Twitter Terror: Unraveling the Unrest in Moldova

Riding on the apathy of the masses, crony Communists rig the elections in a small, corrupt post-Soviet backwater to retain their iron grip on power. But their dastardly plans to crush democracy and draw benighted Moldova back into the Eurasian darkness are foiled by the heroic students of Chisinau.

Inspired by their boudiccan (and photogenic) figurehead Natalia Morari, heroine of past struggles against corrupt authoritarianism, they flutter out into the city center and Tweet their nation back into the light of Western iCivilization, toppling the old guard under a colorful cascade of fruits and flowers.

This is the kitschy Western narrative of color revolutions, in which electronic networking technologies marry the springtime national aspirations of peoples suppressed by corrupt satraps from Muscovy to produce a verdant and fertile liberal democracy – Atlantean outpost and bulwark against Eastern tyranny.

Yet one would have to wear rose-tinted spectacles (or read fantastic literature to excess) to subscribe to this interpretation. The Rose Revolution in Georgia withered away and died under the chill of Saakashvili’s quasi-authoritarian rule and the heat of aggressive war against Russia in summer 2008. Meanwhile, the Orange Revolution putrefied into mush, succumbing to the sickly moist of endemic chaos, corruption and economic decline that characterized Ukraine after 2005.

A dispassionate analysis of the “Grape Revolution” in Moldova reveals that its fruit was rotten from the beginning.

The Centrality of Romanian Nationalism in the Moldovan Opposition

Although it is true that many of the protesters were genuinely disaffected university students and migrants, it is also clear that certain elements were Romanian nationalists, liberast provocateurs and common hooligans.

The three parties which won 35% of the vote have a “distinct nationalistic flavor”, according to Natalia Sineaeva-Pankowska writing in Moldova: Torn between the Communists and the far right1. The nationalists criticize the Communist plans to revise ethnic Romanian-centered history textbooks to better reflect Moldova’s multi-ethnic identity and extend the Holocaust interpretations taught in schools to include the role of Romanian collaboration, from its current limitation to the “German extermination of Jews and Roma”. They favor closer ties to and reunification with Romania.

The intensely pro-Romanian Ghimpu is known as an admirer of fascist dictator Ion Antonescu and notorious for his remark on a Turkic, Orthodox ethnic minority within Moldova – “Gagauzians are the ulcers on a body of the Moldovan people”. They are supported by the newspapers Timpul and Journal de Chisinau, which are known to have given platforms to Greater Romania nationalists and Holocaust deniers.

The other main opposition leader, Filat, has a not unimpressive reputation as the biggest thief in Moldova. He was involved in major scandals surrounding privatization of wine factories, aircraft sales and cigarette smuggling from Moldova to Romania2.

There is also a theory pieced together in Moon of Alabama that the protests were just the simulacrum of an oligarchic power struggle between President Voronin and the Romanian-supported tycoon Anatol Stati3. His Moldova-based company, ASCOM Group, reaped a 2bn $ fortune drilling for oil in Kazakhstan but now stands accused of concealing income from Romania- and Turkmenistan-related businesses and violating UN sanctions against Sudan. Incidentally, most of ASCOM’s business is run through Tristan Oil, which resides in the British Virgin Islands tax haven. However, the aforementioned Timpul newspaper claims that the Voronin clan is simply trying to usurp Stati’s business4.

The second man in Tristan Oil is Artur Lungu, who has extensive connections with Anglo-American democracy and transparency promotion organizations such as USAID, the Soros Foundation and the John Smith Memorial Trust. Anatol Stati’s son, Gabriel, has important ties with young and Romanian nationalist organizations and called the people to vote against the Communists in the elections; he was recently arrested in Ukraine on a Moldovan extradition request5.

The Role of Moldova’s Twittering Classes

This is the fundamental dilemma – we are facing a struggle between populist Communists and populist nationalists, many of whom are illiberal and corrupt. But what about the likes of Morari, who claimed she only expected 300 people to turn up and disavowed violence – are these original Twittering protesters pure?

It is hard to contain cynicism. As Daniel McAdams points out in Moldova’s Twitter Revolution: Made in America?6, Moldova is the poorest country in Europe – furthermore, only 16% of the population has Internet access7. Where did the Twitter-compatible iPhones and technical training come from?

They are the legacy of US-funded NGO’s operating in the post-Soviet space. One of the leading youth movements committed to overthrowing the Communists is the Hyde Park organization, whose website is hosted by the Internet Access Training Program – funded by the US State Department through the Freedom Support Act. Furthermore, USAID – for whom the aforementioned Lungu worked – openly funnels generous amounts of money through “cut-out organizations like the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute” for programs such as Strengthening Democratic Political Activism in Moldova – “cultivating new political activists who can formulate and pursue concrete political objectives…”.

There are many ongoing discussions on the blogosphere about the role Twitter player and about how “spontaneous” the protests really were. Daniel Bennet in The Myth of the Twitter Revolution8 wrote that Moldova’s Twittering class was only 200 strong and analyzing its feed at the time did not indicate that it played any organizational role. Furthermore, he quotes Morari to support his point: “Six people. 10 minutes for creativity and action. A few hours of information on networks, facebook, blogs, SMS to friends and e-mail newsletter. All of the organization – through the Internet.”

