Letter from Chişinău

Leo Butnaru | July 01, 2009
Translated by: Jean Harris, Florin Bican


Letter from Chişinău
             Ion Luca Caragiale, the classic and much-cited Romanian writer, is probably right in asserting that “literature is…the big sister of politics,” and that “…the supreme driving force of any nation is its own thought…”
             Under the present circumstances, I am particularly drawn to the idea, which leads me to a conclusion loosely applicable to our time: Mankind has reached the point in which it is already developing artificial thought, but, not, we’d be well advised to remember, an artificial soul. The soul is more closely related to the arts, which includes the art of the writer. In its most subtly manipulative form, reason is the corollary of politics. In this way, a peculiar relationship appears ab ovo: artificial thought (politics) faces off against the natural soul, which includes art and consequently literature. There is an implicit antagonism here, to be sure, but probably also a curse: literature can never ignore politics, which brings us to the events of April 7.
             On that day, I had an appointment at Chisinau National Library. On my way there, I found myself engulfed by a sea of young people thronging the pavements on their way toward the city center. I realized, of course, that there was a mass protest under way. The protest reproached the communists, who had blatantly rigged the recent parliamentary elections. This was a protest of young people, the protest of grandchildren who had found themselves taken hostage overnight by the communists for whom their poor grandparents had voted. The crowd was chanting: “Don’t steal our future! Down with the dictatorship! Down with the communists!”
             Those in the West will need some explanation. The place we call the Republic of Moldova lacks a generational bridge between young people and retired folks. This is to say that several hundred thousnd adults of working age (who are, in fact, the parents of these junior and senior high-schoolers and university students in their tens of thousands) have crossed out of Basarabia in search of income to sustain them and their families in our country between the Dniester and the Prut. As a result, Basarabians scattered around the world—which is to say those who naturally have voted against the communists—were unable to exercise their political options. There was no way for them to vote since the mainly poor citizens of the Republic of Moldova located, say, anywhere in Italy, were supposed to vote in Rome, and no place but Rome, those in Spain were to make their way to Madrid, and nowhere but Madrid—capitals that host Moldavian embassies. The same arrangement applied to Paris, London, Berlin and other European capitals, while in Ireland, where there are many thousands of immigrants from the Republic of Moldova, no poll was opened at all since the rulers in Chisinau had done their cynical best to discourage and obstruct participation in elections by co-nationals living abroad.
             The long and short of this election, then, was that as a result of massive manipulations, the communists had won 49 percent of the eligible vote, the remaining votes being divided among the 15 remaining parties. Surprise, surprise: electoral technicalities blessed the communists with a bonus ten percent. Regardless of the fact that more than half of the electors actually voted against the communists, in the wake of electoral fraud and the implementation of technicalities, the entire population found itself hostage to those 600,000 individuals who voted for the communists, most of them old people or functional illiterates.
             There, in the central square, in the first two or three hours of the demonstrations, I felt exhilarated, optimistic pride in the young of Moldova, but it didn’t take long to be overwhelmed by despair and helplessness. Capitalizing on the situation and embarked upon the sort of actions that should not have ended the anti-communist protest of tens of thousands of young people, the forces of evil resorted to provocation almost at once.
             Many of you know from the mass media what came next. The bottom line, however, is that in the dark early hours of April 8, the hideous nature of communist rule showed itself again in all its monstrosity, authoritarian and dictatorial. For the unauthorized authorities of Chisinau, the notion of human rights is unspeakably vague, and they mock it without a second thought.
             Under these circumstances, we have reason to ask over and over again: could it really be that all kinds of European organizations and the European Union don’t know that the Voronin regime is anti-human, anti-European and criminal? The evils of communism and capitalism have horrendously dovetailed under the present regime. Paradoxically, in the internet age, the Voronin clan, which is the best capitalized and the richest to the left of the Prut, goes at capitalism hammer and tongs under the sign of the hammer and sickle. This is to say that the so-called communist Voronin takes full advantage of the advantages of capitalism. Or maybe he thinks it’s possible to build capitalism with a communist face. We’re dealing here with a mutant hard to describe. This fabulous mongrel, communo-capitalism looks exceptionally repulsive in the fun house mirrors of mysteriously still ongoing, retarded bolshevism, with which European autocracy and diplomacy nevertheless go on flirting.
             I would very much like to know, for instance, why last March his Excellency, the former British ambassador to Chisinau, John Beyer, allowed himself to be decorated by tovarish Voronin, a dictator, a hypocrite, a show-off, a scoffer at of the idea of Europe—an inveterate bolshevik, pure and simple, who benefits from “multilaterally-developed” capitalism—to borrow a phrase from the old Party manuals.
             I would also very much like to know why the vivacious Mr. Sepp Blater, president of the International Football Federation (FIFA), allowed himself to be decorated by Vladimir, the Metropolitan of Moldova, since he must have known only too well that in Basarabia the church plays ball with the communists by blessing their lies and iniquity. In for an ounce, in for a pound.Perhaps not surprisingly then, Mr. Blater, saw fit to grace the breast of the metropolitan-turned-bolshevik-acolyte with the gold medal of the International Football Federation—not that Blater was the only one to engage in medal bartering.
             For instance, prior to the election, we received a visit from Terry Davis, Secretary General of the European Council expressly so that he too could receive a medal from Voronin. Another European dignitary, Erhard Busek, also found himself with the Order of Moldova pinned to his chest. Gheorghi Pirvanov, President of Bulgaria made a stop-over in Chisinau to decorate Voronin and to be decorated in his turn. During the election period, Voronin also visited Croatia to receive a decoration (or is thatde-Croatian?) from president Stjepan Mesic and to give one in another fit of mutual adornment.
             Doesn’t the duplicity of important EU figures seem more than slightly suspicious? Isn’t this confusing institution dealing from both sides of the deck? As I ask, I can almost see some “one hundred percent” Europeans pulling faces of disgust-mixed-with-fright in front of the funhouse mirrors of bolshevism dictatorially maintained by the non-European citizen, Voronin. How long is the European Union going to encourage bolshevism?
             I could, with deep regret, ask similar questions concerning many other European dignitaries who get drunk on plain water in Chisinau. Metaphorically speaking, of course, for in point of fact they are lavishly wined and dined with literal showers of wine and champagne in the famous cellars of Basarabia.
             At the end of the day, gentle reader, what is it with this medalomania in this time of acute crisis? What is it with this Brezhnev-ism of mutual decoration all over Europe? Brezhnev, you may recall, liked to get decorated every six months. Either there has been a multiplication of heroes, public personalities and important people, or they are utterly lacking. This much is for sure: there is wild inflation in the decoration department. One can only conclude that the confraternity of politicians of all ranks and appellations isn’t averse to cynicism in gross violation of public opinion and common decency.
             I, for one, had no doubt about the above-mentioned situations, even before the seventh of April. I was perfectly familiar with bEUrocracy. Nevertheless, I am sure that if it only wanted to, the European Union could liberate the area between the Dniester and the Prut overnight by opening the borders of Europe to the people who live there.
             I believe that the international community of writers has the capacity to help the young people of Moldova who do not want to live another day under bolshevik dictatorship and who seek a European future. I ask you to remember those young people who chanted “Don’t steal our future!”
            Leo Butnaru is a leading journalist from the Republic of Moldova.  He is well-known for his fiction, poetry, essays and translations (including a Romanian version of Osip Mandelstam's poetry). Mr. Butnaru presented his "Letter from Chişinau" at the Romanian Writer's Union Ovidius festival at Mangalia on June 14, 2009.

About this issue

This July, The Observer Translation Project leaves its usual format to present a special CRISIS ISSUE. Things are tough all over. Hard Times suddenly feels like the book of the moment. The global economic crisis impacts life as we know it, and viewed from Bucharest the effects reverberate in domains that include geo-politics and publishing in Romania and abroad, with the crisis at The Observer Translation Project as an instance of a universal phenomenon. read more...

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