The current war waged by Russia against Ukraine is, up to a particular moment, similar to the Russo-Moldovan war of 1992. Now, as then, the formal pretext for starting the war was a secessionist conflict caused by Moscow, which invoked the necessity of defending the rights of the Russian-speaking population. Evidently, the secessionist conflicts in Moldova and Ukraine had particular internal motivations. However, if Moscow hadn’t become involved, the armed conflict could have been avoided. But a war was triggered in both of the cases, with the propaganda machine of Moscow working at maximum power to sell, not without success, both of the wars to the population inside Russia to the advantage of those from the Kremlin. The century-old tradition of Russian society resides in the acceptance of the deformation of history so as to always serve the imperialist political interests of the regime. The support and influence enjoyed by Putin’s policy to reform “historical Russia” derives from here, this policy having profound connotations in the Russian collective mentality and not being at all a recent political phenomenon. At the moment, over 80% of the Russian citizens support the war in Ukraine, being sure that the Russian army fights against the Nazis in Ukraine. The same situation was witnessed in 1992, when Moscow’s propaganda validated the perception of the ordinary Russian citizen about the so-called atrocities of the “Romanian fascists” in Transnistria.
Accepts war as political solution method
As part of the former Soviet Union, several generations of people were educated in the spirit of “just wars” in which the unshaken brotherhood of the Soviet people based on the limitless generosity of the older brother – the people of Russia – won. Immense propagandistic efforts were made to secure the victory of the Soviet people, in accordance with the perceptions of Soviet propaganda, united inside based on the fraternal relations of different ethnic groups against German fascism. As a result, the Russian cultural mainstream accepts the war as a political solution method. This is how can be explained the fact that by the example of the war in Afghanistan, which was an unjust, occupational war for the Soviet army, there was created and accepted by society an enormous propagandistic narrative on the brotherhood of the former “Afghans”, which in many former union republics continues to exist. This perception was kept even if many of those who fought hand in hand against the Mujahideen, in only several years of the withdrawal of the Soviets from Afghanistan, found themselves on different sides of the barricades in fraternal wars inside the former Soviet Union. This practice manifested itself more pronouncedly during both of the wars in Chechnya, when Russian society accepted multiple atrocities of the military, while the capital Groznyy was besieged by the Russian army and almost razed to the ground, with a lot of civilians being killed. Today, these war methods are widely used in Ukraine. Many wonder how the barbarous methods of the Russian army against civilians can be explained, where this obsession to destroy peaceful cities comes from, where this lack of scruples in killing civilians who form part of the Russian world, in flagrant contradiction with the propagandistic narrative about the fraternal people, comes from?
Marshal Zhukov could have been proud!
The answer to this question should be looked for in the cultural, politic, propagandistic, ideological context in which the Russian society lives and is educated, stating from the ordinary citizen and ending with Russian military commanders of all ranks. For Russia, the experience of World War II in the formation of political views about the war in the representatives of all the social strata is decisive. Paradoxically, if we look at Russia’s history, we see that they mercilessly destroyed the own cities with the aim of keeping the political and military capacities to respond to the enemy. It happened so during the Napoleonic Wars, when big cities, such as Moscow, were burned. Let’s remember Chisinau in 1941, when the pulling out Soviets pitilessly dynamited the main buildings of the city. We should remember the call of the famous Russian Marshal Zhukov, who, briefing the subordinate generals for the 1945 attack on Berlin, ordered an offensive without sparing the lives of the Soviet soldiers, arguing the Russian women will give birth to new soldiers instead of those who died in the line of duty.
We should realize that this thinking and behavioral archetype in Russian society is based on a cultural, historiographical, literary, ideological and propagandistic tradition that is hundreds of years old and that is permanently reproduced by the official Russian propaganda. The Russian collective mentality instantaneously becomes hostage to the state propaganda and this propaganda is fueled not only by an entire cultural tradition, but also by the way in which the Russian political regime is structured. It is a structure that, with rare and short periods of exception, is eminently authoritarian. Under such a political regime, the Russians, like the Germans during the Nazi regime, show a remarkable capacity to take the words of the own propaganda as truth in the last instance.
