Ideological and Local Influences on the Urban Area in SSR Moldova (1944–1990)

Ideological and Local Influences on the Urban Area in SSR Moldova (1944–1990)




SSR Moldova, post-war period, architecture, town planning, secularization


This article analyzed the post-World War Two reconstruction of the public spaces that had been devastated during the conflict. Mostly focused on the Chisinau urban area, we examined the ways in which the communist ideology and the socialist-modernist school of thinking influenced the reconstruction process. It has often been postulated that the main trait of the new political regime was the discrimination against the old conservative society by means of secularization and dismantling of the sacred. In the aftermath of the war, this trend was relatively limited, whereas during the Khruschev’s ”thaw”, it significantly gained momentum. As an example, the statue of Stephen the Great, representative for the Moldavian national spirit, was brought back to Chisinau, but the central positions had been already reserved for two symbols of the communist regime: the statue of Lenin and the Victory Square. During the 1970s and 1980s, other monuments representative for the party ideology and discourse continued to be unveiled, one such example being the equestrian statue of Gr. Kotovski. Except for

the statues of Lenin, Marx and Engels, most of the communist additions to the public space in Chisinau still stand to this day. It was there that the first celebration of the victory over Nazi Germany occurred, in 1965. Ten years later, a majestic memorial complex honoring the same event was to be inaugurated. In line with this, most of the non-metropolitan towns or villages, no matter how marginal, erected a statue of a soldier or at least a commemorative plaque in memory of those who lost their lives against their will. The urban plan itself was altered without any consideration to the street outlines that appeared in the plans of A. Șciusev. This practice was pursued in parallel with a demolition campaign in which the old town buildings and narrow alleyways, influenced by the Oriental style, were pulled down. The top position in the list of monuments that were lost at the time is occupied by the St. Ilie church. However, a section of the pre-war Chisinau, along the upper central boulevard, survived. It consisted of original or reconstructed imperial Russian and interwar Romanian buildings. A change in style occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, when the downtown area witnessed the addition of modernist buildings, tightly clustered and in obvious conflict with the spirit of the old town. In addition to that, their functionality was disproportionate to the role of the small republic. It was after the independence that the process of urban space degradation gained momentum, and some neglected buildings were lost. Meanwhile, some other buildings went through the validation process without any consideration to their contextual harmony. Planned with very little concern for artistic and architectural value, these new additions contribute to the already eclectic and highly inharmonious spirit of the city.

Fig. 1
Central Chisinau after the Red Army retreat, June 1941
Source: Brunnergraber, extracted from National Digital Archive, 2-1686, Chisinau. The ruins of the city (aerial photo).


Fig. 2
The Schwartzman shop in Chișinău (postcard). It was to be named Schechter in the interwar period and lost during the World War Two
Source: Old and Rare Book Service of the BNRM (Chișinău).


Fig. 3
The Greek church in Chisinau (postcard)
Source: Old and Rare Book Service of the BNRM (Chișinău).


Fig. 4
The parade of a Red Army military unit in front of the Imperial Gates situated in the centre of Bucharest. Possibly August 1944
Source: Collection of Arts and Maps, BNRM (Chișinău).


Fig. 5
Reconstruction of Chisinau in 1947. Propaganda campagin from the 1970s-1989s
Source: Collection of Arts and Maps, BNRM (Chișinău). On the opposite side there is the passage building, which sustained significant damage, and further away the dome of the National Theatre „Mihai Eminescu”.

Fig. 6
The statue of Lenin, situated in the center of Chisinau, dating back to the postwar period.
Source: Collection of Arts and Maps, BNRM (Chișinău).


Fig. 7
The building of the Academy of Sciences of the SSR Moldova, at the end of the Lenin Boulevard (nowadays Stephan the Great). Inspired by the State Security Comitee building in Moscow
Source: Collection of Arts and Maps, BNRM (Chișinău).


Fig. 8
1899 building, not yet restored
The eclectic style and evident improvisation in the planning of the area nearby the Pușkin and București Streets crossroad in Chisinau. Photo credits: the author, August 2017.
Source: the author, August 2017.


Fig. 9
The Romanian Embassy in Chisinau, located across the street from the building in Fig. 8, carefully maintained by the Romanian authorities
Source: the author, August 2017.

Fig. 10
The back entry of the „Licurici” Theatre, on the left of the Romanian Embassy. Typical example of the SSR Moldova postmodernism. Since the 1990s, it has been used as a children’s theatre, with the entrance on a nearby street (the 31 August 1989 Street). Some offices of the Chisinau town hall, as well as many clubs and bars, are also located within the building
Source: the author, August 2017.

Fig. 11.
Tiny villa from old Chisinau (across the street from the building in Fig. 10). The view is blocked by advertising and in the neighborhood there is a cubist building
Source: the author, August 2017.

Author Biography

Marius Tărîță, The Center for the Study of Totalitarianism (The Faculty of History and Philosophy); Moldova State University, Moldova

Holds a PhD degree in history (University “Babeș-Bolyai”, Cluj-Napoca, 2010). Among his interest areas are the research of Slavic-Romanian Late Middle Age manuscripts, the institutions and the party leadership in uSSR and especially in SSR Moldova from the post-war period. He is a researcher at the Center for the Studies of Totalitarian Regimes and of the Cold War (the State University of Moldova). He has recently published Moldavian SSR Fall 1986-Summer 1987: Questions, Hopes & Pains (2021).