IDIS panel brings together Moldovan, Transnistrian experts

March 1, 2013

News SourceInstitute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS) “Viitorul”, Moldova

Moldovan and Transnistrian experts debated the nature of Transnistrian nationalism at a February 22 panel discussion organized by the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS) “Viitorul”.

The event  focused on the findings of  “How to get rid of post-Sovietness,” a recently released report produced by IDIS, the Institute of World Policy (Ukraine) and the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies. The discussion, held in Causeni on the right bank of the Dniester River, was part of  “Building trust between both banks of the Dniester river – Training of experts in public policy,” an IDIS project that aims to train experts in public policy, in partnership with local, civil and political actors. The program is funded by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

Participants included academics from Moldova (Moldova State University and the University of Balti “A. Russo”) and Transnistria (University of Tiraspol “Shevchenko”), political commentators, psychologists and business leaders.

Elena Bobkova, head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Tiraspol “T. Shevchenko,” told the gathering that post-Soviet traits predominate in Transnistria, noting that polls indicate that more than 70% support the breakaway region’s government. She said that paternalism and respect for authority are deeply rooted in the hearts of Transnistrian citizens, and that they sympathize with their leadership’s authoritarian ideology, considering it superior to democracy.

Support for Romanian culture is considered a “blue blood ideology,” Bobkova said, and that Transnistrians identify this ideology with elites from the right bank of the Dniester. She said that people from the left bank perceive themselves as a “last post-Soviet bastion,” and described  three levels of Transnistrian identity: 1) ethnic (Moldovan, Russian, Ukrainian); 2) national (Transnistrian); and 3) supranational (Orthodox Slavism).

Corneliu Ciurea, an IDIS analyst, told the gathering that Moldovans have a predisposition to harness positively the Soviet past, an important element of post-Sovietism. He identified the features of post-Sovietism as hypocrisy and duplicity, a “VIP culture,” a constant feeling of envy, accepting the idea of collective poverty, but the personal rejection of poverty (at least, ostensibly).

The discussion revealed considerable differences of how the Soviet past is seen on opposite banks of the river.

First, the Transnistrians pointed to the so-called “social package,” referring to social guarantees in the Soviet period, as proof of the superiority of the Soviet regime. The Moldovan experts countered that the importance of the social package has decreased, as “overloaded states”  must demonstrate economic efficiency. In addition, the Soviet era has undergone a process of critical reassessment in Russia itself, supposedly a model state for the  Transnistrian experts.

Secondly, the role of the Soviet Union during World War II sparked debate. The Transnistrian representatives said that the Moldovan experts underestimate the role the Soviet Union played in the war, while the Moldovans said that Transnistrians ignore the contributions made by the allies of the U.S.S.R.

Third, Transnistrian experts said that the Moldovan view of the Soviet era is distorted  by Western ideology. The Moldovan experts responded that their ideological lens is accepted throughout the modern world, including Russia, and that the Transnistrian rejection of that world view puts the region at risk of lacking modernity.

The event closed with a traditional visit to a Purcari winery, where experts from the both banks of the Dniester attended a wine tasting.

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