Evgeny Morozov, creator of the “Twitter Revolution” theme9, in later essays acknowledged that although it played a very minor part in the planning of the protests it was crucial to creating and sustaining Western interest in events in Moldova10 – because so many Westerners themselves used Twitter, it needed very few Moldovans at ground zero to get the #pman11 flood started. Once that happened it took on a life of its own and ignited a continuous stream of user-generated content on LiveJournals, blogs and popular social-networking sites that soon seeped into the Western mainstream media.

Are the “Liberals” Really Liberals – or are they Liberasts12?

Although a fascinating discussion, the above misses the forest for the trees – the real question is whether or not the original “liberal” protesters intended their little protest to conflagrate into a mass bunt culminating in the storming of Parliament. It is important to keep in mind that Morozov is a former “trainer” for various “civil society” outfits in the use of new electronic technologies to mobilize and actively supports the policy of color revolutions.

On meeting the activist Oleg Brega, he approvingly remarked on his “almost uncanny ability to rely on the Internet (as well as mobile and video technologies) to bring public attention to his causes”13. The example he gave? “A typical Brega stunt: provoking the Moldovan police to arrest him and have someone capture this on video and then republish to YouTube”, followed by a hyperlink to those “video provocations”.

Furthermore, Oleg Brega is a proud member of the aforementioned Hyde Park organization, which is headed by Gheorghe Brega, a Romanian citizen14 and member of Ghimpu’s Liberal Party. The front page of its website features a diatribe against “Bolshevik tyranny” by the historian Iacob Golovca15, who is “President of the Civic Association for the Abolition of the Consequences of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact”. Dr. Golovca is a Romanian ultra-nationalist16 – he refers to Moldova by its old regional name of Bessarabia and calls for its return into “Romania’s bosom”, without the “gangrenous germ” of Transnistria which is to be “amputated”. Antonescu is a “martyr and hero of all Romanians!”, Russians are the tyrannous, perennial enemies of the Romanian people and he hates Ukraine too.

Oleg Brega, Natalia Morari and several others, all seemingly part of a core group, were the original organizers. They argue that they did not expect more than a few hundred people to show up; some commentators, like Nancy Scola17, believe that the protests metastasized because those who got #pman spread the message ever wider into the social net. She makes the comparison with how an initially low-key house party, without effective face control, can erupt into an epic rager ending with the police busting the place. They too are now threatened with arrest.

Party animals of Chisinau.

Party animals of Chisinau.

From the above, it appears that Mr. Brega is like an onion – a liberal skin, a liberast interior and a Romanian nationalist core. He was trained for revolution and very likely the other members of the “core group” were too. Furthermore, once you get a critical mass of people into the streets using social media like Twitter to connect key players (or nodes, in network jargon), your work is done and the rest falls into place. It is then time to shift gears and start denying culpability – which is what Morari and Co. are now concentrating on.

This is not to say that they are necessarily guilty of “calls for organizing and staging mass disturbances”, as the Moldovan authorities allege – but we should not give them a free get out of jail card either.

The Geopolitics behind the “Twitter Revolution”

Moldova’s geopolitical priorities are to consolidate its multi-ethnic society and resist encroachment from Romania and Russia. The first means it has to satisfy internal ethnic minorities like the Gagauz in the south, a Turkic Orthodox people enjoying an autonomous status within the country, and draw Russo-Ukrainian Transnistria back into the fold. Although Transnistria has just 0.6mn people to 3.4mn in the rest of Moldova, it is also its richest and most industrialized region.

There are growing social forces in Moldova seeking reunification with Romania for nationalist reasons and as an easy path to EU membership. Already between 10% and 20% of Moldovans have Romanian, and by extension EU, passports. The fear of Romanian expansionism frightens Transnistria away from reconciliation, while the “Kosovo precedent” gives its arguments for independence more weight18.

On objective criteria Transnistria has a much better case for independence than Kosovo and indeed any of the other small, post-Soviet quasi-states, according to Michael Averko19. Historically it was never under Moldovan control, suffered 2000 casualties from a Moldovan attempt to reassert control in the early 1990’s and its people overwhelmingly voted for independence in free referanda20. Further undercutting its portrayal as a kleptocratic Stalinist holdover, the British Helsinki Human Rights Group believes it to be better off than Moldova proper.

The rule of President Voronin was characterized by geopolitical dithering between West and East. Although seen as pro-Moscow upon first being elected, he opposed Moscow’s settlement plans for the breakaway region of Transnistria in 200321 and shifted West, declining to attend the 60th anniversary to the victory over Nazism in Moscow in 2005, dropping support for the Common Economic Space (a proposed free trade zone in some countries of the former USSR) and focusing more on Euro-Atlantic integration.

Recently analysts perceived a tilt back to Moscow – either as part of a grand strategy to get attention from the West to its Transnistrian problem or over genuine fears about Romanian encroachment and what it would mean for the eventual resolution of the Transnistria Question.

(Answer: if Moldova takes an overtly Western direction, permanently wave goodbye to any prospect of a confederation between the two22). Incidentally, this coincided with the souring of the Rose and Orange revolutions and the Western recognition of Kosovar independence.)

How Much was the West Involved?

The major motive for a Western push to topple Voronin is to reverse their recent geopolitical setbacks across the Eurasian periphery and send a message to Moscow. Although the Obama administration ostensibly aims to “reset” relations with Russia, this does not mean it has dropped its longterm geopolitical objective of pre-empting the rise of a Eurasian hegemon.

