Can you imagine today’s communists wrapping themselves in the flag of a 16th century prince who was a relative of Dracula? It is not the plot of a bizarre play, but a very serious political row currently happening in Moldova. Former prime minister Vladimir Voronin’s Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) has launched a campaign to vindicate the ros-albastru (a bicolor red-blue banner which they see as belonging to the prince Stephen III) as a national symbol of the country. To make matters more complicated, Moldova’s National Commission on Heraldry considers the banner as outrageous and false.
The current, tricolor blue-yellow-red official flag of Moldova is almost identical to that of Romania, and was chosen in 1990 to reflect historical, linguistic and cultural links between the two countries. But not everybody liked the decision, both in the ranks of leftist parties and among ethnic Russians. Anyway, the communists continued to use the tricolor as the only Moldovan flag while they were in power.
Things began to change in July 2009, when the Alliance for European Integration (AEI) ousted PCRM from government. The communists have been long flirting with the idea of a separate Moldovan language (not a single linguist would accept that: Moldovan is a part of the Romanian language) and from 2009 onwards they have also began to flirt with the idea of a separate flag. The most prominent partisan of abandoning the tricolor and adopting the ros-albastru instead is Igor Dodon, former member of the PCRM and now president of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM). In March, Dodon asked the communists to join the socialists in the organization of a referendum with the goal of introducing the bicolor as the new official flag, since he understands that it is a “Moldovan traditional symbol”.
Moldova’s National Commission on Heraldry has contradicted Dodon. The bicolor, the Commission said in late March, was never the banner of Stephen III. What is more, the use of this flag “can be regarded as an act of profanation of the official flag of Moldova and of inciting to abolish it”. Only a few weeks after the Commission had said that, RFE/RL reported this:
“Communist-dominated local councils in the cities of Balti and Cahul [have] voted [...] to raise a bicolor flag next to the official tricolor banner on their town halls. The Communists have used the red and blue flag as their symbol during weeks of protests surrounding recent presidential elections. [...] The Communists say the official blue, yellow, and red national flag too closely resembles that of neighboring Romania.”
Moreover, PCRM has decided to show the bicolor in the very header of its official website, thus giving an implicit support to it (see the screen capture below).
It seems quite clear that PCRM and PSRM are using this issue as a facade for a deeper row over political power and Moldova’s geostrategic orientation (and the relationship with Russia is a central issue here). But it also shows that the Moldovan national identity is far from being fully consolidated, as the Moldovan population continues to be unsure on this. In 2011, an IRI opinion poll showed that as much as 31% of Moldovans supported a union with Romania, 10% were undecided and 59% opposed it. I guess that the communists think it would be relatively easy to spread the message on the need of having a distinctive flag among those 59% opposing the union with Romania. But, of course, opposing a political union does not necessarily mean that all of those 59% Moldovans want to reject the tricolor as the symbol of their country.
In the middle of this, Dodon himself is trying to put forward his idea through the distribution of merchandising depicting a map of Moldova in the colours of the ros-albastru. Nevertheless, it seems that the designer lacks an accurate vexillological documentation: with the addition of a golden star, the would-be Moldovan flag has been turned into that of the Vietcong!
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