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Movement for unification of Romania and Moldova

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Movement for unification of Romania and Moldova

250px
Left image: A potential union of Romania and Moldova, including Transnistria.
Right image: A potential union excluding Transnistria, also called the "Belkovsky plan".

A movement for the reunification of Romania and Moldova (Romanian: Unirea Republicii Moldova cu România) began in both countries after the Romanian Revolution of 1989 and the beginning of glasnost policy in the Soviet Union. The question of reunification is recurrent in the public sphere of the two countries, often as a speculation, both as a goal and a danger.

Individuals who advocate the unification are usually called "unionists" (unioniști). Some support it as a peaceful process based on consent in the two countries, others in the name of a "Romanian historical right over Bessarabia". The supporters of the union refer to the opponents as "Moldovenists" (moldoveniști).

Background

As part of the Principality of Moldavia, Bessarabia had belonged to the Ottoman Empire until it was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1812, in accordance with the Treaty of Bucharest. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, a newly formed Parliament (Sfatul Țării) declared Bessarabia's autonomy inside a Russian state. In 1918, after the Romanian army entered Bessarabia, the makeshift parliament decided on independence, only to review its position and ultimately decide on a conditional union with Romania. The conditions, including the provisions for autonomy, were ultimately dropped.[1]

In 1940, during World War II, Romania agreed to an ultimatum and ceded the region to the Soviet Union, which organized it into the Moldavian SSR. The Soviets strongly promoted the Moldovan ethnic identity, against other opinions that viewed all speakers of the Romanian language as part of a single ethnic group, taking advantage of the incomplete integration of Bessarabia into the interwar Romania.[2]

The official Soviet policy also stated that Romanian and Moldovan were two different languages and, to emphasize this distinction, Moldovan had to be written in a new Cyrillic alphabet (the Moldovan alphabet) based on the reformed Russian Cyrillic, rather than the obsolete Romanian Cyrillic that ceased to be used in the 19th century in the Old Kingdom and 1917 in Bessarabia.[3]

Revival of nationalism

In September 1989, with the liberalization in the Soviet Union, the Moldovan SSR Parliament declared Moldovan as the official language, and also asserted the existence of a "Moldovan-Romanian linguistic identity".[4]

On 6 May 1990, after several decades of strict separation, Romania and the Moldovan SSR lifted temporarily border crossing restrictions, and thousands of people crossed the Prut River which marked their common border.[5]

The factors hindering the unification were complex, ranging from the caution of political leaders in Moldova and Romania, the war in Transnistria, and, perhaps more importantly, the mentality of large parts of the population in Moldova (and to some extent in Romania) who were indifferent or opposed to such a project.[6]

In his address to the Romanian parliament, in February 1991, Mircea Snegur, the Moldovan president, spoke of a common identity of Moldovans and Romanians, referring to the "Romanians of both sides of the Prut River".[7] In June 1991, Snegur talked about Moldova moving toward the reunification with Romania, adding that the USSR is not making great efforts to stop it.[8]

While many Moldovan intellectuals supported the union and wanted a "reunion with the Romanian motherland",[9] there was little popular support for it, with more than 70% of the Moldovans opposing it, according to a 1992 poll. At the same time, Transnistria, the eastern part of Moldova, inhabited by a Slavic majority, used the putative danger of unification with Romania as a pretext for its own aspirations for independence.[10]

Political ties and unionism

Following the declaration of independence on 27 August 1991, the Romanian flag defaced with the Moldovan coat of arms and the Romanian anthem "Deșteaptă-te, române!" became the symbols of the new independent Moldova.[11] Following the growing tension between the pro-union governing Moldovan Popular Front and president Snegur, in particular over unification,[12] the president moved closer to the Moldovanist group of Agrarians, and appointed their candidate Andrei Sangheli as prime minister. As a result, and especially after the victory of Agrarians in the 1994 elections, Moldova began distancing itself from Romania. The state flag was slightly modified, and the anthem changed to "Limba noastră". The Moldovan referendum of 1994 for an independent Moldova was seen by many public figures to be aimed at implicitly excluding a union with Romania. Furthermore, the constitution adopted in 1994 by the new Parliament dominated by Moldovanist Agrarians and Socialists called the official language "Moldovan", as opposed to the earlier Declaration of independence that called it "Romanian". The attempt by Moldovan president Mircea Snegur in 1996 to change the name of the official language to "Romanian" was dismissed by the Moldovan Parliament as "promoting Romanian expansionism".

A "Concept on National Policy" was adopted in 2003 by the Communist dominated Parliament, stating that Moldovans and Romanians are different peoples, and that the latter are an ethnic minority in Moldova.[13]

Before 2005, only the Christian-Democratic People's Party, one of the political heirs of the Moldovan Popular Front, actively supported unification. However, the stance of the Christian-Democrats changed significantly after they started collaborating closely with the ruling Moldovan Communists. During the elections of April 2009, the alliance of National Liberal Party (Partidul Naţional Liberal) and the 'European Action' Movement (Miscarea Actiunea Europeana) ran on a common platform of a loose union with Romania, but accumulated only around 1% of the votes.[14]

Political commentary

In 2004 and later, the Romanian newspaper Ziua published a series of articles and interviews with Stanislav Belkovsky, an influential political commentator from the Russian Federation, who proposed a plan of a unification between Romanian and Moldova excluding Transnistria. Speculations followed whether his plan is backed by higher circles in the Kremlin, but they were never confirmed. Nevertheless, several journalists and scholars dismissed the plan as a diversion, also pointing out several ambiguities, such as the status of the city of Tighina situated on the right bank of Dniester but under Transnistrian control, and, more importantly, the unlikelihood of Moldova's acquiescence to such a plan.

In January 2006, the Romanian president Traian Băsescu declared that he strongly supported the Moldovan bid for joining the European Union and that "the minimal policy of Romania is for the unification of the Romanian nation to take place within the EU". The phrase "minimal policy" led to questions whether there is also a maximal policy.

In July 2006, the Romanian president Traian Băsescu, claimed to have made a proposal to the Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin that "Moldova join the EU together with Romania in 2007" and that the alleged offer was rejected. Băsescu also added that Romania would respect this decision and would help Moldova to join EU on its own.[15]

In October 2006 the Romanian newspaper Cotidianul estimated the cost of a union with Moldova at 30-35 billion euro,[16] and attracted criticism from the Romanian newspaper Ziua,[17] as well as "Timpul"[18] for exaggerating the costs and disregarding other dimensions of a possible union.

After Moldovan parliamentary election of April 2009, the 2009 Moldova civil unrest, the Moldovan parliamentary election of July 2009, and the creation of the governing Alliance for European Integration, a new wave of speculations about the union followed. The Party of Communists, now in opposition, claimed that "the unionists came to power".[19]

In November 2009, political commentator Stanislav Belkovsky declared in an interview with Radio Free Europe that April 2009 marks the beginning of the process of Moldova's return to Romania.[20]

Traian Băsescu made a state visit to Moldova along with a number of ministers to announce several projects that would intensify ties between the two countries, and the offer of 100 million euro grant for infrastructure projects. Băsescu called Moldova his "soul project".[21] Private Romanian investments are also expected to increase significantly, with the opening of a Moldovan-Romanian business and investment office,[22] and the takeover of the online news portal Unimedia by Romanian group Realitatea-Cațavencu group, owned by businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vântu.[23]

On February 15, 2010, the Rădăuți-Lipcani border crossing between Romania and Moldova opened[24] and the remnant Soviet barbed wire fence on the Moldovan side of the border with Romania was dismantled.[25]

In January 2010, Mircea Druc, the former prime minister of Moldova between 1990 and 1991, declared that the unification of Romania and the Republic of Moldova is inevitable.[26] However, acting President Mihai Ghimpu denied in an interview with the Russian language newspaper "Komsomolskaya Pravda v Moldove" that such a move will be taken, stating that a union is not included in the program of the governing coalition.[27] On another occasion he declared that if the people wanted unification, neither he, nor anyone else could stop them.[28] He admitted on several occasions to personally share unionist views.[29] However in August 2010 he declared that the proposition of an "inter-state union" between Romania and Moldova was "a very stupid" idea.[30]

Asked about the unification in August 2013 at the summer school at Izvoru Mureșului, Romanian president Traian Băsescu said

"There is among the people of Moldova a healthy trend that moves toward this. But […] the great majority of people [in Moldova] do not want it at the moment. […] I say to the citizens of the Republic of Moldova "Ask for the unification, and you will have it, but ask for it!" [...] Does Romania want unification with the Republic of Moldova? I'm telling you, yes, Romania wants it, but the Republic of Moldova doesn't. You don't have yet a critical majority, and if you could prove [that you have] it, I assure you Romania wouldn't be a hindrance [to unification]. That is why we say that the solution for the time being is Moldova in the EU, where we will meet."[31][32]

Current trends

Dual citizenship for Moldovan citizens

A poll conducted by IPP Chisinau in November 2007 shows that 33.6% of the Moldovan population is interested in holding Romanian citizenship, while 58.8% is not interested. The main reason of those interested is: feeling Romanian (31.9%), the possibility of traveling to Romania (48.9%), and the possibility of traveling and/or working in the EU (17.2%).[33]

Between 1991 and 2009, some 140,000 Moldovan citizens obtained Romanian citizenship.[34] According to some estimates, as many as 1 million Moldovan citizens requested Romanian citizenship by 2009.[35] In 2010, the Romanian government created the National Authority for Citizenship to process the large number of applications for Romanian citizenship coming especially from Moldovan citizens. The study "Reacquiring Romanian citizenship: historical, comparative and applied perspectives", released in 2012, estimated that 226,507 Moldovan citizens reacquired Romanian citizenship by August 15, 2011 [36][37] Between August 15, 2011 and October 15, 2012 an additional 90,000[38] reacquired Romanian citizenship, according to the National Authority for Citizenship, bringing the total to 320,000.

The study "Reacquiring Romanian citizenship: a policy gaining vision", released in April 2013 by the Soros Foundation Romania, estimated that 323,049 request files were processed between 1991 and 2012, and approximately 400,000 people regained citizenship.[39]

Action 2012

In April 2011, a coalition of NGOs from Romania and Moldova created the civic platform "Acțiunea 2012" (English: Action 2012), whose aim is to "raise awareness of the necessity of the unification between Romania and the Republic of Moldova". Year 2012 was chosen as a reference to the bicentennial commemoration of the 1812 division of historical Moldavia, when the Russian Empire annexed what would later be called Bessarabia. The proponents see the unification as a reversal of this historical division, a reversal inspired by the rather short-lived Union of Bessarabia with Romania (1918–1940) disrupted by the Soviet occupation.[40][41][42][43]

Union Council

In February 2012, the Union Council was created to "gather all unionists" in order to "promote the idea of Romanian national unity". Among the signatories: Mircea Druc former Moldovan prime-minister, Alexandru Mosanu former speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, Vitalia Pavlicenco president of the National Liberal Party (Moldova), Vladimir Beşleagă writer, Constantin Tănase director of the Moldovan newspaper Timpul de dimineaţă, Val Butnaru president of Jurnal Trust Media, Oleg Brega journalist and activist, Nicu Țărnă soloist of the Moldovan rock band Gândul Mâței, and Tudor Ionescu, president of the Romanian neo-fascist association Noua Dreaptă, Valentin Dolganiuc, former Moldovan MP, Eugenia Duca, Moldovan businesswoman, Anton Moraru, Moldovan professor of history, Eugen Mihalache, vice president of People's Party, Dan Diaconescu and others.[44][45][46]

