Oral History Collection at CNSAS
The Oral History Collection at CNSAS is a unique collection of this kind as it includes only interviews with individuals who are the subjects of personal files in the CNSAS Archives, and who after studying these personal files created by the Securitate agreed to narrate their own experience of entanglement with the secret police. The interviewees include not only individuals who were under surveillance and thus victims of the Securitate, but also individuals who collaborated with the secret police to provide information on others: family, friends, and colleagues. Both types of interviews represent the response of the interviewees to the narrative created about them by the Securitate.
București Strada Matei Basarab 55, Romania 030167
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Name of collection
Oral History Archives at CNSAS
Provenance and cultural activities
The Oral History Collection at CNSAS (Romanian acronym for the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives) is preserved within the Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu Centre of Oral History. The Centre was founded in February 2010 as part of the Department of Educational Programmes at the initiative of Dragoș Petrescu, president of the CNSAS collegium between 2010 and 2018. It was named after Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu (1928–2008), a political prisoner under communism, founder of the Association of Former Political Prisoners in Romania in 1990 and its president until his death, the driving force behind the opening of the Securitate files, the establishment of adequate legislation for accessing these files, and the institution entrusted to deal with these files, i.e. CNSAS, and a member of the collegium of CNSAS (2006–2008). The main purpose of the Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu Centre of Oral History is to collect the testimonies of those persons willing to share their experience of confronting their personal files or those of their relatives, created by the Romanian secret police, the Securitate, with or without their knowledge. The initiative resulted in the creation of an oral history archive that currently contains 340 video-recorded interviews. Interviews were recorded systematically only after the establishment of the Centre of Oral History, with the clear purpose of creating an alternative corpus of sources to the files of the secret police. However, a few interviews date from the period 2007–2010, when this activity was done sporadically. The interviews represent a very useful instrument for any researcher interested in the history of Romanian communism, as they show how the investigation and surveillance mechanisms of the Securitate worked in particular cases and how they evolved in time and depending on the issues at stake. Moreover, as the Securitate files do not always paint a comprehensive picture of the events that led to and accompanied the development of the investigation, personal testimonies represent an invaluable contribution, filling in the missing gaps in the official documents. Above all, these interviews represent the personal experience of victims and perpetrators alike, and implicitly offer a different perspective on the same events from that of the Securitate.
The granting of an interview is preceded by several steps. In the reading room of CNSAS there are several informative messages about the existence of the Centre of Oral History and the willingness of its researchers to listen to the personal stories of those who were investigated or persecuted or co-opted by the Securitate. In the great majority of the cases, the researchers of the Centre are contacted by people who after reading their personal files want to share their perspective on and feelings about what they just have found out. There also cases when the researchers initiate the contact, as the person in question is known for his or her encounters with the Securitate during the communist period. After agreeing on practical details regarding the interview, the researcher entrusted with taking it studies the files. The interview, which is video recorded, takes place at the CNSAS headquarters or at another agreed location and at a date indicated by the interviewee. In most cases, interviews take place at the CNSAS headquarters, where the personal files under discussion cam be re-read and researched at any time during the discussion. The people interviewed by the CNSAS researchers fall into several categories: former political prisoners, former members of the anti-communist exile community, dissidents and critical intellectuals (writers, painters, musicians, actors), priests, pastors, preachers, foreign tourists, foreign PhD candidates and language assistants, authors of anti-communist leaflets and writings, workers, students, school children, listeners and producers of Radio Free Europe, people who fled the country, participants in the events that led to the final demise of the communist regime in December 1989, and also informers or officers of the Securitate (though the category of victims outnumbers that of perpetrators). Those who agree to give an interview can get a copy of their video-recorded discussion with the CNSAS researchers.
The interview has a semi-structured form and falls into the category of life-story interviews. Consequently, the interviewee is questioned about their childhood and family, educational background, professional activity, hobbies, and social and political involvement, about their relations with the communist regime, the Militia or the Securitate, about their investigation, conviction, or detention, as the case may be, about their experience during the Revolution of 1989, and about the content of their personal file. All these questions are meant to paint a comprehensive picture of the interviewed person, of the circumstances in which their opposition towards the communist regime was manifested, the kind of opposition they organised against the communist regime, when they met the Securitate and how this meeting was a life-changing experience, and finally their personal conclusions on reading their personal file. The most important part of the interviews focuses on the nature of the opposition that triggered the intervention of the secret police. For instance, most former political prisoners refer to their solid political convictions, which led to their imprisonment and justified their surveillance and harassment by the Securitate after their release. The members of the exile community recall their role in the organisation of the anti-communist opposition in the West, which brought them into the unwanted attention of the same Romanian secret police. The former dissidents and critical intellectuals (writers, painters, musicians, actors) speak about censorship, the means of avoiding it, their type of cultural opposition against the communist regime, and their encounters with the Securitate. The clergymen discuss the role played by religion in organising resistance to the atheist policies of the Romanian communist regime and the pressure they were subjected to by the Securitate, which wanted to collect information about their parishioners and about their connections with the West. Young people in the time of communism recall how they found in the foreign music broadcast by Western radio stations, such as Radio Free Europe, the perfect means to resist the indoctrination of the communist regime. Finally, interviews with former informers and officers of the Securitate focus on their reasons for collaboration with the secret police and their contribution to supporting its actions against family members, friends, or colleagues who were under surveillance.
As for the evolution of the collection, the statistics of the archive of the Centre of Oral History is the following: 2007 – 1 interview, 2008 – 7 interviews, 2009 – 37 interviews. After the establishment of the formal frame for collecting the interviews in 2010, a record number of 167 interviews were taken by CNSAS researchers. However, the number decreased in the following years, as the number of those who asked to consult their files decreased. The statistics is the following: 2011 – 53 interviews, 2012 – 38 interviews, 2013 – 11 interviews, 2014 – 5 interviews, 2015 – 4 interviews, 2016 – 9 interviews, 2017 – 8 interviews.
Description of content
The Oral History Archive at CNSAS (Romanian acronym for the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives) currently consists of 340 video-recorded interviews. Their duration varies between 20 and 350 minutes, sometimes divided into two or three parts. The team that works at the Oral History Archive consists of nine people. All the 340 semi-structured interviews fall into the category of life-story interviews touching upon a list of subjects that offer invaluable insights into the biography of the people who were investigated by the Romanian secret police, the Securitate. The large majority of the interviews were recorded after the establishment of the Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu Centre of Oral History in 2010, but a few interviews date from the period 2007–2010.The main purpose of the interviews is to record the experience of those who have recently read the personal files about them created by the Securitate. Apart from this main objective, the interviews also aim to reveal the circumstances that led the people in question to engage in oppositional activities, their motives for opposing the communist regime, and the personal experience of being under the Securitate’s surveillance. In terms of the categories of people interviewed, they cover a wide range including former political prisoners, member of the anti-communist exile community, including broadcasters on Radio Free Europe, dissidents, and critical intellectuals (writers, painters, musicians, actors), authors of anti-communist leaflets and writings, clergymen, foreign nationals, young people at that time who used to listen to Radio Free Europe or tried to flee the country, and informers and officers of the Securitate. Each of the interviewees had their own story of how they opposed the communist regime and encountering the feared Securitate. The former political prisoners' testimonies focus on describing their time in prison and the harassment of the Securitate after their release as they continued to defend their political convictions. The members of the anti-communist exile community recount how they left the country and engaged in oppositional activities against the Ceaușescu regime from the microphone of Radio Free Europe and how the Securitate initiated or continued their surveillance outside Romania. The dissidents and critical intellectuals (writers, painters, musicians, actors) speak about censorship, about how they found ways of expressing their opposition to the cultural politics of the regime, and the way in which they perceived their surveillance by the Securitate. The clergymen focus on the role of religion in helping those who chose to think differently, and how they experienced surveillance by the Securitate and managed to refuse its offers of collaboration. Those who were young under communism remember how they manifested their opposition towards the communist regime by trying to flee the country, listening to Western music broadcast by Radio Free Europe, or expressing their allegiance to different musical subcultures which were very popular beyond the Iron Curtain. Informers and officers of the Securitate form a distinct category of the interviewed persons. They speak about the reasons for their collaboration with the secret police and their role in assisting the secret police in keeping others under surveillance.
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): 100-499
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Marin, Manuela
- Petrescu, Cristina
Accessed on 9 august 2018:
Covaci, Nicolae. 2014. Phoenix...Însă eu, o pasăre (Phoenix...myself a bird) vol. 1. Bucharest: Intergral.
Covaci, Nicolae. 2014. Phoenix: Giudecata înțelepților (Phoenix: the wise sage) vol. 2. Bucharest: Integral.
Stratone, Nelu. 2016. Rock sub seceră și ciocan (Rock under sickle and hammer). Bucharesst: Hyperliteratura.
versuri. ro. Accessed on 4 August 2018,
Petrescu, Dragoș, interview by Marin, Manuela, August 31, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection