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May 01 2013

Tensions Grow at Moldova-Transnistria Security Zone

Tensions increased during the night of April 26-27 in the Security Zone of the Republic of Moldova, according to Moldovan media reports. The Security Zone was set up at the end of the Transnistrian war (March-July 1992), a conflict that aimed to put an end to the separatist movements in Moldova’s Eastern part and regain the breakaway republic of Transnistria.

Last week, the Transnistrian authorities unilaterally installed two checkpoints between the village of Varniţa (a commune that remains controlled by the Moldovan government) and the city of Bender (controlled by the separatist authorities of Transnistria). This led to clashes between Moldovan civilians, who tried to remove the checkpoints, and the Transnistrian militia, who intervened to stop them. The conflict was brought to an end a few hours later, by the Unified Control Commission, a joint mechanism established to monitor, among other things, the Security Zone. While Transnistria claimed that the new checkpoints were aimed at combatting smuggling, the reactions from the Moldovan netizens highlight some of the reasons why the tensions arose.

Breakaway Transnistria, Wikimedia Commons

A map of Moldova and the breakaway region of Transnistria, Wikimedia Commons

Dragoș Galbur believes this was an attempt at occupation. He writes [ro]:

I could not sleep until 4 am, following live what was happening in Varnița, where several Russian soldiers and Transnistrian militians attacked the territory of the Republic of Moldova. And when I say ‘attacked', I know what I am saying. You cannot come in military uniforms to a land that does not belong to you, (according to the Moscow peace treaty) and start hitting the people from Varnița, installing your wagons under the pretext that you are establishing a checkpoint there. This is called occupation!

Galbur is disappointed by the reactions of the Moldovan officials:

Besides Facebook, in [Chișinău, the capital of Moldova] it was very quiet. Not a single reaction, nothing. No one was picking up the phone. If there had been a shooting by a careless participant, for sure the scenario from 1992 would have repeated itself. But who cares? In Chișinău, there is a big fight, for money and power.

The blogger refers to the deep political crisis affecting Moldova. After losing its government earlier this year, last week Moldovans watched the speaker of the parliament being dismissed.

A recent opinion poll from Moldova (April 2013) uncovers that 81 percent of the surveyed population believe that the country is not governed by the will of the people and 84 percent affirm that the country is heading into the wrong direction; 82 percent of the respondents are also not happy with how the country's ruling administration is dealing with the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict.

The same dissatisfaction is voiced by journalist and blogger Andrei Cibotaru, who thinks that the Alliance for European Integration (AIE) deserves to be called the Alliance for the Eternal Intermission, because of the constant power struggle, which left Moldova without a president for nearly two years, then without a prime minister, and now also without a speaker of the Parliament.

Cibotaru writes [ro]:

Meanwhile, they [AIE] they are intimidating us with the anticipated elections. They keep saying that if the elections come, we will not win, but the communists will. But why should we (and not them!) be scared of that?

The political comeback of the Communist Party might as well be a realistic scenario.

Asked who they would vote for should there be parliamentary elections next Sunday, 32.5 percent of the respondents in the April opinion poll chose the Communist Party, as opposed to the current ruling parties, which gained respectively: 12.6 percent (the Liberal Democratic Party), 10.5% (the Liberal Party) and 6.8% (the Democratic Party).

Journalist and blogger Vitalie Cojocari writes [ro] that “Transnistria is lost forever for Moldova”:

[...] Only a stupid person cannot see this. Transnistria exists as an independent state and does not need the recognition of the entire world, as long as its world is Mother Russia. Transnistria does not represent Moldova and only the naives from the Chișinău-based NGOs still consider the territory across [the Nistru] to belong to the Moldovans. It cannot be otherwise. Twenty years after the war, in Transnistria a new generation was born. This generation has grown and for them it is evident that there exists Moldova, there exists Transnistria and these two entities are completely different states.

Cojocari suggests there are two solutions for Transnistria – one is simple and rapid, and the other one tough and protracted:

The difficult one entails getting the Transnistrians to want to unite with the Moldovans. For this, however, the Moldovan economy needs to be booming, people need to have everything, and life should be a small paradise. Dear theoreticians of coffee-breaks, you will not convince the people on the left bank of the Nistru to unite with the right bank if you don't offer them an alternative. What could we give them? Poverty? Bad roads? The easy solution is to give up Transnistria. It is only in our way. We have a goal. We have to be part of the European Union. With them [Transnistria], we will not be able to do it, without them – yes. I only feel sorry about one thing. These poor people from Varniţa and other villages, forgotten by the authorities from Chişinău.

Meanwhile, popular support for the European Integration of Moldova has decreased in the past few years. This year's opinion poll shows that citizens views and support are equally split regarding integration with the European Union (51 percent) and a Russian Union (52 percent).

In a blogpost entitled ‘Russian Army go home,’ blogger Nicu Gușan is convinced that the only hope lies not in the ruling political class, but in Moldova's citizens:

The Russian military will not take even a single piece of this already crippled republic! This time, despite the impotence of our authorities, we will not allow for another part of our territory to be taken under Russian occupation. Today's citizens will stay on guard just like they stayed in 1992 and thanks to whom this republic has not been entirely occupied.

April 15 2013

Running 1,000 Miles for Europe's Trafficked Children

Run For Love 1000

This month, Rob Martineau, Tom Stancliffe, and Guy Hacking are running 1,000 miles from Odessa to Dubrovnik, via Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Croatia, as part of the Run For Love 1000 campaign, whose aim is to raise funds for Love146, a UK charity that “gives care and hope to trafficked children, and to raise awareness of the scale of human trafficking across Europe.” Follow their run on the RFL1000 website, on Facebook, and on Twitter; support the runners by donating here (215 donations have been made so far, with nearly £12,500 raised).

March 18 2013

Welcome Spring and Good-bye Evil Eye

File:Martenitsa E5.jpg

Martenitsas on a blossoming tree.
Source: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Μάρτης [el], мартеница [bg], мартинка [mk], mărțișor [ru]…however you call it, an ancient tradition [el] with multiple variations that takes place in the Balkans. So, weave your red-and-white threads for protection against the “evil eye” or to welcome Spring!

(more…)

March 11 2013

Moldova Without Government: What's Next – East or West?

On March 5, Moldova’s Parliament passed a no-confidence motion, dismissing [ro] the country's pro-European three-party coalition government led by Vlad Filat, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. The 54 votes in favour of the motion came from the Communist Party, the ruling coalition's member Democratic Party and several independent MPs. The government fell amid allegations of corruption and deep rivalries within the ruling Alliance for European Integration (AIE). While the three parties that formed the government on two subsequent occasions have still to figure out a way out of this deadlock, the Communist Party has played out as the overall winner and has high hopes of making a comeback to power.

Vlad Filat, the dismissed prime minister. Photo by Alexander Savinov, 2009 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Vlad Filat, the dismissed Prime Minister. Photo by Alexander Savinov, 2009 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Just a few weeks earlier, Moldova seemed to be the greatest hope on the European Union’s Eastern borders.

Now, the post-Soviet state might be thrown back into the eternal Russia-Europe power game and is headed for a serious political crisis. The Constitution states that if the Parliament fails twice within the next 45 days to reach an agreement to form a new government, it will be dissolved and the country could face early elections, a much-too-frequent exercise in the young state’s history.

