Unification of Romania and Moldova

Left image: A map showing the potential union of Romania and Moldova.
Right image: The so-called "Belkovsky proposal": a political union excluding Transnistria.

The unification of Romania and Moldova (Romanian: Unirea Republicii Moldova cu România) was a popular concept in the two countries in late 1980s, during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Romanian Revolution in 1989 and the independence of Moldova in 1991 further contributed to the development of a movement for the unification of the two Romanian-speaking countries. The question of reunification is recurrent in the public sphere of the two countries, often as a speculation, both as a goal and a danger. The idea, while widespread in Romania, is only supported by a minority in Moldova.

Individuals who advocate the unification are usually called "unionists" (unioniști). Some support it as a peaceful process based on consent in the two countries, others in the name of a "Romanian historical right over Bessarabia". The supporters of the union refer to the opponents as "Moldovenists" (moldoveniști).


The Principality of Moldavia was a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire and its eastern territories between the Prut and the Dniestr (approximately half of the principality) were annexed by the Russian Empire in 1812, in accordance with the Treaty of Bucharest. The Russians referred to this new region as Bessarabia, taking a name that had previously only applied to a southern portion of the region (known also as the "Budjak") and extending it to cover the entire newly annexed territory. The name derives from the Wallachian Basarab dynasty, who had presided over the southern portion in the Middle Ages. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, a newly formed regional parliament (Sfatul Țării) declared Bessarabia's autonomy within Russia. In 1918, after the Romanian army entered Bessarabia, the makeshift parliament decided on independence, only to review its position and ultimately decide on a conditional union with Romania. The conditions, including the provisions for autonomy, were ultimately dropped.[1]

In 1940, during World War II, Romania agreed to an ultimatum and ceded Moldova to the Soviet Union, which organized it into the Moldavian SSR. In the summer of 1941, Romania joined Hitler's Axis in the invasion of the Soviet Union, recovering Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, as well as occupying the territory to the east of the Dniester it dubbed "Transnistria". By the end of World War II the Soviet Union had reconquered all of the lost territories, reestablishing Soviet authority there. The Soviets strongly promoted the Moldovan ethnic identity, against other opinions that viewed all speakers of the Romanian language as part of a single ethnic group, taking advantage of the incomplete integration of Bessarabia into the interwar Romania.[2]

The official Soviet policy also stated that Romanian and Moldovan were two different languages and, to emphasize this distinction, Moldovan had to be written in a new Cyrillic alphabet (the Moldovan Cyrillic alphabet) based on the reformed Russian Cyrillic, rather than the obsolete Romanian Cyrillic that ceased to be used in the 19th century in the Old Kingdom and 1917 in Bessarabia.[3]

Revival of nationalism

In September 1989, with the liberalization in the Soviet Union, the parliament of Moldovan SSR declared Moldovan as the official language, and asserted the existence of a "Moldovan-Romanian linguistic identity".[4]

On 6 May 1990, after several decades of strict separation, Romania and the Moldovan SSR temporarily lifted border crossing restrictions, and thousands of people crossed the Prut River which marked their common border.[5]

The factors hindering the unification were complex, ranging from the caution of political leaders in Moldova and Romania, the war in Transnistria, and, perhaps more importantly, the mentality of large parts of the population in Moldova (and to some extent in Romania) who were indifferent or opposed to such a project.[6] In his address to the Romanian parliament, in February 1991, Moldova's first President Mircea Snegur spoke of a common identity of Moldovans and Romanians, referring to the "Romanians of both sides of the Prut River".[7] In June 1991, Snegur talked about Moldova moving toward the reunification with Romania, adding that the Soviet Union is not making great efforts to stop it.[8]

While many Moldovan intellectuals supported the union and wanted a "reunion with the Romanian motherland",[9] there was little popular support for it, with more than 70% of the Moldovans opposing it, according to a 1992 poll. At the same time, Transnistria, the eastern part of Moldova, inhabited by a Slavic (mainly Russian and Ukrainian) majority, used the putative danger of unification with Romania as a pretext for its own aspirations for independence.[10]

Political ties and unionism

Following the declaration of independence on 27 August 1991, the Romanian flag defaced with the Moldovan coat of arms and the Romanian anthem "Deșteaptă-te, române!" became the symbols of the new independent Moldova.[11] Following the growing tension between the pro-union governing Moldovan Popular Front and president Snegur, in particular over unification,[12] the president moved closer to the Moldovanist group of Agrarians, and appointed their candidate Andrei Sangheli as prime minister. As a result, and especially after the victory of Agrarians in the 1994 elections, Moldova began distancing itself from Romania. The state flag was slightly modified, and the anthem changed to "Limba noastră". The Moldovan referendum of 1994 for an independent Moldova was seen by many public figures to be aimed at implicitly excluding a union with Romania. Furthermore, the constitution adopted in 1994 by the new Parliament dominated by Moldovanist Agrarians and Socialists called the official language "Moldovan", as opposed to the earlier Declaration of independence that called it "Romanian". The attempt by Moldovan president Mircea Snegur in 1996 to change the name of the official language to "Romanian" was dismissed by the Moldovan Parliament as "promoting Romanian expansionism".

A "Concept on National Policy" was adopted in 2003 by the Communist dominated Parliament, stating that Moldovans and Romanians are different peoples, and that the latter are an ethnic minority in Moldova.[13]

Opposition demonstration in Chișinău in January 2002. The text on the inscription reads "Romanian people–Romanian language".

Before 2005, only the Christian-Democratic People's Party, one of the political heirs of the Moldovan Popular Front, actively supported unification. However, the stance of the Christian-Democrats changed significantly after they started collaborating closely with the ruling Moldovan Communists. During the elections of April 2009, the alliance of National Liberal Party (Partidul Naţional Liberal) and the 'European Action' Movement (Miscarea Actiunea Europeana) ran on a common platform of a loose union with Romania, but accumulated only around 1% of the votes.[14]

Political commentary

In 2004 and later, the Romanian newspaper Ziua published a series of articles and interviews with Stanislav Belkovsky, an influential Russian political commentator, who proposed a plan of a unification of Romania and Moldova excluding Transnistria. Speculations followed whether his plan is backed by higher circles in the Kremlin, but they were never confirmed. Nevertheless, several journalists and scholars dismissed the plan as a diversion, also pointing out several ambiguities, such as the status of the city of Bender situated on the right bank of Dniester but under Transnistrian control, and, more importantly, the unlikelihood of Moldova's acquiescence to such a plan.

In January 2006, the Romanian president Traian Băsescu declared that he strongly supported the Moldovan bid for joining the European Union and that "the minimal policy of Romania is for the unification of the Romanian nation to take place within the EU". The phrase "minimal policy" led to questions whether there is also a maximal policy. In July of the same year, Băsescu claimed to have made a proposal to the Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin that "Moldova join the EU together with Romania in 2007" and that the alleged offer was rejected. Băsescu also added that Romania would respect this decision and would help Moldova to join EU on its own.[15]

In October 2006 the Romanian newspaper Cotidianul estimated the cost of a union with Moldova at €30–35 billion,[16] and attracted criticism from the Romanian newspaper Ziua,[17] as well as Timpul[18] for exaggerating the costs and disregarding other dimensions of a possible union.

After the Moldovan parliamentary election of April 2009, the 2009 Moldova civil unrest, the Moldovan parliamentary election of July 2009 and the creation of the governing Alliance for European Integration, a new wave of speculations about the union followed. The Party of Communists, now in opposition, claimed "the unionists came to power."[19] In a November 2009 interview, political commentator Stanislav Belkovsky declared that the April 2009 marked the beginning of the process of Moldova's return to Romania.[20]

Traian Băsescu made a state visit to Moldova along with a number of ministers to announce several projects that would intensify ties between the two countries, and the offer of 100 million euro grant for infrastructure projects. Băsescu called Moldova his "soul project".[21] Private Romanian investments are also expected to increase significantly, with the opening of a Moldovan-Romanian business and investment office,[22] and the takeover of the online news portal Unimedia by Romanian group Realitatea-Cațavencu group, owned by businessman Sorin Ovidiu Vântu.[23]

