Last month, Moldova’s constitutional court rejected a law that would have given special status to the Russian language (Language Magazine, January 2021). The law was passed last year by the pro-Russian parliament previously led by Igor Dodon, who lost re-election to current president Maia Sandu of the center-right Party of Action and Solidarity. The Constitutional Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional, as the constitution of Moldova does not allow for any other languages aside from Moldovan to be recognized as special within the country.
The 2020 law, No. 234 “On the functioning of languages spoken in the territory of the Republic of Moldova,” gave Russian a special status for use in interethnic communication, required all state documents to be translated into Russian, and mandated that state agencies receive and process requests in Russian. It even required all goods manufactured in Moldova to be labeled in Russian next to Moldovan.
The constitution of Moldova makes it clear in Article 13 that the state language is Moldovan, the local name for the Romanian language used by the majority of Moldovans, since much of the country was annexed from Romania when it was part of the Soviet Union.
While Article 13 § (2) states that the State recognizes and protects the right to the preservation, development, and functioning of the Russian language, it also groups Russian as an equal alongside other languages spoken in Moldova, all of which are distinct from the official state language. The Constitutional Court interpreted this to mean that Russian could not be given special status among other languages.
According to Reuters, Russia’s RIA news agency quoted a source as calling it “deeply regrettable” and a “politically opportunistic decision.”
Ukraine Accused of Rejecting Russian
The Ukrainian government are trying to artificially cause Russian speakers in the country to reject their language, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Zakharova told a news briefing that the decision to make Ukrainian mandatory in all services was “ridiculous.”
“There will be a special agency responsible for monitoring compliance with the decision—the office of the commissioner for the protection of the state language—which will be able not only to issue warnings for not using the state language, but also to levy fines. A repressive body in its own right,” she said.
“All this testifies to a climate of rejection and fear in relation to our country and our culture, being imposed on Ukraine. It is part of the Kiev authorities’ official policy, aimed at eliminating multilingualism and a unique multicultural space, which emerged in that country’s territory over centuries,” she stressed.
Zakharova urged European countries to express their attitude to the Ukrainian leadership’s actions, “aimed at ensuring the supremacy of ethnic Ukrainians.”