A researcher from the CNSAS has published, in his personal capacity, a list of collaborators of the CIE – the former communist Securitate’s Centre for Foreign Intelligence. We are talking about a list compiled by the said service at the time, consisting of 200 names.
The second page of the list, which contains names that start with the letters A and B, is missing, today’s SIE (Foreign Intelligence Service) not handing it over to the CNSAS. Most of the persons on the list were intellectuals: journalists, professors, researchers, musicians. Some are not known today. Others are known only in limited circles, while a few are still persons of notoriety.
The focus has turned on the one holding the most remarkable position today – Ioan-Aurel Pop (photo), rector of the Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj (UBB), who was recently elected president of the Romanian Academy. It must be said that Army Unit 0225, the one that compiled the list of its own collaborators, dealt with countering the political opposition in the diaspora. In other words, it was fighting the Romanians living abroad who were criticising the communist regime of the country.
The methods used were multiple, ranging from corruption and blackmail to political murder. For these purposes, its collaborators (the likes of those mentioned on the list) were tasked with resorting to informal contacts, to test some exiled persons’ willingness to collaborate, or with collecting intelligence about them so as to allow an operative agent to then liquidate the target – house layout, daily habits etc. For the time being we have no way of knowing what each of the ones on this list did – in fact, we may never know. But what is interesting, apart from the passion for research that seeks to re-establish the truth of a fairly recent past, is the way the careers of such persons evolved.
At first sight, Ioan-Aurel Pop is a well-regarded intellectual. He leads a research institute – the Centre for Transylvanian Studies –, is the rector of the largest state university in the country, has a fairly long list of publications but also academic – and not only academic – awards, and has very recently taken over the helm of the most prestigious, theoretically speaking, institution of culture in Romania: the Academy.
He is a medievalist, moreover preoccupied with the evolution of national consciousness – a preoccupation highly valued by those who consider that today we no longer know how to promote the heroes of our people and our historical rights. At a closer look, however, we discover some hues that are less bright. For instance, his nationalism, considered “moderate” and implicitly decent, is much more than a secondary passion for a historian otherwise preoccupied with science.
This intimate credo is, in fact, the red and fairly thick thread of an intellectual career. In other words, the glasses through which he looks at the history of Romanians have nationalist lenses, anachronistically searching for national consciousness in an age in which it pretty much did not exist. This also prompted him to combat his Bucharest-based colleague Lucian Boia, a historian set out to debunk myths following the many mystifications carried out by Romanian historiography in the last century, not just by communist historiography. In the new post-communist context, Ioan-Aurel Pop continues an old tradition, that of historiography meant to ideologically strengthen the formation of the modern national state and then, in the 1970s-1980s, to legitimise Nicolae Ceausescu’s nationalisation of communism. From this standpoint, the intellectual value of his work is far from unique, namely accepted by the international community of prestigious historians. At any rate, some of these works are clearly closer to ideological essays – ‘Romanian Identity’ for example.
But his “moderate” nationalism mattered in other respects too. For instance, in 1994, the Centre for Transylvanian Studies published a book of documents titled: ‘The Second World War. The Situation of the Jews in Romania (1939-1941).’ Some of these documents were military reports that Antonescu used at the time to legitimise the deportation (and massacring) of Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina, texts re-used – once they were republished – by the new nationalist circles to stoke an anti-Semitic discourse. This preoccupation with “national consciousness” had other pragmatic implications too. On 26 April 2017, LARICS was inaugurated at the Romanian Academy, occasion on which Ioan-Aurel Pop reaffirmed his ideological credo. The Laboratory for Analysis of the Informational War and Strategic Communication (LARICS) is set to deal mostly with disinformation coming from our revisionist neighbours Russia and Hungary. While the existence of such a structure within the SRI or SIE is natural, in the world of academia its legitimacy is debatable, since it is far too ambiguous in its methods and goals. Especially in the nationalistic interpretation cultivated by intellectuals like Pop. If they do want this, university professors can be the experts of intelligence services, but at public level other types of approaches are needed, meant to deter conflicts, not to stoke them. In brief, the Cluj-based historian’s main idea is that Romania’s statehood is threatened by an ebbing national consciousness, deterred by foreigners and irresponsible locals who propose that Romanians should rather accept their weaknesses and cede the historical initiative to others. However, nationalism, whether moderate or unchained, relies on fictions – a truth on which the most prestigious historians, sociologists and political analysts in the world have already agreed. These fictions must be taken seriously by historians, as creators of history, but identified as fictions with relative legitimacy, and sometimes rather deleterious.
On the other hand, Ioan-Aurel Pop’s career has already more strikingly crossed paths with the political sphere.
In 1994, amid Ion Iliescu’s reign, he was appointed director of the Romanian Cultural Centre in New York. Years later, as a simple member of the CNATCDU, he came to the defence of the then-Premier Victor Ponta, trying to delegitimise the plagiarism accusation levelled against the latter, and he eventually resigned from the helm of the Council – where he had been appointed in the meantime – when the new decision, which was contrary to the Premier, became imminent. But his case must be seen in perspective.
Since 1990, the UBB’s Faculty of History and Philosophy has given plenty of politicians, most of them members of or close to the PSD, or close to the intelligence services. Vasile Dancu – not just minister on multiple occasions but also former director of the SRI Academy’s Doctoral School; Vasile Puscas – former Securitate informant, then chief negotiator for the accession to the EU and minister, Pop’s predecessor in the office in New York; Liviu Maior – PSD minister and the father of former SRI Director and current Romanian Ambassador to the U.S. George Maior; Ioan Bolovan – at one point candidate for the leadership of PSD Cluj, Pop’s deputy at the Centre for Transylvanian Studies and at the UBB rectorate; Adrian Ivan – rector of the SRI Academy; Virgil Tarau – CNSAS Vice President; Andrei Marga. The latter – with a meandering political career, at one point being even President of the PNT-CD, appointed years later head of the ICR by Premier Ponta – was exposed a few years ago, in his own turn, as a former Securitate informant.
But the main question remains: how much did the occult connections from prior to 1989 matter in the careers that followed? Not that the Securitate survived, but certain networks of influence, certain political mentalities and certain ideological loyalties seem to have a far longer past, with threads that sometimes extend prior to 1989.
Meanwhile, the CNSAS wants to punish the historian who published the list, possibly by excluding him from the Council. Maybe it is not by chance that a person who was close to the late C.V. Tudor, the ultra-nationalist leader of the PRM, has just been elected at the helm of the institution.