We must not forget that Obama’s foreign police advisors include Zbigniew Brzezinski (a latter-day proponent of the “Promethean project” to break up the Russian Empire, whose intellectual ancestor is the Polish interwar dictator Piłsudski) and many Clintonian liberal interventionists. That said, unlike in the Baltic “popular fronts” or the Orange Revolution, direct US involvement in Moldova was probably non-existent.

Firstly, as mentioned above Voronin is not unqualifiedly pro-Moscow. He is a rational opportunist, tilting to whichever side will best serve the national (and perhaps more importantly, the personal) interest. From his perspective, Russia can provide a short-term degree of political and financial cover that the West is unwilling or powerless to. Trying to overthrow, or appearing to try to overthrow, guys like him can produce dangerous blowback. Uzbekistan cardinally changed its geopolitical orientation from the US to Russia after the bloodbath in Andijan. Further afield, Chávez only became firmly anti-American after the failure of the CIA-backed coup against him in 2002.

Secondly, Ukraine and Georgia were humiliating failures and probably made the Americans think twice before giving one-sided support to revolutionary movements, especially those incorporating unsavory nationalist elements. Hopefully US foreign policy is no longer hijacked by the neo-con / Soros liberal agenda to push their vision of democracy on countries and peoples that don’t care for it.

Finally, if a color revolution really had been in the works then OSCE wouldn’t have declared the elections “free and fair”, thus invalidating a vital moral prerequisite for a revolution. Therefore the Baroness (Emma) Nicholson’s complaints that it was “difficult to endorse the very warm press statement” should be taken with a pinch of salt – particularly since immediately after, she says, “The problem was that it was an OSCE report, and in the OSCE are, of course, the Russians, and their view was quite different, quite substantially different, for example from my own”. OK.

Perhaps she was upset that they had missed an opportunity to undermine a fickle ally in favor of the young, pro-Western and colorful protesters? Or maybe she was genuinely distraught over how they did not properly voice their “very, very strong feeling” that the election was flawed (which indeed it probably was – exit polls suggested the Communists should have gotten 45% instead of 50%, three members of the Electoral Commission resigned and the Communists agreed to a recount)?

It’s hard to say given the degree of opacity in all this, but one thing we can all agree on is the irony of a Baroness expounding on democratic procedures.

Are the Communists really so unpopular and anti-democratic?

Some commentators sought to portray the Moldovan Communists as dinosaurs who hate change and democracy, and are only supported by an aging sheeple brainwashed by vodka and “sovok” propaganda. This is an admittedly an exaggerated characterization – but I think it captures what many commentators feel. Unsurprisingly, it is very inaccurate.

Firstly, all the major organizations that purport to “measure” democracy disagree with this assessment. The Polity IV project, which comprehensively tracks global democracy trends since the Second World War, gave Moldova a score of 8 on a scale of -10 to 10 in 2007, qualifying it as a proper electoral democracy – for comparison, ethnocratic Estonia got a 6.

The Economist Democracy Index believes it to be a “flawed democracy”, much like neighboring Romania, and even the notoriously compromised Freedom House believes it is something better than “Not Free”. According to human rights activist Andrei Kalikh, Moldova “is at once the most democratic CIS country and the only one where the Communists hold power”23.

Secondly, the Communists “made significant inroads into young age cohorts for the first time in these elections”, according to Vladimir Socor24 – as the “sociologist Arcadie Barbarosie (head of the Soros Foundation’s local affiliate) observes, the Communist Party can no longer be stereotyped as a “pensioners’” or Soviet-nostalgics’ party”.

Thirdly, the Communists are becoming more competent and sophisticated at campaigning. The incumbent government, “predominantly of technical experts”, makes a strong contrast to the “opposition-dominated Chisinau Municipal Council, a scene of chaos and nepotism”.

Fourthly, it steers a shrewd line between long-term European aspirations, on which there is a national consensus, and preserving Russian goodwill. The latter is good for both the national interest (financial reasons and resolution of the Transnistria Question) and political expediency (it draws Russophone votes and interestingly, Putin and Medvedev have the highest approval ratings of any politician in Moldova).

Fifthly, there remain concerns over the authorities’ reaction to seemingly manipulated election results and the heavy-handed crackdown on protesters. Regarding the former, use of “administrative resources” from all sides is an unfortunate but accepted political practice throughout the post-Soviet space and the Communists would have won decisively whether their real popular mandate was 45% or 50%. And it would seem obvious that any democratic state would react very harshly to a violent insurrection against the constitutional order.

Finally, there is a certain tone of arrogance and condescension in the language some commentators use to condemn Communist supporters, repeatedly emphasizing how they tend to be rural, older and less-educated25. Forget the implied elitism and ageism and ask yourself – why are so many Moldovans really voting for the Communists?

For all the above reasons, and more. Let a Moldovan tell it in her own words – from the translation of a comment posted to Natalia Morari’s blog26 featured on the blog Scraps of Moscow27:

so who voted for the Communists? A bunch of grandmas and old ladies…and? Riiiiight, lots of our parents… if the people who are now shouting out in the main square could have convinced their parents not to vote for the Communists, then maybe they wouldn’t have won?

But this raises two questions:

1) Who should they have voted for?
2) How can they be convinced otherwise? Yesterday I was talking with my mother, she is retired and receives a pension, just like my father… but he still goes to work, he teaches at a university, so he’s a state employee… anyway, I asked her, “Why did you vote for the Communists?”

