Confiscated Manuscripts Collection at CNSAS
The Confiscated Manuscripts Collection at CNSAS was not assembled by the creators of content or by collectors who valued the works they preserved, but by the Romanian secret police, the Securitate. It includes items confiscated from their rightful owners. More precisely, the collection contains unpublished manuscripts of literary works, diaries, memoirs, correspondence, forbidden books and publications, and open letters of protest, which the Securitate confiscated from 105 persons, survivors of the Stalinist persecution, human rights activists, priests and religious thinkers, non-conformist writers, or generally complying individuals who nonetheless attracted the attention of the secret police. These items are archived in 330 volumes, which include 50,000 pages.
București Strada Matei Basarab 55, Romania 030167
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Name of collection
- Manuscripts Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
Unlike most other collections, the Confiscated Manuscripts Collection at CNSAS was not assembled by creators who preserved their own works or by collectors who valued the pieces they conserved, but by the Romanian secret police, the Securitate. It includes items confiscated from their rightful owners. Most confiscations occurred during house searches, but some of the manuscripts were also secretly appropriated from their owners with the help of collaborators of the secret police. Thus, this collection originally served a different purpose than that of preserving valuable pieces of literature or art from destruction and oblivion. Its purpose was to seize materials which potentially contained critical views on the communist regime in order to prevent their circulation. More precisely, the collection contains unpublished manuscripts of literary works, diaries, memoirs, correspondence, forbidden books and publications, and open letters of protest, which the Securitate confiscated from survivors of the Stalinist persecution, human rights activists, priests and religious thinkers, non-conformist writers, or generally complying individuals who nonetheless attracted the attention of the secret police. The original owners of the items included in this collection do not fit into a coherent category, even if one considers their problematic relation with the communist regime. Among them there are prominent dissidents, such as the writer Paul Goma, together with individuals totally unknown for anti-regime stances or activities, but who were probably put under surveillance on suspicion of plotting against the regime.
One can draw important conclusions from this collection. These conclusions tell us more about the perspective of the collector – the Romanian secret police – regarding the limits between the tolerated and the prohibited, than about the oppositional activities of the creators of content. As is well known, the secret police organisation was certainly not involved in any activity of opposition under communism (although rumours in Romania credit the Securitate with the organisation of the Revolution of 1989). On the contrary, it was an institutional pillar of the dictatorial regime, in charge of the surveillance of the population and the suppression of any oppositional activity. Its collection of confiscated manuscripts illustrates that the limits between tolerated and prohibited were not only variable in time in accordance with the changing political context, but also dependent on the individuals who guarded these limits, i.e., the officers in charge of house searches. Such an affirmation is supported by the eclectic nature of the items in this collection. Some were really challenging the system of values imposed by the communist regime, like the masterpieces included in the registry, others were actually inoffensive, but considered dangerous by individuals unable to make a judgement. From the content of the collection, it may be figured out that the items to be confiscated were selected in accordance with very general and vague criteria: (1) handwritten notes, letters and manuscripts; (2) pre-communist publications, especially those which were classified as “secret” in public libraries; and (3) publications in other languages than Romanian, in particular western books or periodicals.
