Romania Naturalizes Far More Moldavians Than Bulgaria - Macedonians

Politics » DIPLOMACY | April 24, 2012, Tuesday // 18:37
Bulgaria: Romania Naturalizes Far More Moldavians Than Bulgaria - Macedonians Bulgaria, Macedonia, Moldova, and Romania among the other Balkan states. Map from wikitravel.org

Romania has far surpassed Bulgaria in the number of people that it naturalizes from the respective country that is its historically and ethnically closest neighbor.

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 Foundation.

A total of 226 507 Moldovan residents were issued Romanian passports in the period between 1991 and 2011, the survey authors calculated in an article published Tuesday.

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, of those some 2.6 millions are ethnic Moldavians.

In comparison, Bulgaria has granted citizenship to only 42 372 Macedonians in the past 20 years (1991-2011); the overwhelming majority of those - 35 808 Macedonians - got Bulgarian citizenship after 2002. Macedonia has a population of 2 million but of those, the Slavic Macedonians who are eligible of claiming Bulgarian citizenship on the basis of Bulgarian origin under Bulgarian law are about 1.3 million.

Both youngest EU member states Bulgaria and Romania have made it clear that they are using naturalization as a means of integrating closer with the population of neighboring states that once were considered part of their respective nations.

The frontrunner of the Bulgarian initiative to naturalize Slavic Macedonians was the former Minister for Bulgarians Abroad, Bozhidar Dimitrov, who later resigned, but a record number of citizenship applications were approved in 2010 under his leadership – nearly 15 000 compared to 9 000 in 2009 and 7 113 in 2008 with the trend continuing in 2011 and 2012.

Bulgaria grants citizenship to anybody who can claim Bulgarian origin, with Bulgarian origin being assumed for the Slavic Macedonians since Macedonia was considered an inalienable part of the Bulgarian nation until communist Yugoslavia invented a Macedonian nation in 1943-44.

Romania's policy of naturalizing Moldavians who see themselves as ethnic Romanians has been similar to Bulgaria's policy with respect to the Slavic Macedonians but apparently has become greater in scope.

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, RIA Novosti points out.

The Russian news agency notes that 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 Russian news agency RIA Novosti publishes a brief historical account, noting that 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.

Thus, between 1918 and 1945, today's Moldova was part of "Greater Romania", which emerged as a victor from World War I, to lose Moldova only after World War II. In comparison, Bulgaria failed unsuccessfully to achieve its unification with its population in most of the historical and geographic region of Macedonia, which was part of Bulgaria only during the wartime periods – 1915-1918, and 1941-1944.

In both cases, it remains unclear how many of the "new" Bulgarians and Romanians from Macedonia and Moldova sought the respective citizenship out of national consciousness, or as a rational choice since after their EU accession in 2007, the citizenship granted by Bulgaria and Romania allow their citizens to travel and work in the EU.

Interestingly, Bulgaria has also naturalized a large number of citizens of Moldova but those come from the historic ethnic Bulgarian community there which numbers between 65 000 and 200 000 people, according to various estimates; it is descended from Bulgarians from Bulgaria proper who fled the atrocities in the Ottoman Turkish Empire in the 19th, and settled in the Bessarabia region of the then Russian Empire. Thus, between 2002 and 2011, Bulgaria granted citizenship to almost 19 000 ethnic Bulgarians from Moldova.

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Tags: Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, communist Yugoslavia, Ottoman Turkey, Ottoman Empire, Russian Empire, Bessarabia, World War II, World War I, Bulgarian passport, EU accession, EU, Romanian President, Traian Basescu, Bozhidar Dimitrov, Bulgarian citizenship, FYROM, Macedonians, Bulgarians, macedonia, Moldavians, moldova, Romania, Bulgarians abroad, naturalization
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