Moldovan domestic politics have a long tradition of both instability and susceptibility to Russian influence for a variety of reasons. This chapter explores four vulnerabilities that contribute to Russia’s leverage over Moldova’s national politics: the long-standing but evolving divisions within Moldovan politics over geopolitics and identity; dependency on Russian gas; the specific situation of national minorities; and Russia’s considerable media influence inside Moldova. Most of these vulnerabilities predate the war in Ukraine and sometimes have roots that go back decades. That said, they influence significantly how society and politicians have responded to the war.

Traditional and evolving political divisions over geopolitics and identity

Moldova’s complex history of being part of – and suffering at the hands of – various powers is traditionally reflected in the political views and geopolitical preferences of its electorate. In particular, the turbulent 20th century saw the region, then known as Bessarabia, taken from the crumbling Russian Empire in 1918 and incorporated into Greater Romania, only to be carved up by Stalin and Hitler two decades later by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. During World War 2 the Soviet Union and Nazi-allied Romania fought bitterly over Moldova, which was eventually annexed by the Soviet Union. This left deep scars in different sections of Moldovan society. These diverging historical memories between groups that are sometimes described as ‘Moldovenists’ and ‘Romanianists’ still influence Moldovans’ political perceptions of Russia and Romania, as well as their attitude towards the Russian and Romanian languages.[4]

For nearly 20 years after Moldova’s independence in 1991, politicians actively used these sentiments and divisions to mobilise their respective electorates against one another and to secure support from Moscow, Brussels, Washington or Bucharest – and often used them to obfuscate internal problems such as poor governance, persistent corruption and lacklustre economic reforms.[5] What is known in Moldova as the ‘left’, originally represented primarily by the Communist Party (PCRM) of Vladimir Voronin and later by the Socialist Party (PSRM) of PCRM defector Igor Dodon, traditionally promotes good relations with Russia, a stronger position for the Russian language, Moldova’s distinctiveness from Romania and a sympathetic approach towards Soviet history.[6] The left is openly supported not only by the Kremlin but also by the Moldovan Orthodox Church, which is canonically subordinated to the Russian Orthodox Church and which espouses socially conservative values and sometimes takes a political position.[7] After a first turbulent decade, this faction was in power from 2001-2009 under Vladimir Voronin, and from 2016 made a comeback under Igor Dodon, who won the Presidential election in 2016 but failed to secure a strong parliamentary majority.

The ‘right’ in Moldovan politics pushes for a stronger Romanian identity, less dependency on Russia and a more westward geopolitical orientation towards the European Union or – to a lesser extent – even unification with Romania. In the period 2009-2019 various unstable parliamentary coalitions, predominantly headed by centrist and right-wing parties, many of whom had close links to Moldovan oligarchs, pursued a nominally pro-European and pro-Romanian course. Although they initially secured strong support from the EU, and from Romania in particular, in reality the ‘Alliance for European Integration’ and its successors embarked on a process of largescale enrichment and a ‘takeover’ of government institutions and the judiciary. This process was spearheaded by the Democratic Party (PDM), the political vehicle of oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, who gradually eliminated most of his oligarchic rivals including Veaceslav Platon and Vladimir Filat.[8] Ironically, this initially led to receding support for European integration in the period 2011-2015, although the overall trend is consistently towards a more pro-European course and decreasing support for membership in the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). In turn, unificationist sentiment is gradually increasing but still has more opponents than proponents – and for many Moldovans unification remains an ideal, but not a realistic proposition (see Figures 1-3).[9] [10]

Figure 2
Public opinion on integration with the EU
Public opinion on integration with the EU

Source: Institute for Public Policy (IPP), “Barometer of Public Opinion”, 2011-2021, retrieved July 2022.

Figure 3
Public opinion on integration with Romania
Public opinion on integration with Romania

Source: Institute for Public Policy (IPP), “Barometer of Public Opinion”, 2011-2021, retrieved July 2022.

Figure 4
Public opinion on integration with the Eurasian Customs Union / Eurasian Economic Union
Public opinion on integration with the Eurasian Customs Union / Eurasian Economic Union

Source: Institute for Public Policy (IPP), “Barometer of Public Opinion”, 2011-2021, retrieved July 2022.

