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Mme de Perry à propos de mon livre sur la Transnistrie

28 Octobre 2009 , Rédigé par Frédéric Delorca Publié dans #Transnistrie

Je lis ce soir l'article de Chloé de Perry, Chargée de mission auprès de la Direction de la Formation de l'Institut des hautes études de défense nationale, sur mon livre sur la Transnistrie dans le numéro 35 de la newsletter de l'IHEDN (septembre 2009). Je trouve plutôt cocasse que cette dame me reproche le peu de scientificité du livre alors même que d'un bout à l'autre du récit j'explique pourquoi dans ce type de mission la scientificité était impossible. La jeune Mme de Perry me donne néanmoins acte d'avoir voulu être le plus objectif possible. Elle juge "inintéressants" les détails sur l'ambiance de la mission d'enquête (tout dépend des points de vues, peut-être Mme de Perry est-elle familière des voyages officiels mais ce n'est pas le cas de tout le monde). Cependant elle trouve l'ouvrage utile malgré tout. Je n'en demande pas plus. Je n'ai cessé de dire que ce n'était qu'un petit témoignage sans prétention, comme je voudrais que le fussent beaucoup de reportages de la grande presse dont l'ambition à conclure, sur un ton péremptoire, à tout propos excède le plus souvent les moyens matériels et intellectuels dont ils disposent.


Transnistrie - Voyage officiel au pays des derniers Soviets
[Transnistria - Official Trip to the Country of the Last Soviets]
Frédéric Delorca

Éditions du Cygne, Paris, 2009, 108p.

While much is said these days of Ossetian and Abkhazian independence, supported by Russia, other Eastern European regions who have also sought to succeed from the state where they found themselves after the fall of the USSR have been somewhat forgotten.

Responding to an e-mail inviting him to join an observation mission in the “troubled zones” of the former USSR for the Russian NGO Trans European Dialogue, Frédéric Delorca went to the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic or Transnistria, in July 2007 to see whether life in this region corresponded to Western clichés or not in his view.
Frédéric Delorca relates these few days spent in Pridnestrovia - the Russian name for Transnistria - in his book Transnistrie - Voyage officiel au pays des derniers Soviets, which has just been published by Éditions du Cygne. An analysis that incites a certain curiosity regarding the strange situation of this small self-proclaimed republic, stuck between Ukraine and Moldavia, where Soviet culture remains visible and Russian influence is particularly acute.

An actual travel log, accompanied by pictures, recounted visits, meetings, and the author’s impressions day by day; this work rich in experience is nevertheless disappointing with its descriptive character, profuse details without interest, and difficult writing style. While it is true that the purpose of this book is to show the reality of the situation observed in Pridnestrovia, it would have been better for the author to get to the point, that he stick to the essentials of his trip, and on the whole be more coherent. However, the story is no doubt an image of the slowness and incoherence of Frédéric Delorca’s trip. It simply follows the astonishment and incomprehension that he feels in the face of visits and encounters that he was not necessarily expecting as part of his observation mission.

It is only at the end, in the Appendices, that we get all the pertinent information regarding Pridnestrovia’s situation... and suddenly it all accelerates. The author provides us with a condensed version of his observations regarding the economy, social rights, democracy, inter-cultural relations, international relations, and the progress of the rule of law in the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. It would, no doubt, have been preferable that this information be revealed throughout the book, in a more balanced fashion, in order to better retain our attention. Nevertheless we acknowledge that the author has chosen to begin by objectively painting, and with no prior judgments, what he experienced, before drawing more general conclusions. If we leave aside the details and considerations often devoid of interest regarding the mission performed, we pick up some particularly rich passages that paint us an interesting picture of the actual situation in Pridnestrovia.

