The Archive in Control of its Silences: the Case of the Securitate Archive in Romania

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


Following the collapse of the communist rule in Romania in December 1989, the all-powerful and ubiquitous Securitate (secret police) was dismantled too. For more than four decades, it was an inescapable feature of people’s everyday life, when fear and coercion became intimately lodged in society through the ways in which the Securitate occupied and divided social relationships, especially during the Ceauşescu regime (1965-1989). Despite the interest, accessing one’s (or any) Securitate file(s) was not immediately possible. Unlike other former communist countries that provided access to their secret police archives during the 1990s, the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives (CNSAS) in Romania was only set up in 2000. Fraught with problems and dissatisfaction with the limited access to the files, CNSAS was created to administer the archive and mediate public access to the files. Many of the original files, however, were destroyed, both accidently and unintentionally, suggesting the archive is the collection not only of recorded documents but of silences. This raises questions around the role, power, visibility and accessibility of CNSAS, and the knowledge practices and silences revealed in the files.

Considering the archive not as a source but as a site of knowledge production and concept formation, a repository of and generator of social relationships, the aim of this paper is to examine and reflect on the practices, silences and ideologies of CNSAS, illuminate the lives of the files and ask what they and their contents might tell us that we did not already know about everyday life under Romania’s socialist system. At a time when the future is widely advertised as digital and visual, we need to re-evaluate the function and uses of the archive’s material world and its role in constructing cultural, collective and vernacular memories of the country’s recent past, which this paper seeks to do.
Period24 Jun 2023
Held atQueen Margaret University, United Kingdom