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This paper discusses the competing processes between Moldovan and Romanian identities for the creation of a national identity in the Republic of Moldova. The issue of a common national identity for the people of the Republic of Moldova has been a problem since the beginning of this state’s independence. Throughout the 25 years of independence, different concepts of a Moldovan nation have competed in public, scientific, and political discourse. As a result of the historical context, the region has a linguistic specificity, which is based on the example of the Romanians, Moldovans, and Russians living in this region. Through archival research, field research, and interviews with Moldovan intellectuals and officials, this study recognizes the need for a national identity in the creation of unity and a sense of nationalism for Moldovan citizens.
Divided National Identity in Moldova
Vladimír Baar, Daniel Jakubek1
University of Ostrava
is paper discusses the competing processes between Moldovan and Roma-
nian identities for the creation of a national identity in the Republic of Moldo-
va. e issue of a common national identity for the people of the Republic of
Moldova has been a problem since the beginning of this state’s independence.
roughout the 25 years of independence, dierent concepts of a Moldovan
nation have competed in public, scientic, and political discourse. As a result
of the historical context, the region has a linguistic specicity, which is based
on the example of the Romanians, Moldovans, and Russians living in this re-
gion. rough archival research, eld research, and interviews with Moldovan
intellectuals and ocials, this study recognizes the need for a national iden-
tity in the creation of unity and a sense of nationalism for Moldovan citizens.
national identity; Moldova; nationalism
Since the Russian annexation of 1812, identity politics has been the long-term
subject of interest and dispute for a relatively large part of the population as
well as the politically relevant inhabitants and state structures of Romania,
Moldova, and Russia. is is true for the period before World War I, the
interwar period, during World War II, and after it. It intensied in form after
the country gained political independence, connected to the disintegration
of the Russian–Soviet imperial realm. Russian eorts to create new national
identities after the annexation of foreign territories were successful in some
cases, e.g., the division of ethnic Karels from the Finns and the splitting
*Vladimír Baar, University of Ostrava, Faculty of Sience, Department of Human Geography and
Regional Development, 30. dubna 22, 701 03 Ostrava, Czech Republic;
Daniel Jakubek, University of Ostrava, Faculty of Sience, Department of Human Geography and
Regional Development, 30. dubna 22, 701 03 Ostrava, Czech Republic;
is study was supported by the Internal Grant Agency (IGA) project of the University of Ostrava,
“National Identity and Statehood Building in the Post-Soviet Region of Eastern Partnership” (No.
SG S11/ F/2015).
1 On this occasion, I would like to thank my tutor, Prof. Vladimír Baar. is study was supported by the
Internal Grant Agency (IGA) project of the University of Ostrava, “National Identity and Statehood
Building in the Post-Soviet Region of Eastern Partnership” (No. SGS11/PřF/2015).
© 2017 Vladi mír Baar, Dan iel Jakubek, pub lished by De Gruy ter Open.
is work i s licensed unde r the Creative Co mmons Attribut ion-NonCommerci al-NoDerivs 3.0 L icense.
Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics
Volume 11 Issue 1 DOI 10.1515/jnmlp-2017-0004
Download Date | 8/25/17 12:46 PM
Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
© 2017 Vladi mír Baar, Dan iel Jakubek, pub lished by De Gruy ter Open.
is work i s licensed unde r the Creative Co mmons Attribut ion-NonCommerci al-NoDerivs 3.0 L icense.
of North Caucasian Circassians into Adyghean, Cherkess, Kabardian, and
Shapsug ethnic groups. Moldovan Romanians were also in a similar position.
is work is constructed as a qualitative research, which aims to “understand
the unique examined phenomenon in the historical and cultural contexts in
which it is set. e purpose of the research is not to reach conclusions applicable
for further cases, but is an eort to understand the inner connections of the
only examined case” (Hendl 2005, 57). Specically, it is a singular case study
aimed at “holistic and deep comprehension of the complex phenomenon
without ambition to contribute to the deepening of knowledge about other
phenomena” (Kořan 2008, 34).
e methodology for the creation of this work consisted of the initial
gathering of a sucient quantity of relevant information sources related to the
investigated issues. Sorting and thorough analysis of the gathered information
followed. After a critical evaluation of the studied data, the resulting ndings
were complemented with own opinions and the data from eld researches
executed between 2015 and 2016, obtained from interviews with academics,
journalists, and representatives of political parties in Moldova and Romania.
e authors attempt to answer the research questions through the study
of primary sources, documents, and works published in the Romanian,
Moldovan, Russian, and English languages and to formulate the conclusion
of the work through a method of induction, i.e., the process of formulation
of general conclusions from partial ndings. Selected methods of discourse
analysis and content analysis are also used in such a way as to correspond to
the theme, form, and extent of the study. Mostly qualitative data are used
in the presented essay, because most of the sources have the character of
scientic texts. Occasionally, quantitative data adopted from ocial censuses
are also used. In addition, data acquired from interviews conducted in the
environment of the local academic community and political society are
used. e interviews were arranged in advance by e-mail. e names of the
interviewed persons are not published, due to concerns for their safety.
Because qualitative methods are mainly intended for understanding the
analyzed phenomena in their historical and cultural contexts, in particular,
descriptive and historical-analytical methods will be used, enabling evaluation
of the historical circumstances that have signicantly inuenced the examined
e work is based on the assumption that language and religion are important
factors of national identity.2 Belonging to one of the two Orthodox churches
2 From the linguistic point of view, the Moldovan and Romanian languages are very similar.
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
– Moldovan (under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church) and
Bessarabian (which operates within the Romanian Orthodox Church) is a
side eect of the dierences between the Moldovan and Romanian identities.3
Both churches logically have ambitions to intervene in the political sphere of
the state, including the foreign relations of Moldova. e main objective of the
study is to determine how they inuence the own identity of the Moldovan
population and whether they somehow also participate in the internal and
external policies of the state.
e text is focused on the territory of the present-day Republic of Moldova.
e most often used geonyms therefore are Moldova and Bessarabia. e
meaning of the word “Moldova” (“Moldavia”) in the text is connected with
the historical territory of the Moldavian Principality, which was situated on
part of the territories of present-day Romania and Ukraine (Bukovina was part
of the Moldavian Principality until 1775) and on the territory of the present
Republic of Moldova until 1812 (excluding the territory of Transnistria). e
denomination “Moldavia” is also used in the text for the period of Soviet
domination from 1940 until the gaining of independence. e denomination
“Bessarabia” relates to the territory between the Prut and Dniester Rivers – the
east of the Moldavian Principality obtained this designation after the Russian
annexation in 1812, when Russia extended this term used by the Romanians
only for the coastal area (now part of Ukraine)4 for strategic reasons – the
new name was intended to demonstrate that the occupied territory was no
longer Moldavia. Romania also used the term “Bessarabia” between 1918 and
1940 (and in 1941–44) and it has remained in the minds of part of the local
population to this day – as reected in the name of the Bessarabian Church.
Historical Aspects of Romanian Identity
An unquestionable substrate of the Romanian–Moldovan ethnogenesis
comprises the racian tribes of Dacians and Gatae, speaking related dialects
of the racian language and professing the cult of the god Zalmoxis. In
the course of the rst century BC, King Burebista united the Dacians with
the Gatae and even managed to interfere in Roman power issues – militarily
supporting Pompey against Julius Caesar. Coincidentally, shortly after the
assassination of Caesar, Burebista encountered the same fate. However, while
Rome was subsequently strengthened, the Dacian–Gataean Kingdom fell
3 In a similar way, a dierential line stretches between Serbian and Montenegrin, as well as between
Bulgarian and Macedonian identities.
4 e Ottoman Empire annexed this region, in a slightly dierent denition, and administered it from
1484 under the name Budzhak as an integral part of the Empire, while the Moldavian Principality was
a vassal state of the Ottomans.
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
apart. In subsequent decades, nally in 106 AD, it became part of Rome.
Gradual Romanization, and later Christianization, of the local population
followed – this process was so spontaneous that Romanians and Moldovans,
unlike other Christian nations, have no xed (not even approximately set)
date of acceptance of Christianity. Moreover, except for the Rhaeto–Romanic
people, only Romanians have designated themselves as Romans from the fall
of the Roman Empire to the present time.5
e present-day existence of two independent states on the ethnic Romanian,
or Romanian–Moldovan territory, has historical roots. Its foundations grew
from the integration of small feudal units led by district governors, princes, or
voivodes in the long period from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries. Firstly,
in about 1310, a principality known by the name of Wallachia (however, in
the Romanian language, the territory was called “Romanian country” – Țara
românescă) was founded by Besarab I. A little later, in 1359, in the Prut River
basin, the voivode Bogdan founded the Principality of Moldavia. In addition,
there was Transylvania —a third political formation with a predominance
of Romanian population. However, it was established as an autonomous
unit within the Kingdom of Hungary, led by a voivode (in the Hungarian
language, it was called Erdély/“wooded country”/while in German, it was
Siebenbürgen, i.e., “Seven Castles”). In the course of the fteenth century,
Wallachia and Moldavia became the vassals of the Ottoman Sultanate with
internal autonomy, although for a short time, between 1600 and 1602, the
two countries were combined into a single state, together with Transylvania,
under Michael the Brave.
However, Moldavia did not just become an object of Ottoman interests.
e territory was desired by the Polish–Lithuanian state in seeking access
to the Black Sea, and from the late eighteenth century by the expanding
Russia, for whom Moldavia constituted a barrier to expansion into the
Balkans. Annexation of the eastern part in 1812 was the rst step toward the
fulllment of Russia’s geopolitical strategy – to connect the Orthodox Balkans
to Russia and to gain direct access to the Mediterranean Sea. However,
Romania considers present-day Moldova to be a lost Romanian territory and
Moldovans part of the Romanian nation. is is despite the fact that, due to
dierent developments in the period of strong Soviet propaganda, a section of
Moldovans even prefers the new Moldovan identity.
5 e Greeks designated themselves as Romans (Romaioi) until the fall of Constantinople. ereafter,
they accepted the ethnonym Hellenes. It is possible to add that other Roman-speaking populations
in the Balkans follow the Roman identity in their endonyms (Istroromanians, Aromanians, and
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
To understand the subtle dierences between Romanian and Moldovan
identities, it should be remembered that Walachia and truncated (western)
Moldavia were permanently connected in 1859 by the formation of a
personal union, transformed 3years later into a real union under the name
of Romania. Before that, as a consequence of losing the Crimean War, in
1856, Russia had to cede part of the former Budzhak to Moldavia. However,
Russia reannexed it in 1878 and returned it to Bessarabian guberniya. As we
shall see later, not even strong Russication or anti-Romanian policy was
at that time able to destroy the Romanian identity in the part of Moldavia
occupied by Russia. is was fully manifested at the end of World War I,
when a weakened Russia was unable to prevent the connection of Eastern
Moldavia to Romania. However, this condition did not last for long – an
agreement between two totalitarian states, Nazi Germany and the communist
Soviet Union, in 1940, forced Romania to again cede the territory known as
Bessarabia to the Russian–Soviet Empire, which immediately formed a new
federal republic from it (the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic [MSSR]).
However, at the same time, it separated the area of historical Budzhak from
it, joining it to Ukraine. With the exception of the short-term return of
Bessarabia to Romania (1941–44), the reduced Moldavia remained part of the
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) until its disintegration.
To emphasize the antagonism created by various viewpoints, contemporary
literature regarding these signicant dates in Moldavian history (1812, 1918,
and 1940) must be examined. Both Romanianist and Moldovanist historical
research selects 1812, 1918, and the 1940s as important dates to be analyzed.
ese are undoubtedly the key periods in the history of both countries, as well
as signicant turning points in Moldovan history (King 2000).
By their association with other nations, e.g. Russia, these dates demonstrate
the contrasting views on national identity by Romanianists and Moldovanists.
Romanianist and Moldovanist historiography, although bearing similar
elements, dier vastly in the methods of their narration. Two dierent sources
for the study of the history of Moldovanism are provided by Soviet and
Moldovan historiography and school textbooks (Solonari 2002).
Post-Soviet Moldovanist literature indicates a changing viewpoint, with
an emphasis on the positive portrayal of external and Russian inuences
(Solonari 2002). Russian/Eastern Slav inuence is depicted as being positive
with regard to the ethnogenesis process and the cultural development of the
Important factors in both historical discourses on the Principality of Moldavia
from 1359 to 1812 include the struggle against the Ottoman Empire and
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
the reign of Ştefan cel Mare. Ştefan cel Mare is still an all-important gure
in Moldova. His portrait is on Moldovan banknotes, his name is on streets,
and his statues are seen in towns and cities. Moreover, Ştefan cel Mare and
his time period are vital for the understanding of the similarities between
Romanianist and Moldovanist versions of the historical narrative.
Ştefan cel Mare, a Moldavian Prince between 1457 and 1504, was actually
a Romanian Prince, according to Ghimpu (2002). He bases this on his
language having been called “Romanian” in his chancellery documents and
also in foreign documents. On the contrary, the Communists made Ştefan
cel Mare a central gure in Moldovan history and in the continuity of the
Moldovan state. ey refute the Romanian argument by stating that, as Prince
of Moldavia, he could not have been Romanian. In addition, he punished the
Wallachian princes for collaborating with the Ottoman Empire.
On May 16, 1812, after the Treaty of Bucharest, the eastern part of the
medieval Principality of Moldavia was removed from Moldavian control and
it came under Russian administration. is was a crucial point in Moldavian
history, as it represents the date of liberation from the centuries-old Ottoman
“yoke” (Stati 2014). A similar viewpoint is seen in Moldovanist textbooks,
with an emphasis on the word “absorption”, omitting all negative connotations
of the Russian actions (Solonari 2002). However, Romanianists refuse to see
these events as liberation, describing it as a trade-o between two empires.
ey quote Romanian statesman Nicolae Iorga: “e Romanian people never
asked the Tsar to be liberated” (Ghimpu 2002).
1918 is the next key date, marking the formation of Greater Romania. On
December 2, 1917, Bessarabia declared its independence from Tsarist Russia.
However, on March 27, 1918, it was united with Romania by a decision of
the Moldavian Assembly. Both in 1859 and in 1918, the Moldavian element
in the process of Romanian unication was of crucial importance (Ghimpu
2002). In 1859, Moldavian Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza was elected in both
principalities, formalizing the ocial union. However, in 1918, Moldavia
decided on unication. Bukovina and Transylvania waited until November
and December 1918, respectively.
ere is an emphasis on the unity perceived between the Moldovans west of
the Prut and the Moldovans in the Republic of Moldova, in the recognition of
Moldova as a part of Romania. e Moldovanist argument is that the choice
made by the Moldavian Assembly in 1918 was a pragmatic one. However, this
is disputed by the Romanianist narrative in stating that the choice was made
so as to avoid being annexed by Ukraine. e Romanianist interpretation of
history marks 1918 as a key event in the unication process. It portrays the
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
subsequent period as having positive features. On the contrary, Moldovanists
consider 1918 as marking the beginning of the Romanian occupation of the
Republic of Moldova.
Romanianist historiography regards June 1940 as the beginning of the
Soviet occupation of Romania. However, Moldovanists legitimize this Soviet
annexation as being a consequence of the Tsar annexing Moldavia in 1812,
in order to protect its Russophone population. is view is not accepted
throughout Romanianism. Ghimpu (2002) argues that Romania “ceded
without the smallest of opposition in order to save national dignity [¼]
against the wish of a lot of Romanians”. However, Romanianists regard the
intervention as an occupation, to a certain extent blaming Romania. Blame
for the 1940 events is a complex issue, for which Romanianists provide various
It is clear that there are two opposing versions of history regarding the two
main national identity discourses, representing dierent interpretations of the
same signicant events.
Formation of Ecclesial Structures
A specic ecclesial structure began to be formed in Romanian ethnic territories
shortly after the creation of the statehood. Within the Patriarchate of
Constantinople, autonomous metropolitanship for Wallachia was established
in 1359, under which was also the Romanian Orthodoxy in Hungary (ocially
called the Hungarian–Wallachian metropolitanship). A metropolitanship was
established for Moldavia in 1394, but a Metropolitan was only appointed in
1401. A common Romanian metropolitanship was only created in 1865 and,
7 years later, declared itself to be the autocephalous Romanian Orthodox
Church, but its autocephalousness was only acknowledged by Constantinople
in 1885. Since 1925, the Metropolitans of the Romanian Orthodox Church
have been using the title of Patriarch. It is needless to say that the territory
of Budzhak, together with Dobrudzha, was not part of any Romanian
metropolitanship until the Russian annexation, but in the form of a bishopric,
fell directly under Constantinople. is was also one of the reasons why
this region was handed over to Ukraine. In 1813, the Russian annexation
of Bessarabia led to the subordination of all local dioceses of the Russian
Orthodox Church. However, by connecting to Romania in 1918, the territory
was subordinated to the Romanian Orthodox Church, which established
the autonomous Bessarabian metropolitanship in 1928. After the Soviet
annexation in 1940, the situation returned to what it had been before 1918,
and the Moldavian territory formed one bishopric of the Russian Orthodox
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
Church. With the progressive disintegration of the USSR, it was elevated to
an archbishopric. In 1992, one year after the declaration of independence, the
autonomous Moldavian Orthodox Church was created under the Moscow
Patriarchate. In the same year, the autonomous Bessarabian metropolitanship
resumed its activities. Although several other churches professing Orthodoxy
are active in Moldova (including “Old Believers”), the number of their
members is marginal, in terms of hundreds. However, what is unique about
the Orthodox ecclesiastical structures in Moldova is that there are two
competing autocephalous patriarchates. In other environments that arose in
predominantly Orthodox postcommunist countries, it is common that one
canonical autocephalous church competes with one or several noncanonical
(often “Old Calendarist”) denominations (Ukraine, Macedonia, Montenegro,
and so on). It is also specic for Moldova that no church that would declare
itself independent of Moscow and Bucharest has emerged.
Development of Romanian–Moldovan Language
Historians believe that the formation process of the Romanian population
and its language was completed in the eighth or ninth century. According
to Romanian historian, Adolf Armbruster (of Saxon origin), Romanians are
also referred to in medieval literature as Valah či Olah (Ghimpu 2002). Pro-
Russian authors, Mikhail Guboglo6 and Valentin Dergachev7, disagree with
this concept and argue that it is merely a construct of Romanian nationalists
from the early nineteenth century. ey associated not only the names Valah
and Olah, but also later the derivatives Vlah, Voloh, Wolosz, Voloshin, and
similar names with the newly forming Romanian ethnonym. ese authors
also claim that, based on this version, all Romani nations east of the Adriatic
Sea from Bug were identied by Romanian scientists as being Romanians,
which they consider as symptoms of Romanian nationalism and historical
theories (Stati in Guboglo and Dergachev 2010, 13).8 Vasile Stati9 stated the
following in his book: “e last attempt to extend Romanian origin to the
6 e Constantinople patriarchate did not accept this change and only recognized the joining of the
Romanian Orthodox Church in 1918.
7 Russian sociologist of Gagauzian origin, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian
Academy of Sciences.
8 Moldovan historian of Russian origin, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Academy of
Sciences of Moldova.
9 It is basically understandable that the Russian view of the joint Romanian–Moldovan history is
dierent, e.g., Mikhail Guboglo, Valentin Dergachev, and Vasile Stati. Nevertheless, the fact is that
the ethnonym Vlah in various forms was, and sometimes still is, a wider ethnonym for a population
speaking Romance languages in the Balkans (Aromanians, Istroromanians, and Meglenoromanians).
In some languages, the ethnonym Vlach is also used to this day for Italians (Polish: Włoch).
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
east was made in the period 1941–1943 by soldiers and colonists. ey failed.
ey got only as far as the Don River¼” (Stati 2013, 227). Stati’s pro-Russian
view also supports the allegation that the name “Romania” was a result of a
propaganda campaign spread by Wallachian/Muntenian intellectuals in the
1940s (Stati 2013, 232).
e term “Romanian” in the sense of national designation, is documented in
a letter from Stephen the Great (Moldavian Prince in the period 1457–1504),
dated March 13, 1489. e growing importance of the ethnic designation
“Romanian” can also be seen in the works by Moldavian chroniclers (Grigore
Ureche, Miron Costin, Nicolae Costin, Varlaam, and Dosoftei). e
population, which was created as a result of the admixture of Romans and
Dacians, spoke a language known as Danube or Balkan Latin. However, one
Byzantine chronicle had mentioned the Balkan–Roman (proto-Romanian)
sentence “torna, torna, fratre” (“turn, turn, brother”) in 583 (Gramelová et al.
