Photos of Romanian Miners Beating Up Their Fellow Citizens

A little over 20 years ago, the people of Romania rose up against their government. Only, their uprising was a little stranger than what’s been happening in TurkeyEgyptBrazil and southern Europe recently. 

After members of the liberal opposition organized protests against the recently elected National Salvation Front—who were the first party to come to power after the revolution of 1989—the socialist government called on miners and other workers throughout Romania to quell the demonstrations because the police had failed to disperse the rioting crowds.    

On June 14, 1990, around 10,000 miners armed with wooden staves and iron bars were brought into Bucharest on special trains. Once they arrived, they quickly got to beating up and eventually killing or severely wounding many of the gathered liberals, royalists, and students who had dared to speak out against their government, angry at the fact that many FSN leaders, including President Ion Iliescu, were former members of the recently ousted Romanian Communist Party.

Andrei Iliescu is a photographer who was working for Agence France-Press (AFP) during the riots that took place between June 13 and 15, 1990. This is his account of what would come to be known as the June 1990 Mineriad.

When I look at recent photographs from Tahrir Square, I can’t help but think of what happened in June 1990, in Bucharest’s University Square. I’d basically moved into the InterContinental hotel in the square so that I could be as close as possible to the protests, which began on April 22 and ended on June 15. The interest surrounding Romania during that time was huge; we were shooting pictures by the truckload and I don’t remember a day where I didn’t send at least one photo off to some newspaper around the world. 

June 11, 1990 was when it began to get rowdy, but the tension didn’t reach its boiling point until a couple of days later. Until then, the police would show up in waves and the government gave the protesters an ultimatum to disperse, but it wasn’t the first one by any means, so they chose to ignore it.



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    Iliescu was never tried for his crimes.
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