Vasile Nedelciuc is a well-known businessman, who launched Endava, one of the most successful IT companies in the region, the first Moldovan company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Above all, however, Vasile Nedelciuc was among the founders of the Soviet liberation movement in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1991 legislature, he was among the first opposition deputies and Head of Parliamentary Committee for External Relations, as well as initiator and co-author of the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova, a document that was developed, written and proofread in just a few days at the end of August 1991. We interviewed Vasile Nedelciuc for a few hours. It was rather a monologue, a story full of memories about how this state was born, how its identity determined its subsequent trajectory.
End Of The 1980s- The Beginning Of The ’90s. The First Political Opposition Comes To The Legislative
In February 1990, parliamentary elections took place, in which for the first time there was an opposition to the representatives of the Communist Party. There were elections in the true sense of the word, as until then it was just voting. The Popular Front, which had been legally registered in October ’89, came up with lists of candidates on a large number of the voting constituencies. There were 380 seats in the Parliament then. The Communist Party dominated society, power structures, and the economy. There was only one owner – the state and the Communist Party.
We didn’t even take a third of the votes, just over 25 percent, maybe. Unfortunately, it was impossible with so few mandates to accomplish many things, especially the demolition of the system, not to mention the unification with Romania. Unfortunately, these were impossible things to do then.
August 1991. The Soviet Union Was Falling. What About Moldova?
Nobody believed that having a minority in Parliament we could proclaim our independence. However, it was not possible not to declare it, for all the republics, even the Ukrainians and the Belarusians, and those in Central Asia declared their independence. Despite this, it was still a big risk since we didn’t have the majority.
As Head of the Parliamentary Committee for External Relations, I remember that I went to Moșanu’s office (President of Parliament in the 1990-1993 legislature, ed. note) as soon as we decided to convene the Great National Assembly, and told him: “Mr. Moşanu, do you realize that this Declaration of Independence must be recognized by Romania? What do we do with the south and north of Basarabia?”
It was a time of extraordinary significance. Could we declare the Union with Romania? Bucharest was not ready. No signal, no message came from Bucharest in this sense. I had been to Bucharest before that, in December 1990, and had discussions with President Iliescu, with Petre Roman and Adrian Năstase. I know we deviate a little, but I have to tell you that too.
So, I went to Moșanu and said to him: “What shall we do? Will the majority vote our Declaration of Independence, if we draft it the way we like it? They, like wolves, are just waiting to tear us apart. Secondly, do we have competences in international law? What if tomorrow our Declaration will hinder Romania in its dialogue with Ukraine, Moscow or at international scale?”
Today, all political parties pay external experts and consult them to win in elections. When we declared our Independence, we lacked people with expertise. Moreover, we had no information about the position of other countries; it was mere craziness to start on our own. So, I suggested, “Mr. Moșanu, we have to call experts from Bucharest.”
Prior to this, the Conference on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its Consequences for Basarabia had taken place. Several people from Bucharest attended the conference, and among them was Aurel Preda, head of the Legal and Treaties Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania. I called him and said: “We are preparing the text of the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova. Please contact the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the President of Romania and do your best to send a team of experts to help us to write the text of the Declaration of Independence.” (this was already on the morning of August 22, I think). After a while, Mr. Adrian Năstase called Moșanu and said that we shall have experts.
August 24-27, 1991. Writing The Declaration Of Independence
On August 24, maybe 25, in the evening, three experts arrived from Bucharest. They were Aurel Preda, Head of the Legal and Treaties Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Valentin Stan, adviser to Ambassador Marcel Dinu, and Alexandru Farcaș, representative of the International Law Association in Bucharest, a think tank in the field of international relations. Valeriu Matei and I had already started working on the text of the Declaration.
The situation was as follows: we knew that we did not have a majority in the Presidium of the Parliament to accept a text written by us. We also knew there would be even a stronger opposition in Parliament. I came to that meeting with Aurel Preda and the expert team, bringing resolutions of the Great National Assemblies, I had the text of the 1918Union and I knew what we wanted. We wanted to tell the world who we are, because in the twentieth century you cannot go into the world without a distinct identity and without history, otherwise, from the beginning, you will be treated like a second rate state, and other partners will not treat you equally and you will always feel insecure and humiliated.
Of course, the Union was the best solution for us then. But Bucharest was isolated internationally and did not have strategic partners in the West. In addition, the miners’ rampages were going on in Bucharest at the time. The United States did not support the issue either; they did not fully recognize even the Union of 1918. We could not rely on Europe’s support: neither Germany nor France were on our side or that of Romania, no one even discussed it in the West. Under such conditions, we could not achieve our goal. Unfortunately, such major changes aren’t done like that.
