You are now here, dear friend, which means that, at least your curiosity, if not your academic interest, has led you into reading these lines. Be welcome then! You have reached the ground of a vast project, we have embarked ourselves upon – an endeavour meant to make the difference from other projects dealing with somehow similar issues. Its title is “Interdisciplinary Research on Russia’s Geopolitics in the Black Sea and the Arctic Ocean”. The project is generously funded through the EEA (European Economic Area, i.e. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) Financial Mechanism. Our distinguished partner is the Fridtjof Nansen Institute of Oslo. Romania is accountable for completing the overall funding, and the University of Bucharest graciously hosts, and administratively supports it.
Why Norway and Romania? Although both countries are located at opposite geographical extremes of the North-Atlantic Alliance and the European Union (as Norway is associated with the EU), experiences regarding their bilateral relations with Russia are partially compatible and, to a certain degree, would invite to comparative analysis. Their general interests overlap in many fields, and their level of strategic sensitivity is mostly similar. In addition, a comparative study on Norway’s and Romania’s, on one side, relations with the Russian Federation is yet unprecedented. It is therefore our goal and hope to initiate researches into this new and unexplored field of case studies.
The project, at least for the next three years, will focus on the following topics:
- “Political Rhetoric in the Black Sea and the Arctic Region” (with a focus on how domestic events in Norway and Romania are seen and interpreted in Russia),
- “Instruments and Ambitions in Russia’s Policy Towards Romania and Norway: A Comparative Approach” (with a focus on how bilateral relations were, and still are, a reason for Norway’s and Romania’s affiliation to NATO and the EU),
- “Geography and Natural Resources” (in reference to the political disputes addressing the limits of Exclusive National Economic Areas in the Black Sea and the Arctic Ocean),
- “Novorossiya, Odessa Oblast and the Issue of National Minorities Living in Southern Ukraine” (in reference to relations between ethnic minorities and local/ regional/ national authorities in Southern Ukraine and Russia),
- “The Frozen Conflict in Trans-Dniestria and the OSCE” (regarding the history of relations between the Republic of Moldova and the breakaway region of Trans-Dniestria, as seen from the perspective of OSCE’s involvement),
- “Russia’s Contemporary Policy Towards Small and Medium-Sized Neighbours, in a Historical Context” (in reference to Russian Empire’s, and later the USSR’s and Russian Federation’s evolving interests regarding their direct neighbours in Eastern Europe).
These subjects of academic interest are taken under close research and interpretation by those who, alongside myself, actively participate in the project, namely Professors Marius Diaconescu (Faculty of History), Radu Carp and Armand Goșu (Faculty of Political Sciences) – under the umbrella of the University of Bucharest. We are joined therein by our Norwegian colleagues, who are experts of undeniable and worldwide acknowledged academic quality, and will contribute to incumbent analyses.
We would not stop here. We intend to hire and engage first-year PhD students and recent PhD graduates, with a clear and proved interest into subsequent matters, as to give birth to and foster a fresh generation of experts, whose independent academic minds would keep themselves far from ignorant beliefs and stereotypes, from unworthy-of-attention conclusions and arguments, and disreputable arrangements to policy makers’ biased views. We would wish to create solid premises for a truly and academically valid understanding of the relations between the Russian Federation and the rest of the world, liberated from any dependencies and conditionings coming from sundry political backgrounds. Whether the voice of our wisdom and reason would then be heard, exceeds now our capacities; nevertheless, this is what we aim at, and hope to fulfill.
Our method of choice is interdisciplinarity. We will gather around historians, political scientists, geographers, economists etc., as it ought be the case when studying a great civilization and nation.
We also hope, as far as times and contexts would allow us, building a Centre for Russian Studies in Romania, to better and further approach related topics, in all their complexity. Our regional neighbours have had such institutions for years, devoted to researching whatever comes under the large academic canopy of “Russian Studies”. It is the high time to acknowledge, we have none, and should strive in covering this absence. How else could an entire cultural and political world, as well as a global political presence, while familiar to us, be correctly interpreted? We need to understand more of our present and past, to be better prepared for understanding more of our continental future.
This project is bold, needless to say. But could we hope for more, while remaining silent and indifferent? Certainly not. Per angusta ad augusta.
Univ. Prof. Mihai-Răzvan Ungureanu, PhD, PhD h.c.