Site Information:  Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union



Public Affairs Source: Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication Description: Washington, DC Date: May 27, 19925/27/92 Category: Site Information Region: Eurasia Country: Moldova, USSR (former) Subject: History, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Cultural Exchange Map: Central, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Republics [TEXT]


Moldova is a landlocked area bounded by Ukraine and, to the west, Romania. Moldova is separated from Romania by the Prut River and from Ukraine on the northeast by the Dnestr River. A hilly plain, Moldova occupies most of what was known through the ages as Bessarabia. About two-thirds of the republic's 4.3 million people are Moldovans, with Ukrainian (14%), Russian (13%), Bulgarian, and Jewish minorities. Moldova's proximity to the Black Sea gives it a mild and sunny climate, making the area ideal for agriculture. Its fertile soil supports wheat, corn, barley, tobacco, sugar beets, and soybeans. Beef and dairy cattle are raised, and bee-keeping and silk breeding are widespread. Moldova's best-known product comes from its extensive and well-developed vineyards, which are concentrated in the central and southern regions. In addition to world-class wine, Moldova produces liquors and champagne and is known for its sunflower seeds, prunes, and other fruits. Moldova's location has made it a historic passageway between Asia and Southern Europe, as well as the victim of frequent warfare. In early times, Greeks, Romans, Huns, and Bulgars invaded the area, which in the 13th century became part of the Mongol empire. An independent Moldovan state emerged briefly in the 14th century but fell under Ottoman Turkish rule in the 16th century. After the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-12, the eastern half of Moldova (Bessarabia) between the Prut and the Dnestr Rivers was ceded to Russia, while Romanian Moldova (west of the Prut) remained with the Turks. Romania, which gained independence in 1878, took control of the Russian half of Moldova in 1918. The Soviet Union never recognized the seizure, creating an autonomous Moldovan republic on the east side of the Dnestr River in 1924. In 1940, Romania was forced to cede eastern Moldova to the USSR, which immediately established the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. Romania sought to regain it by joining with Germany in the 1941 attack on the USSR. Moldova was ceded back to Moscow when hostilities between the USSR and Romania ceased at the end of World War II. The present boundary between Moldova and Romania was established in 1947. Moldova declared its independence from the former Soviet Union on August 27, 1991.

Principal Government Officials

President: Mircea Snegur Prime Minister: Valeriu Muravski Minister of Foreign Affairs: Nicolae Tiu Capital: Chisinau (formerly Kishinev) Chisinau was founded in the early 15th century as a monastery town. It was captured in the 16th century by the Turks and in 1812 by the Russians, who made it the center of Bessarabia. Romania held the city from 1918 until 1940, when it was seized by the Soviet Union. Chisinau is a major industrial center, including food and tobacco processing, metal working, machinery, plastics, rubber, and textiles. Chisinau's educational and cultural facilities include a university established in 1945 and the Moldovan Academy of Sciences.

Moldova at a Glance

* With an area of only 34,000 square kilometers (13,000 sq. mi.), Moldova is the second smallest of the former Soviet republics, ahead of Armenia. It also is the most densely populated among the former republics. * Because of its close ties to Romania, Moldova's culture and language resemble that of its western neighbor in many ways. In addition to adopting the Romanian name Moldova, authorities have restored the use of the Latin, rather than the Cyrillic, alphabet. * Writer Ion Chobanu, playwright Ion Drutse, and opera singer Maria Bieshu are well known throughout the republic. The Fluerash Folk Music Company and the Doina Choir have international reputations. * Moldovan epic songs (called doinas), fiery dances, and melodious tunes are unique. Use of the ancient Moldovan flute, which sounds similar to a violin, is still taught to students at the Chisinau Conservatory.