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Loyalties in the Age of Extremes: Local Officials in Bessarabia during World War II (1939–1945) Loyalitäten im Zeitalter der Extreme Lokale Beamte Bessarabiens während des Zweiten Weltkriegs (1939–1945)

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The article discusses the issue of loyalty in the Southeast European region of Bessarabia (today Republic of Moldova), which during World War II several times switched its political status from Romania to USSR and back (1940, 1941, and 1944). The analysis, based on an extensive documentary basis from different archives, provides a new bottom-up perspective, which has in focus local public institutions and their employees. It reveals that both regimes, while acknowledging the importance of the bearers of local knowledge of the society and entrusting them daily administrative issues, looked with constant distrust upon the activity of local employees during the previous regime and suspected them of "betrayal". No standard criteria of loyalty assessment were applied; it was fragile and had a situational character. When one regime left and another came, the great majority of highrank public officials (heads of districts and mayors under the Romanians, and heads of local councils under the Soviets), left Bessarabia together with the army and administration, in order to avoid annihilation. In contrast, low-rank employees (e. g. secretaries, accountants, as well as priests and teachers) stayed in the region, their decision being guided rather by personal and family interests than by political or other considerations. The daily praxis of loyalty was based on pragmatic adjustment to the new political requirements, so that personal and career benefits were ensured. Regardless of their origin and duty, people made efforts to survive the war and secure their families' well-being; public employees did not make an exception and developed different survival strategies, such as inventing new autobiographies. The findings of this article challenge the dominant versions of the wartime histories of the region written through the 'occupation vs. liberation' lens, showing that there was 'continuity' rather than 'rupture' at the local level. Through this perspective, an entangled version of the history of the contested Bessarabian (Moldovan) borderland that encompasses both the Romanian and the Soviet regimes can be written.
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Keywords: 1940IES; BESSARABIA; LOYALTY; PUBLIC EMPLOYEES; ROMANIA; SOVIET UNION; WORLD WAR II

Language: German

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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  • The Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas ("East European History") present the discipline in its entire breadth; for thematically focused articles the emphasis lies on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the former Soviet Union. A double-blind review process with international experts ensures adherence to the annals' recognized high quality standards. An extensive section devoted to reviews informs the reader about current trends in German and international research. In addition, the editorial board publishes an electronic review supplement under the title jgo.e-reviews at recensio.net.
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