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Moldova

Political Developments in the Wake of the 1990 Elections

Moldovan parliament building, Chisinau
Courtesy Paul E. Michelson

[JPEG]

Chisinau city government offices
Courtesy Ernest H. Latham, Jr.

As the political influence of the Popular Front increased in the wake of the elections, the powerful faction of Romanian nationalists within the organization became increasingly vocal in the pursuit of their agenda. The nationalists argued that the Popular Front should immediately use its majority in the Supreme Soviet to attain independence from Russian domination, end migration into the republic, and improve the status of ethnic Romanians.

Yedinstvo and its supporters within the Supreme Soviet argued against independence from the Soviet Union, against implementation of the August 1989 Law on State Language (making Moldovan written in the Latin alphabet the country's official language), and for increased autonomy for minority areas. Hence, clashes occurred almost immediately once the new Supreme Soviet began its inaugural session in April 1990. Popular Front representatives, for example, entered a motion to rename the Supreme Soviet the National Council (Sfatul Tarii, the name of the 1917 legislature), which, they argued was in keeping with national tradition. Although this motion failed, it provoked an acerbic public exchange among the deputies, which made subsequent cooperation difficult at best. A second controversial motion, on establishing a Moldovan flag (three equal vertical stripes of bright blue, yellow, and red, like the Romanian flag, but with Moldova's coat of arms in the center), passed in the Supreme Soviet but was widely and conspicuously disregarded by its opponents.

The selection of a new legislative leadership also provoked political confrontation. Those appointed to high-level posts were overwhelmingly ethnic Romanians, a situation that left minority activists little hope that their interests would be effectively represented in deliberations on key issues. Ethnic Romanians accounted for only 70 percent of the Supreme Soviet as a whole but for 83 percent of the leadership. All five of the top positions in the Supreme Soviet were held by ethnic Romanians, as were eighteen of twenty positions in the new Council of Ministers.

Faced with what they considered a concerted effort by ethnic Romanian nationalists to dominate the republic, conservatives and minority activists banded together and began to resist majority initiatives. Organized in the Supreme Soviet as the Soviet Moldavia (Sovetskaya Moldaviya) faction, the antireformers became increasingly inflexible.

As confrontation grew among legislative leaders, initiatives undertaken at the local level drew the republic into worsening interethnic conflict. In the minority regions, local forces actively resisted what they considered to be discriminatory legislation from Chisinau. May Day celebrations in Tiraspol became mass protests against the republic's Supreme Soviet. The Tiraspol, Bender, and RÓbnita city councils, as well as the RÓbnita raion council, each passed measures suspending application of the flag law in their territories.

Deputies from Tiraspol and Bender, unable to block legislation they considered inimical to their interests, announced their intention to withdraw from the Supreme Soviet. Pro-Popular Front demonstrators outside the Supreme Soviet responded to what they perceived as the obstructionism of minority legislators by becoming increasingly hostile. Following a series of confrontations in the capital, a leading legislative representative of Yedinstvo was badly beaten; 100 deputies associated with the Russian-speaking Soviet Moldavia faction withdrew from the Supreme Soviet on May 24, 1990.

A new reformist government, with Mircea Druc as chairman of the Council of Ministers, took over that same day after the previous government suffered a vote of no confidence. The many changes wrought by this government included a ban on the CPM, a ban on political parties becoming in effect synonymous with the government, and the outlawing of government censorship. In June 1990, the country changed its name from the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic to the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova and declared its sovereignty.

Increasing strain between nationalists and their opponents had become apparent since the opening session of the Supreme Soviet. In the culmination of this trend, delegates to the second congress of the Popular Front passed measures signaling a clear break with the CPM and took an openly nationalistic direction. The Popular Front's new program called for the country to be renamed the Romanian Republic of Moldova, for its citizens to be called "Romanians," and for the Romanian language to be designated the language of the republic. The program also called for the return of ethnic Romanian-inhabited areas transferred to Ukraine when the Moldavian SSR was formed and for the withdrawal of Soviet forces.

The Popular Front's promotion of this agenda, which was perceived by minority populations to be expressly nationalistic in character, inexorably fractionalized the population. Many of Moldova's ethnic Romanians also perceived the Popular Front as extremist, excessively pro-Romanian, and ineffectual. The opposition was able to bring the public's general dissatisfaction with the Popular Front into focus and eventually bring about a reversal in the political fortunes of the Popular Front.

Data as of June 1995


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