Controversy in Moldova over 'day of Soviet occupation'
Ex-Communist Moldova on Monday for the first time marked a day remembering the "Soviet Occupation", a event that has sparked huge controversy and which critics tried to cancel until the last minute.
The "Day of the Soviet Occupation", set up at the instigation of pro-Western interim President Mihai Ghimpu, remembers the day on June 28, 1940 when Soviet troops annexed the region of Bessarabia which was then part of Romania.
Bessarabia then became known as the Moldovan SSR within the Soviet Union, with Moldova winning independence after the break-up of the USSR although until last year it was still ruled by the Communist Party.
Russia has already slammed the decision to hold the day of remembrance as a "blasphemy" and another attempt by the authorities in Chisinau to "distort our shared history".
"I am not trying the make political capital out of this," said Ghimpu, parliament speaker who is serving as president until elections later this year amid an ongoing political stalemate.
"It is not an action against the Communist Party but against the Soviet symbols, because of which many families suffered in Moldova who were exiled to Siberia in the Stalin repression," he said.
A pro-Western government coalition, led by Prime Minister Vlad Filat, replaced the Communists after elections last year but the day has even proved controversial within its ranks.
Top officials within the ruling For European Integration alliance Monday sought to persuade Ghimpu to cancel the day of remembrance but were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party has filed a petition with the constitutional court asking that Ghimpu's decree be deemed unconstitutional.
The controversy has once again underlined the sensitivty over different interpretations of history in the former Soviet Union, which has also seen full-scale diplomatic disputes between Russia and Ukraine.
© 2010 AFP