On 15 February 2010, the Lipcani-Rădăuți border crossing between Romania and Moldova opened[24] and the remnant Soviet barbed wire fence on the Moldovan side of the border with Romania was dismantled.[25]

In January 2010, Mircea Druc, the former prime minister of Moldova between 1990 and 1991, declared that the unification of Romania and the Republic of Moldova is inevitable.[26] However, acting President Mihai Ghimpu denied in an interview with the Russian language newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda v Moldove that such a move will be taken, stating that a union is not included in the program of the governing coalition.[27] On another occasion he declared that if the people wanted unification, neither he, nor anyone else could stop them.[28] He admitted on several occasions to personally share unionist views.[29] However, in August 2010 he declared that the proposition of an "inter-state union" between Romania and Moldova was "a very stupid" idea.[30]

On 27 November 2013, a day before participation in the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, Romanian President Traian Băsescu was invited to an interview at the national TV station, TVR. There he said that the third priority for Romania, after joining NATO and the EU, must be the union with Moldova.[31] "I'm convinced that if in Moldova will be an unionist current, Romania will say 'yes' without hesitation", stated the Head of State.[32] In present, Romania supports the full integration of Moldova into the EU. The Mayor of Chișinău Dorin Chirtoacă welcomed the statements made by Băsescu.[33] On the other hand, the Moldovan prime-minister, Iurie Leancă, described Băsescu's declaration as "creating crucial problems" for Moldova and affirmed his government's support for a sovereign Moldova.[34] Positions similar to Leancă's were taken by the other leaders of the pro-European ruling coalition, Vlad Filat and Marian Lupu,[35][36] as well as by Vladimir Voronin, leader of the main opposition party.[37]

Graffiti with shapes of Greater Romania near Briceni, Moldova

Dual citizenship for Moldovan citizens

A poll conducted by IPP Chișinău in November 2007 shows that 33.6% of the Moldovan population is interested in holding Romanian citizenship, while 58.8% is not interested. The main reason of those interested is: feeling Romanian (31.9%), the possibility of traveling to Romania (48.9%), and the possibility of traveling and/or working in the EU (17.2%).[38]

Between 1991 and 2009, some 140,000 Moldovan citizens obtained Romanian citizenship.[39][40] According to some estimates, as many as 1 million Moldovan citizens requested Romanian citizenship by 2009.[41] In 2010, the Romanian government created the National Authority for Citizenship to process the large number of applications for Romanian citizenship coming especially from Moldovan citizens. The study "Reacquiring Romanian citizenship: historical, comparative and applied perspectives", released in 2012, estimated that 226,507 Moldovan citizens reacquired Romanian citizenship by 15 August 2011[42][43] Between 15 August 2011 and 15 October 2012, an additional 90,000[44] reacquired Romanian citizenship, according to the National Authority for Citizenship, bringing the total to 320,000.

A 2013 study by the Soros Foundation Romania found that from the passing of the citizenship law in 1991 until the end of 2012, the number of successful applications from Moldova was 323,049.[45] This is an increase of 96,542 successful applications since 15 August 2011.[46] In the same period, the number of applications was 449,783, meaning that around 125,000 applications still need to be finalised.[45] In 2011 and 2012, 100,845 and 87,015 applications were submitted respectively.[45] The actual number of persons granted citizenship in these applications remains unclear because each application may include minors dependent on the adult filing. The number of persons is estimated to be around 400,000, with a potential of 150,000 more persons if all outstanding applications are successful.[45]

Action 2012

Meeting for unification in Sibiu, on 8 April 2009

In April 2011, a coalition of NGOs from Romania and Moldova created the civic platform "Acțiunea 2012" (English: Action 2012), whose aim is to "raise awareness of the necessity of the unification between Romania and the Republic of Moldova". Year 2012 was chosen as a reference to the bicentennial commemoration of the 1812 division of historical Moldavia, when the Russian Empire annexed what would later be called Bessarabia. The proponents see the unification as a reversal of this historical division, a reversal inspired by the rather short-lived Union of Bessarabia with Romania (1918–1940) disrupted by the Soviet occupation.[47][48][49][50]

