2018-05-09

“We think in Russian, dream in Russian”. Debunking the Project of Reintegration of Transnistria

Tatiana Cojocari*

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Tiraspol, 2017 (Sursa: ventus-reisen.de)

Through this article we launch a series of thematic analyses dedicated to Transnistria and its political, economic, cultural and social realities. The conclusions are based on a field research conducted in 2017. This comes in the context in which the authorities from the Republic of Moldova have begun a campaign last year and a public competition for the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict, campaign which we expect to continue this year, 2018 being an election year. Transnistria – “Moldavian dream” – appears every time when the political interest requires it without having a rational and achievable basis. The fact that it is politically invoked, or rather “personally” politicized it does not have the gift to resolve, truly the nightmare of the people, resigned or not, from both sides of the Dniester.

The political discourse about the reintegration of Transnistria in the Republic of Moldova is an empty shell.

Context: Russian Aggression in Ukraine grows the self-consciousness of the separatist region

With the so called “terrorist actions” from Ukraine, 2014, the illegal annexation of Crimea and Russian separatism in Donbas, Transnistria’s situation has slowly started to change in all aspects. We witness today, intensively like never before, at a crisis, an extremely big financial deficit and a food crisis in the supermarkets irrespective of the city or region we are. The fact is that Ukraine is in a confrontational process with the Russian Federation, has made it radically change its attitude towards Transnistria, a region that is supported by the Russian Federation and where now Russian troops are deployed, looking at Transnistria as to a region with potential danger. Ukraine has tightened border control and has started thorough checks of the entry/exit flow of goods and people from the region. Fact which, evidently, has limited the logistical options of Transnistria’s economy, making it dependent, from this perspective, of the right bank of the Dnister – Republic of Moldova, an option not too tasteful for the Transnistrian authorities.

On top of all that, this year the joint control of people, transport means and goods has been implemented at the central crossing point at the Moldo-Ukrainian border “Pervomaisk-Cuciurgan”, approved on 22nd January 2016, which makes the economic scenario for Transnistria even grimmer. Despite all the Transnistrian authorities’ insistence toward the Russian Federation to stop its approach and complaints against Chisinau, nothing has happened.

Through these economic pressures the quality of life of the Transnistrians has considerably dropped, phenomenon observed since the term of the ex-leader Evghenii Șevciuc, who was forced to apply measures not too popular for the survival of the region. These were received as an alarming sign by the present leader Vadim Krasnoselski, candidate supported by the “Șherif holding”, which, despite his wishes, had to rethink the scheme of economic survival, being put in a situation to choose the alternative of collaborating with the officials from Chisinau. A timelier moment for this decision could be possible, given the context of political changes in Chisinau and electoral preparations in 2018.

Thus, 2017 has started with work meetings between the two presidents, Dodon and Krasnoselski, at the initiative of the first, who placed the problem of settling the Transnistrian conflict as a strategic objective of his mandate. The momentum of these work meetings, without many tangible results, have been halted by the declarations and actions of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, positioned in the political sphere of R. Moldova as a Pro-European one.

And now, in the fall of this year, against the background of the inconsistencies of the Government of the Republic of Moldova on the subject regarding the withdrawal of the Russian military troops from the Transnistrian region initially included, afterwards excluded, from the UN session on 23.10.2017 at the request of the government, we are witnessing a considerable progress from Pavel Filip’s government on the Transnistrian problem, specifically the reopening of the negotiations 5+2 and the public access on the bridge over the Dnister in the municipalities Gura Bîcului and  Bîcioc, unusable bridge since 1992 and reconstructed in 2002 with European funds. Moreover, the negotiation’s success has been recorded at Bender (November 25th) and a package of 4 agreements which will be resolved in 2018, for which the authorities from R. of Moldova have received considerable praises at the “5+2” reunion scheme (Transnistria, R. of Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), along with USA and EU, as external observers), that took place on 27-28 November in Vienna, considered to be “the most significant progress in the last 10 years”.

