Usatiuc-Ghimpu-Graur Collection (National Patriotic Front) at National Archive of Moldova
This collection comprises documents (including trial records) relating to the group known as the “National Patriotic Front,” which are currently held in the National Archive of the Republic of Moldova (ANRM). These materials were transferred to the ANRM from the Archive of the Intelligence and Security Service of the Republic of Moldova (formerly the KGB Archive). This group operated in the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR) in the late 1960s and the early 1970s as the only significant organisation in the MSSR with a clear-cut and coherent oppositional message.
Chișinău Strada Gheorghe Asachi 67, Moldova
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Name of collection
- Usatiuc-Ghimpu-Graur Collection (National Patriotic Front)
Provenance and cultural activities
The current collection, the Usatiuc–Ghimpu–Graur Ad-hoc Collection, was defined by separating it from the collection of judicial files created by Soviet Moldavian KGB concerning persons who were subject to political repression under the communist regime. The Usatiuc–Ghimpu–Graur group, or National Patriotic Front, is a significant example of ethnic Romanians’ resistance to the Soviet “nationalities policy” in the MSSR. This group appears to have been the only well-structured oppositional organisation in the MSSR in the post-Stalinist period. Its members formulated clear-cut demands, spelled out in numerous documents produced by Alexandru Usatiuc and, in particular, Gheorghe Ghimpu. Those documents were critical of the Soviet regime and suggested that the situation could be changed via the unification of formerly Romanian territories with Romania. The leaders of this group argued that, since the USSR and Romania were communist countries, their initiative had a chance to succeed, provided that Ceauşescu agreed to negotiate with Moscow. In this context, it appears that the group’s activities were directly linked to the post-1968 context and, more broadly, to what Amir Weiner astutely calls the “socialist irredentism” of the Soviet satellites (Weiner 2006, 164). The Soviet authorities had been anxiously observing the policy of the Romanian authorities at least since early 1964, when the first intimations of Romania’s allegedly independent stance in foreign affairs were discernible. Soviet security concerns framed this vision of the Romanian leadership’s policy, although the irredentist claims in the official Bucharest’s position were rather marginal. This exaggerated apprehension of the timid Romanian irredentist claims was especially strong among the leadership of the MSSR, who felt threatened by any intimations of “local nationalism.” Fears concerning the stability of western frontier areas (including the MSSR) only increased following the Prague Spring and Romania’s apparent defiance of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. This context both prompted the articulation of Usatiuc and Ghimpu’s “national dissident” message and augmented the fears of the Soviet authorities, who resorted to repression against “local nationalism” in the western republics, notably in the Baltic republics, Ukraine, and Moldavia.
Judging by the documents in the collection, the leaders of the National Patriotic Front did not question the nature of the communist regime, but rather the legitimacy of Soviet rule in Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. Anti-communism was merely an implicit dimension of the National Patriotic Front’s programme. However, given its nationally inspired message, the Soviet regime perceived this organisation as a real danger, with nationalism being the main count of indictment. Although the members of the organisation were demanding the unification of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina with Romania, in the final verdict the Soviet regime emphasised the organisation’s intention to “break the MSSR and part of Ukraine away from the USSR.” The group’s members were viewed as extremely dangerous because they were vehemently contesting several myths and implicit principles of the Soviet nationalities policy as applied to the MSSR, notably the existence of an independent Moldavian nation and of a distinct “Moldavian” language, as well as the cornerstone idea of the Soviet nationalities policy epitomised by the slogan of “equality among nations.” All the main members of this “anti-Soviet” organisation condemned the policy of Russification and ethnic discrimination to which the Moldavians were allegedly subjected by the Soviet authorities. This organisation fits the pattern of the other dissident movements at the Western Soviet periphery. This was obvious both from the nature of its oppositional message, expressed in strong national terms, and from the way in which its members manipulated Soviet legislation during the trial and appealed to foreign audiences (notably the UN and Radio Free Europe).
