What do unionists and anti-unionists want? IPN analysis


Everyone should realize that any national project, including unionist or anti-unionist, is viable and necessary to the extent to which society, not (only) politicians feels this. The distance from this understanding and up to the understanding of what should be done is not so long. Otherwise, any continuation of the unionist and anti-unionist behaviors in old formats remains a goal that does not have much in common with the real interests of society and the people.

The day of March 27 brings back to the forefront the dispute of the political currents that promote the union with Romania of the current state Republic of Moldova and, respectively, non-union or anti-union of this with the neighboring state. The scope of this dispute increases on the eve of each anniversary of the entry of the Moldovan Democratic Republic into Romania in 1918. This year the contradictory messages launched by both of the camps are even more radical, in virtue of particular objectives and subjective circumstances.

Who are the players?

In general, it is about two currents that are political in character given that the object of the dispute has also an eminently political character: statehood of the Republic of Moldova, its continuation, diminution or liquidation.

The unionist current is mainly represented by particular political parties, a part of which have a constant (e.g. PNL, PLR, The Right) or periodic unionist message, depending on the current conjuncture through which the country or the given political party (PL) goes. The political or opportunist character of the interest against the union theme is shown, in particular, by the PPCD, which, depending on the circumstances, went through the whole cycle of active and even aggressive promoter of the union to anti-unionism with reorientation to the opposite geopolitical pole, the pro-Russian one.

The civil society organizations announced on the unionist segment are more absent than present in the public sphere of the Republic of Moldova, except for newer organizations that represent the young people (e.g. ODIP, Moldova’s Youth) that make effort to show lack of affiliation to political parties, which can be considered a first sign of low confidence and efficiency of the political parties as regards the announced goal.

The anti-unionist character is mainly represented by the PSRM that took over and amplified this message from the PCRM, which remains a secondary promoter of the anti-unionist message. The radicalization of the dispute this year between the two currents is principally due to the fact that, on the one hand, the main promoter of anti-unionism, the PSRM, obtained important administrative instruments as a result of the election of Igor Dodon as President of the Republic of Moldova. On the other hand, the PL, which is in power, for and after the legislative elections of 2014 reanimated its unionist message, even if with more superficial effects on the own image. For example, the PL didn’t manage to convince at least the coalition partners to vote for its recent initiative to declare March 27 a holiday after the Parliament of Romania adopted such a law.

The anti-unionist current is also represented by particular NGOs (e.g. the youth movements “Urmasii lui Stefan”, “Voievod”), but these also avoid being perceived as politically affiliated, the conclusion concerning the low efficiency and sincerity of political parties remaining applicable in this case as well.

A number of personalities represent today the unionist current - Vitalia Pavlichenko, Ion Hadarca, Ana Gutu, Mihai Ghimpu, newer Anatol Salaru. But none of these enjoy the confidence put by the people in the anti-unionism leader Igor Dodon, as polls show.

Who are the judges?

The state institutions
seem not to directly interfere in the dispute between the unionists and anti-unionists and there are two possible reasons for this. 1) The state institutions consider it is a confrontation of ideas that have the right to live as long as they are promoted peacefully, without the use of force. 2) The state institutions are under the influence of political forces that promote the rapprochement with the neighboring states in the bilateral relations and also with the European Union, Romania being the EU member that is the closest to the Republic of Moldova, and not only in geographical meaning. The second viewpoint is promoted most actively by the representatives of the anti-unionist current who seem to be judging the current government by the parameters based on which they built the Moldovan-Romanian relations in the period of the Communist government, which ended with the expulsion of Romania’s Ambassador in Chisinau in 2009.

The largest part of Moldovan society remains neutral to the dispute between the unionists and anti-unionist, especially as regards the practical actions by which it could support one side or another. It’s true, from theoretical viewpoint, that it is disposed to support one side or another. It’s true, from theoretical viewpoint, confirmed by opinion polls, that the number of those who would vote for the “non-union” is higher than of those who would accept the “union” within a possible referendum, even if the tendency of the latter is slightly decreasing. A part of society even vote, at practical level, for a party or another depending on the position of this on the union problem. But nobody can today imagine that the two social groups are able to mount real barricades to promote the own positions, separately or one against the other. This shows that the disputed theme remains mainly related to the occupations and interests of persons and political parties because society, in general, has other priorities of vital problems, mainly because of the same persons and political parties.

From historic viewpoint

The unionists consider the Union is justified, necessary and inevitable on the basis of the identity and historic right, the territory between the Prut and Nistru, also called Bessarabia, being torn away from the historic Moldova and joined by force to the Russian Empire in 1812, considering the majority indigenous people of the current Republic of Moldova ”Romanians and punctum”. Respectively, the final goal proclaimed by the unionists is to repeat the “Union” act of March 27, 1918, when Bessarabia joined Romania, which was created in the middle of the 19th century by the Union of the principalities Moldova (part from the left side of the Prut that is also the largest part of the territory of the historic Moldova) and Muntenia. Both of the entities are presented historiographically as ”Romanian principalities”.

The anti-unionists reject the historical and identity right invoked by the opponents, prompting for their part the thesis about the “occupation” of Bessarabia by Romania in 1918, as well as the identity and linguistic differences between the Romanians, including the Romanians from Moldova situated over the Prut and the Moldovans from the Republic of Moldova. Respectively, these consider that the annexation of the territory between the Prut and Nistru to the former Soviet Union was “liberation”. The anti-unionists also make reference to the Republic of Moldova’s right to consider itself the continuator of the statehood of historic Moldova given that the part from over the Prut lost its statehood.

Both positions seem to have vulnerabilities

The weakness of the unionists should be looked for in their beliefs about the identity right, which a large part of the Moldovans who live eastward the Prut seems not to be sharing (yet or already), not speaking about the representatives of other ethnic groups – citizens of the Republic of Moldova. About motives and possible solutions we will speak later. It should be clear that now, without the homogenization of the understanding of this them at least at the level of the majority of the population, the Union, in civilized forms, remains a distant goal and a preoccupation typical mainly of politicians. The unionists cannot direct Moldovan society to the Union again, in legal and civilized forms, if they are unable to gain the population’s confidence inside the Republic of Moldova, including by greater representation, preferably majority one, in the bodies of the current state. Now the representation is almost inexistent and this is one of the indexes of the real influence of the unionist current on Moldovan society.

The vulnerability of the anti-unionists seems to be residing in the ideological interpretation of historic events in the contemporary context marked by the democratic values of human rights, rule of law and international law. What they consider the “occupation of 1918” occurred through the overwhelming vote of a legal and legitimate legislative body. The People’s Council was the only body that existed in the then state – Moldovan Democratic Republic that appeared as a result of the dismemberment of the Russian Empire. What happened to the territory between the Prut and Nistru before and after that has neither moral nor legal substantiation. If the entry of the territory eastward the Prut in the composition of the Russian Empire (1812) and the Soviet Union (1944) was envisioned in documents agreed by the great powers as a result of military conflagrations and based on the ”winner’s right”, even if this has nothing to do with people’s rights and the will of the dish-peoples put on the winner’s table, the act of 1940 was a fully bandit-like one and was later univocally condemned by the whole international community. The given bandit-like act remained at the basis of the last incorporation of Bessarabia into the Society Union and at the basis of the “non-unionist” arguments of the anti-unionists. 

From viewpoint of the present

A part of the current activities of the unionists and anti-unionists are aimed at particular social categories and separate persons with the goal of extending and strengthening the own camps. But another part causes the impression of a goal aimed at maintaining the own political image that indirectly contributes to the strengthening of the adversary camp.

Except for the aforementioned movements like the NGOs ODIP and, slightly less, Moldova’s Youth, which appear in public rather often, including with educational messages that do not mandatorily stop at unionism, the message of the unionist political parties is often limited to the “persuading of the persuaded ones” of the necessity of the Union and combating of the opponents who cannot be converted into the “unionist religion”. Most of the times, the undecided ones remain outside the attention of the unionists or are treated frontally and in an uninspired way because these, in the best case, inhibit themselves even more if not orient themselves to the adversary camp. We must admit that the unionists have fewer instruments of persuasion than the opponents, such as influent media outlets and sufficient financial resources, especially after the Romanian state reoriented its main financial flows from the associative entities to the projects of the government of the Republic of Moldova or directly to the local communities, for example, by massively financing the reconstruction or building of schools and kindergartens. But the closed, strictly political character of the activities of unionist parties seems to be the key reason for the insufficient extension of the unionist idea among Moldovan society.

