Moldova Leads Back and Forward

For many here in the States the Ukrainian turmoil has become a somewhat worrisome bemusement.  We watch with interest as Brian Williams describes the bipartisan activities and listen to our politicians bemoan the evil of the Kremlin, all while never really being able to pinpoint the nation on a map.  (Disclaimer: Many Americans can in fact locate Ukraine, however, I’ve also recently spoken to many Americans who could not).  The conflict is like a wreck on the side of the highway, we’re speeding by but can’t help but crane our necks and stare... stopping to help is completely out of the question.  Even in the midst of these activities (i.e. tanks rolling, bombs blowing, politicians nagging) the pundits have been looking for Putin’s next target.  Where will he go next in his grand plan for world domination? Many commentators, myself included, have speculated that the former vineyard of the Soviet Union, Moldova, is next in his rather manly crosshairs.  Compared to the gargantuan of Russia, Moldova is small and dependent on foreign income.  Why wouldn’t Putin want to add the country to his collection of jewels?

Well, a recent post by Brian Whitmore for The Atlantic is flipping that narrative.  While the article doesn’t mention Moldova’s future, it does identify Russia’s tactics in Eastern Ukrainian as reminiscent of those used in Transnistria.  Transinistria is the small breakaway region of Moldova between the Dniester River and Ukraine.  It seems that the Russian strategy in Eastern Ukraine has been learned from other successful ‘frozen conflicts’.  The idea essentially being that the Russian strategy is: Get in, Conquer, Then freeze.  Like a cat under a porch, impossible to coerce from its den unless otherwise inclined.  It turns out that the sterling example of this strategy is Ukraine’s neighbor Moldova and the Transnistria breakaway region.  In fact many of the Donetsk leadership are pro-Russian veterans from Moldova.  According to the BBC profile, these men have cut their teeth on the military and political strategy of Transnistria. 

So is a Russian conflict Moldova’s future or past? If Putin and his men are really taking cues from Transnistria, rather than eyeing the region’s potential, what does that mean for the politics and people of Moldova? Moldova has been dependent on Russia since the country’s independence.  In fact, many members of the older generation can only read Cyrillic and hardly speak Romanian.  However, the allure of EU money and development seems to be more appealing than the history and dominance offered by Russia.  Essentially, Moldovan politicians are trading in their reliable, though occasionally abusive boyfriend for a younger, wealthier, and more stable model. 

Still, just because the Donetsk leaders have learned from Moldova does not mean that Putin is not considering a run at Moldova. To assuage Moldovan fears, Romania has already pledged their protection. The two countries have also recently tossed champagne over a new gas pipeline meant to reduce Moldova’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.  This energy-alliance is meant to prevent another freezing winter like 2009 when Russia turned off the gas to Ukraine and subsequently most of Southeastern Europe.  And trust me, as someone who does not have a knack for lighting cornhusks; it was an extremely chilly 13 days.  So, it seems, the stability of the region is still very much up in the air.  But Whitmore’s idea of looking to Moldova for the past rather than the present is intriguing.  Perhaps we could take our clues and strategy from Moldovan history.


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Meet Maggie

This website was created and maintained by me, Maggie Fesenmaier, a doctoral student at the University of Washington. This website is part of my research to better understand Internet adoption in The Republic of Moldova. There is also a survey on this site that, if you are Moldovan, I encourage you to please take! My Background: My family currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, though we spent a good deal of time moving around. I generally grew up amongst the cornfields of Illinois and moved to PA my senior year of high school. I attended and graduated from Penn State (WE ARE…). Immediately following graduation I left for the Moldova with the U.S. Peace Corps. For nearly two years I was based in a northern Moldovan village, near the Ukrainian boarder. I had the most amazing mama gazda and partners that helped me teach health classes in the local high school. Though challenging at times, it was an experience I’ll never forget. The entire village took me in, taught me Romanian, showed me the culture, and, most importantly, fed me (I’ve since tried making pelemeni and mama liga, but it doesn’t compare)! Though far from home, I loved my time in Moldova and it sparked my curiosity and passion for helping the community. Following a year in politics, I came back to school for my Master’s degree (and fingers crossed, PhD). Generally, my work focuses on how communication technology influences knowledge/information adoption by society. There is still a great deal of research that needs to be done to further our understanding of how we accept knowledge and technology. As researchers learn more about our acceptance habits, I’m confident we can also craft more effective information campaigns that truly help society. I frequently get asked, why Moldova?! There are many reasons: Primarily, I owe my host-family and friends a great deal of gratitude! They lovingly (and patiently) taught me a new culture that will always impact my life. Also, however, Moldova is a global leader in immigrant remittances. Each year Moldovans flood into the international job-market and send home money and goods to family. According to the G8 this behavior is to be encouraged in other developing nations. Thus, much of the developing world will follow the Moldovan lead. Possibly, if we can understand the role of technology in information spread in Moldova, then we'll have a jump on understanding the same phenomenon in other nations as well. My time in Moldova and out experiencing the world have encouraged and fueled my studies. I’m thankful everyday that Dragos wandered away and founded the amazing nation of Moldova! If you have any more questions about me or this project please don’t hesitate to contact me. La revedere.