At the edges of conflict and mixed identity. My ryde

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.

In peace,


“Peace will not come from the sky”

I find you particularly courageous and benevolant, to spend your thoughts and energy to try to find solutions to end conflicts.

War mentality is blinded by fear. It fuels aggression and violence to make the fear go away. It is not difficult to realize that war is always a failure, a perilous risk that leads to immense misery. But it is not easy to get out of the war mentality, once a mind is infected by it.

It is the same situation for any negative or discursive thoughts, but war mentality stands on the extreme. For instance, politicians in the Shadow (of leadership) cannot easily get out of their mentality.

Even anti-war protests can inflame the war mentality by inciting more stubbornness from the other side. I did not venture as far as becoming a peace activist, but I noticed that activism in favor of open government can often cause politicians and government leaders to lock themselves even further into risk aversion.

Wars would decline if peace became a social reality. Whatever people do to reduce infection by the war mentality is not in vain. ‘‘Peace will not come from the sky,’’ said Dalai Lama.


Thank you Andrei for sharing this. I also feel ambivalent about my multiple territorial identities, so to call them, at least in terms of what they have offered me/asked me to offer/shaped myself as a human being. Nothing to be compared with war situation, I hardly imagine how lacerating it can be. Yet I see so much energy coming from that part of Europe. Looking at you from a ‘sleeping’ Italy, your energy is so refreshing

Peace Writ Large

Hey! thanks for incisive and interesting comments.

Yes indeed, peace will NOT come from the sky. If we are to take Bernard Wood’s understanding of peacebuilding as someting

“aimed at preventing the outbreak, the recurrence or continuation of armed conflict and therefore encompasses a wide range of political, developmental, humanitarian and human rights programs and  mechanisms”

then we see that his perspective seems to be consistent with the PEACE WRIT LARGE perspective of working for peace at a broader level of society, where peace-workers, government officials, civil society, activists, artists, volunteers, human rights organizations, economic agents, community leaders, development workers demonstrate enough initiative, vision and dedication and can obtain enough leverage to have the biggest possible impact they can produce.

So, I think it’s a matter of frames of reference. We may be having positive impact without even knowing it and that’s brilliant. Also, I believe people could have even more impact if they realized/understood the transformative power of their effors in the broader picture of Peace Writ Large.


Operational vs transformational

Amen!!! I love your comment, and totally agree with you. I have similar thoughts (ie keep talking about empowerment and need for decision makers to learn to consciously managing collective consciousness.)

There’s a lack of broader picture vision in pretty much everything. Leaders spend only 3% of their time doing long term planning, according to researchers James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner (ref The Leadership Challenge). Long-term vision (which requires similar skills to ‘broader picture’) is something that organizations neglect to look for, when they hire employees that are not to be in a leader’s role. However, these employees often climb ranks to eventually occupy a such a role. This perhaps explains why there are few leaders or officials with long term vision capacity.

I would like to see more efforts put towards understanding what ‘transformative power’ really means.

Most of the strategies we see are operational.These require to face relatively low uncertainty and mostly consist of attempts to play the same old game or try to slightly improve what has been done previously. Skills required for operational strategies consist of conventional measures.

Whereas transformational strategies take place when governments or businesses are able to face significant uncertainty, by aiming to change the game or culture, and therefore must address substantial channel or new types of challenges. By contrast, transformational strategies are much more difficult to achieve, because they require to use insufficient information to take options-based decisions about priorities, investments, configuration of systems, partnerships, etc. We have little understanding of kind of transformational power is obtained where, under what circumstances, and by whom.

The idea of letting go of some of their power to transfer it to grassroots scares many decision makers and officials. Only those at the top of the ladder, in the higher spheres, have been entitled to cumulate power (and they often get obsessed with it and they want more). While each of us, ordinary citizens or staff, we have the capacity to develop our own power to act (ie empowerment), that is if we are allowed to. Every person has a power within that is immense and can make a difference. When will we start tapping into this unlimited potential?

