Public Debate: St George's Ribbon, the one that unites and divides: reasons and solutions

Press Release
on the organization of the debate
“St George's Ribbon, the one that unites and divides: reasons and solutions”, the 38th installment of the “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” Series; Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”


Debate 38 had a broader lineup of speakers compared to some previous debates, because the discussed subject had several distinctive aspects and each of the 'for' and 'against' side needed to be equally represented by a politician, a historian and an expert. Regretfully, hours before the debate one of the historians announced he wasn't going to make it, however the subject was still debated multilaterally from political, ideological, historical and educational angles. The latter aspect is particularly important given the specific of our Project, which focuses in particular on the political culture of Moldovan society, who we are trying to help better understand certain phenomena, processes, campaigns and other forms of expressing ideas in society.

The debate started out discussing several propositions suggested by the general perceptions, which explain why this subject and why it was selected to be discussed now. It appears that the issue of the black-and-orange strip of fabric going under Saint George's Ribbon is a seasonal one, regularly appearing in the spring, long before the day of May 9. As in other cases, it has both supporters and opponents, and up to this point everything seems to fit in the notion of a democratic society. However, in the last few years the clash between the 'for' and 'against' arguments has dangerously escalated, with a risk to degenerate into all sorts of political and social strains. Such risks seem to be surfacing this year, too, with one party in the Parliament seeking to outlaw the Ribbon, and another one preparing to “peacefully” resist, everything against the background of a tense situation in the region, in particular in neighboring Ukraine, where this Ribbon is associated with the pro-Russia separatists.

Among the discussed subjects were: How real are the tensions and potential threats generated by discussions and actions related to the Saint George Ribbon within society?; the legal framework regulating relations between supporters and opponents of the Ribbon; the historical aspect of the issue; why does the Ribbon have a different symbolical significance for different social groups?; the political roots and the regional and geopolitical context of the tensions; ideological and educational roots; political and geopolitical interests; particularities of 2015; potential escalation; legal, political, ideological and educational solutions; the right to wear it and not to wear it; reciprocal tolerance and national consensus.

In particular, the speakers noted that the Ribbon is a symbol promoted by Russia and its history is different from the one that is currently presented. Even if this symbol is seen in Ukraine and in other states as one related to separatism, it cannot be banned in Moldova because this can cause confrontations.

Igor Botan, executive director of the Association for Participatory Democracy (ADEPT), who is the project’s permanent expert, said that when we speak about symbolic things, we must understand that the symbols can create particular tension. There are meanings hiding behind symbols. “This symbol – the Ribbon of Saint George – will cause dissatisfaction among some, while for others it will be an element for which they will show devotion. The people cannot be banned from wearing this ribbon and from showing thus their wish for Moldova to be near Russia. Another idea is that this symbol is associated with the separatist movement in Ukraine,” said the expert, adding that in Moldova there are a number of geo-political not political parties that promote an integration course and everything depends on the wisdom of politicians here.

Vlad Batrincea, a member of the Party of Socialists of Moldova, said the discussions on the Ribbon of Saint George become problematic because this issue is politicized a lot. The ribbon is a symbol liked by the largest part of the population and, if particular political parties do not put forward initiatives to ban this symbol, no problems will appear. “We do not want this symbol to be politicized. We want the people to be able to choose by themselves what to wear,” stated the MP.

Liberal lawmaker Valeriu Munteanu said the Ribbon of Saint George is a foreign symbol for Moldova and its presentation as a symbol of the victory in World War II is mistaken. The black and orange ribbon is used by the separatists in eastern Ukraine and the Liberals consider that this symbol goes through the state security system as it creates preconditions for separatist manifestations. “Given that we face such a danger, we must take measures to ensure security. We must be pro-active and the state must intervene,” he said.

Historian Octavian Ticu said the ribbon has a relatively recent history that was built on the basis of the imperial plans of the Russian Federation. There are three distinct periods that refer to this ribbon. The first is the period before World War II. It was then representative for three awards of the Russian Empire. Since 1917 until 1992, it had been banned. It has nothing to do with the symbols of the victory in World War II. The ribbon’s history began in 2005, when it was celebrated the 60th anniversary of the end of the war and was promoted by the media outlets affiliated to the Russian administration. This ribbon didn’t include the red color, which represented the Communist Party, but was aimed at cultivating the people’s piousness to the victory in World War II.

CreDO executive director Sergiu Ostaf said there are three Ribbons of Saint George that are different from each other. The current ribbon is different from the initial one. There is a hypothesis that the parties use this symbol to cultivate and maintain particular separatist aspirations, as the practice in Ukraine shows. This is serious if it’s true in relation to Moldova. But the Moldovan parties that use it probably aim to identify themselves with it rather than to shatter and fragment the country.

The Agency published 6 news stories on the debate (see the English version of on 06.04.15, „Debate: Ribbon of Saint George is a politicized symbol, but it cannot be banned” -; on 06.04.15, „Vlad Batrincea: We will defend right to wear Saint George’s Ribbon” -; „Valeriu Munteanu: Banning of Saint George’s Ribbon is not a whim” -; “Igor Botan: For me Ribbon of Saint George means whether you are with Europe or with Russia” -; „Sergiu Ostaf: Initial Ribbon of Saint George is different from current one” -;  “Octavian Ticu: Ribbon of Saint George has a relatively recent history” -

Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN

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