From among the very diverse manuscripts confiscated by the secret police, it is worth underlining that a considerable number originate from persons or groups linked to the Romanian Orthodox Church, yet dissenting in views from the Church hierarchy, which was rather obedient to the regime, as it did not protest even at the demolition of churches by the Ceaușescu regime. Among those of Orthodox faith practising various forms of resistance to both communist atheism and the Church hierarchy’s compliance, the underground group called Rugul Aprins (Burning Bush) stands out. The Confiscated Manuscripts Collection includes among others the fundamental document of this group: a 27-page typewritten document entitled “Imn acatist la Rugul Aprins al Născătoarei de Dumnezeu” (Akathistic hymn to the Burning Bush of the Mother of God.” Although the manuscript has no signature, the journalist, poet, and monk Alexandru Teodorescu, founding member of Rugul Aprins, is believed to be the author. The manuscript consists of a set of prayers used by this underground group comprising theologians, priests, and lay intellectuals who sought refuge from the atheist communist regime in the renewal of the religious practices of the Orthodox Church. A version of the cycle of prayers dates from 1948, from the initial period in the history of the group. The confiscated document is a second version from 1958, the year when the Securitate dissolved the group by sending its most notable members, including Alexandru Teodorescu, to prison. The manuscript must have been sequestrated on this occasion. The two masterpieces of this collection illustrate the resistance practised by priests inside the Romanian Orthodox Church, such as Father Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa, who criticised the demolition of churches in his sermons and was thus imprisoned, and by laymen who came to be attracted by the Orthodox faith while imprisoned, such as Nicolae Steinhardt, a leading Romanian intellectual of Jewish origin, known mostly for his “literary testament,” an autobiographical volume which focuses on his conversion to Christianity while imprisoned for political reasons. Published after 1989 as Jurnalul fericirii (Diary of blissfulness), his book epitomises the idea of “resistance through culture” against the system of values imposed by the communist regime in Romania.
Alongside the manuscripts confiscated by the Securitate from Paul Goma, the main proponent of a collective protest against human rights violations in communist Romania, this collection includes items confiscated from other individuals who testified to various types of abuses. An example worth mentioning is “Scrisoare fără adresant” (Letter without addressee) by Ionel Cană, one of the individuals who endorsed the Goma Movement. A handwritten document signed by its author, this two-page letter is dated October 1978, which means that it was drafted after Ionel Cană had signed the collective letter to the CSCE Follow-up Meeting in Belgrade, but before the author’s initiative, together with others, to establish a free trade union in Romania. It is not clear to whom this letter was actually addressed, but it seems to be intended for some communist authority, because it asks for permission to get an exit visa for a western country. It is significant though that the author uses the appellative “sir” (Romanian domn) and thus ignored a communist law of 1977 regarding the formal manner of address, which stipulated that the only accepted appellative in the public space was “comrade” (Romanian tovarăș). The letter denounces the pressures and abuses to which the author and his family have been subjected ever since his refusal to take an oath of allegiance to the Socialist Republic of Romania in the summer of 1975. The author mentions that the harassment against him and his family has intensified significantly since he joined the human rights movement initiated by Goma in 1977, to the point of forcing him into early retirement based on a fake medical assessment which declared him unfit to work. Thus, he asks for permission to go abroad in order to submit himself to an independent medical assessment under the protection of the World Health Organisation, which included Romania as a member. It is not known if a copy of this letter was actually posted, but this copy of the letter must have been confiscated by the Securitate in 1979, if not before, after the author got involved in the establishment of an ephemeral independent trade union, entitled The Free Trade Union of the Working People of Romania (Sindicatul Liber al Oamenilor Muncii din România – SLOMR).
From the category of former political prisoners, which is well represented in this collection, it is interesting to note “Corespondență fictivă” (Fictitious correspondence) by Ion Puiu. A handwritten manuscript signed by its author, this text was confiscated from a notable member of the National Peasant Party youth organisation, who was imprisoned between 1947 and 1964 in view of his political past. Dated 28 February 1985, this 11-page document is a letter addressed to the president of the Socialist Republic of Romania. A note on the letter in a different hand states: “Found in my hiding place, 12 February 1988.” The letter is worth mentioning because the expressed criticism reflects profound and relevant knowledge of Western analyses of communist systems, which is rather unusual among the critics of Ceaușescu’s regime. The author presents himself as originating from Soviet-occupied Bukovina and a member of the Central Executive Committee of the National Peasant Party, a leading historic central-left political party. The main message of the letter is the announcement of the author’s decision to run as an independent candidate in the elections of 17 March 1985 for a mandate of deputy in the Romanian Grand National Assembly. The author also underlines that he wants to represent the constituency where the commune of Jilava is situated, as the prison in which he spent many years is also there. After this announcement, Puiu formulates a criticism of the Communist Party monopoly of power in surprisingly appropriate language: he argues that this mechanism for nominating candidates representing a single party violates equality of rights and the principle of non-discrimination, and characterises it as a fault of an “anti-democratic” and “dictatorial-totalitarian nature.” Finally, Puiu outlines an electoral program in twenty-five points, highlighting a series of dysfunctionalities of state socialism, and underlines that his ultimate purpose is not the removal of the Communist Party from power, but the “democratisation and modernisation” of the country. It is not clear if a copy of this letter was indeed sent to its addressee, and there is no indication of the circumstances in which the document was confiscated by the Securitate. However, it appears that the author was under constant surveillance by the secret police.
