Eesti Elu
Moldova to reject Moldovan language
Arvamus 11 Dec 2009  Eesti Elu
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At first the idea sounds bizarre – to go against the constitution of Moldova, which states that the state language of Moldova is the Moldovan language.

To make it even more puzzling, the proposal has been quietly tabled by Moldova’s new western leaning government, ever mindful of the control the Kremlin has of the local Russian minority in the Transdniestira area of Moldova.

The first signs of the changes are evident by the removal of the letters ‘MD’ on government websites. MD designated the Moldovan language. These have been replaced by ‘RO’, which indicates the Romanian language. The government has promised to make the required changes in the constitution, to bring it in line with the new reality.

A logical explanation for these developments can easily be found in the history of the immediate past. Moldovan is a dialect of Romanian, not related to the Slavic Russian language. It is spoken by the majority of the people of Bessarabia. It was considered to be a major barrier by both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, to controlling the local population.

As part of the process of forced Russification (similar to the Russian efforts in the Baltic states and even now elsewhere in Russia, where Finno-Ugric peoples dwell) Romanian-language education and Romanian media were forbidden.

The creation of the Moldavian (sic.) language was justified by Stalin who insisted that a distinct “Moldavian” language was proof that the “Moldavians” were a separate nationality from the Romanians in Romania. To bolster this claim, in 1940 Stalin imposed the Cyrillic alphabet on “Moldavian” to make it appear to be more Russian and less Romanian.

The Romanian language got a thorough make-over: archaic Romanian words of Slavic origin were injected into the “Moldavian” language; Russian loan-words and phrases were added. Linguists advanced a new theory of the origins of the “Moldavian “ language, that it was at least partially Slavic in origin. In fact Romanian has been universally recognized as a Romance language descended from Latin.

During the Soviet occupation, at meetings between Romanian and Moldovan officials, Moldovan officials adhered strictly to Kremlin policy and insisted that translators be used, in spite of the fact that the officials from both countries in essence spoke the same language.

In 1949 Moldovan citizens were publicly reprimanded in a government bulletin for expressing themselves in literary Romanian. This type of frantic control was practiced by the Soviets for decades.

Proper names in Moldova were russified. Endings were added to distinctly Romanian names to make them appear more Russian. Individuals were addressed and referred to in the Russian manner by using a patronymic (the father’s given name) as a middle name.

During the Soviet occupation both Romanian, written in the Cyrillic alphabet (“Moldavian”) and Russian were the official languages of the Moldavian SSR.

By initially rejecting Russian as an official state language, through the Law on State Language of 1989, which made Russian the language of interethnic communication and now promoting the historical existence and revival of the Romanian language, Moldova is another country which is distancing itself from the Soviet totalitarian past.
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