Strategies of survival and socio-vocational integration in the families of former political prisoners in the first two decades of the Communist regime

Project description

The establishment of the Communist regime in Romania was produced by terror and unprecedented pressure in the context of the presence of the Red Army troops in the territory of the country. In order to consolidate its authorities have turned to brutal crackdowns of any resistance (real or imagined) to pursue two objectives: to annihilate any attempt to challenge the regime, both in its substance and legitimacy through refusal rules they required; to obtain the adhesion of the majority population in relation to the new policy. In these circumstances, the first two decades, the arrest and conviction of opponents or potential oppositionists policies are main methods used. Were envisaged both the representatives of the political parties during the inter-war period, and those who, for one reason or another, were not to the liking of the new regime. But more than that, in parallel with the brutal actions of the security, in which most of the opponents has been virtually eliminated, were taken in a series of retaliatory measures by which and their families have been punished, marginalized and stigmatized. All of these intrusive practices over individuals and their families were, by extension, the evolution of Romanian society in the long term, some of the effects may be noticeable even today.

In the last 25 years, researches regarding the background of years of communism in Romania, implicitly referred to the political repression, have witnessed an unprecedented development. This was natural in the circumstances in which such subjects were taboo before 1989. The interest of researchers was doubled by the influx of memory works, which, in turn, to the recovery of some pages of recent history. However, many aspects of the history of the first two decades of the Communist regime remained the least known. They included and how the "great history" or public history, i.e., the waves of repression resulting in over one hundred thousands of arrests and convictions, have interfered with the microistoria, more specifically with individuals. Keep in mind, in this case, not those directly in the crosshairs of the Communist authorities, who ended up in detention, but the other members of their family, themselves victims of the regime, which has shown far too little. The dramatic changes that have occurred in the evolution of social, cultural, economic and professional families of former political prisoners have been in recent years, more than secondary themes, the interest of historians and the general public being rather concentrated on the fates of those who suffered because of the communist terror following surveys and deprivation of liberty. But, if the number of those who have arrived in the detention facilities, prisons, labour camps and colonies in excess of 100,000 people (in historiography are traded-in our opinion-and unrealistically 350,000 figures-600,000 people) we can appreciate that the number of victims apparently collateral damage-but who were themselves victims of these repressive measures, amounted to several hundred thousand people Thus a significant proportion of the population at that time. We consider the implementation estimates that, as a result of arrests and convictions, families, represented by her parents, husbands, wives, children, times had, in turn, to endure a series of vicissitudes because of how the Communist regime understood to relate to "enemies of the people" and to all those who are close to them. The attitude of authorities lacking humanity weather towards the members of these families represent, in fact, an invasive way of imposing control on society, through fear.

By addressing the theme of research from a dual perspective, both the oral history testimonies of those directly concerned, and by recourse to archival documents (and with direct reporting to the General bibliography), we believe that research is realising that to capture the complex links between major processes of history and their impact on the level of society and of individuals.

We appreciate that such a project is important because potential witnesses, and historical information suppliers whom we consider are inevitably affected by the passage of time, and the recovery of their testimonies is subject to necessity for both the research today, but especially for future historians, who very soon will no longer be able to "access" that such "sources".

Project objectives

By addressing the theme of research from the perspective of oral history, but also through recourse to archival documents, we propose:

  • to capture the complex links between major processes of history ("great history" or public history) and the microistoriei, represented by individuals and family groups. In particular we would like to find out how evolution has changed the social, cultural, economic and professional persons as a result of events and phenomena in recent history.
  • to highlight the way in which the process of levelling/comunizare and homogenization of the deconstruction of traditional society determined.
  • to identify the main historical streams that have marked the evolution of Romanian society in the first two decades of the Communist regime, their effects, and lay out specific strategies for Adaptive survival and/or newly created positions.
  • to capture the psychological trauma suffered by family members of former political prisoners and how they have influenced these subsequent reactions (though it has strengthened anti-Communist beliefs or, on the contrary, i turned into a fearful person, willing to integrate social and political position towards the past; 1989).
  • to point out the mechanisms by which the Communist totalitarian State tried to interfere with the development of families and individuals, and in this way to bring the whole society.

-to set up an audio-video archive of topics that can be utilized by both researchers interested in the recent history, but also by representatives of the media or teachers wishing to use this type of material in the educational process at different levels.


Starting from the finding that the appeal solely from a single type of sources can generate certain deformations on the final result of an historical research, we believe that it requires an interdisciplinary approach of the theme proposed. Thus, we consider both classic research in archives and oral history investigations, with openings to other specific interdisciplinary social sciences, such as sociology and social anthropology.

As regards research in the archive we take account of the specificity of the documents (made by the political police of totalitarian rule), in particular the criminal Funds, Documentary and Informative of the CNSAS. As regards the oral sources, they began to deal with in recent years an increasingly important place in research methodology in Romania as an alternative and, at the same time, as a complement to traditional historical writing, based almost exclusively on archival documents.

In addition to the refund subject from the perspective of "big", provided by the statistics and documents of the time, our research comes with a direct approach from the perspective of individual experience, which will show vision and unconventional points of view in any case different from official buildings which is "contaminated", often the document archive.

In the research of oral history we aim to use oral inquiry-based structured interview. This will be applied to a representative sample, established on the basis of a number of well-established criteria such as geographical area (keep in mind all of the country's counties and Bucharest), urban and rural, social position, ethnicity, age, sex, studies. But the most important criteria that will form the basis for the selection of potential respondents will be that of the possession of relevant memories on the subject of research. Identify potential witnesses will be done in collaboration with the Association of former political prisoners from Romania.

The interviews will be based on the principle of both qualitative and quantitative, as well as to obtain a clear image as the theme. They will be made on the basis of an interview guide drawn up in advance by team members and will be recorded on digital audio support (and the most representative and on digital video format), transcribed, edited and then used in conjunction with archival sources in order to exploit.

Dissemination of research results

From this perspective we consider disseminating both nationally and internationally. Thus, we propose:

  • making a web page of the project, in Romanian and English language
  • conducting oral history interviews with former political prisoners and members of their families. They will enter into oral history Archive of the Institute for the investigation of Communist crimes and the memory of the Romanian exile (1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION) where they will be able to be accessed by users
  • formation of a database of names of persons interviewed
  • publication of a collective volume (resulting from an International Conference organization) at a prestigious publishing house.
  • Organization at Râmnicu Sărat in 2016 to an international conference bringing together experts from Romania and from abroad
  • publication of a volume with testimonies and documents resulting from research carried out under the project, a prestigious publishing house.
  • drafting of minimum 4 studies (which will be published in peer-reviewed journals indexed in major international databases
  • participation in international conferences organized 9 minimum of research or academic institutions in the country or abroad