The materials in the collection fit into two main categories. First, it features the documents produced by the members of the National Patriotic Front before their arrest by the KGB, including various memorandums and open letters addressed to foreign audiences (the Romanian communist leadership, Radio Free Europe, or the UN). The bulk of the surviving documents were confiscated by the KGB during searches of the suspects’ apartments immediately before or after their arrest. Unfortunately, some of the most interesting documents in this category have not survived. They were either lost or subsequently destroyed by the KGB. This is the case of the most important and comprehensive policy statement produced by the members of the National Patriotic Front – the report of the First Congress of the underground organisation. According to the memoirs of Alexandru Usatiuc, its founder and main leader (Usatiuc-Bulgăr 1999), the congress took place in 1967 and did not have a traditional format, which means that it was not a simultaneous meeting of all its members, but a series of meetings in small groups, which were subsequently summed up in a programmatic document. This is how Usatiuc depicted this moment in his memoirs, recorded by Serafim Saka in 1995:
”Those were hard times and we held the congress over time, so to speak, and through groups of four to five people. We also had an eighty-four-page report, published a decision, an instruction, and so on. The decision focused on reunification with Romania, demanded the establishment of Romanian as the state language, and proclaimed the tricolour as the national flag, which should have a black ribbon attached alongside the three colours until reintegration. We advocated the introduction of the Latin script, of the Romanian anthem and coat of arms. But none of these demands could have a significant echo here in Bessarabia, which, at that time, was very Soviet” (Saka 1995, 114).
However, according to an interrogation held at the KGB in 1972, the First Congress of the National Patriotic Front took place in late 1969 to early 1970. The Congress’s report allegedly reviewed the history of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, and estimated the number of Romanians who had lived on those territories but had been exterminated by the Soviet authorities. It also emphasised the policy of Russification of the native population pursued in Bessarabia by the Russian empire and continued by the Soviet Union. To compile the report, the Front's members apparently used such sources as textbooks of Romanian history published before 1940, the book by Ştefan Ciobanu 106 ani sub jugul Rusesc (106 years under the Russian yoke), and Karl Marx’s work Notes on the Romanians, which had been translated into Romanian and published in Bucharest in 1964.
Another important document not accessible to current researchers and most likely destroyed by KGB operatives was the memorandum that Usatiuc intended to present to the Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1971. This document summarised the political views of the Front’s members and called for Bessarabia’s and Northern Bukovina’s unification with Romania. It also demanded Romania’s direct involvement in the “Bessarabian question,” including through such means as a military intervention, provided that the Soviet–Romanian negotiations would fail.
Despite the loss of these documents, a number of similar materials are still in existence. These served as the main basis for the group’s indictment. Among these, several memoranda addressed to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty are especially significant. Both the members of the Usatiuc–Ghimpu–Graur group and the Soviet authorities were aware of the impact of the station’s broadcasts on the population of the Soviet Bloc. It is clear that the Soviet secret services were alarmed by the potential influence of the RFE/RL broadcasts on the citizens of the USSR and the satellite states, so the radio station’s “subversive activities” were taken rather seriously. In the context of the interrogations of the group members, KGB officials noted that “during the last five years” (i.e. after 1967) the RFE intensified its activities with the purpose of “subverting the unity, cohesion, and friendship between the peoples of the USSR and those of the other socialist countries, fomenting nationalism, inciting tendencies towards emigration, and spreading anti-Soviet hysteria.” During 1968–71 the RFE/RL broadcasts were allegedly paying increasing attention to the “Bessarabian question,” mentioning Romania’s “purported claims to the territory of Soviet Moldavia and the rebirth of nationalist tendencies within the [Moldavian] republic.”
Among other documents produced by the group members, one could emphasise their personal letters and notebooks, which were excellent illustrations of their ideas and personal trajectories, providing a glimpse into the initial formulation and gradual crystallisation of their “subversive ideas.” For example, Valeriu Graur’s personal notebook provided ample information on his contacts with suspicious persons during his frequent trips to Romania in the late 1960s, especially with surviving leaders of the early twentieth-century national movement in Bessarabia, such as Pan Halippa and Gherman Pântea.
