Documents of Moldavian Writers’ Union (MWU). Fond P-2955 at AOSPR Moldova
The present collection comprises a series of archival materials relating to the activities of the Moldavian Writers’ Union (MWU) and spanning the period from the early 1950s to the late 1980s. The materials in this collection were selected from Fond No. P-2955 (Uniunea Scriitorilor din Moldova), which is currently held in the Archive of Social-Political Organisations of the Republic of Moldova (AOSPRM) in Chișinău. The collection files mainly focus on a number of Party meetings, writers’ congresses and national conferences which discussed significant issues related to the local cultural heritage, the “language question,” and the relations between the literary milieu and the Soviet regime.
Chișinău Strada 31 August 1989 82, Moldova 2012
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Name of collection
Moldavian Writers’ Union (MWU). Fond P-2955 at AOSPR Moldova
Provenance and cultural activities
The collection includes a range of archival materials pertaining to the activities of the Moldavian Writers’ Union (MWU) during the Communist period. These materials were selected from Fond No. P-2955 (Moldavian Writers’ Union / Uniunea Scriitorilor din Moldova), currently held at the Archive of the Social-Political Organisations of the Republic of Moldova (AOSPRM). The earliest records included in the collection were created in 1946, but the first relevant documents concerning the relations between the regime and the Soviet Moldavian writers date from the early 1950s, a period marked by the domination of Zhdanovism and the official “campaign against cosmopolitanism,” which was waged by the Soviet leadership on a platform proclaiming ideological purity and a rather narrow and exclusivist understanding of the “Socialist realist” canon. This period was characterised by the open intrusion of the regime in the literary process, by virulent press campaigns against perceived ideological “enemies” and by the imposition of Stalin’s linguistic “theories.” These features were all the more salient at the Soviet periphery, including the Moldavian SSR, where the threat of ideological contamination and “bourgeois nationalism” was perceived as especially dangerous. Several materials from the MWU’s Party meetings in 1951 eloquently illustrate this state of affairs. However, almost immediately after Stalin’s death (and, significantly, even before Khrushchev’s speech at the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU in 1956), the first signs of a relative liberalisation of the regime became apparent. In the case of the MSSR, this shift was illustrated by the Second Congress of Moldavian Writers, held in 1954. Although the platform of the Congress closely adhered to the Party line, it also emphasised the issue of the classic literary canon and, implicitly, the close connections between “Moldavian” and Romanian culture and literary heritage. This tendency was reflected in the main report drafted by the Union’s chairman, Andrei Lupan, who had a central position in the shifting balance of power within the MWU and was also deemed trustworthy by the regime. Thus, Lupan was the perfect candidate to raise the thorny question of the classic literary heritage in a manner perceived as acceptable by the regime (see Masterpiece 1). At this time, the confrontation between the so-called “Bessarabian” and “Transnistrian” camps within the MWU came to the fore. These conventional labels refer to two groups of writers vying for supremacy within the organisation. The cleavage between the two camps was structured along ostensibly geographical, professional, and ideological lines. The “Bessarabian” group was mostly (but not exclusively) composed of writers with a Bessarabian background, educated in interwar Romania and thus possessing superior literary skills and professional qualifications in comparison with their “Transnistrian” counterparts. The latter, hailing mostly from the former MASSR, enjoyed a more reliable ideological standing, but were vulnerable in terms of their language skills and the literary quality of their works. The stakes of this symbolic, ideological, and political struggle involved the issue of the cultural model to be emulated, the linguistic standard and the classic literary canon. The “Bessarabians” insisted on a rapprochement toward the Romanian cultural tradition, while their adversaries were staunchly opposed to any such tendencies. This Congress marked the preliminary victory of the “Bessarabian camp” – which held the upper hand in terms of “symbolic capital” and the quality of their literary output – in their struggle with the “Transnistrian faction,” whose credentials derived from their political loyalty. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, the balance of power within the organisation had shifted decisively toward the Bessarabians, a shift which was consecrated by the Second Congress of the MWU, held in 1958.
The biggest gap in the collection materials concerns the period between 1958 and 1969. There are no documents covering this interval in the collections of the AOSPRM. This can be explained partly by the moving of some records to the institutional archive of the MWU (notably, those relating to the Third Congress of the MWU in 1965) and partly by the authorities’ conscious strategy of removing some files relating to a particularly sensitive period in the writers’ stance toward the regime. Fortunately, the proceedings of the Third Congress of the MWU have recently been published by the Moldovan researchers Vasile Bahnaru and Gheorghe Cojocaru and are thus available to a wider audience. The volume was based primarily on the audio recording of the Third Congress of the MWU, which is a masterpiece of the Igor Cașu Collection. The authors also used a wide array of contemporary written sources, including the stenographic reports of the proceedings and press publications. Although these materials are not part of the present collection, the Third Congress marked a central turning point in the trajectory of the MWU. The Third Congress was the first example of an open display of a nationally oriented message in the writers’ milieu. During the Congress, held in Romanian, the writers raised a number of politically sensitive issues, such as the dire linguistic situation, 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 Party leadership was seriously worried and angered by what it perceived as “nationalist” opinions articulated by some of the participants. Although no direct repressive measures were applied, the Party line regarding any manifestations of national consciousness hardened. On this occasion, another internal split emerged within the MWU. This new line of demarcation opposed the earlier “interwar generation” of writers, who secured the revision of the linguistic standard and literary canon in the mid- and late 1950s, resulting in the definitive consecration of the Romanian literary model in the linguistic reform of 1957, to the new “1960s generation,” consisting of Soviet-educated younger writers, mostly born from the late 1920s to the mid-1930s. This new generation became increasingly radical in its demands for further liberalisation, resulting in the bold demands voiced during the Third Congress. The contrasting cases of Andrei Lupan and Grigore Vieru (Masterpieces 1 and 2), despite many continuities in their discourse, clearly illustrate this generational, and ultimately ideological, divide.
The period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s was thus a time of relative “normalisation” of the writers’ attitude toward the regime. An apparent compromise between a limited autonomy of the literary milieu and the reassertion of Party control was reached. The terms of the compromise presupposed the tacit acceptance of the gradual process of “latent Romanianisation” of the literary canon and the standard language, with the Party maintaining tight supervision over matters concerning ideological conformity and political reliability. This fragile equilibrium began to unravel after the onset of Perestroika in 1985. The second important cluster of collection materials comprises a number of records from the late 1980s, notably the materials of the Seventh Congress of the MWU, held in 1986, and those of the national writers’ conference, held in May 1987. This latter event is especially significant in terms of its rhetoric and consequences. Fissures in the official discourse were apparent already at the 1986 Congress, when the context of Perestroika was used by certain writers (mostly those belonging to the “1960s generation”) to voice their concerns about the linguistic situation, literary ties to Romania, ecological matters, etc. However, the May 1987 conference consecrated a decisive break with the official position on a number of issues. Several speakers confronted what they called the “old guard” and “old methods” in the Union’s activities, pleading for a democratisation of internal practices within the organisation. Some of the more radically inclined writers and journalists, notably, Grigore Vieru – see Masterpiece 2 – and Valentin Mândâcanu, openly talked about previously banned issues, such as Russification and linguistic assimilation, the Romanian cultural model and its impact on the MSSR, sensitive historical topics, such as the Stalin-era deportations and the mass famine of 1946–47, the ecological consequences of Soviet industrial projects, etc. In more than one respect, these radical messages foreshadowed the agenda of the national-cultural movement that gradually crystallised in 1988 and 1989. The future trajectory of the protagonists is similarly revealing. Vieru went on to become one of the most outspoken national activists in 1989–1991, also authoring the first text in the Latin script to be published in the MWU weekly Literatura și Arta in late 1988. Valentin Mândâcanu later became the author of the major manifesto advocating the introduction of the Latin alphabet, published in the magazine Nistru in 1988, Veșmîntul ființei noastre (The Garment of Our Being). The conference held in May 1987 was a turning point also in the gradual emergence of the MWU as a centre of open cultural and political opposition to the regime. Although this role of the organisation fully crystallised in late 1988 and throughout 1989, the bases were laid during the heated debates at this meeting.
