Languages of Moldova

Languages of Moldova
Official languages Romanian
Minority languages Russian, Ukrainian, Gagauz, Bulgarian
Main foreign languages Russian, French, English
Sign languages Moldovan Sign Language (a variant of Russian Sign Language)

The state language of Moldova is Romanian, which is the native language of 76% of the population; it is also spoken as a primary language by other ethnic minorities. Gagauz, Russian and Ukrainian languages are granted official regional status in Gagauzia and/or Transnistria.

Official language

Main article: Moldavian language

The 1989 State language law of the former Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic that declared Moldovan, written in the Latin script, was the sole state language, intending it to serve as a primary means of communication among all citizens of the republic. The law speaks of a common Moldovan-Romanian linguistic identity.

In 1991, the Declaration of Independence of Moldova named the official language as Romanian.[1]

The 1994 Constitution of Moldova said that "the national language of the Republic of Moldova is Moldovan, and its writing is based on the Latin alphabet."[2]

In December 2013, the Constitutional Court of Moldova ruled that the Declaration of Independence takes precedence over the Constitution, and the state language should be called "Romanian".[3]

Most linguists consider literary Romanian and Moldovan to be identical, with the glottonym "Moldovan" used in certain political contexts.[4] In 2003, the Communist government of Moldova adopted a political resolution on "National Political Conception," stating that one of its priorities was preservation of the Moldovan language. This was a continuation of Soviet-inflected political emphasis.

Since the Declaration of Independence in 1991, schools refer to this language as "Romanian" when teaching it or referring to it.[5]

In the 2004 census, 2,564,542 people (75.8% of the population of the country) declared their native language as "Moldovan"; 2,495,977 (73.8%) speak language in daily use. Apart from being the first language of use for 94.5% of ethnic Moldovans, the language is also spoken as primary by 28% of ethnic Russians, 7.7% of ethnic Ukrainians, 2.3% of ethnic Gagauz, 8.7% of ethnic Bulgarians, and 14.4% of other ethnic minorities.

Official minority languages

In localities with significant minority populations, other languages are granted official status alongside the state language.


Russian is provided with the status of a "language of interethnic communication", and since Soviet times remains widely used on many levels of the society and the state. According to the above-mentioned National Political Conception, Russian-Moldovan bilingualism is characteristic for Moldova.[6]

Russian was granted official status in Gagauzia, a region in the south of the country inhabited mostly by ethnic Gagauz, and in the breakaway region of Transnistria in the east of the country.

380,796 people (11.25%) identify Russian as their native language, and some 540,990 (16%) speak it as first language in daily use. It is the first language for 93.2% of ethnic Russians, and a primary language for 4.9% of Moldovans, 50.0% of Ukrainians, 27.4% of Gagauz, 35.4% of Bulgarians, and 54.1% of other ethnic minorities.


Gagauz is an official minority language in Gagauzia, and has significant regional speaker population. 137,774 people identified Gagauz as their native language, but only 104,890 speak it as a first language.


Ukrainian has co-official status in the breakaway region of Transnistria. In the main part of the country, 186,394 people declared it native, and (of these) 130,114 speak it as a first language.

Foreign languages

While since the 1990s most Moldovans learn English as their first foreign language in schools, few speak it at a sufficiently advanced level to be able to communicate and understand it freely. Sometimes French, Italian, or Spanish are taught first. These languages are often used by Moldovan expats and working migrants in other countries, including France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Usually the migrants learn the new languages after arriving in a new country. The expats and working migrants in Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, and Germany have learned those countries' respective languages. Speakers of Portuguese, Greek, Turkish, and German in Moldova.

Moldovans of older and middle generations are generally bilingual in the Romanian language and Russian, due to the long influence of and trade with the Soviet Union. Many Moldovan expats and migrant workers live and work in Russia. Many of the younger generation in Moldova, however, may not know this language well enough to be able to communicate in writing or to have a sophisticated conversation. Children study Russian one hour per week in school. There are more TV channels available to watch in Russian than in Romanian.


  1. (Romanian)Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova
  2. Article 13, line 1 - of Constitution of Republic of Moldova
  3. Moldovan court rules official language is 'Romanian,' replacing Soviet-flavored 'Moldovan' at
  4. "Marian Lupu: Româna și moldoveneasca sunt aceeași limbă". Realitatea .NET. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
  5. (Romanian)
  6. (Romanian) "Concepția politicii naționale a Republicii Moldova" Moldovan Parliament: Limba rusă care, în conformitate cu legislația în vigoare, are statutul de limbă de comunicare interetnică se aplică și ea în diverse domenii ale vieții statului și societății. Pentru Moldova este characteristic bilingvismul moldo-rus. În actualele condiţii, este necesar să se creeze posibilități reale pentru ca bilingvismul ruso-moldovenesc să devină realitate.

See also

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