An estimated 1,000 antigovernment demonstrators were killed when troops suppressed street fighting in Bucharest and other cities.
Ceausescu sought to quell the uprising by ordering his security forces to shoot to kill instead of firing blanks — an order that General Vlad apparently disobeyed.
Either because he was genuinely fed up with the failing regime or because he detected the shifting political winds, General Vlad declared on state radio — one day after Ceausescu fled the capital — that he was joining the revolutionaries.
He later claimed credit, along with another general, Stefan Gusa, for averting a civil war and preventing Russia from seizing Moldova and Hungary from grabbing Transylvania.
Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were captured by soldiers, tried and executed on Christmas Day 1989.
Adrian Nastase, a former prime minister of Romania, wrote on his blog this week that he respected General Vlad’s “efforts to temper the situation in the country before 1989 and to ensure the defense of the country’s interests at the end of the Cold War.”
After he was released from prison in 1994, General Vlad was said to have become involved in business deals between Romania and China. But he remained haunted by his record with the secret police.
As recently as this year, he faced the prospect of defending himself against a criminal complaint filed by the son of a dissident who died in custody after anti-totalitarian protests in 1987.
Iulian Vlad (pronounced yool-YAHN vlahd) was born on Feb. 23, 1931, in Gogosita, a village near the Bulgarian border, to Nicolae and Eugenia Vlad. His father was a professional church singer who was expelled from the Communist Party for his religious activities and for illegally cutting firewood on his former property, which had apparently been confiscated.
Iulian, who had joined the party when he was 15, told officials that he had tried to persuade his father to leave the church. (Nonetheless, Petru Neghiu, a former military colleague, told the Romanian news media that General Vlad had received the last rites before his death.)
He graduated from the Serbian Marxist-Leninist University, took security courses in the Soviet Union and became a military education specialist with the Interior Department. He was placed in charge of counterintelligence in 1977 and named chief of the State Security Department in 1987.
His survivors include a son, Adrian.