Disputed ethnic identity and the role of public education: the case of Moldova
Cojocaru, Lee Lilian
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This dissertation examines the case of Moldova, where two ethnic nationalisms (Moldovan and Romanian) have battled over the content of national identity over the last two decades. Historically, the land on which Moldova lies was caught in a tug-of-war between Russia (later Soviet Union) and Romania. Sharing the same ethnic traits with Romania, Romanian nationalism emerged early in Moldova, only to be later deconstructed by the Soviets through deportations and executions of Romanian nationalists, and eventually reconstructed as a "Moldavian" identity. This dissertation has two goals. First, through archival and historical research it traces the process of formation of ethnic identity and the emergence of two conflicting nationalisms in Moldova. Second, it investigates the role of public education in ethno-national identity formation through interviews and a survey of Moldovan students. I hypothesize that because self-identified Romanians control the school curricula, the younger generation is more likely to identify as Romanian than the rest of the population - whose connection with school is more distant. To test this thesis, I conducted an original survey of students from seven schools. In contrast to the primordialist theory of nationalism, these findings indicate a relatively fluid national identity. However, the case of Moldovan nationalism also contradicts the instrumentalist school of thought, which over-emphasizes the socio-economic interests of nationalist agents and fails to take into account the cultural motivations of nationalism. Moldovan story indicates that at the fore-front of Romanian nationalist movement were the relatively well-off intellectuals and not the rural and urban working people as the accounts of Cash and Crowther indicate. Lastly, the structuralist (materialist) school fails to acknowledge the power of ideas and the effect they have on historical events. While material means like print media, capital markets, and urbanization facilitated the diffusion of these ideas, they did not create them. As the case of Moldova illustrates, the emergence of nationalism cannot be explained without an understanding of the motivations of the agents involved.