Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej : biography
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej ( Gheorghe Gheorghiu; November 8, 1901 in Bârlad, Romania – March 19, 1965 in Bucharest, Romania) was the communist leader of Romania from 1947 until his death in 1965.
Under Soviet directives
On 30 December 1947, Gheorghiu-Dej and the Communist government forced King Michael to abdicate. Years later, Albanian leader Enver Hoxha alleged that Gheorghiu-Dej personally had pointed a gun on Michael threatening to kill him unless he gave up the throne.Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev, Sergeĭ Khrushchev., Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007, page 701, ISBN 0-271-02935-8
Soviet influence in Romania under Joseph Stalin favored Gheorghiu-Dej, largely seen as a local leader with strong Stalinist principles. The economical influence of the Soviet Union was highlighted by the creation of the SovRom companies, which directed Romania’s commercial exchanges towards unprofitable markets.
Up until Stalin’s death and even afterwards, Gheorghiu-Dej did not amend repression policies (such as the works employing penal labor on the Danube-Black Sea Canal – a Stalinist Gulag-type decision which he had countersigned). At the same time, he was the main instigator of the assassination of Ştefan Foriş in 1946 and the arrest of Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu in 1948 – both of whom had been his rivals inside the Party’s leadership.
Gheorghiu-Dej briefly gave up the first secretaryship of the Communist Party in 1954 to Gheorghe Apostol, retaining the premiership he’d held since 1952. However, he was still the actual leader of Romania, and he regained the party leadership in 1955.
Gheorghiu-Dej was at first unsettled by Nikita Khrushchev’s reforms and the process of De-Stalinization. He then became the architect of Romania’s semi-autonomous foreign and economic policy within the Warsaw Pact and the Comecon in the late 1950s, notably by initiating the creation of a heavy industry which went against Soviet directions for the Eastern Bloc as a whole (e.g. the new large-scale steel plant in Galaţi, which relied on iron resources imported from India and Australia).
Although Romania under Gheorghiu-Dej has commonly been viewed as one of the most loyal among the Soviet satellites, amidst the international attention that his successor – Nicolae Ceauşescu – attracted for his flashy defiance of Moscow there is a tendency to forget who actually made Romania’s greater independence vis-a-vis Moscow possible.Johanna Granville, East European Quarterly, vol. XLII, no. 4 (Winter 2008), pp. 365-404.
The ideological steps undertaken were made clear by the ousting of the SovRoms, together with the toning down of Soviet-Romanian common cultural ventures. In 1958 the Red Army withdrew its last troops from Romania. The official History of Romania made reference to a Romanian Bessarabia, as well as other topics which tensed relations between the two communist countries. Moreover, the final years of the regime saw the publishing of Karl Marx texts which had previously been kept secret, dealing with Russia’s imperial policy in previously Romanian regions that were still part of the Soviet Union.
But the Securitate was still Dej’s instrument of choice, and Romania joined the wave of repression after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution – incidentally, Hungarian leader Imre Nagy was shortly detained on Romanian soil.
In his late years, Gheorghiu-Dej established diplomatic relations with the First World, including the United States. Such steps were highly encouraged by the president Lyndon B. Johnson, who had come to see Romania as an almost friendly Communist country in the Cold War context (1963). 1964 was the year many political prisoners were released.
Interaction with the West
In the early years of Gheorghiu-Dej’s rule Romania’s relations with the West were tense, marked by accusations of United States espionage and Romanian human rights violations. There were also low levels of trade between Romania and the West as Romania tied itself to the Soviet Union and the other satellite nations; in 1950, Romania’s economic plan involved 89% of trade to be solely with the Soviet Bloc.