State Bureaucracy and Commodity Flows at a Transnistrian Sugar Factory (1898-2003)

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) Gamla torget 3, 3 floor, IRES Library
  • Contact person: Jevgenija Gehsbarga
  • Föreläsning

The seminar will be based on the paper tracing the interaction between the local and global flows of commodity production at the Rybnitsa Sugar Factory in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova. This carefully chosen location offers a different kind of transnational history. From its founding in 1898, the Rybnitsa Sugar Factory never moved, but found itself consecutively subject to the authority of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union’s Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the World War II Romanian occupation regime, the post-war Soviet Union’s Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, and today’s contested Transnistrian region in the independent Republic of Moldova.

Consequently, by focusing on the interaction between the local infrastructure of sugar production with the various political and economic regimes throughout the twentieth century, Dr. Lesanu will analyze the capacity of the local infrastructure to adapt or resist against the pressures of the multiple state formations. The study also recovers the lives of factory personnel who were far from passive witnesses to the frequent changes of the socio-political and economic regime. Factory management and employees both influenced and were influenced by each successive socio-political and economic regime.

In 1898, the Rybnitsa Sugar Factory was founded as one of many sugar factories in the Russian Empire. Then, local workers were trying to force their way into the imperial sugar industry. By the 1960's, the factory experienced a golden age, being praised as the first Moldavian factory and as the cradle of the Moldavian industry. Local workers were called upon domestically to assist in the construction of all subsequent Moldavian sugar factories and internationally to reshape the sugar factories of Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The factory would not cope so well with the fall of the Soviet Union, as the same workers now had to come to terms with the loss of social benefits and the change in the status of workers on the post-Soviet labor market.

The choice to focus on Rybnitsa allows the study to offer many of the benefits of transnational history while maintaining a clear focus on history from the ground up. In addition, the paper also fills a gap in the study European sugar beet industry. Despite the importance of the sugar beet industry for the industrial development of the European countryside, no major study on the history of the European sugar beet industry has been published to this date.

Alexandru Lesanu received his PhD in East European and Digital History from the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia, USA). He was employed as a lecturer at the Free International University of Moldova and received his Master of Arts in History from Central European University (Budapest, Hungary) in 2005. His research interests are: Soviet history, post-Soviet quasi-states, borderlands studies, labor history and history of technologies. His forthcoming article "Removing a German Sugar Factory to the Soviet Borderlands: A Case Study of the Post-War Technological Transfer in the Soviet Moldavia (1946-1952)" will be published in April 2019, by Technology and Culture.