Moldova -- Geography --
Official Name; Republic of Moldova
Capital City: Chisinau
Languages: Moldovan (official), Russian, others
Official Currency: Moldovan Leu
Religions: Easterm Orthodox
Land Area: 33,700 sq km
Landforms: The land is hilly with a subtle slope south toward the Black Sea. Important rivers include the Nistru, Byk, and the Prut which forms its entire western
border with Romania.
Land Divisions: 10 juletule, 1 municipality* and 1 autonomous unit**; including: Balti, Cahul, Chisinau, Chisinau*, Dubasari, Edinet, Gagauzia**, Lapusna, Orhei, Soroca, Tighina and Ungheni
Moldova -- History --
The majority of the territory that constitutes present-day Moldova was the region of Bessarabia, the eastern half of the historic principality of Moldavia. The name Bessarabia derives from a medieval prince, Basarab I, who at one time ruled the southern part of the region. The principality of Moldavia encompassed Bessarabia but extended west to the Siret River near the Carpathian Mountains. From north to south it stretched from the region of Bukovina to the Black Sea.
In the mid-13th century Hungarian expansion had driven many Vlachs to settle south and east of the Carpathian Mountains. Legend suggests that in the 14th century Prince Dragos of Transylvania (then a Hungarian province) founded Moldavia and named it after a small mountain stream that his forces crossed upon entering the area. In about 1359 Bogdan I ruled the first independent Moldavian principality described in historical records. Moldavia was bordered to the southwest by Walachia, a feudal state that Basarab had unified in about 1310. Poland and Hungary lay to Moldavia’s north, often exerting some control over Moldavian princes. The Moldavians had to defend their eastern border against the Tatars and their southern border against the Ottoman Empire. During the late 15th century Moldavia came under increasing pressure from the Ottomans. Despite military victories by Stephen the Great, who ruled from 1457 to 1504, Moldavia ultimately succumbed and had to submit to the rule of the Ottoman Empire. In 1599 Michael the Brave, a Walachian prince, led a revolt against the Ottomans and united Moldavia, Walachia, and Transylvania (a third principality where Romanian speakers lived). The Ottomans gradually relinquished control of Moldavia to Russia as well. With Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War (1853-1856), Moldavia and southern Bessarabia gained independence from the Ottoman Empire and Russia, and the two regions joined again. Moldavia united with independent Walachia in 1859, when assemblies of both principalities elected a single leader, Alexandru Ion Cuza, as their prince. The united principalities assumed the name Romania in 1862. Romania’s territorial integrity did not last long. In 1878 Russia regained southern Bessarabia, and the region remained part of the Russian Empire until the Russian Revolution of 1917. In March 1918, toward the end of World War I, the legislature of Bessarabia voted in favor of unification with Romania. At the Paris Peace Conference of 1920, the United States, France, Britain, and other Western countries officially recognized Bessarabia’s incorporation into Romania.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which was founded in 1922 under Russian leadership, did not accept the unification of Bessarabia with Romania. In 1924 Soviet authorities established the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) east of the Dniester River, within the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). The Soviet government used the Moldavian ASSR as a base for agitation to pressure Bessarabia to reunify with the USSR. The Ukrainian town of Balta was the capital of the Moldavian ASSR until 1929, when the capital was transferred to Tiraspol. Soviet forces occupied Bessarabia in June 1940. In August the Soviet government proclaimed the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) and abolished the Moldavian ASSR. The new Moldavian republic included the central portion of Bessarabia and the Trans-Dniester region, a narrow slice of territory east of the Dniester River that had been part of the Moldavian ASSR. Chisinau (Russian Kishinev) was named the capital of the new republic. After World War II, Soviet policy in the Moldavian SSR was devoted to integrating the republic’s economy, politics, and culture into the Soviet Union. The Moldavian SSR remained predominantly rural throughout the Soviet period, although new industries were introduced in urban areas. Russians, who were officially encouraged to settle in the republic, became the predominant ethnic group in the cities. Although no official language was ever named in the republic, Russian was the preferred language in government, business, and education. The Soviet government attempted to negate the Moldavian SSR’s cultural ties with Romania. The Soviets mandated that the Moldovan language switch from the Latin to the Cyrillic alphabet.
The Communist Party of Moldavia (CPM), a branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), was the only party legally allowed to function in the republic. Two future leaders of the USSR, Leonid Brezhnev and Konstantin Chernenko, held prominent positions in the CPM during the early part of their careers; neither of the two leaders were ethnic Moldovans. In the mid-1980s Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced political and economic reforms that fostered the formation of quasi-political groups in the USSR. A political movement called Yedinstvo (Russian for “unity”), which was growing in several Soviet republics facing nationalist upheaval, formed in Moldavia to represent the interests of the republic’s Slavic minorities. Meanwhile, elections to the Moldavian Supreme Soviet took place in February 1990. Parties other than the CPM were not allowed to publicly support candidates in the election, although a number of independent candidates were openly sympathetic to the aims of the Popular Front of Moldova (PFM). The new Supreme Soviet elected Mircea Snegur, a reform-oriented CPM member, as its chairperson. (Snegur became the first president of the republic in September, after that post was created.) On May 23, 1991, the SSR of Moldova changed its name to the Republic of Moldova, and the Supreme Soviet was renamed the Parliament. On August 27, following a failed coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow led by Communist hardliners, Moldova declared its independence from the USSR. In December Moldova held direct presidential elections, and Snegur was elected unopposed.
