In the Middle Ages, most of the present territory of Moldova was part of the Principality of Moldavia, and in 1812 it became part of the Russian Empire, under the name of Bessarabia. Between 1856 and 1878 the southern part belonged to Moldavia again, respectively to Romania. Upon the dissolution of the Russian Empire in 1917 an autonomous Moldavian Republic was formed in Bessarabia, but the region joined Romania in 1918. In 1940, Bessarabia was occupied by the Soviet Union, and after changing hands in 1941 and 1944 during World War II, it was split between the Ukrainian SSR and the newly-created Moldavian SSR. Moldova declared its independence from the USSR on August 27, 1991, and was admited in the UN in March 1992. In September 1990, the parliament of Transnistria unilaterally declared independence from Moldova. Neither Moldova's government nor any UN member, has recognized Transnistria's independence.
The country is a parliamentary democracy with a president as its head of state and a prime minister as its head of government. Moldova is a member state of the United Nations, WTO, OSCE, GUAM, CIS, BSEC and other international organizations. Moldova currently aspires to join the European Union and is implementing its first three-year Action Plan within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) of the EU.
In Antiquity Moldova's territory was inhabited by Dacian and Sarmatian communities. Due to its strategic location on a route between Asia and Europe, Moldova faced several invasions, including those by the Bastarns, Huns, Magyars, Kievan Rus' and the Mongols. Beginning with the Late Middle Ages, the territory of Republic of Moldova, that of the Chernivtsi oblast and Budjak of Ukraine, as well as that of the eastern 8 of the 41 counties of Romania comprised the Principality of Moldavia (which, like the present-day republic, was known to the locals as Moldova). In 1387 the principality became a tributary to the Kingdom of Poland, and during the 16th century to Ottoman Empire.
In 1812, according to the Treaty of Bucharest between the Ottoman and the Russian Empires, the former ceded the eastern half of the territory of the Principality of Moldavia, along Khotyn and old Bessarabia (modern Budjak). At first, the Russians used the name "Oblast' of Moldavia and Bessarabia", allowing a large degree of autonomy, but later (in 1828) suspended the self-administration and called it Guberniya of Bessarabia, or simply Bessarabia, starting a process of Russification. The western part of Moldavia (which is not a part of present-day Moldova) remained an autonomous principality, and in 1859, united with Wallachia to form the Kingdom of Romania. In 1856, the Treaty of Paris saw two out of nine counties of Bessarabia, Cahul and Ismail, returned to Moldavia, but in 1878, the Treaty of Berlin saw the Kingdom of Romania returning them to the Russian Empire.
Upon annexation, after the expulsion of the large Tatar population of Budjak, the Moldovan/Romanian population of Bessarabia was predominant. The colonization of the region in the 19th century, generated by the need to better exploit the resources of the land, lead to an increase in the Russian, Ukrainian, Lipovan, and Cossack populations in the region; this together with a large influx of Bulgarian immigrants, saw an increase of the Slavic population to more than a fifth of the total population by 1920. With the settling of other nationals such as Gagauz, Jews, and Germans (Bessarabian Germans), the proportion of the Moldovan population decreased from around 80% to 52% by some sources or to 70% by others during the course of the century. The Tsarist policy in Bessarabia was in part aimed at denationalization of the Romanian element by forbidding after the 1860s education and mass in Romanian. However, the effect was an extremely low literacy rate (in 1897 approx. 18% for males, approx. 4% for females) rather than a denationalization.
World War I brought in a rise in political and cultural (national) awareness of the locals, as 300,000 Bessarabians were drafted into the Russian Army formed in 1917, within bigger units several "Moldavian Soldiers' Committees" were formed. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, a Bessarabian parliament, Sfatul Ţării (October-November 1917), which was opened on December 3, 1917, proclaimed the Moldavian Democratic Republic (December 15, 1917) within a federal Russian state, and formed its government (December 21, 1917). Bessarabia proclaimed independence from Russia (February 6, 1918), and, on April 9, 1918, in presence of the Romanian army that entered the region in early January, Sfatul Ţării decided with 86 votes for, 3 against and 36 abstaining, to unite with the Kingdom of Romania, conditional upon the fulfilment of the agrarian reform, local autonomy, and respect for universal human rights. The conditions were dropped after Bukovina and Transylvania also joined the Kingdom of Romania.
