Saturday, July 22, 2017

Gagauzia's Geographic Challenge

Map of Gagauzia AU
Gagauzia is a territory belonging to Moldova which received a special status in 1995, receiving the right to establish its own local institutions and body of representatives. The main aim of this resolution was that of easing the tensions between the Gagauzians, a group made up of speakers of a Turcik language, closely related to Turkish, that practice Orthodox Christianity. The Gagauzian Autonomous Unit displays a series of interesting characteristic, mainly related to its odd shape and border anomalies, along with a few demographic characteristics that set it apart from the other regions of Moldova. This paper aims at analyzing the impact that the geography of the territory has on its current state of economic and social development, and how much can certain geographical features inhibit future development. The analysis will take into consideration various factors, ranging from land forms, border anomalies, agricultural land and infrastructure to aspects that are more deeply correlated to the territory’s demography: ethnic diversity, language use and religious groups. Judging from a purely geographical perspective, Gagauzia is hugely disadvantaged by its discontinuous landmass, which is can represent a huge obstacle when it comes to uniformly implementing development policies, it also creates problems when it comes to transiting between the northern and southern districts. The lack of a seafront, lack of access to the Danube and the lack of any nearby major urban centers or important land routes adds up to general lack of socio-economic development that plagues this region.

Gagauzia can be easily labeled as one of the oddest odd territorial entities that you can find in Europe, this comes not only from the numerous border anomalies that this territory has, but also from an unfortunate combination of geographical factors that greatly impact its development. It is situated in the southern part of Moldova, in what is known as “Regiunea de dezolvatare Sud” (Southern Development Region), bordering the rayons of Cimișlia (north), Leova (north-west), Cantemir (west), Cahul (south-west), Taraclia (south and east), Republic of Ukraine (east) and Basarabeasca (north-east). A rayon is the equivalent of a district, it is an administrative unit that is inherited from the Soviet Union. The core of Gagauzia is made up of the districts of Comrat and Ceadîr-Lunga, which are situated to the north, the third district, Vulcănești, is situated in the south, not very far away from the point in which Moldova reaches its extremely narrow riverside to the Danube through the port of Giurgiulești.

Map of Vulcănești district and the port of Giurgiulești
Most of the unit’s major settlements are situated are situates in the proximity of the Ialpug and Lunga rivers, this being the case of Comrat, the capital, being situated on the right bank of the Ialpug, When the Gagazians and Bulgarians were colonized in the region which constitutes today the southern part of Moldova and the southern half of Ukraine’s Odessa Oblast, all of the settlements were built in the valley of the Ialpug. The Gagauzians which today inhabit much of Gagauzia’s territory today, along with the Bulgarians which make up the ethnic majority in the district of Taraclia, were colonized at the beginning of the XIX century at the initiative of the Russian imperial authorities, in order to populate the lands that were deserted by the Nagoy Tatars. The Gagauzians and Bulgarians were perfect for this job, as both groups were traditionally involved with agriculture and herding, bothactivities being ideal for the low plains of southern Moldova. Most the people that were the early colonists came from Dobrudja, now in Romania, and north-east and central Bulgaria. Their faith is Eastern Orthodox, making them ideal for the newly annexed territories, making their assimilation within the Russian society way easier, than, for say that of the Volga and Pontic Germans.
Going back to our analysis of the territory, besides the two districts that make up the unit’s core (Comrat and Ceadîr-Lunga) and the southern district of Vulcănești, there are other three land masses that are disconnected from the “mainland”, but all of them are assimilated to one of the three districts. Between the “northern core” and the southern district of Vulcănești, we find an insular mass of land which hosts two settlements: Copeac and Chirilovca. This land has an almost perfectly rectangular shape, being bordered by the district of Taraclia to the south, west and north, and by the Republic of Ukraine to the east.

The other two lands that are disconnected from the “mainland” are situated a little bit to the north, one of them is sandwiched between the territories of the districts of Taraclia and Cahul, and the last one is situated on the western bank of the Taraclia lake and it hosts the village of Sarmuza.

