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Total learning: 15 lessons Time: 1 semester

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Week 5. Bessarabia between Russia and Romania: Competing Visions and Policies during War and Revolution

Inaugurating the ‘empirical’ part of the course, this class focuses on the case of Bessarabia, a region contested between the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Romania. The gradual imposition of nationalizing categories upon the subjects of the Russian Empire was neither smooth nor straightforward in the Bessarabian case. The local population was traditionally regarded as staunchly loyal to the throne and the Russian state, while its closeness to the Great Russians was derived from its adherence to the Orthodox Church. The increasingly insecure imperial regime at the center introduced a radical transformation of Bessarabian politics and society that accelerated with the collapse of the dynasty in 1917, but really got under way during World War I. Although Bessarabia was never occupied, the combined pressures of war, imperial collapse, geopolitics, symbolic competition, and local identity politics accounted for the unexpected outcome that became the only available option in 1918: the uneasy and problematic integration of Bessarabia into “Greater Romania.” The in-class discussion and the seminar assignments will emphasize the tension between the social and national aspects of the Bessarabian case.


  • Lohr, Tolz, Semyonov, von Hagen, The Empire and Nationalism at War (chapter on Bessarabia: “Nationalism and War in a Contested Borderland: The Case of Russian Bessarabia, 1914-1917”, by Andrei Cusco), 137-162.
  • Cusco, ”Russians, Romanians… or Neither? Mobilization of Ethnicity and ”National Indifference” in Early 20th-Century Bessarabia”, Kritika, Nr. 1 (Winter 2019), 7-38.
  • Prusin, The Lands Between, Chapter 3 (“The frontier wars, 1918-1920”), 84-97.
  • Torrey, The Romanian Battlefront in World War I, chapter 16 (“Bessarabia and the Peace of Buftea: January-March 1918”), 271-281.