On 18 October 1961, after searching Arsenie Platon’s house, the police and KGB officials in Bălți discovered several notebooks and separate papers that contained various poems written by Platon during the previous several years. This aspiring poet had already published some of his literary productions in local and central periodicals. However, scattered among these texts were around ten poems with clear and occasionally radical anti-Soviet overtones. These poems fell into two broad categories. The first category comprised several texts criticising the social and economic policies of the regime and the chronic shortages of basic consumer goods, contrary to official propaganda (e.g., the short poem Radio, which contrasted the claims to material abundance emphasised by Soviet propaganda with the dire material situation of the ordinary people). The abuses of collective farm managers and the economic discrimination and inequity hidden behind the official façade of equality were additional targets for Platon’s critical acumen (as, for example, in the poem “The Soviet Peasant and the Collective Farm Chairmen” (“Țăranul sovietic și președinții de colhoz”), which mocked the privileges of the latter and extolled the honest but devalued work of the peasants). Some of the other poems (e.g., “Woman is Equal to Man” / “Femeia este egală cu bărbatul”) combined social, economic, and nationally based criticism in a forceful condemnation of the regime, calling for “escape from slavery” and for “burning [the Russian intruders] with fire and flames.” The second category of poems was openly nationalist with a strong anti-Russian thrust, e.g., the poem “A Longing” (“Un dor”), in which the author talked about his dream that he might “rise up, one holy morning, and start the fight / together with my Romanian brothers,/ To get my revenge, for I can no longer bear/ Seeing my Moldavia torn by wild boars.” In several other similar texts, Platon used strong language to refer to the Soviet regime, calling its representatives “red beasts” (fiare roșii) and “accursed butchers” (călăi blestemați). Platon also wrote two drafts of anti-regime proclamations, appealing to his “Bessarabian brothers” – “workers, peasants and intellectuals” – to “combine their forces” into “one single fist” in order to “smite the red beasts.” He also demanded “full freedom” for Moldavia, mentioning the suppression of religion and economic exploitation as the main grievances against the Soviet regime. Platon’s radical language and especially the draft leaflets, which were interpreted by his KGB investigators as highly subversive and potentially dangerous, virtually guaranteed his condemnation for “anti-Soviet propaganda.” The question of Platon’s literary and intellectual sources is particularly interesting. It seems that he was familiar – probably from his primary school years and further reading – with some basic models of classic and interwar Romanian literature, which shaped his vocabulary and references. His literary pursuits probably enhanced his national awareness and provided him with a suitable language to express his discontent with the regime. Although his poems are rather unsophisticated and lack literary value, they provide a fascinating example of an oppositional narrative “from below,” elaborated by a marginal individual seeking literary recognition. The original manuscripts were not destroyed by the KGB staff and are still part of Platon’s case file stored at the SIS Archive.
Artpool Radio 1-8 (1983–1987)
One of the important results of the activity of György Galántai in the 1980s was the birth of the Artpool Radio, the first Hungarian phonic publication. The 8 cassette-issues, which were brought out between 1983and 1987, are unique original documents of the Hungarian underground cultural scene in the form of edited sound materials, concert recordings, talks, and interviews. The issues were compiled by György Galántai using his own original recordings. No. 1: pseudo radio • cassette edition • first experimental broadcast; No. 2: Nights at Tompa Street / ambient musics & suffixes; No. 3: Budapest - Bécs/Vienna – Berlin Concert Over the Phone 1983. April 15. /April 15th 1983; No. 4: Natural Radio; No. 5: ARTPOOL´S ART TOUR 1982; No. 6: Recorded for the Hungary Can Be Yours exhibition - presented at the opening of the banned exhibition at the Young Artists' Club of Budapest (01.27.1984.); No. 7: GALOPPING CORONERS; No. 8: The story of Galantai’s sound sculptures
The background to this event is linked to processes underway from the late 1950s. In this period, the MWU was dominated by two “generations” that competed for power and status during the next decade: the older “thaw” generation, which consisted of writers born in the 1910s and early 1920s, many of them with a solid background in Romanian culture, and the “generation of the 1960s,” which included a group of younger aspiring writers mainly born in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Most of the “thaw generation” graduated from Romanian high schools and subsequently were trained in Soviet higher education institutions. In contrast, the writers who became MWU members in the 1960s (who used to identify themselves as the “generation of the 1960s”) were aware of the gaps in their cultural knowledge and agreed to be initiated by their older fellow writers. Trained in this era of post-Stalinist relative liberalisation, the writers of the 1960s generation assimilated the new Soviet slogans, which were still taken seriously at the time, but developed simultaneously a certain degree of critical thinking. The communication between older writers, trained under the Romanian administration, and the new generation of writers provided the latter with an alternative model to the one practised by the Soviet system of education and propaganda. Their spotless political trajectory made some writers from the “generation of the 1960s” question the fairness of some Soviet-imposed norms. Without questioning the legitimacy of the Soviet system or communist ideology as a whole, the public positions of Moldovan writers emerged in October 1965, during the Third Congress of the MWU. On this occasion, the “thaw generation” and the “1960s generation” forged an alliance and openly challenged the Russification of the Moldovan population. They also demanded the introduction of the Latin alphabet. Obviously, the Soviet authorities qualified such critical opinions as nationalistic and implicitly anti-internationalist.
Given the number of those involved in this public debate, the Third Congress of the MWU remains one of the most remarkable events that could be subsumed under the category of “cultural opposition” during the existence of the MSSR. Held on 14–15 October 1965, it marked the definitive consecration of the group of Moldovan writers known as the “generation of the 1960s.” They were the first to write in standard Romanian, and the quality of their literary output was superior to most of their predecessors and was in synchronism with the liberalising tendencies throughout the USSR. Members of this generation include such emblematic figures as Ion Druță, Grigore Vieru, Aureliu Busuioc, Pavel Boțu, etc. The Third Congress itself was the first manifestation of a nationally conscious agenda and the first event of its kind held in the Romanian language. This congress marked such a turn because it was held after a seven-year break, during which the Moldavian literary milieu was decisively transformed. The power shifted away from the previously dominant “Transnistrian” faction to the “Bessarabian” group, who advocated a higher quality of literary works and a wider autonomy for the writers’ creative process. During the event, the writers raised a number of politically sensitive issues, such as 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 audio recording allows a reconstruction of the atmosphere of the event, including the discourses of the participants. The event was open to university students, which provided for a much wider audience than usual, and for an accordingly broader public reaction. The reaction of the authorities was hostile and swift. Both at the congress itself and afterwards, the party leadership were alarmed and outraged by what they perceived as “nationalist” opinions articulated by some of the participants. In the context of the growing apprehensions about Romania’s position in foreign policy and its role as a potential model for cultural emulation in the MSSR, the party launched a campaign to combat “local nationalism.” At a series of meetings in November and December 1965, the first secretary of the Moldavian Communist Party, Ivan Bodiul, called for an intensification of “agitation and propaganda” work throughout the republic and for the “re-education” of those writers who voiced “dangerous” opinions. Although no direct repressive measures followed, the party line towards any manifestations of national consciousness hardened. Given the official reaction to this debate among MWU members, the audio recording of this congress represents a fascinating source for reconstituting not only this significant act of “cultural opposition,” but also the perception of the regime regarding “dangerous” and “oppositional” acts.