Curse not to learn from own history
A fundamental problem of Russian society resides in the opaque capacity to absorb critically the own history. When Russian tradition derives from the fact that in all the decisive historical moments, Russia had a just, moral, irreproachable position, any critical interpretation of the own historical evolution becomes impossible. The perception that Russia, under this mental paradigm, is doomed not to learn anything from the own past stems from here. And this truth remains standing even if in Russia there are people with critical interpretation of the historical experience of the own country. But these people can never come closer to the Russian political factor and cannot influence its decisions.
The perfect understanding of the state of Russian society and the prospects of its evolution during a noticeable historical period for implementing a development paradigm is a mandatory condition for Russia’s neighbors. The history of the last 30 years shows that Russia does not accept the sovereignty of the post-Soviet states. In the Republic of Moldova, the Kremlin’s policy during these years was aimed at freezing the Transnistrian conflict and at making permanent its military presence on the territory of the republic as a condition for maintaining the Moldovan state in Russia’s sphere of geopolitical influence. Before the war in Ukraine, Russia tried to use the Transnistrian conflict in the Republic of Moldova as a laboratory for preparing solutions to separatist conflicts that would have been applied wider, in Ukraine. In fact, the goal was to export a model of federalization from the Republic of Moldova to Ukraine.
Danger from Transnistrian separatism zone
The Republic of Moldova resisted the pressure of Moscow and didn’t apply the scenario of federalization for resolving the Transnistrian dispute. But now already, the Republic of Moldova becomes dependent on the terms in which the crisis in Ukraine will be solved. Initially, Moscow aimed to dismember Ukraine by declaring a string of republics in the occupied territories. The military tactic to conquer large territories because they needed zonal capitals to declare republics derives from here. But Ukrainians’ resistance thwarted these Russian plans, at least partially, while the “federalization” of Ukraine was most probably overlooked in the war objectives of Russia.
Nevertheless, the danger of extension of the war to the Republic of Moldova continues to persist. This danger comes from the separatist Transnistrian region. At the moment, the Transnistrian file has a number of variables, also if the Russian army achieves remarkable success in Odessa Oblast, which is not the case yet. But a possible junction with Transnistria will definitely lead to almost imminent involvement of the Transnistrian army in the war in Ukraine. Even if, in this case, the territory of the Republic of Moldova from the right side of the Nistru will not be directly subject to military invasion, the internal state policy will suffer critical deterioration. Foreign mental and cultural archetypes of Stalinist and great-Russia type will start to fully manifest themselves in Moldovan society. These archetypes are the unfavorable inheritance of the colonial past that remain yet benumbed owing to the military uncertainty in Ukraine. They will be definitely unleashed yet and will acquire direct ties with the Russian national-Chauvinist steamroller triggered by the war in the neighboring country. What is euphemistically called the fifth column in the Republic of Moldova will take revenge violently so as not only politically to retaliate for all the real, but rather imaginary sufferings experienced at the height of the national renaissance movement in the republic.
Gloomy scenarios too
Such a perspective will make the Republic of Moldova seriously dependent on Russia, while at societal level will ensure the reactivation and perpetuation of the status of ethnopolitical and ethnocultural superiority of the Russian and Russified ethnics against the Moldovan-Romanian natives. In such conditions, the so-called national emancipation of the Moldovans will definitively succumb even if the symbols of the formal sovereignty of the Moldovan state could be kept. So, “the majority administration” of the Moldovans in the own state would turn for good into fiction because the Republic of Moldova would be simply led by foreign minority elite. The war in Ukraine not only reactivated the danger of dependence of Moldovan society on mental and behavioral archetypes typical of the Russian society, but also revealed all the fundamental shortcomings of the state policies concerning the strengthening of the national identity in the Republic of Moldova, centered on the concept of anti-Romanian Moldovenism. In the absence of an authentic identity policy that can be only pan-Romanian, Moldovan society and state remain hostage to the colonial mental and behavioral inheritance, being critically vulnerable to the revanchist tendencies of Moscow.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.