She answered, “They increased my pension.”

I told her, that this was at the expense of the youth, and let’s imagine that she told me she didn’t care, her own children are overseas and she’s in Moldova, she has to think about herself.

In years past part of our heating bill was paid by the city government, but now Chirtoaca [a prominent opposition politician and Mayor of Chisinau] fell out with the heating utility company, and we have to pay the whole amount.”

Even though I know that the Communists were also involved in this conflict, it’s hard to argue with the much higher heating bills…

Before the Communists came to power I was afraid to go outside, but now things are stable in the country, there is less crime…”

I have to agree with this, although I can’t say I’d let my kids outside alone even now…

A bunch of other reasons…”

And it’s not so important why they voted for the Communists, what matters is that no one was able to convince them otherwise and no one gave them another worthy choice instead…

And now, when parents see their children out on the square, they will be even more firmly on the side of the Communists, I won’t bother to write why, it’s obvious…

This is a very good illustration of the generational divide between older, state-dependent people and their migrant sons and daughters – and the misunderstandings and acrimony arising from it.

The Geopolitical Fallout

The Communists have the situation firmly in control – there will almost certainly be no revolution, grape, Twitter or durian. A simple recount will achieve nothing because the main issue relates to how many “dead souls” voted.

Furthermore, even if the government answers calls for new elections, any popular sympathy the protesters may have gained from Communist abuse of “administrative resources” will have been incinerated in the fires that engulfed Chisinau on April 7.

The Communists will harden towards the Romanian nationalists and will distance themselves from the Atlanticists. Although Washington did not play a direct role, the Communists cannot be comfortable with the legacy of motivated, technologically savvy youth movements / liberast fifth columnists (cross out as you will) the Western NGO’s left behind.

President Saakashvili in Georgia is facing a dangerous challenge from the opposition which may soon culminate in counter-revolution28; the Orange legacy in Ukraine is already largely discredited and can only continue on its path to oblivion as the social effects of Ukraine’s economic Depression make themselves felt. It is probably no longer far-fetched to talk of a “Great Split” in Ukraine between its antagonistic western and eastern parts.

In this context of rapidly expanding Russian influence over the former Soviet Union, it is a safe prediction that Moldova will move closer to Russia. It would offer increased political security from revolution – be it private, Romanian or US instigated. There may also be hope for Russian financial assistance amidst the economic turbulence – remittances from Moldovans abroad, which formerly made up 25%-40% of Moldovan GDP, are now falling rapidly as they lose jobs in Russia and Europe.

Finally, it offers a path to a compromise on the Transnistria Question – most likely, in the form of a neutral confederation which would shield Moldova from Romanian nationalism and allow it to profit from bridging the economic gap between Europe and Eurasia. Already on April 11, Voronin met the Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov for the first time since 200129.

Building Enclaves of Empathy

In a normal society, most people are going to be more or less moderate. Since we are forced to interact with people holding a wide spectrum of views on a daily basis, our own beliefs are subjected to a constant Bayesian barrage. This leads to mental adjustment and calibration to the norm.

The Internet, cell phones, interactive social media, etc – call it the ubiweb – allows one to filter the circle of “friends” they communicate with, to just those who share their positions. Since people are fundamentally conformist (of course they are – even ignoring Milgram et al., society would otherwise be populated by extremists), their attitudes will harden to conform more closely with those held within that circle. Contrary to the dreams of cyber-utopians that the information highway will lead humanity into a new age of transparency, freedom and enlightenment, many will simply imprison themselves within “enclaves of extremism”30.

The mainstream media should stop glamorizing the photogenic fakery of the iGeneration in Moldova with odes to their supposedly selfless drive to spread democracy over the ubiweb. Instead, we must focus on resolving the far more human misunderstandings leading to heavy-handed authoritarianism and revolutionary extremism. In Moldova’s case I suspect it is the lack of inter-generational respect between “sovoks” and “orphans”, which manifests itself in tensions over the Moldovan and the Romanian identity, between Eurasia and the Atlantic and between likeness and similarity.

We should try to foster dialog between the disaffected students and migrants, and pensioners and state workers. Meanwhile, nationalist liberasts, neo-Soviet authoritarians and cynical mercenaries fomenting revolution in the service of geopolitical agendas should be universally rejected – and instead encouraged to build enclaves of empathy with the people instead of brooding in enclaves of extremism.

In Stephen King’s techno-horror novel Cell, a rogue virus transmitted across the global cell phone network turns most of humanity into “flocks” of homicidal zombies. Whenever we abandon all skepticism and refuse to question everything, we become them – a soulless flock Tweeting terror and destruction.


11Code to gather at Piata Marii Adunari Nationale, the square in the capital Chisinau.

12From Wikipedia: “Liberast (Russian: Либераст, portmanteau of liberal and pederast) is a neologism in the Russian language. Ideological cliché, exclusively used by authors with malicious attitude to neoliberal reforms in Russia or to the methods these reforms were implemented. The word bears an overt pejorative connotation.” I use it to refer to people masquerading as “liberals” while using illiberal or dishonest means or pursuing illiberal ends.








25I suspect many of them are those who took offense at Obama’s comment on how small-town Americans cling to guns and religion.






This was also kindly published on Johnson’s Russia List and republished at Guardian-PSJ.


  1. Like I just said elsewhere – WOW!

    On Pridnestrovie’s (Transnistria’s) government, when compared to the governments of the other disputed former Communist bloc territories (like Kosovo), it doesn’t look so bad. In terms of history and human rights, I’ve yet to see how the other territories in question have a better case for independence.

    I note how some who comment on Moldova and Russia will highlight the extremism in the latter, while being mum on the former (specifically, some of the extremist views directed against Gagauz Jews, Roma and Slavs).

    Western NGO sponsored political development can nurture cultures which can then take it upon themselves to act in a way that’s directly influenced by the political slant of its backers. That said, I also sense that the Moldovan Twitter influenced protests might fall in line with this thought expressed at RFE/RL:

    Excerpted from the above linked RFE/RL article:

    “Former Moldovan President Petru Lucinski told RFE/RL’s Moldova Service that there is no need to look further to explain the unrest.

    ‘I see it as an unorganized youth movement,” Lucinski said. “On the 6th, it was OK, but on the 7th there were more people coming and they could not be controlled. They didn’t have any leaders. One part went in one direction, a peaceful one. And another part took a violent turn’.”


    Note how the Western monitors reviewing the election initially said that the process was passable. This changed after the street throng.

    At present, Romania is a factor in terms of the stated political leanings of some of the protesting Moldovan youths and the support they receive from elements in Romania. It’s not out of the realm to believe that Voronin might be embellishing the degree of Romanian involvement. This issue brings up government versus non-government involvement from Romania. The latter is the diplomatically more acceptable. I sense the latter might be more of an actual issue. Then again, government versus non-government involvement can get murky. This is sometimes intentional for the reason stated in sentence four of this paragraph (an observation that relates to AK’s thoughts on the Moldovan street protests).

    There has been increased commentary on the idea of Moldova becoming part of Romania. At least for now, the issue of Romanian-Moldovan reunification should be understood as something that’s hypothetically interesting but distant. Besides the Moldovan Communists, some other Moldovan political elites might be apprehensive about becoming part of a larger Romanian entity – where the Moldovan body politic stands to lose clout. Slovakian political elites opted out of Czechoslovakia with this thought in mind. Their Czech counterparts like Vaclav Klaus agreed with the separation because they saw Slovakia as an economic albatross for the Czech Republic. This point might play into why some in Romania might not be so keen on having Moldova as part of Romania.

    Offhand (will have to check) I don’t think there was much Moldovan opposition to Moldova being part of Romania when that was evident (between two world wars) – especially when compared to the situation of Ukrainians in Poland and Croats in Yugoslavia, at the same time in question.

    Between the yay and nay reunion with Romania points of view among Moldovans, I sense there’s a sort of swing vote that can lean towards either of these two views. The determining factor being how Romania and Moldova each develop over the course of time. Like I said, for now at least, it’s an interesting topic – but not one that tops the main issue of the Moldovan political situation.

    BTW, if Romania and Moldova were to reunite, Gagauzia can legally separate from Moldova. A Romanian-Moldovan reunification probably lessens the chance of Pridnestrovie coming together with Moldova.

    Re: Moldovan President Calls for Recount of Poll Results

    Some of the opposition to Voronin is quoted as calling this statement a “trick.” How is it a trick if properly monitored?

    Pardon the repetition of these comments which were stated at other venues. Getting the word out to as many as possible is a regularity with views on the same subject that don’t offer the same thoughts.

  2. Nice post – two quick comments…

    I’m on twitter, too!! @siberianlight

    If you check out the list of who I’m following, you should be able to pick out a few other Russia bloggers too, although I’m still quite new at twitter, so I haven’t found everyone yet either.

    The British Helsinki Human Rights Group are an interesting organization, to say the least. I’d recommend checking out the wikipedia page about them.

  3. Some Wikipedia entries can be “interesting” as well.

    The BHHRG is no longer an active org.

    Moreover, some of the views expressed by the BHHRG have been shared by others as well.

  4. I’m on Twitter @Sweejak
    — Jueri

  5. This is a very nice source of news publicized by russian media, which supports the communist party

  6. wow. u guys r sick.

    AK responds: Thank you for your deeply insightful, original and incisive comment. I dare not imagine what Russia-watching would be like without you.

  7. @Andy,

    Didn’t know – thanks for pointing it out. The other Russia blogs didn’t have Twitter in their sidebar.

    PS. You might want to do that.

  8. You should take a note that 3 members of the central election commission resigned after they announced the result, for the following reasons:
    1. Deşi cifrele de totalizare reies din procesele-verbale întocmite de organele electorale inferioare avem o rezervă referitor la corectitudinea acestor cifre care constau în următoarele:
    a) listele electorale au fost întocmite de administraţiile publice locale cu grave încălcări a legislaţiei electorale. O mare vină referitor la incorectitudinea întocmirii listelor electorale îi revine Comisiei Electorale Centrale care a înmânat la începutul perioadei electorale secretarilor consiliilor raionale CD în care erau incluse date personale a cetăţenilor R. Moldova primite de la Ministerul Tehnologiilor Informaţionale în baza cărora au şi fost întocmite listele electorale.
    b) Ulterior s-a dovedit că aceste CD conţineau date eronate precum ar fi:
    – în listele electorale au fost incluse persoane decedate cu 15-20 ani în urmă;
    – în listele electorale au fost incluse persoane care în realitate nu au locuit şi nu locuiesc la adresele indicate în aceste liste;
    2. Contestaţiile parvenite la adresa Comisiei Electorale Centrale au confirmat asemenea fraude şi anume că proprietarii imobilelor au sesizat Comisia Electorală Centrală că venind la votare au văzut că în listele electorale au fost incluse persoane indicându-se adresa imobilelor care le aparţin cu drept de proprietate, cărora nu le-au dat acordul de perfectare a vizelor de domiciliu şi reşidinţă.
    3. Dubiile susmenţionate sunt confirmate obiectiv prin faptul că concurentul electoral Partidul Comuniştilor din R. Moldova la 11 aprilie a atacat la Curtea de Apel Chişinău hotărârea Comisiei Electorale Centrale nr.2501 din 8 aprilie 2009 prin care s-a permis concurenţilor electorali accesul la listele electorale cu posibilitatea obţinerii copiilor de pe aceste liste.
    4. Pe 4 şi 5 aprilie radiodifuzorul „EU TV” care are acoperire naţională, încălcând cu rea credinţă prevederile art. 47 alin.14 Cod electoral intenţionat au făcut agitaţie electorală abuzivă în favoarea unor concurenţi electorali, defavorizând ceilalţi concurenţi electorali.
    5. Pe parcursul perioadei electorale concurentul electoral Partidul Comuniştilor din R. Moldova a uitilizat la maxim resursele administrative, fapt care a influenţat rezultatele alegerilor.

    Membrii Comisiei Electorale Centrale,
    Mihai Buşuleac, Vasile Gafton, Nicolae Gârbu
    Use google translate if you want to understand what is written here

    AK responds: Here’s the Google translation:

    1. Although the figures resulting from the aggregation of the minutes prepared by lower electoral bodies have a backup on the correctness of these figures consist of the following:
    a) the electoral lists were drawn up by local public administrations with serious violations of electoral legislation. A major fault on the unfairness of drawing up electoral lists shall be the Central Election Commission handed over to the beginning of the electoral district council secretaries CD in which personal data were included citizens of Moldova from the Ministry of Information Technologies on which have been prepared lists election.
    b) It was subsequently proved that the CD contained erroneous data such as:
    – The lists were included with the deceased persons 15-20 years ago;
    – In the electoral lists were people who actually have lived and do not live at the addresses indicated in these lists;
    2. Appeals submitted to the Central Election Commission also confirmed that fraud and property owners were notified that the Central Election Commission coming to the polls saw that electoral lists were people giving the address of properties belonging to them with ownership, not they have given to concluding a visa and reşidinţă home.
    3. Doubt aforementioned objective are confirmed by the electoral candidate that the Communist Party of Moldova on April 11 attacked the Chisinau Court of Appeals Case nr.2501 Central Election Commission of 8 April 2009 which allowed competitors access to election electoral lists with the possibility of obtaining children on these lists.
    4. On 4 and 5 April broadcaster “EU TV which has national coverage, bad faith breach of the provisions of art. 47 alin.14 electoral code were intentionally misuse election agitation in favor of candidates, defavorizând other candidates.
    5. During the electoral candidate election the Communist Party of Moldova uitilizat maximize administrative resources, which has influenced the election results.

  9. The Wikipedia entry on the BHHRG is probably one of the most biased on the entire ‘pedia’. Read the ‘discuss’ page belonging to the entry to get a feel for it.

    Meanwhile, thank you Anatoly for this piece – very interesting indeed. You have been bookmarked!

  10. BTW, about the recounting of poll results, it wouldn’t show much difference as the main fraud was made in the election lists, it is estimated that about 183000 dead people voted(there are reports that they have been dead for 15-21 years) then the “new family members” history, in a sarcastic way it would sound like “I never knew i had another son/daughter/husband/wife/parent”

  11. I heard that accusation. Has it been firmly established?


    Wiki is a crap shoot. One of the now downed Wiki biography pieces was so slanted that a disclaimer was put in it to suggest that observation. Other Wiki entries can be pretty biased without any disclaimer noted.

  12. As for the point I heard elsewhere about Romania being better off than Moldova in the post-Soviet era, note that Moldova appeared to be better off than Romania during the Soviet period. This point can be used to support the idea of Moldova being close to Russia, in a way that includes Pridnestrovie and Moldova entering a union state arrangement.

    It seems that some in Moldova aren’t clear in which geopolitical direction to take. Hence, Voronin’s policy of drifting between the West and Russia. Should Moldova decide on a definitive either-or scenario? It might be better for it to work out a kind of hybrid alternative. This aspect becomes more trivial with an improvement in Russia-West relations.

  13. Mike, some comparative PPP stats for 2008:

    Russia: $15,800
    Romania: $12,200
    Moldova: $2,500

    Not sure of historical figures and how they’ve shifted over the past 20 years or so.

    But I don’t think your argument that Moldova used to be better off than Romania, Moldova is now poorer than Romania, therefore closer relations with Russia are the answer.

    A different way to look at it would be to consider why Romania has had such a startling level of success compared with Moldova, and to attempt to emulate Romania.

    Personally, I think Moldova will be (in the long term) financially better off seeking EU membership. The problem with this is that Moldova is so poor, chaotic, divided and corrupt that the EU wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole in the short term.

