Friday, December 30, 2011

In Romania, Opinion Polls Show Nostalgia for Communism

December 27, 2011
At the end of 2011, some 22 years after the fall of the communist regime, Romania seems to be going through what is probably the deepest economic and social crisis of its post-communist existence. In this context, many Romanians seem to be displaying a certain appreciation for different attributes related to the communist regime or ideology. This appreciation is always interpreted as nostalgia for the communist past and/or regime.
This article reviews the results of different public opinion surveys, which have been cited by different analysts and commentators who have identified a new communist nostalgia among certain portions of the population.  On the one hand, the positive views Romanians are expressing sometimes with regard to communism seem to be related to an acute sentiment of social insecurity; on the other, they appear to be the results of insufficient (if any) public policies addressing the problem of dealing with the legacy of the country’s recent past.
The most incredible result was registered in a July 2010 IRES (Romanian Institute for Evaluation and Strategy) poll, according to which 41% of the respondents would have voted for Ceausescu, had he run for the position of president. And 63% of the survey participants said their life was better during communism, while only 23% attested that their life was worse then. Some 68% declared that communism was a good idea, just one that had been poorly applied.[1]
It seems that as the economic and social crisis deepens, people’s nostalgia for the communist period’s perceived safeguards increases.
According to a 2006 Public Opinion Barometer of The Soros Foundation Romania, 53% of the Romanian population considered communism to be ‘a good idea.’[2]Three types of explanations were advanced in this poll: economic, ideological and experiential. According to this interpretation, from the economic point of view, it was those who suffered ‘absolute or relative losses’ due to the collapse of the communist regime that allegedly felt nostalgia for communism, and they were the poor, peasants, workers and/or low-educated.
From the ideological point of view, those who supported communism were those people who appreciated the socialist spirit of social justice that registered in the 2006 poll’s nostalgia for the past. Therefore, they positively appreciated the past communist regime because ‘they understood better something they had known.’
As far as the experiential explanation is concerned, those who have not suffered oppression during the communist regime allegedly felt in 2006 nostalgia for communism.  However, it must be emphasized that, according to the same survey, while 53% of the respondents considered communism a good idea, only 6% of them declared that they personally suffered persecutions under communism.[3]
The Public Opinion Barometer from 2007 showed that 32% of the Romanians surveyed considered at the time that ‘life was better in Romania before 1989’, a fact that was again interpreted as nostalgia for communism.[4]
Analyzing these results, Dumitru Sandu concluded that those who have felt communist nostalgia were neither older nor less educated, nor poorer, arguing instead that it was those who had lived a privileged life during the communist regime that felt in 2007 nostalgia for communism.
Sandu identified two categories of nostalgic people: approximately two-thirds (those who were not pleased with their standard of living) and the other one-third (those who were content with their lives, but were not pleased at all with the government’s accomplishments).[5]
According to a survey conducted by The Centre for Urban and Rural Sociology (CURS) in 2009, 86% of the Romanian population considered that ‘the state should provide all with a decent standard of living’, while 84% considered that ‘the state should provide all with a decent job.’
Moreover, 50% of the respondents stated that ‘the state should intervene for limiting the income of individuals’. These answers were generally interpreted as people’s attachment to ‘socialist principles’, as ‘communist mentality’ and as ‘communist nostalgia.’ Analyzing these results, Septimiu Chelcea concluded that more high-educated and young people felt nostalgia for the past in 2009 than had felt this way previously.
The survey showed that the difference between young and old, low-educated and highly-educated, active and inactive population groups have decreased in regard to people’s positive appreciation of different communist and socialist social principles.[6] Those who still find ‘some good aspects in communism’ underscored their opinions with elements that are specific to the social policies of the communist regime.
Moreover, those who still consider ‘communism a good idea’ refer to the social policies of the Communist rule. According to a CURS 1999 survey, intellectuals mostly did not support the idea of the ‘benefits’ of Communism while, according to the 2009 surveys, many had changed their minds in this regard.
The explanation for this contradiction could be that, in recent times, people have felt increasing social and economic pressures and therefore their desire for social security guarantees has increased, regardless of education levels, age or social status. In Romania social policies are currently addressing the needs of the disadvantaged social groups: the unemployed, elderly, sick etc., while the middle class is not considered as subject for social policies.
Thus, social security is not addressed from the universalistic post-war perspective, but from the limited, interwar perspective. However, in Romania, only 23 percent of the people belong to the middle class (according to a 2006 study), if the criterion taken into consideration is the level of income.[7] Therefore, the need for social security is acute in Romania nowadays, and this is the need that brings together low- and high-educated, elderly and young in ‘remembering’ – that is, reconstructing or re-imagining – the benefits of communist social policies.
A 2008 study conducted by the Agency for Governmental Strategies foresaw the results of the 2009 CURS survey in regard to the positive appreciation of the young for aspects related to the communist past. The study showed that over 30% of Romanian students considered that ‘life was better before 1989 in Romania’ because, in their opinion, the educational system and the standard of living were qualitatively superior.
This type of an answer was immediately interpreted as ‘communist nostalgia’. Sociologists, professors and journalists explained it as student ignorance: ‘they did not live during the communist period,’ or, ‘they do not know anything about the communist period;’ or, ‘they and their parents did not live the traumas of the 1950s.’[8]
Recent Surveys and Results
In 2010 and 2011, the Centre for the Study of Market and Opinion (CSOP), commissioned by the Institute for the Investigation of the Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMER) conducted three opinion polls with regard to the Romanian public perception of communism.[9] The surveys were taken in:
26 August-2 September 2010 2011, from a sample of 1.133 people over 15 years old (error margin of plus/minus 2.9%);
22 October-1 November 2010, 2011from a sample of 1.123 people over 15 years old (error margin of plus/minus 2.9%);
26 April-2 May 2011from a sample of 1.125 people over 15 years old (error margin of plus/minus 2.9%
According to these surveys, about 60% of the Romanian population believes that communism was a good idea, and only 25-29% believes that it was a bad idea.
Communism was a good idea, poorly applied %Communism was a good idea, correctly applied %Communism was a bad idea %Don’t know/Don’t answer %
August 201047142712
October 201044182912
April 201143182514

In 2011, some 38 % of respondents considered that the installation of communism in Romania after WWII was a good thing, while another 38% said that it was a bad thing. Half of the respondents believe that they were better off under communism. 74% of those older than 60, and 64% of those aged 40-59 consider communism a good idea, compared to 49% of those aged 20-39, and 31% of those younger than 20.
In August 2010, 72% of the respondents considered that the state should provide people with jobs and 44% with housing. About 25% consider that Ceausescu was good for the country, while only 15% argue that he harmed the country. Despite these figures, 42% of the respondents considered that the communist regime was not legitimate, and 41% believed that it was a ‘criminal. About 50% acknowledged the oppression pursued by the communist regime.
While the differences in results between August 2010 and April 2011 are not big, they are significant if compared with the 2007 or 2009 polls. For instance, in 2007 some 32% of the respondents considered that ‘life was better in Romania before 1989,’ while in 2011, 50% gave the same answer. In 2006, some 53% of the respondents considered that communism was a good idea compared to 61% in 2011.[10]
According to most of the media analyses, these results attest to Romanians’ nostalgia for communism.[11]  However, the IICCMER argues that the positive perceptions of the population with regard to communism have complex explanations and are related to the people’s present experiences and personal experiences concerning the relationships between individual, state and society. To a great extent these results are explained, according to the IICCMER, by the fact that there is no organized effort for educating and informing the population with regard to the realities of communist times.
Looking for More Publications?

[2] Fundaţia Soros Romania, Perceptia actuala asupra comunismului. Comunicat de presă/ [Soros Foundation Romania, Actual perception on communism. Press release], December 19, 2006, (accessed July 25, 2009)
[3] Fundaţia Soros Romania, Perceptia actuala asupra comunismului. Comunicat de presă/ [Soros Foundation Romania, Actual perception on communism. Press release], December 19, 2006, (accessed July 25, 2009)
[4] Sandra Scarlat, “Partizanii lui ‘inainte era mai bine’” [The supporters of ‘before it was better’]Adevarul, January 29, 2009
[5] Sandra Scarlat, “Partizanii lui ‘inainte era mai bine’” [The supporters of ‘before it was better’]Adevarul, January 29, 2009
[6] The survey did not focus on the communist past, but some of the survey’s questions asked people to evaluate communism as an ideology, and many Romanians continue to consider it ‘a good’ idea. Ionela Sufaru, “Romanii nu regreta comunismul” [The Romanians do not regret communism] Jurnalul National, November 7, 2009, (accessed November 7, 2009)
[7] Gabriela Neagu, Din ce clasă socială faceti parte? [To What Social Class Do You Belong?],
[8] Alina Gavrilă, “Studenţii regretă perioada comunistă” [Students regret the communist period], Adevărul, August 13, 2008
[10] Fundaţia Soros Romania, Perceptia actuala asupra comunismului. Comunicat de presă/ [Soros Foundation Romania, Actual perception on communism. Press release], December 19, 2006, (accessed July 25, 2009)


Oriana said...

I might be wrong for I am not really political - I lived, however, in Romania for the first 25 year of my life - but it seems to me that the "communism nostalgics" are, in other words, people longing for a state that looks more after its citizen rather than letting them die in poverty. Since they have found a glimpse of that security under the communism, they tend to overlook additional 'evils' that come with this ideology; I don't think that it has a lot to do with the ideology itself.

Oriana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oriana said...

Thanks for the survey! It is really interesting to read _facts_ atop opinions.