The history of the student movement in Romania
Without wishing to present you a systematic history of the student movement, you have in the following lines presentations of some important stages and of some concrete cases of development of the student movement in Romania. Although it covers only a small part of what students have accomplished over the past 130 years, in the following lines you will see relevant examples of the state of the student movement over time.
The student movement has always been a constant in modern university life, and has been a free form of expression for Romanian students.
In general, the student movement played an important civic and social role, and was the vanguard of all the progressive movements of an era.
The first universities appeared in Iasi in 1860 and Bucharest in 1864. Along with them came the first student societies or clubs, copied from the Western model.
These early student organizations focused on the educational-professional side, similar to a scientific club or circle, defended the most progressive ideas of the time, as seen by students, published their own publications and magazines, and organized cultural events or protests, but rarely with social demands.
The maturity of the pre-war student movement and the emphasis on nationalism
As a result of the formation of the unitary national state, all the national wishes of the Romanians were achieved. But the formation of Greater Romania also brought a series of changes to the student movement and the environment in which it took place. These changes include:
- the dramatic increase in the number of higher education institutions: Universities in Bucharest, Iasi, Cluj and Chisinau and academies, colleges, faculties and polytechnics in Timisoara, Oradea, Chisinau, Galati, Constanta, Craiova, Brasov or Sibiu;
- the politicization of a part of the student movement and the emergence of student organizations of political parties;
- the emergence of nationalism as the main value in the student movement;
- the emergence of the student movement at national and European level, as well as of youth exchanges between states;
- the emergence of student organizations of national minorities.
Overall, the interwar student movement fell prey to the far right. This does not mean that student organizations have not continued to ensure good educational conditions for students at the college / university level, that they no longer publish journals and treatises, or that they do not fight for students' rights.
But one incident galvanized students to such an extent that it sparked an anti-Semitic movement in the student organization that would last more than 20 years.
Positive civic attitudes of students
On the other hand, there was real support from students for civic and social action in support of disadvantaged sections of the population, especially poor peasants. Thus, there is a prolonged series of actions in support of these categories, of which the most representative are those carried out by the royal student teams.
Abandoned due to the war, the activity of the royal student teams began in 1934, developed with remarkable results, and was finally strengthened by law in 1938.
The Communist period
During the communist period, all forms of student movement are prohibited, and the only forms of representation of young people and students will remain those sanctioned by the state - UTC Communist Youth Union, until 1965 Union of Working Youth (esc) and UASCR Union of Communist Student Associations in Romania .
Obviously, there was a student dissent movement, which began in the 1940s, when dozens of students were arrested, beaten, expelled for their political beliefs. There were student strikes in 1946, and even 1948, but after that date any dissident movement was severely suppressed.
Hundreds and thousands of students were persecuted for their convictions, with security torture, expulsions and deportations to the canal (both in the 1950s when the first canal was established and in the 1970s and 1980s in the second) being the order of the day. Those who were not party members had minimal chances of academic achievement.
Student protests in 1956, Bucharest
It was the students who led the first major dissent movement in the history of communist Romania. This was the only major reaction in Romania to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
On October 28, 1956, he started broadcasting, on different wavelengths, a radio station, which was entitled “Future Romania. The voice of resistance. " There is no information on the location of this clandestine station, one of the hypotheses being that it was located in Yugoslavia. The position, considered nationalist, presented the demands of students, including:
- the return of the abducted provinces, Bessarabia and Bukovina;
- the removal of the Stalinists from Romania who compromised communism and brought fear and hunger to the country.
Under the conditions of the brutal repression of the Hungarian revolution by the Red Army, the organization of another demonstration in Bucharest had no chance of success.
However, party bodies immediately turned to crackdowns to prevent further similar potential actions in the future. A whole series of arrests followed, with many of those investigated saying they had been brutally beaten.
Although the 1956 protest movements in Bucharest, Cluj and Timisoara were of crucial importance, students will have to wait another 33 years before they can unleash their energies to help build democracy. But even then, the fight will be tough…
The modern student movement
Anti-communist dissent increased until, in 1989, the context allowed the communist regime to be overthrown. The collapse of communism allowed the revival of visible student movements.
