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Popular Front of Moldova

Popular Front of Moldova

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The Popular Front of Moldova was a political movement in the Moldavian SSR
Moldavian SSR
The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic , commonly abbreviated to Moldavian SSR or MSSR, was one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union...

, one of the 15 union republics of the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, and in the newly-independent Republic of Moldova
Moldova
Moldova , officially the Republic of Moldova is a landlocked state in Eastern Europe, located between Romania to the West and Ukraine to the North, East and South. It declared itself an independent state with the same boundaries as the preceding Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991, as part...

. Formally, the Front existed from 1989 to 1992. It was the successor to the Democratic Movement of Moldova (Mişcarea Democratică din Moldova; 1988–89), and was succeeded by the Christian Democratic Popular Front (Frontul Popular Creştin Democrat; 1992–99) and, ultimately, the Christian-Democratic People's Party
Christian-Democratic People's Party (Moldova)
The Christian Democratic People's Party is a Christian democratic political party in Moldova. In the last legislative elections on March 6, 2005, the party won 9.1% of the popular vote and 11 out of 101 seats. Led by Iurie Roşca, the CDPP and the liberal PNL are the only major political parties in...

 (Partidul Popular Creştin Democrat; since 1999).

The Popular Front was well organized nationally, with its strongest support in the capital and in areas of the country most heavily populated by Moldavians. Once the organization was in power, however, internal disputes led to a sharp fall in popular support, and it fragmented into several competing factions by early 1993.

Democratic Movement of Moldova


The precursor of the Front, the Democratic Movement of Moldova organized public meetings, demonstrations, and song festivals since February 1988, which gradually grew in size and intensity. In the streets, the center of public manifestations was the Stephen the Great Monument in Chişinău, and the adjacent park harboring Aleea Clasicilor ( The Alee of the Classics [of the Literature]). On January 15, 1988, in a tribute to Mihai Eminescu
Mihai Eminescu
Mihai Eminescu was a Romantic poet, novelist and journalist, often regarded as the most famous and influential Romanian poet. Eminescu was an active member of the Junimea literary society and he worked as an editor for the newspaper Timpul , the official newspaper of the Conservative Party...

 at his bust on the Aleea Clasicilor, Anatol Şalaru
Anatol Şalaru
Anatol Şalaru is a Moldovan politician. He is the current Transport and Road Infrastructure Minister in the Vlad Filat Cabinet.- Biography :...

 submitted the proposal to continue the meetings. In the public discourse, the movement called for national awakening, freedom of speech, revival of Moldavian traditions, and for attainment of official status for the Moldovan language and return of it to the Latin script. The transition from "movement" (informal association) to "front" (formal association) was regarded by its sympathizers as a natural "upgrade" once the movement has gained momentum with the public, and the Soviet authorities could no longer crack down on it.

Founding


The Front's founding congress took place on May 20, 1989 amidst the backdrop of a ferment that had gripped the republic since late 1988, spurred by the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

. Initially, it was a reformist movement modeled on the Baltic pattern
Singing Revolution
The Singing Revolution is a commonly used name for events between 1987 and 1991 that led to the restoration of the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania...

 that stressed glasnost
Glasnost
Glasnost was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of the 1980s...

, perestroika
Perestroika
Perestroika was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during 1980s, widely associated with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

 and demokratizatsiya
Demokratizatsiya
Democratisation in the Soviet Union was proposed by General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in January 1987. He was calling for the infusion of "democratic" elements into the Soviet Union's single-party government. Gorbachev's democratisation meant the introduction of multi-candidate-not...

 and was not exclusivist. The congress was attended by representatives from many of Moldova's ethnic groups, including a delegate from the Gagauz
Gagauz people
The Gagauz people are Turkic speaking group living mostly in southern Moldova , southwestern Ukraine , south-eastern Romania and northeastern Bulgaria. Unlike most other Turkic speaking people, the Gagauz are predominantly Orthodox Christians...

 umbrella organisation, Gagauz Halkı ("The Gagauz People").

