Moldova Celebrates 18th Anniversary of Independence
On 27 august, the Republic of Moldova celebrates the 18th anniversary of its independence today.
Moldova's Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in Chişinău on 27 August 1991 (see DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE). It reaffirmed the right of the people of Moldova to enjoy full self-determination, as defined by the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and the norms of international law. Its tenor was expressed in the powerful statement that "the Republic of Moldova is a sovereign, independent, and democratic state, free to decide its present and future, without any external interference, in keeping with the sacred ideals and aspirations of its people within the historical and ethnic area of its own national making."
On 23 June 1990, while Moldova was still nominally a part of the Soviet Union, Moldova proclaimed its sovereignty in a declaration adopted by the Chişinău legislative body. Historically, Moldova enjoyed various degrees of sovereignty, beginning with its early foundation as a principality, a unilateral act of independence vis-à-vis the Hungarian Crown, the vassalage of which was rejected by Bogdan I. Before the advent of Ottoman suzerainty—first established in 1456 under Petru Aron and soon rejected by his successor, Stephen the Great, and, intermittently, by other princes—Moldova's status as a European principality was governed by the medieval principle of nexus feudalis, a bond of allegiance ensuring the alliance between the voivode, otherwise domn or domnitor, on the one hand, and a higher protector on the other, with the latter acting as a personal warrant of the right of the lesser prince to govern as a sovereign over his own territory, to mint money, to run foreign commerce independently, and to assist his protector with armies in wartime. An example of that type of allegiance was sought by Stephen the Great from Poland's King Casimir IV in 1485 and by several of his successors.
Turkish suzerainty was of a different kind. It entailed the principality's obligation to pay an annual tribute in gold and a strict monopoly over its trade, Moldova having to sell its crops and livestock to only the Ottoman Empire at marginal and noncompetitive prices. However, Moldova enjoyed some degree of incomplete sovereignty under Turkish rule, in that it was never annexed and integrated as a pashalik, or province, into the Ottoman Empire, as were, for instance, Bulgaria, Serbia, and, for a shorter time, Hungary.
While Moldova's external sovereignty was in practice lost, internal sovereignty was by and large ensured by virtue of the fact that the Ottoman Empire had no internal jurisdiction over Moldova, and Turkish subjects had no right to own property, open mosques, or interfere in the country's customs, language, worship services, and traditions in the administration of the land. After 1711 and throughout the Phanariote era, Moldova's sovereignty became increasingly nominal, with its princes having less and less power to act independently.
It was under the terms of that status that, abusing its rights, the Ottoman Empire ceded the northern lands of the Principality of Moldova, or Bucovina, to the Habsburg Empire in 1775. In a similar way, the eastern half of Moldova was surrendered by the Turks to the Russian Empire in 1812. The 1812 partition of Moldova created an entirely new status for its eastern lands, renamed Bessarabia and turned into a province of Russia. The czar of Russia became the sovereign of the land, exerting full jurisdiction over Bessarabia through his governors. Russia's last governor of Bessarabia was Mikhail M. Voronovich, who fled Chişinău in 1917. A return to partial sovereignty was proclaimed in Chişinău on 2 December 1917, when the province's general assembly, Sfatul Ţării, voted for an end to Bessarabia's status as a province of Russia and the establishment of the Moldavian Democratic Federated Republic, a constituent of the ephemeral Federation of Russian Republics, proclaimed in the wake of the downfall of the czar.
As early as 15 November 1917, Russia's new Bolshevik leadership adopted “The Declaration of Rights of the Peoples," which included their right to separate themselves from Russia. Amid the increasing anarchy triggered by the Bolshevik Revolution, Moldova took advantage of that provision and claimed full sovereignty on 24 January 1918, renouncing all ties with the successor state of the Russian Empire. On 27 March 1918, in the wake of attempts of a Communist takeover in Chişinău and threats of absorption by Ukraine, Sfatul Ţării gave up most of the country's recently proclaimed sovereignty, voting for a conditioned union with neighboring Romania. Conditions included the preservation of a certain degree of autonomy and the right to maintain a regional diet in Chişinău.
Moldova's sovereignty was entirely devolved to Romania on 27 November 1918, when Sfatul Ţării voted for Bessarabia's unconditioned union with the kingdom of Romania, the successor state to the United Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia and a subject of international law as a sovereign state since 1878. Upon its 1940 incorporation into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)—when Bessarabia was renamed the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR)—all legal and coercive powers were devolved to the Soviet state, which in its own capacity as a subject of international law, exercised from Moscow full sovereignty and jurisdiction over the land until Moldova's 1990-1991 declarations of sovereignty and independence.Source: Historical Dictionary of Moldova, 2nd edition, 2007 (Authors: Andrei Brezianu and Vlad Spanu)