If you ask Romanians what institution they trust the most they would come up with a surprising answer: the Church. I was always baffled in a way by this answer but is actually the sole trust survivor in the people’s memory in a line of constant deceits.
The Communists were atheists at least in their declared creed. Like in the Russian Revolution, many Romanian communist leaders were Jews educated in Moscow, packaged and exported en-gross in the newly occupied territories. This is a thing that many Romanians would remind you with scorn and disdain any time you mention anything about those times: “they brought us the communism and after that left to Israel and we remained with their mess”. Across Europe people are not as politically correct when they talk about “the others” being them Italians, Germans, French, Hungarians, Russian, Jews or anything else. Wars shifted borders and communities across Europe for centuries and as a result countries grew or were diminished. The revanchist nostalgia of a once greater territory kept alive in the nowadays nationalistic discourses is baffling for any American who has no clue what he would do if his state would get a slice of New Jersey.
The communists wanted to ban religion entirely but soon figured out that with the uneducated masses it was harder to get anything done at the order of the mayor or the party secretary than following the priests’ suggestion. Many priests were defrocked, jailed or killed in the labor camps if they did not play with the regime; especially the ones who had a large following being profoundly spiritual, the monks who were performing miracles who did not fit the scientific materialism of the Commies.
But even if they hated the Christian orthodox priests of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the rulers were even more afraid of the other denominations, Greek-Catholics and Roman-Catholics who had the guts to listen first to the Pope and second to a Party secretary. In order to solve this dilemma the Communists started a campaign of confiscating the properties of the widespread Greek Catholic church of Transylvania, a staunch supporter of independent and nationalist spirit. Nationalism was a very bad word in those times when the country was ordered by the Soviets and the national interest was fully subdued to the Russians’ interests. As a matter of fact the reason the Communist Party was banned in Romania before the war was because they planned a complete surrender of the country to the Soviet Union. In spite of the many years that passed since those times “the love” for the Russians is still very alive in Romania, especially when Putin flexes his flabby muscles. Not surprising that the country is a staunch member of NATO facilitating any type of American military bases on its territory. Better safe than sorry.
The Romanian Orthodox Church took an “ecumenical” advantage of the Greek Catholic Church situation and like in old medieval times did not flinch a bit to enrich itself absorbing the new confiscated properties and with them a plethora of lost souls ready to be saved by converting to the another slice of the same God in the same church building. The Orthodox Church practically used the Communist system to conquer materially and spiritually the country by colluding with the authorities and refusing latter on to give the property back to its entitled owners.
But in spite of everything, in the recent years the Church became the beacon of hope in a deeply corrupt society. With the current justice system revival that make arrests almost every week of the corrupt politicians, the Orthodox Church started to be challenged in trust only by the National Anticorruption Division, (DNA) a surprising apparently non-spiritual challenger. Go figure!
Meanwhile the Jewish community in Romania barely has about 3000 members left in the country. When the pro-Soviet trend was morphed in the 60s to a more nationalistic one, the minorities started to be perceived with mistrust. The Jews lost many of their high power positions and overnight they declared themselves persecuted and applied to immigrate to Israel. The “non-materialistic” Commies, who started their revolution “against the money and the bankers oppression” in order to care of the people, took a “slightly” more materialistic approach and figured out that the best business is to sell some people. So instead of letting them immigrate, the Romanian Jews were literally sold to Israel, like the Germans to Germany, both governments graciously paying to free their co-nationals. So, two vibrant and numerous communities of Romania with old and deeply rooted contributions to the development of the country for centuries vanished in less than 15 years.