TABLE OF CONTENTS
General Introduction / 9
SECTION I: Brief Account of the Evolution of the Republic of Moldova / 23
Chapter I. 1. Historical Background of Moldova / 23
Chapter I. 2. Governments after Independence / 39
Chapter I. 3. Demographics / 53
Chapter I. 4. The Economy / 59
SECTION II: National and Ethnic Identity / 73
Chapter II. 1. Introduction: the Formation of the Romanian People / 73
Chapter II. 2. Bessarabia under the First Russian Occupation / 82
Chapter II. 3. Bessarabian Unification with Romania / 111
Chapter II. 4. Romania’s decision in 1940 / 140
Chapter II. 5. Bessarabia under the Second Russian Occupation / 301
Chapter II. 6. The Republic of Moldova as an Independent State / 319
Chapter II. 7. Conclusion / 340
SECTION III: Official Language / 347
Chapter III. 1. Introduction: the Formation of the Romanian Language / 347
Chapter III. 2. The Romanian Language in Russian Bessarabia / 352
Chapter III. 3. Language Policy in Interwar Romania / 358
Chapter III. 4. Language Policy in the Soviet Union / 365
Chapter III. 5. The Romanian Language in the Republic of Moldova / 368
Chapter III. 6. Conclusion / 395
SECTION IV: Religion / 399
Chapter IV. 1. Introduction: Christian Orthodoxy in Bessarabia before 1812 / 399
Chapter IV. 2. Religious Suppression under Russian Rule / 403
Chapter IV. 3. Religious Reintegration of Bessarabia into the Romanian Orthodox
Church / 418
Chapter IV. 4. Religious Policy in the Soviet Union / 435
Chapter IV. 5. The Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia versus the Metropolitan Church
of Moldova / 458
Chapter IV. 6. Conclusion / 479
SECTION V: Political Leaders / 481
Chapter V. 1. Introduction / 481
Chapter V. 2. Historical Political Figures from Bessarabia / 482
Chapter V. 3. Post-Independence Political Leaders / 494
Chapter V. 4. Political Parties as Vectors of Change in Political Attitudes / 503
Chapter V. 5. Conclusion / 529
SECTION VI: Geopolitics / 533
Chapter VI. 1. Introduction: the Republic of Moldova’s Place in the World / 533
Chapter VI. 2. Separatist Territories / 550
Chapter VI. 3. Great Powers and Important Neighbors / 562
Chapter VI. 4. Conclusion / 610
SECTION VII: Academia / 613
Chapter VII. 1. Introduction: Academia as a Vector of Independence / 613
Chapter VII. 2. Academia as a Victim of Politics / 618
Chapter VII. 3. The Scientific Truth Prevails / 623
Chapter VII. 4. Conclusion / 628
General Conclusion / 629
Index / 635
Glossary / 637
Bibliography / 639
In 2016, the Republic of Moldova celebrated a quarter of a century of independence from the Soviet Union. This period was marked by successive drastic changes both in domestic politics and in the direction of its foreign policy. After a strong pro-Romanian policy in the early 1990s, clearly manifested in its Declaration of Independence and the adoption of a number of state symbols, such as the flag and the national anthem, identical to those of Romania, the Republic of Moldova redirected itself towards Moscow. The ratification of the protocol by which Moldova became part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in 1994 signaled that the country would remain in the sphere of influence of Russia despite its official neutral position. In the second half of the 1990s, the Communists started consolidating power in the Republic of Moldova and eventually took full control of the country a decade after independence from the Soviet Union. In 2001, the Republic of Moldova thus became the first former Soviet republic where a non-reformed Communist party obtained control of both parliament and government. Due to rampant corruption, economic stagnation, authoritarian governance, and alleged electoral fraud, the people of Moldova eventually rebelled against the communist leadership in what was to be called
“the 2009 Chisinau Revolt” or “the Twitter Revolution.” The contestation process against the communist authority in the country evolved gradually. Starting from a peaceful mass protest on the streets of Chisinau, it eventually evolved into a minor revolution as governmental buildings were directly attacked and the Moldovan Parliament and Presidency were vandalized and burnt down. In terms of the sectors of society involved in the protests, the first ones were the youth and the intellectual elite, however, soon other groups mobilized as well. Romanian and European Union flags were waived by the protesters, symbolizing an assertion of European and democratic values. Many ordinary Moldovans and members of the elite alike considered that after the historical contestation against the Soviet Union that Moldova had expressed through its independence in 1991, the 2009 Revolt was a second contestation against Russian influence and domination in the region.
The communist authority spared no effort to put down the revolt, as it ordered the police and the military to crush the protests, which led to hundreds of people being injured and a significant amount of deaths. Eventually, however, new elections were held and due to the consolidation of the pro-Western political forces in the country, Moldova once again changed its foreign policy at a 180 degree angle. The new national objective became the integration into the European Union. At the same time, a number of social groups still demanded a reunification with Romania, while polls showed that about a third of the total population declared itself to be pro-unification. Despite its official political success in terms of removing the Communists from power in the country, the 2009 Chisinau Revolt had mixed social and economic outcomes. Some minor economic reforms were made by the subsequent Moldovan governments, most under pressure from the European Union. However, large economic scandals engulfed the society as well, the most important being the disappearance of almost a billion dollars from Moldovan banks. Similar to most of the Arab Spring revolts, the Chisinau Revolt initially brought considerable political change, before its positive effects diminished and were partly replaced by chaos, insecurity, and economic instability. Although the Party of Communists never held a majority of seats in the Moldovan Parliament in the aftermath of the Revolt, the pro-Western Coalition for European Integration was very weak and barely formed a majority in the parliament. At times, its success depended on single votes that it could grab from disoriented left or extreme left politicians who no longer found a place in the outdated Party of Communists. The flimsy pro-Western majority failed to securely anchor the country on a new trajectory. Thus, a preliminary conclusion regarding the 2009 Chisinau Revolt could be that, similar to most other revolts and revolutions that have occurred throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa over the past two decades, it followed a sequence of “two steps forward, one step back.” Significant evolution was followed by involution. Progress was followed by regress.
By virtue of its affinity first towards the West, later towards the East, and then again towards the West, Moldovan foreign policy has been fickle, unpredictable, in the country’s first 25 years of independence. At the same time, many experts and ordinary Moldovan citizens question the very concept of independence. The Republic of Moldova has consistently been under the occupation of the Soviet, later of the Russian Army, which never left Moldovan territory and maintained a state of political instability, particularly in the Transnistrian area. This prevented Chisinau from fully exercising its sovereignty. Thus, the independence of the Republic of Moldova existed only on a theoretical level. The Republic of Moldova, roughly equivalent to the historical region of Bessarabia, can be seen as a territory which has been a victim of 20th century geopolitics. In the latter stages of the Second World War and during the Cold War there were multiple countries which had their borders redrawn, but four in particular were divided in two considerable parts each: Romania, Germany, Korea, and Vietnam. Two of them reunified to this date, namely Vietnam and Germany, while the other two remain divided. Similar long-lasting divisions of other countries, such as Austria, were avoided at the last moment. The division of Romania at the end of World War II is one of the most traumatic chapters in the entire history of the Romanian nation. The realities of life in a divided country have been well documented in other cases, such as Germany and Korea. The international public and the academic community have had little knowledge about the case of Romania, both during the Cold War and up to the present day.
Even the case of Austria, a country divided for only a decade after the end of the Second World War, has received much more attention on the international stage. For example, during his speech for the Republican National Convention in 2004, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger described to a captivated audience his experience growing up in a Soviet-occupied and divided Austria after World War II. The worsening of the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe since the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation in 2014 undermines the stability of Moldovan foreign policy. In addition, the consolidation of the Republic of Moldova as a state altogether remains uncertain. The inability of Chisinau to end the Transnistrian conflict makes virtually impossible the integration of Moldova into the European Union, either as a standalone member state or through a reunification with Romania following the German model.
Transnistria has represented since the early 1990s the Gordian knot of Moldovan geopolitics. Despite never having actual control over the territory east of the Nistru / Dniester River after the 1991 independence of the Republic of Moldova, most Moldovan politicians have so far refused to recognize Transnistria as an independent territory, citing the illegal grounds on which the Russian Army has maintained its presence there. This way, the Republic of Moldova can, at least officially, prevent a defeat by the Russian Federation. However, this situation cannot be considered a victory, as it condemns the entire country to perpetual political, social, and economic underdevelopment. The Republic of Moldova is a small state in both territory and population, it has the lowest
per-capita GDP in all of Europe, and it lacks any significant natural resources. Without maintaining a pro-Western orientation in foreign policy and a strengthening of ties to the European Union and Romania, it will be unable to develop any time soon. Thus, Transnistria must either be reincorporated into a unitary Republic of Moldova, assuming that the Russian Army will leave some time before that, returned by peaceful means to Ukraine, to which it had historically belonged, or it should be granted independence. The worst option of all would be for the Republic of Moldova to maintain the present, completely unsatisfactory, status quo. Moreover, Chisinau politicians need be wary of falling into Moscow’s trap by incorporating Transnistria into a federalized Moldova since this would in fact turn the entire Republic of Moldova into a puppet state of the Russian Federation. Holding on to Transnistria as a bargaining chip to be used in exchange for regaining Southern and Northern Bessarabia from Ukraine is also unrealistic and dangerous in the present context, as it would further destabilize the already fragile Eastern European security architecture and antagonize a neighboring state that is involved in a hot conflict with the Russian Federation. Moreover, it is important to point out that the Russian Federation expects Chisinau to pay the bill for the gas that it has been supplying Transnistria since the 1990s, which is worth roughly half the Moldovan GDP. The situation in Transnistria can be best understood as a gangrene that can and will eventually spread to other parts of the state and eventually of the region. The integration in the European Union of the Republic of Moldova with Transnistria being a de jure, but not a de facto territory of it is highly unlikely. In the aftermath of the EU integration of Cyprus in 2004, the European Union was clear to state that the integration of other states with unclear borders or with sovereignty issues will not be permitted. The long list of of plans suggested for the Transnistrian conflict (Kozak Plan, Primakov Plan, Poroshenko Plan, 3D Plan, Kozak Plan 2 etc.) have all failed so far. Given the size of Transnistria, if practical solutions are sincerely desired, the Transnistrian conflict can be much more easily resolved than other territorial conflicts which have affected Southern and Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. Resolving the Transnistrian situation, however, has been difficult not only due to the presence of the Russian Army, but also due to the wavering of Moldovan foreign policy. The Transnistrian conflict should be placed in a broader conflict resolution perspective that seeks to identify positive example from around the world. Two such relevant examples are the territorial exchanges between India and Bangladesh or those between Belgium and the Netherland, both of which were implemented in 2015. While these two recently resolved border conflicts may not be identical to the Transnistrian conflict, each of them was highly complex, had existed for a long time, and their resolution was considered a great success. In particular, the border conflict between India and Bangladesh, with its counter-counter-enclaves, was intricate and long lasting. Due to this conflict, the border between India and Bangladesh had been called “the world’s craziest border” before the 2015 resolution. At the same time, it must be emphasized that the way in which the Transnistrian conflict is to end must be a sovereign decision taken by the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, either directly or indirectly through their elected leaders. Third countries, Western institutions, and academia must inform, provide counsel, and offer support to Chisinau in reaching a decision, but such a decision must be democratically reached and voluntarily implemented.
