Patriotic Guards (Romania)

Patriotic Guards (Romania)

The Patriotic Guards (Gărzile patriotice) were Romanian paramilitary formations formed during the Communist era, designed to form the additional defense in case of an attack from the outside.


The Guards were formed in 1968, after the August 21 Bucharest speech through which Romanian leader Nicolae Ceauşescu condemned the crushing of the Prague Spring by Soviet forces. Ceauşescu appealed to anti-Soviet sentiments within the general population to ask for resistance against the perceived threat of a similar Soviet maneuver against Romania itself. The nationalist themes he used had their immediate effect in the rallying of large portions of the public, who began organizing and arming themselves under direction of the Romanian Communist Party.

Although the threat was over by the end of the year, the Guards remained a feature of the country's communist structure. They became a permanent addition to the regular military, and compulsory training was introduced for young men and women. For university students, this meant that hours of the curriculum were reserved for shooting drills and other training courses; soon, they were doubled by additional requirements for work in the fields (that was asked from high school and older primary school students, as well as their teachers).

No longer backed by enthusiasm as they had been in the early 1970s, the Guards nonetheless were the basic line of defense against projected invasions. The threat posed by the latter seemed to increase as the regime plunged into isolation, especially after it lost the support of the Western Bloc in the early 1980s. From that point on, the Guards were to become part of the State's apparatus of repression against its own people. During the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Ceauşescu attempted to use them against protesters (notably, in Timişoara). However, the pace of events and the breadth of hostility to his regime outstripped this plan. To no small extent, the people who were meant to be armed in case of the disturbances were in fact the ones causing them.

Place in the official ideology

In the 1980s, Romanian communism took on a militarized form. Ilie Ceauşescu, Romanian Army general and brother of Nicolae, summarized the new traits in his Istoria militară a poporului român ("The Military History of the Romanian People"). The work (soon turned into official dogma) argued that the Romanians had always had the largest standing army in the world—notably, he consistently chose to add up the entire population as present under arms. This constituted a message for the future, since the regime had established a strong (and fallacious) connection with all past forms. As such, the ideology behind the formation of the Guards was rendered as the War of the Entire People military doctrine.


  • Lucian Boia, Istorie şi mit în conştiinţa românească ("History and myth in the Romanian conscience"), Bucharest, Humanitas, 1997.
  • Mihai Retegan, 1968 - Din primăvară până în toamnă ("1968 - From spring to autumn"), Bucharest, RAO, 1998.

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