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HomeBalkansUkraine’s New ‘Moldovan’ Schoolbooks Raise Hackles in Romania

Ukraine’s New ‘Moldovan’ Schoolbooks Raise Hackles in Romania

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Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu on Wednesday said the printing of “Moldovan-language” school manuals in Ukraine would pose a “logistical problem” for Romania, after the two countries had agreed that this phrase would no longer be used in Ukraine.

“When the Ukrainian Prime Minister came to visit Bucharest, we discussed the replacement of the Moldovan language, and we established it as a priority in the Romanian agenda,” Ciolacu told a TV political show aired by Antena 3. He added that “Ukraine had other priorities.”

Romania insists that most Moldovans speak standard Romanian and that the “Moldovan language” was a political tool invented by the Soviet Union after the USSR under Stalin seized Bessarabia [ present-day Moldova] in June 1940 from Romania.

The main change was that the Soviets replaced the Latin script of the Romanian language with Russian Cyrillic.

The language and identity issue remains divisive in Moldova itself – and in Ukraine, where a large community in the far west of the country identify either as Romanian or Moldovan.

The new “Moldovan-language” textbooks for fifth-grade students are due to be printed by the publishing house Svit, financed by the Ukrainian government.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Denis Shmigal, visited Bucharest on August 18 and discussed language and education matters with his Romanian counterpart, Ciolacu. Later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Romania on October 10, and Ciolacu went to Kyiv on October 17.

In all these meetings, the Romanian side pressed Ukraine to scrap references to the “Moldovan language” while lobbying for the right of the Romanian-speaking minority to be educated in their mother tongue.

In total, ethnic Romanians and Romanian-speaking Moldovans form a community of about half a million people, so becoming the second largest community in Ukraine, after ethnic Russians.

In Moldova itself, the “Moldovan language” is on the way out. On March 16, Moldova’s parliament voted for a draft law that replaces the phrase “Moldovan language” with “Romanian language”.

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