Quotidian Wonders

A Passion for Masochism and Trauma: Romania’s (G)PTSD

1986_23 august. Stadionul cu acelasi nume din Bucuresti gazduieste o mostra cultului personalitatii Ceausestilor

Human bodies used to draw the dictator’s portrait. (Bucharest, August 1986)
Source: Communism in Romania Project. National History Museum of Romania.

For the past twenty-three years, Romanians have been suffering of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The fact that it was not recognized as such made it challenging to properly engage with its causes and deal with its symptoms. Described as a medical condition occurring “after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened” (WebMD), in Romania’s case the PTSD was caused by Nicolae Ceausescu’s brutal personal dictatorship. As that took place at national level and made the disorder a social phenomenon, it could be re-labeled in this case as Group Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (GPTSD). Romanians are not, by any means, the first nation to deal with GPTSD, although I am not aware of any other commentators who used a similar term. Postwar Germany and Japan, for instance, dealt with these issues after being defeated in WWII.

Romania’s special case within the former Eastern European communist block as the most violent personal dictatorship has never been formally identified as national trauma by the country’s new political leadership, which was more interested in installing itself in power and perpetuating the tools of oppression through different means than its predecessors. As a consequence, Romanians were not educated about how to understand themselves as victims of abuse and did not engage with that traumatic experience in a healthy way. While they displayed all the symptoms of PTSD, “shock, anger, nervousness, fear, and even guilt” (WebMD), Romanians re-directed that energy and dealt with the trauma as a loss. The history of post-communist Romania is thus an open book for Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief.

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1979_Pionierii din Galati scosi la adunat varza

For 6 to 8 weeks every school year, students were forced to leave school and work in the fields for 8 to 10 hours per day. The work was hard, the pay insignificant, and learning was postponed.

1981_Santierul Local al Tineretului de la Crivina - Vanju Mare

“Volunteer” Youth Labor Site

Romanians are still heavily traumatized by their communist dictatorship experience, which ended shamefully with Nicolae Ceausescu’s last years of apotheotic personal dictatorship and madness. Humiliated, lacking the most elementary freedoms, forced to run famished

cartela alimente

Three-month ratio card. The store where the family was assigned, the last name, and the number of family members are recorded. This card was for sugar, oil, flour and cornmeal, although that did not mean that all those were available every month.

cartela-alimente-perioada-comunista1

Monthly bread ratio card. “If lost, the bearer’s right to purchase bread is forfeit.” is mentioned on the very top.

from one food line to another, over time Romanians got used to not be respected as human beings, as political subjects, as members of the civil society. Submitted to systematic ideological rape, whacked brutally over the head every time they tried to stick it out and be different, twenty some million people were transformed into psychological masochists, trained to enjoyed ideological and physical traumas. After all, how did it matter that, stuck as they were in their crammed apartment buildings, they could only get hot water two, three days a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 6 to 10 pm (not that they could count on any schedule to be respected so they could at least plan accordingly.—Time control, as was brilliantly shown by Katherine Verdery in the chapter “The ‘Etatization’ of Time in Ceausescu’s Romania” of her 1996 What Was Socialism and What Comes Next?, being one method through which the regime aimed to control the population—)? Who cared that the regime’s scientists had decided how

Food line. Sometimes, people would queue up in front of the grocery stores simply waiting for merchandise to be delivered without even knowing they might end up buying or even if there would be a delivery that day.
Photo: Andrei Pandele.

much meat, how many eggs, how many ounces of sugar, flour, oil, and even bread the population was allowed to eat per month and they had even issued ratio cards to make sure that no one had more than the scientifically prescribed portions (that is, if you didn’t have the right connections within the state-owned food distribution system or you didn’t become a black market customer)? Whose problem it was that although they lived in an agricultural country Romanians could not buy decent fruit and vegetables, and what they could find for sale was dirty, half rotten, or rejected for export, but deemed

coada la paine

Breadlines.

satisfactory for domestic consumption? For whom did it matter that one of the major events of every evening was the electricity being turned back on after hours of cooking, eating, doing homework or playing in the darkness, and that children even had a verse they chanted for the occasion: A venit curentul, baba cu patentul./The old lady with the pliers, brought back the electric wires? After all, the brilliant leader, as he was called by the state mass media, had committed to pay the country’s external debt to make sure that no other government could ever interfere in Romania’s affairs and, God forbid!, force it out of its isolation and despotism.

Public transportation Romania

Public transportation in 1980s Bucharest.
Photo: Andrei Pandele.

For four and a half decades of communist dictatorship, Romanians got used slowly, but inevitably, to being victimized, taunted, and tormented. And, like a drug, they became addicted to abuse. That is why the Revolution of December 1989 took them somewhat by surprise. They took themselves by surprise with the courage to stand up to their oppressor, a courage they did not believe themselves to still have. But, as it turns out, they were not prepared to be freed from abuse, leave behind the perpetual victim status and shake off the inept political system and its mediocre leader.

In her 1969 seminal work On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross determined the five stages of grief. Without occurring in a particular order, she usually described them as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

*****

Unable to articulate their trauma for what it was, and deprived of a real lustration law until 2012—twenty years too late—which would have allowed for the healing to begin, Romanians confused their national trauma for loss. The loss of abuse. The Kübler-Ross model allows us point out the steps to healing.

piata-univ29

University Square, May 1990. “Zone Free of Neo-Communism”

The first stage was anger. Throughout the 90s, Romania was a gunpowder barrel. The opponents of the first democratically-held elections in May 1990 occupied the University Square in downtown Bucharest to protest against the newly-elected government and president of the country in an attempt to denounce them for their privileged positions under the communist regime. They asked for a lustration law immediately and for the elimination of all former communist party members from public life. They asked for a national trial of communism and its crimes, a feat which Ceausescu’s military court and execution did not achieve, and which is still a desideratum for many Romanians today. For some two months students, opposition party leaders, journalists, and artists demonstrated peacefully against the government, recognizing that those who voted for the same names and faces they knew from before did not understand what it meant to be able to express your opinion freely, that they were still unconsciously trapped in the victim mentality and unable to make a different choice. The demonstration in the University Square represented one of the first attempts at the health of the nation. It was, however, brought to a violent end by the president elect Ion Iliescu who called upon the country’s miners to help “clean up” Bucharest of “fascists” and “drug users,” and “protect the victory of the December 1989 Revolution,” in a discourse reminiscent of his 1950s Moscow education as a communist activist. The miners came, and with righteous Bolshevik anger, punished everyone they could get their hands on: opposition politicians, intellectuals, students, university professors. They pillaged, burned, stole and raped. Ion Iliescu has never answered for the six deaths and the 700 wounded in June 1990 and he never took responsibility for his acts.

Miners invading Bucharest

Miners Invading Bucharest, June 1990.

And the violence continued throughout the first half of the 1990s. It took varied forms. In Transylvania, Romanian-Hungarian inter-ethnic tensions, kept under artificial control by the communist regime for years, exploded resulting in an outpouring of pent-up ethnic hatred. In Southern Romania, ethnic Roma clashed with Romanians on various occasions. In parallel, a national angry reaction to everything perceived as a symbol of the forcefully-imposed values was directed against patriotism, voluntary work, social involvement, and care for fellow humans and for community. The results of that national anger are still visible today.

It was that anger that led to the installation in power of a postcolonial governance, led by former second-echelon communist

Mineriada.

Miners punishing the University Square demonstrators. June 1990.

party leaders, such as regional organization secretaries, military and secret service officers hungry for power and material benefits and ready for payback, and managers of state companies turned capitalists who got first dibs on the privatization of the few profitable enterprises of Ceausescu’s moribund and monstrously anachronistic industry and became millionaires. In short, the anger of the populace, together with its inability to see through a different type of ideological manipulation, perpetrated openly, through mass media, allowed for the Revolution profiteers to take over.

Unable to devise and apply any other leadership practices than the ones that they had learned as apprentices and servants of their former masters, Romania’s “new” political class installed a postcolonial system, thus continuing the practices of the ancien régime. In the long run, that gave the political observers the impression that the December 1989 street demonstrations against Ceausescu and communism were not spontaneous after all, but the workings of a coup d’état conspiracy. It was Romania’s postcolonial regime that permitted and legitimized corruption at all levels, refused to adopt lustration laws, empowered profiteering and theft and established a rotten oligarchy very much alive today.

Romania’s postcolonialism lasted for about a decade, until 2000, and encompassed Ion Iliescu and Emil Constantinescu’s presidential mandates. Despite the fact that he was a president elected by the democratic opposition, Constantinescu was only able to prove once again that Romanians were tributaries to an authoritarian state of mind. Undoubtedly animated by the desire to change the country’s political spectrum, the opposition came into power in 1996 without the slightest idea of how to govern outside the structure imposed by the communist regime and perpetuated by their continuators, the Social Democratic Party of Romania (today, the Social Democratic Party), from 1990 on. Once elected, the Christian Democrats and the National Liberals strengthened the country’s postcolonial system and continued to lead it the same way as before, authoritatively.

*****

Around the year 2000, Romanians moved away from the anger stage and entered a combined stage of denial and bargaining. It was at this point that the voice of the young intelligentsia was heard for the first time, when the ideological possibility of social capitalism came to fore, and when the long debated and delayed attempts to address the issue of the crimes of the communist regime were finally beginning to take shape. The bargaining stage came to a rather abrupt and irreversible end in 2007, when Romania, still suffering and unsure of its place in the world, joined the European Union. The dialog within the civil society was replaced by legislation directives from Brussels, freedoms barely understood had to be given up and with them the chance to develop a way to think critically about individual rights, multinational corporations and overbearing state systems. Romanians joined the EU full of hope and good intentions, determined to heal themselves from decades of oppression, meet the expectations of their rich partners and change themselves in a competitive, prosperous European nation. Unfortunately, they found themselves in a federative system that was not really federal, in a legislative system where the laws were adopted not with their needs in mind, but which they were obligated to follow nonetheless despite the fact that they did not have the same rights and benefits like the citizens of the countries that are the de facto leaders of the Union.

Denial, however, continues to this day. Romanians are still unable to admit to themselves that the absurd system they had to live through was, for all intents and purposes, abusive. They refuse to accept that fact and hang on to the idea of loss, deploring the “good times” of the regime. Rather than looking in the mirror and spelling out the enormity that dominated their lives for so long, and understanding themselves for what they really are: victims of ideological rape at national level, Romanians are electing to identify with their abuser, call the dictator “the best leader of postwar Romania,” elevate him at rank of saint and martyr and organize pilgrimages to his grave. They are always ready to argue with whoever dares remind them how hard it was to live in an ideological cage, how humiliating to be afraid of neighbors and family members, how desperate to see no future in sight. They reply invoking happy memories of childhood, adolescence, youth, and forgetting that time not only heals everything, but also alters memory and helps remember only good things. But when happy childhood remembrances push aside the arrests, the forced labor in the fields, the dissidents, the labor camps, the interdiction to travel abroad forgetting is akin to sin. Forgetting opens the door to history repeating itself.

After twenty-three years of post-communism lived in misery, six years after joining the European Union, and when their status as second-class citizens of the exclusive Benelux countries club seems to become reality, Romanians are dealing with the depression stage. National depression. Most don’t believe in anything anymore, don’t see a future and lost all hope that Romania will ever be a normal country again. It is true that in the past few months there have also been signs of acceptance: civil society revival is visible aided by a better assessment of Romania’s long years of Soviet military and ideological occupation, people’s engagement with the political class is different, and national pride is returning. But the national psyche is still far from healing. It’s difficult to predict how long the depression stage will last and how it will end, especially since it coincides with a prolonged period of global economic instability, which always ends up breeding nationalism. Only when they will go through the depression stage, will Romanians be capable to accept their status as abuse victims, understand better what happened to them as a nation from 1946 until 1989, and finally move on. Until then, their national (Group) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms will continue.

106 comments

  1. L

    I completely agree with the author’s diagnosis on the Romanian people!

    However, I do not see any solution to this dilemma, sadly, other than invading this country by a foreign power and wipe out this god-forsaken, mentally broken nation.
    Considering just how messed up over 90% of Romanians are (don’t even get me started on the right-winged, orthodox-inspired obsessions & egocentricism), the best would be to get rid of each and every one of these Mid-Europe losers and replace them with a nation that is indeed worthy, such as the Germans or Japanese.

    Here’s to hoping for a nuclear accident at Cernavoda, melting out this “nation” made out of greedy, selfish, envious, corrupt “humans” that populate it temporarily!

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    • George T. Sipos

      Thank you for your thoughts, but let’s not be extreme. The article is not intended to lambast Romanians, but rather to present as they really are: victims of an abusive regime. That is what I believe we need to make peace with before being able to move forward: the fact that we have been consistently ideologically raped as a nation for years in a row. The tragedy is that we could not properly articulate our status as victims and we thought of ourselves to be the “bad guys.” We even started taking pride in being the bad guys of Europe.
      This article came after several years of analyzing and trying to understand.
      And I must say, I see hope and lots of it. Since last year, Romania’s civil society has been coagulating beautifully and it is ready to heal. It took us a bit longer than other Eastern European nations, but we are there now. We are organizing ourselves to make our voice heard. We have public debates about vital issues for the health of the nation: the corrupt government, the stray dogs, Rosia Montana.
      I have faith and confidence that we are finally on right path.
      Please check back to see my next article about Confucius’s Birth in Bucharest. :)

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      • L

        I’m sorry, but I cannot see hope for a nation that idolizes BOTH Ceausescu AND murderers like Zelea Codreanu or Antonescu (although the latter had, from what I read, some really good external affairs skills that partially redeem him), calling themselves “christians” while completely agreeing with the Legionaries crimes. Yeah, no paradox there whatsoever.

        From my point of view, this nation is too stuck up, too hypocritical and too artificially-inflated cocky-ness to be allowed to exist in the next century. As long as we keep calling ourselves “The Garden of the Mother of God” and think ourselves the center of the universe (“buricul pamantului”), I have no pity or remorse towards this pitiful nation.

        Of course, I’m extremely biased since I have a deep hatred for weak (mentally speaking) people. And the Romanians are as weak and naive and lamb-like as you can get.

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        • George T. Sipos

          Once again, I respect your position, but it seems like mine is at odds with yours. No problem, we can always debate. My blog is open if you would like to post a full-blown rebuttal and support your argument. I find that to also be a sign of healthy behavior.

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    • Jo

      I don’t know what your nationality is, but I can guess it’s American considering your sick will of invading everything. What makes you a winner? The fact that you were born 300 or 3000 km away from this Mid- europe losers? Germans??? who exterminated million of people? Indeed they are winners! You obviously don’t know anything about this country and if you live there shame on you! As for a nuclear accident at Cernava I cannot wish but the same! But hopely that happens in you own garden, so that normal people cannot be affected!

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  2. carare puiu

    SIA,…CIND POPULATIA DIN ROMANIA, NU ESTE MULTUMITA DE POLITICA UE, SI ATUNCI ESTE POPORUL ROMAN CALIFICAT A FI “BONLAV” DE VRE-UN “SINDROM” ??? DECI DACA NU ESTI DEACORD CU POLITICA UE,… IATA CA DEVII DINTR-O DATA NEBUN ! SINTEM NOI ROMANII SI ATUNCI “NEBUNI” CIND NU VREM CA VRE-UN MANSON SAU CONCERN STRAIN SA “EXPLOATEZE” ROSIA-MONTANA ??? SINTEM NEBUNI CA NU NE LASAM EXPLOATATI ???

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    • L

      Populatia din Romania nu este multumita de politica UE pt ca politica UE presupune disciplina si civilizatie, in timp ce romanii sunt obisnuiti cu parsivitatea si smecheria… ceea ce nu prea tine la straini.

      Tot ce ne-a cerut UE, printre altele, e sa ne curatam de hoti. Noi in schimb ii tot votam, in ciuda tuturor dovezilor.

      Cat despre “masonii” si corporatiile de care vorbesti, cu ce sunt ele de vina?! De vina nu e ala care cere… Ce, e Bechtel de vina ca a luat 1 miliard de dolari pt o sosea-fantom? E cumva OMV vinovat pt ca luat resursele din subsol?
      Sau vinovat e ala care le-a vandut?!

      Dar na, ce sa-i explici romanului de educatie, bun-simt, constiinta civica si alte “basics” ale societatii europene, dezvoltate? Las ca tot Ion de la coada vacii are dreptate, chit ca nu stie despre ce vorbeste.

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        • L

          Amice, sa-ti fie clar: DETEST romanasii pt ca sunt o gloata de PROSTI. Istoria acestui popor a demonstrat asta de nenumarate ori. Si pe langa faptul ca sunt PROSTI, mai sunt si incredibil de TRADATORI. De ajuns sa observi cum am schimbat domnitori ca pe sosete, nu a existat (in afara lui Stefan cel Mare) UN SINGUR CONDUCATOR PE CARE SA NU IL FI DAT IN GAT.

          Asa ca daca ti-e rusine, CARA-TE TU din tara MEA!

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          • George T. Sipos

            @L. Haideti totusi sa nu cadem in extremisme. Cum este posibil in viziunea dumneavoastra ca un intreg popor sa fie “prost” sau “tradator”?

            Like

          • Prost si inca traumat esti dumneata, din pacate. Replicele de mai sus mai mult sau mai putin dovedesc ce spune autorul in articol, dar asta nu inseamna ca toti sunt asa ca tine, sau ca i-ar idoliza pe Ceasca sau pe Codreanu. Conservatismul, ortodoxia, extremismul sau nostalgia dupa una sau alta nu sunt specifice la Romani. Vindeca-te de aceasta “auto-ură de neam si de sine” (Dumnezeu stie ce ti s-a intamplat sa i ajuns atit de rau), si vei ajunge la o anume claritate mai placuta. Pentru mine, ca Român, Românii sunt cei mai faini oameni de pe lume (nu toti bine inteles, dar in general vorbesc), si sunt mândru de a fi Român. N-am dece sa-mi cer scuze fata de nimeni, si nici tu.

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  3. Simone

    Thank you . . . . .for such an insight. In the last 2 years of being ‘connected’ to many wonderful warm Romanian people via the social networks, predominantly concerning the rescue of the stray dogs, my heart breaks almost daily for one or more of them – these people love their country, but it seems to have never loved them back – and it quite painful to be on the ‘outside’, and really feel their pain, and want to make things all right. . . . . The slate does need to be wiped clean of the current politicians, of the mayoral structures, of the mafia-related practices, the illegalities . . . . the good decent Romanian people work hard and keep their heads down and obey the law. . . . .while their peace of mind, their values, their lives are attacked from all sides – from politicians that change their colours as the wind blows, from abuse from neighbours and criminals that never gets dealt with by police who have their own allegiances. . . . . .the time has come for the people to ‘rise up’ in what ever way works for them, and challenge those who feel themselves untouchable. But it must be done with A Plan – A Plan that all good people can get behind. Thanks again.

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  4. sasha

    Great piece George, it never occurred to me to think things from this PTSD angle! However, I’d like to provide a possible explanation for the “deploring the “good times” of the regime” which has baffled me for a long while, as much as I see it baffles you now.

    The first step is to stop the nation-wide, overly broad generalizations. A very persistent trope of the communist propaganda was that all living humans within the borders of Romania were supposed to be “tovarasi” to each other, equal in all things measurable or not. This in fact cannot be true, it is not the way of nature and was actually not even the intention of the PCR members to follow this idea themselves; see all the special “de partid” services and entitlements they have so gleefully enjoyed with no remorse. This imperative for sameness is very alive today in people’s minds, when we routinely assign the stories/facts of some individuals to all the population as a whole. You will have a terrible hard time convincing a Bavarian that whatever happens in the Ruhr basin has anything to do with him.

    Second, bearing the diversity in mind, I have come to realize that there is a much larger population group, which turned out to be a net winner during the “epoca de aur”, than strictly speaking just the PCR and administration apparatus. Before WWII, Romania was an incredibly backward, agricultural country, despite some beacons of progress such as Bucuresti or Timisoara. A very large number of countryside dwellers moved to the cities during communism to provide labor for the whole industrial madness. If you think that the countryside is backwards now, imagine how it was then (go see some old 40′s newsreels at the Cinemateca Eforie). All these people have made giant personal leaps in means and conditions and they are very aware of this. All this happened without a corresponding great effort in social competition and most importantly without a leap in education. These people and their offspring are so many they are pretty right to think they ARE Romania. You cannot imagine the disbelief in my schoolmates’s eyes when I had to admit that I did not go “la tara” during any holidays (I’m a 4th generation city slicker, no “tara” to go to). EVERYBODY else went “la tara”, and I mean there were maybe 2 other outliers in the whole school. Their ranks only have grown; they have not been deported / sent to be country teachers God knows where / pushed out of the country as the thin pre-existing layer of city folk were. I was deeply shocked when I realized that however bitter and dehumanizing communism was, for very many it was a unique historical opportunity to easily jump ahead out of even greater medieval misery. For very many, living in cramped apartments, having some electricity and some hot water, wasting time waiting for stuff was a net improvement of life quality – they had a MUCH lower benchmark for comparison! You can see this even today, when the truly educated and western-minded population is 10% tops, only in the greater city areas.

    So, there it is, I have come to believe people are genuinely sincere when they decry the wonders of communist times. I do not jump to the conclusion anymore that this must be the case for everybody. What I and some educated others see as a sea of sorrow and an open, impossible to close wound, happens to truly be for some a blessing which turned sour after ’89 when they actually had to survive in competition with others.

    The only hope is that their 3rd and 4th generations are connected to the world and see the contemporary reality for the dump it actually is. They may have some western aspirations, maybe we’ll still be alive to see them bloom.

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  5. Pingback: Sunt majoritatea romaâilor idioţi? | TOTB.ro - Think Outside the Box

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  7. Victor

    Until the young people in this country are taught moral and social values that transcend materialistic values and aspire to a general well being, not just towards a selfish comfort zone, nothing will change. The so-called thieves are passing their legacy, teaching their children to steal. Their children attend same education institutions with the poor class, and as it always happens, the poor children start borrowing those values because they want to be rich, cool and popular. So by the time they get out of high school, all the moral education they had from their down to earth modest parent goes down the drain. At this stage most are willing to chose the good path of hard work, honesty and trust in order to gain social and economic values but then the kick in the groin comes just as they finish university. They find themselves in a world based on connections, bribery and lie. They can’t get a decent job unless they know someone, they can’t start a business unless they bribe almost every institution that comes in the way. I don’t want to sound pessimistic here, but the obstacles are so many and so difficult, it’s hard not to think that they are in place precisely to deter anyone who wants to do something to increase this country’s economy and their inhabitants’ well being.

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  8. Mircea Ionescu

    To be honest the only aspect that I agree with George is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but not for people and for leaders. We don’t have a Romanian Government, We have the Nastase, Tariceanu, Boc or Ponta Government. The same for parties, we don’t have the liberal party we have the Tariceanu, Antonescu Party, also for social- democrats. But the paper reflects only last five years of the worse period. Of course are too many to say. I just want to underline that the best period 1960 – 1983,maximum 1984, it was the maximum standard of life from Romania history. Even today at medium and the lowest salary we don’t reach those period. Personal I was born in 1957 and my education it was strong influence by Occidental, especially american movies and music, that was free, even at national TV. It was a period when all the technologies was imported from Occdient, USA, Japan, and other. But I sugest you to see the two documentaries, Power Principle and Argentina Economic Crisis (a capitalist country that must pay money MIF (FMI) and other in the same period like Romania). Finally Romania must received at least an “SORRY” from USA or UK because they have sold us to Soviet Union. We pay in 1944 to Comunist Soviet Union the second war damage, and nou we pay to Capitalist Countries the cold war demage. Why we must pay “restitutio” of capitalism if Churchil, Roosevelt and Stalin decided that Romania (and others) must finish the capitalism. Just see The Power Principle. They cooperated starting with 1942 till Stalin dead at least. Just reflex UK, a monarchy, knew that Romania and Bulgary will not be monarchy !?!??!?

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  9. Larisa

    Hi George, your article started a very interesting discussion among my Facebook friends, both Romanian and American. I relate to the past, as you presented it. You mentioned Japan and Germany as countries who seem to have dealt with their traumas effectively. Are there, in your opinion, strategies that were effective and that we could apply in Romania? What are some “therapies” that you think were successful in their case? Thank you.

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    • George T. Sipos

      Hi Larisa, and thank you for sharing the article on your Facebook page, and I am honored that it actually managed to cause a debate there. I would love to see people’s reactions and responses, so if you can think of a way of sharing them with me. Or, we can connect on Facebook if that is all right with you.
      Now, I should point out that there might be a misunderstanding as far as Germany and Japan are concerned. I think that Germany is a good example of dealing with abuse and trauma as a nation after WWII, but not Japan. Rather than defending their position, like the Japanese, the Germans took the blame full on for the crimes against humanity one of their compatriots committed and dealt with it. The education system is one of the major ways in which they taught youngsters about what happened during the war and did not keep any gory and horrifying details away from the children precisely because they intended to shock and make sure that it never happens again.
      What I think we need to do in Romania is also to educate the people (through campaigns and through the education system) about the communist period, and especially about how it allowed for Ceausescu’s dictatorship. Then, we need to understand clearly how much of what happened to us was external and beyond our control, and how much was complacency, collaboration, profiteering, and fear. Finally, we need a sustained and permanent international campaign, coordinated by governmental and private institutions, that would present this image of new Romania abroad.
      At least, that’s how I see things. Please stay in touch.

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  10. George, referitor la : Cum este posibil in viziunea dumneavoastra ca un intreg popor sa fie “prost” sau “tradator”? raspunsul e simplu : In acelasi fel in care un intreg poporul sufera de “(Group) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”
    Am cateva remarci la articolul tau :
    “Romania’s special case within the former Eastern European communist block as the most violent personal dictatorship..” Ok, sa nu exageram, Romania nu e un caz special, forme de dictatura mult mai violente au existat si inca mai exista pe planeta asta.Nu stiu de ce ni se pare ca suntem speciali si “un caz aparte”. Nu suntem. Cel putin din punctul asta de vedere.

    “As a consequence, Romanians were not educated about how to understand themselves as victims of abuse ” Eu nu stiu sau n-am auzit nicaieri in lumea asta la vreo alta natie trecuta prin asa ceva, sa fi iesit vreunul si sa zica :”Fratilor ,ati cam fost abuzati, asa ca iete colea ce-aveti de facut ” to deal with it in a healthy way”.
    Faptul ca ne-a fost greu, ca am dus-o naspa, ca ne-au chinuit unii si altii…nu e o scuza.
    Este ca si cum am fost abuzata vreo 40 de ani de sotul meu si, cand nenorocitul a crapat, de “bucurie” m-am prostituat. Iar dupa 20 de ani de prostitutie, vine unu’ si-mi spune : vai draga, dar cum de nu ti-ai dat seama ? De fapt ai ajuns sa te prostituezi pentru ca te-a traumatizat nemernicul. Nu e un pic stupid ? Poate ca aia am vrut sau atat m-a dus pe mine capul.
    Eu n-as da vina pe “nemernic” …asta a fost alegerea mea in momentul acela.
    Extrapoland, ceea ce suntem azi este suma alegerilor noastre. Iar alegerile noastre sunt conforme cu calitatea noastra ca fiinte umane si apoi ca natie.

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    • George T. Sipos

      Buna, Laura. Sa inteleg ca tu te ascundeai sub enigmatica litera L? :)
      Iti multumesc, din nou, pentru pasiunea raspunsurilor tale. E foarte evident ca iti pasa mult de acest subiect, asa ca vo incerca si eu sa iti raspund ca atare.
      1. Suntem un popor “prost” si “tradator.”
      Mi se pare ca gresesti cand spui ca a spune ca un popor sufera de group PTSD este acelasi lucru cu a fi “prost” sau “tradator.” Cele doua calificative pe care le folosesti sunt exact asta: calificative. Cu alte cuvinte, sunt o eticheta proiectata din afara, de un tert, asupra subiectului colectiv. De aici si reactia mea ca un popor nu poate fi “prost” ca valoare intrinseca, ci aceal calificativ trebuie dat de cineva din afara. “Tradator” e si mai complicat pentru ca ridica problema perspectivei celui care emite eticheta respectiva. “Tradator” fata de cine? Nu exista “tradare” in absolut, exista “tradare” de prieteni, de aliati samd. Pe cand un diagnostic de PTSD se poate da cu usurinta pe baza examinarii unor fenomene externe, fara implicarea subiectiva a diagnosticianului.

      2. Au existat natii care au trecut prin ceea ce am trecut noi si-au recunoscut statutul de victima, si-au analizat partea de participare voita sau nu si au creat un sistem prin care sa invete din greseli si sa se re-inventeze. Germanii sunt una dintre aceste natiuni si poate exemplul cel mai de succes. Multe dintre natiunile colonizate au facut variate incercari in aceasta directie la randu-le. Studiile rezultate din experientele si incercarile prin care au trecut ele au dat nastere post-colonialismului, cu care post-socialismul este asemuit adeseori.
      In ceea ce priveste exemplul cu sotia abuzata, mi-e teama ca, desi tie ti se pare hilar, situatii de genul celor descrise de tine chiar se intampla. Ai auzit de victime ale violului care trec prin PTSD identificandu-se cu cel care le-a abuzat? Dar de tineri care cresc in case cu parinti abuzivi fizic sau emotional (betivi cronici, narcisisti, etc) si sfarsesc prin a se auto-mutila (se taie cu lama, devin sado-masochisti, etc)? Dar de fete care sunt abuzate sexual de tata sau de alta persoana mai in varsta in timpul copilariei si sfarsesc in… baruri de strip-tease, prostitutie samd? Asadar, desi pare contra-intuitiv pentru o persoana sanatoasa emotional cum esti tu, aceste situatii nu sunt nici imposibile si nici rare.

      3. In fine, alegerea personala. Da, aici tind sa iti dau dreptate: atata vreme cat tu, ca individ, esti singurul/a care a facut alegerea de a te casatori cu cineva care sfarseste prin a te abuza, e poate mult mau usor sa nu ramai cu cicatrice emotionale dupa ce nu mai sunt in viata ta.
      Dar, in cazult romanilor, noi nu am ales nimic. Si aceasta distinctie este foarte importanta si ma lupt cu ea de mai multa vreme, mai ales aici, in Statele Unite, unde multi au impresia ca tarile din fostul lagar sovietic au “ales” sa fie comuniste. Romanii au fost victimele istoriei in acest caz, un popor sacrificat la masa unor negocieri criminale la finele celui de-al Doilea Razboi Mondial. Istoria noastra a fost furata ireversibil in 1945. Acelasi lucru s-a intamplat si cu dictatura lui Nicolae Ceausescu. Ce-au avut romanii de-a face cu alegerea lui drept secretar general al PCR in 1965? Nimic. Absolut nimic. De aici vine si parerea mea ca trebuie sa invatam, oricat de umilitor ar fi, sa intelegem ce inseamna a fi victimizat. Noi, ca romani, suntem un popor masculin, de sange latin, nu? :) Suntem macho si nu vrem in ruptul capului sa acceptam ca ne-am lasat violati ideologic de un regim politic inept si de un personaj fara educatie, fara carisma si fara coloana vertebrala. L-am executat ca pe un caine la perete sperand ca asta ne va vindeca de multi anii in care am suferit, dar s-a dovedit ca fantoma lui ne va bantui inca multe generatii. E, de fapt, prezenta si aici, langa mine, la birou, cand scriu aceste randuri, ranjind tamp si cu un aer de superioritate.

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  11. George, referitor la : Cum este posibil in viziunea dumneavoastra ca un intreg popor sa fie “prost” sau “tradator”? raspunsul e simplu : In acelasi fel in care un intreg poporul sufera de “(Group) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”
    Am cateva remarci la articolul tau :
    “Romania’s special case within the former Eastern European communist block as the most violent personal dictatorship..” Ok, sa nu exageram, Romania nu e un caz special, forme de dictatura mult mai violente au existat si inca mai exista pe planeta asta.Nu stiu de ce ni se pare ca suntem speciali si “un caz aparte”. Nu suntem, cel putin din punctul asta de vedere.

    “As a consequence, Romanians were not educated about how to understand themselves as victims of abuse ” Eu nu stiu sau n-am auzit nicaieri in lumea asta la vreo alta natie trecuta prin asa ceva, sa fi iesit unu’ ( sau mai multi ) si sa zica :Fratilor, ,ati cam fost abuzati,asa ca iete colea ce-aveti de facut ” to deal with it in a healthy way”.

    Faptul ca ne-a fost greu, ca am dus-o naspa, ca ne-au chinuit unii si altii…nu e o scuza.

    Este ca si cum am fost abuzata vreo 40 de ani de sotul meu si, cand nenorocitul a crapat, de “bucurie” m-am prostituat. Acum, dupa 20 de ani de prostitutie, vine unu’ si-mi spune : vai draga, dar cum de nu ti-ai dat seama ? De fapt ai ajuns sa te prostituezi pentru ca te-a traumatizat nemernicul.Nu e un pic stupid ? Poate ca aia am vrut sau atat m-a dus pe mine capul.
    Eu n-as da vina pe “nemernic” …asta a fost alegerea mea in momentul acela.
    Extrapoland, ceea ce suntem azi este suma alegerilor noastre. Iar alegerile noastre sunt conforme cu calitatea noastra ca fiinte umane si la urma, ca natie.

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  12. Buna George !
    1.Nu, eu nu sunt L. Am vazut acest articol azi la cineva care l-a postat pe Facebook.Poate te-a derutat comentariul meu dublu sub nume diferite. N-am vrut sa-l postez de doua ori, doar ca n-am stiut ca am cont pe site-ul asta si mi-am facut unul ( inca unul de fapt) ca sa pot comenta. Incercarile mele de a comenta s-au suprapus si de aia apar de doua ori.

    Si n-am spus niciodata ca suntem un popor prost si tradator. Doar ca nu poti sa judeci pe altul care califica un intreg popor ca prost si tradator cum spui tu, cand tu insuti i-ai dat un ” calificativ” la fel de general. “Diagnosticul” tau nu are nici o baza stiintifica, e doar parerea ta si asta face ca si sindromul de care vorbesti sa aiba valoare de “calificativ”.

    2. Let’s agree to disagree here. Sunt de acord ca situatii de genul acesta se intampla si nu consider ca e hilar deloc. Doar ca, stii la fel de bine ca si mine, la acelasi gen de situatie ( traumatizanta in acest caz) sunt oameni care reactioneaza diferit. La exemplul stupid pe care l-am dat, doar ca sa fac o paralela…o alta femeie ar fi ales alt drum. Nu toate femeile traumatizate se prostitueaza.
    Intrebarea care se pune aici este : de ce noi, tocmai noi, am ales sa tragem dupa noi, mai bine de 20 de ani, consecintele acestui trecut ? Ce anume a facut ca Germania,de exemplu, si ei dupa o experienta foarte traumatizanta…sa se mobilizeze rapid si sa-si revina spectaculos? Sunt convinsa ca nu si-au plans de mila si nici nu s-au consolat cu statutul de victima.
    Felul in care am reactionat la ceea ce ni s-a intamplat nu are legatura cu felul nostru de a fi?

    3. Ok, tu zici ca nu am ales sa fim “comunisti”. Sa zicem ca e asa cum spui tu. Dar eu nu vorbeam de alegerea de a fi comunist sau nu…eu vorbeam de alegerea pe care am facut-o cand comunismul s-a incheiat. Cand in sfarsit am avut libertatea de a alege. Ce-am facut atunci ? Ce am ales ?

    Sunt multe de zis, nu am timp din pacate. Sunt o romanca care a ales sa-si creasca copilul singura in strainate lucrand pentru o companie americana, departe de fantoma lui Ceausescu…Nu cea care ranjeste langa biroul tau ci aceea care inca trezeste suspine in inimile a milioane de romani ce nu s-au simtit niciodata victime ale regimului sau. Care nu numai ca au fost luati prin surprindere de revolutie dar nici n-au dorit-o de fapt. Daca Romania toata ar fi dorit-o cu adevarat n-am fi ajuns sa ne prostituam niciodata.

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  15. Aurora Dillon

    I put your article on Facebook mainly because in my view it was like a drop of fresh water after all I read about Romania written by Romanians. Foul language, verbal abuse, bad English.If you managed to get to the position you are now, to use such a controversial debate showing your profound interest for your native country that is a big result. As an English teacher living in UK after being born and raised in Romania, 30 years of teaching under Ceausescu ‘Regime’ I am just a keen spectator and your blog brought up memories
    (painful ones). But to say we are victims is a little bit too much. Are you suffering from PTSD? You make proud of being Romanian. How many PHD or Master Degree are on the airplane from Bucharest to London? Getting a scholarship wherever and whenever?
    I am fond of a great country – South Africa and the way they are coping with PTSD. Forgetting the colonialist times, apartheid and all the rest( 11 official languages). We have many examples and we are living examples how we coped with PTSD.
    Many Thanks
    Oxford
    UK

    Like

  16. Cristina

    Very interesting analysis! You consider Romanians as one person that suffers of PTSD, or at least the vast majority of Romanians who still live in Romania and went through all the phases you mentioned.

    The way I see what’s happening in our country is simpler: it takes time for our nation to purify itself. And when I say purify, I mean raising generations with sane attitudes and way of thinking. Unfortunately, what happens right now in Romania is that people our age contribute to corruption. I was 14 yr. old in ’89 and now I’m a parent living in Canada. My generation is split: some work in an honest way, some want unhonest earnings. Both groups are split between Romania and other countries. The purification will occur when most Romanians will make a living in an honest way and will live in Romania. Lots of thieves and villains are in Europe already and I hope they’ll remain there. Lots of honest people are scattered in Europe and North America and I hope they’ll go back and have a new beginning in Romania, contributing to society and changing it just as they lived in civilization in west.

