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Last Updated: Monday, 24 December 2007, 10:38 GMT
Moldovans in Christmas tree row
Christmas tree in the Moldovan capital
The Christmas tree issue has turned into a political dispute
A Christmas tree is at the centre of a row between Moldova's pro-Russian president and the pro-Romanian mayor of the capital Chisinau.

The national authorities prevented Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca from erecting a Christmas tree in the main square in time for 25 December.

Moldova celebrates Christmas officially on 7 January, in line with the Orthodox Christian tradition in Russia.

But Christmas is celebrated on 25 December in neighbouring Romania.

The row comes at a time of heightened tensions between Moldova and Romania.

Mr Chirtoaca, at 29 the youngest mayor of a European capital, will unveil a Christmas tree on Monday near the city hall.

Earlier this month he placed a tree in the main square, but police removed it after just a few hours, invoking the official timetable.

East or West?

The Moldovan Orthodox Church is still part of the Russian Orthodox Church and adheres to the Russian calendar. Moldova was formerly part of the Soviet Union.

Chisinau Mayor, Dorin Chirtoaca, leads a protest against the central authorities
The Mayor of Chisinau, Dorin Chirtoaca, is staunchly pro-Western

But the pro-Romanian and pro-EU opposition wants Christmas to be marked on 25 December.

President Vladimir Voronin is locked in a bitter dispute with Romania over its perceived refusal to acknowledge a distinct "Moldovan" identity and language.

Mr Voronin has said he will complain to the European Union over Romania's attitude.

He also threatened to ban the Bessarabian Church, part of the Romanian Orthodox Church, after the Patriarchate in Bucharest announced its intention of creating three new parishes in Moldova.

The row over the Chisinau Christmas tree underscores the clash between pro-Western and pro-Russian tendencies in Moldova.

The breakaway region of Trans-Dniester is still officially part of Moldova, but its mainly Russian-speaking population voted in 2006 in favour of joining Russia.

SEE ALSO
Country profile: Moldova
01 Aug 07 |  Country profiles
Regions and territories: Trans-Dniester
18 Dec 07 |  Country profiles

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