This PhD dissertation, which is written in the English language in order to be accessible to large international audiences, analyzes the evolution of the Republic of Moldova in the first quarter century of independence. It looks at both domestic and foreign policy, while analyzing the agents and vectors that influence political attitudes. Few countries, if any, are today not affected by historical events and decisions of the past. For countries such as the Republic of Moldova, history is alive. It is a direct and strong determinant of today’s economic, social, and political landscape. Events that took place in the history of this territory 75, 100, or even 200 years ago, are many times more important for determining political attitudes in the country today than anything that happened in the last 25 years. As such, this PhD thesis is structured on the premise that a thorough analysis of the history of Bessarabia, particularly the last two centuries, is not only beneficial, but in fact crucially important for a thorough and unbiased understanding of the first quarter century of independence of the Republic of Moldova.
In order to see why Moldova moved back and forth between the East and the West, a number of vectors and agents of change that determine political attitudes will be looked at.
The problem of national identity is in many ways at the heart of Moldova’s fickleness in domestic and foreign policy. Excluding the minorities (Russians, Ukrainians, Gagauzians, Bulgarians etc.), the majority of the population in the Republic of Moldova suffers from a severe identity crisis.
Are they Romanian or Moldovan? Are they Moldovan, thus Romanian? Are they Romanian and Moldovan, both at the same time? The answer to this question, and in fact the very wording of this question, has been the source of fierce debates over the past couple of decades and a half.
Every time that the Romanian identity of the majority population of the Republic of Moldova was salient, the country chose a pro-West trajectory. At the other end of the spectrum, when said identity was suppressed or failed to express itself, a pro-East (pro-Russian) trajectory was chosen. For most modern states, since the creation of the concept “raison d’état,” the national interest has been detached from debates over national and / or ethnic identity. In the Republic of Moldova, however, it is not.
A ramification of the debate over ethnic identity is the dispute over the official language of the state. While the 1991 Declaration of Independence clearly mentioned that the official language of the Republic of Moldova is Romanian, subsequent politics complicated things. The 1994 Constitution of Moldova mentioned that the official language is Moldovan with the Latin alphabet. The publication of a Moldovan-Romanian dictionary by Vasile Stati bolstered the idea of Moldovenism, a term meant to describe the existence of Moldovan as a separate language from Romanian. While the vast majority of Western and international academics deem the Moldovan language as a purely artificial creation of the Soviet Union, in the Republic of Moldova the false debate is constantly fuelled. Similarly to the issue over national identity, the debate over the
so-called Moldovan language is also lively and fierce. Are Moldovan and Romanian the same language? Is Romanian the only language, while Moldovan does not even exist, just like “American” does not exist? Is Moldovan a dialect of Romanian? The 2013 decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova, which stated that Romanian is the state language, did not completely end the controversy as many had hoped. Just like the Flat Earth conspiracy, the supporters of Moldovenism continue to reiterate their propaganda regarding the existence of the Moldovan language despite any and all scientific evidence that proves otherwise. Over the past many centuries, renowned scholars from the Principality of Moldavia, Bessarabia, Romania, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, even Russia, all of which are mentioned in this book, have repeatedly debunked the Moldovenist theories as pseudo-science. Even so, this does not seem to sway the most ardent supporters of Moldovenism. Similarly, they continue to ignore any legal ruling regarding the issue and place themselves outside the law. However, after the 2013 decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova, the toxic and pseudoscientific ideas of Moldovenism are expected to no longer affect academic and policy debates to the same degree as before.
Academia is another vector which determines political attitudes in Moldova and the country’s foreign policy. At different points in time, historians from the Republic of Moldova and political scientists focused on different historical periods. In the years immediately before and after independence from the USSR, academics in Moldova focused on the periods during which Bessarabia, roughly equivalent to today’s Republic of Moldova, had been part of Romania, such as the Interwar Period. In addition, research focused on the 1918 peaceful and democratic Unification of Bessarabia with Romania. This was meant to support the idea that Bessarabia had been Romanian land that was illegally occupied by the Soviet Union in the 1940s. Thus, the independence of the Republic of Moldova from the Soviet Union, obtained in 1991, was a justified act. With the expressed support of the Moldovan academic community, the 1991 Declaration of Independence noted that the 1812 occupation of Bessarabia by the Russian Empire and the 1940 occupation of Bessarabia by the Soviet Union had been unlawful acts committed against the will of the local native population.
