The Discourse of Repression. Narrativity and Semantics Inside the Securitate Files of the Burning Bush from Antim Monastery

9 April 2024

Author IOANA-ZOIA URSU, Post-Doctoral Researcher 1 Decembrie 1918 University of Alba Iulia; Historian, National Museum of Union, Alba Iulia, Romania

The archives of the political police during the Communist regime are documents whose circumstances of production make them different to interpret from other types of documents. They were generated by an instance of enunciation that was a repressive institution, directly interested in the repression of those perceived as political enemies. The present study starts from the story of a group of clergy and intellectuals known as the Burning Bush, who were part of a religious association (a cultural circle) in the second half of the 1940s. A decade later, several people connected to the initial group, their acquaintances as well as other younger students who gravitated around the older monks for spiritual formation were arrested during the 1958 repressive wave. An extensive surveillance had been developing prior to their arrest and their reunions and meetings in which they discussed religious and literary topics were interpreted in the archives as “hostile” and threatening towards the state. The paper inquires into how the documents create a coherent narrative of a group enemy that conspires against the Communist state, and also how semantics plays into the construction of the surveillance and the criminal files of the Burning Bush group.

discourse analysis, Securitate archives, intellectuals, clergy, religious mysticism, political enemies

[1] Previous research done by the author regarding this subject includes: Ioana Ursu, “Perceiving Religious Mysticism in the Key of Political Repression: The Burning Bush Group” Museikon, no.3 (2019): 51-62.  Ioana Ursu, “Narrativity and Legitimation in the Discourse of the Communist Archives: Analysing the Files of the Burning Bush Organization” History of Communism in Europe, no. 5 (2014): 155-167.

[2] The tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church sees the Unburnt Bush on Horeb as a type of the Most Holy Theotokos, who gave birth to Christ while still while remaining a virgin.

[3] He entered the monastery, and, following the monastic ranks, he was known as monk Agathon, then as hieromonk Agathon (since 1950) and, at last, as hieroschemamonk Daniil (since 1953). In this paper, I have attached to the mention of his monastic name, hieroschemamonk Daniil, his lay writer’s name, Sandu Tudor, the latter being the form in which he is mentioned in the Securitate documents.

[4] Ioana Ursu, “Clergy and intellectuals as class enemy: the Burning Bush”, in Alin Albu, Mark J. Cherry and Dumitru Vanca, eds., Ars liturgica. From the Image of Glory to the Idols of Modernity, the 16th International Symposium on Science, Theology and Arts proceedings (Alba Iulia: Reîntregirea, 2017).

[5] Archive of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (hereafter ANCSSA), Informative Fund, file no. 2214, vol. 3, 48.

[6] Ibid.

[7] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file no. 2214, vol. 1, 1.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Sandu Tudor, Alexandru Făgețeanu, Benedict Ghiuș, Roman Braga, Sofian Boghiu, Felix Dubneac, Arsenie Papacioc, Alexandru Mironescu, George Văsâi, Șerban Mironescu, Nicolae Rădulescu, Grigore Dan Pistol, Gheorghe Dabija,Vasile Voiculescu, Dumitru Stăniloae, Emanoil Mihăilescu. 

[11] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file no. 2214, vol. 1, 10.

[12] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 4, 216-230.

[13] Except for student Grigore Dan Pistol, whose detention was computed on 17 April 1959. ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 4, 325.

[14] According to the individual penal registration records consulted at:, accessed May 15, 2023.

[15] In February 1958, the first member of the group, the hermit Adrian Făgețeanu, was arrested. His arrest can be linked to Adrian Făgețeanu's previous political identity (former police commissioner in Fălticeni and Bacău, arrested in 1941 and sentenced to 5 years in prison in the context of the Legionary rebellion, then re-arrested between 1950-1956). The remaining members were arrested on the night of 13/14 June 1958.

[16] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file no. 2214, vol. 1-6.

[17] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file no. 211015, vol. 1-3.

[18] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file no. 211015, vol. 1, 1.

