TASS has reiterated the false narrative about the persecution of Russian speakers in the Republic of Moldova, in an attempt to fuel anti-European phobias.
NEWS: “PAS deputy Vasile Șoimaru has suggested introducing a fine for his colleagues who speak Russian. He launched this initiative on Friday during the presentation of the Equality Council report.
“33 years since the proclamation of sovereignty, a small part of this Parliament discriminates against the independent state of the Republic of Moldova and its official language – Romanian. How much will we have to wait until this small part becomes the majority? Do you have a mechanism in place? I have an economic mechanism”, Șoimaru addressed the rapporteur, implying that “it is necessary to introduce fines against Russian speakers”.
[…] Language is a painful question in Moldova. In 1989, amidst the perestroika, the population of Transnistria and Găgăuzia called for introducing legislation that should designate Russian as the second official language of the Republic of Moldova, after Moldovan. 90% of the population spoke Russian, which was the mother tongue for nearly a third of the population. MPs turned down his proposal and Russian was declared a language of inter-ethnic communication, while Moldovan was declared the official language. These disputes triggered a conflict in Găgăuzia and later a war in Transnistria, dividing the country.
Disputes over the official language of Moldova escalated after PAS took power. A significant number of this party’s members believe Moldova should unify with Romania. Upon PAS’s request, on March 23 Parliament changed the name of the official language from Moldovan to Romanian. It lacked the majority to modify the Constitution, which continues to specify Moldovan as the official language of Moldova”.
NARRATIVE: The pro-European government in Chișinău persecutes Russian-speakers in the Republic of Moldova.
BACKGROUND: In the Soviet era, Russian was the language of communist elites and minority groups, particularly Russian and Ukrainian. Much like under the Russian Empire prior to 1918, Russian was basically the language of the occupation authorities. It was superior to the Romanian language, although the latter has always been the language of the majority population.
According to the legislation passed at the end of the Soviet era, Russian was designated the language of inter-ethnic communication. However, the law was declared obsolete by the Constitutional Court. Meanwhile, the share of national minorities went down, while the 2014 census revealed that 82% of the population identified themselves as Moldovans / Romanians (compared to 78% in 2004, followed by Ukrainians (6.6%), Găgăuz (4.6%) and Russian (4.4%).
Although the share of Russian-speaking national minorities is going down, there are still politicians and parties who are trying to use these minority groups for electoral purposes, including by promoting such theses as declaring Russian the second state language.
These topics were brought back in the limelight after the Moldovan Parliament passed a law excluding the term “Moldovan language” from the legislation, replacing it with “Romanian language”. The Moldovan Parliament thus enacted a ruling of the Constitutional Court passed in December 2013, which stated that the Declaration of Independence, which designates Romanian as the official language of Moldova, prevails over the text of the Constitution (voted in 1994 by a center-left Parliament), which called the official language “Moldovan”.
PURPOSE: To rekindle the fears of national minorities over the pro-European government’s plans to undermine their rights. To fuel pro-Russian and anti-Western sentiments among representatives of national minorities.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: The manipulation of the TASS article is transparent in its very headline, which was picked up by a number of media outlets in Russia and the Republic of Moldova, including from the separatist region of Transnistria, where the language issue is even more sensitive than in the area controlled by Chișinău. In fact, PAS deputy Vasile Șoimaru did not refer to all Russian speakers. The Russian news agency makes an assumption that the deputy thought it “necessary to introduce fines against Russian speakers” and falsely cites him as claiming so, although Șoimaru never made such a statement.
During Parliament hearings, Vasile Șoimaru was visibly bothered that some of the deputies cannot speak the official language of Moldova (Romanian) and said he has the means to put an end to this situation – an economic mechanism. However, he exclusively referred to Moldovan MPs, who under the law are required to speak Romanian.
The efforts of the majority population in the Republic of Moldova to return to the Latin script and the Romanian language at the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s is described by Russian propaganda as one of the main reasons for the emergence of the separatist region of Transnistria. In fact, Transnistria (which the Soviets created in the 1920s as a bridgehead allowing them to capture Bessarabia) enabled Moscow to preserve some leverage in the region after the collapse of the USSR and Moldova’s proclamation of independence. Russia’s involvement in the 1992 war is clear evidence that Russia supported the separatists. According to historians, Transnistrian separatism emerged as the reaction of pro-Russian political and economic elites on the eastern bank of the Dniester, in an attempt to preserve the status and privileges obtained in the Soviet period. American historian Charles King, for instance, argues that Transnistrian separatism “was not the rebellion of minorities, but of political and economic elites”.
The claim about the name of the official language not being modified in the text of the Constitution is equally false. In fact, the law voted by Parliament stipulates the enactment of the Constitutional Court ruling of December 2013, which establishes Romanian as the state language of Moldova.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: Vasile Șoimaru did criticize his colleagues who don’t speak Romanian and invoked “an economic mechanism” to solve the problem.