During their Eastern Front offensive of 1944, Soviet troops occupied Romania. The northwestern part of Moldavia was occupied through fighting from May to August, while Romania was still an ally of Nazi Germany. The rest was occupied after Romania changed sides in the war, as a result of the royal coup launched by King Michael on August 23, 1944. On that date, the King announced that Romania had unilaterally ceased all military actions against the Allied forces, had accepted the Allied armistice offer, and had entered war against the Axis Powers. As no formal armistice offer existed, the Red Army occupied most of Romania as enemy territory prior to the signature of the Moscow Armistice of September 12, 1944.
The armistice convention and then the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 gave a legal basis to the Soviet military presence in Romania, which lasted until 1958,reaching a peak of some 615,000 in 1946.
Soviet authors and the 1952 Constitution of Romania referred to the events of 1944 as the "liberation of Romania by the glorious Soviet Union". However, most Romanian and Western sources use the term "Soviet occupation of Romania," some applying it to the whole period from 1944 to 1958.
After having withdrawn from Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina following the June 1940 Soviet Ultimatum, Romania allied with Nazi Germany and declared war on the Soviet Union. Romanian troops, placed under the German High Command, entered World War II in 1941, as part of Operation Barbarossa. After reoccupying the territory annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, Romania also occupied Southern Ukraine all the way to the Southern Bug. However Romania's eastern campaign ended in disaster, notably at Stalingrad.
By the end of 1943, the Red Army had liberated most of the Soviet territory, advancing westward from its borders to defeat Nazi Germany and its allies. It was in this context that the Soviet forces crossed into Romania and occupied Northern and Eastern Moldavia.
On August 23, 1944 King Michael launched a coup d'état, overthrowing the pro-Nazi government of Ion Antonescu, and putting Romania's Army on the side of the Allies. As a result, King Michael was spared the fate of another former German ally, Prince Kyril, Regent of Bulgaria, executed by the Soviets in 1945. As a matter of fact, King Michael was the last monarch behind the Iron Curtain to lose his throne, on December 30, 1947.
The coup speeded the Red Army's advance into Romania, and gave the Romanian Army the chance to liberate the country from the German occupation. In the absence of an actual signed armistice, the Soviet troops continued to treat the Romanians as a hostile force. The armistice was signed three weeks later, on September 12, 1944, "on terms Moscow virtually dictated." The coup effectively amounted to a "capitulation", an "unconditional "surrender" to the Soviets and the rest of the Allies. During that time, between 114,000 and 160,000 Romanian soldiers were taken as prisoners of war by the Soviets without any fight as result of the cease fire order given by King Michael, and sent on foot to camps in the Soviet Union; about a third of them perished on the way. By September 12, the Red Army already controlled much of the Romanian territory. Under the Armistice Agreement between Romania and the Allies, Romania subjected itself to an Allied Control Commission, consisting of the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom, while the Soviet military command de-facto exercised predominant authority. Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina were again incorporated into the Soviet Union.
The plenipotentiary signatories to the armistice as indicated therein were:
|May 8, 1945||80,000|
|November 1, 1945||500,000|
|January 4, 1946||420,000|
|March 1, 1946||615,000|
|June 1, 1946||400,000|
|November 1, 1946||240,000|
|1947||60,000 – 130,000|
|May 1 – July 1, 1948||35,000|
|October 1, 1948||32,000|
|July 1, 1949||28,000|
|October 1, 1949||19,000|
|January 1, 1950||32,000|
|April 1, 1950||33,000|
| September 1, 1950 –|
On November 8, 1945, King Michael's name day, an anti-communist demonstration in front of the Royal Palace in Bucharest was met with force, resulting in dozens of killed and wounded. Soviet officers restrained Romanian soldiers and police from firing on civilians, and Soviet troops restored order.
The estimated strength of Soviet forces in Romania (including air, navy, ground, and security troops), from VE Day to 1952, appears in the table to the right.
During the second part of 1946, more than half of the frontline strength of the Soviet Air Forces was stationed outside the USSR, with the largest portion in Poland and Romania (2,500 planes in each country). The troop levels surged to a high of 615,000 in March 1946, but were drawn down after the conclusion of the Peace Treaty in 1947. By the end of 1946, Soviet units were concentrated in five areas: Craiova–Slatina, Sibiu–Alba-Iulia, Constanţa, and Brăila–Focşani. Troop levels reach a relatively stable level from May 1948 until October 1956: two full divisions, plus supporting units adding up to roughly a third division.
With the Austrian State Treaty in 1955 the reason for the presence of troops as stated in the Paris Peace Treaties ceased to exist, but Premier Gheorghiu-Dej announced the troops would stay as long as there are foreign soldiers in West Germany.
Soviet troops in Romania were used to suppress the Hungarian Revolution in November 1956. Romania aided and abetted the attack on Hungary by permitting Soviet troops to cross its territory to the Hungarian border, and by affording them additional bases; Soviet troop facilities inside Romania were off limits to all Romanians at the time.
|Land forces||120,000 officers and troops|
|Anti-aircraft forces||5,000 officers and troops|
|Naval forces||5,000 officers and troops|
|Air forces||8,000 officers and troops|
|Total||138,000 officers and troops|
The Soviet occupation of Romania led to a complete reorganization of the Romanian Army under the supervision of the Red Army. The size of the Romanian army was limited by the Paris peace treaty to 138,000 officers and troops total; however, under the Soviets it grew far past treaty limits through increasing militarization of Romania's population. By 1953, regular army forces had grown to approximately 300,000; reserve army forces to approximately 135,000; and "interior" forces (border guards, security brigades, et al.) at the disposal of the Ministry of the Interior to over 325,000.
