Soviet occupation of Romania

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The Soviet occupation of Romania refers [1] 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.


During the Eastern Front offensive of 1944, the Soviet Army occupied what had been the Kingdom of Romania prior to the military occupation. The northwestern part of Moldavia was occupied as a result of armed combat that took place between the months of April and August of that year, while Romania was still an ally of Nazi Germany. The rest of the territory was occupied after Romania changed sides in World War II, as a result of the royal coup launched by King Michael on August 23, 1944. On that date, the King announced that Romania had unilaterally ceased all military actions against the Allies, accepted the Allied armistice offer, [2] and joined the war against the Axis Powers. As no formal armistice offer had been extended yet, the Red Army occupied most of Romania as enemy territory prior to the signing of the Moscow Armistice of September 12, 1944.

The armistice convention and eventually the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 provided a legal basis for the Soviet military presence in Romania, which lasted until 1958, [3] reaching a peak of some 615,000 in 1946. [4]

Soviet authors and the 1952 Constitution of Romania referred to the events of 1944 as the "liberation of Romania by the glorious Soviet Army". [5] On the other hand, most Romanian and Western sources use the term "Soviet occupation of Romania," some applying it to the whole period from 1944 to 1958.

Background and beginning of the occupation

After having withdrawn its troops from Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina in response to the June 1940 Soviet Ultimatum, Romania entered an alliance with Nazi Germany and declared war on the Soviet Union. Romanian troops entered World War II in 1941 as part of Operation Barbarossa, under the German High Command. Following the recapturing of the territory annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, Romanian troops occupied Southern Ukraine all the way to the Southern Bug. However, Romania's eastern campaign ended in disaster, notably at Stalingrad.

By the end of 1943, the Red Army had regained control over most of the Soviet territory, and was advancing westward beyond the borders of USSR to defeat Nazi Germany and its allies. It was in this context that the Soviet forces crossed into Romania and occupied Northern and Eastern Moldavia.

On August 23, 1944 King Michael launched a coup d'état, thereby overthrowing the pro-Nazi government of Ion Antonescu, and putting Romania's Army on the side of the Allies. As a result, King Michael was the last monarch behind the Iron Curtain to lose his throne, on December 30, 1947.

The coup facilitated the advance of the Red Army into Romania at an accelerated pace, [6] and enabled the combined Romanian and Soviet armies to liberate the country from the German occupation. In the absence of an actual signed armistice, [7] the Soviet troops continued to treat the Romanians as a hostile force. The armistice was signed three weeks later, on September 12, 1944, "on terms Moscow virtually dictated." [6] The coup effectively amounted to a "capitulation", [8] an "unconditional" [9] "surrender" [6] [10] to the Soviets and the rest of the Allies. In the wake of the cease fire order given by King Michael, [11] between 114,000 [7] and 160,000 Romanian soldiers were taken prisoners of war by the Soviets without resisting, and they were forced to march to remote detention camps, located in the Soviet Union; according to survivors interviewed in a 2004 documentary, up to a third of the prisoners perished on the way. [12]

By September 12, the Red Army had already gained control over much of the Romanian territory. Under the terms of its Armistice Agreement with the Allies, Romania became subject to an Allied Control Commission, composed of representatives of the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom, while the Soviet military command exercised predominant, de facto authority. Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina were again incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Founding documents

King Michael I of Romania was awarded the Order of Victory (the highest Soviet order) for his personal courage in overthrowing Antonescu in the August 23 coup and for putting an end to Romania's war against the Allies. OrderOfVictory.jpg
King Michael I of Romania was awarded the Order of Victory (the highest Soviet order) for his personal courage in overthrowing Antonescu in the August 23 coup and for putting an end to Romania's war against the Allies.

The Armistice Agreement

Article 3 of the Armistice Agreement with Romania [13] (signed in Moscow on September 12, 1944), stipulated that

The Government and High Command of Rumania will ensure to the Soviet and other Allied forces facilities for free movement on Rumanian territory in any direction if required by the military situation, the Rumanian Government and High Command of Rumania giving such movement every possible assistance with their own means of communications and at their own expense on land, on water and in the air.

Article 18 of the same agreement 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.

In the Annex to Article 18, it was made clear that

The Rumanian Government and their organs shall fulfill all instructions of the Allied Control Commission arising out of the Armistice Agreement


and that The Allied Control Commission would have its seat in Bucharest.

In line with Article 14 of the Armistice Agreement, two People's Tribunals were set up for the purpose of trying suspected war criminals, one in Bucharest, and the other in Cluj.

The plenipotentiary signatories to the armistice as indicated therein were:

Paris Peace Treaties, 1947

The effect of the Armistice Agreement ceased on September 15, 1947, when the Paris Peace Treaty with Romania entered into force. Article 21, paragraph 1 of the new treaty provided the legal foundation for continued and unlimited Soviet military presence in Romania:

Upon the coming into force of the present Treaty, all Allied Forces shall, within a period of 90 days, be withdrawn from Roumania, subject to the right of the Soviet Union to keep on Roumanian territory such armed forces as it may need for the maintenance of the lines of communication of the Soviet Army with the Soviet zone of occupation in Austria.

The Romanian delegation at the Paris Conference was headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Gheorghe Tătărescu. The Peace Treaty with Romania was signed on February 10, 1947, in the Salon de l'Horloge of the Ministère des Affaires Étrangères. On the Romanian side, the four signatories were Gheorghe Tătărescu, Lucrețiu Pătrășcanu, Ștefan Voitec, and Dumitru Dămăceanu. The signatories for the Allied powers included United States Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, and British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Ernest Bevin.

Soviet forces in Romania, 19441956

1948 stamp StampRomana1948Michel1127.jpg
1948 stamp
Estimated strength of Soviet forces in Romania  [14]
May 8, 194580,000
November 1, 1945500,000
January 4, 1946420,000
March 1, 1946615,000
June 1, 1946400,000
November 1, 1946240,000
194760,000 130,000
May 1 July 1, 194835,000
October 1, 194832,000
July 1, 194928,000
October 1, 194919,000
January 1, 195032,000
April 1, 195033,000
September 1, 1950
September 1952

After the conclusion of the Armistice Agreement in 1944, Soviet troops occupied the entire territory of Romania. Estimates of troop levels vary between 750,000 and 1 million (estimates of British military officials), to between 1 and 1.5 million (estimates of the Romanian General Staff); many Western diplomats and experts refer to more than 1 million Soviet troops. [15]

On November 8, 1945, King Michael's name day, an anti-communist demonstration in front of the Royal Palace in Bucharest was met with force, resulting in dozens of casualties. Soviet officers restrained Romanian soldiers and police from firing on civilians, and Soviet troops restored order. [16]

The estimated strength of Soviet forces stationed in Romania (including air, navy, ground, and security troops), from VE Day to 1952, is shown in the table on the right.

During the second half of 1946, more than half of the combat capabilities of the Soviet Air Forces were residing outside the USSR, with the largest portion in Poland and Romania (2,500 planes in each country). [17] The troop levels surged to a high of 615,000 in March 1946, but they were drawn down after the conclusion of the Peace Treaty in 1947. By the end of 1946, Soviet units in Romania were concentrated in five areas: Craiova Slatina, Sibiu Alba-Iulia, Constanța, and Brăila Focșani. Troop levels reach a relatively stable level from May 1948 until October 1956: two full divisions, plus supporting units adding up to roughly a third division. [18]

Although with the signing of the Austrian State Treaty in 1955 the reason for the presence of Soviet troops as stated in the Paris Peace Treaties ceased to exist, Premier Gheorghiu-Dej announced that these troops would stay as long as foreign soldiers continue to be stationed in West Germany. [19]

Soviet troops stationed in Romania participated in the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution of November 1956. Soviet troop facilities inside Romania were off limits to all Romanians at the time. [20]

Reorganization of the Romanian Army

Treaty limited Romanian forces [21]
Land forces120,000 officers and troops
Anti-aircraft forces5,000 officers and troops
Naval forces5,000 officers and troops
Air forces8,000 officers and troops
Total138,000 officers and troops

