In 2014, I came to Chisinau (the capital of the Republic of Moldova) after having traveled and lived in Romania for 14 years. As such, I expected Chisinau to be not much different than places like Iasi and Botosani (in Romanian Moldova) – in other words, a bit of an accent, but more or less the same as anywhere else I’d been to in the Romanian-speaking world.
But within just a few hours, it was immediately obvious that I was in a completely different country. And it wasn’t just because the spelling (of Romanian) was different or that I could hear people talking in Russian.
Quite honestly, I felt out of place – and that feeling never changed even as I got married and settled down, spending five long years in Chisinau.
At no time did the city or the country ever feel like “Romania” to me, even in the slightest. Everything from the attitudes to the music to the clothes to religious customs to the foods were all very, very different.
Yet whenever I tried to tell anyone this, they always told me that I was a “victim of Stalinist propaganda,” which is exceedingly weird considering that Stalin died 61 years before I ever set foot in Chisinau.
I don’t speak Russian, and I didn’t grow up in the Soviet Union (I never even visited), so it seems pretty impossible to believe that I could’ve been influenced by a man who died decades before I was born.
But reality doesn’t matter when it comes to patriotic nationalism.
The Gas Face
That eternal excuse of blaming literally everything on Stalin lingers on.
Just this week, the local OSCE mission (led by a career Austrian diplomat) confirmed that the so-called “Romanian” schools (actually just regular Moldovan schools) here in Pridnestrovie are operating normally (🇷🇺) as per the 2017 agreement.
According to the OSCE, the schools are not being interfered with, they now pay the same utility rates as everyone else, and all the teachers and students have special passes that allow them to cross the Moldova/PMR border without being stopped or searched.
But it doesn’t matter what I say, or what the guy paid by the OSCE to know these things says, or what anyone else says. There’s always gonna be some asshole who pipes up with a comment like this:
ложь. румынские школы по-прежнему подвергаются преследованиям, давлению и дискриминации. как даже румынский язык дискриминируется. ее использование обескуражено и поощряется только русским языком. вы не можете найти газету, радио или телевидение на румынском языке.
молдаване являются румынами, как и являются и арделяны, олтяны, мунтяны и бэнэцены. хватит лгать сталинской пропаганде.
In case your grasp of peasant Russian is a little rusty, he’s saying that the OSCE is lying, that Romanians in PMR are being persecuted, and that anyone who says that Moldovans aren’t Romanian and exactly the same as Transylvanians, Oltenians, Muntenians, and “Benetians” [I have no idea what means] is a victim of Stalinist propaganda.
Of course! And everyone knows that the best way to prove you are an authentic Romanian is to write in Russian LOL.
I always know when I’m dealing with a nationalist idiot because they’ll start by claiming that Stalin imposed the Cyrillic alphabet on Moldovans.
The Romanian language’s history is a long and complex one, but the short version is that the very earliest documents were written in an Old Church Slavonic (Cyrillic) script that was later modified to a custom Cyrillic script based on the Bulgarian alphabet.
Starting in 1848, Romanian nationalist movement leaders started pushing for the adoption of the so-called “Latin” alphabet (English is also considered to be written in the “Latin” alphabet). But it took a long while to adopt, especially because 99% of Romanian speakers were illiterate until after World War I, and about half of all Romanian writers were members of the clergy, which was still using Old Church Slavonic for liturgical purposes.
Starting in 1923, as a result of the Soviet/Russian civil war, certain groups of Moldovans (living in today’s Ukraine and PMR) were incorporated into the Soviet Union. Of course, they were not the only non-Slavic peoples living in the Soviet Union, so the question for the Soviet government was whether or not to create/adapt a Cyrillic alphabet for all of those languages or not.
The initial decision made by the Soviet Union (under Lenin) was to continue the use of Old Church Slavonic (OCS) Cyrillic for Moldovan. And this lasted from 1924 until 1932.
But in 1932, the Soviet Union decided to try something really radical, which was to Latinize all of the non-Cyrillic writing systems in the country. That included not just Moldovan but also Abkhaz, Chechen, Kyrgyz, Persian, Sami, Uzbek, and Chinese (yes, Chinese). There were even some texts in Russian that were converted into Latin characters!
The head of the Soviet Union at that time was Vyacheslav Molotov.
In 1938, however, the tide turned the other way, and the pendulum swung back towards Cyrillic. All of the “Latinized” languages had new Cyrillic alphabets created for them, this time based on the Russian script (as opposed to Bulgarian or OCS).
Both the implementation of Latinisation and the “pivot to Cyrillic” was all done under the reign of Vyacheslav Molotov and had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Stalin.
Furthermore, while it is true that the Soviet Union’s top leadership was encouraging this “pivot to Cyrillic,” it was actually the individual republics that implemented it. Therefore, in the specific case of Moldovan “pivoting to Cyrillic” in 1938, that was done under the auspices of the Moldovan parliament under Stepan Zelencuk.
Never heard of him? That’s all right. It just means you don’t know your own history, which is pretty par for the course for most “patriots.”
From 1941-1943, under fascist Romanian occupation, the alphabet used in Moldova was switched to the Latin one. But after being returned to Soviet control in 1943, the language was always exclusively written in the (modern) Cyrillic alphabet.
Therefore, it wasn’t something that Stalin imposed “de novo”, but something that Stalin continued from the previous administration.
Blaming Stalin, though, is necessary for nationalist morons like Paul Goma, Marin Basarab, Oleg Brega, Ion Iovcev, Eleonora Cercavschi, George Simion and all the others because the real man responsible for introducing (modern) Cyrillic to the Moldovan language was Vyacheslav Molotov.
And it was Molotov who gave Romanian fascists the green light to murder 300,000 Jews, burn down houses, dig up graves, impose forced labor, and otherwise terrorize the people of Moldova. In other words, Molotov is their hero, so they can’t possibly blame him, can they?
No, of course not. It’s far better to criticize Stalin because, after all, who would ever defend Stalin?
Well, I mean other than the millions of Romanians who loved Stalin quite a lot.
Romania renamed Brasov County “Stalin” County. They renamed the cities of Brasov and Poiana Brasov “Stalin” and “Poiana Brasov” respectively (and the giant “Brasov” sign up in the hills used to say “Stalin”).
Romanians named the biggest park in Bucharest “Stalin Park” (now Herestrau Park). They named an entire sector of Bucharest “Stalin.” And they named one of the biggest streets in Bucharest “Stalin Boulevard” (today’s Aviatorilor or “Aviators Boulevard”), a fact that’s conveniently missing from Wikipedia (🇷🇴) as well as most other histories of Bucharest.
Hell, they even put up a giant statue of Stalin right in the center (🇷🇴) of Bucharest just off Stalin Boulevard. And the man who carved it was Dimitrie Demu, a Romanian.
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
Meanwhile, over in the Republic of Moldova, there were zero statues, streets, parks, or cities named after Stalin. There weren’t any in Chisinau, and there weren’t any in Tiraspol, Bender, or any of the other cities that later became Pridnestrovie.
As I already wrote about, that doesn’t stop modern-day visitors from seeing his ghost everywhere around here.
Here is Ashley from Cannock (UK) describing the parliament building in Tiraspol in 2019:
A true remnant of the USSR. Believed to be the only statue of Stalin in existence in any of the former Soviet Republics so a must see.
Unfortunately, you have to be hallucinating in order to see it.
And in 2018, a Swedish drunk somehow found Stalin on his GPS!
Riding into Tiraspol I thought I would find a lot of Soviet remnants here and I wasn’t wrong as the Welcome to Tiraspol sign is littered with the hammer and sickle I notice on the GPS that the very first street after the sign is Strada Stalin.
Ironically, the name of that street is (and always has been) “Zapadniy” Street, which means “Western” Street (it’s in the westernmost part of town).
And last August, Ed O’Conner, an American now living full-time in Chisinau, also managed to see Stalin in Tiraspol:
Transnistria is a country stuck in time. Signs of the former Soviet Union can be seen — statues of Lenin, pictures of Stalin, the Supreme Soviet (parliament building). A hammer and sickle adorn the flag.
Sorry, people, but there’s no Stalin here. There never was, and there never will be.
The Great (Ret) Con
Yes, it is true that here in Tiraspol (as well as the rest of Pridnestrovie), there are schools, newspapers, books, and songs that use the Cyrillic form of Moldovan.
Yes, it is not the original Cyrillic that was used by Stephen the Great or Vlad Tepes. Yes, it is based on the Russian alphabet (it only has one letter different) and not the original Bulgarian/OCS Cyrillic alphabet.
But don’t you fucking gaslight me and tell me that Cyrillic Moldovan or the existence of a Moldovan culture and history separate from Romanian culture and history is “Stalinist propaganda.”
Moldova was a separate principality from Wallachia (aka “Romania”) for 700 years. Anyone who expects that they wouldn’t have developed different identities over all those long centuries is the deluded one, not me.
Look… if you want to retcon Moldovan culture/language by saying it was always just a variant of Romanian culture/language, then say so.
But quit hiding behind Stalin’s skirts, cowards.