100,000 Chant Nationalist Slogans, Call For Return of Moldavia
ALBA IULIA, Romania (AP) _ About 100,000 people gathered for the first post-Communist National Day on Saturday and President Ion Iliescu expressed hope for the return of Moldavia after 50 years under Soviet control.
″We are convinced that history will put things back to normal,″ said Iliescu, referring to a 1940 pact that gave the Soviets Moldavia.
The ceremony in Alba Iulia, about 220 miles northwest of Bucharest, was one of the largest official events since last year’s revolution that ousted longtime Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
The crowd chanted nationalist slogans and several speakers emphasized the need to unite Romania and its historical territories.
Although Iliescu refrained from openly calling on the Soviets to relinquish the Moldavian republic, others speakers were much more outspoken. One speaker accused the Soviets of ″fragmentation of the land of our forefathers.″
Surrounded by hundreds of paramilitary police armed with automatic rifles, demonstrators carried banners saying, ″We are with Transylvania and Bessarabia″ and ″Greater Romania.″
Transylvania joined Romania in 1918. Moldavia, formerly called Bassarasbia by Romanians, is seeking independence from the Soviet Union. More than 65 percent of the republic’s 4.3 million people speak a language identical to Romanian, except that it uses Cyrillic characters.
″This day is important for the national destiny ... but there is another thing which we should never forget ... the unification of Bessarabia with the country ... We have the duty of fulfilling the destiny of Great Romania,″ Iliescu told the crowd.
Under the Communists, Romania’s National Day was Aug. 23. The new leaders last year moved the holiday to Dec. 1.
In his speech, Iliescu also called for national reconciliation and for a total restructuring of political and economic life. He urged the crowd to abandon ″intolerance and extremism.″
″We need harmony and peace for the good of everybody,″ said Iliescu, once a high-ranking Communist under Ceausescu.
Iliescu, who has been accused by government opponents of harboring totalitarian beliefs, noted ″the failure of the communist utopia.″
There have been several recent demonstrations against Iliescu’s government because of hefty price increases decreed last month.