Florin Sperlea, From the Royal Army to the Popular Army. The Sovietization of the Romanian Military (1948-1955), Bucharest, Ziua Publishing House, 2003, 333 p.

Revista ERASMUS, nr. 14/2003-2005, Bucureşti, Tipografia Media & Marketing, 2005.

Cristina NEDELCU

Florin Sperlea is a young and promising Romanian historian, who few time ago have published his second work. The book called „From the Royal Army to the Popular Army. The Sovietization of the Romanian Military (1948-1955)“ should become a basic tool for students and scholars who intend to study the problem of communist establishment in Romania after the Second World War.
Although, first, the reader may think that this book is concerned only with military structures, he will have the pleasant surprise to discover a deep and a keen critical analysis of the Romanian society during a crucial historical period.
This book has developed, as the author himself testifies, from his PhD thesis, which it was coordinated by Professor Dinu C. Giurescu and it have been very well received when asserted. Thus, the publishing of this project become imperative for our historiography field for many reasons.
First of all, this necessity is due to the lack from the Romanian historiography of an objective work about the military structures at the beginning of communist era. Before 1989 such kind of works preoccupied with military field should’ve answer to the communist regime’s legitimacy needs. Another justification of this book’s importance stands in the fact that it brings into the light many primary sources found by the author in various archives and libraries. All these documents couldn’t have answered to the criterion of an objective and proper analysis during the time of communist regime. Of great importance is also the fact that this book represents the spirit of the new Romanian historiography. It is a demonstration of author’s ability to go beyond simple narration of military and political events up to identify psychological lines, propagandistic models and modalities of persuasion and actions promoted by the totalitarian regimes.
The book is divided in four major parts, a foreword signed by Professor Giurescu, annexes which includes an important selection of unpublished documents and an afterword in English. Sperlea begins his study from 1945, when the army leadership still belonged to old traditional and royal elites and ends it in 1955 when the new „socialist military“, as the Soviet model requested, was in control of every structure.
The first part deals with a presentation of the Romanian society from the end of the Second World War, within the framework of which the military structures had functioned. As a special section of this chapter the author stresses some key concepts and the fact that the sovietization process from Romania took place within a regional system.
The second part is dedicated to the period of effective action developed by the Communist Party from 1948 to 1950 in order „to conquer“ the army. Inside this range of time he establishes chronological phases and describes the model, the doctrine and the type of action which the Communists had followed to achieve the purpose of getting control over military. This period was followed by the phase of inside army action from 1950-1955 at the end of which army’s loyalty belonged to the Party, not to the country.
Florin Sperlea proves that the sovietization process had been a punctilious work made by a minor group — the communists in 1945 represented only a minority — from the Romanian political system, which in the end was successful because of Russian support.
It should be pointed out that the author sets down a very useful methodological approach, which can be helpful for those who study the mechanism of taking power by the communists in other state’s fields. His analysis on the military level is just a schedule of a micro-cosmos, which, in order to understand correctly the sovietization process, can be transpose on the grand level of the whole society.
The book, written in a clear style, easy to understand and to follow, is an inmost examination of a „black“ period in Romanian history, concerned mainly with the evolution of a professional category, but, also, extended to the complex political and propagandist mechanism. Following, it should be pointed out that the author has the ability to perceive and to describe the delicate changes of conception of a generation. This conception change could’ve been one of the reasons of communism’s long life in Romania.


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