What did we celebrate and why did we celebrate on February 23? IPN debate

On February 24, it was a year since the outbreak of the biggest, cruelest and bloodiest war after World War II - Russia’s war of aggression against the people of Ukraine. One day earlier, on February 23, a part of the people celebrated the Soviet Army’s Day and this seems something cynical when this cruel and bloody war is being waged by the lawful successor of the Soviet Arm – the Army of the Russian Federation. The experts invited to IPN’s public debate “What did we celebrate and why did we celebrate on February 23?” discussed what is abnormal in the normal state of things and why a part of Moldovan society continues to accept such discrepancies.

Igor Boțan, the permanent expert of the project, said that when we speak about the army, reference is made to the armed forces created to defend the states, which have their own repressive bodies. In the case of the Red Army, the constitution decree was issued on January 28, 1918. “Absolutely accidentally, the date of February 23, 1918 is considered the day the Red Army was founded. They say the admission en masse of volunteers to the detachments of the Red Army started then. Until 1922, the day of the Red Army hadn’t been commemorated. Only in 1922, in strange circumstances, it was decided that the day of the Red Army should be celebrated on this date,” explained the expert.

According to him, after World War II, in 1946, the Red Army was renamed the Soviet Army, while the holiday in 1949 was renamed the Day of the Soviet Army and Marine Fleet. After the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, a series of former member states of the USSR have celebrated the Homeland Defender’s Day on February 23. “In the Republic of Moldova, this day has never been an official holiday since the declaring of sovereignty. However, a number of segments of our society traditionally celebrate this holiday,” said Igor Boțan.

The expert noted that Russia’s army as the successor of the Soviet Army was instituted by presidential decree on May 7, 1992 as, immediately after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, they believed in Russia that the Soviet Army should become a kind of common army of the CIS. But the former Soviet republics refused to accept this. An example to this effect is the fact that the National Army of the Republic of Moldova celebrates its day on September 3, when the presidential army constitution decree was issued.

Doctor of history Mihai Țurcanu, of the Institute of History of the Moldova State University, said it is not clear why the date of February 23, 1922 was chosen for celebrating something that happened in 1918. “In fact, in 1918, and this is not a really happy coincidence for the current apologetics and supporters of the Red Army, on February 23 the Bolsheviks accepted the unconditional capitulation to Germany. They accepted without any condition the circumstances imposed by the Germans for signing the armistice and this practically transformed Soviet Russia into a colony of Germany. Surely, another armistice followed in months and the Germans surrendered that time and the conditions of the peace agreement between Soviet Russia and Germany were annulled. But conditions were then created for the Bolsheviks to remain in power. In fact, the acceptance of capitulation was the main reason for the Bolsheviks to remain in power. This was the goal of the surrender,” stated Mihai Țurcanu.

According to the historians, the Bolsheviks tried to keep power at any cost and therefore created the Red Army that until 1946 had been called the Red Army of Workers and Peasants. “It was from the start a force that was to keep the Bolsheviks in power. In fact, the first units of the Red Army didn’t initially consist of Russian ethnics as most of the members were Latvians. The goal was to cooperate with other fractions of Russia, which were in competition for power and wanted to assert themselves as the main political forces that were heirs of the former regime and to decide the future destinies of Russia. Of all the forces involved in that competition, the Bolsheviks were the most organized ones and also the cruelest ones, owing to their methods and strategies. Namely because of this they managed to keep power and the Red Army was an essential instrument used for the purpose,” said Mihai Țurcanu.

He noted that the way in which the Red Army was founded and developed was significantly influenced by the ideological conditions and circumstances in which this was constituted. The Red Army was an instrument of the first totalitarian state in the history of mankind, which extended the most, among all the totalitarian regimes, the totalitarian practices of ideological, political, spiritual and military control over the populations from the controlled territories.

Writer Maria Pilchin said that for her as a philologist, the Red Army is synonymous with the great terror, with that abusive control of a state, a power over people, in the case of the USSR. The fact that some of the Moldovans don’t know, don’t understand or do not want to understand the truth or the real configuration of the Red Army in history derives from the cultivation and imbedding of a religion of death, of an ideology of death and war during the 70 Soviet years and later.

“By the way, in 2010 they insisted a lot in Russia namely on this dimension. It is a manipulative instrument, an instrument for keeping in a state of anguish as, when we commemorate the Red Army, we realize that we can be attacked and there is an external and, in parts, internal enemy. We must be very watchful and observant,” stated Maria Pilchin.

She noted that when a Moldovan on February 23 congratulates someone else “on being a man”, one can wonder if those who do not celebrate this holiday have problems with virility. “This seems something outdated to me even among the most inveterate supporters. But I think the anthropologists and those who examine mentalities should be probably more attentive,” noted Maria Pilchin.

The public debate entitled “What did we celebrate and why did we celebrate on February 23?” was the fourth installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.

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