The political discourse of George Simion and AUR: Mainstreaming or deceit?

February 2024


Since the beginning of the second invasion of Ukraine, the far-right and pro-Russian AUR party, led by George Simion, has had difficulties reconciling its support for conservative Russia with the critical attitude towards Russia held by most Romanians, including nationalists[1]. As we have shown in several Global Focus reports, AUR reacted to this challenge by trying to minimize the number of pro-Russian positions and maximize the number of anti-Ukrainian positions. But as the party stabilized in the polls at around 20%, its constituency expanded to include more of those who are motivated by disappointment with the current situation in Romania rather than by radical ideological positions. This expanded constituency does not necessarily share in AUR’s hostility towards Ukraine, ethnic and religious minorities etc.

Responding to this situation, AUR has given several one-off signals of moderation. In this report we will discuss AUR’s attempt at rapprochement with Israel, its anti-Russian and pro-Catholic[2] new positions.

As we will show, these positions do not represent a change in the main discourse of AUR but only deceiving signals targeting the most sensitive of the potential supporters. When it comes to “retail politics” as seen in messages targeting its more radical base through friendly media and Telegram groups, AUR is systematically silent on all three issues. We could observe a certain self-censorship on the groups they control, which does not allow for example for anti-Semitic or overtly pro-Russian positions to be freely expressed[3]; this offers plausible deniability in case of criticism while doing nothing to address, for example, AUR’s intolerant and Antisemitic roots.

An interesting case is that of AUR ranking member and senator Claudiu Târziu, former co-president of AUR, who in the past has given several signals of moderation from AUR, but who did not align with George Simion on any of the positions considered in this report. Here we can see a dual strategy. AUR produces the rare moderate positions directed especially towards the media, which often uses them to make headlines. Meanwhile neither the publications close to the party nor the Telegram accounts the party appears to manage make any effort to implement these positions in relation to supporters.

This leads to segmentation and different roles in the far-right pro-Russian spectrum.

Simion and AUR, as discussed above occasionally put on a more moderate face to attract relatively tolerant new voters but make efforts to avoid alienating older, more intolerant ones. Meanwhile, senator Diana Șoșoacă and her splinter far-right SOS party have openly pro-Russian positions and do not hide the contacts they have at the Russian Embassy. Also, in Diana Șoșoacă’s Telegram groups, participants are allowed to practice an extremely open and unambiguous anti-Semitic discourse.

To put it simply, Simion and AUR engage in dogwhistling[4], while Diana Șoșoacă and SOS do not shy from hate speech and open support for Kremlin. This separation of roles, with or without implicit coordination, ensures that the far right can spread its radical appeal across a broader spectrum of political attitudes.

At the moment, their combined scores are around 25%, which may allow them to have a say in the next Romanian Parliament[5].

In addition to this immediate electoral danger, AUR’s calculated ambiguity and Șoșoacă’s extremism are likely to encourage further radicalization within the far right. Until recently anti-Semitic and pro-Russian sentiments had to be camouflaged in public; looking at the high score of the two parties, some rank and file could reasonably conclude that the time has come for such positions to be expressed more freely.

Mainstreaming signals

1. Rapprochement with the Israel Embassy and denouncing the Holocaust:

On 28th august 2023, George Simion, the president of the far-right AUR Party, met with Reuven Azar, ambassador of Israel and Yossi Dagan, Head of Shomron Regional County of Israel at the Parliament in Bucharest. According to a press release published (in English) on the party website[6]

Mr. Simion strongly condemned antisemitism, said that AUR Party has zero tolerance for it, and stated that the Romanian criminal legislation punishes severely any manifestations of support and admiration for the war criminals or the members of the Iron Guard who took part to the Holocaust, including Ion Antonescu. (…)

This is relevant because, since its inception the AUR party was formed to some extent by historic revisionists who denied the crimes of the Iron Guard (Romanian fascist movement) and Ion Antonescu (Romanian dictator during WWII). Since senator Claudiu Târziu, a historical revisionist[7], remains nominally number two in AUR hierarchy it can be safely assumed that this is an evolution of party discourse rather than party ideas.

2. Unusually strong condemnation of Russia

On 15th of December, in the context of inflammatory Russian declarations regarding Romania[8], George Simion, president of AUR condemned Russia in unusually strong terms. In an interview on Digi24[9] he declared:

Russia is clearly inferior to NATO [in military terms].

Russia has proved in the Ukraine conflict that it does not have the superior military strength to afford to engage in other conflicts.

The diplomatic response that Romania should give is much more decisive. (…) I believe that declaring [Russian ambassador] Kuzmin persona non grata, for his attitude and for his open support of a political party[10], and for his involvement in Romania’s internal politics, would be the right response.

Such condemnations of Russia, while not unprecedented[11] are exceedingly rare. The typical party line is to avoid speaking of the Russian role in Ukraine while at the same time undermining trust in Ukraine by painting the country as opposed to Romanian interests.

3. “Guerilla” visit to Vatican and photo-op with Pope Francis

On the 21st of December 2023 George Simion claimed to have been received by the Pope in a private audience and produced a photo to prove it (see right).

Responding to a Romanian journalist the Catholic Church said that Mr Simion probably visited the pope as a member of a non-political group and certainly the pope was unaware of Mr Simion being a politician[12].

