Micro-Compromise and Macro-Deadlock: ?The (im)balance of multilingualism in Moldova

Matthew H Ciscel

Central CT State Univ, United States of America

WS127: Multilingualism in post-Soviet countries

The Republic of Moldova offers considerable potential for extensive, balanced bilingualism in Romanian and Russian because of the relative demographic and functional balance of these two codes during the post-Soviet era there. However, the Soviet political and economic legacies also provide some barriers to the development of stable bilingualism in the country. This paper explores the relationship between top-down (macro-level) political and economic forces that generally promote linguistic imbalance and bottom-up (micro-level) trends that provide some hope for a bilingual compromise.

The macro-deadlock at the highest levels of Moldovan society is illustrated by an overview of key events and recent developments in the language policy positions of three powerful political entities in the country: the democratically-elected, ruling Party of Communists, the pro-Romanian Christian Democratic Party, and the ruling elites in the neo-Soviet break-away region of Transnistria. Each is shown to promote a language compromise that disregards critical factors, such as Soviet-era russification or linguistic minority rights, and results in political deadlock. In contrast, results from ethnographic interviews with young couples from Moldova’s capital tend to demonstrate a considerable degree of flexibility and openness to a bilingual compromise that reflects the de facto bilingualism in the country. Moreover, moves toward eventual integration into the political and economic structures of the European Union suggest the potential for more equitable and consistent treatment of language issues. In conclusion, it is argued that poor policy choices and elite posturing remain the greatest impediment to stable, balanced bilingualism on the ground in Moldova.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
Multilingualism in post-Soviet countries
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 17