The Year 2018 in the Autonomous Unit Gagauz-Yeri was officially declared the year of the 100th anniversary of the Romanian occupation. Despite the authorities’ unequivocal interpretation of the historical events, in Gagauz society there are voices and arguments that refer to the positive character of the interwar period. However, no matter how powerful these proofs are, they cannot blur the political anti-unionism triumph amid a pre-electoral campaign.
“If you are for union, you are not Gagauz”
On March 30, the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia (PAG) declared 2018 the Occupation Year. The deputies adopted the decision without too many debates and without having the text of the draft decision. The vote was so formal that PAG-Y speaker Vladimir Kyssa didn’t at least find it necessary to specify who occupied who and what do they mean by “the 100th anniversary of the occupation”. However, the several replies made by deputies and the statements made recently in Gagauzia made it clear that they meant the events of 1918, when Bessarabia joined the Kingdom of Romania.
The issue was included in the agenda of the meeting of the PAG-Y on the initiative of speaker Vladimir Kyssa at a time when not only the deputies, but even the speaker didn’t have the text of the draft decision. There was no explicative note with arguments. Therefore, the reasons for the adoption of the decision were perceived as “as clear as day”.
“I think we will find no person in Gagauzia who would support unionism,” stated Kyssa. Someone from the hall replied that such persons could be found. “These are not Gagauz people,” reacted the speaker.
Before the vote, PAG-Y deputy Gheorghii Leiciu, ex-prosecutor of Gagauz-Yeri, said the given decision should not be taken as a “propagandistic trick”. “It is a method to protect our state from the loss of independence. This is how this decision should be perceived,” he stated.
The PAG-Y’s decision represented the climax of the campaign to fight unionism ideas that has been conducted in the region for several months, in contrast to the opposite movement taking place in most of Moldova’s districts. On March 27, when the centenary was celebrated, several protests were staged in Gagauzia with the involvement of politicians and local activists who made the given call to the People’s Assembly.
The largest protest was mounted in Ceadir-Lunga, where the speakers included the well-known former PAG deputy Ivan Burgudji. He called on the Gagauz deputies “not to play games” and to vote 2018 as the 100th anniversary of the occupation of Bessarabia. “If they don’t want to declare this a mourning day (on March 27), they should at least declare this year the occupation year,” said Burgudji.
One month earlier, on February 24, the subject of the 100th anniversary of “the Romanian occupation” was raised in the Gagauz village Tomai, where, on the initiative and with the participation of the Bashkan of Gagauz-Yeri Irina Vlah, an assembly was held to defend Moldova’s statehood. The objective to declare 2018 the anniversary occupation year was included in the assembly’s resolution, in a separate point.
“Horrors” of union and “miracles” of Bolshevism
It seems that the public opinion in Gagauzia, concerning the current events and actions of the contemporary unionists, is indeed one-colored. At least none in Gagauzia stated other kinds of ideas. As regards the events that happened 100 years ago, there is yet an alternative viewpoint in the region. The director of the public association “Piligrim-demo” Mihail Sirkeli is one of those who do not hurry to raise the flag of anti-unionism and to present the events of 1918 as a tragedy. On the contrary, he believes that 100 years ago the inhabitants of Bessarabia, especially, the Gagauz people, got rid of many troubles after Bessarabia became part of Romania.
Sirkeli went out with an open call and tried to answer the question “What would have happened if the People’s Council on March 27, 1918 had voted against Bessarabia’s union with Romania?” According to him, the young Moldovan Democratic Republic wouldn’t have managed to keep its independence and would have repeated the destiny of the Transcaucasia republics, which found themselves component parts of the Bolshevik Russia, with all the relevant consequences in the form of a civil war, red terror, the organized famine of 1921 – 1922 and 1932 – 1933 and the Stalinist repression of 1937 – 1938.
“The union with Romania enabled Bessarabia to avoid these “miracles” through which people who lived in the Bolshevik Russia in the interwar period went,” stated Sirkeli. As regards the possible objections with negative examples from the realities of the life in Romania, he said: “The Romanian gendarmerie was a ‘child’ compared with the Soviet NKVD, while its methods were a puerile game compared with the organized famine and deportations”.In this connection, Sirkeli said the presented arguments do not refer to the Antonescu regime that is undoubtedly a negative example and this should be analyzed separately.
There is no time for polemics
What the USSR didn’t manage to give to the inhabitants of Bessarabia in 1918 – 1940 was compensated in the first postwar decade. Such events as the collectivization, the artificial famine of 1946 – 1947 and the deportations of the 1949 are much more serious than the “horrors” of the Romanian occupation taken together. But the given arguments do not yet find support among the Gagauz people and do not cope with the anti-unionist rhetoric. One example: the recent initiative by a group of PAG deputies to institute the day of remembrance of the victims of the famine of 1946 - 1947 didn’t garner the necessary number of votes for fear that this step could be interpreted as an anti-Soviet signal.
The struggle against the union danger is a convenient propagandistic prepacked instrument that does not require a creative approach and is very popular with the Gagauz voters. This needs only an attractive verbal form, a condiment with patriotic pathos and serving to the Gagauz voter on the emblazoned party plate on the occasion of the elections.
The arguments provided by Mihail Sirkeli could trigger a useful public debate in a period detached from the pre-electoral competition. Gagauzia lacks indeed a public mediation on the events of its past without which it is impossible to appropriately assess the own interests. For now the anti-unionist trend still dominates in Gagauz-Yeri. There is no time for polemics now and it is not known when this appears. The pre-electoral atmosphere in the region practically does not have an end.
Veaceslav Craciun, Comrat
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