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Dennis Deletant | The Fall of Communism in Romania

March 9, 2021

Dennis Deletant presents his lecture, “The Fall of Communism in Romania: A BBC Journalist’s Perspective” on Oct. 29, 2019 at the University of Washington, Seattle. The lecture covers the fall of communism in Romania from the point of view of a BBC reporter and first-hand witness of the events, honoring the invitation of the UW Ellison Center and American Romanian Cultural Society.

Dennis Deletant is currently the Ion Ratiu Visiting Professor of Romanian Studies at Georgetown University in Washington DC., and Emeritus Professor of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College in London. With an impressive academic activity in UK, Holland, and the USA, Dennis Deletant has contributed seminal studies on twentieth century Romanian history and politics, 1940s labor camps in Transnistria, the “Bessarabia question”, the Soviet influence on Romanian communism, language policy in Soviet Moldova, as well as the place of Romania in Eastern Europe today. His books Ceausescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965-89 (1995), Communist Terror in Romania: Gheorghiu-Dej and the Police State, 1948-65 (1999), Hitler’s Forgotten Ally. Ion Antonescu and His Regime, Romania 1940-1944 (2006), and British Clandestine Activities in Romania during the Second World War (2016) have changed Romanian historiography by opening it up to an interdisciplinary approach. For example, in Ceausescu and the Securitate, he takes a cultural studies approach to address the issue of Romanian identity as a propaganda instrument that was supposed to deter any protest which could have “destabilized” the unity of the state. In the same book, he incorporated a detailed report on Romanian literary debates in order to unveil the deception cultivated by some literary critics and poets, avid supporters of the communist regime.
For Dennis Deletant, culture and diplomacy are intertwined as he proves when examining British – Romanian relationships in early 1940s in his 2016 book. He did not avoid controversial figures of Romanian history like Marshall Antonescu who led Romania during WWII in fighting alongside Germany. By close reading documents, Deletant is using fine lines in portraying Antonescu and his regime: Antonescu, in the author’s opinion, was not a fascist although an anti-Semitic, while his regime was not dictatorial, but rather authoritarian. His exceptional insight into the aftermath of the war reveals another set of paradoxes, this time in the personality of the first Romanian communist leader Gheorghiu-Dej who succeeded in ascending to power in spite of his ethnic origin, social status, and lack of political expertise. The most awaited book, Romania under Communism. Paradox and Degeneration (2019), is a synthesis of his scholarship, a culmination of his research, in perfect coherence with his argument about Romania’s exceptional place among the countries of the former communist bloc and the unexpected course of events in the aftermath of the 1989 revolution.

This talk is hosted by the UW Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies and the American Romanian Cultural Society.