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Geopolitical Scales of Prestige in the Former Communist World

Geopolitical Scales of Prestige in the Former Communist World

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Published by historo
The complete title of the paper is "Geopolitical scales of prestige in the former communist world: Central Europe, Eastern Europe, the Balkans- the case of Moldova and Romania" authored by Valentin Mandache (LSE) and presented at the 8th Congress of the International Association for South-East European Studies, Bucharest, 24-29 August 1999.
The complete title of the paper is "Geopolitical scales of prestige in the former communist world: Central Europe, Eastern Europe, the Balkans- the case of Moldova and Romania" authored by Valentin Mandache (LSE) and presented at the 8th Congress of the International Association for South-East European Studies, Bucharest, 24-29 August 1999.

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Published by: historo on May 04, 2011
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GEOPOLITICALSCALESOFPRESTIGEINTHEFORMERCOMMUNISTWORLD:CENTRALEUROPE,EASTERNEUROPE,THEBALlZANS.
TheCaseofRomaniaandMoldova*
ValentinMANDACHE,
I
ecallasmallincidentafewyearsago,whileIwasworkinginaninternationalcompanyinLondon.ACanadiancolleaguecametomewithadocumentinRussianandaskedtotranslateitscontent.MyreplywasthatIdon'tspeakthatlanguageandapologisedfornotbeingabletohelp;atwhichhereactedsaying:"butyouareaRomanian,anEastEuropeanandmustspeakRussian!"MyreactionwasonecharacteristictomostRomaniansconfrontedwiththatsortofsituation,feelingsomehowoffendedandembarrassed,andtryingtoexplainthatmylanguageisaneo-Latinidiom,muchclosertoEnglishthanRussian.ThiswasofnoavailformyCanadiancolleaguewholeftprofoundlyunhappy,grumblingabouttheincomprehensibleandnon-usefulBabeloflanguagesfromtheBalkans,suchasRomanian.Inhismind,ononehand,itwasprobablyquiteclearthenotionofEasternEuropeasaRussianculturallyandpoliticallydominatedarea,justastheWestisdominatedbytheUnitedStatesandtheEnglishlanguage.Ontheotherhand,forme,atthattime,asapersonfreshlyarrivedinEnglandfromthethenfreshlypost-communistRomania,throughethnicityIamultimatelyadescendantofthecolonistsofRomeinDaciaandspeakerofaLatinlanguage,somethingsimilarwithaFrenchmanorSpaniard,inotherwordsbelongingthroughmyrootstotheWest,thegeopoliticalarealofhighestprestigeofourtimes.Thiswaswishfulthinkingandobviously,afterexperiencesliketheonecitedhereIhadtoreviewmyattitudeandevenpassthroughsomesortofcrisesof"geopoliticalidentity."Ultimately,encountersandexperienceslikeminecanbemultipliedpracticallymanytimestoencompasstheRomaniansandMoldoviansconfrontedwithsimilarsituations,andgive
Paperpresentedatthe
8'h
CongressoftheInternationalAssociationforSouthEastEuropeanStudies,Bucharest,24-29August1999.©
ValentinMandache.
 
104
..:;:_:._:_---------------------------------------------
uro-AtlanticStudies
animageofthenationalidentityassociatedwiththeperceptionofthosecountries'geopoliticalposition.Infactthis"geopoliticalidentity"crisisisaproblemofnationalidentificationafterthefalloftheEuropeancommuniststate-system.EversincethefoundationoftheSovietempire,theRussiancommunistsandtheirfollowersclaimedthatthemostprestigiousandworthyoffollowingsystemwastheonerunbyMoscow,ascribinginaself-assuringmanner,toRussiathelocusofgeopoliticalprestige.WinningconvincinglytheColdWar,thenationsofWesternEuropeonceagainassumedexclusivelythisattributeanditisnaturalforthemembersofothernationslocatedwithinthegreatEuropeanpeninsulatolookfortiesandtraditionswhichwouldbringthemcloserandultimatelyamongthisexclusivelyandprestigiouslyperceivedgroup.Thepolities'locatedwithinthegeopoliticalareaofWesternEuropewerethefirsttodevelop,inaprocessdatingbackintheMiddleAges,asenseofnationhoodamongtheirpeoples,culminatedtwocenturiesagowiththeformationofnationstateswithinthisarea.LiahGreenfeldtracesthefirstmodemnationinEnglandatthebeginningofthesixteenthcentury,duringtheTudorreforms.'Thentheterm
nation,
untilthendesignatingonlythearistocracy,hasbeenextendedforthefirsttimetoencompassanentirepeople."ThisgaveastrongsenseofprideandcommunitytotheEnglishpeopleinbelongingtoametagroupcalled"nation"asonlythearistocratswereknownbefore,thereforethisnewstatusofmembershipbeingseenasprestigiousandelitelikequality.Thistypeofidentificationofanentirepeoplelivingwithintheconfinesofastate,became,inacomplexsocialprocess,acommonfeaturetotheAtlanticcoastpolities,areawhichtodayisunderstoodasquintessentiallyWesternEurope.FromhereitspreadintheformofnationalmovementsaspiringtoachievetheWest'sstandardsandprestigetotherestofEuropeandtheworld.Theprocessofexpansionoftheseideasandideals,fromWesttoEast,withthenationperceivedasaprestigious,elitelikecommunity,aptlytostandonequaltermswiththenationsofWesternEurope,isdescribedbyErnestGellnerinhismodelof
"timezonesofnationalisni."
wherethepoliticalprincipleofnationalismisrepresentedbywhathecalls'themarriagebetweenstateandculture,
,6
ineffectapoliticalidentificationatthemassleveloncommonculturaltermsofthepopulationofthegivenstate.AccordingtoGellner,withinEuropeonecandistinguishfourtimezonesofnationalism,runningonaNorth-Southdirection(inafashionsimilarwiththegeographicalhourlytimezones),startingwiththeWestEuropeanAtlanticcoastpolitiesasthetimezone1ofnationalism,followedbythezone2consistingofItalyandGermany.Thesetwopolitieswereabletoestablishthemselvesasnation-statessuccessfullyencompassingthealreadyexistentItalianandGermanhighcultures,atalaterdatethanthezone1.Nextinlinearethetimezone3and4ofnationalism,whichincludeRomaniaandMoldova,zonesrepresentedbythegeopoliticalareaofEasternEurope.Theimperativeofthenationalmovementsinthosetwolasttimezones,eversincetheirinitiationintheearlydecadesofthe19
th
century,wastoachievetheprestigestatusandstandardofthetimezone1ofnation-states,bycloselyemulatingzone2(whereGermanyandItalywereperceivedasequalstoFranceandBritainfromthezone1)throughprocesseslikeunification,creationofelaboratedhighculturesandlookingforagloriouspast.Essentialinthezone3and4ofnationalismisthevirtualabsencenotonlyofthestateencompassingahighculture,butofthehighcultureaswell.
 
