The members of the local Comsomol (the youth organization of the Communist Party from the Soviet Union) built the Comsomolist Lake (today Morilor Valley) when it was designed in 1950s at the request of Leonid Brezhnev. Nowadays the lake is a wasteland, full of bushes and small trees, a landscape out of use and in a way, out of history.
1951. Construction of Comsomolist Lake
1968. Swans on the Lake
Residents of Chisinau take pride in the green spaces within their city, as the city has the highest proportion of parks when compared to other major cities throughout Europe, but Valea Morilor park has become an embarrassment for most of them. More than 50 years has it been a meaningful place for a lot of people, who’s free time has been running through that park. It used to be the number one recreational spot for the city’s residents, offering 36 hectares of water surrounded by forest, and even a beach with a boat rental, it was the spot for social gatherings with picnics, games and sport events. Not only a place to rest your eyes but also where different kind of activities took place. Looking at the photos taken just few years ago I can see rowers training on a lake, joggers pushing their limits on the shore.
Now the empty lake is like a symbol of a former decade and all what’s left are dried-up memories in the middle of verdure.
Next to the former lake you can now find „Art Labyrinth” house, a small, colourfully painted house on the way to the beach from the main entrance to the park. An interesting subculture meets there to discuss philosophy and study cultures of the past and present. A valuable hard to miss building that holds concerts and performances.
The empty lake has also hosted a few art projects on it’s own. After the Lake was dried out a group of photographers organized a “Chisinau gentrification tour” in the frame of INTERVENTIONS2 project, crossing the lake on feet from one side to the other (link). In 2008 Nicoleta ESINENCU, Vlad NANCA and Mircea NICOLAE have produced an artistic performance called “The flower bridge” as a reflection to the created at that moment geopolitical situation and Moldova’s neighborhood with European Union and with Romania as part of it. The performance was part of INTERVENTIONS3 project (link). In 2010 a French-Hungarian artists collective Societe Realiste presented a performative sculpture „Filling the Valea Morilor Lake” in the shape of a composite 5-tubes watering device that once being activated was reproducing the contour of a star with five corners (link), both as a tribute but at the same moment as an ironical comment to the Lake’s past, due to the work’s ephemeral nature. Later, same year, in the frame of the FLOW festival that actually made use of the Lake for its activities, fire juggling, music and theatre performances were organized. Artists and scientists from approximately ten different countries from the Danube region had meetings and workshops, and have been discussing various issues related to the contemporary Moldovan reality (link).
The lake was emptied of water in 2006 because of a big environmental disaster when the oxygen level got so low that most of the fish died and it has been empty ever since because at first fragments of the members of a mastodon were revealed by an excavator driver during the works on the bottom of the former lake, also the Moldovan archaeologists found fragments of a mammoth. Later the authorities have just been lacking resources. Since the lake has been empty there have been only some ideas how to use the property and to get enough money to refill the lake but all of the ideas have been just another excuses to make profit. One of the options was building a hotel and a restaurant on a shore but then it would mean closing the beach area and opening it for hotel residents only and the lake would lose its value for locals. But in the beginning of April 2011 the construction works have been started again. Authorities want to finish works with the bottom of the lake, followed by its filling in a few months. For a reason unknown the project has been kept as a secret from public and if refilling the lake would fail for any reason it would end up as an embarrassment for the authorities.
Peștele – Pește by Ghenadie POPESCU, camera: Vladimir US
Most natural to me seems to ask people of Chisinau what they would like to see the lake become; to make a public questioner and involve locals to participate in the whole process. The Valea Morilor Lake could serve a public function if the public would know how to help and that their help is needed. When authorities constantly take away the chance to collaborate then it also takes away the chance to feel unified. The idea of a park means that it serves a purpose of a public space, which in turn serves the interests of people, the public who uses it. Then why not to give it in their hands and let it become what is most wanted.