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CHAPTER XXIX

THE MOLDAVIAN SOVIET REPUBLIC

Frequent mention has been made of the Moldavian Soviet Republic. It is not generally known that the lower Dniester is an almost purely Roumanian stream. The villages along its left bank, from Movilau down to Ovidiopol, opposite Akkerman, are as Moldavian as those on the Bessarabian bank. And this Moldavian peasantry stretches as far east as the Bug, beyond Elisavetgrad, and down to within a few miles of Odessa (see Draghicesco). This is due to a very early immigration of Roumanian shepherds and traders along the streams of the black-earth district east of the Dniester-so early that we find here some Roumanian place-names on the Reichersdorf map of 1541. Further extensive colonization took place in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Polish princes of Podolia encouraging the creation of large farms by Moldavian boyars; and in the eighteenth century, Russian generals took back with them from their campaigns against the Turks, enormous numbers of Roumanian peasants. In 1739, Gen. Munnich carried back with him 100,000 Roumanian peasants, according to the memoirs of Trenck, his companion; and_ in 1792, another great immigration took place. As a result, it is reckoned that there are probably half a million Roumanian peasants in Russia east of the Dniester.

At the beginning, the Soviet government gave these Roumanians no more recognition than had the Imperial regime, under which, in 1897, 92% of the Roumanians in .the province of Cherson were reported illiterate, and 95,% of those in Podolia. Their hopes were powerfully raised by the Revolution of 1917. A Roumanian officer, attending the service for Roumanian soldiers and refugees in a church in Cherson, noticed some peasants on their knees, with the tears rolling down their cheeks. When he asked them the reason, one replied, in Roumanian: "Why shouldn't we cry, when we see what we never imagined or believed, when we hear church service in the Moldavian tongue?" As we have seen, delegates from across the Dniester came to the various congresses held in Kishineff during 1917; and several young "Transnistrians" attended the courses in Roumanian language and literature given by Roumanian university professors in Kishineff during the summers of 1917 and 1918. In the first days of the independent Ukraine, their prayers were heeded; two Moldavian representatives were elected to the Ukrainian Rada, and they were promised a large measure of autonomy. But the coup d'etat of Skoropadski, in April 1918, threw them both into prison; the Soviet Government took over the Ukraine, and nothing further was heard of these Moldavians till 1923. Russian refugees from Bessarabia organized a Bessarabian Revolutionary Committee, in conjunction with the Krupensky-Schmidt Bessarabian Delegation, and laid before the Soviets the tactical advantage which the creation of a Moldavian Republic opposite Bessarabia, would give them. The Soviets hesitated until after the breakdown of the Russian-Roumanian treaty negotiations in Vienna in the spring of 1924; but on June 26, there was organized in Odessa, in the Department of Education, section of village primary schools (perhaps the most creditable achievement of the Soviet ,Government), a Moldavian department, charged with the promotion of Moldavian culture in and out of school, by reading-rooms, cultural clubs, libraries and theatrical troupes. Scholarships for young Moldavians were established at Moscow; and a weekly paper "Plugarul Roshu (The Red Ploughman) "began appearing on July 1, 1924. In its seventh number (Aug. 21), it carried an appeal to all educated Moldavians in the new Republic, to help out the government in its educational work, and announced that the new Moldavian Department of Education had decided on opening preparatory and normal schools, as well as business and agricultural schools, and had begun publishing school-books in Roumanian. These were a First Reader and an Arithmetic; "Who Was Lenin?", " Lenin on Cooperation," "The Question of Small Nationalities in the Soviet Union," "The Land Laws,"' and "Moldavian Stories of Ion Creanga." It was also announced that "since the Moldavian dialect (i. e., of these peasants in Russia) is very poor in vocabulary, for which reason cultural progress is much hampered, it has been decided that in the Moldavian schools, reading-rooms and educational institutions,, the Roumanian language shall be used, with its richer vocabulary." The books for beginners are printed in the Latin letters in use in Roumania; those for educated Moldavians, in the Cyrillic type still usual in Russia.

Some Kishneff NewsPaper

This admirable program had immediate political results. By late August, "The Red Ploughman" noted that in 21 villages in the district of Odessa, Moldavian had become the only official language, and that judges, teachers, priests and town officials had been obliged to begin studying Moldavian, if they did not know it. Meetings demanding a political constitution were held during the summer; and early in September 1924, President Tchubar (Ciubar) of the Kharkoff Council of Commissioners of the People was able to state that the Moldavian Republic, with a population of between 300 and 400,000, would shortly be established. On Oct. 8, 1924, the Council authorized the creation, "within the bosom of the Soviet Socialist Ukrainian Republic, of an Autonomous Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, whose boundaries shall be: on the northwest, the boundary line of the village land of Grushky and Ocnitza, in Velico-Koshnitza, county of Tultchin, province of Podolia; then along the boundary of the sector of Kamenca, county of Tultchin, province of Podolia, leaving to one side the village of Bolgan and the market-town of Zagnidkoff, continuing through the villages of Pisarevca and Petrovca, sector of Crut, county of Balta, province of Odessa, then passing through the station of Borshti and the villages of Ghiderim, Poshitzel and Ossipova. On the east, along the eastern boundary of the village of Mikhalovca, through the town of Ananieff, Valea-Gutzului, Antonovca, Elenovca, Novo-Alegandrovca, Sloboda Ploscoe, Gradinitza, the town of Tiraspol, Hutori Slobozia, then along the lake of Cuciurgan past Ploscoie to the village of Troitzca. Along the south and southwest, the boundary is that of the Federation of Soviet Socialist Republics." Since these territories included many Ukrainians and Russians, those two languages were made state languages along with Moldavian; and the large majority of the governing council have been non-Roumanians. The first president was Gregory Ivanievitch Borissoff (called Starai-Moshneagul), a former worker in the Bender railway shops, and an avowed Communist since 1901. His chief assistant was the Bulgarian lawyer, A. I. Stroyeff; the only Moldavians on the central committee were Buciushcan, former member of the Bessarabian Diet, and Miss Caterina Arbore, daughter of the well-known Bessarabian author Zamfir Arbore, and a leading Communist worker, expelled from Roumania in 1924. The first session of the Central Committee was held at Birzula on Nov. 9, 1924. Pres. Starai (Borissoff), speaking in Roumanian, closed with a reminder that they would not forget their brethren " who are groaning under the yoke of the boyars," and offered a final toast to the "Autonomous Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (R. A. S. S. M.), cradle of Soviet Roumania." Naturally, the Soviet authorities counted largely upon the disturbing influence on Bessarabia of this independent Roumanian republic just over the Dniester; they hold out the hope to discontented Bessarabians that they may enter it; and at the same time they are pleased to diminish somewhat the importance of the Ukraine, which has not always been a satisfactory member of the Soviet family. Nor were the Roumanians displeased to see the Russians emphasize the prevailingly Roumanian character of this region across the Dniester, seeing that the Russians had denied that Bessarabia could be considered Roumanian, but now admit it a fortiori.

The new Republic has not had smooth sailing. Business has been dead on that side of the Dniester also, and the drought of the last few years has affected it as severely as Bessarabia. That was the upshot of my repeated inquiries, when I was on the Dniester in the spring of 1925, and I find it continually confirmed. Indeed, I read of a memorial presented to the executive of the Ukrainian Soviet in March 1926, stating that nine-tenths of the peasants in the Moldavian Republic were seriously affected by the results of the drought, that infant mortality had reached 70%, and that supplies of grain and money were urgently needed-a similar situation to that in Bessarabia, which later however was being alleviated by the urgent relief measures (see p. 7) taken by the Roumanian Government, which distributed many thousand carloads of grain in Bessarabia. This was sold to the peasants at a low price, and the local banks and cooperatives were assigned large sums (over 500,000,000 lei) from Bucharest to be loaned to the peasants. Apparently Moscow and Odessa have not been as generous with the Moldavian Soviet Republic.

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