Balkans: April 12, 2000

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The former Soviet republic of Moldova is composed primarily of the province of Bessarabia (which is ethnically Romanian) along with the predominantly Russian Dnester region and the predominantly Gaugaz region in the southwest. It is common in the west to assume that Moldova and Bessarabia are the same thing, which is an oversimplification. Bessarabia had been part of Romania for centuries when the Russians grabbed it in 1812 as part of a Napoleonic reshuffle of borders. Russia lost it in 1918, gained it back in 1940, lost it in 1941, regained it in 1944, and finally lost it during the collapse of 1991. Romania makes no secret that it wants Moldova to rejoin it, and most Bessarabians feel the same. Indeed, about 10% of the Bessarabians have, in the last 3 years, been granted Romanian citizenship! Russia does not want Moldova to rejoin Romania because it does not want the former Soviet borders to be eroded by encroaching "western" nations. US opposition to Romanian membership in NATO may have this point in mind. The EU has given Romania candidate member status, but is reluctant to give an outright signal that Romania should have at least Bessarabia and perhaps all of Moldova. And the Romanians want to keep their efforts quiet and low-key since Romania holds the predominantly-Hungarian province of Transylvania, and does not want to gain Bessarabia at the expense of Transylvania. The Hungarians are demanding that Romania give it more access to the ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania as a price of NATO membership. --Stephen V Cole


 

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