My review of Igor Caşu. Duşmanul de clasă: Represiuni politice, violenţă şi rezistenţă în R(A)SS Moldovenească, 1924-1956. Chişinău: Editura Cartier, 2014. 394 pp. n.p. (cloth), ISBN 978-9975-79-828-0. Tuesday, Sep 30 2014 

Yesterday, H-Romania published my review of Casu’s outstanding new book on repression, violence and resistance in Moldova. the book review is available at http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=41909 (in PDF format) and http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=41909 (as html).

“Twenty-five years after the fall of communism in Europe, the region is still confronted with the question of how to understand those regimes’ appalling human rights record. A remarkable number of studies written by established and amateur historians; compilations of original documents put together by individuals with privileged access to key archives; and memoirs and self-serving testimonials penned by former victims, torturers, journalists, or simply witnesses of those trying times have been published at dizzying speeds throughout Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. While these books rest on various premises, get inspiration from different ideological positions, have divergent theoretical and empirical concerns, and are of significantly unequal value, they all try to explain reality during communist times. Of course, survivors of communism hardly need to be told that the authorities of those times upheld human rights selectively, if at all. Rather, this exercise of “collected memory,” to use Jeffrey K. Olick’s words, is undertaken mainly for the benefit of the region’s new generations, who have no direct experience with communism, or the foreigners interested in that part of the world.

Of the numerous historical overviews of communist crimes published in the former Soviet Union, Igor Cașu’s Dușmanul de clasă: Represiuni politice, violență și rezistență în R(A)SSM, 1924–1956 (The class enemy: Political repressions, violence, and resistance in Soviet Moldova, 1924–1956) stands out for its painstaking attention to historical details. Cașu draws on multiple archival sources, an impressive knowledge of the scholarly debates centered on that period, a sound reexamination of total victim counts of various repression campaigns, and a sustained effort to unveil little-known or under-documented instances of repression, such as the 1924 food shortage and the persecution of Moldovans living close to the republic’s border with Romania.

Two additional reasons make this study worth reading. First is the wealth of information it reports from previously unavailable state and secret archives, which Cașu was able to access as an expert contributor to the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of Communist Dictatorship in Romania (2006) and as vice president of the Presidential Commission for the Study and Evaluation of the Totalitarian Communist Regime in the Republic of Moldova (2010). His narrative follows closely the hundreds of documents he consulted for this project in the Chișinău collections of the KGB, the Ministry of Interior, and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Second is Cașu’s attempt to give a human face to victimization, and thus to go beyond abstract statistics and impersonal historical evaluations. He offers thirteen vignettes of victims, among them teachers, priests, church singers, village mayors, peasants, members of parliament, and others. These victims represent a cross section of society, including Romanian speakers and Gagauz, the politically active and politically indifferent, the poor and the not so poor. Collectively, these stories show the wide range of individuals who suffered persecution, arrest, deportation, imprisonment, torture, or death in the Gulag for being labeled “class enemies” for real or perceived crimes.”

Congratulations, Igor, for such a fine work!

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New book edited by Raluca Grosescu and Agata Fijalkowski: Transitional Criminal Justice in Post-Dictatorial and Post-Conflict Societies, Intersentia, to be published soon Tuesday, Sep 23 2014 

I recently received the proofs of the conclusions I wrote for a new volume edited by Raluca Grosescu and Agata Fijalkowski, Transitional Criminal Justice in Post-Dictatorial and Post-Conflict Societies, to be published soon with Intersentia.

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The volume is presented as: “This volume considers the important and timely question of criminal justice as a method of addressing state violence committed by non-democratic regimes. The book’s main objectives concern a fresh, contemporary, and critical analysis of transitional criminal justice as a concept and its related measures, beginning with the initiatives that have been put in place with the fall of the Communist regimes in Europe in 1989.

The project argues for re-thinking and re-visiting filters that scholars use to interpret main issues of transitional criminal justice, such as: the relationship between judicial accountability, democratisation and politics in transitional societies; the role of successor trials in re-writing history; the interaction between domestic and international actors and specific initiatives in shaping transitional justice; and the paradox of time in enhancing accountability for human rights violations. In order to accomplish this, the volume considers cases of domestic accountability in the post-1989 era, from different geographical areas, such as Europe, Asia and Africa, in relation to key events from various periods of time. In this way the approach, which investigates space and time-lines in key examples, also takes into account a longitudinal study of transitional criminal justice itself.

http://www.intersentia.com/SearchDetail.aspx?bookid=103046

New interview of Lucian Turcescu for Romanian newspaper Thursday, Sep 18 2014 

Religia in scoli, modelul canadian si american: Unii profesori sunt atei Interviu

Tema predarii religiei in scoli a aprins spiritele si va continua sa provoace dezbateri. Cum a rezolvat insa societatea occidentala aceasta problema? Si, mai ales, cum vad romanii integrati in Occident chestiunea predarii orelor de religie in scoala?

Lucian Turcescu, decan al Facultatii de Teologie din cadrul Universitatii Concordia din Quebec si profesor de Teologie Istorica, crede ca predarea religiei in scoala este buna. El a vorbit pentru Ziare.com despre cum este predata religia in Canada si SUA.

“Daca se accentueaza si latura etica pe care religiile o ofera, atunci sanse sunt ca predarea religiei va ajuta societatea. Predarea religiei dintr-o perspectiva confesionala, anti-ecumenica si anti-pluralista, nationalista risca insa sa alieneze societatea”, spune Lucian Turcescu.

Pe baza experientei din strainatate, credeti ca e bine sa fie predata religia in scoli?

Absolut. Unele religii nu mai au aderenti (gen Biserica romano-catolica din Quebec in zona francofona), iar populatia are putine cunostinte despre religie in general, ceea ce duce la opozitii fundamentalist ateiste de respingere a oricaror manifestari religioase doar fiindca sunt religioase.

Daca se accentueaza si latura etica pe care religiile o ofera, atunci sanse sunt ca predarea religiei va ajuta societatea. Predarea religiei dintr-o perspectiva confesionala, anti-ecumenica si anti-pluralista, nationalista risca, insa, sa alieneze societatea.

Cum e sistemul american-canadian? Religia e predata in toate scolile? Pana la ce nivel?

Relatiile stat-biserica si aranjamentele despre predarea religiei in scoli difera in SUA si Canada. Modelul american este unul de separare stricta a statului de biserica, pe cata vreme cel canadian e mai mult de parteneriat. Asadar, in SUA nu se preda religie in scolile publice. In Canada, situatia este diferita in Quebec (predominant francofona) de celelalte provincii (care sunt anglofone).

In provinciile anglofone, nu se preda religia in scolile publice, dar se preda in clasele 1-8 in scolile care apartin de Comisiile Scolare Catolice, care sunt finantate din bani de la stat. In Quebec, pana in anii 1990, existau comisii scolare catolice si protestante, iar scolile publice apartineau fie unei comisii, fie alteia.

Dupa reorganizarea pe criterii lingvistice (engleza, franceza), pentru un timp nu s-a mai predat religia in scolile publice. Ea a revenit insa obligatorie din 2008 sub forma unui curs intitulat Etica si Cultura Religioasa (ECR), predat in clasele 1-11, atat in scolile publice, cat si in cele private.

The interview is available here: http://www.ziare.com/social/religie/religia-in-scoli-modelul-canadian-si-american-unii-profesori-sunt-atei-interviu-1322451.

Post-Communist Transitional Justice: Lessons from Twenty-Five Years of Experience forthcoming in January 2015 Friday, Sep 5 2014 

The volume I co-edited with Nadya Nedelsky, Post-Communist Transitional Justice: Lessons from Twenty-Five Years of Experience, is officially in production. It will be published with Cambridge University Press in January 2015.

The book is already advertised on the CUP website, at http://www.cambridge.org/ca/academic/subjects/law/public-international-law/post-communist-transitional-justice-lessons-twenty-five-years-experience.

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Taking stock of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the collapse of the communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe, this volume explores the ways these societies have grappled with the serious human rights violations of past regimes. It focuses on the most important factors that have shaped the nature, speed, and sequence of transitional justice programs in the period spanning the tumultuous revolutions that brought about the collapse of the communist dictatorships and the consolidation of new democratic regimes. Contributors explain why leaders made certain choices, discuss the challenges they faced, and explore the role of under-studied actors and grassroots strategies. Written by recognized experts with an unparalleled grasp of the region’s communist and post-communist reality, this volume addresses far-reaching reckoning, redress, and retribution policy choices. It is an engaging and carefully crafted volume, and it covers a wide variety of cases and discusses key transitional justice theories using both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

It includes chapters signed by Brian Grodsky, Robert Austin, Aleks Szczerbiak, Moira Lynch, Bridget Marchesi, Roman David, Cynthia M. Horne, Monica Ciobanu, Helga A. Welsh, Jelena Subotic, Andrew Beattie, Duncan Light, Craig Young, Olivera Simic, and Lavinia Stan. Thank you to Constantin Goschler for writing a glowing preface.