Union Council

In February 2012, the Union Council was created to "gather all unionists" in order to "promote the idea of Romanian national unity". Among the signatories: Mircea Druc former Moldovan prime-minister, Alexandru Mosanu former speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, Vitalia Pavlicenco president of the National Liberal Party (Moldova), Vladimir Beşleagă writer, Constantin Tănase director of the Moldovan newspaper Timpul de dimineaţă, Val Butnaru president of Jurnal Trust Media, Oleg Brega journalist and activist, Nicu Țărnă soloist of the Moldovan rock band Gândul Mâței, and Tudor Ionescu, president of the Romanian neo-fascist association Noua Dreaptă, Valentin Dolganiuc, former Moldovan MP, Eugenia Duca, Moldovan businesswoman, Anton Moraru, Moldovan professor of history, Eugen Mihalache, vice president of People's Party, Dan Diaconescu and others.[51][52][53]

Union marches

Pro-Romanian demonstration in Chișinău, on 6 April 2014

The newly created Action 2012 and Union Council initiative groups organized several manifestations in support of the unification throughout 2012. The first one was a rally of 2,000 to 3,000 people in Chișinău on 25 March 2012,[54] held as an anniversary of the Union of Bessarabia with Romania on 27 March 1918. Larger rallies took place on 13 May[55] (which commemorated 200 years of the 1812 Treaty of Bucharest and the first Russian annexation of Bessarabia) and on 16 September.[56] A union march was also held in Bucharest in October 2012 and was attended by several thousand people. Smaller-scale manifestations took place in the Moldovan cities of Cahul and Bălți on 22 July[57] and 5 August[58] respectively. Various intellectuals and artists from both countries supported the marches,[59] while Moldovan Speaker Marian Lupu and Prime Minister Vlad Filat opposed them.[60] The rallies in Bucharest were later repeated in October 2013[61][62] and October 2014. Also, in September 2014, another rally took place in Chișinău, during which a 300-metre long Romanian flag was carried through the central street of the city. On 16 May 2015, between 5,000 (police estimates) and 25,000 people (organizers' estimate) demonstrated for unification in Chișinău,[63] in what has been claimed to be the largest pro-Romanian protests since 1990s.[64][65] Another protest, attracting between 5,000 and 30,000 people (organizers' claim), took place on 5 July 2015 in Chișinău.[66][67] Around a thousand young people from among the participants headed to Bucharest in the March of Stephen the Great (Romanian: Marșul lui Ștefan cel Mare) calling for the unification of Moldova with Romania.[68] The march lasted a week, from 5 to 11 July. In the Republic of Moldova, the march followed the route StrășeniLozovaCălărașiCorneștiUngheni.[69] Participants crossed the Prut River, on 11 July at 10 a.m., in a large-scale reenactment of the Bridges of Flowers in 1990.[70] Their march ended in Bucharest, where were greeted by several hundred Romanian citizens in University Square, before making their way to the Cotroceni Palace to call on Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to support the unification project.[71] Former Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has sharply condemned the march to Romania. In a letter to European Parliament President Martin Schulz, released on 7 July, Voronin accused Bucharest of fomenting "the destruction and annexation of Moldova".[72]

On 22 September 2015, the Governments of Romania and the Republic of Moldova held a bilateral reunion in Neptun, Constanta county, where over 300 unionists demonstrated. Their representatives obtained access to the meeting, discussing with the Minister of Foreign Affairs about common projects. The unionists announced the "Reunification Agenda 2018", some of their claims being accepted and decided within the intergovernmental meeting.[73]

Public opinion


The International Republican Institute in partnership with Gallup, Inc. regularly conduct polls in the Republic of Moldova on several social and political issues.[74] The following results reflect the public stance in Moldova on the question of reunification:

Date Question Fully support Somewhat support Somewhat oppose Fully oppose Don't know/No opinion
Jan–Feb 2011[75] Excluding the impact of potential Moldovan membership in the European Union, do you support unification of Moldova with Romania? 10% 18% 16% 47% 9%
Aug–Sep 2011[76] Do you support or oppose the reunification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania? 11% 20% 16% 43% 10%

A poll conducted by IRI in Moldova in November 2008 showed that 29% of the population would support a union with Romania, while 61% would reject it.[77][78]

The pro-Unionist NGO "Romanian Centre of Strategic Studies" published reports claiming significantly higher support for the idea:

Date Question Fully support Somewhat support Somewhat oppose Fully oppose Don't know/No opinion
Feb 2014[79] Do you support or oppose the reunification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania?excluding Gagauzia and Transnistria 27% 25% 20% 12% 15%

The Public Opinion Barometer (BOP), released twice a year in Moldova, included in its November–December 2015 edition a question about the reunification

Date Question For unification Against unification I wouldn't vote I don't know/I haven't decided No answer
8 November – 1 December 2015[80] If a referendum takes places next Sunday regarding the unification of the Republic of Moldova and Romania, would you vote for or against the unification? 21% 53% 9% 14% 3%

An internal poll ordered by a Moldovan political party conducted between 1–21 November 2015 also asked about the unification

Date Question For unification Against unification I wouldn't vote I don't know/I haven't decided No answer
1 – 21 November 2015[81] In case of a referendum for the unification of the Republic of Moldova and Romania, would you vote for or against it? 22.3% 63.6% 6.9% 6.8% 0.3%

A poll conducted by FOP between 11–20 March 2016 presented the following results

Date Question For unification Against unification I wouldn't vote I don't know/I haven't decided No answer
11 – 20 March 2016 [82][83] If next Sunday a referendum takes place for the unification of the Republic of Moldova and Romania you would vote 23% 63% 7% 6% 0%


A poll conducted in November–December 2010 and extensively analyzed in the study The Republic of Moldova in the Romanian public awareness (Republica Moldova în conștiința publică românească)[84] addressed the issue of reunification.

Question Strongly agree Partially agree Partially disagree Strongly disagree Don't know/No opinion
Unification should be a national objective for Romania? 23% 29% 23% 11% 15%
Sooner or later, the Republic of Moldova and Romania should unite upon the German model? 16% 29% 16% 11% 28%

A similar survey carried out in Romania in June 2012 by the Romanian Centre of Strategic Studies showed the following results:[85]

Question Yes No Don't know/No opinion
Do you believe that the language spoken in Bessarabia is Romanian? 71.9% 11.9% 16.2%
Do you believe that Bessarabia is a Romanian land? 84.9% 4.7% 10.4%
Do you agree with the unification of Bessarabia with Romania? 86.5% 12.7% 0.8%
Do you consider that the unification of Bessarabia with Romania should be a priority for Romanian politicians? 55.2% 20.5% 24.2%
Question Romanians Moldovans Russians Don't know/No opinion
Do you consider that Bessarabians are primarily: 67.5% 28.2% 3.9% 0.3%

According to a poll conducted by the Romanian Institute for Evaluation and Strategy (IRES) on 29 November 2013, 76% of Romanians agree with the union of Romania and Moldova, while only 18% oppose a possible union.[86][87]

Question I agree I don't agree I Don't know
Do you personally agree with the unification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania 76% 18% 6%

A poll by INSCOP, conducted between 9–14 July 2015,[88] asked about the unification by 2018.

Question Answer
I support the unification of Romania with the Republic of Moldova by 2018 (the centennial anniversary of the Great Union) 67.9%
I do not support the unification of Romania with the Republic of Moldova by 2018 (the centennial anniversary of the Great Union) 14.8%
I don't know/no answer 17.3%

Impact of a unification scenario

The Republic of Moldova would bring to Romania an addition of 3.5 million inhabitants and an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of almost six billion euros (2.8% of Romania's GDP). However, GDP per capita would fall to 9,650 euros. Current Romanian GDP per capita is estimated at 10,859 euros, while Moldovan GDP per capita stands at 1,725 euros.[89]

Open borders for business would create a very enticing opportunity for Romanian investors, that to move the place of production from the right (Romania) to the left side of Prut (Moldova), the costs being lower in almost all respects. Until now, such "movements" were made only by multinationals, of which the best example is Coca-Cola.

Supporters of unification

See also


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  2. King, The Moldovans...; Mackinlay, pg. 135
  3. Mackinlay, pg. 140
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