In this regard, it is a frequently held misunderstanding that Moldovan political parties are simply ‘pro-European’, ‘pro-unification’ or ‘pro-Russian’. In fact, most are opportunistic and personality-driven patronage networks that pragmatically try to balance relations with all ‘sides’ to advance their own interests. For example, for all his catering to nostalgia towards the Soviet Union, Communist party leader Voronin signed numerous agreements with the European Union and in 2008 even declared Moldova’s EU integration process an ‘irreversible process’.[11] Despite frequent statements of support for Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union, in which the PSRM negotiated an observer status in 2017, Igor Dodon did not suspend this integration process either. In turn, the period in which various pro-European parties were in power was marred by three factors: political instability, lagging reforms and largescale corruption. The latter was epitomised by the ‘bank heist of the century’ in which approximately 1 billion USD were embezzled and the banks involved had to be bailed out with public finances from an impoverished Moldova. After a constitutional crisis in 2019, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe went as far as to use the term ‘state capture’ to describe the situation of democratic and judicial institutions in Moldova.[12]

In response, exasperated Moldovan voters increasingly turned their backs on the old political divisions running along geopolitical and identity lines and turned towards a new political movement running on an anti-corruption platform, the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) of Maia Sandu.[13] While promoting a pro-European geopolitical orientation, Sandu largely steered clear of identity issues such as language policy. In 2020 she defeated Igor Dodon in the presidential election and in 2021 secured a parliamentary majority for her party. This not only signified a strong preference for Moldovan voters to do away with corrupt practices of the past, but also indicated that geopolitical and identity factors had lost importance and that ‘most of the citizens no longer allowed themselves to be trapped by scarecrows and sterile geopolitical discourse’.[14] The fact that a party running on an anti-corruption agenda secured a strong parliamentary majority is in principle a positive development. However, several interviewees expressed concern that the combination of PAS appointees’ lack of experience, high levels of distrust both inside the party and towards all other political forces, and a strong drive to ‘quickly clean up’ democratic institutions could have longer-term negative effects for the independence of these institutions, as well as for political pluralism and democratic consolidation in Moldova.[15]

The electoral victory of PAS was also facilitated by a shift in labour migration, geopolitical orientation and the voting patterns of the sizable Moldovan diaspora away from Russia and towards the EU. In 2021, those ‘external voters’ made up 18.2% of Moldova’s electorate and a whopping 86.2% of them voted for PAS, against only 2.5% for the Electoral Bloc of Communists and Socialists (BECS).[16]

This shift also meant that Moscow had to adjust its strategy. In the past the Kremlin was able to influence the outcomes in Moldovan elections through its media presence and by showing overt support for the leaders of the Communist or Socialist parties. But due to the plummeting popularity of both of these parties Moscow had to diversify its approach and the ‘Russia factor’ in Moldovan politics has become more amorphous. In particular, the Kremlin had to look for an alternative to Igor Dodon. Most tellingly, when Dodon was arrested in May 2022 on charges of corruption and treason, Russia did not come staunchly to the defence of its traditional ally but instead declared this an ‘internal affair’ that it would ‘monitor’.[17] The Kremlin is now cultivating stronger ties with several political actors and new political forces beyond the PSRM and PCRM, including Chișinău mayor Ion Ceban, former prime minister Ion Chicu and various politicians in Gagauzia. Most worryingly, there is a risk of collusion between the interests of Russia to keep Moldova out of the EU’s geopolitical orbit and those of various political and oligarchic factions in Moldova whose positions are threatened by the anti-corruption reforms of PAS, including those of Vladimir Plahotniuc, Veaceslav Platon and Ilan Shor.

For now, it appears that the Kremlin – which has its hands full in neighbouring Ukraine – is content to bide its time in Moldova and see which political force ‘floats to the top’.[18] Instead of actively trying to topple the Gavrilița government, Moscow has several other levers it can use to pressure Moldova and avoid it taking a pro-Ukrainian stance too openly in the war or deviating from its formal neutrality – including through alignment with EU sanctions. This is first and foremost through its control over Moldova’s energy supply and the concomitant effects on Moldova’s economy and social stability, which may be more effective for Russia to achieve its political objectives than direct meddling in Moldovan domestic politics.

Winter is coming again: Moldova’s gas debt and dependency on Russian energy

Moldova is almost entirely dependent on the Russian Federation for its supply of natural gas and, indirectly, for a large proportion of its electricity supply. MoldovaGaz – 50% of which is owned by Gazprom and 13.4% by the de facto Transnistrian administration – imports approximately 2.9 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas. Out of these, 1.3bcm is consumed by right-bank Moldova for heating purposes and 1.6bcm is consumed on the left bank of the Dniester by Transnistrian heavy industry and the ‘Moldavskaya GRES’ power station (MGRES) power plant in Kuchurgan, which provides around 70% of the electricity for right-bank Moldova as well. Over the years Transnistria has racked up an astronomical debt of 7 billion USD, but right-bank Moldova also owes Gazprom around 700 million USD.[19] Chișinău in effect has to pay Moscow twice: first for the import of the gas to Transnistria, and then to MGRES to import the electricity from Transnistria – albeit at prices that are substantially lower than on the international electricity market.

This double reliance on Russian gas and Transnistrian electricity, combined with the sizable debt to Gazprom, gives Russia a strong grip on any Moldovan government. Gazprom could at any time use the debt as a pretext to suspend gas deliveries to Moldova, although it would also deprive its ‘allies’ in Transnistria of electricity and heating in the process. Knowing this, the Moldovan government similarly does not always implement all of its contractual obligations towards Gazprom. When Moldova missed the contractual deadline for an external audit of its debt to Gazprom, the company nonetheless continued to supply gas to Moldova, and MGRES continued to supply electricity at subsidised rates – reportedly in exchange for an environmental licence for the scrap metal processing plant in Rîbnița that plays an important role in the Transnistrian economy.[20] Russia-related energy imports are therefore not only a key source of potential kleptocratic enrichment on both banks of the Nistru and in Russia, they are also a critical vulnerability that the Russian Federation can and does exploit.

In fact, Moscow did not wait long after the PAS victory in the parliamentary elections to test Maia Sandu and her new government. In October 2021, when Moldova’s previous long-term contract with Gazprom expired and gas prices had shot up, Russia began to charge Moldova the full market price of 790 USD per million cubic metres (mcm), up from an average of 148 USD/mcm in 2020. Partially due to its own procrastination and inability to anticipate the ending of the contract, the Moldovan government had to issue a state of emergency and scrambled to source gas from alternative suppliers. It eventually made a new, temporary deal with Gazprom that indexed the gas price to a rolling average over the preceding months and temporarily cushioned the blow to Moldova. However, this only postponed the problem, as gas prices kept rising further and further. While Sandu denied that she had made any political concessions, Gazprom had reportedly pushed for a weakening in trade ties with the EU, including in the implementation of the Third Energy Package. Some ambiguous wording about this made it into the protocol, but the exact concessions made by the Moldovan authorities to Gazprom remain unclear and a new spat is possible virtually at any time.[21]

Pending more sustainable solutions regarding the debt restructuring to Gazprom, the electricity supply from Transnistria and a broader solution to Russia’s grip on the wider European gas market, Moldova will remain acutely vulnerable to disruptions or sharp price increases in its energy supply. Fears abound that higher heating bills this winter will combine with simmering social discontent and mobilise the electorate against the Gavrilița government, leading to social and political instability and a possible change of power.[22]

National minorities and the position of the Russian language

When Russian general Rustam Minnekayev made his ominous but rather ill-founded threat in April 2022 to take the entire south of Ukraine ‘as a way out for Transnistria’, he also referred to ‘facts of oppression of Russian-speakers’, prompting fears that Russia might want to use the status of the Russian language as a pretext for an operation against Moldova itself.[23] Foreign Minister Lavrov echoed these statements in a recent TV interview, in which he said Russia would defend Russian-speakers in Moldova and also mentioned Gagauzia.[24] Issues of language and ethnicity are highly sensitive issues in Moldova for the historical reasons explained above.[25] In addition to divisions within the majority population (which is largely bilingual, but has different linguistic preferences for the use of Romanian or Russian), the country is also home to several sizable national minority groups. Roughly 18% of right-bank Moldova identified as a minority in the 2014 census, of which ethnic Ukrainians (6.6% of the total population), Gagauz (4.6%), Russians (4.1%) and Bulgarians (1.9%) comprised the four largest groups. Many live compactly in regions in the north and south of the country, have limited knowledge of Romanian and generally speak Russian as their preferred language of everyday use. They also consume significantly more Russian-language media, including content produced in Russia, compared to the majority population.[26]

The status of the Russian language in Moldova has been an issue of political and legal controversy since independence. In its 1989 language law Moldova recognised Russian as the ‘language of inter-ethnic communication’ alongside the state language. It nominally remained in force until the Constitutional Court annulled it in 2018.[27] Attempts to pass a new language law or adopt a balanced language policy that does justice to Moldova’s complex linguistic legacy have failed for many years due to fierce mobilisation along ethnic and linguistic lines and a tendency by political actors to abuse this issue purely for short-term political gain. For example, in January 2021, Igor Dodon made use of his temporary majority in the Moldovan parliament to pass a law on the official status of the Russian language that was promptly thrown out by the Constitutional Court. Successive governments and parliaments have dragged their feet for 20 years and still have not ratified the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (ECRML), even though Moldova signed it in 2002 and promised to ratify it as part of its pre-accession criteria towards the Council of Europe.[28] While language policy remains deadlocked, the issue continues to fester and might be used at any time by domestic political actors or the Russian Federation to stir up controversy – not only within the majority population, but in particular towards national minorities.

Figure 5
Extent to which Moldovan citizens speak Romanian, by ethnicity
Extent to which Moldovan citizens speak Romanian, by ethnicity

Source: CIVIS Centre, Ethnobarometer Moldova, 2020.

Typically, people belonging to national minorities are staunchly opposed to the idea of reunification with Romania and generally tend to vote for parties on the left of the political spectrum that advocate for a stronger position for the Russian language and closer ties with Russia. It is nonetheless a frequently held misunderstanding that minorities in Moldova are all ‘pro-Russian’ or ‘anti-European’; most support the general idea of European integration and concomitant reforms such as the fight against corruption, but are more susceptible to narratives in Russian-language media that emphasise socially conservative values and resistance against ‘Gayropa’.[29] Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine they have tended to emphasise Moldova’s neutrality more than voicing staunch support for Russia’s invasion.

Minorities are also – with good reason – concerned that they have been insufficiently involved in political life by the parties of the right and are under-represented in various state structures.[30] As national minorities traditionally vote predominantly for PCRM or PSRM, other parties such as Maia Sandu’s PAS pay relatively little attention to their concerns. It is telling in this regard that the government is yet to appoint a new director for the Agency for Inter-ethnic Relations. This agency is key in the implementation of the ‘Strategy on Consolidation of Inter-ethnic Relations’, adopted in 2016 with support of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). Implementation of this strategy has been slow and there is a lack of genuine efforts to promote integration of Moldovan society, including through better knowledge of the Romanian language by persons belonging to national minorities and by promoting their participation in public life. This, combined with the inability of successive governments to strike a reasonable compromise regarding the status of the Russian language, continues to present opportunities for domestic and external political actors to manipulate sentiments over language and identity. While many national minorities and Russian-speakers, disillusioned by previous governments and frustrated by pervasive corruption, voted for PAS in the 2021 elections and helped Sandu obtain a parliamentary majority, they may not do so in the future if they feel the party advances only the aims of the Romanianist majority.[31] PAS officials sometimes speak about the importance of building an overarching civic Moldovan identity which would contribute to a more inclusive and cohesive Moldovan society, but have so far taken limited steps in this direction.

