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  Moldova: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

Krzysztof Kolanowski
2009 05 14

„Jos comuniştii!“ („Communists Away!“) – this phrase reminds the revolution in Romania in 1989, which ended in the overthrow and execution of N.Ceausescu. The current protests in Moldova are also accompanied by the same slogans and a similar goal – to overthrow communists who came into power eight years ago and, according to protesters, falsified the election results.

According to the Russian media and the Moldovan president V.Voronin, protests are organized under the scenario of „colored revolutions“. „Western part of the country is getting prepared for an upheaval and most probably is funded by Romania. Therefore for a certain period of time citizens of this country were not allowed to enter Moldova.

However, it wouldn‘t be right to say that pro-Russian and pro-Western attitudes confronted in Moldova. In this very specific country the concepts like communist, statesman and nation have lost their traditional meaning.

There is no other state in Europe where the governing party refers to itself as the communist, but in Moldova only the title remained from the communist ideology. During the election campaign communists urged to establish the European Moldova but illustrated this slogan with the hammer and sickle.  They promised to increase wages and pensions and to double the state budget. They also promised a dialogue with the EU in pursuance of free movement of people and goods. According to the national newspapers, situation in the country is not bad: the lowest unemployment rate in the history was recorded in 2008, and the Moldovan leu is referred to „as the leader among the most stable Eastern European currencies“.

But situation in the country is far from stable.  The unemployment rate is low (about 5 percent), since many people are in search for job abroad (in Romania and Russia; those who manage to get visa – in Western Europe). It is assumed that more then a million of Moldovan citizens (out of 4,1 million) reside abroad, and these are mainly working age persons.

The average wage in Moldova does not exceed Euro 200 per month. By the way, a year ago the wage in Euros was much lower, but the Moldovan leu exchange rate has significantly increased. This fact is worrying exporters, but their number (except wine manufacturers) is very small. But quite many goods are imported.

People can see that reality in Moldova differs from titles in newspapers, but they do not want to lose what they have. L. Armashu writes in the journal Contrafort, that the Moldavans of older generation identify themselves with the communist power and that paternalism is ingrained in their mentality. Their pension is small but stable and they are quite happy with that.

Another important country‘s problem is corruption:  it is easy to bribe a doctor, professor, customer or civil servant. Corruption is also prospering in Trans-Dniester. People say that conflict with Trans-Dniester is artificial, since for somebody it is useful that part of the frontier with Ukraine is not under the state‘s control.

Current protests in Moldova are related not only to the disappointment of young people in communists, but also to the problem of identity of the Moldavans. Citizens of Moldova have no uniform opinion on how to name their nation and language. The majority are of the opinion that the Moldovan and the Romanian languages are identical, therefore young people shouted not only „Communists Away!“, but also „Unity“ („Unire“), „Romania“, etc. The unionists want to be referred not only as the Moldavans, but also the Bessarabians. Thus, the Moldovan identity becomes not only an ethnic, historical or linguistic, but also a political issue.

Protests have also revealed the conflict of generations: the protesters were exceptionally young people.  They go abroad in search for a job or for studies. Consequently, they criticize the situation in Moldova and refer to its „stability“ as to „hopelessness“. Pensioners have not been abroad but they do remember a secure soviet life.

Maybe the ones suspecting that protests are encouraged by Romania, are right.  But Romania, being one of the most poverty-stricken EU countries, would hardly find funds for the diversion. But quite a big number of Moldavans study in Romanian universities. In 2007 even one million of the Moldavans submitted applications for the Romanian citizenship and quite many of them became unionists. That was Romania‘s influence on protests.

Protests in Chisinau turned out into riots, but hardly a new „orange revolution“ will start in Moldova. Practically there were no protests in the province, and communists have already managed to declare themselves victims of hooliganism. Today protests have ceased, leaders of out-parties reject responsibility for the riot, and president refer to protesters as „fascists“ and promise to use force against them.

Chisinau blames Romania for inducement of upheaval, and the Romanian politicians are mad at the attempts of communists „to shift responsibility for their problems to Romania and its citizens“.  According to A.Tanase, a representative of the Moldovan opposition, young people shouting „Solidarity with Romania“ and throwing stones to windows of the Parliament were Russian speaking persons. During the riot accountancy documentation disappeared from the presidency and, according to A.Tanase, „Voronin has provoked the riot (...) in order to eliminate traces of his crimes“.

The Moldovan society is again disunited.  The current events were both, hopeful and frustrating for the Moldavans residing abroad. Whereas the Moldovan party in power might say: what doesn’t kill us make us stronger. But what tomorrow will bring?

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