Interview with H.E. dr. Oleg SEREBRIAN
Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Republic of Moldova
Vasile SIMILEANU: Ambassador, as a diplomat, you have a broad perspective on the geo-graphical sciences. After 1992, you developed geopolitical research in the Republic of Moldova!
At the same time, the geographic school in the Republic of Moldova has undergone a real revival, with new specialties, banned during the communist period, being introduced in the specialized education. It should be noted that Tiraspol was one of the best-known geography faculties in the former USSR, where generations of geographers were trained! How did they perceive the new changes and new approaches to cultural geography, social geography, urban geography, geopolitics and many other specializations, about which please comment!
H.E. Oleg SEREBRIAN: Until the breakup of the USSR, the faculty of geography at the University of Tiraspol was the only faculty of its kind in the former Moldavian SSR. Only after independence did a faculty of geo-graphy appear at the University of Chisinau. Regarding the evolution of geographical science in the Republic of Moldova, I can say that in the last two decades it has evolved significantly, especially social, political and cultural geography, branches that were previously very little developed in our country.
At the same time, I must say that geopolitical science in the Republic of Moldova did not evolve from geography. There is very little geographical determinism in our way of “thinking geopolitically”. Most authors of geopolitical works come from the area of political science, history or even economics, which leaves a deep imprint on the content, of course.
V.S.: At the same time, you have succeeded in implementing new standards in Moldovan geopolitics by developing large-scale projects. What are they?
H.E. Oleg SEREBRIAN: In the nineties, geopolitics was something totally new in the Republic of Moldova, as well as in Romania. I introduced the first geopolitics university course in 1994, at the Academy of Public Administration of Moldova. It was also then that I wrote the first articles about geopolitics in our country. Today we have geopolitics courses at all Moldova universities, several studies have been published on this subject, especially on local and regional geopolitics.
V.S.: You have numerous lectures and papers on geopolitics held and printed in Moldova and other countries. Please introduce them to our readers!
H.E. Oleg SEREBRIAN: My first book on geopolitics – ”Geopolitics of the Black Sea region” – appeared in Romania, by Dacia Publishing House, in 1998. It was the first book on the geopolitics of the Black Sea region in post-war Romania, which had later an edition in the Republic of Moldova and several editions in France. Likewise, my book on Russian geopolitics, entitled “Russia on the rise: geohistory, geoculture, geopolitics”, had two editions in Romanian and two editions in French, at the prestigious Harmattan publishing house in Paris. I am also the author of the first geopolitics dictionary in Romanian, published in 2006 at the Polirom Publishing House in Iasi.
V.S.: As a university professor, you have come into contact with many world-class geo-politicians. What collaborations have you had with them?
How do they view geopolitical developments in general?
H.E. Oleg SEREBRIAN: I started to be interested in geopolitics back in 1992, being a master’s student at the European Institute in Nice. My master’s thesis, supervised by the well-known French geopolitician Cristian Daudel, was called “The Republic of Moldova in the new geopolitics of the Black Sea region”. And my doctoral thesis had a somewhat similar topic, “The geopolitical implications of the dissolution of the USSR on the Black Sea region”. However, in my formation as a geopolitician I was more quickly influenced by readings, by classical German and Italian geopolitics than by French geopolitics, although I personally knew well many French geopoliticians such as Yves Lacoste, Christian Daudel, Aymeric Chauprade and others. I had some of them as teachers in Nice or Paris. However, as I said, in my way of writing, of thinking, I am rather an ”outdated example” of the old German geopolitical tradition. Some find this kind of exposition and thinking very interesting, although it is not in the spirit of the modern tradition.
V.S.: How is geopolitics currently perceived in Moldovan university centres compared to those in the West?
Can we talk about the initiation of a national school of geopolitics?
What are the prospects for the development of this science?
