Review on Elena Dragomir, “Romania’s participation in the Agricultural Conference in Moscow, 2-3 February 1960”

Elena Dragomir, “Romania’s participation in the Agricultural Conference in Moscow, 2-3 February 1960.”  Cold War History 13:3 (August 2013):331-351.  DOI:  10.1080/14682745.2013.768068.

Review by Mihai Croitor, Babeş-Bolyai University, Romania

Initially published on H-Diplo.

On the Romanian historiographic front, the question concerning the origins of Romanian ‘dissidence’ inside the communist bloc has been central. This concern was triggered by the declassification over the past few years of an impressive number of documents from the NationalCentral Historical Archives (ANIC) in Bucharest, which has allowed researchers to undertake an elaborate investigation of communism in Romania. Consequently, Romanian and international historiography has witnessed the publication of studies and articles of exceptional scientific probity. This is also the case for Elena Dragomir’s article under review.

From the very beginning I must say that Dragomir’s article is an excellent one. Based on an impressive number of unpublished documents (from ANIC), Dragomir’s article is structured into five distinct sections. The first section bears on the historiography of the topic, while the origin of ‘specialisation’ inside the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) is discussed in the second part. By far the most consistent sections of the paper, as the author admits, the third and the fourth parts refer to the Agricultural Conference (held in Moscow on 2-3 February, 1960), and the Sofia session of the Comecon Commission for Agriculture (12-14 May, 1960). The last part sums up the conclusions.

The research study carried out by Dragomir has several merits. On the one hand, she analyses unpublished documents which have not been used before in studies and articles addressing a similar topic. On the other hand, the information gathered from documents is correctly structured, thus allowing the author to think out an original interpretation. In my opinion, the main merit of Dragomir’s study consists in identifying a behavioral pattern of the Romanian delegations throughout the different Comecon conferences they attended. Hence, concerning the background of the Agricultural Conference organized in February 1960, the author notes: “Romanian experts, economists, ministers, and other low-ranked representatives participating in the sessions of different CMEA commissions or in bilateral economic negotiations had already formulated Romania’s opposition to specialisation as early as 1958 or 1959, but the party and state leaders participating in top-level bloc gatherings usually refrained from taking an openly different position from the rest of the bloc”(336).

Dragomir points out to the fact that in the course of the Agricultural Conference, despite the fact that the other communist leaders from Central and Eastern Europe embraced Soviet ideas concerning the agricultural specialisation, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej , First Secretary of the Romanian Workers’ Party (RWP), “made no reference to specialisation, arguing that the development of Romania’s agriculture had been secured after the Second World War by placing industrialisation, and especially the development of heavy industry, at the basis of Romania’s economy” (338-339). Unsurprisingly, in line with the behavioral pattern identified by Dragomir, the next day Alexandru Bârladeanu and Sergiu Vrejba “openly and firmly declared Romania’s opposition” (339). Although they were aware of the fact that the Kremlin “was the initiator and main supporter of the bloc agricultural specialisation” (341), the delegation of the RWP in Moscow “observed that Nikita Khrushchev formulated no objection to their opposition” (341).

Unquestionably, as Dragomir underlines, the concealed opposition (adopted by Gheorghiu-Dej) and the overt one (embraced by experts and economists in the Comecon commission for Agriculture) in 1960 did not lead to a serious degradation of the Romanian-Soviet relations. This was quite obvious during the Conference of the communist and workers’ parties held in Bucharest (24-26 June 1960) in which Gheorghiu-Dej defended the anti-Chinese rhetoric advocated by Khrushchev.[1] This behavior displayed by the Romanian leader was triggered by the attempt to pull Romania onto the industrialisation path. Hence, during the Third Congress of the RWP, in the presence of Nikita Khrushchev, Gheorghiu-Dej introduced a five-year economic plan and a prospective fifteen-year one aiming at the development of industry (heavy industry in particular).[2] According to Elena Dragomir, the events taking place in Bucharest in June 1960 can be summarized as follows: “the Soviet leader did not criticize or oppose the RWP’s Five Year Plan, while the Romanian leader supported the Soviets in their emerging dispute with the Chinese leadership” (349). The author’s statement is entirely true, but I would like to add that three years later the Romanian authorities came to regret the position that they defended in Bucharest in June 1960 and later try to exonerate.[3]

