The History of Romania in One Object / Petru Groza's Desk Phone

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

Petru Groza's desk telephone is an artifact closely linked to a moment with dramatic consequences in the history of Romania after the Second World War: the establishment of the communist regime. The phone was used by the first communist leader of Romania, Petru Groza, between 1952 and 1958 when he was President of the Grand National Assembly which, according to the Constitution, was "the supreme body of state power of the Romanian People's Republic." This phone was the "witness" of the conversations that "the nicest bourgeois in Europe" (as Stalin called Groza) had as head of the institution that adopted the laws of Romania in the heyday of the country's Sovietization and anti-communist resistance.

Son of a priest, Petru Groza (1884 - 1958) was a landowner, banker, lawyer, and politician. In the interwar period he was a member of the Parliament, and a minister (in the governments led by Alexandru Averescu, in 1921 and 1926-1927). In 1933 he founded the political party Frontul Plugarilor (the Plowmen’s Front) which collaborated with the Communists. In March 1945 he was imposed by the Soviet Union at the head of the first communist government in the history of Romania. The so-called "Red Bourgeois" remained in office until 1952, when he became president of the Grand National Assembly.

The establishment of the government led by Petru Groza was a very important first step in the the communization of Romania. At that moment Romania was a monarchy and King Michael I had tried to oppose this process. The sovereign demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Groza and, following his refusal (an unprecedented fact in the history of Romania), launched a "royal strike" (August 21, 1945 - January 7, 1946), ceasing to sign documents issued by the Government or to have contact with its ministers. In January 1946, once in the government were included ministers belonging to the democratic parties, the "Royal strike" ended. Unfortunately, this was not going to change the policy of the Government or the historical destiny of the country.

Photo 1: Petru Groza sharing property titles after the Agrarian Reform of 1945

Photo 2: King Michael I and Prime Minister Petru Groza

Photo 3: Petru Groza with Ana Pauker, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Georgi Dimitrov (leader of the Communist Party of Bulgaria)

The next decisive moment on the steady road to the complete establishment of communism in Romania were the November 1946 parliamentary elections. The result of the elections was grossly falsified, according to Stalin's motto: "It doesn't matter who votes, it matters who counts the votes." Thus, the Block of Democratic Parties (which included, among other political parties, the Romanian Communist Party and the Plowmen's Front) obtained over 68% of the vote, the communists now gaining absolute control of the new unicameral Parliament of Romania.

Photo 4: Aspect from an electoral rally in which Petru Groza took part

Photo 5 & 6: Electoral printouts of the Block of Democratic Parties (the 1946 elections)

Photo 7: The Plowmen's Front 1946 calendar

In the following period, the Romanian communists made a priority out of the destruction of the intellectual and economic elite as well as the political opposition, represented by the historical parties - the National Liberal Party and the National Peasants’ Party. Their leaders were arrested and imprisoned, many of them losing their lives due to the miserable living conditions and inhuman treatment they were subjected to. The complete victory of the communists was recorded at the end of 1947 when, on December 30, King Michael was forced to abdicate and leave the country. On the very same day the Romanian People's Republic was proclaimed. Petru Groza died in 1958. In full anti-religious fervor, the service officiated at his funeral was broadcast live on the Romanian Radio!

Photo 8: King Michael I abdication act (1947)

Photo 9: The law of the proclamation of the Romanian People's Republic

Photo 10: "Libertatea" newspaper headlines on the front page about the proclamation of the Romanian People's Republic and the abdication of King Michael I

The desk phone which belonged to Petru Groza is mounted in a wooden base with walnut wood covering. Among others, it has markings for "internal connections", "city", "local line" and "keep in touch". To the left and right of the phone's disc there are two compartments for notes, which have the Communist Party's coat of arms engraved on the cover.

Photo 11: Petru Groza's Desk Phone, detail

THE HISTORY OF ROMANIA IN ONE OBJECT, our online program that evokes decisive epochs in the Romanian past starting from objects with powerful symbolic and representative value, is developed in partnership with The National History Museum of Romania. Petru Groza's desk phone is presented by historian Pompilia Gon.


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