Voices from Brussels immediately called on Moldova’s political elite to further pursue integration with the European Union.

The blogosphere seems to have grasped the behind-the-scenes party politics that led to the dismissal of Vlad Filat’s cabinet of ministers.

Sorin Hadârcă writes this [ro] in a piece entitled “Absurdistan”:

Today I sat and enjoyed the wonderful play “The Dismissal of the Government,” orchestrated by the Democratic Party. I was shocked by the cynicism of some politicians who, in order to cover up the traces of a crime, did not hesitate to sacrifice the Moldovans’ chances to a decent life.

The author refers to a recent scandal that broke out [ro] when the Liberal Democratic Party demanded the resignation of the Prosecutor General (an appointee of the Democratic Party), who, together with other high-profile members of the government, is alleged to have been involved in the cover-up of a young man's hunting-related shooting death. This resulted in party-driven revenge moves by the Democratic Party, which in turn launched investigations of power abuse against ministers appointed by the Liberal Democratic Party.

Andrei Fornea brings the same line of thought to the public attention. He asks [ro]:

Do you really believe that the Government was dismissed because it did not fulfill its action plan, or because it built bad roads, or because it did not raise salaries or pensions? Of course, not. So all that is left is to enjoy the fact that an oligarch has demonstrated his real capacities…

Supporters of Moldova’s pro-European path are cautious of the country’s reform agenda. Denis Cenușă writes [ro]:

It seems that there is no voice that can convince the Moldovan oligarchs that any step back can lead to another 5-10 years wasted for reform and advancement to a level compatible with the status of an EU candidate country.

Igor Casu fears [ro] that Moldova might lose its European direction:

… all the three parties of the AIE have but to lose from the anticipated elections, and by extension and more important, the Republic of Moldova as whole has to lose, and will fall back into the sphere of the Russian interests, and the West will turn its back for an indefinite time.

The Civic Platform “Acțiunea 2012″ is concerned [ro] that the Communist Party, which ruled the country between 2001-2009, could return to power:

An eventual Communist government will reengage in politics against all citizens of the Republic of Moldova, just to divert Chișinău's European orientation towards failed geopolitical projects.

Nicolae Ciobanu believes [ro] that the only solution is a new leader:

We need a Hero who would achieve complete order in this country, a Hero who would release the poor people who stole small things from prisons, so that they can feed their families, and fill up [these prisons] with the ruling cheats and beasts, of which there are many, far too many for such a small country. We need a Hero who will bring the country out of the ruin and in line with the rest of the developed states.

One thing is clear: the citizens, on the streets or online, are tired of watching the same politicians repeating the same mistakes.

Journalist and blogger Andrei Cibotaru writes [ro]:

This Alliance has tried everything: anticipated elections, a referendum, a presidential crisis, an algorithm, a motion… I think no one until now has tried so many pirouettes in Moldovan politics. If they bring it back to life one more time, I will be forever convinced that I’m very stupid in politics.

After the government's dismissal, the Moldovan journalists’ first reactions on Facebook were also not too hopeful.

Viorel Mardare wrote [ro]:

When I was entering the shower, there was still a government. I came out of the shower – the government is gone. Tomorrow I will be afraid to wash myself.

Daria Gvindjia wrote [ru]:

Well, now it is clearly time to leave. If I could catapult myself away from this country, I would. Somehow, I've become completely unpatriotic.

Lina Grau quoted [ro] her 10-year-old daughter:

My daughter, 10 years old, after I explained what's happening in the country: “Don’t these people understand that if they fight, the entire nation suffers?”

March 10 2013

The State of Torture in the World in 2013

On January 23, 2013, an excerpt from the annual report of l'ACAT-France, A World of Torture 2013, makes a fresh assessment of the state of torture in the world [fr]:

“A report called A World of Torture in 2013, assesses torture practices that continue to be alarming, from Pakistan to Italy, by way of South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Bolivia. From authoritarian regimes to democratic countries, none are exempt from criticism on the topic. In 2013, torture remains as endemic, omnipresent and multi-faceted as ever”.

February 07 2013

“Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement”

Black Sea News publishes Natalya Belitser's paper [en] – “Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement” – written for the international conference on “frozen conflicts” in Europe, which was held in September 2012 in Bled, Slovenia (via Andrei Klimenko).

June 29 2012

Moldova, Transnistria, Gagauzia: “Get to Know Your Neighbor”

On June 30, young social media activists from the cities of Chișinău and Bălți, and from Transnistria and Gagauzia, are meeting for a “get to know your neighbor” event [ro, ru], to discuss issues relevant for young people who grew up separated by geopolitics and the role of social networks and the Internet in their lives, as well as to brainstorm social initiatives that they could carry out together.

March 30 2012

Moldova: The 917-Day Marathon to Elect the President is Over

917 days without a president might bring Moldova a Guinness record. After two and a half years of repeated failures to elect the head of state, the Moldovan politicians finally managed on March 16 to give the country its new president, Nicolae Timofti. But will this former judge and a compromise figure become the leader of the nation? The opinions of the citizens are as diverse as the nation itself.

The unknown public persona of the new Moldovan president has raised many doubts in the society. Nicolae Timofti, former chairman of the Supreme Council of Magistrates, was elected president in the country's legislative forum after a long-sought compromise vote between the ruling Alliance for European Integration [AIE] and three former communist parliamentarians.

After 917 days without a president, the parliament elects a compromise figure, Nicolae Timofti, as the chief of state. Photo by Andrian.gavrilita, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Journalist and blogger Vitalie Cojocari voices some of the society's doubts regarding Timofti [ro]:

Who is this Mr. Nicolae Timofti? How honest and how good of a professional is he, considering that he comes from the most corrupted system in Moldova, the judiciary system? How much real power will the current president have? Will he be able to say anything against the ones who placed him in this position? These are the questions to which we do not have an answer. Not yet.

The president's professional background in the judiciary branch is clearly perceived as very negative by the netizens. Alex Cozer writes [ro]:

I do not understand how it is possible to take a judge who has held important positions in the Moldovan judicial system in the recent years and make him the chief of state. I do not understand, because the justice system is by far the most corrupted domain in the Republic of Moldova. In particular, it is because of the mega-corrupted justice that we are in this misery today. […] According to the last opinion poll conducted by IPP [Institute for Public Policy], only 1 percent of Moldovans trust the judiciary, and that is because of this Nicolae Timofti as well.

Ion Marandici mentions on Facebook that the new president is merely a result of a political game:

After three years of failures, the Moldovan parliament finally elected a president. The fact that an informed observer like me does not know anything about the new president's policy preferences is the best illustration of how politics works in a parliamentary republic.

Victor Druţă reflects the thoughts of the citizens who have positive expectations from the new president [ro]:

… at the helm of the state I wanted a well-known and highly appreciated public personality. An intellectual to whose speech I would not be ashamed to listen to. I wanted a president with integrity, who will not let himself be humiliated and who could lend dignity to all those many and deprived. A person of justice, who could be a moral standard to the nation. A person who will not divide, but unite, unite all citizens in a nation, regardless of their languages and political orientation. I want to believe with all my heart that Nicolae Timofti will be just the president this country desires.

