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Congress of Controversies

As Moldova finishes hosting the anti-LGBT World Congress of Families, many are still wondering about the financing of the event and the affiliation with the president. From Ziarul de Garda.

by Aliona Ciurca 18 September 2018

Moldova has just concluded hosting the controversial World Congress of Families, a gathering of conservative, anti-gay Christian groups that was held under the auspices of pro-Russian President Igor Dodon. In the following article, published several weeks ago by the Moldovan investigative newspaper Ziarul de Garda, the author discusses the lead-up to the congress and possible sources of funding.


Moldovan President Igor Dodon announced on 18 July 2018 that he had presided over a work session regarding the progress of organizing the logistics of the World Congress of Families, which will take place this fall in Chisinau, under his patronage. Several prominent figures will be in attendance at the event, including Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I, as well as a representative of the Vatican. One of the organizers [more below] is well-known for controversies regarding his ties to Russia, as well as for his anti-feminist, anti-abortion, and anti-LGBT views, and the co-organizer is the From the Heart (Din Suflet) foundation of Dodon’s wife, a foundation that has never produced any kind of financial reports, and which, according to its records, is run by a certain Iaroslav Turcan.


The World Congress of Families is scheduled to take place between 13 and 16 September 2018, a time that is close to the elections that are also scheduled for the end of the year. The locations [of the congress] are already known, along with the participation fees for those who wish to take part in the event.


The Organizers


The gathering will be held in support of what the president, as well as the other organizers, dubs the traditional family. The event’s official page says that “according to tradition, the most important goals of marriage are the birth and education of children, mutual help, and completing each other, based on understanding, respect, and prohibiting the negation of the church’s vision of the concept of the family.”


The sponsors of the event are First Lady Galina Dodon’s From the Heart foundation, the World Congress of Families, and the International Organization for the Family.


Although Galina Dodon’s foundation is one of the sponsors, the organization also mentions that it accepts donations “for the needs related to the organizing of the 2018 World Congress of Families in Moldova, and in support of promoting family values.” The foundation has earlier boasted of offering help to educational institutions, although the Ministry of Education said that none have actually received money from the foundation. No financial report of this foundation has ever been made public.


According to the State Registry of Non-Commercial Entities, the first lady’s foundation was registered on 8 February 2017, with the aim of providing moral and material help to children and other people from socially vulnerable groups. The foundation is registered at an address in Chisinau, close to Igor Dodon’s residence.


Among the members of the Administration Council of the World Congress of Families is also a Russian, Alexei Komov. This person is an associate of Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian oligarch who – according to U.S. sources, more precisely the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center – met with Igor Dodon in Greece. The president reportedly asked him to finance the event, as Malofeev is a conservative with close ties to the Kremlin who has been financing Russia-friendly Orthodox religious initiatives in former Soviet countries as well as in the West, according to the same source. [a Ukrainian site that uncovers disinformation in the media] had previously written that Malofeev is also well-known for offering financial assistance to pro-Russian extremists in eastern Ukraine – the reason why he became the subject of EU, Norwegian, and Swiss sanctions.


American Connections


The World Congress of Families is on the list of organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center [which monitors hate groups and other extremists] considers an anti-LGBT hate group, because of its involvement in the anti-gay propaganda law passed in 2013 in Russia, and because of its opposition to LGBT rights internationally.


The third sponsor of the September event is the International Organization for the Family (IOF). According to its official webpage, the IOF’s activities are related to the “promotion of the natural family,” and its head is Brian Brown. This May, Igor Dodon declared that he had received an official invitation from the IOF, sent on behalf of Brown, to undertake a working visit in the United States at the beginning of July. The visit has been cancelled in the meantime. When speaking about that visit, Dodon said that Moldova would not spend any money for the congress, and that the final budget of the event depends on the countries confirming their willingness to take part. On that same occasion, Dodon said that the St. Basil the Great Foundation from Russia also showed interest in the congress. The founder of the former foundation is the same Konstantin Malofeev mentioned above.



According to the event’s official page, in addition to the baseline registration fee, the participation packages for the congress start at $180 and go up to $420 for one person. These include transfers from the airport to the hotel, and tours to Cricova [a renowned winery] and Orheiul Vechi [an archeological site].


At the same time, according to the presidential office, representatives of 42 states have confirmed their attendance at this event, including from France, Italy, Great Britain, Canada, the United States, Russia, Switzerland, Namibia, Nigeria, Kenya, Belarus, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Georgia, Slovakia, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Uzbekistan, Gambia, Romania, Ghana, Ecuador, and Tanzania. According to the same source, around 2,000 people are expected at the event, including experts and opinion-makers from over 50 states; Kirill, the patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’; and a representative of the Vatican.


The program of the congress includes, in addition to the plenary sessions, a festive session at the Palace of the Republic, which will be attended by Dodon and Patriarch Kirill I, as well as a festive reception offered by Dodon for those attending the congress at [wine producer] Castel MIMI. The highlight of the program will be, according to organizers, an event dedicated to the family and family values in the park of the Metropolitan Cathedral [in Chisinau]. 


Previously, the World Congress of Families took place in Tbilisi in 2016, and in 2017 in Budapest.


Meanwhile, according to a survey done by the Institute for Public Policy in 2014, where participants were asked about the main thing that came to their minds when hearing about homosexuals and lesbians, 7.9 percent of Moldovans said “psychiatric disorder,” 6.3 percent responded “abnormal,” and 6.1 percent said “sick people.”


According to UNDP, 6 percent of Moldovans are very poor, and live on less than $2.5 (or 50 lei) per day; gender-based violence is still widespread, while efficient mechanisms are lacking for the prevention and combating of domestic violence, as well as support systems for victims. Six out of 10 women have suffered some type of violence (psychological, physical, or sexual) from their spouse or partner at least once in their lives, and one out of 10 women has suffered as a result of economic abuse at least once in her life.

This article was written by Aliona Ciurca, a journalist at Ziarul de Garda, a news and analysis site based in Moldova, where this article was originally published in Romanian. TOL has done some editing to fit its style. Reprinted with permission. All images via Ziarul de Garda. Translation by Ioana Caloianu.

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