From Victory Day to the “Day of Discord”

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Victor ENI
With their desire to change the Soviet-Russian public understanding of this holiday to a much more moderate perception typical of EU countries, the authorities will prompt more and more controversy, rejection and eventually conflicts
Recent years have seen a deepening split among the elites over Victory Day. While some try to preserve its Soviet and Russian perception, others seek to transform it into something Central European. And this impacts the population dividing it into the supporters and opponents of celebrating 9 May according to the “old or new style”. This year, for the first time, Moldova celebrated Victory Day and Europe Day on the same day, while previously the latter used to be shifted both in terms of time and location. This time the government pre-booked the central square of the capital for the “European Village”. Apparently, this was planned to prevent other political forces from celebrating the Victory Day the whole day, as well as to neutralize the Victory bloc, which was expected to have a test drive on 9 May. However, the opposition PSRM and Ilan Sor’s bloc held their parades rather ordinarily. There were no accidents, although the attempt to gently relegate Victory Day to a secondary role and make Europe Day the central event could have provoked unwanted incidents. Despite the close attention to the issue, 9 May still remains a politically charged topic, forcing representatives of the entire Moldovan political elite to choose the side. The leftists, despite the discord, managed to rally around the festive date and marched in a single column, although there were clashes within this political wing loyal to Moscow. It is noteworthy, however, that only Ilan Sor appeared on Red Square in Moscow surrounded by his supporters. Perhaps others were not invited, or Igor Dodon decided not to go to the Russian capital for the time being. One way or another, but the Victory Day procession is in a certain sense a marker of socio-political moods and mobilization of opposition forces in order to demonstrate the potential of the protest movement in Moldova, which, conditionally speaking, can be used against the pro-European camp. To what extent this part of society actually has opportunities or is ready to change the course of the country will become clear already this autumn according to the results of the presidential elections and referendum. The pre-election year, of course, has an incredibly favorable effect on the current leadership of the republic, which in previous years did everything to maximally provoke conflicts around 9 May. This time the authorities have considerably softened, and Maia Sandu, together with Igor Grosu and Dorin Recean, made a friendly visit to the war veterans and even remembered the Victory. Their behavior, of course, looks extremely hypocritical and pretentious. The President, following the logic of her election campaign, probably should have organized two separate meetings: with veterans who fought for the USSR and those who fought on the side of Romania and Germany. To break the May victory tradition deeply rooted in society, the government and the President’s Office, in addition to a wide concert programme in the heart of Chisinau and painting the parliament building in the colors of the EU flag, decided to show creativity. A flash mob with the EU anthem was organized in the central market. But, as they say, it didn’t work: the European associations are too much in contrast with the daily market life of the capital. The march of young people “For European Moldova” also looked rather “cringey”, in the parlance of youth. As a result, the march was so poor and unconvincing that one can draw the opposite conclusion, as if the young generation almost does not support the European integration course and feels terrible political apathy. In general, this is an example of how it’s better not to invent anything to avoid unnecessary embarrassment. Moreover, this might have puzzled the PAS ideologists as to whether the young Moldovans are willing to come to the autumn referendum in principle. Andrei Spinu was the most inventive: in order not to see all these large Victory Day parades and the authorities’ attempts to somehow balance them with the “European Village”, he got up early to leave for Ungheni, closer to the European Union. The head of government, Dorin Recean, also found a suitable excuse to travel to neighboring Romania on 9 May to attend a “super-important” investment conference. To slightly exaggerate the status of Europe Day in the center of Chisinau, Brussels seconded the European Commissioner Johannes Hahn to us, who was formerly responsible for enlargement and neighborhood policy of the European Union, today is in charge of only administrative affairs. So, his statements about Moldova’s EU accession by 2030 could at best cheer up the honorable Moldovan public, but no more than that. Another thing is the head of the EU Delegation Janis Mazeiks, who is openly promoting the referendum and singing heartbreakingly from the stage. On the other hand, the appearance of an ambassador as an agitator with obvious involvement in internal political affairs is rather a bad signal if a diplomat is assigned such a humiliating task. If Brussels and European emissaries adhere to moderate policy, Washington employs military force across the entire regional perimeter. Just yesterday, on the holiday, the bilateral exercise Swift Response-2024 started involving several hundred Moldovan and American servicemen. During the whole week, military equipment will be demonstratively travelling along the republican roads. In addition, parachute jumps are planned, in which two C-130 Hercules aircrafts belonging to the US Army Europe and Africa will be used. Almost simultaneously, a warning article appeared in an Italian outlet about the possible reaction of the West and NATO to further potential actions of the Russian army. In particular, two “red lines” were mentioned, one of which is related to possible Russian provocations against the Baltic States and Poland, as well as a targeted attack on Moldova. To sum it up briefly, 9 May is increasingly becoming a factor of discord for politicians, the country and society. The probability that this day will become a factor of strengthening unity in the state in the coming years is tending towards zero. On the contrary, the growing desire to replace the Soviet-Russian understanding of this date with a moderate perception typical of the European Union countries will cause disputes, rejection and eventually conflicts. However, the main marker of how things are going on with 9 May will, of course, be the 80th anniversary of the Victory next year. It is hardly necessary to judge what is happening in simplistic categories, arguing how good or bad it is. One thing is obvious: our country and society are undergoing serious changes, without which integration into the EU and the Western club of countries is almost impossible. In this sense, post-Soviet Moldova in its current form is doomed to become a heritage of history, and the EU should be joined by a completely different state and other people, with a different set of orientations, values and, among other things, views on the European history of the past century.