Anatol Țăranu: After 1918, after Union, European-style modernization took place in Bessarabia

After the Union of 1918, the population of Bessarabia learned the democratic rules, electoral processes were instituted and the human rights were respected, historian Anatol Țăranu stated in a public debate staged by IPN News Agency. According to him, after the Union of 1918, the territory between the Prut and the Nistru Rivers underwent advanced European-style modernization, the native population being simultaneously protected from the horrors of the Stalinist regime.

In May 1812, Bessarabia was detached and annexed to the Russian Empire. The historian noted that the period of over 100 years, characteristic of the tsarist domination, for the territory between the Prut and the Nistru meant a decline in terms of development of society. Although the governorate saw particular economic and demographic growth, it was colonial development and the native population was oppressed and disenfranchised.

“After 1812, Bessarabia underwent a kind of modernization. We cannot deny that development took place in Bessarabia. The population in Bessarabia increased 5-6 times in the period from 1812 until the census of 1897. But this was colonial-style modernization. It was modernization characteristic of the countries of Africa, English India. The main element of colonial modernization is denationalization. Yes, the economy developed, positive changes took place in agriculture, but from the viewpoint of societal development there was a steep collapse, denationalization” stated Anatol Țăranu.

According to the historian, after 1918, Bessarabia made progress culturally, socially and economically and a number of reforms were started, including the agrarian and electoral reforms. During the 22 years of existence of Bessarabia within the Romanian state, democratic rules, specific to the interwar period, were established.

“What happened in Bessarabia after 1918, after the Union, and this is a fundamental consequence, was European-style modernization – Europeanist modernization. And the political consequence of this European-style modernization was that the Bessarabians learned the rules of the democratic game, the rules of democratic organization of society. The multiple elections that took place in Bessarabia, with all the reservations characteristic of that time, were perfectly synchronized with the democratic processes in Europe. There was secret, direct ballot. The Bessarabians learned what electoral democracy meant and learned what respect for human rights meant, in a formula characteristic of the interwar period,” explained the historian.

He also said that thanks to the Union of 1918, the Bessarabians were protected from the red terror, deportations and famine that followed the takeover of the territory by the Soviet Union.

“One of the fundamental political consequences that affected Bessarabia between the wars was the fact that the population of this territory was protected from all the horrors of the regime in the Soviet Union, namely famine, collectivization, civil war, violation of human rights, elements related to the Stalinist terror. A lot of Bessarabians, entire families are alive today due to the fact that in Bessarabia the chain of life was not interrupted, but this would have happened if Bessarabia had been part of the Soviet Union. In Transnistria, during the Holodomor of 1932-1933, more than 20,000 people died because of famine alone. In Bessarabia, this phenomenon wasn’t witnessed in the interwar period,” said Anatol Țăranu.

The public debate entitled “Consequences of the Union and of the “Reunion-Vossoedinenie”. Comparative analysis. Part I” was the 33rd installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the past on confidence and peace building processes”, which is carried out with the support of the German Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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