Moldova is a country of hospitable people and a difficult political situation. The national idea, the Moldovans themselves joke, is emigration. We talked to a 2018 Summer School graduate, Evgenia Olar’, about local protests, freedom of assembly, and independent media.
Please, tell us about yourself.
I, probably, have a pretty boring life, but my main activity is my work. Last autumn I decided to leave journalism for a while, but by the end of December I realized that I was dependent on the news and came back. I work on a news site remotely and that gives me the chance to leave the country occasionally without interrupting my activities. I have one day off a week, and when it comes, there are usually other things to do, doctor, meeting, cleaning and so on. After work I usually read, an hour or two, before going to bed. My rest is reading.
Imagine that you need to describe Moldova in a two-minute monologue to a new friend. What will you tell?
Moldova is small and financially poor. But there are other riches in it, these are people who work tirelessly and at the same time they are hospitable. We have endless gardens and fields, forests and vineyards, rivers, gorges and springs.
Country, where knowing two people, you know almost the entire country (rule of handshakes here works faster). Where you can look at a great park, but in five minutes there can come people who will start to break it, and fragile girl with a dog will stop them (real story).
A country that knows something about good wine.
The country where the main treasure is the people who live in it.
What or who it is possible to protest against in Moldova?
Honestly, against everything. Power, politics, Parliament, inequality, roads, city hall, prosecutor’s office, accounts chamber, corruption, prices. The list is endless, as is the number of problems. But there is usually no one to protest. Many have tried, over the past 10 years there have been enough protests, but each time nothing has changed for the better. There was disappointment and a feeling of powerlessness. Someone stopped trying, and someone left the countryside to this. In general, it is a national trait of the inhabitants of Moldova to think about moving.
Activists from Moldova openly say that there is no violation of freedom of assembly in the country, but the problem is different: there is no one to go to protests, because young people emigrate How does it happen?
It is true that there is no violation of freedom of assembly. There are large protests organized in the central square of Kishinev, spontaneous, which gather in front of the city hall, the prosecutor’s office and so on. I remember an incident that happened a couple of months ago. One local milk producer was dissatisfied with the actions of the city hall, which practically deprived him of the opportunity to sell his goods. In response to it he simply arrived with the tank to the city hall building and poured out there several hundred liters of milk. He thus protested and yes, nothing happened to him.
But usually there are few protesters. Young people are leaving, it is a terrible truth of Moldova. According to statistics, 149 people leave the country every day with a population of just over three million (this is official, and the country has much fewer people). Forever. Due to the unstable political/economic situation and the lack of opportunities for growth due to a rather peculiar system of “relatives”: you can get somewhere only if you have relatives in a good position.
One producer of milk was dissatisfied with actions of the city hall, arrived with the tank to its building and poured out there several hundred liters. Nothing happened to him.
The level of wages is low, the requirements for employees at the same time are rather big, the prices are also impressive. It is really difficult to live in the country, especially for yesterday’s graduates of schools or universities who hoped for the best, but were disappointed. I will not say that everything is absolutely monstrous. But it took me, for example, about five years to get to a salary of $ 500.
As in the case in Moldovan journalism, are there a lot of independent media? And “not independent” – what do they say?
I’m not sure I have the right to label some media. I will say, in general, most of the media show independence. Of course, there are resources like “Komsomolskaya Pravda in Moldova”, Sputnik, NTV and Ren-TV, which are very closely connected with Russia. They are guided in their editorial policy by the course of the Russian Federation, in their publications they support those Moldovan politicians who get along with the Russian ones, and now it is the President and the party of socialists.
There are other resources. For example, Publika TV, in fact, belongs to the ex-leader Vlad Plahotniuc, who even in Russia was accused of being the head of a drug cartel. These media can be unflattering about the socialists and their partners, as well as about Russia. Some pro-European media also work here, for example, “Free Europe”. They have a completely different orientation.
However, it is worth noting that the information, despite its different color, is often covered truthfully. Dirty rumors and assumptions practically do not appear, and the people of the country are well aware of which side is invisibly occupied by this or that media. That is, in Moldova, the media are both legally independent, but at the same time ideologically or politically biased.
What was the last bright street activity in Kishinev?
Didn’t even have to remember — LGBT-pride! It really was bright, if only because this year no religious activists tried to disrupt it. It passed with a huge number of police officers who protected the participants of the pride, and passed peacefully. There were more participants than in previous years. This is surprising for Moldova, which is very conservative and in which the church and religion are still extremely influential.
Approximately in the same period of time (plus or minus one week) the so-called “change of power”took place. It was accompanied by protests from the losing party, but they were also peaceful.
Why did you decide to go to Summer School last year?
I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn something new and try to apply my knowledge at home. The role was also played by the fact that it is Boris Nemtsov’s school, and his tragedy even in Moldova could not leave many indifferent people. I think the best answer would be what I wanted to know, what I could take out of school.
After passing school your views on their activities have changed?
Slightly. My views have remained almost the same, except for the realization that I now have two dozen more examples in my life that I can look up to.
Although, if you think about it, during school I woke the thirst for knowledge up again, which almost disappeared after the university. Now I’m trying to find out as much as I can again. This is probably the most important change.