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Ministry of Interior

The Ministry of Interior was the primary government organization responsible for maintaining order in Romania. It was one of only three ministries represented in the Defense Council, the highest governmental forum for considering national security issues. It controlled the Securitate, special security troops, and police throughout the country. The ministry's functions ranged widely from identifying and neutralizing foreign espionage and domestic political threats to the Ceausescu regime to supervising routine police work and local fire departments. The Ministry of Interior was organized into a number of directorates at the national level, and it controlled similar activities at the judet and municipal levels. There was a ministry inspectorate general in each judet as well as in Bucharest. The inspectorates general in the judete had subordinate offices in fifty major cities. They were accountable only to the first secretaries of the judet PCR committees and local people's councils as well as the ministry chain of command.

In prewar Romania, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (the precursor of the Ministry of Interior) closely supervised the activities of local governments and courts. The PCR gained control of the ministry in 1946 and filled its ranks with party activists, enabling the party to seize power the next year and consolidate communist rule during the following decade. One of the PCR's first actions was to increase the strength of the police from 2,000 to 20,000 officers who were loyal to the party. Little is known about the activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs after the late 1940s except that it was tightly controlled by the PCR general secretary and directly served his interests. In 1972 a deputy minister of internal affairs, General Ion Serb, was arrested and executed for spying on behalf of the Soviet Union. Serb was allegedly recruited by the Soviet Committee for State Security (Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti--KGB) early in his career during his training in Moscow. The Serb affair led to a purge within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which was renamed the Ministry of Interior, and helped Ceausescu establish control over an important lever of power. In a bizarre 1982 affair, Ceausescu again purged the ministry, dismissing scores of officials who allegedly practiced transcendental meditation. Among those who lost their positions was a deputy minister of the interior, Major General Vasile Moise.

The Directorate for Penitentiaries operated Romania's prison system. In 1989 the prisons had a notorious reputation for mistreating inmates. Major prisons were located in Aiud in Alba judet, Jilava near Bucharest, Gherla in Cluj judet, Rahova, and Drobeta-Turnu Severin, and political prisoners were known to be confined in each of these institutions. Others may have been held in psychiatric hospitals. The Ministry of Interior's Service K exercised wide countersubversion authority in the prison system, beating dissidents, denying them medical attention, implanting microphones, censoring their mail to obtain incriminating evidence against them and their associates, and reportedly even administering lethal doses of toxic substances to political prisoners.

The Directorate for Militia and the Directorate for Security Troops controlled the routine police and paramilitary forces of the Ministry of Interior respectively. The police and security troops selected new recruits from the same annual pool of conscripts that the armed services used. The police performed routine law enforcement functions including traffic control and issuance of internal identification cards to citizens. Organized in the late 1940s to defend the new regime, in 1989 the security troops had 20,000 soldiers. They were an elite, specially trained paramilitary force organized like motorized rifle (infantry) units equipped with small arms, artillery, and armored personnel carriers, but their mission was considerably different.

The security troops were directly responsible through the Minister of the Interior to PCR General Secretary Ceausescu. They guarded important installations including PCR judet and central office buildings and radio and television stations. The Ceausescu regime presumably could call the security troops into action as a private army to defend itself against a military coup d'etat or other domestic challenges and to suppress antiregime riots, demonstrations, or strikes. To ensure their loyalty, security troops were subject to intense political indoctrination and had five times as many political officers in their ranks as in the armed services. They adhered to stricter discipline than in the regular military, but they were rewarded with a better standard of living.

The National Commission for Visas and Passports controlled travel abroad and emigration. In 1989, travel and emigration were privileges granted by the regime, not civil rights of citizens. As a rule, only trusted party or government officials could travel abroad and were required to report to the Securitate for debriefing upon their return. Prospective emigrants faced many bureaucratic obstacles and harassment at the hands of the Securitate.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:54:20 ZULU