The anti-communist revolution of 1989 was the strongest anti-communist movement in Central and Eastern Europe. And a decisive role in its success was played by the students, who were often at the forefront of the protests. The student from Timisoara was, perhaps, the most important author of the 1989 Revolution.
The University Square phenomenon
December 21 · After a demonstration organized by Ceausescu, which resulted in protests, the youth demonstrates against the communist regime on the streets of the Capital. Several thousand young people, including many students, gather in University Square, demanding the overthrow of the communist regime, the resignation of the state leadership, free elections. The population of the Capital is called to revolt. Barricades are being erected. Students of the University participate, together with colleagues from other higher education institutions, together with students and young people from Bucharest, in the demonstration in the University Square.
December 22, in the morning · The anti-communist revolt acquires mass dimensions. The army joins the demonstrators. The youth of Bucharest, supported by the Army, occupy the Palace Square. The headquarters of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (the current headquarters of the Senate) is taken by storm. Dictator Ceausescu flees and, on the same day, the communist state collapses.
December 23 · At the University of Bucharest, an initiative group is mobilized declaring the establishment of a national student organization, called the "Students' League". The organization is immediately organized at the national level, with branches at the level of the institute of higher education. Representatives of the initiative group launch calls for the organization and unity of the student movement.
December 26-28 · Numerous colleagues from various universities in Bucharest and in the country join the group's call for the formation of the Students' League. Elections are held following the adoption of the first statute of the LS and the first groups of provisional representatives are appointed. The first branches of the league: University of Bucharest, Bucharest Agronomic Institute, Constanţa Civil Marine Institute, Bucharest Institute of Physical Education and Sports, Constanţa Institute of Sub-Engineers.
January · The neo-communist orientation of the FSN leadership is increasingly evident. The first rallies against the "front" begin in Bucharest, with many members of the Student League protesting. · The process of organizing the League continues. They become members of the League of Students in almost all higher education institutions (including military institutions).
January 21 · The first demonstration organized in the University Square, after December 1989. On the occasion of the month of the December insurrection, the sacrifice of young people is commemorated and the finding and punishment of the guilty is demanded. The league opens the University Balcony for the first time.
April 24 · University Square protesters are violently attacked by police forces. On the afternoon of the same day, the Student League officially joins the demonstration. The balcony of the University is reopened, which will be, from that moment, the tribune of the anti-communist expression of the demonstration. This decision by the University Students' League marks the beginning of what will be called the "University Square" phenomenon.
The perimeter near the University is declared the "Free Zone of Neo-Communism", the "zero kilometer" of the post-communist democratic expression in Romania. The "border" of this territory is fixed by the building of the University and the Faculty of Architecture and has as peripheral limits, the intersection, vital hub of the city, the Intercontinental, which symbolically expresses the European and international opening, the line of the former barricade of December 21, 1989. University, barricade invested with sacred meanings, place of the sacrifice of the young people raised then against communism.
The phenomenon of University Square acquires national dimensions, in the other university centers (Iaşi, Constanţa, Cluj, Timişoara, Braşov etc.) being organized similar demonstrations and manifestations. Students, teachers, associations and student and youth organizations from all over the world show solidarity with Romanian students.
The phenomenon of University Square has also radiated to neighboring countries. Representatives of students in Sofia and Belgrade contacted the Student League and used the model of the demonstration in the University Square, later launching similar demonstrations to challenge the communist power in their countries.
May 20, 1990 · FSN wins general election after misinformation and fraudulent manipulation of public opinion. The consecration by "free" elections of the presidency of Ion Iliescu and of the FSN government led by Petre Roman triggers one of the darkest periods in the history of modern Romania.
May 24 · Considering that the demonstration has come to an end and its message has been conveyed, the Student League, together with the Association of Architects Students, the December 21 Association and the Independent Group for Democracy, ceases to participate in the demonstration.
May 24 - June 12 · Demonstrators remain in the Square, few in number, who continue the protests.
June 12/13 · The violent campaign launched by FSN against the demonstration in the University Square enters the final phase: direct aggression. Based on a plan drawn up at the highest level, the police force brutally intervenes on the night of June 12-13. The few demonstrators and hunger strikers who were still in the Square are brutalized and arrested. Police break into the Institute of Architecture, arresting students working in workshops. The president of the League is picked up from his home and detained, in a state of arrest, at a police station.
