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2023 Book Prize

The Book Prize Committee – Camelia Crăciun, Raluca Grosescu, and Cristian Cercel (chair) – agreed unanimously to award the prize to Svetlana Suveica for her Post-Imperial Encounters: Transnational Designs of Bessarabia in Paris and Elsewhere 1917-1922 (De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2022). Suveica’s impressive monograph brings up new perspectives on the incorporation of Bessarabia to Romania at the end of the First World War, decidedly moving away from teleological accounts centred on the nationalist ideology underlying narratives about the formation of Greater Romania. Drawing on a meticulous research in archives in nine countries, Suveica brings to the fore previously unexplored stances and positions with respect to Bessarabia’s future in the context of the demise of the Russian Empire. The scope of the theoretical apparatus she employs is as broad as her engagement with primary and secondary sources in five languages. Post-Imperial Encounters does a great job in showing the contingent and situational character of belonging and of identities of ethnopolitical actors, in relationship with political processes unfolding in a time of radical uncertainty. In dealing at length with Russian and Bessarabian émigrés, Suveica implicitly invites the field of Romanian Studies to expand its own area of interest towards an engagement with previously neglected actors.

The committee has also decided to award two Honourable Mentions. One Honourable Mention goes to Constanța Vintilă, for her Changing Subjects, Moving Objects: Status, Mobility, and Social Transformation in Southeastern Europe, 1700-1850 (Brill Schöningh 2022)A captivating and fascinating read, Vintilă’s book masterfully reconstructs biographies and their trans-border trajectories. In doing this, she explores how eighteenth-and nineteenth-century people defined themselves and were defined by others as well as the place of material culture and consumption within such definitions. Her microhistories of mobility show the entanglements linking the Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia with the Ottoman, Russian, and Habsburg Empires.

Another Honourable Mention goes to Grant T. Harward’s Romania’s Holy War: Soldiers, Motivation, and the Holocaust (Cornell University Press, 2021). Harward’s book provides a fresh and necessary perspective on Romanian participation in the Second World War and on the role played by soldiers in the Romanian Army in the Holocaust. He shows the soldiers’ motivation to take part in anti-Jewish massacres to have been the result of a firm ideological ground consisting of antisemitism, anticommunism, nationalism, fascism, and religion. Thus, Harward links Romanian military history, a field overly parochial and in dire need to be shaken up, with Holocaust history, as well as with the emerging field of perpetrator studies. Romania’s Holy War undoes long perpetuated myths about the Romanian Army and should lead to a serious and critical conversation about Romania’s military in the past and in the present. 

SRS awards three prizes: the annual Graduate Student Essay Prize, the biennial Book Award, and the biennial Keith Hitchins Dissertation Prize.