Nation-Building and Separatism in Eastern Europe: The Transnistria Problem in Moldova and in the Geopolitics of Russia, Ukraine, Romania and the European Union (1917-2014)

  • Author / Creator
    Baidaus, Eduard
  • This study investigates the process of nation-building in the Republic of Moldova. It bridges the national revival of the Romanian-speaking Moldovans with the rise of anti-Moldovan resistance and pro-Russian separatism in the self-proclaimed Transnistrian republic. The results indicate that the unsettled identities in the Soviet and Romanian past, the dysfunctional Moldovan nationhood, and Russia’s involvement in this protracted conflict impede national reconciliation and disrupt state building in this European borderland. This work reveals that, similar to Donbas region and Crimea in Ukraine, Russo-centric separatism is the main driving factor for the political disunity and territorial fragmentation in the Republic of Moldova. This is an interdisciplinary project. It involves history as well as studies in ethnicity, culture, nationalism, conflictology, political sciences, and international relations. It addresses such issues as the influence of historical preconditions on the nation-building in the territory of modern-day Moldova and the reasons for its failures in the past. The study also examines the impact that the pro- and pan-Romanian nationalism of the Romanian speakers and the growing centrifugalism of Russian-speaking minorities had on the geopolitical situation in this country since the late Soviet era and during the first two decades of independence. The dissertation relies on the premise that the construction of a small-sized nation, based on ethnocentric or civic principles, is determined by the ability of the local elites to negotiate and resolve domestic political disputes, where the involvement of foreign actors is crucial. This work describes the secessionist movement in the Republic of Moldova as a domestic, yet an internationalized impediment for the Euro-Atlantic integration of the country. There are three central working assumptions in this study. First, the collapse of the USSR did not prevent Russia from interfering in the domestic affairs of the former sister-republics. On the contrary, protracted conflicts like the Transnistrian conflict contributed to Russia’s reaffirmation as a regional power; such conflicts demonstrated that the strategy employed by the Kremlin toward the “near abroad” aims at strengthening the geopolitical domination of the Russian Federation and challenging the West. The second working assumption is that the term “frozen conflict” is inappropriate for the Transnistria problem. This term is a source of confusion, as it neither reflects the real state of affairs in the Republic of Moldova, nor does it correspond to other similar conflicts beyond its international borders (e.g. in Georgia). The third is the presupposition that the irreconcilable legacy of the Romanian and Soviet past, the conflicting foreign and domestic policies implemented by the leadership, and the geopolitical orientation of ordinary citizens have transformed the Republic of Moldova into a hostage of a continuing crisis. This hampers nation-building, prevents national reconciliation, and challenges its geopolitical choice – either to become part of the Western world, or to remain a vulnerable target for Moscow’s political ambitions, similar to Georgia or Ukraine.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.