Historical politics in the Republic of Moldova – an unfulfilled obsession
Historical politics that one talked about in case of Poland and Ukraine was a constant for the foreign policy of Moldova. Unlike two other countries previously mentioned, Moldova has failed to raise this kind of politics to the rank of state policy; it manifested rather erratic and intermittent, being the privilege of opposition and of a minority in governmental vaults. This inability to strongly affirm historical politics at official rank may be explained by the fact that unlike Ukraine and Poland which have always targeted Russia as the “pole of evil”, Moldova has always identified as “bad guys” – Russia and Romania. This balance of competing historic codes, settled in the collective mentality of Moldovan people, resulted in a quiet and retractile foreign policy that did not dare to make outspoken accusations to neighbors of Moldova.
Historical politics – a constant of foreign policy of the Republic of Moldova
20 years anniversary of the Independence of Moldova represents a moment of reflection that obliges us to discuss the main topics of our foreign policy. One of its guidelines was historical politics. Even if historical politics was not reflected in any major foreign policy document, being an objective that was not consciously assumed by politicians in power, it manifested itself spontaneously and chaotic through interactions and circumstantial diplomatic strategies, being an asset through which Moldova has tried to assert full sovereignty, but however, never managed to the end. Moldova’s historical politics has always had two ways of expression – Russia and Romania.
This is determined by the existence of two antagonistic visions in Moldovan society – alternatively, Russia and Romania were seen as threats and aggressors vs. Republic of Moldova. In the early ‘90s, due to the movement of National Renascence, one set Russia’s role of the “bad guy”, which assigned to it all crimes and horrors of Stalinism, and the consequences of USSR imperial policy. Subsequently, the early 21st century, once the Communist Party came to governance, direction of historical politics was changed from east to west, Romania appearing as an imminent danger to the sovereignty of Moldova, being accused of imperialism and unionism.
The coming to power of AEI I (Alliance for European Integration I) and AEI II did not change these constants of our foreign policy. Relations with Romania have significantly improved by signing local border traffic and border regime, opening consulates in Balti and Cahul and by benefiting from financial assistance offered by Romania. However there are some natural limits of this rapprochement, imposed by constraints of historical politics – agreement on border regime has not been ratified yet, thesis „European integration through Romania” was abandoned and financial assistance is still yet to come because both states did not agree yet on the terms of a joint Action Plan. The same thing is valid in relation to Russia. The refusal of Mr. Mihai Ghimpu, interim president, to participate in the parade on 9 May 2010 in Moscow and declaration of 28 June as the Day of Soviet occupation, as well as inauguration of the commission on investigation of communist crimes have triggered hostile reactions in Moscow, which resorted to blocking Moldovan wine exports. Also, various Russian politicians make regular allusions to the dangers of proximity between Moldova and Romania, last statement being made by the State Duma deputy Serghei Marcov, according to whom „Moldovan people will not kneel in front of Bucharest”. In addition, the issue of Romanian danger is approached in the context of country reintegration, Chisinau always being put in front of an imagined choice between Transnistria and Romania.
Defining elements of historical politics in Moldova
Historical politics in Moldova is not a simple affirmation of Moldovan people identity on political way and neither promotion of a politicized history by endless debates between historians promoting Romanism or separate state existence. In line with Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, it represents a conscious but diffuse policy in achieving three major objectives – 1) setting a bigger and neighbor state as executioner, responsible for sufferings of Moldova and self-assuming the role of victim, 2) identification of „internal enemies” or „ax handles” in the country, which are a kind of fifth column and are to be eliminated in various ways, 3) creating a positive and uplifting image of the Moldovan people based on epic narrations, to strengthen it as a nation.
Unlike Poland and Ukraine, which only imagine Russia as supreme aggressor, setting in the foreground and accordingly interpreting the Holodomor and Katyn (making the Volyn tragedy and Vistula operation vanish), Moldova has built its mental maps based on two “irritant factors” – Russia and Romania. This contraposition is the best described by “war of holidays” – 1 December, National Day of Romania, which is the opposite to 2 December, which according to the Communist Party from Moldova represents the day of Moldovan State foundation in 1917, a state which entered in USSR after a period of “annexation” by Romania and opposition between Victory Day on 9 May and 9 May Day of Europe on one hand, but also 28 June, Day of „Soviet occupation” in 1940”, on the other hand. Both Russia and Romania were seen in different periods as major dangers for Moldovan statehood, local political forces undertaking certain actions to their counteraction. Among the gestures that have mostly bothered Russia were the creation of Commission to study victims of communism, as well as consideration of Soviet period as “occupation”, and regarding Romania, one referred to obstruction actions such as declaring Romania „the last empire in Europe” in 2007 by the president Voronin, but also adoption of State National Policy in 2003, organizing the census in 2004 and returning to Integrated history course, all these actions aimed at damaging Romanian element in Moldova.
The fight against internal enemies also took place in both directions. The KGB-sts, security officers, communists and nomenclature officers were considered “ax handles” of Russia. Nevertheless, in Moldova one failed to pass Lustration Law and creation of Remembrance Institute after Polish or at least Ukrainian pattern. Therefore, no politician has been sanctioned or disclosed, and the results of Commission for investigation of communist crimes were kept away from public. Meanwhile, the students pursuing their studies in Romania and unionists were assigned as Romanian “secret agents”; against them one would periodically launch defamation campaigns without a clear purpose for these actions.
„War of historians” for the name and content of an appropriate history course for Moldova’s essence, represents the efforts that failed to print a clear and strengthened identity for Moldovan State. Historians, also named “unionists” by the opponents, have developed manuals of History of Romanians, and “moldovenists” have insisted on introducing the course of “Integrated history” in schools. The fact that in August 2011, Ministry of Education discussed the introduction of a new history course – „History” – which would require new manuals, demonstrates that in this matter neither of parties was victorious, so that writing the history of Moldovan people represents a task for the future.
The Government of Alliance for European Integration has clearly marked boundaries and failures of historical politics promoted in Chisinau. Main failures concerned the fate of the decree of Mr. Ghimpu on declaring the day of 28 June as day of Soviet occupation, refusal of the Parliament to debate upon results of Commission for investigation of communist crimes, hostility manifested towards the installation downtown of the Monument for Victims of Communist Regime and, in the opposite the renouncement on the course of “History of Romanians”. In this context, we can say that historical politics could not been promoted to the rank of state policy as it happened in Poland, and intermittently, in Ukraine. Only the period of 2001-2009 may be considered, with some reticence, as a period when Romania was officially seen as undisputed aggressor. However, policy of communists in relation to Romanian factor was rather prudent and flexible.
The main reason why Moldova was not able to consequently promote a historical politics in relation to states perceived as “oppressive”, may be explained by the relative balance existing between the two imagined historic codes. Russia and Romania cannot be irreversibly pushed in the category of „impious states” simply because these codes are symmetrical. Those who see Russia as an executioner of Moldova positively appreciates the role of Romania in establishment of statehood and admits the possibility of a union. Conversely, the ones being horrified by the deeds of „Romanian bourgeois-landlord regime” of 1918-1940 are tempted in the mean time to give positive feedback to Soviet period and Russia. Thus, both sides are mutually blocking one another.
Consequences of historic deadlock for the official foreign policy of Moldova
Impossibility to assert a coherent historical politics has determined the style of Moldova’s official diplomacy, a style that describes in a special way the governing period of AEI. This style is characterized by a policy of “silence” where both “poles of evil” are treated with double caution in order not to raise any suspicions that somewhere in the middle there might be historic reasons. Unlike Ukraine and Poland, Chisinau officially refused to submit or support historic claims, trying to convert all existing bilateral problems into a pragmatic and economic dimension. In case of Russia, one accuses only Moscow illegal actions in relation to Transnistria, stressing out the international law and the principle of inviolability of state sovereignty. It is interesting that even during the incident at the Russian Embassy from 10 June 2011, when Vladimir Iastrebceak was introduced by the Ambassador of Russia as Minister of foreign affairs of Transnistria, the Ministry refrained from submitting a note of protest, despite promises, limiting only with an interview exclusively made for a TV channel. In case of Romania, current diplomacy was satisfied to return to the zero point of diplomatic relations. Improvement of Moldovan and Romanian relations was due mainly to previously reported drift. After a period of political revival when both parties have signed a few official documents, one attests the establishment of a status-quo shrouded in silence, the parties no longer being able to evolve on bilateral relationship. Bilateral Action Plan has not been signed, so that it raises the issue of financial aid of Romania. Meanwhile, the parliaments do not rush to ratify the treaty on border regime. Thus, the curse of “aggressor” continues to hinder building lasting relations, Moldovan diplomacy having only maintenance of a mutually acceptable state of affairs.Article by Cornel Ciurea, Institute for Development and Social Initiatives “Viitorul” (Moldova)