In order to impose itself as the dominant ideology, Communism needed to get rid of any opposition. In Romania, besides the other political ideologies (Liberalism, Conservatism, etc.), religion represented a strong competitor to Communism. Consequently, Communists started eliminating all forms of religion from people’s lives. One interesting example is how Communists managed to hijack a popular Christmas carol that children typically sang on Christmas Eve.
The carol, called “Steaua” (“The star”), is about the three kings or magi who found out about Jesus’ birth after seeing a rising star. However, the Communists kept only the first verse intact, while altering the rest to talk about how the rising star actually announces prosperity to all hard-working people (an allusion to the working class). This is not a coincidence, since the Soviet flag at that time contained a star (in addition to the sickle and hammer symbol of Communism).
The first years of Communist rule in Romania (1944-1958) are characterized by a strong pro-Soviet political and cultural orientation. Not only was the country under the Soviet army’s occupation, and the Romanian Communist Party under the Comintern’s direction, but most of the Romanian party officials during that period had a Soviet education, having spent several years in Moscow or elsewhere in Russia, training in Communist ideology and propaganda. Soon after the Russian army’s official retreat, Nicolae Ceausescu becomes the leader of the Romanian Communist Party, and de-facto ruler of Romania; with this, the official political discourse changes radically, to become one of the few anti-Soviet discourses in the Eastern Bloc. Obviously, this was reflected in all forms of propaganda, but we’ll talk about that in a future article. This article outlines the pro-Soviet propaganda of the early years of the Communist regime in Romania.
First, the occupation by the Soviet Army had to be presented as a day of liberation from the Nazis. The 23rd of August became a national holiday, marked by massive popular rallies for peace and prosperity.
The text above reads: “Long live the 23rd of August, the great celebration of the liberation of our land by the glorious Soviet army”.
The 9th of May was also an important celebration for the Communist propaganda, as it marked the day when Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Soviet army in 1945. The text above reads: “Glory to the brave Soviet Army, the liberator of the world from the Nazi oppression”. Indeed, the Russians were often depicted as liberators, although many Romanians considered them an occupation force, and for good reason: many Russian soldiers abused the Romanian civilian population, often raping women, beating pedestrians or robbing them of their personal belongings (such as coats or watches).
The 23rd of February was also adopted as a national celebration in Romania to mark the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 (the postcard above reads “Praise the glorious Soviet army, the defender of peace”). Another important national holiday manufactured by the Communist Party to brainwash the Romanian people was the 7th of November, which marked the victorious end of the Bolshevik Revolution. Basically, the Party used every possible occasion as a national holiday to promote the Communist ideology and values to the people.
The postcard above reads “All the best on the occasion of November 7th”, followed by the slogan “Friends forever”, and depicts a Romanian woman and a Russian woman hugging each other. Soviet symbols, such as flags or logos, were often used in conjunction with Romanian ones, to instill the idea of friendship between the two countries in people’s minds.
A special organization, called ARLUS — “Asociatia Romana pentru strangerea legaturilor cu Uniunea Sovietica” (literally “Romanian Association for closer relationships with the Soviet Union”) — was set up in 1944. Its main purpose was to promote the Soviet culture and values, and to print and distribute Communist literature and propaganda. The association survived until 1964, when Romania started taking a stand against the Soviet interference into its internal affairs, and adopt a nationalist political direction instead.
In the next articles from the propaganda series, you’ll learn about other techniques that the Communist Party in Romania used to indoctrinate the Romanian people. Until then, I leave you with this image of the two flags — Russian and Romanian — and the ironic call to “fight for peace”: