Romanian lessons: why Moldova is giving up its language

The Moldovan Parliament approved the renaming of the Moldovan language into Romanian. The opposition says that the decision was made with an obvious violation – the usual, and not an overwhelming majority of deputies. Representatives of the ruling party, however, do not hide their satisfaction. “This vote is even a bit late,” said Igor Grosu, speaker of the parliament. “Izvestia” understood what the refusal of Moldova from its language would lead to.

The opposition tried to protest

The Parliament of Moldova in the second reading approved the renaming of the Moldovan language into Romanian. Changes are going to be made to all legislative acts, including the constitution. Deputies of the ruling Action and Solidarity (PAS) party, which initiated the bill, greeted the results of the vote with shouts of bravo. “Congratulations. This vote is even a little late,” said Igor Grosu, Speaker of the Parliament.

In turn, oppositionists from the communist and socialist faction proposed to remove the bill from the agenda, but the initiative did not get the required number of votes. The deputies came to the meeting with posters “The Constitution of Moldova: Moldova, Moldovans, Moldovan”, “The people are sovereign. PAS is a tyrant.”

As a result, 58 deputies voted for the bill. At the same time, amendments to the basic law, according to the constitution, must be adopted by two-thirds of the votes (at least 67 parliamentarians). In addition, the constitution cannot be revised during a state of emergency, and in Moldova the state of emergency has been in effect for a year and a half. In the fall of 2021, it was introduced amid negotiations with Gazprom and the threat of cutting off gas supplies, then they began to constantly extend it due to the situation in Ukraine.

The Moldovan opposition believes that the ruling party has committed a direct violation of the law. In PAS, however, they do not see a legal conflict. They explain that they are not changing the basic law, but are implementing the decision of the Constitutional Court of 2013. A simple majority of votes is sufficient for this. “These are technical changes. The decisions of the Constitutional Court are binding on everyone. If the opposition has questions about the law, they can always turn to the Constitutional Court,” says Olesya Stamate, head of the legal commission of the parliament.

The main documents of the country contradict each other

Linguists say that the differences between Moldovan and Romanian are minimal. “It is not true that in Moldova they speak the same Romanian as in Romania. But it is also not true that Moldovan and Romanian are different languages. The question of the name is not a priority here at all, there are cases when different states admit that they speak the same language, like Austria and Germany. And this does not bother anyone,” says philologist Vladimir Plungyan.

In turn, linguist Oleg Krasnov adds that the Moldovan language has its own peculiarities in vocabulary, phonetics, syntax and morphology. “Telling about this to a non-specialist would be long and boring. These differences are obvious to native speakers, but do not go beyond the dialect. The language is still the same. But linguistics here fades into the background, we are talking about the sovereignty of Moldova,” the expert notes.

At the same time, even the main documents of the country contradict each other. Thus, in 1989 the Supreme Council of the Moldavian SSR adopted several language laws. In these documents, the language was called Moldavian. In 1991, the parliament of the republic adopted the Declaration of Independence, it proclaimed the Romanian language as the state language. Three years later, the country’s constitution was adopted. Here, the state language was again called Moldovan, “functioning on the basis of the Latin script.” At the same time, the holiday, called the Day of our Romanian language, was renamed the holiday Limba noastră (“Our language”).

Another milestone in the dispute was the consideration of the issue by the Constitutional Court. In 2013, he recognized the supremacy of the Declaration of Independence over the constitution, that is, he called for calling the language Romanian. The decision of the court, however, was not unanimous. Judge Aurel Baeshu did not agree with the arguments of his colleagues. According to him, it is the constitution in the system of any state that is the highest source of law.

The current president, Nicolae Timofti, was an ardent supporter of Romanization. “We are ethnic Romanians, although we call ourselves Moldovans. Who does not understand this, opposes the development of our state. Let us learn and accept this truth once and for all and focus on other problems,” he said. Timofti’s official portal printed news in Romanian. He himself demanded to change the constitution in accordance with the decision of the Constitutional Court. The pro-Western factions then, however, were not strong enough to consolidate the decision.

The next president, Igor Dodon, proposed putting language disputes aside. According to him, language should unite, not divide citizens. In 2020, he was replaced by the current head of state, Maia Sandu. She also changed the name of the language on her official portal. “We speak Romanian and celebrate the Romanian language. Unfortunately, the Constitution still says “Moldovan language”… We do what we can, but today there is no constitutional majority in parliament that would recognize the true name of our language,” she complained.

The main goal is to distract people

Experts say the Moldovan parliament is trying to divert people’s attention from economic hardships. The second goal is to split, quarrel the participants in the protest actions that do not subside in the republic.

— I don’t think that the ruling party PAS will be able to achieve its goals. Social and economic problems are too serious, many small and medium-sized businesses are dying, tariffs are rising. Yes, the authorities have amused the vanity of the pro-Romanian part of society, but nothing more, – said the Moldavian political scientist Sergei Manastyrly in an interview with Izvestia. He adds that another goal of the Moldovan authorities is to please Romania.

Political scientist, Associate Professor of the Faculty of International Relations and Foreign Regional Studies of the Russian State University for the Humanities Vadim Trukhachev says that there is nothing extraordinary in the renaming itself, there are really few differences between the languages.

But this is not a linguistic issue, but a political one. The renaming in this case also emphasizes a certain geopolitical course: further severing ties with Russia, rapprochement with the European Union and NATO, in the long term – a complete loss of independence and joining Romania.

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