Moldovan history bid goes up in flames

April 7, 1995

Plans by Moldova's ministry of education to introduce a course entitled "History of Moldova" were scrapped last week following ten days of student strikes, protests, rallies and the public burning of the new textbooks.

The students demanded that the current course taught in schools and universities, "History of the Romanian People" be kept unchanged.

After ten days of confrontation, a special government negotiating commission announced that the proposed change had been "withdrawn from the agenda". But this did not satisfy the students. They called for the resignation of the government and a change in the Moldovan constitution so that the official language of the country be called "Romanian".

For all practical purposes, the Moldovan language is identical to Romanian.

Under Soviet rule an artificial distinction was made by writing Moldovan in cyrillic script, but in the late 1980s a campaign to restore the Latin script began and cyrillic was already being phased out when the Soviet Union fell apart. In the first months of the post-Soviet period, it was widely expected that Moldova would seek unification with Romania. This prompted the decision of the Slav minority in the province of Trandnistria to declare independence from Moldova and fuelled the armed conflict which followed.

Moldova's current leaders are determined to preserve independence, and the country is about to become a full member of the Council of Europe.

Ironically, those who wish the language to be called Romanian also claim to support Moldovan independence. Addressing a student rally, one leading opposition activist, Alexandru Mosanu, warned that if the fight for the Romanian language and history is lost "Moldova will be drawn into the CIS empire".

President Mircea Snegur has tried to capitalise on the protests by claiming that the fact that they took place at all is "proof of democracy in Moldova". "Unfortunately", he said, "the protesters are behaving rudely and not trying to understand what the government is doing".

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