MINELRES: "Searchlight": An article about nationalism and antisemitism in Moldova

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Jul 20 20:44:23 2004

Original sender: Natalia Sineaeva <natalisineaeva@yahoo.com> 

An article about nationalism and antisemitism in Moldova has been
published in the international anti-fascist magazine "Searchlight" (July
2004). Unfortunately not so many objective and good articles about
situation in MD are published in Europe and in Moldova itself. That is
why I would like to ask you to post this article in Minerales list to be
open for number of people from all over the Europe. 
Thank you (also for posting my information before),
Yours Sincerely,
Natalia Sineaeva.  

Searchlight Magazine, Great Britain, July 2004


The Return of The Iron Guard

Beneath a thin facade of slogans about democracy, the extreme right-wing
in Moldova harbours a dangerous agenda.

On the surface, Moldovan politics seems rather simple: the
Western-oriented Christian Democrats (good guys) versus the old-style
authoritarian Communist Party (bad guys) and the international media, in
its rare reports on this post-Soviet republic squeezed between Ukraine
and Romania, often resorts to this easy explanation. 

The reality is more complex and on closer inspection the supposed
champions of democracy and human rights turn out to be direct
descendants of a fascist regime responsible for the extermination of
300,000 Jews and Roma on the territory of Bessarabia (as it was then
known) during the Second World War.

The Christian Democratic People’s Party (PPCD), led with an iron hand,
by the charismatic Iurie Rosca, holds 9% of the parliamentary seats. By
organising frequent street marches and other spectacular actions, it
poses as the main opposition to the ruling Communists, who won an
absolute majority of parliamentary seats in the 2001 election). 


The PPCD is ideologically a long way from mainstream European Christian
Democrasy. It is in fact the label of a political movement that emerged
in the early 1990s under the name Front Popolar which can be translated
as "Popular" or "National" Front. This movement started as a result of
political liberalisation during the heyday of Gorbachev’s perestroika,
quickly turned into a fully-fledged radical nationalist organisation
that eagerly used violence against political opponents and ethnic

One of the main goals of the frontisti is Moldova’s unification with
neighbouring Romania. The Moldovan language is almost the same as
Romanian and a large part of Moldovan territory was part of Romania
between the wars.

About a third of Moldovan society, however, is comprides of non-Moldovan
speakers (Ukrainians, Russians, Gagauzians – Orthodox Christians with
Turkish roots, Bulgarians, Poles, Jews, Roma, Armenians and numerous
other nationalities) who dread being forced to live under Romanian

The memory of Moldova’s occupation by Romanian fascists from 1941 to
1944 is very vivid. Marshal Ion Antonescu’s Bucharest regime was
Hitler’s enthusiastic ally in the war against the Soviet Union as well
as in the implementation of his Final Solution extermination of Jews and

The Nazi propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels stated in his diary that not
even the Nazis could rival Antonescu’s murderous antisemitic zeal: "When
it comes to the issue of Jews, it is to say that a man like Antonescu
acts much more radically than we do," he wrote.

Frontist leaders and press have repeatedly praised the Antonescu regime.
At the peak of frontist influence on state educational policy, in the
mid-1990s, Moldovan universities and schools were ordered to teach
Romanian history on the basis of a textbook published by Petre
Panaitescu in 1942. Historical revisionism, directed towards Antonescu’s
rehabilitation, is fashionable in frontist circles. 


The regime’s antisemitism is seen as justified because, in the words of
Professor Anatol Petrencu, "many Romanian citizens of Jewish origin were
involved in realisation of alien, Bolshevist interests" and "it made the
Romanian authorities and Romanian public opinion take measures." 

Writing about Romanian universities in the late 1930s, Petrencu
emphasises that "the number of Jewish students was [proportionately]
much bigger than that of Romanian students" which led to "a certain
dissatisfaction among the youth that later united in Legion movement".
The Legion movement was the terrorist fascist organisation known as the
Legion of St Michael or the Iron Guard, led by the fanatical instigator
of pogroms Corneliu Codreanu, an icon for some of today’s European

Dealing with the war and the participation of Jews in the Communist
movement, Petrencu asserts that "there were reasons for the management
of Antosecu’s army to have a negative attitude towards the Jews of
Bessarabia." This "negative attitude" was nothing less than the ruthless
extermination of the Jewish population at the hands of Romanian
fascists, starting immediately after the Nazis launched Operation
Barbarossa in June 1941.

The title page of Petrencu’s revisionist book (Bessarabia in World War
II 1940-1944) published in 1997, carries a stamp of the State University
of Moldova to indicate the work was discussed and approved by its
Department of History. 

The fact this book and some other historical revisionist publications
were sponsored by the Moldovan branch of the Soros foundation raised a
few eyebrows. Today Petrencu is chairman of the Moldovan Association of

The leading frontist newspaper Tara ("Fatherland") promotes the idea of
naming one of the central streets in the capital city Chisinau
(Kishinev) after Antonescu and building a monument to him. Pavel Moraru,
writing in Tara in 1999, praises Antonescu’s "courage" and "responsible
policies". He claims "the Antonescu regime was a modern dictatorship,
tolerant towards democracy (the exchange of opinions with democratic
opposition, the fight against political crime, the introduction of
universal autonomy, the organisation of plebiscites)."

No wonder such statements send shock waves among Moldova’s ethnic
minorities who suffered daily intimidation from armed squads of
uniformed frontist "volunteers" in the 1990s. 


Ethnic tensions and controversies over a new law on the state language
resulted in a civil war in the eastern region of Trasnistria in 1992
with armed units of frontisti taking an active part in the fighting
which cost about 1,000 lives. Today Transnistria remains a de facto
breakaway republic with a strong Russian army presence that has enforced
a truce for the past decade and gives Russia a pretext to maintain a
strategic military foothold in the region. 

But the region is also a magnet for Russian extremists. The array of
Russian fascists, extreme nationalists and "national Bolsheviks" who
have visited Transnistria in support of the self-proclaimed statelet is
impressive: from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, through Victor Anpilov to Eduard

The authoritarian and corruption-ridden regime of Transnistria is based
on a bizarre ideology consisting of a mixture of conservative Soviet
nostalgia and Russian ethnocentrism. It seems to provide a fertile
ground for homegrown chauvinists as well. Rampant racism among
supporters of the local FC Sheriff, who routinely display the fascist
White Power symbol, the "Celtic cross", is one example (FC Sheriff
currently has two Nigerian players in the team). In March 2004, seventy
graves in the local Jewish cemetery and a monument to victims of
Stalinist repression in Tiraspol were covered with swastikas and slogans
like "Skins 88" ("88" meaning "Heil Hitler" in nazi code). 

Ironically, the museum in the nearby town of Bendery exhibits
memorabilia connected with Paul Robeson, the great black American
anti-fascist who visited the region soon after the Second World War.

On the opposite bank of the Dniester veterans of the Transnistrian civil
war are among core militant supporters of the PPCD today and the
frontisti have been waging renewed propaganda campaigns calling for an
armed solution to the conflict. 

"There must be a new war", said one young nationalist with whom
Searchlight’s correspondent travelled on a bus through the countryside.
"There is no other way. All those who are not true Romanians must leave.
Every country must belong to one nation just like they do it in the
Netherlands now". He was probably referring to anti-immigrant policies
resulting from Pim Fortuyn’s political legacy.


The international community, in particular the Organisation for Security
and Cooperation in Europe, is trying to achieve a peaceful reunification
of Moldova and Transnistria. A return to hostilities would undoubtedly
result in another bloodbath.

"Our society has traditionally been multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and
rather tolerant, but the 1990s were a period of increased tension,"
remembers Ilya Trombitsky, one of the founders of the Helsinki Citizens’
Assembly who has made his mark as an MP and one of the most outspoken
defenders of minority rights. Extreme nationalist thugs have seriously
beaten Trombitsky and several of his colleagues on more than one

Chisinau, it should be remembered, has a special symbolic place in the
history of European antisemitism. A pogrom took place here in 1903.
"Undoubtedly antisemitism among the frontisti is even stronger than
their anti-Russian feelings," says P.M. Shornikov, a distinguished
Holocaust historian and a leader of the Socialist Party. He tells the
story of a horrific night in 1992 when several dozens of the Fronts’
political opponents, , at least a third of them Jews, were physically

The PPCD is also prone to other forms of intolerance. Soon after 11
September 2001, it sought to exploit the international climate of
Islamophobia and its MPs flooded the parliamentary floor with inquiries
about the alleged presence of "terrorists" among students of Arab origin
in the International University of Moldova. 

The PPCD also resorts to extreme homophobia. The PPCD’s deputy leader,
Vlad Cubreacov, declared in an interview with one of the main Moldovan
newspapers Jurnal National: "To be a homosexual doesn’t only mean you
are no longer a mother or father, it means you are no longer a human
being. Homosexuals are slaves of their own infatuations, directed by
instincts. Homosexuality doesn’t have an equivalent in the animal world,
and this is the most clear proof that its origin is in the minds and
souls of people, fallen in the face of God and the society in general." 

Cubreacov is also a member of the Moldovan delegation to the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He is part of the
European People’s Party (EPP), the mainstream Christian Democratic

His statement proved too much for the president of the EPP group in the
Assembly, Rene van der Linden, who wrote to Cubreacov: "Your opinion is
clearly against the EPP programme in general, and against the conviction
of our EPP group in the Parliamentary Assembly, in particular, as it is
also in strong contradiction to the conventions of the Council of
Europe. The respect for human dignity and integrity, whatever the sexual
preference or disposition of the people concerned might be, is the base
of our attitude and of our societal conviction. It must be clear that
you will have to change opinions about this if ever your political
position is supposed to stay in line with our group and with our EPP
party." Despite this, the PPCD has maintained its Christian Democratic
label and links with Christian Democratic parties abroad.


Cultural homogenisation and the enforced Romanisation of the state are
the proclaimed aim of the frontisti. The notorious document titled "Ten
Commandments of the Bessarabian Romanian" epitomises this tendency. It
was published by Tara on 4 February 1992 before the paper became the
official organ of the PPCD. 

It is unsigned but is regarded as a statement of Tara’s editorial
policy. It states "Greater Romania – it is the condition for your future
existence. That is why you must love her as much as yourself". It makes
recommendations on family life among other things: "Don’t rush to link
your fate with a person of a different ethnicity. Mixing is good for
animals, but not for humans." 

Hatred of ethnically mixed marriages, which are very common in Moldova,
is a steady undercurrent in frontist propaganda. In April 2004, a
leading nationalist intellectual, Nicolai Dabija, published a widely
debated article in his journal Literatura si Arta (Literature and Art)
in which he states that the children of mixed couples "are in the best
case mediocre individuals, and, as a rule, they are disabled, criminals,
and losers" with a natural tendency towards "psychiatric disorders,
crime and prostitution." 

Dabija went on to attack several respected public figures accusing them
of ethnically impure family backgrounds. Dabija’s newspaper is the
official publication of the Moldovan Writers’ Union which is dominated
by supporters of the frontist ideology in literary circles. Dabija is
politically linked to Serafim Urechean, the long-time anti-communist
mayor of Chisinau who some observers forecast could become president of
Moldova if the right-wing manages to mobilise enough support for next
year’s election.

