28 November 1968. The celebration of fifty years since Unification

Period: approx. 1968 | Previous story | Next story

For almost two decades, Communist authorities in Romania were interested exclusively in the history of workers’ movement, completely ignoring national aspects. In the mid-1960s, Romanian traditions and cultural values were recovered, and the historical past started to be perceived again through the national lens. In this context, on 28 November 1968, the anniversary of fifty years of Unification of Transylvania with Romania was celebrated at Alba Iulia.

From 1948, the year of installation of the Communist regime in Romania, and mid-1960s, for almost two decades, the Romanian authorities neglected almost completely the national aspects of history, being focused only on the revelation of social conflicts and the revolutionary role of the working class. During the tendency of ideological relaxation of the Communist regime of Romania of that time the propagandistic value of history was rediscovered. The discourse of the Romanian Communist Party (RCP) became nationalist and anti-Soviet (to the extent possible). In August 1968, Romania refused to participate in the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the troops of the Warsaw Treaty. Moreover, in Bucharest, in front of a square filled with people Nicolae Ceaușescu, general secretary of RCP, condemned in strong words the decision of Moscow of intervening in Czechoslovakia, a fact that turned the Romanian communist leader in a national hero as well as a figure of international politics.

For almost two decades, the Unification of Transylvania with Romania was a taboo subject or was completely distorted. However, in 1968, the Communist authorities from Bucharest decided to celebrate with great splendour the fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Transylvania with Romania. The decision to celebrate this event, although influenced by the repression of the reforming movement in Czechoslovakia, had been in fact anticipated in 1966, when Ceaușescu came to Alba Iulia for the first time, visiting the Coronation Cathedral and the Hall of Unification.

At 8.30 a.m., on 28 November 1968, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer and other party and state leaders arrived at Alba Iulia railway station. They were welcomed by the endless ovations of a crowd of “working people,” Romanians, Hungarians, and Germans, since the solidarity and good understanding between Romanians and the cohabitating minorities of Transylvania was a tirelessly cultivated idea of the RCP. Typical for such ceremonies, the delegation from Bucharest was welcomed with bread and salt, flowers and by young girls dressed in traditional costumes.

Alba County Committee of RCP and the local authorities have directed the reception of the official delegation to the smallest details. An impressive number of people were brought to Alba Iulia, sometimes from quite remote places. Everything was done to insure a grandiose reception of Nicolae Ceaușescu and his delegation, as Alba County had been re-established in February 1968. From the railway station, the official motorcade headed to the Fortress, along streets adorned with state and party flags, and with colourful garlands. Thousands of persons welcomed the special guests with placards and small flags, some dressed in traditional costumes.

At the entrance of Vauban Fortress, near the first gate, was a group of soldiers, whose leader, riding a white horse, played the role of Prince Michael the Brave, symbol of unity of the Romanian people. People wearing Dacian and Roman dress were placed along the route between Gate One and Gate Second, and tens of female alphorn players were placed on the slope of the fortress. Countless inhabitants of Apuseni Mountains wearing traditional dress, welcomed the guests at Horea, Cloșca, and Crișan’s Obelisk. At the Third Gate were more than 300 veterans of the assembly organized on 1 December 1918, while hundreds of pioneers (in Communist Romania, all school children from the second to the eighth grade were pioneers) were waving blue, yellow and red small flags. All these were organized in the music of several fanfares which played the national anthem of Romania and other mobilizing songs, like the Unification Round Dance.

In this enthusiast atmosphere, Nicolae Ceaușescu inaugurated the new museum of Alba Iulia. After the review of the military guards, which gave honour, the communist leader went to the equestrian statue of Michael the Brave, a work by sculptor Oscar Han. He unveiled the statue in front of a numerous public. Then, the delegation visited the Museum of Unification, constructed in 1851-1853, building with more than 100 rooms. The dignitaries were given explanations about the objects on display in several rooms. The Hall of Unification, the place where the 1,228 delegates to the Great National Assembly on 1 December 1918 had decided the Unification of Transylvania to Romania.

A popular assembly was then organized in Custozza Park (today, the Piața Cetății/Fortress’ Square) attended by thousands of locals and people from the surrounding area. Numerous discourses were given from the tribune, where the veterans of the 1918 assembly were invited. The most important discourse was the of the general secretary of RCP, which was received with sincere enthusiasm by the audience. Then, followed a show by teams of artists from Alba County. At the end, the delegation and authorities went to the building of Alba County Committee of RCP, and then finally at the railway station.

With this, the festivities dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of the Unification of Transylvania with Romania ended. Next day, in Bucharest, in the Hall of the Palace of the Socialist Republic of Romania, a jubilee session of the Great National Assembly (Communist time parliament) emphasized again the historical importance of the decision made fifty years earlier. (S.A.)

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