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Total learning: 15 lessons Time: 1 semester

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Week 13. Romanian Bessarabia and Soviet Transnistria: Two Competing Models of Nation-Building and ‘Alternative’ Modernity

This seminar will focus in depth on the two competing models of state- and nation- building in the neighboring territories of Romanian Bessarabia and Soviet Transnistria during the interwar period. In a manner akin to the cases of Polish Galicia and Soviet Ukraine, the comparison between these two adjacent spaces seems especially fruitful, given that their pre-war trajectories were substantially similar. Both territories featured a multi-ethnic population with a majority Orthodox community and with significant Jewish and German minorities. They also had a substantial proportion of Romanian speakers and shared a comparable level of economic development. The discussion will center on the alternative strategies pursued by the Romanian nation-state and the Soviet Union in the field of cultural policy and the politics of identity in the two regions. While the Romanian homogenizing policy aimed at ‘awakening’ the long-dormant Romanian-ness of the Romanian-speaking community in Bessarabia and displayed a generally hostile attitude toward the Slavic and Jewish minorities, the Soviet state engaged in a determined, if inconsistent, attempt at ‘forging a Moldavian’ nation in the MASSR and at subjecting its population to the Soviet policy of korenizatsiia. This amounted to starkly contrasting visions of modernization, which were only partially successful in both cases. We will discuss the failures and weaknesses of both state-building projects, whose efforts of ‘nationalizing the masses’ (albeit in very different ways and through more or less violent means) led to mixed results. The long-term consequences of this interwar ‘legacy’ are still visible in the present-day Republic of Moldova.


  • King, The Moldovans, chapter 3 (“Greater Romania and the Bessarabian Question”), 36-62 and 4 (“Forging a Soviet Moldovan Nation”), 63-88.
  • Negură, Nici eroi, nici trădători, chapter 2, part 1 (“Nation-Building and Cultural Construction in the MASSR: Premises of a Failed “Nationalism”), 71-85.