On the other hand, the disillusion with the ruling political elite of the country seems to be a strong argument for the voiced concerns towards the long-awaited president.

Vitalie Cojocaru writes [ro]:

No, Mr. President, I do not feel that you are my president. I did not elect you. You were elected by the clique of politicians who realized that they have to put aside for a moment the hatred that keeps them going.

In a similar line of thought, Sorin Hadârcă gives the benefit of the doubt to the new president, but also draws attention to the fact that the neutral president could be lured by the discredited political class [ro]:

Not being a political figure well-known to the mass audience, I was afraid that the convenience for those in power would be the only atribute of the new president. […] This fear has faded away from the moment during the inauguration speech when I caught new notions, non-specific to the vocabulary of the Moldovan political elite. President Timofti speaks of truth, happiness, fulfilled dreams. […] I am not a politician by character, the president admits honestly, unaware of the fact that at the moment “not being a politician” is by far the best PR strategy in the conditions of a compromised political situation. I am wondering what will happen once Mr. President realizes the success of this message. Will he eventually become a politician? We will live and see.

Despite the rally organized by the Communist Party on the day of the elections to protest the legitimacy of the electoral act, more than anything, citizens are happy that the 917-day marathon to elect the president has come to an end.

Bogdan Țîrdea declares that the election of the president is a wake-up call for the political class and a reminder that they have no more excuses for not moving ahead with the reforms [ro]:

The two-year show of electing the president is over. That's it. The Alliance for European Integration has lost the last argument that allowed them to justify themselves for the poverty, unemployment, growing inflation and increasing external debt, etc. Now they have all the strings and supreme power. Consequently, also the responsibility. Now they can no longer organize hundreds of TV shows on the same topic, thousands of articles on the one and only problem, hundres of declarations and theatre plays. In short, they can no longer set a fake public agenda to manipulate the electorate.

Andrei Fornea believes the election of the president gives the politicians and the country one more chance [ro]:

Moldova has a president and the Alliance for European Integration has caught in the last moment the chance to not compromise the Moldovan political class forever. AIE has long ago lost my trust and every day of stagnation, uncertainty and groundless fights has meant new disappointments. Moldova has one more chance, perhaps the last one, and now it is important to see how the ruling leaders will use it. I believe there is no more room for mistakes, or for petty, narrow party interests, or for the search for new sponsors for an upcoming elections. Having in their hands all the state institutions and three more years ahead of them, there are no more excuses possible.

January 31 2012

Moldova: Anti-Government Protests Receive Little Endorsement From Netizens

For the past two weeks, Moldovans have been out in the streets, protesting. The organizers of the rallies - several politicians who have joined the Committee to Defend the Constitution and Democracy - are demanding the resignation of the government and early elections.

The rallies were triggered by the announced decision of the authorities to hold a referendum in mid-spring on amending the constitution in an attempt to make it possible to elect the Moldovan president by a simple parliamentary majority. The country does not have a president since 2009. Several previous attempts of the parliament to elect the nation’s leader have failed, resulting twice in early elections and an unsuccessful referendum.

While more protests have been announced to take place every weekend in the coming months and to be supported by the former ruling Communist party, and despite the overall dissatisfaction within the society with the ruling alliance and its inability to elect the head of state, the current anti-government protests have received very little endorsement from Moldova's online community.

The Facebook group “Down with the oligarchs' government!,” created by the protest organizers, hasn't managed to reach even 300 supporters, and several people have written on the wall with the request not to be invited to the protests.

Photo taken by blogger Eugen Luchianiuc on the first day of the protests on 22 January 2012

The first day of the protests in Chisinau, Moldova - January 22, 2012. Photo by blogger Eugen Luchianiuc (http://luchianiuc.com/blog/), used with permission.

In a comment posted to Eugen Luchianiuc’s Facebook photo of the first protests, user Mircea Scinteianu writes [ro]:

The photo is very good! Congratulations to the author. The event, however, is not worth a second of attention. […]

The same appeal to ignore the organizers can be read in other online comments. While commenting on a news story about the protests held on Sunday, January 29, user Lupan posts:

DO NOT WRITE ANYTHING ANYMORE!

His arguments refer to the organizers of the protests, the Communist Party and the Christian Democratic People’s Party. According to him:

They do not mean anything to us, let’s demonstrate this to them by not commenting and by not paying attention to them anymore.

Netizens seem to have their well-grounded reasons to stay aside from the ongoing protests, and their arguments have nothing to do with the yellow-code alert of cold temperature rising up to -20°C these days in Moldova’s capital.

User janaad.arc comments online:

Yes, in 2005 my entire family and I believed in Rosca [the leader of the Christian Democratic People’s Party, one of the main organizers of the protests], we voted for him at the elections, we thought he was honest and wanted to do something for this little country, but when I saw him create a coalition with Voronin [the former Communist president], I lost all my faith in this person, he became a political corpse, traitor of the nation and the country…

For blogger Radu Marian, too, the man behind the protests seems to be the reason for distrust. He writes [ro]:

Oh well, I have reached the end of my patience and the one to blame is: that bearded face which we have all seen these days on TV: Rosca – this hypocrite, for whom at the age of 12 I used to go out every day in the rain and wind to fight for a country without communism. Now, this man is disturbing my ears with his pathetic discourses in the main square about how well he licks the communists’ bottoms, at the masquerade someone called “big protests”!

He continues:

Yes! People have the right to be dissatisfied – things are going crazy in our politics and life! Yes! People are right to go out and protest!

But not at the appeal of a communist flatterer, without any verticality… How would Rosca be able to gather 2,000 people in the streets (and those being Russian speakers)? This makes one doubt even gravitation on earth. Seriously, Rosca would not be able to convince even 3 giraffes to come to the protests!

Nonetheless, netizens seem to agree that the ruling coalition has to resign. User bunica90 writes:

The current government has long exceeded its legal mandate offered by the people, has parasitized all state institution and during three years, under the cover of the pro-European slogans, has controlled all fluxes of money entering the Republic of Moldova. These are the reasons for which the alliance has to leave the power.

January 12 2012

Moldova: New Presidential Candidate Enters the Scene

Zimbru of Morning in Moldova draws attention to the candidacy of centre-left politician Oazu Nantoi for the post of President of Moldova - a post which is indirectly elected by parliament and has proven impossible to fill since the 2010 parliamentary elections, leaving the country with merely acting presidents.

October 23 2011

Moldova, Russia: Controversial Russian Blogger Escapes Prosecution in Moldova

On June 16, 2011, Eduard Bagirov, a Russia-based blogger and writer of Azeri origin, was arrested in Moldova. Eleven days later, the Moldovan prosecutor's office made the reasons for Bagirov's arrest public: he was being accused of assembling a criminal group and organizing the April 2009 mass riots in Chişinău, which are often referred to as the first “Twitter revolution.” Bagirov was facing from four to eight years in prison on the charges that were formally put to him on Oct. 12.

An Internet troll to change Moldova

Back in April 2009, tens of thousands of protesters went to the streets to demand the recount of the Moldovan parliamentary election votes. The protests led to a political crisis that eventually put an end to the 8-year domination of the Communist party and turned Moldova towards European integration. (GV's 2009 posts on the protests are here, here, here, and here.)

