Moldova is landlocked. The Prut River separates it from Romania in the west. In the north and east, the Dniester River forms its approximate boundary with Ukraine, on which it also borders in the south; in the east there is a narrow strip of Moldovan terrritory between the Dniester and the Ukraine border (the predominantly Russian and Ukrainian Trans-Dniester Region). Mostly a hilly plain, Moldova occupies all but the southernmost and northernmost sections of former Bessarabia. Its proximity to the Black Sea gives it a mild climate.
More than 75% of the population is Moldovan; Ukrainians and Russians make up about 15%, and there are several smaller minorities, including the Turkish-speaking Gagauz, Bulgarians, and Jews. Most of the people belong to the Orthodox Church, and legislation passed in 2007 recognized the Orthodox Church for its special role in Moldovan history and society. The Moldovan language, the official tongue, is virtually indistinguishable from Romanian, and the two groups are ethnically identical.
Moldova's fertile soil supports wheat, corn, barley, vegetables, sugar beets, sunflowers, and tobacco, as well as extensive fruit orchards, vineyards, and walnut groves. Horticulture is important for the production of essences such as rose oil and lavender. Beef and dairy cattle are raised, and there is beekeeping and silkworm breeding. Industries include food processing, winemaking, and the manufacture of agricultural machinery, foundry equipment, major appliances, textiles, and footwear. Remittances from Moldovans working abroad are also important to the economy. After achieving independence, Moldova took steps toward converting to a market economy and launched an ambitious privatization program, but the country remains undeveloped industrially and ranks as one of the poorest nations of Europe. Exports include foodstuffs, textiles, and machinery. Moldova imports all of its oil, coal, and natural gas, as well as machinery, chemicals, and automobiles. The principal trading partners are Russia, Ukraine, and Romania.
Moldova is governed under the constitution of 1994. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by the legislature for a four-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president, as is the cabinet. Members of the 101-seat Parliament are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Administratively, Moldova is divided into 32 raions (districts or counties), three municipalities, and two territorial units, one of which (Gagauzia) is autonomous.
A historic passageway between Asia and S Europe, Moldova was often subject to invasion and warfare. It is historically part of a greater Moldavia, the main part of which was an independent principality in the 14th cent. and came under Ottoman Turkish rule in the 16th cent. It became a highly fortified Turkish border region and was a frequent target in Russo-Turkish wars. East Moldavia passed to Russia in 1791. Russia acquired further Moldavian territory in 1793 and especially in 1812, when the Russians received all of Bessarabia (the name for the area of Moldavia between the Prut and Dniester rivers). The rest of Moldavia remained with the Turks and later passed to Romania, which seized Bessarabia in 1918.
In 1924, the USSR, refusing to sanction the seizure, established the Moldavian ASSR in Ukraine, with Balta and then (1929) Tiraspol as the capital. Romania was forced to cede Bessarabia to the USSR in 1940. The predominantly Ukrainian districts in the south and around Khotin in the north were incorporated into Ukraine, as were parts of the Moldavian ASSR; the rest was merged with what remained of the Moldavian ASSR and made a constituent republic (the Moldavian SSR). Taken by Romania in 1941, the republic was reconquered by the USSR in 1944. In June, 1990, the Moldavian SSR adopted a measure calling for greater sovereignty within the USSR. In Aug., 1991, Moldova, which is the Romanian name of the region, was declared an independent republic; Mircea Snegur was elected president, and it reluctantly joined the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
With independence, a guerrilla war began that sought secession of the Trans-Dniester Region, where there were many ethnic Russians who feared a Moldovan merger with Romania. In 1992 a cease-fire went into effect that granted limited autonomy to the region, and Russian troops were stationed there. In 1995, in a move termed illegal by the central government, residents overwhelmingly voted for independence from Moldova. A peace accord was signed in 1997, giving the region more autonomy but agreeing that Moldova would remain a single state; relations between the region and central government are occasionally tense. Gagauzia, a region dominated by ethnic Turks, was granted limited autonomy in 1994, with the right to secede in the event Moldova should merge with Romania.
In the first post-Soviet parliamentary elections in Moldova (1994), Snegur's Agrarian Democratic Party (ADP), running on a centrist platform and in opposition to unification with Romania, won a majority. Intraparty conflicts led to a split in the ADP in mid-1995, when Snegur organized the new centrist Party of Revival and Harmony. The pro-Moscow faction remained within the ADP. A crisis was precipitated in Mar., 1996, when Snegur attempted to remove the defense minister. The largely ADP army resisted Snegur's order, and his actions were subsequently ruled unconstitutional.
Petru Lucinschi, a former Communist running as an independent, won a presidential runoff election against Snegur in Dec., 1996. A coalition of center-right parties formed a goverment following legislative elections in 1998, although Communists won the largest bloc of seats in parliament. In 1999, Russia agreed to withdraw its remaining troops from Moldova by 2001, but about 1,500 remain in the Trans-Dniester Region. The Communist party won nearly 50% of the vote and 71 parliamentary seats in the 2001 elections; subsequently, Vladimir Voronin, a Communist, was elected president. Although they came to power advocating closer relations with Russia (and provoked antigovernment demonstrations by attempting to require Russian in schools and make it a second official language), the Communists became somewhat more pro-Western during the subsequent four years.
A Russian-sponsored accord on the Trans-Dniester Region was rejected in Nov., 2003, after mass demonstrations against it by Moldovans; the agreement would have permitted Russian troops to stay in the region in a buffer zone until 2020. An attempt by Trans-Dniester to force the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in its Moldovan-language schools led to heightened tensions between the breakaway region and Moldova in 2004, and led to economic retaliation by Moldova.
In the 2005 parliamentary elections the Communists won 46% of the vote and 56 seats, and the new parliament reelected Voronin. In mid-2005 the parliament passed a law that offered Trans-Dniester a special regional status in exchange for an end to its separatist movement. Moldova secured some leverage over Trans-Dniester in Mar., 2006, when Ukraine, partly in response to European Union concerns about smuggling, began requiring that goods coming from Trans-Dniester clear Moldovan customs. Russia subsequently (Apr., 2006) imposed a ban on the importation of Moldovan wines, brandies, and meat, ostensibly for sanitary reasons.
In Sept., 2006, Trans-Dniester held a referendum in which voters called for the region's independence and union with Russia, but it had little effect on the stalemate concerning the region's status. After Moldova threatened (Nov., 2006) to link its trade dispute with Russia to Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization, Russia and Moldova reached an agreement under which the importation bans were lifted. In Apr., 2008, there were talks between the leaders of Moldova and Trans-Dniester following signs of an accommodation between Moldova and Russia over Moldovan ties with the West, and further talks have been held since then.
In Apr., 2009, the Communists again won the parliamentary elections, with roughly half the vote and 60 seats. The opposition accused the government of fraud and demanded a recount or a re-vote, and protests in the capital turned violent, leading to the storming of government buildings. The president accused Romania fomenting the violence, which Romania angrily denied; Moldova also expelled the Romanian ambassador. After the violence, President Voronin, who had rejected a recount, called for one. The recount confirmed the results, but the opposition called the recount procedure too narrow and boycotted it. The Communists, however, lacked enough seats in parliament to elect a president, and after two unsuccessful votes, parliament was dissolved in June and new elections called for July. Although the Communists won a plurality of the seats, three pro-European opposition parties combined won a majority. In September, Voronin, who had remained on as acting president, resigned, and Mihai Ghimpu, the parliamentary speaker elected by the pro-European coalition, became acting president.
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).