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PHOTOREPORT – The May 9 parade in Chișinău: between Soviet nostalgia and the blurred memory of the USSR’s glory days

The Eternity Memorial, Chișinău, May 9, 2022
©Mădălin Necșuțu  |   The Eternity Memorial, Chișinău, May 9, 2022

May 9 was a much anticipated event in Chișinău: a recent law forbids the public display of symbols associated with the Russian army and the invasion of Ukraine – the ribbon of Saint George and the letters Z and V. Previously, pro-Russians had announced they would ignore the law. Fears were running high that public unrest might break out. That wasn’t the case, and the demonstration actually resembled a display of communist nostalgia rather than an act of solidarity with Russia.

Soviet nostalgics attending the retro-style parade 

The National Assembly Square in Chișinău started filling from the early hours of the morning. These were mostly nostalgic people in their 70s brandishing banners and pictures of former Soviet soldiers, most likely their relatives, and humming muted Soviet songs amped up by a speaker mounted on top of a van.

Others were waving flags of the Soviet Union, the Party of Socialists, Transnistria and some the flag of the Republic of Moldova. Glossy vintage cars with war veterans on the backseat and the roaring of motorcycles completed the picture.

Photo: Mădălin Necșuțu

“We are celebrating the victory against the Nazis. No one can take away this joy from us. I take part every year”, says 75-year-old Vitalie. The old man wearing grey trousers, and shabby belt and a white shirt with fine blue stripes was proudly carrying a flag of the Soviet Union which he fluttered languidly every now and then.

“Those were the good days. We had everything we needed. As long as you worked, you were well-provided!”, he sighed.

Vitalie is just one of the thousands of people who gathered in the city square. Most people had grouped in small crowds representing parties from all the rayons of the Republic. They had arrived at the light of dawn from every corner of Moldova.

After the ban was passed on April 20, pro-Russian Socialists in Chișinău, who organized the parade dedicated to Victory Day, a celebration observed ever since the days of the Soviet Union, found a method to bypass the law the forbids the display of the symbols of the war in Ukraine, such as the letters V and Z, but also the bicolor black and orange ribbon of Saint George. Therefore, they dressed the teenagers of the Socialist Party’s youth guard in black and orange to form a sort of living flag symbolizing the ribbon of Saint George.

Some leaders and members also brandished the bicolor ribbon, while others actually wore the ribbon in their chests, or a makeshift replacement they came up with before the march – a red ribbon displaying the medieval coat-of-arms of Moldova, but also the picture of Saint George.

Photo: Mădălin Necșuțu

Dodon and his defying acolytes

The parade set out to the screeching tires of motorcycles of newer or older make that drove off first, leaving a trail of heavy smoke in the corner of the Square, overlooked by the statue of Stephen the Great in front of the Central Park in Chișinău.

Photo: Mădălin Necșuțu

They were followed by vintage cars transporting ex-Soviet officers, their chests shining with Soviet-era medals and distinctions. The brass band and the drummers started playing Soviet marches and Russian tunes. Children from the Youth Guard shouted slogans such as “Pobeda!” [Victory - e.n..] or “We don’t forget”.

Then Igor Dodon and his band of Socialist deputies followed course, many of them displaying a defying attitude towards the law and brandishing the bicolor ribbon in their chests. Dodon acted like he was the star of the show, although officially he is merely the honorary president of the party and the head of a Moldovan-Russian chamber of commerce.

Joining Dodon were a number of leading representatives of the Socialist Party who organized the event, including Vlad Bătrâncea, the vice-president of the Socialist Party and the informal second-in-command at party level, as well as Nichita Țurcan, the head of the Socialists’ troll farm.

Bogdan Țîrdea, the head of PSRM’s social media propaganda and a producer of pro-Russian fake news and disinformation kept a lower profile, as did the former Parliament Speaker, Zinaida Greaceanîi, who flaunted the illegal bicolor ribbon, although she didn’t stand out in any way.

When the march reached the crossing of Alecsandri and Ismail streets, Dodon joined his former mentor, Communist Vladimir Voronin, but they only marched a few hundred meters side by side. The two men, who had exchanged bitter insults for nearly a decade, now hugged and kissed each other’s cheeks. Then they both walked down Ismail Street all the way to the “Eternity” Memorial Complex.

Photo: Mădălin Necșuțu

To the roaring cheers of the Youth Guard, who waited for the two leaders in orderly fashion, Dodon and Voronin entered the front gate and into the courtyard, where they released a few dozen white pigeons, a symbol of peace.

Photo: Mădălin Necșuțu

Ironically, on the same day, “Russian liberators”, who were sung praises in Chișinău, continued to shell the city of Odessa in Ukraine.

Dodon threatens to reach out to the ECHR

Igor Dodon is used to mobbing. A politician of average skill, always on the lookout to gain Moscow’s favor, Dodon defended himself when asked what he would do should he face penalties for violating the law forbidding the public display of the ribbon of Saint George.

“I believe that passing the law that prohibited this ribbon was a mistake. Every citizen of the Republic of Moldova has a right to an opinion, and the majority of our citizens are today celebrating Victory Day. Tens of thousands of people attended the “victory march” in Chișinău today. Despite the fact that the country leaders didn’t want to celebrate Victory Day, people took to the streets and attended the parade. We have a lot to pride ourselves with. We are descendants of the victors of the most terrible war, the Great War for the Defense of the Fatherland. Therefore, I believe we shouldn’t fear anything”, Dodon said.

Igor Dodon also said he would let his team of legal advisers handle any potential legal action against him.

“I believe the issue will be settled in the court of law at home. Otherwise, we will refer the matter to the ECHR. We will go there and make our case, including in the court of law. I urge all citizens of the Republic of Moldova who will be sanctioned to address my legal team, my lawyers will help them”, Dodon said in a typically populist fashion.

The head of state, on the other hand, did not attend the event, arguing she was feeling unwell. Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița and the current Parliament Speaker, Igor Grosu, paid floral tributes to the “Eternity” Memorial in Chișinău, devoted to the soldiers who list their lives in World War II.

Photo: Mădălin Necșuțu

“Unfortunately, we have fewer veterans than before. Considering there’s a war in our neighboring country, it is extremely important to remember the horrors of the war and pay homage to our dead and do everything in our power to keep society united. We must maintain peace and stability. People in Bălți, Găgăuzia or Chișinău all want peace – that is their common goal”, Gavrilița said.

 

The victory march ended with no major incidents, while Putin conveyed a spiteful message to Maia Sandu, “congratulating” the Moldovan head for state for the 77th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

Tags: PSRM , Republica Moldova , Maia Sandu , Igor Dodon , USSR
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