Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Bodnäraş, Emil (1904–1976)

Romanian communist and political leader. Born on 10 February 1904 (according to official Romanian records) either in Kolomyya (in the disputed region of Bukovina, now Ukraine) or in Cimpulung Moldovenesc, Romania, into a Ukrainian-German family of modest means, Emil Bodnäraş studied law at the University of Iaşi. During 1925–1927 he attended the artillery officers' academy in Timişoara and was an officer in the Royal Romanian Army from 1928 until he defected to the Soviet Union in February 1932. On one of the clandestine missions he undertook for the Soviet security and intelligence agency, the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs, he traveled through Bucharest, where he was recognized and arrested in 1934. Tried for desertion and espionage, he was sentenced in May 1935 to ten years' imprisonment, during which time he befriended fellow inmate Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and in 1940 joined the Romanian Communist Party (RCP).

After his early release in November 1942, Bodnäraş kept up contact with Gheorghiu-Dej and continued his under-cover work for the Soviets, now as "Engineer Ceauşu," a construction materials merchant whose cover allowed him to purchase German weapons for RCP cells forming in 1944 around Bucharest. Bodnäraş was instrumental in the August 1944 ouster of Romanian strongman Ion Antonescu and worked closely with the advancing Soviets. Honing his connections with both Moscow and Gheorghiu-Dej, Bodnäraş achieved a succession of influential posts in the new communist government, most prominently as minister of national defense from 1947 to 1957, Politburo member from 1948, and vice president during 1954–1955 and 1957–1965. Long regarded as a shadowy but menacing figure in communist Romanian politics, Bodnäraş's fortunes waned as Gheorghiu-Dej steered a course away from Soviet oversight of Romania and especially after the latter's death in 1965. Bodnäraş died in Bucharest on 24 January 1976.

Gordon E. Hogg


Further Reading
Dobre, Florica, ed. Membrii C.C. al P.C.R. 1945–1989: Dicžionar. Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedica, 2004.
 

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