1989 language laws in Moldova

The language laws introduced in Moldova in 1989 are frequently mentioned in publications dealing with inter-ethnic relations or language issues in the country or with language policies in the post-Soviet space more in general (a short reference list is included at the end of the post).

Understandably, none of them presents in detail each of these laws. However, for my own research, I decided to go through some of them.1

Below, you’ll find a short summary of the main provisions of individual language-related laws approved in 1989-1990, or later amendments and clarifications. Translations are my own and brevity comes necessarily at the expense of details, so I included links to the original texts for further inspection.

Of particular interest might be the choice of introducing language proficiency tests for anybody working in contact with the public (Law 3465, art. 7). After some years of debate, the provision was finally repealed (Decision 324, 1995).

LEGE Nr. 3462 din 31.08.1989 cu privirea la revenirea limbii moldoveneşti la grafia latină [On the reintroduction of the Latin script to the Moldovan language]

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]

  • Art. 1: Introduces Latin alphabet.
  • Art. 2: Lists letters of the alphabet.
  • Art. 3, abrogates the law of the Moldovan RSS dated 10 February 1941 that introduced Cyrillic (“Cu privire la trecerea scrisului moldovenesc de la alfabetul latin  la alfabetul rus”).

HOTĂRÎRE Nr. 3463 din 31.08.1989 despre modul de punere în aplicare a Legii RSS Moldoveneşti “Cu privire la revenirea limbii moldoveneşti la grafia latină” [On how to apply the law of the Moldovan SSR ‘On the reintroduction of the Latin script to the Moldovan language'”]

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]

Decision on how to apply law 3462.  Introduces the law in stages:

  • 1989-1993: switch to the Latin script in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the republic; technical preparation to the switch, publication of all relevant materials for education; introduction of the alphabet “on the visual information media” (apparently, according to article 29, law 3465, reference to ads and text in public spaces, signals, etc.).
  • 1994-1995: finalisation of the switch, including in the organs of power, judiciary, postal service, distribution of new identity cards.
  • Newspapers and magazines during the transition period can be edited using Slavic script, upon request of authors or subscribers.
  • Council of ministers of Moldovan SSR will introduce measure for the introduction in stages of the Latin script.

LEGE Nr. 3464 din 31.08.1989 cu privire la statutul limbii de stat a RSS Moldoveneşti – ку привире ла статутул лимбий де стат а РСС Молдовенешть [On the state language of the Moldovan SSR]2

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]

“With the aim of terminating the deformations that appeared in the linguistic construction in the Moldovan SSR, of taking under protection of the state the Moldovan language – one of the fundamental premises of the existence of the Moldovan nation in the framework of its sovereign nation-state formation – and of assuring its functioning in all the sphere in the territory of the Moldovan SSR…” ->

  • change of article 70 of the Constitution: now the language of the state is the Moldovan language, functioning on the basis of Latin script;
  • guarantees the development of the Gagauz language;
  • “Moldovan SSR guarantees on its territory the necessary conditions for the development and the using of the Russian language as language of communication among the nations of the USSR, as well as of other languages of the resident population of other nationalities”

LEGE Nr. 3465 din 01.09.1989 cu privire la funcţionarea limbilor vorbite pe teritoriul RSS Moldoveneşti [On the functioning of the languages spoken on the territory of the Moldovan SSR]

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]

  • In the introduction, reference to the “really existing Moldo-Romanian linguistic identity”
  • art. 3, Russian language is to be used along the state language, guaranteeing an effective national-Russian, and Russian-national bilingualism.
  • art. 7, knowledge requirements  of Moldovan, Russian, and Gagauz language for areas where Gagauz live, will be established for all those who work in jobs that include interaction with the public (from health to trade), no matter national belonging. Level of the relevant languages need to be sufficient to conduct the activity or business, , in order to leave to the citizen the opportunity to speak whatever language she wishes.3
  • art. 9, The state language will be progressively introduced in all state state organs. Documents will be translated into Russian.
  • art. 18, On education. Guarantees right to education at all levels in Moldovan and Russian, “and creates the conditions necessary for the realization of the right of citizens of other nationality who live in the republic to have education in their mother tongue (Gagauz, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Jewish, Yiddish, etc.).
  • art. 19, schools are generally monolingual, unless there are too few pupils locally.
  • art. 21, Moldovan language studied as a subject in all schools.
  • art. 29, public announcements are to written in the state language, and when necessary also in Russian or in other locally used language. Information, for example on good and alimentary products, is to be presented both in state language and Russian; writing in state language cannot be smaller than writing in other languages.
  • art. 32, a special commission should verify that this law is respected.

HOTĂRÎRE Nr. 3466 din 01.09.1989 despre modul de punere în aplicare a Legii RSS Moldoveneşti “Cu privire la funcţionarea limbilor vorbite pe teritoriul RSS Moldoveneşti” [On the application of the law ‘On the functioning of the languages spoken on the territory of the Moldovan SSR'”]

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]
Clarifies that Law Nr. 3465 will be introduced in stages, and establishes deadlines for specific provisions.

There is an exception for the territories of Transnistria (described with list of relevant districts), where many of the provisions of the law are to be introduced only in 1995. If need be, the supreme soviet can extend the deadline further.

HOTĂRÎRE Nr. 3467 din 01.09.1989 ку привире ла проектул Програмулуй комплекс де стат пентру асигураря функционэрий лимбилор ворбите пе териториул РСС Молдовенешть

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]
Confirms previous legislation, but it’s officially archived in Moldovan with Cyrillic script.


Language laws introduced in the early 1990s


HOTĂRÎRE Nr. 110 din 12.04.1990 Cu privire la aprobarea Modului de determinare a nivelului de cunoaștere a limbilor, necesare pentru exercitarea obligațiunilor de muncă și de funcție [On how to test the level of knowledge of the languages necessary to comply with job requirements]

[Varianta în limba de stat/not available in Russian]

Introduces language test to implement above mentioned language laws, establishing different level of language competence (from technical specific, to just oral) needed according to the occupation of each person. It makes clear that it is only required for those that need to speak or to deal with public, and that it does not apply to men older than 55 and women older than 50 do not need to take the test.

The tests test will be done gradually, starting with 1994. Heads of departments, associations, enterprises are responsible of making sure that law is respected.4

HOTĂRÎRE Nr. 805 din 28.12.1993 Despre organizarea şi desfăşurarea atestării cadrelor privind nivelul de cunoaştere a limbii de stat

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]
Regulates in more details the languges tests.

HOTĂRÎRE Nr. 36 din 01.04.1994 privind formarea comisiei parlamentare pentru studierea cauzelor care împiedică efectuarea atestării cadrelor sub aspectul cunoaşterii limbii de stat [On the establishment of a parliamentary committee for studying the reasons that prevent the testing of the knowledge of the state language]

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]
Establishes a parliamentary commission for studying the causes the make it impossible to proceed with the testing of language knowledge.

HOTĂRÎRE Nr. 151 din 17.06.1994 privind măsurile de asigurare a studierii limbii de stat de către anumite categorii de cetăţeni ai Republicii Moldova în scopul îndeplenirii obligaţiunilor de serviciu [“On the measures to ensure the learning of the state language among certain categories of citizens of the republic of Moldova to carry on their work obligations”]

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]
The above mentioned commission found that not all categories listed in the law can do the language testing, and lists the causes:

  • the social and political situation of the last four years has not been favourable to the study of the state language;
  • the deadlines established for studying the state language are not realistic;
  • the number of citizens that had to go through attestation has been arbitrarily increased;
  • the number of didactic cadres for teaching the state language, as well as their professional level, is not in line with the needs;
  • the programmes of the testing have not been coordinated with the materials studied at the courses, and proved to be very difficult;
  • Besides, they appeared too late, already very close to the tests;

The government will come back by 1 January 1995 with a proposal for dealing with the situation.

HOTĂRÎRE Nr. 324 din 19.05.1995 Privind aprobarea Nomenclatorului ocupaţiilor din Republica Moldova care intră sub incidenţa art. 7 din Legea cu privire la funcţionarea limbilor vorbite pe teritoriul Republicii Moldova şi a Modului de evaluare a gradului de cunoaştere a limbii de stat [“On the list of occupations that falls under the regulations of art. 7 of the law ‘On the functioning of the languages spoken on the territory of the Moldovan SSR’ and on how to evaluate the level of knowledge of the state language”]

[Varianta în limba de stat/Версия на русском]

Abrogates decision nr. 110, 12 April 1990 (above). Introduces new list of categories of people that need to have language competence requirements, limiting them to heads of departments, head of enterprises and associations, members of parliament, armed forces, etc.; further, it divides them into categories, according to the level of competence required.


Bruchis, Michael. 1984. “The Language Policy of the CPSU and the Linguistic Situation in Soviet Moldavia.” Soviet Studies 36 (1): 108–26. http://www.jstor.org/stable/151859.
Chinn, Jeffrey. 1994. “The Politics of Language in Moldova.” Demokratizatsiya 2 (2): 309–315. http://www2.gwu.edu/~ieresgwu/assets/docs/demokratizatsiya%20archive/02-2_Chinn.pdf.
Ciscel, Matthew H. 2008. “Uneasy Compromise: Language and Education in Moldova.” International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 11 (3–4): 373–95. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050802148756.
Ciscel, Matthew H. 2010. “Reform and Relapse in Bilingual Policy in Moldova.” Comparative Education 46 (1): 13–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/03050060903538590.
King, Charles. 1997. “Minorities Policy in the Post‐Soviet Republics: The Case of the Gagauzi.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 20 (4): 738–56. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.1997.9993987.
King, Charles. 1994. “Moldovan Identity and the Politics of Pan-Romanianism.” Slavic Review 53 (2): 345–68. https://doi.org/10.2307/2501297.
Pavlenko, Aneta. 2008. “Multilingualism in Post-Soviet Countries: Language Revival, Language Removal, and Sociolinguistic Theory.” International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 11 (3–4): 275–314. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050802271517.
Prina, Federica. 2015. “Linguistic Justice, Soviet Legacies and Post-Soviet Realpolitik : The Ethnolinguistic Cleavage in Moldova.” Ethnopolitics 14 (1): 52–71. https://doi.org/10.1080/17449057.2014.928097.
  1. A more comprehensive list is available at this address: http://interethnicmoldova.wordpress.com/legislation/ []
  2. Curiously, when I checked this law in January 2014, the official archive of legislation had this law in Latin script at this address – I have an archived copy of the page. As of September 2014, the law is available on the official archive website only in Cyrillic. []
  3. Notice that this provision introduces the principle that anyone working in contact with the public, be it a public administration worker, shopkeeper or taxi-driver, should be able to speak both Russian and Moldovan. In the situation of asymmetric bilingualism found at the time in Moldova – a vast majority of Moldovan-speakers were fluent in Russian, while most Russian speakers did not speak Moldovan – this provision could be perceived as thretening to Russian speakers. An additional measure taken in April 1990 (see Decision 110 below) introduces language testing for those who interact with the public in their professional capacity. []
  4. This law is eventually abrogated in June 1995 by HG324 din 19.05.1995, MO33, see below. []