Public debate: Reasons, components and consequences of restart of linguistic conflict

Press Release
on the organization of the debate ”
Reasons, components and consequences of restart of linguistic conflict”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”

Held on 25 January 2021, Debate No.169 brought together: Victor Juc, director of the Institute of Legal, Political and Sociological Research, MP of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova, journalist Lilia Burakovski and Igor Boțan, IPN project’s standing expert.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said there is no linguistic conflict in the Republic of Moldova at present. There is an altercation between the representatives of political parties in which the Constitutional Court was involved and this passed its judgment on the new law on the functioning of languages. This altercation between parties can expand to cover citizens, voters and this should be thus avoided.

The expert noted that the 19th Conference of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was held in June-July 1988. This adopted the resolution on the democratization of Soviet society after which national renaissance movements started to intensify in the national republics. This movement in the Republic of Moldova started by the adoption of amendments to Article 70 of the Constitution of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR) on August 31, 1989. Under this article, the official language in the MSSR was Moldovan and it was used in the political, economic, social and other spheres. The next article said the MSSR on its territory ensures the conditions needed for developing and using Russian as a language of communication between the nations of the Soviet Union. The next day, on September 1, there was adopted the law on the functioning of languages. The same day, the Supreme Soviet of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic adopted a law on the implementation of the languages law. This stipulated two exemptions cornering learning of the official language for high-ranking officials and for Russian speaking compatriots holding posts in social sectors. It was provided that those who held public posts and didn’t know the official language had four-six years to study it. In the period, they could not be discriminated. There were accusations that this provision was discriminatory and the request was to introduce two official languages and this generated the conflict.

Later, in 1994, there was adopted the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, which stipulates that the Moldovan language is the official language. Under the languages laws, it is equal to the Romanian language. The status of the languages of minorities is specified in the Constitution. A series of laws were later adopted to protect the languages of minorities, including the Russian language. In June 2018, the CC ruled that the law on the functioning of languages is outdated and there are other languages that protect the languages of minorities. “Currently, we are in a practically similar situation, as in December 2020, the PSRM, which informed public opinion that snap parliamentary elections are needed, came in a hurry with a bill to fill the gap that was created in 2018, according to them. They adopted a law that was declared unconstitutional by the CC last week. Altercations between political parties appeared as a result,” said Igor Boțan, noting political parties could stimulate dissatisfaction in society so as to unite their voters, but there wouldn’t be protests like those mounted in 1990 and later.

Victor Juc, director of the Institute of Legal, Political and Sociological Research, said that a group of MPs of the Party of Socialists at the end of 2020 introduced two bills into Parliament. One of them referred to the functioning of languages spoken all over the Republic of Moldova that later became Law No. 234 of December 16, 2020 after being given two readings. There was one more similar bill, but this wasn’t put to the vote during the autumn-winter session of Parliament. The CC judgment of June 4, 2018, which declared Law 34-65 of September 1, 1989 outdated, was invoked in this case. “The Party of Socialists, by its parliamentary group, considered it was necessary to fill this gap, as they said,” stated Victor Juc.

“These two bills are absolutely importune, especially because the legislative procedure was violated,” he said, noting Law No. 234 contains a number of provisions of the law of 1989 and these are explicatory and justificatory in character. The negative appraisal of the Parliament’s legal commission wasn’t taken into account. The law of 1989 stipulates that the official language is a language of interethnic communication on the territory of the MSSR, while Russians is a language of communication between nations on the territory of the Soviet Union. Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Constitution envisions the keeping and developing of Russian and other languages of ethnic groups, but does not stipulate the offering of the status of language of interethnic communication to Russian, from legal viewpoint. The law was challenged by a group of MPs and the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, including the Institute of Legal, Political and Sociological Research, was asked to pronounce. The Academy said Law 234 is unconstitutional as the Russian language is raised to the rank of official language,” stated Victor Juc.

Journalist Lilia Burakovski said the tense situation around languages was created artificially by politicians, using the realities faced by a part of the Russian speaking population, in particular the problems encountered in the legal system, in relation to the instructions for use of medicines, etc. The situation was also generated by the lack of policies to promote studying of the official language among national minorities. “The politicians profited from the given situation, but acted as they acted because, during the presidential elections, Igor Dodon was reproached for not fulfilling the promised he made during the election campaign four years ago. The unfavorable vote given to Igor Dodon by the Moldovans who settled in the Russian Federation also mattered. These developments pointed to the necessity of taking other actions in the campaign prior to the snap parliamentary elections,” stated Lilia Burakovski. She believes there is no serious ethnic or language problem in Moldova as these aspects are actually raised by the politicians.

The journalist noted the irreversibility of punishment for discrimination or insult according to ethnic or language criteria in Moldova does not exist. The politicians dare to make offensive statements because they cannot be held accountable. “This contributes to the division of society. I’m not sure the law on the functioning of languages, in the form in which it was adopted, without taking into account the subsequent costs, is welcome, especially when the Government didn’t approve of it. This law that was adopted namely now and in a speedy way is aimed at dividing society before the snap parliamentary elections and at attracting back a part of the voters of the PSRM. If the language subject continues to be fueled by politicians and the media, the conflict can expand in society,” stated Lilia Burakovski.

The Agency published 4 news stories on the debate (see the English version of on 25.01.21, „Reasons, components and consequences of restart of linguistic conflict. IPN debate” -; Victor Juc: Linguistic problems do not bring electoral advantages” -; „Igor Boțan: Parties will incite society to show dissatisfaction with annulment of languages law” -; „Lilia Burakovski: Conditions for learning Romanian free weren’t created” -

Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN

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