[19] Legionary activity should signify practices associated with the Iron Guard: being a part of the Iron Guard, the political organization or its youth group, known as Frățiile de Cruce [The Brotherhood of the Cross]. However, ‘Legionary activity’ in the Securitate language also covers a large spectrum, including: sympathizers of the Iron Guard, individuals unrelated to the Iron Guard, but with nationalistic or Christian views; this occasionally makes differentiation difficult; in these cases, one must relate the ‘Legionary’ description with detailed biographical facts of the individual in order to assess correctly.

[20] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file no. 211015, vol. 1, 1.

[21] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file no. 211015, vol. 1, 307.

[22] Cristina Păiuşan, Radu Ciuceanu, Biserica Ortodoxă Română sub regimul comunist, vol. 1: 1945-1958 [The Romanian Orthodox Church under the communist regime, vol. 1: 1945-1958] (București: Institutul Național pentru Studiul Totalitarismului, 2001), 147.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid., 183.

[25] Ibid., 204.

[26] The General Directorate of the People’s Securitate was the name of the political police during Romania’s communist regime, between August 1948 and March 1951. Further reorganizations led to changes in the title, such as The General Directorate of the State Securitate [DGSS, 1951-1964], and the Department of the State Securitate [DSS, 1965-1989].

[27] Păiușan, Biserica Ortodoxă Română, 204.

[28] Such as Vasile Vasilache. Ibid., 209.

[29] Such as Sofian Boghiu. Ibid., 206.

[30] Such as Felix Dubneac. Ibid.

[31] Such as Andrei Scrima. Ibid.

[32] Ibid., 214.

[33] The decision to open the file is dated 29 December 1956, but another document mentions 16 January 1957 as the date of opening, which corresponds to the 5-month period culminating on 16 June 1957, the date mentioned for the transformation to a group file.

[34] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file 2214, vol. 1, 1.

[35] Relevant to the informative tracking action employed by the Securitate.

[36] Dicţionarul explicativ al limbii române [Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language], 2009 edition, in DexOnline (, accessed October 20, 2023).

[37] Dicţionarul explicativ al limbii române, 1998 edition in DexOnline.

[38] Noul Dicţionar Explicativ al Limbii Române [New Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language], 2002 edition in DexOnline.

[39] Marele Dicţionar de Neologisme [The Great Dictionary of Neologisms], 2000 edition in DexOnline.

[40] Dicţionarul explicativ al limbii române, 1998 edition in DexOnline.

[41], accessed October 20, 2023.

[42] Ibid.

[43], accessed October 20, 2023.

[44] Nichifor Crainic, Cursurile de mistică I. Teologie mistică II. Mistică germană, [Courses in Mystics I. Mystical theology II. German mystics] (Sibiu: Deisis, 2010), 166.

[45] Ioan Gh. Savin, Mistica și ascetica ortodoxă [Orthodox mystics and asceticism] (Sibiu: Tiparul Tipografiei Eparhiale, 1996).

[46] Ibid., 19.

[47] Ibid., 34-36.

[48] Ibid., 38.

[49] George Enache, “Misiunile Securităţii în problema “Culte” la începutul anilor ’50” [Missions of the Securitate on the “Denominations’” issue in the early 1950s] Analele Universităţii Dunărea de Jos Galaţi, Istorie series, no. 8 (2009): 170.

[50] ANCSSA, Documentary Fund, file no. 195, vol. 2, 2-3. Enache, “Misiunile Securității,” 170.

[51] Extract from a meeting with the commanders of regional directions of the Securitate, March 1950. Marius Oprea, Banalitatea răului. O istorie a Securităţii în documente 1949-1989 [The banality of evil; A history of the Securitate in documents 1949-1989] (Iaşi: Polirom, 2002), 145-146; Enache, “Misiunile Securității,” 167-168.

[52] ***Dicționarul limbii române literare contemporane, vol. III, M-R (București: Editura Academiei Republicii Populare Române, 1957), 92.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Quoted from Cesar Bolliac, 19th century Romanian revolutionary. Ibid.

[55] The quoted fragments come from the status of the Association, and are also found in the blessing request that Sandu Tudor addressed patriarch Nicodim regarding their activities at Antim: “Since last year, in the Holy Monastery of Antim a spiritual activity has begun, with the purpose of the research and deeper experience of the orthodox teachings and piety [...] Every Sunday, a group of clergy and lay men took part in the holy services, and in the afternoon, meetings were held, with the purpose of edification and deepening of the orthodox mystical life. […].” For further details, see Gheorghe Vasilescu, ed., Taina Rugului Aprins. Scrieri și documente inedite [The Mystery of the Burning Bush. Unpublished writings and documents] (București: Anastasia, 1999), 92-93.

[56] The Eastern Orthodox tradition of praying incessantly by invoking the name of Jesus Christ, or ‘the heart prayer’.

[57] Informative note from 1949. ANCSSA, DGSS Fund, file 213/1949, 113-114.

[58] National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives, Florica Dobre, ed., Securitatea. Structuri – cadre, obiective și metode. Vol. I (1948-1967) [The Securitate. Structures - frameworks, objectives and methods. Vol. I (1948-1967] (București: Editura Enciclopedică, 2006), 104.

[59] Ibid., 105.

[60] Ibid.

[61] See Păiușan, Biserica Ortodoxă Română.

[62] For further reading on decree 410/1959 for the re-organization of monastic life, see George Enache, Adrian Nicolae Petcu, Monahismul ortodox și puterea comunistă în România anilor ’50 [Orthodox monasticism and communist power in 1950s Romania] (Galați: Editura Partener, 2009).

[63] Păiușan, Biserica Ortodoxă Română, 206, 326.

[64] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file 2214, vol. 1, 1.

[65] Which was information given by none other than a loyal collaborator of the Securitate, code name “Zamfir Pană”. Ibid., 8.

[66] By the Securitate regional direction of Suceava.

[67] ANCSSA, Informative Fund, file 2214, vol. 1, 8.

[68] Ibid.,10.

[69] Ibid., 129. Proposal paper regarding Alexandru Mironescu, 1957.

[70] Ibid., 5. Identification file regarding Alexandru Mironescu, 1957.

[71] Ibid., 8. Identification file regarding George Văsâi, 1957.

[72] Ibid., 228. Synthesis on the measures taken, July 1957.

[73] Ibid., 377. Note of Bureau III regarding an informative note on G. Văsâi, June 1957.

[74] Ibid., 198.

[75] Ibid., 25. 1958 file regarding Benedict Ghiuș.

[76] Ibid., 97.

[77] Ibid., 229-230.

[78] Ibid., 215.

[79] Some of the imprisoned were not entering political detention for the first time.

[80] When two or more victims were confronted with each other to establish who was telling the ‘truth’ in their declarations.

[81] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 3, 4.

[82] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 3, 26.

[83] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 4, 216-230.

[84] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 4, 112-126.

[85] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 1, 112-113. 

[86] “It shall be an offence of conspiracy against the social order and shall be punishable by imprisonment with hard labour for 15 to 25 years and by civic degradation for 5 to 10 years to initiate or establish, at home or abroad, organisations or associations whose aim is to change the existing social order of the state or the democratic form of government, or to work in or join such organisations or associations.” Codul Penal. Text oficial cu modificările până la data de 1 decembrie 1960, urmat de o anexă de legi penale speciale [Penal Code. Official text with amendments up to 1 December 1960, followed by an appendix of special criminal laws] (București: Editura Științifică, 1961), 119-120.

[87] Examples can be found in the interrogation records of Alexandru Mironescu: ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 2, 124, or Sandu Tudor. Ibid., 125-126.

[88] As noticed in the interrogation reports taken, for example, from Roman Braga. ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 1, 277-279.

[89] Classified information.

[90] Dobre, Securitatea, 93.

[91] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 8, 188.

[92] Ibid.

[93] Ibid.

[94] Ibid., 189.

[95] Ibid., 190.

[96] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 1, 201-202.

[97] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol. 1, f 201-202.

[98] Interview with Emanoil Mihăilescu by Ioana Ursu (November 25, 2013, Bucharest), author's archive.

[99] ANCSSA, Penal Fund, file no. 202, vol.  4, 227(v).