Wednesday, May 18, 2011

All tied up in ribbons

The St. George Ribbon is a piece of orange and black tape, sometimes accompanied by a rosette which has a hammer and sickle at the centre, circled by the words "Patriotic War", written in Russian.  It celebrates the Soviet Union's victory over fascism in the great patriotic war of 1941-45.  All well and good, except that 
1.  The St. George ribbon was actually a symbol of Tarist Russia, and has nothing to do with the war.

2.  The inclusion of the hammer and sickle is deeply offensive to those whose families suffered at the hands of Soviet Communists in the late 1940s and after.

3.  It wasn't a patriotic war.  It wasn't all about Russia and it wasn't all about the Soviet Union.  Many nations were involved, fighting on many fronts (inlcuding the Atlantic, the Pacific, North Africa, East Asia, Western Europe & Eastern Europe).  And the Soviet Union arrived late, having initially been allied with Nazi Germany.

4.  For Eastern Europeans, the end of the war didn't mean the end of oppression.  Communism took the place of fascism, and the outcomes were equally bad.

It's clear that we need a new Second World War narrative, one around which all Moldovans can unite.  I suggest a focus on two ideas:  (1) celebration of the defeat of the axis powers by allied forces (i.e. not just by the Soviet Union) , and (2) commemoration of the sacrifice of all who fell serving their countries.

We also need a new symbol.  I propose a red and blue ribbon.  Why?  Because

1.  These colours can be found in the national flags of most of the allied countries (US, UK, Russia, France, Australia etc.), as well as in the flags of Moldova and Romania.

2.  The colours are also representative of the capitalist and communist worlds that came together to defeat Nazism.

3.  Furthermore, red can be taken to represent the blood spilled by those who fought, while blue could represent the nobility of the individuals who made the highest sacrifice.

There could also be a rosette if necessary.  This could simply say "Remembering those who fell in the service of their country".  This is a message that all can adhere to, and which doesn't carry any nasty imperialist undertones.

It won't be easy to introduce this approach, as the orange and black is already quite entrenched.  With strong support from Government, however, it should be possible to promote a way of commemorating the war which is faithful to historical truth and unites most, if not all, of the disparate strands of Moldovan society

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