Intersection of geopolitical symbols in Moldova: between Soviet past and rights of sexual minorities, OP-ED


Without insisting on the European geopolitical symbolism, the population that remained at home could not critically judge the country’s Soviet past and would be unable to plan an achievable European future...


Dionis Cenuşa

With an already annual frequency, May month discharges the tensions accumulated by Moldovan society as a result of domestic geopolitical confrontations that are normative and historical in character. In practical terms, the cultivation of such European values as tolerance and openness is effervescently, though predictably, challenged by entities fond of a paternalist-religious amalgam of (post)Soviet values. The apogee of the confrontation of geopolitical symbols intensifies in the period between Europe Day and the day when it is celebrated tolerance of the LGBT community. On the one hand, the political forces lack both comfortable legitimacy and sufficient political courage to initiate a national dialogue to reconcile to sets of values situated at a distance from each other. On the other hand, the size of political forces that accept the hybrid form of interpretation of the historical geopolitical symbolism related to the glorification of the Soviet role in stopping World War II increases.

Not even the pro-European forces have never proposed the preparation of any symbiosis between the conservative segments and the progressive segments of society. The concentration on material files, such as the fight against political corruption or restoration of the balance of powers in the state, push to the second place such normative-liberal values as the promotion of the rights of minorities or gender equality. The given prioritization is determined by the electoral competitors’ wish to capitalize on the survival instinct that is sharpened by the low incomes and unfavorable living conditions. At the same time, the indifference to the liberal values points to a slow pace of transformation of society that is braked, besides poverty, by the emigration of the economically active population, the failures of the education system and the opposition of religious institutions. Amid such a background, the voice of the conservative segments is more powerfully heard. These also benefit from broader and more profound social representation than the promoters of liberal values who are mechanically associated with the NGO sector.

An active involvement of the entities of the whole political and social spectrum (age, ethnic group, economic profile) is seen on the historical dimension of the geopolitical symbolism. Earlier confronted on May 9, “Europe Day” and “Victory Day” receive almost equal attention even if this is divided according to the generation-family traditions at micro-level and according to party geopolitical ideology at macro-level. Among the Eastern-European countries with an advanced European agenda, Moldova is the only one that tries at official level to combine the tradition of glorifying the Soviet post-war grandeur and the admiration for the European project. Ukraine renounced such celebrations after Russia launched its aggression, while Georgia allows civic events to celebrate both of the holidays, even if purely politically it opts rather for the celebration of Europe Day. The coexistence of these symbols cannot be long-lasting as the celebration of the Soviet historic supremacy encourages Russian revanchism whose visibility increases including through the measures that destabilize the EU, such as investing in Eurosceptical nationalism at the European level.

Cohabitation of pro-Soviet apology and pro-European narrative

While about 50% of the Moldovans regret the fall of the USSR, the number of those who have no nostalgia declined to 21%. The eventual attachment to the Soviet past can be deduced from the demographic composition of the population. Statistics show over 2.2 million citizens were born before 1990, when exposure to the Soviet traditions was a forced daily reality. Over half of the 1.3 million individuals conceived after the proclamation of the country’s independence celebrated Victory Day in a conscious way after the fall of the USSR already. Compared with the Moldovans educated in a fully or partially Soviet style, the post-1990 group (1.3 million people) includes about 400,000 persons (aged between 5 and 14) who witnessed the attempts to celebrate Europe Day in contraposition with Victory Day. This coincided with the governments of the pro-European coalitions during 2009-2015 years. Only during the past two years, both of the days have been celebrated without obstructions, but also rather concomitantly than together.


Table. Soviet nostalgia, population by age categories and historical periods, %, persons


Do you regret the collapse of the USSR?, %

Before 1990

(30-85 years+), persons

After 1990

(up to 29 years), persons


Only 2009-2019 period

(5-14 ages), persons






















Source: IPP,


The migration of the young population, together with the general aging of the Moldovans, contributes to the domination of the nostalgic views about the USSR. Also, the propagation of the Soviet traditions (May 9) is due to the Russian information’s weight on the local media market and to the media opportunities created by the political forces that sympathize with Russia.

At the same time, the interest in the rivalry between Europe Day and Victory Day decreased drastically and lasted in time while the Liberal Party held power in Chisinau or at country level (2007-2015). On the one hand, the major festivities are held by the EU within the European Town (May 11-12, 2019), with separation from the 9 May Day. On the other hand, the main political parties adopted separate approaches to each of these days. The Socialists celebrate only Victory Day (PSRM, May 9, 2019), the Democrats combine the two holidays (PDM, May 9, 2019), whereas the Bloc ACUM insists only on the European version of the celebration of May 9 (ACUM, May 9, 2019).

Traditional family and the dignity of the LGBT

An entirely different public attitude is shown to the geopolitical symbolism with normative-liberal weight, in particular with the reference to the rights of sexual minorities (IPN, May 14, 2018). Until now, the Socialists allied themselves with the Russian Orthodox Church that protests against the freedoms of the sexual minorities, including via inciting to violence, and pleads vehemently for the defense of the values of traditional families. In this regard, the church already announced the organization of a pro-family “silence march” on May 18 (, May 10, 2019), one day before the march mounted to sensitize the public to the human rights from which the members of the LGBT community cannot fully benefit.

The straightforward position of the political forces on Victory Day or Europe Day contrasts with the opposition to openly plead for tolerance and condemn the incitement to hatred to which the church resorts without facing any penalties. Except for the Socialists who make effort to discredit the sexual minorities and eulogize the church, the other key political forces (PDM and the components of the Bloc ACUM – PAS and Platform DA) have major complexes in supporting the church or pleading for human rights. For this reason, only the European players, such as the EU Embassies and the U.S. Embassy, and only some of the representatives of civil society during the past few years showed solidarity with the cause of the LGBT community in Moldova. Namely the timidity of the Liberal and pro-European political leaders encourages discrimination against vulnerable groups kept at the periphery of Moldovan society.

Instead of conclusions…

The developments in Moldova point to the achievement of minimum cohabitation between the distinct geopolitical symbolism promoted by Russia and the one coming from the EU member states. The political forces show more courage for becoming engaged in the promotion of the pro-European narrative than for making common cause against discrimination against the LGBT group.

Instead, the pro-Russian forces can achieve the same level of political and social mobilization for consolidating the conservative views about the traditional family and glorifying the Soviet post-war supremacy. Such behavior does nothing but strengthen the Russian geopolitical symbolism in Moldova.

The promotion of Europe Day or of the day of liberal values is a difficult task in the demographic and political context of the country. But without insisting on the European geopolitical symbolism, the population that remained at home could not critically judge the country’s Soviet past and would be unable to plan an achievable European future.

Dionis Cenuşa


IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.

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