Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej

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Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej : biography

November 8, 1901 – March 19, 1965

However, later Romania’s willingness to trade with the West became more apparent. For example, 1952 saw the first publication of the journal Romanian Foreign Trade, which offered opportunities to Western traders to buy Romanian goods such as petroleum and grain. Western publications also recognized the potential for Romania to sell its products on the world market; an article from The Times of August 29, 1953, wrote: “[Romania] could, for instance, it is thought, obtain higher prices on the world market for much of what she is forced to export to Russia, foodstuffs included, in return for machinery and aid.” As Gheorghiu-Dej realized, if Romania were able to trade with the West the standard of living would likely rise.

From 1953, the West gradually relaxed their export controls, which had limited the products that the U.S., Great Britain, and France could export to Eastern Europe. Gheorghiu-Dej, eager to establish interaction between Romania and the West, relaxed travel restraints on Western diplomats in Bucharest and allowed Western journalists more access to Romania. In early 1954, Romania also appealed to Great Britain about having talks to resolve Romania’s outstanding claims, to which Great Britain agreed in December of that year.

Romania’s foreign policy towards the West was closely tied to its policy toward the Soviet Union; Romania could only develop trading with the West if it asserted its independence from the intensely anti-West Soviet Union. Gheorghiu-Dej realized this, and thus emphasized Romania’s sovereignty. In the Second Party Congress which opened on December 23, 1955, Gheorghiu-Dej gave a five-hour speech in which he stressed the idea of national communism and Romania’s right to follow its own interests rather than be forced to follow another’s (referring to the Soviet Union). Gheorghiu-Dej also discussed opening up trade with the West. In an attempt to increase the dialogue between Romania and the West, in 1956 Gheorghiu-Dej instructed the new ambassador to the U.S. to meet with both Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and then with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a result of these meetings, the U.S. Department of State expressed interest in increasing the interaction between the two nations, including possibly establishing a library in Bucharest.

Romania’s interaction with the West temporarily decreased, however, with the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the violent response of the Soviet Union to the uprising. Still, Gheorghiu-Dej continued to strengthen the independence from the Soviet Union. For example, Romanian schools dropped the Russian language requirement. And, obviously, Romania endorsed the Moscow Declaration of 1957 which stated that "Socialist countries base their relations on the principles of complete equality, respect for territorial integrity, state independence and sovereignty, and non-interference in one another’s affairs…The socialist states also advocate the general expansion of economic and cultural relations with all other countries…” These statements coincided with Gheorghiu-Dej’s claims to national sovereignty and independence.

In fact, by 1957 Romania had substantially increased its Western trade; in that year trade with the West had increased to 25% of Romania’s total trade. By the early 1960s, Romania under Gheorghiu-Dej was more industrialized and productive. After World War II 80% of the population had worked in agriculture, but by 1963 only 65% did. And despite the decrease in hands working the land, agricultural productivity had actually increased. Additionally, Gheorghiu-Dej had successfully begun a strong shift in trade towards the West, further separating it from the Soviet Union; Romania imported much of its industrial equipment from West Germany, Great Britain, and France. This trade pattern followed Gheorghiu-Dej’s economic plan, which he made clear to Great Britain and France in 1960, when he sent his head of foreign intelligence to Paris and London in order to clarify Romania’s desire to interact with the West and disregard Comecon orders.