Ceadîr-Lunga district and the Ukrainian border. 
There is a slight difference when it comes down the physical features of the “northern core” and that of district of Vulcănești, the north tends to be a little hillier with more prominent river valleys, being
The territory of the district of Vulcănești is flatter, having a south-oriented sloap that gradually decreases in altitude towards the banks of the Danude. Budjak, or what we know today as the southern half of the Odessa Oblast, that streches from the Dnister lagoon to the Danube Delta, is generally characterized by a vegetation made up of small and grassy plants, the climate is to a certain extent more similar to what we find in Dobrudja (Romania) – hot summer that are frequently subjected to drought, short transitional seasons, harsh winters. Gagauzia is situated at the point in which Moldova’s typical continental climate transitions to  a climate that is still continental but is more prone to aridity and significant temperature imbalances. Compared to the rest of Moldova’s territory, Gagauzia, along with the other districts that make up the southern region, receive the biggest quantity of sunlight, the highest percent is scored by the Danubian port of Giurgiulești, which is also Moldova’s southernmost point. This constitutes a huge advantage for the long-term development of agriculture in the region.

The territory of Gagauzia is also drained by the waters or rivers like Salcia Mică, Salcia Mare and Kagul, the last one traverses the territory of the district of Vulcănești from north to south, discharging in the Cahul Lake.  The autonomous unit has access to two lakes – Taraclia (shared with the district of Taraclia) and Cahul (shared with Ukraine), there is no lake which has its entire surface on the territory of Gagauzia.


Border anomalies
The fact that the territory of Gagauzia is so fragmented poses a huge obstacle when it comes to the efficiency of the territory’s success when it comes to self-governing, but also when it comes to implementing development policies in a balanced and fair manner throughout the entire unit. An advantage is constituted by the fact that both the northern core and the southern territory share a relative similar physical terrain which makes the needs of the people from both sides relatively similar but the key factors that could generate local development differ to a certain degree on the north-south axis.
Vulcănești district is advantaged by its proximity to the Danubian port of Giurgiulești (Moldova) and Galați (Romania). Galați can act in the future as a major engine for the development of southern Moldova and Gagauzia as it can supply this microregion with goods and services that can be in the price range of its consumers, taking in consideration that the people from this region live way below the poverty line, a supplier of cheap goods and services is welcomed. Also, Galați can satisfy the Romanian market anymore due to the regulations and high standards that are put in place through EU laws and international regulations. On the other hand, Galați cannot import a very important element – good practices, as the city is ranked very poorly when it comes to administrative efficiency. This comes as a big problem for a relatively poor region, a well developed and highly productive urban center can accelerate rapid development in the region. The disadvantage is that the southern district is situated too far away from any influential urban center – regardless if it is from Moldova, Ukraine or Romania. The Danube also acts as a natural border, making the access to Romania more difficult, thus greatly inhibiting commercial and cultural exchanges between the two sides.
The northern core deals with a similar problem, its internal lack of well developed urban centers, that is topped with the big distance between the unit’s territory and other major urban centers from Moldova or Ukraine, the closest major urban settlement being Tighina.
Gagauzia’s border anomalies also pose a big issue when it comes to the development of infrastructure, this simply comes as a direct consequence of the fact that the roads and railroads that transit Gagauzia from the north to the south do not equal a full segment on its territory. As an effect, roads need to pass through a few other districts in order to connect various settlements of Gagauzia. Giving the small size of the unit, it would be hard to develop an exclusively internal network of roads and railroads, but the border anomalies cause problems when it comes to perfecting the quality of the roads as a means to accelerate economic development. It is almost useless if the roads from the northern districts are in a good shape if the ones from the south are in a deep state of decay. Also, it is also useless if the national roads are in a good shape on the territories of the Gagauzian districts and are in a terrible shape in nearby Taraclia and Cahul districts, this has the potential of inhibit the overall development potential of the region,

Territory size and urban centers
The small size of the autonomous unit can represent a huge advantage, this can surprise some people. If we take a look at the world’s richest nations, we are looking mainly at micro-states. The tinnier, the easier is to govern a territory. Also, the small size can be a big disadvantage when it comes to overcrowding, but this is not the case of Gagauzia, as the population here has a tendency to shrink rather than growing at an alarming pace. The small size of the region can represent an advantage when shipping good from one place to the other, this is also coupled with the relatively flat terrain which makes transportation and the building of roads relative easy.
The territory of Gagauzia never hosted any significant urban centers, especially ones that would incorporate heavy industry. Comrat, the capital, and Ceadîr-Lunga, were centers for the “light industry” or small industry, hosting industrial activities that were at a little scale, did not necessitate the construction of working-class neighborhoods, employed a smaller number of workers than the heavy industry. Also, the urban landscape of the cities from here make their development into modern urban centers very difficult, this mainly stands from the fact that they have a very poor infrastructure, a badly design network of streets, lack of downtown spaces for new commercial and business centers and a lack of plumbing.

