September 12, 2023
10:00 am - 11:00 am


Zoom Webinar

Russia’s aggression in the Black Sea countries has targeted societal vulnerabilities and exploited ethnic tensions in the Black Sea region for decades. Russia’s full-scale war has further exploited these vulnerabilities. But slow and imperfect democratization processes, economic hardship and inequality have also had long-lasting effects on societal resilience and the formation of national identities that are inclusive and democratic. 

This panel discussion brings together Black Sea Program research fellows to present their findings on societal resilience in Moldova and ethnic communities in Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania. 

Research fellowships have been granted by the U.S. State Department for the Middle East Institute’s Black Sea Program. 


Elena Cirmizi
Title VIII Research Fellow, Black Sea Program, Middle East Institute 

Lindsey Grutchfield 
Title VIII Research Fellow, Black Sea Program, Middle East Institute 

Iulia-Sabina Joja, moderator
Senior Fellow; Director, Black Sea Program, Middle East Institute

Detailed Speaker Biographies

Elena Cirmizi is a Title VIII Black Sea Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute and a Ph.D. candidate at the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University. She holds a Bachelor's in Law from Moldova State University and a Master's in International Legal Studies from Washington College of Law, American University. Elena is a legal and peace scholar with experience working on and leading international research projects in the Black Sea region, Russia, and European Union. Her doctoral studies are centered on the dynamics of ethnic systems and the pivotal role of minorities in Eastern European states.

Lindsey Grutchfield is a Title VIII Black Sea Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute and a second year MA student at Indiana University's Robert F. Byrnes Russian and East European Institute, where she focuses primarily on Moldova and on issues of migration, identity, and community. She holds a BA in Journalism from American University, and prior to beginning her graduate studies was a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova and a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Kazakhstan. As a Title VIII Black Sea Research Fellow with the Middle East Institute, she researched community leadership and social resilience factors in Moldova in the context of the war in Ukraine and the international development sector.

Iulia-Sabina Joja is a senior fellow and director of MEI's Black Sea Program. She teaches European security as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and George Washington University. Her research and teachings focus primarily on European and Black Sea security. Prior to this, Joja served as an adviser to the Romanian President and as a deputy project manager at NATO Allied Command Transformation in Virginia. She has worked with the Romanian delegation to the United Nations, the European Parliament, and the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She was also a visiting scholar at the Center of Military History and Social Sciences of the German Armed Forces in Potsdam/Berlin and a DAAD postdoctoral fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. 

Photo by ELENA COVALENCO/AFP via Getty Images