In communist Romania, 23 August was celebrated as a national holiday: the day when the Soviets marched into Romania and wrested it from Nazi control.
(The part about the Soviets taking more than 100,000 Romanians prisoners of war was whitewashed from the history books).
After 1989, stadiums, streets and other landmarks were stripped of the ’23 August’ name due to the association with the former era.
The date became a day of infamy. But a Romanian lawmaker and historian on Monday argued that the date should be reinstated with its proper historical context.
“23 August 1944, was as the King said, the most falsified act in our entire national history,” Alexandru Muraru, a Liberal lawmaker said in a statement.
Supported by several political parties, the king, only 22 at the time, removed pro-Nazi dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu and switched sides.
This happened after the Axis front collapsed in northeast Romania overwhelmed by a Soviet offensive.
After the coup, the Red Army intensified its advance into Romania and took more than 100,00 prisoners of war. Most were deported to the Soviet Union. Hostilities ceased in mid-September when Romania signed an armistice with the Allies.
The Soviet-backed government forced King Michael to abdicate two years after the war ended. He was then sent into exile.
In a nod to his role in modern history, President Klaus Iohannis on Monday also spoke about King Michael’s “great act of courage.”
Mr Muraru said the date had been denied its proper historical significance due to “waves of manipulation and communist propaganda.”
After Romania joined the Allied side, more than half a million Romanian troops marched 1,500 kilometers west. They liberated 4,000 towns and villages in Transylvania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria.
The cost was huge in human and financial terms.
At least 170,000 soldiers were wounded, killed or went missing in the Prague Offensive fighting for the Allied side. The campaign cost almost one billion dollars, four times Romania’s national budget in 1938, the statement said.
“And so, this is how a cardinal moment in our history was overshadowed, marginalized, and unvalued. (This was) because of distorted interpretations conferred by communist propaganda.”
The date “was never ‘the entrance gate for communism’,” he said.
“The takeover by the Soviets and local communists was more about carving out the spheres of influence,” he said alluding to an agreement between Churchill and Stalin.
After the king was banished from Romania, his role in the historic moment was downplayed. The communists carried out a smear campaign against him.
In October 1944, Winston Churchill proposed an agreement with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin how to split up Eastern Europe in spheres of influence.
It was reportedly agreed that Soviets would have a „90% share of influence” in Romania, and 10% in Greece.