Bliss was it that dawn to be alive
From The Prelude by William Wordsworth
In Strasbourg on 6 July 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev gave a speech as President of the Soviet Union.
He took issue with those who were ‘not unwilling to put the USSR outside of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals by confining it to the space “from Brest to Brest”. To them, the Soviet Union is ostensibly too big for joint living’. In contrast, Gorbachev commended the notion of a ‘common European home’ that included the USSR.
That speech, and the subsequent collapse of the Berlin wall, caused my generation to reconfigure our mental geography of Europe. Thanks to writers such as Tim Garton Ash (who in that year published a book on ‘the fate of central Europe’), we realised that some of the states that we had assigned to eastern Europe by virtue that they lay behind the Iron Curtain – states such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland — were in fact not very eastern at all. It became clear that they – and perhaps even Romania – were central European.
The east consisted of places such as the Ukraine and Russia.
It pains me that since that blissful time our horizons have narrowed again. The West and Russia have pulled away gain. The border of the European Union has acted a new kind of curtain – we recognise places like Bulgaria and Romania as part of our region by virtue of their EU membership, but not places like Belarus that lie outside the EU.
What gets lost when Russia and the West pull apart?
Moldova gets lost, that’s what. The country that lies on the fault line between east and west. Between Romanian and Russia, the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, the Romanian and the Russian Orthodox churches.
What keeps Moldova on our mental maps? Football. Football and perhaps wine.
When your team gets drawn against a Moldovan side, you scratch your head and reach for the atlas. Where exactly? Oh, there it is! Between Romania and Ukraine.
All of which means that, if you see yourself as a football manager and you have a sense of curiosity, you might just want to explore a bit…