U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: Moldova, March 1996 
Bureau of Public Affairs 
 
 
March 1996 
Official Name:  Republic of Moldova 
 
PROFILE 
 
Geography 
 
Area:  33,700 sq. km. (13,000 sq. mi.); slightly larger than Maryland. 
Cities: Capital--Chisinau. 
Terrain: Rolling steppe, gradual slope south to Black Sea. 
Climate: Moderate winters, warm summers. 
 
People 
 
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. 
Education: Literacy--96%. 
Health: Infant mortality rate--30/1,000. Life expectancy--68 years. 
Work force (2 million):  Agriculture--35%. Industry--20%. Other--
45%. 
 
Government 
 
Type: Republic. 
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. 
 
Economy 
 
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. 
 
U.S.-MOLDOVAN RELATIONS 
 
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 
Moldova.  
 
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, 
Romania) 
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. 
 
 
======================================== 
HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS 
 
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. 
======================================== 
 
 
ECONOMY 
 
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 
enterprises. 
 
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 
republic." 
 
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 
the government. 
 
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 
mission. 
 
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 
speakers. 
 
Principal Government Officials 
 
President--Mircea Snegur 
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 
16, 1994. 
 
FOREIGN RELATIONS 
 
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) 
647-5225. 
 
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 
an emergency. 
 
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. 
 
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URL: gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ 
WWW: http://www.state.gov 
 
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Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs 
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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 
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