Romanian anti-communist resistance movement

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Romanian anti-communist resistance movement
Part of Eastern European anti-Communist insurgencies
Romanian anti-communist Resistance.svg
Map of Romania with armed resistance areas marked in red
Result Insurgency suppressed
Flag of Romania.svg Anti-Communist groups Flag of Romania (1952-1965).svg Romanian People's Republic
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Romania.svg Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu
Flag of Romania.svg Toma Arnăuțoiu
Flag of Romania.svg Leon Șușman
Flag of Romania.svg Teodor Şuşman
Flag of Romania.svg Nicolae Dabija
Full list below.
Flag of Romania (1952-1965).svg Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
Flag of Romania (1952-1965).svg Gheorghe Pintilie
10,000 rebels
Casualties and losses
~2,000 killed Unknown, but most likely light

The Romanian anti-communist resistance movement was active from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, with isolated individual fighters remaining at large until the early 1960s. Armed resistance was the first and most structured form of resistance against the communist regime, which in turn regarded the fighters as "bandits". It was not until the overthrow of Nicolae Ceauşescu in late 1989 that details about what was called "anti-communist armed resistance" were made public. It was only then that the public learnt about the several small armed groups, which sometimes termed themselves "haiducs", that had taken refuge in the Carpathian Mountains, where some hid for ten years from authorities. The last fighter was eliminated in the mountains of Banat in 1962. The extent and influence of the movement is often exaggerated in the post-Communist Romanian media, memoirs of the survivors and even historiography, while the authoritarian, anti-Semitic and/or xenophobic ideology of part of the groups is generally overlooked or minimized. [1] The Romanian resistance is sometimes said to be one of the longest lasting armed movements in the former Soviet bloc. [2]

Romanian Revolution period of violent civil unrest in Romania in December 1989

The Romanian Revolution was a period of violent civil unrest in Romania during December 1989 as a part of the Revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several countries. The Romanian Revolution started in the city of Timișoara and soon spread throughout the country, ultimately culminating in the show trial and execution of longtime Communist Party General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena, and the end of 42 years of Communist rule in Romania. It was also the last removal of a Marxist-Leninist government in a Warsaw Pact country during the events of 1989, and the only one that violently overthrew a country's government and executed its leader.

Carpathian Mountains Mountain range in Central and Eastern Europe

The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians are a range of mountains forming an arc throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Roughly 1,500 km (932 mi) long, it is the third-longest European mountain range after the Urals with 2,500 km (1,553 mi) and the Scandinavian Mountains with 1,700 km (1,056 mi). The range stretches from the far eastern Czech Republic (3%) in the northwest through Slovakia (17%), Poland (10%), Hungary (4%) and Ukraine (10%) Serbia (5%) and Romania (50%) in the southeast. The highest range within the Carpathians is known as the Tatra mountains in Slovakia, where the highest peaks exceed 2,600 m (8,530 ft). The second-highest range is the Southern Carpathians in Romania, where the highest peaks range between 2,500 m (8,202 ft) and 2,550 m (8,366 ft).

Banat Historical region

The Banat is a geographical and historical region straddling between Central and Eastern Europe that is currently divided among three countries: the eastern part lies in western Romania ; the western part in northeastern Serbia ; and a small northern part lies within southeastern Hungary.



In March 1944, the Red Army set foot in Bukovina advancing into Romanian territory, at the time an ally of Nazi Germany. Hundreds of people went into the forests forming anti-Soviet guerrilla groups of 15–20 people. [3]

Red Army Soviet army and air force from 1917–1946

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

Bukovina Historical region

Bukovina is a historical region, variously described as in Central or Eastern Europe. The region is located on the northern slopes of the central Eastern Carpathians and the adjoining plains, today divided between Romania and Ukraine.

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.

After the Allied armistice with Romania (11–12 September 1944), the Red Army had free run in Romania and the Romanian government did not have authority over Northern Bukovina. In late 1944 and early 1945, some small armed groups were formed in Romania, with a mission of harassing the Red Army in a future war between the Soviets and the West. [3] After the war, most of these groups dissolved while others remained in the mountains until 1948, when they became active. In May 1946, General Aurel Aldea, the former Minister of the Interior of the Sănătescu government, was arrested and charged with "bringing together various subversive organisations under his command". It appears, however, that the "National Resistance Movement", which he coordinated, posed little threat, if any, to the establishment of the communist regime.

Aurel Aldea was a Romanian general and anti-communist resistance leader.

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.