Over the course of encounters arranged by the NGO, we discover Pridnestrovian institutions:

  • the president of the Constitutional Court, established in 2002 (p. 29)
  • the Republic’s mediator, who, despite his birth in Russia, feels at home here since “the land belongs to the one who works it, doesn’t it? And then, I am always at home in the former USSR.” (p.30)
  • the chairman of the electoral commission, convinced of the electoral system’s perfectly democratic nature (p. 32)
  • Vice-president Korolyov who, regarding conserving Lenin’s statues, responds “they will not topple the symbols of the past... Pridnestrovia finds its cohesion in adhering to the past, the Leninist period as well as the previous period...” he adds “on an ambiguous note that Pridnestrovia [is] the only country that has not succeeded from the USSR.” (p.47-48)
  • the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the single-chamber Parliament (Supreme Soviet) who explains that “land [is] still nationalized and it [is] leased to collectives and farmers for 99 years.” (p. 67)
  • The Chamber of Commerce and Industry and major actors in local industry, whose statements do not allow for drawing a conclusion on whether the economy is privatized or still nationalized. “We were told of ‘public limited companies’ then they said they were ‘public.’” (p. 49) Moreover, a representative of the Sheriff group, who owns “the soccer stadium, the soccer team, stores, gas distribution, banks” (p. 45) states that the group “contributes 15% of the state’s budget” without knowing how that is calculated bemoans the author (p. 50). While visiting the Sheriff stadium, the interpreter reveals that according to a Central Bank official: “Sheriff grew with the support of [President] Smirnov’s son who, with the police’s complicity, benefits from various trafficking and then bought a large part of the Pridnestrovian economy. Today its future depends on the debt contracted with Gazprom...” (p. 73)
  • a Russian Bishop, who tells Frédéric Delorca that the links between the Orthodox Church and the political powers remain strong. (p.64)

As for the tours organized by the NGO, they are, as the author and his companions are astonished to note in the beginning, very far removed from their mission. Indeed, how can tours of the Pridnestrovian History Museum, memorials, and a cognac production plant help understand the situation in the country? It was only after a firm discussion that observation mission members were allowed to meet ordinary people. In spite of everything it turned out to be difficult. When they finally approached, impromptu, people in the street, the author noted that “we did not perceive any particular tension in the lives of these people.”The very Soviet welcoming committee we had been subject to did not seem to have been hiding anything shameful.” (p.54)

It seems that, in spite of everything, they seek to counter Western lies that circulate regarding Transnistria by having them tour the airport - whose runway was sprinkled with weeds but where closed doors could mean airplanes had been hidden (p. 59) -, the company Elektromach - effectively showed no connection to the armaments industry (p. 60) and the militia (police) museum - designed to prove that drug trafficking was easily neutralized (p.72).

It must be said that Pridnestrovian authorities have difficulty in getting the information they want to Westerners. As evidenced in the remark of a journalist member of the observation mission: “They do not know how to be direct and summarize. [...] They are shooting themselves in the foot with that, even if their arguments are valid. Because they are competing against American agencies that produce “readymade” information, quick and easy for journalists.” (p.60)

A remark which is no doubt behind Frédéric Delorca’s desire to write this book. From his reports of his visits in Tiraspol, we come away with the image of a developed country, modern, clean, where passers-by say they don’t fear persecution or discrimination should they be unified with Moldavia (p. 72). However, the majority of Pridnestrovian authorities continuously recount the 1992 conflict. Moldavian nationalists had launched an attack against Pridnestrovia, Ukrainian land attached to Moldavia by Stalin in 1939, in order to require Ukrainians and Russians to speak Moldavian and impose the Latin alphabet on the Moldavian language (p. 30). However, with the support of the Russian army, they were able to defend their own culture and progressively organize their state, whose independentist constitution was promulgated in 1995. A state nevertheless hindered by the absence of official recognition at the international level, bemoaned by the Pridnestrovian authorities and entrepreneurs.

In the end, while the story is somewhat flat and not very scientific, it is not devoid of interest and has the merit of presenting Pridnestrovia’s current characteristics objectively. An apparently viable country and which is removed, according to Frédéric Delorca, from the Western view of it. In the face of all these potential riches, we only saw that the myth of the rebel-state living on drug trafficking that circulated in the Western press did not stand up to scrutiny. I looked again at the map of Pridnestrovia, which I now think of as a sort of industrial island between Western Ukraine and rural Moldavia. [...] successful successions always start in rich regions, without which they are not viable on the long term.” (p.51-52).

Chloé de PERRY,
Responsible for university relations, training department


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