U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Moldova, March 1996
Bureau of Public Affairs
Official Name: Republic of Moldova
Area: 33,700 sq. km. (13,000 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Maryland.
Terrain: Rolling steppe, gradual slope south to Black Sea.
Climate: Moderate winters, warm summers.
Nationality: Noun--Moldovan(s). Adjective--Moldovan.
Population: 4.5 million.
Population growth rate: 0.4%.
Ethnic groups: Moldovan/Romanian (65%), Ukrainian, Russian,
Gagauz, Jewish, Bulgarian, other.
Religions: Eastern Orthodox (98%), Jewish, Baptist.
Languages: Moldovan (official), Russian, Gagauz.
Health: Infant mortality rate--30/1,000. Life expectancy--68 years.
Work force (2 million): Agriculture--35%. Industry--20%. Other--
Constitution: Adopted 1994.
Independence: 1991 (from Soviet Union).
Branches: Executive--president (head of state), prime minister (head of
government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative--unicameral
parliament. Judicial--Supreme Court.
Administrative subdivisions: 40 districts.
Political parties: Party of Renewal and Conciliation, Christian
Democratic Popular Front, Edinstvo Intermovement, Social
Democratic Party, Agrarian-Democratic Party, Democratic Party,
Democratic Labor Party, Reform Party, Republican Party, Socialist
Party, Communist Party, Peasants and Intellectuals Bloc.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (1995): $1.781 billion.
GDP growth rate (1995): 0.7%.
Per capita GDP (1995): $367.
Natural resources: Lignite, phosphorites, gypsum.
Agriculture: Products--vegetables, fruits, wine, grain, sugar beets,
sunflower seeds, meat, milk, tobacco.
Industry: Types--canned foods, agricultural machinery, foundry
equipment, refrigerators and freezers, washing machines, hosiery,
refined sugar, vegetable oil, shoes, textiles.
Trade (1995): Exports--($636 million, of which 39% to countries
outside the former Soviet Union): foodstuffs, wine, tobacco, textiles
and footwear, machinery, chemicals. Major markets--Russia, Ukraine,
Romania, Germany. Imports--($648 million, of which 33% from
countries outside the former Soviet Union): oil, gas, coal, steel,
machinery, foodstuffs, automobiles, and other consumer durables.
Major suppliers--Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Germany.
Exchange rate (December 1995): 4.53 lei=U.S.$1.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 brought an end
to the Cold War and created the opportunity to build bilateral relations
with the New Independent States (NIS) as they began a political and
economic transformation. The United States recognized the
independence of Moldova on December 25, 1991, and opened an
embassy in its capital, Chisinau, in March 1992. U.S. ambassador to
Moldova John Todd Stewart assumed the post on November 14, 1995.
U.S.-Moldovan Economic Relations
A trade agreement providing reciprocal most-favored-nation tariff
treatment became effective in July 1992. An Overseas Private
Investment Corporation agreement, which encourages U.S. private
investment by providing direct loans and loan guarantees, was signed
in June 1992. A bilateral investment treaty was signed in April 1993.
Generalized system of preferences status was granted in August 1995,
and some Ex-Im bank coverage became available in November 1995.
U.S. Assistance to Moldova
From 1992 through September 1995, total U.S. assistance to Moldova
included about $59 million in humanitarian shipments; $104 million in
U.S. Department of Agriculture food assistance--including about
80,000 metric tons of food aid, valued at $20 million, in FY 1994-95;
and $61 million in technical assistance.
In January 1992, the U.S. initiated the Coordinating Conference on
Assistance to the New Independent States in response to the
humanitarian emergencies facing those countries. The resulting
Operation Provide Hope provided desperately needed food, fuel,
medicine, and shelter. By January 1996, the total in humanitarian
medical supplies, food, and clothing provided by the U.S. to Moldova
had risen to about $61 million. Initiatives included the 1993 shipment
of Department of Defense excess medical supplies, the 1994 donation
of a military hospital to Moldova, and the 1995 provision of U.S.
equipment that allowed for mass immunization of the Moldovan
population against diphtheria.
Recently, the focus of U.S. aid has shifted to technical assistance in
support of Moldova's transition to a market economy and democratic
society. The establishment of a Western NIS Enterprise Fund was
announced by President Clinton in January 1994, to provide investment
capital to privatizing firms in Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus. The
Enterprise Fund is the capstone of focusing assistance efforts on
creating the institutions necessary to support market economies. The
Fund's Chisinau office opened in October 1995 and as of early 1996
had committed investment capital of over $3 million to companies in
In 1995, the U.S. provided assistance and training that played an
important role in the Moldovan parliament's passage of the Law on the
Circulation of Securities and Stock Exchanges. In July 1995, U.S.
advisors were placed at Moldova's Central Bank to help with the bank
sector's transition to international accounting standards. The U.S. has
also provided training in a variety of related areas, including
entrepreneurship, agribusiness development, and international trade
and investment. Technical assistance has been provided to support
implementation of Moldova's privatization programs.
