Institutions in a Time of Extremes: Local Administration in Bessarabia and Transnistria (1939–1945)
The aim of the research project is to reconstruct the profile and the activity of the institutions of local public administration in the historical regions of Bessarabia and Transnistria (today the Republic of Moldova and Southern Ukraine) during World War II.
The research hypothesis is that rather than being passive executors of orders, local public institutions possessed agency. Ensuring people's demands for bread and shelter remained their daily priority, regardless of the Romanian or the Soviet regime. When the Romanian regime 'left' and the Soviet one 'came', and vice versa, local institutions underwent only a structural transformation. Simultaneously, the public servants who possessed vernacular knowledge about the society and were responsible for day-to-day activity manoeuvred between tests of their loyalty and exploited the transitional power vacuum for their personal benefit. Under both the Romanian and the Soviet regimes, they perpetuated conflict and supported extreme violence. Despite the rupture between regimes that declared themselves mutually exclusive, there was also continuity, ensured by local institutions that acted as binding links in a time of extremes. Restoring the links between mutually exclusive regimes would lead toward the reconstruction of an 'entangled' wartime history of the East European borderland.