During the second congress (30 June - 1 July 1989), Ion Hadârcă
Ion Hadârcă
- Biography :Ion Hadârcă was born on July 17, 1949 in Sîngerei, Sîngerei District. Between 1968-1970, he carried out the compulsory military service in the Soviet army. He wast the first president of the Popular Front of Moldova...

 was elected as president of the Front, from among 3 candidates for the job. Other two candidates that sought election to the post were Nicolae Costin
Nicolae Costin
Nicolae Costin was a Moldovan politician. He served as mayor of Chişinău .- Biography :...

 and Gheorghe Ghimpu
Gheorghe Ghimpu
Gheorghe Ghimpu was a Moldovan politician and a political prisoner in the former Soviet Union.- Early life :...

.

FPM was at first called a "public organization", since political parties other than the Communist Party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

 were forbidden in the USSR. The movement initially consisted of a broad multi-ethnic coalition of independent cultural and political groups that pressed for reform within the Soviet system and for the national emancipation of ethnic Moldovans.

However, an ethnic cleavage quickly became apparent as titular Popular Front representatives called only for the Moldovan language
Moldovan language
Moldovan is one of the names of the Romanian language as spoken in the Republic of Moldova, where it is official. The spoken language of Moldova is closer to the dialects of Romanian spoken in northeastern Romania, and the two countries share the same literary standard...

, written in Latin script, to be made official, and other ethnicities began to feel alienated. Already in April 1989, in response to this agitation, Gagauz nationalists had begun to demand the creation of their own ethno-federal unit in Moldova, and Gagauz mobilization accelerated in the wake of massive Moldovan nationalist demonstrations that summer calling for a new language law, republican sovereignty and secession. Also in summer 1989, Russian-speaking elites in Transnistria
Transnistria
Transnistria is a breakaway territory located mostly on a strip of land between the Dniester River and the eastern Moldovan border to Ukraine...

 had defected from the movement, perceiving the language demands as an example of chauvinism. In early August, a Communist party newspaper in Tiraspol
Tiraspol
Tiraspol is the second largest city in Moldova and is the capital and administrative centre of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic . The city is located on the eastern bank of the Dniester River...

 published drafts of the new law, showing that no plans existed to declare Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 a second official language; this led to a wave of strikes in Transnistria initiated by local party cadres and factory bosses. An alliance between Gagauz and Russians formed, in opposition to Moldovan demands and enjoying support from the USSR
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 government, so that by early August, Moldova's ad hoc multiethnic opposition, which had allowed the Popular Front to emerge as a unified force from a plethora of informal organisations 2½ months earlier, was completely defunct. Moreover, Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 was worried by the Front's raising another issue: the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

; it insisted Soviet authorities would have to recognise that Moldova was taken from Romania in 1940 on the basis of a secret deal between Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 and Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, a fact long denied by Soviet officials. Nevertheless, the Popular Front was far from dead and soon achieved its first major objective.

Grand National Assembly


Grand National Assembly  was the first major achievement of the Popular Front. Mass demonstrations organized by its activists, including one (the "Grand National Assembly") attended by 300,000 participants on August 27, were of critical importance in convincing the Moldovan Supreme Soviet to adopt a new language law on August 31, 1989, to thunderous applause. The law stipulated Latin-script Moldovan
Moldovan language
Moldovan is one of the names of the Romanian language as spoken in the Republic of Moldova, where it is official. The spoken language of Moldova is closer to the dialects of Romanian spoken in northeastern Romania, and the two countries share the same literary standard...

 (considered identical to Romanian by linguists) as the state language, although it was quite moderate, for instance defining Russian as a second "language of interethnic communication" alongside Moldovan, and the language of communication with the Soviet Union authorities. Later, when this autonomous territorial unit was created, Gagauz
Gagauz language
The Gagauz language is a Turkic language, spoken by the Gagauz people, and the official language of Gagauzia, Moldova. There are two dialects, Bulgar Gagauzi and Maritime Gagauzi. This is a different language from Balkan Gagauz Turkish....

 and Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 were recognized as official alongside Moldovan in Gagauzia
Gagauzia
Gagauzia , formally known as the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Găgăuzia , is an autonomous region of...

.

On August 27, 1989, the FPM organized a mass demonstration in Chişinău
Chisinau
Chișinău is the capital and largest municipality of Moldova. It is also its main industrial and commercial centre and is located in the middle of the country, on the river Bîc...

, that became known as the Great National Assembly, which pressured the authorities of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic to adopt a language law on August 31, 1989 that proclaimed the Moldovan language
Moldovan language
Moldovan is one of the names of the Romanian language as spoken in the Republic of Moldova, where it is official. The spoken language of Moldova is closer to the dialects of Romanian spoken in northeastern Romania, and the two countries share the same literary standard...

 written in the Latin script to be the state language of the MSSR. Its identity with the Romanian language
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

 was also established. August 31 has been the National Language Day
National Language Day
National Language Day is a public holiday in Moldova and is observed on August 31.-Overview:On August 27, 1989, the Popular Front of Moldova organized a mass demonstration in Chişinău, that became known as the Great National Assembly, which pressured the authorities of the Moldavian Soviet...

 ever since.

Rise to power


Elections to the Moldovan Supreme Soviet were held in February–March 1990; while the Communist Party was the only one registered for this contest, opposition candidates were allowed to run as individuals. Together with affiliated groups, the Front won a landslide victory and one of its leaders, Mircea Druc
Mircea Druc
Mircea Druc is a Moldovan and Romanian politician who served as Prime Minister of Moldova between 26 May 1990 and 22 May 1991....

, formed the new government. The Popular Front saw its government as a purely transitional ministry; its role was to dissolve the Moldavian SSR and join Romania. Its militancy grew: at a March 1990 rally, the Front adopted a resolution calling the 1918 Union of Bessarabia with Romania
Union of Bessarabia with Romania
On , the Sfatul Ţării, or National Council, of Bessarabia proclaimed union with the Kingdom of Romania.-Governorate of Bessarabia:The 1812 Treaty of Bucharest between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empires provided for Russian annexation of the eastern half of the territory of the Principality...

 "natural and legitimate"; for pan-Romanians such as Iurie Roşca
Iurie Rosca
Iurie Roşca is a Moldovan politician who has served as president of the Christian-Democratic People's Party since 1994.- Biography :...

, unification was the proper outcome of democratisation. The Front helped set up a massive demonstration on May 6, the Bridge of Flowers, which saw multitudes gather on both sides as eight crossings on the Prut
Prut
The Prut is a long river in Eastern Europe. In part of its course it forms the border between Romania and Moldova.-Overview:...

 were opened and people crossed freely between Moldova and Romania. The policies of the Druc government included a virtual purge of non-Moldovans from cultural institutions and the reorientation of educational policy away from Russian-speakers. The nationalists argued that the Popular Front should immediately use its majority in the Supreme Soviet to attain independence from Russian domination, end migration into the republic, and improve the status of ethnic Romanians. At the Front's second congress in June 1990, it declared itself in opposition to the leadership of Mircea Snegur
Mircea Snegur
Mircea Ion Snegur was the first President of Moldova 1990-1996. Before that he was Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet 1989-1990 and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 27 April to 3 September 1990...

 (president of the republic's Supreme Soviet), which it claimed was failing to maintain order in restive regions and was too slow in pulling Moldova out of the USSR. At the congress, the Front's executive board, headed by Roşca, openly called for political union with Romania, and Front statutes were changed so that members could belong to no other political organisation.

However, this strident line, coupled with receptiveness to union in Romania (led by Ion Iliescu
Ion Iliescu
Ion Iliescu served as President of Romania from 1990 until 1996, and from 2000 until 2004. From 1996 to 2000 and from 2004 until his retirement in 2008, Iliescu was a Senator for the Social Democratic Party , whose honorary president he remains....

 after the December 1989 Revolution
Romanian Revolution of 1989
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was a series of riots and clashes in December 1989. These were part of the Revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several Warsaw Pact countries...

), caused other Moldovan politicians to become more public in their desire for the continued existence of a separate state. A chief supporter of Moldova's sovereignty was Snegur, who became president in September 1990. Also, in protest and fear of the events of 1990, the now-alienated regions of Gagauzia
Gagauzia
Gagauzia , formally known as the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Găgăuzia , is an autonomous region of...

 and Transnistria
Transnistria
Transnistria is a breakaway territory located mostly on a strip of land between the Dniester River and the eastern Moldovan border to Ukraine...

 moved to break away from Moldova, declaring their own independent republics on August 19 and September 2, respectively.