June 13 · The Students' League declares a strike and demands the release of the arrested students. Students barricade themselves in the University building. Meanwhile, in the Square, provocative groups are acting. With the help of "law enforcement" two buses are set on fire. After 1 pm, the arrested students are released. "Attacks" are being staged on some public institutions (TVR, Ministry of Interior). In the afternoon, from the balcony of the University, the representatives of the League draw the attention of the several thousand people gathered in the Square to the provocative nature of the respective actions and urge the demonstrators not to be drawn into violent actions. In the evening of the same day, Ion Iliescu will call on the "working people" to intervene and make "order" in the University Square.
June 14-15 · More than 10,000 miners arrive in Bucharest. Accompanied by representatives of the FSN and the Government, in collaboration with the police, they trigger one of the most barbaric political repressions that the current Romanian society has experienced. Students in the building are brutally assaulted. Miners destroy laboratories, classrooms and devastate League headquarters. Hundreds of students, many in serious condition, are arrested and detained in camp conditions outside the city (at Magurele) and at various police stations.
July 2 · The first National Student Congress takes place in Bucharest after December 1989. It is decided to continue the fight against the neo-communist forces.
July 13 · More than 200,000 people take part in the "White March" organized by the Students' League in Bucharest to demand the release of those arrested a month ago.
August-November · In universities across the country the vast majority of students, and virtually all significant student organizations, have an explicit anti-communist and anti-FSN orientation.
1991 - Reorganization of the Students' League. The former subsidiaries are now organizations with legal personality and distinct statutes, members of the confederation.
At the same time, the Student League's attempt to establish itself as a national student organization ceases. From then on, the model most used to represent the student movement at the national level will remain that of the student confederation, or of coordinating councils composed of representatives of all centers (to coordinate major strikes).
Post-December student movement, national events
The confederal model of organization at the national level began to be built in the years 1992-1993, when the attempt to create the National Union of Independent Students - UNIS took place. All these models have failed without compromising the success of the annual strikes that took place from 1993 to 1999.
Thus, in 1995, the largest student strike in the history of Romania took place, with 20,000 students taking to the streets in the center of Timişoara alone! These strikes all resulted in more or less useful protocols. However, the one in 1995 also influenced the Education Law, thus having a much stronger impact than other protest movements in the past. A joint statement of all the striking student organizations was adopted on October 20-29. The National Strike Committee is formed and for the first time the idea appears and the National Alliance of Student Organizations in Romania is formed.
These strikes were coordinated by committees made up of delegates from each center, which often led to inefficiency. Governments have learned very quickly to speculate on this decentralized structure by offering "advantages" to local leaders or certain centers.
Formation of ANOSR - National Alliance of Student Organizations in Romania
The idea of ANOSR has its roots in the student social movements of 1995, when local leaders felt the need for national coordination, but the structure is outlined later, during the student movements of 1998.
In these conditions, on March 30, 1999, in Timişoara, on the occasion International Student Week it was established to convene a constituent General Assembly in which all interested organizations were invited to participate in building a National Student Alliance. The 24 organizations present had extensive debates on the status, organization and structure of this federation.
The resulting structure in this first phase was one focused on the rapid resolution of social problems, being organized rather as a network of information and urgent mobilization. We can say that at this initial moment one could not speak of an independent federation, but rather of an eminently union structure.
The end of 1999 represented for ANOSR a baptism of "fire" due to the wide social movements in waves, at which point we proved that we are able to represent and mobilize tens of thousands of students on the streets of more than 70% in Romanian universities.
March 2000 - Obtaining legal personality
From the first moments, the opposition of the government was obvious and was going to become more and more open, starting from the organization of another student meeting in parallel and ending with the harassment of justice. This situation made us even more ambitious in order to obtain legal status.
Without the approval of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, with the approval of the Ministry of National Education obtained in court, in the fight with the judges and with the documents prepared for Strasbourg, we managed to obtain in March 2000, when we had no hope, legal personality, through a decision of the Supreme Court of Justice.