After the elections of 1946, a coalescence of anti-communist forces led to a structure reuniting generals, senior officers and politicians preparing and coordinating armed groups under a single command. [4] The central coordinating structure inside Romania reported on this initiative to the Romanian National Council residing in Paris, which in turn informed the Western governments. The project was eventually intercepted by the Romanian authorities, which subsequently carried out massive arrests in spring 1948, comprising up to 80% of those who were implicated in the movement. Thus, the coordinated national resistance was decapitated.

1946 Romanian general election

General elections were held in Romania on 19 November 1946, in the aftermath of World War II. The official results gave a victory to the Romanian Communist Party (PCR), its allies inside the Bloc of Democratic Parties, together with its associates, the Hungarian People's Union and the Democratic Peasants' Party–Lupu. The event marked a decisive step towards the disestablishment of the Romanian monarchy and the proclamation of a Communist regime at the end of the following year. Breaking with the traditional universal male suffrage confirmed by the 1923 Constitution, it was the first national election to feature women's suffrage, and the first to allow active public officials and army personnel the right to vote. The BPD, representing the incumbent leftist government formed around Prime Minister Petru Groza, was an electoral alliance comprising the PCR, the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Ploughmen's Front, the National Liberal Party–Tătărescu (PNL–Tătărescu), the National Peasants' Party–Alexandrescu (PNȚ–Alexandrescu) and the National Popular Party.

Anti-communism Opposition to communism

Anti-communism is opposition to communism, both as a theory and more specifically as it presented itself under Communist states governed by Marxist–Leninist communist parties. Organized anti-communism developed after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and it reached global dimensions during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an intense rivalry. Anti-communism has been an element of movements which hold many different political positions, including conservatism, fascism, liberalism, nationalism and social democracy as well as anarchist or libertarian and even socialist and anti-Stalinist left viewpoints.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018.

Onset of the armed resistance movement

However, starting with the summer of 1948, individuals or small groups went underground into the Carpathians, forming various groups of armed resistance in what was a relatively large movement, gathering several thousand people. The rebels came from all social strata and all areas of the country, spreading everywhere the terrain could shield them. The movement was related to the spate of mass arrests hitting the country after the communist power seizure on the eve of 1948, as well as to the political and economical measures which ruined a sizeable part of the peasantry and the middle class. [5] [ need quotation to verify ]

Teodor Susman - anticommunist resistant of Apuseni mountains RezistantaRomanaAntiCommunista-Teodor-Susman-tanar-.jpg
Teodor Șușman - anticommunist resistant of Apuseni mountains

There were several reasons for people seeking shelter in the mountains. While some went underground to escape imminent arrest, more generally people fled as they abandoned hope for surviving after being economically ruined and risking detention or worse. Significantly, entire families took flight in late 1948 and early 1949. Thus, the British consular official in Cluj, reporting on 1 May 1949 on the situation of partisans under the leadership of General Dragalina noted that:

Cluj-Napoca City in Cluj County, Romania

Cluj-Napoca, commonly known as Cluj, is the fourth most populous city in Romania, and the seat of Cluj County in the northwestern part of the country. Geographically, it is roughly equidistant from Bucharest, Budapest and Belgrade. Located in the Someșul Mic river valley, the city is considered the unofficial capital to the historical province of Transylvania. From 1790 to 1848 and from 1861 to 1867, it was the official capital of the Grand Principality of Transylvania.

Corneliu Dragalina Romanian general

Corneliu Dragalina was a Romanian General during World War II, the son of the World War I-general Ion Dragalina. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. He was commander of the 6th Army Corps (Romania) from 1940 to 1943.

clothing and medicine are short and this is probably true as their numbers have been increased by a considerable proportion of women and children since the March 1st land expropriation. I have been given a figure as high as 20,000 as the number who has joined since the expropriation (…) The increase in the number of women and children will create problems of survival next winter (…) I am told now and again of lorries of army supplies going over to the partisans, sometimes by capture and sometimes by desertion, but I cannot say to what extent…" [4]

The members of the armed resistance were not called "partisans" by the population, but haiduci , [6] a word for the generous highwaymen, considered folk heroes.

