So, here I am in Chisinau, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Moldova. It’s my second visit; not a lot has changed since I was last here three years ago (Communists still in power, Soviet army still occupying the easternmost province of the country). I do notice two things, not completely sure if these are changes or just that I’m paying more attention: first, there does seem to be a higher level of economic activity, more small traders spilling out of the Soviet-era shops onto the pavements; and second, there seems to be a lot less reservation about using Russian – in public signs, in advertisements, and even on the street. The first governments after independence were keen on pushing the use of Romanian, and rolling back Russian as an official language. Since the Communists returned to power in early 2001 they’ve been moving towards bilingualism, which certainly suits the capital city better, though I suspect it is less relevant (and probably less implemented) in the countryside. (See entry in Language Hat which I sparked off.) I have to be a bit wary though because I now know a bit more Russian than I did three years ago, and so am more sensitised to it than I was last time.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that the wine is good. My Moldovan friends insist that the wine has got better in the last three years; my memories are not clear enough to judge. The vineyard owners are all Communists, apparently, so it wouldn’t surprise me.