The lack of a seaside. The lack of access to the Danube
Even though the territory is not extremely far away from the Black Sea coast, it was not blessed with a seafront, this represents a huge obstacle in the way of its development. Also, it does not even have access to the tiny Danube riverfront, which is situated on the territory of Cahul district and is served by the port of Giurgiulești. Waterways can make a huge difference in economic development, especially commerce.
Not even the internal rivers that flow through Gagauzia don’t discharge into the Danube, but in the fluvial lagoons. Even so, their small depth makes navigation impossible.

Traditionally a borderland

If we take a look at the territory which constitutes modern-day Gagauzia, we will notice that it was a borderland for most of its history, when it was part of the Principality of Moldova, Romania or the Russian Empire. This had a huge impact on the overall development of the region, as empires tend to invest less in the infrastructure of border provinces as they are subjected to raids and invasions more often. Also, cultural institutions are always weaker here or nonexistent in many cases. 

Gagauzia's geographic challenge is that balancing out development across its fragmented territory and finding vital links, and engaging in productive collaborations with both the Romanian and Russian-speaking neighboring districts, so that is can facilitate its access to the needed key-strategic development points. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"MUSLIM BY NATIONALITY" and the upcoming Neo-Ottomanism

Bosnian Muslims (source: Pinterest)
We know from the last few years, that alredy passed, that Europe was repeately shaken by a wave of terrorists acts that were mastered by several fundamentalist Islamic groups. Most of the media coverage from this period centered its discourse about the connection between Islamic redicalism and migration to Europe from various Muslim-majority states. 
There were very few remarkable discussions that put into the spotlight the indigenous Muslims of Europe in the present context. Yes, indigenous Muslims of Europe, this term might give certain people a headache, as the general conception is that all of the continent’s adherence to Islam have Arabic or Turkish ancestry, thus their ancestors came „from somewhere else” at a given time in history. The Balkans host a number of people groups that practice Islam and are neither of Turkish or Arabic descent. We are talking more exactly about the Slavic Muslims, a general term that is applied to describe groups such as the Bosniaks of Bosnia and Sandzak, the Gorani or southern Kosovo, the Tordesh of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Pomaks of Rhodopian Bulgarian and Northern Greece. 
We can also add to the equation a small number of of Muslim Greeks and Albanians. If we put asibe many of the self-designated identities that are found throughout this region, we could easily come to the conclusion that the Slavic Muslims groups that cultural identities that do not diverge greatly from one another. Later, this represent one of the reasoons that leed to the creation of the Muslim nationality within Tito’s Yugoslavia, thus people could identify as „ethnic Muslim”. There were also a few other factors that we have to take in to consideration, by creating a free-standing Muslim nationality within Yugoslavia the long standing conflict between thr Serbs and Croats, that argued whether the Muslims should identify with one or the other side, was gradually neutralized. Even so, the religious landscape of the Balkans is gradually chamging, in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia, there is a strong desire to reafirm one’s group identity. Some studies showed that, even though religion played a major role in the crystalization of the Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian identities, there is a slow drop in religiosity that can be seen among Croatians. This can be a sing that the nation of va is trying to put more stress on Croatia’s links to various regional powers, to the West, and to highlight more its role in the regional history that is shares with former powers such as Venice, Italy or Austria-Hungary. 
The general trend in the region nowadays is that of a „radicalization of identities”, meaning that certain groups are more and more in favor of cutting, or denying, any historical ties that they have with their Slavic neighbors, accentuating the purely distinctive elements of its own culture. In the case of the Muslims, the material and spiritual heritage that was passed on to them from the Ottoman Empire. Besides the well-known charm of Osmali towns such as Novi Pazar, we must understand that the rise of neo-Ottomanism is become more and more visible through out the Balkans, epscially since Erdogan become the head of the Republic of Turkey, even though this ideology was existant way before his rise to power. Neo-Ottomanism stresses the role that the Republic of Turkey needs to play in those areas that were former part of the Empire, thus the Republic becoming a protector of those cultural values that are regarded as being explicetly Ottoman. 
This approach is quite conflicting when it is put side-by-side with Kemalism, the later one is not so much in favor of the crystalization in the Balkans, and not only, of a post-Ottoman realm, and stresses the need of a bigger involvement in internal affairs. Now, more than eve before, neo-Ottomanism has a clear slope that helps with making its message well-known throughout the Balkans. There are a few factors that need to be addressed, that heavily contributed to the emergence of imperialism in the region:
  1. The creationf of the „Muslim Nation” in Tito’s Yugoslavia, which acted as a unifying framework for the Muslim groups that were scattered through the country;
  2. Past tessions that were left unsolved between Muslims and non-Muslims;
  3. A history of genocide which made many Muslims not trust central authority;
  4. Forced policies of assimilation and systemic discrimination, especially in Bulgaria;
  5. A disapora of Slavic Muslims, especially Bosniaks, that live in Turkey, making the Turkish state a trust-worthy place for many Slavs of Islamic faith;
  6. Investments made by Turkey within Muslim-majority areas of the Balkans, like Sandzak and Bosnia, contrasted with the lack of investment that came from the central authorities;
  7. The common traits shared with Turkey through the Ottoman heritage inherited by the Muslims of the Balkans;
  8. Radicalization of faith, a transition toward a more faith-based identity in the detriment of an ethnic-based one. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Craftsman can be Smarter than a University Graduate

The last post that I shared with you was concerned with the way in which certain universities promote study programs that are not valid – through this I am usually referring to the fact that they rank very poorly when it comes to the integration of their graduates into the workforce, plus they are not able to produce scientific literature that presents objective viewpoints, and that is backed with solid proof.

In this post I won’t stress the topic of validity, or lack thereof certain study programs, but rather to present my blunt opinion on a huge misconception that university try desperately to popularize in order to gain even more candidates for their Bachelors, Masters of Doctoral programs. Nowadays it seems that more and more people think that a degree makes somebody worthwhile, and I see a trend that tries to demonize practical professions over those that are usually labeled as being more “intellectually challenging”.

Even if this trend is present both in the East and West, the way in which it manifests itself is quite different. The nations of the ex-communist East had experienced a boom in college attendance after the fall of the regime, this boom is usually determined by some specific social factors that are present across this region. First of all, the communist era was mainly associated with the glorified image of the worker, of the laborer, if we take a look in to the family history of many individuals we can see very clearly that their parents came from rural backgrounds, and settled in to the cities in order to supply the booming urban centers with the necessary workforce for the developing industry.

Most of the people of their families that constitute the older generations mainly practiced “professions”, jobs that necessitated more manual labor than intellectual effort. After the fall of the regime, the generations that were born immediately after were encouraged to practice professions that were more “office-based”. This eventually generated a boom, in some ex-communist nations, of diploma mills, or a diversification of programs. The diversification of the programs that were offered by local universities, state of privately owned, did not take into consideration the profile of the local and national economy.

Thus many universities introduced programs, most of which were copy/pasted from the West, that had interesting names, but were of no actual use when it came to making yourself more tempting for the local employers. “Communication and PR”, “International Relations”, “Social Work”, and “Management” are just few of the newcomers that didn’t manage to assure those that graduated a chance of a better life.  Maybe it’s not so much that these programs were not associated with a well defined niche, but more that they granted too many diplomas to too many people – the result was a inflation of graduates from certain programs. This is phenomena played in the same way with Law degrees, especially in Romania.

In the end, the result is the following:

-          a big segment of the youth that wasted 3-4 years in earning a degree that proved useless;
-          a segment of people that will be theoretically overqualified for the positions that they will fill – many of the graduates of these programs work nowadays jobs that  don’t require a university degree;

- a higher decrease in overall life satisfaction – due to disconnection between expectations and reality;

- a distorted image for the academic area which experienced an inflation of graduates;

- a decrease in the “practical recognition” of many degrees – not referring to being recognized by authorized state institutions that regulate university management and curricula – but more the fact that there is an increasing number of employees that are not willing to hire people that have low ranking degrees.

Now going to the next point, the idea that many university degrees are more intellectually challenging is a huge misconception. I will prove this with a brief comparison:

Women’s Studies

-          mainly centered around declarative knowledge;

-          there is a higher chance of mechanically assimilating information without understanding very clearly the connection between many concepts;

-          it is not a creation-based degree, is easier for a product to be judged and compared by outsiders than a bag of raw information that is loosely connected

-          there is not a very step-by-step approach to the gain of knowledge, the information and the content of the courses is sometimes quite loosely connected, because of this there is not huge need for learning each course religiously in order to have panoramic view of the whole field;

-          there’s no particular field that it directly addresses to, or well defined niche – as a result there is no pressure from a specific group of employees regarding the quality and coherency of the program. WS programs do not constitute primary sources from which certain industries collect their employees;

-          Many of the works produced serve an internal network – are mainly bought by other WS students and academic staff.