The PFM-led government under Prime Minister Mircea Druc began to advocate Moldova’s unification with Romania. In June 1992 the PFM-dominated Council of Ministers resigned. The PFM, which had renamed itself the Christian Democratic Popular Front, had lost popular support for its policies advocating unification with Romania. Failed domestic initiatives also had eroded the party’s support. By August a new government was formed. It was led by the Agrarian Democratic Party (ADP)—composed mostly of former Communists—which opposed unification with Romania. President Snegur, who allied himself with the ADP, strongly supported this stance. In February 1994 Moldova held its first multiparty elections to the Parliament. The ADP won the largest number of seats. A bloc of socialist parties won the next largest number. In July 1994 Moldova adopted its first post-Soviet constitution. The constitution reaffirmed Moldova’s status as an independent political and cultural unit and included provisions for the autonomy of the breakaway regions of Gagauz and Trans-Dniester. It also referred to the country’s official language as Moldovian, rather than Romanian. In December 1996 Moldova held its first multi-candidate presidential elections. Snegur, who had formed his own party, the Party of Rebirth and Conciliation of Moldova, resumed a pro-Romanian position and campaigned for more rapid reform. He was defeated in the elections by Petru Lucinschi, a former leader of the Communist Party of Moldova. Lucinschi advocated closer ties with Russia and pledged to work to resolve the Trans-Dniester issue. He also argued for more efficient government and less corruption.
In parliamentary elections in March 1998, the reestablished Communist Party (renamed the Moldovian Party of Communists) won the largest number of seats. However, the party did not have a majority, and a coalition of parties, led by the centrist Bloc for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova and the reformist Democratic Convention, formed a ruling majority. Ion Ciubuc was appointed prime minister that month. In February 1999 Ciubuc resigned, saying that parliament and the ruling coalition stymied his efforts at market reforms. The parliament appointed Ion Sturza to replace Ciubuc in March.
A power struggle between parliamentary deputies and President Lucinschi ended in 2000 when the Parliament voted to abolish direct presidential elections. However, in December 2000 the Parliament failed four times to elect a new president, so Lucinschi dissolved the Parliament and scheduled parliamentary elections for February 2001. In the elections the Party of Communists won 71 of the 101 seats. In April 2001 the Parliament elected the party’s leader, Vladimir Voronin, as president. In the 2005 parliamentary elections the Party of Communists retained its majority, winning 56 seats. Opposition parties gained some ground, with 34 seats going to the centrist Democratic Moldova Bloc and 11 seats to the right-centrist Christian Democratic People’s Party.
Moldova -- Economy --
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, Moldavian wine, and tobacco.
Moldova must import all of its supplies of petroleum, coal, and natural gas, largely from Russia. Energy shortages contributed to sharp production declines after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
As part of an ambitious economic liberalization effort, Moldova introduced a convertible currency, freed all prices, stopped issuing preferential credits to state enterprises, backed steady land privatization, removed export controls, and freed 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 2002, in part because of the reforms and because of starting from a small base. Further liberalization is in doubt because of strong political forces backing government controls. The economy remains vulnerable to higher fuel prices, poor agricultural weather, and the skepticism of foreign investors.
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 the European countries according to the income per capita. In 2002 (Human Development Report 2004), in Moldova the registered GDP per capita was US $381 equivalent to US $ 1,470 PPP, which is 5.3 times lower that the world average (US $ 7,804). Moreover, GDP per capita is under the average of all regions in the world, including Sub-Saharan Africa (US $ 1,790 PPP). In 2004, about 40% of population were under the absolute poverty line and registered an income lower than US $ 2.15 -purchasing power equivalent- per day. Moldova is classified as medium human development and is placed on the 113 spot in the list of 177 countries. The value of the Human Development Index (0.681) is below the world average.
Moldova remains the poorest country in Europe in terms of GDP per capita: $ 2,100 in 2005.
Moldova -- Culture --
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.
Stefan the Great, cousin of Vlad III Dracula, was the most important Prince of Moldavia. He was born around 1436, at Borzesti, Bacau County, (now in Romania), and died at Suceava, Romania 2 July 1504. He ruled 47 years, from 14 April 1457 until his death.
Although Stefan is mostly a historical figure and a national hero, his reign is also appreciated for the large number of churches that were built or restored. Some of the best pieces of Moldovan medieval art date from his reign.
The Prince Dimitrie Cantemir is one of the most important figures of Moldavian culture of the 18th century. Cantemir wrote the first geographical, ethnographical and economic description of the country in Descriptio Moldaviae (Berlin 1714).
