Staunton, June 28 – Last Thursday, Mihai Ghimpu, acting president of Moldova, issued a decree establishing June 28th as the Day of Soviet Occupation, and this morning he and some other Moldovans went ahead with this commemoration despite opposition from the Russian government and from three of the four parties in the country’s governing coalition.
It remains far from clear whether Ghimpu’s decree will remain in force – it could be vacated either by him or the country’s Supreme Court – but in issuing it, the Moldovan leader has called attention to how the Moldovans were, along with the Balts, victims of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and how sensitive any discussion of this now is in Russia today.
On June 24th and without consulting with his political allies in the parliament, Ghimpu issued a decree calling on his countrymen to mark June 28th as the Day of Soviet Occupation and simultaneously called on Moscow “as the legal successor of the Soviet Union” to immediately withdraw its forces from Moldovan territory (www.moldovanova.md/ru/events/show/389/).
The acting president continued by saying that the Moldovan authorities would erect a monument in the center of Chisinau to the victims of “the totalitarian communist regime,” a regime that was marked by “deportations, organized hunger and the denationalization” of the Moldovan people.
At a press briefing, the Moldovan leader added that he was taking this step “in the name of the present and future” because “we must speak the truth since we live in a legal space. We must know our own history and raise the young generation on the basis of truth, since a health society cannot exist under conditions of the propaganda of lies.”
“Today,” he continued, Moldovans “are one of the poorest countries of the world,” a direct “consequence of the events of 1940 when this land was seized by force.” And he argued that “it is important that the Russian forces now in Moldova be declared “an occupying” army so that Moscow will be under pressure to remove them as soon as possible.
Ghimpu’s decision to take this step, one that both calls attention to the way in which the Soviet Union used force to incorporate Moldova much as it did with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and undercuts the Soviet-era practice of celebrating June 28th as the day of Moldova’s “liberation” from Romanian occupation, sparked immediate reaction in Chisinau and Moscow.
Leaders of the parliamentary Alliance for European Integration were outraged. One accused Ghimpu of being obsessed with the past – “Moldova has been an independent state for 20 years” – and choosing to “fight with ghosts” rather than address real problems, possibly in the hope of winning electoral support.
Communist deputies were especially outraged. One of them, Mark Tkachuk called Ghimpu’s declaration a pastiche of “anti-communism, Russophobia, and loyalty to Antonescu’s regime which has passed into oblivion.” But other communists suggested that Ghimpu’s action reflected the views of many in the ruling coalition, whatever they say.
But as angry as some of the political leaders in Moldova were, Russian reaction was far more intense, continuing the opposition it has shown to Ghimpu’s earlier statements about occupation. In April, for example, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Ghimpu “not to use Victory Day for political speculations” (www.argumenti.ru/politics/2010/06/66291/).
At that time, he said, “We recognize Moldova as a sovereign independent state. Not all the neighbors of Moldova act in that way. Their neighbors in the West in general do not consider the Moldovan nation a nation like any other. In Mr. Ghimpu’s place, I would be concerned about that and not try to use a holiday holy for all of us to make insinuations.”
The attitude of many in the Russian capital appears to be summed up by a comment on one Russian nationalist site. It noted that “on June 28, 1940, the Red Army entered the territory of Bessarabia and Bukovina. The Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic was formed” in the wake of that action (www.rus-obr.ru/days/7071).
But what is especially disturbing is the argument the author of this article gives for denying that Moldova was occupied: “These lands were part of the Russian Empire from 1812,” he wrote, and thus there cannot be any suggestion about ‘the occupation of Moldova by the Soviet Union.’”