Yet another nationalist newspaper Flux has won notoriety for publishing
its "Tests of patriotism" urging its readers to act in a xenophobic
manner in several daily life situations. Some time ago, Flux published
an article titled "I’m Sick and Tired of Russians" in which the author
wrote: "I don’t know what else we can do…we have nowhere to live as they
live in our houses. We have nowhere to work as they are employed in many
of our workplaces. I don’t know where to hide from their shamelessness…I
know that there is no sense in hiding, but, oh God, they always
interfere and get on my nerves…I don’t want them!"


On October 26, 1994, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova accepted
the Law on the Press. Article 4 prohibits the publication "of materials
challenging and defiling the state and the people, containing appeal to
aggressive war, national, racial or religious disagreement, instigation
to discrimination, territorial separatism, public violence, and also
other manifestations of encroachment on the constitutional regime." 

Although the legal framework of the republic allows for penalties for
inciting ethnic discord, nobody has ever been convicted for this crime,
the chairman of the parliamentary committee on human rights, Mikhail
Sidorov, told Searchlight.

Tara and Literatura si Arta have been financed for years by the state
budget of neighbouring Romania. For example, in 2000 Literatura si Arta
received 0.75 billion lei [£ 13,000] while another hate rag Glasul
Natiunii ("Voice of the Nation") received the same amount. By 2004, the
subvention for Literatura si Arta has risen to 1.5 billion lei [£
26,000] while Glasul Natiunii received 1.2 billion lei [£ 21,000]
Searchlight has copies of Romanian state documents that prove this. 

The funding is provided despite the fact that few political forces in
today’s Romania, with the possible exception of the extreme right-wing
Romania Mare (Greater Romania) party, can realistically bielieve in
annexation of a neighbouring state. One suspects that many ordinary
Romanians would prefer spending those vast sums on improving social
conditions in their still very poor country, instead of filling the
pockets of the bosses of the radical nationalist movement in Moldova.

"The lack of centrist forces in contemporary Moldovan politics today
means that for many people who reject the nationalist ideology of the
PPCD, and see it as a serious threat, the Communist Party appears as the
only alternative," comments Chisinau intelligence. "Events in Moldova
since the beginning of 2002 have led to a polarisation of the political
spectrum and to the weakening of moderate social democratic parties"
explains Natalia Sineaeva, editor of the Chisinau-based youth
anti-fascist magazine Collage. 

President Vladimir Voronin has made some efforts to extend his support
beyond the old-school Communist Party and to build a wider centre-left
alliance. This accounts for the presence of young democratically-minded
intellectuals such as Mark Tkachuk and Alexander Petkov among his

Since 2002 the PPCD has staged numerous mass demonstrations calling for
Voronin’s dismissal. Its leadership has increasingly evoked the
discourse of European integration, human rights, and democracy and
expressed its support for Moldovan membership of NATO. But the extremist
nature of the party has not been lost on more informed international
observers. According to a regional news service, Transitions On-Line, in
her two years in Chisinau, the former US ambassador to Moldova, Pamela
Hyde Smith, never invited the leaders of the PPCD to the embassy. 

Characteristically, she met with them elsewhere, in February 2003, but
only at the request of a visiting White House official. In September
2003, the US State Department organised a conference in Washington DC
for the incoming US ambassador, Heather Hodges. There an American
government official openly called the PPCD chairman Rosca an "awful
human being." Other officials repeated the assertion that the PPCD are
"extremists." The US embassy in Chisinau told an inquiring US government
official that the PPCD "is associated with specific acts of violence." 

While the PPCD has slightly toned down its xenophobic propaganda, there
are fears that a new nationalist group further to the right may now
emerge. "Rosca is not a real patriot. He is a puppet of the KGB,"
asserted the young nationalist on the bus, adding "There is time now for
the real patriots to take action." 

Ilya Trombitsky estimates at about 500 the number of young radicals who
are ready to be active in an organisation with a more hardline
nationalist programme. A new wave of violent confrontation could follow.

>From Rafal Pankowski for Nigdy Wiecej and Antifa-Net in Poland.