As should be obvious from the above description, the collection focuses almost exclusively on materials generated by several types of official meetings and gatherings (Party meetings, writers’ congresses, national conferences, plenary meetings of the MWU Secretariat). While this selection is admittedly unilateral, it allows a to trace a “cross-section” of the organisation’s evolution during the post-1950 period. The collection emphasises two crucial periods in the MWU’s history (the “thaw” of the mid-1950s and the early Perestroika years), when the writers of the MSSR could more freely articulate their (quasi-) oppositional discourse.
Description of content
The collection consists of several categories of archival materials selected from Fond No. P-2955 (Uniunea Scriitorilor din Moldova), which is currently held at the Archive of Social-Political Organisations of the Republic of Moldova (AOSPRM) in Chișinău. The collection files mainly focus on a number of Party meetings, writers’ congresses, and national conferences which discussed significant issues related to the local cultural heritage, the “language question,” and relations between the literary milieu and the Soviet regime. Concretely, the collection features the following items: 1) the stenographic record of the open Party meeting of Soviet Moldavian writers, held on 23–25 August 1951 (approximately 39 pages); 2) the stenographic record of the general meeting of Moldavian writers concerning the discussion of critical articles published in the central and republican press, held in 1951 (approx. 89 pages); 3) the materials of the First Congress of Moldavian Writers, held in 1954 (selection, approx. 340 pages); 4) the report of the Secretary of the MWU Board, Gheorghe Malarciuc, presented at the Sixth Congress of the MWU, on 15–16 April 1981 (approx. 120 pages); 5) the stenographic record of the Seventh Congress of the MWU, held on 14–15 May 1986 (selection, approx. 300 pages); 6) the stenographic record of the Plenary Meeting of the Writers’ Union, held on 4 March 1987 (approx. 65 pages); 7) the stenographic record of the national conference of Moldavian writers, held on 18 May 1987 (approx. 140 pages); as well as some other minor materials. No documents for the period between 1958 and 1969 are available. The stenographic records of the congresses and writers’ conferences are especially valuable due to the information they provide on the internal debates and tendencies within the organisation. Generally, these records consist of a main report, presented by the chairman of the MWU, which summarised the main developments in the period under review and pointed to certain “shortcomings” to be remedied in the near future. The main report was usually followed by discussions, where a generally pre-approved roster of speakers expressed their opinions and commented on the main report and on other burning issues. However, at certain points during the congresses this scheme could produce “surprises,” as happened frequently, especially at the Third Congress, in 1965, and during the late 1980s. These “unexpected” speeches are particularly interesting due to their critical, and frequently oppositional, character. The Party dignitaries present at these meetings also made speeches, mainly to streamline ideologically recalcitrant writers and to reassert the “Party line” concerning controversial issues. The stenographic records are usually reliable sources, despite the inconvenient discourse of certain members of the MWU. The records also frequently comprised alternative drafts of reports and speeches, which often provide valuable insights into the process of their elaboration. By focusing on certain specific periods of transformation and change (e.g., the mid-1950s and the late 1980s), this collection seeks to provide a relevant and reliable image of the role of the MWU as a source of cultural opposition, but also to show its limitations and inconsistencies in this regard and the forms of self-censorship and ideological pressure applied by the communist regime.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 100-499
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 10-99
- photos: 0-9
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
- Bahnaru, Vasile, and Cojocaru, Gheorghe. 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.
Author(s) of this page
- 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.
Negură, Petru, interview by Cusco, Andrei, October 10, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection