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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

A bit of historical context

Two articles from the Washington Post have, over the last few days, finalised a new content idea I’ve been having for a while for this place.

First up came a quick overview of the ongoing dispute between Greece and Macedonia over who “owns” Alexander the Great, and then today up pops an article about yesterday’s elections in Moldova, describing the failure of the Communist Party to win as a victory for “Pro-West parties”.

Of course, it’s all a lot more complicated than that – not just the present-day politics, but also the history, in both cases stretching back centuries. And the press, with precious little interest in “foreign” news at the best of times, rarely manages to give much historical context beyond the superficial. (“Oh yeah, Moldova – that used to be Communist, right? Or is it still Communist? God knows – but it’s probably something to do with the Cold War. That’ll do.”)

But, let’s face it, few of us – even those of us who studied history at university – have a solid enough grasp of Europe’s past to know the basic backstory to *every* ongoing dispute. We can always make guesses – neighbours are always likely to come into conflict, after all – but the specifics are often lost. Hell, there’s a good chance that – thanks to the usually national-focus of most history teaching in schools and universities – that large chunks of European history are entirely unknown by many readers, be it the Early Modern big beasts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Spanish Netherlands, or the lost realms of Europe, the Venices, Savoys, Anjous, Brandenburgs, Wallachias, Achaeas, Trebizonds and the rest.

With all the politicians off on holiday for the next few weeks – and being, as I am, bored rigid with all the petty political squabbles – this looks like a good time to start adding to this site’s long-neglected “Culture” and “History” sections with a few (hopefully) handy introductory articles providing a slightly more coherent and considered bit of context to current events than you’ll find on Wikipedia. Plus, just for fun, the odd look at more obscure and forgotten bits of Europe’s history and culture, like my piece on wannabe European states from a while back. A good excuse to expand my knowledge and justify sitting back with a few books – expanding my knowledge was the whole point of starting to blog, after all.

Sound good to you? Or should I stick to politics?


  1. go for it.

  2. Sounds like a splan idea and why not start with the -is-it-a-duchy-is-it-county- anomaly that is Cornwall?

    A timely idea considering the Government of Cornwall Bill produced by Cornish Lib Dem MP Dan Rogerson: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2009-07-14b.174.3

    For a well researched website on the constitutional status of Cornwall try: http://duchyofcornwall.eu/

  3. Fine by me. Should be interesting.

  4. Do you know the attitude of the ordinary people of Roumania towards the peopke of Moldovia ?

  5. It rather depends on which people in Romania you ask, surely? Unsurprisingly, as an ethnically- and culturally-diverse country with a decidedly turbulent history (including numerous conflicts with its neighbours) and a population of c.22 million, there’s little in the way of agreement on most issues in Romania – let alone relations with near neighbours, with whom there are numerous ongoing border disputes, some dating back centuries.

    Or do you have some kind of special knowledge here?

  6. Yes, you should do it. History is important.

    Robin, what about the attitude of the ordinary people of Romania towards the people of Moldova? In English the name is Moldova (not Moldovia) for the present day country and Moldavia for the region and historical principality; in Romanian the name is Moldova for all these historical/geographical/political realities.

    I am Romanian and would be interested to see what you know and find special about my countrymen’s attitude towards Moldova.

  7. Also the name Roumania (or in the form Rumania) is obsolete. In English the name was borrowed initially from French (la Roumanie for the country and Roumains for the people in order to distinguish them from Romans, Fr. Romains) and thus came the now obsolete English form Roumania.
    The name of the people and the country comes from Lat. Romanus (Roman) and most Romanians would prefer the form Romania (over Roumania/Rumania) as being closer to the name of their (most prestigious) ancestors.

    Hope my corrections/explanations are not annoying.

  8. Hello Paul, (cefac)

    I thought I would compromise on the old spelling (and German ) Rumania with the UN accepted Romania. It was how it was spelt in the Anglosphere up to the nineties.It also can distinguish from the language of Romanshe which is confusing to us westerners.
    Which part of Romania are you from ?
    So Paul, what is the attitude of Romanians towards Moldovans ?

  9. Hey Robin.
    I’m good, thank you.

    Romansh – Romanian, it’s not that difficult to tell them apart.
    I’m from Transylvania but one of my parents is from Bukovina (a part of Moldavia) so I could say I’m also Moldovan.
    In Romania when you talk about Moldova or Moldovans you always have to specify (if that’s not clear from the context) if you’re talking about the eastern province of Romania and its inhabitants or about the country of Moldova and its inhabitants. We speak the same language and there is no linguistic break between the two parts of Moldova. All of Moldova’s former capitals lie in Romania, our national poet is their national poet,the greatest Moldovan historical ruler/hero (Stephen the Great) was voted as the Greatest Romanian (in Romania), our flags have the same colors, their coat of arms is represented in our coat of arms etc., etc. See here a map of where Moldovans live.
    Some Romanians would say Moldovans from RM are Romanians like all other Romanians, some would say they were too Russified and that they forgot their nationality etc..
    Some Moldovans (from RM) see themselves as Romanian or Moldovan and Romanian, some see themselves as just Moldovan (I’m talking only about the Romanian-speaking part of the population). Virtually all Moldovans from Romania see themselves as Romanian (they are aprox 1/3 of Romania’s pop), Moldovan being only a regional identity (like Parisian or Bavarian).
    Ethnic identity (and politics) is a very complex issue in the case of Moldova but I really don’t have the space or the time to go into much depth.

  10. I don’t get it, what do you mean by the 3rd paragraph?