Vasily O. Klyuchevsky, a great Russian historian, once wrote that the Russian history had so many unexplored facts and issues that even just touching upon them many young scientists may shoot to fame. This is not about just studying the past, but also analyzing the current geopolitical realities.
Moldavism, an ideology based on the principles of inviolability of the Moldavian identity and the inherent value of the Moldavian sociocultural world, remains unexplored by the Russian social sciences and the present-day political experts. Inherently, throughout centuries, theorists and active creators of the Moldavism political doctrine and social practice considered the preservation of the Moldavian ethnicity in the system of deep fraternity and friendship with Russia backed by a relevant project of the state political integration. Unfortunately, the true value of the possibilities of Moldavism as an important Russian tool of geopolitical and strategic actions on the Balkans has not been considered. Eventually, the Moldavian people suffered tangible losses that could be avoided along with the efforts to undermine the Russian influence in the given region.
Unfortunately, Moldavism is not the only unexplored issue. Winning on the battlefields for centuries, Russia has not been as good in the diplomatic field, failing to build the social reality and use the spirit and the letter of international agreements within its strategic and tactical interests. This is about the peoples and countries bordering with Russia and looking forward to be historical parts of the multi-national and multi-cultural Russian-Eurasian civilization. Very often the Russian officials were insufficiently attentive and competent in regional specifics and there was regular aspiration to settle big problems without much pain ignoring the interests of their brothers and “calming” their strategic rivals. Eventually, our brothers were suffering defeats and facing numerous anguishes, while rivals were taking our concessions as weakness. The historical tragedies of the Zakarpattian Rusyns and South Ossetians have been described repeatedly. Now it is time to look into the real role of the Moldavian factor of the Russian geopolitics, the more so as it has been actualized recently. If Russia suffers a final defeat on the Moldavian chessboard, our fraternal people may face the threat of forceful Romanization. All this will spark serious geopolitical problems of global level considering the strategic location of the Dniester-Prut region.
In the period of post-Soviet Perestroika and the dramatic 1990s that followed it, the late Soviet elite that liquidated the great superpower from above threw Moldova into the hands of the Romanian geopolitical rival distancing itself from the internal social processes happening there. As a result, Moldova has been presented by Russian media mostly as a totally anti-Russian territory that had somehow occurred in the Soviet Union and now supplies dozens and hundreds of semi-literate migrants to the Russian labor market. At the same time, a new Moldavian political group sponsored by Bucharest came to power on the wave of post-Soviet processes and made the pro-Romanian and anti-Russian sentiments dominate in public. The doctrine of Romanism has dominated at the educational and scientific establishments in Moldova with the indirect support of the Russian elite.
Fortunately, not all Moldavian intellectuals agreed to follow the crowd and the mainstream position. Thanks to brilliant studies of contemporary Moldavian historians – V.Y. Grosul, P.M. Shornikov, N.V. Babilunga, V.N. Stati, B.G. Bomeshko and others, during the last two decades, many issues of the past that were mythologized by the state doctrines of Romanism in Moldova have come to light. At the same time, strange as it may seem, in Russia those studies are little known. Here are the major facts directly relevant to the matter under consideration. The Moldavian people have more than 500-year-long history of statehood. The linguonym “Moldavians” and the Moldavian language developing under strong Slavonic influence are 500-year-old too.
The role of Slavdom in the establishment of the Moldavian ethnic identity and statehood was big. The Slavonic language was used in the Church chronicles and in the government and commercial documents. The Principality of Moldova was called “Rusovlahia” and “Moldoslavia” throughout centuries. Stephen III of Moldavia, commonly known as Stephen the Great, the Prince of the Principality of Moldova, married Russian princess Eudokia and was speaking on the Slavonian language with her.
The history of Moldavians is a kind of tragic and at the same time heroic epos. On the periphery of the Orthodox civilization, Moldavia constantly fought the powerful Turkish and Crimean-Tatar hordes. Yet in the 15th century, Stephen the Great saw the unity with Moscow and a political unity with it in the future as a saving project for the future of the Moldavian statehood. That idea has grown into the centuries-old dream of the Moldavian people. It emerged again in the 18th century and was reflected in the friendship of the Russian Emperor Peter the Great and Moldavian Prince Dmitrie Cantemir in the 18th century. The military situation of that period did not allow them to achieve a political union of the state level. However, such trends continued in the Moldavian state throughout the 18th century.
It is noteworthy that the relations of Moldavia and its neighbor Wallachia (Muntenia) that later became the main part of Romania were extremely complicated. Numerous wars regularly broke out between Moldavia and Wallachia within several centuries. Difference of mentality, culture and language prevented the consolidation and further ethnic unification of the Moldavians and Wallachians. Under the Treaty of Bucharest of 1812 that put an end to the Russian-Turkish war, the Eastern Moldavia became part of Russia with wide autonomy and new opportunities for the Moldavian people to develop and use their potential.
At the same time, in the Western Moldova that remained under Ottoman control, the ideas of Moldavism experienced crisis. This happened mostly due to the wrong government of many Moldavian rulers of that period and the understanding of the fact that Russia would not try to unite those lands or pay any special attention to them in the geopolitical conditions of that period. Those years, in the Danubian Principalities (Western Moldova, Wallachia, Transylvania), the idea of Romanism and a single nation-building within the borders of the above region was maturing.
The Russian diplomacy had been supporting the idea of establishing united Romania quite actively and practically for several decades. However, after a great range of political, organizational and legal actions of Russia necessary for that process, the country that was weakened by the defeat in the Crimean War of 1853-55 proved ousted by European big powers of that time from the process of settling the territorial issues in the Balkans. France, Austria, and Germany tackled the Romanian national project with the help of the Ottoman Turkey on the radically anti-Russian matrix. Besides, the Moldavian ethnic population found themselves in a very discriminated, suppressed and oppressed situation. Unlike most West European nations having a common wide economic, historical and cultural foundation, Romania was hastily built “from top to bottom” embracing the Danube regions with population having fundamentally different mentality and culture.
The Romanian authorities suppressed the attempts to preserve Moldavism in the new conditions. Suffice it to remember the Iasi uprising of 1859 and the actual destruction of the Moldavian Neamț Monastery that refused to enforce the new catholic rites of the Romanian church.
In the new Romanization project, the Walachian and especially its western Olten social and cultural element dominated over the other elements. The artificially created Romanian language was mostly a kind of synthesis of the Olten dialect and intensively introduced borrowings from the French language. The number of such borrowings accounted for more than one-third of the new Romanian vocabulary. This greatly impeded the cultural development of Moldavians.
The anti-Russian, militarist, anti-Eurasian nature of the Romanian national project was observed within the next 150 years. Even during the Soviet Union, Romania was a kind of “Trojan Horse” in the Soviet-led East-European systems of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact Organization. The Romanian aggressive nationalism oppressing the national minorities residing in its territory ran contrary to the Eurasian spirit of uniting peoples and nations on the basis of common ideology and conception.
However, Romania’s anti-Russian undertakings became more evident after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Romania came out as an active outpost of the Western geopolitics deterring and curbing the Russian influence. Romania’s active role in unleashing the Transnistrian War of 1992 was one of the key positions in the new bloc of NATO expanded up to the post-Soviet borders, a strategy of deployment of the U.S. anti-aircraft defense systems in the first decade of the 21st century - these are just few examples of the above tendency.
The Romanian threat to the Eurasian civilization has sharply actualized in 2016. On October 30, for the first time within many years, Moldova will hold direct presidential election. Many public opinion polls have revealed significant changes in the public consciousness. More and more people come out for pro-Russian and pro-Eurasian vector of development. The negative attitude to the current pro-Romanian government coupled with the lack of opportunity for Moldavians working in the West to make career and have personal achievements have activated the historical east-orthodox social and cultural codes in them. In such situation, the leader of the Moldavian socialists Igor Dodon has big chances to win the upcoming presidential election and gradually reform the social and political life of Moldova in the abovementioned vector.
