History of Communism in Europe

Volume 14, 2023

Left-Wing Radical Politics and Emergency Powers in Interwar Europe

Corneliu Pintilescu
Pages 89-110

The Impact of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Resort to the State of Siege in Interwar Romania (1918-1933)

Similarly to other European countries, Romania faced multiple and intertwined crises during the interwar period, including successive moments of social turmoil, the activity of its hostile neighbours, the emergence of various far-right groups contesting the liberal order, and the looming spectre of the revolution. Among these threats, the fears of revolution and the intense activity of the Comintern worked both as main causes and discursive tools when the state resorted to emergency powers, which took the form of the state of siege in interwar Romania. By drawing on the files created by the Romanian secret police of that time, I argue that the state-of-siege mechanisms targeted not only those “threats” the state institutions invoked as reasons to justify the resort to emergency powers, but much broader categories of citizens. Several leaders of the political opposition, such as Pantelimon Halippa, or intellectuals involved in defending the civil rights engaged in vivid debates on the risks lurking behind the abuse of emergency powers. Finally, the abusive use of the state of siege worked as a corrosive force against the liberal order of the 1923 Constitution and heavily contributed to the establishment of King Carol II’s dictatorship in 1938.