After 1918 Bessarabia was under Romanian jurisdiction for the next 22 years. This fact was recognized in the Treaty of Paris (1920) which, however, has never came into force since it was not ratified by Japan. The newly-communist Russia did not recognize the Romanian rule over Bessarabia, a stand that was tacitly accepted by many other countries such as the United States. Furthermore, Russia and later, the Soviet Union, considered the region to be Soviet territory under foreign occupation and conducted numerous diplomatic attempts to reclaim it. No diplomatic relations existed between the two states until 1934. Nonetheless, both countries have subscribed to the principle of non-violent resolution of territorial disputes in the Kellogg-Briand Treaty of 1928 and the Treaty of London of July 1933. Meanwhile, the neighboring region of Transnistria, part of the Ukrainian SSR at the time, was formed into the Moldavian ASSR after the failure of the Tatarbunary Uprising in 1924.
The agrarian (land) reform, implemented by Sfatul Ţării in 1918-1919, resulted in a rise of a middle class, as 87% of the region's population lived in rural areas. Together with peace and favorable economic circumstances, this reform resulted in a small economic boom. However, urban development and industry were insignificant, and the region remained primarily an agrarian rural region throughout the interwar period. Certain improvements were achieved in the area of education, the literacy rate rising from 15.6% in 1897 to 37% by 1930, however Bessarabia continued to lag behind the rest of the country, the national literacy rate being at 60%. During the inter-war period, Romanian authorities also conducted a program of Romanianization that sought to assimilate ethnic minorities throughout the country. The enforcement of this policy was especially pervasive in Bessarabia due to its highly diverse population, and resulted in the closure of minority educational and cultural institutions.
By participating in the 1941 Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, Romania seized the territory of the MSSR, and re-established its administration there. In occupied Transnistria, Romanian forces, working with the Germans, deported or exterminated 300,000 Jews, including 147,000 from Bessarabia and Bukovina. The Soviet Army reconquered and re-annexed the area in February-August 1944.
Under early Soviet rule, deportations of locals to the northern Urals, Siberia, and Kazakhstan occurred regularly throughout the Stalinist period, with the largest ones on 12–13 June 1941, and 5-6 July 1949, accounting for 19,000 and 35,000 deportees respectively. According to Russian historians, in 1940-1941, ca. 90,000 inhabitants of the annexed territories were subject to political persecutions. In 1946, as a result of a severe drought and excessive delivery quota obligations and requisitions imposed by the Soviet government, the southwestern part of the USSR suffered from widespread famine resulting in 216,000 deaths and about 350,000 cases of dystrophy in the Moldavian SSR alone. Similar events occurred in 1930s in the Moldavian ASSR. In 1944-53, there were numerous anti-Communist armed resistance groups active in Moldova; however the NKVD and later MGB managed to uproot most of them with arrests and deportation.
The postwar period saw a wide scale migration of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians into the new Soviet republic, especially into urbanized areas, partly to compensate the demographic loss caused by the emigration of Germans in 1940. The Soviet government conducted a campaign to promote a Moldovan ethnic identity, different from that of the Romanians, based on a theory developed during the existence of the Moldavian ASSR. Official Soviet policy asserted that the language spoken by Moldovans was distinct from the Romanian language (see History of the Moldovan language). Moldovan was written in the Cyrillic alphabet, in contrast with Romanian, which was written in the Latin alphabet since 1860, to distinguish the two. In 1970s and 1980s, the Moldavian SSR received substantial allocations from the budget of the USSR to develop industrial and scientific facilities as well as housing. In 1971, the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted a decision "About the measures for further development of the city of Kishinev", that allotted more than one billion Soviet rubles from the USSR budget; subsequent decisions also directed substantial funding and brought qualified specialists from other parts of the USSR to develop Moldova's industry. This influx of investments was stopped in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when Moldova became independent.
