Over 220,000 Moldovans have been granted Romanian citizenship in the two decades since the Soviet collapse, the Moldovanews online portal reported on Tuesday, quoting a survey by the Open Society Foundations.
A total of 226,507 Moldovan residents were issued Romanian passports in the period between 1991 and 2011, the survey authors calculated. The figure may increase by 60,000 to 80,000 in the near future, they said. Moldova has a population of about 3.5 million.
In line with Romanian laws, those who lived in the territory of today’s Republic of Moldova before 1940, as well as their descendants, are eligible to apply for Romanian citizenship while maintaining their original passports.
The Romanian government’s policy of granting passports to Moldovan nationals has been criticized by opponents of the two countries’ reunification. The movement began in both countries following the 1989 Romanian Revolution, and Romanian President Traian Basescu has been among its supporters. He said in 2010 the two countries may unite within the next 25 years.
Nicolae Timofti, the newly elected Moldovan president, said before his election last year the European orientation “has been the policy of Moldova in recent years and this is the policy that must continue.”
The territory of modern Moldova covers most of the historical region of Bessarabia, which was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1812. During the 1917 Russian Revolution, a newly formed Parliament declared Bessarabia's autonomy inside a Russian state. In 1918, after the Romanian army entered Bessarabia, the makeshift parliament declared its independence, but then promptly reviewed its position in favor of unification with Romania.
The union was recognized by Britain, France and Italy, but the Soviet government declared it illegal, claiming the area as the Bessarabian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1940, following the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic was established, which involved parts of Bessarabia and the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, an autonomous republic within the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.