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Moldova: Chisinau Marks Liberation Anniversary, But Some See It Otherwise

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and other senior government officials on 24 August took part in solemn celebrations of the 61st anniversary of the liberation of Moldova from the Nazis by the Soviet Army. On the same day, a group of demonstrators in front of the Russian Embassy in Chisinau denounced the Soviet liberation of Moldova as "occupation" and urged an official reinterpretation of the country's 20th-century history.

Some 1,000 people, including World War II veterans, attended an official flower-laying ceremony at the Military Glory Memorial in Chisinau on 24 August. Following this ceremony, Voronin went to the Serpeni Stronghold Memorial near the Dniester River in Anenii Noi Raion, where he delivered a speech to what Infotag described as a "massively attended meeting." "This was a just war for the liberation of the Soviet Union, and it was crowned with a victory over fascism," Voronin said. "Many generations of people were raised on the veterans' example, and their heroic deeds are still inspiring us for actions to consolidate and develop our country."

The Soviet Army launched the so-called Chisinau-Iasi operation, which liberated Moldova from the Nazi troops, on 20 August 1944. Chisinau was taken by the Soviets four days later. But the operation was prepared by the Soviet Army as early as April 1944, when some of its troops crossed the Dniester and took several important bridgeheads on its right bank. A stronghold near the settlement of Serpeni was the most famous of those bridgeheads.

Vladimir Shmarov, a former Soviet general and World War II veteran, told reporters on 24 August that the Serpeni Stronghold Memorial, which was inaugurated a year ago, belongs to the worthiest monuments to the war effort in the post-Soviet area and can be compared to the Mamaev Mound Memorial in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad, Russia) or the Brest Fortress Memorial in Brest (Belarus).

Meanwhile, representatives of some 20 Moldovan nongovernmental organizations staged a rally in front of the Russian Embassy in Chisinau on 24 August, unfurling banners reading, "Russians Go Home!", "Down with Occupants!", and "Rehabilitate Ion Antonescu!"

"With this action, the true patriots of Moldova want to make the authorities and the population understand that 24 August 1944 is not the date of our liberation from the Nazis but the date of our occupation by Stalin's regime," Jacob Golovca, head of an organization called Molotov-Ribbentrop Antipact, explained to journalists.

At the same time, Golovca voiced indignation over "those national renegades in the Republic of Moldova who venerate the memory of the Slavic enslavers and occupiers of Bessarabia by erecting monuments and luxurious memorials to the Stalinist hordes," according to BASA.

Demonstrators near the Russian Embassy reportedly called for declaring 23 and 24 August days of national mourning in both Moldova and Romania, liquidating Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact consequences, and reunifying Greater Romania within its borders before the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina (now a part of Ukraine) in 1940. A relevant declaration was sent to the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Mission in Moldova, and foreign embassies in Chisinau.

The Soviet Union annexed Bessarabia -- the part of present-day Moldova that lies between the Dniester and Prut rivers -- in June 1940, in accordance with the secret annex to the Soviet-German Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939, which left Bessarabia in the Soviet sphere of influence. Romania recaptured Bessarabia the following year, after Romania under the leadership of Ion Antonescu joined Adolf Hitler's Germany in its attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941.

After the war against the Soviet Union went badly for Hitler, Romania changed sides, capturing more than 50,000 German soldiers who were stationed on its territory and declaring war on Germany on 23 August 1944. However, following World War II, the Soviet Union and the allied powers did not reinstate the Greater Romania of the prewar period but included Bessarabia once again in the Moldovan Socialist Soviet Republic. The Moldovan SSR declared its independence from the Soviet Union on 27 August 1991 and is known today as the Republic of Moldova.

In his speech at the Serpeni Stronghold Memorial, President Voronin made an indirect reference to those Moldovans who question the positive contribution of the Soviet Army to their country's history. "The Moldovan nation is grateful to the Soviet Army for the 1944 liberation, in spite of statements by the so-called historians who have falsified the truth about World War II," Voronin asserted.

As the world commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, RFE/RL took a look at that conflict's enduring legacies in its broadcast area. See "World War II -- 60 Years After".