Along with the other peripheral Soviet republics, Moldova started to move towards independence from 1988 onwards; on August 31, 1989 a language law was passed, adopting the Latin alphabet for Moldovan and declaring it the state language of the MSSR. The first independent elections into the local parliament were held in February and March 1990. After the attempted Moscow Putsch, Moldova declared its independence on August 27, 1991, and in December of that year joined the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) along with most of the former Soviet republics. Declaring itself a neutral state, it did not join the military branch of the CIS. At the end of that year, a former communist reformer, Mircea Snegur, won an unchallenged election for the presidency. Three months later, the country achieved formal recognition as an independent state at the United Nations.
The region east of the Dniester river, Transnistria, which includes a large proportion of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, declared independence in 1990, fearing the rise of nationalism in Moldova and the country's expected reunification with Romania upon secession from the USSR. This caused a brief military conflict between Moldovan and Transnistrian secessionist forces in 1992. Russian military stationed in the region (14th Army) intervened on the Transnistrian side and remained on Moldovan territory east of the Dniester after the end of the military conflict, despite signing international obligations to withdraw, and against the will of Moldovan government. As of 2006, approximately 1200 of the 14th army personnel remain stationed in Transnistria. Negotiations between the Transnistrian and Moldovan leaders have been going on under the mediation of the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine; lately observers from the European Union and the USA have become involved.
The 1998 economic crisis in Russia, Moldova's main economic partner at the time, produced an economic crisis in the country. The political flux was cleared in 2001 when elections saw the Party of Communists of Moldova win the majority of seats in the Parliament. Its leader Vladimir Voronin was appointed president. In economic terms, the crisis provoked an emigration of labor, as well as permanent emigration from Moldova. According to the census data, from 1989 to 2004, Moldova has lost about 400,000 inhabitants, or 9% of the population. Analysts estimate that actual emigration could be higher, as many seasonal workers remain registered as living in the country.
Relationships between Moldova and Russia deteriorated in November 2003 over a Russian proposal for the solution of the Transnistrian conflict, which Moldovan authorities refused to accept. In the following election, held in 2005, the Communist party made a formal 180 degree turn and was re-elected on a pro-Western platform, with Voronin being re-elected to a second term as a president. Since 1999, Moldova has constantly affirmed its desire to join the European Union, and implement its first three-year Action Plan within the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) of the EU.
The country's central legislative body is the unicameral Moldovan parliament (Parlament), which has 101 seats, and whose members are elected by popular vote every four years. The head of state is the president, who is elected by Parliament, requiring the support of three fifths of the deputies (at least 61 votes). The president appoints a prime minister who functions as the head of government and who in turn assembles a cabinet, both subject to parliamentary approval. The Constitution also establishes an independent Constitutional Court, which has the power of judicial review over all acts of parliaments, Presidential decrees, and international treaties. Members of this Court are composed of six judges, two appointed by the President, two by Parliament, and two by the High Magistrates Council. The judges serve for a term of six years, during which time they are not subordinate to any other power and cannot be removed from their posts.
Currently, the President of Moldova is Vladimir Voronin. Voronin has held this post since 2001. The main party in parliament is the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova, which holds a majority of 55 seats. Other parties with deputies in Parliament are the Party Alliance Our Moldova, the Democratic Party of Moldova, the Social Liberal Party, and the Christian-Democratic People's Party. 17 deputies to parliament are independents.
Moldova is divided into thirty-two districts (raioane, singular raion); three municipalities (Bălţi, Chişinău, Bender); and two autonomous regions (Găgăuzia and Transnistria). The cities of Comrat and Tiraspol also have municipality status, however not as first-tier subdivisions of Moldova, but as parts of the regions of Găgăuzia and Transnistria, respectively. The status of Transnistria is however under dispute. Although it is de jure part of Moldova and is recognized as such by the international community, Transnistria is not de facto under the control of the central government of Moldova. It is administered by an unrecognized breakaway authority under the name Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic.
The largest part of the country lies between two rivers, the Dniester and the Prut. Moldova's rich soil and temperate continental climate (with warm summers and mild winters) have made the country one of the most productive agricultural regions and a major supplier of agricultural products in the region. The western border of Moldova is formed by the Prut river, which joins the Danube before flowing into the Black Sea. In the north-east, the Dniester is the main river, flowing through the country from north to south.
The country is landlocked, even though it is very close to the Black Sea. While the northern part of the country is hilly, elevations never exceed 430 meters (1,411 ft)—the highest point being the Dealul Bălăneşti. The country's main cities are the capital Chişinău, in the center of the country, Tiraspol (in Transnistria), Bălţi and Tighina.Phytogeographically, Moldova is shared between the Central European and Eastern European provinces of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Moldova can be subdivided into three ecoregions: the Central European mixed forests (in the central part, the region called colloquially Codrii, meaning "forests"), East European forest steppe (in the north, the Bălţi Steppe) and Pontic steppe (in the south, connected to Bugeac).
Moldova enjoys a favorable climate and good farmland but has no major mineral deposits. As a result, the economy depends heavily on agriculture, featuring fruits, vegetables, wine, and tobacco. The country is considered to have the cleanest air in the world. Moldova must import all of its supplies of petroleum, coal, and natural gas, largely from Russia. After the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, energy shortages contributed to sharp production declines. As part of an ambitious economic liberalization effort, Moldova introduced a convertible currency, liberalized all prices, stopped issuing preferential credits to state enterprises, backed steady land privatization, removed export controls, and liberalized interest rates. The government entered into agreements with the World Bank and the IMF to promote growth. Recent trends indicate that the Communist government intends to reverse some of these policies, and recollectivise land while placing more restrictions on private business. The economy returned to positive growth, of 2.1% in 2000 and 6.1% in 2001. Growth remained strong in 2007 (6%), in part because of the reforms and because of starting from a small base. The economy remains vulnerable to higher fuel prices, poor agricultural weather, and the skepticism of foreign investors. In agriculture, the economic reform started with the land cadastre reform.
Following the regional financial crisis in 1998, Moldova has made significant progress towards achieving and retaining macroeconomic and financial stabilization. It has, furthermore, implemented many structural and institutional reforms that are indispensable for the efficient functioning of a market economy. These efforts have helped maintain macroeconomic and financial stability under difficult external circumstances, enabled the resumption of economic growth and contributed to establishing an environment conducive to the economy’s further growth and development in the medium term. Despite these efforts, and despite the recent resumption of economic growth, Moldova still ranks low in terms of commonly-used living standards and human development indicators in comparison with other transition economies. Although the economy experienced a constant economic growth after 2000: with 2.1%, 6.1%, 7.8% and 6.3% between 2000 and 2003 (with a forecast of 8% in 2004), one can observe that these latest developments hardly reach the level of 1994, with almost 40% of the GDP registered in 1990. Thus, during the last decade little has been done to reduce the country’s vulnerability. After a severe economic decline, social and economic challenges, energy uprooted dependencies, Moldova continues to occupy one of the last places among European countries in income per capita.
In 2005 (Human Development Report 2008), the registered GDP per capita US $ 2,100 PPP, which is 4.5 times lower than the world average (US $ 9,543). Moreover, GDP per capita is under the average of its statistical region (US $ 9,527 PPP). In 2005, about 20.8% of the population were under the absolute poverty line and registered an income lower than US $ 2.15 (PPP) per day. Moldova is classified as medium in human development and is at the 111th spot in the list of 177 countries. The value of the Human Development Index (0.708) is below the world average. Moldova remains the poorest country in Europe in terms of GDP per capita: $ 2,500 in 2006.
The GDP in 2007 constituted $4,104 mln. That constituted a grow with 3% from the 2006 indicator.
The country has a well established wine industry. It has a vineyard area of , of which are used for commercial production. Most of the country's wine production is made for export. Many families have their own recipes and strands of grapes that have been passed down through the generations.
See also: Moldovan wine producers
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Located geographically at the crossroads of Latin and Slavic cultures, Moldova has enriched its own culture adopting and maintaining some of the traditions of its neighbors.
Prince Dimitrie Cantemir was one of the most important figures of Moldavian culture of the 18th century. He wrote the first geographical, ethnographical and economic description of the country in his Descriptio Moldaviae (Berlin, 1714).