Despite its unusual character, this publicity stunt remains relevant. AUR is a Romanian nationalist party and Romanian Nationalism typically defines the people in terms of Eastern Orthodox Chistianity.

Reflection in AUR- and SOS- aligned media

Overall, the apparent turns made by George Simion towards the mainstream, turns that had been made explicitly or implicitly on behalf of the party, did not produce follow-up gestures or significant decisions and were generally not reflected in AUR friendly media. On the other hand, Diana Șoșoacă and her SOS party remained friendly to Russia and silent on Romania’s role in the Holocaust, even criticizing AUR and Simion on its move.

After Simion’s private audience with the Pope claim was discredited, AUR-aligned media minimised the relevance of the circumstances in which the meeting took place and referred to the journalists that investigated it as “bolsheviks” that focus on “attacking” George Simion rather than on important issues such as “schools tearing down or hospitals burning”[13].

We could not observe a more positive perception of Ukraine or a systematically more hostile position towards Russia in the AUR discourse after Simion’s declarations.

On the other hand, SOS leader Diana Șoșoacă criticised George Simion over his meeting with the Israeli ambassador, calling him a “traitor to the country” and accusing him of portraying the Romanian people as “antisemitic” and responsible for the “killing of jews”[14].

Reflections on radical-aligned Telegram

Goerge Simion spoke little on Telegram friendly groups about his new friendship towards the Vatican and when he did he took steps to protect his relation with Orthodox militants by mentioning the religious decoration received from Laurențiu (archbishop and metropolitan of the ecclesiastic region of Ardeal, in Transylvania)[15].

He is even more silent about mending relations with the embassy of Israel, a potentially serious problem given the antisemitic traditions within the Romanian far-right.

This suggests that AUR exerts censorship on its groups, By comparison, Diana Șoșoacă’s friendly groups have no qualms in promoting antisemitic[16] [17] or anticatholic messages[18].

The revealing case of Claudiu Târziu

Claudiu Târziu is nominally number two in AUR and is sometimes seen as one of the voices of the intellectual wing of the party. He has cultivated an occasionally  more moderate image, trying repeatedly to “sell” AUR as a non-extremist party. He describes[19] AUR as:

# the only [party] to have organised four international conferences in one year with leading representatives of European conservative thought and of conservative parties in the EU states and Israel; (…)
# the only [party] who asked Russia to withdraw its ambassador to Bucharest because it offends Romania and Romanians, (…)
# the only [party] who organised a protest at the Russian embassy on the first day after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, (…)
# but also the only one who defends the Romanians in Ukraine.

In a message to David Saranga, then-ambassador of Israel in Romania he calls criticism brought to antisemitic positions of the party as a “trap [made by] a professional manipulator” and “malevolent”[20].

On other occasions he boasted the fact that AUR has ethnic minority members[21] or promoted his meeting with the Roman Catholic (Latin Rite) bishop of Chisinau[22]. He also called Russia to be Romania’s “natural and eternal enemy” adding that “Whoever associates with it also becomes [Romania’s] adversary, even if formally an ally”[23].

Given this track record, Claudiu Târziu should have been at the forefront of those supporting the mainstream positions of George Simion, using them both as proof that his own moderate positions have always been in line with the party, and, possibly, to take credit for AUR’ s moderate line.

Instead, Mr. Târziu had no message of support connected to the three positions analysed in this report. In this sense, his tactics aligns with that of George Simion: they both maintain silence around the party’s moderate positions when it comes to talking to supporters.

He seems to rediscover moderation when discussing outside the country, but this is misleading.

In an interview published in Spanish by elLiberal / The Observer[24] Târziu makes a short but firm condemnation of Russia regarding the war in Ukraine. This condemnation, like other moderate messages from George Simion or AUR, becomes the headline for the article. But, immediately after, Târziu continues for several paragraphs insisting that there is a Western guilt in perpetuating the war through support given to the Ukrainian side and demanding pressure on both sides. This rhetoric fits the pattern of “toxic pacifism”[25] as identified in a study by Global Focus together with its partners from Poland, Serbia and Hungary.


AUR systematically practices a form of double discourse where the party and its leader systematically recruit pro-Russian voices and/or Holocaust deniers while at the same time giving periodically calming signals to the moderate and even mainstream voters.

This tactic is not unprecedented, It was employed before, arguably with notable success by the late Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party. Before the ascension of AUR, the Greater Romania Party was the epitome of far-right success in contemporary Romania and he is still present in the public space in the form of memes that are particularly successful among youth who have not actually known him as a politician when he was alive[26].


[2] Catholic is a minority religion in Romania and for many nationalist Eastern Orthodoxy and the Romanian nation are intertwined.

[3] … while on the group of the more radical pro-Russian Diana Șoșoacă who competes with AUR for the far right votes such positions are allowed and manifest.


[5] Depending on their ability to both enter Parliament and also on the ability of mainstream parties to establish a cordon sanitaire.





[10] SOS party of Senator Diana Șoșoacă, a direct competitor of AUR
















[26] Note that the memes are less political and more examples of funny furious behaviour. Nevertheless, they are strong enough that Simion recruited Vadim Tudor’s daughter in AUR.