A true European

Andrei, I had somehow managed to miss this report. Shame on me, it is really interesting.

You are a true European, much more so than me, or all the people I know. For this: you are dealing with a quintessentially European problem, fratricidal war, and you are embarking on a path to an European solution, cooperation, understanding and defusing of statehood issues.

The EU, of which now we are both citizens (congratulations, and welcome!) was born out the need to prevent the next war. The project was to accelerate economic integration so much that war would become impossible, unthinkable: you would be waging war on your suppliers, your customers, your children’s educators, your colleagues. Any act of war would disrupt economically the aggressor as much as the victim. Let us never forget, when we see Single Market policies in action, that this is what we are talking about.

I am an European patriot. My country has been horribly ravaged by the last European war. It has been bombed and invaded. An entire branch of my own family has been exterminated by the Nazi SS élite units, in retaliation for an attempt by anti-Nazi rebels tried to blow up a bridge (they were among 23 civilians killed in one go because they happened to live closest to that bridge). Anything to stop that kind of stuff.

And now, look. Germans are our brothers and sisters. The President of the European Parliament Martin Shultz, the son of a Wehrmacht soldier, visited the memorials of the worst Nazi excesses in Northern Italy (right in the region where I com from), and was welcome as a friend (these are his own words). And he is a friend.

So, my heart is with you as you try to do your bit to reconcile Transnistria. It is a deeply European endeavor. To those that question your impartiality, you can answer that your dual citizenship makes you an EU citizen, and that makes you a partisan of economic and cultural cooperation as a safeguard against war. That’s not “pompous and vague”. Not a bit.

An American intellectual, Jeremy Rifkin, has written an interesting book about the European “soft power” way of doing things. You might find it interesting: here.

Thank you for sharing your ‘ryde’ with us. I couldn’t begin to imagine what it must be like to try and deal with your dual nationality, and how you go from here on in. I am pro-EU and always will be. Yes, it has its flaws, but at the same time it brings an amazing wealth of people together - like what Edgeryders will do in a short few weeks - and from there you can have the ability to speak to many people and explain where you are from and what that means to you, and you may just meet some people who may help you on your journey onwards.

I look forward to meeting you :slight_smile:

Where does Europe end?

Hi Kate!

I’d like to share some random thoughts on what you’ve written…

It is indeed really factinating to observe how concepts, ideas, perspctives on Europe, EU, being european, what borders are, what frontiers mean, etc. are shaped, interpreted, understood in different parts of the world.

As for me, I believe there is an important difference between being (pro-)European and being pro-EU. Connceted to what you said above I believe that we don’t necessarily need an a economic and political union/confederation to be able to meet and share ideas, thoughts, impressions.

Obviously, the freedom of movement/travel is an important attribute not only of the EU, but of the human beings in general. The concept of “border” has been manipulated to fit somebody’s idea on who’s entitled to this right and who’s not.

My personal opinion o this topic might seem to extrme or childish for some people. I support the idea that all borders between states should be abolished. The people should be granted the freedom of movement without restriction following their spirit of the ‘pursuit of happiness’.

It is pretty astonishing and sometimes painful to watch how ideas of identity and freedom of the people living outside the EU are distorted/skewed in order fall in line with the principles and regulations of political and economic entities like the EU.

Obviously, issues of identity are very flexible, organic processes and they should change, but I’m not sure about the possible consequences of these changes.

In fact, the reason we are meeting is to come up with better and more innovative, citizen centered policies instead of European and EU officials to be able to face these kind of changes and challenges we are currently facing.

Just like democracy, the IDEA of the EU is brilliant! The point is how we operationalize it, how do we make it funtional, fair, inclusive, peaceful, etc.

Now I’m anxious to meet you as well :smiley:

Here’s a movie you might enjoy. If you If you use torrent, I can give you the torrent file for this movie. Just let me know :wink: