“What is the strongest integrating force for this young country?”
This question, posed by an audience member, was one in a flurry of audience participation at an event to discuss post-Soviet countries with Global Washington member and volunteer, Liuba Ceban. Ceban, a native Moldovan and Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, answered that there isn’t necessarily a single uniting force for the young country. She explained that within the country, some people desire to reintegrate with Romania while others wish Moldova to be a prosperous nation of its own. The country is equally divided on matters of allegiance; arguments often erupt as to whether Moldova was better off under Soviet occupation and whether the country’s current trajectory towards EU membership is wise. Ceban closed the question with a resolute “it’s too soon to tell where the country will end up.”
It’s safe to say that little Moldova has been going through a lot of changes. The country, which historically has been primarily agrarian, has a mushrooming IT industry whose brisk pace left even Ceban surprised. She also mentioned the challenge that growing diversity will pose to Moldova. Today, the predominant faith is Christian Orthodox. But because of the country’s communist legacy, many other citizens still harbor resentment towards religion; the “biggest evil”, as it was sometimes called. Together with the very recent registration of Moldova’s Muslim community, these combating viewpoints have made the issue of religious freedom a very relevant one.
Ceban often returned to the theme “Eastern Europe cannot be thought of as a package.” The issue of religion is just one of many divergent points between the Eastern Europe states. Belarus, a country to the north of Moldova, has political freedom of religion but some intolerance among the community. Ukraine is even freer religiously, and Ceban attributed that to the previous leadership of the country’s more pro-EU policies and agenda. Moldova is also the only former soviet country with a strong, intact Communist party.
Ultimately, the message that Ceban brought to the discussion was that with the diversity of opinions and backgrounds and the rapid pace of change in Moldova, there’s no telling where the post-Romanian post-Soviet country will end up. But the country’s journey cannot be grouped with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, and Ukraine, as if they all come from identical history and culture.
Liuba Ceban started a nonprofit called WIN (Worldwide Initiatives Network) Moldova alongside former Peace Corps volunteers, whose goal is to promote partnerships for sustainable change and development in Moldova and to work with at risk children. The institution will be running a promotional event on July 6th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Watertown Hotel, 4242 Roosevelt Way NE Seattle, WA 98105.