2012 , 71).
is Romance language, which was later preserved in a foreign language
environment (Slavic and Hungarian), was very signicant. It became a
strong, nation-consolidation factor. It was the language that distinguished
Romanians from their neighbors, united them, and connected them to
other Romance nations (Rychlík 2009). Representatives of all Romanian
regions (Moldavia, Wallachia, Transylvania, Bukovina, Maramures, and
others) participated in the process of the creation and stabilization of the
Romanian language. Translations of Slavic liturgical texts and works of a
religious nature from 1482 are considered the oldest evidence of Romanian
literary language, according to the place of origin, called, among others,
Maramures texts (Treptow 2000, 103). What is certain, Romanian developed
in a radically dierent environment, compared to the Western Romance
languages. e latter developed in close cultural symbiosis with the Latin
language and the Catholic Church, while the Romanian language developed
within the environment of the Orthodox Church with Old Slavonic liturgy,
under the cultural inuence of the Greek language (and of Hungarian in
Transylvania), and in the political thralldom of the Islamic Ottoman Empire
(Price 1998). Because these external inuences were suppressed in Romania,
after annexation by Russia, the language in Bessarabia was exposed to strong
Russication. In the Soviet period, this culminated in the creation of a specic
regional version – the Moldavian language. rough education, together with
ideological indoctrination about a specic Moldavian identity, the language
was forced upon the local Romanian population.
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
Comparison of Romanian and Moldavian languages:
Romanian Moldavian Moldavian in Cyrillic English
În în ын In
Mic mik мик Small
Limba limba лимба Language
e fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the countries of
the former Soviet Union brought about the resurrection of national self-
consciousness, which had seemed lost during the reign of the Soviet regime.
e process of national awareness was common to all of Eastern Europe.
However, we see dierences in the way that these nationalistic tendencies were
used by politicians and local ethnic groups (Montanari 2001). With gradual
nationalization in other Soviet republics, such as the Baltic states and Central
Asia, Moldovans were also becoming aware of their national identity.
Weakening of central power and the lessening of censorship were
accompanied by ethnic tensions in Moldova. Since the rst years of
independence, the country has been facing very dicult problems, including
separatist tendencies in the east (Transnistria) and south (Gagauzia) of the
country, as well as a very complicated economic situation. e revision of
Soviet policy and events at the beginning of the 1990s had an impact on the
political discourse and the formation of a national identity. e rst option
after the Declaration of Independence was to create an independent state,
which would assume responsibility for the resolution of ethnic problems. is
option also counted on the use of the Russian language. which should have a
special status (in accordance with the status that this language had within the
USSR), and maintenance of close relations with Russia and other countries
of the disintegrating Soviet Union. e second possibility, which was
broadly discussed by Moldovan society, was the connection with Romania.
Proponents of this idea hoped that the Romanian and Moldovan governments
would renew the validity of the 1918 decision when both territories had
united. Eventually, the political context predestined the Moldovan path to
independence. e result was the adoption of the Constitution, which refers
to the continuity of the statehood of the Moldovan nation and highlights the
desire of the people to become a nation.10
10 e Moldovan Constitution, among others, constitutes as follows: “in response to many years of
aspirations of the population to live in a sovereign state, expressed in the Declaration of Independence
of the Republic of Moldova, with regard to the continuity of Moldovan statehood in historical and
ethnic context…(Constituţia Republicii Moldova).
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
In subsequent years, the options of Moldova’s future signicantly inuenced
the political discourse concerning the creation of a national identity and
additionally divided Moldovan society into supporters of two dierent
approaches of national identity: “Moldovanism” and “Romanianism”.
e main dierences between the two approaches consist of the dierent
interpretations of historical events, name of the language, ethnic heritage, and
Political and Cultural Roots of Moldovanism
e problem of regaining a language and national identity occurs most
frequently in a population that has been forcibly subjected to a stronger state
and exposed to assimilation processes. ere are several motivational elements
for regaining its own national identity – self-awareness, understanding the
loss of identity, desire to advance one step ahead, and liberation from the
position of a colonized country – and identity represents such a step (Buzu
2012 , 1).
e national problem was particularly acute in Tsarist Russia, with the only
ocial and educational language being Russian, and annexed Bessarabia was
no exception. e creation of a Russian administration was soon followed by
steps taken with the objective of gradual Russication and denationalization
of the entire Bessarabian region. e reasons were especially the concerns of
the Tsarist regime that the local population would be inspired by the growing
Greek nationalism, which had achieved the renewal of Greece (King 2000,
Russian sources have long avoided the term “annexation” and write about
the “integration of Prussian-Dniester Moldavia” into the Russian Empire on
the basis of the Bucharest Peace Treaty. According to Russian sources, the
activity of Russian troops in Bessarabia was seen very positively and led to
the political, economic, and cultural development of the region (e.g., Stati
in Guboglo and Dergachev 2010, 33). e fact is that such an assertion was
nothing new, and the same cliché was used in relation to all the conquered
Until the Russian occupation in 1812, culture in the territory between the
Prut and Dniester Rivers developed consistently with Moldavian culture.
e church remained the main factor of cultural development, but the
region entered the phase of secularization gradually after 1812. Churches and
monasteries simultaneously served as places where reading and writing were
taught. e national movement had a leading role in the establishment of the
educational system in the mother tongue. Cultural development during the
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
Tsarist regime between 1812 and 1917 was inuenced by many unfavorable
conditions. Romanian culture was considered as being secondary and was
to be assimilated gradually within the Russian culture. e extent of the use
of the Romanian language was so limited that, in 1870, it was completely
prohibited from use in state administration, schools, and the church. At the
same time, the policy of the national and cultural isolation of Romania was
supported (King 2000, 23).
e Paris Peace Treaty was signed at the end of the Crimean War on March
30, 1856. Russia had to agree to cede Southern Bessarabia (Budzhak) to the
Moldavian Principality. Inhabitants of the Southern Bessarabian districts
of Cahul, Cetatea Albă, and Izmail experienced how close the unication
of Romanian countries was. Southern Bessarabia searched for the renewal
of contact with its mother tongue. Izmail became the cultural and spiritual
center of Bessarabian Romanians. e press in the Romanian language also
ourished. Newly published newspapers included Gazeta de Ismail, Ecoul
Basarabiei, and Curierul Basarabiei. However, the principles of the Paris
Peace Treaty did not last long and another Russo-Turkish War erupted in
1877–1878. Even before the end of this Russo-Turkish War, Russian Foreign
Minister Gorchakov informed the Romanian government that Russia
intended to take back Southern Bessarabia. Romania was advised to withdraw
from the area and received the Danube Delta and Northern Dobrudzha as
compensation. e fact that Romanians from the Budzhak territory became
part of the Moldavian Principality again until February 19/March 3,11
1878 (end of the above-mentioned Russo-Turkish War by the preliminary
Russo-Turkish Treaty of San Stefano) was very important in the resistance
against Russication. After the repeated annexation, the Tsarist government
reacted very actively to the fact that there was a strong Romanian national
consciousness in those Southern Bessarabian regions.
e process of Russication began through Russied church organization,
which played a very signicant role in the course of the denationalization
of Bessarabian Romanians. Russication was undoubtedly facilitated by the
Orthodox faith shared with the Russians. However, the very low literacy level,
especially in rural areas, also enabled the survival of the Romanian colloquial
language in subsequent generations. e theological seminary founded on
January 13, 1813, in Chișinău by the Metropolitan, Gavrilo Bănulescu-
Bodoni, played a very important role in the spiritual and cultural life of
Bessarabia. Here, education in Romanian as well as the Russian language was
provided (Buzu 2012, 8). However, the condition of acceptance to a university
11 e rst date is stated accord ing to the Julian a nd the second date ac cording to the Gregorian c alendar.
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
at that time was especially the knowledge of the Russian language. National
consciousness was under immense pressure, but intellectuals (Gheorghe
Asachi, Constantin Negruzzi, and others) who were engaged in the culture
and poetry of Bessarabian Romanians deserve great credit for its preservation
(Buzu 2012, 10).
In 1848, the Românul newspaper began to be published in Chișinău.
However, in the 1950s, it was already bilingual in Russian and Romanian.
e unication of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1859, which strengthened the
faith of Bessarabian inhabitants in a common national identity and language,
provided great inspiration to Bessarabian Romanians. Tsarist Russia, however,
immediately adopted another series of measures to prevent the convergence of
the inhabitants of Bessarabia with those of Romania. In the period 1856–1884,
the Russian Empire tried to implement many steps in the transformation of
society. Nevertheless, these were recorded negatively in history. e ultimate
goal was the total Russication of the inhabitants of Bessarabia. e rst
steps included closing of the Romanian language department at St Petersburg
University on August 28, 1858. e department was opened in 1848 with
the intention of preparing judges and ocials deployed in Bessarabia to be
able to understand local documents. Russian authorities paid great attention
to the young generation. No schoolbooks that featured passages referring to
a common Romanian nation could be printed in Romanian. However, Ioan
Doncev, a Romanian language teacher at the Chișinău Grammar School,
published books in the Romanian language intended for children (Cursulu
primitivu de limba rumâna, Abeceda rumâna). ese were probably the rst
publications for children in Bessarabia written in the Roman alphabet (Buzu
2012, 14). is reected the changes occurring in 1860 in the neighboring
United Principalities, where Cyrillic was ocially replaced by the Roman
alphabet. In any case, authorities in Bessarabia still insisted on using Cyrillic.
Nevertheless, political and cultural changes forced Russia to take further
steps. Teaching of the Romanian language was gradually eliminated and, on
February 9, 1866, was abolished at the last school – the Chișinău Grammar
School. e authorities argued that students used the language practically
and it was not necessary to study it for any other reasons (Buzu 2012, 44).
A series of prohibitions also concerned the media. Previously, in 1863, the
Russian government did not allow Georghe Gore to publish newspapers in
Romanian and, in 1884, the Romanian newspaper Mesagerul Basarabiei was
banned. is formally ended the public use of the Romanian language in
Bessarabia. However, due to the low level of literacy, Romanian still survived
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
as colloquial Moldavian. Similarly, other dialects continued to live on in
Romania alongside codied Romanian.
Attempts of boyars Constantin Cristi and Nicolae Casse to reintroduce the
Roman alphabet in Chișinău at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries, respectively, did not meet with success.12 e reason was the concern
that the population might again identify with the “Romanian language” and
demand the reunication of Bessarabia with Romania (Buzu 2012, 14).
In 1890, at the end of the nineteenth century, Bessarabian Romanians in
Bucharest founded the Milcov Association13 and then the Cultural League
of Bessarabian Romanians (Liga Culturală a Românilor Basarabeni). Both
organizations were managed by Hasdeu, a famous scientist and author
from Bessarabia, and both brought together refugees from Bessarabia. eir
objective was also to contribute to the national emancipation of Bessarabian
Romanians (Pop, Bulei 2012, 85). is was naturally limited by the low level
of literacy – at the time of joining Romania, it did not even reach 20% and
was even lower among the Romanian-speaking population. For comparison,
it should be mentioned that the proportion of literate persons in Romania was
double and, in the joined Transylvania, exceeded 50% – but only 22% among
Transylvanian Romanians (Treptow 2000, 295).
In order to dilute the Romanian population, Russian authorities encouraged
the immigration of the Slavic population and the removal of Romanians to
the left bank of the Dniester, i.e., beyond the borders of Bessarabia. If, in
1817, Romanians accounted for 86% of the population, in 1871, it was 67%,
and in the rst Russian real census, it was already only 47.6% out of the total
number of 2 million people (Treptow 2000, 225).
12 e Romanian language used Cyrillic in the written form (1521 – the rst known text by nobleman
Neacșu, addressed to the City Council in Brasov), which was gradually replaced by the Roman
alphabet. e Roman alphabet was already used in Transylvania from the end of the sixteenth
century. Cyrillic was replaced in Wallachia in 1860 and in Moldavia in 1863 (Gramelová et al. 2012,
72). However, the Cyrillic alphabet continued to be used in the territory of Bessarabia until 1920.
However, this was not the same type of Cyrillic that was in use in Moldavian Autonomous Soviet
Socialist Republic (ASSR) from 1926 and then in Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) in the
period 1940–1989 (with the exception of 1941–1944), known as the Russian alphabet.
13 e Milcov River is only 79 km long, but it had a symbolic meaning for unionists. By the decision of
Stephen the Great, in 1482, it became the short but natural border between Wallachia and Moldavia.
is river was considered by unionists as a symbol of division and newly the unication of Romanian
principalities. In 1856, composer Vasile A lecsandri wrote a poem called e Hora of Unity (Hora
Unirii), for which Alexandru Flechtenmacher composed the music – the poem is about the removal
of this boundary. is song, together with the dance performance (Hora is a type of circle dance), is
always performed on January 24 – the Day of Unication.
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
Temporary Return to Romanian Identity
e events of the twentieth century (Russo–Japanese War in 1904–1905,
Russian bourgeois revolution in 1905–1907, and others) aected the national
movement in Bessarabia (Pop, Bulei 2012, 85). On May 24, 1906, the
Chișinău-based Romanian newspaper Basarabia, with a nationally democratic
orientation, began to be published to awaken national consciousness. In
addition, other signicant contemporary personalities, such as Constantin
Stere, Emanuil Gavriliţă, Ion Pelivan, Mihai Vântu, Alexis Nour, Alexei
Mateevici, and Sergiu Cujbă, contributed to this. In addition to articles
about the national movement in Bessarabia, the newspaper also provided
information about happenings in Romania. Each issue featured prose or
excerpts of Romanian twentieth -century literature. However, after the
newspaper published the Romanian national anthem, “Desteaptă-te, române
(Wake up, Romanians) in 1907, it was banned (Buzu 2012, 14). e editors
of this newspaper later became members of the National Moldavian Party
(Partidul National Moldovenesc),14 which participated in the constituting of
Parliament in 1918. is political party was connected with the Bessarabian
newspaper Cuvânt moldovenesc (Moldavian Word). As a result of the
liberalization of political life between 1905 and 1906, and progress of the
national movement, the situation in Bessarabia had improved in 1917. Many
books were published in Romanian, whose authors were, among others,
Gheorghe Codreanu, Pantelimon Halippa, Constantin Popescu, Mihail
Ciachir, and Stefan Ciobanu.
Historical scientic activity was implemented only on the initiative of
enthusiasts, who were divided into two camps: one loyal to the Tsarist regime,
with production of an exclusively propagandistic nature, such as Alexis
Nacco and his Russian-written work “Istoria Bessarabii s drevneisih vremion”
(1873–1876). On the other hand, there was the position of “Romanianists”,
professing their Romanian ancestors. Among them were Gheorghe Gore,
Iustin Frăţiman, Ioan Halippa, Paul Gore, Gurie Grosu, and Alexei Mateevici.
e survival of Romanian culture in Bessarabia in its traditional form
depended on the preservation of the Romanian language as the basic factor of
connection with the Romanian nation in this region (Buzu 2012, 18).
14 In February 1917, the Congress of Priests and Teachers was held in Chișinău, which requested
from the Romanian Metropolitan the creation of a body to command the legislature as well as the
executive. Bessarabian intellectuals discussed the need to create a political Romanian party to ght
for national liberation. e political party, called the National Moldavian Party, was established on
April 2, 1917. Vasile Stroescu became the Party leader, with deputies Vladimir Herţa and Paul Gore
(Pop and Bulei 2012, 111).
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
Russian inuence was manifested the most markedly in the economic,
social, and cultural development of Bessarabian Romanians. e process
of Russication was also devastating in the areas of education and cultural
isolation, when almost the entire population of Bessarabian Romanians was
illiterate. Only a few intellectuals maintained contact with Romanians across
the Prut River. Many of these Bessarabian educated persons studied at the
university in Estonian Dorpat (now Tartu). Later, the main protagonists of the
liberation movement of the “Bessarabian Villagers” (Pămănteina Basarabeană)
Association were headed by Ion Pelivan (King 2000, 28).
e reaction to the harsh policy of Russication in the Orthodox Church,
under the leadership of Bishop Seram Ciceagov, was the escape of many
inhabitants of Bessarabia from the left bank of the Dniester, surprisingly
to the town of Balta (now the territory of Ukraine), later the capital of the
Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR) from 1924 to
1929.15 e oppressive policy of Russication gave rise to many movements
and sects. In 1909, the “Baltic Movement”, known also under the name
“Inochentism”,16 emerged in Balto, to lead services in the Romanian language
(Păcurariu 2012, 163).
An important milestone in the political development of Bessarabia was
the overthrow of the monarchy in Russia. is was the impetus for the
development of nationalism in most non-Russian nations, subsequently
leading to separatism from the Baltics across the Caucasus up to Central
Asia. In the case of Bessarabia, however, it was an irredentist movement,
which had aimed for more than a century for reintegration with Romania. In
April 1917, the aforementioned National Moldavian Party was led by Vasile
Stroescu. As Treptow writes, it “originally requested political, administrative,
educational and religious autonomy, that is, a programme proclaimed by the
Chișinău-based newspaper, Romanian Word (Cuvântul românesc)” (Treptow
2000, 255). is program was also acknowledged by soldiers of Romanian
origin from Bessarabia. Bessarabian priests requested that church institutions
be led by Romanians; teachers requested Romanization of education and the
introduction of the Roman alphabet. After the autumn communist coup in
Russia, the situation in Bessarabia was radicalized. In December 1917, political
parties agreed on the creation of a Country Council (Sfatul Țării), formed
by representatives appointed by them. rough an election on December
15 e capital of MASSR in 1929–1940 was Tiraspol.
16 is Christian movement was born by splitting from the Eastern Orthodox religion at the beginning
of the twentieth century. It was founded by the Romanian monk Inochentie Țurcanu, who adopted
the name of Ioan Levizor after Unication.
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
15, the Moldavian Democratic Republic (voted for by 62% of delegates) was
declared as part of the anti-Communist Russian Federation. e Bolsheviks
did not accept this and forcibly occupied Chișinău. For this reason, the
Moldavian government requested Romania for military intervention. Because
Romanians had obtained the consent of the states for the Agreement, at the
end of January, Romanian troops crossed the Prut River. Events evolved fast
– on February 6, 1918, the Country Council declared independence from
Russia and began to negotiate to join Romania. is was voted for on April 9,
1918 – Romania passed the decree on connection on April 22. e fact is that
the number of voters was exactly the same as during the December voting,
i.e., 86. Only three voted against it (December 6). e remaining members
of Parliament, representing Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish, German, Bulgarian,
Armenian, and Polish minorities, did not participate in the election. e vote
on connection to Romania was also held in the Austrian province of Bukovina
and in Hungarian Transylvania in October. Romania reacted positively to all
irredentist movements. On December 24, 1918, the dream of unication of
all Romanians into one state also became a reality from the legal perspective.
e period when Bessarabia was part of Romania (1918–40 and again
1941–44) is considered a period of successes as well as failures. is was
partly because of the aggressive policy of the neighboring USSR, the global
economic crisis, and the insucient evolvement of democratic thinking of
the Romanian kingdom. Russian sources did not mention the reunion of two
Slavic nations, but the assault and occupation of Bessarabia on the part of
Romania.17 According to Stati, the Romanian army attacked Moldavia on
December 7, 1917. e telegram from the President of Moldavia’s Soviet,
Erchan, to the Romanian government, dated January 6, 1918, read as follows:
“We protest against occupation of Moldavian territory by Romanian troops
of the Romanian army. With the arrival of the Romanian army in Bessarabia,
there is a risk of civil war which has already started in many places.” (Stati
2014, 291).
Despite the failure to create a Bessarabian SSR in 1919, i.e., in the period
of the civil war of sovietized Russia, further development showed that the
communist leadership of the USSR denitely did not intend to reconcile itself
17 e Bolsheviks were not reconciled to the loss of Bessarabia – on May 1, 1919, they proclaimed the
establishment of the Bessarabian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) in Odessa, Ukraine, and called on
the Romanian government to withdraw its soldiers from Bessarabia and return the territory to Soviet
Russia. At that time, there was also a battle for independence in Ukraine, which is why the self-
proclaimed Bessarabian “government” moved to Tiraspol on August 2. is was also to become the
future center of resistance against the uniting of Bessarabia with Romania. e subsequent Polish
intervention in Ukraine, however, led to the dispersal of the Bolshevik government and the demise of
the proclaimed, but actually nonexistent, Bessarabian SSR.
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
to the loss of Bessarabia/Moldavia. e establishment of the Soviet Ukraine
was no problem in the totalitarian state. e power center in Moscow decided
to single out a small territory on the left bank of the Dniester on March 7,
1924, and make it a Moldavian autonomous region. On October 12 of the
same year, it was changed into the MASSR, subordinated to the Ukrainian
SSR. It did not matter at all that the historical Moldavia had never extended
eastward from the Dniester. It was sucient that there were approximately
120,000 Moldavians living there, concentrated in a narrow strip along
the Dniester,18 to where they had been moved in the times of Russian
administration. According to the 1926 census, Moldavians comprised 30.1 %,
while in 1939, the ratio dropped to 28.5 % (Zhiromskaya 1990). However, in
the Balta metropolis, the gure was only 1.5 %, like in Tiraspol, where they
had been moved to by the central authorities in 1929. It was important that a
signal be sent to Romania and the world that Moldavia was becoming part of
the Russian–Soviet Empire. For that matter, the soviet leadership announced
that “the western border of Moldavia will extend, in due time, along the Prut”
(Treptow 2000, 307).
e content of the cultural policy of MASSR emphasized the dierence
between local Moldavian and Romanian identities. Stati stated in his book
that, in MASSR, the educated class was born and the foundations of Moldavian
science were laid (Stati 2014, 379). However, educational and scientic
institutions were subordinate to the strict control of communist structures.
Between 1925 and 1926, within the MASSR, the Moldavian Scientic
Committee and the Committee for Moldovization and Ukrainization were
founded, largely contributing to the creation of the Moldavian language
on the basis of the Transnistrian dialect and the formation of a Moldavian
national identity. Historians and linguists began to emphasize the dialectal
dierences between the Moldavian and Romanian languages. e Moldavian
language itself was signicantly inuenced in particular by Russian technical
terminology.19 A signicant role was played by the preference for the work by
Dimitrie Cantemir (1673–1723), in particular Descriptio Moldaviae, which
points out the peculiarity of the Moldavian language and Moldavian statehood
(Cantemir 1726). On August 2, 1940, after the reoccupation of Bessarabia by
18 Interview with a journalist of Komsomolskaya pravda Moldova Internet portal and newspapers
conrmed this pro-Russian view in February 2016.
19 e formation of the Moldavian language was signicantly aected by the communist conviction
that a new, “proletarian” Moldavian language would be created as an antipole to the “Bourgeois”
Romanian, which would also be implemented in Romania in the future. Paradoxically, in 1932,
the Moldavian language was converted into the Roman alphabet (this trend was initiated for most
non-Slavic languages in the USSR in the 1920s). However, to reinforce power and start large-scale
repression in the entire USSR, Stalin stopped the Latinization. is happened in Moldavia in 1938.
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
the Soviet Union, the MSSR was declared.20 e theory of Moldovanism was
manifested in practice by the formation of the above-mentioned MASSR and
later by the MSSR. It is obvious that Moldovanism was created as a pretext for
tearing o part of the historical Romanian territory (Pospíšil 2009).
We can only assume that the negative experiences of developments between
1918 and 1940 and events from the period of World War II also contributed
to the later decision in the 1990s to become a separate, independent country.
e achievements were important for two groups of the Bessarabian
population, especially for peasants (regardless of ethnic origin), who formed
up to 85% of the population in 1918. Land reforms between 1920 and 1923
were particularly important. e Romanian parliament passed the decision
in which it redistributed approximately 1.8 million hectares of land to all
peasants (King 2000, 41). Representatives of the autochthonous population
(Moldavian Romanians), who formed approximately 70% of the population
in 1930, also had success when they obtained the right of education in their
mother tongue, i.e., in Romanian. At that time, the educational system of the
Romanian Kingdom was adopted in Bessarabia. e system was based on the
French model and considered as one of the most advanced in the whole of the
Balkan Peninsula (Buzu 2012, 59).
Most peasants beneted from the land reforms and enthusiastically welcomed
the return of the use of Romanian language in churches, state administration,
and schools. At the end of the 1930s, the successful synchronization of the
Bessarabian Romanians with Romanians in other historical Romanian
territories could already be observed. is was especially due to the common
language. In addition, the increasing literacy in the Bessarabian population,
the level of culture, and the sense of belonging to the same nation played their
role. is process of integration and synchronization was interrupted in the
summer of 1940, when the Soviet Union regained the territory of Bessarabia,
Northern Bukovina, and Herta from Romania as a consequence of a secret
agreement with Nazi Germany (the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact). According
to Stati, actions by the Soviet Union were stimulated in this connection by
Romania itself, which had changed into a legionary-fascist state. Under these
threatening conditions, the Soviet Union regarded it as its right to take the
decision of a diplomatic nature, which was intended to liberate some occupied
territories (Stati 2014, 388). However, the shameful Nazi–Communist Pact of
1939 clearly proves that the Soviet Union only continued the imperial policy
of Tsarist Russia and the accusation of Romania was intentional.
20 Taking into consideration the Russian literature, on June 28, 1940, Bessarabia was liberated from
Romanian occupation (Subbotina in Guboglo, Dergachev 2010, 109).
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
Directly after the annexation of Moldavia in June 1940, the secret police began
to murder people connected with the Romanian government and to deport
others to Siberia. e return to Romanian administration was welcomed as
a liberation, but it was only of short duration. When the war was over, the
Soviet Union again strengthened its inuence in Bessarabia by deportations
of peasants, priests, and intellectuals to the labor camps in Siberia, organized
famine between 1946 and 1947, forcible collectivization, and forced work in
mines in Ukraine and Russia. According to the last executed investigation in
the Chișinău archives of 2011, more than 300,000 Bessarabian inhabitants
were forcibly sent into exile in Siberia and other remote parts of Russia
between 1940 and 1941 as well as between 1944 and 1956 (Buzu 2012, 80).
It should also be noted that several thousand Bessarabian intellectuals escaped
from the communist regime to the Romanian Kingdom in the course of those
years. According to Guboglo and Dergachev, there were no causes in MSSR,
whether political, sociocultural, or economic, to motivate separatism. Stalinist
repressions were motivated sociopolitically, but not nationally. According to
the aforementioned authors, the Soviet Union “secured real sovereignty over
Moldavian SSR, as over each of its subjects” (Shornikov in Guboglo and
Dergachev 2010, 137). e publication of such lies proves that the idea of
Russian imperialism is still alive and the distortion of history is one of its
Liquidation of Moldavian elites and mass “reeducation in the spirit of
Marxism–Leninism” in the educational as well as labor spheres were aimed
at building a new Moldavian nation that would cease to strive for connection
with Romanians. Nevertheless, Moldavians successfully managed to recall
their Romanian past and unity from time to time – obviously this was
contributed to by the fact that Romania was also drawn into the Soviet
power sphere and Soviet authorities thus did not have to continue so actively
in the enforcement of Moldovanism. Forms of manifestations of Romanian
national pride under Soviet annexation included the opening of the Alley of
Classics in Chișinău in 1957 by writer Mihail Sadoveanu and poet Andrei
Lupan. Twelve busts of Bessarabian and Romanian writers, defenders of the
Romanian literary and cultural heritage, were unveiled in Chișinău Park (A.
Donici, A. Russo, A. Hâjdău, C. Stamati, B. P. Hasdeu, N. Milescu Spătarul,
D. Cantemir, Ion Neculce, C. Negruzzi, V. Alecsandri, Ion Creangă, and
Mihai Eminescu). e Monument of Stephen the Great,21 which was built in
21 Stephen III of Moldavia (Ştefan cel Mare 1433–1504) was the most signicant Moldavian Prince, who
defended the country against the Turks. Although at the end of his reign, he had to start paying them
a vassal tribute, his previous achievements earned him the epithet of “e Great”.
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
Chișinău in 1945, also surprisingly survived in its place for the whole Soviet
period and today serves as a reminder of Romanian national identity.
In the area of language policy, from the establishment of the MSSR, Moscow
enforced the Moldavian language, which, due to its structure being based
on the Transdniestrian dialect, was actually slightly dierent from the
Romanian language.22 It is interesting that the 1968 Soviet invasion of
Czechoslovakia aected the formation of Moldovanism. It caused a serious
worsening of Russian–Romanian relations, because Romania condemned
this invasion. Moscow’s change of attitude toward Romania was felt especially
by Romanians in Soviet Moldavia. Any cultural Romanian–Moldavian
programs were paused. e sale of Romanian books was prohibited and,
from 1969, it was prohibited to subscribe to newspapers and magazines from
Romania. In addition, the conditions of visits to relatives in Romania were
signicantly tightened.
e National Patriotic Front of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina (Frontul
Național Patriotic din Basarabia și Nordul Bucovinei) was founded in 1972,
led by biophysicist and university professor Gheorghe Ghimpu. Based on
Ceausescu’s refusal to intervene in Czechoslovakia in 1968, this group decided
to ask communist Romania for support in the struggle against the Soviet
power. Unfortunately, the Chairman of the Council for National Security
of Romania, Ion Stănescu, informed the then Komitet Gosudarstvennoi
Bezopanosti (KGB) Chairman, Yuri Andropov, of these attempts.
Immediately, persons connected to the National Patriotic Front were arrested
and deported. Professor Ghimpu lost his position at the university and spent
6years in prison for “subversive activity”. ereafter, he became a prominent
dissident, active in the Moldavian independent movement in the period of
Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika23.
A big change came about with the Russian politician Mikhail Gorbachev
in 1985. rough reforms of Perestroika and Glasnost, he opened up new
possibilities in the history of the Soviet Empire. e events that took place in
the 1980s were crucial for the revival of national and linguistic identities. e
national movement and journalists played an important role. According to
some estimates, approximately 800 articles were published between 1988 and
1989 to support a return to the Roman alphabet and the Romanian language
22 From the linguistic point of view, the Moldavian language has the same validity as, e.g., the Banat
dialect used in Moravia. is position of Moldavian is quite imprecise because the term “Moldavian”
language should cover the entire historical period of Moldova, including the left bank of the Prut
River (Pospíšil 2009, 10).
23 More at
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
(Buzu 2012, 84). e requirements of the national movement were fullled in
August 1989 when language laws were adopted that reestablished Romanian/
Moldavian as a state language, and a transition to the Roman alphabet was
codied. On the contrary, Guboglo and Dergachev emphasize that the
national movement in the 1980s and ’90s was created due to the breakdown
of the Moldavian cultural tradition. is followed in two stages, in 1920–
1930 and in the period of World War II, also due to the immense war costs
of Moldavian Intelligence (Shornikov in Guboglo and Dergachev 2010, 138).
e anti-Communist uprising in 1989 had a positive impact on the national
identity of Bessarabian Romanians. From the 1990–1991 academic year,
the Romanian language written in the Roman alphabet was introduced
in primary and secondary schools, as well as universities. e situation of
the Romanian language in Moldavia at that time may be characterized by
the following terms: unclear, uncertain, divided, duplicated, and similar.
Language laws adopted on August 31, 1989, by the Supreme Soviet of the
MSSR had a positive impact on life in Moldavia in the early 1990s. e
Moldavian government adopted a series of measures to facilitate the adoption
of language barriers in practice. More than 2,500 language courses were
created, making it possible to learn the Romanian language (Buzu 2012, 72).
Nevertheless, not all the inhabitants of Bessarabia were happy about these
changes. Transnistrian elites, supported by Moscow, did not want to
subordinate themselves to the Chișinău proposal of language change. On
September 2, 1990, they founded the separate Transnistrian MSSR. e
conicts culminated in spring 1992, when armed conict took place in
Transnistria. Turkish Gagauz people were also not satised with the Chișinău
policy, and in 1989, they declared the Gagauz ASSR. Some politicians in
Chișinău also believed in the support of the voters by designating a return
to the cultural roots of Romania as a danger of the “Romanianization” of
Moldavian society and the unication of Moldavia with Romania.
Internal disintegration problems and the economic collapse brought
nationalist and anti-Romanian parties to power in the parliamentary election.