Training and technical assistance programs have been provided in law
school curriculum reform, rule of law, law enforcement, assessment of
the draft Moldovan constitution, municipal organization and staffing,
political parties and elections, independent media, pluralism, protection
of minority rights, and diplomacy and foreign policy. Educational
exchanges play an important role in these areas. Resident advisers have
worked with the executive and legislative branches of the Moldovan
Government. Peace Corps volunteers are working in Moldova with a
focus on teaching English and advising small businesses.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador--John T. Stewart
Deputy Chief of Mission--Louis Licht
Political/Economic Officer--Sarge Cheever
Consular Officer--Melissa Hudson
Administrative Officer--Wayne Reed
Regional Security Officer--Harold Countryman (resident in Bucharest,
Agricultural Officer--William Huth (resident in Sofia, Bulgaria)
USAID Officer--Paul Morris
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--vacant
The U.S. embassy in Chisinau, Moldova is at Strada Alexei Mateevici
#103; tel: 373-2-23-37-72; fax: 373-2-23-30-44.
Moldova occupies most of what has been known as Bessarabia.
Moldova's location has made it a historic passageway between Asia
and southern Europe, as well as the victim of frequent warfare. 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 Dniester 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 and created an autonomous Moldavian republic
on the east side of the Dniester River in 1924.
In 1940, Romania was forced to cede eastern Moldova to the U.S.S.R.,
which established the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. Romania
sought to regain it by joining with Germany in the 1941 attack on the
U.S.S.R. Moldova was ceded back to Moscow when hostilities between
the U.S.S.R. and Romania ceased at the end of World War II. The
present boundary between Moldova and Romania was established in
1947. Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union on
August 27, 1991.
Moldova is a landlocked area bounded by Ukraine on the east and
Romania to the west. It is the second-smallest of the former Soviet
republics and the most densely populated. Moldova's economy
resembles those of the Central Asian republics more than those of the
other states on the western edge of the former Soviet Union. Industry
accounts for only 20% of its labor force, while agriculture's share is
more than one-third.
Moldova's proximity to the Black Sea gives it a mild and sunny
climate. This makes the area ideal for agriculture, which accounts for
about 40% of the country's GDP. The fertile soil supports wheat, corn,
barley, tobacco, sugar beets, and soybeans. Beef and dairy cattle are
raised, and beekeeping and silkworm 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.
Like many other former Soviet republics, Moldova has experienced
economic difficulties. Since its economy is highly dependent on the
rest of the former Soviet Union for energy and raw materials, the
breakdown in trade has had a serious effect, exacerbated at times by
drought and civil conflict.
But despite its difficult economic situation, Moldova has made
substantial progress in economic reform. The government has
liberalized most prices and has phased out subsidies on most basic
consumer goods. A program begun in March 1993 has privatized 80%
of all housing units, and nearly 2,000 small, medium, and large
Inflation was brought down from over 105% in 1994 to about 24% in
1995. The Moldovan leu, introduced in November 1993, is fully
convertible, and its value has remained relatively stable against the
dollar since introduction. A stock market opened in June 1995.
Moldova has International Monetary Fund standby and systemic
transformation programs in effect.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Mircea Snegur was elected president of Moldova in October 1990 by
the parliament. A former Communist Party official, he endorsed
independence and actively sought Western recognition. Moldova
declared its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991.
However, Snegur's opposition to immediate reunification with
Romania led to a split with the Moldovan Popular Front in October
1991 and to his decision to run as an independent candidate in a
December 1991 presidential election. Running unopposed, he won
after the Popular Front's efforts to organize a voter boycott failed.
Moldova's transition to democracy initially had been impeded by an
ineffective parliament; the lack of a new constitution; a separatist
movement led by the Gagauz (Christian Turkic) minority in the south;
and unrest in the Trans-Dniester region, where a separatist movement--
assisted by uniformed Russian military forces in the region and led by
supporters of the 1991 coup attempt in Moscow--declared a "Dniester
Progress has been made on all these fronts. In 1992, the government
negotiated a cease-fire arrangement with Russian and Trans-Dniestrian
officials--although tensions continue--and negotiations are ongoing. In
February 1994, new legislative elections were held, and the ineffective
parliament that had been elected in 1990 to a five-year term was
replaced. A new constitution was adopted in July 1994. The conflict
with the Gagauz was settled peacefully by granting the region local
autonomy in 1995.
The February 1994 parliamentary elections were conducted peacefully
and received good ratings from international observers for their
fairness. Authorities in the Trans- Dniester region, however, refused to
allow balloting there and tried to discourage inhabitants from
participating. Inhabitants of the Gagauz separatist region did participate
in the elections.
Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli was re-elected to his post in March
1994, as was Petru Lucinschi to his post as speaker of the parliament.
Moldova's Government was restructured somewhat with parliament's
approval of a new cabinet in April 1994. The new parliament is
considerably smaller than the previous one, numbering only 104
deputies. The July 1994 constitution and the law provide for freedom
of speech, press, assembly, and religion, though with some restrictions.
