The Sovietization of Moldova

In 1940, the region of Bessarabia was annexed by the Soviet Union. The process of Sovietizing the region began immediately. Policies that had been implemented over a twenty year period in other Soviet Republics were applied to Moldova in a matter of months. In June of 1940, the first phase of nationalizing land and big enterprises was initiated. The Communist party confiscated 259,000 hectares of land and temporarily distributed them to landless peasants. As noble as this may sound, it actually ended up depriving the peasants of their livelihoods. Also in 1940, the nationalization of 487 industries began. It soon became evident that Stalin's policies for Moldova would not differ from the other republics. National culture and social organizations were destroyed; furthermore, deportations, arrests, executions, deliberately induced famines, and brutal acts were carried out in Moldova. In addition, the number of Moldovan schools was greatly reduced and there was an increase in Russian schools. Romanian literature was taken from the libraries and Romanian history was taken from the curriculum. In 1940, 380 teachers from the Ukraine and 500 teachers from Russia were brought to Moldova to teach in the public schools.
In the beginning of 1941, hundreds of thousands of Moldovan's were drafted into the Red Army. That spring Moldovans were sent all over the USSR. Some younger Moldovans were sent to a factory in the Urals to replace those that had vacated their jobs because of the war. Others went to work in the Kubaz mines, the Karaganda coal mines, and in agriculture in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. It was necessary for the Russian government to move Romanians out of the Moldavian Republic so that Russians could settle in their place. In order for the Moldavian Republic to be a separate state, Russia wanted all Moldova's ties with Romania to be severed. Consequently, plans to obliterate the Romanian past were immediately put into action. In Kishinev, the capital of Moldova, the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral that had been damaged in WWII was turned into the Central Exhibition Hall for Moldova. Furthermore, a statue of Stephen the Great that now sits in the middle of Kishinev was removed from public eye. Another extremely significant event was the collectivization of agriculture that began in 1950. In 1928, there were around twenty million farms that were privately owned primarily by peasants. Serfdom was brought back by forcing these peasants to turn their farms into collective or state farms. Stalin's primary reason for collectivizing was political. He wanted to promote divisions between the three sub-classes of peasants that existed: poor, middle, and kulak. He tried to turn the poor and middle classes against the kulaks who were a little bit wealthier. Envy was the motivating factor for throwing many kulaks off their farms and assigning degrees of criminality to each kulak. Some were killed, some were exiled, and some were sent to concentration camps. At this time, Stalin also implemented the First Five Year Plan, which projected rapid industrialization in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the first significant human rights abuses in Soviet Moldavia occurred when some 12,000 families or 40,000 people were forcibly moved to Kazakhstan for work in the Virgin Lands Program. This type of forced migration was typical of Stalin's dictates, and the legacy of his programs still have an effect on these ethnic groups today.
Additionally, the Romanian language that is spoken in Moldova was also Russified by changing the Latin alphabet to the Cyrillic alphabet. At this time, the language was renamed Moldavian. The Romanian language was removed from the schools and from the republican administration. Even up until 1989, many people who supposedly spoke Moldavian still had not mastered it. Nonetheless, the importance of Russian culture was emphasized throughout Moldova and Moldova's Romanian past was ignored. The complete negation of Romanian culture shows the fear that the Soviets had of not consolidating power in this republic due to the strength of ethnic Romanian identity felt by most of Moldova's inhabitants.

by senior Elizabeth Blackwell
James Madison University
College of Political Science