Republic of Moldova’s linguistic roots

Republic of Moldova’s linguistic roots

January 28, 2022

A contention exists over the national identity and name of the mother tongue recognized by the main ethnic group in Moldova. The most frequently contested issue is whether Moldovans establish a subgroup of Romanians or a distinct ethnic group. Although there is a widespread agreement on the existence of a common language, there is still a dispute about the utilization of the expression of Moldovan language in certain political settings.

Romanian phonology and grammar developed in close contact with the Slavic, Hungarian, Turkish and Albanian languages. The standardized Romanian language was formed based on the Wallachian diversity of the Daco-Romanian, a group of most dialects in the Transylvanian Alps, from which region the language may have spread to the plains.1 Romanian literature began to develop considerably in the nineteenth century, when the forthcoming nation turned to other Romance countries for cultural inspiration, especially to France.2 This fact resulted in the re-Romanization– a period of “correction” of the Romanian language started in 1859 when a significant number of scientific Latinisms were introduced into the Romanian vocabulary and Slavic lexemes were actively removed. This process also brought the first linguistic differences between the Romanian and Moldovan languages.3 

The base for the Moldovan language began to take shape in the 16th-17th centuries, and it was finally formed by the second half of the 19th century4. The Moldovan language received official status in 1924 when the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was established on the left bank of the Dniester as part of Ukraine. At the initial stage of language construction, it was planned to create, based on the dialects of the local Transnistrian population, a proletarian Moldovan language as an antipode to the bourgeois Romanian language. This result was planned to be used in order to foment a revolution not only in Bessarabia, but also in Romania.5

Leonid Madan started organizing a distinct Moldovan language structure in the middle of 1920s at the Institute of Public Education in Kyiv, before the topic of a particular Moldovan language had gotten politically remarkable. In July 1927, the Moldovan Scientific Committee published spelling rules based on the Moldovan Grammar, developed by Leonid Madan.6

Despite the efforts and elaborate tactics for the implementation of a new literary standard, the indigenization of the apparatus did not result in success. The mastery of Moldovan language did not represent a professional opportunity. If more qualified Russians or Ukrainians were available, local administrators did not tend to nominate less qualified Moldovans to higher posts.7

The change to the Latin script was abrupt and unexpected. A local party resolution on February 2, 1932, announced the conversion to the Latin alphabet to be finished before the end of that year.8 The Latinization ended unexpectedly as it started. A resolution of the MASSR Central Executive Committee on May 19, 1938, restored the Cyrillic alphabet and reproved the Latinization tendency as ill-conceived for the cultural construction.9 The new Cyrillic standard represented a compromise between the extreme culture-building of the 1920s and the extreme pro-Romanian strategy of 1932.         

After the accession of Bessarabia to the USSR and the formation of the Moldovan SSR in 1940, it was observed that the Transnistrian dialects were incomprehensible to the majority of Moldovans. In this regard, in 1951, with the support of Leonid Brezhnev,10 a reform was introduced on the basis of which the linguistic norm began to focus on the dialects of the central part of Moldova. Finally on August 31, 1989, the new government of the Moldovan SSR, definitely abolished the Cyrillic alphabet on its territory and introduced Romanian spelling in Latin alphabet for the Moldovan language.11 

The Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova from 1991 names as the official language the Romanian.12 While the 1994 Constitution of Moldova gives the official language status to the Moldovan.13

In modern Moldova, the main language of teaching in educational institutions is called Romanian and it is also studied as a subject in schools and universities as Romanian. The subject of Moldovan language in Cyrillic is taught only in universities and secondary schools of Transnistria optionally, starting from the first grade, along with the Ukrainian language.14

On December 5, 2013, the Constitutional Court of Moldova issued the decree On the Interpretation of Article 13 of Part (1) of the Constitution in Relation to the Preamble of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova, which some media presented as what the court supposedly recognized the official language of Moldova as the Romanian language based on the Latin alphabet. However, in this Decision, there is no exact explanation about which is the final state language, but it is only indicated that the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova is a single whole with the Constitution. The debates on the naming of the state language of Moldova as Moldovan or Romanian are continuing, always accompanied by a political connotation.


1 Rebecca Posner, Marius Sala, “Romanian language” (2019, February 25). Accessed: 2021, May 28. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Romanian-language.
2 Ibid.
3  Vladimir Burega, “Bessarabskoye pravoslaviye»mezhdu Rumyniyey i Rossiyey” (2010, July 13). Accessed: 2021, May 28. Retrieved from https://www.religion.in.ua/main/history/5174-bessarabskoe-pravoslavie-mezhdu-rumyniej-i-rossiej.html
4  N. G. Corlăteanu, Moldavskiy yazyk segodnya (Chisinau: Știința, 1983), p. 25.
5 Charles King, The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1999), p. 63.
6  L. A. Madan, Gramatica moldoviniascî (Tiraspol: Editura de Stat a Moldovei, 1929).
7  Politburo report “On the Study of the Moldovan Language among Raion Party Secretaries,” AOSPRM, f. 49, op. 1, d. 3123, l. 3.
8 “Resolution on the Transition to the Latin Alphabet,” AOSPRM, f. 49, op. 1, d. 2401, l. 59.
9 “Despre treșeria scrisului moldovenesc de la alfavitu latin la alfavitu rus,” Moldova socialistă, June 6, 1938,
p. 1.
10 The first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Moldova.
11 Andrei Panici, “Romanian Nationalism in the Republic of Moldova” (2003, January 2). Accessed: 2020, May 18. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20070927011752/http://dev.eurac.edu:8085/mugs2/do/blob.pdf?type=pdf&serial=1047909431571.
12 Art 12, Constitution of the Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica, adopted in 1995, December 24, in the current edition as of 2006, February 10.
13 Art 13, Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, adopted in 1995, July 29, in the current edition as of 2006, June 29.
14
L. I. Lukht, B. P Narumov, Rumynskiy yazyk // Yazyki mira. Romanskiye yazyki, (Moscow: Academia, 2001), p. 575.




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