    Which leaves Moldova with an agonising dilemna – chase after the short term and lower level financial security that Russia offers. Or chase after the EU’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, which they may never reach…

    (PS – definitely agree that Moldova is drifting back & forth at the moment, and that such drifting will become trivial if Russia-West relations improve.)

  14. The fact that the elections had been rigged is the fact that 3 members of the central election committee have resigned by implying reasons that i posted above, and they are only one reason(voting lists are incorrect) whereas the central election committee have stated 5 reasons.

  15. Andy

    Yeah, someone else noted your point here:

    On Romania being so much better off than Moldova, he suggestively highlights Russia and Russia leaning Moldovans as negatives.

    If Romania is now that much better off than Moldova, the former might not be so willing to take on an albatross in Moldova. This reasoning is why some in the Czech Republic didn’t mind getting separated from the poorer Slovakia. Conversely, a number of Slovak political elites preferred ruunning their own show. This mind-set seems to exist in Moldova, inclusive of some non-Communists. Pardon my repetition of these points. I mention them again because they play into what you bring up.

    I understand that Moldova’s economy is already intertwined to a good extent with the West. In Soviet times, Moldova was better off than Romania. Like I said, this point plays into the idea that Moldova might be better off being close to Russia, in an arrangement that would include Pridnestrovie joining Moldova in a union state. This thought can take into consideration some other issues.

    Romania doesn’t yet have full EU membership rights. On its own, Moldova might’ve to wait awhile. As previously noted, a Moldovan-Romanian reunion makes it possible for Gagauzia to separate from Moldova. In addition, a Moldovan-Romanian reunification will perobably lessen the chance of Pridnestrovie and Moldova getting back together again.

    All this said, I don’t completely rule out the possibility of an eventual Romanian-Moldovan reunification. For now anyway, we don’t seem to be close to seeing that happen.

    Instead, Moldova is in what some describe as a fluctuating pattern. Given the circumstances, this stance makes sense.

  16. Can someone explain to me what the deal was with the sudden rejection of the Kozak plan on federalization of Moldova a few years ago. I seem to recall that it was EU pressure that forced the Moldovan gov’t to back out in a hurry. Why are Europeans sabotaging the reunification of Moldova?

  17. And about elections: pretty much all elections in fUSSR are accompanied by allegations of fraud based on all sorts of circumstantial evidence and crude sexual assaults on statistics trying to find bell curves where there shouldn’t be any. Sometimes such allegations are even justified. But in the vast majority of cases fraud doesn’t matter because it skews the results by only a few percentage points. That’s why exit polls are important.

    The last Moldovan election seems to be a case in point. Most likely there was some vote rigging organized by overzealous local officials (not centrally planned), but the end result roughly corresponds to what would’ve been the result in a perfectly honest election. That’s based on pre-election polls and exit polls. So the whining and wanton destruction needs to stop. And not just in Moldova.

  18. Fedia

    You’re right about the mentioned Kozak plan.

    However, it’s the reunification of the former Moldavian SSR territory as opposed to reunification of Moldova that is at issue.

    Pridnestrovie takes the position that it has never been part of an independent Moldova.

    I chuckled when someone said that Pridnestrovie is a “KGB creation.” If anything, the Moldavian SSR’s creation in 1940 is the more questionable development. Between two world wars, Moldova was part of Romania, whereas Pridnestrovie was designated as an autonomous affiliate of the Ukrainian SSR. Prior to WW I, one can see differences in the historical paths between Pridnestrovie and Moldova. In any event, denouncing what happened to Moldova in 1940 (being taken out of Romania and put into the USSR) is IMO a bit half assed if it doesn’t question the Soviet created boundaries of the Moldavian SSR.

    As for the present, Pridnestrovie is now holding out for more than what it appeared willing to sign onto a few years ago.

    Tooting my horn a bit (why not, given how some others prop each other), this piece sums up the current situation:

    I get the impression that the West (US government in particular) was against the Kozak plan because Russia was pretty much playing the role in its advocacy.

    At present, I don’t think the West can be accused of stalling the former Moldavian SSR settlement process. At issue, is what’s described in the above linked article.

    I hope this note is of help.

  19. I wrote a new article to replace the first one, which was basically a rough draft – but I didn’t think it warranted a new one. I added new stuff and revised bits of it to take into account the feedback you generously gave me.

  20. Third paragraph from bottom of my last set of comments should read as: because Russia was playing the lead mediating role in that process.


    Moldovan President Blames Romania, Serbia

    After clicking into the above link, click the title of the article to read it.

    Note the third posted comment below the article.

    These points play into the thoughts that there has been some embellishing and how V (in his view) isn’t a “Russian puppet” as stated elsewhere.

    Support from Romania for some of the Moldovan political opposition and Russian material support to Pridnestrovie doesn’t fully negate the issues of home grown Moldovan opposition to V and the general mood in Pridnestrovie on how it views Russia and Moldova.

    Does anyone seriously question that Pridnestrovie’s government isn’t more representaive of Pridnestrovie than Moldova’s government? The 1,200 Russian troops in Pridnestrovie and Pridnestrovie’s government aren’t enough to suppress noticeable opposition to supporting Pridnestrovie as part of Moldova.

    In Pridnestrovie, the overall perception of the protests in Moldova seems to be of interest – but without a noticeably clear cut enthusiastic support for either of the sides.

  21. For those of you who can read Russian (or use Google Translate), here is an interesting article by Dmitri Babich –

    His thesis is that education in Moldova degraded since the USSR, especially in the countryside. They discontinued teaching Russian, and didn’t replace it with any other foreign language, so young Moldovans have find it hard to find decent jobs in Europe or even in Russia. Many of the nationalist protesters in Chisinau were apparently such people – less educated than their parents with poorer prospects, hence the violence and easy manipulation by elites.

  22. “His thesis is that education in Moldova degraded since the USSR, especially in the countryside. They discontinued teaching Russian … ”

    Teaching Russian did not stop, and education degraded (or rather changed emphasis away from erudite culture) everywhere in the Eastern block.

    The explanation for the excesses in Moldova is a lot simpler: it was not the regular police that was sent to manage the protesters, but _very young trainees_. They got scared, threw a couple of gas grenades, took the bats out and banged a couple of heads, then were pushed back and scattered and the young people on the other side of the shields consumed the adrenaline rush by breaking windows. While all these were taking place the regular riot police was in the barracks and went into action only to arrest random people in the city when everything had already cooled down.

    “Twitter terror” ? Soccer fans do more terror in more respectable countries, except in Kishinev the trouble began with accidental provocation and continued in the absence of police (unless you call ‘police’ the teenagers hiding under the testudo ).

    Some pictures:

    The “policemen” that started the trouble were very young, 15 to 19 years old, the same as those that finished it.

    No “phones” to do the twittering ? Oh, boy … it was more like a rock concert without gate guards, and now every entry level phone is web enabled.

  23. Thank you for the interesting account, Emil. So indeed it was just regular hooliganism – still, soccer fans do their terror where no-one much cares about them, and those rioters actually intruded on a center of political power…so I think there’s quite a significant difference there.

  24. Yeah right, hooliganism, i want to see how 25 policemen can stop a 20000 crowd, hooliganism… pff, i’ve been over there when this happened and to my regret you are researching in the wrong direction, everybody has his good and bad sides, but financing.. please… they have had the same financing since the foundation and now you telling me that this is sponsored by the west, if you were right in your assumptions then the west wouldn’t have approved the elections and bla bla bla. I really like the disinformation, sounds like the soviet interpretation of the stalin period! THE USSR IS THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD! Ever wonder why it’s the young people and the people abroad that rioted? no? Let me see, maybe internet? Internet is the one thing nobody can decently control, so it’s the only way to find out real facts, make your own conclusions. People getting beaten and killed by policemen? Oh yeah, that never happened in the USSR, right? Don’t worry, people over here started to find out information not from the media holding detained by the communist party, but from other people, so sooner or later this will have a tragic ending for this party, either life sentence or death by other than humane methods, to remind them of what they did. Think what you want, but there are way too many facts about the leading party’s involvement in this:
    1.Policemen breaking down rocks in the back of the presidency(to the fact it was a wall surrounding the power station, there was nowhere to get a car even close, not like “make way for cars to pass” as stated by the IA)
    2. Minimum 120 policemen eating flower seeds behind the parliament while the presidency was being destroyed
    3. To access the roof of the parliament/presidency you need 1 elevator key and 3 steel door keys to reach the top, there are 3 sets of keys which are held by communist party deputes
    4. The parliament building started to burn after most left and even like that, it took the IA about 2 hours to even bring 1 fireman truck over there.(“they had no access” strangely all roads except the central avenue were managed by policemen)
    I am too tired of stating this, though, why bother, it’s pretty obvious, too bad you don’t understand, either from your beliefs or your incapacity to read between the lines

  25. abc,

    I can’t put all my weight on one interpretation. Some people have substantially different accounts of what happened – should I just toss them out of the window? I am certainly not calling you a liar, but please consider that many, many observers there did interpret it as run of the mill nationalist hooliganism, and that both your and their viewpoints do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.

    PS. Where did I say it was sponsored by the West? I merely pointed out that some of the key organizers have “interesting” links to Western democracy-promotion organizations or Romanian nationalist organizations, readers are free to interpret this as they will.

  26. “still, soccer fans do their terror where no-one much cares about them”

    There is more riot police at soccer games … you don’t send trainees to manage a crowd, you send police with crowd control training: the infants that were sent to “protect” the official buildings threw gas grenades _in_ the crowd, not _in front_ of the crowd 🙁 … if you were curious and looked at the rest of the posts in the blog I pointed you to, you would have seen the crown talking, giving water, taking pictures in front of the “testudo” manned by the children from some police highschool, then a gas grenade goes off _in the middle of the crowd_.

    There was no “revolution” in Kishinev, only crass incompetence on both sides … I prefer to blame incompetence and stupidity instead of inventing conspiracy theories that another state organized the “revolution” or “the authorities organized the provocation”.

    In all the countries of the former Communist bloc there are “military high-schools” for boys between 14 and 18: upon graduation these boys are supposed to join the army as professionals and either go to some university level education sponsored by the army or become NCOs after some more training. These high-school students were sent to keep in check 10000 people bothered by irregularities in the elections! Hell, the US army panicked and began shooting in Faluja under similar circumstances, what do you expect from children?

    On the side of the opposition there was the same incompetence: when you improvise a march you also improvise security teams to take care of the troublemakers. In Kishinev the organizers, those that called people in the square, did not get involved because they did not expect get such a strong response, which is exactly what the “photogenic figurehead” says. If that was a coup they would have headed straight for the TV station, not the Parliament …

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