In new times with new symbols, Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“We must be aware that the instability in our region will last long yet. It is simply unbelievable that transition from the Soviet empire to Putin’s lasting state and the pretention of this to build a new world order will take place swiftly. The developments should be rethought and all those who want the Republic of Moldova not to come under the sledgehammer and scythe after getting rid of the hammer and sickle should be mobilized...”

Pretensions concerning new world order and their effects...

The year 2023 marks the start of the period of transition in international politics as the previous year brought to an end the global order established after World War II. Evidently, a difficult period full of uncertainty follows and we cannot know how long this will last. We only know that the world order established after the defeat of Nazism in 1945 evolved in stages, together with its institutions – the UN, the OSCE, the International Criminal Court, etc. But Putinist Russia’s aggression against Ukraine that started on February 24, 2022 destroyed the capacity of the mentioned institutions to maintain peace and to impose a predictable behavior on the main international players. Respectively, the announced pretention of the Putinist regime is actually the establishment of a new world order. Experience shows that in such circumstances, the disputes between the states or groups of states are resolved through the agency of economic and military forces and this fact was fully confirmed in 2022. 

It is curious that the turning point in international politics coincided with the centenary of the USSR whose commemoration ended shamefully with a banal series of automobile races under red flags and the communist symbol – the hammer and sickle – against the background of the earth. Evidently, there is no doubt that the aggression against Ukraine and the pretention to build a new world order is a consequence of the implosion of the communist empire that lost the reason to be – triggering of a world communist revolution. Moreover, it turned out that the peaceful coexistence of the Soviet system and the capitalist one brings into dramatic focus the vices of communist totalitarianism that is absolutely unable to resist competition. Respectively, the Putinist regime reached the conclusion that there is no use restoring the USSR that is unable to fabricate the most elementary, more or less qualitative consumer goods for the citizens. The galoshes that are popular with the Africans for being used on the hot sands of the black continent are the only competitive product on the international market.

The giving up of the intention to restore the communist empire does not mean renouncing of the empire in general. On the contrary, the Putinist ideologists invented Putin’s lasting state that is to become the next ring in the chain of imperial metamorphoses of Russia. For us, those from the Republic of Moldova, it is important that the announced Putin’s lasting state was entrusted with the task of reconquering the territories lost as a result of the dissolution of the USSR. Only from these positions or in parallel, the new world order is to be built. This way, we have a clinical case of manifestation of revanchism.

The involvement of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in this imperialist project, by promoting the concept of Russian World, evokes the Messianic pretention that it attributes to itself through the formula: Moscow, the Third Rome. But the allegedly Christian mission of the ROC was irremediably compromised after it started to justify the war against the people of Ukraine, blessing the Russian conquerors. The point is not only the ROC is engaged in the propagation of the war against Ukraine, but also a whole army of all kinds of fortunetellers and wizards.  In such circumstances, we should better speak not about Moscow as the Third Rome, but about the pretention of building something similar to the Third Reich.

Sledgehammer and scythe, symbol of Putinist transition to new world order

As it was already mentioned, each historical epoch has its own symbols for distinguishing itself from the others. At the time of the Soviet empire, the hammer and sickle were the main symbol. So, the announced Putin’s lasting state should have the own symbol different from the Soviet one, but suggestive as regards the succession. The question, how the symbol of Putin’s lasting state should look like emerges? It should be very clear that the symbols usually express in a figurative way the relations that unite, on the one hand, the manifested contents of the phenomena and, on the other hand, the profound meanings of these. Currently, the socioeconomic and political relations of Putinist Russia are dramatically different from those from the time of the USSR. So, it is not so easy to substitute the old symbols with new ones. 

Currently, state capitalism based on rent from the exploitation of mineral resources represents the source of the fabulous enrichment of the friends of President Putin. It is nothing unordinary here and there are other similar regimes. However, Putinist Russia designed unique innovations – private armies that are not stipulated by the Constitution, the laws of the country and whose activity is clearly banned by the criminal law. This way, Article 359 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation provides: “The recruitment, training, financing or another material support for mercenaries and also the utilization of these in armed conflicts or hostilities are punished with four to eight years in jail…

Nevertheless, the first private army ENOT was established back in 2011 and since 2014 this has taken an active part in the occupation of the Ukrainian regions Donetsk and Luhansk. It is curious, but the ENOT group was financed by Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev who allegedly maintained relations also with the ex-President of the Republic of Moldova Igor Dodon, primarily in the organization in 2018 of the World Congress of Families. The second private army that is much better known, the Wagner group, was created in May 2014 and has also taken part in the occupation of the Ukrainian regions and is now the main and most combative Russian military force in the war of aggression waged in Ukraine. It should be noted that only after the outbreak of the war, the State Duma of Russia on March 31, 2022 drafted a bill on private military companies. But the law hadn’t been adopted as its examination was successively put off in September and then in October and in November 2022 it was ultimately decided that Russia does not need such a law.  Indeed, why should the activity of private military organizations that recruit citizens, also and especially in jails, to take part in the war be regulated?  

Meanwhile, the Wagner group became famous owing to its fighting style, especially for the original execution of recruits, without trial, for violation of the contract conditions. The sledgehammer is the preferred execution instrument. The execution is neither confirmed nor denied and is simply derided as there is certainty that the state bodies will not examine such barbarous cases. Why the sledgehammer? Probably because the traditions are cultivated this way. The truth is one of the criminals recruited by the Wagner group killed his own grandmother with a hammer in the head for the purpose of dispossessing her of apartment. It is even more curious that the Wagner group amnesties by itself the prisoners enrolled in its private army for killing Ukrainian citizens, urging them: “We should not drink much, take drugs, rape women”. Why not as Patriarch Kirill assured them that the participants in the war in Ukraine will have their sins forgiven automatically? This is how the creators of Putin’s lasting state, involved in the building of the new world order, look like!

In such circumstances, the switchover from the Soviet empire to Putin’s lasting state requires the suggestive replacement of symbols so that the sledgehammer substitutes the hammer, while the sickle substitutes the scythe. We can assert that the enshrining of the sledgehammer as the symbol of Putinist Russia actually took place at international level, when the representatives of the Wagner group transmitted a bloody sample to the European Parliament. It is known that the sickle is replaced by a scythe when it is the case. The scythe, according to the Dictionary of Symbols by Jean Chevalier& Alain Gherbrant, is “the symbol of death because the scythe, as death, equalizes everything that is alive”. If we take into account the fact that over 100,000 people from both of the sides have been scythed in Russia’s war against Ukraine during more than ten months, the symbol of the sledgehammer and scythe is definitely a perfect substitute of the sickle and hammer, in the process of transition from the communist empire to Putin’s lasting state.


We must be aware that the instability in our region will last long yet. It is simply unbelievable that transition from the Soviet empire to Putin’s lasting state and the pretention of this to build a new world order will take place swiftly. The developments should be rethought and all those who want the Republic of Moldova not to come under the sledgehammer and scythe after getting rid of the hammer and sickle should be mobilized.

There is one more important thing. The Republic of Moldova is permanently threatened by Russian high-ranking officials and their representatives. Surely, it is somehow funny to see our country being accused of human rights violations by those who started a war, shell peaceful towns and civilian infrastructure of the brotherly nation, etc., but when you see the methods they apply against the Russian citizens, you realize that one should not play with those who entered the revanchist delirium. However, avoiding useless polemics with those who threaten, it is useful to reproduce several statistical data, including those offered by institutions in Russia. Firstly, the number of Moldovan citizens who left Russia together with the start of the war in 2014 decreased from approximately 600,000 to about 80,000 in 2022, which is over seven times. Secondly, the number of applicants for Moldovan nationality in 2022 grew by over 30%, the curiosity being that 60% of the applicants are Transnistrians, while another important part of the applicants are Russian citizens. This happens at a time when hundreds of thousands of citizens left Russia to escape mobilization. So, the Russian authorities should be concerned about the own problems, including the promotion of new symbols.

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