The Soviet occupation of Romania led to a complete reorganization of the Romanian People's Army under the supervision of Soviet Army representatives. The manpower of the Romanian army was limited by the Paris peace treaty to a total of 138,000 (officers and troops); however, under the Soviet occupation it grew far beyond the limits imposed by the treaty, through increasing militarization of Romania's population. By 1953, regular army forces had grown to approximately 300,000; reserve army forces to approximately 135,000; and "interior" forces (border guards, security brigades, et al.) under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior to over 325,000. [21]

At the inception of this organizational overhaul, pro-German elements were purged from the Romanian armed forces. In 194445, two divisions composed of Romanian volunteers former prisoners of war, trained in the Soviet Union during the war, and also Communist activists such as Valter Roman were formed: the Tudor Vladimirescu Division, under the command of Colonel Nicolae Cambrea, and the Horia, Cloşca şi Crişan Division, under the command of General Mihail Lascăr (who was to serve as Minister of Defense from 1946 to 1947). These two units were to form the nucleus of the new Romanian Army under Soviet control. Once the Romanian Communist Party took the reins of power, 30% of officers and noncommissioned officers (mostly experienced soldiers, but at the same time a potential source of opposition to the Sovietization of the Army) were purged from the military. [22]

Following the Romanian Workers' Party seizure of political power, the Sovietization of the Romanian army went into full gear, under the supervision of the new Minister of Defense, Emil Bodnăraş. This reorganization involved the adoption of the Soviet model of military and political organization, and a change of the military doctrine of combat and defense, in the context of Romania's integration into the Soviet strategic system, at the dawn of the Cold War. [23]

Soviet officers were appointed as advisers charged with supervising the thorough reorganization of the army. They held leadership and surveillance positions in the main institutions of the state, but also in areas of lesser importance. In the beginning, they only held a few positions in the Ministry of Defense, the General Staff, and the political sections inside the army. With the passage of time, the number of Soviet advisers gradually increased, while at the same time their positions became permanent. In November 1952, there were 105 permanent and 17 temporary Soviet adviser positions in military schools. After 1955, their number began to decrease: 72 in 1955, 63 in 1956, 25 in 1957 and 10 in 1958. [24]

After 1945, new military regulations were developed, following the templates of the Red Army, and they were finalized in 19491952. [25] Consequently, a number of officers and military students were sent to the Soviet Union to complete their training. [26] Between 1949 and 1952, 717 Romanian students were being trained in the USSR, while in 1958 471 Romanian military students were pursuing education in the USSR. Their number decreased in the following years. [27]

Reorganization of the security services

Immediately following the August 23, 1944 events, communists began to infiltrate the Ministry of Internal Affairs on a large scale. The General Directorate of the Security of the People (Romanian initials: DGSP, but more commonly just called the Securitate) was officially founded on August 30, 1948 by Decree 221/30. The Securitate was set up by SMERSH, an NKVD unit charged with dismantling the existing intelligence agencies and replacing them with Soviet-style bodies in the Soviet-occupied countries of Eastern Europe. The SMERSH unit in Romania, called Brigada Mobilă, was led until 1948 by the former NKVD operative Alexandru Nicolschi. Its stated purpose was to "defend democratic conquests and guarantee the safety of the Romanian People's Republic against both internal and external enemies." The first Director of the Securitate was Soviet intelligence operative Gheorghe Pintilie. Alexandru Nicolschi (by then a general) and another Soviet officer, Major General Vladimir Mazuru, held the two deputy director positions.

Expulsion of Germans

The Red Army took part in the expulsion of up to 70,000 Transylvanian Saxons from Romania that was initiated in January 1945. In October 1944, the Sănătescu government, at the request of the Allied Control Commission, began arresting young Romanian citizens of German descent, who were eventually placed at the disposal of the Soviet command. At the request of the Allied Commission, the Rădescu government ordered the forced transportation by train of Transylvanian Saxons to the Soviet Union. In a protest dated January 13, 1945, the Rădescu government affirmed the Romanian government's duty to protect each of its citizens, regardless of ethnic origin, and noted the absence of a legal basis for the deportation of the Transylvanian Saxons. [28] The expellees were gradually allowed to return to Romania between late 1945 and 1949, though it is estimated that up to 10,000 perished during the expulsion or while in the Soviet Union. Such deportations would be outlawed in 1949 by the Fourth Geneva Convention.


The SovRoms were Soviet-Romanian joint ventures established on Romanian territory at the end of World War II, and lasting until 19541956. An agreement between the two countries regarding the establishment of these enterprises was signed in Moscow on May 8, 1945. In theory, the purpose of these ventures was to generate funding for post-war reconstruction efforts. However, their real purpose was to provide resources for the Soviet side. Generally, they were a contributing factor to the draining of Romania's resources, in addition to the war reparations demanded by the Armistice Agreement and the Paris Peace Treaties, which had been initially set at 300 million U.S. dollars. [29] The Soviet contribution to the creation of the SovRoms consisted mostly in reselling leftover German equipment to Romania, at systematically overvalued prices. [30] The total value of goods sent from Romania to the Soviet Union was estimated at 2 billion dollars, exceeding by far the amount of war reparations demanded by the Soviets. [31] By 1952, 85% of Romanian exports were directed towards the Soviet Union. [29] The last Sovrom was dissolved in 1956.

One of these companies was Sovromcuarţ, which started its operations in 1950 at the Băiţa mine in Bihor County, under a name that was meant to conceal the true object of its activity. [32] Its initial workforce consisted of 15,000 political prisoners; after most of them died of radiation poisoning, they were replaced by local villagers, who were completely unaware of the fact that they were working with radioactive material. [33] Romania secretly [34] delivered 17,288 tons of uranium ore to the Soviet Union between 1952 and 1960, [35] which was used, at least in part, in the Soviet atomic bomb project. [36] Uranium mining continued there until 1961. [37] All ore was shipped abroad for processing, initially to Sillamäe in Estonia; the uranium concentrate was then used exclusively by the Soviet Union. [37]

Comparison with Soviet occupation of Bulgaria

Comparing the Soviet occupation of Romania to that of Bulgaria, David Stone notes: "Unlike Bulgaria, Romania had few cultural and historical ties with Russia, and had actually waged war on the Soviet Union. As a result, Soviet occupation weighted heavier on the Romanian people, and the troops themselves were less disciplined." [16]

