Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Best Interests of Moldova's Russian Speakers

During Soviet times Moldova's Russian speakers formed a ruling class which was based in the major cities of Chisinau, Balti and Tiraspol. Following independence, the number of citizens identifying themselves as 'Russian' has fallen markedly, however this group is still very influential. They form the nucleus of the ruling communist party and have been able to steadily increase the influence of Russia and its culture over the country during the last 8 years.

One would typically expect the Russophiles to support the Communists or one of the other pro-Russia groups such as Tarlev's centrists. I would argue, however, that their best interests would be served by siding with Urecheanu's Moldova Noastra Alliance.

Why? Because AMN promises the best of all possible worlds to this group. On the one hand, Russian speakers will benefit from MNA's economic liberalism and commitment to democratic principles. They will also benefit, as have the Russian speaking communities in the Baltics, should Moldova join the European Union. This is due not just to the economic benefits of being part of the customs union, but also due to the strong minority protections they will enjoy under EU law.

On the other hand, MNA is committed to maintaining a productive relationship with Russia, subject only to the constraint of maintaining Moldova's sovereignty and integrity. As far as I can make out, they do not actively promote reintegration with Romania, preferring instead a sort of 'Modern Moldovenism' which recognises that the Republic has both a Romanian and a Slavonic history.

Contrast this with the path which the Communist Party would take Moldova down, i.e. ever closer relations with Russia. While culturally comfortable for Russian speakers in Moldova, stronger ties would negatively impact even their community. Moldova would regress in its democracy, following the autocratic Russian model. This would express itself in the form of increased abuse of human rights at the individual level. Moldova would also tie its economy to the commodity-fueled Russian one, leading to a cycle of boom and bust, with an absence of real structural development.

I hope and pray that, come March, Moldova's Russian speakers will surprise me and vote for candidates who represent their true interests.

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