While Moldova only seems to receive marginal interest from visitors, the country has a surprisingly rich history going back a long time. Traces of settlements have been found that date back to the Stone Age. It changed hands from the Russian Empire to the Ottoman Empire, when it was part of what was then called Bessarabia. Part of it was part of Romania for a while, and turned into one of the Soviet Republics during the Second World War. It declared independence during the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Even then, the small state saw the eastern region of Transnistria secede, with more secessionist tendencies in the southern region of Gagauzia. In short: plenty of reasons to head to the National Museum of History of Moldova. We head there on a bright day. The exhibition starts even outside the fence: we see a helicopter and what looks like an old steam-driven tractor on the grass of the museum grounds.
There is a photo exhibition on the fence, too, and we see several stelae-like sculptures when we enter the grounds. After buying our ticket, we are ready to delve into the history of this small eastern European nation. We see the Red, Blue and Bronze Rooms, which have a good collection of ancient objects: shards, bones, pottery, jewellery, bronze statues, and much, much more from the pre-history of Moldova. We continue walking through the museum, and come across recent history: the struggle for independence that resulted in independent Moldova. We see the Declaration of Independence, signed 27 August 1991 (and realise we are more than a month too early for the 30 year celebrations). We see a Moldovan flag with signatures - revolutionaries? Dignitaries? We see pictures of huge demonstrations leading up to independence.
Then, there is a section about the Soviet era, when Moldova was one of the Soviet Republics. The inevitable bustes of Lenin, red flags with hammer and sickle, propaganda posters hailing the nation as an agricultural powerhouse. We see black and white pictures of daily life in Moldova in independent and Soviet times. When we go to the basement, we see jewellery, but head to the next room which gives a much darker, and stark, image of the Soviet period. There is a picture of Stalin, there are stories of people who opposed him, of prosecution, of state terror. Texts written by prosecuted people. There is a map showing the gulags of the Soviet Union. It is clear that at least the people who assembled this exhibition are clear in their message that Moldova is much better now, flying on its own wings. The whirlwind of impressions leaves us a bit dazed once we're outside again.
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