Union Marches

The newly created Action 2012 and Union Council initiative groups organized several manifestations in support of the unification throughout 2012. The first one was a rally of several thousand people in Chișinău on 25 March 2012,[47] held as an anniversary of the Union of Bessarabia with Romania on 27 March 1918. Similar rallies took place on 13 May[48] (which commemorated 200 years of the Treaty of Bucharest (1812) and the first Russian annexation of Bessarabia) and 16 September.[49] A union march was also held in Bucharest on 21 October.[50] Smaller-scale manifestations took place in the Moldovan cities of Cahul and Bălți on 22 July[51] and 5 August,[52] respectively. Various intellectuals and artists from both countries supported the marches,[53] while Moldovan Speaker Marian Lupu and Prime Minister Vlad Filat opposed them.[54]

Public opinion

Moldova

The International Republican Institute in partnership with The Gallup Organization regularly conduct polls in the Republic of Moldova on several social and political issues.[55] The following results reflect the public stance in Moldova on the question of reunification

Date Question Fully support Somewhat support Somewhat oppose Fully oppose DK/NA
Jan-Feb 2011[56] Excluding the impact of potential Moldovan membership in the European Union, do you support unification of Moldova with Romania? 10% 18% 16% 47% 9%
Aug-Sep 2011[57] Do you support or oppose the reunification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania? 11% 20% 16% 43% 10%

A poll conducted by IRI in Moldova in November 2008 showed that 29% of the population would support a union with Romania, while 61% would reject it.[58]

Romania

A poll conducted in November–December 2010 and extensively analyzed in the study 'The Republic of Moldova in the Romanian public awareness' (Romanian: Republica Moldova în conștiința publică românească)[59] addressed the issue of reunification.

Question Strongly agree Partially agree Partially disagree Strongly disagree DK/NA
Unification should be a national objective for Romania 23% 29% 23% 11% 15%
Sooner or later, the Republic of Moldova and Romania should unite upon the German model 16% 29% 16% 11% 28%

According to a poll conducted in Romania in January 2006, 44% of the population supports a union with Moldova, and 28% rejects it. Also, of those supporting the union, 28% support a union with Moldova, including Transnistria, while the rest of 16% support a union without Transnistria.[60]

A survey carried out in Romania in June 2012 by the Romanian Centre of Strategic Studies showed the following results:[61]

Question Yes No DK/NA
Do you believe that the language spoken in Bessarabia is Romanian? 71.9% 11.9% 16.2%
Do you believe that Bessarabia is Romanian land? 84.9% 4.7% 10.4%
Do you agree with the unification of Bessarabia with Romania? 86.5% 12.7% 0.8%
Do you consider that the unification of Bessarabia with Romania should be a priority for Romanian politicians? 55.2% 20.5% 24.2%
Question Romanians Moldovans Russians DK/NA
Do you consider that Bessarabians are primarily: 67.5% 28.2% 3.9% 0.3%

See also

References

References

  • Lenore A. Grenoble (2003) Language Policy in the Soviet Union, Springer, ISBN 1-4020-1298-5
  • John Mackinlay, Peter Cross (2003) Regional Peacekeepers United Nations University Press ISBN 92-808-1079-0
  • Charles King, "Moldovan Identity and the Politics of Pan-Romanianism", in Slavic Review, Vol. 53, No. 2. (Summer, 1994), pp. 345–368.
  • Charles King, The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the politics of culture, Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 2000. ISBN 0-8179-9792-X

External links

  • (Romanian) Actiunea 2012 Official Website
  • (Romanian) Romanism.net Website dedicated to Romanian-Moldovan reunification
  • (Romanian) BBC Romanian: "Interviu cu preşedintele PPCD Iurie Roşca" (March 2005)
  • (Romanian) Ziua: "Trădarea Basarabiei de la Bucureşti" (June 2005)
  • (Romanian) Hotnews.ro: March 2006 Poll
  • (Romanian) Cotidianul: "Cîţi bani ne-ar costa unirea cu Basarabia" (October 2006)
  • (English) Basescu Plan: Actions supporting unification with Romania held in Chisinau (October 2006)

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