Later, however, starting in the 2000s, parts of the Moldovan academic community gave more and more attention to the historical periods when Bessarabia had not been part of Romania. Moreover, the controversial or sometimes outright blamable acts of the Romanian Government, such as the giving up of Bessarabia without a fight in 1940 and the Romanian Holocaust during the Second World War, were closely looked at. The analysis of these historical periods was meant to emphasize the distinctiveness of the territory between the Prut and Nistru Rivers in an attempt to deemphasize the Romanian identity of the region. Needless to mention, this change of focus was done not only during, but rather as a direct consequence, of the time in power of the Party of Communists. This is when the Moldovan-Romanian dictionary was also published, triggering uproar from established and respected scientists from both parts of the Prut River, but also dismissed by Western social scientists. Thus, academia became a victim of politics during this period and had a limited ability to influence political attitudes based on the scientific truth.
But the list of vectors which influence political attitudes in the Republic of Moldova does not stop here. Even the holy things were engulfed in the political debate over identity. Nothing is too sacred in the Republic of Moldova to escape politics. Currently, two parallel Christian Orthodox churches exist in the country, both of which strive for dominance. The Metropolitan Church of Moldova, an institution founded in 1991 during the last year of Soviet domination in Bessarabia, is part of the Russian Orthodox Church. As such, it is under the canonical control of the Patriarch Kirill from Moscow, an open associate and collaborator of Vladimir Putin. At the same time, the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia is part of the Romanian Orthodox Church and is the religious institution which predated the Soviet invasion, having been founded in 1925. These two institutions, the Metropolitan Church of Moldova and the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia, exist side by side and compete for control over the hearts and minds of the citizens of Moldova. Moreover, some clergymen from Metropolitan Church of Moldova directly influence the political attitudes of Moldovan citizens by openly promoting certain politicians or political parties. Thus, the church is another vector of change which shows the dual identity of the Republic of Moldova and influences its domestic and foreign policy.
The politicians in Moldova are the agents of change who take advantage of and at the same time enact policy based on the political divisions that exist in the country. On the one hand, they exploit the identity crisis of the population for their electoral benefit. On the other hand, they aggravate it. This PhD dissertation includes case studies of some of the most important Moldovan politicians in the quarter century since independence. From the pro-Romanians of the early 1990s, to the pro-Russian Communists, to the pro-Europeans since 2009, Moldovan politicians are a diverse and colored bunch, but many seem to have certain traits in common.
An analysis of the foreign and domestic policy of the Republic of Moldova had to contain research regarding the local geopolitics. This includes not only references to the separatist or autonomous territories within Moldova, such as Transnistria and Gagauzia, but also to the states with which Moldova interacts with the most. To this category close neighbors such as Ukraine and Romania belong, regional players such as Germany and Russia, but also global players such as the United States of America and the European Union. Geopolitics is an important vector of change that even powerful states are influenced by. For small political entities, such as the Republic of Moldova, geopolitics can act like a tsunami that washes everything in its path, as smaller states are less able to oppose foreign influence or meddling in their internal affairs by outside state actors.
In order to produce this PhD dissertation, the author, who already had extensive experience doing research on subjects connected to Eastern Europe, conducted intensive fieldwork and a thorough analysis of varied sources. Romanian and Moldovan sources, as well as international ones, were looked at. These included academic works on the subjects dealt with here; the media from relevant countries; official sources such as legislation, constitutions, and referendums; statistical sources, such as censuses, polls, economic data; and not in the least, personal diaries, journals, and memoirs of public figures directly involved in certain historical events. In total, over 600 secondary sources were analyzed.
Another important methodological tool that the researcher used was oral history, meaning personal interviews. The interviewees were diverse and included a considerable list of members of the Moldovan Parliament, signatories of the 1991 Declaration of Independence, leaders of the national liberation movement, governmental ministers, one Prime Minister, the first two Presidents of the Republic of Moldova, leaders of ethnic minority groups, NGO sector activists, and a number of academics. Moreover, the politicians interviewed came from parties ranging from the National Liberal Party on the right to the Party of Communists on the extreme left, including many more centrist parties as well. In other words, the researcher tried as much as possible to obtain diverse views and opinions. For the chapter on religion the researcher interviewed Patriarchal Bishop Varlaam Ploiesteanu, the Secretary of the Holy Synod and of the Permanent Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Counterparts from the Metropolitan Church of Moldova did not accept to be interviewed.
Of course, no academic work in history is complete without a trip to the archives. Unfortunately, the National Archives of the Republic of Moldova for the period 1991 – 2016 are incomplete. As the director of the National Archives has stated, most political parties from the Republic of Moldova were unwilling to turn over their archives to the state. Most have either outright refused to do so or have destroyed their archives. This is particularly applicable to the political parties that have been in power. Similar situations exist in other countries as well, Romania being one of them. Nevertheless, the author conducted a comprehensive research of all available archival funds and was able to identify the archives of three parliamentary parties and of three non-parliamentary parties that were active in the first 25 years of Moldovan independence. Out of these, two parties had also been in power for certain periods of time. The author researched six complete archival funds, representing over 80 folders and over 2 000 pages. It should be mentioned that the author was the first researcher, either from the Republic of Moldova or foreign, to have access to the archives of the political parties from the Republic of Moldova for the period 1991 – 2016. Moreover, although the documents seen represent the archives of 6 political parties, the papers include mentions of over 20 political parties in one form or another. Thus, pieces of information regarding roughly half of all political parties registered in the Republic of Moldova during the period studied were analyzed in this PhD thesis. There were 26 registered political parties in 1993. By 2001, there were 31 registered parties, while in 2017 there were 44 registered parties in the Republic of Moldova. The author was able to extract valuable information and come to some conclusions regarding the political environment of the Republic of Moldova during the period analyzed, the concerns and the focus of the political parties, and their means of functioning. In addition, the methods employed by political parties in order to change or capitalize from an electoral perspective on the political attitudes of the voters are described in detail in this book. Documents from the Archive of Social-Political Organizations from Chisinau reveal that during the period 1991 – 2016 various political parties from the Republic of Moldova, belonging to the right, the center, and the left of the political spectrum, prioritized their relationships with political parties from Romania. Some political parties from the Republic of Moldova went as far as signing comprehensive partnerships with political parties from Romania. In addition, even niche political parties that primarily focused on other issues, ranging from ecology to gender equality, emphasized the possibility of a Romanian-Moldovan reunification sooner or later.
With reference to a previous research project, the archival research also included an analysis of documents found in the Central Committee of the Communist Party – the External Affairs Section from the Romanian National Archives in Bucharest on the topic of Romanian-Soviet and Romanian-Moldovan SSR relations. Some relevant pieces of information on the topic for the period of the late 1970s and early 1980s were found and are mentioned in this PhD thesis. Also in Romania, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the researcher analyzed over 5 000 pages of historical documents on issues dealing with the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union for the period ranging from 1834 to 1944. For some of the archival funds, the author of this book was the first researcher to see them. These represent all the documents on the subject matter declassified to this day at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania. It is important to mention that the archives found in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania include not only Romanian documents, but also hundreds of originals, copies, and / or translations of documents from Russian, French, English, German, Italian, Polish, Greek, Czech, Spanish, Swedish, Danish, and other languages. All these archival documents found at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania had their sources clearly specified and, in consequence, the facts and events mentioned in this book can be independently confirmed by foreign researchers searching through the archives of their respective countries. Thus, rather diverse points of view are provided, not only Romania’s position or Romania’s perspective on certain issues. In particular, the comprehensive political and economic reports made by the local and national authorities from the Russian Empire in the second half of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century with regards to Bessarabia are highly important. They bring to light various aspects of Russian rule in the region. Similarly, for the Interwar Period, the archives capture the position of a vast number of countries, of prominent European politicians and diplomats of the day, and of the contemporary international press, with regards to the legitimacy of Romanian rule in Bessarabia and the evolution of the region during this period. Overall, the plethora of historical documents from the three archives, one from the Republic of Moldova and two from Romania, which have been analyzed by the researcher, have most likely filled in many of the holes that existed in the literature, particularly in the English-language literature, on the subject of Bessarabia and the Republic of Moldova.
Before moving on, we will briefly mention here the principle paradigms and overarching theories under which the Republic of Moldova, Bessarabia, has been placed under by various researchers over the centuries or in recent decades. The most common theoretical approaches towards the Republic of Moldova / Bessarabia have been: failed state, center-periphery, empire-colony, and inbetweenness. As it will be described and explained in detail over the many chapters of this book, the first two are more applicable and more appropriate ways of understanding the Republic of Moldova / Bessarabia than the latter two.
The failed state theory is probably the most well represented in this case, as the Republic of Moldova has repeatedly failed in many if not all of its most basic functions as a state, from delivering basic goods and services to protecting its territorial integrity to creating or consolidating a nation. The same applies to the brief period when Bessarabia had been an independent state in 1917 – 1918 under the name Moldavian Democratic Republic, when the local leaders were unable to provide the security and economic development of the region by their own means. One may argue that what we find in today’s Republic of Moldova is both a failed state and a failed nation as well, as the project of trying to create a “Moldovan nationality” distinct from Romanian, or as a result
of an intermixing of the various nationalities which belong to larger neighboring states, has failed.
The center-periphery theoretical concept is also quite applicable to the Republic of Moldova. From medieval times the territory that came to be called Bessarabia has been part of something bigger. It was very rarely a standalone political entity and it was never the center of something bigger than itself. Either as part of the Principality of Moldavia or as part of the Russian Empire or of Romania, Bessarabia was always someone else’s periphery. Even today, the Republic of Moldova can be seen as being on the periphery of both the European Union and of NATO or, seen from the other side, it is the periphery of the Community of Independent States, the former Soviet space.
