Christoffer Størup’s project

The Margins of European Identity Politics: The Republic of Moldova in Orthodox Geopolitics, in its broadest scope, falls within all three chronological units of the project. The premise of the project is that, since the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1992 revived a bishopric in the Republic of Moldova (which had functioned in Romania between the wars and up to 1944), there has been open dissension between the Russian and the Romanian church about who has authority over the church in Moldova.

The Russian church accuses the Romanian church of aggressively interfering in Russian territory and creating discord in the Orthodox family. The question of the Moldovans’ own status as a nationality distinct from the Romanians is crucial, however, because it gives the Moldovan church, which is subject to the Russian church, an argument for remaining an autonomous patriarchate. The Romanian Orthodox Church stresses the linguistic and ethnic community of the Romanians in Romania and those in the Republic of Moldova, and emphasizes its status as a church for all Romanians.

The study will investigate the attempts by the Romanian Orthodox Church to promote Romanian identity in the regions that became a part of Romania after the First World War but were subsequently ceded to the Soviet Union at the start of the Second World War. These efforts will be compared with the support of the Moldovan church for the Moldovan national project. There may be a latent conflict here with the Russian patriarch, since the thesis of an independent Moldovan people can be used to justify ecclesiastical autonomy in relation to Moscow as well.

The aim of the study is to examine the churches from a historical perspective as actors in identity politics in the ongoing public debate about national identity in Moldova. Several layers of identity rhetoric are examined, both the discussion of Byzantine tradition versus European modernity, geared to an academic audience, and the use of scaremongering images and conspiracy theories addressed to the geographically and economically marginalized parts of the population, and nationalistic rhetoric intended to mobilize the grass roots. The discussion of the relationship to Europe is deeply embedded in the regional history of ideas and the protracted struggle of identity politics.

The study will consider how the concepts of a modern Europe and European values are used in the churches’ identity rhetoric and mobilization strategies in the prolongation of a century-long struggle between different nationalistic and ethno-political projects. The hypothesis of the project challenges conventional perceptions of the relationship between nationalism and modernity, since the ethno-political situation in Moldova is a dominant theme for both national-conservative intellectuals and right-wing grass roots in Romania. The long chronological perspective makes it possible to link the idea of authenticity particularly with two basic themes of Romanian nationalism: the Latin/Roman linguistic heritage and the Orthodox/Byzantine religious heritage.

The results of the project will be presented as a Ph.D. dissertation and in the form of a chapter to the project’s joint publications.