Andrei Tinu, the son of late journalist Dumitru Tinu launched on Friday his book ‘Scanteia de la Praga’ (The Prague Spark) issued by the Targoviste-based Cetatea de Scaun publishing house.
The event, moderated by journalist Anca Florea, was held at the Marble Hall of the Free Press House in Bucharest and was preceded by a minute of silence in the memory of Dumitru Tinu, a prominent Romanian journalist.
Andrei Tinu revealed that the idea for the book originated in the decision to follow in his father’s footsteps and to get to know him through the profession that presented as first major task the coverage of the 1968 events in Czechoslovakia, known as the Prague Spring.
The author mentioned that his choice of a title was meant to highlight first the “spark” of democracy which emerged in the Communist camp thanks to the Prague leadership of Alexander Dubcek and others; secondly, ‘Scanteia’ (The Spark), the newspaper of the Romanian Communist Party, “which we are afraid to mention today, because of legislative changes – either the Communist Party, or [former Socialist Romania President Nicolae] Ceausescu”. “Certain legislative amendments I would deem inappropriate, because this is the very role of a historian – to bring to light, to interpret, to discuss facts that occurred in the past. That is also why I chose this building – Casa Scanteii (The House of the Spark], [now known as] the Free Press House, because this was a shrine, a temple of the Romanian press, to which my father too brought a substantial contribution. (…) Certain journalists, commentators, analysts have likened this building to a vault. Perhaps for them it was a vault, but not for me,” Andrei Tinu stated.
Tinu stressed that the archive of the National News Agency Agerpres provided “a rich source of information”, where he could find the “physical” correspondence sent by Romanian journalists in August 1968.
Romanian Academy Member Razvan Theodorescu stated that the book reflects one of the triumphal moments of the Ceausescu Era. “One cannot picture what the ’65-’68 period was like. I had the feeling of being free in a garden within a prison’s yard,” Theodorescu said, adding that he had put his faith in Ceausescu until 1968, having joined the Communist Party “with great joy”.
Ceausescu’s diplomacy was built around Romanians’ trading mentality, in their exceptional negotiation spirit, the academician added. He also revealed that as a historian, while attending the 1968 rally at Bucharest’s Palace Hall, among the crowd, he was somewhat startled by the enthusiasm displayed by the Romanians and he sensed the danger of the future autocratic regime. “It was the acme of an individual [Ceausescu], which we cannot overlook when writing his biography.”
“It is important that the young generation preserves the memory of their parents’ actions”, an emotional Jan Gabor, Ambassador of the Slovak republic to Romania, stated in his turn.
Further, Gabriela Madrova, Deputy Consul of the Czech Republic to Romania, expressed satisfaction that “an educated Romanian author” and not a Czech one authored a book on a “dark moment” in the history of her country.
Journalists Romulus Caplescu and Ilie Ciurescu, witnesses to Prague and Bratislava events, evoked moments that took place 47 years ago.
“I am here to evoke the memory Dumitru Tinu” Ciurescu said, recalling the time the Czech helped them enter the country under Soviet invasion, despite borders being closed. “The turned us into Czech-Romanians”, the journalist recalled.
Ciurescu stated that the book represents “a comprehensive study, a research comprising thousands of documents, a page of history in the true sense of the word,” which includes the true stories witnessed by those present at the tragic events.
Romulus Caplescu praised the “accuracy and the exceptional scope of the documentation” and the “touch of impartiality” and the “courage” of Andrei Tinu when mentioning the United States.
Agerpres general director Alexandru Giboi revealed that Andrei Tinu’s work has created an extremely emotional episode, for several reasons.”The first is that I learnt from his book that the press, the moment the event they report on concludes, becomes history – and my friend Andrei Tinu has had the ability to bring to life the history preserved in the AGERPRES archive in a very special and extremely useful way for my generation; my generation which has not witnessed the Prague Spring but has seen the 1989 events, at a young age back then. And, indeed, Churchill was right: in order to see into the future one must know the past.
“Another cause for excitement is that this exceptional book begins with a photograph by AGERPRES and ends with the mention: AGERPRES Archive, 1968 FUND. Foreign News”, Giboi added.
‘The Prague Spark’ is based on the author’s PhD thesis coordinated by Professor Mihai Retegan, with an introduction by Retegan and Professor Marian Cojoc. Tinu presented it in May 2014 at the Faculty of History of the University of Bucharest.
Based on a comprehensive research of the Agerpres archive, the 450-page book provides an analysis of the events surrounding the Prague Spring and the brutal intervention of Soviet, east-German, Bulgarian, Polish and Hungarian troops in Czechoslovakia.
The most important chapter of the book is ‘Three Romanian journalists, special correspondents in Prague’, in which the author manages to recreate the image of a sensitive moment. He found help in documents of the Agerpres archive and in the testimonies of journalists Ilie Ciurescu and Romulus Caplescu, sent to Prague alongside Dumitru Tinu (1940-2003) in the difficult context of the Soviet-led invasion that Romania – although a member of the Warsaw Treaty Organization – refused to join.