War and revolution: Romanian retrospectives on the centenary of Red October

Spring 2018

In Romania, the theme of the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution has been limited, and of relatively low intensity, in comparison with the academic and media debates beginning in August 2016 that marked the hundred years since Romania’s participation in the First World War. A related theme, and one which has a much bigger relevance in terms of public impact, is that of the hundredth anniversary, on 1 December 2018, of the unification of all Romanian provinces within one kingdom (namely, in chronological order, Bessarabia, Bucovina, Transylvania, Banat, Crisana and Maramures). Beyond this wider frame of reference, in which the centenary of Red October seems to ‘get lost’, it should also be observed that the historical legacy of the annexation of Bessarabia by the Tsarist Empire in 1812, and its occupation by the Soviet Union following the Vienna Diktat of 1940, as well as the imposition of the communist regime after the Second World War, under the yoke of the same power, are such as to make approaches to the Bolshevik Revolution, in academic as well as public discourse, somewhat reserved if not downright negative. Moreoever, to these territorial sensitivities is added the problem of the treasure of the National Bank of Romania, deposited in Moscow in December 1916-February 1917 and July-August 1917, which, despite Lenin’s assurances that it would be returned at an opportune moment into ‘the hands of the Romanian people’, has to this very day not been given back. Thus, in Romanian academic and public space, we can speak of a genuine historical tradition of an ‘original evil’ embodied by the Bolshevik Revolution, perpetuated in the inter-war period, exacerbated during the Second World War, passed over in silence during the communist regime or covered by the mask of national-communism, and then reactivated after December 1989.

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Twentieth Century Communism 14: 1917 in 2017