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Moldova gives up on ghosts?

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Igor Botan / April 29, 2004
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“Good evening”

In his speech delivered eight months ago at the 12 anniversary of the Republic of Moldova’s independence, President Vladimir Voronin said “today Moldova gives up on its illusions and old fears”. One could easily guess what illusions was President Voronin referring to, especially since the plans to amend the political program of the Communist Party providing for building socialism and communism in Moldova based on Marxist-Leninist theory, had been already made public at that time. This statement together with many others on democratisation, liberalisation of economy, conformity with Copenhagen criteria for EU integration, etc, were aimed at showing off ruling party’s commitment to modernise Moldovan society.

The very same illusions issue popped up last week after Communist moguls together with President Voronin himself celebrated 134th anniversary of Vladimir Ilici Lenin. As a follow-up, one day later the popular show “Good Evening” broadcast on “Moldova 1” was a good opportunity to test the ruling party’s commitment to give up on illusions. The show looked at the Lenin’s personality and debated on whether his monuments should be reinstalled in Moldovan communities.

One of the curious facts presented during the show was that in the heydays of the soviet regime there were around 4,000 monuments of Lenin throughout Moldova, while nowadays there are no more then a dozen of them. Artists and historians invited to the show agreed that except for very few samples, those monuments presented no artistic value and were rather serving ideological purposes. They were removed or destroyed rather chaotically, at times even barbarous, in many cases without the consent of local authorities. Those actions were the expression of the collapse of the Communist regime. That is why attempts to reinstall the monuments are viewed as attempts to restore the collapsed regime. An illustration in this respect is the storm of criticism and protests brought by the decision of the Communist-controlled Balti Municipal Council to reinstall Lenin’s monument.

On the other hand, during the talk-show, the leader of the Communist faction in Parliament, Victor Stepaniuc, was in favour of reinstalling the monuments in line with Government Resolution no. 121/725 of 17.06.2003 on installing monuments. Under the law it is in the competence of local councils to decide on such matters. Afterwards, Government is to issue resolutions in this respect based on the projects of monuments’ location and endorsement from Council for artistic evaluation of the sculptural and monumental and decorative artworks of the Ministry of Culture. According to the leader of the Communist faction the 4,000 Lenin’s monuments were installed voluntarily in the soviet times, at the decisions of the local soviets (which were probably elected in free and fair elections). And this because, Lenin was one of the central political figures of the XXth century. The leader of the Communist faction refuted accusations that the Communist regime brought by Lenin was bloody and inhuman, rather: 1) all the revolutions have been bloody, including the French one; 2) it wasn’t Lenin personally who committed crimes against certain categories of people, or church for that matter; 3) nations only benefited from the Communist regime that brought them modernization, especially “Moldovans who got out of huts only in the 18th century”.

It’s hard to assess what was the audience opinion on the show, however when asked to vote by phone whether they were in favour of reinstalling Lenin’s monuments, only (or as many as!) 25% were in favour of that idea. Therefore, it seems the great majority of the viewers had already gave up the illusions of Communism, but not the Communist leaders, who came up with the initiative.

About revolutions, regimes and modernisation

It turns that with the passage of time it’s necessary to remind some of the well-known facts. Otherwise, one might mistakenly conclude from Stepaniuc’s message that a superficial comparison of historic events may serve only the purpose of manipulating public opinion.

Inducing conditioned reflexes

Their opponents have no illusions when it comes to Communists’ sincerity in sharing Leninist values. They indicate that the families of the Communist moguls are rightly considered among the wealthiest and influential in the country. Previous “democratic” rulings paltry against the incumbent ruling, when it comes to creating material comfort as a prerequisite of power.

Nobody doubts that leaders of the Communist Party or those who advise them are the best experts on political marketing in the country. On the one hand they publicly state, especially to the West, that they gave up such Leninist values as: class struggle, dictatorship of the proletariat, nationalisation of property, fundamental role of the working class, etc. On the other hand, they largely employ Communist rhetoric and symbols especially when it comes to rural areas suffering of poverty. In this respect, one may want to look in how far the decisions of the Communist municipal authorities in Balti and Lipcani are in line with President’s claims that “European integration that we have engaged in, is a sign of consolidation of the political forces and quell of ambitions and narrow party egoism”. If so, the interests of which party does the restoration of Lenin monuments serve? So, it is wishful thinking to believe that Communist moguls would “give up on ghosts” as long as they bring them electoral revenues which later on might be converted into liquidity.

The initiative to reinstall Lenin’s monuments might serve the goal of inducing “conditioned reflexes” among the absolute majority of poor citizens: Lenin on the pedestal — food as cheap as during the soviet times (which was one of their promises in elections). For this to happen, simultaneously they are blaming the so-called democrats on the grounds that they were the ones to bring the country on the verge of poverty (which is partially true). The problem is that almost all the elites that came to power since independence fall under “Lenin’s grandchildren” category. They were educated in the spirit of Marxism-Leninism, materialism and “new men — constructor of Communism”. Undoubtedly, their actions stem from their education. Generally speaking, the difference between the previous and incumbent elites resumes to the time factor — when they changed the Communist label into a democrat one, or when they started talking European integration. What all of them have in common is once the came to power all of them became rapacious to turn public property into private one, even by means of corruption.

To avoid plenary manifestation of “conditioned reflexes” important things are not told or even whispered to the citizens. For instance, Communists prefer to overlook the Communist Plenary Session of May 1982, held two years after Communism should have been supposedly edified, when the Food Program was adopted in order to provide citizens of the country with enough food. And that because, albeit low prices shelves were empty in the country of victorious Communism. Moreover, no mention of the 1962 Novocerkassk events was made. Back then army, tanks and armoured machines were employed to suppress the protest rally of the workers at a local electric locomotives plant. Thirty of them got killed only because they dared to protest against salary cuts and skyrocketed prices on dairy and meat, as food was nowhere to be found (see Pravda of 3.07.91). This is how party that staged a military rebellion to seize the power in the name of the working class, dealt with the very same working class.

The gist of the Communist regime brought by Lenin showed off not only in the first years after the revolution, but also when the regime was on verge of collapse — 18 years ago, during the Cernobil accident on April 26, 1986. Back then data on the accident was concealed and thousands of people were let to parade on the May 1 day and praise party’s achievements. The party left them in high radiation levels with nothing but Marxist-Leninist slogans.

The aforesaid refers to sporadic events and may not reconstruct the overall atmosphere of terror and fear of that time. That is why citizens should have comprehensive data on the regime created by Lenin, to whom monuments are raised again. In this respect, many more debates should be held as part of the talk-shows in order to fully “give up on ghosts”.

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