The newfound post-1989 liberty and freedom have morphed into a way of understanding the individual or the state that may be alien to many of us now.
Where else but in the east, he asks, can you find a shop that will sell you a fur coat in the middle of the night? Where else in Europe do you have access to a 24-hour Mc Donald’s delivery service?
The many periods of occupation have left a palpable mark on the country, for it is a schizophrenic mix of aggressive capitalism, all-you-can-drink casinos, monk-run insular Orthodox churches, clashing traditions and interests, and crumbling infrastructure.
Soviet-born Romanian writer and activist Vasile Ernu recently wrote that if one wanted to see capitalism undiluted, one needed to “go east”.
Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Moldova is essentially a patch of land that has undergone many ethnic and socio-cultural permutations, with external powers trying to impose a homogenised culture from above in a way that has traditionally disregarded those who do not wish to loyally adhere to dominant political factions.
Those factions today — the European Union and the sprawling Eurasian Customs Union — rival each other in influence and power.
The tag, a pun on the Russian president’s name, says “you powerless” — and relies on the fact that “putin” is more or less the root of the word “possibility” in Moldovan and Romanian.
Upon visiting, I remarked that the wi-fi password was “down with the alliance”, all in one word.Add to that the fact that Moldova hosts two autonomous regions on its minuscule territory: Gagauzia (a self-governing region home to the Gagauz people, a Turkic ethnic group with a strong pro-Russian stance), and Transnistria (a breakaway state with its own currency, postal service, and border control, host to a population of people who would similarly rather be part of Russia).And if that weren’t enough, you’ve also got the north-eastern town of Soroca, whose sizeable Romani population are governed by a “baron” called Artur.The graffiti above is a stencil depicting Putin in an irreverent but serene mood.The wordplay in the speech bubble seems to indicate an underlying frustration with the status quo and points to older tensions between Romanian and Russian speaking populations.