H.E. Oleg SEREBRIAN: I think that in the Republic of Moldova, as in Romania, there is a ”geopolitical inflation”. Better said, the term “geopolitics” is used abusively: rightly and wrongly. Most often it is used instead of the term politics or foreign or inter-national policy. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds of works, big or small, in which the term “geopolitics” appears, even in the title. This does not mean at all that these are genuine works of geopolitics. So, I think it would be an exaggeration to say that we even have a school of geopolitical thought. I think that Moldovan geopolitical science is developing as part of the Romanian geopolitical school of thought.
V.S.: As ambassador and minister you have a broad perception of geopolitical challenges! What are the current challenges for the Republic of Moldova?
H.E. Oleg SEREBRIAN: The Republic of Moldova has a very fragile geopolitical situ-ation. We are placed in a very seismic geopolitical region, where several tectonic plates of global politics meet. The fragility of the country is also dictated by the economic and ethnic geography and the problems in the neighboring countries, especially in Ukraine, but also in the Caucasus. Stabilizing Ukraine and the wider Black Sea region may be our chance.
V.S.: How does the war in Ukraine affect Moldova?
What strategies will your country use to counter regional security threats?
What geopolitical projects and strategies do you have in mind?
H.E. Oleg SEREBRIAN: The Republic of Moldova is linked to Ukraine by many threads – economic, societal, political. We have a common border of more than a thousand kilometers. For us, the war in Ukraine is not something abstract – we feel it more strongly than other countries. We hear the sounds of air attacks on neighboring Ukrainian cities, about 100 thousand Ukrainian citizens have found refuge in the Republic of Moldova. Many families in the two countries have relatives on either side of the border. It is something natural, because for almost two centuries we have lived in one country. For example, a large part of my family is in Ukraine, in the Chernivtsi region. Members of my family are fighting at the front, and a cousin of mine died in the war defending the freedom of Ukraine. Accordingly, the war hurts us, it affects our everyday life.
As for strategies and plans, of course we have them and consult them with our partners. We take into account not only our interests, but also those of our neighbors and friends. The Republic of Moldova is a candidate state for joining the European Union. We are part of a family, with whom we share the same destiny, the same worries.
V.S.: How will relations with Romania and Ukraine evolve in the context of the frozen conflict in Transnistria and the autonomy of Gagauzia?
H.E. Oleg SEREBRIAN: The Russian aggression against Ukraine radically changed the coordinates of the Transnistrian file, but also the situation in the southwestern districts of the country, populated mainly by Gagauzians and Bulgarians. The 5+2 negotiation format regarding the Transnistrian settlement is on hold. The rotation of Russian military personnel stationed in the Transnistrian region was stopped. The dependence of this region on Chisinau has become almost total. Now, the future of the Transnistrian file depends very much on how the war in Ukraine will evolve. The victory of the Ukrainians, which we all want, will immediately lead to an outcome in the frozen conflict in the Transnistrian region. At the same time, I emphasize once again the fact that Moldova government is determined to find a solution to this conflict only peacefully, using diplomatic negotiations.
Vasile Simileanu: Thank you, Excellency!
Dr. Oleg SEREBRIAN a fost Ambasadorul Republicii Moldova în Franţa (2010-2015) şi Germania (2015-2022) şi apoi Director al Institutului Diplomatic al Ministerului Afacerilor Externe şi Inte-grării Europene al Republicii Moldova. Dr. Oleg SEREBRIAN a desfăşurat şi o susţinută activitate ştiinţifică, fiind autorul a numeroase articole şi cărţi, printre care: Geopolitica spaţiului pontic (Geopolitica Regiunii Mării Negre) (Cluj, 1998, Perpignan, 2010), Politosfera (Chişinău, 2001), Politică şi geopolitică (Chişinău, 2004), Dicţionar de geopolitică (Iaşi, 2006), Despre geopolitică (Chişinău, 2009), Rusia la răspântie (Rusia la răscruce de drumuri) (Chişinău, 2014, Paris, 2016)