Parliament, controlled by them, approved a new Constitution, which, among
others, advocated autonomy for Transnistria and Gagauzia. However, Article
13 dened the language as Moldavian. However, schools still called the
language Romanian. is dichotomy irritated supporters of Moldovanism,
but it was preserved. However, the pro-Russian elite of the 1990s continued to
support the untruths about the Moldavian language and spread a campaign
against Romania, which was aimed at destabilizing the relations between the
ethnic groups living in Moldova (Buzu 2012, 86).
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
Development of Moldovan Identity in the Twenty-First Century
After 2001, when the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova (Partidul
Comuniștilor din Republica Moldova)24 won the elections, the language
situation in Moldova was very tense. Tensions culminated with the adoption
of a concept that the ruling party initiated on December 19, 2003. is
concept goes back to the theory of two East Romanian languages (Moldavian
and Romanian) and returns to Moldavian–Russian bilingualism (although
the Russian language had obtained the status of a lingua franca). is led to
support of the (antinational) thesis that there are two languages in Moldova –
one ocial (Moldovan), the other for interethnic communication (Russian),
which was actually considered to be the main language (Buzu 2012, 73).
No sovereign independent state allows a minority to use its language for
communication between ethnic groups. Professor Anatol Ciobanu of the
Chișinău University stated “something is not all right in our country if
the language of the minority Russian ethnic community is elevated to the
language for interethnic communication. A similar situation can only happen
in the former colonies in Africa” (Buzu 2012, 73).
During the census in 2004, commissioners loyal to the ruling Communist
Party refused to count ballot papers on which the nationality entered was
Romanian. Some Bessarabian intellectuals (e.g., writer Mihai Ciubotaru)
led a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights even before the
census. After a protracted process, the court in Strasburg decided in favor
of the Bessarabian Romanians. From 2004, the inhabitants of Moldova can
declare Romanian nationality in their identication documents. Despite the
disapproval of the Moldovan government, these Moldovan citizens achieved
the right to enter their nationality as Romanian in the 2004 census. According
to the rst data published by the Moldovan media, 75 % of inhabitants
declared themselves to be Moldovans, but 40% of them also entered
Romanian as their nationality. Very soon after publishing these gures,
their further publication was halted. In 2006, entirely dierent gures were
released. e new results claimed that there are 75% of Moldovans and only
2.8% of Romanians. e number of inhabitants claiming Russian nationality
ranged at approximately 8 % (Buzu 2012, 87). e current gures available
on the pages of the National Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Moldova
are again dierent. e 2004 census gures state that 75.8 % of inhabitants
consider themselves to be Moldovans and only 2.2% are inclined to Romanian
nationality. is is less than Ukrainians (8.4 %), Russians (5.9 %), or Gagauz
24 Vladimir Voronin, Chairman from 1994, held the function of Moldovan President from 2001 to
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
(4.4%). Concerning language, 78.4% of inhabitants stated their native tongue
as Moldovan and only 18.8% of respondents stated it as Romanian (Biroul
Național de Statistică al Republicii Moldova 2015).
e political situation in Moldova has been very insecure in recent years. In
2015, there was a change of ve Prime Ministers. All these facts play into
the hands of Russia and its ever-increasing inuence in Moldova, deepening
the crisis of national identity. e political crisis, economic situation, and
omnipresent corruption have discredited the concept of European integration
within Moldovan society. Pro-Russian voices are increasingly loud.25
Existing development shows that advocates of only one Romanian language
face a similar problem to that of Bulgarians defending the unity of the
Bulgarian language and refusing the specicity of Macedonian, of Serbians
in relation to the Bosnian language, and of the newly dened Montenegrin.
Romanian linguists advocate the unity of language – e.g., Romanian Professor
Eugen Coseriu wrote: “e Moldavian language is Romanian, support of
Moldavian is a naïve mistake or scientic fraud from the linguistic point of
view, nonsense and utopia from the historical and practical point of view,
and interfering in the national and cultural identity of one nation, i.e. ethnic-
cultural genocide, from the political view” (Buzu 2012, 75).
On the other hand, Guboglo and Dergachev state that the Moldavian
language is part of the Eastern group of Romanian languages, together with
Wallachian (now Romanian), Wlachian (in Bulgaria and Vojvodina), and
Dalmatian (this language is no longer used). According to these authors, such
a division is anchored in the “Universalnaya Desyatichnay Klassikikaciya”
of 1986, where the Moldavian language is listed under number 805.92.
e aforementioned classication (Publication No. UDC 9704, Bucharest
1998) also conrms Moldovan language under the code 135.1 (478). In this
connection, Romanian linguist Ovid Densușianu (1873–1938) is quoted as
follows: “it was especially contact with the Slavs which changed Moldavian
into a separate language” (Stati in Guboglo and Dergachev 2010, 85).
Nevertheless, international language standard International Organization
for Standardization (ISO) 639, which originally listed “mo” and “mol” as
Moldavian codes, has not included this language since the beginning of
the new millennium. Moreover, the Ethnologue World Database ignores
Moldavian,26 which is surprising, considering the detailed description of
approximately 7,000 languages.
25 Source: Personal interview with an academic employee at the Moldovan State University, conducted
in February 2016.
26 More at
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
Because the above-mentioned national language problems exceed the borders
of Moldova, we cannot accept this problem as an internal matter for Chișinău.
e European Union is supposed to participate in the solving of problems, as
a partner nancing many important projects in the country, in Romania as
well as in other states whose situation is similar to that of Moldova.
In 2013, as already mentioned, the Moldovan Constitutional Court solved
the constitutional dichotomy in favor of Romanian. e national linguistic
situation has gradually been improving, with positive eects both on
domestic policy and in the regional geopolitical context. Considering the
Romanians, the process of renewal of the language and national identity
of Bessarabian Romanians is proceeding slowly. However, after more than
150 years of Russian occupation, this is relatively successful. e renewal
could even have been in faster motion, were it not for the interests organized
in Tiraspol, Chișinău, and Moscow, which promoted the Moldovan language
and Moldovan national identity. It is clear from the development to date that
the attitude of the state to “Moldovanism” is part of the political struggle and
changes are according to the election results. Supported since 1990 by their
colleagues from Bucharest, Iași, Cluj-Napoca, and other Romanian cultural
center intellectuals (journalists, writers, as well as research and academic
employees) have opposed the thesis of “Moldovanism”. e national identity
and situation of the Romanian language in Moldova will certainly also remain
a complicated theme in the future.
Moldovan National Identity – “Between” Moldovanism and Romanianism
Moldovanism and Romanianism are two opposing interpretations of
Moldovan ethnic identity. Both interpretations consist of well-dened values
and beliefs. In the public domain, these serve for political mobilization,
as well as for policy agendas and political goals. History, culture, religion,
and language are essential unifying features to Moldovanists. ey claim
all of these as being distinct from Romanian. Moldovanism insists that
Moldovan people are dierent from Romanians. First, they speak Moldovan.
Moreover, Romania and Romanianism are regarded as threats to Moldovan
independence. Romanianists question these dierences and regard them
as regional variations of a common Romanian history and pan-Romanian
culture. ey believe that Moldovans are Romanian, stating as proof their
linguistic identity and their history of being part of the three main Romanian
medieval principalities and of Greater Romania from 1918 to 1940 (King
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
Romanianists regard Moldovan and Romanian identities as being
complementary. On the contrary, Moldovanists regard the two identities
as being competitive. Moldovanism wishes to promote a specic Moldovan
culture, history, symbols, and a multidirectional foreign policy. Romanianism
wishes to place culture, history, and symbols within the pan-Romanian
context. It has a decidedly Western orientation of its foreign policy. Contrary
to Romanianism, Moldovanism defends Moldovan statehood. Moldovanism
also includes an important civic element, which advocates the position of
the Russian language in Moldovan society, as well as the rights of ethnic
e debate around national identity and the Moldavian–Romanian language
raises many controversies. rough the process of Russication, which
started in 1812, “Moldovanism” became the tool of the transitional phase
of this process. e theory of “Moldovanism” has a unique anti-Romanian
ideological subtext, which aims to impose a new identity on the local
population. From the outset, the creation of a new identity of Moldavians
was a very well thought-out strategic plan by Imperial Russia and then by
the Soviet Union. e optimal solution was to create an articial ideology
of “Moldovanism”, whose purpose was to separate the local population from
their original Romanian identity. e fact is that Imperial Russia did not
have an elaborated theory of Moldovanism and, e.g., sometimes designated
the language as Romanian and, at other times, as Moldavian. e theory of
Moldovanianism surfaced only in the time when the Communists came into
power in Russia.
However, this strategic plan of Russian politics about the change of national
identity and the name of the language is much older. Bolshevists were only
the executioners of power to implement the plan of Catherine II, who already
intended to Russify this Romanian territory during her reign. In 1793, after
Russia connected the northern Black Sea territory and the Tatars were expelled
from Crimea, Count Panin (advisor to Catherine II) created a political plan
for the colonization of Southern Transnistria. Due to the Tsarist policy, many
inhabitants of Bessarabia had to ee their homes and mostly found refuge
across the Prut River in Romania. To halt the exodus, the Tsarist authorities
used extreme measures, such as articial quarantine introduced for an alleged
plague, and all transport across the Prut River was prohibited for 6months
(Buzu 2012, 40).
After the restoration of Bessarabia to Romania in 1918, the ideological and
political center of “Moldovanism” moved directly to Odessa, where the
Soviets began to organize a new strategy, containing elements of power and
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
terror against the Romanian population. On June 26, 1924, the Moldavian
Institute for Education was opened in Odessa. All similar attempts were used
by propagandists to underline the dierences between Bessarabian Romanians
and Romanians across the Prut River. In one century, the Soviets managed
to arouse Soviet national sentiment in the Bessarabian population. rough
the Bolshevik ideology, “Moldovanism” and anti-Romanian sentiments were
e question of national identity is one of the thorniest problems faced by
Moldova. In a time of multiculturalism, when nationalism is starting to
prevail, the problem of national identity divided into two camps is very
dangerous. According to the theory of “Moldovanism”, Moldovans are a nation
who founded this state together with representatives of other ethnic groups
(Ukrainians, Russians, Gagauz, Bulgarians, Jews, Romanians, Belarusians,
Poles, and others). is assertion seems to be in order, because it respects the
cultural background of ethnic groups and minorities. e formal correctness
of this statement is only undermined by the integration of Romanians, or
another ethnic group dierent from Moldovans (Petrencu 2011, 72). Of
course, this theory is not new but is often present in articles about Moldovans,
published in particular in Tiraspol and Moscow. In compliance with
democratic principles, the dierence between Romanians and Moldovans
is acquiring a strange legitimacy. Recognition and acceptance of dierences
of other ethnic groups is a fundamental condition of multiculturalism and
multinationalism. Unlike other ethnic groups in Moldova, e.g., Ukrainians,
Russians, Gagauz, and so on, which recognize mutual dierences, many
Moldovans and Romanians do not perceive any dierences between each
other. Support of multiculturalism and respect for ethnic diversity is the
right solution for the integration of Ukrainians, Gagauz, Bulgarians, and
Belarusians, but not for Moldovans and Romanians where their common
national identity plays a key role.
