NARRATIVES: 1. The Romanian “national project” is a form of aggression against Russia. 2. Russia is forced to defend itself against Western ideological attacks. 3. The full success of Romanian interests can only be achieved with the help of a strong Russia.
CONTEXT: The narratives were posted on the Telegram channel @triunghiulbasarabean, a phalanx of Sputnik, the Kremlin’s main propaganda mouthpiece in the East-European space.
The “Romanianism” of the population of the Republic of Moldova is an issue with deep roots in history, anchored during the tsarist occupation of the territory between the Dniester and the Prut. Since 1812, the Romanian language has been one of the forms of resistance to the Russification process.
The theses of Moldovanism - according to which there is a Moldavian language and ethnicity different from the Romanian language and ethnicity – were actually launched before the invasion and occupation of the territory between the Dniester and the Prut by the USSR, their promotion dating back to the period of the so-called Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR)
MASSR was supposed to be the bridgehead for the seizure of the Romanian region of Bessarabia, and Moldovanism was used to justify Moscow's territorial claims.
Over time, the idea emerged that the “Moldovans” were, in fact, part of the Russian world. Even today, Russia is fueling its hybrid war in Moldova by maintaining identity dilemmas and supporting the Moldovanist trend. In parallel, there’s also been a campaign to demonize Romania, starting from its alliance with Nazi Germany during the Second World War; since then, the Romanians as a people have been described as “fascists” and the discussions about a possible union or about the identity of the population on the left of the Prut as fascist propaganda.
Beyond the marginal discussions (whose importance is amplified by Moscow and the pro-Russians) regarding a union between the Republic of Moldova and Romania, the identity issue is an important one in the Republic of Moldova, which practically acquired its independence following the emergence of the movement for national revival who advocated for the Romanian language and the Romanian alphabet.
Neo-Soviet revisionist forces imposed the phrase "Moldovan language" in the 1994 Constitution and it took almost 20 years for the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova to decide that the text of the Declaration of Independence (which enshrines the Romanian language) “prevails over the text of the Constitution” . After another 10 years since the Court's decision, the Chisinau Parliament adopted, in March 2023, the law establishing the Romanian language as the state language , a decision that triggered vehement reactions from Moscow. For example, the spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zaharova, said that “Moldova is giving up its mother tongue”, and that the measure was allegedly imposed by the USA. Intensified with the invasion on Ukraine , but dating back to before 2022, Moscow has spread lots of fake news and disinformation about the relations between Romania and Moldova. The Kremlin claims, for example, that Romania wants to annex Moldova , being supported in this endeavor by NATO forces that will also help it annex some regions of Ukraine , or that Romania prevents Moldovans from going to work in the West , using the Soviet myth of the “Romanian gendarme” who wrongs the Bessarabians.
It should also be noted that, with all its specific nuances, the issue of Moldovanism vs. Romanianism can be seen as part of the bigger dispute between the “eastern vector” and the “western vector”, present in the last 30 years in several countries in the ex-Soviet space and manifested by the competition between pro-Russian political groups, which promote the idea of being part of the “Russian world” and the proximity to Moscow (basically they support the formation of a post-Soviet bloc dominated by Russia, with subjects governed according to rules typical of the eastern space marked by authoritarianism, corruption and a state of law that is mostly mimicked) and pro-Western political groups that propose the transformation of their countries into liberal democracies integrated into the European Union.
PURPOSE: To amplify pro-Russian sentiments, to portray Russia as a factor of stability in Eastern Europe, to justify the aggressiveness of Russia’s foreign policy, as well to undermine the trust of the populations of Moldova and Romania in authorities and the West.
WHY THE NARRATIVES ARE FALSE: Discussions about a possible reunification of the territories of Romania and Moldova have existed since the fall of communism in 1989, and they got more intense after the declaration of Moldova's independence in August 1991. The idea, however, has not enjoyed the support of the majority of the population in either of the two countries, being rather the concern of some marginal political and civic groups, although, occasionally, the subject has also been approached by some high-ranking politicians in their speeches.
At the official level, however, Romania was the first state to recognize the independence of the Republic of Moldova. Its sovereignty and territorial integrity have never been questioned by Romanian officials. Moreover, throughout the 30 years of independence of the Republic of Moldova, Romania has been one of its most important supporters, both in moments of crisis that have arisen over the years (economic, energy, sanitary crises, natural disasters) as well as in terms of broader European integration efforts. Romania's support has also manifested through direct financial aid for various infrastructure, cultural, and media projects, the granting of thousands of scholarships annually for pupils and students from the Republic of Moldova, etc.
Bucharest's policies towards the Republic of Moldova remained the same even when they were faced with the sometimes hostile and aggressive discourse of some governments in Chisinau that were promoting the rapprochement with the Russian Federation and Moldovanism. What has constantly irritated the pro-Russians and the Moldovanists in Chisinau (and obviously their partners in Moscow) was the fact that Romania has never accepted the historical fakes of Moldovanism and has always emphasized the common linguistic, cultural and historical identity. The older decision made by Bucharest to allow those who had Romanian citizenship in the period when the territory between the Prut and the Dniester (where most of the Republic of Moldova is located) was part of Romania, and their descendants, get it back, should be read on a similar note. Moreover, reacquiring the Romanian citizenship came with a series of advantages, multiplied after Romania became part of the European Union, when those with dual citizenship also became European citizens. This policy was, however, a non-discriminatory one, as evidenced by the numerous cases reported by the press about characters deeply hostile to Romania who had also received Romanian citizenship.
On the other hand, Russia, which took over the Soviet theories of Moldovanism, pursued an often hostile policy towards the Republic of Moldova, by supporting the separatist Transnistrian region, imposing embargoes on Moldovan products destined for the Russian market (which led to a reorientation of Moldovan exports ), waging a hybrid war against Chisinau, etc.
The strengthening of bilateral relations between Romania and the Republic of Moldova is therefore owed to multiple factors – Bucharest's constant policy of supporting Chisinau, Moscow's hostile acts towards the Republic of Moldova, but also the seizure of power in the Republic of Moldova by pro-European forces. The latter, by the way, are not unionists, the declared unionist parties failing to pass the electoral threshold required to entry parliament in the latest elections. Last but not least, the war in Ukraine must also be considered, which once again showed the danger that Russia represents for the former Soviet subjects and the importance of belonging to a space like the European one.
The idea that the collective West would encourage Romanianism as part of an evil plan directed against Russia is ridiculous. And even this were true, there is no rational argument to attest that asserting the national identity of a sovereign and independent state would be an action against another, with which, to top it off!, it does not even have a common border. In fact, by launching this narrative, Moscow only wants to justify its own revisionist actions, the result of which, among other things, were the two autonomous Moldovan entities, Transnistria and Gagauzia, and which maintain the uncertain status of Moldova's borders. Moreover, the thesis represents a local reformulation of the meta-narrative by which Russia sees itself as a victim of Western expansion , being forced to fight a ” a new war for the defense of the fatherland”
The potential formation of just one Romanian state represents a danger for Russia only in the logic of the Kremlin, which considers that the territories of other states belong to it. In the particular case of the Republic of Moldova, it is a conquered territory, annexed first by the Tsarist Empire and, later, by the Soviet Union. The fragment "Patriotism must also be seen as a regional vision, not just a national one. No war with your neighbor can bring you prosperity" is rather a threat based on the assumption that Russia is a neighbor of Moldova, through the Transnistrian region, and that to be a patriot you need Moscow's permission. Furthermore, the premise that such action would endanger Russia's “vital interests” is reminiscent of the Nazi theory of “vital space”, precisely the ideology that Moscow claims to be fighting in Ukraine.