By Liz Ullberg
Chances are few people outside the circles of small-scale East Europe political analysts has ever heard of Transnistrian Moldavian Republic (TMR). The World map shows no country under that name. The fact is—TMR does not exist de jure; in reality TMR has just celebrated its 15th anniversary. So what is it? The answer is: an impoverished enclave on the left bank of the river Dniester. The rest of the world knows “TMR” as “Transnistria,” a region of a small East European country of Moldova. It’s mostly Slav-populated and Russian-speaking—not a major advantage in a Romanian-speaking Moldova. In the 1990-s Transnistria proclaimed its independence from Moldova, calling itself Transnistrian Moldavian Republic and looking up to Russia for support. Yet the UN-accepted sovereignty recognition never came. After a brief and bloody war between TMR and MoLdova, Russian-Ukrainian-Moldovan peacekeepers were placed between the warring parties. The fighting stopped. No political solutions ensued, however. And that’s how it is now: There is no political solution, just the stalemate and a fragile peace enforced by the peacekeepers. Yet the peaceful coexistence is now on its 16th year and TMR is pushing forward. It lives. It has its government. It has its own banks and businesses. In other words, it functions as a full-scale state. And it finds sympathizers internationally. A few of TMR natives got US degrees and in the process wrote a University paper or two on their homeland. But those are few and far between. It’s safe to say that, given the situation, the new Republic clearly needs all of the allies it can muster.
That makes the following story all the more sad...
An eminent international scholar, Mr. Igor Dubenco, was denied a teaching job at the only TMR educational institution of higher learning, Transnistria State University (TSU), the degrees from which are accepted by one country only, Russia.
Mr. Dubenco’s Official Transcripts from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and George Mason University (GMU)—both first-rate US Educational Institutions—were not accepted as a proof of his having sufficient education for teaching at TSU. The Transcripts were rejected first by a TSU Philology Department Vice-Dean and then by a TCU Vice-President. The rejection itself was done Soviet style, i.e., authoritarian no-objections-accepted-or-tolerated.
When Mr. Dubenco, having had bad luck with the Official Transcripts, produced instead the originals of his JHU and GMU Degrees, the Philology Department Vice-Dean sent him to the TMR Ministry of Enlightenment Foreign Credentials Inspector to have them compared with the local higher ed credentials. Things didn’t go smoother there either: a Ministry specialist looked at the Diplomas and asked to see a file-worth of additional information, including official letters from both JHU and GMU stating their accreditation status. That’s not a simple task, considering the distance between the US and TMR and given the fact that local Mail is, for whatever reason, snail-slow to deliver correspondence worldwide.
A short article cannot describe all the hardships caused by the rigid, crudely-enforced procedures which one has to go though to get a teaching job. Having been dragged through some of them, Mr. Dubenco has understandably lost a wish to go teaching at the local school. Even so, he is more gracious in his comments on the situation then someone else may be in his place: “I mean, you come here to help. Period. You don’t come here to make money. You see outdated computer books still in use at the Central Library and you say to yourself: ‘I’ll lend them a helping hand. I’ll share with them fresh, unadulterated first-class knowledge, which Americans pay top bucks to get. And then you are hit by the, you know, “welcome and kindness.” It’s like they just want you to go away, knowledge and all. I don’t know if my arduous experience was politics-induced. I wouldn’t know. I am here to share the knowledge. But what bothers me the most is that some top local education professionals seem to be unfamiliar with world-famous names, be it people’s names or Universities names, such as ‘Johns Hopkins University.’ After all, JHU enjoys excellent reputation world-wide and has branches all over the world, Italy and China included. Or such name as ‘Michael Bloomberg,’ who is one of the signatories on my JHU Degree. I don’t feel that those names registered with those people. And I am insulted for them, if nothing else...”
When I finished interviewing Igor Dubenco, I sat down and pondered on what I heard—stunned and bewildered. Right away I knew what I would say to the TMR President or whoever has enough clout to end the HR banditry. It would be something like this:
“Dear Sir/ Madam:
We, the US, British and European Academics and international advanced-degree holders are--and will be—teaching internationally. With all due respect, your country is not an exception. Our goal is to serve the people, no matter where they live, by giving them a gift of knowledge. And really, there is no need to have us mauled by the hounds for wishing to do just that.