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PM Pavel Filip and the “president RMN”, Vadim Krasnoselski (sursa:gov.md).

The “Moldavian” lie behind the progress in the negotiation of the Transnistrian conflict

Taken for granted, the signals sent by the authorities from both sides of the Dnister seem to suggest that Chisinau is getting closer to a more tangible point in resolving the conflict and an openness from Transnistria towards this idea. Coincidence or not, but also in November last year speculations emerged in the media from Republic of Moldova and Transnistria about territorial regulations of the Transnistrian conflict and re-uniting the region with the R. of Moldova, which would grant Transnistria a similar statute with Gagauzia, and other particularities upon we will not insist here. Rumours were launched in the Russian Federation press by the Komersant newspaper and picked up immediately by the mass media from the Republic of Moldova and Transnistria. The reactions from both sides of the Dnister did not keep anyone waiting: the most vocal was the president of the R. of Moldova, I. Dodon, who was keen on mentioning that he does not agree with the proposed project by the Government and that the Presidential Administration has developed their own project for settling the Transnistrian conflict, that will strengthen the statute of neutrality of Moldova and Tiraspol’s right to self-administrate in case Moldova would lose its sovereignty.

On the other side of the Dnister, these initiatives are not taken seriously, the Transnistrian leader affirming that “Dodon has changed his position for four times in the last eight months. At first, he talked about a federation, afterwards about autonomy, then about a special statute and again about a federation. What are we supposed to put at the foundation?”, but they seem to view the situation in a more pragmatic manner than their counterparts from R. of Moldova, taking small steps in negotiating towards facilitating the viability of a Transnistrian region as an independent state and internationally recognized.

Three of the five initiatives for regulating the Transnistrian conflict signed by the representatives, present at negociations, from Transnistria and Republic of Moldova in the course of the last year have the priority to solve the aspects in regard to the political isolation of the Transnistrian region: developing the mechanism of participation of Transnistrian transportation to the international traffic (foreseen to be resolved in February 2018); connecting the communication network between the two banks of the Dnister, which, as V. Krasnoselski affirms, is a big problem, because “the telecommunication network of Transnistria is outside the ”international jurisdictional field and sooner or later Transnistria could have been isolated informationally””; recognising the study documents from the region, which offers the right to Transnistrian citizens not only to study in foreign countries but also to work legally outside Transnistria. The interesting detail is that these parts have conveyed upon some models of neutral stamps and diplomas to be applied by the competent organ of the Republic of Moldova, that will apply an apostil in accordance with the requirement of the Haga Convention. Also, this neutral model seems that will be implement on all the transportation vehicles registration plates, according to the information that appeared in the media already.

Even the opening of the bridge Gura Bâcului-Bâcioc offers an economic and trade potential to Transnistria, being a route destined for the movement of stowage of goods vehicles.

In return, Moldova has requested to solve the problem of schooling in the Romanian language in Transnistria and access to the farming fields on the route Dubăsari-Tiraspol, old problems, emerged due to the fact that the Transnistrian authorities did not respect in numerous instances the legal regulations in force.

However, the most successful act of the Transnistrian diplomacy, according to the local press, is the invitation of the “official representatives” of Transnistria to participate at a table of discussions PACE (Parliamentary Gathering of the European Council) on the theme of settling the Transnistrian conflict. According to the opinion of the Transnistrian leader reflected in the local press, “PACE is a serious international platform for discussion” and with this occasion “I want you to reiterate the new principles of our independence”.

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The leaders from both sides of the Dnister at the PACE Conference (source: assembly.coe.int)

At stake was the request to be an observer of the RMN at the European Council by the delegated representatives, which at the moment is not known if the request was approved or not. This request and addressing to UN, where also Transnistria request an observer statute, are steps that indicate the real goal of the Transnistrian “diplomacy” – the right to become internationally recognized. In this sense, Transnistrian “diplomacy” seems to be more present and more successful than the one in the Republic of Moldova.

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The “President” of the Moldavian Republic of Transnistria (MRT), Vadim Krasnoselski (sursa:president.gospmr.org).

“We think in Russian, we dream in Russian”, Social Life of Transnistria

Thus, the political context in Moldova and the realities from Transnistria only make us ask ourselves how true, possible and practical is today a possible reintegration of Transnistria. We are not interested in how this could be done from a jurisdictional and normative point of view, but rather what had been done, and mostly, what was not done in the last 25 years by the authorities from the Republic of Moldova. What public policies addressed to the Transnistrian population have the authorities from Moldova developed? And, in general, how present was it in the collective mentality of the Transnistrians, beyond official declarations of the politicians from both sides of the Dnister? The conclusion of our research is that, the Republic of Moldova is NOT present in the collective mind of the Transnistrians and the social dimension of the separatist region ignores the left bank of the Dnister.

Speculations from the project of re-integration appeared in the press, through which their authors affirm that the “solving the Transnistrian conflict cannot presume too much difficulties because here, unlike other conflicts from Europe, there aren’t any religious or inter-ethinc contradictions, demographic or confessional structure of the population being practically identical, consisted in different proportions in numerous communities of Moldavians, Ukrainians and Russians of Orthodox belief”, they are not only backed up by quantitative research and actual data, which practically are not existent and they were not presented to the authorities from R. of Moldova, but they are totally opposed to the Transnistrian leader’s declarations, that seems to consider that a common form of re-integration with Moldova does not exist and that each part has their own specificity based on tradition, law and jurisdiction, and also that “we (Transnistrians) think and dream in Russian, and they were taught for 25 year to think in Romanian.”

Building on these questions and launching the hypothesis that this time the politicians draw the Transnistrian card just for political interest and the MRT’s inhabitants are taken into consideration only as potential “votes” for some, we invite you to take a close look at the social realities of Transnistria in order to appreciate in fully-fledged manner the structure of the social world of Transnistrians, which are their cultural and civilizational indicators, their mental universe and their visions toward the political and geopolitical future of the region.

In this process, we will shift between three essential factors in shaping the identity of a “state entity”, respectively the religious institution, mass-media institution and education, which, in our opinion, can best represent the social world beyond the Dnister.

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The Archbishop Sava and “president” Vadim Krasnoselski source: president.gospmr.org

The Church – the binder of Society and (or) actor in construction of the “nation-state”

 ,,The land where Transnistria is today, has rich orthodox traditions. The region’s territory has been a part of the Christian Russian Kievian Church, Galiției-Volînia Principality and the Russian Empire (..)”.

(Description taken from the website of the Diocese of Tiraspol and Dubasari which can be consulted in Russian here)

The church in Transnistria represents the only internationally recognized institution, constituted in accordance with the church canons. A component part of the Metropolitan Church of Chisinau and all Moldova, the rise of the Diocese of Tiraspol and Dubasar is an interesting phenomenon in its nature and subsequently, its purpose and potential for its political instrumentality of the institution.

Created exclusively at the request of the Transnistrian authorities, it represented a compromise of the Orthodox Russian Church, under which care was also the Metropolitan Church of Chisinau and All Moldova, as the representatives of the Diocese of Tiraspol and Dubasar share with us (interviews were taken on site):

“You know, as it happened to be in the past, a Diocese did not exist as part of the church’s structure, there were short periods of time when a CHAIR used to operate, but for very short [periods of time] and not on the whole territory (…), then our Republic (Transnistria) was at the beginning of its creation, any attempt of involvement coming from the outside was viewed painfully and categorically, especially in the clerical sphere, but, authorities even though they did not consider themselves as believers, they considered themselves as orthodox and understood how orthodoxy should function (like our first president who did many things for our Church, like none have done, even though he did not consider himself as believer)”.

And so the authorities have realized that there is a need for a separate religious structure, that should not be subordinated directly to the Republic of Moldova (…) then, they unofficially went to Moscow and undertook negociations in this sense, but because the structure of the state is not recognized (Transnistria), and even worse, in 1991 the situation in Moscow’s Patriarchy was also burdened, (…) did not accept the construction of a separate religious structure in Transnistria, because it did not consider it as an example for the others. Then, our authorities, due to political implications, not religious, went to Kiev, where evidently they refused being a structure subordinated to Moscow’s Patriarchy, then they tried to find someone – Greco-Catholics, who in that moment were happy to accept, but it must be mentioned that it was a pure formal action in order to put some pressure on Moscow. (…)

And then later, when everything calmed down, and Chisinau in the religious sector received self-governance, almost autonomy, only it was not called that way, then Kiev received autonomy, the Vicariate was constituted and in 1995 – the Diocese. Iustinian was our first Archbishop, he was then a very young, active, historian, trained in Bucharest and in his vision considered that one should not construct just a structure where Christians should come pray and then leave, but a church must influence the social life actively, meaning if the secular leadership has decided to construct here a Diocese, then it should not be just a decorative element, not just a nice name, where in the end each has to do whatever without some kind of a contact. (L.A.)

Thus, we can say that the Diocese and the State reciprocally cooperate, we have a symphony of powers (…) like it was in Byzantine Empire.” (V.C.)

Regarding the position of the Diocese in the scheme of the Metropolis of Chisinau and All Moldova and the relation between the two, one of the journalists from Transnistria interviewed here states that:

“The Diocese of Tiraspol and Dubasari is considered to have a special position in the component of the Metropolis of Chisinau, in the big picture it is connected to political aspects, everything is inter-connected, starting with the fact that Transnistria is de facto a different region from the Republic of Moldova, de facto not controlled by it, implicitly the Diocese of Tiraspol and Dubasari has some differences in its functionality. Practically, there is a formal relation of subordination to the Metropolis of Moldova, but on the other hand there is a direct contact with the Russian Federation, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), with the central headquarters in Moscow, meaning that there are all these aspects, but somehow the tendency is growing”. (A.M.)

Questioned about this aspect, the representatives of the Diocese have denied the special statute that their institution might occupy in the Metropolis of Moldova, specifying that their subordination to the Metropolis of Chisinau and all Moldova is a part of the canonical territory of ROC, citing the ex-Archbishop of the Diocese, Iustinian they specified that:

“as long as the Metropolitan bishop Vladimir prays for Moscow’s patriarch, we will listen to him.” (V.C.)

Fact that is strengthen not only by these declarations, but also by the Diocese’s actual actions and interests: at a simple glance on their website, we can observe that in the section New and Events, news referring to the Patriarchy of Moscow followed by local events and not even a piece of information about the Metropolis of Chisinau and All Moldova. The relation with the Patriarchy of Moscow can also be explained through the fact that both Bishops of the Diocese of Tiraspol and Dubasari, Iustinian and Sava, have been named directly by Moscow’s Patriarchy, being originally from Russia.

Moreover, as the interviewed people also specify, for the Transnistrian leaders this represents a special act, more precisely their meetings with the Patriarch of Moscow and not with the Moldavian one:

“As you may know, all of Transnistrias’ presidents consider that it is in their duty to meet with the Patriarch (…). There is a plan in which there is specified with whom and in what order the President of Transnistria should meet with, for example our custodian, deputy prime minister Rogozin, before it was Jucov, now it’s Rogozin, some ministers, The Minister of Economy, State Duma deputies and obviously the Russian Patriarch, before it was Alexei, now it’s Kirill – so this visit is a mandatory one. You may know that Igor Nicolaevici Smirnov has meet for a few times with the Patriarch, Evghenii Vasilievici Șevciuk, he also met with the Patriarch a few times and also consider that Vadim Nicolaevici Krasnoselski will also meet with the Patriarch, after my calculations more often than his predecessors.” (A.M.)

Obviously, these meeting are extremely disseminated in the Transnistrian mass-media, the leaders taking an advantage of the huge political capital in the face of the voters, becoming a common practice. Even the simple congratulating message addressed to Russian Patriarchy from the Transnistrian leader is reflected in the mass media as a special event, similar to the ones with president V. Putin’s and Patriarch Kirill in the Russian Federation.

On the other hand, not only these Transnistrian leaders with the Metropolitan Vladimir are rarer, but they are not so popular or important for the Transnistrians. It is one thing when the Metropolitan Vladimir of Moldova visits and is it completely something else when in 2013 the Patriarch of Russia Kirill visits Transnistria. Visit that became history for the locals and brought into discussion with all respondents:

“The Patriarch’s visit is an event of major importance. The Church for Transnistria, in my opinion, is not just a traditional institution which exists in Moldova and in Ukraine, etc. Transnistria always reacts very thoroughly to all the problematics that [literally] touch … its vital signs and therefore any visit here of a representative from the Russian Duma or of a famous writer and especially the Patriarch, are a symbolic expression and shows, that even though the state is not recognized, the people here are not isolated from the external world, like it is said most of the time, they are involved in processes, and here’s how the Church represents that unwitting mechanism that drives the involvement in these processes, because if here the Patriach is coming for us means that we do not live somewhere in Tahiti, a long way till there, but rather that we are here, and we are visited.” (A.D.)

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Patriarch Kirill’s visit in Transnistria (source: novostipmr.com)

Another respondent emphasized the extent that the event had: ”… the visit of Patriarch Kirill in Transnistria, in 2013, when we stay here in the Central Square of the city, and he held his discourse there where the statue is, next to the Pioneer Palace. There was a tribune, behold this entire square, from one end to another, was full of people. People that willingly came. No one was brought with force. Even the space wasn’t enough for everyone.

We truly have an orthodox nation and even its moderately secular people have come to hear his Holiness’ discourse. That is way I say that the Church, even if it is a default institute, with a default politics and power like the political scientists would say, but in reality it enjoys a great political potential. (A.M.)

Truthfully, the religious institution in Transnistria enjoys some sort of political potential which is activated only in certain situations, when needed, as the responders also state, and the local authorities co-work here with the Orthodox Church for solving different social aspects of the region because “our voters are approximately 90% Orthodox”.

Obviously, updated official statistics do not exist, but the Diocese’s representatives and opinion formers with whom I discussed unanimously agree that the number is approximately 90%, sustained even with a census if it would take place today. Especially that, despite that the Transnistrian region gathers over 32 nationalities, as the present leader also states, the majority are Orthodox. It would be strange if it would be different, taking into account that other religious cults, considered non-traditional (Muslims and Jews are cults regarded as traditional, but they are a minority formed by a few dozen people as we are assured by the Orthodox Diocese) we can cite “as being spies, because they are not our people and do act against the state” and are viewed by the Orthodox as being from the “zoo”.

Interesting is that not only other religious minorities are viewed with some sort of concern and even repulsion, but also non-Slavic orthodox, like for example the Bessarabia Metropolis, that is associated by all the respondents with Romania (Bessarabia Metropolis was first reactivated in the Republic of Moldova by the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1992 at the requested by a group of worshippers from the Republic of Moldova, but only in 2002, with help of CEDO was legalized, having in present a restricted activity in the Republic of Moldova).

“I don’t know if it was a mistake or not, back in 2007, the initiative of the Bessarabian Metropolis to found a diocese here (the so-called “Orthodox Diocese of Dubasari and Transnistria” even though the Bessarabian Metropolis and the Romanian Orthodox Church never had a canonical jurisdiction on the left side of the Dniester – n.n.), but it was perceived negatively in Transnistria. The national mass media from Transnistria launched very categorical and striking declarations on this matter, amplifying the negative reaction of the population, fed already by the Transnistrian rulers. It was a very good card played by the state power” (A.C.)

When Romania announced that they want to found their own Diocese on our territory, Moscow’s Patriarchate overlooked the statement, or better said they didn’t, they did not fully realise what was happening, so Archbishop Iustinian requested to gather materials on this subject (he called on a secular historic, Sovnic), prepared all the material and sent the package to the Russian Patriarchate, as a result the Patriarchate had succeeded in obtaining a meeting with the representatives of the Romanian Patriarchate and the problem we can’t say was closed, but it was frozen.”.(L.A.)

With the Bessarabian Metropolis everything is much more complicated for us here. In 2007 you may know that there was the attempt to create a Diocese here on Transnistria’s territory, but then, as one can see, the Russian Church and The Diocese of Tiraspol demonstrated, in fact, how powerful their political resources are –soft power- those opportunities that are not visibly shown, but exist mainly, with the common force of the civil society, as I remember, the public organizations were very active and had opposed this procedure of the Bessarabia Metropolis, the active procedures of the Russian Patriarchate, Transnistrian parties, and thus, because or due to these common efforts the actions of the Diocese in Transnistria had failed”. (A.M.)

It is normal to be this way as our respondents specify because “The Bessarabian Metropolis could not grow roots here in Transnistria, because here, even though there are a few who identify as Romanians, they represent an insignificant number, not even in Moldova there aren’t so many, approximately 10%, here in general there aren’t so many so small chances are set for the Metropolis”.

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The Noul Neamț Monastery, Transnistria region

The associated clichés in Transnistria with the Bessarabian Metropolis and the Diocese of Dubasari’s initiative are like: Romanians – occupants that practice a politics of revisionism. These clichés, as specified by two of our respondents, are not present only here, but also in Ukraine “in 2011 there was an attempt to open a church by the RomOC (Romanian Orthodox Church) in the Camîșovca (Ukraine), they reacted in the same way, the Metropolis of Odessa declared the same thing”(AM). (In fact in 2011 there was a consecration of a Romanian church in the Camîșovca village took place: http://www.timpul.md/articol/a-fost-sfintita-prima-biserica-romaneasca-din-ucraina–25389.html – n.n.)

The respondents also emphasize the difference between their identity and the one promoted by the Bessarabian Metropolis, between the different values and the ones that it wants to impose, identity which is shared even by some of the representatives of the Romanians in Transnistria:

“I don’t intend to offend a nationality, but look for example in Moldova, where in the past 25 years a new controversy has emerged between Romanian or Moldavian, I am telling you that I am Moldavian, I represent another nationality, he is Romanian, I am Moldavian, and they tried to come here and impose on us something else, do you understand that we are simply not Romanian. The same thing would happen, if someone came from Ukraine and try to impose themselves we would tell them the same thing – we are Moldavians.” (V.C.)

Another respondent specifies that “personally I consider myself orthodox and of course think that this region, historically speaking is under the RuOC’s wing, and all these attempts of entering, of schism, influence will bring nothing good (…). Nothing, but schism and tensions in society cannot be, because here the society is a traditional one with its own origins, its own values, its own visions about the world and all these attempts to impose new forms, models of perceptions, like the European ones, even though they are closer in a cultural sense, but I personally am very sceptical about these European values, regarding those non-traditional groups/communities, and of course all those attempts of imposing from the Bessarabian Metropolid will become the source of tension, the painful point on which all will put a pressure.” (A.D.)

Instead, the Transnistrian’s values and visions are not contradictory, for no one’s surprise, on the contrary they are perfectly fuelled by the planets from the universe of the Russian World, concept relaunched by the Patriarch Kirill in 2007, elements which are instrumented more and more by the Russian president – the discourse which justifies Crimea’s occupation is most relevant in this sense.

This concept has been transposed by V. Putin in an international foundation – The Russian Wold Foundation – which we can find under the form of a Russian Cultural Centre in Bucharest, Chisinau and other big international cities.

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Patriarch Kirill at the Xth Gathering of the Russian World, 2016 (patriarchia.ru)

In Transnistria, the Found is very active, even though, as one of the respondent specifies, funding from them are not accessible for other local organizations. Usually, the Found cooperates with the closest to the Russian Orthodox Church, both in The Russian Federation and its canonical territory – R. Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, but these activities of collaboration are not publicly exposed.

The Fund’s website has a special section dedicated to Transnistria, the Centre of the Russian World is in the State University of Transnistria. One of the respondents shares with us that he even participated personally at the Gathering of the Russian World, when the Patriarch took the word and spoke for the first time about the Russian World and its borders.

“Before the Patriarch launched the Russian World concept, he pointed out that the Russian World represents in the first place values, there aren’t any borders of the Russian World, because before everything it’s about the Russian identity.”

For Transnistria, where the population let’s say is devided in 30% Russians, 30% Moldavians and 30% Ukrainians and the rest Bulgarians, Jews etc., this concept is so natural, because we encountered this situation in the ’90s, when Chisinau began to plead for the construction of a state on ethnic criteria, here they pleaded for an international model of organization of relations. That is why this kind of interpretation was launched (Russian World) for Transnistria it was very clear and fully understood here and even before the concept of Russian World appeared the situation made Transnistria to be like an outpost for the Russian world, only then this discourse of the Russian World did not exist, so we considered to be a bastion of Russia, because we here identify not only with the Russian Federation as state, but also with the Russian culture, with the Russian history, with the Russian civilization if we can call it that (…).

What was important for us is that we observed this change of visions, a new approach from Russia and the Russian elites, once with the establishment of the Ruskii Mir (Russian World) Fund. This Fund is functional and works quite actively and successfully and we are happy that this thing exists. (A.D.)

Responders consider that both the states’ and societies’ responsiveness regarding the Orthodox Church, its specific territorial and state integrity, also the working of governmental processes in a certain way, result in the first place from the common parameters with the Russian Federation that continue to preserve themselves since the Communist period and secondly from the Occidental influence in the region which is very small:

“For us it’s much easier because the soviet, communist, mentality has been preserved, even the young educate themselves from previous coordinates, even though they grow up in a secular family, anyway they have the same common coordinates with the rest of this society, same values, same heroes, same holydays and what is interesting on Transnistria’s territory is that inter-religious and inter-ethic disagreements never existed on the territory, because from the beginning the people who settled here were 90% – orthodox. Now approximately the things are the same”. (L.A.)

Here, the Diocese representative specifies that “an unitied people formed from Russians, Ukrainians and Moldavians and some other 30 representatives of other nationalities and because their ancestors were orthodox, their history is common for approximately 200 years on this territory, the coordination system is unique, and so we have a united people(L.A.)

“Things are the way they are, because you tasted from the European influence, but here we have a Russian influence, meaning the traditional Russian state concept, the symphony between state and church”. (A.M.)

Thus, for Transnistrians the opinion of its neighbour is very important, and for the local authorities, the voters’ opinion, when it comes to rules and state processes, rather than “from that gentleman from Washington or Bruxelles”. Morality and traditional normality ground social norms, the juvenile judicial law and LGBT communities and their movements are associated strictly with Occidental inventions, so they are outlandish for them, and allowing manifestations of these communities would constitute a precedent in the opinion of the respondents. The current president, V. Krasnoselski is considered by the Diocese’s representatives a good orthodox and “non-pro-European” precisely because he has three children from his first and only marriage and particularly he “is married with a woman, not a man”.

Obviously, the social perceptions illustrated above cannot be completely linked to orthodoxy or the Slavic culture, as it may seem from the respondents’ stories, but also are correlated with other social and economic processes that place Transnistria in a new phase through which other societies have gone through at a certain moment. Moreover, given that there is a lack of representative data at a regional level, we cannot link these opinions completely to Transnistrians, opinions being always diversified in societies’ framework, however homogenous it may be. But what is relevant for us, is that the respondents have associated certain values, even ideological guidelines, with religious institutions, and orthodoxy and its conservative characteristic is categorically associated with the Russian Orthodox Church, through this fact exemplifying their spiritual preferences, their cultural origins and the way in which they are used in shaping the political future of Transnistria.

*Tatiana Cojocari is a member of the LARICS Council of Experts.