State violence as a complex system of ideological prescriptions, normative values, and everyday practices has been emerging as a major topic in the study of Soviet-type regimes. Overcoming the Cold War preoccupation with the totalitarian character of these societies, new historiographical approaches put at the center the changing degree of physical and psychological violence. This article sketches the evolution of state violence concepts and practices in Communist-era Romania, focusing on the treatment of the large Hungarian minority in Transylvania. Although Nicolae Ceaușescu's Romania has been largely acknowledged as a special case, incompatible with the overall development of the Soviet bloc, it is possible to apply the model of “civilized violence” and “reliability of expectations” to the specific conditions of the late phase of Romanian national Communism. The most primitive forms of physical violence such as shooting or the savage beating of inmates never disappeared from the power instruments available to the different repressive bodies, but these techniques were supplemented by more refined attempts to encourage social collaboration based on patriotic conviction.

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