Mihai Eminescu (born Mihail Eminovici) was a late romantic poet, probably the best-known and most influential Romanian language poet.
Moldova -- Life style --
Moldova, like neighbouring Romania, has a well established wine industry, although it is still mainly family-based. Many families have their own recipes and strands of grapes that have been passed on through generations. Several brands have been exported to bordering countries. The most famous, Cricova, is also exported to the United States.
Wine has being cultivated since ancient times in the territory of Dacia. However, the current wine tradition dates from around the time of the founding of Moldavia. The earliest wineries were set up in Cotnari and Harlau the western part of Moldavia, now part of Romania. The type of the vines is Tokaj, which enforces the supposition that they were planted once with the founding of Moldavia as a Hungarian vassal.
Wine was one of the chief exports of Moldavia throughout the medieval period, especially to Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Because it was a ware that was always easily sold, it was the only product for which the taxes were paid with silver coins, such as Greek hyperperos. For other agricultural wares, such as wheat, the taxes were paid in products, usually one tenth of the production.
In 2006, a diplomatic conflict with Russia began after the 2006 Russian ban of Moldovan and Georgian wines.
Aligote: original wine. Colour: from light-straw to golden one, pleasant fine, distinctive taste with a shade of violet.
Pinot group (Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc): Wine has golden shades and harmonious delicate taste.
Rhein Riesling: after 1,5 years of seasoning it obtain the particular freshness, refinement, flower fragrance with the pleasant tints of fir and pine pitches.
Sauvignon: full-bodied fragrance and taste of black currants, and black currants leaves. During the maturity this wine obtaines pleasant gold shades.
Chardonnay: The colour is light gold shades.
Traminer: Predominating shades of rose and dogrose leaves.
Cabernet Sauvignon: King of red wines. Color is intensive dark-red.
Merlot: With shades of sweet-cherry and/or cherry, the wine has long aftertaste.
Pinot Noir: full-bodied, oily wine. It is used as a base in blend wines.
The Moldovan wine collection "Milestii Mici", having 1.5 million bottles is the largest in Europe, according to the Guinness Book. It streches for 200 km, of which only 50 km are currently in use.
Moldova -- Political system, law and government --
The unicameral Moldovan parliament, or Parlament, has 101 seats, and its members are elected by popular vote every 4 years. The parliament then elects a president, who functions as the head of state. The president appoints a prime minister as head of government who in turn assembles a cabinet, both subject to parliamentary approval.
2005 Parliamentary Elections:
Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (PCRM) (45.98% votes, 56 mandates)
Electoral Bloc “Moldova Democrata” (BMD) (28.53% votes, 34 mandates)
Christian Democratic Peoples Party (CDPP) (9.07% votes, 11 mandates)
2001 Parliamentary Elections:
Communist Party (CP) (50.07% votes, 71 mandates)
Electoral Bloc "Braghis Alliance" (BEAB) (13.36% votes, 19 mandates)
Christian Democratic People's Party (CDPP) (8.24% votes, 11 mandates)
Independence of Moldova
In the address to the Romanian parliament, in February 1991, Mircea Snegur, the Moldovan president talked about a common identity of the Moldovan and Romanians, referring to the "Romanians of both sides of the Prut River" and "Sacred Romanian lands occupied by the Soviets".
In 1989, Romanian became the official language of Moldova and following the independence of 1991, the Romanian tricolor with a coat-of-arms was used as flag, and Desteapta-te romane!, the Romanian anthem also became the anthem of Moldova. In those times, there was an expectation among certain groups that both countries that they were to be united soon.
However, the initial enthusiasm in Moldova was tempered and starting 1993, Moldova started to distance itself from Romania. The constitution adopted in 1994 used the term "Moldovan language" instead of "Romanian" and changed the national anthem to Limba noastra. The 1996 attempt by Moldovan president Mircea Snegur to change the official language to "Romanian" was dismissed by the Moldovan Parliament as "promoting Romanian expansionism".
A Movement for unification of Romania and the Republic of Moldova began in both countries in early 1990s, after the Republic of Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union.
Relations with European Union
The government has stated that Moldova has European aspirations but there has been little progress toward EU membership.
On May 1, 2004 many EU enthusiasts waving the EU flags found their flags confiscated by police and some were arrested under the clause of "anti-nationalism."
During her first bilateral visit to Moldova, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner opened the new Delegation of the European Commission to Moldova on 6 October, to be headed by Cesare De Montis.
A Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with EU is the legal basis for EU relations with Moldova. The PCA came into force in July 1998 for an initial period of ten years. It establishes the institutional framework for bilateral relations, sets the principal common objectives, and calls for activities and dialogue in a number of policy areas. Moldova welcomed EU enlargement and signed on 30 April 2004 the protocol extending the PCA to the new EU member states.
With the joint adoption of the EU-Moldova Action Plan on February 22, 2005, the EU and Moldova have further reinforced their bilateral relationship, providing a new tool to help implement the PCA and bring Moldova closer to the EU. The TACIS programme is used as the framework for technical assistance to support agreed objectives.