Beyond Torture: The Gulag of Pitești, Romania

Beyond Torture: The Gulag of Pitești, Romania


The Gulag Archipelago, an award-winning book by Alexander Solzhenitsyn about forced labor camps in the Soviet Union, exposed the massive scale of Communist atrocities and persecution of Orthodox Christians in the 20th century.

Solzhenitsyn’s vivid account has been followed by others. The Italian journalist Antonio Socci, for example, estimated that at least 45.5 million Christians were martyred in the 20th century, making it the bloodiest of all periods in the history of the Church, with fully 65 percent of all Christian martyrdoms ever to occur taking place within recent memory.

Often overlooked in the discussion of this sordid tale is the witness of Romanian Christians. Communism in Romania had a distinct flavor, and the Church as an institution fared better than in the lands of the former Russian Empire. Yet in those periods of persecution, a particularly devious and infamous prison arose in the town of Pitești. The goal was less corporeal than psychological: to use various experimental forms of psychological torture and brainwashing to break down believing Orthodox Christians.

The YouTube documentary tells the story in brief, featuring interviews with some of the most famous Orthodox priests who endured this unique form of imprisonment and torture.

Don’t expect a typical tale of woe. What comes through from the priests being interviewed — most especially Fr. Roman Braga, now in America — is a surprising theme: forgiveness…and even joy.

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

About author

Seraphim Danckaert

Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Mission Advancement at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds an M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.