Protests in Chisinau and Tbilisi, two antagonistic trajectories. Analysis by Anatol Țăranu



Only the constitution and active public manifestation of a broad common front of the pro-European parties in Moldovan society can bring the defiant manifestations of the collaborationists representing the Russian imperial revenge to an end, stripping the anti-European nostalgics of any hope of taking over the political power in the Republic of Moldova...


Anatol Țăranu

The Republic of Moldova and Georgia, two former Soviet republics, states declared sovereign with similar development trajectories in the post-Soviet period, today experience the drama of the definitive separation from the Russian empire. From the very moment of their birth, the young states have been confronted with separatist movements and bloody military conflicts inspired and supported by Moscow, which condemned both of the states to incomplete territorial integrity. Contrary to the will of the Kremlin, both of the states chose the path of European integration as a model of civilization and remedy for countering the neocolonial pretentions of the former metropolis. The war in Ukraine with particular poignancy brought back into the focus the danger of a Russian military invasion in the two states, as a means of restoring the Russian empire in the borders of the so-called historical Russia. Against this imminent danger, street protests have been staged in the Republic of Moldova and Georgia recently. The holding of these protests is yet influenced by the Moscow political power in different ways. 

Shaking in Georgian style

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, last week was shaken by a large-scale protest staged by civil society against the adoption by the Georgian Parliament of the law “on the transparency of foreign influence” that was given a first reading on March 7 this year. Instantaneously, over 10,000 Georgians took to the streets, protesting against the adoption of this law that they considered a Russian-inspired bill. The protests lasted for three days. The security forces dispersed the crowd with water jets, teargas and stun grenades, with over 130 persons being arrested. Under the pressure of street protests, the ruling Georgian Dream party announced that it will withdraw the law from Parliament and the arrested protesters were set free.

The indignation of the protesters in Tbilisi was generated by the resemblance of provisions of the Georgian law with the version of the Russian law on “foreign agents” that was adopted in Moscow in 2012. The application of this law in Russia offered the Russian authorities a powerful instrument for suppressing the independent media and civil society so as to declare them “foreign agents” and their atrocities in Russia were automatically ended. Marked by this perspective, the Georgians took to the streets to protest against such a law and the protests were held under the main slogan “No to the Russian law”.

Litmus test of “law on foreign agents”

After the five-day Russo-Georgian war of 2008, in Georgian society there is pronounced repulsion to Moscow’s policy, which further amplified against the background of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine. But these mental predispositions of most of the Georgian citizens in the recent past haven’t resonated with the policies pursued by the current government in Tbilisi, which is influenced by the interests of the billionaire with pro-Moscow leanings Bidzina Ivanishvili. Under the influence of this, a new political movement was constituted. The People’s Power was created by MPs who detached themselves only formally from the ruling Georgian Dream party. This way, there was created a rostrum that is formally detached from the ruling party and from which the West is accused of aiming to engage Georgia in war. Concomitantly, anti-West statements started to be made and harsh criticism was leveled at the U.S. ambassador in Tbilisi, with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that criticize the authorities being also targeted. A stream of invective was aimed against the U.S. for financing NGOs in Georgia, which are involved in allegedly subversive anti-Georgian and anti-Church actions.

The initiative with the “foreign agents” law for a considerable part of Georgian society became a clear signal of the way in which the relations develop between the government in Tbilisi and Putin’s Russia that is engaged in an aggressive war in Ukraine. The reaction of civil society in Georgia reached the proportions of a massive protest campaign, involving a series of culture and sports stars, musicians, teachers, a lot of young people who openly opposed this law. Among these are those who openly speak about corruption and nepotism in the Georgian government, about the failed reforms, about the false promises of the Georgian Dream, about the system of clans in the judicial system and about the informal government of Bidzina Ivanishvili. All these taken together led to Georgia’s failure to obtain the EU candidate status last year, alongside Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. 

Either “foreign agents” or candidate status

In the protesters’ opinion, the Georgian government intended to adopt the “foreign agents” law in order to reduce to silence the independent organizations and media of the country, which criticize the democratic backsliding of their current government, including its ambiguous attitude to the Russian aggression in Ukraine. The adoption of his law pursued the goal of helping the Georgian Dream to win the parliamentary elections of 2024 given that there are presumably no organizations or activists who would protest against the abuses of the government policies.

On the ground of respecting the democratic rules, the protest in Tbilisi was supported by the West. The European MPs, politicians, representatives of the U.S., the UK, Poland, the Baltic states categorically demanded that the Georgian authorities should not use force against the protesters and should renounce the scandalous law that would block Georgia’s path to the EU. This way, the adoption of this law risked creating an obstacle to Georgia’s accession to the European Union as the representatives of the EU directly affirmed that the law runs counter to the European standards and democratic values. Georgia, with high probability, would have never received the EU candidate status if this law had been in force.

Protest on contraflow

Unlike the pro-democratic and pro-EU protest in Tbilisi, which was supported by the intellectual elite of Georgian society, by a lot of young people and with minimum engagement on the part of political parts, the protest animated by the Shor Party in Chisinau involved marginal segments of Moldovan society, mainly older persons. Unlike the goal of the Georgian protest, the protesters gathered by the Shor Party attack the government in Chisinau from pro-Moscow and anti-West positions. The Moldovan government is speculatively accused of attempting to engage Moldova in war, the real reason of this speculation being to maximally diminish the solidarity of the official Chisinau with the heroic struggle of the Ukrainians against the Russian aggression, which shows that the protest in Chisinau serves Moscow’s interests.

It is yet significant that in this delicate situation for the protesters of the Shor Party, Moscow didn’t find it necessary to protect them, leaving in sight their servility to the interests of the Kremlin. This way, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov accused the U.S. Department of State of double standards with regard to the street protests in Tbilisi, comparing them with those staged in Chisinau. Speaking about the different attitude of the U.S. to the protests in Georgia and Moldova, the Russian diplomat with amazing sincerity close to stupidity admitted that “the Georgia opposition reflects Western interests, while the opposition in Moldova reflects different interests and Western interests are represented by the government and the president. Two similar situations with protests are unfolding before our eyes, but the attitude to these is fundamentally different,” stated Lavrov.

...and to restore neocolonial dependence

Russia’s chief diplomat when he was giving the interview probably didn’t realize that he involuntarily unveiled the Russian agents in Moldova, whom he labeled as “reflecting different interests” than the Western ones, or, in other words, the interests of Moscow. After such a “diplomatic” escapade of Lavrov, the real ‘etiology’ of the gales of laughter of the great audience at the recent G20 summit in India, which accompanied the logic of the Russian diplomat’s assertions about the character of the war in Ukraine, no longer generates any doubt. Indeed, one can easily become the target of laughter when defending an unjust cause.

By inspiring the protests in the Republic of Moldova, Russia is working to overthrow the current government in Chisinau and to bring in a pro-Moscow government, said John Kirby, U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications. “As Moldova continues to integrate with Europe, we believe Russia is pursuing options to weaken the Moldovan government, probably with the eventual goal of seeing a more Russian friendly administration in the capital,” warned Kirby. “So, we are witnessing a real Russian hybrid war of proportions against the Republic of Moldova, aimed at deteriorating the European course and at restoring the neocolonial dependence of the Moldovan state on Moscow”.

There is strength in numbers ...

Unlike Georgia, where civil society’s protest is aimed against the control of Moscow and at the extension of the country’s European course, in the Republic of Moldova, the Shor Party’s protest is a pro-Moscow and anti-European one. In such conditions, the protection of the European course of the Republic of Moldova from the attempts to upset it by street protests organized by Russian agents from inside becomes not only an obligation of the authorities, but also a key task of the whole pro-European Moldovan civil society, regardless of the political or party associations of its different segments. Only the constitution and active public manifestation of a broad common front of the pro-European parties in Moldovan society can bring the defiant manifestations of the collaborationists representing the Russian imperial revenge to an end, stripping the anti-European nostalgics of any hope of taking over the political power in the Republic of Moldova.

Anatol Țăranu
doctor of history, political commentator

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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