The two other theoretical frameworks sometimes used to understand the Republic of Moldova / Bessarabia over time, namely empire-colony and inbetweenness, are less applicable. The empire-colony framework can be applied only to certain periods of Bessarabia history, but not to others. Bessarabia was treated as a colony during the Russian rule, something which was obvious from the fact that during this period the territory was heavily colonized with foreign nationalities, education was intentionally maintained at extremely low levels, and the majority of administrative, political, and religious leaders were appointed from outside the territory by the imperial administration. Similarly, during the Soviet rule, the majority of economic investment made in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was done in Transnistria, over the Nistru River, not in Bessarabia proper. This policy was implemented especially when it came to crucial sectors, such as heavy industry and electricity generation. The consequences can be seen to this day. Moreover, similar to the period when Bessarabia had been a province of the Russian Empire, almost all of the political, religious, and administrative leaders during the Soviet period were appointed or came from outside the territory of Bessarabia. Documents from the Archive of Social-Political Organizations from Chisinau reveal that the political parties established after the independence of the Republic of Moldova in 1991 referred to the previous period as “the Soviet colonial system.” Thus, under Russian and Soviet rule, Bessarabia was mostly treated as an agricultural colony, a place of extraction, not of investment or of development. However, while the empire-colony framework applies well to some periods of Bessarabian history, it fails to describe others. During the periods when Bessarabia was part of the Principality of Moldavia, the territory was placed on par with the rest of the state. While it was a periphery, it was not a colony. The same applies to the periods when Bessarabia was part of Romania. The fact that the Romanian Government invested heavily in the education of the local peasantry was noted by western observers during the Interwar Period. In addition, during the Romanian administration of the province, the first ever institutions of higher education were opened in the province. Moreover, the Academy of Science of Moldova today points out that in contrast to the Russian policy of nondevelopment in Bessarabia, the Romanian Government sought and achieved a certain level of material development in the region, while educational and cultural levels rose substantially. The transportation and communication infrastructure also benefited from some notable investments. The local political leaders were clearly in charge of their own region and they were the ones who had voted the unification of Bessarabia with Romania. Probably most important of all, the fact that multiple Bessarabians occupied the highest echelons in the Romanian Parliament, Government, and in the Romanian Diplomatic Corps, is proof that Bessarabia was not a colony and that the Bessarabians were not second class citizens during the Romanian rule of the province. Instead, Bessarabia was an integral part of the nation-state. Prominent Bessarabians were not only directly involved in the decision-making process from Bucharest, but also came to represent the entire Romanian nation on the world stage on multiple occasions. In addition, the Church from Bessarabia was raised to the level of a metropolitan church during the Romanian administration of the province and there were significant investments made in the local church infrastructure.
Even less so than the empire-colony framework, the inbetweenness framework is also not applicable to the case of the Republic of Moldova. The concept tries to present Bessarabia as
an eternally disputed land between the Romanian realm and the Russian or Slavic realm.
This, however, is a distorted representation of history. The territory of Bessarabia had been part of the Romanian realm for many centuries, roughly half a millennium, before the Russian Empire occupied it. While the Principality of Moldavia was formed in the 14th century and included Bessarabia, there was no permanent border with the Russian Empire as late as 1792, as Russia had historically been a distant country. The first incorporation of Bessarabia into the Russian Empire was in 1812 and was done against the will of the local population who protested the territorial change. Moreover, the Treaty of Bucharest by which the Principality of Moldavia lost Bessarabia was illegal by the standards of the day since most of Moldavia was a vassal state, but not a province of the Ottoman Empire, the country which signed the treaty with the Russian Empire. As such, the first treaty which triggered the loss of Bessarabia fell into the category of res inter alios acta, a recognized law doctrine which dictates that no entity can be adversely affected by a contract without being party to that contract. Less than half a century later, in 1856, part of Bessarabia was returned to the Principality of Moldavia under international pressure. The Principality of Moldavia, including Southern Bessarabia, legally, peacefully, and democratically unified with the Principality of Wallachia in 1859, forming modern Romania.
In 1878 Romania lost Southern Bessarabia to the Russian Empire in violation of the Convention of Livadia by which the Russian Empire had guaranteed to protect the territorial integrity of Romania in exchange for free passage for its army through Romanian territory.
The local population was again not consulted with regards to the territorial change. During the Congress of Berlin from 1878, Otto von Bismarck, in addition to the delegations of Great Britain and France, pointed out that the Russian Empire had no legal title over the territory that it sought to incorporate, namely Southern Bessarabia. Moreover, Johann Kaspar Bluntschli, the great Swiss jurist of international reputation, evaluated the Russian demand as being based neither on a title, nor on a right, nor on a fact.
In 1917, the “Declaration of the Rights of the People of Russia” adopted by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets and signed by both Lenin and Stalin recognized “the right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination, even to the point of separation and the formation of an independent state.” In consequence, in 1918 Bessarabia in its entirety proclaimed independence from the Russian Empire and legally, peacefully, and democratically unified with Romania. Since part of Bessarabia, namely Southern Bessarabia, had already been a territory of modern Romania until 1878, the event from 1918 can be considered both a unification as well as a reunification.