Political arrests - including the arrest of Natalia Morar, an organizer of the initial demonstrations and an investigative journalist expelled from Russia by the FSB -followed; most of the criminal cases against the activists, however, were closed by the new administration.

Some of the unfinished ‘affairs' lay dormant, though, waiting to resurface.

Eduard Bagirov. A video still from an interview by YouTube user Koroedcom

Eduard Bagirov. A video still from an interview by YouTube user Koroedcom

Prior to the 2009 events, Bagirov had been a frequent guest in Chişinău and is known for a number of statements [ru] that some observers consider an admission of his role in the post-election situation. In this interview, he claims [ru] his direct involvement:

В Республике Молдова я и еще несколько активных ребят в полгода (ну, чуть больше, строго говоря) поменяли государственный строй — навсегда убрали в прошлое коммунистов

In the Republic of Moldova, me and a few more active guys have changed the political system in just half a year (a little bit more, strictly speaking) - have removed the communists into the past forever.

The debates, regardless of whether Bagirov's claims are true or are nothing but irresponsible bragging, continue.

For example, Ilya Barabanov, a renowned investigative journalist at The New Times (and also, at least temporarily, Natalia Morar's husband: read the story of Morar's expulsion from Russia here), wrote [ru]:

поверить в то, что Эдуард Багиров действительно организовывал революцию в Молдавии может, наверное, только сумасшедший пеликан.

С другой стороны, выбранный срок заключения - 3 дня - может говорить о том, что его хотели изолировать именно на время предстоящих выборов. В воскресенье в Кишиневе пройдет второй тур выборов мэра, в котором действующий мэр-либерал Дорин Киртоакэ попытается победить коммуниста Игоря Додона, который обошел его в первом туре на пару процентов, но до 50% не дотянул.

Я примерно представляю, как топорно работают в том регионе ФСБ России и Администрация президента, так что могу предположить, будто Багиров действительно выполнял в Кишиневе некие поручения, пусть и не столь масштабные, как организация государственного переворота)))

Perhaps, only a mad pelican can believe that Eduard Bagirov was really involved in organizing the revolution in Moldova.

On the other hand, the chosen term of detention - 3 days [which was extended first to 30 days and then 30 more] - says that they wanted to isolate him for the time of the upcoming elections. This Sunday in Chisinau, there will be the second round of the mayoral election, in which the current liberal mayor Dorin Kirtoake will try to defeat a communist Igor Dodon, who was a few percentage points ahead of him in the first round, but failed to reach the [winning] 50 percent.

More or less, I can imagine how crudely Russia's [Federal Security Service] and the Presidential Administration work in that region, and I think it's quite possible that Bagirov was indeed carrying out some assignments in Chisinau, though nothing as wide-ranging as the organization of a coup d'etat)))

Later Barabanov claimed [ru] that Bagirov became interested in Moldova only to get closer to Natalia Morar and to find compromising information about her.

Who is Mr. Bagirov?

Why did Ilya Barabanov mention the Russian security services and the top political management of Russia?

The key here is the personality of Bagirov himself: an Internet hooligan, the ‘All-Russia troll,' a provocateur. Before the Moldovan events, Bagirov had been widely known for trolling, physical violence threats and a rather aggressive digital behavior mixed with hate speech. He is also close to Konstantin Rykov, “one of the first professional Russian Internet producers” and an MP responsible for the ruling party's digital campaigns, and Sergey Minayev, a pro-Kremlin publicist, with whom Bagirov runs litprom.ru, a digital literary community.

Andrey Malgin, an investigative blogger and former journalist, described [ru] Bagirov the following way:

Выйдя с зоны, Багиров, по всей видимости, стал милицейским провокатором. Именно в этом качестве он, как приманка для “русских националистов”, нес в инетах чудовищную “исламистскую” пургу, которая сейчас широко цитируется […]. Думаю, реакция на эти высеры тщательно отслеживалась. […]

Целый месяц перед прошлыми парламентскими выборами у него, как и у других рыковских, на юзерпике красовался Путин, и он ездил на агитационном автобусе по провинциям, агитируя за “Единую Россию”. И именно в качестве провокатора он последние два года регулярно наезжал в Молдавию, где мутил воду и был взят за задницу.

After his release from [the Russian] jail [in 1994-1996], it appears that he became an agent provocateur employed by the police. In this particular quality he, as a bait for the ‘Russian nationalists,' wrote some appalling ‘Islamist' nonsense, which is now being widely cited […]. I think that the reaction to these [outbursts] was carefully monitored. […]

For the whole month before the previous [Russian] parliamentary elections [in 2007], he, as well as other Rykov's men [it is believed that Rykov has a team of digital provocateurs like Bagirov], had a userpic with Putin and went to the provinces in a campaign bus, calling to vote for the United Russia. As a provocateur, he'd been coming to Moldova for the past two years, stirring trouble, until finally he was [captured].

Bagirov, however, denies [ru] the accusations (and, indeed, has a convenient justification):

Уже десяток лет эти тексты взрывают мозг сотням тысяч шовинистски настроенным хомячкам из интернетов. Я горжусь этими текстами. Они - мой несомненный писательский успех. Их разнесли по всему интернету, и тычут мне ими в глаза при любом удобном и неудобном случае.

For almost ten years these texts have been exploding the brains of hundreds of thousands of chauvinist hamsters [users] from the Internets. I'm proud of these texts. They are my unquestionable success of a writer. They're all over the Internet, and they [point to these texts both when it's justified and when it's not].

Detention and escape from Moldova

The Russian press and bloggers noticed Bagirov's detention almost immediately. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, issued a statement demanding Bagirov's release only on Sept. 27. Three days later, OSCE also issued an official statement to free Bagirov due to the “the unclear circumstances around his case” that “might have an enormous chilling effect on the media community in Moldova and beyond.”

On Oct. 12, the investigation was over and the trial scheduled. On Oct. 13 Bagirov was released, but placed under house arrest. On Oct. 18, Bagirov “with the help of his friends” left Moldova via Transnistria, a breakaway territory of Moldova, to Odessa, Ukraine, and then returned to Moscow.

Bloggers' reaction

Despite knowing that Bagirov might be a police or FSB provocateur, even Russian liberal bloggers (Oleg Kozyrev, Rustem Adagamov/drugoi, Alexey Navalny, among others) stood up to defend him. Some bloggers claimed they support Bagirov because he's a Russian citizen, some - because he is a blogger.

Prominent Georgian blogger cyxymu wrote [ru]:

блоггеров сажать нельзя)

Bloggers shouldn't be jailed)

LJ user za_rij responded [ru]:

Ога. Типа “я блоггер - ведь у меня есть аккаунт в ЖЖ, на лирушечке и даже на фейсбуке. Меня сажать нельзя, я в домике!”

Right. So what you're saying is: “I'm a blogger because I have an account on LiveJournal, on LiveInternet, and even on Facebook. You can't jail me, I'm [protected]!”

Many bloggers viewed Bagirov's case as an episode in a fight between an extravagant Internet hooligan and the repressive government of a small neighbor country. The issue that Bagirov could be, indeed, a provocateur has been raised by only a few bloggers. The group identity of the blogger elite has won over the critical thinking.

Bagirov's case once again shows how relatively easy it is to present false information in online space: his provocative statements that he himself describes as ‘literary success' - thus avoiding responsibility and winning popularity - may in fact allow the security services to monitor other bloggers' comments and reactions.

September 01 2011

Moldova: “Our Romanian Language” Day Protest

Moldova is one of the few countries in the world that celebrates Language Day, a holiday usually marked by nations that have fought for the right to speak their native language.

Twenty-two years ago, on August 31, 1989, while still a part of the Soviet Union, after fierce deliberations, Moldova adopted the Romanian language as the state language and returned to the Latin script. During the Soviet rule, the country had been forced for almost 50 years to use the Cyrillic script, and the Soviet Union continuously propagated the existence of the Moldovan language as a distinct entity from the Romanian language.

"Our language Romanian"

"Our language Romanian"

Twenty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the official language is still disputed in Moldova, whilst the Constitution calls it Moldovan, the educational system teaches Romanian, and the ethnic minorities insist on formalizing the Russian language as a second official language.

Ahead of this year’s celebration of Our Romanian Language Day, the Moldovan netizens organized via Facebook [ro] a protest demanding the authorities to replace the phrasing “Moldovan language” with “Romanian language” from the highly disputed 13th Article of the Moldovan Constitution.

The initiative's organizers motivated the attendees with the following slogans:

DEMAND WHAT BELONGS TO YOU; DEMAND THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF THE ROMANIAN LANGUAGE!

For 20 years, an injustice has been written down in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, it harms the Historical Truth of our nation. Those from yesterday, from today and from tomorrow are living this injustice every day, they tolerate and decry it, and they revolt and conform to it, but what will we leave for our offspring and how will we be able to look into their eyes with the shame of our cowardice?

Our parents fought to leave the Soviet Empire, what do we do to carry on with the dignity of their names?

Netizens used Facebook to organize a protest under the slogan: "COME! to protect the LANGUAGE and the HISTORY"

Netizens used Facebook to organize a protest under the slogan: "COME! to protect the LANGUAGE and the HISTORY"

This call to protest ended with the following message:

The affirmation of the Romanian identity does not affect the attitude towards the identity of the ethnic minority groups (Ukrainians, Russians, Bulgarians, Gagauz) who live next to us in the Republic of Moldova. We have to respect each other.

Sergiu Scarlat wrote [ro] on the event’s Facebook page:

We have to fight against the invaders (Russian friends) and to clearly demonstrate that we are at home and here we speak Romanian or at least Moldovan, if anyone spots the difference…

Around 200 people, from more than 1000 who had signed up on the Facebook page, actually turned up at the protest held on August 30 in capital Chisinau.

The protesters carried signs saying:

Without language, without history. We are left with bread and circus?

20 years of “Moldovan language.” How much longer will we endure?

Moldovan language – an invention of the invaders?

Romanian language is my motherland!

The event has made it into mainstream media coverage. The buzz in the blogosphere portraits the still fragile and controversial status of the Romanian language.

Traian Vasilcau decries [ro] the status of the Romanian language existent nowadays in Moldova:

Put on the wall of infamy, the Romanian language sees in front of its eyes a sea of darkness, so big that one could easily slap someone.

He goes on:

From the declaration of independence of the Republic of Moldova, know that only 1 percent of the Bessarabian aliens have learned the pseudo state language.

“Pseudo,” because the eternal problem of the name of the Romanian language is part of science fiction novels.

It is Moldovan for the unconscious populations and for the pro-Communists, and it is Romanian for the conscious population of [Bessarabia].

Alex Cozer assesses [ro] the situation in the same manner:

Still, just like in the case of “independence,” our “Romanian” language is a fake celebration, because, in fact, the Romanian language, just like the independence, is trampled down and not respected.

The blogger appeals to the Prime Minister to keep his promise of levying the main - and the monopolist - chain of cinemas to dub or subtitle movies in Romanian. In the main cinemas of the Moldovan capital, one can only watch movies in Russian.

On the other side of the barricade, blogger Nicolae Pascaru engages [ro] in a debate [ro] where he argues that the language name should be Moldovan, because Moldovan is written down in the Constitution.

Comments to his viewpoint have been mainly critical. A user calling himself Infinit says [ro]:

I am sorry to let you know, but there is a problem with the Constitution. I am afraid several mistakes have slipped in there. The Moldovan language is one of them and is not even the most serious one. I have not seen the Moldovan Constitution mentioning that Smirnov [the self-proclaimed leader of the secessionist entity of Transnistria] has to control Transnistria from 1990, nor that the military units of other states have to be stationed on the territory of Moldova.

Tudor Darie deplores [ro] the fact that certain members of the Moldovan Parliament cannot speak the Romanian language. According to him, the solution is this:

The Government and the Parliament need to create the necessary conditions to protect and promote “the state language” and we (those who follow the historical truth) must not beg, but impose respect for the Romanian language!

Corneliu Gandrabur goes back in his blog post [ro] to the date of August 31, 1989:

On August 31, 1989, I was 2 years and 9 months old; possibly I was still speaking Romanian. On that day, when probably I was playing in the sand in front of the house, on Lenin Street, there were many people who were demanding in one voice the Romanian language and the Latin Alphabet. They got what they demanded, but with the right to only speak it once a year.

[…]

How many more years will we speak Romanian only one day per year? A tough question even for me, I am not even going to write anything about those who are in power now!

Alexandru Tanase writes [ro] on his Facebook wall:

In ’89 I was in the square [National Square] together with thousands of people who were fighting for the adoption of the Romanian language as the state language and the return to the Latin script. In fact, the fight was taking place not only for the return of the Romanian language to public life. In ’89 we were fighting for dignity, which is the basis and the sum of all human rights and values. Congratulations everyone!

August 27 2011

Moldova: Twenty Years of Independence Marked with Parade and Disillusion

On August 27, Moldova has marked its 20th year of independence, an anniversary commemorated this year by the other 13 ex-Soviet republics. Moldova was the last of the European states to declare its independence from the Soviet Union [chronology], followed only by the Eurasian countries.

When last asked in November 2009 whether they regretted the dissolution of the USSR, 48.6 percent of Moldovans answered affirmatively, as opposed to only 32.4 percent who did not regret it. The same survey showed that the majority of people considered that the living conditions, health care, food and the quality of education were better in the Soviet Union, while the situation with the freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of travel and religious freedom had improved.

The 20th anniversary of independence has found Moldova without a president for the second year in a row. An unresolved conflict surrounding the secessionist republic of Transnistria is still shadowing the country’s territorial integrity. The state has around half a million fewer citizens due to emigration in search of a better life as the country is still ranked the poorest in Europe.

According to the latest opinion poll from May 2011, 65 percent of the citizens are not happy with the situation in the country, and only 24 percent believe that things are moving in the right direction. Nonetheless, 83 percent of Moldovans are proud to be citizens of their country and only 3 percent have declared not to be proud.

Rocket launcher trucks are driving by during the military parade in Moldova's capital Chisinau, as Moldovans celebrate 20 years of independence. Photo by Adrian Hancu, copyright ©Demotix (August 27, 2011)

Moldova’s anniversary debates have flooded the national blogosphere; overall, critical and disillusioned attitudes outweigh the enthusiasm.

