The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile

Opération Villages Roumains: A model of European solidarity The reaction against the communist project of systematizing the villages (1988-1989)

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Operation Villages Roumains

Bucharest, October 21, 2016. The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER) organizes on Thursday, November 3, 2016, at Jockey Club in Bucharest (9 Episcopiei Street), the colloquium “Opération Villages Roumains: A Model of European Solidarity. The Reaction against the Communist Project of Systematizing the Villages (1988-1989)”.

The communist regime viewed the systematization of the villages as a last stage of an economic program meant to level the quality of life for the entire Romanian population. The project aimed to destroy 7-8,000 of villages, merging them into agro-industrial centers, and to move the rural population in village blocks, with one or two floors. The buildings would ensure a lifestyle somewhere between the rural individual and the urban collective type living conditions.

The main reason was the reduction of the built perimeter in order to recover field for agriculture, which was actually an illusion from an economic point of view. The project was also fantasist from a social perspective. It would have meant moving approximately 10 million people and radically changing the traditional lifestyle. Ceaușescu pictured this project as one of the major accomplishments of his rule. The program was to be undertaken during 1990-1995 and would take over the whole country by 2000. Through this gigantic plan, the regime actually aimed to homogenize society through standard living patters.

The idea would generate a wave of protests outside Romania. The systematization resembled a tragedy to the Occident. In December 1988, the Opération Villages Roumains Association was founded in Belgium. The OVER plan was to adopt all 13,123 villages in order to rescue them from destruction. In only a few months, the spontaneous operation would extend to proportions that even surprised its initiators. OCR Committees were also created in France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, UK, Italy, Spain, Norway, and Denmark. Opération Villages Roumains reflects the way in which solidarity with another country from the former communist block emerged, a solidarity that proved unique and unprecedented in Europe emerged.

Almost three decades later, the colloquium organized by IICCMER reunites the founding OVR team and provides a common ground for debate for those involved then and now. The purpose of the event is to clarify some less known aspects related to the OVR actions and, implicitly, to the last years of the communist regime and the activity of the Romanian exile.  Among the speakers at the event are Radu Preda (Executive president of IICCMER), Dinu Zamfirescu (President of the IICCMER Scientific Council), Paul Hermant (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Daniel Wathelet (Conseiller communal Ecolo, Ecologistes confédérés pour l’organisation de luttes originales), Josy Dubié (Journalist, Honorific Senator), Michel de Backer (President OVR International), Iolanda Costide (architect, OVR coordinator in the UK), Edith Lhomel (Responsable de collection, Éditions de la Documentations française DILA/Services Premier ministre/Paris), Francisc Giurgiu (President of OVR Romania), Alexandru Budișteanu (Member in Scientific Council of the National Institute for the Study of Totalitarianism of the Romanian Academy), Adrian Niculescu (SNSPA), Sorin Alexandrescu (The Center of Excellence in the Study of Image, University of Bucharest).

Languages: Romanian and French