See also


  1. The term "occupation" is widely used by Western and post-Revolutionary Romanian historians. Examples include:
    • "Soviet forces occupied Romania in 1944 and stayed for more than a decade." Roger E. Kirk, Mircea Răceanu, Romania Versus the United States: Diplomacy of the Absurd, 1985-1989, p. 2. Palgrave Macmillan, 1994, ISBN   0-312-12059-1.
    • "Soviet occupation troops had been withdrawn in 1958." Gordon L. Rottman, Ron Volstad, Warsaw Pact Ground Forces, p. 45. Osprey, 1987, ISBN   0-85045-730-0.
    • "The country had to endure a long Soviet occupation (until 1958), and to pay the Soviets massive reparations." Lucian Boia, Romania: Borderland of Europe, p. 106. Reaktion Books, 2001, ISBN   1-86189-103-2.
    • "Soviet occupation forces in Romania [allowed for] unlimited interference in Romanian political life." Verona (Military Occupation and Diplomacy: Soviet Troops in Romania, 1944-1958), p. 31.
    • "In June 1958, based on complex arrangements between the Romanians, the Russians, and the Yugoslavs, the occupying Soviet Army units left Romania." Tismăneanu, p. 25. "Romanian communists remained an unappealing marginal group until the occupation of the country by the Red Army in 1944." ibid., p. 59. "The Soviet Army occupied Romanian territory and ... the Soviet-controlled political formation called the RCP was exploiting this state of affairs to establish a Stalinist regime as soon as possible, whatever the human cost." ibid., p. 91.
    • "The primary focus is the occupation of the rest of Romania from 1944 to 1958...There is little doubt that the Soviet occupation had a devastating economic, political, and social impact on Romania." Aurel Braun, review of The Red Army in Romania, in Slavic Review , Vol. 61, No. 1, 146-147, Spring 2002.
    • "The withdrawal of Soviet troops signified the end of the country's direct military occupation, which lasted 14 years." Istoria României în date, p. 553. Editura Enciclopedică, Bucharest, 2003, ISBN   973-45-0432-0
    • "Wisner (who had, as an OSS officer, witnessed the brutal Soviet occupation of Romania)", David F. Rudgers, "The origins of covert action", Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 35 , no. 2 (2000), 249262
    • Flori Stănescu, Dragoş Zamfirescu, Ocupaţia sovietică în România - Documente 1944-1946 (The Soviet Occupation in Romania - Documents 1944-1946). Vremea, 1998, ISBN   973-9423-17-5.
    • "The first period of communist rule in Romania, 1944-1958 is defined by Stefan Fisher Galati as the loss of national identity by the destruction of the "bourgeois nationalist" legacy and the diminution of Romania's national sovereignty under a virtual Soviet occupation." Constantin Iordachi, "The Anatomy of a Historical Conflict: Romanian-Hungarian Diplomatic Conflict in the 1980s", MA Thesis, Central European University, 1995-1996.
  2. (in Romanian) Valeriu Rapeanu, "The Dictatorship Has Ended and along with It All Oppression" Archived 2016-02-28 at the Wayback Machine (from the Proclamation to The Nation of King Michael I on the night of August 23, 1944), Curierul Naţional , August 7, 2004
  3. "Background Note: Romania", United States Department of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, October 2007. The text of the treaty states: "The treaty also required massive war reparations by Romania to the Soviet Union, whose occupying forces left in 1958."
  4. Verona, pp. 4951
  5. (in Romanian) Constitutia Republicii Populare Romane 1952 Archived 2008-06-15 at the Wayback Machine
  6. 1 2 3 Country Studies: Romania. Chap. 23. US Library of Congress
  7. 1 2 Ioan Vlad, Alexandru Baboş, Războiul României pentru reîntregirea naţională(1941-1945), Ch. 3, in Istoria artei militare, Sibiu, 1996[ verification needed ]
  8. "Hitler Resorts To 'Puppets' In Romania", The Washington Post , August 25, 1944
  9. "King Proclaims Nation's Surrender and Wish to Help Allies", The New York Times , August 24, 1944
  10. "Bulgaria - Bulgarian resistance to the Axis alliance," Encyclopædia Britannica
  11. (in Romanian) Alexandru Dutu and Florica Dobre, "Generali români in prizonierat" Archived 2007-10-07 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Vartan Arachelian "Pamfil Şeicaru despre 23 August: 'Mai multă ruşine, mai puţine victime' ", Ziua, August 16, 2004
  13. "The Armistice Agreement with Rumania". September 12, 1944.
  14. Verona, pp. 4751
  15. Verona, pp. 4647
  16. 1 2 David R. Stone, "The 1945 Ethridge Mission to Bulgaria and Romania and the Origins of the Cold War in the Balkans", Diplomacy & Statecraft, Volume 17, no. 1, March 2006, pp. 93-112.
  17. Verona, p. 49
  18. Verona, pp. 5859
  19. Gravitational Pull - TIME September 05, 1955
  20. Verona, p. 104
  21. 1 2 Assembly of Captive European Nations, First Session, pp. 65-67
  22. "Development of the Romanian Armed Forces after World War II", from the Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook
  23. Oroian, p. 28
  24. Oroian, p. 29-30
  25. Oroian, p. 37
  26. Oroian, p. 38-40
  27. Oroian, p. 40-41
  28. Marga
  29. 1 2 Cioroianu
  30. Alexandrescu
  31. Roper
  32. Banu, p.28-29; Cioroianu, p.70
  33. Khrushchev, p. 720
  34. Banu, p.29; Cioroianu, p.70
  35. Banu, p.30
  36. Cioroianu, p.70
  37. 1 2 Diehl
  38. (in Romanian) Constantin Tănase: A căzut cortina! ("Constantin Tănase: The Curtain Dropped!") Archived 2013-06-01 at the Wayback Machine , Jurnalul Naţional, January 15, 2007.
  39. Micu
  40. Cogs & Machines, Time , November 6, 1950
  41. The Bright Side of the Ax, Time , February 24, 1967

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Further reading