Moldovan Government Chickens out of Historical Assessment of Communism

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 126

Moldova’s governing Alliance for European Integration (AEI) has split yet again, this time over a historical assessment of Soviet rule and Communism in Moldova. On June 28, leaders of three parties, out of the AEI’s four, cancelled literally at the last minute the Parliament’s session that had been scheduled to assess the Communist totalitarian regime in Moldova. A historical commission had prepared a report to serve as a basis for that assessment. The three leaders, however, deemed the session and the assessment “inopportune” and disclaimed having had any part in this initiative (Moldpres, June 28, 29).

Prime Minister and Liberal-Democrat Party leader Vlad Filat, Democrat Party leader Marian Lupu, and the head of a rump faction that forms a third component of AEI, acted in their personal capacities in cancelling the session. They claimed that the assessment of Soviet Communist rule was too controversial, and the impact of a debate would be too divisive on Moldovan society.

The Parliament’s chairman and interim head of state Mihai Ghimpu, leader of the Liberal Party within AEI, had scheduled the parliamentary session for June 28, the seventieth anniversary of the Soviet occupation of what was then Bessarabia. On June 24 Ghimpu had issued a decree instituting the Day of Remembrance of the Soviet Occupation, with annual commemorations of that event, starting this year on June 28 (EDM, June 29). Ghimpu had also initiated the formation of the historical commission, mandated its reporting work, and endorsed its recommendation to ban the Soviet hammer-and-sickle logo in Moldova. The Moldovan Communist Party uses that symbol to the present day, and regards the proposed ban as persecution in the run-up to elections.

Filat and Lupu are rival front-runners for the post of head of state in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Both seek to elicit Moscow’s benevolent neutrality or oblique endorsement of their candidacies. Lupu urged Ghimpu publicly to revoke the decree. Filat claimed that the AEI ought to unite society, not divide it (a claim met with derision in view of AEI’s own disunity). The rival teams of Filat and Lupu both claimed that any condemnation of Soviet Communism would enable the existing Moldovan Communist party to play victim of persecution, and increase its voter support on that basis (Moldpres, June 25).

Moldova failed to conduct any systematic commemorative events, or public-education activities on the state level, about Soviet Communism during the two post-Soviet decades. Instead of this, and partly because of this, Moldova became the only European country or post-Soviet country) to bring a Communist Party back to power through free elections.

Ghimpu’s latest initiatives could have begun filling a gap in the public’s consciousness. However, the AEI’s other three parties pulled back, fearing a backlash on two fronts: from Russia and from the Soviet-nostalgic, Communist Party loyalists in Moldova’s electorate. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ June 25 statement, attacking Ghimpu and warning the AEI in connection with Ghimpu’s initiative, apparently intimidated Filat, Lupu, and Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs Iurie Leanca via Filat (EDM, June 29). Vociferous protests by the opposition Communist party under former president (2001-2009) Vladimir Voronin provided further excuses for the government, and three of AEI’s parties, to disavow Ghimpu’s initiatives.

Ghimpu with a delegation of his Liberal Party held a commemorative event on the Soviet Occupation Remembrance Day on June 28 — the first-ever such event in post-Soviet Moldova. In his speech the interim president noted that Moldovans know very little about Soviet crimes and repression, and fail to associate them with Communism, due to lack of public information on these issues during two post-Soviet decades (Moldpres, June 28, 29).

The Liberal Party’s message holds that the existing Moldovan Communist Party is the heir to Soviet Communism. This message could at least begin de-legitimizing the Communist Party at the margins of its electorate.

However, Filat’s Liberal-Democrat and Lupu’s Democrat parties are not picking up on that point. Instead, these two parties’ leaderships fear a backlash of voter sympathy for the Communist Party, if the latter is perceived as a target of persecution by the authorities. Filat with a party team held a separate, low-key commemorative event, mainly saying that the Soviet occupation had already been condemned many times in Moldova (Infotag, June 28). This implied that it would be redundant, or not incumbent, on the prime minister to elaborate any further. For his part, Lupu kept his party away from any public event. Lupu’s and the Democrat Party hope to capture votes from the Communist electorate’s soft periphery, reserving the option of a possible post-election alliance with a weakened Communist Party.

For his part, a defiant Voronin insisted at a specially convened press conference that the Soviet Union had “liberated” Bessarabia from “fascism;” and that the United States has now licensed Romania to pursue an irredentist agenda in Moldova through Ghimpu’s Liberal Party. In his characteristic, awkward ways, Voronin is de-bandwagoning from the West and seeking to rejoin a Russian band-wagon. Moscow, however, is now seeking a more modern-looking political partner in Moldova.