People close to president Dodon and part of his entourage can be identified by the decorations awarded by the head of state. Thus, encouragement for specific facts or merits has turned into a meaningless procedure for the distribution of orders, medals, and titles to people close to the president: representatives of the political elite, art, and business people receive prizes for anniversary dates and abstract successes of work. An indicator of this was coronavirus pandemic – during the last month, president Igor Dodon signed a decree that 14 people will be decorated with state merit.

Decoration hierarchy

The history of the USSR in terms of orders and medals ended exactly as it began – with the reduction to zero. In 1917, the Bolsheviks issued a decree on the complete abolition of orders and other insignia, and in 1992, the Government of the Republic of Moldova also received its own state awards.

Medal «Military Merit»

Medal «For Bravery»

The legal chaos in the rewards system, or in other words, the transition period, lasted quite a long time. By 2015, the list of state awards was constantly completed, and the law on state awards underwent many changes: in 1996 they decided to restore the rights of those who were unduly deprived of Soviet awards; in 2003, the government signs a decree on state benefits for special merits.

Thus, it can be considered that the Moldovan decoration system was finally formed only in 2015. According to the State Awards Act, taking into account subsequent amendments, three levels of state awards were formed.

The first level is order

Under Snegur, there were only four – the Order of the Republic, the Order of Stephen the Great, the Order of the Glory of Labor, the Order of Gratitude of the Fatherland. During Voronin’s time, the Order of Faith of the Fatherland, the Order of Honor, and the Order of Bogdan the Founder of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degrees appeared.

The second level are medals and crosses

From the Order of Military Merit, established under Snegur and Combat Merit, to the Nicolae Testemițeanu medal, which is now awarded for its great contribution to the development of medical science.

The third level is honorary titles

All known “artists of the people of Moldova”, honorary coaches, teachers, producers, drivers, artistic directors, and directors.

Socialist MPs carrying presidential orders

The main problem of Moldova’s decoration system with Dodon’s coming to power was that orders are reduced to birthday gifts: they are not awarded for specific merits, but for anniversaries. This is clearly seen in the example of Socialist MP Fyodor Gagauz, who received the order four days before his 60th birthday, Mikhail Guzman – director-general of TASS of Russia, from Igor Dodon, on his 70th birthday,  received the “Order of the Republic” and the oldest member of the PSRM – former MP Eduard Smirnov, who on his 80th birthday received the order.

“Order of the Republic” Igor Dodon decorated several deputies of the Party of Socialists, including Bogdan Tirdea – an ardent critic of Dodon when he was under the Communists and loyal to his PR today; Eduard Smirnov is a former Socialist MP who in 2013 fully supported president Igor Dodon in the procedure of sequestration of the PSRM (then the founders of the PSRM accused Dodon of party raids); the socialist Victor Bologan has three state medals: the Civic Merit Medal in Voronin in 2006, Marian Lupu’s Order of Labour in 2011 and the Order of Honour at Dodon in 2017. The former Socialist MP, currently an adviser to the Municipal Council of Chisinau,  Elena Khrenova, received the order “Glory of Labour”  from   Dodon.

Viktor Gaychuk, an ex-minister defense in Ion Chicu’s technocrat government and an adviser to Igor Dodon in the field of defense and national security, did not go unnoticed. Central Election Commission Secretary – Maxim Lebedinsky received the Civic Merit Medal for services and contribution to the provision of constitutional rights in 2018. All this despite the fact that, in 2015, when Lebedinski was a lawyer of the Socialist Party, an audio recording of his conversation appeared in the press, which almost all consisted of vulgar language, stating that the license in law owes it to his father Valeriu Balaban.

“Honorary citizens” – journalists of media conglomerates

Award-trend fashion has not bypassed even journalists, whose closeness to Dodon can be explained quite simply – they work or manages a political propaganda machine:  television channels and newspapers that make up a large holding media, affiliated with PSRM. Some promote party candidates and actions, other Russian values. They include the current members of the Socialists’ parliament, Corneliu Furculita, and Adela Raieean, as well as journalist Elena Pahomova. Furculita owns NTV Moldova and the newspaper of the Party of Socialists. Exclusive Media SRL, which holds the license to rebroadcast Russian NTV is registered in its name.

Journalist Elena Pahomova, who has worked repeatedly under the patronage of president Dodon, was awarded the Order of Labour’s Glory in 2018. Pahomova works as a presenter on the television station NTV Moldova owned by the socialist Furculita. Previously, she worked for RTR-Moldova, the first transnistrian channel, and PublikaTV. At the same time, she was the screenwriter of a series of documentaries, “History of Moldova”, produced under the patronage of Dodon, which were criticized by representatives of the environmental academy and historians.

In addition, Pahomova, in February 2018, other members of the team who worked on the creation of the documentary were decorated with state orders or people who, in one way or another, took part directly or indirectly. Among them is Vlad Batrincea – deputy from the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova and vice-president of the parliament. Then, as Vice President of the Parliamentary Comision on Culture, Science, Education, Sports, and the Media, he received the Order of Labor Glory. Igor Dodon also presented the award to his friend Nicolai Pascar, president of the Vojvod National Movement, one of the main propagandists of Moldovanism in the country. In 2018, Pascaru donated 10 thousand lei to PSRM.

The Order of the Republic was awarded to the socialist Vasile Chirtoca. Chirtoca is currently a municipal councilor of the Socialists in Chisinau. In the 2015 capital local elections, he was nominated by the Communist Party. In the electoral race, he was the richest candidate, whose fortune was millions of lei. In addition, the official is also the president of “DAAC Hermes”, whose share capital is over 22 million lei.

Valery Ostalep, director of the Institute for Diplomatic, Political and Security Studies, and Dumitru Roib, president of the association of Stephen’s Followers, was decorated with the Order of Honor.

Aren’t only people decorated??

Yes, state decorations can be given not only to individuals but also to legal entities. For example, in October 2019, Igor Dodon decided to award the building materials plant “MACON” S.A. The “Glory of Labour” order in gratitude for the special merits in the development of the construction materials industry.

Earlier, the Moldovan press wrote about the interests of people close to the president regarding the “Sadovo” rest base, which is located in the Codru ecological site, about 3 kilometers from the center of Sadova village, Igor Dodon’s small homeland.

In 2015, the “Sadov Rest Base” SRLa was acquired by the British company LP Chester Business, whose ultimate beneficiary is a russian citizen Vadim Ciubara, which is also behind the media company affiliated with PSRM.

In 2014-201515, when the base was put up for sale by the former owner, it could fall into the hands of arab investors. Therefore, at that stage, we found another familiar investor from the Russian Federation (who previously had investments in Moldova, including the company Macon), who acquired a recreation center and invested in it for several years.

What kind of money?

According to the annual reports on the activity of the president, in 2017 and 2018, Igor Dodon awarded 952 medals, and the presidential administration spent almost 2 million lei for related products. “For the first time in the history of Moldova, the political factor was excluded from the award process. All decorations were awarded on merit,” the report said.

Source of information: In the first stage, we analyzed the decrees of the President of the Republic of Moldova on granting state orders and awarding the highest titles between January 1, 2017 – May 30, 2020. In the second phase, we manually checked the persons named in the award decrees.