In this light, an attempt to organize another wave of “Moldavian Maidan” by the ruling pro-Romanian lobby in Chisinau is a quite realistic scenario. The current Moldavian regulatory framework backed with Moldavian-Romanian intergovernmental agreements of 2010-2011 allows the Moldavian government to apply to Bucharest for deployment of Romanian security forces in the territory of Moldova to suppress mass disorders. After such plan is implemented, Moldova’s occupation will be a matter of time, precisely, of a few months.
If implemented, such scenario will create all the conditions for maximum escalation of the Transnistrian conflict by 2017 in much worse conditions for Russia’s geopolitical interests and security of Transnistria. Considering that Romania is a NATO member, such flare up of the conflict may grow into a military tension hotbed on a world-wide scale. Even if there is no large-scale tensions, Russia will lose Moldova as a potential heart of the Eurasian space. As for Transnistria, Russia’s the key and only stronghold in the given region, it will find itself in an incomparably more vulnerable and shaky state.
The chances to implement such scenario within the coming months are not high. Romania is not an influential country in Europe. Besides, it is surrounded with unfriendly neighbors. Without direct sanctions from U.S., it will hardly dare to stake everything. In U.S. they are busy with the election campaigns, as the outcome of voting will determine the political life of U.S. for the next four years. The U.S. geo-strategists may have no desire to deal with Moldova’s problems now. However, in a 1.5-year when the domestic political situation stabilizes in America, Uncle Sam may remember its interests in the Balkans and encourage its junior brother Romania to act more efficiency towards Moldova like it deed in Georgia in 2008 prior to the five-day war.
Anyway, it is time for Moscow to stop treating Moldova as a “slice” given to Romania’s control during “perestroika” and regularly punished with economic and information measures for its true and imaginary wrongdoings. The ruling groups in Russia must use all possible social, political, financial and economic levers and relevant civil society structures to prevent another wave of “Chisinau Maidan.” Besides active measures of “public diplomacy” contributing to establishment of a versatile dialogue between Moscow and Chisinau, it is necessary to intensify a parallel delicate and accurate dialogue with the current elites in Chisinau on the principle “financial and economic preferences in exchange for political – ideological transformation.” A range of measures are needed to track and promptly respond to the political processes in the country, in particular, efficiently monitoring of all kind of elections and expressing consistent stance on the level of their legitimacy.
It is necessary to realize that Romania has always been and will remain as one of Russia’s key geostrategic rivals on the European contingent due to its “parent matrix”. In other words, curbing Romania’s influence in the Balkans, Russia will its stability and security. In this light, it would be useful for Russia, for instance, to support the territorial claims of Hungary for the present-day Romanian Transylvania, establish close contacts with the regionalists in the Western Moldova, take a range of other measures to reduce the weight of Romania in the general European processes. The most important thing for Russia is to support and protect the Moldavian identity in the post-Soviet area. This is impossible, unless Russia increases its influence on the everyday political, economic, social and cultural processes inside the present-day Moldova.
Approximately six months ago, a book entitled “Transnistria Today: Problems and Prospects of the Country’s Activity” was published. In the book we proved that the present-day Transnistrian Republic is an important point ensuring security of the activity of the entire Russian civilizations and its loss may cost too high to Russia. It is high time to understand that it is extremely difficult to save Transnistria distancing itself from the current problems of today’s Moldova. Both the Transnistrian and Moldavian publics need more Russian presence, Moscow’s efforts to integrate them into the Russian-Eurasian geopolitical and social and cultural field. Although the Moldavian and Transnistrian vectors are different for Russia’s foreign policy, their consistent implementation must become synchronous. Enforcement of the given principle will be the pledge of success of the foreign policy of our top-down governance in the Dniester-Prut region.
Alexander Sergeyev for EADaily