e concept of “Moldovanism” repeatedly stresses that the Moldovan
language be used in all areas of political, cultural, economic, and social life.
e concept further states that it is necessary to preserve and develop the
specics of the Moldovan language and Moldovan culture with respect to its
Roman history and the cultural and linguistic specics of the inhabitants of
Transnistria. To support this concept, many publications have been issued, e.g.,
in 2003, the above-mentioned controversial Moldovan historian and former
representative of the Communist Party, Vasile Stati, published a Moldovan–
Romanian dictionary (Dicţionarul moldovenesc-românesc 2011). It highlights
the dierences between the two languages – Moldovan reputedly contains
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
many words borrowed from Slavic, and Romanian has words borrowed from
the Gypsy language. Needless to say, the dictionary faced strong criticism by
Romanian and Moldovan experts.27
Romanian authors criticize the fact that one of the denitions of
“Moldovanism” characterizes this term with reference to the “specic features
of the Moldovan language”. is concept of the denition, however, does
not reveal the context of national identity, which is contained in the name
“Moldovanism” (Nantoi and Iovu 2012, 44). Although there is no ocial
position of “Moldovanism” as a national identity, the political context as well
as use of this term in the mass media enables the creation of this denition. In
this way, through “Moldovanism”, references are created to elements forming
national identity, based on language, ethnicity, i.e., symbols of Moldovan
identity that are depicted with an emphasis on the dierence from Romanian
symbols. An identity that emphasizes the opposite to “Moldovanism” is called
“Romanianism”.28 It focuses on Romanian national feeling (the Romanian
national spirit) and refers to Romanian history, a common language, and
common culture. Under the term “Romanianism” is understood a set of
values and symbols that dene the Moldovan nation, language, and national
identity, identical to the Romanian national identity (Nantoi and Iovu 2012,
Promoters of “Moldovanism” (among others, M. Guboglo, V. Dergachev,
V. Stati, P. Shornikov, and P. Luchinski) list the basic arguments for the
creation of this identity. As the rst argument, they consider the fact that
Moldovans and Romanians are two dierent ethnic communities. ey also
mention a historical example: Moldovans and Romanians (Wallachians)
lived separately throughout history and did not signicantly interact. e
cultural legacy of “Moldovanism” is based especially on Slavic culture and
the Moldovan language, which, according to the advocates of this theory, is
the foundation stone in the creation of the Romanian language (according to
this theory, Moldovan was created earlier than the Romanian language). e
second argument of advocates of “Moldovanism” is the historical precedent
connected with the existence of the Moldovan state called the Principality of
Moldavia (1359–1812 and 1862). Advocates of this discourse of Moldovan
identity also refer to the preamble of the Moldovan Constitution, which refers
to Moldovan statehood, ethnicity, and nationality.
27 Vasile Stati remains faithful to his idea and a strong orientation to Russia to this day. One of the
authors of this essay met him personally in February 2015.
28 According to the explanation by Guboglo and Dergachev, “Romanianism” is the ocial ideology of
Romania, which emphasises Romanian nationality with the objective of seizing Moldova and part of
Ukraine (Shornikov in Guboglo and Dergachev 2010, 137).
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
ere are also many arguments on the side of “Romanianism” as proof of
national identity. e rst argument of “Romanianists” is the language –
Romanian. Advocates of “Romanianism” (among others, A. Petrencu and M.
Cernenco) categorically reject the name “Moldovan language”. e second
argument refers to the existence of a common nation and ethnicity. Proponents
of “Romanianism” insist on the history, culture, and religion shared with
Romania. e third argument is the existence of the Kingdom of Romania,
which according to the authors of this idea, make “Romanianism” legitimate
and entitled to existence. On March 27, 1918, the National Assembly of the
Republic of Moldavia voted for unication with Romania and, on April 22,
the decision was accepted by the Romanian parliament. Romania was also the
rst country to recognize the independence of Moldova in 1991.29
ese propositions of “Moldovanism” and “Romanianism” have created two
opposing theses of identity that dominate the formation of national identity
in Moldova. e problem with these two theses is based on attempts to
formulate the national identity of Moldova’s population. is theme is the
basic dispute permeating society and representatives of social and political
groups (Nantoi and Iovu 2012, 47).
According to an academic employee of the Moldovan State University,
the position of Romanianism has currently receded into the background.
Moldovans no longer wish to be part of the European Union; they are afraid
of the corruption and dictation on the part of Brussels, as well as of the current
immigration policy of Germany.30 His words are also conrmed by the survey
held in January 8–16, 2016, when 38% of respondents were in favor of joining
the European Union and 40% of the Eurasian Union (infotag. md 2016).
Political Parties and National Identity
e political parties in Moldova are also characterized by crisis and conict.
At the end of the 1990s, society was polarized around two political parties
(Popular Front and Interfront). In the context of national identity, we can
characterize these two political parties as the foundations for “Moldovanism”
and “Romanianism”. e Popular Front was created from the national
movement at the end of the 1980s to promote the return of Romanian as
the ocial language. Interfront was created as a political movement whose
29 Similar problems emerged in the case of the Declaration of Independence of Macedonia. In
neighboring Bulgaria, at that time, the opinion of the Bulgarian identity of Macedonians culminated,
but most Macedonians did not share it. Nevertheless, Bulgaria was the rst state to acknowledge
30 Source: Personal interview with an academic employee at the Moldova State University in February
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
members were representatives of the minorities who opposed the preservation
of the MSSR within the Soviet Union. is movement also included advocates
of the Communist Party, which, however, was prohibited by the Moldovan
Parliament on August 23, 1991. Subsequently, the Popular Front as well as
Interfront disintegrated into many smaller political parties, and in 1994,
the communists renewed their party under a new name. In this connection,
the problem of national identity is a result of unresolved disputes, and it is
aected by insucient constructive dialogue between the political elite on the
formation of national identity and its eect on the future of the country. In
2001, the Communist Party won a majority in the Moldovan parliament. e
Communist Party pledged in the preelection program that it would protect
the rights of the Moldovan nation related to the historical name Moldovans–
as well as the Moldovan language with reference to its famous history and
ancient origin, and that it would not allow the history of Moldavian statehood,
dating back to 1359, to be ignored.
e rst step to the legalization of “Moldovanism” was the government’s
decision number 180 of February 15, 2002, on the acceptance of the “history
of Moldova”. is decision was to change the interpretation of history in
school textbooks. After 7-day protests and demonstrations, the Moldovan
government decided to create a special commission to investigate the concept
of the school curriculum in order to change the content of History classes
(Petrencu 2011, 57).
Another important step was the adoption of Act 546 of December 19, 2003,
in which the Concept of the National Policy of the Republic of Moldova
was adopted. We may consider the Concept to be an ideological document,
which strengthened the foundations of “Moldovanism”. In this context,
we may presume that the Communist Party had the strategy of reducing
Romanians to a minority in their native country. With the objective of
pointing out the unjustied discussions on “Romanianism” in Moldova,
Guboglo and Dergachev expressed the Russian view of the aforementioned
census and stated that the data collected during Russian–American research,
conducted under the supervision of three experts – M. Guboglo (Moscow,
Russia), D. Leiting (Chicago, USA), V. Zelenchuk (Chișinău, Moldova)
– were conrmed. Among others, they stated the nding that the number
of people who considered themselves to be Romanians in Moldova did not
exceed 5–6%. Guboglo and Dergachev also added the explanation to the data
about the choice of a native tongue. ey considered that the fact that 18.8%
of inhabitants declared that Romanian was their mother tongue proved the
nationalistic tendencies triggered by Romanian agents operating in Moldova.
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
e objective was to disrupt the existence of Moldova as a sovereign state and,
in this context, its connection with the neighboring country. us, Moldovans
would become part of one Romanian nation (Guboglo and Dergachev 2010,
John Kelly, representative of the Council of Europe, said that questions
concerning nationality and language caused confusion among the respondents
(Nantoi and Iovu 2012, 23). In addition, seven out of ten observers said
that the election committee had advised people to declare themselves to be
Moldovan instead of Romanian. With regard to the methodology of the
2004 census, the critic pointed out that quantitative data cannot serve as an
objective image of the national identity of Moldovans, especially due to the
confusion among respondents in connection to issues regarding nationality
and language. Subsequent research initiated by the Public Policy Institute
proved that 89 % of inhabitants feel that they are Moldovans in compliance
with their place of residence. e research showed that respondents are
not against the Romanian language or Romanian history. Only 5.9% of
inhabitants expressed their identity in the spirit of “Moldovanism” (Nantoi
and Iovu 2012, 54).
e events of April 2009, when protesting demonstrators attacked the
Parliament building and the building of the Presidential Oce, were
the culmination of the dispute over the national identity of Moldovans.
Inhabitants thus reacted to the repeated changes in the results of the census.
Although the organizers of the violent protests were not ocially punished, it
was clear to everybody that the question of national identity is a very sensitive
problem in Moldova. Events of 2009 deepened the crisis of national identity
and resulted in an increase of identity in the political rhetoric, especially
among left-wing parties. ese events strengthened and improved the position
of advocates of “Moldovanism” and also those of “Romanianism”. e events
were interpreted by the Moldovan government in Chișinău as an attempt at a
state takeover on the side of Romania (Nantoi and Iovu 2012, 54).
e objective of this contribution is to analyze the process of formation
of a national identity in Moldova, with emphasis on the dichotomy of the
national identity of “Moldovanism” and “Romanianism”. is work revealed
that there is no clear vision or political agreement in relation to national
identity. e discourse of national identity is polarized between the theses of
“Moldovanism” and “Romanianism”, which are based on entirely dierent
thoughts. is contribution also highlights how dierently historical events
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
and facts can be interpreted. National identity in Moldova is built on the
dialectic opposites of two identities: advocates of “Moldovanism” despise
“Romanianism”, and vice versa. is fact has transformed the topic of national
identity in Moldova into a very delicate and conicting theme, which is an
obstacle to ensuring security, in addition to being misused in political clashes.
It is needless to add that the main factor in the formation of political parties is
the antagonism of national identity. e crisis of national identity in Moldova
has lasted for more than 25years. It can be overcome by the creation of a
civil nation and functioning state institutions that will be able to fulll the
expectations of the citizens of Moldova.
e current reality is that young people in Moldova are confused. According
to the words of an academic employee at the Moldova State University, the
situation is worsening not only due to the deep-rooted problem of the reign
of oligarchs but also due to the Russian propaganda in the Moldovan media.
