Negură, Ion, interview by Petru Negură, 2012 (in Romanian)
The main thrust of the interview concerns the process of upward social mobility and the forms of sociability of the new generation of Moldovan intellectuals (which the interviewee calls a “new wave” of intelligentsia). These people were of rural origin, but benefited from the opportunities of upward social mobility offered by the Soviet educational system. Despite being a product of this educational system, they began at a certain point to criticise the communist regime. The case of Ion Negură (which we may unreservedly consider to be a success story) is not altogether isolated. Most of the Moldovan intellectuals trained in the Soviet era came from a rural background, expanding the ranks of the first generation of intellectuals, after the almost complete disappearance of the “old generation” of the Bessarabian intelligentsia. Most of the intellectuals trained in the interwar period fled to Romania in 1940, while many of those who remained were deported by the Soviets. Ion Negură’s case shows the ambiguous nature of this mobility. First of all, any change in status involves a number of difficult challenges, which everyone faces according to his or her own skills and resources, with more or less success. We may notice the turning points through which Negură went during his life, according to the “challenges” that were imposed on him by “history” and the state’s modernising drive (war, famine, loss of his father, schooling, and recruitment in the army). Socialisation at two basic levels – the private environment, with relatives and friends, and the institutional one (school, university, workplace, etc.) – provided the subject with a double grid for “reading” reality and a binary pattern of behaviour; the effort to reconcile these two socialising levels marked his self-perception and life strategies. The Soviet state and its institutions were seen by Negură as a path for upward social mobility that he followed consistently. However, the ideological and moral discrepancies that he felt increasingly to be essential features of the Soviet official discourse (in relation to his own beliefs and the ethos of his native environment) and the obstacles he perceived to be put in his way by the party hierarchy at an advanced level of his career, made him develop an ambiguous attitude towards the Soviet state institutions. This life story shows the social promotion that Negură (and others like him) enjoyed thanks to the educational institutions (secondary school in the village, the Pedagogical Institute in Bălți, and the Moscow State University), but also because of his own skills and individual “legacies”. Also, we should notice the “alternative” socialising and educational pathways from which he has greatly benefited during his life – his family, circle of friends, literary circles, Romanian and world literature, etc., – which brought to his formal education the openness necessary for a balanced intellectual development. Attending these alternative sociability environments was likely to elicit a certain distrust from the representatives of the regime towards Negură (and others like him), who were suspected of “nationalism.” This suspicion had, in part, a real basis (because of the “alternative” socialising environments these people were involved in). At the same time, the mistrust of the party with regard to the new Moldovan intellectual elite (created within the Soviet system) had a “self-fulfilling” effect. Many young Moldovan intellectuals of the 1970s felt “stuck” at some level of their career and therefore, retreating into alternative circles of sociability, began sooner or later to spread critical attitudes towards the authorities and their ideals, which were at odds with the official mission that had been assigned to them by the party.
The private “cultural” circles or informal strategies of socialisation, which were characteristic of the new generation of Moldovan intellectuals, are a relevant example of cultural opposition. These gatherings, where people used to discuss politics as much as cultural issues, were quite well attended by writers and other intellectuals. The members of this new elite were individuals formed and severely constrained in their careers by the same system, as a result of a double logic of “social engineering”: training of professionals versus. political control. Eventually, they challenged the cultural practices imposed by the regime and created oppositional political languages, subverting the legitimacy of the Soviet system. During the years of perestroika and the “velvet revolution,” they became the vanguard that provided an alternative to the Soviet administration by embracing national values and later on the principles of liberal democracy. To a certain extent, they illustrated Alexey Yurchak’s concept of “being inside-out (vne)” (Yurchak 2006, 126–157), i.e. of articulating an alternative discourse inside the system, but at the same time creating spaces of alternative sociability outside the system. As is clear from Negură’s example, on the Soviet periphery nationalism became the most effective means of questioning and then openly opposing the hegemonic discourse of the party-state. Negură’s case is thus typical for a major part of Moldova’s intellectual elite, who assumed a militant and politically active role during Perestroika only to retreat back to the literary or academic milieu once their disillusionment with politics deepened in the first years after independence.
Negură, Petru. 2013. "Mobilitate socială și limite de aparat: observații pe marginea poveștii vieții unui intelectual moldovean din epoca sovietică târzie" (Social Mobility and Bureaucratic Limits: Some Observations Concerning the Life-Story of a Moldovan Intellectual During the Late Soviet Era). PLURAL. History. Culture. Society. Journal of the History and Geography Department, „Ion Creangă” State Pedagogical University. Vol. 1, No. 1–2 (December 2013): 149–163. http://plural.upsc.md/
Yurchak, Alexei. 2006. Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 126-157.
Negură, Petru, interview by Cușco, Andrei, October 29, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection