preschool and Kindergarten

The state provided some preschool and child-care institutions, including nurseries for children under three and kindergartens for children between three and six or seven. In 1955 only 18.6 percent of children aged three to six were actually enrolled in kindergarten. That figure increased to 41.9 percent in 1974, but demand still far exceeded the spaces available. By 1981, 75 percent of children between three and four years old and 90 percent of children between five and six were attending kindergarten. For a charge of about two dollars per month, full-day care (including two meals each day) was provided, and the child was intellectually and socially prepared for school. Apparently most parents concurred that the principal role in the care and development of children between the ages of three and six belonged to state institutions and not the family. On the other hand, studies showed that parents were much less willing to use nurseries, because they believed the quality of care was poor, and they considered care of children under three a function of the family.

Primary Education

As of the late 1980s, compulsory education began at age six and concluded at sixteen. Despite considerable differences in quality between rural and urban schools, the first four years were fairly standard for all students and consisted of a general program taught by teachers trained in three-year pedagogical institutes. As part of the de-Sovietization program, compulsory study of Russian had been dropped, and the traditional Soviet five-point marking system had been replaced with a ten-point system. Many students did study foreign languages, however, usually beginning in the fifth grade. English and French were the most popular choices. In grades five through eight, students began to specialize and were encouraged to start learning trades. Teachers for students at this level were primarily university-trained.

Secondary Education

Secondary education, of which two years were compulsory, allowed the students three options. The general secondary schools lasted four years and were geared toward preparing students for the university. These schools could concentrate on a specific field of study, such as economics or music or on a particular foreign language. Four- and five-year technological secondary schools trained technicians and industrial managers. Two- and three-year vocational high schools, extolled by the regime, trained skilled workers. Most primary school graduates attended vocational schools.

Education at the secondary level clearly reflected a technical bias. Three years after the 1973 educational reforms, the ratio of general to technical and vocational schools was reversed--from four general to every one specialized school in 1973 to one general to four specialized schools in 1976. During the 1970s, the number of students enrolled in technical studies increased from 53,595 to 124,000. The trend toward vocationalism continued into the 1980s, but general secondary schools continued to carry more status, despite official rhetoric and preferential treatment for vocational and technical schools. To combat popular bias favoring intellectual education, the leadership made a conscious effort to incorporate elements of vocational education into academic schools and vice versa.

In the late 1980s, the regime claimed that more than 40 percent of graduates of specialized schools went on to higher education. But most peasant and worker families sent their children for some sort of vocational training, whereas the social and political elite secured a general secondary education and usually a college degree and a higher social niche for their offspring. This restratification of the education system bred resentment among the working class and was troublesome for the regime's goal of educational democratization.

Another major problem was the growth in credentialism that in turn created a greater demand for more post-secondary education of all types. But the occupations most necessary for economic development were among the least sought, and the gap between the needs of the economy and the aspirations of young people widened. The majority of young Romanians wished to pursue higher education, even as education institutions were channeling students into production as skilled workers with specialized training.

Higher Education

Despite remarkable expansion in education at the primary level and increased numbers of secondary school graduates, the transition to mass higher education did not occur. Competition for entry to universities and other institutions of higher learning was extremely intense, and the procedures for admission were strict and complicated. Despite an impressive network of universities, technical colleges, academies, and conservatories, only 8 percent of those eligible for higher education were permitted to enroll. The central government allocated slots based on predicted demand for given occupations.

Stringent entrance exams eliminated a large number of applicants. Some 90 percent of freshmen entering one university department had private tutoring for eight years before taking the tests. Because the exams were tailored to the course of study, as early as the fifth grade students began planning their specializations, so that they could devote the last four years of elementary school and four years of high school to the subjects in which they would be tested. Both high school teachers and university professors confirmed that it was next to impossible to enter the university without private tutoring.

The cost of a private tutor was prohibitive for many workers and peasant families, and rural-urban differences in education exacerbated their difficulties. A point system that discriminated in the favor of workers and peasants was apparently not enough to compensate for poorer preparation. Such students had less chance of getting into universities and even when admitted were more likely to drop out. Most of the 20 percent of students dropping out after the first year were of peasant or working-class backgrounds.

Although the state provided generous financial support ranging from low-cost housing and meals, free tuition, and book subsidies to monthly stipends, higher education was not free of charge. For those students who received financial aid, the amount depended on factors such as social background and specialization. Some students were sponsored by a particular industrial enterprise, for whom they pledged to work for a certain amount of time after completing their studies.


Romania - Religion


Church-State Relations

Although officially atheistic, the state in 1989 recognized and financially supported sixteen different religious groups. These groups and the scope of their activity were controlled by the Department of Cults and were subject to strict regulations. Churches could not engage in any religious activity outside officially designated religious buildings. This restriction prohibited open-air services, community work, pilgrimages, and evangelization. Religious education for young people was expressly forbidden, and religious classes in general were prohibited. Severe restrictions limited the printing and import of bibles and other religious books and materials, and their distribution was treated as a criminal offense. The state recognized no religious holidays and often asked for "voluntary labor" on important holidays in an apparent effort to reduce church attendance and erode religious influence.

After 1984, under the guise of urban renewal, many churches of all denominations in and around Bucharest, including churches with unique spiritual and historical importance, were demolished by government orders. By 1988 approximately twenty-five had been razed, and sixty or seventy more were scheduled for destruction. Some of the buildings leveled were more than 300 years old, and many were classified as architectural monuments. Along with them, valuable icons and works of art were destroyed. Protests by congregation members, leading intellectuals, and Western governments failed to halt the demolition.

The Romanian Orthodox Church

In the late 1980s, the Romanian Orthodox Church, by far the largest denomination, claimed some 16 million members--roughly 70 percent of the total population. The church had some 12,000 places of worship and 9,000 priests and was the most generously supported of all denominations. The most important positions in the Orthodox hierarchy were filled by party nominees, and the church remained patently submissive to the regime, even in the face of repeated attacks on the most basic religious values and continued violations of church rights. Church leaders lauded the "conditions of religious freedom" that the state had guaranteed them and were known to collaborate with the Securitate in silencing clergymen who spoke out against the demolition of churches, interference in church affairs, and atheistic propaganda in the media.

The Roman Catholic Church

The next largest denomination, the Catholic Church in the late 1980s had about 3 million members, who belonged to two groups--the Eastern Rite Church, or Uniates, and the Latin Rite Church, or Roman Catholics. After 1948 the Department of Cults took the official position that "no religious community and none of its officials may have relations with religious communities abroad" and that "foreign religious cults may not exercise jurisdiction on Romanian territory." These regulations were designed to abolish papal authority over Catholics in Romania, and the Roman Catholic Church, although it was one of the sixteen recognized religions, lacked legal standing, as its organizational charter was never approved by the Department of Cults. The fact that most members of the Roman Catholic community were ethnic Hungarians probably contributed to the church's tenuous position. In 1948 Roman Catholics were deprived of three of five sees, leaving only two bishops to attend to the spiritual needs of the large membership. Subsequently all Catholic seminaries and charitable institutions were closed and newspapers and other publications affiliated with the church were suppressed. A few seminaries were reopened in 1952, but they were generally provided little support by the state. Although the priest-to-members ratio remained quite high in the 1980s, more than 60 percent of the active clergy were over 60 years of age, and owing to restrictions on enrollment in seminaries and theological colleges, their numbers were likely to decline.

After 1982 the church was allowed only fifteen junior and thirty senior seminarians per year. Moreover priests received minimal salaries and had no pension plans nor retirement homes. The state controlled all clerical appointments, which meant that many vacancies went unfilled, and effective priests were transferred from parish to parish, whereas those who proved most loyal to the regime received the highest salaries and key appointments. Seminaries, priests, and congregations were closely watched and infiltrated by the Securitate. Even in the 1980s, the danger of being interrogated, beaten, imprisoned, or even murdered was apparently very real, as most foreign visitors found priests and lay people alike too frightened to communicate with them. The government also restricted the amount of work that could be done to repair or enlarge church buildings.

In the early 1980s, there were indications that tensions between the Vatican and the regime over bishopric appointments were easing. Pope John Paul II successfully appointed an apostolic administrator for the Bucharest archbishopric. As of 1989, however, the Romanian government had not officially recognized the appointment, and the issues of inadequate church facilities, restrictions on the training of priests, and insufficient printing of religious materials remained unresolved.

The Uniate Church

Although its members are primarily Romanian, the Uniate Church has received even more severe treatment. By the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the Uniates, or Eastern or Byzantine Rite Catholics, had broken away from the Orthodox Church and accepted papal authority while retaining the Orthodox ritual, canon, and calendar, and conducting the worship service in Romanian. In 1948, in an obvious attempt to use religion to foster political unity, the country's 1.7 million Uniates were forcibly reattached to the Romanian Orthodox Church. Some 14,000 recalcitrant priests and 5,000 adherents were arrested, at least 200 believers were murdered during incarceration, and many others died from disease and hunger. The suppression of the Uniate Church required collaboration between the regime and the Romanian Orthodox Church hierarchy, which maintained that the Uniates had been forcibly subjugated to Rome and were simply being reintegrated into the church where they properly belonged.

That the Uniate Church survived, albeit precariously and underground, long after it officially had ceased to exist was an embarrassment to the regime and the Orthodox leadership. Even in the mid-1980s, there were still some 1.5 million believers, and about twenty "Orthodox" parishes that were universally regarded as Uniate. Besides 300 priests who were not converted, another 450 priests were secretly trained. The church had three underground bishops. After 1977 some Uniate clergymen led a movement demanding the reinstatement of their church and full restoration of rights in accordance with constitutional provisions for freedom of worship. In 1982 the Vatican publicly expressed concern for the fate of the Uniates and supported their demands. The Romanian authorities protested this act as interference in the internal affairs of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Other Religions

Romania's Jewish community in the late 1980s numbered between 20,000 and 25,000, of whom half were more than sixty-five years old. Jews enjoyed considerably more autonomy than any other religious denomination. In 1983 there were 120 synagogues, all of which had been relatively recently restored. For twenty-five years the Jewish Federation in Romania had been allowed to publish a biweekly magazine in four languages. There were three ordained rabbis, and religious education was widely available to Jewish children. In addition the government permitted the Jewish Federation to operate old-age homes and kosher restaurants. On the other hand, there were repeated anti-Semitic outbursts in the official press and elsewhere that were condoned by the regime.

Romania also has a Moslem community, which in the late 1980s numbered about 41,000. Two ethnic groups--Turks and Tatars-- concentrated in the Dobruja region make up this religious community.

In the 1980s there were a number of Protestant and neoProtestant denominations that were formally recognized and ostensibly protected by the Constitution. The Reformed (Calvinist) Church, an entirely Hungarian congregation, had a membership of between 700,000 and 800,000. The Unitarian Church, also largely Hungarian, had between 50,000 and 75,000 members. The Lutheran Church had a membership of about 166,000--mainly Transylvanian Saxons. Most of the neo-Protestant followers were converts from the Romanian Orthodox Church. Of these, the Baptists were the largest denomination with 200,000 members, followed by the Pentacostalists (75,000 members), Seventh Day Adventists (70,000 members), and a few other smaller groups.

The neo-Protestant religions attracted an increasing number of followers in later years. The rapid growth, especially among Baptists and Pentacostalists, continued throughout the 1970s, and many young converts from the established churches were gained. This trend was troublesome to the regime, because many neo-Protestants-- especially Baptist clergymen--called on churches to resist state interference in their affairs and suggested that the state should respect Christians' rights and renounce atheism. In the late 1970s and in the 1980s, the regime responded to this quasi-political movement with a press campaign attacking the credibility of the denominations and with police repression. Many congregations were fined heavily, and their most effective leaders and activists were arrested or forced to emigrate, whereas others were threatened with dismissal from their jobs and the loss of social benefits. Propaganda, media attacks, and police repression against Jehovah's Witnesses were especially harsh. Because the sect remained unregistered, its mere existence was illegal. The regime claimed that the religious beliefs espoused by the sect were "dangerous, antihumanistic, antidemocratic, and antiprogressive."




The economic crisis of the late 1970s and the 1980s imposed a precipitous decline in social expenditures and social services. Between 1980 and 1985, annual outlays for housing decreased by 37 percent, for health care by 17 percent, and for education, culture, and science by 53 percent. This dramatic decrease in social spending meant that in the 1980s Romanians lived in conditions of impoverishment akin to that experienced in the 1940s.


Although housing was a high priority, in the 1980s it remained inadequate in both supply and quality. The law allotted only twelve square meters of living space per person, and the average citizen had even less--about ten square meters. More than half a million workers lived in hostels; some had lived there for many years, even after they had married and had children. These hostels were known for their cramped and squalid conditions and for the heavy drinking and violence of their occupants. The lists of persons waiting for housing were long, and bribes of as much as 40,000 lei were necessary to shorten the wait.

Defying reality, the PCR leadership pronounced the housing problem "solved for the most part" and predicted its total elimination by 1990, an unlikely prospect in view of the fact that new housing construction during the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1986-90) had fallen far short of target. To achieve the official goal of fourteen square meters per person by the year 2000, it would have been necessary to complete an apartment every three minutes. Comecon-published statistics and even figures released by the Romanian government indicated that in fact there had been a sharp decline in the construction of new dwelling space.

Public Health

Health care in socialist Romania was provided free of charge by the state and, at least in theory, to all citizens. Indeed, between 1940 and 1980, annual expenditures for public health increased considerably. There was a concurrent rise in the number of physicians and hospital beds available to the population. In 1950 there were 9.1 physicians and 41.6 hospital beds per 10,000 people. By 1971 these numbers had risen to 12.1 and 84.7 respectively. Using officially reported infant mortality rates and life expectancy figures as indicators, public health improved. Infant mortality decreased from 116.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1950 to 49.4 per 1,000 in 1970 and to only 23.4 per 1,000 in 1984. It should be noted, however, that infant deaths were officially recorded only if the infant was older than one month. Over the same period, life expectancy rose for men from 61.5 to 67 years and for women from 65 to 72.6 years.

In later years, however, infant mortality apparently rose quite rapidly, particularly after 1984. In 1988 health officials confirmed the rise in infant mortality, blaming the incompetence of medical personnel, geographic remoteness, harsh weather, and even "careless and uncooperative mothers" for the higher rate of mortality. Western observers suggested explanations such as harsh working conditions, especially in the textile industry, environmental pollution, and a food supply that was inadequate for the needs of expectant mothers and infants. Shortages of infant formula and inadequate concentrations of powdered milk resulted in malnutrition and death. Perhaps the greatest factor, however, was the government's demographic policy that forced women who were unwilling or in poor health to bear children. In the first year after the demographic policy was introduced in 1966, infant mortality increased by some 145.6 percent. There were even reports of newborns in hospital incubators dying during government-ordered power shutdowns. In 1989 the death rate of newborns stood at roughly 25 per 1,000 live births.

Although the mortality rate among the elderly decreased during the decades following the war, an unstable food supply, energy shortages, and the increasing cost of living in the 1980s posed grave hardship for the aged, who lived on pensions that averaged only 2,000 lei per month. Staple foods were rationed throughout the 1980s and were often unavailable except at exorbitant prices on the black market. In late 1988, one kilogram of meat was priced at 160 lei, or about 8 percent of the monthly pension. Cheese cost as much as 120 lei and coffee about 1,000 lei per kilogram. Although utility rates rose sharply, most people periodically had no hot water, heat, or electricity. In late 1988, pensions were raised an average 8 percent for some 1,352,000 people. It seemed doubtful, however, that the raise would make an appreciable difference in the face of erratic food and energy supplies and steadily rising inflation.

The elderly, who represented a growing percentage of the population (14.3 percent in 1986), received shoddy treatment from the state. Through regulations issued at the local level, they were unable to move to larger cities--where food and health care were more readily available--even when their children offered to care for them. There was also widespread discrimination against the aged in health care. Hospitals responded to emergency calls from citizens over 60 years old slowly, if at all. Physicians routinely avoided treating the elderly in nonemergency cases and reportedly were under strict instructions from the state to reduce drug prescriptions for the aged. Homes for old people, established and run by the state social security system, had appalling reputations. In these institutions, the elderly suffered from inadequate medical care, poor hygienic standards, and the same food and heating shortages that affected the general population. After 1984 the winter months brought many complaints that old people had to go without heat and hot water for as long as a week, and there were regular reports of deaths of elderly men and women because of poor heating.

The disreputable treatment of the elderly was ironic in a country that had a long tradition of geriatrics. After 1952 Romania had an Institute of Geriatrics, directed by Dr. Ana Aslan until her death in 1968. Aslan was known internationally for developing "rejuvenation" drugs and for a philosophy of longevity that stressed social factors and material needs. The First National Congress of Geriatrics and Gerontology, held in Bucharest in 1988, failed to criticize the dire situation of the elderly in Romania.

Medical care was unevenly distributed throughout the country for all citizens, not just the elderly. There were substantial differences between urban and rural standards. In the 1980s, although half the population continued to live in rural areas, only 7,000 (15.7 percent) of the 44,494 physicians worked in the countryside. Consequently, many citizens had to travel great distances to get medical care. The state did not provide free medical care to some 500,000 peasants and 40,500 private artisans. In addition, access to medical care often depended on the gratuities proffered. It was common to offer medical personnel money, food, or Kent cigarettes. Moreover the quality of health care depended on social standing. For example, only special health units that served party members, the Securitate, or the upper ranks of the military dispensed Western medications or had modern medical facilities comparable to those in the West.

Although many of the diseases of poverty had disappeared, cancer, cardiovascular disease, alcoholism, and smoking-related illnesses were prominent. Alcoholism, judging by the dramatic increase in production and consumption of alcohol after the 1960s, was a serious problem. By 1985 wine and beer production was twice that of 1950, and hard liquor production was four times higher. In 1980 beer consumption was eleven times that of 1950, brandy use was 2.2 times higher, and consumption of other alcoholic drinks was 5.8 times greater.

Drinking was prominent in all segments of society, but especially in the villages, where almost every occasion for celebration involved consumption of alcohol. Young workers in hostels were notorious for heavy and competitive drinking, which often led to brawls, destruction of public property, and violent crimes.

The deterioration of the standard of living exacerbated the drinking problem. Although food was scarce, the supply of alcohol was ample, and there was little else on which to spend one's wages. Moreover, the use of alcohol was encouraged by the traditional practice of offering bottles of liquor as bribes or gifts. Finally, official pronouncements aside, the sale of alcohol brought considerable profit to the state, and little real progress was made against increased consumption despite its adverse effects on labor productivity and work safety.

After a long official silence on the incidence of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) in Romania, the first media references to the disease began to appear in late 1985. Even then the brief articles contained very little information. They gave the technical name and classification of the disease and mentioned that it was fatal but said nothing about how AIDS was transmitted, its symptoms, or what preventive measures could stops its spread. The articles mentioned only two risk groups--drug addicts and hemophiliacs--and made no reference to the prevalence of AIDS among homosexual men. Most likely this omission was due to the fact that homosexuals as a group were never publicly acknowledged. Not only was homosexuality a taboo subject, it was illegal and punishable by one to five years in prison.

By 1987 Romania had reported only two deaths from AIDS and only thirteen carriers of the disease to the World Health Organization. But nothing about the cases, deaths, or carriers appeared in the Romanian press, which continued to emphasize that the highest incidence of AIDS occurred in the West, particularly in the United States. In 1988, however, a committee was established to study the disease, and between 1985 and 1987, thousands of people were tested for AIDS. In mid-1987 an information campaign was initiated. Articles in the press more frankly and factually covered the disease, admitting the existence of fifteen cases and two deaths from AIDS, as well as explaining for the first time that male homosexuals were the highest risk group. The symptoms were also listed. Still, efforts to combat the disease may have been seriously hampered by sexual taboos that persisted in Romanian society. High-risk groups such as homosexuals and prostitutes were unlikely to voluntarily submit to screening for fear of going to jail. In addition, the health service was impaired by the country's economic deterioration, and there was little hard currency available to purchase necessary testing and diagnostic equipment and supplies from the West.

State Welfare Assistance

The pension scheme in socialist Romania provided for state employees only. Cooperatives, professional associations, and the clergy had to provide their own pensions. State employees were usually required to retire at age sixty-two for men and fifty-seven for women. Retirement could be postponed for up to three years, or individuals could request early retirement at sixty years of age for men and fifty-two for women if conditions for length of service were met (twenty-five years for women and thirty years for men). The employer adjudicated requests for early or postponed retirement. Pensions were based on the employee's salary level and length of service. Retirees without the required length of service had their pensions reduced accordingly. Pension amounts were not permanently fixed, but could be adjusted up or down according to the needs of the state, and presumably, the needs of the elderly.

In addition to retirement pensions, the state provided pensions to invalids and survivors' benefits to the immediate families of deceased persons entitled to retirement pensions. Monetary assistance was also provided under a state insurance plan in cases of sickness or injury. Again, this help was available only to state employees. The state also provided special programs for social assistance to orphans, people with mental or physical handicaps, and the elderly.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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