Belarus And Moldova: Country Studies, by Helen Fedor
Belarus and Moldova are the two post-Soviet states that are the most closely tied to Russia and are not coincidentally the two post-Soviet states that are the least successful in having moved on. Russia’s interest in its “near abroad”  is notorious and it has had very negative consequences for those areas that have not been able to seek the sheltering care of the EU. Those areas that have sought to maintain neutrality between the EU and Russia have ended up being enmeshed in Russia’s neo-colonial trade deals, been subject to Russia’s military intervention in order to stir up division between ethnic groups in the republics, and have generally been unable to assert themselves or find economic prosperity for their people. Each of the two nations discussed here has its own particular qualities that has influenced its recent history, and this book really only deals with the initial period after independence, as the book was written in 1995, although much of what the book says remains valid today because the repercussions of Chernobyl and of the Transdnistrian revolt remain problems for Belarus and Moldova, respectively, and have not been successfully resolved.
This book is a bit more than 200 pages long and it consists of two chapters. The book begins with a foreword, acknowledgements, preface, and introduction. After that the author talks about Belarus. This involves a chronology and country profile as well as a discussion of its historical setting, focusing on the Soviet period, the physical environment, population, language, religion, and culture, education, economy, government and politics, foreign relations, and national security of the nation. After that the author talks about Moldova, focusing on the same elements and drawing out the common threads as well as the differences that the two nations have. Both nations find themselves with Russian troops in their sovereign territories and have found economic independence difficult to attain from Russia, and both nations have expressed a desire to be neutral that has fooled and impressed no one. After these two chapters the book ends with four appendices that provide statistical tables (i), the text of the Minsk agreement (ii), Alma-Ata declaration (iii), and Moldova’s declaration of independence (iv), as well as a bibliography, glossary, index, and brief discussion of contributors. Throughout the book there are a few photographs and figures that provide context for the book’s discussion.
While this book does a solid job at discussing the post-independence problems of Moldova and Belarus and how nationalist politics has proven to be a challenge in the face of Russia’s strength and unwillingness to let its former republics live in peace unless forced to do so by the strength of NATO and the EU, the book does not discuss much of the older history of the regions, especially with regards to Moldova. To be sure, the more recent history that is discussed is interesting and the mess that the Soviets made of the two areas that inspired nationalist furor during the late 80’s and early 90’s and led to the fragile independence of the two states is interesting and noteworthy. Even so, this book is a somewhat tragic one and it shows Belarus and Moldova as remaining vulnerable to Russian pressure and Russian domination because of their poverty, lack of energy independence, small population, and vain attempts at maintaining neutrality between the competing forces of the EU and a resurgent Russia. Unfortunately, these two nations even twenty-five years after this book was written remain plagued by the same problems that they initially wrestled with as newly independent nations. Sometimes the future is not kind.
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