    Children are now raised in corruption – they receive money from their parents to pay for their school grades and university exams. As long as our generation continues to fund educational system corruption the purification won’t take place. We are the ones who need to teach our children to learn and not to pay for grades. I think it is our generation who can make a difference in Romania. Communism was traumatic for our parents. We only know their deprivations and sufferings, but by the time we grew up and became adults, communism was gone. What happened in the 90s was a big disappointment for me, therefore I immigrated in Canada, but I didn’t go through the PTSD phases you mentioned (my parents probably did), therefore I’m very optimistic that if I go back I’ll be able to change something, even if not in the entire society, but at least a small group of people.

    I wish you the very best in all your endeavours and hope that you’ll start convincing Romanians who are abroad and who gained working experience abroad to go back and raise them from depression.

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  17. Liviu

    Hi George,

    While I agree with your diagnostics (i.e. PTSD), may I suggest to take one step back in the analysis?

    Fact: since becoming an independent state (1918), Romania and its people had to continue to exist in spite and between the two worst political systems in this planet history: Communism and Fascism, so satanically embodied by Stalin and Hitler.

    For any Tom, Dick and Harry criticising here and anywhere: much of what Romanians are today, is a consequence of this historical fact. People and nations have been and will forever be judgemental against one another. However, there’s nothing to indicate that any other people would’ve been any “better” (for lack of a better word), had they lived in the same circumstances.

    cheers,

    Liviu

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  18. Ovidiu Alexandru Ionescu

    Nu sint omul cuvintelor mari iar in elgleza nu ma descurc exceptional la scris asa ca o sa o tin pe romana pura…..individul/individa care posteaza cu sub anonimatul acelui L,personal i-as rupe amindoua mainile si picioarele…din cauza unora ca el/ea natia asta e asa cum e
    daca este asa de rusinat ca e roman de ce nu pleaca din tara asta de tradatori si de prosti???daaca este asa rusinos sa fii roman de ce nu renunti la cetatenia aceasta???
    Domnule George articolul imi pare excelent desi putin exagerat si da eu sint mindru ca sint ROMAN

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  19. VASILIU MIRCEA PAUL

    Of ! Of-of-of, Domnule Alexandru Ionescu !

    „Mîndru că sînt… papuaș, egiptean, și ce mai vreți Dvs.”

    Problema se pune EXACT PE DOS ! Sînt românii (eschimoșii, găgăuzii, udegheii) MÎNDRI că vă au drept conațional ? CE ați făcut pentru ei ? Mai terre-a-terre: „Nu te întreba ce poate face țara ta pentru tine, întreabă-te ce poți face TU pentru țara ta” (zis-a J.F.K..)

    Pornind de aici intrăm direct în ghemul de vipere numit ISTORIE. Sînteți mîndru de nenumăratele bulevarde „Take Ionescu” ”? Mai citiți ! Eventual următorul extras:
    „Remarcabilul satiric român Caragiale, care a murit anul trecut, … moravurile politice în comedia clasică O scrisoare pierdută… Generala lipsă de principii, prolixitatea fără idei, viclenia vioaie şi şantajul fără limite – iată părţile componente ale atmosferei moral-politice a României conducătoare… Toate cele trei partide româneşti sînt umbrite de spiritul lui Caţavencu şi al lui Farfuridi. Dar aceşti politicieni au atins triumful deplin în partidul takiştilor, oameni fără ziua de ieri şi cea de mîine, dar cu apetit proaspăt care cere recunoaşterea publică. Ei, şi ? Însuşi Caragiale, satiricul nemilos al „takismului” moral, a aderat pe neaşteptate la „takişti” cînd a avut nevoie, din considerente cotidiene. Acesta e mediul ! Bătrînul şef conservator Carp, un învederat reacţionar romantic, dar om cinstit în structura sa, s-a întîlnit imediat după aceasta cu Caragiale…
     Mi-a fost dat – a exclamat Carp – să trăiesc să te văd pe tine, Caragiale, în rolul lui Caţavencu !
     Ce vorbeşti, – a răspuns fără să clipească marele Caragiale – eu sînt Caţavencu? Nu, glumeşti ! Caţavencu este respectabilul meu şef, Take Ionescu. Eu sînt doar Farfuridi…
    După aceea, nu o dată, Caragiale a povestit nepăsător acest dialog, care a avut loc pe peronul gării din Ploieşti.”

    Ca să nu ne cantonăm exclusiv în domeniul demolărilor vă ofer și contra-exemple (mai puțin cunoscute): ați auzit de generalul Alexandru Korne ? Nu ? În mod sigur nu ar fi subscris ruperii de mîini și picioare, deși a luptat pe front, fără să se menajeze. Iar rușii, via cozile de topor neaoșe, nici atît.

    Avem eroi ! DA ! Dar nu rupînd membre și nici împăunîndu-ne cu afilieri dubioase vom trece de la stadiul tribal la cel al unei națiuni veritabile.

    MAI CITIȚI !

    Nu știți cine sînt udegheii ? V.K. Arseniev „Prin taigaua Extremului Orient”, Editura MERIDIANE 1987

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  20. Nicu B

    The author keeps using the term “postcolonial” when talking about the post-Ceausescu era. This is false. Romania during Ceausescu was a disctatorship, but not a colony. In fact the decolonization of Romania started in 1958, when the Soviet troops left Romania and culminated in 1968, when Ceausescu took a stand against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the USSR and its allies.
    In fact today Roamani is far less independent, both politically and economically. We are again a colony, we only changed our masters. It’s no longer USSR, now it’s USA. Of course, it’s not as bad as the Soviet occupation, but it’s not good either. We are about to be robbed of all our natural resouces: gold, shale gas, copper, oil.

    PS I’m not a nostalgic of Ceausescu, I’m only stating the facts.

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