June 22nd 1941 was a very special day for two reasons:
- It marked the entry of the Soviet Union into the war against Germany, and
- It market the liberation of Basarabia from Soviet occupation
It's a measure of the polarisation of Moldovan society that these positions are seemingly diametrically opposed and irreconcilable. I, however, would like to prove that they are not.
First of all, we need to accept that both sides are partially right. It's right to celebrate the victory over fascism and it's right to celebrate Basarabia's liberation. It's right to draw attention to human rights abuses on both the Soviet and Romanian sides. It's right to remember those who died no matter whose uniform they were wearing.
Second, we need to stop demonising historical figures and turning them into caricatures. Antonescu, for example, has a complex legacy. The setting up of the concentration camps in Transnistria and the extermination of 400,000 Jews and Roma is obviously a horrific stain on his reputation. On the other hand, he was a gifted and courageous military figure who loved his country. His dismantling of Romania's democracy and adherence to fascism was unforgivable, but was not out of step with the general mood of the times. Similarly, when discussing Stalin, we need to think both of his barbarity and cruelty and of his achievements in building the Soviet economy and defeating Hitler
Thirdly, we need to fill in the historical blanks which are being selectively forgotten by the two sides. On the pro-Romanian side this is fairly simple. The pogroms need to be accepted as a black and putred spot on Romania's & Antonescu's reputation, and apologised for. On the pro-Russian side, there is more work to be done as the official Russian version of history is more distorted:
- We need to recognise that the "Great Patriotic War" never existed. It was a World War involving multiple nations, and Russia entered the war in September 1939 when it joined with Nazi Germany to partition Poland.
- We need to recognise that the Soviet Union had no legitimate claim to Basarabia, and that the June 28 1940 occupation was illegal. This, in turn, gave Romania the right to recover the territory by military means, and to chase the aggressor all the way back to its capital, just as the Soviet Union did to Germany three years' later.
- The repression of the people of Basarabia by the Soviet Union needs to be recognised and apologised for. The evidence (thousands of KGB files) is irrefutable.