Audio recording of the Third Congress of the Moldovan Writers’ Union, October 1965 (in Romanian)
The background to this event is linked to processes underway from the late 1950s. In this period, the MWU was dominated by two “generations” that competed for power and status during the next decade: the older “thaw” generation, which consisted of writers born in the 1910s and early 1920s, many of them with a solid background in Romanian culture, and the “generation of the 1960s,” which included a group of younger aspiring writers mainly born in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Most of the “thaw generation” graduated from Romanian high schools and subsequently were trained in Soviet higher education institutions. In contrast, the writers who became MWU members in the 1960s (who used to identify themselves as the “generation of the 1960s”) were aware of the gaps in their cultural knowledge and agreed to be initiated by their older fellow writers. Trained in this era of post-Stalinist relative liberalisation, the writers of the 1960s generation assimilated the new Soviet slogans, which were still taken seriously at the time, but developed simultaneously a certain degree of critical thinking. The communication between older writers, trained under the Romanian administration, and the new generation of writers provided the latter with an alternative model to the one practised by the Soviet system of education and propaganda. Their spotless political trajectory made some writers from the “generation of the 1960s” question the fairness of some Soviet-imposed norms. Without questioning the legitimacy of the Soviet system or communist ideology as a whole, the public positions of Moldovan writers emerged in October 1965, during the Third Congress of the MWU. On this occasion, the “thaw generation” and the “1960s generation” forged an alliance and openly challenged the Russification of the Moldovan population. They also demanded the introduction of the Latin alphabet. Obviously, the Soviet authorities qualified such critical opinions as nationalistic and implicitly anti-internationalist.
Given the number of those involved in this public debate, the Third Congress of the MWU remains one of the most remarkable events that could be subsumed under the category of “cultural opposition” during the existence of the MSSR. Held on 14–15 October 1965, it marked the definitive consecration of the group of Moldovan writers known as the “generation of the 1960s.” They were the first to write in standard Romanian, and the quality of their literary output was superior to most of their predecessors and was in synchronism with the liberalising tendencies throughout the USSR. Members of this generation include such emblematic figures as Ion Druță, Grigore Vieru, Aureliu Busuioc, Pavel Boțu, etc. The Third Congress itself was the first manifestation of a nationally conscious agenda and the first event of its kind held in the Romanian language. This congress marked such a turn because it was held after a seven-year break, during which the Moldavian literary milieu was decisively transformed. The power shifted away from the previously dominant “Transnistrian” faction to the “Bessarabian” group, who advocated a higher quality of literary works and a wider autonomy for the writers’ creative process. During the event, the writers raised a number of politically sensitive issues, such as the reintroduction of the Latin alphabet for standard “Moldovan,” the issue of education in Romanian at all levels, and the subject of party interference in literary matters. The audio recording allows a reconstruction of the atmosphere of the event, including the discourses of the participants. The event was open to university students, which provided for a much wider audience than usual, and for an accordingly broader public reaction. The reaction of the authorities was hostile and swift. Both at the congress itself and afterwards, the party leadership were alarmed and outraged by what they perceived as “nationalist” opinions articulated by some of the participants. In the context of the growing apprehensions about Romania’s position in foreign policy and its role as a potential model for cultural emulation in the MSSR, the party launched a campaign to combat “local nationalism.” At a series of meetings in November and December 1965, the first secretary of the Moldavian Communist Party, Ivan Bodiul, called for an intensification of “agitation and propaganda” work throughout the republic and for the “re-education” of those writers who voiced “dangerous” opinions. Although no direct repressive measures followed, the party line towards any manifestations of national consciousness hardened. Given the official reaction to this debate among MWU members, the audio recording of this congress represents a fascinating source for reconstituting not only this significant act of “cultural opposition,” but also the perception of the regime regarding “dangerous” and “oppositional” acts.
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- Cusco, Andrei
Bahnaru, Vasile, and Gheorghe Cojocaru. 2016. Congresul al III-lea al Uniunii Scriitorilor din RSS Moldovenească (14-15 octombrie 1965). Studiu și materiale [The Third Congress of the Writers' Union of the Moldavian SSR (14-15 October 1965). An introductory study and the congress materials]. Chișinău: Tehnica-Info.
Cașu, Igor , interview by Cusco, Andrei, October 29, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection