Brasov Mayor Recalls Revolution in Romania
Transition toward democracy has been rapid, but reformers face food shortages and disappointed hopes of workers
FROM far away, the red, yellow, and blue Romanian flag with a big hole in the middle can be seen hanging from the Brasov City Hall tower. The flag, with its communist hammer and sickle torn out, is a symbol that democracy has come a long way here. In fact, this city of 300,000 people high in the wild Carpathians claims it has progressed faster and farther toward democracy than any other city since the Romanian revolution last December.Skip to next paragraph
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It did not come easily. It took two revolutions.
Florin Crisbasan, Brasov's new mayor, has a bullet hole in the wall behind him in his office to prove it. Next to it, there is a poster proclaiming ``God is with us,'' ``Free Romania.''
He was not mayor when the hole was made. A high Communist Party official was. But he sits here now, the result of a bloody revolution and a democratic election.
Mr. Crisbasan was teaching at the local university when the revolution began. He had never been involved in politics. He was a member of the Communist Party, but so was every other Romanian who wanted a decent job. Previously, he had worked in foreign trade and had once visited Pittsburgh many years ago to study the steel industry.
This is his story of the revolution in Brasov:
``It started, peacefully, at noon on Dec. 21, when the workers from the helicopter factory Ica-Ghimbav walked out of the factory and marched into Brasov, some seven kilometers [4.3 miles], demanding [dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu's resignation. `Timisoara, [the city where the revolution started], we are with you,' they shouted.
``The next day, workers from lots of other factories marched into the center of Brasov, between 70,000 and 100,000. All was still peaceful. The windows of the buildings were full of television sets showing Ceausescu and his wife Elena leaving Bucharest in their helicopter. People occupied the Securitate [secret police] headquarters in Brasov. Everyone was very happy.
``But at 2:45 a.m. Dec. 23, the shooting started. The Timpa mountain [a steep, forested mountain rising like a wall on one side of the city] was set on fire and burned. I came back to city hall around 4:30 a.m., and guns were distributed.
``The whole time, the Army was with the people. There were probably only between 20 and 30 terrorists, but they had had good training, while the soldiers were not so well trained.
``Seventy died, officially, in Brasov, but the correct figure is probably 100.
``The shooting died down after Ceausescu and his wife were executed, but it continued sporadically until Dec. 26. Troops from the Securitate helped the Army defend City Hall.
``The first president of the Salvation Front here in Brasov was a general. No one elected him, he put himself in charge. I was not part of this, but the first front contained many members from the old nomenklatura, many former Communist Party members.
``But things were not going well for the city. On Jan. 11, when I had become vice president of the Salvation Front at the university, we formulated a seven-point questionnaire, asking the general and his men what they were doing, demanding a list of the dead and a free press. A delegation went to Bucharest to present our grievances.