I feel a little uneasy and uncomfortable writing this, but as someone said, life begins when one steps out of his comfort zone. So, here it goes. As I am still a student due to graduate this summer, I will focus on the ‘ryde’ that I want to embark on and what I envision myself doing further in a sort of desirable scenario.
I will concentrate on two events that took place recently, so I don’t take too much of your time. March 2nd 2012 signified the 20th anniversary of the war in Transnistria. It was a war between the local population, Cossack volunteers and the Russian 14th Army on one side trying to maintain the weak independence of this small strip of land (Transnistria). On the other side were the newly formed Moldovan police and volunteers from the other bank of the Nistru river who wanted to reintegrate the former Moldovan Soviet Republic within the internationally recognized borders of the young sovereign Republic of Moldova. Fortunately, even though it was a small-scale war it had tremendous negative consequences for the population on both banks of the Nistru river.
I’ve learned how dangerous and destructive it is to take sides when talking to people that chose to risk their own lives for an ideal/belief. They can neither be lauded/praised, because they chose to spill the blood of others to justify their own ideals. The option of reverting to violence in any type of conflict, to me, is one of the most cowardly, inhuman acts, let alone ethics and morals.
Judging by the outcome of this war after 20 years, it is sad to acknowledge that violence has not resolved anything. In fact I could go as far as saying that it actually never resolved anything anywhere, but made it even worse. It took a long time for people as my uncle who was a combatant in the war to understand that violence is useless and the deaths on both sides were in vain. Still it is sad that the amount of hate speech on both sides is still louder than the voices of peace and secessionism is stronger that any agency for cooperation and dialogue. Unfortunately, there are people in Moldova and Transnistria that are still convinced that violence in 1992 was justified and that they are ready to pick up the arms if the circumstances would necessitate that. Still, if violence is considered the option of “last resort”, then what were the other thousand resorts before opting for mayhem and bloodshed?! Here the Moldovan authorities are even more to blame because they have consciously decided to opt for violent means even though they didn’t have a standing army, resources or preparation. Still, they have cowardly pushed young, poorly armed policemen against the Russian tanks and artillery.
Even though there have not been major outbreaks of violence in these two decades, the confidence of the people towards the other side has not been restored, there hasn’t been an serious commitment towards reconciliation and burden sharing in order to transcend the current state of affairs between the two banks. There was a virtual little to no progress in the negotiations over the years. There are very little accessible routes for communication and interaction, Russian “peacekeepers” are still monitoring the security zone, old preconceptions and prejudices are not yet dissolved/deconstructed.
Why am I telling all this? Somehow, the subjects of separatism/secessionism, de facto statehood and international recognition of states, peacebuilding, conflict transformation and international development in fragile states have become main interests in my studies. In the spring of 2010, when I was doing interviews in Transnistria I have discovered that ordinary citizens were not particularly negatively predisposed towards each other. There is no hatred towards the other side, but rather trauma, regret and disappointment in the lost opportunities, incompetent leadership and deepening underdevelopment. So here’s when I realized that what I want to do is help people so that they can help each other to build sustainable peace, collaborative development and constructive relations among humans across the Nistru river. I know, it may sound a somewhat pompous and vague, but if in the last 2 decades there was nothing but cheap talk from the politicians, populist and nationalist attitudes form some public figures which have only escalated the conflict, it is the time to try something else. So, what I want to do next is draw lessons in successful conflict transformation and development projects, policies, strategies from around the world and see how can this body of knowledge be tailored in the Moldovan context and even some place else.
The other recent event I wanted to talk about is my new status of dual citizenship. Besides my original status of citizen of the Republic of Moldova, I am now a citizen of Romania and therefore of the EU as well. This has raised mixed thoughts in me for several reasons. First of all, there’s some sort of hypocrisy in all this because on one side, I have become a citizen of a state where I have obtained my education (no matter good or bad) and I have been receiving a scholarship and free accommodation in campus from the Romanian government. On the other side, after residing 5 years in Romania I am very critical about many issues in Romania starting from the political situation up to social relations.
Another thing I’ve realized was hypocritical of me is the fact that one of the main advantages of my newly acquired citizenship is the ability to travel without a visa across the 27 EU member states and elsewhere and also a larger job pool. At the same time, I am not proud to be a part of a supranational entity that has deep structural flaws, serious democratic deficit and a deplorable foreign policy besides other weaknesses.
Moreover, if I want to be successful in preventing violence and to peacefully transform the conflict in Transnistria I have to be aware how my Romanian citizenship could be interpreted as a loss of impartiality and as favoring on side of the conflict, thus delegitimizing myself in the eyes of others. It is worth noting that one of the major reasons for the secession of Transnistria form Moldova was the fear of its possible reunification with Romania. Even today, after Romania was the first state to officially recognize Moldova’s independence, the fears of Romanian ‘invasion’ and assimilation in are still vivid today among ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in Transnistria as well as in Moldova.
Certainly, the best ‘ryde’ is yet to come as I will have to reconcile these conflicting views/perspectives and make sense of the environment I will be placed in and of my role/purpose in that environment. Perhaps, I will be able to share a more exciting, optimistic and relevant story in the coming 3-5 years. Thanks for bearing with me.