Moldova as a country, territory or political entity has undergone great changes in the past few centuries and has a long history of foreign domination; indeed, questions of territory and cultural identity have been at the core of its development as an independent Republic.
At the dawn of the 19th century, Moldova was a province of Romania. In 1812, it was annexed by Tsarist Russia until 1917, when Moldova first declared itself a Democratic Republic. This political status was short lived as the parliament (Sfatul Ţării, – the National Council) voted for unification with Romania just 4 months later – resulting in a 22-year period when the Moldovan language and culture became increasingly more Romanian and Western-oriented. In 1940, Soviet forces reoccupied the Region. Moldova remained part of the USSR until the collapse of Communism in the early 1990s.
As in other USSR Republics or Eastern European countries, cultural policy was a propaganda tool of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Moldova. The Ministry of Culture and several arts associations were, therefore, obliged to conform to the Party’s ideology and to ensure that cultural policy and activities were carried out according to the Central Committee’s instructions.
Writers, artists and the cultural elite were also engaged as propaganda agents. The Committee granted them certain benefits and privileges in return for their efforts to consolidate the ideology of the system in a “credible and accessible” manner (Lenin’s slogan “art belongs to the people”). The totalitarian state controlled the process of creativity by valuing and rewarding works of “socialist realism” and rejecting a diversity of artistic approaches.
Arts associations were originally set up to monitor and promote artistic uniformity. As they became increasingly disparate and the composition of their membership was questioned, authorities set up three state Committees – for Publishing, Press and Radio-Television – to strictly monitor and censor the ideological content of literary and artistic works. They were also given the task of suppressing any expressions of affiliation to the Romanian language or culture. During the 47 years of Soviet occupation, Moldova was denied the right to their centuries-old common language, history and culture based on ancient, classical and contemporary Romanian traditions. The result was the disappearance of a distinct national culture during the period of Soviet Moldova. This fuelled a resistance and opposition to the ruling regime.
On August 27, 1991 the Republic of Moldova was declared an independent country. This historical event was precipitated by civil war. Public demands were made for official recognition of the Moldovan-Romanian linguistic identity, a return to the Latin alphabet, and the re-establishment of Romanian as the official language.
During the years 1991-2006, the main objectives of Moldovan cultural policies were:
- to ensure conditions to promote creative works by preserving existing national institutions and revising procedures to remunerate artists for their work;
- to protect the cultural heritage by improving the copyright system, supporting the publishing sector and developing archives;
- to promote human potential through a reform of staff policy in the public cultural administration;
- to support diverse cultural processes by identifying priorities and attracting human and material resources to realise these priorities;
- to re-focus cultural management towards new models and mechanisms; and
- to promote culture through electronic media and to create an integrated information space in the cultural field.
The most visible signs of change during this transition period were the freedom of speech, elimination of ideological censorship and development of legislation which has been modified to correspond with the rest of Europe. There are a large number of “good intentioned laws” in the Republic of Moldova, which have not yet been implemented or made viable on a practical level. Shallow reforms (too often understood as a simple reduction of funding) and the lack of a comprehensive cultural policy have also suspended the full implementation of cultural policy objectives.
During the communist governance, between 2001 – 2009, the results (performances) achieved with such a great effort were ruined one after another. Culture became again the most marginalised sphere, and all previously initiated projects degenerated into actions with a pronounced communist ideology.
The decentralisation process was suspended. The criterion of professionalism was replaced with the degree of servitude to power. Dozens of monuments and books were manufactured and published, with no historical or literary value, except for the glorification of the communist past.
The new ruling government, established in 2009, is a coalition of four parties with different social and cultural platforms. It was known from the beginning that this government is a transitional one, and will exist no longer than a year. Thus, the new ministries have not designed policies for the long or medium term.
Their only target was reanimating the country from the economic collapse and reinstating human rights and liberties, and the supremacy of the law.
From the cultural perspective, two new television stations appeared and a significant number of cultural events took place, which shows a great openness of the Moldovan culture toward the cultures of the world.
28 November 2010 was the day of the new parliamentary elections. These elections were particularly important, because they determined the path Moldova was to follow in the future.
However, the elections did not have the expected results. Although the governing coalition remained in power, the dissensions within the coalition have deepened, generating a prolonged political crisis. And, consequently, the announced reforms have been postponed, especially those in the field of justice, which are absolutely necessary for the future of Moldova.
On 29 November 2013, in the frames of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, the Republic of Moldova signed an Association Agreement with the European Union. This important and unprecedented agreement symbolises openness to cooperation between the Republic of Moldova and the European Union and provides formal commitments to the community forum and establishing a general framework of relations between the parties.
Subsequently, on 13 November 2014, the European Parliament ratified the EU-Moldova Association Agreement, which includes a deep and comprehensive trade agreement. The Agreement is the foundation for a stronger political association and economic integration between the EU and the Republic of Moldova, providing free reciprocal market access.
Main features of the current cultural policy model
The Moldovan cultural policy model is mostly centred on activities of the government and the Ministry of Culture as the central body which promotes state policy in the arts and culture. The government elaborates and provides funds for the state programmes on the protection and development of culture and sets directions, forms and means to implement them.
Cultural policy in the Republic of Moldova primarily focuses on preserving cultural values under threat in response to the effects caused by the difficult and dramatic circumstances prior to the transition period. The identity crisis, characteristic of all post-Communist states, is a key cultural issue to be addressed generally by the executive of the Republic of Moldova and specifically in the difficult process of developing a sustained and appropriate cultural policy.
The cultural history of Moldova has, in many respects, been different from that of other countries with similar histories. Having been deprived of the natural interaction between national and universal values, Moldova is engaged in an on-going process of overcoming its past, which has tended to polarise outlooks and to act as a barrier for advancing specific initiatives. The Republic of Moldova is a young country struggling for its identity and is attempting to create its own economic, political and cultural future. These areas tend, however, to be self-contained: it is unclear how exactly they will be integrated.
In 2012, for the first time since the proclamation of independence, the Ministry of Culture (with the support of UNDP) initiated the process of developing “The National Strategy for the Development of Culture in the Republic of Moldova / Culture 2020”. This document was finalised and approved by Government Decision No. 271 of 9 April 2014.
This document is innovative as for the first time a systematic analysis of the cultural sector of the Republic of Moldova was undertaken and as a result, the general directions and objectives for developing culture for the medium and long-term period were identified. The document was developed based on analysis of the key issues facing the cultural sector in the Republic of Moldova. It comprises an action plan for each general objective, having indicators for monitoring and evaluation of the strategy, and also an estimated budget for implementation of the priority actions.
The Mission of the Strategy is to provide the cultural sector with a coherent, efficient and pragmatic policy framework, based on the priorities described in the document. The Strategy took into account cultural sector needs and has a flexible vision that will allow development of certain cultural fields over others. Policies traced in the present Strategy form the framework for developing and implementing policies without ideologies, dogmas or centralisation of the state on the cultural sector.
According to the Strategy vision, the Republic of Moldova will have a consolidated, independent and creative cultural sector, with cultural heritage that is protected and integrated in the national and regional public policies, including the sustainable development activities: educational, social, economic, tourism and environmental by 31 December 2020.
The objective of the Strategy is assuring a viable cultural environment, through creation of an adequate framework of public policies, setting up a functional system for preserving and valuing cultural heritage, promoting creativity, developing cultural industries, increasing efficiency of the cultural management, improving the quality of life of the citizens and increasing tolerance and social cohesion.
Currently the Strategy for the development of culture in the Republic of Moldova / Culture 2020 is the basic policy document in the field of culture in the Republic of Moldova, which will allow cultural sector development.
In theory, the process of decentralisation began in 1991. In practice, the management of both funds and cultural activities has changed very little, the main reason being the lack of knowledge and experience among local authorities to set up their own budgets – a situation which still persists today.
The process of decentralisation in Moldova – as in many other post-socialist countries – is still hampered by managerial and financial problems. Cultural managers at all levels lack the experience required to redistribute functions and responsibilities among the various administrative bodies. Decentralisation and redistribution of financial and administrative responsibilities are the most difficult and complex problems that cultural policy in the Republic of Moldova is facing at present. The past decade has proven that the cultural funding system based on the former centralised model has become outdated and inadequate.
After the territorial-administrative reform in 2003, the local cultural institutions network in 32 districts was re-incorporated into a more centralised system, thus becoming more exposed to the interventionist policy of both central and district authorities.
As it was mentioned in the previous chapter, the decentralisation process failed during the period 2001 – 2009 and instead became a strongly pronounced centrist system, to the extent that the whole power of decision-making was concentrated in the hands of a few people who intervened in absolutely all projects.
Therefore, one of the tasks of the new interim government in 2009 was to re-establish the equilibrium between the exaggerated and bureaucratic apparatus of central and local mayoralties.
Local authorities can submit requests for funding from the state budget to the Ministry of Culture for projects presenting at least some interest at national level. The Collegiate Board of the Ministry of Culture then decides whether or not to approve the partial funding of such activities.
Cultural policy objectives
The National Strategy for the development of culture in the Republic of Moldova / Culture 2020 establishes four general objectives and directions for developing cultural policy of the Republic of Moldova:
- preserving national cultural heritage;
- assuring real and virtual circulation of cultural products;
- increasing the economy of the cultural sector and creative industries; and
- enhancing the contribution of culture in developing social cohesion.
A plan of action for implementation of the National Strategy for the development of culture in the Republic of Moldova / Culture 2020 was developed to attain the established objectives, which foresee concrete actions, undertaken by the Ministry of Culture for the Strategy implementation:
- creation and facilitation of a favourable climate for artists and those employed in the cultural sector;
- decentralisation of the cultural sector by diminishing costs of financing through intensification of competition in the cultural field;
- improvement and development of the business climate in the cultural sector; and
- preservation of the national cultural heritage in all its diversity.
The Strategy identifies the following key-themes for developing the cultural sector:
- diversification of the services offered by the state and private cultural institutions;
- protecting national cultural heritage; and
- elaborating the framework for creative industries development.
These actions correspond to the National Strategy for Moldova Development 2020, which places the accent for changing the paradigm of the country development through attraction of local and foreign investments, development of research and innovation activities and of export industries.
Culture in the Republic of Moldova has not benefited from any significant attention and it has not been regarded as a development priority. The cultural sphere is not included among the objectives in the national strategic documents, such as Strategy for Economic Growth and Poverty (2004-2006), the National Strategy for development 2008-2011, “Re-launching Moldova”, or “Moldova 2020”.
The cultural sphere is mentioned in the Government Programmes (2005-2014), although it is not seen as a development priority:
- Activity Programme of the Government of the Republic of Moldova for the period 2005-2009 “Country Modernisation –Welfare of the People”;
- Activity Programme of the Government of the Republic of Moldova for the period 2008-2009 “Progress and Integration”;
- Activity Programme of the Government of the Republic of Moldova: “European Integration: Liberty, Democracy, Welfare” for the period 2009-2013; and
- Activity Programme of the Government of the Republic of Moldova: “European Integration: Liberty, Democracy, Welfare” for the period 2011-2014.
The National Programme of informatisation of the cultural sphere for the period 2012-2020 foresees the following:
- creation of the infrastructure and informational cultural space necessary for providing electronic services in the cultural sphere;
- implementation of electronic governing within the central office of the Ministry of Culture and in the subordinated institutions;
- digitalisation of the cultural heritage at the rate of 75%;
- assuring digitalisation of books in public libraries;
- creation of online public cultural services; and
- creation of web pages for the cultural institutions.
The “Long-term Strategy for Economic Development and Poverty Alleviation”, launched by the government in September 2003, includes several provisions concerning cultural tourism as an important part of the national economy. Over the next 15 years, the state policy in the field of cultural tourism will focus on new issues.
The main directions are:
- to adjust the frameworks and legal provisions concerning cultural tourism to European standards;
- to improve staff education and training in tourism institutions and develop high-level tourism management programmes; and
- to develop the cultural tourism sector as a part of national economic programmes.
Finances from the state and other sources need to be assured to build a comprehensive system of support in order to create conditions for the development and promotion of Moldovan culture during its current transition period.