The 1918 Union Act adopted by the Bessarabian Parliament, marking the (re)unification of Bessarabia with Romania “forever and for always,” was never cancelled, revoked, or suspended by any legitimate foreign or domestic authority. Both the Russian Empire and the USSR always lacked equivalent counterpositional documents. Bessarabia never declared independence from Romania and it never voted to unify with neither Russia nor the Soviet Union. The incorporation of Bessarabia into the Russian / Soviet realm was done exclusively through military occupation and completely lacked domestic legitimacy, while today the Russian Federation continues to maintain an illegal military occupation in the Republic of Moldova, as repeatedly recognized by the international community.
In 1920, the Treaty of Paris signed by Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan recognized Bessarabia as Romanian land based on the right to self-determination, on geographic, ethnographic, historical, and economic considerations. The establishment of borders based on self-determination had also been supported by American President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Later, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics co-signed three international treaties with Romania that implicitly recognized the belonging of Bessarabia to Romania. These were the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War from 1928, the Litvinov Protocol from 1929, and the Convention for the Definition of Aggression from 1933. Even the then isolationist United States of America implicitly recognized the belonging of Bessarabia to Romania in 1933 through a Presidential Proclamation introducing the Bessarabian immigration quota into the Romanian immigration quota one year before the USSR was recognized as a state by the United States.
In 1934, Romania and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics mutually recognized each other as states and promised to “abstain from any interference, direct or indirect, in the internal affairs and in the development” of the other side, end propaganda and interventions, not seek to implement changes in “the political or social regime” of the other side, or contribute to the dismemberment of the national territory. In 1939, both Great Britain and France issued additional guarantees that Bessarabia would remain part of Romania.
In 1940 Romania, a neutral country at peace, reluctantly gave in after two Soviet ultimatums regarding Bessarabia under the threat of being completely occupied by the Red Army, but never agreed to any treaty in this regard. Bessarabia was neither sold nor willingly relinquished by the Romanian Government. A long list of former and incumbent Romanian politicians signed a public memorandum explaining that no legal recognition was to ever be given to the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia. The occupation was described as “temporary, of course, belonging to a period of unprecedented crisis.” Concurrently, the transformation of Bessarabia into a Soviet republic, but also the redrawing of its borders, were illegal and unconstitutional by internal Soviet standards. The constitution of the USSR that was in force in 1940 forbade the government from creating new states, only pre-existing states could be annexed to the Soviet Union. Article 14 of the 1936 Soviet Constitution stated that new autonomous regions and republics could be formed, but union republics could be annexed only if they already existed. Article 18 clearly specified that the territory of the Union Republics could not be changed without their consent. However, on the territory taken from Romania, a new Soviet Republic was formed by decree on August 2nd 1940. Later, on November 4th 1940, the borders of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic were modified by another decree. As such, the creation of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic and the territorial dismemberment of Bessarabia directly violated the Soviet Fundamental Law. Moreover, with regards to Southern Bessarabia, the new territorial mutilation did not even follow the boundaries of the Southern Bessarabia designated between 1856 and 1878. Thus, absolutely no legitimacy, legality, or precedent could be invoked for this territorial dismemberment of Bessarabia.
Between 1941 and 1944 Romania, having entered the Axis Camp, regained control of Bessarabia. At the end of World War II, being occupied by the Red Army, Romania was forced to accept the Prut River as the new Romanian-Soviet border through the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty.
This was done in violation of the 1941 Atlantic Charter co-signed by the USSR and the other
Allied Powers, which stated that border changes had to be done based on the freely expressed will of the people concerned and that the signatory countries did not seek territorial aggrandizement. In fact, similar to the 1812 occupation, the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia during World War II was received with massive opposition coming from the local population, including armed resistance, and the anti-Soviet movement in the region lasted until the mid-1950s. Like the erection of the Berlin Wall, the division of Romania in the 1940s had a profound impact on the population, in some cases ripping families apart, separating mothers from their children, and alienating spouses from each other. After the withdrawal of the Red Army from Romania in 1958, even the Romanian communists started questioning the legitimacy of Soviet rule over Bessarabia and the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu repeatedly upheld Romania’s historical rights over Bessarabia during direct discussions with the highest echelons of the Soviet leadership, including with Leonid Brezhnev.
In June 1991, the United States Senate passed Resolution 148 explicitly recognizing the Romanian identity of the Principality of Moldavia in its entirety, including of Bessarabia. The 1917 independence of Bessarabia and its 1918 unification with Romania were evaluated as being both democratic and in line with the official policies of the Soviet Government at the time. It also recognized that the taking of Bessarabia by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the 28th of June 1940 had been an invasion of Romania and a violation of self-determination principles, thus contradicting 50 years of Soviet propaganda which had repeatedly claimed that Romania had betrayed Bessarabia. The American resolution dispelled the idea that the 1940 cession of Bessarabia by Romania had been a voluntary, mutually-consented decision, before enumerating the considerable list of international treaties signed by the USSR which the Soviets violated when occupying Bessarabia in 1940 and in 1944. Furthermore, it was acknowledged that in the first two decades of the Soviet occupation, there was a massive number of Romanians deported to Central Asia and Siberia from the territories occupied by the USSR. The resolution also recommended that the United States Government should support the reunification of Bessarabia with Romania.