A much larger share of the collection’s documents consists of interrogations and testimonies provided by the group members after their arrest, from which only those assumed more or less willingly by the accused were selected. Although produced under pressure at the KGB headquarters, these signed testimonies can be regarded as valuable sources of information on the activities of the organisation. Above all, these documents bear witness to the existence of other materials related to the Usatiuc–Ghimpu–Graur group, which were originally discovered during the search at the homes of the three members, but are currently missing, because the KGB either did not preserve or did not release them. Most of these testimonies were given between late January and June 1972. The main defendants provided a detailed account of the foundation, evolution and main aims of the organisation. The KGB officials were especially interested in tracing the links between the group members, particularly between the three main protagonists – Usatiuc, Ghimpu, and Graur. The accused carefully reconstructed the story of their meetings, their contacts and the circumstances of the production and elaboration of the confiscated incriminating materials (memoranda, diary notes, personal notebooks, correspondence, etc.). According to the investigation carried out by the Soviet Moldavian secret services, both prominent leaders of the organisation, Alexandru Usatiuc and Gheorghe Ghimpu, shared to a large extent the same views regarding its programme and main objectives. However, Usatiuc and Ghimpu had different approaches to the tactics of rebuilding the state unity of Romania. Ghimpu advocated the separation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina from the Soviet Union and their unification with Romania as simple provinces. Usatiuc believed that these territories should first gain their independence from the Soviet Union and create an independent state named the Moldavian People’s Republic, while unification with Romania should take place later, as a second stage of a more protracted process. These nuances proved to be irrelevant for the KGB investigators, who based their accusation on the organisation’s intent to “sever the Moldavian SSR and part of the Ukrainian SSR from the Soviet Union.”
The Supreme Court of Justice of the MSSR completed the hearings in the case on 13 July 1972, sentencing the main leader of the National Patriotic Front, Alexandru Usatiuc, to seven years in a high-security labour correction colony in Perm’ and to five-year exile in Tyumen. Gheorghe Ghimpu was sentenced to six years in a high-security labour correction colony. Valeriu Graur was sentenced to four years in a high-security labour correction colony.
Description of content
The collection mainly contains archival files (eleven volumes in total) from the depository of the former KGB (then transferred to the Archive of the Intelligence and Security Service of the Republic of Moldova and currently preserved in the National Archive of the Republic of Moldova). The main types of documents within the collection consist of trial records (interrogations of the accused and of relevant witnesses), official reports, other categories of judicial files, and documents produced by the members of the organisation prior to their arrest (memorandums, reports, letters, correspondence, private notes, etc.). The files also include a number of photos, mostly private photos of the defendants in various contexts or official photos taken during their arrest. The trial records comprise two main categories: interrogations of the accused (including supporting evidence provided by witness accounts) and papers produced by the defendants before their arrest, which reflect the activities and aims of the organisation. The first category of documents comprises approximately 75–80 percent of the archival files. These documents detail and summarise the main findings of the inquiry and provide a coherent narrative of the suspects’ “anti-Soviet activities.” They also allow us to clarify the trajectory of the main protagonists’ mutual connections, providing valuable details on the concrete activities of the defendants. The rest of the materials (another 20 percent) consist of documents produced by the defendants and confiscated by KGB operatives upon their arrest or during the searches of their houses and apartments. These documents include various memorandums, letters addressed to other members of the organisation, fragments of personal diaries, and private notebooks, either in the original or in Russian translation. The memorandums represent either internal documents of the organisation or synthetic policy statements addressed to foreign audiences, such as the Romanian communist leadership or Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. The diary entries reflect the group members’ personal impressions and reflections as a result of observing the reality of Soviet Moldavia (mainly relating to Russification policies), as well as notes and brief outlines/ synopses of books and other types of nationally oriented literature consulted by the group and later used to draft the movement’s policy documents. The notebooks mainly contain written recordings of conversations held with like-minded persons in the MSSR and Romania, as well as their addresses and contacts. Finally, there are other types of procedural documents (about 2–3 % of the total), which mainly consist of search protocols, expert conclusions, and other similar papers corroborating the existing evidence.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 10-99
- other: 500-999
- photos: 10-99
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- parts are closed to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Cusco, Andrei
- Petrescu, Cristina
Weiner, Amir. 2006. “Deja Vu All Over Again: Prague Spring, Romanian Summer and Soviet Autumn on the Soviet Western Frontier.” Contemporary European History. Vol. 15, No. 2 (May 2006): 159–194.
Usatiuc-Bulgăr, Alexandru. 1999. Cu gândul la “o lume între două lumi:” eroi, martiri, oameni-legendă (Thinking About a "World Between Two Worlds:" Heroes, Martyrs, Legendary Figures). Chișinău: Lyceum.
Saka, Serafim. 1995. Basarabia în Gulag (Bessarabia in the Gulag). Chișinău: Editura Uniunii Scriitorilor.
Cașu, Igor , interview by Cusco, Andrei, November 28, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection