The parliament of Moldova has approved a law on referring to the country’s national language as Romanian rather than Moldovan in the constitution and all legislative texts.
This move comes despite strong opposition from a pro-Moscow communist party and was intended to resolve a heated, long standing dispute over whether the national language should be referred to as Romanian or Moldovan.
Currently the constitution of Moldova refers to the national language as Moldovan, as a result of Moldova’s 1991 declaration of independence from the Soviet Union – however it stipulated that Romanian is the official language.
In line with a constitutional legal ruling in 2013, Moldova’s governing, pro-Western PAS party proposed a draft law for the declaration of independence to take precedence over the constitution, meaning Romanian has a more official standing than Moldovan. More than 80% of Moldovans speak Romanian as their mother tongue.
The ruling has been met with mixed feelings. Some Moldovans view this change as righting a conflict left over from when the Soviet Union sought to impose a Moldovan language written in Cyrillic – a controversial method of reinforcing Moldovan identity. Others have felt a strong alliance with Romanian as a linguistic identity and continue to support the government’s decision.
Outside parliament, socialist and communist party members protested with the message “The Constitution of Moldova: Moldova, Moldovans, Moldovan language”.
An ongoing pursued membership to the European Union has only further fueled the dispute over language, and relations with Russia have vastly deteriorated following the Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February 2022.
During an official visit to Chisinau on Thursday, March 23, Romanian Prime minister Nicolae Ciuca reaffirmed Romania’s support for the Republic of Moldova and outwardly gave his support for the decision “I welcome the adoption by the Parliament of Chisinau of the law by which the Romanian language receives the status of an official language in the Republic of Moldova. Recognizing the historical and scientific truth reconfirms the community of culture and language on the two banks of the Prut.”
Moldovan is recognized as one of the main forms of Romanian, and for centuries, the language names had been interchangeably i, but during the Soviet era, Moldovan, or as it was called at the time, Moldavian, was the only term officially recognized. Soviet policy emphasized distinctions between Moldavians and Romanians based on their allegedly different histories, declaring Moldavian a distinct Romance language from Romanian.
While a majority of Moldovans with higher education, as well as a majority of inhabitants of the capital city of Chișinău, call their language Romanian, most rural residents indicated Moldovan as their native language in the 2004 census. In schools in Moldova, the term “Romanian language” has been used since independence.