Decapitation and uprooting of nation through deportations. IPN Debate

It has recently been 83 years since the first wave of deportations that the former Soviet regime carried out in relation to the population of the former Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. This wave, together with several others that followed, as well as other acts of mass repression, represented a great and profound tragedy, which affected, according to previously presented calculations, no less than a third of the entire population. For these reasons, it can be considered a real act of genocide against the people. The participants in IPN’s public debate “Decapitation and uprooting of the nation through deportations” discussed the declared and real goals of the deportations, the categories of the population targeted in particular and why, as well as the impact of the tragedy on the past, present and future of the nation.

The expert of IPN’s project Andrei Curăraru said deportations mean mass removal of people from a territory. Newer notions also involve other aspects, such as those related to forced labor, dispossession, effects on extended families. According to these modern definitions, the number of people who are targeted by deportations increases.

“Deportations are an integral part of the crime of genocide. This fact was confirmed later, after the events that occurred in the Soviet Union, and not only, by Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, but also by the Statute of the International Criminal Court. There are also convictions for crimes of genocide through the formula of mass deportations in connection with the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,” said the expert.

He noted that, in the case of deportations, the removal of people is intended, according to particular criteria, such as ethnic, religious, political or class ones. All of them were used in one way or another in the case of the Republic of Moldova. “We can highlight at least four distinct categories. For the Republic of Moldova, the administrators, the so-called collaborators of the former regime and any person who held public positions within the Romanian authorities, are relevant. Two – the intellectuals linked to cults, schools, research organizations, etc. Even museum employees were deported so as not to pass on the narrative threads related to history. Three – people selected according to the criterion of wealth, the so-called kulaks, and four – particular ethnic groups that were targeted especially due to the potential of rebellion or collaboration with certain forces,” explained Andrei Curăraru.

The expert said that, in the context of the USSR, the deportations began long before the annexation of Bessarabia, based on the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, and targeted a number of ethnic groups from all over the Soviet Union – Finns, Koreans, Crimean Tatars, etc. In the case of the Republic of Moldova, they also had a well-pronounced ethnic aspect and also a class aspect, the representatives of the so-called local elites, who remained on the territory of the country after the forcible occupation of Bessarabia, but also the people who took refuge on the territory of Bessarabia, fleeing in a way from the Soviet regime, were deported preferentially.

“In total, the estimates for the Soviet Union speak of a colossal figure of about 6 million people who were deported in different waves and these estimates are absolutely conservative, being confirmed by documents. What we know in the case of the Republic of Moldova is that these lists were never complete. And the mobilized transport capacities for deportations demonstrate that the number of deported people was much higher than the one we find in official documents. We have indirect sources that tell us about the fact that the deported persons were much larger in number than the figures envisioned by these lists on the basis of which the deportations were made. It also goes to defective reporting at different levels and the desire to present a better situation,” stated Andrei Curăraru.

Doctor of History Lidia Pădureac, vice-rector of “Alecu Russo” State University of Balti, said that the Moldavian SSR was created in 1940 by dictate after two totalitarian regimes, Nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union, in 1939 concluded a secret agreement called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. This envisioned the expansion of the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence and domination.

“Following the two ultimatums submitted by the Soviet Union to Romania, on June 26 and 28, Bessarabia – the territory between the Nistru and the Prut, Northern Bukovina and Hertsa Region, were occupied by the Soviet Union. It was a forcibly installed regime. What followed? The same events that happened in all the territories occupied by the Soviet Union, just like an algorithm – deportations, famine, collectivization, industrialization. When we refer to the year 1940 and the establishment of Soviet power, we must take into account the fact that the Soviet state already planned deportations because the establishment of Soviet power came with many other aspects related to the establishment of this regime. In 1941, the first wave of deportation was organized and what was the purpose of the Soviet state to deport people from the Moldavian SSR? So, the goal was to prevent the appearance of a resistance movement there. Who could organize it? People who, in principle, in the previous period had a particular political status or people who represented the intelligentsia, who realized what Soviet power meant,” said the Doctor of History.

Lidia Pădureac noted that in 1941, those who were put on the lists of people who were to be deported were part of particular political parties in the interwar period, worked in the Romanian administration, were former mayors, priests, teachers, etc. “We are talking about nearly 22,000 people who were deported in 1941, directly from the Moldavian SSR because, in the same period, people were also deported from Bukovina and from Hertsa Region. A large part of the people who were deported in 1941 indeed had a particular status. It went to intellectuality. And this notion is also valid for the year 1949. What the Soviet power aimed in 1941 was to destroy any potential resistance from the population. The Soviet state regarded them as criminals – some of them were arrested and taken to concentration camps,” stated the vice-rector.

Lidia Pădureac said that another particularity of the deportations of 1941 was the fact that the heads of families, especially young men, were deported and they were separated from the rest of the family. The other family members were to be used for daily work in Siberia and to populate those areas. The tragedy of those families – women with children, elderly people, etc. - was great.

Columnist Alecu Reniță, a member of the First Parliament, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, told about the drama of his family, mentioning that his grandparents on his mother's side were deported in the wave of 1949. They were deported to the Tyumen region, but he was lucky enough to see them alive when they returned home in turn in 1957 and 1958. “The greatest thing I remember happened in 1963-1964, when Khrushchev was about to be removed. My grandmother came and asked my father, who was a school principal, if the famine was to start, like in 46-47? My father didn’t say anything and she went on to say “what do they want to take from us because they took everything from us already - house, families, and again they want to subject us to this wave of hunger,” recalled Alecu Reniță.

According to him, along with the deportations of people in 1941, 1949 and 1951, the collective memory, the identity and everything that meant a way of life until this part of territory was occupied by the Soviet Union were also deported in fact. “This exile of memory has generated so many interpretations. And, yes, propaganda has always been a component of totalitarian regimes. And I remember that, perhaps the most painful thing for the people from the village - 74 people were deported from our village - was that many people who had their houses confiscated had dead people in Siberia, had pain – they interpreted things differently. The new community that appeared after 1950-1960 already misinterpreted even the relatives. The people who suffered unjustly were interpreted according to the propaganda model that infiltrated them - if someone was deported, the state had reasons to do so. This was the harshest thing endured by those who were deported,” said the signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

Alecu Reniță noted that the deportees experienced, beyond Siberia, hunger, great injustice and humiliation, their return home. For example, in the case of his grandparents, for a particular period their house had been used as a school. Their house was returned to them before their death in 1968 – and they, both of them, died simply of an “evil heart”. “And that’s because they were honest people. It was a big family. For many times they asked themselves “Did we steal anything? Did we take at least a thread end from someone? Did we humiliate anyone?” These outbursts of theirs show a great collective and individual trauma,” said the member of the First Parliament.

He underlined that in 1990, some of the members of the First Parliament tried to morally rehabilitate at least these categories of people. They succeeded only in 1992, although the law turned out to be quite truncated because there were different opinions, including opinions that some of the deportees were criminals, but they were innocent in reality. “We tried to bring them back into the public circuit, to restore their dignity. We failed because the collective mentality, a part of society was opposed. Some said that “if they took them to Siberia, they did something”. If you asked them what they did, they answered – “the state knows better”. And this dominance that the state cannot make mistakes actually shows the essence of a totalitarian regime in which communities believe that if the state does you a great injustice, in fact, you are guilty, and not the regime or the ruling party is to blame,” stated Alecu Reniță.

The public debate entitled “Decapitation and uprooting of the nation through deportations” was the 38th installment of the project “Impact of the Past on Trust and Peace Building Processes”. IPN Agency implements this project with the support of the German Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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