In his opinion, Russian-speaking people occupy 80% of the media market.31
In addition, the ocial language designation is quite problematic. According to
the Moldovan Constitution (Art. 13), Moldovan is the state lang uage. However,
authorities and ocial websites have changed the name to Romanian. e
language situation has been going through a dicult period since the collapse
of the Soviet Union, which systematically destroyed the language and ethnic
rights of non-Russian nations. Almost 25years after the disintegration of the
Soviet Union, there actually is Romanian–Russian bilingualism. Although
Russian did not obtain the status of an ocial language, it ocially fullls
the function of a language of interethnic communication. e Declaration
of Independence of the Republic of Moldova, which was ratied on August
27, 1991, declares “Romanian” to be the ocial language. However, on July
29, 1994, the new Constitution of the Republic of Moldova again returned
to the designation “Moldovan”. Nevertheless, the Romanian language is
taught in schools. When, in 2013, the Gagauz Parliament suggested that the
designation “Romanian language” should not be used because it contradicted
the Constitution, the Constitutional Court decided that the Declaration is an
integral part of the Constitution and, in the case of a dierence in the text,
the text of the Declaration has priority.32
Moldovan national identity is very divided. Moldovans wanted to break
free from the arms of Russia, but oligarchic structures and bonds to this
country made the option very dicult. e political situation also assisted
31 Source: Personal interview with an academic employee at the Moldova State University in February
32 More at
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Journal of Nationalism, Memory & Language Politics 11(1)
national identity. At the time when the pro-European coalition was in power,
an amount of approximately US$1 billion was lost in one of the Moldovan
banks in 2014.33 e political crisis and bad economic situation led to the
growing popularity of pro-Russian political parties, which mostly promoted
Moldovanism and the joining of Moldova to the Eurasian Union.
Despite the fact that already 25years have passed, there is, across society, no
common view of identity that would lead to social and political consensus.
In addition, the heterogeneity between the center and periphery, leading
to a splitting of political parties in Moldova, plays an important role in the
political sphere and polarizes society into proponents of “Moldovanism” and
“Romanianism”. e dynamics of the conict of national identity in Moldova
suggest that antagonism between “Moldovanism” and “Romanianism” will
continue to exist in the political discourse and that social and political unrest
will continue to deepen.
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Heintz, Monica. 2005. Republic of Moldova versus Romania: e cold war of national identi-
ties. Journal of Political Science and International Relations. Accessed July 7, 2015. http://
33 Source: Personal interview with an academic employee at the Moldova State University in February
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Vladimír Baar and Daniel Jakubek, Divided National Identity in Moldova
Hendl, Jan. 2005. Kvalitativní výzkum. Základní metody a aplikace. [Quality research. Basic
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cessed March 4, 2016.
King, Charles. 2000.e Moldovans: Romania, Russia and the Politics of Culture. Stanford,
California: Hoover Institution Press.
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v politologii a mezinárodních vztazích (Drulák, Petr et col.). [Single-Case Study in How
to Research Policy: Qualitative Methodology in Political Science and International Rela-
tions]. Prague: Portál. 2011. “Un dizident basarabean trădat de Ceauşescu şi-a lansat o carte la Bucureşti
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în Republica Moldova [Integration of ethnic groups and consolidation of the civic nation in
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bia: aspects of the history of the Church and of the Romanian nation]. București: Basilica.
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tory: Studies, materials, attitudes]. Chişinău: Edit. Cartdidact.
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of Moldova and the neighboring regions of Ukraine, the position of the Romanian lan-
guage]. Prague: Charles University. Accessed July 11, 2015.
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Стати, Василе. 2014. История Молдовы. Кишинев: Tipograa Arva Color.
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ství Lidové noviny.
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of Moldova. Chapel Hill. Accessed March 20, 2016.
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... Война в Карабахе (Арцахе) 2021 года показала стремительное вхождение Азербайджана в орбиту Турции. Национальная идентичность в Молдове имеет диалектическую основу: сторонники «молдаванизма» презирают «румынизм» и наоборот (Baar and Jakubek, 2017). ...
... In Moldova, the ethnic identity slides between Moldovanism and Romanianism which are different with regard to values, believes, political agendas and political goals [43]. Moldovanism advances the idea that Moldovans are different from Romanians, Romania being considered as a threat to Moldova's independence. ...
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This paper aims to examine the correlates of foreign policy attitudes in Moldova by a multilevel analysis, and to also reveal some characteristics of the Moldova’s difficult geopolitical and economic context, such as the ethnical conflicts and poverty. A set of four foreign policy attitudes are explained upon individual- and regional level socio-economic and demographic correlates, of which poverty is the main focus, being represented here by several objective, subjective, uni- and multidimensional indicators. An indicator of deprivation is derived from a group of poverty indicators by the method Item Response Theory. Deprivation, subjective poverty, ethnicity and the Russian media influence are found to be associated with negative attitudes toward all foreign policies, while satisfaction with economic conditions in the country and a positive attitude toward refugees are both associated with positive attitudes toward all foreign policies.
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The article contributes to the study of the relationship between religion and populist mobilization strategies of non–right-wing-populist actors in the post-Soviet space. It analyzes how religious references are employed to appeal to voters’ collective identities in the Republic of Moldova. The analysis of two Moldovan parties’ electoral campaigns in 2019–2020 highlights how notions of “religious values” and “traditional values” are used to evoke the “cultural toolkit.” By stressing the homogeneity of voters or the dichotomy between “the people” and “the elite,” the parties tie their religious references to different geopolitical narratives and society’s sets of core values.
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The given article offers a political and legal analysis of the constitutions of the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States that began constructing their independent statehood after the collapse of the USSR. The authors conducted a comparative analysis of such institutions in the CIS as the parliament, presidency, courts and found out that the studied institutional features could be described as “modern traditionalism.” At the same time prevalence is given to informal political practices (clans, interest groups, and political networks) that facilitate the political process in these countries. By opposing the traditional constitutional institutions, these informal mechanisms and structures could be able to “seize the government” and cause the emergence of neopatrimonialism. The paper describes various models of the neopatrimonialism regimes which allows to depart from a simplified description of these regimes as being “authoritarian” and find new “hybrid” institutions, that accumulate both formal and informal power.
The Romanian-Moldovan state border is today embedded in numerous conflicting territorial representations at the regional, national, and international scales. These representations from above depict the Romanian-Moldovan state border as the external border of the European Union, the physical border between the Romanian and Moldovan nations, or the western border of the historical region of Bessarabia. Yet, several representations bridge the current state border by referring to the historical Moldavian Principality or Greater Romania. This chapter asks how these conflicting territorial representations shape people’s everyday self-representations. Based on everyday narratives gathered during field research in Romania and the Republic of Moldova, the chapter shows that conflicting territorial representations from above can result in numerous overlapping imagined communities in everyday life. In the case of Romania and the Republic of Moldova, several of these imagined communities are socially constructed by following patterns of representation on higher scales, such as Nesting Orientalism. However, due to every person’s autonomy in creating them, they also entail imagined communities that are absent in representations from above. Hence, the paper suggests that research may yield alternative in-depth insights into territorial identities by focusing on the analysis of everyday narratives.
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This chapter discusses the spiritual ties between the post-Soviet countries and the way in which the Russian state has attempted to make use of them. First, the evolution and connotations of the Russian World (russkiy mir) concept will be elaborated: how it has been applied in Russia’s political discourse, and whether or how it is different from the parallel concept of ‘Holy Rus’’ (svyataya Rus’), crucial for the Russian Orthodox Church. The connections of individual post-Soviet countries to this ‘spiritual’ Russian World will then be briefly discussed, focusing on those countries that have a strong tradition of Orthodox belief and/or close ties with the Russian Orthodox Church. Finally, the chapter analyses the question of how the Russian state, with support of the Russian Orthodox Church, has aimed at politicizing the spiritual bonds between the post-Soviet countries.
This paper explores the geopolitical role that a de facto state may play while operating in the context of patron-client relations and engagement without recognition framework. This is especially pronounced in Transnistria, which due to economic incentives offered by the EU through the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) may not fit well into the overall military-political or socio-cultural expectations of Transnistrians deemed to be part of the Russian dominion. The puzzle this paper seeks to unfold is twofold: first, it examines the motives and instruments that both EU and Russia exploit in their power projections towards Transnistria; second, it probes different avenues how de facto state authorities tackle possible tensions emerging from externally imposed choices, and how this all affects their role choice. It is not ruled out that regional linkages, also interests and needs that shape allegiances will lead to changes in geopolitical roles, and thus in the secessionist conflict dynamics.
This contribution examines why Orthodox radicals in Moldova demonstrate their ability to use direct action – violent or non-violent – to change state policy, examining cases of confrontation over machine-readable identity cards, the non-denominational use of public spaces, non-discrimination against religious minorities and LGBT. The author suggests that the dynamics of religious radicalism in Moldova are explained by the fact that after the regime change in 2009, official discourse is not supportive of the so-called ‘traditional values’ shared by many. In the absence of other discursive opportunities, domestic political confrontations in Moldova are currently symbolically focused on concepts of ‘the European path’ and ‘the Orthodox land’. Since the mainstream Orthodox Church cannot afford open antistate activity, defending the faith and values is increasingly associated with radicals whose direct activism has apocalyptic undertones. The radical Orthodox have become a persistent political factor, able to influence government policies and legislation. They do not envision themselves as perpetrators of violence, considering their actions to be self-defence. The existence of radicals inside the Church also prevents its general drift in the direction of a more liberal position.
2., aktualiz. vyd. Na obálce uvedeno jako 2., přeprac. a aktualiz. vyd. Terminologický slovník
Valentina Vsesoyuznye perepisi naseleniya g : istoriya podgotovki i provedenija All - Union Population Censuses the history of preparation and conduct
  • Zhiromskaya
Cu privire la totalurile Recensămîntului populației din 2004. [On the totals of the 2004 Population Census]
  • Biroul Național
  • Republicii Moldova
Biroul Național de Statistică al Republicii Moldova. 2004. Cu privire la totalurile Recensămîntului populaţiei din 2004. [On the totals of the 2004 Population Census]. Accessed September 13, 2015.
Recuperarea identității naționale în Besarabia prin intermediul limbii române
  • Aleš Buzu
Buzu, Aleš. 2012. Recuperarea identităţii naţionale în Besarabia prin intermediul limbii române. [Recovering the national identity in Besarabia through the Romanian language]. Prague: Charles University. Accessed July 8, 2015.
Opisanie Moldavii. [Description of Moldova] Sankt Peterburg: Vostochnaya literature
  • Dimitrie Cantemir
Cantemir, Dimitrie. 1726. Opisanie Moldavii. [Description of Moldova]. Sankt Peterburg: Vostochnaya literature. Accessed March 4, 2016.