On the other hand, the Confiscated Manuscripts Collection at CNSAS includes many items which reflect non-conformist thinking, but do not constitute an open criticism of the communist regime. One such example is that of Suflețel Orest, a former soldier in WWI and then mayor of a village in the north of Moldavia, who eventually became a member of the extreme right movement in interwar Romania. Thousands of pages grouped in thirteen notebooks were confiscated from him on the occasion of a house search, although these refer to his daily life during the war in the years 1914–1919 or after, in his native village, and do not have much to do with his political sympathies. Nonetheless these materials were used by the Securitate to incriminate him. In many other cases, confiscated manuscripts were used as evidence during trials, so many such items were preserved in the penal files made by the Securitate and are now to be found not in the Confiscated Manuscripts Collection, but in the Penal Fonds of the CNSAS Archives. Finally, a special case reflected in this collection is worth mentioning because it represents the opposite of staging a trial based on confiscated manuscripts, when these items were usually preserved by the secret police because they constituted evidence of the crime allegedly committed by the individuals in question. This notorious case from the late communist period illustrates how an incriminating item might actually be destroyed instead of being preserved in the Archives of the Securitate. It is the case of Gheorghe Ursu, an engineer with literary ambitions, who kept a secret diary with critical comments for which he was arrested and beaten to death in prison before any trial. In Romania, he is an emblem of the brutalities committed under the Ceaușescu regime, while his missing diary is an epitome of the mystery that surrounds the disappearance of certain items from the Securitate archives during the Revolution of 1989 and the first post-communist decade, until the transfer of the archives to CNSAS.
Description of content
The Confiscated Manuscript Collection at CNSAS contains unpublished manuscripts, correspondence, forbidden books and publications, open letters of protest, and other personal papers, which the Securitate confiscated from 105 individuals. It contains around 50,000 sheets of paper, typed or handwritten, grouped in 330 volumes. These items are part of this collection because they were either used as evidence during trials staged against various individuals in order to prove that they were “enemies of the people,” or simply sequestrated during searches of the houses of those considered “targets” by the secret police. The collection thus contains items, such as manuscripts, diaries, notes, open letters, memoranda, or other types of documents, which were written by the persons from whom these were confiscated. Other items are letters received by these individuals from friends or colleagues in Romania or abroad. One can find also forbidden or problematic publications, such as Romanian publications from before the communist takeover or foreign publications. The number of creators in this collection is quite high, but among them there are outstanding intellectuals, authors of public documents of protest, religious personalities, former members of historic parties, and victims of the Stalinist repression. The collection had no social role under communism, apart from preventing the items included in it from circulating and spreading critical views on the regime. However, many of the materials were quite harmless to the regime; the Securitate officers must have confiscated them just to be on the safe side.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
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Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Petrescu, Cristina
Deletant, Dennis. 1996. Ceaușescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965–1989. London: Hurst & Co Publishers.
Securitatea – Structuri / Cadre, Obiective şi metode: Colecție de documente (The Securitate – structures / cadres, objectives, and methods: Collection of documents). 2006. 2 Vols. Edited by Florica Dobre, Elis Neagoe-Pleşa, and Liviu Pleşa. Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică. http://www.cnsas.ro/documente/publicatii/Securitatea%20vol%201.pdf; http://www.cnsas.ro/documente/publicatii/Securitatea%20vol%202.pdf
Petrescu, Dragoș, interview by Pătrăşconiu, Cristian Valeriu , April 01, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection