Moldova to Relax Restrictions on Russian

Andrew Warner reports on moves to bolster the status of the Russian language in Moldova

The Moldovan Parliament building with 'MOLDOVA"
Parliament of Moldova in Chisinau. Chisinau, Moldova.

The outgoing president of Moldova, Igor Dodon is expected to sign a bill to improve access for Russian speakers in the country, according to reports from Russian News Agency TASS. As a former Soviet Republic, Moldova—whose official language is Romanian—has a sizable minority of native Russian speakers.

The Moldovan Parliament has passed bills that would lift a ban on Russian TV broadcasts as well as bolster the language’s status by giving Russian speakers the right to access legal communications in Russian. According to TASS, Russian-speaking Moldovans must currently pay for their own court interpreters and legal translators.

Some members of the Romanian press have suggested that while the bill is a net positive at first glance, it could be seen as a last-ditch attempt to maintain some influence by a lame duck president. Although Dodon’s Socialist Party maintains a plurality in parliament, he recently lost re-election to Maia Sandu, a member of the center-right Party of Action and Solidarity.

“It is of principle importance for us to have those bills adopted in the second reading before the new president’s inauguration, so that I could sign them. It seems to me that the next president won’t sign those bills,” Dodon said, according to TASS.

Since gaining independence in 1990s, Moldova has maintained somewhat cold relations with Russia and tensions have risen between Russian and Romanian speakers in the country. However, Dodon and his party have been criticized for harboring pro-Russian sentiments throughout his tenure as president.

Under the Soviet Union, the Cyrillic alphabet was introduced for writing the Romanian language (which is traditionally written in Latin script) in Moldova, as a means of emphasizing the historical differences between Moldovans and Romanians. The Romanian language, as spoken and written in Moldova, was also referred to as the Moldovan language officially—this was not reversed until 2013.

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