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Adrienne Warren

What’s in a Name of a State? Or a Language? Moldavia, Moldova, or…?

How do you name a nation? Is the rightful answer found in paying homage to historic origin and struggle, or to modern victory and independence? After a history of occupation, foreign oppression, and on-going territory disputes, the true title for the modern day Republic of Moldova is often misunderstood or lost in history and translation. From Bessarabia to the Moldovian Soviet Socialist Republic, takes a look at the many names of the Republic of Moldova and their roots and applications today...
Iaşim Romania--which was once the capital of historic Moldavia. author: Chodaboy. source: Flickr

Iaşim Romania–which was once the capital of historic Moldavia. author: Chodaboy. source: Flickr

The historical region and former principality of Moldavia lasted from the 14th to 19th century.  Moldavia existed independently until 1859, when it united with Wallachia as the basis of the modern Romanian state. Today the western part of historic Moldavia is now part of Romania and the region east of the Prut river belongs to the Republic of Moldova, while the northern and south-eastern parts are territories of Ukraine. 

Moldavia was a historic principality which ceased to exist after the 1800s, when the Eastern half , Bessarabia was annexed by Russia. Bessarabia was briefly independent in 1918, and was called the Moldavian Democratic Republic, which was declared part of the Russian Republic. The Moldavian Democratic Republic was then united with Romania, though the union was not recognised by Russia. For 22 years, the Moldavian Democratic Republic was under Romanian jurisdiction, though the newly communist government of Russia did not agree.

In 1940 however, after being annexed by the Soviet Union, the Moldavian Democratic Republic was joined with the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR), which was an autonomous part of the Ukrainian SSR. Thus, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic came into being, which it remained until the collapse of the USSR. In 1991 the country declared independence, proclaiming itself the Republic of Moldova, with the same boundaries as the Moldavian SSR.

Today, the official title of the country is the Republic of Moldova, with disputes over whether simply referring to “Moldova” is misleading, and could be misconstrued as being the eastern region of Romania. However, the government of the Republic of Moldova itself often simply refers to “Moldova” when talking about the nation–so hard and fast rules are difficult to come by.

To make matters even more confusing, in many European languages the country is spelled and pronounced as Moldavia, so when translating into English, it inadvertently refers to a principality which no longer exists. It can lead to seeming misnomers like this..

Moldovan, as a language, is actually the official name of the Romanian language in the Republic o f Moldova, with various colloquial differences and dialects of Romanian spoken throughout the Republic of Moldova. In the 2004 census, 16.5% Moldova declared Romanian as their native language, whereas 60% declared Moldovan. Though essentially the same language, there was contention earlier this year about the Moldovan Liberal Party’s legislative initiative to change Article 13 of the Constitution by replacing the name of the state language “Moldovan” with “Romanian”. Russia backed criticism of the motion on the basis that it would restrict the linguistic rights of ethnic minorities, including Russian speakers in the country.

History can tell us the roots of a country and the permutations of its name, but public opinion remains divided about how and when these titles apply in the modern day.

We have taken a look at this issue based on comments and opinions from our readers. What do you think?

Take a drive through  The Republic of Moldova/Moldova/Moldavia…

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Iaşim Romania–which was once the capital of historic Moldavia. author: Chodaboy. source: Flickr

Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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