Violence is closer than ever for the Republic of Moldova. the fear, On the list of Putin’s conquests, large – not only because of the breakaway region of Transnistria, where the 14th Russian Army is based. Explosions have been reported from there since the day before yesterday. How big is the danger to the neighboring country of Ukraine? What is its relationship with Russia so far? Judith Heitkamp spoke to Moldovan expert Klaus Buchmann, a retired Romanian and long-time president of the Moldova Institute in Leipzig, founded in 2015.
Judith Heitkamp: After the war broke out, the Republic of Moldova was very quickly targeted and officially applied for membership in the European Union. At the same time, according to Putin’s logic, as a former Soviet republic, it is probably part of the ancestral Russia. They have had exchanges for decades and are still in contact with Moldova. In your experience, where do cultural ties go?
Klaus Buchmann: Today they go mainly to Romania or Europe. This is the trend. Even if there have always been governments that take a pro-Russian stance, one can still say that the majority of the Moldovan elite are clearly inclined towards Romanians. However, a clear shift towards the EU can only be observed now with the new president, Maya Sandhu.
This dichotomy between western and eastern orientation extends through the entire history of this region, and in fact with intense conflict. How does that happen
The Republic of Moldova with the breakaway region of Transnistria
The problem is historical: this relatively narrow strip between the rivers Prut and Dniester was originally part of the Roman Principality of Moldova, which has existed since the 15th century. In 1812 it had to cede the eastern part to Russia. Russia had practically annexed this area and has since developed it into a Russian-controlled area. After World War I, when the Russian Empire collapsed, Romania was able to regain control of this region. This short period of affiliation with Romania between the two world wars led to the development of a relatively strong Romanian consciousness in the elites, and to a large extent also in the Moldovan population.
During World War II, the population suffered from a “brutal Soviet,” as the historical and abstract term indicates. what does that mean?
This means that a greater part of the elite of the intelligentsia either escaped or were somehow removed through deportations, murders, and other brutal stories. And not only was the Russian language presented as the dominant language in all spheres of social life, but the Romanian language spoken there was also valued and converted as Moldovan, as a special language. The introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet alone made this sense of alienation between Moldova and Romania clearly visible
Was this Moldovan invention accepted?
It had to be accepted. There was no other choice for the people. As I said, the elites were largely eliminated, so a new class of intelligentsia had to be built, who at first were completely Soviet-oriented and also used this Moldovan language. Only in the 1960s did writers and scholars become familiar with Roman origins and belonging to Romanians. This subsequently led to this Moldovan being expelled after 1989/1990 and the formal reintroduction of Romanian as an official language.
Moldova expert Klaus Buchmann
And how is it today? A similar situation was found in Ukraine. There is now, he says, a rivalry between the two languages, Ukrainian and Russian. How are Romanian and Russian in Moldova?
The rivalry still exists, but it is no longer felt because Russia has been pushed back to the point where there is no longer any indication of a dominant role. Of course, many Russians and other Russian-speaking minorities are saddened by the loss. But we see that even in Gagauzia, in the small autonomous region where Gagauz lives, a Turkic-speaking Christian population who lives entirely in Russian, they are now even beginning to meet with Romanian. They are systematically learning the Romanian language and want to agree on a unified cultural policy with the central government.
On the other hand, how deep are the experiences with Stalinism and its purifications in the collective memory?
This is very deep. We conducted a large number of interviews with representatives of different social classes, and in doing so, we also discussed experiences from the Soviet era. Some of them are very negative and very stressful.
Fear of the exclamation “The Russians are coming”?
Thousands of Russian soldiers are stationed there as well, although twice in the 1990s there were contractual agreements to withdraw these soldiers. Also an interesting point…
I agree. So many soldiers, so much military equipment – it should have been withdrawn long ago. But it practically did not happen.
This is very strange. I am not aware of any evidence of the presence of armed or extremist anti-Russian groups in Moldova. They are a relatively peaceful people and I am not aware of any extremist groups there. I think this is a provocation that Russia itself did.