GeopoliticalScalesofPrestigeintheFormerCommunistWorld
105
When
inthezone
2
theGermanandItalianhighcultureswerealreadyinplace,butlackingapoliticalroof,inthezone3and4neitheroftheseexisted.TheyhadtobebothcreatedbythepoliticalandintellectualeliteanimatingthenationalmovementsinEasternEurope.Obviouslythisevolutionrequiredanimpressiveamountofsocialengineeringinordertoachieveahomogenousnationalidentityperception,typicalofthezone1and2.Thisinmanycaseswasandsometimesisstillexpressedonthegroundbyahighdegreeofbrutality(suchastheethniccleansingorphysicalexterminationofentirecommunitiestoattainethnichomogeneity.)Gellner'smodeloftimezonesofnationalismcertainlyhelpsunderstandthepeculiarsituationofthenationsinEasternEuropeandtheirquestforahigherplaceonthescaleofgeopoliticalprestige.Inthisarea,theprocessofdevelopmentintonation-stateswasfurthercomplicatedanddelayedbytheirincorporationwithintheSovietempireforaperiodoffivedecadesforthezone3nationsandmorethansevendecadesformostofthezone4nations.TheSovietempireanditsideologyactedasasortofrefrigeratorforthenationalmovements,slowingthemdownconsiderably.Moreover,theMarxist-LeninistideologypropagatedbytheSovietUnionhadacontrastingdifferentethosandobjectivesfromthenationalideology,factswhichcontributedtothesituationthatthesestateswereconsideredbytheWesternpublic,includingthesupposedexpertsonthearea,theso-called"sovietologists,"intermsoftheircommunist,ratherthannationalidentity.WiththemiserablefailureofMarxismandSovietempire'sshamefulcollapse,itbecameamatterofhonourforthenationsofthisareanottobeperceivedintheoldfashionasbelongingtotheEasternBlock,whichwouldassociatethemwiththedubiousandcertainlyun-prestigiousformerSovietgeopoliticalareaofdomination.Itbecameanimperativenecessitytolookforeveninventanewgeopoliticalpositionfortheconcernednation,whichwouldbringitascloseaspossibletothenationsoftheWest,nowagainthelocusofprestige,andtriumphantwinnersoftheColdWar.Thisprocessisreflectedinanunstableperception,glidingupanddownona
scaleofgeopoliticalprestige,
whereatitstop,themoreprestigiousnationsaretheonesdemonstratinghistoricalandculturalclosenesstotheWest,convenientlycategorisedas"CentralEuropean"andatthebottomofthescale"theremoteBalkans"howsometimestheWesternmediacallsthem.Thedifferentiationwasmadelessdifficultbythedivergentevolutionofthesenationsinthelastdecade,whereitbecameclearthatthenewlocusofshameandbarbarityinEuropeistheBalkans,illustratedbythekillingfieldsoftheformerYugoslavia.ThetermCentralEuropebecameincludedintothemainstreampoliticallanguage,dislodgingforthefirsttimetheoneofEasternEurope,onlyintheearly1990s.Untilthen,duringthecommunistperiod,itwasvehiculatedonlybysomedissidentwriters,especiallyinCzechoslovakia'andHungary.Now,itbegantobewidelyusedamongtheWesterndiplomaticcirclesandincreasinglyamongtheWesternpublic.Thecountriesperceivedasbelongingtothis"good,"moreprestigiousarea,closelyrelatedtotheWestarenowwidelyacknowledgedasCzechia,Poland,Hungary,SlovakiaandinthelastfewyearsSlovenia,acountrywhichhadtoovercometheoutcastofitsformermembershipinYugoslaviaandnowguardsveryjealouslyitshardwonandimmenselymoreprestigiousgeopoliticalstatusof"CentralEuropeannation.:"Atthebottomofthegeopoliticalprestigescale,fromwhichSloveniahasjustfled,istheBalkans,

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