Armistice Negotiations and Soviet Occupation
By mid-1943 the leaders of Romania's semi-legal political opposition were in secret contact with the Western Allies and attempting to negotiate the country's surrender to Anglo-American forces in order to avoid Soviet occupation. Mihai Antonescu, Romania's foreign minister, also contacted the Allies at about the same time. Western diplomats, however, refused to negotiate a separate peace without Soviet participation, and the Soviet Union delayed an armistice until the Red Army had crossed into the country in April 1944.
In June 1943 the National Peasants, National Liberals, Communists, and Social Democrats, responding to a Communist Party proposal, formed the Blocul National Democrat (National Democratic Bloc--BND), whose aim was to extricate Romania from the Nazi war effort. On August 23 King Michael, a number of army officers, and armed Communist-led civilians supported by the BND locked Ion Antonescu into a safe and seized control of the government. The king then restored the 1923 constitution and issued a cease-fire just as the Red Army was penetrating the Moldavian front. The coup speeded the Red Army's advance, and the Soviet Union later awarded Michael the Order of Victory for his personal courage in overthrowing Antonescu and putting an end to Romania's war against the Allies. Western historians uniformly point out that the Communists played only a supporting role in the coup; postwar Romanian historians, however, ascribe to the Communists the decisive role in Antonescu's overthrow.
Michael named General Constantin Sanatescu to head the new government, which was dominated by the National Peasant Party and National Liberal Party. Sanatescu appointed Lucretiu Patrascanu, a Communist Party Central Committee member, minister of justice. Patrascanu thus became the first Romanian communist to hold high government office.
The Red Army occupied Bucharest on August 31, 1944. In Moscow on September 12, Romania and the Soviet Union signed an armistice on terms Moscow virtually dictated. Romania agreed to pay reparations, repeal anti-Jewish laws, ban fascist groups, and retrocede Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union. Representatives of the Soviet Union, the United States, and Britain established an Allied Control Commission in Bucharest, but the Soviet military command exercised predominant authority. By the time hostilities between Romania and the Soviet Union ended, Romania's military losses had totaled about 110,000 killed and 180,000 missing or captured; the Red Army also transported about 130,000 Romanian soldiers to the Soviet Union, where many perished in prison camps. After its surrender, Romania committed about fifteen divisions to the Allied cause under Soviet command. Before the end of hostilities against Germany, about 120,000 Romanian troops perished helping the Red Army liberate Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
The armistice obligated Romania to pay the Soviet Union US$300 million in reparations. Moscow, however, valued the goods transferred as reparations at low 1938 prices, which enabled the Soviet Union to squeeze two to three times more goods from Romania than it would have been entitled to at 1944 prices. The Soviet Union also reappropriated property that the Romanians had confiscated during the war, requisitioned food and other goods to supply the Red Army during transit and occupation of the country, and expropriated all German assets in the country. Estimates of the total booty reach the equivalent of US$2 billion.
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