How to Teach Europe
Department of History and Geography, Ion Creangă Pedagogical State University, Chișinău
The radically transformative character of World War I cannot be overstated. The scale and character of the violence unleashed in 1914 was unprecedented not only in terms of military operations, but also in the social and political sphere. Recent historiography has increasingly turned to the Eastern European dimension of the war, highlighting the topics of imperial collapse, widespread social disruption, radical population politics and decolonization as the major consequences of the conflict. The project focuses on these processes of (geo)political, social, ethno-national, and cultural transformation in order to provide a synthetic view on the history of the East European borderlands in wartime. The main goal of this project is to apply and transfer these trends in recent historiography to the case of the Russian-Romanian borderlands, from a comparative, regional and European perspective. The methodology of the project is indebted to the fields of empire studies, comparative and entangled history, discourse analysis, and symbolic geography, coupled with an explicit emphasis on the link between modernity, mass mobilization and violence that defined the transition from the imperial to the post-imperial order. The intended outcome of this project will be a PhD-level university course, to be taught within my home university’s doctoral program.
The project will examine the interaction between the sphere of mutual representations and practical policies in the Russian-Romanian borderlands in the late 19th and early 20th century. The defining features of the Russian and Romanian cases stemmed from the ‘triangular relationship’ established between the elites of these peripheral actors of the European state system and the mainstream Western ‘model’ that became increasingly fragmented in the second half of the 19th century. Whereas the Russian Empire became one of the ‘constitutive Others’ in the process of Romanian nation-building, the Russian images of Romanian society shifted from a rhetoric steeped in the vocabulary of ‘civilizing mission’ in the early 19th century to a more critical stance linked to the emergence of Pan-Slavism. The project aims at discussing the dynamics of these mutual images before and during World War I, when they arguably had a major impact on Russian policies, as well as on the Russian-Romanian wartime relations. Placing the two cases (and their ‘borderland dimensions’) in a comparative perspective, it seeks to uncover the link between symbolic geography, ‘mental mapping’ and the practical policies of imperial (and national) players in the complex early-20th century setting.