The largest political group in parliament now is the Agrarian Party,
which has a plurality of 46 seats following the departure of 10 deputies
in August 1995. The 10 left the ruling Agrarians to join a new party,
the Party of Renewal and Conciliation, founded by President Snegur.
The Socialist-Edinstvo bloc has 28 seats, while the pro-Romanian
parties--the Peasants and Intellectuals Bloc and the Popular Front--have
11 and nine seats, respectively. Several other parties did not receive
large enough percentages of the popular vote to gain seats.
The independence of Moldova's judiciary has increased since the 1991
dissolution of the Soviet Union, partly due to provisions for tenure
designed to increase judicial independence. A series of reforms
approved in 1995 have begun to be implemented, including creation of
a court to deal with constitutional issues and a system of appeals courts.
Political parties and other groups publish newspapers which often
criticize government policies. There are several independent news
services, radio stations, and an independent television station. Peaceful
assembly is allowed, though permits for demonstrations must be
obtained; private organizations, including political parties, are required
to register with the government. Legislation passed in 1992 codified
freedom of religion but required that religious groups be recognized by
A 1990 Soviet law and a 1991 parliamentary decision authorizing
formation of social organizations provide for independent trade unions.
However, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Moldova,
successor to the former organizations of the Soviet trade union system,
is the sole structure. It has tried to influence government policy in labor
issues and has been critical of many economic policies. Moldovan
labor law, which is based on former Soviet legislation, provides for
collective bargaining rights.
The Trans-Dniester Region
The population of the Trans-Dniester ethnic area is 40% Moldovan,
28% Ukrainian, and 23% Russian. Moldova has tried to meet the
Russian minority's demands by offering the region rather broad cultural
and political autonomy. The dispute has strained Moldova's relations
with Russia. The July 1992 cease-fire agreement established a tripartite
peacekeeping force comprised of Moldovan, Russian, and Trans-
Dniestrian units. Negotiations to resolve the conflict continue, and the
cease-fire is still in effect. The
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also is
trying to facilitate a negotiated settlement and has sent an observer
Tensions continue in the region, but no serious violations of human
rights have been reported in the areas controlled by the Moldovan
Government. Strains over language were defused when the parliament
voted in 1994 to delay until 1997 the implementation of a 1989
Moldovan law. The law would make Romanian the official language,
replace the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin one, and mean language
testing. Although the law would protect the use of Russian and other
languages, it has raised much skepticism, especially among Russian
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Andrei Sangheli
Foreign Minister--Mihai Popov
Ambassador to the U.S.--Nicolae Tau
Ambassador to the UN--Tudor Pantiru
Moldova's embassy in the U.S. is at Suites 329 and 333, 1511 K Street,
NW, Washington, DC 20005; tel: 202-783-3012; fax: 202-783-3342.
DEFENSE AND MILITARY ISSUES
Moldova has accepted all relevant arms control obligations of the
former Soviet Union. On October 30, 1992, Moldova ratified the
Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which establishes
comprehensive limits on key categories of conventional military
equipment and provides for the destruction of weapons in excess of
those limits. It acceded to the provisions of the nuclear Non-
Proliferation Treaty in October 1994 in Washington, DC. It does not
have nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Moldova joined the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Partnership for Peace on March
Moldova's parliament approved the country's membership in the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--a group of 12 former
Soviet republics) and a CIS charter on economic union in April 1994.
In 1995, the country became the first New Independent State admitted
to the Council of Europe. In addition to its membership in NATO's
Partnership for Peace, Moldova also belongs to the United Nations, the
OSCE, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the European Bank for
Reconstruction and Development.
As noted, Moldova has sought a peaceful resolution to the conflict in
the Trans-Dniester region by working with Romania, Ukraine, and
Russia; calling for international mediation; and cooperating with the
OSCE and UN fact-finding and observer missions.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans
avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for
all countries and include information on immigration practices,
currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in
the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at (202) 647-
5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular Affairs
Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem with
standard settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on obtaining
passports and planning a safe trip abroad are available from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may
be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202)
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking
water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health
Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-
95-8280, price $14.00) is available from the U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal
Government Officials" listing in this publication).
Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to register
at the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in
this publication). This may help family members contact you in case of
Further Electronic Information:
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the
CABB provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and
helpful information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of
charge to anyone with a personal computer, modem,
telecommunications software, and a telephone line.
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S.
foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes
Background Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly magazine of U.S.
foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories of key officers of
foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly
basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on
the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an
array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present.
Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs
(MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are available from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O.
Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800
or fax (202) 512-2250.
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S.
Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387.
For general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department
of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related
information, including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on
the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB
Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
Background Notes Series -- Published by the United States Department
of State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication
-- Washington, DC -- Series Editor: Marilyn J. Bremner
Moldova -- Department of State Publication 10345 -- March 1996
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without
permission; citation of this source is appreciated. For sale by the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC 20402.
The most current Background Notes information can be found on the
Department of State's World Wide Web site at http://www.state.gov
Return to Europe Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage