King Michael's Coup

Last updated
King Michael in 1947 Mihai.jpg
King Michael in 1947

King Michael's Coup was a coup d'état led by King Michael I of Romania during World War II on 23 August 1944. With the support of several political parties, the king removed the government of Ion Antonescu, which had aligned Romania with Nazi Germany, after the Axis front in northeastern Romania collapsed in the face of a successful Soviet offensive. The Romanian Army declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Soviet Red Army on the Moldavian front, an event viewed as decisive in the Allied advances against the Axis powers in the European theatre of World War II. The coup was supported by the Romanian Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, the National Liberal Party, and the National Peasants' Party who had coalesced into the National Democratic Bloc in June 1944.

Contents

Preparations

According to Silviu Brucan, the two main conspirators from the Communist Party's side were Emil Bodnăraș and Lucrețiu Pătrășcanu, who contacted King Michael to prepare a coup d'état against Ion Antonescu. [1] The first meeting between King Michael's representatives with the Communists was during the night of 13–14 June 1944 in a secret house of the communists, at 103 Calea Moșilor. Apart from the two communist conspirators, participants in the meeting were Gen. Gheorghe Mihail, Gen. Constantin Sănătescu and Col. Dumitru Dămăceanu, while King Michael was represented by Baron Ioan Mocsony-Stârcea  [ ro ] (marshal of the palace), Mircea Ionnițiu (private secretary) and Grigore Niculescu-Buzești (diplomatic adviser). [1]

The King's representatives presented the Gigurtu plan, through which the King would meet Baron Manfred von Killinger, the German ambassador in Bucharest, to discuss the replacement of Antonescu with a cabinet led by Ion Gigurtu. The Communist Party thought that this plan was "naïve and dangerous", as it would have alerted the Gestapo and that it would have meant even more German espionage. [2]

The Communist Party presented an alternative plan, through which King Michael, who was the commander-in-chief, would order the weapons to be turned against Nazi Germany and Antonescu would be summoned to the palace, ordered to sign an armistice with the Allies and, if he refused, be arrested on the spot. [3] After this, a coalition government of the National Democratic Bloc (the National Peasants' Party, the National Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Romanian Communist Party) would take power. [3]

This proposal was accepted by both the military representatives and the King's advisers, who then convinced King Michael that it was the best solution. [3]

The coup

On 23 August 1944 King Michael joined with pro-Allied opposition politicians and led a successful coup with support from the army. Michael, who was initially considered to be not much more than a "figurehead", was able to successfully depose dictator Ion Antonescu. The king offered a non-confrontational retreat to German ambassador Manfred Freiherr von Killinger, but the Germans considered the coup "reversible" and tried to turn the situation around by military attacks. The Romanian First Army, the Romanian Second Army (under formation), the remnants of the Romanian Third Army and the Romanian Fourth Army (one corps) were under orders from the king to defend Romania against any German attacks. The king then offered to put Romania's battered armies on the side of the Allies.

Aftermath

The coup sped the Red Army's advance into Romania. [4] Romanian historians claimed that the coup shortened the war by as much as "six months." [5]

Formal Allied recognition of the de facto change of orientation of Romania in the war came on 12 September 1944. Until this date, Soviet troops started moving into Romania, taking approximately 140,000 Romanian prisoners of war. [6] About 130,000 Romanian POWs were transported to the Soviet Union, where many perished in prison camps. [4]

The armistice was signed on the same date, 12 September 1944, on Allied terms. [4] [7] Article 18 of the Armistice Agreement with Rumania stipulated that "An Allied Control Commission will be established which will undertake until the conclusion of peace the regulation of and control over the execution of the present terms under the general direction and orders of the Allied (Soviet) High Command, acting on behalf of the Allied Powers." The Annex to Article 18, specified that "The Romanian Government and their organs shall fulfill all instructions of the Allied Control Commission arising out of the Armistice Agreement." It also made clear that the Allied Control Commission would have its seat in Bucharest. In line with Article 14 of the Armistice Agreement, two Romanian People's Tribunals were set up to try suspected war criminals. [8]

In October 1944, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, proposed an agreement with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin on how to split up Eastern Europe in spheres of influence after the war. It was reportedly agreed that Soviet Union would have a "90% share of influence" in Romania. [9]

The Romanian Army, from the armistice until the end of the war, were fighting alongside the Soviets against Germany and its remaining allies. They fought in Transylvania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In May 1945 the Romanian First and Fourth Armies took part in the Prague Offensive. The Romanians suffered a total of 169,822 casualties (in all causes) fighting on the Allied side. [10]

Ion Antonescu was placed under arrest; the new Prime Minister, Lt. Gen. Constantin Sănătescu, gave custody of Antonescu to Romanian communists who would turn the former dictator over to the Soviets on 1 September. [11] He was later returned to Romania, where he was tried and executed in 1946.

For his actions, King Michael was decorated with the Soviet Order of Victory by Joseph Stalin in 1945 "for the courageous act of the radical change in Romania's politics towards a break-up from Hitler's Germany and an alliance with the United Nations, at the moment when there was no clear sign yet of Germany's defeat." He was also awarded the highest degree (Chief Commander) of the Legion of Merit by President Harry S. Truman a year later. [12] Nevertheless, he functioned as little more than a figurehead under the communist régime and was finally forced to abdicate and leave the country in 1947. Michael remained in exile until after the Romanian Revolution of 1989 and was only allowed to return to the country in 1992. [13]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 Brucan, p. 20
  2. Brucan, pp. 20–21
  3. 1 2 3 Brucan, p. 21
  4. 1 2 3 "23". Armistice Negotiations and Soviet Occupation. Country Studies: Romania. US Library of Congress.
  5. Constantiniu, Florin, O istorie sinceră a poporului românAn Honest History of the Romanian People), Ed. Univers Enciclopedic, Bucureşti, 1997, ISBN   973-9243-07-X (in Romanian)
  6. Ioan Scurtu, Politica Si Viaţa Cotidiana in Romania in Secolul Al XX-lea, editura Mica Valahie, Bucuresti, 2011, p. 265.
  7. "Hitler Resorts To 'Puppets' In Romania". The Washington Post. August 25, 1944.
  8. "The Armistice Agreement with Rumania; September 12, 1944".
  9. "The division of Europe, according to Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin (1944)". CVCE. 2011.
  10. Romulus Dima, Contribuția României la înfrângerea Germaniei fasciste, București, 1982 (in Romanian)
  11. "Marshal Ion Antonescu". Romanian Armed Forces in the Second World War.
  12. Armata Română în Al Doilea Război Mondial(in Romanian)
  13. Tomiuc, Eugen (May 6, 2005). "World War II – 60 Years After: Former Romanian Monarch Remembers Decision To Switch Sides". Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

Related Research Articles

King of the Romanians Monarch of the former Kingdom of Romania

The King of the Romanians or King of Romania, was the title of the monarch of the Kingdom of Romania from 1881 until 1947, when the Romanian Workers' Party proclaimed the Romanian People's Republic following Michael I's forced abdication.

Following the outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939, the Kingdom of Romania under King Carol II officially adopted a position of neutrality. However, the rapidly changing situation in Europe during 1940, as well as domestic political upheaval, undermined this stance. Fascist political forces such as the Iron Guard rose in popularity and power, urging an alliance with Nazi Germany and its allies. As the military fortunes of Romania's two main guarantors of territorial integrity—France and Britain—crumbled in the Fall of France, the government of Romania turned to Germany in hopes of a similar guarantee, unaware that the then dominant European power had already granted its consent to Soviet territorial claims in a secret protocol of 1939's Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

Nicolae Rădescu Prime Minister of Romania

Nicolae Rădescu was a Romanian army officer and political figure. He was the last pre-communist rule Prime Minister of Romania, serving from 7 December 1944 to 1 March 1945.

Horia Sima Romanian politician

Horia Sima was a Romanian fascist politician, best known as the second and last leader of the fascist paramilitary movement known as the Iron Guard, also known as the Legion of the Archangel Michael. Sima was also the vice president of the council of ministers in Ion Antonescu's National Legionary State, and a short-lived minister in the government of Ion Gigurtu. In January 1941, Sima initiated and led the Legionnaires' Rebellion against Conducător Ion Antonescu and the Romanian Army, for which he was sentenced to death, as well as the Bucharest pogrom, the largest and most violent pogrom against Jews in the history of Muntenia. Following the rebellion, Sima escaped to Germany, and later to Spain, where he lived until his death.

Constantin Sănătescu Prime Minister of Romania

Constantin Sănătescu was a Romanian statesman who served as the 44th Prime Minister of Romania after the 23 August 1944 coup, through which Romania left the Axis Powers and joined the Allies.

Silviu Brucan was a Romanian Communist politician. He became a critic of the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu. After the Romanian Revolution, Brucan engaged as a political analyst.

Dinu Brătianu, born Constantin I. C. Brătianu, was a Romanian politician who led the National Liberal Party (PNL) starting in 1934.

Lorković–Vokić plot

Lorković–Vokić plot was a mid-1944 attempt initiated by the Minister of Interior, Mladen Lorković and Minister of Armed Forces, Ante Vokić, to form a coalition government with the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), abandon the Axis powers and align the Independent State of Croatia with the Allies with the help of the Croatian Home Guard. The plan originated from the HSS which was also involved in the negotiations with the Allies. The plot ended with massive arrests and the execution of major plotters, including Lorković and Vokić.

The Soviet occupation of Romania refers to the period from 1944 to August 1958, during which the Soviet Union maintained a significant military presence in Romania. The fate of the territories held by Romania after 1918 that were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 is treated separately in the article on Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina.

Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina

The Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina took place from June, 28 to July 4, 1940 as a result of the ultimatum given by the Soviet Union to Romania on June 26, 1940 threatening the use of force. Bessarabia was part of the Kingdom of Romania since the time of the Russian Civil War, Bukovina since the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, while Hertza was a district of the Romanian Old Kingdom. The regions, with a total area of 50,762 km2 (19,599 sq mi) and a population of 3,776,309 inhabitants, were subsequently incorporated into the Soviet Union. On October 26, 1940, six Romanian islands located on the Chilia branch of the Danube, with an area of 23.75 km2 (9.17 sq mi), were also occupied by the Soviet Army.

Lothar Rădăceanu Romanian politician

Lothar or Lotar Rădăceanu was a Romanian journalist and linguist, best known as a socialist and communist politician.

Tămădău affair

The Tămădău affair was an incident that took place in Romania in the summer of 1947, the source of a political scandal and show trial.

Operation Autonomous was a clandestine operation carried out on the territory of Romania by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up by Winston Churchill for the duration of World War II to assist local Resistance movements.

Percentages agreement

The percentages agreement was a secret informal agreement between British prime minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin during the Fourth Moscow Conference in October 1944. It gave the percentage division of control over Eastern European countries, dividing them into spheres of influence. Franklin Roosevelt was consulted tentatively and conceded to the agreement. The content of the agreement was first made public by Churchill in 1953 in the final volume of his memoir. The US ambassador Averell Harriman, who was supposed to represent Roosevelt in these meetings, was excluded from this discussion.

Battle of Romania

The Battle of Romania in World War II comprised several operations in or around Romania in 1944, as part of the Eastern Front, in which the Soviet Army defeated Axis forces in the area, Romania changed sides, and Soviet and Romanian forces drove the Germans back into Hungary.

Ion Gigurtu was a far-right Romanian politician, Land Forces officer, engineer and industrialist who served a brief term as Prime Minister from 4 July to 4 September 1940, under the personal regime of King Carol II. A specialist in mining and veteran of both the Second Balkan War and World War I, he made a fortune in interwar Greater Romania. Gigurtu began his career in politics with the People's Party (PP) and the National Agrarian Party, moving closer to the far right during the 1930s, and serving as Minister of Industry and Commerce in the cabinet of Octavian Goga. Shortly after the start of World War II, Gigurtu was affiliated with King Carol's National Renaissance Front, serving as Public Works and Communications Minister and Foreign Minister under Premier Gheorghe Tătărescu, before the territorial losses incurred by Romania in front of the Soviet Union propelled him as Tătărescu's replacement.

Letter of the Six open letter

The Letter of the Six was an open letter signed in March 1989 by Silviu Brucan, together with five other Romanian Communist Party dignitaries.

The Socialist Peasants' Party was a short-lived political party in Romania, presided over by the academic Mihai Ralea. Created nominally in 1938 but dissolved soon after, it reemerged during World War II. A clandestine group, it opposed the fascist regime of Ion Antonescu, although its own roots were planted in authoritarian politics. Looking to the Soviet Union for inspiration, the PSȚ was cultivated by the Romanian Communist Party (PCdR), and comprised a faction of radicalized social democrats, under Lothar Rădăceanu.

Ivan Nikolaevich Burenin was a major general of the Red Army during World War II. From August to December 1, 1944 he was the Soviet commander of the Bucharest garrison.

Liberation from Fascist Occupation Day

Liberation Day, officially known as the Liberation from Fascist Occupation Day was observed on 23 August in Communist Romania to celebrate the Soviet occupation of Romania in the lead up to the end of the Second World War. It coincides with the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.

References