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Petru Groza (December 7, 1884 - January 7, 1958) was a Romanianmarker politician, best known as the Prime Minister of the first Communist Party-dominated governments under Sovietmarker occupation during the early stages of the Communist regime in Romania.

Groza emerged as a public figure at the end of World War I as a notable member of the Romanian National Party (PNR), preeminent layman of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and then member of the Directory Council of Transylvania. In 1933, Groza founded a left-wing Agrarian organization known as the Ploughmen's Front (Frontul Plugarilor). The left-wing ideas he supported earned him the nickname The Red Bourgeois.

Groza became Premier in 1945 when Nicolae Rădescu, a leading Romanian Army general who assumed power briefly following the conclusion of World War II, was forced to resign by the Soviet Unionmarker's deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Andrei Y. Vishinsky. Under Groza's term as premier until 1952, Romania's King, Michael I, was forced to abdicate as the nation officially became a "People's Republic". Although his authority and power as Premier was compromised by his reliance upon the Soviet Unionmarker for support, Groza presided over the consolidation of Communist rule in Romania before eventually being succeeded by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej in 1952.

Early life and career

Born as one of the three sons of a wealthy couple in Băciamarker, a village near Devamarker in Transylvania (part of Austria-Hungary at the time), Groza was afforded a variety of opportunities in his youth and early career to establish connections and a degree of notoriety which would later prove essential in his political career. After graduating from the Reformed Church College in Orăştiemarker, he began his Law training in Hungary, studying at the University of Budapest before attending both the University of Leipzigmarker and the University of Berlinmarker.

By the eve of World War I, Groza had completed his studies and returned to Deva to work as a lawyer. In 1918, he emerged on the political scene as a member of the Romanian National Party (PNR) and obtained a position on the Directory Council of Transylvania, convened by ethnic Romanian politicians who had voted in favour of union with Romania; he maintained his office over the course of the following two years.

Throughout this period of his life, Groza established a variety of political connections, working in various Transylvanian political and religious organizations. From 1919 to 1927, for example, Groza obtained a position as a deputy in Synod and Congress of the Romanian Orthodox Church. In the early 1920s, Groza, who had left the PNR after a conflict with Iuliu Maniu and had joined the People's Party, began to serve as the Minister for Transylvania and Minister of Public Works and Communications in the Alexandru Averescu cabinet.

During this period in his life, Groza was able to amass a personal fortune as a wealthy landowner and establish a notable reputation as a prominent layman within the Romanian Orthodox Church, a position which would later make him invaluable to a Romanian Communist Party (PCR) that was campaigning to attract the support of Eastern Orthodox Christians who were the nation's most popular religious group in 1945.

Ascendancy to power

Despite having briefly retired from public life in 1928 after holding a series of political posts, Groza reemerged on the political scene in 1933, founding a peasant-based political organization, the Ploughmen's Front.

Although the movement originally began in opposition to both the increasing levels of debt incurred by Romania's peasants during the Great Depression and the National Peasants' Party's inability to offer assistance to the most marginalized of the peasant class, by 1944 the organization was primarily under the control of the Communists. Since the Communist Party had little more than one thousand official members by 1944, leading Romanian communists were forced to establish a broad coalition of political organizations.

This coalition was of four major front organizations: the Romanian Society for Friendship with the Soviet Union, the Union of Patriots, the Patriotic Defense (a paramilitary wing of the PCR), and, by far the most widely backed by the Romanian populace, Groza's Ploughmen's Front. From his position as the chief political actor in the largest of the Communist front organizations, Groza was able to assert himself in a position of eminence within the Romanian political sphere as the Ploughmen's Front joined the Communist Party to create the National Democratic Front in October 1944 (it also included Mihai Ralea's Socialist Peasants' Party and the Hungarian People's Union, being briefly joined by the Social Democrats, and other minor groups). He was first considered by the Communist Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu for the post of Premier in October 1944.

Groza's prominent position within the National Democratic Front afforded him the opportunity to succeed as premier when, in January,1945, the government under General Nicolae Rădescu met stern opposition from notable Romanian communists Ana Pauker and Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej due to Rădescu's alleged failure to adequately deal with "fascist sympathizers". With the help of Soviet authorities, the Communists soon mobilized workers to hold a series of demonstrations against Rădescu, and by February numerous fatalities had occurred as the demonstrations often exploded into violence. While the communists claimed on tenuous grounds that the Romanian Army was responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians, Rădescu minimized his own popular support, when he declared that the communists were "foreigners without God or a nation". In response, a Soviet delegation consisting of Andrei Y. Vishinsky, the Soviet vice commissioner of foreign affairs, arrived in Bucharest to compel Rădescu to resign and install Groza as premier on March 6, 1945.

The Groza cabinets

To confirm Groza's installment as the Romanian premier, elections were held on November 19, 1946 (see Romanian general election, 1946). Despite the fact that the Ploughmen's Front had become part of a coalition that failed to win a majority in the Grand National Assembly, the rigged elections "confirmed" Groza as premier, much to the protests of the United Statesmarker and the United Kingdommarker who believed that, according to agreements reached at the Yalta Conferencemarker in 1945, only "interim governmental authorities broadly representative of the population", should be supported by the major powers. As a result, Groza's government was permanently estranged from the United States and Great Britain, who nominally supported the waning influence of the monarchist forces under King Michael I.

Despite the grievances of the two powers, communist representation within Groza's government was actually significantly less than that of the other, more traditional Romanian political parties. The leading figures in the Romanian Communist Party, Pauker and Gheorghiu-Dej, advocated that the Groza government retain the façade of a coalition government and ultimately function as a means through which the communist party could win the confidence of the masses, since support for the doctrine in the immediate post-war period was still relatively weak amongst the general populace, with only one thousand party members as of 1945. For this reason, leading communist figures, including both Pauker and Gheorghiu-Dej, did not have official posts within Groza's regime and instead hoped to enact reforms desired by the communist party under the coalition government currently in place. By conflating the successes of the regime with their Party, Pauker and Gheorghiu-Dej hoped to win support for the party and lay the foundations for a more outright communist regime in 1952. Groza, therefore, maintained the illusion of a coalition government, appointing members from various political organizations to posts within his cabinet and outlining his government's immediate goals in broad, non-ideological terms. He declared at a cabinet meeting on March 7, 1945, for example, that the government sought to guarantee safety and order for the population, implement desired land reform policies, and to focus on the "rapid cleansing" of the state bureaucracy, immediately prosecuting war criminals and those responsible for war crimes committed by the wartime Ion Antonescu Fascist government (see Romania during World War II and Romanian People's Tribunals).

As Premier

Within days of becoming premier, Groza delivered his first major success. On March 10, 1945, the Soviet Union agreed to hand over Northern Transylvania, over 45,000 km² (17,400 square miles) of territory which had been handed to Hungarymarker through the 1940 Second Vienna Arbitration. Groza promised that the rights of each ethnic group within the newly acquired territory would be protected (mainly, as a reference to the Hungarian minority in Romania), while Joseph Stalin declared that the previous government under Rădescu had permitted such a large degree of sabotage and terrorism in the region that it would have been impossible to deliver the territory to the Romanians. As a result, only after Groza's guarantee of ethnic minority rights did the Soviet government decide to satisfy the petition of the Romanian government. The acquisition of this territory, nearly fifty-eight percent Romanian in 1945, was hailed as a major accomplishment within the formative stages of the Groza regime.

Groza continued to improve the image of his own government while strengthening the position of the Communist Party with a series of political reforms. He proceeded to eliminate any antagonistic elements in the government bureaucracy and, in the newly acquired Transylvanian territory, removed three city prefects, including that of the region's capital, Clujmarker. The prefects removed were immediately replaced by government officials directly appointed by Groza, so as to strengthen loyalist elements in local government in the region. Groza also promised a series of land reform programs to benefit military personnel which would confiscate and subsequently redistribute all properties in excess of one hundred and twenty five acres in addition to all the property of traitors, absentees, and all who collaborated with the wartime Romanian government, the Hungarianmarker occupiers during Miklós Horthy and Ferenc Szálasi's régimes, and Nazi Germany.

Despite giving the appearance of liberalism by granting women's suffrage, Groza pursued a series of reforms attempting to clamp down on the prominence of politically dissident media outlets in the nation. During the first month of his premiership, Groza acted to close down Romania Nouă, a popular newspaper published by sources close to Iuliu Maniu, leader of the traditional National Peasants' Party who disagreed widely with Groza's attempted reforms. Within a month of his assumption of the premiership, Groza shut down over nine provincial newspapers and a series of periodicals which, Groza declared, were products of those, "who served Fascism and Hitlerism". Groza soon continued this repression by limiting the number of political parties allowed within the state. Although Groza had promised to purge only individuals from the government bureaucracy and diplomatic corps immediately after assuming power, in June 1947 he began to prosecute entire political organizations, as, after the Tămădău Affair, he arrested key members of the National Peasants' Party and sentenced Maniu to life in prison "for political crimes against the Romanian people". By August of that year, both the National Peasants' Party and the National Liberal Party had been dissolved and in 1948, the government coalition incorporated the Romanian Workers' Party (the forced union of communists and Romanian Social Democrats) and the Hungarian People's Union, effectively minimizing all political opposition within the state.

During his term as premier, Groza also clashed with the nation's remaining monarchist forces under King Michael. Although his powers were minimal within Groza's regime, King Michael symbolized the remnants of the traditional Romanian monarchy and, in late 1945, the King urged Groza to resign. The King maintained that Romania must abide by the Yalta accords, allowing the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union to each have a hand in post-war government reconstruction and the incorporation of a broader coalition force he had already organized. Groza flatly rejected the request, and relations between the two figures remained tense over the next few years, with Groza and the King differing on the persecution of war criminals and in the awarding of honorary citizenship of Romania to Stalin, in August 1947. Finally, in December 1947, Gheorghiu-Dej and Groza pressured King Michael to abdicate the throne, abolishing the Romanian monarchy and firmly declaring the state a "People's Republic".

Legacy

After Groza was succeeded by Gheorghiu-Dej in 1952, he occupied the position of chief of state for the next six years until 1958, when he died from complications following a stomach operation. Although never a Communist Party member, Groza had permitted the gradual introduction of a communist regime in Romania. By pretending a limited independence from the Soviets and Communist Party leaders, Groza allowed the Communist Party to develop a more substantial backing and, through his repression of both the media and political organizations, limited any form of opposition or dissent within the state. After ousting the king and declaring the nation a "People's Republic", Groza served to ease the transition towards the later communist regime under Gheorghiu-Dej.

The mining town of Şteimarker was named Dr. Petru Groza after him, a name it kept until after the Romanian Revolution of 1989.

References

Notes

Literature

  • Adrian Cioroianu, Pe umerii lui Marx. O introducere în istoria comunismului românesc ("On the Shoulders of Marx. An Incursion into the History of Romanian Communism"), Editura Curtea Veche, Bucharest, 2005



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