Finally, we worked on this text for almost two days and on the evening of August 26, we came to the sitting of the Presidium of the Parliament to present the text of the Declaration of Independence. To our big surprise, when the text of the Declaration was distributed to the members of the Presidium, they began reading it. They were sitting at a long table in a rectangular, with Moșanu at the head of the table. Our hearts were pounding, Moșanu’s, Matei’s and mine. At one point, the historian Ion Țurcanu, then secretary of the Parliament, said in a mocking and angry way: “Well, what text is it? Is it a Declaration of Union or a Declaration of Independence?”
He made several critical remarks, one of them, for example, that there was nothing about Transnistria in the text, which was a mistake of ours; we had overlooked it, although we discussed this aspect between us. It’s a good thing he noticed that, as then I introduced a separate paragraph on Transnistria.
After Ion Țurcanu spoke, a complete silence fell that seemed to have lasted a century. I didn’t know how to get out of the mess.
I was thinking what we were going to do the next day, when the Great National Assembly was convened, and foreign journalists had already come, we would be in the focus of the international press and Romania would be looking at us.
I remember Matei and I got up and explained that the text of the Declaration included historical circumstances of this part of the country, the previous resolutions and declarations of the Parliament. In other words, we were not saying absolutely new things, those were truths that had been talked about a lot until then, we just summarized them and presented them in a more concise form.
I remember being surprised then by the fact that, right in front of me, Petru Soltan was sitting, scared and with his head down.
N. Brânzan seemed to have frozen, and kept silent. To my right I.Vatamanu was sitting, scared, and he also kept silent; Mihai Patraș, too. Well, I was wondering, why they were silent, why they did not say anything. Then I thought, Petru Soltan is from Transnistria, and he, maybe, thought: we have lost Transnistria, my family stays out. Maybe I.Vatamanu and M. Patraș, both from Bucovina, shared the same thoughts and worries.
After the lawyers A. Arseni and M. Cotorobai had expressed themselves, Moșanu took a deep breath and said: “Your comments are relevant, let’s keep working on the text. Mr. Matei and Mr. Nedelciuc, take into account the remarks, and let us meet tomorrow morning, at 7.00.”
We left the meeting room confused and together with our colleagues from Bucharest we resumed our work. First, we added the paragraph related to Transnistria. After that, however, we didn’t know what to edit. We couldn’t cut out the part which said what happened in 1775, when the Austrians took Bukovina, the north of Moldova. It was impossible not to mention 1812, when the Russians lacerated half of Moldova, everything started then. We could not omit the 1918 episode, when first it was the Democratic Republic of Moldova, then the Union was declared. We could not agree to the fact that Bolsheviks in Russia overtook power by bandit attack and killed the tsar and that was considered OK, while Sfatul Țării, however, would not have had the right to declare the Union because, apparently, it was not democratically elected.
So, we only inserted the paragraph on Transnistria and made a few more edits; otherwise, we left the text as it was conceived and we said: we can’t do anything else. If we have to declare ourselves as a new state, in fact – the second Romanian state, the international community should recognize us on the base of the historical argument presented in the text. We were accused that the text of the Declaration of Independence is too politicized, but our answer was that our life and history were politicized too, and it wasn’t our doing, it was done by those who slaughtered our national territory.
By the way, neither Mircea Snegur nor representatives from the Presidency participated in the writing of the text. It is true that, on August 27, probably around one o’clock in the morning, Mr. Țâu (Nicolae Țâu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1990-1993,ed. note) and one more person visited us. Țâu was dressed in a sports outfit, he had probably run through the park, and he came in to see what we were doing, we exchanged a few words and then he left. But he did not see the text. The same night, we sent the text to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs by fax. Fax already existed. So, we sent this text to Bucharest and we requested them to send us comments, if any. We didn’t get anything from them until morning. We therefore understood that we can have the support of Bucharest in our endeavor.
Morning Of August 27, 1991. Citizens Welcomed The Declaration Of Independence In The Great National Assembly Square
In the morning, the members of the Presidium gathered again, while the Square was still empty. Moșanu does not hurry to convene the meeting of the Presidium; he was afraid that the members of the Presidium would not accept the text of the Declaration and was anxious whether the people would gather in the Square. The organizers of the Great National Assembly had given instructions for the people to come to Chișinău as early as possible, to have a memorable, festive event.
