The Anti-communist Revolution of 1989


These days Timişoara is commemorating 20 years since the anti-communist revolution of December 1989. It is time for us to remember.

  • The year 1989 led to the collapse of the communist totalitarian regime all over Europe; 

  • During the last months of the year 1989, especially in the western regions of Romania, the population was already familiar with the changes that had taken place in Europe from the Hungarian and Yugoslavian TV channels and the Romanian shows broadcast by Radio Free Europe and The Voice of America; thus, an apparently common event (the arbitrary eviction of a Reformed vicar, László Tökés, from the parish house on December 15 1989) was used as a pretext for an uprising in Timişoara, which, in its more radical variant, turned into a revolution; 

  • Several members of the religious community gathered in front of Tökés’s parish house on December 15 in order to prevent the parson’s eviction; the house was in a crowded neighbourhood, close to the city centre, and so, many other citizens stopped to see what was happening and increased, unwillingly at first, the number of the demonstrators; 

  • On December 16, the number of the demonstrators had risen to 400, most of them being people of other persuasions and ethnic origins, citizens of Timişoara; when they blocked the traffic in the area, the situation grew more serious; during the afternoon, the first anti-Ceauşescu slogans were shouted out; one spark was enough to start the fire; chanting “Down with Ceauşescu!" and “Down with communism!", the demonstrators marched around Timişoara encouraging people to join them; army, police and Securitate troops were sent off to fight back the crowd, the demonstrators were beaten and arrested during that night and the next morning; 930 people were arrested and 130 of them were under age; 

  • During the afternoon of December 17, the crowd gathered again in the centre of the city; when he was informed that the uprising could not be annihilated, Ceauşescu ordered fire against the demonstrators; his order was carried out, and thus the first martyrs of the Timişoara Revolution died that night; 

  • On December 18, several young people and children gathered in front of the Orthodox Cathedral, chanting slogans and singing Christmas carols; at a certain moment, a tank appeared, shooting at the youngsters and hitting many of them; 

  • During the night of December 18/19, with the complicity of the District Hospital management, the authorities carried the heroes’ bodies from the hospital mortuary to Bucharest, where they were burnt in the Crematorium; other bodies were buried stealthily in anonymous graves; to erase all traces, all the victims’ papers were destroyed;

  • During the following days, the opposition continued; on December 19, the workers from the ELBA electricity plant went on strike;

  • On December 20 all the factories in Timişoara went on strike; thousands of people were marching towards the city centre that morning, so the troops withdrew;

  • The leaders of the Timişoara Revolution presented the communist authorities with a list of demands, the list turning then into a genuine manifesto; on the same day, December 20 1989, Timişoara was declared the first free city of Romania by the representatives of the Romanian Democratic Front, the first democratic political party, born on the blood-stained streets of Timişoara; most of the prisoners were released;

  • On December 20, the town of Lugoj, near Timişoara, stood up against the communist regime, giving its own tribute of heroes dying for the cause of the Romanian Revolution;

  • On December 21, Ceauşescu, in his lethal megalomania, organized a grand demonstration in Bucharest, with the purpose of offering himself support and publicity and criticizing the so-called "Hungarian hooligans" of Timişoara; however, in front of the dictator’s very eyes, the demonstration turned into an anti-Ceauşescu and anti-communist movement; during the same day, the revolution started in most of the major cities of Romania: Cluj, Sibiu, Arad, Târgu-Mureş, Caransebeş, Cugir etc.; even if the authorities shot at the demonstrators, the people could no longer be defeated;

  • It was a matter of hours until the system collapsed, which happened on Friday, December 22 1989, at noon, when the Ceauşescus flew away from Bucharest;

  • In the confusion thus created, several groups wanted to take over the power and the winners were the group led by Ion Iliescu and Petre Roman, who, on the evening of December 22, formed the National Salvation Front, an organization which took the responsibility of transforming Romania into a democratic state;

  • The day of December 22 was officially declared the Romanian Revolution Victory Day; on the same evening, still unidentified forces, denounced by the authorities as counter-revolutionary and faithful to the old regime, started fire against civilians as well as military troops in several cities, causing panic and confusion; 

  • The fear of these so-called "terrorist" forces justified the hasty trial organized for the Ceauşescus and their execution on Christmas Day 1989; 

  • The change of the communist regime was already a fact at the end of December, but its toll was absurdly high and unjustified: 

  • 1104 dead people, of which 162 before December 22 and 942 after this date;

  • 3352 wounded people, of which 1107 before December 22 and 2245 after this date.

This text was provided by the "Revolution Memorial" Association of Timişoara