(MOLDOVAN DAILY BRIEFING)
MOLDOVA: THE RANDOM BUT INTERESTING
I missed the episode of “Travels in Europe” when Rick Steves visits Moldova. But my research shows the following:
Moldova: it’s kind of like Romania—but way smaller. Proportionally, it’s what the Ukraine is to Russia.
Over 90% of the people who live there are ethnically Moldovan, which is almost like Romanian. But don’t call a Moldovan a Romanian. They don’t like that, but they might be too polite to tell you they don’t like that because Moldovans have a reputation for politeness (call it a Slavic/Eastern European version of “Minnesota nice”).
Moldova has 99% literacy in a population of extremely zealous wine aficionados.
For those interested in comparative jurisprudential matters: the Moldovans love their unicameral legislature of 101 seats and their constitutional court, just like our supreme court, decides whether laws passed are constitutional, but what they call their “supreme court” is simply the final appellate court for civil suits. Our American supreme court, conversely, functions both as the terminal appellate branch and performs judicial review to ensure constitutionality (or in recent years, "ensure" constitutionality).
98% of the people in Moldova who self-identify as religious are Eastern Orthodox, which is just like Russian Orthodox except with smaller hats for the clergy (please excuse the oversimplification, but it’s hard to focus on anything besides those remarkable hats.
The 2008 GDP of Moldova was $10.76 billion, so you might say it’s a small country (our bailout of AIG last fall was $85 billion, just to offer a sense of scale).
Everybody speaks Romanian, except for some troublemakers (between 5% and 10%) who insist on speaking Ukrainian or Russian: happily, all three are recognized regional languages by the government.
On the down side, according to the C.I.A. (and you know they never get anything wrong),
“Moldova is a major source and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women and girls trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation; Moldovan women are trafficked to the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe; girls and young women are trafficked within the country from rural areas to Chisinau; children are also trafficked to neighboring countries for forced labor and begging; labor trafficking of men to work in the construction, agriculture, and service sectors of Russia is increasingly a problem.”
“Moldova does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the government failed to follow-up on allegations of officials complicit in trafficking cited in the 2007 Report, and it did not demonstrate proactive efforts to identify trafficking victims (2008)”
Also, in 2008, Moldova was the EU’s poorest member (measured according to GDP).
Are you interested yet?
MOLDOVAN HISTORY, AT-A-GLANCE
*Moldova officially became Moldova for the first time in 1917, when it broke away from the Russian Empire.
*After becoming part of the USSR amid the tumult of WWII, The Republic of Moldova declared its autonomy in 1991.
*Would you believe Moldova’s constitution was ratified as recently in 1994!
MOLDOVA’S LITERARY ARTS
Does the name, Mihai Eminescu, sound familiar? He was a romantic poet, and so deeply influential is his work in the region that both Romania and Moldova claim him as their “national poet.” He was born in Moldova, but lived a long time in Romania—which explains the conflict.
What about this: is there an American poet currently working that could draw over 7000 ordinary citizens to her funeral? Well, Grigore Vieru just did. His funeral, just this past January, preempted popular television shows, and president Voronin ordered all state flags flown at half-mast. They care about poetry and poets, huh?. (Lookie: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/01/20/europe/EU-Moldova-Poets-Burial.php)
The Moldovan literati love them some Alexandr Pushkin, as he is apparently much beloved by all Slavic countries, not just Russia.
AND AS FOR OUR POETS IN THE PRUFER/MILLER ANTHOLOGY?
Born in 1964 in Unchitesi, Moldova, Paun attended the Maxim Gorky Institute of Literature in Moscow. He was awarded a PhD from that institution in 1989.
Paun is currently the Editor-in-chief of Editura Cartier, a Moldovan publishing house.
Paun has written six books of mostly verse from what I can determine, but also some non-fiction prose in the form of criticism and literary theory.
Vakulovski is somewhat harder to run down, at least on the web. He wrote a book in 1978 called Fucked Up, which might tell us more than anything. It looks wild. (excerpted here: http://www.plural-magazine.com/article_fucked_up.html)
SOME QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER REGARDING THE MOLDOVAN POEMS IN THE ANTHOLOGY
Just using our raw instincts, what does our collective gut tell us about the nature of the work selected to represent Moldova? It’s impossible to judge poets according to one or two poems—but, if we had to, we might determine that the two Moldovan poets don’t seem very different in terms of voice, rhetorical posture, even form. Is it possible that all Moldovan poets are this somber? Since this is the Internet, I’ll ask, “WTF”
The first poem, “Pieta,” seems the most intricate and, arguably, the most compelling. The exact dramatic situation is somewhat slippery, but the imagery allows the reader to piece together what she can. So what is going on, and what’s the point, anyway? And, by the way (btw), does it seem characteristically (or stereotypically) Eastern European?—not just the imagery and setting, but also the voice, the detached stiff-upper-lipped speaker?
“Bessarabia go home” appears to allude to the ethnic and territorial tensions between the melange of people who make up Moldova and the surrounding territories: “Bessarabia(n)” is an epithet. What can we deduce from the poem about what the nature of those tensions might be vis-à-vis the speaker and the speaker’s inner life and interpersonal life?
SOME PHRASES IN THE ROMANCE LANGUAGE OF ROMANIAN, THE MOST COMMONLY SPOKEN LANGUAGE IN MOLDOVA
Do you serve alcohol?
Is there table service?
"Este serviciu la masa?"
Two beers, please.
"Doua beri va rog."
More to come in class discussion.