A further major component of the armed resistance consisted of individuals and groups motivated by anti-communist convictions and persuaded that only an armed engagement could contain increasing terror and prevent an irrevocable communist takeover. Some of the resistance groups were led by ex-army officers and acted in a more coordinated and planned way. It appears that they put their hope in stirring up a more general armed insurrection, which never came to life. A smaller category of insurgents were Romanian refugees recruited in Europe by the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), trained in France, Italy and Greece and then dropped in the Carpathians. It seems, however, that most of them, not being able to create local contacts imperative for survival, were soon captured. [4]

The rebels had links with the CIA, which conducted parachute missions in Romania in the early post-war years. At the beginning of 1949, the CIA through its OPC began to recruit displaced Romanians from Germany, Austria, and Yugoslavia. Gordon Mason, the CIA station chief in Bucharest from 1949–51, said that the smuggling of weapons, ammunition, radio transmitters, and medicine were organized. Agents smuggled into Romania by the CIA were to help organize the sabotage of factories and transport networks. In particular, a two-man team was parachuted into Romania by the CIA on 2 October 1952 near Târgu Cărbunești in Oltenia. Three American-trained agents were sent in June 1953 to the Apuseni Mountains, who were later captured, but not executed, as the Romanian authorities intended to use them as double agents. In the Oradea-Satu Mare region, three airdropped agents were killed, one of them in a firefight and two others later executed. [7]

Among Romanians recruited by the CIA at the beginning of 1951 were Constantin Saplacan, Wilhelm Spindler, Gheorghe Bârsan, Matias Bohm, and Ilie Puiu. The Securitate discovered that they had been recruited in Italy by a former Romanian pilot. Following this, the Romanian Government sent a note to the American protesting interference in the country's internal affairs, and that the captured CIA agents had been "sent to carry out acts of terrorism and espionage against the Romanian Army." [8]

Resistance groups

Ion Gavrila-Ogoranu, leader of Fagaras Mountains movement RezistantaRomanaAntiCommunista-Ion-Gavrila-Ogoranu-tanar.jpg
Ion Gavrilă-Ogoranu, leader of Făgăraş Mountains movement

Ion Gavrilă-Ogoranu, a member of the Iron Guard's youth wing who led a resistance group in the Făgăraş Mountains from 1948 to 1956, and remained undetected until 1976, worked out a set of defining traits of the typical Romanian resistance group. [9] According to this author, such a group was rather small, but could number up to 200 men, located in a mountainous/forested area which comprised some communities. Ogoranu further claimed that such groups were supported by a significant number of inhabitants (up to several thousands), who provided shelter, food and information.

In the Apuseni region of Transylvania, the most active group was led by Leon Șușman. The group mainly hid in the woods and acquired part of its armament from a Iron Guard band that the Germans parachuted in the area in 1944-45.[ need quotation to verify ] To eliminate this resistance group, the Securitate used informers against them and intercepted the correspondence of family members. [10] An armed group called "The National Defense Front-The Haduc Corps" was headed by a former officer of the Royal Army who participated in the war against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front, Major Nicolae Dabija. Resistants from this group robbed the Tax Office in Teiuș, armed with a rifle and handguns. The Securitate learned about the location of this group after an arrested resistant revealed their location on Muntele Mare and about their strength. An operation conducted by the Securitate forces decided to attack the rebels on the morning of 4 March 1949. Securitate forces led by Colonel Mihai Patriciu charged the peak where the rebels were located, with a gunfight and later hand-to-hand combat occurring. The Securitate suffered three deaths and three others wounded. Dabija was arrested on 22 March 1949 after a local villager, whose barn he was sleeping in, notified the authorities of his presence. On 28 October 1949, seven members of the group, including Major Nicolae Dabija, were executed in Sibiu. [11]

Lieutenant Toma Arnautoiu, leader of "Haiducii Muscelului", one of the most long-lived groups RezistantaRomanaAntiCommunista-Toma-Arnautoiu-1944.jpg
Lieutenant Toma Arnăuțoiu, leader of "Haiducii Muscelului", one of the most long-lived groups

Resistance groups were the target of systematic and enduring military actions from fully armed regular troops of the Securitate. The strength of the Securitate troops could vary from platoon to battalion up to regiment, including armoured vehicles, artillery and occasionally even aviation. The insurgent groups sustained losses consisting of dead and wounded captured by the Securitate. They also fell victim to treason from supporters or infiltrated persons, which led to losses and captures. Gavrilă-Ogoranu claims that some of the arrested rebels and their supporters were killed during interrogation, while other members of resistance groups were indicted in public or secret trials, and sentenced to death or prison. He estimates that several thousands of convictions were imposed. Capital punishment was carried out - either secretly, with bodies thrown into unknown common graves, or publicly in order to intimidate the local population. A significant number of detained rebels, who had not been sentenced to death, were killed outside prisons, under unexplained circumstances. In areas where the rebels were active, the population underwent systematic intimidation and terror from the authorities.

