The continuous and extremely dangerous escalation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is accompanied by the sacrificing of tens of thousands of human lives, the barbarous destruction of villages and towns and occupation of territories of another state. Even in such conditions, a part of Moldovan society, and not only Moldovan one, approve of such methods of solving real or invented intestate or geopolitical problems. One of the roots of the current position of these people can derive from nostalgia for the Soviet past. For its part, the nostalgia has a number of ramifications of roots and one of these can come from the close relationship of the population of the former MSSR with the former Soviet Army, including with the real or invented image of grandeur and power of this Army that stopped existing long ago. How this mechanism of nostalgia works on the military level, what its effects are and what should be done by the state, society, the reasonable persons for the normal effects to be differentiated from the less normal or fully abnormal ones, such as the approval of the war, were among the issued discussed by the experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Nostalgia for military grandeur of USSR as explanation for approval of current invasions”.
Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said the Soviet Army initially, according to the decree of January 15, 1918, was to be the Bolshevik party’s main instrument for destroying the institutions of the Bourgeois state. Officially, the Soviet Army’s Day was celebrated on February 23. The Soviet Army, as an instrument for destroying the institutions of the Bourgeois state, began to develop after the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk while “the demon of the revolution” Lev Trotsky became commissar for military affairs and deviated from the main principles of the Red Army. It went to the class principle, the principle of internationalism, the commander selection principle and the principle of dual command. After he became chief of the Red Army, Trotsky deviated from the class principle as he realized that this cannot work. He later started to attract officers who served in the Tsarist Army to the posts of commander.
“More than a half of the officers of the former Tsarist Army were enrolled as commanders in the Red Army based on a principle that is not among the four principles. This was the principle of blackmail. The families of officers were blackmailed and if these officers didn’t join the Red Army, the family members were simply shot dead. We know how the Red Army behaved by the example of Tukhachevsky, who was called the executioner of peasants after the Tambov uprising. We know the expansionist goals of the Red Army by the example of the same Tukhachevsky, from his slogan: “Through Warsaw and Berlin, on our bayonets we shall carry freedom to the people of Europe,” stated the expert.
He also referred to the dual command - the military command and the so-called commissars. The role of the latter was to indoctrinate the soldiers from the army and to maintain the Bolshevik army’s control over the military forces. “As to the expansionism of this army, we should note that the invasion is a military operation in which the armed forces of a political or geopolitical entity use force to enter the territory controlled by another political or geopolitical entity so as to conquer territories and replace governments. Throughout the existence of the Soviet Red Army, I counted 13 invasions of this type,” said Igor Boțan, noting that the invasion of Ukraine is the 13th one.
Doctor habilitate of history Valentin Constantinov, senior scientific researcher of the Institute of History, said that the public discussions in Moldovan society lack a fundamental aspect of what is called the dismemberment of the Soviet Union and the appearance of a number of independent states. It also goes to the crystallization of more or less solid democratic political organizations within the borders of the former Soviet Empire. “Conventionally speaking, the military campaigns of the Soviet Army against independent states started around the Civil War of 1918-1992. So, except for Bessarabia and the Baltic states, the Soviet Army or the Red Army attacked and destroyed Georgia in 1921, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine as Ukraine was an independent state in 918-1920. We somehow overlook this aspect as the Ukrainians justly make reference to that very turbulent period,” stated the researcher.
According to him, that period witnessed an extraordinary avalanche of events involving internal factors, with that absolutely diabolic Bolshevik regime that came with incredible dichotomy. “On the one hand, they propagated freedom, independence, civil rights. One the other hand, they came with the most despotic regime that Russia ever had. So, that red terror that started in 1918 had lasted indeed. It is hard to say when it stopped or it never stopped. It was launched then and the Soviet Union in 1936 proclaimed the first Constitution depicting this as the most democratic and the most free state exactly when it committed the most horrible repressions against civilian population and against those who thought in a slightly different way than the tsar,” stated Valentin Constantinov.
He noted that the approach is now different and the ideology is different, with a new propaganda that sounds much more plausible: “We come to free you”. “If we look at the initial doctrine, we see that it was definitely adjusted and redirected to the Soviet and Bolshevik administration. So, they didn’t want to simply conquer as they wanted to implement the own political regime on the conquered territories,” noted the researchers.
Andrei Covrig, a colonel in reserve, said the Geneva Conventions, of international humanitarian law, stipulate two notions – international armed conflict and non-international armed conflict. All the invasions that occurred surely refer to the first notion. Either it is an invasion or aggression, it is actually the same armed conflict, as it was the Nistru War – an international armed conflict and internal involving Russia.
The colonel in reverse mentioned the invasion of Poland of 1795 when Suvorov was involved in an attack on the small town of Prague near Warsaw. “In that attack, five columns entered that town. One of the columns was directed by this hero of who the Russians are proud, Suvorov. In that operation, 20,000 Polish citizens were killed. I want to say that throughout history, moments of cruelty and full lack of respect for the rules of the war were seen in the Tsarist Empire, in the Soviet Union up to now. History shows many examples. The case of Ukraine is actually an unordinary one,” stated Andrei Covrig.
According to him, no one ever thought that the Russians will attack Ukraine on February 24, 2022. He was surprised when an acquaintance of his from Kyiv called him and told him that a war started. On December 29, 1979, he entered Afghanistan. He was a lieutenant, a deputy subunit commander. “When we crossed the border on December 29, a mate told me “Look, we are occupants”. I was surprised to hear that as I considered that we went to save them and had noble intentions but...” recollected Andrei Covrig.
The public debate titled “Nostalgia for military grandeur of USSR as explanation for approval of current invasions” was the fifth installment of IPN’s series “100 years with USSR and 31 years without USSR: Nostalgia for Chimeras”, which is staged with support from the Hanns Seidel Foundation.