Faced with what they considered a concerted effort by ethnic Romanian nationalists to dominate the republic, hardliners and minority activists banded together and began to resist majority initiatives. Organized in the Supreme Soviet as the Soviet Moldavia (Sovetskaya Moldaviya) faction, the anti-reformers became increasingly inflexible. Yedinstvo and its supporters within the Supreme Soviet argued against independence from the Soviet Union, against implementation of the August 1989 language law, and for increased autonomy for minority areas. Hence, clashes occurred almost immediately once the new Supreme Soviet began its inaugural session in April 1990.

The leaders of the FPM were driven by the core belief that Romanians
Romanians
The Romanians are an ethnic group native to Romania, who speak Romanian; they are the majority inhabitants of Romania....

 and Moldovans
Moldovans
Moldovans or Moldavians are the largest population group of Moldova...

 form a single nation, and should eventually make a single country. Although an explicit unionist position was not adopted until it had been relegated to permanent opposition status, the Front leaders supported a rapid unification with Romania
Movement for unification of Romania and Moldova
A movement for the reunification of Romania and Moldova began in both countries after the Romanian Revolution of 1989 and the beginning of glasnost policy in the Soviet Union...

. In addition, some leaders of the PFM were quick to alienate ethnic minorities and PFM sympathizers from within the Soviet system. The discrepancy with the immediate economic needs of the population, and the alienation of many sympathizers stood at the core of the Front's inability to remain in power after 1992.

Decline and transformation


Snegur fired Druc after a "disastrous" tenure on May 28, 1991 and Moldova declared independence three months later. At its third congress in February 1992, the Front transformed itself from a mass movement into a political party, becoming the Christian Democratic Popular Front (FPCD), overtly committed to union with Romania. It also rejected the name "Republic of Moldova" in favour of Bessarabia
Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

, seemingly conceding the loss of Transnistria. Once union was revealed as the Front's ultimate aim, a serious loss in numbers and influence followed. A vast network of local groups had allowed it to organise very effectively in 1989. It was able to attract hundreds of thousands to the Grand National Assembly in 1989, but only a few hundred to similar rallies in 1993. Its spiritual leader, the author Ion Druţă
Ion Druţă
Ion Druţă, generally spelled "Ion Drutse" in English, is a writer from Moldova.Druţă has been the honorary president of the Moldovan Writers' Union since 1987.-Works:* Povara bunătăţii noastre* Frunze de dor...

, became disillusioned and settled in Moscow. Snegur and other former reform Communists, once allied to the Front, moved to consolidate the new state and their position within it.

The president came out as a strong anti-unionist after Moldova's defeat in the June 1992 War of Transnistria
War of Transnistria
The War of Transnistria was a limited conflict that broke out in November 1990 at Dubăsari between pro-Transnistria forces, including the Transnistrian Republican Guard, militia and Cossack units, and supported by elements of the Russian 14th army, and pro-Moldovan forces, including Moldovan...

; to retain any hope of securing Transnistria, the idea of union with Romania had to be dropped, and so the Front moved into opposition and the anti-unionist Agrarian Democrats formed government. Druc and other members, convinced by 1991-1992 that the goal of union had been lost, settled in Romania. Pan-Romanians themselves split into the FPCD and the more moderate Congress of the Intelligentsia (formed April 1993), which also included former Frontists. By the time of the February 1994 election
Moldovan parliamentary election, 1994
An early parliamentary election took place in Moldova on February 27, 1994.- Background :Beginning with 1994, the Parliament functions on a permanent basis, with the quality of parliamentarian being incompatible with any other remunerated office, except for teaching and scientific activities...

, in which the FPCD took 7.5% of the vote, the Popular Front tendency had dissipated from the vanguard of Moldovan politics. Its legacy was further undermined three days later, when language testing for state employment, due to begin that April, was canceled; and the following month, when a referendum overwhelmingly affirmed Moldova's sovereignty. No Frontist has held a major ministerial portfolio since the Druc period; moderate pan-Romanists, though they came to eclipse the FPCD in the mid-1990s, had completely disappeared as an organised political force by the February 2001 election
Moldovan parliamentary election, 2001
Moldovan early parliamentary elections took place on February 25, 2001. Turnout was 67.52 percent.-Election outcome:The Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova won the election. Vladimir Voronin was elected president shortly thereafter by the newly elected parliament-Sources:*...

. Still, Roşca's PPCD, successor to the Front, continues to be represented by a small parliamentary contingent, and informal but powerful cultural links ensure that the pan-Romanist trend has retained some influence in Moldova.