Victor Chironda questions [ro] whether we have really learned the independence lesson:

Over a time period of 20 years Moldova had an opportunity to start from zero, just like a newborn, to learn to stand on its feet and walk, to learn the “cans” and “cannots”, the good and the bad. And together with Moldova, each one of us had this opportunity.

But have we truly exploited this chance? Have we learned to stand on our feet? Have we learned “to walk” in these years?

The fact that the 20th anniversary of independence has caught us in a full political, economic, social and even moral crisis suggests that we have not really learned the lesson.

This year, for the first time ever since gaining independence, Moldovan authorities have organized a military parade. This decision was received with diverging reactions within the society. In regards to that, Denis Cenusa believes [ro] that:

The contrary opinions within the society concerning the rationale of hosting a military parade in Chisinau uncover a state of apathy towards the Independence Day in general and, on the other hand, unveil a high level of anxiety from some segments of the population towards the political class.

The military parade is considered “fanfaronade” by Alex Cozer, who writes [ro]:

I had a bitter smile when I heard that for this fanfaronade new clothes had been made for the soldiers and new shoes bought, and the military cars that stood rusting for years had been repaired and repainted.

I hope nobody will get the wrong idea that I don’t love this country or that I don’t respect its independence. I love this country and I respect the date of August 27, even if this independence has been obtained after almost all other ex-Soviet states had broken away from the USSR, and even if our independence during these last 20 years has been mostly a fact on the paper.

A high-ranking Moldova military official in an old Soviet Volga car, during the military parade in Chisinau, Moldova. Photo by Adrian Hancu, copyright ©Demotix (August 27, 2011)

Nati Vozian believes [ro] that only hope keeps Moldova going:

For 20 years, it has carried on its shoulders 4 million people who want to eat every day, a handful of oligarchs and parliamentarians who exploit it and use it as they please. From 1991, it has lived unfulfilled dreams, disillusions and deceptions. It is poor, but independent. It is small, but has a big soul. It has potential, but it is not discovered. It gets promises, but not actions.

Only hope keeps it on its feet.

Our young Moldova turns 20 this year. It does not want praises, thousands of congratulations and wishes of well-being. It wants to receive only one gift: a better life…

Vlada Ciobanu addresses [ro] Moldova directly:

Dear country,

Soon there will be many posts full of pathos about how wonderful you are and how much the people love you. These would boost your self-esteem. A success story, in other words.

To be clear in which moment of our relationship we are now, know that I am looking forward to the Romanian citizenship. Somehow I do not trust these men that you change every four years (nowadays even more often). But I really want to travel around the world and to have the certainty that I can leave from here in any moment when you begin sinking. […]

I am not complaining, and I am not leaving, I just want you to know how you are; the others are lying to you. They lie because they do not love you. The people who love you say everything to your face.

Nata Albot wants to see a change in people’s minds. She writes [ro]:

In the morning we chose the slogan. Moldova, I do love you. Slogans were many. Incredible ones (not on a positive note). Pathetic ones. Just like we have been used to be towards this country. We spit on it 365 days a year, we complain, we curse it. Not that it would not deserve. But not the country is to blame. The country is wonderful. It is a strip of land that hosts us, feeds us, gives us a place to live and work. The bugs in our minds are to blame. We think wrong, we believe too much in priests and fortune-tellers, we drink a lot, we tell lies, we do not respect each other, we do not learn the language, we steal, we bribe, … I'm telling you… Not the country is to blame. The people make the country. And if the people f…ck it, they must undo this. Meaning nothing is impossible. We just have to change the direction, or the speed, or the volume, or the light in our thoughts. Something certainly needs to change. In our minds.

On a different note, Vitalie Marian has written down [ro] at least 20 reasons for which he loves Moldova:

Here I was born and here live my dear parents.
Here I met my dear wife and got married.
It is a beautiful country with the most fertile soil (even though its potential is not even barely exploited).
It has people with a great heart, hospitable and very patient.

He does not forget to list some ironic reasons as well:

Even if hot water gets turned off, you still have cold water.
Even if we do not have a president, I do not feel the difference.
Even if the financial crisis is stressing out the entire world, everything remains stable in Moldova.
Even if everything is bad, people do not lose their grip and sense of humour.

August 02 2011

Moldova: Attack on Journalist Causes Online Debate on “Language Issue”

An incident of violence against a Moldovan journalist brought about active online discussions regarding the long-protracted animosities between the Moldovan majority and the small Russian minority in the country.

The discord goes deep into history, as Moldova was once an integral part of the Romanian nation and later, during the Second World War, was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union for almost 50 years. On August 27, Moldova will mark its 20th year of independence, but disagreements between the ethnic Moldovan population and the Russian-speaking minority flare up from time to time regarding the use of the Russian language. On many occasions, representatives of the Russian-speaking minority have refused to speak the official language of the country [the official language in Moldova is Romanian (called Moldovan in the Constitution)] and commanded the local population to speak Russian. Russian is not an official language in Moldova, but is widely spoken by ethnic minorities, in particular in the unrecognized separatist region of Transnistria and in the autonomous entity of Gagauz Yeri. The political elite, busy with the ongoing domestic disputes, has not made attempts of bridging the inter-ethnic gap over the years and so far has not reacted to this case.

Journalist Oleg Brega from Curaj TV was attacked on July 29 at the Slavonic University of Moldova, where he was investigating a case of a student encountering problems with her request to transfer to another university. At the journalist’s insistence to obtain some answers from the university's administration, the executive director of the university, Andrei Babenco, demanded that the journalist speak Russian. The journalist said he understood Russian, but asked if Babenco could speak Romanian, and the latter replied that he couldn't and wouldn't speak Romanian, and then, all of a sudden, hit the journalist and his camera when Brega asked why he didn’t speak Romanian.

Brega was recording everything, and the attack on him continued, as the executive director and several of his colleagues continued to hit and insult him while also trying to take away his documents and make him stop videotaping (attack scenes at min 1:36; 2:30). The journalist was also continuously threatened and prevented from leaving the premises of the university. He called the police, which took control over the situation.

Before the case was mentioned by the mainstream media, the online community had organised a flashmob at the university. On August 1, equipped with video-recording devices and extracts from the Constitution, youth activists came to the Slavonic University and started filming the university, to show solidarity with the harassed journalist. The young people were also attacked by the university employees, who appeared irritated by the fact that they were being filmed. As a result, one of the participants was taken away his camera by a university representative. It was again necessary for the police to intervene.

Oleg Brega, the attacked journalist, drew attention to the fact that the inter-ethnic divide should not be the sole focus of this case, which is, according to him, also a severe case of basic human rights violations. However, online debates have focused mainly on the use of the Russian language in the country.

Vitalie Cojocari felt humiliation. He wrote [ro]:

I felt once again the secular whip of the secular Russian whistling in the air and hitting me painfully across my cheek. Because that director did not only hit Oleg Brega. That individual, for whom prison is crying, has hit all Romanian-speakers from Moldova, regardless of whether they call it Moldovan or not.

He went on:

It is damn complicated to ask a Russian from Moldova to speak your language. Any such attempt is harshly sanctioned. Russians need to be respected, after all we are a multi-ethnic nation, so they have rights. But will no one speak about obligations? No. Why? Because if you ask Russians to learn Romanian you are called a “fascist pig.”

In another blog post, the same author ascertains [ro], as he comments on another issue (the autonomous entity Gagauz Yeri has demanded the Moldovan Government to issues their correspondence to the region in Russian):

[…] the Romanian language is again subject to a terrible pressure. It is like we are going back to before ’89 [on August 31, 1989, Moldova switched from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin script]. Damn situation! What the hell is happening with our little country, where no minority group, Russian, Gagauz, Jewish, Ukrainian, Armenian, speaks our language? We have ended up being a minority in our country. Where did we go wrong, brothers, that no one loves our language?

Tudor Cojocariu opines [ro] that the “ethnic conflict is still to be found at the roots of many aggressions and violence that are happening around us”:

And who knows how many such USSR-type situations of sad reminiscence and of [“thieves in law”] are taking place right in front of us and we just look down and lie to ourselves that tomorrow everything will be alright, while knowing at the same time that neither the Romanian Moldovan majority, nor the Russian minority will go anywhere. It all has to do with adaptation and it is clear that never the majority will adapt to the minority, even if the latter is imperial, frustrated and full of complexes, because they have ended up being a minority where once there was a false “big Soviet motherland.”

Another blogger, Denis Cenusa, wrote this [ro]:

Any hesitation or delay in discussing the status of the Russian language, the methods to integrate Russian-speakers into the society and the measures to efficiently and permanently interconnect the linguistic communities will, in the future, result in serious problems for national security, including the European path of the Republic of Moldova.

“20 years have passed. MOLDOVA, WAKE UP!”, concluded [ro] his blog entry Andrei Fornea.

The Moldovan media NGOs have issued a statement, expressing their concern regarding the incident at the Slavonic University and qualifying it as unacceptable for a democratic society.

June 28 2011

Russia/Moldova: Eduard Bagirov, Internet Hooligan, Arrested in Moldova

Bloggers discuss [ru] the 30-day arrest [ru] of Eduard Bagirov [ru], writer and a blogger close to pro-Kremlin propagandists, in Moldova. Oleg Kozyrev says [ru], Bagirov's arrest is connected with his activity as a commentator on Moldova unrest in 2009. Kommersant, however, provides [ru] the official Moldovan version – Bagirov (known for his aggressive style of writing (often with physical threats to other bloggers)) is charged with the organization of post-election protests in Chisinau.

June 17 2011

Moldova: +1 Vote Campaign Buzz Ahead of Local Elections

Moldova’s capital Chisinau is set to witness another democratic exercise this Sunday, June 19, when the second and final round of the local election will decide whether the city will have a liberal or a communist mayor.

A group of bloggers has launched the +1 Vote online campaign to mobilize young people to go out and vote, regardless of their choice.

The bloggers are planning to do a mobilization dance on Sunday in Chisinau's National Square. They have a tune, they have the moves and with their bodies they will dance and write +1 Vote. To make sure it goes well, on Thursday, June 16, they held a rehearsal and were joined by many young people, including a newlywed couple (photo and video).

+1Vote mobilisation campaign logo

Bloggers have launched +1 Vote, an online mobilisation campaign

Launched on June 15, the +1 Vote campaign has seen a number of Facebook users change their profile photos to the +1 Vote logo and the campaign's Facebook page has already gathered more than 300 potential attendees.

The campaign has been largely featured in the mainstream media and has generated lively discussions in the blogosphere.

Katya Poclitari addresses [ro] her fellow citizens:

Each of us matters. Each vote matters and that +1 Vote will be the decisive one and will bring the change to us living in Chisinau – the people of this beautiful, rich and, hopefully, happy country.

PS: THE MOST IMPORTANT, before or after the +1 Vote dance, do not forget to go and vote.

Though the organisers have declared the campaign to be neutral, the blue colour used in the logo is the electoral colour of the liberal party. Eugeniu Luchianiuc does not agree [ro] to this and has made his own +1 Vote logo: red (communist party) and blue (liberal party), in order to be truly neutral:

I promote the idea that you have to go and vote. The choice is yours, that is why there are choices.

Nata Albot is going to join [ro] the +1 Vote campaign and here is why:

It is of interest to me, first of all because I will continue living in Chisinau; it interests me as an experiment to test the power of the internet and most of all because it harms no one.

“Let’s do it, CHIŞINĂU,” writes [ro] Andrei Fornea:

I believe in us more than never. Come on, mobilization!

Vadim Zgherea is taking part [ro] in the campaign, even though he has not yet reached the voting age:

I do not vote, I do not yet have the right age. I do not intend to justify myself, I just want to make a gesture. I want to encourage people to VOTE.

Alexandru Gurdila has reached the age allowing him to vote, but he chooses not to vote [ro]. Still, he has joined the campaign:

I know that I have made a fuss about not voting for the mayor. I will keep not voting. But this does not mean that you have to be like me.

Anna Antonoff has made her choice [ro]:

I am going to vote!!!
Are you?

June 11 2011

Moldova: Diplomatic Controversy Marks Russia Day

The Russian Federation celebrates its national holiday on June 12 (Russia Day). In Moldova, the official diplomatic celebrations preceding this day have sparked controversies [ro] that verge on a diplomatic scandal. The media have reported that at the official reception organized on June 10 at the Russian Embassy in Moldova, Valeri Kuzmin, the Russian Ambassador [ru], gave floor [ro] to Vladimir Yastrebchak, presenting him as the official chief of the Transnistrian diplomacy. (Transnistria is a separatist region of Moldova, which broke away in 1990; it is not recognized by any UN member state. The Russian military forces and ammunitions are stationed on the Transnistrian territory against the will of the Moldovan authorities.) Reacting to the Russian Ambassador’s gesture, the Moldovan diplomats left the reception; they were followed by diplomats representing the US and the EU missions.

The Moldovan Prime Minister regards [ro] the Russian Ambassador’s action as an insult to the Moldovan people. He hopes it is a mistake, but will ask for explanations via diplomatic channels. The leader of the Liberal Party, who is part of the ruling alliance in Moldova at the moment, suggested [ro] that the Russian Ambassador should leave the country, since the diplomat demonstrated his support for Transnistria, being thus disrespectful of Moldova’s independence. The Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not [ro] voice its position until next week.

The tensions are building up, especially since Moldova is undergoing the crucial local elections at the moment. In a week’s time, the Moldovan capital will hold its final, second-round battle to elect the mayor of Chisinau (the current liberal mayor is competing against the Communist Party’s candidate). The Russian Embassy in Moldova has given its own assessment [ro] of the first round of the local elections held on June 5, doubting the objectivity of the evaluation conducted by the OSCE international observers. A reply followed from the Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressing [ro] perplexity and regret over the Russian commentary.

The relations between Moldova and Russia have always been sensitive, as Moldova was under Russian oppression several times, culminating in the 50-year forced integration into the Soviet Union.

The Moldovan blogosphere had immediate reactions to the diplomatic incident.

Vadim Zgherea writes [ro] in his blog post entitled “Kuzmin on the black list”:

It is tragic to see with your own eyes how they make you stupid. It is tragic since we cannot take it anymore.

[…]

How does the Russian ambassador afford to speak such words here, where democracy has not yet unpacked its luggage? Thanks at least to the Moldovan, American and European diplomats for a dignified and prompt gesture, let the Russians be burning with shame.

Vitalie Vovc is proud of Moldova. In his blog “Today I am Moldova,” he writes [ro]:

Little does it matter what tomorrow will be. Little do the consequences matter! Finally, my country has reacted NORMALLY to an aberration! Tonight I have a small occasion to be proud! And I couldn’t care less of how naive I might look or how “unpragmatic” or childish my reaction is!

It will last probably till tomorrow morning… Because tomorrow other representatives will attenuate, will explain and comment…

Oleg Cristal was also proud of the Moldovan diplomacy on June 10. He describes [ro] an ironic scenario:

Soon [Tiraspol, the capital of the unrecognized Transnistria] will organize a military parade on the Stefan cel Mare boulevard in Chisinau [the main street in Moldova’s capital], and this will be led by the Russian Ambassador in Moldova. Moreover, the formula that the Russian Ambassador used to introduce Iastrebchak is a de jure recognition of the regime in Tiraspol. A new gesture of de jure recognition, since there have been such attitudes from Moscow before.

Oleg Cristal does not believe that the Russian Ambassador made a mistake:

If it was a mistake, soon we should see an apology from his side. But a diplomat with the experience like the Russian Ambassador in Moldova can NOT make such “mistakes.” Therefore, it was a message to Chisinau or even a provocation ahead of the second round of the elections in the capital and ahead of the informal consultations in the [5+2 format] scheduled to take place in Moscow on June 21. The deterioration of the Moldovan-Russian relations would come now to the advantage of the communist candidate for the position of the mayor of Chisinau, Igor Dodon. From this perspective, a possible reaction of the Moldovan authorities should be very well-balanced.

Andrei Fornea also finds the action of the Moldovan diplomacy commendable; however, he expresses [ro] some concerns as well:

This case could lead to divergences between Moldova and Russia on the background of an already very weak diplomatic relationship that occurred with the change of power in Chisinau and could lead to political embargos, the increase of gas price and other things that could make us kneel in front of Russia.

He ends with a message to the Russian Ambassador:

I only have this to tell him: GO HOME!

A similar message is expressed by another blogger. Eugeniu Luchianciuc posted a photo of Kuzmin with this statement:

Kuzmin, go home and drink Vodka!

On Pulbermax blog, the author is asking [ro]:

I'd like to know from what position the Russian Ambassador is making such statements… A KGB General? The Russian Ambassador? Or a companion lady of the Kremlin?

A critical reaction was articulated [ro] by Corneliu Gandrabur:

Kuzmin should leave the country, because he has breached the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, [art. 1, 2 and 3]. The direct attack on the territorial integrity as well as on the sovereignty is a grave infringement. Acting in his capacity of the ambassador, he has represented Russia’s interests and we can only say that this has been intentional and coordinated with the Kremlin.

June 07 2011

Moldova: A solution to the Transnistria conflict?

Zimbru of Morning in Moldova comments on and argues against rumours about an upcoming German-Russian proposal on the status of breakaway province Transnistria within a federal state of Moldova.

June 02 2011

Moldova: Liga Islamica and the (Limited) Religious Tolerance

The Islamic League (Liga Islamica) was officially registered early this spring in Moldova, after having been denied this right for several years. Moldova's Muslim community is rather small, numbering around 17,000 people in a country of about 4 million citizens. Approximately 95 percent of the Moldovan population is Orthodox Christian and, according to the latest opinion poll (May 2011), 82 percent of the people have the highest trust in the church (e.g., the army - 50 percent; local authorities - 47 percent; the government - 23 percent).

The Orthodox Church of Moldova has solicited the government to withdraw its decision and to revise the religious law (Legea cultelor), so that the population is consulted beforehand. Reactions in the society varied, from politicians declaring that the registration of the League is a “blasphemy” and “can bring prejudices to the society,” to priests stating it is a “degradation to the official religion” and a “humiliation to the Orthodox believers in Moldova,“ up to religious protesters equipped with bells and crosses who marched through the city center in Moldova's capital Chişinău, voicing their discontent (photos are here), ending with the prime minister promising to look into the matter.

Blogger Nicu Popescu comes up with arguments [ro] combating the “main false statements” that have been circulated within this debate.

False argument 1: “How many churches are in Saudi Arabia and why do we have to allow mosques in Moldova”

He argues:

I do not want Moldova to imitate in any way Saudi Arabia. I want the women in Moldova to be able to drive cars, go out, and the state to be separate from the church. Whoever wants to imitate Saudi Arabia are the people who do not desire good for this country.

He brings up the example of the Christian communities in Syria and Egypt, where approximately 10 percent of the population are Christian and churches are fully functioning.

It is regrettable that some Moldovan citizens have a higher degree of religious intolerance than the Syrian or Egyptian authorities – authoritarian states, which in the last months have killed their own citizens, but which at the same time recognize the Christian religion and have on many occasions protected the churches from attacks by radical Muslims.

False argument 2: “Islam does not correspond to the history and traditions of this land and the Christian majority is against its recognition (?)”

I disagree. I believe Moldova has to respect the religious minorities, including the Muslim one; and the non-Christian states like Syria or China have to respect the rights of the Christian minorities.

False argument 3: Muslims and terrorism

Let’s be serious. Does anyone really believe that fundamentalist Muslims need to be legally registered in order to commit terrorist attacks? As if Bin Laden tried to register his prayer house in the U.S. before September 11. Absurd.

And the connection between religion and terrorism/radicalism is a bit more complex. The Middle East is a complex region where all communities have committed a number of crimes – Muslims, Jews, Christians.

False argument 4: [Stefan cel Mare] and our ancestors had fought Muslims/Turks, and we cannot allow them to now legalize their religion”

Historical argument is not relevant. And if Moldova had fought against Russia, do we have to interdict the Russian church?”

Popescu concludes:

The church of Moldova has to combat the ideas promoted by other religions by demonstrating that it is better, closer to the citizens, has smarter, more educated and less corrupted priests, etc., and not through hysterical pressures on the Moldovan state, which has to be neutral in religious affairs.

Another blogger, Vlad Cubreacov, brings into the debate [ro] the idea that putting Muslims outside the law would only degrade the religious climate in the country, but also could lead to some tensions with external partners:

It is a generally-known fact that states like Israel, the Russian Federation, Armenia or Azerbaijan are sensitive to the way their minorities are treated in other countries. We can assume that cancelling the registration of the Islamic League in Moldova can raise problems in the relations between Chisinau and Baku or Moscow.

Cubreacov concludes:

We believe that a Muslim community maintained within the legal system and integrated into the society is preferred to one that is left on its own account, an easy target to all kinds of integralists and Islamic fundamentalists.

Vlada Ciobanu does not understand [ro]:

Why when there are so many Moldovans abroad, and many churches and Orthodox priests can hold their services around the world, do we have to go out with icons, crosses and not let other people enjoy freedom.

December 08 2010

Moldova: Election Results

By Veronica Khokhlova

Notes on the Moldova election results - at Democratist and Morning in Moldova (here and here).

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