Wood carving  and carpentry

-          mainly based on procedural knowledge;
-  its understanding stresses a step-by-step approach, all the knowledge is closely interconnected;
-          it serves a well define industry and is influenced by the demands that come from it;

-          the products that are created can be easily compared and analyzed by outsiders,
 it blends visual, logic and artistic intelligence;
-          knowledge is achieved through practical activities;
-          degrees and certification are less important than the skills themselves;
-          it can serve various industries, the need for adapting skills and techniques is higher.

With all of this being said, we should finally understand that certain university degrees can be in fact less challenging than certain types of craftsmanship, due to the wider range of skills that you need to develop in order to perform well in practicality-based professions

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cultural Studies Programs are a Hoax!

For many years I kept a close look on the way in which academia, and in general the educational offers provided by various universities, have evolved. One thing that I noticed, which is not extremely surprising, is that fact that a new wave of non-traditional study programs made their way into quite a lot of universities. This is not by any means something that we should be worried about, but in the same time, we should not leave it to spread in a very chaotic manner.

The new wave of non-traditional study programs, and by non-traditional I am referring to certain research areas that constitute a niche, they don’t actually form a self-standing academic domain, or are somewhere at the crossroad of various domains. Another thing that they have in common is the fact that their “independence” from other fields, or fields that they were previously assimilated to, is correlated to a certain extent to the evolution of technology, of the internet, and a diversification of research journals that are mainly based on online platforms.

I think that it is truly wonderful that nowadays we have a greater selection of Bachelor’s and Master’s programs that we can choose from. But in the same time I have strong reasons to doubt the validity and pragmatism of certain study programs that promoted by certain universities.

The most fraudulent ones, which usually rank very poorly in terms of pragmatism and assimilation in to the job market of graduates are the cultural studies programs (American Studies, British Studies, Irish Studies etc). You may wonder what makes these programs to have such poor performances on the job market, there are a few basic ones:
-          they are not correlated with a very well defined academic area;
-          there are no job positions that can be accessed only by students that graduate these programs (ex. somebody that finishes with a degree in accounting can apply for an account position at a company);
-          these programs are actually a mish-mash of courses extracted from different academic areas, but they lack a very solid core of their own;
-          totally lacking a clear set of research methods that could actually validate their claims;
-          you don’t actually need a degree in this, you can learn it for yourself, you can write books and articles on related topics with or without a degree in CS.

These programs focus on the study of different cultures, but in their research they usually tend to utilize sources that cannot be very reliable. You cannot expect to conduct a valid study of the lifestyle of the American farmers from the South only through analyzing various novels, letters or diaries that make references to this subject. This is mainly because novels, letters and diaries display a profoundly subjective point of view, of single individual, in most cases. Using almost exclusively sources like the ones that were just mentioned, the studies that are produced by CS departments hold no particular value to the study of culture in general.

Some of you don’t actually realize that the staff the works in CS departments was mainly collected from various Literature departments. So, by taking this into account, it is no surprise that many of the professors that hold CS courses are not very capable of analyzing cultural phenomena through the use of hard data, or more importantly, being objective. This leads us to the following point, the courses and research that are mastered by CS staff will present you only a puff-piece image of a particular culture, they will tend to over exaggerate the positive sides of a culture, while pushing under the rug the negative ones.

There are individuals that still try to connect CS with Anthropology, and that is a big No-No. First of all, anthropologists use a variety of reliable sources when conducting their studies, they heavily value the role of physical, biological, and material factors when analyzing various cultures, or cultural phenomena in general. Demographical data and the material remnants of a culture also hold take an important place in anthropological studies. Unlike CS, anthropology has deeper roots in academia, so it manage to set for itself a more coherent mechanism of self-regulation, thus minimizing, to some extent, research that is useless or that defies search ethics.

CS journals are a waste a paper filled with bombastic titles for articles that explain things that are very basic in their essence. 

Another huge lie that CS programs are pushing is that of the trans-disciplinary outlook. We have numerous examples of inter-disciplinary programs that produce valuable research such medical engineering, bio-chemistry or video game design. CS is just not one of them. A thing that you need to keep in mind is that you can mix in mostly 2 area, that have a certain degree of compatibility, to form a study program, but when you mix in 6-7 area such is the case with CS programs, you just end up with getting a little bit of general knowledge from each, but you can’t become an expert in none.

