Criticism grew following the publication (1988) of a government project of ” rural systematization ”, which envisaged by 2000 the destruction of about 7000 villages and the resettlement of the population in collective blocks of flats which were to form the nucleus of new agricultural centers. -industrial; inspired by the objective of eliminating the differences in life between the city and the countryside, the project also aimed to recover 348,000 ha of land to be used for cultivation. The ” systematization ” widely affected the area populated by the Hungarian minority (especially Transylvania) and aroused strong protests from Budapest. Romanian refugees in Hungary, mostly of Hungarian origin, reached approximately 13,000,
Inside the country, the second half of the 1980s experienced growing discontent, while the role played by repressive structures (primarily the secret police, Securitate) in the life of the regime increased. Protests held in Braçsov in November 1987, coinciding with Gorbachev’s visit, were severely repressed, like others held in Bucharest and Timiçsoara in December. In March 1989 a group of former high-ranking members of the government and the party, still members of the latter, addressed a strongly critical open letter to Ceauçsescu. Despite the multiplication of the signs of crisis, the government – even after April 1989, when the extinction of the external debt was announced – continued its austerity policy.
Ceauçsescu had just been reconfirmed at the head of the party, during the 14th congress (November 1989), when the crisis that led to its overthrow exploded: the protest arose from the resistance to the deportation order of L. Tökes, a pastor of Hungarian distinguished himself in opposition to the regime. The crowd gathered around Tökes’ home in Timiçsoara on December 16 gave rise to anti-government demonstrations that were bitterly repressed (hundreds of deaths) by theSecuritate and army troops. The tension increased in the following days and on 21 December Ceauçsescu was interrupted and harshly contested during a rally in Bucharest; the Securitate he tried to disperse the crowd, but anti-government demonstrations sprang up spontaneously in various parts of the city, turning into a popular uprising against the regime. The next day a state of emergency was declared; Ceauşescu and his wife Elena fled by helicopter, but were captured shortly after. On the same day, the rioters took control of television and radio, and organized themselves into a National Salvation Front (Frontul Salvării Nationale, FSN) which obtained decisive support from the army. Clashes with men of the Securitatethey continued in the following days and ended only after the trial, partially broadcast on television, of Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu, accused of genocide, corruption and destruction of the national economy; a military court sentenced both to death and the sentence was carried out on the evening of the 25th.
Within the FSN, a group of reformist-oriented communists soon emerged as the leading nucleus, while I. Iliescu, a prominent member of the party until the early 1980s, was appointed president of the FSN and, ad interim, of the Republic; Fr Roman, a professor at the Bucharest Polytechnic and a member of the PCR, set up a provisional government, an expression of the FSN. The first government decrees, issued between the end of December and the beginning of January 1990, concerned the abolition of the leading role of the Communist Party, the cancellation of the ” rural systematization ” program, the decriminalization of abortion and the abolition of the death penalty. The official name of the state was changed to the Republic of Romania; Constitutional amendments introduced a plan to restructure the economy according to the principles of the free market and sanctioned respect for the rights and freedoms of minorities. The Securitate was abolished; food exports were stopped.
While the FSN strengthened its position, achieving control of the country also at the local level, it found itself faced with growing dissent, fueled by the numerous parties that were being formed and based on the accusation of continuity against the past regime. The tension grew following the announcement of the FSN’s participation in the general elections, held for the following April, and did not diminish, except temporarily, after an agreement reached at the end of January with 28 parties – including the reconstituted National Democratic Party -Peasant Christian (Partidul National Tărănesc-Creştin şi Democrat, PNTCD), National Liberal Party (Partidul National Liberal, PNL), and Social Democratic Party (Partidul Social Democrat Român, PSDR) – for the formation of a National Unity Council, with provisional legislative functions, until the elections are held. After the approval of a new multi-party electoral law (March) which also established the formation of a bicameral parliament, the presidential and political elections, held on May 20, 1990, recorded a clear affirmation of Iliescu (86%) and the FSN respectively. (67%). While in Transylvania there was a resurgence of interethnic tension, fueled by the Romanian nationalists gathered in the Union of the Romanian homeland (Uniunea Vatra Românească), a strong crisis broke out in Bucharest in the aftermath of the elections, when the university square, occupied since April by groups of opponents, was cleared of the police. The protest was now rampant in the squares of Bucharest; but the arrival of the miners from the Jiu valley, prompted by a radio appeal from Iliescu, led to an explosion of violence against opposition parties and groups that sparked strong protests from Western governments.
On June 20, 1990, Roman was tasked with forming a new government, which came up with a program of rapid economic transformation through extensive privatization. The government’s economic policy aroused growing protest, especially over the reduction in subsidies for consumer goods; the government, which in November received special powers from Parliament, accepted some requests for increases in wages and pensions, but the already difficult economic situation worsened at the beginning of 1991, with the interruption of industrial activity due to the depletion of energy stocks, which occurred in February and March. The climate of tension was aggravated by a xenophobic campaign by ultra-nationalist forces against government officials, including Roman, which was superimposed in September by the explosion of the protest of the miners of the Jiu valley which gave rise to anti-government demonstrations that resulted in very serious unrest (attacks on Parliament and siege of television offices). Roman resigned and Finance Minister Th. Stolojan formed a new coalition government between FSN, PNL, Romanian ecological movement (Miscarea Ecologista din România, MER) and the Romanian Agricultural Democratic Party (Partidul Democrat Agrar din România, PDAR), while on 8 December 1991 a new presidential constitution was approved by referendum.
During 1992 the economic situation continued to worsen, recording a drop in GDP of 16.5% compared to 1991 and a sharp increase in unemployment (which reached 9%), while inflation fell from 323% per year in 1991 to 199%.. The elections of September 1992 recorded the victory of the FDSN (Frontul Democrat Salvării Nationale, born from the split from the FSN of a faction, supported by Iliescu, in favor of greater moderation in the application of the reform policy), which obtained 28% of the votes. As the largest opposition party, the Democratic Convention (CD), a center-right alliance, established itself with 20%, while the FSN, led by Roman, reached 10%. Iliescu won the presidential elections, held between September and October of the same year, with 61% of the votes. In November a minority government, made up of members of the FDSN (since July 1993 Party of Social Democracy of Romania) and of independents, was formed by N. Vacaroiu, an independent economist formerly Minister of Finance of the Stolojan government, in favor of a greater state intervention in the transition phase to the market economy.
On the international level, with the fall of Ceauşescu, ties with the USSR were strengthened; following the collapse of the latter, the process of economic and cultural integration initiated between the Romania and the former Soviet Republic of Moldova created tensions with Russia, which adopted a position of defense of the Russian minority residing in Moldova. In 1992 the Romania joined the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Pact together with the coastal countries, some countries of the former USSR and some Balkan countries. It also strengthened relations with Western Europe (association agreement with the EEC in February 1993).