The Securitate: social control and repression in Romania

In the 1960s, the Nicolae Ceaușescu regime in Romania had one of the most well-known and effective political police forces there has ever been: the Securitate. For years it set about designing and perfecting a machinery of public repression and social control, to become a sophisticated Big Brother.

Under its control, Romanian citizens could not leave the country, and were subject to constant surveillance. Microphones and phone taps were used, along with the creation of a regime of fear, censorship and repression, under which all citizens were obliged to inform and expose neighbours, friends and relatives. The Securitate adopted a "carrot and stick" approach to recruit an impressive army of spies and grasses. They ultimately numbered more than half a million informers, infiltrating for decades the homes and most intimate conversations of any Romanian who represented the slightest threat to the regime. They even recruited students in secondary school and the final years of primary school.

In 1999 the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) was set up, giving citizens access to tonnes of files, including investigations and criminal proceedings, phone taps and information offered by grasses recruited from all social sectors and levels of intimacy with regard to those under surveillance. The archive without a doubt offers the definitive proof of one of the greatest exercises in social control undertaken by a government in recent European history.

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