Newly Released Book: Historical Dictionary of Moldova
By Jon Woronoff, Scarecrow Press' Series Editor
On April 30th, the American publishing house Scarecrow Press released a new book on Moldova as part of its series of European Historical Dictionaries.
The second edition of the Historical Dictionary of Moldova is written by Andrei Brezianu and Vlad Spânu. Through its chronology, introduction, appendixes, maps, bibliography, and over 600 cross- referenced dictionary entries on important persons, places, events, and institutions and significant political, economic, social, and cultural aspects, the book traces the history of this small and little known eastern European country.
The Republic of Moldova is one of the smallest fragments of the former Soviet Union. When the opportunity came for successor states to renew their independence in 1991, few seized it with greater joy. Moldova, in various shapes and forms, had been dominated by others over most of its recorded history. A remote outpost of the Roman Empire in ancient times, it narrowly escaped being absorbed into the Ottoman Empire and was forcibly inserted into the Russian Empire, then more tightly integrated in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, while suffering excessive influence or intrusion from the Habsburg Empire (in the last 19th century), the German Reich (in the 1940s), and all along from Romania -- the only land with which it has any general affinity. The new state's relaunch was not entirely auspicious, being itself plagued by the presence of a breakaway region. Yet, despite numerous evident problems, Moldova has succeeded in establishing a working government and administration, shifting from a command to a market economy, and adjusting to the pressures of much larger neighbors.
This story of domination and independence, a struggle far harsher and longer than most other European states have experienced, can be gleaned from the Historical Dictionary of Moldova. It reaches back to the earliest times and stretches into Moldova's most recent past. It covers not only the political aspects, but also the economic, social, cultural, religious, and linguistic features that make Moldova distinct. This is done, first, in a chronology that follows the country's progression over time, then in an introduction that presents its main characteristics, and, finally, in a dictionary that provides specifics on significant persons, places, institutions, and events. The bibliography, much of which is inevitably not in English, itself enhances the value of this unique book.
There are exceedingly few people who could have written this volume since, for obvious reasons, Moldova is not that well known abroad, and all too many local authorities espouse a rather skewed view. It is therefore fortunate that a knowledgeable author, Andrei Brezianu, wrote the first edition and, together with a perceptive insider, Vlad Spânu, updated and substantially expanded this second edition. Dr. Brezianu studied and then taught at the University of Bucharest before moving to the United States, where he lectured and wrote on European history and culture, with an emphasis on the history of Moldova. Vlad Spânu, who studied at the State University of Moldova, served as a senior diplomat at home and abroad before establishing the Moldova Foundation, near Washington, D.C., of which he is president. He, too, has written extensively on Moldova, specializing in economic and political issues. Together they have provided exceptional insight into a very poorly known country.
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Paper cover 2010 edition: The A to Z of Moldova