In this regard, the anti-unionist parties are in more favorable conditions. On the one hand, it is often easier to combat and destroy something than to create and build. In particular, the developed technologies about the “face of the enemy”, in relation to the unionist idea and its carriers, have many roots and are popular with Moldovan society, which is nostalgic and connected to the anti-Romanian mentality that is fueled by the Soviet and post-Soviet ideology. The anti-unionist camp has evidently superior media sources than the unionist camp as the first knew how to build instruments in the struggle for the people’s mind and benefits from Russian mass media with a lot of penetration and influence in Moldovan society. By the scope and quality of anti-unionists’ activities, it is evident that they have more financial resources than their opponents and these could come from Russia given that Moldova is the poorest state in Europe and given the less public character of these as there are practically no known projects or separate cases of open financing of a kind of public activity on the right side of the Nistru by Russia, unlike on the left side, which is managed by a separatist regime.

Declared and undeclared goals…

The good faith and political sincerity of the two promoters of two contradictory ideas cannot be certainly excluded from the equation. But none of the two camps now have and will have in the near future the capacity to incline the balance of the union-non-union issue in their favor. And then, the supposition that the unionists and non-unionist need each other and need to fuel each other may be pertinent at least partially, for strictly political goals, which are related to the conquering and maintaining of the power here, in the state that for now unites with no one and separates from no one. The given political goals can be easily achieved when society is divided as the union or non-union is only one of the multiple demarcation lines existing in Moldovan society. The two players could also count on different genres of benefits expected of regional or geopolitical factors that are involved and interested in the examined dispute.

In particular, the attitude of the two currents to the European integration of the Republic of Moldova is noteworthy.

The unionists give priority to the unionist idea not the European one, seeing the union as a first step and first guarantor of the Europeanization of the area that is to be united. But this logic seems slightly vulnerable because each unionist in the Republic of Moldova is also pro-European, but not each pro-European is also unionist. The unionists seem not to understand that the priority advancing in the European integration process, accepted at this stage by many people inside and outside the country, can bring more benefits to the union, but not immediately. Or the necessity of the union could disappear when the inhabitants of both of the states find themselves inside a common, European area.

Instead, the anti-unionists seem to better understand the given logic. That’s why Romania is the target of permanent and massive criticism, especially owing to its status of first advocate and first supporter of the pro-European aspirations of a part of the population of the Republic of Moldova and, for now, also of its government. 

From geopolitical viewpoint

It can be presumed that besides the internal supporters, the two camps also represent the interests of external factors of influence, especially Romania and Russia, including as an inheritor of the ex-USSR, which have a history of at least two centuries of political-territorial disputes and also newer geopolitical implications. For about one decade, Romania has been a fully-fledged member of the European Union and NATO and this means the extension of the dispute at geopolitical or even global level. Respectively, the Moldovan unionists and anti-unionists borrow particular geopolitical or even global functions, even if this may seem exaggerated at first sight.

For now, the geopolitical dispute is a strictly position-based one, with elements of reciprocal harassment as Romania, even if it wants and can “unite” the Republic of Moldovan somehow will rather not obtain the consent of the EU and NATO, which have to take into account the categorical objections of Russia, the relations with which are rather complicated. None of the greater powers has so much interest in an eventual “union” of the very insignificant state Republic of Moldova, with or without the very problematic Transnistrian region, so as to assume so large costs with so unpredictable results. It’s true that there is a theoretical possibility of the union, in case of regional or global deflagrations as in the case of the “union or disunion” of 1812, 1918, 1940, 1941 and 1944. But there would be no need of a union in such a case and not many combatants and promoters of both of the Moldovan camps would survive.   

It can be assumed that in the current conditions, Romania is not interested in taking in such a problematic territory from almost all the viewpoints, without the risk of maximizing its own problems. It is one more argument against the rumored fears that Romania could occupy by force ”Crimea situated eastward the Prut”.

Moreover, not even the most convinced and sincere unionists of good faith would accept a union in the current conditions, if they realize that a forced or opportunist union can be long-lasting and then their project could enter the drawers of history for another 200 years, if not for good. Everyone should realize that any national project, including unionist or anti-unionist, is viable and necessary to the extent to which society, not (only) politicians feels this. The distance from this understanding and up to the understanding of what should be done is not so long. Otherwise, any continuation of the unionist and anti-unionist behaviors in old formats remains a goal that does not have much in common with the real interests of society and the people. 

Valeriu Vasilica, IPN