Consequences of Union and of “Reunion-Vossoedinenie”. Comparative analysis, Part II. IPN debate

The period of the Union, which lasted from 1918 until 1940, and also the period that is conventionally called “Reunion – Vossoedinenie” of 1940-1941, and which continued from 1944 until the dissolution of the former USSR, are two distinct historical periods with obvious consequences for Moldovan society. Their comparative analysis can serve as a database and as conscious support for the civilizational choice made by all the citizens of the Republic of Moldova in the current period full of challenges and dangers which, in a way, stimulate the urgency of taking a decision in this regard. In the second part of the public debate “Consequences of the Union and of the “Reunion-Vossoedinenie”. Comparative analysis. Part II”, staged by IPN News Agency, the participants discussed culture, education and research and also issues related to the national identity of Moldovans. The first part focused on the political, social and economic sectors.

According to the permanent expert of IPN’s project Igor Boțan, the culture of a nation is limited to the development, cultivation and preservation of history and language, as specific features of the nation’s existence. “National communities have as a main characteristic their spiritual and material works: language, myths, religion, history, art, science, and also material objects that are inspired and bear the imprints of spiritual culture. Nations aim to expand their borders to the limit covered by their culture. The feelings of belonging to the respective nation are closely related to the knowledge and enrichment of the national culture,” noted the expert.

Igor Boțan said that education is a social activity with the objective of preparing people, the new generation, as an active element of social life. Education in a community must focus on the main factors that ensure the integrity of a national culture. It goes to the language, which is the means of communication between members and, therefore, the factor of internal cohesion of the system. Another factor is the ethnicity, which represents the fact and consciousness of belonging to a particular ethnic community and, thereby, the factor that ensures the solidarity of members of that community. Among the factors is also the religion that is next to ethnicity, the source of the fundamental rules of existence in the community and represents the basis of the conception of existence, the world and life in that society, ensuring the connection between generations.

At the same time, the political institutions and economic life are the factor that represents the administrative and material basis of group consciousness and national identity. “A culture can be characterized by a higher or lower degree of homogeneity or heterogeneity. If we refer to the concept of national identity, this is characterized by language – an essential aspect of national identity. It is also characterized by national culture, achievements in literature, art, science, technology, by the set of values that is shared by a particular nation, religion; symbols of the nation, etc. National identity is linked to the idea of nation and nation-state,” said Igor Boțan.

Moldova State University rector Igor Sharov, doctor of historical sciences, considers that 1812 represents the annexation of Bessarabia, while 1940 – the reannexation of Bessarabia with the respective consequences that occurred. “For me there are no other notions to see, on the one hand, the drama that this patch of land went through during the 106 years of tsarist occupation from 1812 to 1918. On the other hand, the period between 1918 and 1940 was a golden period, both for education and culture,” said the rector.

In his opinion, what happened between 1812 and 1918 was only a bad period for Bessarabia. The first utopian ideas about preserving the autonomy in 1812-1828 were only thoughts and soon it was understood that there can be no trace of autonomy, of preserving the Romanian language in churches, of preserving national traditions. So, in 1873 Bessarabia was transformed into a simple Russian governorate.

“One: Bessarabia ranked last among the governorates of the Tsarist Empire in terms of literate people. These are the data of the 1897 census. Two: from the point of view of religion,the  Romanian language was forbidden in churches. It was the result of a policy of denationalization following the annexation of Bessarabia to the Tsarist Empire. In my opinion, these figures are relevant. Not to mention the severance of any links between the two banks of the Prut, the prohibition of Romanian literature, of specialized literature,” noted Igor Sharov.

He considers the interwar period – 1918-1940 – was a golden period in terms of investments in education, in the field of culture. “To my mind, the Romanian government has used all levers to integrate all the provinces that have united into Romania. The situation was different. We have, on the one hand, Bucovina, Banat, Transylvania – with a much higher level of development. We have the Old Kingdom and then the case of Bessarabia, which was at the lowest level. Under such very complicated conditions, by 1930, the number of literate people, practically for 10 years, increased from 15% to 30%. This is as a result of the pursued policies,” explained the doctor of historical sciences. According to him, results were achieved in a short period of time because significant investments were made in the education reform and in the system itself, with emphasis on disadvantaged groups, especially in the case of Bessarabia.

In the context of the discussed topic, vice-president of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, writer Ion Hadârcă, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, a corresponding member of the ASM, quoted Grigore Vieru. “I would appeal to a very compact definition that encompasses almost all these dramatic aspects of our history, the definition of the late Grigore Vieru – Bessarabia is a child wrapped in barbed wire. It has a shattering symbolism to which I cannot add anything except the fact that it was not only wrapped, but also torn apart by the demons of hyperbole, those who came and got involved in the destinies of this earth,” noted Ion Hadârcă.

In his opinion, a historical retrospective is needed to see where we came from and where we inherited this mountain of problems that keep eating us up from. “I refer not only to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which also had an impact on the destinies of the people here, a crucial one, but also to the years 1812, 1711, the period of Cantemir and Peter I – in fact where all this drama begins and where all these claims of the colossus from the north come from. And also to the years 1856-1859, the Crimean War, because in fact we relate to everything that happens around us. And the Crimean War somehow untied the hands of politicians in this space, those who came up with the ideas of affirming national consciousness and forming the unitary Moldovan-Wallachian state after the revolution of 1848,” said the ASM vice-president.

The writer noted that Vasile Alecsandri also made extraordinary approaches to European courts to make the most of that openness to freedom of a number of European peoples. And this openness to freedom allowed the establishment of Romanian statehood as a beginning and as a foundation of protection.

“During this period, I found a very interesting detail – the great Russian prose writer Leo Tolstoy, who participated in the Crimean War and had a route afterwards, after the loss of Sevastopol, detaching himself from military activity, passed through Odessa, Chisinau, Vaslui, Iasi, Bucharest and when he came back through Chisinau tried to found a magazine, to find a circle of Russian intellectuals and realized that he could not do it because he had no one to talk to. The officers were involved in balls and contacts with the native intelligentsia were practically at zero level. He became discouraged and left. It is an example that has two aspects. During this period, the great intellectuals, for example, the descendants of the Hasdean branch, went across the Prut River, began to assert themselves spectacularly there, being founders of national archives, magazines, theaters,” stated Ion Hadârcă.

According to him, the values cannot be detached from the Romanian space. “They had an overwhelming influence, perhaps also because of an even greater ambition to assert themselves, to demonstrate their intellectual capacities and to resist the trials of history. The interwar period was really a golden period, when the national conscience was saved,” said the vice-president of the Academy of Sciences.

The public debate entitled “Consequences of the Union and of the “Reunion-Vossoedinenie”. Comparative analysis. Part II” was the 34th 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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