Communism and religion in Romania



It's generally accepted knowledge that religion was persecuted in Communist Romania with all the cruelty our nightmare of a totalitarian regime was capable of.

Oh, really. That's why the Orthodox Church remained a state institution, financed from the national budget, even during the darkest years of said regime. Funny that.

It's generally accepted knowledge that countless churches were torn down in the same Communist Romania. Hardly anyone remembers the many more churches that were rescued through engineering miracles worthy of steampunk novels: moved wholesale on rails, with locomotives, to be hidden behind modern buildings where the regime didn't mind them. Out of sight, out of mind. On whose money? Why, the state's, of course. Nobody else could finance public works of such size at the time.

(For that matter, hardly anyone remembers the Uranus neighborhood, a unique place of enormous cultural value, that was torn down to make room for Casa Poporului. Or the island of Ada-Kaleh on the Danube, another invaluable piece of living history, that was sunk in the process of building the Iron Gates powerplant. Perhaps because those were largely Jewish and Muslim, respectively.)

Sure, the Communists paid lip service to atheism. A lot, even. But are you going to tell me that Ceauşescu, a semi-literate cobbler's apprentice, born and raised in a village between the two World Wars, was somehow an atheist? Not bloody likely.

Sure, the Communists imprisoned and tortured numerous members of the clergy. People who just so happened to be 1) famous 2) highly educated and 3) outspoken opponents of the regime. You know, just like many academics who had the same fate, and hardly anyone decries their systematic persecution. Academics we never really trusted in the first place. They have a bad habit of challenging faith, you see.

In all this time, nobody touched our numerous Orthodox monasteries throughout the country. They were national treasures, featured in movies and protected with the full force of the law. As kids, we were taken to visit them more than once. By the school. The state school. There was no other kind before 1989.

We have a saying in this country: do as the priest says, not as the priest does. Well, let me turn it on its head: watch what the regime does, not what the regime says. Then you'll see who's really persecuted. Hint: it's probably not whoever yells "persecution" the loudest.

Developed countries, take note. Because these days you're going to where we only just came from.


Tags: politics, history