We were informed that delegates were coming from all directions, from Bălți, Strășeni and they were coming down from the Telecentru but did not yet reach the center of Chișinău. Moșanu kept saying: “Tell our colleagues to have another cigarette, to have some tea or coffee …”
Well, we delayed as long as we could. I think it was already around eight o’clock, when someone from the guard came: “Mr Moșanu, there is an ocean of peopl near the Institute of Medicine, and a lot of people are at the crossroads with Mateevici Street, all with placards, with songs…” And then Moșanu said: “Let them in,” and the members of the Presidium entered. While they were sitting down, we distributed the text of the Declaration of Independence. Again, everyone read it, there was dead silence, no one said a word. Moșanu invoked there was no air in the room and asked to open the windows. The square began to be heard, an unforgettable atmosphere, during which each of those around the table got up to see what was happening there … Then all the members of the Presidium understood that people in the Square were already waiting for the Declaration of Independence to be read. There was no time for another text of the Declaration and Moșanu said: “Well, dear colleagues, I see that your remarks have been taken into account, right? Do we accept the text?” And because no one said no, he continued: “Do we consider it accepted? Who is for?”
They all raised their hands slowly and voted for it. Only then we felt great relief. Immediately after that, Moșanu said: “Now let’s all go to the Great National Assembly Square.”
The Great National Assembly began, which mandated those present to vote the Declaration of Independence. It was a historic event, great and beautiful…
The sitting of the Parliament was held in the afternoon.
The Afternoon Of August 27, 1991. The Deputies Voted The Declaration Of
We talked to the people and we gave the floor to minorities, to persons from foreign delegations and from the Romanian Parliament. After that, at some point, I think it was about 12.30, probably, after the main part of the National Assembly was finished, the deputies were invited to the meeting room. Then, the text of the Declaration of Independence, approved by the Presidium, was distributed in the hall.
Mr. Snegur spoke first in the Parliament, then Moșanu gave a longer and more detailed speech, then a few more spoke about the voting procedure. Then the Declaration was put to vote. Not everyone voted, there were some deputies who left the room, some were absent for various reasons.
The majority of agrarians and communists voted under the impetus of what they saw in the Great National Assembly Square. Especially since they knew that Ukraine had voted for independence the night before. And, frankly speaking, everything that can be found in the text of the Declaration of Independence had been discussed countless times in Parliament, in the context of previous debates on Transnistria, relations with Russian Federation etc.
August 27, 1991. The Champagne And The Historic picture
Now something about me. I want to tell it to you, no matter if you publish it or not. When the voting of the Declaration of Independence was over, the deputies were invited to the seventh floor to have a glass of champagne. They all went down from the eighth to the seventh floor and they served a glass of champagne there.
I was not there and I’ll explain why. I was Head of the Committee for Foreign Relations, and Mihai Carp, the son of Mircea Carp, the famous commentator from Free Europe and from the Voice of America, participated in the sitting of the Parliament. Mihai Carp had a degree in Diplomatic Studies taken in the United States. So, I asked him to translate the most important messages from the Declaration of Independence so that we could give them to foreign journalists.
Therefore, I missed the champagne as I was with Mihai Carp. After that, they all went downstairs, to take a historic picture. Well, Mircea Snegur was the first in the front line, Moșanu – a little more in the shadows. I was not there at all because I was working on translating the Declaration of Independence into English, that’s why I am not in that photo. The deputies then put their signatures on the flag of Moldova, but my signature is not there either …
I told you how the Declaration of Independence was voted then and I revealed some details that I have not made public until now. I understand that some colleagues in the First Parliament may not be happy that I did this, but many years have passed since then, and things must be said exactly as they were.
1991-2020: The After Voting Feeling
I wasn’t naive, I had more experience, I had worked in a scientific institute, I had taught at university, I had already been to the Council of Europe, together with the Romanian Delegation, and I had seen what the people expected from us. I realized that we had proclaimed our independence, yet there were not a million persons in the National Assembly Square that day, as they said. Let’s be realistic, the number of people who were in the Great National Assembly Square did not represent the majority of the population of the republic. The villages were still asleep and even now, almost 30 years later, after so many mothers have been working for years in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Israel, Greece, so many children have studied in Romania and other countries abroad and yet, when the elections come, we still choose people like Dodon.
Our trouble was that until 1990, we did not have real elections. We had to select and promote in Parliament not only people who could speak nicely, but also people with degrees, honest and good experts in various fields. The Popular Front and the Democratic Movement failed to attract the industrial and economic elite: chief engineers, management representatives from factories, the heads of sections from the largest industrial units, those who represented the working class, and above all, who had hundreds and thousands of voters under their control. However, because the discourse of the Popular Front turned too radical, they did not like it; they did not dare or perhaps feared to join the movement.
1991 – 2020. Independence Of The Ussr And Russia
After the proclamation of Independence, we could see the great imminent drama with Transnistria, with the radicals from Gagauzia. Snarling Russia began discrediting campaigns against the new leaders, using the media that was almost completely controlled by them.
I’ll give you just one example. I have many examples of which nobody knows. In February1991, maybe the beginning of March, a cousin of mine, a Soviet major general, came home on vacation. There were discussions here about forming a National Army, and I asked Mircea Druc (Prime Minister, 1990-1991, ed. note) to receive him. I thought, perhaps, being a senior military, he could help with implementing the changes here. Minister Costaș also participated in that discussion. Over the years, this cousin of mine sent me an email (I have that email) telling me that on his return to Novosibirsk (he was deputy commander of the Siberian military district), his chiefs called him and gave him the word-for-word transcription of everything that was said in Druc’s office, and the translation of the text was authorized by General Dabija. So, KGB then recorded all the talks and discussions in the government in Chișinău. You can figure out under what conditions we worked then.
The Declaration of Independence meant separation from Moscow, not from Romania. Russia was forced to acknowledge it. For the first time in history, they had to admit that we are not theirs, because they had never recognized the annexation of Basarabia to Romania, not even the Independence of the Moldovan Democratic Republic in 1917.
There have always been interests in history. The Russians think that if they are not masters, they should at least control the area. Russia always claimed that they needed a security belt around them and that on behalf of others! Note, the cannon fodder and food for the army, as well as the battlefield where houses, roads, and bridges are destroyed, are not on the territory of Russia first, but on the territory of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Baltic countries. Thus, if you control these territories, you can use them whenever needed.
2001-2020. Leaving Politics
Being in politics, I often wondered how many years I could go doing it, and what’s left of me as a specialist in the field I qualified for? And if I had not quitted politics, wouldn’t I end up looking for a Plahotniuc to feed me?
Luckily, when I left the PFD that V.Matei had donated to some people from outside the party, I met an Englishman with whom we started a business that changed my life. This company is unique in the area between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea in central Europe, which began here, developed and expanded in Romania, after which, merging with a London company, it became multinational, being listed on the New York Stock Exchange with the Romanian name Endava. We have raised thousands of people who honor this country. The company, to the foundation of which I brought my contribution, brought into this country hundreds of millions of dollars.
2020. The Independent State From Which People Are Leaving
It is impossible to stop emigration entirely for as long as this country has not changed. In Romania, for example, after it became a member of the EU, it became difficult to find colleagues in Cluj or Bucharest, whom we could delegate to work temporarily with our clients in America, Germany, or the United Kingdom. They used to fight to leave, but when the country began to develop, this desire dropped significantly. Roads, good hospitals, and alternative health insurance, loans obtained more easily and in better conditions, taxis and other cheaper and higher quality services – all this has made a difference.
Many of the young people who work in such companies often travel abroad, they stay there for a month or two, and others take their children and stay there for a year or two, then come back. They see the living conditions there, the services, the education abroad. When they get back home, they see a different picture. Those who won a medal at the Olympics are on TV every day and a minister or even the Prime Minister meets them at the airport and gives them an apartment, and those who get a gold medal in math or physics are just ignored.
Meritocracy, intellectual work is not valued here … The cunning and the swindlers are valued instead. Therefore, a young man with a high qualification is hunted and lured to Tokyo, Toronto, Berlin, or New York.
Do you want to keep people in the country? Change the country!
2020 – The Future. How Should It Be?
I would like to see the villages wake up and the grandmothers and the mothers, our cousins and our childhood colleagues and their children, those who are still in the country, still live in the villages or towns to want to choose finally the one who is better, cleverer, the more educated. In our country, however, a dog-eat-dog atmosphere persists, where envy and counterfeiting still dominate… It seems to me that 90 percent of outdated mentalities in villages have not changed. Therefore, you have to, at some point, begin to enlighten the people, help the villages to begin to change. We need at least 2-3 Parliaments in a row to continue to promote the same authentic European democratic path, after that, well equipped, we can make the great change that the West wants to support! A new elite needs to grow, which, being well endowed, can and will be able to discuss with Western and neighboring states what is the best solution for our existence. Europe wants stability and security in the region. It may have a solution that can be very convenient for the main players in the region.
If the current situation continues, that is, if we maintain governments like the ones we have had so far, if we maintain a fragmented political class, we will not have stability, because Russia is not interested in having stability here. Therefore, there will be no peace here and no massive foreign investment and we will not be admitted to the EU. There will be a former metropolis instead, free to control our territory and our minds.