‘Don’t mention the war’: Russian media content and narratives

The linguistic divisions in Moldovan society contribute to the emergence of parallel realities for those who consume Romanian-language or Russian-language media. While this also applies to print and online media, it is particularly television, the most popular source of information for almost three-quarters of the population, that is of critical importance in shaping attitudes towards key (geo)political issues.[32] This also extends to the war in Ukraine, which divides Moldova in general but also sees a correlation with linguistic preferences and media consumption. For example, in a survey in May 2022, 51% of those whose native language is Romanian considered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as aggression, compared to only 20% of those who speak Russian or other languages. While there is no clear-cut causal link between native language and perceptions, given that nearly half of Romanian speakers view the war differently, the correlation is nonetheless strong.[33]

Due to the popularity of re-broadcast content from Russia, Moldova has long been highly vulnerable not only to Russian narratives, but also to disinformation campaigns. Together with Belarus it ranks as the country in Eastern Europe least able to withstand foreign-led information threats in the Disinformation Resilience Index.[34] As Moldova’s domestic market is relatively small, it is difficult for Moldova to produce Russian-language entertainment content that can rival the quality of content re-broadcast from the Russian Federation. An additional complication is posed by long-standing problems regarding media ownership and pluralism. For years, political and oligarchic actors in Moldova have used media holdings to pass their own, politically biased messages through their respective TV channels.[35] They often make use of Russian-produced content to increase their popularity and have business links with Russian media moguls connected to the Kremlin. For example, content produced by Russian state TV channels Perviy Kanal and RTR have consistently been among the most popular in Moldova. Such content was first re-broadcast by Plahotniuc-controlled PRIME TV, but later taken over by a channel of a media holding that is close to the PSRM, Media Invest Service, which owns Accent TV and Primul. Media Invest Service is 51% owned by Igor Chaika, the son of Russia’s prosecutor-general.[36]

The Moldovan government has tried to take action. In its 2018 National Information Security Strategy it acknowledged that disinformation campaigns are part of hybrid warfare and can create internal instability.[37] In the same year the PDM-led government banned news and analytical broadcasts and limited other content from non-EU countries that had not ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT), which was a roundabout way of saying ‘the Russian Federation’ – especially as exceptions were made for the United States and other countries that had not ratified the Convention. Although the coalition circumvented a presidential veto by Dodon, the ban was widely perceived as political manipulation by Plahotniuc. It also did not prove to be particularly effective, as media consumption moved more online, cable operators in Gagauzia refused to implement it and the PSRM bitterly fought it in the parliament.[38] The Audiovisual Council, the key institution mandated to regulate the media sphere, remained unwilling or unable to address the problems of media ownership and the risk of Russian disinformation.

However, it was the war in Ukraine that again noted the urgency of information space as a security issue and prompted action, as Moldovan authorities became acutely concerned about the risk of Russian propaganda spreading throughout the country. The Moldovan security services quickly shut down Sputnik on 26 February on the grounds that it ‘promotes information that incites hatred and war’. But rather than outright pro-war propaganda, it is manipulation of public opinion through omission or the repetition of Russian narratives about discrimination of Russian-speakers that have a more pernicious and divisive effect on public opinion.[39]

In June 2022, parliament passed a new Law on Information Security that once again banned news and analytical programmes and imposed a cap on other content from non-ECTT signatory countries. The ban was again criticised harshly by Moscow and PSRM deputies.[40] Its effectiveness remains to be seen, as media consumption increasingly moves online and is hard to regulate. Russia’s presence in Moldova’s information space remains a key vulnerability that can only be addressed by a complex set of measures, ranging from promoting media literacy to producing more local Russian-language news, and from addressing media ownership to strengthening governmental and civil society responses to fake news.

For an excellent overview, see Philip Remler, “Inventing crisis in Moldova: All geopolitics is local,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Commentary, May 17, 2021. For a good treatise on Moldova’s complex and contested history, see Charles King, The Moldovans: Romania, Russia and the Politics of Culture (Stanford: Hoover Institute Press, 1999). On Moldova’s different political and identity crises in the period 1991-2009, see Bob Deen, “Deadlock and Division in Moldova,” Security and Human Rights 20, no. 4 (November 2009): 325-338.
See for example Andrey Devyatkov, ”Dynamics of Russian Power in Moldova,” Foreign Policy Research Institute, March 22, 2017.
‘Left’ and ‘right’ in the Moldovan context have only limited resemblance to the traditional left-right split between socialist/progressive and liberalist/conservative ideologies in Western European domestic politics. The ‘left-right’ labels in Moldova are more culturally, historically and geopolitically defined, despite the choice of party names and their affiliations to European political families.
Religion in Moldova is a complex matter, unfortunately outside the scope of this report. The Moldovan Orthodox Church is subordinate to the Russian patriarchate, while the rival Bessarabian Orthodox Church is canonically subordinate to the Romanian patriarchate. For more details, see Daniel Jakubek and Vladimir Baar, ‘Rivalry between the Bessarabian and Moldovan churches within the context of support of Russian politics’, Political Science Revisited XVI, 1, pp. 191-208.
For the evolution of Plahotniuc’s hold on power and his links to other politicians and oligarchs, see Kamil Calus and Wojciech Kononczuk, “Explaining Oligarchic Moldova,” Carnegie Europe, May 4, 2017. See also Dionis Cenusa, ‘Moldova’s Anaemic Democracy and Distorted Europeanisation’, in Michael Emerson et al. (eds), The Struggle for Good Governance in Eastern Europe (2 nd edition), Centre for European Policy Studies, 2021.
Institute for Public Policy (IPP), “Barometer of Public Opinion”, 2011-2021, retrieved July 2022. Although pro-unificationist sentiment has increased, the prospects of actual unification (‘unirea’) between both countries are low for various reasons. For a good explanation, see Kamil Calus, “Moldova: record-breaking support for reunification with Romania,” Centre for Eastern Studies, April 19, 2021.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, The functioning of democratic institutions in the Republic of Moldova, Resolution 2308 (2019), paragraph 5: ‘The Assembly acknowledges the legitimate and necessary steps needed to eradicate from state institutions all aspects that are characteristic of “State capture’. The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe had already described Moldova as a ‘captured state’ in an opinion article: Thorbjorn Jagland, “Bring Moldova Back from the Brink,” New York Times, August 11, 2015.
For the 2019 parliamentary elections, PAS formed an electoral bloc called ‘ACUM’ with another pro-reform movement, the ‘Party of the Platform Dignity and Truth’ (DA), headed by Andrei Nastase.
See for example Freedom House, ‘Moldova’, Nations in Transit 2022.
Kanat Makhanov, “ External Voting Patterns in new post-Communist democracies,” Eurasian Research Institute. The author estimates that approximately 45% of the total population of Moldova lives abroad; of those, 45% work in the EU and 26% in Russia. The European Training Foundation (ETF) estimates that in 2020 Moldovan international migrants represented around 1.1 million people, or 28.7% of the population, of whom approximately 30% go to Russia. The total contribution of labour migrants to Moldova’s GDP is estimated to be 16%. See ETF, Skills and Migration Country Fiche: Moldova, 2021.
“ Russia Says Will Monitor Moldova Ex-Leader’s Case,” The Moscow Times, May 25, 2022.
Clingendael policy interviews, Chișinău, June 2022.
“Moldova’s Gas Crisis and Its Lessons for Europe,” Carnegie Moscow, November 5, 2021.
Andrei Chirileasa, “ Moldova secures natural gas and electricity for another month? ,” Romania Insider, May 2, 2022.
Andrew Wilson, “Moldova’s gas deal with Russia: David tries to draw with Goliath,” European Council on Foreign Relations, November 4, 2021.
For more detail about the political context around the gas deals see Dionis Cenusa, “Russia-Moldova gas disputes: Is an “energy divorce” possible?,” Riddle, October 28, 2021. The author argued in October 2021 that “(…) discrediting of the pro-reform and pro-EU forces might create a new momentum for the weakened pro-Russian forces that try to capitalize on the government’s missteps in the management of the energy crisis.”
See Madalin Necsutu, ‘Via Southern Ukraine, Russia Eyes “Another Route” to Moldova’s Transnistria’, BalkanInsight, April 22, 2022.
Vitalie Calugareanu, ‘Russia Warns Moldova over Transnistria Troops’, Deutsche Welle, September 3, 2022
King (op. cit); Matthew H. Ciscel, “Reform and Relapse in Bilingual Policy in Moldova,” Comparative Education 46, no. 1 (2010): 13-28.
See CIVIS Centre, Ethnobarometer Moldova -2020, 2020, 59-61. This report yields interesting insights on minorities and language. For example, it shows that ethnic minorities mainly communicate in Russian outside of their family and relatives’ circles. For instance, 76% of the Ukrainians, 87% of the Bulgarians, 86% of the Gagauz and 53% of the Roma speak Russian with their colleagues at work, university or school. Moreover, Russian is also primarily used to communicate with public authorities. See CIVIS Centre, Ethnobarometer Moldova -2020, 2020, 53-60.
In a somewhat controversial decision, the Constitutional Court used the concept of ‘desuetude’ (disuse) to declare the law unconstitutional, despite a reference in the Moldovan constitution, and gave precedence to the Moldovan declaration of independence. For an overview of the debate, see IPN, ‘Debates on functioning of spoken languages should be protected from propagandistic confrontations’, 7 June 2018.
See for example Federica Prina, “Linguistic divisions and the Language Charter – The case of Moldova,” ECMI Working Paper no. 64 (March 2013); or Matthew H. Ciscel, “Uneasy Compromise: Language and education in Moldova,” in Multilingualism in Post-Soviet Countries, ed. Aneta Pavlenko (Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2008), 373-395.
See for example Marcin Kosienkowski and William Schreiber, “Moldova’s national minorities: Why are they Euroskeptical?Russie.Nei.Vissions no. 81 (November 2014). The term ‘Gayropa’ is an example of “Russian anti-Western discourse [which] represents European civilization as currently ondergoing a process of degeneration”, whereby the “perversion of the normal gender order” is provided as proof for such degeneration. See Tatiana Riabova and Oleg Riabov, ‘“Gayromaidan”: Gendered Aspects of the Hegemonic Russian Media Discourse on the Ukraine Crisis’, Journal of Soviet and Post-soviet Politics and Society, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, 89.
When asked in an OSCE-funded survey whether or not ‘my ethnic group is sufficiently represented in State institutions’, 59% of respondents who self-identified as Moldovans answered affirmative, against 20% for Ukrainians, 28% for Russians, 29% for Gagauz and 22% for Bulgarians. See CIVIS Centre, Ethnobarometer Moldova -2020, 2020, 28. For an official assessment of the situation up until 2017, see Advisory Committee Opinion of the FCNM, Fourth Opinion on Moldova, ACFC/OP/IV(2016)004.
Clingendael interviews, Chișinău, June 2022.
Institutul de Politici Publice, Barometrul de Opinie Publică (Chişinău: Institutul de Politici Publice, 2021), 26. Respondents could choose up to two options. TV is the most popular at 74.2%, with the internet in second place at 58.6%. Radio makes up only 16.2%. See also Valeriu Pasha, Vasile Cantarii and Iryna Sterpu, “Republic of Moldova’s television content and the manner in which it is shaping electoral behavior: an assessment of Russia’s influence on the country’s geo-political options,”, 2018.
Stela Untila, “Sondaj: 25% dintre moldoveni consideră că Putin personal este vinovat de războiul din Ucraina. 19% dau vina pe SUANewsMakers, May 10, 2022. It is noteworthy that out of the total population, around 40% of Moldovans considered Russia’s invasion as ‘unreasonable and unprovoked’, while 23% believed Russia protected the Donbas from attacks by Ukraine and another 15% believed that Russia was liberating Ukraine from Nazism.
For more details see team, “Moldova,” in Disinformation Resilience Index in Central and Eastern Europe, eds. Pavel Havlíček and Andrei Yeliseyeu (Warsaw: East Center, 2021), 163, as well as WatchDog.
See for example “Moldova: Stakeholder submission on media freedom for the universal periodic review,” Freedom House, July 23, 2021, others. team, “Moldova,” in Disinformation Resilience Index in Central and Eastern Europe, eds. Pavel Havlíček and Andrei Yeliseyeu (Warsaw: East Center, 2021), 166.
Vasile Gancev, “What is the future of Moldova’s ‘law against propaganda’?,” Global Voices, January 20, 2020.
Madalin Necsutu, “What War? Moldova grapples with pro-Russian media propaganda,” Balkan Insight, April 12, 2022.
Madalin Necsutu, “Moldova bans Russian media to counter propaganda over Ukraine,” Balkan Insight, June 20, 2022.