Nicolae Dragoş (b. October 26, 1932, Leipzig, Cetatea Albă district, Romania, currently Serpnevo, Tarutino district, Odessa region, Ukraine) was the main founder and the most prominent activist of the opposition political group known as the Democratic Union of Socialists (DSS). At the time of his arrest, on 16 May 1964, he was the headmaster of an evening school in his native town. Despite his Romanian-sounding name, he thought of himself as belonging to the Russian nationality. Dragoș attended four grades of a Romanian-language school in his native town (from 1939 to 1940 and from 1941 to 1944), which explains his good command of Romanian. However, his political socialisation took place in the last years of Stalinism and, more significantly, during Khrushchev’s thaw. His family background also seems to have played a role in the crystallisation of his anti-communist convictions. As he later confessed in an interview, his father was a staunch anti-communist and heavily influenced his early world-view. Apparently, by the age of 20 he had already read Marx’s Das Kapital and formulated his first critical thoughts about the nature of Marxism-Leninism and the essence of the Soviet regime. After graduating from high-school, he enrolled in the Chişinău State University’s Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. After the second year of study, he transferred to the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics of Odessa State University, from which he graduated. For several years after graduation, he taught mathematics in Bulboaca, in the Anenii Noi district of the Moldavian SSR, which proves that he spoke Romanian quite well, since it was a Romanian-language educational establishment. During this time, around 1955, his opposition to the regime grew more systematic, as he started listening to the broadcasts of foreign radio stations, notably Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. After engaging in a series of temporary jobs in the late 1950s (including a position of librarian, which allowed him to read extensively), he became a teacher of mathematics in the village of Tuzla, Odessa region, not far from his native town. While in Tuzla, he made the acquaintance of Nikolai Tarnavskii, who was to become his main collaborator and supporter. In 1962 Dragoș returned to his native village, Serpnevo, where he became headmaster of an evening school for working-class youth a year later. As in other similar cases, his university education was crucial for his later critical stance toward the communist party. Dragoș later testified that he had read many works of philosophy during his student years, mainly focusing on the evolution of human consciousness. According to his own confession at the trial, he created his own philosophical worldview (mirovozzrenie) concerning the USSR as early as 1959. He displayed a systematic interest in political matters, especially in issues related to the living conditions of the working class, and became aware of a number of phenomena that undermined Soviet official discourse. Gradually, his critical views led Dragoș to the idea that the political regime in the Soviet Union needed significant changes and improvements. He believed that, in order to reach that goal, it was necessary to create a new political party which would stimulate social life and serve as an impetus for the development of consciousness among the peoples of the USSR. In an interesting twist of the arguments he used to defend himself during the trial, Dragoș displayed a solid knowledge of the Soviet Criminal Code and claimed that he did not use any “anti-Soviet literature,” limiting himself to “the history of the CPSU, freely accessible brochures, and Lenin’s writings.” His condemnation of the party’s “dictatorship” and his pleas for a more democratic structure of the Soviets, which should be restored to their full status as decision-making bodies, seem to have derived from a genuine belief in the possibility of a democratisation of the Soviet system that was indebted to the general atmosphere of the thaw. Dragoș himself admitted this when stating, in a later interview, that “our movement was linked to Khrushchev’s thaw and we had the impression that something had started to move [in the country].” However, Dragoș’s challenge to the Soviet regime was deeper than might be suggested by his defence strategy at the trial. He also spoke about the “illogical” character of the Marxist doctrine and about the deep contradictions that the existence of a party “dictatorship” entailed, thus infringing on working people’s rights. His views were not free of a certain amount of political naiveté; since he believed that the communist party might accept a political challenge from the DSS without undermining the system as such. Another remarkable element of Dragoș’s views is the absence of any national or ethnic elements in his platform. On the contrary, the core group of his supporters included not only Moldavians or Romanian-speakers, but also Russians and Ukrainians, which indicates a certain degree of “blindness” toward the national question and a corresponding emphasis on social issues. Dragoș was arrested, jointly with the other members of the group, in May 1964. The trial was held at the Supreme Court of Justice in Chişinău from 28 August to 19 September. As a result, Dragoș was sentenced to seven years of hard labour in a high-security labour correction colony in Mordoviia. He was found guilty under to art. 67, part I and art. 69 of the Penal Code of the MSSR: anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda / participation in an anti-Soviet organisation aiming at committing dangerous state crimes. After his release in 1971, Dragoș spent another year under house arrest in his native village. In 1972, he moved to Chișinău, where he worked during the next two years on an assembly line at a local mechanical factory. Due to his involvement in an attempt to assist one of his acquaintances to escape from forced residence in the MSSR and return to Moscow, Dragoș began to be harassed by the KGB in 1974. He managed to secure an official invitation to Germany and was allowed to emigrate to the Federal Republic of Germany later in 1974. After an initial period of adaptation and integration, Dragoș was hired as a high-school teacher of mathematics in Frankfurt am Main, where he taught for over eighteen years. After his emigration, he remained active in anti-communist circles in exile. Thus, in 1981 he co-founded the Democratic Union of Political Emigrants from the USSR, numbering around one hundred members. In 1983, he published a book in which he predicted the collapse of the Soviet state during the next decade in the absence of structural reforms. He also wrote several other books (mainly in Russian) on various contemporary political and economic issues. Following a petition by one of the group members, Vasile Postolachi, the Supreme Court of the Moldavian SSR annulled the sentence in late December 1988. Dragoș was fully rehabilitated in February 1989. He maintained his anti-communist convictions and gave several interviews to the Moldovan press during the brief de-communisation campaign of the early 2010s, in which he shared his experience as a dissident.” At present, Dragoș and his family reside in Germany.
- Serpneve, Ukraine
Pogor, Eugenia. 2012. ”Nicolae Dragoș, disident: Comunismul înseamnă dictatură sângeroasă” (The dissident Nicolae Dragoș: Communism means a bloody dictatorship), Adevărul.md, 23 October. Accessed June 12, 2017. http://adevarul.ro/moldova/politica/nicolae-dragos-disident-comunismul-inseamna-dictatura-sangeroasa-1_50aea59d7c42d5a6639eb97f/index.html
Tașcă, Mihai. 2010. "Nicolae Dragoș: Susținând comuniștii, nu veți obține nimic” (You will gain nothing by supporting the communists). Timpul, 10 November. Accessed June 12, 2017. http://www.timpul.md/articol/nicolae-dragos---sustinand-comunistii-nu-veti-obtine-nimic-17547.html
Cașu, Igor , interview by Cușco, Andrei, June 07, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection