NARRATIVE: If the Republic of Moldova had been part of Romania, it would have been an underdeveloped region, with an illiterate population serving Romanians’ interests.
BACKGROUND: A number of cemeteries and monuments devoted to the Romanian military that fought in World War II have been rehabilitated or built in the Republic of Moldova, which has been criticized by some politicians and the Russian and/or pro-Russian media as signs of a rebirth of Fascism. The criticism was accompanied by narratives previously employed by Soviet propaganda.
In Soviet historiography, literature and cinema, Romanian troops that fought in World War II were depicted as Fascists who slaughtered the local population. The narrative was a carryover of an older one emerged shortly after 1918 about the “Romanian gendarme” that oppressed Bessarabians after the unification of Bessarabia with Romania. Similarly, the 1918-1940 post-unification period is considered by the aforementioned sources as a period of occupation, echoing the tenets of Moldovenism about the existence of two distinct languages and peoples.
PURPOSE: To restore to collective memory all associations promoted in the Soviet era between Romania/Romanians and Fascism and to praise the Soviet era.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: The unification of Bessarabia with Romania was decided first and foremost in Chișinău, voted by the Country Council, considering the territory spanning between the Prut and Dniester rivers was under threat after the collapse of the Russian Empire, so there was never a “Romanian occupation”. Worth noting is that the territory in question had not united willingly with the Russian Empire, which had captured Bessarabia as part of its westward expansion. The Russian Empire treated Bessarabia as a remote gubernia, underdeveloped, with a local (Romanian) population clustered in the rural area. The phenomenon persisted after Bessarabia was captured by the USSR, when the Romanian population became the target of widespread persecution (mass-deportations, arrests, executions). Both in the tsarist and the Soviet periods, local elites, with the exception of those brought over from outside, were at best Russified. Moreover, the territory that represented the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic remained a predominantly agrarian area. Industrial development was reserved mainly for Transnistria. Taking into account all these arguments, it can be argued that underdevelopment is a phenomenon associated more with the tsarist occupation rather than the Soviet one.
After the collapse of the USSR, Romania became the country that invested the most in the education of young Moldovans. Every year, Romanian universities and high-schools offer scholarships to young Moldovans, providing them with grants higher than those offered in the Republic of Moldova. As part of a grant agreement signed with the Republic of Moldova, Romania repaired over 900 kindergartens and invested in the repair and expansion of the “Mihai Eminescu” High School in Comrat, the capital of Găgăuzia, an autonomous pro-Russian region.
One argument that suggests what the actual level of development of Moldova would have been had the territory remained part of Romania is Romania’s own degree of development. Romania’s GDP per capita, for instance, is double that of the Republic of Moldova and has also exceeded that of the Russian Federation.
It must be mentioned, however, that such alternative history scenarios are futile. In this case they strictly serve as propaganda.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Romania was indeed an ally of Nazi Germany in its war against the Soviet Union, which broke out nearly two years after the two totalitarian states had triggered World War II by attacking Poland. During the years Romania remained an ally of Germany, before turning arms against it, Romania was governed by people whose policies and rhetoric were aligned to Berlin’s, with respect to both communism and Jews. In fact, the Romanian gendarmerie, army and administration participated in the Holocaust. Communists and Jews in Bessarabia were among their victims.