While searching for traces of the past in the current make-up of Chisinau and Chernivtsi, I was also holding an eye out for the presence of eurosymbols. Defined as any variation on the European Union graphical presence as represented by the flag as well as the inclusion of the particle “euro-”, eurosymbols are connected with the recent history of both Moldova and Ukraine. The presence or absence of such markers may tell us something about the way individuals and groups active in the urban societies in these two places relate to the idea of Europe and the presence of the EU. Even though my large project includes only EU member states, looking at how Europe/EU appears in the cityscape of neighboring countries is also important, both as a story in an of itself as a term of comparison with the symbolic landscape within the EU. Here, as well as for my entire research project, I am interested in the non-obligatory, private use of eurosymbols and not in official, mandated, uses.
One of my major hypotheses is that eurosymbols are more likely to appear at the margins, in areas where local/national identity is less consolidated and more fluid, in places of cultural contact and interpenetration. Within a city, I expect to find more eurosymbols outside the core administrative area, and closer to the places where newcomers, migrants, tourists come together with the local population. At a regional scale, it would be interesting to explore the same idea of margins by comparing the presence of eurosymbols in the EU neighborhood with the amount and type of eurosymbols within the Union.
I will distinguish between two forms of eurosymbols. One is more textual and includes those signs that have the particle “euro” embedded in them, such as in the names of businesses, NGOs, associations, parties etc. The second form is more visual and refers to the appropriation (with changes) of the graphic symbolic vocabulary of the EU. The color blue, the golden stars, the circle of stars, in any variation, with or without the reinforcement of the text “euro” or of the currency sign €, fit here. The difference between the two is not just of register (text vs image) but also in the nuances of references. The textual eurosymbol hooks on to the more general idea of Europe, whereas the graphic variant makes a direct connection with the European Union as an institution.
In both Chisinau and Chernivtsi there are rather numerous signs of shops and other businesses that contain the particle “euro”. Below are some examples.
Euro Trans taxi company, Chernivtsi
EvroElektrika, an appliances store, Chernivtsi
Euroneon, Visual Advertizing, Chsinau
Euroasig, insurances with a European approach and protection, Chisinau
As you could see, there is a wide variation in the type of business profiles that refer to Europe in their name. The least surprising perhaps would be in the field of transport, even if the taxi company in question is a local and not an international one. Advertising, insurance, or appliances – what can be their common element? In line with an explanation proposed by Klumbyte in her analysis of the “eurosausages” in Lithuania (2009), I suppose that the inclusion of the “euro” hints at European standards, high quality and consumer trust. This is particularly evident in the slogan written below the Euroasig poster: this insurance not only covers the European Union territory but also promises a European approach. This would imply a customer-oriented services, in implicit contrast, perhaps, with the Soviet style of “customer is always wrong”.
In both Chisinau and Chernivtsi there are a variety of graphic uses of the EU motifs, with or without the textual reinforcement. Often we have a double presence, where the name and the logo of the business or association build together a common European connection. In this case, the ambiguity as to which “Europe” the prefix refers to is resolved: it is the EU and not the geographical, historical or civilizational Europe that is appropriated or used symbolically. Examples are below:
Euro Credit Bank, Chisinau (this picture from the airport)
In this case, the color scheme (dark blue with golden yellow text) as well as the presence of the € as the first letter of the name combine to describe the type of work this bank does and to make an association between itself and the Eurozone. Here we have both the descriptive element (a bank that does business in euros, and that exchanges euros and lei, the Moldovan currency) and the normative element (a European standard is to be found at the ECB, and I don’t mean the one in Frankfurt).
EvroDent XXI, Chernivtsi
This example is not as clear cut as above, but the combination of textual and graphic elements strengthens the overall message of Europeanness. The name Evrodent XXI is accompanied by a logo of a tooth placed on a green circle surrounded by numerous (more than 12) golden stars. Evro is written in yellow and Dent in dark blue (sorry for the colors, it was late in the evening and I could not return later in the day for a better shot). In which way can a dentist’s office be European? What is the promise made here? I believe we have to deal again with the high standards of quality and the service orientation of this business. This is interesting because it hints at what are the expectations from the part of the owner of this practice. The reading that such a visual message is supposed to get is a positive one, with quality and trust as values. Europe and the EU are conflated in one referent, and the normative connotations are likely to be widespread and good.
Finally, some examples of graphic eurosymbols which stand alone.
"Magazin"/ Store, Chernivtsi
This business is simply called “The Store” and sells an assortment of items that may find their use in a typical household. The interesting part is that its logo and all the advertising products that are associated with the store are heavily inspired by the EU flag. There is no explicit connection between the EU or the idea of Europeanness and the content of The Store’s sold items, but the EU flag dominates its appearance (at night the sign is lit). Perhaps the idea is to say that the products sold at The Store are imported from the EU? Or at least that they could be imported from the EU, so good they are?
Hotel Chisinau, Chisinau
Another graphic eurosymbol is to be found in the logo of Hotel Chisinau. Built in the early Soviet style, the hotel has nothing specifically European about it except its name, which is written in bright yellow letters on a blue background, with a circle of stars (more than 12) separating the two words. On its web page the only reference to Europe is in gastronomic terms, as the hotel guests are told they could enjoy “European cuisine”. An explanation would be that the hotel would want to attract a European clientèle to its rooms, especially as it is located in the center of the city, close to the School of Economics. Possibly these foreign guests were to be enticed by the European connection. Moreover, the idea of quality and good service is also part of the package.
We have observed how both textual and graphic eurosymbols make their presence felt in Chisinau and Chernivtsi. In putting side by side pictures of the encountered names and logos I compared the two cities and highlighted the similarity in their use of the European theme. At the same time, the two context are not entirely the same. Not only is Chisinau a capital city, whereas Chernivtsi is not, but the positions of Moldova and Ukraine vis-a-vis the European Union are also different. I will return to the political aspects of eurosymbolic markers in my next post.
If you want to see more eurosymbols, check out the Gallery.
Klumbyte, Neringa (2009). The Geopolitics of Taste. The ‘Euro’ and ‘Soviet’ Sausage Industries in Lithuania Caldwell, Dunn and Nestle (eds.), Food & Everyday Life in the Postsocialist World, 130-153