Update: August 23 – Double major significance for Romania. President Klaus Iohannis delivers message

On August 23, 1939 in Moscow, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed; it was a non-aggression treaty between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, one of its consequences being the occupation of Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina and Hertza region (what is currently more or less the Republic of Moldova) by the Soviets.

The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, also known as the Nazi–Soviet Pact, the German–Soviet Non-aggression Pact, or the Nazi German-Soviet Pact of Aggression was a neutrality pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed in Moscow on August 3, 1939 by foreign ministers Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, respectively.

The pact delineated the spheres of interest between the two powers, confirmed by the supplementary protocol of the German-Soviet Frontier Treaty amended after the joint invasion of Poland. It remained in force for nearly two years, until the German government of Adolf Hitler ended the pact by launching an attack on the Soviet positions in Eastern Poland during Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941.

Following the protocol, the USSR sent an ultimatum to Romania on June 28, 1940, with only 48 hours in hand to evacuate Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, threatening with war if conditions are not met. Romania ceded without fight the territories and the Soviet troops occupied the mentioned territories and also the Hertza region, not mentioned in the ultimatum.

Romania entered the war in June 1940 alongside Germany and in 1941 Bessarabia returned to Romania for three years; after 1944 it became part of the USSR.

The second significance is related to August 23, 1944, when Romania joined the Allies in the World War II, turning weapons against Germany, following a decision coordinated by King Mihai I and the arrest of national ruler Ion Antonescu.

The USSR awarded King Mihai I the Victory Medal, but in December 1947 they forced him to abdicate and leave the country.

The event was seized by the communist party in Romania, claiming the shift had been made under its coordination. August 23 was the national holiday of Romania until 1990.

The decision on August 23, 1944 cut short the WWII by six months, according to most world historians, and it facilitated the return of northern Transylvania (ceded to Hungary following the Vienna Diktat) to Romania.

President Iohannis sends message on the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Fascism and Communism

President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday delivered a message on the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Fascism and Communism, asking the local and central administrations to display “moral clarity” when honouring those who were part of the anti-Communist or anti-fascist resistance.

“Any kind of resistance or opposition that slipped away from democratic values and embraced extreme ideologies that denied the supremacy of human condition and institutions of democratic freedom by fighting against totalitarianism or other kind of totalitarianism and extremism cannot be valued. Recognising and celebrating only those models that fought against totalitarianism from democratic positions is also a signal we pass on to the younger generations: only by becoming aware of what was right and what was wrong in the recent past will we be able to build a prosperous future for the country. It is precisely why it is important for the central and local administrations to display, on behalf of the democratic creed, moral clarity in their efforts to honour those who were part of the anti-Fascist or anti-Communist resistance,” Iohannis said in his message.

He emphasised that the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, 1939, meant that “Fascism, Nazism and Communism are nothing other than manifestations of the same antidemocratic expressions of hatred and intolerance.”

“Back then, there were people who, at the price of their own lives or traumatic and humiliating experiences, fought for freedom and for the defence of human dignity and opposed Fascism and Communism in all their forms. With gratitude and admiration for the heroism of the victims, we are expressing our entire respect and compassion, while encouraging the duty to honour their memory.”

Iohannis added that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was an “odious act of history including against the Greater Union and the Romanian society’s desideratum of peace and freedom.”

“For its firm and unequivocal condemnation, the Romanian Centennial must find us consistent in the struggle to defend democracy, the rule of law and individual liberties. Let us not forget that more than half of the one hundred years since the achievement of the national ideal we lived under dictatorships, and many of the personalities who contributed to the Greater Union were persecuted by totalitarian regimes. Therefore, our efforts must now be directed to sanctioning and condemning all actions that could affect Romania’s journey on the democratic path initiated in December 1989 and consolidated with NATO and the European Union memberships. In the current European and global context, marked by many challenges and uncertainties, the defence and consolidation of the rule of law, democracy and freedom against any enemies hostile to open societies is a priority of the present,” the message concludes.

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