Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 93

On May 13, Moldova’s President Vladimir Voronin and the Metropolitan Vladimir of Chisinau and All Moldova arrived together for a pre-announced visit at the Noul Neamt monastery and theological seminary, which Transdniester’s ecclesiastical and security authorities had seized on April 27. Since then, Voronin had pleaded in vain by telephone with Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov, with Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow and All Russia, and reportedly even with Russian President Vladimir Putin for that establishment to be returned to Moldovan jurisdiction. Voronin also informed Smirnov and Aleksy of his intention to go to the scene.

Transdniester spetznaz and “border” troops, however, confronted Voronin and the Metropolitan and stopped them from entering “Dniester republic territory.” For an hour and a half, the head of state pleaded in vain to be let through. He then asked to be allowed “as a simple citizen” to visit his mother’s grave in the area under Transdniester control. He had to turn back.

The seminary and the monastery–forming Moldova’s largest religious establishment–are located on the right bank of the Dniester, in a locality that the left-bank Tiraspol authorities seek to annex as a military bridgehead. On April 3, Patriarch Aleksy and the Russian Orthodox Church Synod decreed that the monastery be transferred from the Chisinau Metropolitanate’s jurisdiction into that of the Tiraspol Bishopric. The bishop, Yustinian, took over on April 27 with the help of Transdniester troops, which remain encamped at the site. Yustinian has already announced a program of linguistic Russification of the curriculum.

Also yesterday in Moscow, self-described supporters of Transdniester and of its bishopric joined a 1,000-strong demonstration, called by Vladimir Zhirinovsky against Pope John Paul II’s upcoming visit to Ukraine.

The incident in Moldova carries several connotations. First, it reproduces the pattern by which Transdniester authorities seized control in piecemeal fashion, village by village and town by town, back in 1992 by using troops of the then-14th Army of Russia, stationed there. Second, it places a Russian from Russia–in this case, Bishop Yustinian of Tiraspol, who arrived in Moldova as recently as 1995–in charge of a local Moldovan institution. Third, it introduces supplementary forces in the security zone along the Dniester, over and above the authorized ceilings, with the passive consent of Russian “peacekeeping” troops. And, fourth, the April 27 seizure had not until yesterday–and has not, as of this writing–elicited any criticism from either Russia or the local mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (Infotag, May 13; see the Monitor, April 24, May 2; Fortnight in Review, May 11).

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