I always wondered why, in spite of the initial disagreements in the Comecon, Romanian dissidence inside the communist bloc emerged no sooner than 1962.[4] In fact, during the Moscow Conference of the Comecon member state representatives, which was held between 6-7 June, 1962, Gheorghiu-Dej acted in line with the same behavioral pattern identified by Dragomir as in February 1960; namely he refrained in his speech from addressing the Romanian-Soviet differences concerning the issue of ‘specialization’[5], in spite of the repeated calls made by Khrushchev stressing the need to put in place the Soviet integrationist plans. One wonders how the June 1962 Conference differed from the February 1960 Conference. A likely response, based also on the behavioral pattern identified by Dragomir, lies in the firm, almost imperative stance adopted by the Soviets in favor of ‘specialisation’ inside the Comecon in June 1962.[6] Moreover, the tense visit to Romania (between 18-25 June, 1962)[7] of the Soviet delegation (headed by Nikita Khrushchev) and the revival of the Soviet integrationist plans (in September 1962)[8] convinced the RWP leader to perform a radical reconfiguration of the Romanian foreign policy. This was made in two stages: first, assuming the diplomacy of disengagement towards the Sino-Soviet ideological dispute and, second, setting up the basis of a Sino-Romanian rapprochement.

In conclusion, Dragomir’s article represents an excellent scientific contribution casting light upon events which are less known in Romanian and international historiography, but which contributed, eventually, to Romania’s detachment from Moscow.

Mihai Croitor is a lecturer at Babeş-Bolyai University, Faculty of History and Philosophy. He received his Ph.D. (2009) at Babeş-Bolyai University. His most recent books are: România şi conflictul sovieto-chinez (1956-1971) (Cluj-Napoca, Editura Mega, 2009); În umbra Kremlinului: Gh. Gheorghiu-Dej şi geneza Declaraţiei din Aprilie 1964 (Cluj-Napoca, Editura Mega, 2012).

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H-Diplo Article Reviews

http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/reviews/No. 438

Published on 13 December 2013

————-

H-Diplo Article Review Editors:  Thomas Maddux and Diane LabrosseWeb and Production Editor: George Fujii Commissioned for H-Diplo by Thomas Maddux

NOTES:

[1] National Central Historical Archives (hereafter, ANIC), CC of the RWP, Foreign Relations Section, file 35/1960, vol. I, 4-166.

[2] “Directivele Congresului al III-lea al PMR cu privire la planul de dezvoltare a economiei nationale pe anii 1960-1965 si la schita planului economic de perspectiva pe 15 ani”, in Congresul al III-lea al Partidului Muncitoresc Român (Bucureşti: Editura Politica, 1960), 645-688.

[3] ANIC, CC of the RWP, Foreign Relations Section, file 94/1963, 3-32.

[4] Romanian and international historiography count several opinions about the exact moment when the Romanian dissidence inside the communist bloc emerged (1956, 1958, 1962 or 1964). In my opinion, it started after the Conference of the Comecon member states of June 6-7, 1962.

[5] ANIC, CC of the RWP, Office, file 29/1962, 255-272.

[6] ANIC, CC of the RWP, Foreign Relations Section, file 33/1962, vol. I, 5-50.

[7] ANIC, CC of the RWP, Foreign Relations Section, file 39/1962, vol. I, 65-257; vol. II, 2-160.

[8] ANIC, CC of the RWP, Foreign Relations Section, file 28/1964, vol. II, 129.

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