Secrets and Truth: Ethnography in the Archive of Romania's Secret Police (The Natalie Zemon Davis Annual Lecture Series Book 7)

Secrets and Truth: Ethnography in the Archive of Romania's Secret Police (The Natalie Zemon Davis Annual Lecture Series Book 7)

Katherine Verdery

Language: English

Pages: 311

ISBN: 2:00282431

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Nothing in Soviet-style communism was as shrouded in mystery as its secret police. Its paid employees were known to few and their actual numbers remain uncertain. Its informers and collaborators operated clandestinely under pseudonyms and met their officers in secret locations. Its files were inaccessible, even to most party members. The people the secret police recruited or interrogated were threatened so effectively that some never told even their spouses, and many have held their tongues to this day, long after the regimes fell.

With the end of communism, many of the newly established governments—among them Romania’s—opened their secret police archives. From those files, as well as her personal memories, the author has carried out historical ethnography of the Romanian Securitate. Secrets and Truths is not only of historical interest but has implications for understanding the rapidly developing “security state” of the neoliberal present.

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traitor, Tudoran’s makes him a dissident, mine makes me a CIA agent, and countless other people’s files make them other kinds of enemy. Files can also make “informers” out of people who staunchly deny that they ever held this role. For example, the Czechoslovak StB created collaborator cards simply from making contact with someone, even if that person refused to collaborate with them. One might argue that in this kind of “making up people,” the files are not fully agents but mere accomplices.

12:00:59 in a secret society different from that of other Party members. Finally, if we return to Murphy’s vision of secret societies as means of accumulating power and authority by creating dependent clients, we might see the Securitate’s secret society as a form of clientelism, which insulated superior officer-patrons’ control over their lower-level clients from those of other would-be patrons in the Party hierarchy. Initially, secrecy would have insulated the NKVD/KGB and the Securitate from

assist its practitioners in maintaining their position in the competitive environment. Even though secrecy was official practice in many areas of Romanian society, the Securitate was the institution that had come to monopolize these techniques most suc- 136 NZ2_book____ok.indd 136 2013-11-12 12:01:01 cessfully. (Might it be that the 1971 law on the state secret, by making “the entire people” the guarantor of secrecy, intentionally infringed on the Securitate’s monopoly of this exclusionary

NZ2_book____ok.indd 149 2013-11-12 12:01:02 “Even now when I hear a car engine I’m afraid, because the Secu used to be the only ones with cars.”138 Years of urinating in his pants at the sound of an automobile had marked him permanently. Fear was also an effect of the invisibility that s­ ecrecy enabled. The Securitate’s invisibility made it seem omnipresent; like Czechoslovakia’s StB, described by Williams and Deletant, it “relied not on random terror, but on a reputation for prevalence,”139

both the Party and his job, the competitive relations between the Party and Securitate were decisively resolved in the Party’s favor, and the interorganizational environment acquired greater stability. The provisional equilibrium achieved by 1970 applied chiefly to relations among the Soviets, the Romanian Party, and the Securitate. Relations within the Romanian intelligence apparatus, however, were far from stable. As is true in many secret services around the world,36 frictions continually

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