Structure and function

Dispersal, extent, and duration of the resistance rendered research after 1990 more difficult in ascertaining structural information on the movement. Evaluating the archives of the Securitate the CNSAS (National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives) has assessed a provisional figure of 1196 resistance groups acting between 1948 and 1960. [12] The size of the groups varied from small groupings of less than 10 members to intermediate sized groups counting around 40 fighters up to larger detachments of more than 100 men, with the highest distribution density placed around a strength of 1520 men. [4] [9] According to these assumptions, the total number of active resistance fighters may not fall below 10,000 persons, with an estimated figure of at least 4050,000 supporting persons. [12] The number of killed victims on the insurgents' side could be established according to both archive data and various memoirs published after 1990. The archives revealed several hundreds of death penalties, yet a much larger number of resisters have been killed either in battle or during different phases of detention. [13] An estimated figure could amount 2,000 lost lives.

The social structure of the insurgent groups was heterogeneous, comprising a considerable part of peasants, many students and intellectuals as well as several army officers. [4] A report of the Securitate from 1951 containing information on 804 arrested resistance members ranking among 17 "mountain bands" reveals following political affiliation: 11% National Peasants' Party, 10% Ploughmen's Front, 9% Iron Guard, 5% Communist Party, 2% National Liberal Party. [4]

List of major resistance groups

The territorial structure of the resistance covered mainly the mountainous and heavy forested parts of the country. A list of some of the most important resistance groups and their location: [14] [15]

AreaName of the group/group leader (mostly in order Surname - First name)
Maramureş [16] Gavrilă Mihali-Ştrifundă; Vasile Popşa; Ilie Zubaşcu; Ion Ilban; Nicolae Pop; Vasile Dunca; group of Uniate priests
Rodna Mountains "Cross and Sword Organization" (Leonida Bodiu)
Bucovina [17] [18] [19] Constantin Cenuşă, [3] Vasile Motrescu; Col. Vasile Cârlan; Grigore Sandu; Vasile Cămăruţă; Silvestru Harsmei; Gavril Vatamaniuc; Ion Vatamaniuc, [3] Vladimir Macoveiciuc, [3] Petru Maruseac, [3] Sumanele Negre , [3] Tinerii Partizani ai României . [3]
Suceava Silvestru Hazmei; "Decebal's Guards" ( Gǎrzile lui Decebal ), [20] Ion and Gheorghe Chiraş. [3]
Crişul Alb River and Arad Valer Şirianu; "National Liberation Movement"; Adrian Mihuţiu; Gligor Cantemir; [21] Ion Luluşa;
Bistriţa-Năsăud Haiducii lui Avram Iancu [22] [23]
Apuseni Mountains "White Army" (Capt. Alexandru Suciu); "National Defence Front – Hajduk Corps" (Maj. Nicolae Dabija – brothers Macavei); [24] [25] Dr. Iosif Capotă -Dr. Alexandru Dejeu; Teodor Şuşman; [26] Ioan Robu; Ştefan Popa; Ioan CrişanLeon Abăcioaiei; Sandu Maxim; brothers Spaniol; "Cross and Sword Organization"; Acft. Capt. Diamandi Ionescu
Cluj [27] Gheorghe Paşca; Alexandru Podea; Pop; Maj. Emil Oniga; Cornel Deac
Bacău Vasile Corduneanu; Uturea group (Gheorghe Unguraşu, Petre Baciu)
Banat [28] [29] [30] [31] Col. Ion Uţă; [32] Spiru Blănaru; Aurel Vernichescu; Acft. Cdr. Petru Domăşneanu; Nicolae Popovici; Gheorghe Ionescu; Petru Ambruş; "Great Romania Partisans"; brothers Blaj; Ion Tănase; Dumitru Isfănuţ (Sfârlogea); Nicolae Doran; Ion Vuc
Hunedoara Lazăr Caragea; Petru Vitan
Sibiu resistance point Fetea
Covasna "Vlad Ţepeş Organisation" (Victor Lupşa, Corneliu Gheorghe-Szavras)
Braşov [33] "Vlad Ţepeş Organisation" [34]
Vrancea [35] Vrancea group (brothers Paragină); Gheorghe Militaru; "Vlad Ţepeş Organisation"; (Victor Lupşa); Acft. Capt. Mândrişteanu
Bârlad Constantin Dan
Northern Făgăraş Mountains [36] Dumitru (Ionele Ion); Făină; Ion Cândea; Grupul Carpatin Făgărășan (Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu)
Southern Făgăraş Mountains [36] Col. Gheorghe Arsenescu; Haiduks of Muscel (brothers Petru and Toma Arnăuţoiu); [37] Apostol
Gorj Capt. Mihai Brâncuşi
Vâlcea Gheorghe Pele; Şerban Secu; Ion Jijie
Craiova Gen. Ion Carlaonţ; Marin Dumitraşcu
Dobrogea [38] [39] Gheorghe Fudulea; brothers Croitoru; Gogu Puiu; Nicolae Ciolacu; Niculae Trocan; Dobrogea's Haiducs

