Challenging Systematization in Romania: Human Rights, Transnationalism, and Dissidents in Campaigns by Opérations Villages Roumains (OVR), 1989–1990

Manuel Herrera Crespo
KADOC Documentation and Research Centre on Religion, Culture and Society, KU Leuven
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 12 Issue 4  (2023): 576-598 DOI 10.38145/2023.4.576

Accounts of popular opposition to the systematization project in Romania have predominantly focused on organizations concerned with cultural heritage preservation and the plight of Hungarian minorities in Transylvania. As a result, the Belgian-born initiative Opérations Villages Roumains (OVR) has been largely overlooked, despite growing into the largest transnational opposition movement against systematization by 1989. Unlike other organizations, OVR primarily denounced Ceauşescu’s totalitarian grip on society, with systematization being its most significant manifestation. This article investigates OVR’s philosophy, methods, and objectives during its formative period from 1988 to 1990. OVR’s challenge to systematization reveals how human rights were strategically implemented at chosen moments, the emergence of several transnational dimensions, and the unique roles played by exiles and dissidents. Through this case study, OVR’s approach uncovers the evolving notions of human rights and transnationalism in the 1980s and highlights how these differed from other well-known Western European challenges to the practices of State Socialist regimes.

Keywords: Opérations Villages Roumains (OVR), cultural heritage preservation, human rights, transnationalism, dissidents, exiles

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