At the onset, pro-German elements were purged from the Romanian armed forces. In 1944–45, two divisions were formed out of Romanian volunteers—ex-prisoners of war, trained and indoctrinated in the Soviet Union during the war, but also of Communist activists such as Valter Roman. One was the Tudor Vladimirescu First Volunteer Division, under the command of Colonel Nicolae Cambrea, and the other the Horia, Cloşca şi Crişan Division, under the command of General Mihail Lascăr (who was to serve as Minister of Defense from 1946 to 1947). These two units were to form the nucleus of the new Romanian Army under Soviet control. Once the Romanian Communist Party was in charge, 30% of officers and noncommissioned officers (mostly experienced soldiers, and a potential source of opposition to the Sovietization of the Army) were purged from the military.
After the Romanian Workers' Party seized political power, the Sovietization of the army commenced, under the supervision of the new Minister of Defense, Emil Bodnăraş. This involved copying the Soviet model of military and political organization, and changing the military doctrine of combat and defense, also in the context of Romania's integration in the strategic system of the Soviets, at the beginning of the Cold War.
Soviet officers were appointed as counselors to supervise the efficient reorganization of the army. They had leading control and surveillance roles in the main institutions of the state, but also in areas of lesser importance. In the beginning, they only had a few positions in the Ministry of Defense, the General Staff, and the political sections inside the army. Their number gradually increased, while their positions became permanent. In November 1952, there were 105 permanent counselors and 17 temporary positions in military schools. After 1955, their number started to decrease: 72 in 1955, 63 in 1956, 25 in 1957 and 10 in 1958.
After 1945, new military regulations were elaborated following the model of the Red Army, and they were finalized in 1949–1952. As a consequence, a number of officers and military students were sent to the Soviet Union for training. Between 1949 and 1952, 717 students went to the USSR for studies, while in 1958 there were 471 military students in the USSR. Their number decreased in the following years.
Right after August 23, 1944, communists began to infiltrate the Ministry of Internal Affairs on a large scale. The General Direction for the Security of the People (Romanian initials: DGSP, but more commonly just called the Securitate) was officially founded on August 30, 1948 by Decree 221/30. The Securitate was created by SMERSH, an NKVD unit charged with demolishing existing intelligence agencies and replacing them with Soviet-style bodies in the Soviet-occupied countries of Eastern Europe. The SMERSH unit in Romania, called Brigada Mobilă, was led until 1948 by the NKVD colonel Boris Grünberg, also known in Romania as Alexandru Nicolschi. Its stated purpose was to "defend democratic conquests and guarantee the safety of the Romanian Peoples' Republic against both internal and external enemies." The first Director of the Securitate was NKVD general Panteleimon Bondarenko, who used in Romania the name Gheorghe Pintilie. Alexandru Nicolschi (by then a general) and another Soviet officer, Major General Vladimir Mazuru (born Mazurov), held the deputy directorships.
The Red Army played a crucial role in the expulsion of Transylvanian Saxons from Romania in January 1945. In October 1944, the Sănătescu government, at the solicitation of the Allied Control Commission, began arresting young ethnic German Romanian citizens, who were placed at the disposal of the Soviet command. Under the Rădescu government, faced with ultimatums from the Soviet command, trains carrying Transylvanian Saxons left for the Soviet Union. In a Protest (dated January 13, 1945), the Rădescu government noted the Romanian government's obligation to protect each of its citizens, regardless of ethnic origin, and of the absence of a legal basis for the deportation of the Transylvanian Saxons. Such deportations will be outlawed in 1949 through the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states at Article 49: "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."
The SovRoms were joint Soviet-Romanian ventures established in Romania at the end of World War II, and lasting until 1954–1956. An agreement between the two countries regarding the establishment of these enterprises was signed in Moscow on May 8, 1945. In theory, these ventures were aimed at generating revenue for reconstruction after the devastations of the war. However, they were mainly designed as a means to ensure resources for the Soviet side, and generally contributed to the draining of Romania's resources, in addition to the war reparations demanded by the Armistice Agreement and the Paris Peace Treaties, which had been set at 300 million U.S. dollars. The Soviet contribution in creating the SovRoms lay mostly in reselling leftover German equipment to Romania, which was systematically overvalued. The total number of goods sent from Romania to the Soviet Union were estimated at 2 billion dollars, by far surpassing the war reparations demanded by the Soviets. By 1952, 85% of Romanian exports were directed towards the Soviet Union. The last Sovrom was dissolved in 1956.
One of these companies was Sovromcuarţ, which started operating in 1950 at the mine in Băiţa in Bihor County, under a name which was meant to hide its main activity. The workforce initially consisted of 15,000 political prisoners; after most of them died of radiation poisoning, they were replaced by local villagers, who did not know what they were mining. In secrecy, Romania delivered 17,288 tons of uranium ore to the Soviet Union between 1952 and 1960, which was used, at least partly, in the Soviet atomic bomb project. Uranium mining continued until 1961. All ore was shipped outside Romania for processing, initially to Sillamäe in Estonia; the uranium concentrate was then used exclusively by the Soviet Union.
Comparing the Soviet occupation of Romania to that of Bulgaria, David Stone notes: "Unlike Bulgaria, Romania had few cultural and historical ties with Russia, and had actually waged war on the Soviet Union. As a result, Soviet occupation weighted heavier on the Romanian people, and the troops themselves were less disciplined."