Rather than a planned action, the resistance movement was a spontaneous reaction in response to the wave of terror initiated by the authorities after the seizure of power in early 1948. [40] The spontaneous nature of the movement explains its marked fragmentation and the lack of coordination between the resistance groups. However, acting isolated and on a local basis conferred the groups a multiformity and flexibility which rendered the annihilation of the entire movement more difficult, and ensured a remarkable staying power for some groups. Furthermore, in some areas a notable reproducibility occurred, exterminated groups being replaced by new cores of resistance.

A characteristic trait of the movement was its defensive nature. Indeed, few offensive actions such as sabotages or occupation of localities have been recorded. [40] While the groups did not pose a major material threat to the authorities, their dangerousness for the regime resided in the symbol they represented: as long as the resisters remained free, they created a tangible challenge to the regime's claim of exercising total control over the country. [41]


The Romanian security forces succeeded in defeating rebel forces due to coordination between the Securitate and militia forces, as well the penetration of the insurgent groups with the use of informers, intelligence gathering, and persuasion. [42]

Adriana Georgescu Cosmovici was one of the first people to be arrested for belonging to the resistance movement. In July 1945, the 28-year-old woman was arrested in Bucharest, and severely beaten by the secret police investigators. [43] In a statement made in Paris in 1949, she named three investigators as having threatened her with guns, one of them being Alexandru Nicolschi. [43] According to a 1992 article for Cuvântul , Nicolschi ordered the murder of seven prisoners (allegedly the leaders of an anti-communist resistance movement) in transit from Gherla prison in July 1949. [43]

Elisabeta Rizea and her husband, two peasants opposed to the government's policy of forced collectivization, joined the guerrilla group "Haiducii Muscelului" led by Colonel Gheorghe Arsenescu, providing food and supplies. Caught in 1952, she served 12 years in prison, during which time she was subjected to torture.

On 18 July 1958, Vasile Motrescu was executed. In 1959, 80 people led by Vasile Blǎnaru were judged for "armed insurrection" in the area of Câmpulung Muscel. [3]

The implacable chase of the authorities on the resisters as well as the gag order on the existence of the resistance show how concerned the regime was, that the symbol of political insubordination might become contagious. [4]

See also

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  1. Totok, William; Macovei, Elena-Irina (2016). Între mit şi bagatelizare. Despre reconsiderarea critică a trecutului, Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu şi rezistenţa armată anticomunistă din România. Polirom. pp. 103–104, 179–180. ISBN   978-973-46-6127-5.
  2. Consiliul National pentru Studierea Ahivelor Securităţii, Bande, bandiţi si eroi. Grupurile de rezistenţă şi Securitatea (1948-1968), Editura Enciclopedica, Bucureşti, 2003
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Din istoria rezistenţei anticomuniste in România, Adrian Stǎnescu, Curierul Românesc , Year XVI, number 5 (208), May 2004, pages 8–9.
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  5. Stoica, Stan (coordinator). Dicţionar de Istorie a României, p. 78. Bucharest: Editura Merona, 2007
  6. Claudia Dobre, Rezistenţa anticomunistă în România: memorie şi istorie in Memoria, Revista gândirii arestate, Nr. 55 Archived 21 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Andrei Miroiu (2010): Wiping Out 'The Bandits': Romanian Counterinsurgency Strategies in the Early Communist Period. The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 23:4, p.676
  8. Kevin McDermott, Matthew Stibbe. Revolution and resistance in Eastern Europe: challenges to communist rule. p.84
  9. 1 2 Gavrilă-Ogoranu Ion, Short History of Armed Anti-Communist Resistance in Romania in Ioniţoiu, C., Cartea de Aur a rezistenţei româneşti împotriva comunismului. Vol. I-II, Bucureşti, Ed. Hrisovul, 1996
  10. Andrei Miroiu (2010): Wiping Out 'The Bandits': Romanian Counterinsurgency Strategies in the Early Communist Period. The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 23:4, p.684
  11. Miroiu, p.684
  12. 1 2 Consiliul Naţional pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securităţii, Mişcarea armată de rezistenţă anticomunistă din Romania. 1944-1962, Editura Kullusys, Bucureşti, 2003
  13. Dobre Florica (Edt.), Bande, bandiţi şi eroi. Grupurile de rezistenţă şi Securitatea (1948-1968), Ed. Enciclopedică, Bucureşti, 2003
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