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|Print version. Published on site Rusnet.NL 26 November 2003
Officially Republic of Moldova, Moldovan Republica Moldova, formerly (1940-41) Moldavia, or Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, country lying in the north-eastern corner of the Balkan region. It is bordered by Ukraine on the north, east, and south and Romania on the west, the Prut River forming the western boundary. Moldova occupies an area of about 13,000 square miles (33,700 square kilometres). The capital is Chisinau.
The greater part of the republic lies between the great, meandering Prut and Dniester rivers as they flow to their Black Sea estuaries.
Formerly known as Bessarabia, this region was an integral part of the Romanian principality of Moldavia until 1812, when it was ceded to Russia by its suzerain, the Ottoman Empire. Bessarabia remained a province of the Russian Empire until after World War I, when it became a part of Greater Romania, and it reverted to Russian control after World War II, when it was joined to a strip of formerly Ukrainian territory on the left bank of the Dniester to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. Upon the collapse of the USSR in August 1991, the republic declared its independence and took the name Moldova.
The industrialised territory to the east of the Dniester, generally known as Transnistria or the Dniester region, was formally an autonomous area within Ukraine before 1940 when the Soviet Union combined it with Bessarabia to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.
This area is mainly inhabited by Russian and Ukrainian speakers. As people there became increasingly alarmed at the prospect of closer ties with Romania in the tumultuous twilight years of the Soviet Union, Transnistria unilaterally declared independence from Moldova in 1990.
There was fierce fighting there as it tried to assert this independence following the declaration of Moldovan sovereignty. Hundreds died. The violence ended with the introduction of Russian peacekeepers. Transnistria's independence has never been recognised and the region has existed in a state of lawless and corrupt limbo ever since.
It still houses a stockpile of old Soviet military equipment and a contingent of troops of the Russian 14th army. Withdrawal was proceeding under international agreements until December 2001 when the Transnistrian authorities halted it. However, they agreed to allow the pullout to resume nine months later in exchange for a deal cutting gas debts. It is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2003.
The Turkish-speaking minority in the Gagauz region in the southwest of Moldova also has ambitions to secede. There are ceasefires in force, but the political situation is one of stalemate.
Moldova is one of the very poorest countries in Europe and has a large foreign debt and high unemployment. Its once-flourishing wine trade is in the doldrums and it is heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies.
The Communists returned to power in elections in February 2001, promising cheaper food and better wages and pensions. Their leader, Vladimir Voronin, who favours closer ties with Russia, became president soon afterwards.
|Population: 4.3 million (UN, 2003)|
|Major languages: Moldovan, Russian|
|Major religion: Christianity|
|Life expectancy: 65 years (men), 72 years (women)|
|Monetary unit: 1 leu = 100 bani|
|Main exports: Foodstuffs, animal and vegetable products, textiles|
|Average annual income: US $400 (World Bank, 2001)|
|Internet domain: .md|
|International dialling code: +3732|