In August 1991, the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova emphasized the lack of legality of all Russian and Soviet occupations of Bessarabia throughout the centuries and the inexistence of consent from the local population for the dismemberment of national territory. The annexation of Bessarabia and the mutilation of its borders were shown to be illegal both from the perspective of international legal standards and in violation of the constitutional prerogatives of the Supreme Soviet. The Declaration also called for national unity, besides designating Romanian as the state language. The 1991 Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova is a culmination of arguments explaining why the removal of Bessarabia from the Romanian realm was unwarranted. Since on the basis of it, the Republic of Moldova was recognized as a state by most countries around the world and by the United Nations, the Declaration of Independence is both a historical and an internationally recognized legal document that is fully in force today. Again, Russia lacks an equivalent counterpositional document. The Moldovan Declaration of Independence shattered another Soviet myth which had been aggressively promoted for half a century, namely that the USSR “liberated Bessarabia from Romanian oppression.” Foreign researchers have classified the Republic of Moldova as an exceptional state, noting that it was the only Soviet republic to proclaim independence in order to become part of another state, Romania, instead of building its own independent political future.
In December 1991, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics legally dissolved itself, thus making null and void the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty delineating Romania’s eastern border as being on the Prut River. Besides being null and void as of 1991, the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty may have been null ab initio as well since the document mentioned that the Romanian-Soviet border was to be designated based on “the Soviet-Roumanian Agreement of June 28, 1940”, but there never was such a treaty between Romania and the Soviet side to begin with.
In December 2001, the European Court of Human Rights issued a favorable verdict for the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia, upholding the rights of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the Republic of Moldova. Despite its grossly imperfect implementation over the following decade and a half, the 2001 decision of the European Court of Human Rights is another international recognition for the belonging of Bessarabia to the Romanian realm. The Moldovan Government was forced to pay reparations and the implementation of the court ruling in the Republic of Moldova was monitored by the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe. In April 2004 the Supreme Court of Justice of the Republic of Moldova recognized the spiritual, canonical, and historical succession of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia, a component part of the Romanian Orthodox Church, from the Interwar Period to the present day. Also in 2004, an additional clarification from the European Court of Human Rights upheld the property rights of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia as well. Under this decision, virtually the entire local church infrastructure of the Republic of Moldova must be taken from the Russian-controlled Metropolitan Church of Moldova and returned to its rightful owner, the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia, the branch of the Romanian Orthodox Church present in the Republic of Moldova. This is an ongoing process and it affects some 650 buildings.
Finally, in 2013, based on the 1991 Declaration of Independence, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova ruled that the Romanian language is the official state language, which meant an additional legal recognition of the document of independence. Most important of all, the Declaration of Independence was declared by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova to be above, to supersede, any and all constitutions and laws. Thus, 201 years after the first Russian occupation of Bessarabia, the belonging of the territory to the Romanian realm was cemented by the highest and sole authority on constitutional jurisdiction in the Republic of Moldova. All these expressions and juridical recognitions of Bessarabia’s Romanian identity occurred even as the Russian Empire, later the Soviet Union, later the Russian Federation, annihilated multiple generations of pro-Romanian intellectuals from Bessarabia through deportations, unlawful imprisonment, summary executions, administrative violence, covert intelligence operations
and assassinations, illegal military occupations, aggressive censorship, and suffocating propaganda. In addition, in the realm of international relations Russia in its many forms always boasted an exponentially higher capacity for power projection than Romania when it came to protecting and promoting interests. In conclusion, both from a domestic and from an international perspective, and concurrently, both from a historical and from a legal perspective, Bessarabia is part of the Romanian realm. Thus, it is inaccurate to present Bessarabia as an instance of inbetweenness.
As a final word on methodology, it should be pointed out that this research does not intend to be a purely historical one, but rather one meant to touch upon various social sciences. As such, it contains multiple methodologies and points of view, the most important being a historical approach and a political science approach, but also including notions dealing with domestic
and international law, sociology, linguistics, ethnography, economics, and other fields. Multidisciplinarity is no longer seen as a threat, but rather as an asset, even in the slow to change academic environment of Eastern Europe. Even so, a thorough historical research is deemed fundamental towards achieving a comprehensive understanding of today’s Republic of Moldova.
A superficial or insufficient analysis of history is one of the primary reasons why the Republic
of Moldova is misunderstood by some researchers, politicians, and ordinary people today.
Due to this, the historical approach received more attention particularly in the first few chapters of the book.
Overall, the author used a comprehensive research methodology. Primary research in the form of original archival records analysis and in-person interviews was complemented with secondary research in an attempt to provide the highest possible quality of research. In total, primary and secondary sources from more than 10 languages were analyzed and included in this book. The author is fluent in Romanian, Spanish, and English, while expert help was used for the other languages when needed. All in all, this PhD dissertation seeks to provide a unique contribution to world historiography by analyzing the recently celebrated first quarter century of Moldovan independence based on a vast array of new sources. At the same time, it brings forward many older sources that have been repeatedly used in Romanian / Moldovan historiography, but have so far not been made available to the international scientific community due to the language barrier.