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Moldova: “Our Romanian Language” Day Protest

Moldova is one of the few countries in the world that celebrates Language Day, a holiday usually marked by nations that have fought for the right to speak their native language.

Twenty-two years ago, on August 31, 1989, while still a part of the Soviet Union, after fierce deliberations, Moldova adopted the Romanian language as the state language and returned to the Latin script. During the Soviet rule, the country had been forced for almost 50 years to use the Cyrillic script, and the Soviet Union continuously propagated the existence of the Moldovan language as a distinct entity from the Romanian language.

"Our language Romanian"

"Our language Romanian"

Twenty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the official language is still disputed in Moldova, whilst the Constitution calls it Moldovan, the educational system teaches Romanian, and the ethnic minorities insist on formalizing the Russian language as a second official language.

Ahead of this year’s celebration of Our Romanian Language Day, the Moldovan netizens organized via Facebook [ro] a protest demanding the authorities to replace the phrasing “Moldovan language” with “Romanian language” from the highly disputed 13th Article of the Moldovan Constitution.

The initiative's organizers motivated the attendees with the following slogans:

DEMAND WHAT BELONGS TO YOU; DEMAND THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF THE ROMANIAN LANGUAGE!

For 20 years, an injustice has been written down in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, it harms the Historical Truth of our nation. Those from yesterday, from today and from tomorrow are living this injustice every day, they tolerate and decry it, and they revolt and conform to it, but what will we leave for our offspring and how will we be able to look into their eyes with the shame of our cowardice?

Our parents fought to leave the Soviet Empire, what do we do to carry on with the dignity of their names?

Netizens used Facebook to organize a protest under the slogan: "COME! to protect the LANGUAGE and the HISTORY"

Netizens used Facebook to organize a protest under the slogan: "COME! to protect the LANGUAGE and the HISTORY"

This call to protest ended with the following message:

The affirmation of the Romanian identity does not affect the attitude towards the identity of the ethnic minority groups (Ukrainians, Russians, Bulgarians, Gagauz) who live next to us in the Republic of Moldova. We have to respect each other.

Sergiu Scarlat wrote [ro] on the event’s Facebook page:

We have to fight against the invaders (Russian friends) and to clearly demonstrate that we are at home and here we speak Romanian or at least Moldovan, if anyone spots the difference…

Around 200 people, from more than 1000 who had signed up on the Facebook page, actually turned up at the protest held on August 30 in capital Chisinau.

The protesters carried signs saying:

Without language, without history. We are left with bread and circus?

20 years of “Moldovan language.” How much longer will we endure?

Moldovan language – an invention of the invaders?

Romanian language is my motherland!

The event has made it into mainstream media coverage. The buzz in the blogosphere portraits the still fragile and controversial status of the Romanian language.

Traian Vasilcau decries [ro] the status of the Romanian language existent nowadays in Moldova:

Put on the wall of infamy, the Romanian language sees in front of its eyes a sea of darkness, so big that one could easily slap someone.

He goes on:

From the declaration of independence of the Republic of Moldova, know that only 1 percent of the Bessarabian aliens have learned the pseudo state language.

“Pseudo,” because the eternal problem of the name of the Romanian language is part of science fiction novels.

It is Moldovan for the unconscious populations and for the pro-Communists, and it is Romanian for the conscious population of [Bessarabia].

Alex Cozer assesses [ro] the situation in the same manner:

Still, just like in the case of “independence,” our “Romanian” language is a fake celebration, because, in fact, the Romanian language, just like the independence, is trampled down and not respected.

The blogger appeals to the Prime Minister to keep his promise of levying the main - and the monopolist - chain of cinemas to dub or subtitle movies in Romanian. In the main cinemas of the Moldovan capital, one can only watch movies in Russian.

On the other side of the barricade, blogger Nicolae Pascaru engages [ro] in a debate [ro] where he argues that the language name should be Moldovan, because Moldovan is written down in the Constitution.

Comments to his viewpoint have been mainly critical. A user calling himself Infinit says [ro]:

I am sorry to let you know, but there is a problem with the Constitution. I am afraid several mistakes have slipped in there. The Moldovan language is one of them and is not even the most serious one. I have not seen the Moldovan Constitution mentioning that Smirnov [the self-proclaimed leader of the secessionist entity of Transnistria] has to control Transnistria from 1990, nor that the military units of other states have to be stationed on the territory of Moldova.

Tudor Darie deplores [ro] the fact that certain members of the Moldovan Parliament cannot speak the Romanian language. According to him, the solution is this:

The Government and the Parliament need to create the necessary conditions to protect and promote “the state language” and we (those who follow the historical truth) must not beg, but impose respect for the Romanian language!

Corneliu Gandrabur goes back in his blog post [ro] to the date of August 31, 1989:

On August 31, 1989, I was 2 years and 9 months old; possibly I was still speaking Romanian. On that day, when probably I was playing in the sand in front of the house, on Lenin Street, there were many people who were demanding in one voice the Romanian language and the Latin Alphabet. They got what they demanded, but with the right to only speak it once a year.

[…]

How many more years will we speak Romanian only one day per year? A tough question even for me, I am not even going to write anything about those who are in power now!

Alexandru Tanase writes [ro] on his Facebook wall:

In ’89 I was in the square [National Square] together with thousands of people who were fighting for the adoption of the Romanian language as the state language and the return to the Latin script. In fact, the fight was taking place not only for the return of the Romanian language to public life. In ’89 we were fighting for dignity, which is the basis and the sum of all human rights and values. Congratulations everyone!

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