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December 1989 - Revolution Tour

On December 15th, 1989, the protests in Timişoara trigger the revolution that leads to the ouster of Nicolae Ceausescu and the communist  regime. The Revolution of ‘89 is a decisive moment in Romania’s modern history.

On December 20, 1989, Timişoara is proclaimed the first Romanian city free of communism.
 
revol-ro-smHow has everything started:

In December 1989, the planned eviction of the protestant Hungarian priest Tokes Laszlo from his parish gave birth to a small protest in front of his church, in St. Mary Square in the Iosefin neighborhood. The next day, the situation heated up, the citizens started organizing themselves and marches began to call for more protesters. It soon came to clashes with the repression forces (military, police and secret services), and attacks on the local headquarters of the communist party were carried out.

Ceauşescu ordered fire on December 17. The order was carried out. revol-ge-smBy December 22, the official day of Ceausescu's fall, 73 people had died, and a few hundreds had been wounded.

The shootings didn’t take place only in the historical center. More than half of the martyrs fell in the big neighborhoods of blocks of flats, inhabited by the workers of the big socialist factories. The fights were real urban wars, with tanks chasing the revolutionaries on narrow streets, as well as heavy shooting. As we walk through the “socialist” quarters of the city, we can encounter crosses erected in memory of the heroes.

The massacre on December 17 brought about general agitation. The army refused to shoot and, as the people of Bucharest joined the protests on December 21, the end of the communist regime was imminent. In the general confusion after December 22, another 20 people were killed, and 73 wounded. Moreover, about 1000 people spent a few nights in prison.

Harta traseu Revolutie

The 1989 December Revolution Tour starts on the trail of these events in recent history, answering some questions: “What happened?”, “When?”, “Where”, also following the revolutionarie’s footsteps.

The Association Memorial of the 1989  Revolution 
built more monuments in the hot points of those days:

We start the tour from Iosefin district, in Maria Square from 1 The Reformed Church and the parochial house where, from December 14 and 15, a group of parishioners gathered to protect pastor Tökes Laszlo against expulsion. The pastor was a critic of the regime, but he served a relatively small community. On December 16, the crowd began to rouse, the traffic being blocked. Not far from Maria Square, in Mocioni (Küttl) Square, is one of many monuments dedicated to those days: “Biserica Plângătoare” (“The Weeping Church”) (author Marian Zidariu), in an exterior housing of the Orthodox Church tower.

From Maria Square we go on towards the city center to 2 Traian Bridge. The first battles were fought in the area of this bridge, because during the evening of December 16 troops were sent to disperse the crowd gathered at the Reformed church. After the first clashes on the evening of December 16, from here people marched to “voice” the Revolution in the large neighborhoods, but also to “party county” (nowadays the Prefecture).

3-piata vict-rev-smallBeyond the bridge we soon reach 3 the Victoria Square. The area between the City Hall and the Orthodox Cathedral is one of the “hottest” spots on the Revolution’s map. Since the night of December 16 to 17, people started to organize here and throughout the day of 17th several violent episodes happened. During the afternoon shots started to be fired, and the crowd fled through the parks. During the evening shots were once again fired, without any notice. After the bloodbath on the 17th, on the 18th people started to gather once more around the Cathedral – fire was again opened, even on people gathered on the steps of the Cathedral. This explains the monuments here. Some victims’ memorial plaques are placed on the church walls near the entrance, and in front of the Cathedral there is a modern monument called “Crucificare” (“Crucifixion”). Nearby, in the square behind the summer cinema there is 4 the “Fântâna Martirilor” (“Fountain of the Martyrs”), carved by Victor Gaga.

Across the Victoriei Square (which received its the name following the event) is 5 the Palace of Culture (the Opera). On December 20, the square was taken by
the crowd of people (the army stopped firing, virtually the entire city was on the streets) and from the Opera balcony 6-martirii-smalla clear list of demands was made. It demanded Ceausescu’s withdrawal and prosecution of those responsible for the murders in the preceding days. Across the street from the Opera, on Löfler Palace’s fronton one can still see the traces of bullets fired on December 17. In the market, the music teacher Csizmarik Ladislaus who gave to people Romanian patriotic song texts was also killed. In the park behind the Huniade Castle (Banat Museum), towards Central Hotel, there is 6 Martirii” (“The Martyrs”) monument of renowned sculptor Peter Jecza.

We pass between the Opera and Timişoara Hotel. In the hotel’s parking lot violent fights were fought, like in 7 Timişoara 700” market. On the pedestal of the monument “Omul Ţintă” (“Target Man”) of Bela Szakács (in the square in front of the Misericordian Church) are listed the names of six heroes killed in the area. The family of one of the martyrs raised a small monument on a portion from the fortress’ wall.

We are heading to 8  Libertăţii Square. This area, together with the narrow alleys surrounding it, was the scene of a true street war in every sense of the word.
It is reported that a tank chased the 7-omul tinta-smalldemonstrators through the square. The demonstrators alternately advanced and retreated on and off the streets. The military command wall (on the right side of the square) is the memorial plate of one of the martyrs – this woman was shot at from a distance, without any notice, she and her husband being struck by bullets. Close to this place, on 2B, Oituz Street is the Revolution Memorial Museum (which moved here from the former location, from Emanuil Ungureanu Street) – where documentary material about the events that took place in Romania in those days is stored. A small part of this material is summarized in a short documentary.
The monuments mentioned so far have been raised thanks to the “Revolution Memorial of December 1989” Association, fighting so that the memory of the Timişoara heroes remains in the consciousness of people.

We go on to 10  St. Gheorghe Square. The St. Gheorghe Monument (of Silvia Radu, pedestal by Ş. Călărăşanu) is part of the same series dedicated tothe Revolution. On the pedestal are listed the names of ten children killed in those days – two of them died at only two years old.

10-sf gheorghe-smallSomewhat larger, in Continental Hotel’s parking lot, 11 the “Evoluţie” (“Evolution”) monument reminds of the battles fought by the demonstrators that they wanted to reach 12 the former county seat of P.C.R. (currently the Prefecture). This was the target of true sieges from the revolutionaries ever since the night of December 16: a human pyramid was formed to tear up the party emblem on the wall – a first symbolic victory of the city! Then, on December 20, the demonstrators entered the already devastated building for “talks” with the Prime Minister. The boulevard in front was crowded by thousands of people, and the army had already virtually lost control. As the Prime Minister had no power of decision, people in Timişoara decided to continue the mass protests until the fall of the dictator Ceausescu. A memorial plaque fixed to the Prefecture building reminds these events.

To prevent access to the party headquarters towards the Student Campus troops were placed also on 13 Decebal Bridge. Here many died and were wounded in the sad day of December 17, 1989. Seven people of the ones who started to move towards to the strategic objective “P.C.R. headquarters” died. There were dozens of wounded. One of the wounded recalls: “They shot at us for about three to four minutes, continuous fire”. This was the site of the first victim of the Revolution. In front of the Neptun Baths there is   14 Peter Jecza’s monument “Pietá”.

With this monument we conclude our proposed tour. However, not far from the Neptun Baths, continuing the direction of movement, you will arrive in Traian Square where the monument “Clopotul” (“The Bell”), made by Ştefan Călăraşanu, is dedicated to the battles that happened in this district.

But by far, the most important landmark dedicated to the heroes of the Revolution is 15 The Memorial Complex” from the Lipovei Road cemetery. The crosses there are symbolic –  42 of the victims were transported secretly to Bucharest where they were cremated. Their families were given the explanation that these people “have fled across the border.

We must point out that the fights which resulted in victims did not only happen in central areas of the city. There were heavy fights in the neighborhoods of blocks: Girocului Road, Lipovei Road, Buziaşului Road, etc. Practically, the whole city was a battleground between the population and the repression forces: the military, the militia (communist police) and the secret police (“the Securitate”).

There are also other monuments raised by the Revolution Memorial Association. They worth our attention. They are in other districts of Timisoara, so they are not included on the attached map, but they  can be visited quite easily using the means of public transportation:

  • Deschidere”(“Opening”) – a creation of the famous German sculptor Ingo Glass (born in Timişoara), on Martirilor Road, in the square where the boulevard begins. In the area bloody fights happened with the repression forces sent from the military unit in Giroc. Residents of the Martirilor Road captured six tanks belonging to the army, but 14 people were killed.
  • Somewhat closer to the center there is the students’ reverential monument (author Ştefan Kelemen), in the Student Campus on the Cluj St.
  • At the opposite end of the city, on Lipovei Road you can find “Eroica (artist Paul Vasilescu).
  • And on Take Ionescu Bd. there is the dramatic statue “Învingător” (“Winner”), created by Constantin Popovici..

 

 

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