Tomorrow's Historian

Rachel's Adventures in Historical Research

Category: A Monument’s Message

Take a peek at my archival and research material on public monuments and the evolution of national identity construction in Moldova

Pushkin Monument


The oldest surviving monument in Chisinau is the monument to the renowned Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin isn’t celebrated in Moldova merely because Moldova was once part of the Russian Empire and Moldova’s identity is intertwined with Russian culture, but moreso because Pushkin was exiled to Bessarabia and lived in Chisinau for 3 years from 1820-1823. Modern-day Moldovans are not even put-off by the claim that Pushkin once said of Chisinau, “accursed town of Kishinev, to abuse you the tongue will grow tired” (Charles King, The Moldovans, 23). He has been celebrated in Stefan cel Mare Park (formerly Pushkin Park) since 1886 and with the Pushkin House Museum, the location where he wrote classics such as The Prisoner of the Caucasus.

Source: Archival documents at the Agency for the Inspection and Restoration of Monuments in Moldova

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