History. In a Border-Land.

Posted: 04 Jul 2012

History is a passionate affair in border-land states, the weaker they are the more disputed are the ethnic and religious identities. Consequently, people have a tendency to react emotionally about what is essentially an artefact. The less economically and democratically developed a society is the more it is likely to treat identities as primordial, attempting to use ethnic nationalism as a tool to emancipate the country and modernize it, as Western nation-states did in the nineteenth century during their national unification processes and industrial revolutions.

It is also true indeed that any cleavage in a society has its ideologists who, for the sake of mobilization purposes, profess some sort of purity that often neglects the complexity of individuals’ lives, which often overlap when it comes to ethnicity, religion, and class. But while a Scot might also feel British without necessarily opposing both identities, an individual living in border-land states comes under pressure to define himself in much clearer terms; he is deprived of the opportunity to exist as of multiple selves.

Of course, the current deluge of information that modern man is faced with leads often to a simplification of both history and current reality, but it is the radical movements of nationalism, communism/fascism and other totalitarian discourses that manipulate peoples’ identities into uncompromising and bellicose sides.

Interestingly, a dominant totalitarian/authoritarian Communist/Socialist regimeis capable of integrating some ethnic/national identities if it is becoming too costly to coerce the population or it takes too much time to do it. I recall in this context one front page article published by ”Sovetskaya Moldavia”, the official newspaper of the former Moldovan Communist Party, that read: ”On January 14th 1988 on the remarkable day – the 70th anniversary of establishing the Soviet power in Moldova, members of the Central Bureau (including Mircea Snegur, the first President of what will become in a couple of years the Republic of Moldova) laid flowers at the monument of Vladimir Lenin”. This was accompanied by a picture of two young guards dressed in national costumes, including traditional lamb hats, frozen on both sides of Lenin’s monument which bears the symbolic relevance of the degree of Moscow’s permission to nationalize the state-driven communism. Such a co-habitation is possible when both parties are exhausted, but otherwise the respective ideologists claim exclusive allegiance from their subjects, and the more we move eastwards the more radical these demands become.

The Republic of Moldova’s complicated legacy does not stem from its geographic position per se, but rather from the fact that border-land states lag behind when it comes to the processes of national unification, industrialization, and modernization. This is precisely how a periphery comes about and how it reinforces its status in a vicious circle of delays in modernizing societies and in continuous failures to catch-up with more advanced ones.

The formidable challenge of modernity to all border-land states, including in the Republic of Moldova, is whether these states can escape the past models of history based on ethnicity and kinship by launching their own modernizing projects based on inclusive citizenship, freedom, and prosperity.

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