25 Years of Democracy/Why we're in Moldova
On Saturday, Moldova celebrated Independence Day (good timing for us to arrive here, huh?)! There were lots of festivities, including a parade, music, and fireworks.
It was also interesting to see Moldovan flags hanging up beside EU flags (which Moldova is not a part of but wants to be):
It also happened to be the 25th anniversary of Moldova declaring independence from the Soviet Union, making this country (this iteration of it, at least) younger than I am. They had all sorts of banners saying "25 years of Democracy!" (in Romanian, obviously), and seeing them gave me the chills.
A little context: Moldova has been a country off and on since 1359, and has intermittently been part of Romania, Bessarabia, the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union (not the same thing). It's people are essentially of the same origin as those of Romania, but during the Soviet period (during which it was part of the USSR, not just a Soviet bloc state like Romania was), many Russians and Ukrainians emigrated here.
After the break up of the USSR, Moldova declared independence, and initially showed interest in becoming part of Romania. I don't understand the country well enough to say why it didn't rejoin Romania, but I can say that seeing how intermingled the Romanian and Russian populace is, it's not entirely surprising that they eventually did not decide to reunify. There has been some push for that in recent years, but I don't know how much (if any) traction that movement is getting.
An unfortunate legacy of the USSR is a government that (despite 25 years of democracy) remains fairly corrupt (old habits, and all that). In 2014, a politician (and chairman of a major Moldovan bank) headed a scheme to embezzle the equivalent of 1 billion dollars, which was then covered up by the Prime Minister, adding up to a deficit of about 1/8th of Moldovan GDP.
That kind of scandal only increases the importance of the work the Leavitt Institute (TLI) is doing here. They teach courses on the Rule of Law (basically legal ethics) to students at 6 different universities in Moldova. Many of these students are the future leaders of the country, and the hope is that, for some of them at least, the lesson in anti-corruption sticks.
Jesse is going to get to help organize and teach those classes during the year that we're here. It's an incredibly opportunity, and seeing how much promise this vibrant country has makes it even more valuable.
We all liked the music at the festival, but Miriam liked it best of all.
In short, we're happy to be here!
Or, in shorter, Te iubesc Moldova (I love Moldova)!