(From Slate.com, “Roads and Kingdoms” series, 27 Sep 2013)
In Europe’s poorest country, young people are turning to occult religious practices—even exorcisms—to escape everyday life.
This stark and superstitious religiosity stands in contrast to the image Moldova has recently attempted to cultivate. A few months ago, the residents of the Moldovan capital of Chisinau held their first-ever Gay Pride parade. Unlike in neighboring Georgia and Russia, where priests and religious thugs brutally beat gay-rights supporters in the streets, Orthodox Moldovans left the LGBT parade alone. The tiny country was praised as a progressive bulwark against a reactionary regional slide.
But experts say that the notion that a highly religious Moldova is becoming more tolerant is a ruse, mainly intended to please the European Union, which is considering the country for membership. Moldova has feinted to the left on social and societal issues, while lagging on both judicial and media reforms. And with gay rights, Moldova—under the heavy influence of the Orthodox Church—still largely follows Moscow’s lead, which has become increasingly repressive. Indeed, the religious yoke of Moscow has a long history. In 1812, the Russian Orthodox Church seized the Moldovan church, and the latter has remained subservient ever since. And so, a few months after currying favor with Brussels, the Moldovan parliament passed a law that was nearly identical to Russia’s much-maligned anti-gay statute. The U.S. State Department noted that the Orthodox Church had “welcomed” the local ordinances the new law was based on.
(Read the full piece here)