Liviu's Reviews > Scara Leilor

Scara Leilor by Doina Uricariu
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Mar 19, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011_release_read, non-fiction, read_2012, romanian_language
Read in March, 2012

Scara Leilor (The Stair of the Lions - ie the throwing of eastern Europe and Romania in particular in the jaws of Stalinism and Soviet Communism and the martyrdom similar to the ones of the Christians in the Roman arenas suffered by the educated classes and by anyone opposing the regime or being a convenient scapegoat ) is a book that uses King Mihai's archives, official memoranda, interviews (mostly but not only with the King himself) and the author's personal recollections and journeys to essentially reconstitute what happened during the Stalinist takeover with episodes both from before (during WW2) and after the December 1989 overthrow of the communism.

Done in large part in 1990 and making a case for the heroism of the king and counteracting both the pro-Antonescu propaganda and the communist anti monarchist such, the book works in large part due to the stark facts presented in official documents.

While the political dimension is dated as the king now (in 2012) closing on 90 is never going to be accepted as leader of the state and Romania will stay a republic for the foreseeable future and the communist regime is dead and buried though of course what came after was (and is) a very corrupt, 3rd world government - but that is different from the brutality of the communists - both the historical facts and the personal notes of the author are presented very well and make for a very compelling reading, quite dark and depressing in many parts and offer a version of "what happened" that is based on facts and not on lies, propaganda or myths.

So while the reader's opinion of the King, Antonescu, August 23 and of course the martyrdom of Romania that started soon after August 23 etc may vary from what is in the book and games of "what if" are generally futile as history is unique and contingent in large part, I highly recommend it for its extraordinary trove of documents and for the engaging style of the author.

For me the big issue with how August 23 happened and what followed - issue that is addressed in the book only in passing - is that the King as the main driver of the regime change (which i tend to accept in large measure rather than the pro-Antonescu king as puppet side) simply did not foresee/was not able to deal with the ensuing power vacuum. The old guard politicians were also passed by events (no surprise here, as they rolled meekly in front of the womanizer King Carol in 1938, how one would believe they could get the spine to oppose Stalin's devils in any effective way is beyond me).

Maybe things were inevitable, maybe the King and his entourage were too trusting in the Stalinist lies (though why one would be so in 1944 shows naivety at best) and the Red Army was able to occupy the country and impose its will without real opposition. Here the Antonescu defenders have their main point - namely that if the Marshal would have signed the armistice and remained in power (both of course huge ifs) like in Finland, Romania may have been spared full stalinization like Finland was.

Of course Finland did not have the oil fields that provided USSR with free oil for a decade or so and the grain fields that provided USSR with free food for a decade or so as the soviets looted Romania to the max, while the geographical situation was also quite different, so I doubt Antonescu would have fared better in the medium term either, but again history is simply not-repeatable....

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