And finally, many of these programs are more interested with spreading ideology that with building a critical framework for the analysis of a certain culture. They are determined to determine you to like a culture, rather than giving you the necessary knowledge that would let you figure that out for yourself.

Some CS programs receive funding from different entities linked to actual states, as a result, the curricula will be influenced by the need for a good image that many nations are desperate for, while leaving authentic academic values on a second, or third plan.

In order to end in an optimistic note, we should acknowledge that there are new study programs, that we may still find exotic, that have a huge potential in our current economy. We can include here video game design and programming programs, web design programs, cosmetic science and the list can go on.

If you truly want to study culture in a serious manner, go for a degree in Anthropology or Archeology!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Bi-Polar World, We Welcome You Back!

Looking through the content of various posts that spring out on social media, I came to a conclusion that I tried as much as possible to keep it to myself, but I think that, after all, it’s a healthy thing to share our opinions, and to confront our critics. For all of us, 2016 was a rough year, maybe not so much due to the fact that terrorism was more present in our newsfeed, but more due to the fact that we came to the conclusion that the world has changed dramatically and we know now some of the defining social trends that will dominate the years to come.

For many years, I must admit, that if somebody asked me “Which are the defining elements of our decade?” I would surely needed a lot of time to give even the most basic answer. Now I can see things in a different light, and I think that radicalization will be the heaviest label of this decade. Stop! I’m referring here only to the radicalization of Islam, as some of you might think, but more about the radicalization of opinions in general. Even though the world evolved remarkably from a technological point of view, we seem to get more and more infantile when it comes to expression our opinions, and especially those that regard hot topics for the whole world.

We are becoming more and more literate when it comes to using gadgets, but it seems that our critical thought framework is become extremely frail. The general trend is that of going back to a bipolar world model. For those of your that were born in the late 80s and early 90s, or even sooner, you grew up with the imagine of a world that is divided among two opposing ideological camps – US, representing capitalism, an ambassador of free speech, and the USSR, representing communism, and all that came with it – limited rights when it came to free speech and a economy fully dominated by the state.

Even thought this world order is long dead by now, our era has some similarities with it. The West is becoming more and more infiltrated by groups that have as goal the spread of ideology at any cost, with a total disregard towards pragmatism in general. The main tactics that left wing groups use nowadays is similar, to some extent, to a phenomena know in geopolitics under the name of Balkanization. This phenomena describes the fragmentation of a nation under the direct force of internal forces, of groups that want to reject the common identity at any cost, and ultimately to create their own identity on facts and reasons that a truly doubt worthy.

In our era, we seem to be fighting an evil that is nonexistent, or one that does not makes its presence known through suffering and misery, as it did its ascendants just a few decades back. We don’t fight poverty and malnutrition, we fight micro-aggressions and man-spreading. The evil of the late 2000s is different in essence of the one that we knew from the early and late 90s.

But even so, modern evil is more perverted, has more complex fight tactics on its side. The most toxic of all is the white-black/good-evil/partisan-nonpartizan view of the world, with nothing in between. Even if our view of the world, in its wholeness, is stronger now than it was in the past, our way of understanding what happens around is becoming more and more rudimentary. We see things through a very polarized perspective. In Sociology we know that a child in his early years perceives things, people and actions as either being good or bad. As a child grows, develops the capacity of seeing the nuances that change drastically any story.

Ignoring the nuances that make reality what is at the end of the day represents a huge danger for our society, and perpetuating this trend that is fueled by toxic identity politics and anti-scientism will have devastating effects on our general wellbeing as a society, 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Auzîi Clopotele Bolgradului

Bolgradul, adesea asemuit unui spaţiu trazitoriu, lipsit de un contur bine definit, pe pământul său perindându-se de la hoarde sălbatice de mongoli, până la valuri de colonişti bulgari şi găgăuzi veniţi dinspre Dobrogea. În zilele de azi, Bolgradul este o prezenţă discretă în viaţa socială şi politică a naţiunii ucrainene, acest fapt fiind într-o bună măsură datorat aşezării sale într-un colţ unitat de ţară, la mare distanţă de polii de influenţă socială şi politică. Istoria aşezării a fost marcată în profunzime de mobilitatea popoarelor din teritoriile adiacente către spaţiul basarabean, astfel Bolgradul şi-a conturat un profil demografic stratificat, fiind inchegat prin coexistenţa într-un spaţiu comun a mai multor populaţii diferite.

În cadrul acesteia sunt puse pe tapet numeroase evenimente istorice care au definit de-a lungul vremii profilul cultural al regiunii, acesta meritându-şi pe deplin titulatura de mărginime. Mărginimea este, în esenţă, o extensie a unui spaţiu mult mai larg, însă pe măsură ce te îndepărtezi de centru cultura începe să se dilueze, formele complexe încep să capete un aspect mult mai rudimentar, de multe ori imitaţia fiind întrebuinţată drept soluţie pentru uplerea lacune existente în cultura colectivă a locului. Nu se poate aprecia faptul că Bolgradul ar fi un spaţiu cu o simbolistică aparte în cadrul culturii contemporane româneşti, însă cu toate acestea, aşezarea s-a remarcat pe la a doua jumatatea sec. al XVII-lea drept un important centru pentru mişcarea de renaştere naţională a bulgarilor, aici fiind fondat în 1859 Gimnaziul din Bolgrad, acesta fiind cunoscut în prezent drept Liceul Gheorghi Sava Rakovski.

Aşezarea de pe se-ntinde de-a lungul cozii limanului Ialpug se încadrează cu mare uşurinţă în tipologia orăşelului de provicie. Comunităţi de acest tip au fost decrise drept spaţii idilice, fiind apreciate pentru lipsa tabieturilor pretenţioase din marile oraşe, şi pentru intimitatea oferită. Scrierile care fac meţiuni asupra acestei aşezări păstrează o perspectivă destul de realistă, acest lucru putând fi datorat faptului că în spaţiul răsăritean idealurile erau oarecum răsturnate, metropolele fiind râvnite pentru tonusul lor cultural, pe când satele erau încă înţepenite în datini înapoiate.

            O mare piedică pe care Bolgradul o va avea de depăşit este păstrarea unei memorii istorice comune, nealterată de anumite poziţii partinitoare, sau a unor afinităţi, pe care celelalte etnii le manifestă. Este adevărat şi faptul că gândurile naţionaliste adânc înrădăcinate în cadrul comunităţilor respective vor reprezenta o piedică majoră. Deşi învrăjbiţi de o istorie marcată de o luptă pentru supramaţie, etniile din Bolgrad sunt membre ale aceleiaşi biserici, acest aspect putând juca rolul unui factor de echilibru, putând asigura într-o oarecare măsură nivelul necesar de coeziune socială.

            Configuraţia spaţiului urban bolgrădean urmează atât în formă, cât şi funcţionalitate, modelul ce se regăseşte pe tot cuprinsul regiunii, însă putem remarca şi câteva particularităţi. Forma aşezării este destul de omogenă şi bine definită, acest aspect fiind întărit şi de configuraţia reţelei de stăzi, acestea urmând o traiectorie dreaptă. Statutul său de mic centru industrial de importanţă regională, dobândit pe la jumatatea sec. al XIX-lea, a avut un impact semnificativ asupra dezvoltării spaţiului construit. „Catedrala”, construită în stil clasic, reflectă în tocmai prosperitatea de care s-a bucurat oraşul în trecutul nu prea îndepărtat.

            Drept încheiere, putem afirma că Bolgradul a reprezentat un model de prosperitate într-o regiune care a fost tot timpul la confluenţa puterilor regionale, urmarea acestui fapt a fost o instabilitate, sau o mai bine zis, o fluiditate crescută a mobilităţii populaţiilor locale. Deşi diferite în grai, şi în ceea ce priveşte practicarea anumitor datini, structura socială este una singură pentru toate etniile Bolgradului, o structură profund ierarhizată care pune accent pe o viziune tradiţionalistă.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Belarusians: The prevalence of heterodoxy

Orthodoxy has a double meaning in Belarus, on one hand, it may refer to the nation’s dominant religious faith, and on the other hand, it may refer to matters regarding morality and conduct. An interesting aspect when it comes to morality is the double standards that is usually applied, the so-called orthodox morality has the soul purpose of reinforcing, and giving legitimacy, to certain political ambitions. This tactics thrive on inducing the strong feelings of guilt, and of moral depravity, to those that dare to not be in favor of the points of the politic agenda.  As a result, moral orthodoxy, or translated as „healthy moral values”, is only a tool used for legitimizing political ambitions. All of the values that are praised upon are distorted from the very beginning, and are used only in those contexts in which they can reinforce the credibility of various political statements. It is hard to state that the current social landscape of Belarus was not influenced by Orthodox Christianity, when it fact, Orthodoxy played a key-role in carving the nation’s social dynamics. 

