Tomorrow's Historian

Rachel's Adventures in Historical Research

Month: September 2016

The Monument to the Heroes of the Komsomol

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The Monument to the Heroes of the Komsomol constructed by architect Naumov and sculptor Lazar Dubinovsky in 1959.  Built to commemorate the young patriots who lost their lives fighting for the Motherland, the base of the monument is engraved with the phrase in Romanian, “Eroilor Comsomolului Lenninist” translated as “To the Heroes of Leninist Komsomol.”

Documents available at the Agency for the Inspection and Restoration of Monuments of Moldova.

Stefan Cel Mare Monument

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Stefan cel Mare (Stefan the Great), as the ruler of the medieval principality of Moldavia, is the enduring hero of the Republic of Moldova. The monument that stands today was designed by architect Alexander Plamadeala in 1924, during the interwar period and was revealed in a ceremony on April 29, 1928 (although the archival document above lists 1929 as its completion date) to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Bessarabia’s incorporation into Greater Romania.

The sculpture was forged from the bronze of Turkish guns which were confiscated as trophies during the Russo-Turkish War from 1877-1878, in which Romania fought alongside the Russian Empire and won their independence from the Ottoman Empire. The use of the bronze from the Turkish guns was symbolic of Stefan cel Mare’s victories against the Turks during his reign from 1457-1504.

The website Old Chisinau humorously states in a phrase that captures the complexity of Moldova’s past, “it would not be a monument to the history of Chisinau if everything continued to go so smoothly.”

Stefan cel Mare in hiding in Vaslui, Romania in 1940

Stefan cel Mare in hiding in Vaslui, Romania in 1940

In 1940, Bessarabia was ceded to the Soviet Union and in order to protect the monument to the Romanian hero, the sculpture of Stefan cel Mare was evacuated from the region and kept in the town of Vaslui, Romania. The pedestal that held the monument at the entrance to Chisinau’s City Park was destroyed by Soviet authorities.

Bessarabia was returned to Romania for a short time in 1942,  when Romania aligned with Germany during World War II. As a result, the monument of Stefan cel Mare was also returned to Chisinau. However, the second time the monument was installed in a different location, a prominent place across from the historic arch where former monuments to Russian Emperor Alexander I and Romanian King Ferdinand I had once stood.

The return of Stefan cel Mare to Chisinau in 1942

The return of Stefan cel Mare to Chisinau in 1942

Two years later, Bessarabia was occupied by the Soviet Union and the monument to Stefan cel Mare was evacuated yet again. This time the monument was stored in the town of Craiova, Romania. The monument was discovered one year later and was returned to Chisinau for the final time in 1945, where it was reinstalled in its original location.

The frequent travel caused damage to the sculpture though and the present-day monument has poor reproductions of the original cross and sword held by Stefan cel Mare.


Monument to Emperor Alexander II

The monument to Emperor Alexander II was inaugurated on April 7, 1886, five years after his assassination in St. Petersburg on March 13, 1881. Called “one of the best decorations of the city,” the monument stood in Chisinau’s central park, where today’s Alley of the Classics is located. The monument’s pedestal was inscribed with “Tsar Liberator/Alexander II/February 19, 1855/March 1, 1881,” the phrase “liberator” was used to refer to Alexander II’s abolition of the practice of serfdom in the Russian Empire (and the date of his assassination is listed as March 1 because the Russian Empire still used the old-style calendar at the time).

Like the monument to Emperor Alexander I, the monument to Alexander II was destroyed in 1918 when Romanians took control of Bessarabia.

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Source: Old Chisinau

Monument to Emperor Alexander I

Erected during the reign of Imperial Russia over what is modern-day Moldova, the decision to install a monument to Emperor Alexander I was made in 1912 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Empire’s acquisition of Bessarabia. The region of Bessarabia was incorporated into the Russian Empire as a result of the 1812 Treaty of Bucharest, which was signed on May 28, 1812 and was ratified by Emperor Alexander I.  The monument was installed thanks to donations collected in the amount of 120 thousand rubles and was designed by Italian sculptor Ettore Ximenes. The consecration of the site for the monument and the laying of the first stone by Archbishop Seraphim was May 17, 1912. Once completed, the monument’s opening celebration (pictured above) took place on June 3, 1914 in the presence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The monument was destroyed in 1918 by the Romanian authorities, once Bessarabia was integrated into Greater Romania following World War I.

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Source: Old Chisinau

The Journey: Bavarian Pretzels, Long-Lost Luggage, and 3 A.M. Border Control – Part III

img_8545Ana, Ryan, and I returned to Bucharest around noon, with a lot of luggage and our overnight train to the capital of Moldova didn’t leave until 7:15 P.M., which was a good thing because we had a daunting task ahead of us. With our two big suitcases that we had just retrieved from Brasov, we now had 3 behemoths and 2 sizable carry-on suitcases, in addition to Ryan’s backpack and my “shoulder bag,” which could be considered a carry-on in itself. It is simply difficult to pack light when you are going to be abroad for all 4 seasons! At least that is what I tell myself to ease the guilt of chronically over-packing. Luckily, we were able to check all of our bags into daily storage at the train station and we only had to bring our third enormous suitcase and carry-on bags, which we had left at Ana’s apartment, to the train station in the evening.

img_8544Ana had to head to work for the afternoon, as she was gracious enough to join us for our trip to Moldova and help us search for our new apartment. So Ryan and I set-off to fetch our remaining belongings from Ana’s apartment and we spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing at an outdoor cafe across from Ana’s office. On the left is evidence of that one time that I ordered an INSANELY large lemonade (3 liters…) and Ryan was embarrassed to be seen with me. But, hey, it was full of antioxidants!

After Ana finished her work at the office, we headed back to the train station, ordered our traditional train-fare (a giant bucket of chicken from KFC), boarded our train to Moldova and crammed our 5 pieces of luggage into our cabin.

When we had completed our version of train cabin Tetris with our luggage, we embarked on our railroad slumber party. The train between Bucharest and Chisinau runs at the same time everyday, the downside is that the train is incredibly slow.  So slow that the trip is 14.5 hours each way, but the upside is that the train is always nearly empty. Our train car carried only the three of us in one cabin and only two other cabins were occupied out of ten rooms.

Of course, we could have flown into Chisinau; there is an airport there, after all. Traveling as a Fulbright grant recipient meant that Ryan and I had to abide by the Fly America Act, meaning that all air travel that we booked had to be through a U.S. flag air carrier or an airline company managed by an E.U. country and we were required to follow this regulation to get as close to our destination country as possible. Luckily for us, there are no U.S. flag air carriers that fly into the Chisinau airport, so we had the option to request that we arrive to Moldova via train, which we so desperately wanted to do because crossing the Romanian-Moldovan border by train is a unique experience.

Traveling by train into Moldova means that passengers experience the changing of the train wheels! The railway in Chisinau was first constructed in 1871 and the rail line from Chisinau to (what is now) the border with Romania was began construction in 1875, when Moldova was still part of the Russian Empire.  Because the territory of Moldova was part of the Russian Empire, the rail lines were built using the broad gauge width, but when the territory was incorporated into Romania in 1918 the rails were converted to the standard gauge used in Romania. The tracks were reconverted to broad gauge after World War II, as Moldova was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 and became a Soviet Socialist Republic and have remained broad gauge to this day.

As a result, there is a “break-of-gauge” at the Romania-Moldova border and a “Bogie Exchange” is performed in, which Soviet-era equipment is used to raise the individual train cars and exchanging the wheels and axles. It was a very interesting procedure to experience and worth making the trip, even if it occurred in between border control checks at 4AM. Check out the video below:


Lift mechanism for the train car

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Sunrise at the border

Sunrise at the border









As we left the border, I attempted to stand in the walkway of the train cabin to watch the Moldovan countryside through the windows, but was yelled at by the train conductor to return to my room. The same conductor had informed Ana that he hadn’t been paid in over 6 months, so the next time she rode the train she could approach one of the conductors and pay him cash at a cheaper price than the cost of the ticket. Taking money under the table is the only way he has been able to make a living…

Four hours later we pulled into the Chisinau train station, ready to explore our new home for the next 9 months!

Buna Dimineata,Chisinau! I cannot wait to know you better!

Buna Dimineata,Chisinau! I cannot wait to know you better!