Dacia 1300 my generation
TOM SANDQVIST ANA MARIA ZAHARIADE
Dacia 1300 my generation
Photo cover: “Permanent love and peace” by Zoltan Marton Photo: Zoltan Marton (11, 25, 49) Tom Sandqvist (32)
Thanks to: Manuela Anton, Iosif Kiraly, Dina Paladi, Dan and Lia Perjovschi, Ileana St˘anculescu, Alexandru Popescu, Monica Median, Ann Edholm, Nina Mih a˘ Il˘a, Corina Sandu, Ionut, Croitoru, Andreea P a˘ duraru, Cristi Puiu, Jean Louis Boisnard, Corina Boisnard, Dan Bal˘ ˘ aneanu, Kuki, Eva Sjödin, Constantin Constantinescu, Dana Stan, Claudiu Stan, Doru Dricu - Adris A.B. C˘atalina ˘ Gavrilescu, Cristi Gavrilescu, Dana Paghiant, Lucian Popescu, Marius Patr ˘ anoiu, ˘ Sorin P˘aun, Cristian Marina, Ruxandra Stroe, Matei Serban Sandu, Lucian , Grema, Ana Mihalcea, Traian Mihalcea, Angela Stoian, Marin Stoian, Dan Hasnas, , Gabriel Panasiu, Andrei Moldoveanu, Tudor Timotin, Tudor Hristescu.
Special thanks to:
Graphic design and layout: Vera Davidescu www.grid-o.com
Printed by: PROTIP - Bucharest, Romania Edited by: Editura SIMETRIA - Bucharest, Romania ISBN 973-85821-3-X © copyright: Stefan Constantinescu, Tom Sandqvist, Ana Maria Zahariade. , www.forma12.com/dacia
TOM SANDQVIST 7. 8. 9. 10. 13. 15. 19. 20. 23. 25. 27. 28. 30. 33. 34. 36. 39. 43.
The land of milk and honey, of oil and gas Romania during Ceausescu , The unknown country Unimaginable oppression Living standard is rising The Genius of the Carpathians Dacia Felix Quality without doubt The eternal friend of the people Everybody’s property Dracula’s Castle Bois de Boulogne and Champs Elysées The future happiness 9 Suren Spandarian Street, Sector 2 Proletarian virtues The loop is tightening The spy at the window The purchasing power increases dramatically The End
ANA MARIA ZAHARIADE 51. 53. 55. 57. 58. 67. 67. 68. 79. 86.
Two books, the communist dream & DACIA 1300 Fragments of an architectural landscape Why Two books? The heritage The decisive 1952 The planned investment and its themes New buildings and forms The industrial architecture The dwelling and the socialist city Other building types and urban interventions The perverse candour of the profession
THE LAND OF MILK AND HONEY, OF OIL AND GAS ROMANIA DURING CEAus, ESCU These are new times even for the wounded country covering whole areas of the Carpathian Mountains and rich slopes down to the Danube and the Black Sea. Not long ago you could find on the Internet brief information about the country described as being located at “the converging point of long gone empires” in a geographical, political and cultural vacuum, between East and West, between North and South, according to which the country´s car fleet is being modernized as well: In Pitesti , – a Romanian city 11 miles north-west of the capital Bucharest, the first Renault car produced in this country had just been launched. The car is called SupeRNova, due to be dealt under the trade name of Dacia. Dacia SupeRNova soon became the most often sold car in Romania. In January 2001 over 1300 cars were sold. A remarkable success, notes Manuel Roldan, vice-president of Automobile DaciaRenault Company. Last year, the Romanian Dacia was bought by Renault and is now manufactured under license. Dacia SupeRNova is provided with an injection engine made in France, with the capacity of 1.3 l, producing around 75 HP. The gear box comes from France, while a whole lot other parts comes from factories owned by Renault in Turkey and Spain. SupeRNova is very well provided with air conditioning, automatic window operation, and electronic door remote control, lighjts metal rims, etc. The car provides French quality for a Romanian price. The cheapest version costs around 31,000 Swedish crowns, while the one with the highest performance does not exceed 43,000 crowns. Renault also intends to introduce another totally new car, made in cooperation with Nissan. The marketing will start in 2003 under the trade name of Dacia and the prize is estimated tot 50,000 Swedish crowns at most, the car also being aimed to be sold on the Western market. -We intend to do in Romania what Volkswagen did with Skoda in Czechoslovakia, Christian Esteve at Dacia Ltd. explains to Alba. The new Dacia SuperNova is not being imported to Sweden for the moment, but the car will soon be certified by the Norwegian authorities, meaning that it will soon be sold in Norway.
The events follow in quick succession – in April 2003, the automobile factory of Pitesti , started delivering Dacia Solenza as well, the newest status symbol, notably brilliant, ”ultramodern” with an ”extraordinary elegant profile”. The car has a 75 HP Renault engine and five gears, servo system, air conditioning, CD-player, and ”exceptional externel dimensions”. In April 2003 the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet was able to tell the readers that the Dacia, the replica of the Romanian 60s to East Germany’s Trabant, is by far the most unusual car in Sweden. In spite of the fact that the Swedish car fleet is one of the oldest in the European Union, the apparently painstaking investigation of the tabloid reached the conclusion that on Swedish roads there is only one single Dacia to be found. Can this be the result of the Romanian car’s lack of quality and comfort? Is it only by an accident that the renowned Swedish multiplicity restricts itself to just one copy of the Dacia – a delicate, modern car, that every Romanian once was dreaming of, the symbol of the steps towards progress and the victory of the future of the proletarian state?
THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY
For the man in the street in Sweden as well as in other Western countries Romania is the unknown country in the South successively affected by constant misfortunes. Romania is a blind spot in the Swedish mind and, more often than not, only associated to dirty, sick homeless children in the streets, weak and hungry, orphan children marked by the lack of proper caring, living in degenerated foster homes lacking all the basic facilities. The image is furthermore completed by ecological disasters, by rust-worn factories, with soot-clogged chimneys, incessantly spitting smoke, and with windows and pipes which are provisionally mended with cloth and pieces of cardboard. Furthermore, the sight is often concealed by ”conducator” Nicolae Ceausescu´s gigantic Casa Poporului in Bucharest, by the Carpathian , shepherds with their Biblical canes, sheepskin caps, and coats reaching down to their feet, or by the image of exotic gipsy carts which makes the accidental visitor imagine him- or herself somewhere in the Swedish nineteenth century writer Viktor Rydberg’s romantic gipsy novel Singoalla in a country where just a few electrical wires tell you to give up the conception of Romania never touched by Renaissance, Enlightenment, or industrialization. As a Swedish guide book, advanced in years but reasonably well informed, intends to describe Romania of today, it starts with the puzzling question of whether a trip to this country is really worth taking, along with the answer that Romania is, nevertheless, a country that offers the tourists unique experiences, albeit remaining a place requiring a lot of patience due to its excessive bureaucracy and other problems; in many respects Romania is both bothersome and tedious even for the Romanians themselves, the guide book says. Much of what can be perceived bears the mark of the ”dictatorial tendency typical to East-European countries”: even though the roads are coated with asphalt most of them are a real danger because they are not kept in repair. According to the book, whose main purpose is to attract
tourists to the new Eastern country, there are also both widespread and intricate environmental problems. At the same time Romanians can by no means be considered dishonest, ready to cheat the inexperienced traveler, even if the restaurant bill keeps rounding up. Thus, four bottles of mineral water, for instance, may soon become six bottles just as a serving of Kievski chicken costs 960 lei instead of 460. At the same time, the book advises the potential tourist by no means to walk in dark streets, to avoid parks, and watch out at all times against pickpockets, to dismantle all mobile car parts of the car, and never drink tap water. In this guide book Bucharest, the capital city of the country, with a population of almost three million, even though described as an exotic East-European city with an ”exuberant” street life, especially in the area of Gara du Nord, stands out as an exceptionally dirty, poor, and outdated place. According to the guide book, one of the most unusual experiences that a potential traveler to Romania may have is simply to drive a car. You are bewildered by the traffic, the author says; by the way in which roads are cared for and by the way in which people consider the road either as their home or as leisure areas. Traffic is heavy, hard and highly pollutant due to the diesel oil used by heavy trucks. The roads are ”acceptable”, even though many are almost impracticable, with deep, always unexpected hollows in the tarmac. When it comes to cars and car driving in Romania, the guide book can’t refrain either from exoticizing as the tourist is warned never to drive in the dark, because there is no guarantee that other cars have the lights on. The traffic is ”fantastic” since the roads through the villages are as crowded as the streets or the markets in the cities. Besides cars, horse- or oxen-pulled carts, cyclists and even pedestrians with or without packages in their arms can be met on roads. Rarely do we find wild animals, but sheep flocks are quite normal as well as cattle herds along with old women and men watching out for their one and only cow tied with a rope and grazing as if nothing has happened since centuries. We can find people everywhere on the road and in the middle of the streets crossing the villages. They walk youthfully arm in arm in groups of four or five, who, when talking, stop right in the middle of the road. Children play hopscotch and the sun sets wrapping everything in shadows and thus making the many carts invisible, since there are no cat´s-eyes and nobody in the traffic has the least idea whether there is anyone else in the traffic or not. If you want to rent a car, the guide book says, rent a Dacia. By definition it can´t be considered a luxury car, but it has everything you need. The best of all, of course, is that anyone can repair it, this strange concoction of the ancient Renault and a tractor.
UNIMAGINABLE OPPRESSION Even though part of the ”blame” for the faraway, stereotypical and exoticizing image of Romania must be related to the lack of interest that the Swedish and Scandinavian context in general is showing towards Central and Eastern Europe and, at the same time, to Romania’s
geopolitical position at the border of Europe, if not outside that region which traditionally is conceived as industrialized and consequently ”developed”, the fact remains that the communist Iron Curtain effectively isolated the country from the international community that once before communism was set up in 1947 was characterizing a great deal of its history and culture, at the same time as the communist régime literally destroyed both the country´s natural and intellectual resources. The result was not only indescribable human suffering but also a veritable Orwellian twisting of thinking, of mentality and attitudes, a twisting based both on internal totalitarian mechanisms of the materialistic ideology and on the ”natural need” for centralized control and mutual suspicion in all areas of everyday life both on the individual and on the official level, in all circumstances and everywhere. The Estonian writer Jaan Kaplinski, who actually lived in the Soviet Union, talks about the ubiquitous Eye, a metaphorical God almighty that created people in order to use them as guinea-pigs, supervising and controlling them at all times. This Eye kept people under relentless surveillance, analyzing them, watching them blankly, ruthlessly and thoughtlessly; this Eye had a free hand to do whatever it wished and was even able to read the most intimate thoughts and dreams of people. Incredibly poor from the point of view of living standard as it was Romania was rich in informers, conspirers, collaborators, and party activists. The fact that both political and private life was marked by the same kind of terror, inveterate falsity, and intellectual misery was a reality that the dictatorial party and its subordinates never was able to hide behind the not exactly polished façade, in spite of their rhetoric, bombastic propagandistic efforts to conceal the most manifest social evils. People denounced their nearest neighbours, bribed public officers at the same time as they were forced to praise their ”beloved” leader always and everywhere, though many, possibly most of them, did it out of their own free will. People would stand in one line after the other for hours for the most basic but non-existent product while suffering under a pile of vulgar lies or under the elegantly made up, absurd deceit that lay the basis for the most brilliant symbol of the régime: the horrific, non-functional duplicate of a French car model. The story must be told before it becomes a fairy tale, a tragic legend among legends. From a different perspective than the Romanian one, for instance from a Swedish one, it is indeed very easy to generalize and compromise, to simplify and distort, but there is still a story, surely poetic enough, but equally agonizing, that needs to be told even if the narrative perspective is not an immediate Romanian one. Let us step into it.
LIVING STANDARD IS RISING
He – let us call him Stefan Constantinescu - was born on February 10, 1968 at the I. , Cantacuzino hospital in Bucharest, in a year that, from many points of view, proved to be very eventful, even revolutionary. Twenty-five years later he was confronted with the Swedish
experience, when he landed in Sweden in August 1993. His father had already lived in Sweden for five years having arrived there on a tourist trip and having asked the Swedish police for political asylum, while Stefan’s mother and his five years older brother met their , father in Alvesta in the heart of the Småland province in 1990. 1968 was a special year not only because of the students’ uprisings and the street fightings in Paris and elsewhere in the West but also from the point of view of the totalitarian oppression taking place on the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain. Following the death of Stalinist Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and the ninth Congress of the Romanian Communist Party of July 1965 the ” shoemaker” Nicolae Ceausescu had in his position as the new Secretary General of the party , already managed to consolidate his power through denunciations and purges, at the same time he had refused to follow Kremlin’s orders to break all diplomatic ties with Israel in connection with the six days war in 1967. Ceausescu’s power and influence were in no way , diminished by the fact that Romania opened diplomatic contacts with the Federal Republic of Germany to mark the out-distancing of Romania from USSR as well as of other communist parties of the East. At the same time Ceausescu gave birth to high hopes of successive liberal , openings, which, however, had started from a totalitarian basis, when, during the Party meeting of March 1968, he declared to everyone’s surprise that ”no one can claim a monopoly
In luxury and plentyness.
of absolute truth as regards the development of social life; and no one can claim to have the last word in realm of practice as well as in social and philosophical thought.” At the beginning there were also excuses for the new wave of optimism: instruction in schools and universities was liberalized, intellectuals got more space to move, even small private shops, restaurants, and guest-houses were allowed. Formalities for going abroad were somewhat simplified and private houses were again permitted to build. Ceausescu , became the leader of new times, a young, dynamic, future-focused leader skillfully concealing the fact that a gigantic hoax was being staged under the eyes of both the Romanian people and Western politicians and mass-media. Many were fooled by the smoke curtain, while Ceausescu himself was getting a tan in the light of his own popularity. He was , making systematic working visits to factories hotly arguing with workers while giving their bosses ”precious indications and directives” denying at the same time, with great enthusiasm, his Stalinist predecessor. Consequently, up to 1970 almost 10 per cent of the Romanian population were registered in the Communist Party by their ”free will”, among which were included 45 per cent of the total number of engineers and an estimated over 50 per cent of teachers and university professors. Justified were also the felings of despair and hopelessness mixed with panic, all of which would soon find constant confirmation in real life. When it came to the fatally centralized and unsparingly cruel efforts to transform the predominantly agricultural population into a working proletariat as quickly as possible Ceausescu continued in the direction pointed out , by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. The people had to adjust to the brilliant future defined by the 9th Congress of the Party and its five-year plan of 1966-1970 at any cost. Thus, already three years after this decision, in the same year that Stefan was born, a gigantic steel plant, for , instance, was built in Galatzi at the same time as the oil industri was enlarged. Over half of the country´s total investments was focused on the heavy industry, while enormous resources were invested for the purpose of covering the national debt. Naturally, all these efforts left nothing for other sectors of economic life. Villages were collectivized and the farmers were forced into the factories. Soon over 60 per cent of the population was to become working class as compared to only 30 per cent at the end of the 1950s. The industrial products almost never managed to satisfy officially declared quality or quantity standards, which was surely a logical consequence of both the curse of collective property and of the structural shortcomings in the supply of raw materials as much as it was a consequence of the fact that the farmers were taken into the factories directly from the fields. For most of the impoverished people a relative wellbeing constantly growing during Ceausescu’s first years of government was nevertheless experienced as an , incomprehensible economic miracle. The number of washing machines, for instance, increased, according to official statistics, from almost 30,000 at the beginning of the 1960s to over 100,000 at the end of the same decade, while the number of refrigerators increased from over 7,000 to almost 150,000 and the number of TV sets from 25,000 to around 200,000. Great hopes were also focused on the initially surprisingly successful relations with
the West, which were reflected in the banal but nevertheless extremely symbolical fact that a Pepsi Cola bottling-plant was inaugurated in Constantza in the very year Stefan was born. , The opening of diplomatic relations with several Western countries went hand in hand with the first economic agreement signed with the Federal Republic of Germany in 1966. Two years later, the regime started negotiations with GATT, negotiations finalized in 1971 when Romania became full member of the organization a year before the country joined both the international monetary fund and to the World Bank. A common joke in the food queues a decade later said that Ceausescu had promised to support West-Germany economically, , with food and blankets. The general collectivization and the standardization of the new proletariat is reflected not only by the fact that peasants were tied to assembly lines in huge, noisy and dirty factory premises but also and especially by the Romanian housing program which, in practice, was a gigantic compulsory transfer of thousands of families having been living in their villages for generations as well as of roughly just as many families that were forced to move out of their city apartments or suburban villas into newly constructed groups of multi-storey buildings: the number of new-built apartments in the urban areas and around them increased from almost 130,000 at the beginning of the 1960s to almost 200,000 five years later. Between 1966 and 1970 a further 650,000 apartments were built and between 1971 and 1975 more than 750,000. At the same time, even though the government´s support for agriculture for this period was only 15-20 per cent of the total economic value, in the ‘60s there was still no lack of agricultural products worth mentioning thanks to exceptionally rich harvests on still pretty productive fields. In spite of the ”medieval” agriculture the quantity of vegetables and bread supply could still be considered a good one if not abundant; most products could still be found in shops and markets. But soon the almost totally accomplished agricultural collectivization represented the final blow to an already underdeveloped agriculture lacking necessary equipments and fertilizers. The tragic fact that the agriculture of the ‘80s had reached the limit of the unbearable both for those still living in the countryside and for the economy in general is illustrated by, for instance, the crowded trains when people travelled into Bucharest, where one could still buy bread, and filled their sacks full of dark, hardened loaves of bread which they used for feeding their animals due not only to the low quality of the bread but also to the disastrous lack of forage. A grotesque detail is the fact that people in the countryside – where food was produced - suffered from deficiency diseases.
THE GENIUS OF THE CARPATHIANS According to the French historian Stéphane Courtois, the history of the communist régimes and parties cannot be reduced only to its criminal dimensions, not even to its dimension of terror and oppression. But the multitude of archival documents and personal testimonies show the fact that terror was one of the basic traits of communism already from
the beginning. According to Courtois, we must give up the thought that shooting hostages here, massacres of uprising peasants, or a hecatomb of peasants starved to death there were just ”accidents” determined by a certain situation typical of a specific country during a specific period of time. The victims’ number is far too large for the human mind to really perceive the dimension of the terror: up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 global communism killed almost one hundred million. Romania was no exception when it came to communist atrocities, but it did have its specificity at least in one respect, which offered the régime a special appearance: in Romania the communist ideology and the execution of power were more than in any other country permeated by exceptionally strong national overtones effectively silencing those voices trying to refer to the international proletarian struggle as one of the basic elements of the communist movement. Nicolae Ceausescu and the men around him, among them the , hardy Ion Gheorghe Maurer, deliberately continued to foster the nationalistic heritage from the big building of the nation around the turn of the century at the same time as the party was attacking, for instance, the conception circulated in Dej´s time of the Soviet Unionen being a ”liberator” in 1944. In fact, the nationalist strains - and, by extension, the isolationist and explicitly xenophobic strains as well - grasped one of the most important dimensions of the Romanian self-image thus confining the masses to the totalitarian power and its most ”brilliant” personification, ”conducator” Ceasusescu himself, ”the architect of the socialist world order”, ”the most beloved father” of the people, the man who expressed the supreme legitimacy of the Romanian nation and the ethnically ”clean” Romanian people. Socialist internationalism would never have served the purposes of the regime equally well as the basically ”fascist” nationalism, which, furthermore, strengthened the personal power of Ceausescu at the same time that the party apparatus was digging deeper and deeper into the , prerequisites the Romanian identity. Along with the strengthening of ethno-nationalism the leader of the party was compared with great Romanian princes and medieval leaders – figures from the depth of mythology and history. Ceausescu’s official biography enhanced , hyperbolic dimensions and became more and more fantastic – his birthday, for instance, began to be celebrated in a way that reminded only of great national events. Ceausescu’s , person, the communist party, and the Romanian nation were melting into each other in a sort of projective, ambivalent identification permeating the entire political and intellectual life up to the most intimate details. Nobody could escape this ”Holy Trinity” and its consequences. Ironically enough, the invasion of Czechoslovakia by members of the Warsaw Pact in August 1968 let ”the Genius of the Carpathians” discover the real power of the national sentiments in regard to the efforts of increasing the efficiency of everything from social control and the power of the party to Ceausescu´s personal execution of power. The , overwhelming demonstration that took place in Bucharest in support of Ceausescu’s , decision not to participate in and at the same time to denounce the invasion of August 21 was to become the starting signal for one of the most grotesque cults of personality in history, the same time the image of Romania in the West was that of the last neutral
stronghold against the Soviet Union and its claims to universal supremacy. This was, of course, a misconception which Ceausescu made everything possible out of, on all , occasions, when he needed to get international favours and foreign guarantees for not involving in the country´s internal affairs regarding, for instance, the questions of human rights, political prisoners or the disastrous treatment of the national minorities. Ceausescu , played an unbelievable high game when he before the cheering masses on Piata Revolu t,iei explained that the invasion of Czechoslovaki was a ”terrible mistake” and a ”shameful moment in the history of the revolutionary movement”. He knew he had won the victory - temporarily when the Romanian communist party soon became the largest communist party within the Eastern bloc (judging by percentages) at the same time as the political leaders from the West stayed in line to visit Bucharest, among them the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, the President of France Charles de Gaulle, and even the President of the United States himself, Richard Nixon, who visited Bucharest in the summer of 1969. Nixon was the first American president ever to visit a country within the Eastern bloc and Ceausescu was rejoicing this , political brilliance more than ever - and made the people believe that this grand, staged visit would indeed be followed by new openings in his internal policy. Both Ceausescu and the political leadership were frightened by the potential Soviet threat , for failing to support the action of the Warsaw Pact. At the same time Ceausescu knew only , so well that the Soviet sister party was equally vigilant to his own party. The very day of the aggression by the tanks of the Warsaw Pact Ceausescu decided to organize ”patriotic” , guards of civilians, both men and women from the Militia. Simultaneously a secret order was given to the Council of State Security to draw an escape plan for Ceausescu himself and the , party leaders in the event of an invasion. The technical committee of this action – Directorate XI – urgently started to work on the plan that took the code name Rovine-IS-70, according to which the whole population would be engaged in armed resistance against a potential Soviet aggression, while the party leaders themselves would escape through secret underground tunnels of Bucharest. Over the years the plan was continually modified, in particular when Ceausescu was told by his foreign intelligence service of the Soviet plot to replace him with a , leader more sympathetic to Moscow.
DACIA FELIX The very day day before the action of the Warsaw Pact would suffocate the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia, on August 20th, Ceausescu was on a ”special mission” in Pitesti, , , the home of one of the country’s most important symbols, the Dacia, the car named after the imagined ancient land where, according to strongly propagandistic historiography, the Romanian nation and its people were born to become the torch-bearers of civilization in the surrounding Slavic night. This country of Dacia had become the mythological emblem of the national selfimage. The theory of the Dacian-Roman continuity was formulated already as far back as the
end of the 18th century and was soon to become the foundation for the national identity according to which the Romanians were the inheritors of two great peoples, the Romans and the Geto-Dacs, of whom the Dacs may even today be described as a ”healthy, tough, hardworking, heroic and freedom-loving” people, which was integrated with the Romans following the latter’s conquer of Dacia under Trajan. At the beginning of the 19th century this province was transformed into ”Dacia Felix”, the happy land of milk and honey, which, according to romantic-nationalistic philosophy, included not only Walachia and Moldova but also Transylvania, which consequently was occupied by the Magyars and which the ethnically homogenous Romanians therefore had the ”historical right” to claim and incorporate into the Romanian nation. Thus, the nationalists of the 19th century and even in the 20th century consciously fostered the notion of the Romanian people not being a ”geschichtloses Volk”, but, on the contrary, largely superior to both the Hungarians, the Germans and especially the Slavs being the real inheritors of a great and glorious past manifested in the hereditary village communities and in the old traditions of the peasantry along with the peasants’ stubborn fight against, for instance, the Turkish ”intruders”. Thus, the Romanians were characterized by their unlimited yearning for freedom, by their unpaired courage, by their exemplary deeds and their moral rectitude. Furthermore, it was a people
Meeting for peace.
that by all its elements, among them its Latin language, belonged to the great European family, a people standing guard against the threatening Asian hordes. The Central Committee of the Romanian Workers´ Party dissociated itself from Moscow already in April 1964. A year later the party changed its name to the Romanian Communist Party at the same time as the new statute was cleaned of all references to the Russian revolution of 1917 and the Soviet Union in its capacity of being ”the native country of the proletariat”. In July 1965 the leading role was transferred from the working class to the socialist nation as such; this meant that the party repudiated Lenin’s exhortation to the communists to build a society ”national in form, but socialist in content” and reversed the expression urging the Romanian people to build a society socialist in form, but nationalist in content. At the same time article 2 of the new constitution defined the ethnic minorities of the country as ”nationalities living in the country”, i.e. as guests in Romania without having the principal right of being considered members of the Romanian nation, that is, of the ”real” Romanian people. Romania was beginning to look more and more like a state of the fascist type based in principle on the same nationalist and ethno-centric ideology as Mussolini’s Italy. Ceausescu and the political leadership were cunning enough to understand that both the ,
Somewhere in Dacia Felix, 1975.
party power and the personal power of its leader could become stronger against the Soviet hegemony only by making direct and open references to the ethno-nationalist foundation at the core of Romania’s self-image. This was the idea that Ceausescu was demonstrating , when inaugurating the new car plant in Pitesti , the day before he equally bombastically denounced the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Before the inauguration Romania had around 1965 an import of almost 9,000 cars per year, but now the time had come for the country to become ”ultra-modern” and at the same time self-supporting in this respect as well, even though every part of the new car was made in France, everything starting with the steering wheel, the engine, the wheels, the signaling lights, the tires, the bumper, and the exhaust pipe. The car was intended to be the symbol of the entrance of the nation and the people into the new bright future offered by the socialist ”Dacia Felix”, the land of milk and honey, of oil and gas. The car would be a promise of independence, liberty and progress.”Long live and flourish our beloved country”, was the propaganda text on the red banners placed on the almost 10 mile long highway from Bucharest to Pitesti, , the only highway of the country, along which the Dacia was supposed to drive directly from the assembly line to the capital with its wide boulevards filled with people shining with joy, uttering ovations and waving small flags. The first Dacia crossing the factory gate was, of course, driven by none other than Nicolae Ceausescu himself, and the car was offered as a symbolic , present to him from the proud Romanian people. On its engine a platinum plate was mounted: “PRIMUL AUTOTURIM DE SERIE FABRICAT IN R.S.R. MUNCITORII, INGINERII SI TEHNICIENII CONSTRUCTORI de MASINI VA ADUC DUMNEAVOASTRA TOVARASE NICOLAE CEAUSESCU PRINOSUL de RECUNOSTINTA PENTRU INITIEREA , PRODUCTIEI de AUTOTURISME in ROMANIA SI PENTRU GRIJA PERMANENTA CE-O ARATATI DEZVOLTARII INDUSTRIEI NOASIRE SOCIALISTE.” “THE FIRST SERIAL CAR MANUFACTURED IN R.S.R. THE WORKERS, ENGINEERS AND TECHNICAL STAFF BRING YOU, COMRADE NICOLAE CEAUSESCU, THE , PROOF OF THEIR GRATITUDE FOR INITIATING THE CAR CONSTRUCTION IN ROMANIA AND FOR THE CONSTANT CARE YOU SHOW FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR SOCIALIST INDUSTRY.”
The Romanian farmers – the workers at the conveyor belt – did indeed accomplish their task, as they said, along with the engineers, these formidable builders of socialism. Their enthusiasm and dedication sprung from their deeply revolutionary attitude. Inspired and led by the relentless party secretary they accomplished without hesitation and in record time the task unanimously given to them by the party and the nation for the advantage of the whole Romanian people and its everlasting growth and welfare.
QUALITY WITHOUT DOUBT Taking the decision to build a totally Romanian serial car which later proved to be a French copy was a measure both megalomaniac and lacking a realistic foundation. Nobody had neither time nor patience enough to wait for the future. When it was proved that the designing and the actual building of a Romanian car from top to bottom would take too much time, people were - in spite of everything - realistic enough to send an international offer to Renault, Peugeot, Fiat, Alfa-Romeo, and Austin for the building on license of 40,000-50,000 cars per year with a 1,000-1,300 cm3 engine. After testing the Renault 10, Peugeot 204, Fiat 1100D, and Alfa Romeo 1300 as well as the Austin Mini Morris, the Romanians decided to stick to the Renault 12, for which the French company had already made a prototype which was going to be produced in series three years later in the fall of 1969. The agreement signed in September 1966 allowed the Romanians to start building the new Renault practically immediately, even though, at first, they had to make a sort of a collage from Renault 16 parts. The result was the copy of a Renault 8 called Dacia 1100. The Pitesti , factory was built in a year and a half and the first test car was completed on August 3rd 1968 having passed through 217 working stations and assembly lines. The five-passenger car had four doors, a four cylinder water cooling engine, a 46 horse power system and could reach a maximum of 133 km per hour with a gas consumption of around 7 liters every 10 miles. Even though the plant in Pitesti , sold, according to certain information, almost 40,000 Dacia 1100 cars up to 1971, the second model was to become the incomparably most popular and at the same time the longest lasting of all Renault models and variants, of which many were actually never produced by Renault, such as, for instance, the Dacia Brasovia Coupé, Dacia Sport, Dacia Jumbo, and Dacia 1301. Only the party members at the top of the hierarchy were permitted to own the last type mentioned, although the highest ranked of them all, Nicolae Ceausescu, never used any other car but the latest luxury Mercedes. The Dacia , 1300, which started being built in Pitesti , in August 1969, was Romania´s true Trabant along with the Dacia Lastun assembled in Timisoara, ”a delightful mixture of a monster and something ridiculous”. The Lastun was a tractor-like ”city car” with a 22 HP engine and a maximum speed of 106 km per hour. Nobody, however, could be sure to reach one’s destination due to its disorganized, ”typically Romanian” assembly as well as to its basic design flaws. Its small dimensions and the chopped rear attracted all kinds of jokes about the car: it was the best car in the world for city traffic, because you could even park it upright on the rear on any sidewalk you liked. In spite of its undeniable qualifications to become the major symbol of liberty in communist Romania thanks to, for instance, a very low gas consumption (around 3 liters) the Lastun was defeated by the Dacia 1300 as the emblem of the state of the nation, that angular, noisy and somewhat instable car intended to show the whole splendor of the socialist world order. The main reason seems to be the fact that the Dacia Lastun was built in a very limited series, which in turn can be explained by the almost titanic efforts made to build the Dacia 1300 and its more or less fantastic variants; some were
more creative, others less, of which the Dacia 2000, for instance, was made only for the nomenklatura similarly to the Dacia 1301, both painted only in dark blue or black. The Dacia 1300 was exhibited for the first time at the car fair in Bucharest in October 1969 at the same time as its Renault 12 version was shown at the Paris car fair. The car was built for 5 passengers, had forward traction, four doors and a 1289 cm3 engine. Its maximum speed was 144 km per hour, a breakneck speed impossible to reach on most of the Romanian roads full of holes, often extremely narrow and without asphalt up to the ‘80s. The price of this car was as amazing as its speed: if Stefan Constantinescu’ s father had had the , chance to put aside half of his monthly wages, he might have bought a car in approximately 11 years at the beginning of the ‘70s.
THE ETERNAL FRIEND OF THE PEOPLE
How does one live in a totalitarian regime? How do terror, oppression, and lies affect you? How does your life look like when you cannot trust neither your husband, your wife nor even your closest neighbor; when anyone can be an informer, a collaborator, or a conspirator? When life becomes poorer and poorer, when light is cut off, food is rationed, shops look at you with empty shelves, or when you are forced to move into some godforsaken, shabby suburban area? But, maybe before anything else, how is it possible to hold on to the tiniest grain of human dignity and integrity, when, as the Romanian writer Augustin Buzura explains, you must consider yourself a loser, if you by any chance dream of eradicating the lies in your life? How can you preserve your self-respect and at the same time your respect for your fellow humans when censorship is total up to the most intimate thoughts, when everyone is afraid of everyone else, when you must distort even your own silent language, when you have to infringe the law repeatedly so that your life may work to at least an acceptable level? Stefan Constantinescu has told that, when he was a child, then a teenager, he used to go to , the car fair in Bucharest every year just before the latest Dacia was launched. Most of the time he would skip school or he was given leave of absence from compulsory patriotic work in order to have the chance to see with his own eyes the new ”improvements” made on the old car. Indeed, the Dacia had become a species of mockery of the mockery, the copy of a non-existing prototype, because nobody had intended to produce a car that would be perfectly similar to the Renault but rather a kind of variant of the variants. About 95 per cent of it was the same car as the previous year; in one year it could have a different colour, in another the headlights had a more rounded cover as against the previous square one; there were always small, insignificant details making cosmetic changes to the car in regard to the bumper, bigger stop lights, four gears instead of five and perhaps a larger windscreen. Like the car the Romanian society as such too was characterized more and more by the same sort of a continuity principle offering only small, insignificant and temporary ”improvements” especially in the second half of the ‘60s, while the neo-Stalinism of the ‘70s and ‘80s was
perfectly fit for the totalitarian heritage from the period of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and from the fascism of the ‘30s. This continuity principle is illustrated more or less clearly on one hand by the almost total lack of opposition by the people and intellectuals against the right-wing totalitarianism of the 30s and on the other hand by the existence of a large number of collaborationists and members of the intellectual elite that betrayed their social and cultural critical mission both before and after the communist assumption of power. After having taken over the major political functions the communists almost immediately started to destroy the civil society - Romania was ”sovietized” through both more or less brutal economic measures, collectivization, and mass persecutions of well-nigh all groups of the population, of which many were detained in the camps of the so-called Death Channel, the channel built between the Danube and the Black Sea, or in the camps of the Danube Delta. The largest camp compound, which was also the first one of many, was the one in Poarta Alba in an archipelago including such camps as Cernavoda, ˘ Medgidia, Valea Neagra, and Basarabi. Certain data clearly show the fact that up to 1989 almost one million people were detained and tortured here, of whom a startling large number was executed as well. Imprisoning or detaining around five per cent of the total population was not possible without the help of the Securitate, the Mili t, ia, or the military body of surveillance and control,
A happy and orderly free moment.
of which the latter had been set up already in 1948 in order to protect the newly founded people´s republic from ”enemies home and abroad”, while the Mili ,tia was founded a year later to substitute the ”bourgeois” police. Around 1953 the Mili t, ia troops had approximately 55,000 soldiers officially employed, while three years later the Securitate troops had almost 20,000 ”agents” on their employee lists, a figure which increased progressively to almost 40,000 up to the collapse in 1989. At the same time the communist political apparatus would, of course, never have been able to maintain the terror and oppression without the help of its collaborators and informers. These numbered 42,000 individuals already in1948; four decades later their number had reached about 400,000. Thus the security service grouped almost half a million people out of a population of 20 millions at the same time as the former shoemaker’s apprentice, Nicolae Ceausescu, was praised and worshipped as the , ”eternal friend of the people” and the ”beloved father of the nation”. Around 1987 the party had a total of four millions registered members. It is said that the huge number was less due to a real political conviction but rather to the undeniable fact that the party card was absolutely necessary for many jobs and services. As the number of party officials and ordniary members grew the political elite became more and more often identified with the Ceausescu family and close relatives, which also meant that the execution of power was , banalized and brutalized approaching the verge of the preposterous. Many put also the blame for this on the ”First Lady of the country”, Elena Ceausescu, who enjoyed an unrivaled , influence, while her husband was only surrounding himself by people never saying no to him, people said to be on the lowest possible intellectual level. The first victims of the red terror were, of course, the intellectuals, writers, artists, journalists, priests, and active members of political organisations and trade-unions – a seemingly paradoxical fact, but which, from the viewpoint of totalitarian power, was an ingenious undertaking in view of the fact that the relative number of ”intellectual” members of the party increased constantly over the years. As soon as the old structures were gone, both the collaborators and the unscrupulous climbers saw their dream come true: the share of intellectual members of the party increased from 10 per cent in the ‘50s to almost 30 per cent towards the end of the ‘70s. One of the first enrolled since the very first days of the regime was the writer Mihail Sadoveanu, widely known, whose collaboration with the communists went far beyond that which was required merely to survive when he, for instance, accepted being appointed vice-president of the Grand National Assembly and member of the Presidium of the Assembly of Deputies at the same time as he was publishing Mitrea Cocor, a true propaganda work exalting the collectivization of agriculture and the destruction of the traditional village, i.e. the same values he had praised in a great number of novels and short stories written before the war. Following his visit to China and North Korea Ceausescu’s executive committee launched , seventeen proposals or ”theses” constituting what has later been called Romania´s own cultural revolution, with small pockets of resistance from, for instance, the Writers´ Unionen. Censorship became tougher and tougher at the same time as the ideological control became
more or less total in all areas of life. For instance, the theatre, the opera, and the ballet were called for to adopt a ”militant and revolutionary” repertoire at the same time as numerous party activists became overnight world renowned scientists and historians, among them Elena Ceausescu, ”ma’am Leana”, who was appointed member of the exceptionally , important and incomprehensible influential Romanian Academy. Writers, scholars, and journalists were, of course, free to worship the ”greatest genius of socialism” in any possible and impossible situation, even though their task was not explicitly to put in their texts quotations by Ceausescu, this eloquent intellectual giant so well educated that there was a , joke about him having graduate from the university already a couple of years before passing his baccalaureate.
EVERYBODY’S PROPERTY Born in 1968 Stefan Constantinescu is one of the so-called decretei children, thus a part of , the absurd and even macabre and grotesque monument of which Ceausescu was dreaming, , a monument intended to eclipse in brilliance all the rest of equally ambitious and megalomaniac plans imposed until then by the dictator: for instance, industrial compounds, gigantic, but completely devoid of efficiency, or the destruction of 8,000 out of the 13,000 villages in order to clone an increasingly proletarian people. This new-type people was to be homogenous not only from the point of view of revolutionary zeal and commitment to the doctrine but also from the point of view of its mere number. In 1966 this plan was put into practice, the plan by which the population of the country was supposed to grow from 23 millions to more than 30 millions to the year of 2000. A decree was issued actually transforming the Romanian woman and her pregnancy into a component of the totalitarian state policy. According to this unusually cruel ordinance of 1986, good only for a Dracula of our times, the embryo in the uterus became ”the common property of the whole society”. At the same time, those who avoided having children were considered deserters not abiding by the law of ”national continuity”. Starting with 1966 abortions were allowed only for women over 40, for women already having 4 children, victims of rape or incest, or in cases where the child was expected to be malformed. At the beginning the law had the expected results with an almost double number of births, but, at the same time, children’s mortality increased to almost 80 cases for each 1,000 births due to malnutrition and lack of medical assistance at birth, as compared to about 10 cases average in Western Europe. Approximately one out of ten children was underfed; children born with a weight below one and a half kilogram were considered miscarriages left without care. In the ‘80s a secret order was issued and even applied in several parts of the country: fertile women had to submit to gynecological controls whether they were following the law or not by using contraceptive measures. Female medical doctors were forced to examine every month all women working in Bucharest factories, where there
were even special rooms provided with the elementary gynecological tools. Most examinations were also made in the presence of special governmental or party agents called the ”menstruation police” and if, by any chance, a woman was not able to ”produce” a child in due time, she was summoned just as any woman with a miscarriage could be suspected of having had an illegal abortion thus running the risk of being treated by the security service. Couples under 25 years old and without children had to payi a special ”celibacy tax” of 10 per cent of their salary. In 1986 the age limit for legal abortions rose to 45 years in a last desperate effort to increase the birth rate, while the minimal age for marriage was lowered from 16 to 15 years. Any kind of contraception was of course forbidden as was any form of sexual education in schools - books about sex and reproduction were a ”state secret” and could not be used except for medical purposes being kept under strict surveillance. Towards the end of this regime even pioneer detachments were sent out as investigation patrols to interrogate people about their sexual life, how often they had sex and why they did not have more children; everything was, of course, recorded in special surveys and minutes. To put it mildly, the situation was hopeless for millions of women; ten times more women than anywhere else in Europe were dying of various diseases caused by rudimentary abortions already a couple of years after 1966, the year when the law came into force, and during the 23 years of its application more than 10,000 women died, most of them of violent haemoptysis or blood poisoning. Hospitals were sterilizing rusty utensils, bandages were washed and re-washed at the same time as the constant lack of medicines and adequate equipment had catastrophic consequences in other fields of medicine as well. Ambulances took hours to arrive, and when they did, there was no stretcher, so the patients had to get into the cars to the best of their ability. Some data show that more than 60 per cent of all pregnancies ended in forced miscarriages or provoked abortions. An illegal abortion made by ”helpful” midwives or a gynecologist mounted to between two and three monthly salaries and was almost always made without anaesthetics and in a hurry for fear of being reported to the hospital´s own commissar or to the Mili t, ia. Because of the sky-high prices most women were forced to use rudimentary methods either at home or at some country midwife among the relatives. The most frequent method was injecting into the uterus a mixture of 90º alcohol, salt and boiling water. In other cases they would use a mixture of soap, oleander, begonias and sodium bicarbonate or shoehorns, knitting needles, or scissors; it is even said that many women would produce a small explosion in their uterus by using a bunch of matches. In most cases Diazepam pills were given before the midwife would bring the scissors, sometimes taken straight from her bag while injecting bicarbonate into the uterus. She did this, of couse, as fast as she could. After this the patient was told to take a Paracetamol every two hours for the next two or three days against the fever - there were women who went through this procedure 20 times in 9 years. The number of unwanted children increased, of course, to the point of a disaster while controls became more and more vigilant - a great number of children
were sent to state-owned children´s homes, where the shortage of necessaries and food meant that blood transfusions were needed in many cases to keep the children alive. A ”natural” consequence of the lack of social support was that many of these children ended up in the streets living in the sewage system.
DRACULA’S CASTLE Like other similar publications the Swedish guide book of 1993 places Dracula’s castle in Bran in the Transylvanian mountains just outside the national road between Pitesti , and Bra s, ov. Wrong! Dracula’s castle is right in the city of Bucharest, at the end of Bulevardul Unirii, the ”unique, huge, magnificent boulevard” more than one kilometre in length and 60 meter in width cutting like a scalpel into the oldest areas of Bucharest. The avenue has on both sides huge marble-plated blocks of flats, ministries, and government offices in grotesque ”postmodern” or neo-fascist style, ostentatious to the absurd, not long ago without water or power supply, buildings marching along the boulevard leading to a complex intended to worship the leader and the socialist world order more than any other single
The modern car.
building or monument in the whole world. Casa Poporului, this palace good enough for a pharaoh, is 86 meter high, the four sides are about 300 meter long and the whole building covers more than 6 hectares. Inside you find the largest hand-woven rug in the world and the biggest crystal chandelier in the world… The Italian writer Claudio Magris, an eye witness to this megalomaniac construction that once involved 40,000 people forced to leave their own houses and apartments while important parts of historic Bucharest were crushed under the excavators, published in 1986 a description not only exoticizing and untrue but also one that brutally violates the memory of those who were sacrificed, dead or imprisoned, of those ill-equipped workers who every morning were forced to march with their shovels on the shoulder towards this earthly Inferno while thousands of families were thrown out of their homes and driven together into single or one-bedroom apartments in decayed, shabby multi-storey buildings all around the city suburbs. Five years after the presidential decree in 1981, which started the construction, this enormous area is still, according to Magris, one single working site full of gigantic holes and filled with piles of earth and stones, moving platforms and mortar, yet touched by the wings of a strange mystical sadness, this ghostly dignity which we find in the lower regions, in the grey, blind lives crawling through underground corridors and floating with the waste water towards hidden treasures. This humid, recently excavated darkness on which the already demolished building was built is, says Magris, the original sink going further and further down where the roots of life are, all these shining treasures that once disappeared in the depths only to be welcomed and placed on the throne in the same way the fishermen are dragged down by the mermaids. Magris cannot help making a reference to Mircea Eliade either, according to whom the true, immortal popular mythology is the opposite of the falce technocratic mythology of power, at the same time he is transforming this enormous monument of totalitarian terror into a true mythological entity. According to Magris, all ancient myths may originally have been instruments of technocratic power, the accumulated secrets of power, the enigma with which the secret police associates. The passing of centuries obliterates the police and their power and what finally is left is only the tale – the mythos – about their mystery, equally pure and authentic like all the fairy tales which don´t have any ulterior motives but the urge to tell the story. What thus has come to light only to fall down into the abyss again by the work ordered by Ceausescu will, according to Magris, perhaps once be a , source of poetry and myths just like the acts of destruction of ancient times. Indeed, can already the fact that the whole of the old Uranus district was torn down together with large parts of the Rahova and Antim quarters ever be a source of myths and poetry when we at the same time know about the hardships of the former inhabitants and especially those slave-like conditions under which the workers were forced to work? No, of course not. There is no reconciliating poetical or athentically mythological in the systematic destruction of the old quarters of Bucharest officially legitimated by both the disastrous earthquake of 1977, which killed approximately 2,000 individuals, and the ”revolutinary spirit” which was to characterize the ”modernization” of the city, when the excavators took
care of the historical and religious heritage, for instance, the historian and politician Nicolae Iorga’s villa built at the turn of the century, the leghendary Brâncovenian Hospital from 1800, and the Vacaresti Monastery built in the 18th century just outside the city. According to some souces, the space around the V˘acaresti ˘ complex was initially reserved for the building of a leisure park as big as Disneyland. In the directly affected areas of the city five Orthodox churches were demolished in 1984 and additional three in 1985 together with three churches and a synagogue a year later. In 1987 six churches were demolished. Several architectural monuments of commemorative value (churches or historical monuments) were either moved a few yards or completely hidden behind the new multi-storey buildings. The apparence of Bucharest was completely distorted when, for instance, the Mihai Voda˘ church built around 1500 was literally rolled on big logs more than 200 metres away to be hidden behind new buildings. Magris’s romantic description presents the Romanian dictator as a man who, far from moving and demolishing, did nothing else but dragged an 18th century church a little bit away and tied a chapel onto a tenement house that might have been built more than a century later. If the two units didn´t fit, he would cut a piece off and simply throw it away. Ceausescu changed the city arrangement and its planimetry as candidly as a child playing in , the sand; he was, Magris says, the supreme forwarding agent, the owner of the haulage business who wrapped up the stage settings of the previous centuries. The destruction didn´t affect only the areas intended to make way for Casa Popurului and Bulevardul Unirii but also other parts of the city once called ”little Paris of the Balkans” were erased literally overnight to make way for another grand work, a governmenatal office, a Sports Palace, or some other official building in the same monumental post-stalinist style with a profoundly eclectic character. When it comes to, for instance, the area around Lacul Morii , the authorities didn´t even bother to see if people were at home. They just threw their furnitures and clothes in the street before the excavators started to work. Graveyards were covered with concrete or transformed into artificial lakes while the families were bluntly asked to remove their dead ones 24 hours or at most two days before.
BOIS DE BOULOGNE AND CHAMPS ELYSÉES If Bucharest once, a long time ago was described as the Ville Lumière of the East, a city with twisted streets and big French boulevards, full of luxury shops and fashionable restaurants, terraces, and open-air cafeterias, tropically abundant green parks, and a night-life incomprehensibly fond of amusement which the visitor was never to forget, for Stefan , Constantinescu not even the most shimmering memory from his childhood can bring back a similar image of Bucharest. Any description previous to the communist assumption of power threatens to become an even tougher insult of the victims of the totalitarian regime than Claudio Magris would be capable of. Surely Stefan Constantinescu was not born in the city which , for instance, the American ,
adventurer and journalist John Reed describes in 1915 from the balcony of the Hotel Athenée Palace right in front of the Athenaeum and the Royal Palace. In the East, as far as you can see, there are red tile roofs surrounded by groups of green trees, palaces and patrician villas in a flourishing, blazing style along with oriental domes and minarets as well as orthodox imperial roofs. To the right you find the main street of the city, which is also the most elegant of them all. Calea Victoriei swirls between the High Life and the Jockey Club and seems to be a daring copy of Boulevard Haussman or of some other picturesque street of Paris - the whole world drives or walks home along the chaussee, a strange combination of Bois de Boulogne and Champs Elysées. An endless row of carts, each pulled by well-fed horses going both directions along the winding, narrow street. The coachmen are dressed in silk coats with bluish reflections, hem-stitched with shining silk ribbons. A compact mass is pouring out from the sidewalks onto the street, slowly moving around the Athenaeum, passing the Royal Palace, then further on towards the main post office and the Savings Bank and then back - extravagant women and slender young men pretending to be decadent French fin-de-siècle poets, officers in pastel uniforms full of golden braids, boots with tassels and salmon-pink hats which could make a director of a comical opera green with envy. They have pale cheeks and dark rings under the eyes; most of the time, these officers are made up with pink or red powder doing nothing but walk or drive down the mundane street, if they are not eating cream cakes at the Casa Capsa, one of the many confectioneries placing their tables on the sidewalk and in the streets, where the customers mirror themselves in the shining windows full of jewels and diamonds which the husbands are buying for their mistresses, these thousands of coquettes which give the city its special charm. Indeed, Bucharest is a real pearl - according to the Turkish traveler Scehabeddin Bey, who visited it in 1916, Bucharest is more beautiful even than Vienna, since it looks so new and fresh. The forests surrounding the city and the gardens as well as the trees on both sides of the streets are green and fresh and even in the middle of this unforgettable green oasis you find these joyful houses and villas, neat and gracious, equally joyful as if the stones could laugh. Even the imposing official buildings, such as the central bank, the parliament and the ministry of justice, look like the castles in children’s fairy tales. Everywhere there is the perfumed, happy life of this joyful city. You walk on this earth and in this city elegantly like a flower dreaming like someone in love. People are continuously swarming from one entertainment to another, always ready to party instaed of work. The sun says: ”I am happy!” And the city answers ”Me too!”
THE FUTURE HAPPINESS 28
Stefan Constantinescu’s grandfather Marin Constantinescu was by far a better eye-witness , than both Claudio Magris and John Reed having experienced both La Ville Lumière and
Ceausescu’s darkened city, both the effervescent prewar spirit, the communist coup d’état , and the slow but relentless erosion into the gigantic hollow called Hiroshima, out of which Casa Poporului was to rise. Born at the beginning of the century Marin Constantinescu belonged to that generation of Romanians who was affected by the communist restrictions only after the war in regard to, for instance, travelling abroad, not to speak of the 1985 decree which transformed any Romanian into a criminal who didn´t report to the Securitate directly or to his or her security officer at work about a possible conversation with a visiting foreigner, a relative, or a tourist. Still some years must pass as well before it will be forbidden to possess foreign currency, which must be payed into a special account if you happened to have some foreign bills or a smallchange left after a possible travel abroad. At the same time it was also soon forbidden to receive presents from foreigners, even though these were relatives or someone in your family lucky enough to have left the country. The fight against ”cosmopolitism” took also the most absurd shapes when, for instance, it was allowed to make a subscription to foreign publications, certainly, even if you had to pay a bribe for a special permit, but you had to pay in the forbidden currency, which you were not allowed to have. The contrasts to the past were enormous, but no in the way the communists promised the future to look like. Still during the 1920s and the 1930s the Romanian economy was flourishing and growing faster than in most of the other countries in the region and Stefan’s , grandfather was young and enthusiastic and took his future in his own hands leaving to work for a couple of years in France as an agricultural mechanic. Here he earned some money and bought his first car as soon as he got back home. It was a new and elegant Ford, the jewel of the family, precious because it was to ensure the support of the family thereon being the first car in the transport company newly established immediately after the war. The future was there and great, with great promises on the horizon, and Marin Constantinescu decided to build a house for himself and his family on the slopes leading down to Lacul Tei in the NorthEastern part of the capital only a few kilometers further North of Obor, the old market place at the end of Calea Mos, ilor. Everything looked fine - but only a few years later the family started to feel the communist strangle-hold as the stalinization of the country was intensified. No more than a year after the 1947 takeover the incredibly cruel process of an almost total collectivization of agriculture started at the same time as hundreds of thousands of ”stubborn” peasants, ”hooligans”, ”bandits”, ”class enemies” and other ”sick elements” were confined into the death camps or in prisons such as Jilava or Sighet or taken to work on the Death Channel. Approximately 17,000 families were literally moved overnight by the Mili t, ia to special areas where the big co-operatives were set up at the same time as private land-owning was reduced to maximum 0.15 hectares. The final blow for the family living ”beyond Obor” was the nationalization of the economy according to the law already promulgated in June 1948, in ”standing applause”. In practice this law meant that two years from its promulgation the state had overtaken most of the largest industrial complexes, factories, mines, banks, insurance companies, the health system, the cinema industry and all cinemas, chemist’s, restaurants, transport companies,
and all the shops in the country. All the segments of life were affected by the physical and ideological terror that seeped into the darkest corners. The cultural life was ”purified” and banalized, the structure of education was led from the top by Stalinist dogmas, the United Church with over one million members was liquidated as the Catholic Church was brutally chased. Starting with 1952 it was even forbidden to change apartment without special permission. Within the country you could travel only for ”job purposes” or for medical reasons, and if you stayed in a place another than at home for more than 24 hours you had to register with the Mili t, ia as did hotel visitors or people passing by to visit relatives. Everything and everybody were affected and distorted - a whole people was turning the lights off and pulling back the curtains. Soon after street lights and shop-windows were also turned off while private houses, apartments and pubs became real refrigerators. It was even said that the arty secretary general had mounted faulty thermometers showing 19-20º all the time in the rooms where he himself was working or receiving guests.
9 SUREN SPANDARIAN STREET, SECTOR 2
It was by no means an accident that the gigantic dam and the equally monumental power plant of Djerdap in the Danube at the border between ”free” Yugoslavia and Romania close to the Bulgarian border were identified with the legendary Iron Gates at which the Roman general Caius Scribonius Curio stood in 74 AD being not too enthusiastic at the thought of dashing into the deep forests across the Danube. It was as if this representative of a wellorganized Latin civilization felt an unease about what he would be confronted with in the unknown country. The decision to build the plant taken by Gh. Gheorghiu-Dej and Josif Broz Tito during Ceausescu´s visit to Belgrade in 1963 resulted in, among other things, the , obliteration of the island of Ada Kaleh together with its mosques, cafes and the whole Turkish population coinciding at the same time with an equally tragic set of further measures intended to mark Romania’s newly-awakened distaste for stepping in line with the USSR after Stalin’s death in 1953 and the Hungarian revolt of 1956. In the same year, in Bucharest, the Russian Institute was closed, while Stalin town in the Carpathians was re-named Brasov. , Also, the requirement of learning Russian in schools was abolished and Russian streetnames were replaced with Romanian ones. The Romanian academy started again stressing the Latin origin of the Romanian language and Mihai Eminescu again became the national poet of Romania after having been banned because of his anti-Russian visions. For the Constantinescu family, however, the year 1963 did not seem as hopeful and happy as the temporary de-Stalinization promised to mean, on the contrary. When Nicolae Ceausescu, the newly elected Secretary General, took the floor at the 9th Congress of the , Romanian Workers´ Party in July 1965 and promised loud and clear that the liberalization process would continue, at the same time he publicly condemned Gh. Gheorghiu-Dej and his regime, Constantinescu´s house on Strada Laptari Tei was already torn to the ground to
make way for School no. 30, sector 2, the school where Stefan Constantinescu along with , the children from the newly-built area of multi-storey buildings would be trained into communist ideology a decade later. Together with his son Niculae and his son’s wife Alexandrina as well as the newborn Constantin Marin Constantinescu was forced to move and build a new house in a row of four wagon-type houses with two rooms and a kitchen right in front of the new two-storey school made of turquoise-painted concrete, with endless corridors, the Headmaster’s office just inside the main entrance and cast iron gratings covering the ground-floor windows. Up to this point the neighborhoud around Lacul Tei was acceptable. The lake could be seen on the other side of the boulevard with the same name as was the whole area was beyond Strada Doamna Ghica. But soon, very soon the whole are between Bulevardul Lacul Tei and Soseaua , Colentina, with the exception of only a few small houses, was to be affected by the regime´s megalomaniac ambitions to ”modernize” this part of Bucharest as well - and almost exactly one decade after moving into the new house opposite the school the Constantinescu family had to move once again when the whole area was sacrified to make way for one monumental tenement after the other.
Marin Constantinescu, a proud driver.
Not to be parted from other relatives living close-by and in order not to be forced to move into the concrete calvary called Drumul Taberei built rather far from the city center Niculae Constantinescu did what all others used to do in the same situation: he simply used a â€?connectionâ€? he had made while working as a mechanic at the Academy of Economics in Piata Romana, so that the family was able move into an uncomprehensibly awfully designed apartment with three minute rooms on the fourth floor of a block in Strada Suren Spandarian no. 9 right in front of the police station. The shabby L-shaped, dark grey block had three doorsteps and looked like any other block built in the 70s with long rows of windows, built-in balconies on the faĂ§ade, and asphalted yards. Like the school only a few quarters away the ground-floor windows had cast iron grids, the door to the dark entrance hall was made of iron and painted green. However, the family had reasons to rejoice, as we shall see: the apartment was somewhat bigger than the 12 square meters later allowed as a maximum per person, and the kitchen was unusually large.
Suren Spandarian nr 9, bl. 20.
PROLETARIAN VIRTUES Life was starting becoming harder and harder every day, the shelves in the shops were emptier and emptier while the queues outside grew longer and longer. Still, some years would pass before Stefan´s father would have to help his wife for about 5 hours every day , besides the work he was doing in the institute. Alexandrina Constantinescu did not only take care of the children but she also had to work at home as a seamstress for Tricotextil, the state co-operative, for a mere 1,000 lei per month. This salary was growing towards the end of the ‘80s to 3,500 lei for the most part because of the inflation. The father earned almost 4,000 lei per month. The couple´s common income was little more than the average, but if the family ever wanted, for a festive event, to invite someone for a cup of real coffee instead of the famous surrogate coffee,“nechezol” made of fried rice and chick peas, half a kilo on the black market would cost at least 800 lei, if you could get it, meaning the equivalent for two pairs of shoes. Like everywhere in the Eastern bloc the home was a sort of an asylum, a sanctuary where you could be protected from the hideous world outside, from that cold, dark, unfriendly reality that everyone suspected and nobody trusted. One’s home became the protective shell, the place for the most secret dreams and silent, intimate conversations. Love lived there with that authentic, warm companionship, the friendship and the sense that life, in spite of everything, could still be something other than a grey concrete wall, a naked, lonely light bulb or a plate of sticky polenta. But the apartment was small, very small. The big diningtable together with its four chairs was placed right in the middle of the living room surrounded by two wardrobes for clothes and bed sheets, two sofas, one for Stefan and the other one for , guests, a small “Sport” TV set, a big “Moderna” radio made in Romania and last but not least mother’s great pride, a glass case with Chinese curios. On the wall hung a Chinese clock and a few oil paintings painted on canvas or cardboard, landscapes and flowers. The book case in Constantin’s room included mostly textbooks but also books by Russian, French, and Romanian classics such as Caragiale, Creanga, ˘ Sadoveanu, and others along with Cechov, Dostoyevsky, and Dumas. On the kitchen table stood mother’s sewing machine together with a small portable soviet radio “Selena” on which her husband had managed to find The Voice of America in spite of knowing that this network was ”acting against state interests”. Alexandrina Constantinescu was able to work at her piece-rates even daytime when also the youngest of her sons became both a proud pioneer and started school in the same year that the family moved into the sad concrete building in Spandarian street. Apart from the big factories there was hardly no institution in the Romanian society more politically-biased or militarized than school. Children were instructed in the spirit of proletarian and military duties to protect their country. There were not just the principles of Marxism integrated into the training process as a compulsory subject but also the so called PTAP, i.e. classes instructing the teenagers to use guns, to find their way in the territory and self-defence in close combat. In its capacity of being the spear-head of the future the Romanian proletarian dictatorship could not ignore the exhortation of the communist manifesto itself either to ”prevent
children’s exploitation by the parents” and to let the society – i.e. the state – dictate and lead the children’s ”public and compulsory” upbringing. All what was left was to place one-self in rows on the football ground or in the school yard dressed in pioneer or school uniform. The former had a white shirt with long sleeves, red tie and dark blue trousers, while the school uniform consisted of a dark blue suit with a white-and-blue shirt, a leather belt with the Romanian coat of arms and a triangular tie with a three-colored hem. Apart from the fact that textbooks were heavily outdated, printed on very bad paper and, furthermore, used many times by the children in School no. 30, nobody received any food in school being forced to bring along a simple sandwich, an apple or something else that they could find at home. All instruction was adjusted to suit ideological interests as were the ”demonstrations” taking place at the Children’s Palace on Soseaua Cotroceni, the place , where hundreds, even thousands of kids were gathered together to bring homage to ”our beloved leader”. Other equivalent festivals on a smaller scale were arranged, for instance, at the beginning of the school year as well as at the end of each semester, the 1st of March, the 8th of March, the 1st of June, the 25th of December, and at the end of the school year. These were festivities where children recited patriotic poems and complimentary verses for the party and Nicolae Ceaus, escu; they staged moralizing plays mostly praising the daring pioneer and his proletarian deeds, singing the national anthem at the end. Children were also called for the huge ABC festivals or summoned to take part in gigantic popular festivals; like Stefan Constantinescu and his elder brother and his schoolmates they were forced to come , to the festivals from endless rehearsals in parks or on stadiums around the city. They were instructed, for instance, to make (from their red, yellow and blue clothes) the country’s national flag or various slogans, for instance: ”Long Live the Party and Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu”. It was not unusual either for these kids to be taken after classes to the Miorita , cinema on Calea Mos, ilor to see explicit propaganda movies about ”the most important comrade of the country”, while teenagers in high-schools had to participate in various political meetings and discussions systematically discussing ”scientific socialism” having as the main source the party newspaper Scânteia, the same source that was used for pedagogy lessons for adult workers commonly held in working places. The more compromised ideology was by practice the less interesting these classes were, and people began, for instance, to study the Greek democracy or to make endless comparisons between the official language and everyday reality emphasizing the discrepancy that had given birth to the totally schizophrenic atmosphere.
THE LOOP IS TIGHTENING
In the very year when Stefan Constantinescu started school, Nicolae Ceausescu , , outmanouvred his Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer from the government being the last of those who tried to put some style and class into Romanian leadership and invested himself
President of the Republic. The last elements of a potential party opposition were now done with and the despotism of the ‘80s was now open for ”conducator” Ceausescu and for his , family at the same time as the economy had begun to show signs of the obvious collapse that was due to come. The country would continuously import huge quantities of steel and oil at the international market price to keep the indescribably inefficient industry going. One of the consequences of the unbalanced investments was the rise of the national debt from almost 3 billion dollars in 1977 to over 10 billion dollars in just four years. At the same time the problems in the centralized agriculture became urgent. The farmers were forced to enlist all their animals at the County hall and sign separate agreements with the state for each animal; they were only allowed to trade their goods at prices established by the government. It was also forbidden to slaughter the animals on your own farm; infringements were followed by years in prison. In spite of all threats of ”state interventions against the bourgeois bandits” many city-registered cars were driving on the narrow country roads full of holes with cut up meat in thir trunks. Towards the end of the regime it became a common habit to go before Easter out on fields around Bucharest, where the shepherds were waiting with their sheep slaughtered and flayed on the spot, many times even under the eyes of the Mili ,tia men, waiting patiently in the line of cars for their turn. Following the great floods of 1970 and 1975, 1980 and 1981, when the food shortage became dramatic in the villages, migration to the cities was stopped as well. Fourteen cities were, for instance, closed; you were not allowed to move in unless you had a special party license. In Bucharest there was a special identity card without which it was impossible to buy your food rations. In order to have that card you had to be officially registered in a job or to marry someone living in Bucharest, which led to the development of a black market of marriages. In 1981 Romania imported from the West various food products amounting to 700 million dollars, while the country was exporting to the USSR over 100,000 tons of frozen meat. When Ceausescu decided that the whole national debt had to be paid in eight years , and when the imports were reduced to the necessary minimum, food rationing started in almost all the areas of the country, except for the capital city. Towards the end of the ‘80s it was forbidden in some districts to buy more than only 1 kilo of sugar and flour, 500 grams of margarine and 5 eggs per month. Already in 1981 gasoline was rationed to 30 liters per month, later reduced to 20 and even 17 liters in certain parts of the country. The food import was stopped almost completely and peasants were forbidden to sell or buy products in the city. Large groups of pioneers, students, and already graduated academicians were massed in the fields to ”patriotically” contribute to the agricultural ”progress”. Things were no less absurd when peasants sometimes sat down on the ditches laughing scornfully. The fact that the economic and social crisis, or rather disaster, was deeply felt in all society is also reflected by the social critique among the workers towards the end of the ‘70s and at the beginning of the ‘80s. The Jiu valley revolt of August 1977 gathered 35,000 miners on strike; demonstrations and strikes in the summer of 1980, when many factories in Bucharest, Galatzi, Targoviste as well as many mines were occupied, the Motru valley
revolt in the fall of 1981, along with other demonstrations against the social order, equally critical, as were, for instance, that of September 1983 in Maramures, , in February 1987 at the Nicolina plants in Iasi, and in November, the same year, at the Steagul Rosu , plants in Brasov , were followed by arrests, deporting and forced domiciles, interdictions to travel, physical and psychological ill-treatments, denouncements, confinement in mental hospitals, false processes and assassinations – the regime would use all these means, typical for the world communist movement fighting against ”the imperialist efforts to impede the justified democratic progresses of the proletarian movement”. Those in power must have gnashed their teeth in their desperate attempts to chase the abandoned, wild dogs all around Bucharest, which suddenly overnight had been provided with anticommunist protest banners stuck onto their bodies.
THE SPY AT THE WINDOW
Everyday life turned into a hell. It was harder and harder to manage with the daily duties even though the Constantinescu family was lucky in many decisive respects. Life was not always as grim and hopeless as it might have been thanks to the ”diplomats” living in the same tenement in Strada Spandarian, clerks with special rights first at the US Embassy then at other non-soviet embassies, after a couple of years clerks working at African embassies in Bucharest. They sold everything possible: real coffee, blue-jeans, silk stockings, T-shirts, liquors, cigarettes, and beverage, all of them important means of payment within the more or less official bribe system like when Alexandrina Constantinescu went to military officials with Western coffee to make sure that her youngest son would be enlisted in the civil defence in Mihai Bravu ten miles South of Bucharest instead of serving in the normal 16 month compulsory military service in Baia Mare in Northern Transylvania. It seems that even the Mili t, ia across the street must have been treated well by the inhabitants in the area because they had nothing to say about the prostitution in the diplomats’ apartments either. Neither was ”uncle Palomit,eanu” living in the same building as the Constantinescu family especially surprising for being jobless. He was sitting all the days at the window at home taking pictures of what was going on in the neighborhood and in the yard at a time when unemployment was officially unknown. In the eyes of the neighbours it was clear that he had friends in high places since the gentleman lived alone when, as said before, the admitted living space per person was only 12 square meters. The air of mystery around Palomit,eanu did not disappear by the fact either that he remained the only owner of an antenna in the whole tenement allowing him to watch the Bulgarian TV, an incredible luxury in a country where local channels only had a two-hour program every night and where each show started and ended with the national anthem and the news bulletins always informed only about the latest progresses in the economy and in society as such, including endless speeches by Ceausescu. Niculae Constantinescu was one of the first in the area to get a ,
black-and-white TV set at the beginning of the ‘70s and a “Cromatic” color TV in 1987, the most advanced and therefore most expensive of all models for a price that exceeded three monthly salaries, whereupon all the children of the neighbourhood as well as several adults were gathering in the family´s living room night after night between eight and ten; the Bulgarian programs were the real sensation since they were broadcasted all the night at the same time as the repertoire was that much wider including simple entertaiment, old American movies and, yes, football.; the whole neighbourhood was stuck to Palomiteanu’s TV when the Bulgarian TV showed all the games of the World Cup in Spain in 1982. The Romanian radio had only two channels broadcasting between 18.00 and 00.00, the most common receiver being the “Gloria”. Foreign receivers were not available except for some Russian ones here and there, but, in spite of this, towards the end of the regime you could - if you were lucky enough - receive Radio Free Europe and their shows in Romanian as well. These were like a mouthful of oxygen and the main source of information about events leading to the 1989 ”revolution”, that strange event considered also as a second communist coup d’état because almost everybody of the old nomenklatura, except Ceausescu, stayed in power. , It certainly looks like a thought of the highest party hierarchy that the television began to broadcast exactly when elecrticity came back after having been cut off for a couple of hours.
Stefan Constantinescu, a proud pioneer. ,
After the few hours of broadcasting the electricity was cut off again - the apartments could never be heated enough. Public places and offices constantly being cold was less important than the fact that, in cold winters, people slept fully dressed and rarely managed to take a bath or a hot water shower. The supposition of some kind of a coordination in relation to the broadcasting seems also to be confirmed by the fact that, once the program started, the gas was cut off for a few hours; when the TV screen went dark at ten o´clock in the evening the gas was on again. But as the gas pressure was higher in the morning people would cook between 5 and 6 in the mornings before going to work. In cities only a few streets were lighted; the shop-window lights were put off after 22.00. In tenements, hotels, working places, everywhere there was only a singly bulb in the corridors or on every other landing, a bulb that furthermore often got stolen since it was practically impossible to find bulbs stronger than 40 W in the shops. People were even advised to put off their refrigerators in winter, which was not too inconveniant as the temperature in the apartments was often so low that food didn´t get stale; the balcony was already full with vegetables, potatoes, pickles and, in some cases, even frozen fish. However, the socialist equality and solidarity did not reach the ”Perimetrul Zero”, the area between Arcul de Triumf and Strada Teheran where the nomenklatura lived in improbably idyllic conditions, an area guarded day and night, where the street lamps were on all the nights. There was, of course, also fresh water, both cold and hot, not smelling water coming from rusty pipes as in the tenements. In this area you could, of course, not even find any overcrowded smelly dustbins or any garbage piles growing spontaneously behind houses or on the lawn in front of the tenements, where stray dogs would look for food. The party leaders and activists didn´t either, of course, have to look for Western packings or plastic bags to use them as payment. The extremely privileged party leaders did not either need to bribe police inspectors with a toaster in order to be able to buy, for instance, more than two grams of gold of maximum 14 carats for the wedding ring, which, besides, was possible for ”common people” only if you was able to show a certificate signed by the local party secretary proving your intention of getting married, which already as such required certain discrete transactions of, for instance, foreign chocolate, a lightbulb, or - of course - a package of Kent. Yet how could one get the desirable hard currency without having relatives abroad? Indeed: you had to look for Popescu ”the American”, who owed his nickname to a brother living in America. Popescu was officially the supervisor of the pub and the disco in the indoor swimming-bath opposite the Colentina area. Apart from his connections with his brother ”over there”, as everyone put it, in regard to the supply of goods it was not insignificant at all that the swimming-bath happened to be under the protection of Nicu Ceausescu, the corrupt , son of the president. Popescu was clever enough to bring in the most wanted products, at the same time he added water to the wine, so to speak. Thus, he always had a few extra packages of Nescafe diluting the rest of the packages so that a package normally good for 10 cups was used for 40. Even though, for instance, also the orange juice was mixed with water, there were still enough customers in spite of prices being much higher than in the shops or elsewhere, since the assortment was characterized as good if not even abundant.
THE PURCHASING POWER INCREASES DRAMATICALLY If everyday life was marked by shortages, misery, poverty, decay, and degeneration, there was still a time in the year when everything flourished, when family, relatives and close friends did their very best to offer a feeling of wellbeing with an almost orgiastic excess of food and drink, something that would be felt like both a victory over socialism and, at the same time, the only way to openly protest against the regime. Already several months before Christmas people would start saving, stood in long lines, used all their relations, all acquaintances, were working hard. The black market got into a spin and now was the right time for any exchange: from family jewels to foreign cigarettes, recycled plastic bags, alcohol diluted with water. Suddenly you were also able to buy both smooth cheese, green bananas, lemons, grapefruits, and the Christmas dinner itself could include as much as about twenty dishes with all kinds of salads, smoked mackerels, chicken breast, chicken liver cooked in milk, “sarmale”, meat rolls wrapped in cabbage leaves and cooked in tomato sauce, veal chops, red and white wines, and, of course, the “tzuica”, vodka from plums. Many families made also their own homemade sausages, which were first smoked out in the yards, in the basement, or at the office, then left on the balcony or on the drying string in the bathroom. In moments like these you forgot about the “adidas”, meat leftovers you could be lucky enough to find in shops in the other months of the year; you also forgot about the chicken bones, the “Petreus, Brothers”, i.e. plastic bags with two incredibly small chickens, all skin and bone, occassionally found in meat shops if you knew the right person and found out exactly when they were brought. Almost everything was rationed with the exception of frozen fish or fish cans, of some reason. - ”No meal without fish”, the slogan went. The potatoes were small like peanuts ant three or four kilos were thought to be enough for a family in a month. Out of Bucharest even the bread was rationed: half a tin loaf per day per person, which made whole families go to the capital to buy it. Buses and trains were filled with sacks filled with bread which then was largely used as animal fodder. The soft drinks of those times were made of citric acid and colorants - it was said that an engineer gave half his salary on Chinese chocolate and a bottle of Coca-Cola coming back to Bucharest from a ”business trip” to Predeal managing to get a ticket on the international train from Budapest. Drop by drop the Cola bottle was enough for three months, then he put it in his bookcase between crystal vases and family photographs. He gave the Chinese chocolate to an official who, in turn, used it to bribe his boss. Rexona and Lux soap bars, or Lucky Strike cigarettes had already started losing their shape because of so many hands they went through. In these circumstances it was easy to understand, but also tragic, that on lists of presents wished by children and addressed to Mos, Geril˘a – the communist variant of Santa Claus – there were no toys, but rather oil, sugar, eggs, onion, potatoes and toilet paper. The latter was dark grey and its mix of straw or wooden splints did nothing to make it smoother and silkier. In the 40s and the 50s toilet paper was called ”bourgeois rubbish”, being replaced by shreds of the Scânteia newspaper; indeed, it was
even considered that the printing ink had some special hygienic qualities. When it finally was produced and really came on the market, the toilet paper became a real rarity, and you could stay in line for hours, so that, when your turn came, you could leave with a whole set on a string around the neck, because it was sold per kilo and your hands were busy with other necessities If the Christmas dinner was a victory over socialism, a ”victory over capitalism” could be a large handwritten poster fixed on a greengrocer’s shop announcing everyone that the cabbage had arrived. There was also the joke with the poster in front of the IMGB factory shop informing the starving population that the shop would sell potatoes the next day. There was already a line of several hundred metres immediately after the poster having been nailed to the door. The next day, at eight in the morning, a guy came out of the shop and told everyone that only those who had a Bucharest identity card were permitted to buy. People not having the card left to stand in another line somewhere else. After a while the guy came back saying that only those who had a family could buy, therefore the line was reduced by a third. After several more hours the man said that the potatoes were sold only to party members. The people left in the line finally found out, when the guy reappeared, that potatoes could only be sold to ”politically active” people, meaning seven or eight persons. These were later called inside the shop where they were shocked to discover that there were no potatoes at all. The man calmed them down saying: -”Comrades, since you are active in the party, then you must understand that it is, of course, impossible to get any potatoes”. Officially, of course, there was no shortage of food or necessities in the Romanian paradise. When during the ‘80s there was practically nothing left on the shelves in the shops, Scânteia reported that ”the purchasing power had increased dramatically”, at the same time the newspaper’s promised that everything possible will be done in the future to attain ”an adequate structure of the alimentation, so that it may meet the population´s rational and scientifically grounded needs for food and alimentary hygiene.” Just as the cholera having hit the country was not cholera, but diarrhea, the rationing was nothing else but actions to achieve ”a more rational and therefore healthier nutrient input”. According to definitions from dictionaries of the time, the decided ration was ”the portion of food supplies used by man or animal, in a determined time, including all substances necessary for a vital functioning of the organism”. In this paradise there was of course no inflation either as prices never rose but were ”correlated”, ”adjusted”, ”made adequate” or simply ”improved” along with the constant increase of the living standard and the continuous production growth. When it came to the ”curse” of market economy, unemployment, there was no reason to hide it behind beautiful words as everyone was given a job. And if by chance the authorities heard that, for a reason or another, you were not officially employed, you were thrown into the nearest military prison for three months and then forced to wash the police headquarters´ floors for days, irrespective of your possible qualifications. There was little care for productivity or quality as long as the norm was fulfilled - many, maybe the majority, made in one hour the eight-hour daily norm.
Long life and prosperity to our dear Socialist Republic of Romania.
Like in all other communist countries standing in the line became a lifestyle especially for the retired, who soon got used to standing in the lines since early hours in the same way as Stefan , Constantinescu’s grandfather was appointed for the ”family market”, an inhuman and tough job done in any conditions, whatever the temperature, either in cold rain or over 40ºC. It was by no means unusual for Marin Constantinescu to take the stand in the line in front of the Bucur Obor shop at 5 o’clock in the morning and to keep on doing so for over 12 hours, so that by 17.00 hours he would be replaced by Stefan or Constantin coming to take their turn with the family , ration tickets, ID cards, and other necessary documents. When they did not go to school or were not asked as pioneers to sweep the school yard or the football ground across the street from Ghica Tei , the children were encouraged to play as near a shop as possible as you could never tell when a transport was coming. In other cases children were lent to the neighbours so that the adults could stand in the line somewhere else. Pre-school kids were often the first ones released when the adults came from work. One could stay in several lines at the same time if the place was marked with a bag, a plastic bag or a coat, which every time the line moved further was moved by someone close, if not thrown away altogether. As mentioned, the gasoline was rationed as well, and the five km long queues to the few gas pumps became shorter only when private cars were forbidden to drive around the country from the first snowfall up to March 1st. Before this, cars with an even registration plate number could be driven only every other Sunday. Nobody knew for sure when the petrol truck would arrive to the pump station and if there would be enough gas for everyone. It often happened that a full ration was used only because of trips from one gas station to another. The octane ratings were 90 and 98 as the cheap 75 one had disappeared altogether in parallel with the illegal traffic with a certain lead mixture, of course stolen from the factories producing the extremely poisonous substance. The Peco station staff often mixed gasoline with water to be able to sell the surplus at a higher price on the ”free market”. The fact that the gasoline reserved for only parti officials was coloured in red didn’t stop people from keeping some tanks on the balcony or in the basement. If found during a raid, you risked hard years in prison unless you had a few extra thousands of lei of course. This gasoline shortage led also to the appearance of those monstrous buses having oval tubes full of light gas on their roofs. They were real bombs on wheels called ”Elena Gay” after the plane carrying the first bomb to Hiroshima but also with obvious connotations related to the First Lady, the ”major chemist of the country”. Another less dangerous consequence of the shortage of gasoline was the increased number of those who rode a bicycle not only in the countryside but also in the big cities. The most popular bicycle brand was Pegas, an extremely heavy domestic one that costed 1,800 lei whose saddle never stayed in place always sliding down and leading you to the comic situation of a circus actor riding with your knees up to the mouth. The Soviet bicycle Ukraina of a better quality could rarely be found as was the Sputnik – still a Soviet brand - favoured by bicycle thieves and preferred by the youth, among them Constantin Constantinescu, who had to hand over his bicycle to his younger brother, a yellow, red-wheeled one.
THE END The unending lines only disappeared if scattered by the police or when they were hidden behind high billboards or in the yards not to be seen by the presidential suite passing by. During official state visits, fewer and fewer towards the end of the regime due to Romania’s international isolation, the sidewalks were filled with specially appointed workers, pioneers, and members of UTC, the party´s youth organization. A lamp-post was allotted for each group together with small Romanian flags, necessary to give the impression of enthusiastic masses welcoming the guest. At equal intervals the so-called blue-eyed boys were also placed; they were Securitate staff members who, if raining, were wearing blue raincoats directly distributed from a slowly passing truck shortly before the presidential group was to arrive. Anyone could be called, especially workers with ”special merits”, pioneers and students, to take part also in the big official festivals, of which the August 23rd anniversary was by far the biggest and the most important one marking the day when Ion Antonescu’s bloody fascism was overthrown when the Romanian people together with the peace-loving Soviet people resolutely stood up against Hitler’s Germany, as the official propaganda announced carefully avoiding to explain the historic fact of a military coup of the Royal House and the reality that Romania was an ally, among others, of the US and Great Britain. The compulsory parades, directed to the smallest details, through the August scorching heat started at 8 in the morning in Piata Unirii and ended around 13.00 with the ”grand” homage to the ”beloved” leader of country, who was standing on a platform in Piata Aviatorilor together with party members and guests from abroad. Lists with the participants in the march were displayed in schools and working places on notice boards several months before the event, and those who would not obey had to bear the consequences. During the parade it was forbidden to eat or to drink in spite of the heat, only afterwards you could buy sausages with mustard boiled in huge tin pans along the road. Girls supposed to give flowers to the first comrade and his guests were kept in quarantine for a week before the festivities after previously having been forced to pass a thorough check ensuring that they did not have the flu, while the party had to ensure also that they had an appropriate hairdo. It was a great honor to be among the chosen ones. Parents were assured a couple of days’ lodging for free in a hotel on the Black Sea shore usually reserved for high party officials or only foreigners. The August parade was even bigger than the one on the 1st of May. The army would come first along with sanitary units, then the semi-military detachments, pioneers, and civil guards divided in sectors after which came the workers carrying heavy flags and red banderoles with texts such as: ”Long Live the Romanian-Soviet brotherhood forever”. The texts were chosen by party inspectors several months ahead and the banners were made and painted by special art brigades including pupils from Tonitza Art High-school on Strada Nuferilor or students from the faculty of decorative arts of the Academy of Art who had to work at Decorativa, the working place where most of the banners and other visual propaganda materials were painted.
The slogan telling about the brotherhood of the Romanian and Soviet peoples sounded more hollow than never in that day of May 1987 when Ceausescu passed the acclaiming , ”masses” along Bulevardul Aviatorilor together with the Soviet party leader Mihail Gorbatchev, the man who had started the process soon to determine the fall of the whole Soviet empire at the same time as his Romanian host was turning his back on everything which could be interpreted as perestroyka or glasnost. In fact, Ceausescu had turned 180º: if , in 1965 he was seen as the most dynamic and open leader within the whole communist family especially in comparison to the old, conservative Leonid Brejnev, now, 30 years later, the Soviet leader had taken over Ceausescu’s mantle while the latter was dressed in , Brejnev’s overcoat. The situation was indeed absurd, if not tragicomic when the Romanian people began to curiously askance at the Soviet Union to find a way out of its own hell - one year after Gorbatchev’ s visit Romanians queued in front of the office of Aeroflot Airlines, not to buy air tickets but to get information distributed by the office about the Soviet leader’s report presented at the 9th Party Congress in Moscow. Referring to Gorbatchev´s reforms Ceausescu had in December 1987 explained to his own party that similar measures had , already been adopted in Romania, and thus Scânteia was able to suggest in its wellcoordinated report of the Soviet congress that Gorbatchev was only following Romania´s
Constantin, Marin, Stefan si Tu , , ti. ,
example. As Ceausescu’s brother, Ilie, the General, was saying, perestrojka could not be , compared with anything except for the ”territorial revisionism” that Hungary and the USSR had turned against Romania in 1940, a thought that Ceausescu, the leader, then alluded to in , his last speech at the 14th Party Congress of November 1989, when he was explaining that the Soviet reforms only meant giving way to ”the international class enemy”, which, in turn, had led intothe ”de-ideologization” of the international intercourse in favour of ”a new international imperialism”. Indirectly Ceausescu was also saying that this situation could only , be compared with the signing by USSR of the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939, at the same time he for one last time tried to play on the chords of nationalism by suggesting that the USSR could still expiate its sins by giving back Basarabia to Romania. The fact that the Romanian president and the party leader had completely lost touch with reality was also easy to see from the many tactical mistakes and misjudgements in connection with the minister Laszlo Tokes and the Timisoara protest of December that same , year. The rumor had quickly spread that tens of thousands of workers had been shot in the streets, when in fact there were only a few hundreds. Rallies took also place in the capital and in cities such as Cluj, Arad, Sibiu, and Cugir. In both Cluj and Sibiu a large number of protesters were shot. In Cluj Mili ,tia units participated in the shooting, while in Sibiu there were Mili ,tia, Securitate and soldiers from the three military academies of the city. After an incomprehensible visit to Iran, exactly during these rallies, Ceausescu explained in a TV , bulletin on the 20th of December that the protesters were only ”fascists” and ”a bunch of hooligans” instigated by Hungarian ambitions to reunite Transylvania with Hungary. Next morning Ceausescu put additional salt in the wounds when he appeared on the balcony of , the Central Committee in Bucharest talking to chaotic masses trying to calm down the protesters with promises of higher salaries and pensions. The speech, broadcasted live, was interrupted several times, and the people panicked when many thought the Securitate had started firing. It was also clear for many that, for instance, troops from the ministry of internal affairs were massed up in Bucharest along with Mili t, ia troops and patriotic guards. The next morning it was obvious that secret service troops and regular army troops had been firing on groups remaining on Piata Unirii during the night. At the same time the television was presenting a bulletin by which the protesters were dismissed as ”hooligans”, ”fascists”, and ”foreign agents”. One of those carrying or rather forced to carry Ceausescu’s slogan banners on Piata , Revolu t,iei was Stefan Constantinescu together with his girlfriend. A former Tonitza pupil and , later a student of the Academy of Art in Bucharest he had been ordered to work at Decorativa and therefore became one of them who constructed, painted and carried the last three banners of the regime against ”foreign involvement” on December 22nd, 1989. It was the moment when Ceausescu to his own great surprise was again brutally interrupted by , protesting masses when coming out for the last time in his life on the balcony in Piata Revolu t,iei. Like most of his friends Stefan Constantinescu, a regular listener of The Voice of , America and Free Europe bulletins about the events in the neighbouring countries as well as
about the tragic events of Timi s, oara, was convinced that nothing would really change in Romania. Stefan could not imagine that Ceausescu, ”the eternal friend of the people”, would , , escape from the roof above the Central Committee balcony in a helicopter, right in front of his own eyes and the eyes of those gathered in the square. When this incredible thing happened, Stefan and his girlfriend dashed into each other’s arms united in a long, passionate kiss. The , scene seemed taken from the last weepy minutes of an old Soviet movie. Surely, at that time, Stefan could not imagine either that the dictator’s escape would , change into something absurd, comic, and tragic at the same time, when Ceausescu, his , wife, two assistants, and two life guards were all forced to land because of a fuel failure south of Târgoviste, , where a car took them to the city suburbs, where they changed cars trying to reach the local party committee headquarters. The driver having recognized the presidential couple took them instaed to a research institute, where the couple was imprisoned awaiting the police. A couple of days later they were executed by the firing squad at the Târgoviste , military garrison. The road from Piata Revolu t,iei to the summary trial was accompanied by more than one thousand dead and 2,000 wounded.
Translation: Carmen Karen together with Tom Sandqvist.
Food isn't always rationed.
ANA MARIA ZAHARIADE
TWO BOOKS, THE COMMUNIST DREAM & DACIA 1300 FRAGMENTS OF AN ARCHITECTURAL LANDSCAPE When asked, nowadays Romanians almost invariably answer that they remember the last years of Gheorghiu-Dej’s ruling period and the beginning of Ceausescu’s leadership to be an interlude , of liberalism, a “golden epoch”, compared to both the 50-s and the 80-s. Obviously, both the liberalism and the “golden character” are relative terms that must be understood only in the context of Romanian socialism. Nevertheless they reflect an objective reality: Gheorghiu Dej left to his successor a Romania starting to rise and a people beginning to hope. (Vlad Georgescu, The Romanians – A History. From origins to our days1)
The end of the 1960s, when the first Dacia 1300 came out from the production line, enjoys a particular mental representation within the memory of the Communist period. The collective outlook of the Romanians endows that moment with a nostalgic aura. This representation is valid for the architectural milieus, too. Most of them hardly hide a sort of professional pride: the moment seems to be perceived as a flourishing episode of the postWW II architectural development. They seem to suggest that the achievements of that period could honourably stay along the contemporary world architecture; hence we may deduce the presence of a consciousness of “realignment” of Romanian architecture to the Western architecture. This is a key-issue haunting our modern professional culture.2 The flaw of this allusion becomes obvious when we look at the nowadays public perception of the architectural environment built in the 1960-70 period, which is by far different: the huge housing areas are rather regarded as ghettoes (they are frequent targets in the songs of revolted youths’ bands), the decrepit condition or the functional obsoleteness of 1 GEORGESCU, Vlad, Istoria românilor. “De la origini pîn˘a în zilele noastre”, Humanitas, Bucures, ti, 1992, p.274 ; first printing : Jon Dumitru Verlag, München, 1984 2 The question of the «realignment» is to a large extent a key point in the evolution of modern architecture in Romania and of Romanian culture in general – a very important cultural motive. Cf. GEORGESCU, V., op cit., this theme appears as soon as the end of the 18th century. Yet, it becomes very present during the first decades of the 19th century, when Romanian society begins to acknowledge a narrowing of the concept of Europe and to develop a tendency towards the values of Western societies. This tendency will be accompanied by a relative inferiority complex and the feeling of frustration for not being at the same level of civilisation. The spectacular modernisation of the whole of the society, the development
many public buildings denies any sympathy, others are lingering as relics of a past epoch waiting for (self)demolition, the territory is distressingly spotted with abandoned industrial premises.3 Starting from these two divergent representations, the attempt to present the architecture of the Communist period becomes very problematic. Besides the inventory of the buildings, which is certainly useful for visualising the architectural environment, a more meaningful task would be contributing to the understanding of the society during the segment of time on which we are focusing. Buildings are designed by architects and it is unfair to judge the results out of the general framework enclosing the practice. Yet, this endeavour raises some decisive questions: (1) what kind of architectural portrayal is to be achieved; (2) which are the underlying documentary sources; (3) eventually, which is – from the specific architectural perspective – the historical horizon circumscribing the Dacia 1300 project. The following pages will try to deal with the professional practice in general. Following the evolution of the architectural community means that the built environment of Dacia 1300 becomes a human landscape, but the issue of the sources and the methods to interrogate the phenomenon make this endeavour a great deal more difficult. On the one hand, the sources are incomplete4 and are not researched enough5, the existing records show only one face of the epoch – the official one; the oral history (useful even if marked by its shortcomings in credibility due to subjectivism, duplicity and lack of accuracy) is hardly investigated, and the actors of the period are fewer and fewer. Moreover, until now no systematic research of the huge amount of “communist party documents” referring to architecture has been done, although this is an unavoidable tool when drawing a social history of architecture.6 On the other hand, the mere use of the extant texts introduces additional problems. Excepting the regulatory documents (laws, design standards and norms, etc.), the specialised writings published under the Communist regime are usually enciphered; due to censorship, self-censorship or duplicity, the subtext becomes more meaningful than text. Thus, their reading becomes hermeneutics; their interpretation, if not corroborated by certain documents, remains under the sign of the doubt. I take this risk for the sake of the idea that the worth of another reading of the history of this period is “to produce more questions than answers” only if it contributes to “an intellectual and mental
of the cultural means, the building of a value system and, implicitly, of an architectural movement that would correspond to the newer realities are marked by, regardless of the – sometimes paradoxical – forms they take. Assimilating Western values, bridging the gap, referring to the European system (with forms ranging from admiration to refusal and conflict) are recurrent ideas in the cultural discourse. They have become part of the collective mentality. Within the architectural discourse, however, the one that we are mostly interested of, these ideas are permanently present; once Romanian architecture leaves traditional post-Byzantine patterns behind for good, it begins its modern career. See especially chapters 7, «The Enlightenment and the National Consciousness», pp. 118-132, and 10, «The National Culture», pp. 186-202 3 At the colloquium “Bucharest as Another Kind of Europe”, Andrei Cornea raised the question in even more radical terms, namely that the architecture of the Communist period has not produced anything that could be valid today. 4 I shall give only one example concerning the idea of authorship: the names of architects who have emigrated do not appear in some publications, for instance in Curinschi's book, or due to obscure reasons, the name of the true author is in a marginal position within the planning team. 5 Very many kinds of documents, such as articles in the central and local mass media, archives of the planning institutes (those still surviving), personal archives (if they still exist) are totally un-surveyed. 6 There are a few attempts of this sort, but these are still fragmentary. E.g. IOAN, Augustin, “Arhitectura s, i puterea”, Paidea, 1995; ZAHARIADE, LASCU, IOAN, “Arhitectura romaneasc ˘ a˘ postbelica”-Istorii ˘ reprimate. Revista “ARHITECTURA” ca sursa, ˘ Octomber 2001, research UAUIMCNCSIS ; and especially GIURASCU, Dinu, “Distrugerea trecutului României”, Museion, 1994 (first printing : “The Razing of Romania’s Past”, Preservation Presss, 1989). It is to be stressed that Giurescu’s book is based on the most careful reading of the official documents and of the architectural Arhitectura magazine so far.
way out from this terrible 20th century, marked by the seal of totalitarism”.7 Therefore this presentation will start from the reading of (and the consequent attempt to decrypt) the main publications testifying for the architecture of the Communist period. The key of the cipher – suggested, as it will be seen, by the analysis of the texts – is the political context, depicted, as much as it can be (consequently only in a partial measure), by recent historical studies, by the main official documents, by testimonies of the survivors and even by my own experience within the professional milieu starting from 1967 when I became a student in architecture.8
WHY TWO BOOKS? The architectural development in Romania after the WW II is described by Grigore Ionescu in The Architecture of Romania between 1944 and 1969 published in 19699, in the last chapter of the volume Arhitecture on Romanian territory along the centuries published in 198110, and by Gheorghe Curinschi Vorona in his book The History of Architecture in Romania, published in the same year11. The last two are the referential syntheses for the architecture of the period, and for Romanian architecture in general, too.12 The Urbanism in Romania, a collective volume finished in 1977, coordinated by professor Cezar L˘az˘arescu,13 Romanian Contemporary Architecture, (a bilingual volume, obviously made for a foreign audience, thus having a noticeable propagandistic character), published in 1972 by Cezar L˘az˘arescu, Gabriel Cristea, Dinu Gheorghiu and Anca Borgovan14 and, especially, the architectural magazine Arhitectura, 15 the uninterrupted mirroring of the professional life since 1950 till 1989 must be added. To peruse them today is a most troubling experience. With no pretence to make a text-analysis (this is not the aim of this paper, yet it is another research to be done in the future), my point is based upon several re-readings of the last chapters of the two syntheses of 1981, written by Gheorghe Curisnchi-Vorona and Grigore Ionescu. Both authors were architects and professors of history of architecture at the School in Bucharest and, despite their different individual backgrounds, they present a doubtless professional guarantee. Gr. Ionescu’s chapter V.B., entitled Socialism: utility, quantity, quality (1945-1980), is placed under a motto - flattering for the architectural achievements - drawn out from the speech given by Nicolae Ceau s, escu at the Conference of the Union of COURTOIS, Stephane, “Moartea comunismului s, i renas, terea civiliza t,iei” europene (IV), in the magazine « 22 »/683, aprile 2003. Special thanks to professor Dorian Hardt and to professor Mihail Caffé who gave me pretious information concerning the architectural practice and education. Arhitectura în România în perioada ’44-’69, Editura Academiei RSR, 1969, collaborators: DERER, Peter s, i THEODORESCU, Dinu 10 Arhitectura pe teritoriul României de-a lungul veacurilor, Editura Academiei RSR, 1981 11 Istoria arhitecturii în România Editura Tehnica, ˘ 1981. 12 The two books from 1981 are to this day the only complete histories, which make the necessity of a survey from the perspective of the today mature generation of researchers even more stringent. 13 Urbanismul în România, Editura Tehnica, ˘ 1977 14 Arhitectura româneasca˘ contemporana, ˘ Meridiane, 1972 15 Arhitectura Magazine is the continuation of the homonymous magazine of the Society of Romanian Architects that has ceased to appear in 1944. Following a turbulent period that is not sufficiently documented, it reappears in 1949 and 1952 under different patronage. Then, from 1953 on, it will be continuously published until 1989 as the periodical of the Union of Architects, following a decision of the Plenary of the architects on December 21st 1952. In the footnotes to the text, the abbreviation “A” followed by the number and year will be used. 7
Architects on the 4th of March 1971.16 As for the text, the sixty-two pages keep a dispassionate tone: a detached chronological account of building types. Ionescu clearly motivates his choice for this neutral structuring of the chapter: he has to be cautious since his perspective on the phenomenon is not remote enough to allow a critical approach. The encomiastic wooden-language and the references to politics are carefully avoided. There is only one reference to the political context - and we are tempted to consider it circumstantial, to preserve the appearances, as the motto does. Generally, this chapter is considered to be a summary of his book of 1969, with some additions. Yet, an attentive comparison of the two texts, separated by twelve years (which are particularly meaningful for the Dacia 1300 episode), reveals the weakness of this hypothesis and places the last text under another light. One can hardly characterise the much ampler text of 1969 as neutral: in spite of a writing tributary to the phraseology of the period, one can even say that, toute proportion gardée, it is in nucce a “critical history”. It passionately connects architecture and politics, and, moreover, ends on an unmistakeably optimistic note, exulting hope. Something should have happened between the two books. There is only one paragraph common in the two texts, obviously with different meanings: Within the process of revolutionary transformations begun after the 23rd of August 1944, the evolution of architecture generally followed the stages of the popular and democratic revolution (and of the economic development of the state, in the book of 1969). After this, the book of 1981 mentions without any comment – in the spirit of obviously self-imposed neutrality – only some historic events before 1952. Nothing after this, except the motto. Paradoxically, it is precisely the very singularity of these political references in the economy of the book that confer them force and importance. The game of encoding a text is of no importance for the moment, what is really to be noted is the suggestion of the importance of those events that the text of 1981 eventually conveys.17 There is one more aspect to be highlighted: the chapter we referred to until now is the second section (B) of Part V, The contemporary period. In search for the new, of the book, whose A section, almost similar in length, is The national specificity and modern experiments. This is another suggestion concerning a sort of continuity between the two periods separated by the WW II. The last chapter of Gh. Curinschi-Vorona’s contemporaneous book, approximately equal in span with Ionescu’s text (seventy-six pages), is totally independent from the previous chapter named Architecture between the two WW’s. Traditionalism and modernism, briefly overviewed in eleven pages. Its subject chapter’s title is very long, a sort of summary: The Architecture of Romania in the years of socialism. The mass character and its planning vocation. The advanced technique in the service of the typification of buildings. The functional differentiation as a reflection of life process within the socialist relationship. The
16 “Everything that has been realised to this day, all the edifices, be they social-cultural, has been created on the grounds of the newest achievements of architectural science, of buildings techniques. They possess a high degree of equipment and comfort, they offer superior conditions for working and living, thus being a worthy part of what is best realised in the field in the advanced countries of the world. The fundamental criterion that must stand in the centre of the attention of everyone involved in the field of architecture is the social utility of the works they are undertaking.” 17 While reading these two texts by Gr. Ionescu, one gets more and more pregnantly the – surely subjective – impression that nothing of what appears in the text from 1981 is arbitrary.
aspiration of contemporary Romanian architecture to a specific expression and a character of its own. On the front page there is – with the obvious role of a motto – a quotation from the Romanian Communist Party’s programme for the creation of the multilaterally developed socialist society and for Romania’s advancement towards communism, having an explicit commending character.18 The text is even more confusing since it gives the impression of triumphantly reporting the fulfilment of certain “Party orders” (which is to be expected even from the summary/title of the chapter). Anyway, architecture and urbanism are declared from the very beginning to be a component of the economic-social and cultural policy of the state and, consequently, they followed the steps of the revolution and of planned economy. The general tone of the discourse is that of the news shown in the movie theatres of the 50s, the years of the Stalinist freeze. The reading creates a distressing and uncomfortable, even bizarre feeling of continuity, as if there had been no interruption between the two periods. At the same time, the disparity between the continuity of this discourse and the autonomous variety of photographs (together with the short commentaries underlining them) reinforces the discomfort through a troubling schizophrenic appearance. To build a history of architecture starting from literary impressions is highly questionable as a research method. However, putting together the two books (trustworthy documents if we take into consideration the professional quality of both authors) could suggest a starting point in the interrogation on the phenomenon. Leaving aside the intellectual subtleties that a further interpretation of the texts announces, it is most likely that both authors convey a partial truth concerning the condition of the profession under Communism. How can we join these truths, how could they have cohabited? It remains to be seen. The two books are paradoxical and raise questions on the nature of the relation between politics and architecture and on the relation between the architectural development before and after the WW II. The texts are convergent only in sending us backwards to the end of the war and the political changes that followed. How did architecture and architects collide with these changes and which were the decisive moments of these encounters, which are the traces (or scars) left by them and how did all these influence the Dacia 1300 landscape are questions to be discussed further down. Yet, under the incipient conditions of the research and the limits of this article, the following pages are rather a personal (sometimes emotional) commentary on the professional life under Communism than a history of architecture. Finally they are sketches of ideas for a social history of architecture to be written.
THE HERITAGE The architectural culture inherited after the WW II is, regardless of how critical we are, remarkable: the modern architectural evolution and urban development succeeded in less than a hundred years to bridge the gap that the historical circumstances had carved between
18 “The architecture of towns and villages, of institutions and agricultural units must combine usefulness and the beauty, to promote the use of the Romanian style, of the proper specificity, while ensuring maximal efficiency and utility.”
the Romanian society and the Western culture. Swallowing avidly (and inevitably not in a very selective way) the European architectural culture, the architectural production was in full impetus between the two WW. That period was mainly characterised by two major expressive tendencies – modernism and the search for a national style, theoretically opposed, yet unusually liable to conciliation. The low building density of traditional Romanian cities (in the process of modernisation) offered sufficient space for both tendencies to develop, hence softening the ideological contradictions. On the level of the architectural theory, the two tendencies opposed their respective ideologies – especially on the aesthetic field – against the more profound cultural background of the conflict between traditionalism and modernism (normal in such cases of accelerated acculturation, and sharpened by the political context preceding the WW II). At the end of the interwar period, a new reflexive line, an attempt to a critical synthesis was voiced through the magazine Simetria, and reflected by the designs of many architects. The school of architecture (founded in 1892 on the model of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris), reflected these orientations, too: around the year 1935, the prevalent conservative orientation (French academism and national revivalism) made room for a modernist “dissidence”, started by the students (generally leftist sympathisers), and later supported or rather accepted by certain professors.19 During the war, the Jewish students being denied the access to education, a small private school of architecture functioned in Bucharest, based upon a more coherent modernist approach.20 After 1944, when these students re-entered the School, their presence gave a new impulse to the adherence to modernism. One can even say that, within the specific development of Romanian modernism (a soft, rather “luxurious” modernism in both forms and ideology, distinct from the main stream), the “radical generation”, fostered by Le Corbusier’s works and the Chart of Athens, is that of the architects who graduated immediately after the war. There were about 400 architects employed in private studios and some design departments belonging to certain ministries and state-departments. They generally came from an urban middle class that, although as recent as the Romanian modern society, represented a considerable cultural force. From 1890, the architects were organised in the Society of Architects with the Body of Architects (since 1932) and the architectural magazine Arhitectura, a serious publication despite its discontinuity. At the same time, the Romanian planners (architects and engineers) were grouped in the association The Urbanistic Institute of Romania, with the magazine Urbanismul, an important publication, very well connected to the Western culture and a testimony for the thoroughness of the reflection on the city. Consequently, the approach to the city reflected this high professional level and the sensible understanding of the local conditions: it kept all the time a well-balanced and attentive perspective on the city, as it
19 IONESCU, Grigore, “75 de ani de înv˘at,amînt ˘ superior de arhitectura”, ˘ monographic study, IAIM, Bucure,sti 1973, p.59 20 The special organisation “The Centre of Jews” (Centrala evreilor), set up an educational structure, under the inoffensive name of Courses for technical training (led by Martin Bercovici), within which the architect Harry Stern, an outstanding personality, was in charge with the architectural school (1941-1944). Special thanks to professor Dorian Hardt, who was Stern’s assistant for a while, for the details concerning this school.
is testified especially by the evolution of the master plan of Bucharest. In parallel, the building activity, carried out by a lot of building enterprises (some of them remarkable and innovative), was adapted to the local conditions, usually modest. This was a very flexible system of architecture functioning in a free society developing at full speed. This does not mean that the built heritage was not problematic. Romania’s modernisation has started from a very belated medieval status and the economy was predominantly agrarian, with lots of drawbacks. A ride with a Ford car (produced in Romania) would have shown many contrasting aspects: an elegant, cosmopolite Bucharest beneath primitive rural areas, elegant apartment buildings and villas as well as slums, etc. For instance, a statistics very much used by the Communist rhetoric after the war (yet certainly real) shows that in Bucharest, 45% from the houses were built in unacceptable materials, 80% had no sewerage, 72% no current water supply, 52% no electricity.21 A census of 1941 shows that only 6% from the population benefit from electricity.22 Moreover, after the war, the landscape seen from the “liberating” Soviet tanks was even more dramatic: the war had brought about its contribution. Although in Romania the destructions were not comparable with what happened in Poland, Germany or many other countries, over 41% of the railway bridges, a quarter of the transportation premises and tens of thousands of buildings were destroyed, etc. It is impossible to appreciate the development after the WW II, the new form of the country, out of this inherited professional and built environment. Yet, this development is amalgamated into a very complicated and politically tormented turn of events. The problem is to identify those moments or events that are really relevant from an architectural perspective, that is those moments that determined major changes in the way to practice architecture and in the form of the built environment.
THE DECISIVE 1952 The period immediately following the war is a paradoxical one. For the two architectural historians quoted above, this segment of time is the period of completion of the bourgeoisdemocratic revolution; it ends in 1947 (Ionescu) and 1948 (Curinschi-Vorona), and is placed under the sign of post-war reconstruction. They obviously operate with the reference points used by the historians (the abolition of monarchy and the beginning of the annual plans of economic development).23 The question is whether these moments have a specific relevance for the professional practice too, in spite of their undisputable general importance. Yet, what is built after the war (and inherently within a normal process of reconstruction) continues naturally the general lines of the previous period, although in a slower rhythm. Most of the achieved buildings are projects begun before the war. Overall, the practising 21 22 23
IONESCU, Grigore, “Arhitectura în perioada anilor 1944-1969”, Bucure,sti, 1969, p.43 A4/1950 For example, “De la autoritarism la totalitarism”, 1944-1947, in GEORGESCU, Vlad, op.cit.
THE “NATIONALISATION” OF THE PROFESSION
the Floreasca sports hall - exhibition hall - the APACA factory - post-office - railway station - rest-house - school - the SCINTEIA printing house - the National Opera House - Buftea movie-studios - embassy in Varsovia - architectural exhibition under the “Party’s eye”. ,
architects continue their specific design manners.24 More important is the emergence of a new generation of modernist architects, mainly represented by Mircea Alifanti and Ascanio Damian. A series of new buildings shows various orientations and expressive languages, manipulated with a greater boldness than in the interwar period, inside a new modernist freedom for which the epoch seems to be favourable.25 A few modernist experiments appear in the low-cost housing, too: low-rise slabs oriented towards the “heliothermic axis”.26 Otherwise, in this specific field, most of the operations are driven by less radical planning principles, either continuing the traditional plotting, or designing reduced dwelling districts on the model of the garden-city, using individual twin-houses or two-storied collective buildings.27 Meanwhile, behind the architectural epidermis that gives the tonic impression of natural continuity and of re-entering the normality, the politic stage is dramatically occupied by the Romanian communists taking-over and the demolition of the old social order. Their success is secured – through terror and violence – by the Soviet occupation army; which does not mean, however, that they do not enjoy a certain popular support (the promises were seducing!). Some of the general measures meant to weaken the economic force of the bourgeoisie especially hit the professional community: first of all, the disappearance of the private investors and the building enterprises mainly due to the nationalisation of the principal means of production (11th of June, 1948). Hence, the following waves of nationalisations (they lasted till 1950) find no more private architectural studios to be closed. The state becomes the unique owner, investor and promoter. From 1949 on, the traditional system of practice once dismantled, it is gradually replaced by the public design-sector. Initially using the already existing design departments of the ministries and other state organisms, it progressively swallowed all the professionals.28 All these structural transformations unfold against the background of the waves of measures meant to suppress the political opposition (1947, 1949-53, 1956-59), which hit the architects too, most of them belonging to a social class not enjoying the trust of the new regime. On the one hand, outstanding personalities (such as G.M. Cantacouzino), other architects and students are arrested, on the other hand, the general climate of terror affects the architects in the same way it affects all the intellectuals. In parallel, the policy of “ideological and cultural colonisation” produces, on a Soviet model, the new Law of Education (D175/1948) that introduces the “healthy” record as a principal criterion of admission and of teaching in the higher education, the Western information is forbidden, etc. For instance, in the School of Architecture, in 1953, only 10% of the 120 places are left for the candidates with “unhealthy” records; in 1961, 100 candidates out of 200 enter the School on 24 The Banloc office building and the Nautical club Her a˘ str˘a u (arch. Octav Doicescu), the Ministry of Finances (arch. Radu Dudescu), the CFR headquarters (arch. Duiliu Marcu). 25 B˘aneasa international airport (1946, arch. M. Alifanti, A. Damian, N. Badescu ˘ etc.), APACA textile factory (1947, arch. M. Alifanti, I. Ghica-Budesti, V. Krohmalnic, H. Stern, etc.), the Exhibition pavilion on the Her˘astr˘au lake shore (1948, arch. A. Damian and H. Stern), the Floreasca sports and swimming hall (1947, arch. Titus Evolceanu and Sofia Ungureanu), the Emilia Irza hospital, the Bridges and Roads Faculty (1950, arch. Grigore Ionescu), etc. 26 Ferentari/Bucuresti, , 1945-1947, the project seems to have been started previously 27 Serban-Vod˘ a, Steaua, Drumul Sarii/Bucure ˘ sti; sov , Steagul Rosu/Bra , , - arch. N. Nedelescu, Fl. Teodorescu, T. Elian, D. Marinescu, Hunedoara, 1848 , arch. Gusti, A. Moisescu, V. Perceac). 28 The first design-institutions are IPI (Institute of Industrial Projects) and IPC (Institute of Projects for Constructions) in 1949, followed in 1950 by ICC (Institute for Research in Constructions). Many others will follow: the important ISPROR, restructured many times, and IPB, the provincial design institutes, etc.
the bases of a “healthy” social origin. The predictable effect of this “purge” is the change in the cultural background of the students and, consequently, a diminution of the quality of the students and the graduates (most of the candidates admitted on the basis of the record were not really gifted or competent; there were also the so called “working class series”). The architectural folklore still preserves bitter anecdotes regarding this “newly privileged” category of students. Concomitantly, the changes in the academic curriculum (introduction of the Russian language and of new courses aiming at the ideological education) come together with public confrontations, staged by the party cell from the School, between the proletarian ideology and the decadent idealists, namely the modernists. The more or less important events of this type that happened inside the professional community, as unavoidable consequences of the political project, are far from being thoroughly studied, but what is certain is that the process of including the architectural practice and education inside the system of the Stalinist centralism reaches its peak on the 13th of November 1952, on the occasion of the Plenum of CC of the PMR (Central Committee of the Romanian Working Party) and of the Council of Ministers. The final act of this Plenum, The Decision regarding the construction and reconstruction of cities and the organisation of the activity in the field of architecture, is the birth certificate of the State Committee for Architecture and Construction (CSAC) of the Council of Ministers, the central organism in charge with all activities concerning architecture and urban planning: research, design, studies, elaboration of regulatory documents, standards, etc. CSAC29 coordinates and guides the whole network of regional and urban design institutes (SAS30) and the central design institutes, as ISPROR (renamed and restructured many times) for the most important projects in the country, and IPB for Bucharest. The same act legalises the Union of Architects, endowed on the one side, with an ambiguous “advisory role” and the task to stimulate and guide “all the creative forces in the field”, on the other side with the architectural magazine Arhitectura RPR (renamed Arhitectura in 1971) and the Architectural Fund, providing money for different cultural activities and for helping the members in need. On the same occasion, the School of architecture (at the time part of the Polytechnic School) reaches an independent status as the Institute of Architecture.31 The Plenum sanctions also the new principle of artistic creation of the new socialist content in national forms, namely the Stalinist principle of the socialist-realism (otherwise specified in the Constitution, too), whose infiltration has started before, approximately in 1947, through informal party “indications”, visits of Soviet architects and exemplary
29CSAC is later restructured in the Department of Architecture and Urbanism of the Ministry of Constructions (DAU), and then in the independent governmental State Committee for Construction, Architecture and Systematisation (CSCAS). 30The Services of Architecture and Systematisation are later reinforced by the IRPs (restructured in 1959 in the DSAPCs), as a natural consequence of the weakness of the architectural design forces in the territory. This is a permanent concern of the Party all over the period, since the majority of architects are employed in central institutions, in Bucharest (97% in 1957, 80% in 1959). Although the number of architects in the provincial towns is increasing permanently (by means of different legal measures, such as the more and more severe obligation to “serve” after graduation in other towns than Bucharest, sort of compulsory internship), along with the total number of architects (over 2000 in 1971), in 1971, for instance, Ceausescu is very critical as to their territorial distribution. , 31The name of “Ion Mincu”, the most renowned of its founders, is legally accorded a year later, following the students’ request!
Soviet projects given to the design institutes already belonging to the state.32 The moment is crucial and paradoxical. On the one hand, architects and architecture are granted a special importance within the economic and institutional system of the new state. On the other hand, by means of this new institutional structure (restructured many times, yet never in a more liberal direction), the Stalinist centralism penetrates the whole practice: (1) the investment is totally manipulated by the Party, and there is no more market-mechanism to adjust it; (2) the free competition based on competence is emasculated through the institutional dirigisme (the investment is directed to precise design institutes, where the principle of the “social record” perturbs the professional hierarchies); (3) education and design are subjected to the political ideology, which takes the place of the professional discourse; (4) the freedom of expression is abolished, the socialist-realism indicates the desired “style”. From education to design and theory, the political control is institutionalised at all levels of the profession, and no way out is foreseeable. A new system of barriers is established, and remains perfectly stable till the fall of Communism in 1989. All along that period it only proliferates and becomes increasingly complicated. The year 1952 thus becomes a key-moment in the post-war development: the fracture in the practice of the profession, the beginning of a new epoch with its own rationale, whose honest decoding (hardly started) turns out to be a difficult endeavour.33 Under these newly sanctioned circumstances, which is the freedom of movement of the ”nationalised” architectural community, whose representative members – it is to be stressed – are for a significant while the architects active before 1952? In other words, what sort of architecture do they design amidst the tangled knot of threads linking the building activity to the politics?
THE PLANNED INVESTMENT AND ITS THEMES The political interest in architecture and urbanism is mirrored in the Party documents (Reports, Directive-projects, Decisions, etc. issued after Congresses - usually marking the end of a State-Plan and the beginning of a new one -, Plena, special national Conferences on specific, urgent issues, etc.) and is materialised in the investments allotted to the building activity, as stipulated in the State-Plans for economic and social development. Generally, all these documents are difficult to digest, unexpectedly unstructured and redundant. The 1952 moment is at the beginning of the first five-year plan (1951-55) and of the first ten-year Plan of Energetic Edification (1950-60).
32For instance, in 1947 the Soviet delegation to IPC is led by professor Mordvinov, the head of the Academy of Architecture; to IPC are also directed complete files of Soviet projects for the huge works of the Danube-Black Sea Canal, dwelling-types to be built in the new town in Dobrudgea connected to the same project or for the Victoria new city, etc. 33At the same time, 1952 has a larger political relevance, that of an “earthquake at the top”: consequent to the elimination of the “Moscow wing”, Gheorghiu-Dej takes over the control of the Party and becomes prime minister too.
The State-Plans, elaborated by the State Planning Committee (CSP),34 are the quantitative expression of the new economic policy, settled on Stalinist bases. The new economy is, as characterised by Lucian Boia, an “ideological” economy, “scientifically” and almost exclusively based upon total economical centralism and intensive industrialisation (with the accent on the heavy industry and its pivot, the machine-building industry), along with electrification. The socialist transformation of agriculture is, in a way, a collateral matter, since “the industry and consequently the city stay at the core of the Communist project”.35 Even after 1972, when Ceausescu’s attention turns to the systematisation of villages, this is meant , to transform them into towns, not to boost real rural development. This major ideological dimension is reflected by the investment in building activity, which is, from the start, considerable and demonstrative. If we take into consideration the investment volume, the examples frequently used by the Communist propaganda (such as the built volume of the first five-year plan that exceeded what had been achieved during the whole interwar period) are probably not very far from reality.36 The Stalinist economic ideology establishes the priorities and the consequent hierarchy of the funds-allotment: industry (especially the keysectors), agriculture, transportations and telecommunications, and socio-cultural activities (housing, education, healthcare, scientific research, culture, etc.)37. Within this hierarchy, the distance between the amounts invested in industry and those for the other areas is immense. At the same time, a special attention is continuously paid to the development of the industry of construction materials, aiming at the industrialisation of buildings. One can say that this emphasis is the Communist echo of the well-known Appel aux industriels, launched by Le Corbusier in the 20s. Yet this is not the only meaningful aspect. There are many other specific dimensions of the building-investments, recurrent all over the period, harbouring their own dynamics. They give a more complete image of the approach of politics to architecture and urban planning. Therefore, another ideological issue underlying the investment in constructions comes from the rhetoric of the new: an active new, a resentful new, too. It involves the removal of the traces left by the capitalist society, and the creation of a new appearance. The whole country is under the sign of a huge building site, whose meaning is two-folded: the expressive image of a new society in full swing, and the ideological-education (the official documents of the Party and of the Union of Architects specify that each investment represents a fertile ground for learning). Consequently, from five-year plan to five-year plan, the building-investment increases (generally it is doubled over each such period). The resentful dimension remains always present, reaching its climax under Ceausescu. , One of the most intriguing ideological aspects is rather paradoxical: it comes from the
34CSP is created immediately after the 1948 nationalisation and is aimed to shape the economic policies after the Soviet model. It remains one of the most stable institutions till 1989. 35BOIA Lucian, “Communism, a Philosophy of Violence”, in “The Archive of Pain”, Pionier Press, 2000 36IONESCU, Grigore, “Arhitectura în perioada anilor 1944-1969”, Bucuresti, 1969, p. 8. Similar examples are used all over the period. , 37All was active in the Communist rhetoric!
emphasis on economising. Apparently, this is just the reflection of an obvious necessity, consequent to the confrontation of the revolutionary principles with the reality: the building volume overwhelms the existing normal resources and it is imperative to reduce construction expenses, the time to completion and design costs. Hence, industrialisation, prefabrication and “typified design” are subsequent. Yet, there are three hidden dimensions to be uncovered under this principle. The first is simple: to mask the economic failures of planning. Saving certain materials for other purposes is more important than the real costs. For example, wood was a precious material to be exported, thus concrete roof-structures are typified and prefabricated since 1952 (as imposed by the legal framework). Identically, iron was the indispensable row material for the too large number of machine-building plants: although many studies and projects try to demonstrate that, for multiple reasons, the use of metal is more economical than the use of concrete in various industrial structures, the ironprohibition grows more and more drastic, especially at the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s.38 The second dimension is related to the ideological importance of the industrial development; as a result it corroborates the importance of industrialisation, transforming it in an ideological target in itself. Though at the beginning, the official documents state that industrialisation (or prefabrication) is only a means, not an aim, after the well-known Khrushchev’s discourse of 1954, industrialisation is enthroned as a symbol of the “scientific progress” in the building activity. 39 The 1980 Law of Investments is the ultimate and most absurd legal provision in this respect, aiming at total prefabrication and industrialisation and thus, achieving the substitution of architecture by the “typified design”. Eventually, the subtlest dimension of economising comes from its use as a “politically irrefutable” alibi for no matter what other programmatic idea that, for more or less obscure reasons, was not to be loud-voiced. Following the model of the same Khrushchev’s discourse, in the official documents (of the Party and of the Union of Architects, too), the claim of economic efficiency and of economising is an excuse to motivate formal changes in the architectural and urban design. For instance, the documents of the Plenum of the Staff of the Union of Architects of November 1957, or in Gheorghiu-Dej’s discourse at the Plenum of CC of the PMR of November 1958 (which both are turning points in the urban design), the principles of socialist-realism in urbanism are sharply criticised for their lack of economic efficiency. Similarly, Ceausescu’s speech at the March 1971 3rd Conference of the Union of Architects, , the critique of the functionalist design of the collective-housing areas is based on the same argument of economies and efficiency in the land use. Useless to say that in none of these examples the case was really valid. One can say that, in time, a semantic transfer of the term economising occurs: its usual meaning supposing a certain modesty is ironically
38Although it sounds cynical, from this point of view, the 1977 earthquake was really “a relief”, since it permitted a more normal use of iron in the structural design! 39Khrushchev’s speech to the “Annual Conference of Builders, Architects and Workers in the Building Industry, Machine-Building Industry, Design and Research” is the first in a series of discourses heading to de-Stalinisation. In this first discourse, Khrushchev used the building efficiency criterion and the building cost per square metre to hit the academic Stalinist edifice in architecture. He opposed the over-ornamentation and monumentality of Stalinist architecture to the ‘progressive’ aesthetics of industrialisation and concrete.
transformed in something emphatic and overruling. The evolution of the economic and social planning (and consequently of the investment in constructions) acquires in time a new, decisive facet, which derives from the gradual understanding of the political and instrumental importance of the territorial systematisation. From the beginning, the harmonious development of the country and the erasing of differences between centre and periphery (which is one of the most controversial issues concerning the functions of architecture and urbanism in a Communist country) are central ideological issues. At the same time, the territorial systematisation is – to a certain extent – the professional counterpart of the economic planning. Thus, it is quite natural for a planned, centralised economy to understand this elementary aspect and to use it as an effective strategic instrument.40 From this point of view it should have been the first on the list of stateplanning priorities. Yet, according to the Stalinist logic of the beginnings, the territorial systematisation is rather a consequence of the key-issue of industrialisation, either in practice or in the programmatic documents. This aspect is mirrored in the professional discourse, too: “Besides the new industrial installations, workers’ settlements are born, endowed with all the necessary technical and social-cultural facilities” says a text of 1960.41 Indeed, the first territorial projects are connected to distinct regional investments. One of them is, for instance, the project (of terrifying resonance) of the Danube - Black Sea Canal, which came under the responsibility of the IPC and of the Department of Urbanism of the Ministry of Constructions.42 On this occasion, the architects “face for the first time the problem of building a whole region”.43 In relatively similar situations are other projects, also: the development of the industrial centre of Hunedoara, later extended to the whole region, the extension of the punctual, small-scale housing developments in Valea Jiului to the whole coal field, or the systematisation of the entire hydrographical basin surrounding the hydroelectric plant of Bicaz, etc. The centralising significance of the territorial systematisation, its “scientific” instrumental force, are fully realised and valued only in the 70s, once Ceau s, escu sees his leadership consolidated and openly shows his interest in architecture. According to the Directives of the July 1972 National Conference of the PCR concerning the systematisation of the territory, cities and villages, and the economic and social development, the territorial systematisation becomes part of the economic state planning. In this respect, the politics meets the architects’ wishes, partly by coincidence, partly for various reasons. On the one hand, the Romanian architects were perfectly aware that they were neither in the position to coordinate the departments involved in the development of a region, nor in control of the political intentions concerning the economic development. Hence, a political empowerment was
40The idea is perfectly reflected in the programmatic articles issued in the magazine Arhitectura. They draw the contour of the systematisation and urbanism exclusively in connection to the State Plans: the urbanism is the faithful translation of the economic and social planning. 41“O importanta ˘ hot˘arîre privind activitatea de sistematizare a oraselor” A1/1960 , 42The “Decision of the Political Bureau of CC of the PMR” of May 1949 considers the project an integral part of the work of building socialism. Exclusively propagandistic, it is motivated by the “great economic usefulness for the development of transports and of commercial relationship with USSR, and of economy in general”. 43 GUSTI,Gustav., “Canalul Dunare-Marea ˘ Neagr˘a”, A 4/1950
necessary for a successful systematisation project.44 On the other hand (and for different reasons), the international urban planners’ community was also aware of the necessity of territorial planning supported by a more active involvement of governments.45 Unfortunately, under the Communist regime, this encounter turns out to be a deadly trap. Once the economic state planning acquires this new “scientific” dimension, it opens the gates for the implementation of any arbitrary political decision. Ceau s, escu’s obsession with the systematisation of villages (clearly stated at the National Conference of the PCR on the systematisation of territory, cities and villages in 1972 and the subsequent National Programme for Systematisation), the 1974 Law of Systematisation (L58/1974), the 1975 Law of Roads (L13/1974), the 1975 Law for the Systematisation of industrial platforms (L29/1975), etc. are sufficient proofs of this dangerous drive. In parallel, the mechanism of official approval of projects, together with the entire regulatory framework becomes more centralised than ever and complicated beyond the limits of aberration. Compared to them, the November 1952 HCM is quite a “territory of freedom”.46 Last but not least, there is an area of the building investment that is never mentioned in the state plans: the buildings for the Party apparatus and nomenklatura, managed by the Party administration, a special department of the apparatus.47 This occult investment is reduced in volume; one can even say that it is not worth mentioning. Yet, its significance is greater than expected. First of all, it enjoys an unusual invulnerability: on the one hand, it always remains immune to the principle of economising, on the other hand, the architects employed are exempted of the social record criterion of selection (at least to a certain extent). Hence it is a privileged area of architectural design. At the end of the 60s, the small architectural studio of the Party Administration is transformed in the Carpat,i Design Institute that continuously enjoys a special status: it is in charge with most of the important buildings in Bucharest and in the country. At the same time, especially at the beginning, the “occult investment” establishes (in a manner that remains to be elucidated) a close circle of relationship, a sort of “Byzantine court”, based on more or less fortuitous, individual connections. In this respect, some of the architects who succeed in earning the confidence of the Party (or of certain top ranking members) play a role in the political decisions concerning architecture. It is not clear until now, how the young architect Cezar L az ˘ arescu ˘ gets under the skin of Gheorghiu-Dej; soon, he becomes not only the favourite architect, but a sort of “personal stylist” of the Party leader.48 More certain is the fact that (after Khrushchev’s memorable speech already quoted) he plays an important part in the adoption of modernism as “official architecture”, on the occasion of the construction of villas for the establishment in Eforie. Eventually the most interesting aspect concerning the occult investment is its evolution under Ceausescu’s cult of personality. During this period we assist at a sort of , Numerous articles in “Arhitectura” stay proof of this permanent complaining. See, for example, the principles stated in the resolution of the “5th UIA Congress”, Moscow 1958, or of the “27th FIHUAT Congress”, Jerusalem, 1964. To give only one example, according to the November 1952 HCM, the projects are analysed, approved or sent for approval to the Council of Ministers by the CSAC. According to the Law 58/1974, almost all projects (from the territorial level to the town centres) are approved by the President himself, after obtaining the approval of nine central advisory bodies (specifically created for this purpose). 47The word for word translation of this department of the Party apparatus, namely The Household of the Party, is more expressive for its exclusive character. 48I heard with my own ears Laz ˘ arescu’s ˘ stories concerning these matters, yet the real facts are still obscure. 44
inversion of hierarchies: the occult investment gets the first place if not in volume, at least in the attention of the leader. While the whole building activity is subjected to drastic economic restrains, the number of luxury houses designed for Ceaus, escuâ€™s personal use is aberrantly increasing (he, even, never visited most of them), historical monuments are confiscated and very expensively converted into palaces restricted to his private use (Cotroceni, Mogosoia, Arcus, , , etc.), eventually, the House of the People is also for him and for his chimeras. In fact, this is the ultimate and the most peculiar aspect of the investments in constructions: although the Stalinist rationale may be questioned, it is still a rationale. What happens during the 80s in Romania escapes any logic; thus the works for the new civic centre of Bucharest are, in a way, â€œoccultâ€?. The 1980 Law of Investments is the legal smokescreen that masks the new direction taken by the public funds; in the same year, the start of the works for the House of the People and the civic centre is pompously heralded.
NEW BUILDINGS AND FORMS The new form of the country is first of all a matter of quantity. From this point of view things are quite simple: an immense number of new constructions have, indeed, transformed the landscape. However, this aspect is not quite sufficient to explain the whole phenomenon: a quick overview of the forms taken by buildings and cities during the Communist interlude reveals if not a real formal diversity, at least obvious moments of change in the architectural and urban design. Theoretically, forms have a relative independence of their own that belongs to the professional culture. It remains to see how lasting is this autonomy in the context of an architectural practice whose basic rationale is politically driven.
THE INDUSTRIAL ARCHITECTURE
During the whole period, the investment in industry is constantly the most significant: for instance, during the 1966-70 and 1971-75 five-year plans it represents more than a half of the entire economic investment. The volume of new industrial buildings and extensions of nationalised industrial sites (there are many such examples, among which Colibasi, , the future cradle of Dacia 1300) is huge. All are urgent design themes, some of them unprecedented: true architectural challenges. Thus, till 1978 over 500 industrial units are built: among them there are huge industrial complexes (for example, the land surface occupied by the petrochemical installations of Borzesti , is of 620 hectares - to be compared with the 36 hectares housing area of Floreasca for 11000 inhabitants), forming the so-called industrial platforms. At the end of the 70s, the area occupied by the industrial zones is of approximately 33000 hectares. The Energy Development Ten-year Plan (the first is 1950-60) draws many projects and substantial investments (electric power plants, dams & reservoirs, etc.). In their turn, these buildings (generally series of installations) bring about spectacular changes in the physiognomy of the natural landscape (sometimes accompanied by unexpected distortions
in the local ecosystems), and lead to drastic transformations of the territory (some of them are foreseen and included in the economic plans, other are ulterior consequences). For instance, one of the most spectacular is the flooding of the Ada Kaleh Island and the relocation of the city of Orsova due to the building of the hydroelectric plant Port,ile de Fier on , the Danube. Along other rivers (Bistrit,a-Bicaz, Lotru, etc.), many new tourist resorts appear in the so-called “hydro energy basins”, invading the nature; sometimes they are totally useless (for instance, the idea to develop an Olympic resort at Lotru/Voineasa is a notorious example, and exemplifies the lack of substance in certain decisions). The proper functioning of all these new industrial installations imposes similarly important and spectacular infrastructure works (mentioned in the economic plans, too) all over the country. Some of them have propagandistic resonance, as the Bumbesti-Livezeni, or Salva-Viseu , , corridors, achieved with the help of “young communists’ brigades”. The political importance of this topic presents various intriguing aspects, ranging from the continuous increase of the specialised-design apparatus and the growing overregulation, to the introduction of this design area in the academic curriculum. Yet, the most interesting aspect of these building types resides in their “privileged status”. On the one hand, they are placed in the core of the economic ideology, sometimes with an important symbolic value (for example, the huge steel mill of Galat,i or the Por t,ile de Fier hydroelectric plant carry a profound political imagery connected to Dej’s “dissident” economic policy, opposing Moscow). On the other hand, they are “shielded” by the technical motivation (quite similar to the “scientific” one in the Communist system of values). As a result, this design field enjoys, from the very beginning, a relative “immunity” that transforms it (at least for a while) in a sort of “buffer zone” between the architects’ aspirations to freedom of expression and the aesthetic interferences of the rulers. Repeating, in a way, the beginnings of Modernism in the world, the industrial architecture of the Communist period represents a sort of free-zone where modern ideas and forms are tried and put into practice. No matter the period, the industrial architecture is almost continuously modernist. In this respect, one can say that it carries on the tradition of the interwar Romanian modernism, which has produced remarkable industrial buildings (probably the most radical architecture of the Romanian movement). At the end of the 60s, one can even notice a certain emphasis, a “triumphant” architecture (character that one can hardly recognise nowadays, when most of these constructions are in a pathetic condition). Its victory turns out to be short-term: in March 1971, in his speech at the 3rd Conference of the Union of Architects, Ceau s, escu sharply criticises the extravagance and thriftlessness of the industrial buildings, too monumental and using costly materials for the facades. He clearly specifies that industrial buildings are not meant to be works of art, or to be admired, they have to house the production of “works of art”, able to stir the public admiration in the country and abroad. This is the moment when the decline starts; the series of the regulations limiting (even forbidding) the use of metal and drastically reducing the finishing materials put an end to the industrial architecture’s impetus.
THE DWELLING AND THE SOCIALIST CITY The investment in dwellings represents another high priority throughout the period, being an area of great significance for the continuous uplifting of the material and spiritual welfare of the whole people, and of the degree of civilisation of the entire society.49 That is why this theme is given a special attention by the Party (many Plena, Conferences, official meetings with architects are dedicated to this subject), and by the architects (since it represents the most substantial number of projects and studies). It is the building type with the most paradoxical dynamics: on the one hand, the quantitative and qualitative leap is undeniable (number, area/dwelling unit and equipment), on the other hand, it remains within the limits of a terrible uniformity, branding the Romanian social life and cities for generations. The investment allotted for this purpose through the state-plans is continuously increasing throughout the period, trying to respond to the spectacular growth of urban population consequent to the massive industrialisation (and the parallel pauperisation of villages): in 1948 there were 3,487,995 urban inhabitants (22% of the population); in 1965, 5,667,559 (29,8%); in 1985, 11,540,494 (50,6%). The number of dwellings (conventional apartments) completed is reflected by the official figures: in 1951-60, 66,000 apartments; in 1960-70, 528,500; in 1971-80, 1,320,000; in 1981-90, the planed number is 1,700,000 (the final number is not certain). The legal requisites for 1990 were to have a dwelling for each family, and almost a room for each member of a family. Leaving aside the fact that the last estimate does not take into consideration the massive demolition of the old housing areas, the building rhythm is truly very alert all over the period. It should be stressed that most of the dwellings are financed from centralised funds. The proportion of dwellings built from the personal savings and resources of the people (most of them in rural areas) is negligible until 1966 when an important change occurs in the investment structure: the 1455/1966 Decree of the State Council allows and encourages the financing and building of new urban dwellings through mortgage loans secured with the private income of the individuals, followed by a series of legal provisions in this respect (later, private bungalows in rural areas are also accepted).50 This moment is certainly in line with the climate of relative relaxation of the rigid rapports between the state and the individual.51 Yet, it is also the evidence of the fact that the rulers realise the difficulty to cope with the housing problem created by the demographic growth of the cities.52 As shown by the construction volumes mentioned above, this idea proves to be functional, much more at the beginning, since the terms and conditions of the mortgages were quite attractive. Later, both the cost of an apartment and the interest rates gradually increased, reaching really enslaving conditions at the end of Communism. From the architectural point of view, the subject is copious, too rich to be described within the limits of this paper. Two aspects, with complementary yet distinct dynamics, are worth to
Most probably, during the last decade this priority is not valid anymore. The real data are still not public. There has been a similar experiment in 1950, “HCM” 758/1950, quickly abandoned. In 1967 even small private commercial ventures are allowed, but not for long. 52A more drastic increase was predictable for the future, as a consequence of the humiliating law concerning the control of the birth rate, “HCM” 26/1966 49
THE INDUSTRIAL ARCHITECTURE RESUMES THE HISTORY OF MODERNISM
be noted. The first concerns the dwelling design in itself, the other the relation to the city. Since the early 1950s and until 1989, the dwelling is placed under the sign of the maximum economic efficiency; hence it is the favourite target of the standardised design. Although before the WW II low-cost housing existed as a preoccupation both for politicians and architects, Romanian modernism was not concerned at all with this issue (its focus was on aesthetics). That is why, unlike what happened in other neighbouring countries (as Poland, the Czechoslovakia, Hungary, etc., where remarkable studies and low-cost housing developments have been achieved) one can say that, in Romania, the real rationalist culture of the dwelling is elaborated in the “design institutes” (especially IPCT), during the Communist period. It consists of huge volumes of studies, design-themes, norms and standards, typified-projects for dwellings, furniture and household equipment. It is, also, focused on new building technologies, on industrialisation and prefabrication, on cost reductions. At the same time, many “singular-projects” (as opposed to type-projects, in the professional language of the time) are designed. However, the overwhelming proportion of the achievements of the period is mostly reproductions or adaptations of type-projects. One can say that the Romanian rationalist culture of the dwelling resumes sui-generis (that is adjusting to the local conditions) the typological studies elaborated at Bauhaus before the war. It finally aims at a modular coordination between the designers and the producers of building materials and equipment, theoretically easier in a strongly planned economy (the reality did not confirm this hypothesis). More important, the distributive schemes and the living area per person are constantly improving.53 From this perspective also, 1966 is a turning point since new, more generous standards are accepted for the “private” apartments” (yet this has an adverse effect on the apartments to be let by the state). Almost simultaneously, more flexible norms and regulations allow a larger diversity of types (9 types of families instead of 4 in 1960, the introduction of the one-person bedrooms and the diversified categories of comfort - HCM 1650/1969). Both the official documents and the professional literature consider that the period of the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s marks the end of the predominantly quantitative approach and the start of a primarily qualitative approach. Consequently, new, subtler approaches including flexibility, substantiation of the design principles through sociological surveys and studies (i.e. the manner in which the apartments are dwelt and transformed by their users), etc. are noticeable.54 Yet, the typology presents an obvious uniformity, since it is concentrating almost exclusively on the study of the apartment and of the apartment building. At the beginning, the housing design is oriented towards both individual and low-rise collective dwellings, thus carrying on the pre-WW II tradition. Yet, very quickly the accent is put on the apartment building, which thus becomes (especially after 1958-59) the major, if not the sole, design-topic. In 1985, Ceausescu officially announces that in 1990, 90-95% of ,
53There are not many architects to remember that the first apartments in Bucurestii Noi housing area - achieved in 1956, probably on Soviet , prototypes - were meant to be used in common by two families. FARB, A10/58 54In the 70s, IPCT has a sociological laboratory of its own, in order to substantiate the design approach. At the same time a laboratory of futurology is created, with the same purpose.
the inhabitants of Bucharest will live in blocks of flats (!). On the other hand, the height of the dwellings is also increasing. The proportion between the low-rise and the high-rise apartment buildings changes along this period in the advantage of the latter: in 1951-60, 81,4% are lower than five stories, in 1960-70, 75,4%; in 1977-80, 62%; in 1981-90, 50%. After 1957-58 the designs show mainly high-rise slabs, which will soon become common language; in 1965 the Arhitectura magazine publishes the first competition for a 16-storied tower. This unilateral direction taken by the dwelling design is the result of many causes, some of them professional, others extraprofessional. The typified apartment building was certainly convenient for the political rhetoric of the new and of the equality among people sharing a standardised life-style, yet it is a too simplistic explanation. The reductive drive of the dwelling design - from the typological variety of individual and low-rise collective and semi-collective buildings of the beginnings, to the later overall sameness of the interior distribution-schemes of both the apartment and the apartment building55 - has to do with an intricate and complex set of factors and events. Amid them, the evolution of urbanism during this segment of time plays certainly the main role. On the other hand, the architects’ aspiration to modernism played a role, too. Eventually, the ideologically biased understanding of “economy and efficiency” in the building and design activity, together with the arbitrariness of the political inputs modifying the rationale of the specific standards (especially after 1980) help to complete the picture. In the second half of the 70s the architects start to question the quasi-mandatory lack of differentiation and try to propose other types of dwellings, sociologically substantiated, for different life-styles, based on the idea to graft on the collective dwellings the qualities of the individual houses (on the model of low-rise high-density developments, or what the French architectural culture calls habitat intermédiaire). Unfortunately it was too late, and lots of projects and studies (part of them designed in collaboration with the School of Architecture in Bucharest) remain in the drawers, or are lost in the archives of the design institutes, not able to navigate through the thicker and thicker “forest” of the bureaucratic mechanism of “official approval”.56 In this respect, the successful projects are mere exceptions and they are, generally, outside Bucharest (Miercurea Ciuc, Arad, etc.). After the earthquake of 1977, more rigid structural-design standards (their rigidity was rather a matter of economy than of real seismic safety) make a flexible design even more difficult. Moreover, the 1980 Law of Investments (L9/1980) decisively forbids any kind of experiment. This is the final touch that completes the image of the dwelling-types used for the socialist reconstruction of the cities. As it is reflected in the official documents, the programmatic idea of the socialist city is opposed to the capitalist city, the latter being the product of the chaotic development of a society based on exploitation, exhibiting scandalous differences between centre and
55From the point of view of the interior distribution, the type-projects were unbelievably undifferenciated. Although at the beginning the architects tried a larger variety of distributive schemes (for the building and for the apartment), the urgency of reducing the design costs led to the re-adaptation of a very reduced number of schemes. One would say, « variations of the same theme ». 56Especially during the last two Communist decades, we can see a peculiar “mushrooming” of the official bodies in charge with the control and approval of the projects.
THE DWELLING IN THE « SOCIALIST CITY » 1958 - 59: UNDER THE SIGN OF THE CVARTAL
NEW CITY OF
BETWEEN THE CVARTAL AND THE MICRORAION
THE VICTORY OF FUNCTIONALISM
OF IMPORTANT STREET
THE BALTA ALBA
AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.
HOUSING AREA, THE SECOND BIGGEST
BETTER AND FOR WORSE”
THE LAW OF STREETS
periphery - the most obvious expression of social inequality. Consequently, as it is clearly stated in the official documents, the inherited urban form is obsolete, and the architects’ task is to find a new form of the city, structurally tuned to the socialist life-style, and to gradually erase the traces of the old society. The socialist city will glorify the collectivism of the social life, with no social segregation. At the same time, rather pragmatic reasons (the overruling “economisation”!) recommend the use of the old urban structure and equipments, at least for the first period. This political substantiation of the city-development was not very far from certain architectural ideas and biases, too. Most of the architects, fostered by the Western culture and having in mind the strongly formalised structure of the Central-European city, honestly believed that the traditional development of the Romanian cities (especially the ones in the Carpathian piedmont) is not really urban: the opinion that the Romanian cities are rather “large villages” was quite frequent. It was certainly a misinterpretation of a different type of city, yet a mistake perfectly coherent with the epoch. On the other hand, the radical ideas of the Charter of Athens (translated into Romanian in 1945 - which was so appealing to many young architects) were not favourable to the traditional city, either. Between the two world wars, Romanian urbanism knew how to keep the necessary and unavoidable modernisation of the city in a well-balanced direction of development. Since WW II has dramatically interrupted this path, the idea of socialist reconstruction is immediately grasped: it was the expected opportunity to embark on a more daring vision. Therefore, the issue of a gradual creation of a new city-form was not so unwelcome, no matter how real was the adherence of different architects to the Communist project and ideology. The series of articles in the Arhitectura magazine and the debates at the Union of Architects stay proof: personalities of all sorts (some of them close to the establishment, others quite distant from it) are eager to jump on the occasion offered by the political desire. As a result, the continuity with the housing development based on the garden-city model is swiftly interrupted. Regardless to the Romanian architects’ expectations, the way to start the reconstruction comes from Moscow: together with the socialist-realism (the “method” of artistic creation),57 the cvartal (a sort of urban block, organising low and medium-rise collective dwellings around a system of courtyards, similar in many respects to the Viennese Hoffs), and the street-alignment are recommended for the urban dwellings to be built. Although the basic unit is the apartment building (not the individual dwelling on its own plot, used for low-cost housing before the war), the cvartals do not really mean a break with the traditional urban fabric and forms: their reduced scale, their architecture (“pinches” of classicism mixed with “national allusions” and moderate ornamentation), their careful execution (the materials use were not the cheapest), their respect to the street alignment help their integration in the inherited formal structure of the city. Moreover, the cvartals are still appreciated by the inhabitants, in spite of the reduced surface of the apartments.58 In its search for a national form to express the socialist content, the 57The term is borrowed from literature, where it is considered a “method of creation”. Its core is the dialectic union between a socialist content and its reflection in forms, whose multiplicity is accepted. However, in architecture, the socialist-realism is associated with an emphatic, pompous style derived from a monumental academism amalgamated with “national” features.
housing architecture of this period presents a certain variety and even “picturesque”; it continues in a way the interwar traditionalist line. Nonetheless, at the time, it certainly was frustrating for the aficionados of modernism. From the famous 1954 Khrushchev’s speech until 1958, a formal change is tentatively announced: the critique of the Stalinist urban approach becomes increasingly sharp. The cvartals already started are achieved, yet their design is more and more simplified. One would say a post-modern architecture avant la lettre. At the same time, the new prefabricated apartment buildings display a soft “international style”. The November 1958 Plenum of CC of the PMR marks a turning point: using Khrushchev’s line of reasoning regarding the “economising”, Dej resolutely criticises the housing design and indicates new types of urban intervention (completion of the street fronts in the centre, structural conversions of the major roads, and large collective housing areas in the outskirts). The city of Bucharest is particularly under focus: consequently, the pace of the building activity is substantially accelerated and the new interventions begin their evolution. The case is taken up again in 1959 by the Party (the July Plenum of CC of the PMR on the economy and industrialisation of buildings, comfort and expressivity) and by the architects (the 5th Plenum of the Union of Architects). From now on the way is open to the modernist approach to housing (both urban and architectural design), although words as modernism, functionalism, international style, are never uttered.59 On the contrary, the main idea is that the new housing design does not imitate the capitalist forms: they are not proper for the socialist content, which remains the same, in spite of the Stalinist establishment’s obvious decline. Once more, the “theoretical enlightenment” comes from Moscow: Clarence Perry’s “neighbourhood theory” is turned into the “scientific theory of the microraion” (micro-district, could be a translation). The microraion is the basis of the complex urban ensemble, the “new urban structural unit”.60 The theory is welcome and quickly assimilated: in 1958 a Romanian team from ICSOR is awarded a special mention at the competition in Moscow. The local branches of the Party and of the Union of Architects organise series of meetings to clarify the issue;61 numerous programmatic articles and studies are published in Arhitectura. New legal provisions, standards and norms are established on these “scientific” bases (also present in the official discourse), the State Plan for 1960-65 foresees the end of the dwelling shortage. A growing optimism illuminates the horizons: not only the new “urban unit” allows a scientific planning and has a generalising character, but is eventually able to endow the city with a new socialist form: the traces of the old society can be erased. Moreover, it permits adjustments to the local conditions (sic). The panacea is finally found. This is the birth certificate of the large collective housing areas in the outskirts of the cities, which are explosively appearing after 1960 (the 3rd Congress of the
58A recent research concerning the post-war housing areas in Bucharest confirms this judgment and reveals many other interesting aspects of the housing development of this period. See ZAHARIADE, AM, Considerat,ii pe marginea unei lucrari ˘ de seminar in Analele arhtecturii 1/1998, UAUIM. 59Even in Gr, Ionescu’s book of 1969, he uses periphrases or descriptions instead of these terms. 60GUSTI, Gustav, A1/1959 61One of the most decisive is the January 1962 “Conference of the Party organisations of the city of Bucharest”.
PMR, where Dej clearly announces the economic principles of the national Communism). It is, in an equal measure, the death certificate of the traditional urban pattern, as far as in the new approach there is no more a need of the plot, the former structural unit of the city. The huge volume of dwellings is achieved almost exclusively in this manner, and all Romanian cities are aggressively influenced and definitely changed. The swift formula of the urban sketch (sanctioned by a HCM in November 1959) takes the place of the much more elaborated master plan, another departure from the urban theory and practice crystallised before the war. This is not, in any way, a more liberal approach. It is only haste: the new procedure is significantly helping the new urban design, disregarding the specific historical evolution of the city. The architects all over the country embrace the new theory and modus operandi full heartedly. The architecture enters a period of greedy â€œconsumption of the modernist languageâ€? of which the designers have been deprived during the period of realistsocialism. The School changes its approach, too: from this moment on, generations of graduates are educated in the spirit of the functionalist-city. Most of the important housing developments are almost completed by the second half of the 70s, in accordance with the theory of the complex urban ensemble. Leaving aside the basic errors of the functionalist urbanism (whose criticism stays in the core of the post-modern approach), the architects did their best, and in many cases the landscaping was very carefully achieved, compensating the monotony to some extent. It must be stressed that, generally, these modernist housing developments did not imply significant demolitions: with some exceptions, the collective housing areas were built outside the traditional city boundaries. The interventions within the cities are always treated as special projects, with a different status. In Bucharest, at least, they try to fill in the urban gaps, and some achievements are noticeable (the ensemble in front of the Military Academy, the area of the Royal Palace, etc.). Things are different in some other cities, were the interventions are more damaging and, generally over dimensioned (Iasi, , Suceava, Piatra Neamt, etc.). Looking at the modernist furore, one can say that the Romanian architects knew nothing about the moment of self-criticism within the CIAM (there is no reference to this issue in the architectural literature); the later criticism of the Modern Movement is not noticed, neither, although Western architectural magazines were currently available during the second half of the 60s. Voices expressing certain doubts and recommending a more cautious approach are very few, and generally nobody listens to them.63 The only unfavourable remarks noticeable in the Arhitectura magazine and in Gr. Ionescuâ€™s book of 1969 focus on the issues of uniformity and monotony exclusively. A more substantial critical approach appears later, during the second half of the 70s, and is, generally, related to the awareness of the new and increasingly imminent danger that this urban practice represents when applied to the traditional urban fabric and when it touches the historical centre of the cities. The authors are architectural historians, professionals working in restoration, and a new generation of urban planners, more
Immediately after this moment, 160 sketches of systematisation are elaborated, out of which 60 are meant to be implemented in 1960. See, for instance, CAFFE,Mihail, A9/1957, or SEBESTYEN,Gh., A4/1957.
connected with the contemporary approaches to the city circulated in the world.64 The year 1971 marks another turning point, yet of a different nature. In his speech at the opening of the 3rd Conference of the Union of Architects, Ceau s, escu, using again the prevailing economic criteria (the too uneconomical land-use and the excessive city perimeters), is very critical towards certain aspects of the housing design: The apartment buildings are dispersed randomly, they do not create streets and boulevards, in a clear urban idea, […] the architectural concern with a general social-cultural ambiance able to answer the new living requirements is not profound enough, … architects have often neglected the valuable traditions of Romanian architecture, our national specificity.65 Following the logic that considers that the 1954 Khrushchev’s speech is a modernist manifesto, one would say that Ceausescu’s discourse is a post-modernist manifesto.66 In my opinion, there is no real , connection of this kind: Ceausescu’s speech is only the expression of his own idiosyncrasies , (or obsessions), having nothing in common with any intelligent critical approach to the real, specific conditions. Ceau s, escu’s street has nothing to do with the critique of modernist “street-phobia”, or with the social and cultural value of the street seen as a fundamental element of the urban structure, or with subtle “readings” of the context, typo-morphological analyses, historical studies, and so on. The proof resides in the fact that the 1975 Law of Streets is nothing but a primitive urban regulation generalised at the level of the country. Nonetheless, from that moment on, both the legal and the normative provisions administrating the urban and housing design and the urban operations are oriented in the directions indicated by the “leader”. In order to increase the density in the collective housing areas, new apartment buildings are thrown wherever there is some space. The results are rather damaging: the places reserved for urban equipments not yet achieved are confiscated (thus depriving the housing areas of their normal facilities); negligent building sites destroy the landscaping; high-rise buildings are placed at an unacceptable closeness; certain pleasant urban places in the already achieved housing zones are spoiled. At the same time, new interventions are started in the inner perimeter of cities, this time demolishing traditional housing areas, which could have been rehabilitated.67 In order to increase the density, designers have to use the new idea of housing precincts; eventually, these are more depressing and monotonous than the microraions.68 Moreover, most of the main roads whose fronts are built since the second half of the 70s are huge, opaque and amorphous high-rise corridors, totally indifferent to what happens behind them. This last aspect is not new: the first restructuring of the street fronts in the 1960s displays the same indifference. Yet it was in the spirit of that epoch, while in the 70s and the 80s the urban context was being approached in a totally different manner. Once again, Romanian architects seem to be afield
64There are remarkable articles by Gr. Ionescu, Bilciurescu, Eugenia Greceanu, and especially the young architects Alexandru Sandu, Sanda Voiculescu and Serban Popescu-Criveanu. For details, see GIURASCU, Dinu, op.cit. 65A2/1971 66IOAN, Augustin, “Un discurs funebru la c˘ ap˘atîiul realismului socialist” 67Various studies on the methods and costs for the rehabilitation of the old housing areas have demonstrated that it could have been a rewarding alternative. 68For example, the study under the direction of LAZARESCU,Cezar, A4/80
of the contemporary approaches.69 The new type of interventions penetrates the city centre, demolishing indiscriminately in its way. Following a series of “leadership indications”, the formal expression of the apartment buildings leaves the modernist simple vocabulary for more and more complicated volumes, over ornamented, built under pressure and using cheap materials. The prefabricated façade panels with “national patterns”, commanded “from the top” after the 1977 earthquake, is one of the most primitive ideas, yet extremely meaningful for the general climate. In a word, there is a formal involution. The depressing result is the present condition of these apartment buildings, which is much worse than that of those built previously. This is one of the most unfortunate (and indelible) legacies of the last period.
OTHER BUILDING TYPES AND URBAN INTERVENTIONS The issue of the socialist city, together with the territorial planning, are also related to other building types and urban interventions whose list is very long to be presented here. Hence only certain aspects, useful for the understanding of the architectural phenomenon, are going to be spotlighted. It is to be stressed from the beginning that all these buildings are public investments; none of them – even the least important ones - were built with private money, not even during the short while when the “liberalisation” of certain services was allowed. Generally, according to the State Plans these investments are subordinated to the development of the social or cultural field they are meant to serve (education, research, healthcare, public administration, etc.). Their territorial distribution forms a network, structured according to a certain hierarchy. This structure is obeying either the indisputable logic of necessity (i.e. the education network, the healthcare or the administrative network), or the more questionable urban rationale of the microraion (for example, the daily services are exclusively grouped in commercial centres, including the cinema and the restaurant; centres that are meant to shelter the “collective life” of the presumed “community”70). As a general rule, the building types placed at the inferior levels of the hierarchy are current subjects for the standardised design: most of them are built following type-projects, or “adapted type-projects”. The unavoidable consequence is their banality and indifference to local conditions. Therefore, quite similar schools, kindergartens, dispensaries, polyclinics, local-police headquarters, commercial centres, “cultural-foyers”, etc. are spread all over the country.71 Depending on the period and on hazardous circumstances, the more important urban equipments enjoy a special treatment; although even for them adaptation of type-projects is highly recommended. In this respect, the 1980 Law of Investments represents the passage from recommendation to order. Only the buildings outstandingly representative, or of national importance are excepted from the rule, all along the period. As for the strictly functional perspective, most of the buildings answer real necessities; yet,
69The exceptions from the rule are scarce (Serban Popescu-Criveanu, Radu and Marilena Serban, Alexandru Sandu, Sanda Voiculescu, etc., , , some of the few voices that stood up in the defence of the city centres), and they were not really understood by the majority of the architects, educated in the spirit of functionalism. 70The idea is frequent in both the architectural literature and the official documents. Useless to say that either the collection of all daily services in a building, or the presumption that a real human community could coagulate in these areas, are highly questionable hypotheses. 71The first type-projects for social-cultural buildings are designed in 1953-54
THE FUNCTIONALIST APPROACH AGAINST THE CITY COMPETITIONS FOR CIVIC CENTRES
MEGA DREAMING FACING A TIMID, MORE CONTEXTUAL APPROACH: THE
one can question certain parts of their specific design-programme. For example, certain design-themes are over dimensioned (too large hotels or houses of culture in small towns); others are functionally disputable (the collection of daily functions in commercial centres; the functional programme of the houses of culture; the market-halls of the last decade, with huge cupolas and no air-conditioning, etc.). Once again as a general rule, till the end of the 70s, the functional logic of the various building types is obvious, no matter the political interferences, while, during the last Communist decade, the contact with reality is lost and arbitrary decisions impose fictitious necessities. One of the most ridiculous examples is the erection of large market-halls while closing the markets.72 More expensive and useless (moreover, destructive in conception) are the huge administrative buildings of the new civic centre of Bucharest, the new Opera House and the National Museum connected to the same project, and the House of the People itself, whose functional logic is totally absent.73 The hydrotechnical works on the Dîmbovit,a river in Bucharest succeeds in turning a real river into a totally artificial concrete canal damaging the charm of the city and its ecosystem. Similarly costly is the achievement of the Danube-Black Sea Canal, an absurd project abandoned by the end of the 50s, revived by Ceausescu in the 80s.74 , From the point of view of the formal language, the singular-projects represent the area of expressive freedom, since the economic constraints were more relaxed - especially for the buildings of national importance. Most of them are built in Bucharest, sometimes in order to celebrate significant political moments. These are generally buildings for cultural activities, such as Opera Român˘a (achieved for the 1953 Youth Festival – O. Doicescu), the Palace Hall (finished in 1960 – H. Maicu, for the 3rd Congress of the PMR, a turning point of Romanian politics), the State-Circus (1960 – N. Porumbescu), the National Theatre in Bucharest (H. Maicu, R. Belea)75, or the National Theatres in Craiova (1974 – A. Iotzu) and in Tg.-Mures, (1974 – C. S˘avescu), the Polytechnic School Complex in Bucharest (1974). Others are headquarters of important national institutions, such as the Radiobroadcast (1960 – T. Ricci), the Television (1971 – T. Ricci) or then EREN (an exhibition area with a main vaulted pavilion, built for the national fair of 1964 – A. Damian), the Otopeni international airport 1970 – C. L˘az˘arescu). (A special treatment was equally enjoyed by administrative buildings, such as the city halls and prefectures built in many cities. Among them, those in Baia Mare (M. Alifanti, A. Panaitecu), Bistrita-N˘ asaud ˘ (M. Alifanti, A. , Panaitecu), Botosani (N. Porumbescu, V. Porumbescu-Vaida), Turnu Severin (A. Damian), Tg. Jiu , (Gh. P˘atrascu), are the most interesting. Most of these representative buildings are already , achieved or at least designed at the beginning of the 70s. After this period, the economic 72As this decision happened during a period of starvation the popular humour called them “circuses of hunger”. 73That is why the urban folklore of the last period remembers the boulevard in front of the House of the People (officially named The Victory of Socialism), as The Victory of Socialism over the people; hence the whole project concerning the new civic centre borrowed this bitter nickname. 74One dares say that all the absurd projects of the Stalinist rhetoric have been resumed and outdone by Ceausescu. Such hypothesis is not , unlikely, since he was a rather primitive mind and his “political training” as a ruler was fostered by the overtly Stalinist rhetoric of the beginnings. The only exception to the general absurdity of his projects is the Bucharest underground (project also ventilated by Dej in 1952, than abandoned for economic reasons), which is the only logical investment of the 80s. 75The National Theatre was opened in 1970 without the exterior fresco. It certainly did not enjoy the President’s appreciation since Ceausescu , asked for design ideas to mask it. “By coincidence”, a fire destroyed the main hall in 1978, and immediately, on Ceausescu’s urgent request, a , new project disfigured the building.
restrictions imposed by Ceausescu (culminating with the 1980 Law of Investments) gradually , limit this territory of relatively free design. The design of public buildings all over the country is usually in close connection with the urban design of new civic centres, which, in its turn, represents a problematic issue. Both the modernist impetus of the 60s and Romanian architects’ misunderstanding of the value of traditional cities, highly contribute to the destruction of the historical cores in many Romanian towns. They are replaced by standard-looking, new civic centres; often over dimensioned, these have no real dialogue with the rest of the urban structure. There are only few exceptions (i.e. the square of the Theatre in Tg. Mures, , the square of the Prefecture in Baia Mare, or the new civic centre in Bistrit,a-N˘a sa˘ ud). After 1971, and even more after 1976 (the instauration of the new administrative structure in the country), the “presidential eye” becomes more and more attentive to this issue. The 1974 Law of systematisation is the most obvious proof of this presidential concern. To flatter it, all the new civic centres become even more obtrusive, and highly standardised (the city hall and a huge open space in front of it, to which, depending on local capacities, a house of culture, a universal store, a hotel, etc. are added). They generally confer to the Romanian cities an almost uniform (rather grim) character. The post war architectural development of the resorts on the Black Sea coast is worth mentioning. To a certain extent, this building campaign represents the “ideal-type” of the evolution of expressive forms in Communist Romania. It is also a continuation of the earlier development of holiday resorts and spas, one of the most interesting sides of Romanian urbanism before the war. The kick off is probably induced by the territorial systematisation along the “ideological” project of the Danube-Black Sea Canal. The head of the project, made in ICSOR, is Cezar L˘a z˘a rescu. The first interventions, in Eforie and Mamaia, done before 1956, are tributary to socialist-realism: grosso modo, one can say that the hotels in Mamaia represent the “emphatic drive”, while those in Eforie, belong rather to the “vernacular orientation”. From 1956 on, the buildings in Eforie are in the avant-garde and acquire a symbolic meaning, too. The young team gathered by L˘az˘arescu design a series of elegant, simple and daring modern buildings of obvious Bauhaus influence: the Party nomenclature’s villas, the restaurant on the cliff in Eforie, and, especially, the Perla restaurant come first.76 They represent not only the reassessment of the modernist language (in fact, its political acceptance); they are seen as a formal liberation, too. They give the start to the change of architectural expression all over the country.77 The following period is the “consumption of the modernist language”, consistent to the newly opened expressive line and to functionalist urbanism (there is not much difference between the hotel-slabs floating in the “exploded” green space and the collective-housing areas). Eforie, Mamaia and Magalia are the first to be built.
76Among the architects of Laz ˘ arescu’s ˘ team : Dinu Gheorghiu, Anca Borgovan, A. Solari-Grinberg, Lucian Popovici, Cristian Ionescu, Violeta Constantinescu, Gabriela Badiceanu-Gheorghiu, ˘ Egon Wiener, etc. 77All the architects remember the visits organised by the UA to Eforie, and the strong impression that the Perla restaurant produced on them: a new start. The truth is that the new language was far more radical than the modernist language used before the war. The Romanian interwar modernism was strongly influenced by the Art-Deco architecture. Hence, the shock could have been stronger.
By the year 1965, the systematisation of holiday resorts spans also the Southern area between Eforie and Mangalia. The architectural and the urban conception show a different, fresher approach (maybe not so elegant, but more various): the scale is more reduced, the differentiation of urban spaces is obvious, and the architecture aims to enrich the expressive vocabulary. The new searches of expression range from brutalist influences to delicate vernacular allusions. In a way, this new display summarises the two new lines of expressive tendencies emerging during the second half of the 60s alongside the persisting “international style”.78 The first one comes from the attempt to assimilate the brutalist experience, and is two-folded: on the one hand, there is sort of grafting borrowed formal elements on the repetitiveness of the structural grid (eventually, not very rewarding, but quite common); on the other hand, a more daring expressivity, similar to a certain extent to the approach of the Japanese brutalists (i.e. the houses of culture in Suceava or the city halls in Botosani and , Satu Mare). The second line is more original (unfortunately, not very frequent), and tries to develop a selective synthesis of previous experience in a more meaningful architecture, tightly connected to the context (the prefecture in Baia Mare, the city hall in Bistrit,a-N˘as aud ˘ – M. Alifanti, the theatres in Craiova – A. Iotzu - and Tg. Mures, – C. Savescu), ˘ certain hotels in Poiana Brasov, etc.). All these approaches are present in the architecture of the new coastal , resorts, stimulated by a new awareness of the economic importance of the international tourism.79 The swan song of the seacoast development is Aurora-cape (1973), an unbelievably low-cost ensemble, entirely prefabricated, yet really successful in creating a pleasant and suggestive architectural landscape. After this moment, the investment is stopped. The frontiers become more and more unfriendly for foreign tourists; Romania is progressively confined to its political reclusion. The overall architectural expressivity shares the same fate: at the beginning of the 80s, the architecture looses its substance and freezes, either in a sort of pompous aridity or in an equally emphatic, pointless decorativism. There are very few exceptions: various “facilities for the youth” (politically protected by the President’s son80), and all but one (Postav˘aria român˘a - a scandal at the time) are situated elsewhere, not in Bucharest. To conclude this - too short - overview, two ideas seem more important. The first is that, although tightly confined within economical and political limitations, up to the second half of the 70s, many representative buildings were carefully designed and could decently have stayed alongside the average contemporary architecture in the free world. Yet, the major problem of Romanian architecture remained the inaccurate execution and the poor quality materials used to achieve too complicated forms. The second idea refers to the fact that, although the architecture of singular-buildings (not typified, that is) illustrates a certain 78Besides the industrial architecture, there are many building types that remained loyal to the « international style » till the 80s, such as hospitals, schools, many urban hotels, etc. 79This approach is part of the more liberal economic policy of the couple Dej-Maurer. In his official speech to the “2nd Conference of the Union of Architects”, Apostol refers to the international importance of this architecture. The main consequence is the general upgrading of the comfortstandards of the hotels; architecture enjoys thus larger expressive possibilities. 80Nicu Ceausescu was the head of the Communist Youth and he sort of started his own “field of investment”, apparently more liberal. This was , the only relatively free architectural production of the last decades: “youth’s clubs” in Slobozia, Rm. Vîlcea, Bucharest, etc., designed by E. B. Popescu with D. Stefan, V. Simion, St. Lungu, P. Ciuta, ˘ etc. ,
“SINGULAR-PROJECTS” AND THEIR LANGUAGE TILL THE HALL OF THE PALACE - THE STATE CIRCUS - EXHIBITIONS
THE 60S AND THE BEGINNING OF THE 70S -
BUILDINGS FOR EDUCATION
THE END OF THE
RAILWAY STATIONS AND AIRPORTS
HOUSES OF CULTURE
THE FORMAL CONFUSION OF THE 80S
THE BLACK SEA-COAST DEVELOPMENT THE BEGINNINGS AND “MODERNISM REDIVIVUS”
THE SOUTHERN DEVELOPMENT AFTER 1965: NEW STANDARDS FOR FOREIGN TOURISTS
expressive variety, this variety is swallowed by the huge, indistinct mass of typified buildings. Thus, these give the dominant feature to the architectural landscape.
THE PERVERSE CANDOUR OF THE PROFESSION The deeper we go into the evolution of the post-war architectural landscape, the clearer it becomes that one should not try to explain it out of the political context, which, in its turn, was dramatic and intricate. In spite of its fluctuations, the political context remained permanently inscribed in a severe Stalinist ideology, often more powerful in Romania than in the other Communist countries (the Soviet Union included).81 This is the truth that the last chapter of Curinschi-Vorona’s book clearly conveys. Within this overruling political continuity, certain moments were specifically decisive for the evolution of architecture; they could be considered turning points for the architectural phenomenon. The first is the year 1952, the “nationalisation” of the profession. The new basic condition of the architectural practice, settled by the Decision regarding the construction and reconstruction of cities and the organisation of the activity in the field of architecture, remained unchanged till 1989.82 This is the main truth encoded in Ionescu’s book of 1981. After this, a series of important moments have been identified. The next, not so precisely defined (but following Khrushchev’s speech of 1954), is situated in the 1958-59 period, when the socialist-realism is officially abandoned and modernism is accepted, the traditional urban approach is changed radically, and the design of the collective-housing areas begins. The following seems to be situated in the first half of the 70s, after Ceausescu’s , Thesis of July and his speech to the 3rd Conference of the Union of Architects. It circumscribes the Law of systematisation (1972) and the Law of streets (1974), the real start in the planning of villages, the confusing (and confuse) demand for a national expression. It marks the official end of modernism and functionalist urbanism, and imposes total central control in the urban planning (and architecture, consequently). This series of moments culminates with the 1980 Law of Investments, and the official launching of the works to the new civic centre, involving also the systematic erasing of the architectural and urban heritage. By their means, the politics practically achieves more than a “nationalisation”; it is the pure “confiscation” of the profession, reduced thus to its simple technical aspects. As during this period I lived inside the architectural community, I used to think that the 1977
81“The Romanian way to socialism”, Dej’s policy opposing Moscow in the second half of the 50s, uses Stalinist instruments against Khrushchev’s reformism. During the 60s, known as years of economic reforms in the entire Eastern Europe, the Romanian communists’ principles, published in 1967, are more conservative than the ones formulated in the other satellite-countries. They are based on very strict centrality, detailed planning concentrated in the hands of the Party. Later, Ceausescu – the representative of the ultimate Stalinism – repeated many times , that the modernisation of the economic life is easier under a centralised dirigisme than in a decentralised economy. For details, see GEORGESCU, V., op. cit. On the other hand, the rhetoric of the new remains the same all along that segment of time; it only acquires specific nuances, which thus mark certain periods. 82Unlike what has happened in other Communist countries, where the structural reforms of the 60-s brought up a certain liberalisation in the field of the architectural practice, in Romania the short moment of relaxation Vlad Georgescu refers to in the motto was too short and brought no change, neither.
earthquake was a turning point: yet, this humanly tragic episode - though decisive for Ceausescu’s determination to create a new architectural environment – was not men’s deed; it , only catalysed “men’s project”. At this stage of my inquiry into the connections between architecture and politics, my point is that whatever happened after Ceausescu’s 1971 Theses of , July is the beginning of a decline whose key-moment is 1980. Could Ionescu’s motto (picked from Ceausescu’s speech at the 1971 UA Conference) only be a matter of coincidence? Or is it a , matter of remarkable lucidity? We shall never know, and it is not really important. Under the continuity of the political grip on architecture, more important is the answer to the question: was there any room for the “voice of the profession”, or were the architects nothing but pawns in the political chess game all along the Communist period? In short, one can say that, at the beginning, despite the general climate of intellectual repression, the large amount of investment gave the architects a lot of work to do, and the politics needed them. Perusing the pages of the Arhitectura magazine, one can even notice a real professional enthusiasm facing the new challenges. To a certain extent, the ethos of the designers matched the political ethos. It is true that the theory of architecture was reduced to its technical and “scientific” matters, but in these respects, the discourse was very serious and showed real involvement. At the same time, the “ear of the politics” seemed willing to listen to the “voice of the profession”. In the official documents it is clearly stated that it is expected from the architects to have a critical position in order to help the economic state planning.83 The architects situated in the proximity of power (in the establishment, or in more “occult” positions) were serious professionals, “technocrats”, who were trying to make the establishment understand the architectural arguments. Within the limits imposed by the system, there was a sort of feedback between the decisional (political) level and the professional community - aspect that many architects active at that time still remember. In all likelihood, this arrangement lasted till the first half of the 70s, when Ceaus, escu’s “human resources policy” gradually replaced Dej’s and Maurer’s technocrats by obsequious political careerists. Moreover, it is clear that Ceausescu did not need a critical position anymore: he , only needed tongue-tied executants. The architects did not realise this change from the beginning; they kept on hoping in a possible dialogue. For a while, they really believed that the first references of Ceau s, escu to the national specificity represent an opening to new approaches, less standardised and less reductive than the functionalist urbanism and the international style; maybe a sort of post-modern critique of functionalism, or a “revival” of the moderate modernism of the interwar period. In 1969, Gr. Ionescu ended his book with this quotation: The ways to the poetry of our architecture are now more open. The essential thing is to know how to resort to those human values, regional or local, tuned with our present life and able to endow it with meaning. This was an illusion: the prolongation of the sentiment of professional freedom that the architects experienced at the end of the 50s, when modernism had been allowed. At the same time, the architects involved in restoration thought that the The critical approach is recommended, for instance, in the 1956 “CSAC Instructions no. 2” regarding the building design, in A3/1956.
new national ethos was an occasion to enhance this direction, and kept on believing in a common ground of the dialogue with power.84 Even by the end of the 70s there were only few lucid minds able to foresee the dead end of the profession. For instance, when the architects were asked to participate in the so-called competition for the new civic centre of Bucharest, only Mircea Alifanti turned down the “presidential invitation”.85 Later, in the middle of the 80s, Ascanio Damian presented his resignation from the Party, under the motivation that “he could not remain in a party which takes arbitrary decisions in architects’ stead”.86 Eventually, Gr. Ionescu’s and Aurelian Triscu’s written protests against the destruction of , villages, sent to the Union of Architects, were hardly known (they were probably destroyed or hidden). At this point, it must be stressed that the Union of Architects, organism that for many years did its best to reinforce the position of the profession, became (under Cezar L˘az˘arescu’s leadership) the obedient tool Ceausescu wanted. , A very peculiar case is that of the last decade of the Arhitectura magazine. On the one hand, with the exception of the official announcement of the start of the works on the civic centre, there was no trace of the designs concerning this area. The magazine published only other buildings, and especially young architects’ more progressive projects and studies, never to be achieved. On the other hand, the theory in the magazine acquired the unusual character of a coffee-parlour or of a literary circle. Yet, under this inoffensive appearance many young architects tenaciously wrote on various post-modern cultural issues, at the same time presenting projects and buildings from abroad. The examples were drawn after the few foreign architectural magazines or books that were circulated underground. For the first time in its life, the magazine was no more the mirror of the architectural practice; it was rather the support of a diffuse hope. It was, to some extent, a sort of “subversion”, not really effective yet there. It is now time to ask what is the relevance of the Dacia 1300 moment for the architectural development, and how could we explain the nostalgic architectural memory embellishing this period. From the economic point of view, Dacia 1300 represented a certain success, the “crowning” of the Romanian communist economy. For the public it meant even more: a Western car produced in Romania was a sign of freedom. As for the architectural landscape through which the new “national” car started its run, the end of the 60s meant the end of an epoch of enthusiasm. Most of the successful architectural works were already built (or designed) at that time, and Ceausescu’s grip on architecture was imminent. Yet, what followed was not predictable - even less , so after his public opposition to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, in 1968. He succeeded in hoaxing the entire world; why would he not succeed to fool a professional community that had just begun to taste the spirit of freedom and the delight of realignment with the Western architectural culture. Dacia 1300 was still running in a landscape full of promises: in fact, it was a landscape of unstable, hollow hopes. This is the trick that memory often plays: different moments overlap each other; the final image
84Restoration was a continuous activity all over the period, till 1977, when Ceausescu dismantled all the design and building organisms of the , DMI (Department of Historical Monuments). Even after this moment, architects, art historians and historians tried to fight for the cause. For details, see GIURESCU, D. op.cit. 85I still remember the long discussions I had with the professor when I was trying to understand his decision. To my argument that his design could have been better for the city, he answered that “nobody can do a good architecture under these circumstances”. I understood the meaning only after a few years, when the turn of events became clearer.
is more beautiful than reality, a comforting illusion. Looking back, I realise that for the Romanian architects (including myself), there are three contributors to this false image, not specifically architectural by all means. The first is the period after 1958-59, experienced as a moment of “liberation”, since modernism was accepted (in fact, it was officially “indicated”). The second is the general climate of political relaxation, after 1964; hence, the architects gradually felt more and more connected with the world’s culture, as far as the access to Western information was free again. As it always happens in moments of acculturation, and in the absence of a real critical apparatus,87 Romanian architects “freely” kept on following this trend - in the very period when the interrogation of modernism had already been triggered in the West. Hence, the alignment was not as real as it is now remembered, as I remember it from my university years. The School was totally functionalist; I was still enthusiastic about Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture, I used to work with a photograph of the Barbican on my drawing board, and I felt “connected”. Eventually, there is the specious coincidence between the moment of critical awareness aiming at new approaches substantiated by the tradition of the place, and the “national solidarity” that Ceau s, escu succeeded in gathering after 1968. It was a peculiar case of general blindness, which generated trust in and enthusiasm for his national drive, instead of caution and fear. Two more things could be noticed. First: the architectural “golden dream” is only tangential to the mass-production of the Dacia 1300. Second: the reference moments identified until now in the architectural development under Communism seem to indicate a clear regression from something following a relatively simple logic (an arguable, ideologically biased logic, but still a logic) to something more and more tangled, arbitrary, and difficult to understand from the perspective of a normal life. This is, actually, the drama experienced through the progressive obstruction of free professional thinking and design practice. It is also the demonstration of the failure of the system. I can assume that Gr. Ionescu understood this when he wrote his 1981 book. Curisnchi-Vorona only acknowledged to the “reality”. Each book conveys its own truth. Since we are in the land of recollections, I cannot refrain from remembering the title of a subversive literary critique of that period: Normality as exception.88 During the 80s, Dacia 1300 really ran (when it was allowed, and its tank was not empty89) through the Communist dream: finally, the whole country was a building site (of demolitions, of absurd projects, of standardised towns and villages, of architectural confusion). Today, the new Dacia Solenza makes its lavishly advertised appearance in the asphalted parking areas between the “densified” low cost apartment buildings. Yet, the revolted young rockers sing: We, the bulk, we live behind the dreary, tower blocks – and they are taller by the road to hide the want and hunger… .90
86A. Damian was not only a remarkable architect, but also a public figure; he had been rector of the UAIM for a long period. I witnessed this impressive PCR meeting in the School of architecture, and I do believe that this moment is worth mentioning. 87The interwar architectural culture was fractured by the political interferences, and fractures of a young culture are not so easy to heal. The free theoretical debate based on the traditionalism-modernism conflict, able to provide a critical approach (as the one of G.M. Cantacuzino), was thus interrupted; it will never be resumed at a similar level or intensity. 88IORGULESCU, Mircea, published in the magazine Romania Literara; ˘ the article was about Dinicu Golescu’s impressions after his travel in the West, in the 19th c., in fact it was about contemporary Romania. 89During the last half of the 80s, the use of private cars was restricted, and the petrol was rationalised. 90Printre blocuri, popular tune of the BUG Mafia band
Printed and bound in Romania by PROTIP - Bucharest, Romania in september - 2003