The shift from Byzantine Catholicism to Russian Orthodoxy, which occurred after the territory of present-day Belarus was annexed by the Russians, in 1772, had irreversibly changed the destiny of the Belarusian nation. A greater number of Russian Orthodox parishes on the territory of Bielorussia opened the way for the start of a long, but efficient, Russification policy.  

The Republic of Belarus is an odd case of cultural hybridization that coexists with a highly rigid political regime that has always favored conservative ideals and a strong pro-Russia sentiment. The current Belarusian legislation is deeply flawed and presents a high disregard towards protecting the rights and liberties of individual and groups that possess a minority status. Minsk praises the heterodoxy of the current legislation, often regarding it as being a core element of the Belarusian social DNA. The Belarusian government favors maintaining a hallow statist national identity, which lacks any substance whatsoever, in the detriment of an ethnic-based identity. The current paper attempts to analyze those segments of the Belarusian legislation which directly, or indirectly, regulate identity-connected issues. Questioning the legitimacy of a nation’s identity can be difficult, and highly dangerous, as it usually reopens chapters of history that some are still not comfortable with.  The idea of a mono-ethnic Belarusian nation may sound appealing to a great majority of citizens, but even so, Russian would still be preferred over Belarusian as the colloquial language. The general state of Belarusian identity has puzzled many social scholars, some of which were quick to “diagnose” Belarusians as suffering from a hallow identity syndrome, while others have applauded it as a solution for maintaining stability in a country that is prone to major security threats from its neighbors.  Belarus’ biggest challenge at the moment is that of reclaiming its ancestral cultural heritage while keeping a balanced relation with its economic and strategic allies from the region. The re-Belarusificaion of the country seems to be nothing more than an idealistic thought, taking in to consideration the fact that for many ethnic Belarusians the image of a Russian-speaking Belarusian national state doesn't seem scandalous, being rather labeled as a comfortable compromise.
Keywords: Russian-speaking, dualism, re-Belarusification, mono-ethnic, crisis  

The Republic of Belarus is probably the most intriguing of all of the ex-Soviet republics of East Europe, its stubbornness towards relaxing state control over the national economy, topped by hostility towards freedom of expression and violation of human rights, have earned it the title of a dictatorship incognito. The current paper aims at analyzing the distinctive elements that greatly contributed to the development of a national identity which is backed by the state’s ruling political, in the detriment of one that would not discredit the ancestral cultural heritage of the Belarusians. This analysis will put stress on understanding the mechanisms that stood behind the Belarusian nation-building agenda, and the aspects of the national legislation that back up the current state of cultural anomaly. Belarus is, as some would claim, one of the most opaque European states, rarely making the headlines, and when it does, the delivered information focuses almost exclusively on political affairs.

Seemingly encapsulated in a vivid, and over-glorified, dream of its Soviet past, Belarus caught the attention of the world with its shameless desire to reenact scenes and images from a past which, still to this day, remains highly controversial. In the eyes of the West, Belarus remains perceived as highly antagonistic towards the core-values of modern Europe, and having no second thoughts when it comes to playing the role of Russia’s faithful sidekick. Foreign scholars do not take a great deal of interest in analyzing, or publicly debate, the current social issues faced by Belarusians, this may be attributed to the blurry image that the nation has in the global academia. The stiffness of the Belarusian society still poses many problems when it comes to the democratization of public institutions, people still are reluctant to question the legitimacy of restrictions imposed by the ruling political class, the general state of fear being maintained through harsh sanctions against those that are labeled enemies of the regime. Belarusian history is primarily marked by foreign annexation, the country’s present-day territory being at various points in history under the rule Kiev Rus’, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. As a result of the historical conditions in which they came in to being as a free-standing nationality, Belarusians had experienced a lot of hardships when it came to governing their own national state, which manifested itself through an extremely fragile democracy and dependency on Russia for economic and strategic stability.

Belarusian politicians seem to be extremely preoccupied with regularly delivering nationalist-moralist discourses to the general public, in which they express their disapproval of everything that has the potential of contradicting the ultra-conservative ideology that governs the nation. A firm critique of Minsk, Svetlana Alexievich had extensively wrote on impact that Soviet rule had on Belarus, and the neighboring ex-Soviet republics. According to Alexievich, Belarusians are still struggling to dissociate myth from reality, this state of confusion being maintained through aggressive political discourses which stress the benefits brought by the Soviet era.