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Moldova

Coordinates: 47°N 29°E / 47°N 29°E / 47; 29
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Republic of Moldova
Republica Moldova (Romanian)
Anthem: Limba noastră
"Our language"
Location of Moldova in Europe (green) and its uncontrolled territory of Transnistria (light green)
Location of Moldova in Europe (green)
and its uncontrolled territory of Transnistria (light green)
Capital
and largest city
Chișinău
47°0′N 28°55′E / 47.000°N 28.917°E / 47.000; 28.917
Official language
and national language
Romanian[1][2]
Recognised minority
languages[3][4][5]
Ethnic groups
(2014; excl. Transnistria)[6]
82.07% Moldovans / Romanians[a]
6.57% Ukrainians
4.57% Gagauzes
4.06% Russians
1.88% Bulgarians
0.85% other
Religion
(2014; excl. Transnistria)[6]
  • 0.3% other religions
  • 5.5% no religion
  • 2.4% unspecified
Demonym(s)Moldovan
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic
• President
Maia Sandu
Dorin Recean
Igor Grosu
LegislatureParliament
Formation
1346
1812
15 December 1917
9 April 1918
12 October 1924
2 August 1940
2 November 1990
27 August 1991a
• Constitution adopted
29 July 1994
Area
• Incl. Transnistria
33,843[7] km2 (13,067 sq mi) (135th)
• Water (%)
1.4 (incl. Transnistria)
• Excl. Transnistria
30,334 km2 (11,712 sq mi) [b]
Population
• January 2023 estimate
2,512,758[9][c] (139th)
• 2014 census
2,804,801[6][c]
• Density
82.8/km2 (214.5/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2024 estimate
• Total
Increase $43.862 billion[10][c] (136nd)
• Per capita
Increase $17,902[10] (91th)
GDP (nominal)2024 estimate
• Total
Increase $18.356 billion[10][c] (130th th)
• Per capita
Increase $7,488[10] (92th)
Gini (2019)Negative increase 26.0[11]
low
HDI (2022)Decrease 0.763[12]
high (86th)
CurrencyMoldovan leu (MDL)
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+3 (EEST)
Driving sideright
Calling code+373
ISO 3166 codeMD
Internet TLD.md
  1. Date of proclamation. Independence subsequently finalized with the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991.

Moldova (/mɒlˈdvə/ mol-DOH-və, sometimes UK: /ˈmɒldəvə/ MOL-də-və;[13][14][15] Romanian pronunciation: [molˈdova]), officially the Republic of Moldova (Romanian: Republica Moldova), is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, on the northeastern corner of the Balkans.[16] The country spans a total of 33,483 km2 (12,928 sq mi) and has a population of approximately 2.5 million as of January 2023.[17] Moldova is bordered by Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east, and south.[18] The unrecognised breakaway state of Transnistria lies across the Dniester river on the country's eastern border with Ukraine. Moldova is a unitary parliamentary representative democratic republic with its capital in Chișinău, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre.

Most of Moldovan territory was a part of the Principality of Moldavia from the 14th century until 1812, when it was ceded to the Russian Empire by the Ottoman Empire (to which Moldavia was a vassal state) and became known as Bessarabia. In 1856, southern Bessarabia was returned to Moldavia, which three years later united with Wallachia to form Romania, but Russian rule was restored over the whole of the region in 1878. During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Bessarabia briefly became an autonomous state within the Russian Republic. In February 1918, it declared independence and then integrated into Romania later that year following a vote of its assembly. The decision was disputed by Soviet Russia, which in 1924 established, within the Ukrainian SSR, a so-called Moldavian autonomous republic on partially Moldovan-inhabited territories to the east of Bessarabia. In 1940, as a consequence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Romania was compelled to cede Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union, leading to the creation of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (Moldavian SSR).

On 27 August 1991, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union was underway, the Moldavian SSR declared independence and took the name Moldova.[19] However, the strip of Moldovan territory on the east bank of the Dniester has been under the de facto control of the breakaway government of Transnistria since 1990. The constitution of Moldova was adopted in 1994, and the country became a parliamentary republic with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. Under the presidency of Maia Sandu, elected in 2020 on a pro-Western and anti-corruption ticket, Moldova has pursued membership of the European Union, and was granted candidate status in June 2022.[20] Accession talks to the EU began on 13 December 2023.[21] Sandu has also suggested an end to Moldova's constitutional commitment to military neutrality in favour of a closer alliance with NATO and strongly condemned Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.[22]

Moldova is the second poorest country in Europe by GDP per official capita after Ukraine and much of its GDP is dominated by the service sector.[23] It has one of the lowest Human Development Indexes in Europe, ranking 76th in the world (2022).[12] Moldova ranks 60th in the world on the Global Innovation Index as of 2023.[24] Moldova is a member state of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, and the Association Trio.

Etymology

The name Moldova is derived from the Moldova River (German: Moldau); the valley of this river served as a political centre at the time of the foundation of the Principality of Moldavia in 1359.[25] The origin of the name of the river remains unclear. According to a legend recounted by Moldavian chroniclers Dimitrie Cantemir and Grigore Ureche, Prince Dragoș named the river after hunting aurochs: following the chase, the prince's exhausted hound Molda (Seva) drowned in the river. The dog's name, given to the river, extended to the principality.[26]

For a short time in the 1990s, at the founding of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the name of the current Republic of Moldova was also spelled Moldavia.[27] After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the country began to use the Romanian name, Moldova. Officially, the name Republic of Moldova is designated by the United Nations.

History

Prehistory

Extent of the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture, c. 4,000 BC

The prehistory of Moldova covers the period from the Upper Paleolithic which begins with the presence of Homo sapiens in the area of Southeastern Europe some 44,000 years ago and extends into the appearance of the first written records in Classical Antiquity in Greece. In 2010, Oldowan flint tools were discovered at Bayraki that are 800,000–1.2 million years old.[28] During the Neolithic Age, Moldova's territory stood at the centre of the large Cucuteni–Trypillia culture that stretched east beyond the Dniester River in Ukraine and west up to and beyond the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. The people of this civilization, which lasted roughly from 5500 to 2750 BC, practised agriculture, raised livestock, hunted, and made intricately designed pottery.[29]

Antiquity and the early Middle Ages

This area of present-day Moldova was inhabited by ancient Dacians and Moldovans identify themselves with their ancestors. Carpian tribes also inhabited Moldova's territory in the period of classical antiquity. Between the first and seventh centuries AD, the south came intermittently under the control of the Roman and then the Byzantine Empires. Due to its strategic location on a route between Asia and Europe, the territory of modern Moldova experienced many invasions in late antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, notably by Goths, Huns, Avars, Bulgars, Magyars, Pechenegs, Cumans, Mongols and Tatars.

In the 11th century, a Viking by the name of Rodfos was possibly killed in the area by the Blakumen who betrayed him.[30] In 1164, the future Byzantine emperor Andronikos I Komnenos, while attempting to reach the Principality of Halych, was taken prisoner by Vlachs, possibly in the area which now constitutes Moldova.

The East Slavic Hypatian Chronicle (13th century) mentions the Bolohoveni people, who resided on the eastern fringes of Moldovan territory and in the Rus' principalities of Halych, Volhynia and Kyiv; their ethnic origin is disputed by historians. Archaeological research has identified the location of 13th-century fortified settlements in this region.[31] The Bolohoveni disappeared from written chronicles after they were defeated in 1257 by Daniel of Galicia. In the early 13th century, the Brodniks, a possible SlavicVlach vassal tribe of Halych, were also present in much of the region's territory.

Founding of the Principality of Moldavia

Dragoș, a Vlach voivode and founder of the Principality of Moldavia, 19th-century depiction

The Principality of Moldavia began when a Vlach voivode (military leader), Dragoș, arrived in the region of the Moldova River. His people from the voivodeship at Maramureș soon followed. Dragoș established a polity as a vassal to the Kingdom of Hungary in the 1350s. The independence of the Principality of Moldavia came when Bogdan I, another Vlach voivode from Maramureș who had fallen out with the Hungarian king, crossed the Carpathian mountains in 1359 and took control of Moldavia, wresting the region from Hungary. The Principality of Moldavia was bounded by the Carpathian Mountains in the west, the Dniester River in the east, and the Danube River and Black Sea to the south. Its territory comprised the present-day territory of the Republic of Moldova, the eastern eight counties of Romania, and parts of the Chernivtsi Oblast and Budjak region of present-day Ukraine. Locals referred to the principality as Moldova – like the present-day republic and Romania's north-eastern region.

Between Poland and Hungary

The history of what is today Moldova has been intertwined with that of Poland for centuries. The Polish chronicler Jan Długosz mentioned Moldavians as having joined a military expedition in 1342, under King Ladislaus I, against the Margraviate of Brandenburg.[32] The Polish state was powerful enough to counter the Hungarian Kingdom which was consistently interested in bringing the area that would become Moldavia into its political orbit.

Ties between Poland and Moldavia expanded after the founding of the Moldavian state by Bogdan of Cuhea, a Vlach voivode from Maramureș who had fallen out with the Hungarian king. Crossing the Carpathian mountains in 1359, the voivode took control of Moldavia and succeeded in creating Moldavia as an independent political entity. Despite being disfavored by the brief union of Angevin Poland and Hungary (the latter was still the country's overlord), Bogdan's successor Lațcu, the Moldavian ruler also likely allied himself with the Poles. Lațcu also accepted conversion to Roman Catholicism around 1370, but his gesture was to remain without consequences.

Polish influence grows

Petru I profited from the end of the Polish-Hungarian union and moved the country closer to the Jagiellon realm, becoming a vassal of king Jogaila of Poland on 26 September 1387. This gesture was to have unexpected consequences: Petru supplied the Polish ruler with funds needed in the war against the Teutonic Knights, and was granted control over Pokuttya until the debt was to be repaid; as this is not recorded to have been carried out, the region became disputed by the two states, until it was lost by Moldavia in the Battle of Obertyn (1531). Prince Petru also expanded his rule southwards to the Danube Delta. His brother Roman I conquered the Hungarian-ruled Cetatea Albă in 1392, giving Moldavia an outlet to the Black Sea, before being toppled from the throne for supporting Fyodor Koriatovych in his conflict with Vytautas the Great of Lithuania. Under Stephen I, growing Polish influence was challenged by Sigismund of Hungary, whose expedition was defeated at Ghindăoani in 1385; however, Stephen disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

Although Alexander I was brought to the throne in 1400 by the Hungarians (with assistance from Mircea I of Wallachia), this ruler shifted his allegiances towards Poland (notably engaging Moldavian forces on the Polish side in the Battle of Grunwald and the siege of Marienburg), and placed his own choice of rulers in Wallachia. His reign was one of the most successful in Moldavia's history.

Increasing Ottoman influence

Built during the reign of Stephen the Great, several authors believed the Soroca Fort was constructed on the site of a former Genoese fortress named Olhionia.[33]
Administrative map of the Principality of Moldavia in 1483, with surrounding states

For all of his success, it was under the reign of Alexander I that the first confrontation with the Ottoman Turks took place at Cetatea Albă in 1420. A deep crisis was to follow Alexander l's long reign, with his successors battling each other in a succession of wars that divided the country until the murder of Bogdan II and the accession of Peter Aaron in 1451. Nevertheless, Moldavia was subject to further Hungarian interventions after that moment, as Matthias Corvinus deposed Aaron and backed Alexăndrel to the throne in Suceava. Peter Aaron's rule also signified the beginning of Moldavia's Ottoman Empire allegiance, as the ruler was the first to agree to pay tribute to Sultan Mehmed II.

Moldavia at its apogee

Peter Aaron was eventually ousted by his nephew, Stephen the Great who would become the most important medieval Moldavian ruler who managed to uphold Moldavia's autonomy against Hungary, Poland and the Ottoman Empire.[34][35] Under his rule, which lasted 47 years, Moldavia experienced a glorious political and cultural period.[36]

Age of Invasions

During this time, Moldavia was invaded repeatedly by Crimean Tatars and, beginning in the 15th century, by the Ottoman Turks. In 1538, the principality became a tributary to the Ottoman Empire, but it retained internal and partial external autonomy.[37] Nonetheless, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth continued to strongly influence Moldavia both through national politics as well as on the local level through significant intermarriage between Moldavian nobility and the Polish szlachta. When in May 1600, Michael the Brave removed Ieremia Movilă from Moldavia's throne by winning the battle of Bacău, briefly reuniting under his rule Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania, a Polish army led by Jan Zamoyski drove the Wallachians from Moldavia. Zamoyski reinstalled Ieremia Movilă to the throne, who put the country under the vassalage of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Moldavia finally returned to Ottoman vassalage in 1621.

Transnistria

While the region of Transnistria was never politically part of the Principality of Moldavia, there were sizable areas which were owned by Moldavian boyars or the Moldavian rulers. The earliest surviving deeds referring to lands beyond the Dniester river date from the 16th century.[38][full citation needed] Moldavian chronicler Grigore Ureche mentions that in 1584 some Moldavian villages from beyond the Dniester in the Kingdom of Poland were attacked and plundered by Cossacks.[39][non-primary source needed] Many Moldavians were members of Cossacks units, with two of them, Ioan Potcoavă and Dănilă Apostol becoming hetmans of Ukraine. Ruxandra Lupu, the daughter of Moldavian voivode Vasile Lupu who married Tymish Khmelnytsky, lived in Rașcov according to Ukrainian tradition.

While most of today's Moldova came into the Ottoman orbit in the 16th century, a substantial part of Transnistria remained a part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until the Second Partition of Poland in 1793.

Russian Empire

Territorial changes of Moldavia following the Treaty of Bucharest 1812.

In accordance with the Treaty of Bucharest of 1812, and despite numerous protests by Moldavian nobles on behalf of the sovereignty of their principality, the Ottoman Empire (of which Moldavia was a vassal) ceded to the Russian Empire the eastern half of the territory of the Principality of Moldavia along with Khotyn and old Bessarabia (modern Budjak), which Russia had already conquered and annexed. The new Russian province was called Oblast of Moldavia and Bessarabia, and initially enjoyed a large degree of autonomy. After 1828 this autonomy was progressively restricted and in 1871 the Oblast was transformed into the Bessarabia Governorate, in a process of state-imposed assimilation, Russification. As part of this process, the Tsarist administration in Bessarabia gradually removed the Romanian language from official and religious use.[40]

Union with Romania and the return of the Russians

The Treaty of Paris (1856) returned the southern part of Bessarabia (later organised as the Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail counties) to Moldavia, which remained an autonomous principality and, in 1859, united with Wallachia to form Romania. In 1878, as a result of the Treaty of Berlin, Romania was forced to cede the three counties back to the Russian Empire.

A multiethnic colonization

Over the 19th century, the Russian authorities encouraged the colonization of Bessarabia or parts of it by Romanians (Budjak), Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Bulgarians, Poles, and Gagauzes, primarily in the northern and southern areas vacated by Turks and Nogais, the latter having been expelled in the 1770s and 1780s, during the Russo-Turkish Wars;[41][42][43][44] the inclusion of the province in the Pale of Settlement also allowed the immigration of more Bessarabian Jews.[d] The Romanian proportion of the population decreased from an estimated 86% in 1816,[46] to around 52% in 1905.[47] During this time there were anti-Semitic riots, leading to an exodus of thousands of Jews to the United States.[48]

A map of Greater Romania between 1920 and 1940.

Russian Revolution

World War I brought in a rise in political and cultural (ethnic) awareness among the inhabitants of the region, as 300,000 Bessarabians were drafted into the Russian Army formed in 1917; within bigger units several "Moldavian Soldiers' Committees" were formed. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, a Bessarabian parliament, Sfatul Țării (a National Council), was elected in October–November 1917 and opened on 3 December [O.S. 21 November] 1917. The Sfatul Țării proclaimed the Moldavian Democratic Republic (15 December [O.S. 2 December] 1917) within a federal Russian state, and formed a government (21 December [O.S. 8 December] 1917).

Greater Romania

After the Romanian army occupied the region in early January 1918 at the request of the National Council, Bessarabia proclaimed independence from Russia on 6 February [O.S. 24 January] 1918 and requested the assistance of the French army present in Romania (general Henri Berthelot) and of the Romanian Army.[49] On 9 April [O.S. 27 March] 1918, the Sfatul Țării decided with 86 votes for, 3 against and 36 abstaining, to unite with the Kingdom of Romania. The union was conditional upon fulfilment of the agrarian reform, autonomy, and respect for universal human rights.[50] A part of the interim Parliament agreed to drop these conditions after Bukovina and Transylvania also joined the Kingdom of Romania, although historians note that they lacked the quorum to do so.[51][52][53][54][55]

This union was recognized by most of the principal Allied Powers in the 1920 Treaty of Paris, which however was not ratified by all of its signatories.[56][57] The newly Soviet Russia did not recognize Romanian rule over Bessarabia, considering it an occupation of Russian territory.[58] Uprisings against Romanian rule took place in 1919 at Khotyn and Bender, but were eventually suppressed by the Romanian Army.

In May 1919, the Bessarabian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed as a government in exile. After the failure of the Tatarbunary Uprising in 1924, the Moldavian Autonomous Region, created earlier in the Transnistria region, was elevated to an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Ukrainian SSR.

World War II and Soviet era

Monument to the villagers who died in World War II, the village Cojușna, Strășeni District.

Annexation by the USSR

In August 1939, the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and its secret additional protocol were signed, by which Nazi Germany recognized Bessarabia as being within the Soviet sphere of influence, which led the latter to actively revive its claim to the region.[59] On 28 June 1940, the Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to Romania requesting the cession of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, with which Romania complied the following day. Soon after, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (Moldavian SSR, MSSR) was established,[59] comprising about 65% of Bessarabia, and 50% of the now-disbanded Moldavian ASSR (the present-day Transnistria). Ethnic Germans left in 1940.

Reincorporation into Romania and the Soviet occupation

As part of the 1941 Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, Romania regained the territories of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, and seized a territory which became known as Transnistria Governorate. Romanian forces, working with the Germans, deported or massacred about 300,000 Jews,[citation needed] including 147,000 from Bessarabia and Bukovina. Of the latter, approximately 90,000 died.[60] Between 1941 and 1944 partisan detachments acted against the Romanian administration. The Soviet Army re-captured the region in February–August 1944, and re-established the Moldavian SSR. Between the end of the Second Jassy–Kishinev Offensive in August 1944 and the end of the war in May 1945, 256,800 inhabitants of the Moldavian SSR were drafted into the Soviet Army. 40,592 of them perished.[61]

Bessarabia Germans evacuating after the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia in 1940.

During the periods 1940–1941 and 1944–1953, deportations of locals to the northern Urals, to Siberia, and northern Kazakhstan occurred regularly, with the largest ones on 12–13 June 1941, and 5–6 July 1949, accounting from MSSR alone for 18,392[e] and 35,796 deportees respectively.[62] Other forms of Soviet persecution of the population included political arrests or, in 8,360 cases, execution.

Moldova in the USSR after World War II

In 1946, as a result of a severe drought and excessive delivery quota obligations and requisitions imposed by the Soviet government, the southwestern part of the USSR suffered from a major famine.[63][64] In 1946–1947, at least 216,000 deaths and about 350,000 cases of dystrophy were accounted by historians in the Moldavian SSR alone.[62] Similar events occurred in the 1930s in the Moldavian ASSR.[62] In 1944–53, there were several anti-Soviet resistance groups in Moldova; however the NKVD and later MGB managed to eventually arrest, execute or deport their members.[62]

In the postwar period, the Soviet government organized the immigration of working age Russian speakers (mostly Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians), into the new Soviet republic, especially into urbanized areas, partly to compensate for the demographic loss caused by the war and the emigration of 1940 and 1944.[65] In the 1970s and 1980s, the Moldavian SSR received substantial allocations from the budget of the USSR to develop industrial and scientific facilities and housing. In 1971, the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted a decision "About the measures for further development of the city of Kishinev" (modern Chișinău), that allotted more than one billion roubles (approximately 6.8 billion in 2018 US dollars) from the USSR budget for building projects.[66]

Bălți in Soviet Moldavia in 1985

The Soviet government conducted a campaign to promote a Moldovan ethnic identity distinct from that of the Romanians, based on a theory developed during the existence of the Moldavian ASSR. Official Soviet policy asserted that the language spoken by Moldovans was distinct from the Romanian language (see Moldovenism). To distinguish the two, during the Soviet period, Moldovan was written in the Cyrillic alphabet, in contrast with Romanian, which since 1860 had been written in the Latin alphabet.

All independent organizations were severely reprimanded, with the National Patriotic Front leaders being sentenced in 1972 to long prison terms.[67] In 2010, the Commission for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in Moldova was instituted in the independent Moldova to assess the responsibility of the Soviet regime in the perpetration of crimes in Moldavian SSR.[68]

Glasnost and Perestroika

In the 1980s, amid political conditions created by glasnost and perestroika, a Democratic Movement of Moldova was formed, which in 1989 became known as the nationalist Popular Front of Moldova (FPM).[69][70] Along with several other Soviet republics, from 1988 onwards, Moldova started to move towards independence. On 27 August 1989, the FPM organized a mass demonstration in Chișinău that became known as the Grand National Assembly. The assembly pressured the authorities of the Moldavian SSR to adopt a language law on 31 August 1989 that proclaimed the Moldovan language written in the Latin script to be the state language of the MSSR. Its identity with the Romanian language was also established.[69][71] In 1989, as opposition to the Communist Party grew, there were major riots in November.

Independence and aftermath

Deputy Gheorghe Ghimpu replaces the Soviet flag on the Parliament with the Romanian flag on 27 April 1990.

The first democratic elections for the local parliament were held in February and March 1990. Mircea Snegur was elected as Speaker of the Parliament, and Mircea Druc as Prime Minister. On 23 June 1990, the Parliament adopted the Declaration of Sovereignty of the "Soviet Socialist Republic Moldova", which, among other things, stipulated the supremacy of Moldovan laws over those of the Soviet Union.[69] After the failure of the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt, Moldova declared its independence on 27 August 1991.

On 21 December of the same year, Moldova, along with most of the other Soviet republics, signed the constitutive act that formed the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Moldova received official recognition on 25 December. On 26 December 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Declaring itself a neutral state, Moldova did not join the military branch of the CIS. Three months later, on 2 March 1992, the country gained formal recognition as an independent state at the United Nations. In 1994, Moldova became a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, and a member of the Council of Europe on 29 June 1995.[69]

Transnistria breaks away (1990 to present)

In the region east of the Dniester river, Transnistria, which includes a large proportion of predominantly russophone East Slavs of Ukrainian (28%) and Russian (26%) descent (altogether 54% as of 1989), an independent Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed on 16 August 1990, with its capital in Tiraspol.[69] The motives behind this move were fear of the rise of nationalism in Moldova.[citation needed] In the winter of 1991–1992, clashes occurred between Transnistrian forces, supported by elements of the Russian 14th Guards Army, and the Moldovan police. Between 2 March and 26 July 1992, the conflict escalated into a military engagement. It was a brief war between Moldovan and separatist Transnistrian forces, with Russia intervening militarily on Transnistria's side. It ended with a ceasefire and the establishment of a security zone policed by a three-way peacekeeping force of Russian, Transnistrian, and Moldovan personnel.[72]

Market economy (1992)

On 2 January 1992, Moldova introduced a market economy, liberalizing prices, which resulted in rapid inflation. From 1992 to 2001, the country suffered a serious economic crisis, leaving most of the population below the poverty line. In 1993, the Government of Moldova introduced a new national currency, the Moldovan leu, to replace the temporary cupon. The economy of Moldova began to change in 2001; and until 2008, the country saw a steady annual growth between 5% and 10%. The early 2000s also saw a considerable growth of emigration of Moldovans looking for work (mostly illegally) in Russia (especially the Moscow region), Italy, Portugal, Spain, and other countries; remittances from Moldovans abroad account for almost 38% of Moldova's GDP, the second-highest percentage in the world, after Tajikistan (45%).[73][74]

Elections: 1994–2009

In the 1994 parliamentary elections, the Agrarian Party gained a majority of the seats, setting a turning point in Moldovan politics. With the nationalist Popular Front now in a parliamentary minority, new measures aiming to moderate the ethnic tensions in the country could be adopted. Plans for a union with Romania were abandoned,[69] and the new Constitution gave autonomy to the breakaway Transnistria and Gagauzia. On 23 December 1994, the Parliament of Moldova adopted a "Law on the Special Legal Status of Gagauzia", and in 1995, the latter was constituted.

Protests outside the Parliament building in 2009

After winning the 1996 presidential elections, on 15 January 1997, Petru Lucinschi, the former First Secretary of the Moldavian Communist Party in 1989–91, became the country's second president (1997–2001), succeeding Mircea Snegur (1991–1996). In 2000, the Constitution was amended, transforming Moldova into a parliamentary republic, with the president being chosen through indirect election rather than direct popular vote.

Winning 49.9% of the vote, the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova (reinstituted in 1993 after being outlawed in 1991), gained 71 of the 101 MPs, and on 4 April 2001, elected Vladimir Voronin as the country's third president (re-elected in 2005). The country became the first post-Soviet state where a non-reformed Communist Party returned to power.[69] New governments were formed by Vasile Tarlev (19 April 2001 – 31 March 2008), and Zinaida Greceanîi (31 March 2008 – 14 September 2009). In 2001–2003, relations between Moldova and Russia improved, but then temporarily deteriorated in 2003–2006, in the wake of the failure of the Kozak memorandum, culminating in the 2006 wine exports crisis. The Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova managed to stay in power for eight years.

In the April 2009 parliamentary elections, the Communist Party won 49.48% of the votes, followed by the Liberal Party with 13.14% of the votes, the Liberal Democratic Party with 12.43%, and the Alliance "Moldova Noastră" with 9.77%. The controversial results of this election sparked the April 2009 Moldovan parliamentary election protests.[75][76][77]

Stalemate 2009–2012

In August 2009, four Moldovan parties (Liberal Democratic Party, Liberal Party, Democratic Party, and Our Moldova Alliance) agreed to create the Alliance For European Integration that pushed the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova into opposition. On 28 August 2009, this coalition chose a new parliament speaker (Mihai Ghimpu) in a vote that was boycotted by Communist legislators. Vladimir Voronin, who had been President of Moldova since 2001, eventually resigned on 11 September 2009, but the Parliament failed to elect a new president. The acting president Mihai Ghimpu instituted the Commission for constitutional reform in Moldova to adopt a new version of the Constitution of Moldova. After the constitutional referendum aimed to approve the reform failed in September 2010,[78] the parliament was dissolved again and a new parliamentary election was scheduled for 28 November 2010.[79] On 30 December 2010, Marian Lupu was elected as the Speaker of the Parliament and the acting President of the Republic of Moldova.[80] In March 2012, Nicolae Timofti was elected as president of Moldova in a parliamentary vote, becoming the first full-time president since Vladimir Voronin, a Communist, resigned in September 2009. Before the election of Timofti, Moldova had had three acting presidents in three years.[81] After the Alliance for European Integration lost a no confidence vote, the Pro-European Coalition was formed on 30 May 2013.[82]

Banking crisis

In November 2014, Moldova's central bank took control of Banca de Economii, the country's largest lender, and two smaller institutions, Banca Sociala and Unibank. Investigations into activities at these three banks uncovered large-scale fraud by means of fraudulent loans to business entities controlled by a Moldovan-Israeli business oligarch, Ilan Shor, of funds worth about 1 billion U.S. dollars.[83] The large scale of the fraud compared to the size of the Moldovan economy is cited as tilting the country's politics in favour of the pro-Russian Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova.[84] Shor was convicted of fraud and money-laundering and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Pavel Filip's government (2016–2019)

Following a period of political instability and massive public protests, a new government led by Pavel Filip was invested in January 2016.[85] Concerns over statewide corruption, the independence of the judiciary system, and the nontransparency of the banking system were expressed. Germany's broadcaster Deutsche Welle also raised concerns about the alleged influence of Moldovan oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc over the Filip government.[86]

In the December 2016 presidential election, Socialist, pro-Russian Igor Dodon was elected as the new president of the republic.[87]

2019 constitutional crisis

In 2019, from 7 to 15 June, the Moldovan government went through a period of dual power in what is known as the 2019 Moldovan constitutional crisis. On 7 June, the Constitutional Court, which is largely believed to be controlled by Vladimir Plahotniuc[88] from the Democratic Party, announced that they had temporarily removed the sitting president, Igor Dodon, from power due to his 'inability' to call new parliamentary elections as the parliament did not form a coalition within three months of the validation of the election results. According to Moldovan constitutional law, the president may call snap elections if no government is formed after three months.[89] However, on 8 June, the NOW Platform DA and PAS reached an agreement with the Socialist party forming a government led by Maia Sandu as the new prime minister, pushing the Democratic Party out of power.[90] This new government was also supported by Igor Dodon. The new coalition and Igor Dodon argued that the president may call snap elections after consulting the parliament but is not obliged to do so. Additionally, because the election results were verified on 9 March, three months should be interpreted as three calendar months, not 90 days as was the case. The former prime minister, Pavel Filip from the Democratic Party, said that new parliamentary elections would be held on 6 September and refused to recognize the new coalition, calling it an illegal government. After a week of dual government meetings, some protest, and the international community mostly supporting the new government coalition, Pavel Filip stepped down as prime minister but still called for new elections.[91] The Constitutional Court reversed the decision on 15 June, effectively ending the crisis.[92]

COVID-19 pandemic

In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government called a "national red code alert" as the number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to six on 13 March 2020. Government "banned all gatherings of over 50 people until 1 April 2020 and closed all schools and kindergartens in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus". Flights were banned to Spain, Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Germany, Ireland, the U.K., Poland, Portugal and Romania.[93] On 17 March, Parliament declared a state of emergency for at least 60 days, suspended all international flights and closed borders with neighbours Romania and Ukraine. Moldova reported 29 cases of the disease on 17 March 2020.[94] The country reported its first death from the disease on 18 March 2020, when the total number of cases reached 30.[95]

According to the World Health Organization, between 3 January 2020 and 28 June 2023, there have been 620,717 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 12,124 deaths. As of 11 July 2023, a total of 2,288,948 vaccine doses have been administered.[96] Moldova is among the first countries in the WHO European Region to conduct a COVID-19 intra-action review (IAR) upon the request of Moldova's Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection.[97]

Presidency of Maia Sandu since 2020

Maia Sandu at Batumi International Conference, on 19 July 2021.

In the November 2020 presidential election, the pro-European opposition candidate Maia Sandu was elected as the new president of the republic, defeating incumbent pro-Russian president Igor Dodon and thus becoming the first female elected president of Moldova.[98]

In December 2020, Prime Minister Ion Chicu, who had led a pro-Russian government since November 2019, resigned a day before Sandu was sworn in.[99] The parliament, dominated by pro-Russian Socialists, did not accept any Prime Minister candidate proposed by the new president.[100]

On 28 April 2021, Sandu dissolved the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova after the Constitutional Court ended Moldova's state of emergency which had been brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.[101] Parliamentary elections took place on 11 July 2021.[102] The snap parliamentary elections resulted in a landslide win for the pro-European Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS).[103]

On 6 August 2021, the Natalia Gavrilița-led cabinet was sworn in to office with 61 votes, all from the Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS).[104] Gavrilița resigned on 10 February 2023 and was replaced by Dorin Recean as Prime Minister of Moldova.[105][106]

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Maia Sandu, President of Moldova on 31 May 2023.

Since Maia Sandu was elected President of Moldova, the country has pursued the goal of full membership of the European Union by 2030 as well as deeper co-operation with NATO.[22][107][108] This resulted in Moldova signing the membership application to join the EU on 3 March 2022 and on 23 June 2022, Moldova was officially granted candidate status by EU leaders.

Fighting corruption has been a major government initiative, one also essential to EU membership. On 8 June 2021, Sandu signed off on the creation of an extra-governmental corruption monitoring body after declaring the state's own institutions "too slow". The six-member panel of the 'Anticorruption Independent Consultative Committee' will be co-chaired by United States diplomat James Wasserstrom, includes economists, jurists and journalists and is partially funded by the European Union and United States.[109] This was followed by the Moldovan government suspending the Prosecutor General Alexandru Stoianoglo in relation to charges of corruption, former Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca was charged with abuse of power, the former President Igor Dodon was arrested by the Moldovan authorities on charges of corruption for the receipt of bribes.[110][111][112]

Russia's invasion of Ukraine caused significant economic turmoil in Moldova throughout 2022, in particular due to its reliance at that time on Russian oil and gas, with annual inflation surging to 22% and growth falling from a post-COVID surge of 14% to 0.3%.[113] In response to these shockwaves, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) put a total of €2bn (£1.74bn) into the Moldovan economy and helped it secure gas supplies, a fivefold increase over 2021.[114] As of 18 June 2023, Moldovan Prime Minister Dorin Recean confirmed that the country is 100% independent of Russian oil and natural gas. He stated that "Moldova no longer consumes Russian gas, it is integrated in the European energy network both technically and commercially."[115]

On 19 June 2023 the pro-Russian Șor Party was banned by the Constitutional Court of Moldova after months of pro-Russian protests seeking to destabilise the Moldovan government.[116] The court declared the party unconstitutional, with court chairman Nicolae Roșca citing "an article in the constitution stating that parties must through their activities uphold political pluralism, the rule of law and the territorial integrity of Moldova."[117] The party was led by Ilan Shor, a fugitive businessman who fled to Israel in 2019 after being convicted of fraud and money-laundering and sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia.[118] President Sandu welcomed the court's decision.[118] On 26 June, Ilan Shor announced that he would create a new political party in order to contest the upcoming general election.[119] On 31 July, the Moldovan parliament voted in favour of banning the leaders of the dissolved pro-Russian Șor Party – including Ilan Shor – from standing in elections for a period of five years.[120] Leader and founder of the party, Ilan Șor, currently a fugitive of the state, has claimed he will contest the ban.[121] A clone party, called "ȘANSĂ" or Chance party, led by journalist Alexei Lungu was established by Ilan Shor,[122] however it was deregistered two days before the local elections amid claims of using illegal funds from Russia.[citation needed]

Russia-related events since the invasion of neighbouring Ukraine

In February 2022 Sandu condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it "a blatant breach of international law and of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity."[123]

President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, with President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, 27 June 2022.

Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita stated on 28 February 2022 that Moldova should rapidly move to become a member of the European Union despite Russian objections.[124]

According to Bloomberg, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine took place, the Moldovan government's computer systems used for security operations along the Ukraine border came under attack from Russia. "As the war progressed, pro-Russian social media accounts spread false claims designed to discredit the Moldovan government, and trolls bombarded Moldovan authorities with thousands of fake bomb threats. In August, hackers breached email servers used by the Moldovan president's office; in November, hackers also published thousands of private messages they claimed to have stolen from Ana Revenco, Moldova's minister of internal affairs, and Sergiu Litvinenco, who was then serving as minister of justice."[125] A sustained campaign of cyberwarfare from Russia against Moldova has continued with the war, with "denial-of-service attempts to flood Moldovan government websites with traffic and force them offline. There's also been a sustained campaign of phishing emails targeting government accounts, with more than 1,300 received in early 2023."[125]

According to the UNHCR, since 24 February 2022, more than 780,000 Ukrainian refugees were permitted to cross the border into Moldova. Of that number, some 107,000 chose to remain in Moldova, the rest seeking asylum further afield.[126][127]

The country has received praise from the United Nations for its efforts to protect Ukrainian refugees, despite being among the poorest nations in Europe.[128] About 75% of the Ukrainian refugees in Moldova have been hosted by ordinary Moldovan families, sharing their homes with their new guests.[129]

The government's own efforts have been aided by Moldovans for Peace, an NGO civic initiative to provide help to Ukrainian refugees.[130] The World Health Organization has stated that "The Republic of Moldova's authorities and humanitarian entities have demonstrated leadership in responding to the needs of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine."[131]

On 26 April 2022, authorities from the Transnistria region said two transmitting antennas broadcasting Russian radio programs at Grigoriopol transmitter broadcasting facility near the town of Maiac in the Grigoriopol District near the Ukrainian border had been blown up and the previous evening, the premises of the Transnistrian state security service had been attacked.[132][133]

Russian soldiers in Tiraspol, Transnistria.

The Russian army has a military base and a large ammunition dump in the region. Russia has about 1,500 soldiers stationed in breakaway Transnistria. They are supposed to serve there as peacekeepers.[134] In March 2022, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recognized Transnistria as "a Moldovan territory occupied by Russia."[135] On 24 February, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that an attack "on Transnistria would be "an attack on the Russian Federation."[136] According to The Kyiv Independent, "There is speculation that this is a facade for a Russian plan to invade or destabilize Moldova."[136] President Sandu dismissed that Moldova intended to invade Transnistria and called for calm.[137]

The Moldovan government expressed its alarm and concern in April 2023 when Russian soldiers stationed in Transnistria undertook military manoeuvres without seeking Chișinău's consent.[138] The Security Zone is managed by the Unified Control Commission (UCC) which consists of representatives from Moldova, Russia, and the separatist regime in Tiraspol. "Between February and April, Russian armoured military equipment moved outside the range of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces. The manoeuvre was not coordinated with the Unified Control Commission."[138] On 8 May, Transnistria's envoy to Moscow, Leonid Manakov, publicly requested that Russia should send more Russian soldiers into Transnistria because of what it called "growing security risks" from Ukraine and Moldova.[139] Manakov also stated that "As long as Russia's peacekeeping mission continues, Moldova is constrained in any military plans and preparations against Trandsniestria".[140] Moldova's prime minister, Dorin Recean, said that Russian troops should be expelled from the region.[141]

On 31 October 2022, Moldova's Interior Ministry said that debris from a Russian missile landed in the northern village of Naslavcea after a Russian fusillade was intercepted by air defenses in neighboring Ukraine. The Ministry reported no people were hurt but the windows of several residential homes were shattered. The Russian strike was targeting a Ukrainian dam on the Nistru river that runs through Moldova and Ukraine.[142][143] On 5 December, another missile fell near the city of Briceni as Russia launched another wave of missile strikes against Ukraine.[144] Yet another missile fell into Larga on 14 January 2023 as a result of another wave of missile strikes against Ukraine[145][146] and again on the same village on 16 February of the same year.[147] On 25 September, a missile crashed into Chițcani, for the first time in Moldovan territory controlled by Transnistria.[148] On 11 February 2024, fragments of a Russian drone were found in the village of Etulia.[149] This happened again on 17 February in Etulia Nouă[150] and on 4 April again in Etulia.[151]

Russia's '10 year plan', written in 2021, was leaked to the international press, involved supporting pro-Russian groups, utilizing the Orthodox Church and threatening to cut off supplies of natural gas with the aim to destabilise Moldova.[152][153]

In February 2023 an attempted coup by a series of Russian-backed actors was uncovered involving saboteurs with military training dressed in civilian clothes to stage attacks (including on state buildings), and take hostages.[154] The Moldovan government was to be overthrown and replaced with a puppet government. The plan allegedly involved an alliance between criminal groups and two exiled Moldovan oligarchs.[155] President Sandu said Russian, Montenegrin, Belarusian, and Serbian citizens were to enter Moldova to incite protests as part of the coup plan;[156] Moldovan intelligence believes foreign provocateurs would be used to foment violent unrest during the anti-government protests.[157] Foreign citizens were also to be involved in violent actions. Sandu credited Ukrainian partners for uncovering locations and logistical aspects of the plot.[158] In a 10 March briefing, United States National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby made public information about Russian efforts to destabilise Moldova obtained by the U.S. Kirby stated the U.S. government believes Russia to be pursuing destabilisation efforts in Moldova with the ultimate goal of replacing the existing Moldovan government with one that would be more friendly to Russian interests.[159]

In July 2023, opposition politician Oleg Khorzhan, a pro-Russian critic of the Transnistrian government, and leader of the local Transnistrian Communist Party in the breakaway Transnistria region, was found dead in his home on the outskirts of Tiraspol.[160] He had been released from prison for less than a year. Reports suggest he had been either shot dead or stabbed, with other reports suggesting signs of torture. The Moldovan National Police has opened an active investigation into his presumed murder.[161][162]

Politics

The Moldovan Parliament

The Republic of Moldova is a constitutional republic with a unicameral parliamentary system of government and competitive, multi-party elections. The constitution provides for executive and legislative branches as well as an independent judiciary and a clear separation of powers. The president serves as the head of state, is elected every four years, and can be re-elected once. The prime minister serves as the head of government, appointed by the president with parliament's support. The head of government in turn assembles a cabinet, subject to parliamentary approval. Legislative authority is vested in the unicameral Parliament of Moldova which has 101 seats and whose members are elected by popular vote on party lists every four years. The president's official residence is the Presidential Palace, Chișinău.

After the prime minister and government resigned in 2020 and the president and parliament failed to form a new government, early parliamentary elections were held in July 2021. According to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers, the 2021 parliamentary elections were well-administered and competitive, and fundamental freedoms were largely respected.[163] The Party of Action and Solidarity won 63 seats in the 101-seat parliament, enough to form a single-party majority.[164]

Maia Sandu, Moldova's President since December 2020.

The 1994 Constitution of Moldova sets the framework for the government of the country. A parliamentary majority of at least two-thirds is required to amend the Constitution of Moldova, which cannot be revised in times of war or national emergency. Amendments to the Constitution affecting the state's sovereignty, independence, or unity can only be made after a majority of voters support the proposal in a referendum. Furthermore, no revision can be made to limit the fundamental rights of people enumerated in the Constitution.[165] The 1994 constitution also establishes an independent Constitutional Court, composed of six judges (two appointed by the President, two by Parliament, and two by the Supreme Council of Magistrature), serving six-year terms, during which they are irremovable and not subordinate to any power. The court is invested with the power of judicial review over all acts of parliament, over presidential decrees, and over international treaties signed by the country.[165]

The head of state is the President of Moldova, who between 2001 and 2015 was elected by the Moldovan Parliament, requiring the support of three-fifths of the deputies (at least 61 votes). This system was designed to decrease executive authority in favour of the legislature. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Court ruled on 4 March 2016 that this constitutional change adopted in 2000 regarding the presidential election was unconstitutional, thus reverting the election method of the president to a two-round system direct election.[166]

Foreign relations

After achieving independence from the Soviet Union, Moldova's foreign policy was designed with a view to establishing relations with other European countries, neutrality, and European Union integration. In May 1995 the country signed the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly Convention to become a member and was also admitted in July 1995 to the Council of Europe.

Moldova became a member state of the United Nations the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1992. 1994 saw Moldova became a participant in NATO's Partnership for Peace programme. The Francophonie was joined in 1996 with the country joining the World Trade Organization in 2001 and the International Criminal Court in 2002.

In 2005, Moldova and the European Union established an action plan that sought to improve cooperation between Moldova and the union. At the end of 2005, the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) was established at the joint request of the presidents of Moldova and Ukraine. EUBAM assists the Moldovan and Ukrainian governments in approximating their border and customs procedures to EU standards and offers support in both countries' fight against cross-border crime.

After the 1990–1992 War of Transnistria, Moldova sought a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Transnistria region by working with Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, calling for international mediation, and co-operating with the OSCE and UN fact-finding and observer missions. The foreign minister of Moldova, Andrei Stratan, repeatedly stated that the Russian troops stationed in the breakaway region were there against the will of the Moldovan government and called on them to leave "completely and unconditionally".[167] In 2012, a security zone incident resulted in the death of a civilian, raising tensions with Russia.[168]

President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili, President of Moldova Maia Sandu, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President of the European Council Charles Michel during the 2021 Batumi International Conference. In 2014, the EU signed Association Agreements with the three states.

In September 2010, the European Parliament approved a grant of €90 million to Moldova.[169] The money was to supplement US$570 million in International Monetary Fund loans,[170] World Bank and other bilateral support already granted to Moldova. In April 2010, Romania offered Moldova development aid worth of €100 million while the number of scholarships for Moldovan students doubled to 5,000.[171] According to a lending agreement signed in February 2010, Poland provided US$15 million as a component of its support for Moldova in its European integration efforts.[172] The first joint meeting of the Governments of Romania and Moldova, held in March 2012, concluded with several bilateral agreements in various fields.[173][174] The European orientation "has been the policy of Moldova in recent years and this is the policy that must continue," Nicolae Timofti told lawmakers before his election in 2012.[175][full citation needed]

On 29 November 2013, at a summit in Vilnius, Moldova signed an association agreement with the European Union dedicated to the European Union's 'Eastern Partnership' with ex-Soviet countries.[176] The ex-Romanian President Traian Băsescu stated that Romania will make all efforts for Moldova to join the EU as soon as possible. Likewise, Traian Băsescu declared that the unification of Moldova and Romania is the next national project for Romania, as more than 75% of the population speaks Romanian.[177]

Russia

A document written in 2021 by the Russia's FSB's Directorate for Cross-Border Cooperation, titled "Strategic objectives of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Moldova" sets out a 10-year plan to destabilise Moldova. Using energy blackmail, political and elite sources in Moldova that are favourable to Russia and the Orthodox Church. Russia denies any such plan.[178][179]

Religious leaders play a role in shaping foreign policy. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Government has frequently used its connections with the Russian Orthodox Church to block and stymie the integration of former Soviet states like Moldova into the West.[180]

In February 2023 Russia cancelled a 2012 decree underpinning Moldova's sovereignty.[178] In May 2023 the government announced its intentions to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States and the immediate suspension of its participation.[181][182][183] In July 2023 Moldova passed a law on denunciation of the agreement on Moldova's membership in the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly.[184]

On 25 July 2023, the Moldovan government summoned the Russian ambassador to Moldova, Oleg Vasnetsov, after media reports of alleged spying devices on the rooftop of their embassy in Chişinău.[185][186] On 26 July 2023, the Moldovan government expelled 45 Russian diplomats and embassy staff due to "hostile actions" intended to destabilise the Republic of Moldova, according to Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu.[187] On 30 July, the Russian embassy announced that it would suspend consular appointments "for technical reasons".[188]

The Moldovan Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) also ended all partnership agreements with Russia's FSB after sending official notifications to the authorities in Moscow.[189]

European Union Accession

In June 2022, Moldova became a recognised candidate for membership of the European Union.

Moldova has set 2030 as the target date for EU Accession.[190]

Moldova signed the Association Agreement with the European Union in Brussels on 27 June 2014. The signing came after the accord was drafted in Vilnius in November 2013.[191][192]

Moldova signed the membership application to join the EU on 3 March 2022.[193] On 23 June 2022, Moldova was officially granted candidate status by EU leaders.[194] The United Nations Development Programme is also providing assistance to Moldova in implementing the necessary reforms for full accession by 2030.[195] The European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has confirmed that the pathway to accession does not depend upon a resolution of the Transnistria conflict.[196]

On 27 June, Moldova signed a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association.[197] On 28 June 2023, the European Union announced a €1.6 billion support and investment programme for Moldova, as well as confirming reductions in the price of mobile data and voice roaming charges in Moldova by European and Moldovan telecoms operators, as well as Moldova joining the EU's joint gas purchase platform.[198]

Formal accession talks began on 13 December 2023.[199] A referendum on joining the EU is planned for autumn 2024, there will be no voting stations in Transnistria, however residents there will be free to travel into other areas of Moldova to vote, should they wish to.[200]

Security

The European Union created a Partnership Mission in Moldova through its Common Security and Defence Policy on 24 April 2023. The mission seeks to support the government of Moldova in countering hybrid threats the country faces as a result of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[201]

A memorandum dated 29 March 2023 stated that the mission aims at "enhancing the resilience of Moldova's security sector in the area of crisis management as well as enhancing resilience to hybrid threats, including cybersecurity, and countering foreign information manipulation and interference".[202] The initial mandate of the mission is expected to be for two years and it will be made up of up to 40 police and customs officers and judicial officials.[203][204][205] Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Romania, and Denmark have all voiced support for the mission.[204]

On 2 February 2023 Moldova passed a law introducing criminal penalties for separatism, including prison terms. The law continues with penalties for financing and inciting separatism, plotting against Moldova, and collecting and stealing information that could harm the country's sovereignty, independence and integrity.[206]

Military

A soldier of the Moldovan Army at the Joint Multinational Readiness Centre in Hohenfels, Germany

The Moldovan armed forces consists of the Ground Forces and Air Force. Moldova maintains a standing army of just 6,500 soldiers, and spends just 0.4 percent of its GDP on defence, far behind its regional neighbours.[207]

Moldova accepted all relevant arms control obligations of the former Soviet Union. On 30 October 1992, Moldova ratified the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, which establishes comprehensive limits on key categories of conventional military equipment and provides for the destruction of weapons in excess of those limits. The country acceded to the provisions of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in October 1994 in Washington, D.C. It does not have nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological weapons. Moldova joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Partnership for Peace on 16 March 1994.

Moldova is committed to a number of international and regional control of arms regulations such as the UN Firearms Protocol, Stability Pact Regional Implementation Plan, the UN Programme of Action (PoA), and the OSCE Documents on Stockpiles of Conventional Ammunition.[208] Since declaring independence in 1991, Moldova has participated in UN peacekeeping missions in Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan, and Georgia.[209][210] On 12 November 2014, the US donated to Moldovan Armed Forces 39 Humvees and 10 trailers, with a value of US$700,000, to the 22nd Peacekeeping Battalion of the Moldovan National Army to "increase the capability of Moldovan peacekeeping contingents."[211]

Moldova signed a military agreement with Romania to strengthen regional security in 2015. The agreement is part of Moldova's strategy to reform its military and cooperate with its neighbours.[212]

Since 2022, the army has begun a process of modernization, and has been provided with more than €87 million in support for the modernization of the defence sector and the strengthening of security through the European Peace Facility.[207][213] In October 2022, Defense Minister Anatolie Nosatii claimed that 90 percent of the country's military equipment is outdated and of Soviet origin, dating back to the 1960s and 1980s.[214] In April 2023, Valeriu Mija, Secretary of State for Defence Policy and National Army Reform in the Defence Ministry, claimed that Moldova needed $275 million to modernize its armed forces, especially in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the presence of 1,500 Russian soldiers in Transnistria.[215] In June 2023, Poland also sent a transport of military equipment worth €8 million (including drones, laptops, explosive ordnance disposal equipment, and ultrasound equipment) to the Moldovan police to increase the country's internal security.[216][217] Analysts at the Centre for European Policy Analysis have called for further western weapon donations.[218]

Human rights

Freedom House ranked Moldova as a "partly free" country with a score of 62/100 in 2023. They summarized their finds as follows: "Moldova has a competitive electoral environment, and freedoms of assembly, speech, and religion are mostly protected. Nonetheless, pervasive corruption, links between major political figures and powerful economic interests, and critical deficiencies in the justice sector and the rule of law all continue to hamper democratic governance."[219] According to Transparency International, Moldova's Corruption Perceptions Index improved to 39 points in 2022 from 34 in 2020.[220] Reporters Without Borders improved Moldova's Press Freedom Index ranking from 89th in 2020 to 40th in 2022, while cautioning that "Moldova's media are diverse but extremely polarised, like the country itself, which is marked by political instability and excessive influence by oligarchs."[221][222]

According to Amnesty International's 2022/23 report, "No visible progress was made in reducing instances of torture and other ill-treatment in detention. Impunity continued for past human rights violations by law enforcement agencies. New "temporary" restrictions on public assemblies were introduced. The rights of LGBTI people were not fully realized, leading to cases of harassment, discrimination and violence. Some refugee reception centres turned away religious and ethnic minority refugees. In the breakaway Transdniestria region, prosecution and imprisonment for peaceful dissent continued."[223] On 18 June 2023, some 500 LGBT activists and supporters held a Pride parade in the capital city of Chișinău which for the first time needed no heavy police cordons to protect them from protesters largely linked to the Orthodox church.[224]

According to Human Rights Report of the United States Department of State, released in 2022, "While authorities investigated reports of human rights abuses and corruption committed by officials, the process was slow and burdensome. During the year, authorities indicted and detained several former high-level officials including former President Igor Dodon, former member of parliament Vladimir Andronachi, Shor Party member of parliament Marina Tauber and former director of Moldovan Railways Anatolie Topala. None of these cases resulted in conviction by a court at year's end. Authorities took some steps to identify, investigate, and prosecute officials for human rights abuses, but progress was slow."[225]

In a meeting with the European Union in October 2022, EU representatives "welcomed positive developments in Moldova such as the ratification of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, the adoption of legislation on hate crime, and the ongoing work to reform the Electoral Code. It encouraged Moldovan authorities to address shortcomings identified by OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission across all areas and ensure effective and continuous implementation of human rights legislation."[226] The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights' 2016 recommendations on hate crimes were "largely reflected in amendments to the Criminal Code adopted by the Moldovan Parliament and published on 3 June 2022", but the report notes that Moldovan law enforcement officers often fail to record the bias motivations behind hate crimes, and additionally recommended "developing its victim support system to ensure effective access to justice, assistance, and protection services for hate crime victims".[227] In 2021, 8 hate crimes were recorded, 7 of which reached a successful conviction, with one going to prosecution but without a conviction.

Administrative divisions

Moldova is divided into 32 districts (raioane, singular raion), three municipalities and two autonomous regions (Gagauzia and the Left Bank of the Dniester).[228] The final status of Transnistria is disputed, as the central government does not control that territory. 10 other cities, including Comrat and Tiraspol, the administrative seats of the two autonomous territories, also have municipality status.

Moldova has 66 cities (towns), including 13 with municipality status, and 916 communes. Another 700 villages are too small to have a separate administration and are administratively part of either cities (41 of them) or communes (659). This makes for a total of 1,682 localities in Moldova, two of which are uninhabited.[229]

The largest city in Moldova is Chișinău with a population of approx. 695,400 people. The second largest city is Tiraspol at 129,500, part of the unrecognised breakaway region of Transnistria, followed by Bălți (146,900) and Bender (91,000).

 
Largest cities in Moldova
Source: Moldovan Census (2004); Note: 1. World Gazetteer. Moldova: largest cities 2004. 2. Pridnestrovie.net 2004 Census 2004. 3. National Bureau of Statistics of Moldova
Rank Municipal pop. Rank Municipal pop.
Chișinău
Chișinău
Tiraspol
Tiraspol
1 Chișinău 644,204 11 Comrat 20,113 Bălți
Bălți
Bender
Bender
2 Tiraspol 129,500 12 Strășeni 18,376
3 Bălți 102,457 13 Durlești 17,210
4 Bender 91,000 14 Ceadîr-Lunga 16,605
5 Rîbnița 46,000 15 Căușeni 15,939
6 Ungheni 30,804 16 Codru 15,934
7 Cahul 30,018 17 Edineț 15,520
8 Soroca 22,196 18 Drochia 13,150
9 Orhei 21,065 19 Ialoveni 12,515
10 Dubăsari 25,700 20 Hîncești 12,491

Law enforcement and emergency services

The Moldovan police force (General Police Inspectorate) reports to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MAI) and is the primary law enforcement body, responsible for internal security, public order, traffic, and criminal investigations. Several agencies responsible for border management, emergency situations, migration and asylum also report to the ministry. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.[225] The Moldovan Police are divided into state and municipal organisations. State police provide law enforcement throughout Moldova while municipal police operate at the local administrative level. National and municipal police forces often collaborate closely for law enforcement purposes. The Special Forces Brigade "Fulger" is a specialized combat-ready police force primarily responsible for tackling organized crime, serious violent crime, and hostage situations. They are subordinate to the General Police Inspectorate and therefore under strict civilian control.[225]

There are also a number of more specialised police institutions including the Police Department of Chisinau Municipality and the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation. The Moldovan Border Police are responsible for border security. It was a military branch until 2012 when it was put under the control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. According to The Law on Police Use of Force Worldwide, "Moldova does not regulate and restrict the use of firearms by law enforcement officials as international law requires. Police use of a firearm can only be lawful where necessary to confront an imminent threat of death or serious injury or a grave and proximate threat to life."[230]

The Security and Intelligence Service (SIS) is a Moldovan state body specialized in ensuring national security by exercising all appropriate intelligence and counter-intelligence measures, such as: collecting, processing, checking and capitalizing the information needed to identify, prevent and counteract any actions that according to law represent an internal or external threat to independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, constitutional order, democratic development, internal security of the state, society and citizens, the statehood of the Republic of Moldova, the stable functioning of vitally important branches of the national economy, both on the territory of the Republic of Moldova and abroad.

Emergency services in Moldova consist of emergency medical services, search and rescue units, and a state firefighting service. There are two hospitals in the capital city Chișinău, the primary being Medpark International Hospital, and general hospitals in Bălți, Briceni, Cahul, and Călărași.[231][232] Moldova has a universal healthcare system through a mandatory health insurance scheme. Casa Mariorei, founded in 2002, is a domestic violence shelter in Chișinău which provides shelter, healthcare, legal advice, and psychosocial support for native Moldovan, immigrant, and refugee women.[233]

Geography

Scenery in Moldova, with Nistru River (Dniester)

Moldova is a landlocked country situated in Eastern Europe, on the northeastern corner of the Balkans in the Black Sea Basin, between latitudes 45° and 49° N, and mostly between meridians 26° and 30° E (a small area lies east of 30°). The country lies to the east of the Carpathian Mountains and is bordered by Romania to its west and by Ukraine to its north, east, and south. The total length of the national boundaries is 1,389 km, including 939 km with Ukraine and 450 km with Romania. The country is separated from Romania on the west by the Prut river and on the east from Ukraine by the Dniester river. The total land area is 33,843.5 km2 (13,067.0 sq mi), of which 960 km2 (370 sq mi) is water. The largest part of the country (around 88% of the area) lies in the Bessarabia region, while a narrow strip in the east is located in the unrecognised breakaway state of Transnistria on the eastern bank of the Dniester.

Moldovan landscape in the Ungheni District.

Although the country is technically landlocked, the port of Giurgiulești in the extreme south-west of the country lies on the confluence of the Danube and Prut rivers, which therefore provides it with access to international waters through the Danube which empties into the Black Sea. The Dniester river, which rises in Ukraine near the city of Drohobych, passes through Moldova, separating the main territory from its unrecognised breakaway region Transnistria, and empties into the Black Sea in Ukraine. At its closest point, Moldova is separated from the Dniester Liman, an estuary of the Black Sea, by only 3 km of Ukrainian territory.

La Castel landscape reserve near Gordinești, Edineț District
Nistru (Dniester) River in south of Moldova.

While most of the country is hilly, elevations never exceed 430 m (1,410 ft), the highest point being the Bălănești Hill. Moldova's hills are part of the Moldavian Plateau, which geologically originate from the Carpathian Mountains. Its subdivisions in Moldova include the Dniester Hills (Northern Moldavian Hills and Dniester Ridge), the Moldavian Plain (Middle Prut Valley and Bălți Steppe), and the Central Moldavian Plateau (Ciuluc-Soloneț Hills, Cornești Hills—Codri Massive, "Codri" meaning "forests"—Lower Dniester Hills, Lower Prut Valley, and Tigheci Hills). In the south, the country has a small flatland, the Bugeac Plain. The territory of Moldova east of the river Dniester is split between parts of the Podolian Plateau, and parts of the Eurasian Steppe. Moldova's exceptionally rich Chernozem soil covers around three-quarters of the country's land area.[234]

Moldova's capital and largest city is Chișinău, with approximately a third of the country's population residing in its metro area. Chișinău is Moldova's main industrial and commercial centre, and is located in the middle of the country, on the river Bîc, a tributary of the Dniester. Moldova's second-largest city is Tiraspol, which lies on the eastern bank of the Dniester and is the capital of the unrecognised breakaway region of Transnistria. The country's third-largest city is Bălți, often referred to as the 'northern capital'. It is situated 127 kilometres (79 miles) north of the capital Chișinău, and is located on the river Răut, a tributary of the Dniester, on a hilly landscape in the Bălți steppe. Comrat is the administrative centre of the autonomous region of Gagauzia.

Climate

Cave churches at Old Orhei, part of the only national park in the country

Moldova has a climate which is moderately continental; its proximity to the Black Sea leads to the climate being mildly cold in the autumn and winter and relatively cool in the spring and summer.[235]

The summers are warm and long, with temperatures averaging about 20 °C (68 °F) and the winters are relatively mild and dry, with January temperatures averaging −4 °C (25 °F). Annual rainfall, which ranges from around 600 mm (24 in) in the north to 400 mm (16 in) in the south, can vary greatly; long dry spells are not unusual. The heaviest rainfall occurs in early summer and again in October; heavy showers and thunderstorms are common. Because of the irregular terrain, heavy summer rains often cause erosion and river silting.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Moldova was 41.5 °C (106.7 °F) on 21 July 2007 in Camenca.[236] The lowest temperature ever recorded was −35.5 °C (−31.9 °F) on 20 January 1963 in Brătușeni, Edineț county.[237]

Average daily maximum and minimum temperatures for the three largest cities in Moldova[238]
Location July (°C) July (°F) January (°C) January (°F)
Chișinău 27/17 81/63 1/−4 33/24
Tiraspol 27/15 81/60 1/−6 33/21
Bălți 26/14 79/58 −0/−7 31/18

Biodiversity

Phytogeographically, Moldova is split between the East European Plain and the Pontic–Caspian steppe of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. It is home to three terrestrial ecoregions: Central European mixed forests, East European forest steppe, and Pontic steppe.[239] Forests currently cover only 11% of Moldova, though the state is making efforts to increase their range. It had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 2.2/10, ranking it 158th globally out of 172 countries.[240] Game animals, such as red deer, roe deer and wild boar can be found in these wooded areas.[241]

Noted for its vivid portrayal of the lower Nistru river (Dniester), Henryk Sienkiewicz's novel With Fire and Sword opens with a description of saigas as a way to highlight the story's exotic setting.[242][243] Saigas are a critically endangered species that is now extinct in Moldova.
Scientific reserves in Moldova
Name Location Established Area
Codru Reserve Strășeni 1971 5,177 hectares (52 km2)
Iagorlîc Dubăsari 1988 836 hectares (8 km2)
Lower Prut Cahul 1991 1,691 hectares (17 km2)
Plaiul Fagului Ungheni 1992 5,642 hectares (56 km2)
Pădurea Domnească Glodeni 1993 6,032 hectares (60 km2)

The environment of Moldova suffered extreme degradation during the Soviet period, when industrial and agricultural development proceeded without regard for environmental protection.[241] Excessive use of pesticides resulted in heavily polluted topsoil, and industries lacked emission controls.[241] Founded in 1990, the Ecological Movement of Moldova, a national, non-governmental, nonprofit organization which is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature has been working to restore Moldova's damaged natural environment.[241] The movement is national representative of the Centre "Naturopa" of the Council of Europe and United Nations Environment Programme of the United Nations.[244]

Once possessing a range from the British Isles through Central Asia over the Bering Strait into Alaska and Canada's Yukon as well as the Northwest Territories, saigas survived in Moldova and Romania into the late 18th century. Deforestation, demographic pressure, as well as excessive hunting eradicated the native saiga herds which is currently threatened with extinction. They were considered a characteristic animal of Scythia in antiquity. Historian Strabo referred to the saigas as the kolos, describing it as "between the deer and ram in size" which (understandably but wrongly) was believed to drink through its nose.[245]

Another animal which was extinct in Moldova since the 18th century until recently was the European Wood Bison or wisent. The species was reintroduced with the arrival of three European bison from Białowieża Forest in Poland several days before Moldova's Independence Day on 27 August 2005.[246] Moldova is currently interested in expanding their wisent population, and began talks with Belarus in 2019 regarding a bison exchange program between the two countries.[247]

Economy

Overview

Annual growth of GDP for Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine, 1980 to 2028

The economy of Moldova is an emerging upper-middle income economy, with a high Human Development Index. Since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1992, it has steadily transitioned to a market economy. According to the World Bank, despite a strong economic performance over the past two decades, Moldova remains among the poorest nations in Europe. Growth has remained relatively high since the 1990s, with low levels of unemployment and falling levels of poverty, but a combination of demographic factors, especially an ageing population and significant levels of emigration, and recent regional events, especially Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have posed serious economic challenges to the Moldovan economy, particularly due to inflation and rising energy prices. Productivity growth has remained poor, and a significant proportion of the population are reliant on government pensions and social assistance.[248] Due to Moldova's historic reliance upon Russian oil and natural gas, the energy sector has posed a particular challenge to the country's economy.

Real GDP per capita development of Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine.

GDP per capita has almost doubled from $2,749 (USD) in 2015 to $5,562 in 2022.[249] Following the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, annual GDP growth rebounded to 13.9% in 2021, before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, energy and refugee crises caused growth to collapse to −5.9%. As of 2022, unemployment remains low at 2.3%, but inflation had dramatically increased to 28.7% due to the energy crisis caused by the invasion.[250] In recent years the country has received significant economic assistance from the European Union, IMF, and World Bank, particularly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The IMF predicts that in 2023 the economy will improve from a 1.5% contraction to a growth of 1.5%.[251]

Moldova remains highly vulnerable to fluctuations in remittances from workers abroad (which constitute 25 percent of GDP), exports to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and European Union (EU) (88 per cent of total exports), and donor support (about 10 per cent of government spending).[252] The main transmission channels through which adverse exogenous shocks could impact the Moldovan economy are remittances (also due to potentially returning migrants), external trade, and capital flows.[252]

The economy's primary exports are agriculture, apparel, and sports equipments.[253] In 2021, Moldova exported $140 million in wine and is the 21st largest exporter of wine in the world, with wine exports being the country's fifth largest export.[254] With its 300 days of sunshine per year, the climate in Moldova is ideal for agriculture and particularly vineyards. The wine industry is a major economic sector, representing three percent of Moldova's GDP and eight percent of the country's total exports, according to government data.[255] In 2021, the EU became the main purchaser of Moldovan wines. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the most promising economic sectors in Moldova, accounting for more than 10 percent of GDP. More than 2,000 students graduate with a degree in computing or a related field per year.[256] IT companies export about 80 percent of their total production to the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Romania.

Energy

With few natural energy resources, Moldova imports almost all of its energy supplies. 50% of the country's national energy company, Moldovagaz, is owned by Russian oil and natural gas supplier Gazprom, the remaining 36% split between the Moldovan government (36.6%) and the unrecognised government of Transnistria (13.4%).[259][260] Moldova's historic dependence on Russian energy is underscored by a debt of more than US$709 million to Gazprom as well as a further US$7 billion by Transnistria. Russia supplies the breakaway pro-Russian region with oil and natural gas without requiring them to pay, with the cost levied as debt against the Moldovan state as a form of economic warfare.[261][262] The Moldovan government disputes the figures, and has identified more than US$100 million in fraudulent claims by Gazprom.[263]

In August 2013, work began on a new pipeline between Moldova and Romania that has now been completed and has broken Russia's monopoly on Moldova's gas supplies.[264] Importing electricity from Romania began in 2022, breaking the need to buy electricity produced from Russian gas in Transnistria. Improved connectivity will be completed by 2025.[265] As of June 2023, Moldova no longer imports oil or natural gas from Russia and has been granted access to the European Union's joint gas purchasing platform.[115] Financial assistance was provided by the European Union, World Bank, and IMF in order to speed up this transition.[266][267]

Tourism

Moldova is the among least visited countries in Europe, and tourism consequently plays a relatively minor role in the country's overall economy.[268] Despite the impact of Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, Moldova saw more foreign visitors in the first quarter of 2022 than pre-pandemic, going from 31,000 non-resident tourists in 2019 to 36,100 in 2022.[269] This still makes it one of the least-visited countries in Europe, however in recent years a number of Western media outlets have begun to highlight Moldova and its capital city Chișinău as an attractive tourism destination due to its picturesque natural landscapes, 300 days of sunshine per year, low prices, ancient wine culture, and mix of regional cultural influences.[270][271][272][273][274][275] Tourism in Moldova has focused on the country's natural landscapes, historical sites, and historic wine tradition. The government promotes international tourism within the country through its Moldova Travel brand.[276] Moldova is internationally connected by plane via Chișinău International Airport, with direct flights to and from many European destinations, including Amsterdam Schiphol, Berlin Brandenburg, London Stansted, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, Rome–Fiumicino Airport, Istanbul Airport, and Dubai International Airport. Rail links connect it via direct overnight trains to neighbouring Bucharest, Kyiv, Odesa, and formerly Moscow.[277] Moldovan citizens also enjoy visa-free travel across the Schengen Area.[278]

Orhei National Park

As a major exporter of wine with more than 142 wineries and the largest wine cellar in the world, vineyard tours are offered to tourists across the country. Major sites include the Cricova winery, whose wine cellar stretches more than 120 kilometres (75 miles); Castel Mimi, a 19th-century chateau with vineyards, a museum, art gallery, spa, hotel, and restaurant; and Mileștii Mici, which boasts the world's largest collection of wine.[279] As a country with a deep history of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the country also has more than 50 monasteries and 700 churches.[280] Among the most famous and well-visited are the Old Orhei Cave Monastery, carved into a cliff face in the 13th century and still in use today, and the 19th century Nativity Cathedral in the centre of Chișinău. UNESCO includes both the Old Orhei Archaeological Landscape, which features evidence of settlements dating back to at least the 12th century, and the typical Chernozem soil on the Bălți Steppe of Moldova (the most arable soil on the planet) on its Tentative List of World Heritage Sites.[281][282] The capital city of Chișinău hosts most of the country's national museums, including the National Museum of Fine Arts, Moldova State University, Brancusi Gallery, the National Museum of History of Moldova with over 236,000 exhibits, as well as bustling markets in the north of the city, including the house where Alexander Pushkin once resided while in exile from the Russian Tsar, and which has since been turned into a museum. Every year on 3–4 October, the country celebrates National Wine Day, where wine producers open up their wineries to the general public and provide shuttle buses between locations.[283]

Wine industry

Mileștii Mici is home to the world's biggest wine cellar.

With its 300 days of sunshine per year, the climate in Moldova is ideal for agriculture and particularly vineyards. The wine industry is a major economic sector, representing three percent of Moldova's GDP and eight percent of the country's total exports, according to government data. Moldovan wine is being exported into over 70 states worldwide. Although Moldova is barely larger than Belgium, the country has 122,000 hectares of vineyards and is among the 20 largest producers in the world, according to a report by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV).[255]

Before Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Moldova's pivot towards Europe, a majority of its wine exports went to Russia, but this has now changed: "Russia accounted for only 10 percent of Moldovan wine exports in 2021, down from 80 percent in the early 2000s, according to figures from the Moldovan Ministry of Agriculture."[284] The EU liberalized its market for Moldovan wines and has signed a bilateral free trade deal with Moldova, with the result that in 2021 the country exported more than 120 million litres of wine to European countries, compared to 8.6 million litres to Russia.[284]

Many families have their own recipes and grape varieties that have been passed down through the generations. There are 3 historical wine regions: Valul lui Traian (south west), Stefan Voda (south east) and Codru (centre), destined for the production of wines with protected geographic indication.[19] Mileștii Mici is the home of the largest wine cellar in the world. It stretches for 200 km (120 mi) (though only 55 km (34 mi) is in use) and holds some two million or more bottles of wine.[285] It has retained the Guinness World Record for largest wine cellar by number of bottles since 2005.[279] The earliest wines in its collection date to 1969. Mimi Castle in the south east is a winery and architectural monument, which was built at the end of the 19th century in the village of Bulboaca in the district Anenii Noi, and is thought to be the first winery in Bessarabia. It has since also become a tourist complex with a museum, art gallery, hotel, spa, and wine tasting rooms.

Agriculture

Agricultural land in Dniester, 2004

Moldova is an agrarian-industrial state, with agricultural land occupying 2,499,000 hectares in a total area of 3,384,600 hectares.[286] It is estimated that 1,810,500 of these hectares are arable.[286] It is among the most arable countries in Europe, with the Chernozem soil across the Bălți Steppe being among the most fertile soils anywhere in the world.[287] With more than 300 days of sunshine per year supporting the cultivation of vineyards, Moldova is also one of the largest wine producers in the world. Moldova's agricultural sector benefits from a geographical proximity to large markets, especially the European Union.[286] As of 2021, agriculture made up 12% of Moldova's overall exports and 21% of overall employment.[288] Its most exported foods are maize, wheat, sunflower seeds, grapes, apples, sugar beets, milk, potatoes, barley, plums/sloes, while relevant and important domestic industries include sugar processing, vegetable oil, food processing, and agricultural machinery.[289] Between 2015 and 2022, agricultural production has almost doubled, particularly in vegetable and fruit production.[290] In July 2023, a network of 20 seed libraries comprising over 1,000 seeds were created across Moldova with the assistance of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, NGOs, and the United Nations Development Programme, with the aim is to improve local agricultural biodiversity, climate resilience, and the capacity of local government and farmers to respond effectively to changing environmental conditions.[291]

Nevertheless, the country's agricultural sector faces serious long-term challenges. Despite having relatively modest per capita greenhouse gas emissions, and lower than the world average, Moldova is highly vulnerable to climate change and related environmental disasters which already cost the country 2.13% of annual GDP.[292] According to Climate-KIC, run by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, "The same region in Moldova can experience intense droughts and devastating floods in the course of a few months, which is the primary concern of local people when they talk about climate. But the irregular nature of these events made it difficult to sustain long term interest from Moldovan people or to channel money from donors."[293]

Transport infrastructure

Chișinău International Airport.

The main means of transportation in Moldova are railways 1,138 km (707 mi) and a highway system (12,730 km or 7,910 mi overall, including 10,937 km or 6,796 mi of paved surfaces). Rail links connect it via direct overnight trains to neighbouring Bucharest, Kyiv, Odesa, and also Moscow.[277]

The Giurgiulești terminal on the Danube is compatible with small seagoing vessels. Shipping on the lower Prut and Nistru rivers plays only a modest role in the country's transportation system.

The sole international air gateway of Moldova is the Chișinău International Airport. with direct flights to and from many European destinations.

Telecommunications

Internet in Moldova is among of the fastest and least expensive in the world as of 2023.[294] The country ranks 3rd in the world by gigabit coverage with around 90% of the population having the option to subscribe to a gigabit-speed fibre-optic broadband plan.[295] The United Nations Development Programme has judged it to have a highly developed digital infrastructure, with 98% 4G coverage of its territory.[296] By July 2022, there were more than 3 million internet users in Moldova, constituting some 76% of the population.[297] Moldova is considering a bid to begin rolling out 5G in 2024, with testing beginning in 2019. Starlink launched in Moldova in August 2022.[298] Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the most promising economic sectors in Moldova, accounting for more than 10 percent of GDP. More than 2,000 Moldovan students per year graduate with a degree in computing or a related field.[295]

The ITU's Global Cybersecurity Index ranks Moldova on the 33rd place in Europe and the 63rd place in the world. The country's joining in 2009 of the Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe and adoption of the National Cyber Security Program for 2016–2020 have established the legislative parameters for a safer digital environment. Since Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine and their campaign of cyberwarfare against Moldova, the Moldovan government has invested significant money and resources in developing stronger cybersecurity practices and regulations with assistance from the European Union and United States.[299][300] The European Union has also set up and funded the Moldova Cybersecurity Rapid Assistance Unit to improve the cyber resilience of Moldova's public sector organisations and key critical infrastructure sectors. Moldova has adopted new legislation partially drafted by the unit which will go into effect on 1 January 2025.[301][302] The country has also passed legislation in order to more closely align with the EU's GDPR regulations, and is currently mostly compliant.[303]

Banking

The National Bank of Moldova is responsible for the financial system and has a responsibility to the management and control of all banks in Moldova. It is accountable to the Parliament of Moldova.

Demographics

The most up-to-date and reliable information is available from the National Bureau of Statistics of the Republic of Moldova's website which is continuously updated on a monthly and yearly basis. The most recent national census of Moldova was carried out in 2014 (not including Transnistria). The next national census is due to be carried out in 2024.[304]

Overview

Population of Moldova according to ethnic group

  Moldovans (75%)
  Romanians (7%)
  Ukrainians (6.57%)
  Gagauzians (4.57%)
  Russians (4.06%)
  Bulgarians (1.88%)
  Romani (0.34%)
  Belarusians (0.10%)
  Jews (0.06%)
  Poles (0.05%)
  Germans (0.03%)
  Others (0.26%)

Source: 2014 Moldovan census.

Moldova has an estimated population of approx. 2,512,800 people as of 1 January 2023, about 52,300 lower than at the start of 2022, making Moldova among the least populous nations in Europe.[305] Moldova is relatively urbanised, with 43.4% of Moldovans living in urban areas as of 2022 and an urbanisation rate of 0.09%.[306][307] About one-third of the Moldovan population live in the capital city Chișinău's metropolitan area. As of 2022, the country's population density is 82.8 inhabitants per 1 km2, and average life expectancy was 71.5 years (67.2 for males, and 75.7 for females).[305] There are 100 women per 90 men in Moldova, and employed women have significantly higher levels of education, though women continued to earn 13.6% less than men on average.[305] The number of elderly people (60 years and over) per 100 inhabitants in Moldova has increased year-on-year.[305] The national language is Romanian, a Romance language, though approximately 15% of the Moldovan population also speak Russian as of 2014.

The country has been suffering from long-term population decline due to high levels of emigration (in 2022, 43,000 more people left the country than came) as well as low fertility rates. According to Balkan Insight, the population has fallen by almost 33% since 1990, and by 2035 the total population may be half what it was in 1990.[308] Since 2018, the number of deaths has exceeded the levels of live-births, though the gap has been reduced since 2021. As of 2022, the average number of children per women of childbearing age was 1.69, well below the replacement rate of 2.1, as compared to 1.78 in 2019. The total number of deaths fell by 20.5% in 2022 compared to 2019. Unemployment has remained low at about 3% in 2022.[305]

According to the 2014 national census, ethnic Moldovans made up approx. 75% of the country's population, while Romanians (7%), Ukrainians (6.57%), Gagauzians (4.57%), and Russians (4.06%) made up the most substantial ethnic minorities. Smaller populations include Bulgarians (1.88%), Romani (0.34%), Belarusians (0.10%), Jews (0.06%), and Poles (0.05%).

Language

As of March 2023, the only official language of Moldova is Romanian, and all references to the Moldovan language in the constitution and legal bills have been amended to refer to Romanian.[309][310] The 2014 Moldovan census for the first time collected information about the languages spoken by residents in Moldova. There is a controversy about whether or not Moldovan and Romanian should be considered distinct languages, and the Moldovan government rejects any distinction, however the census allowed for respondents to respond with their preferred label. The results were Moldovan (54.6%), Romanian (24.0%), Russian (14.5%), Ukrainian (2.7%), Gagauz (2.7%), Bulgarian (1.7%), and Other (0.5%).

Diaspora and emigration

Emigration is a mass phenomenon in Moldova and has a major impact on the country's demographics and economy. It is estimated that more than between 1.2 and 2 million Moldovan citizens (over 25% of the population) are living and working abroad.[311][312] The Moldovan economy is still heavily reliant on their remittance payments. Moldovans are found across the Balkan region, Western Europe, and North America. Among the most notable Moldovan diaspora populations are: 285,000 in Romania (2020), 258,600 in Ukraine (2002) 156,400 in Russia (2010), 188,923 in Italy (2019), 122,000 in Germany (2022), 26,300 in France (2019), and 20,470 in Canada (2021).

Current trends indicate that the population of Moldova will continue to fall with emigration remaining both chronic and higher than immigration or natural birth rates. In 2020, net emigration fell to a low of 7,000, but by 2022, 43,000 more people left the country than came, though this is slightly down from net emigration of 45,000 in 2021. Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine and the economic impact on Moldova may have been a key contributing factor in the rise from 2020 to 2022. However, there are indications that the invasion of Ukraine and the country's moves towards accession to the European Union may have led to a rise in the number of Moldovan emigrants returning to their country of birth, seeking to help the country join the EU.[313] The Moldovan diaspora has also had a signifiant influent in recent Moldovan elections, voting overwhelmingly for Maia Sandu as president in 2020 and for her Party of Action and Solidarity in the 2021 parliamentary election.[314]

Religion

Nativity Cathedral, Chişinău. Moldovan Orthodox Church.

Moldova's constitution provides for freedom of religion and complete separation of church and state, though the constitution cites the "exceptional importance" of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.[315] Discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation is illegal, and incitement to religious and ethnic hatred was made illegal in May 2022.[315] Religion in Moldova is dominated by the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity. According to the 2014 Moldovan census, 90% of the country reported to be of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith.[316] Of this number, approx. 80–90% of Orthodox Moldovans belong to the Moldovan Orthodox Church (formally known as Metropolis of Chișinău and All Moldova) which is subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church, and has played a powerful role in deepening Russia's influence in Moldova.[315][317] The remaining 10–20% of Orthodox Moldovans belong to the Metropolis of Bessarabia, which is subordinate to the Romanian Orthodox Church.[315]

Of the non-Orthodox population of Moldova, the United States Department of State estimates that as of 2022, approx. 7% identify with no religion; Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Pentecostals number between 15,000 and 30,000 each; the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova organisation estimates the Jewish population to be approx. 20,000; and the Islamic League of Moldova (an NGO recognised by the Moldovan Ministry of Justice in 2011 as representing Moldovan Muslims[318]) estimates the number of Muslims to be approx. 15,000–17,000.[315] There are six synagogues in Chișinău, one in Orhei, one in Soroca, and one in Tiraspol, and one mosque in Chișinău. The remaining less than 5% of the Moldovan population are Seventh-day Adventists, Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and atheists.[315] The Transnistrian authorities estimate that 80% of the population belong to the Moldovan Orthodox Church.[315]

Health and fertility

Structure of deaths by major classes of causes of death in 2022

  Cancerous tumours (15.8%)
  Other causes (13.9%)
  External causes (4.8%)

Moldova provides universal healthcare through a mandatory health insurance scheme. According to the most recent 2022 official data, per 10,000 inhabitants there are 48.4 doctors and 91 units of average medical staff.[305] Approx. 53% of those aged 16 and over in urban areas described their own health as 'good' or 'very good', compared to approx. 33% of people of the same age in rural areas.[305] The country has 86 hospitals, 1,524 pharmacies and branches, 12,600 physicians, 23,687 paramedical personnel, and 17,293 hospital beds. Moldova spends 6% of its annual GDP on health care, up from 4.9% in 2019.

as of 2022 the average life expectancy was 71.5 years (67.2 for males, and 75.7 for females), slightly lower than comparable countries such as Albania, Bulgaria, Latvia, and Ukraine. The number of elderly people (aged 60 years and over) per 100 inhabitants in Moldova has increased year-on-year. The total fertility rate per woman in 2022 was 1.69, a fall from 1.78 in 2019, and below the replacement rate of 2.1. There were 10.6 live births per 1,000 inhabitants in 2022, a drop from 12.2 in 2019, and 14.2 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants, an increase from 13.7 in 2019 but a significant fall from 17.5 in 2019. Infant mortality per 1,000 live-births was 9.0, a slight increase on 8.7 in 2020.

The overall number of deaths fell by 20.5% compared to 2021.[305] According to the National Agency for Public Health, the major causes of death in 2022 were diseases of the circulatory system (58%), cancerous tumours (15.8%), diseases of the digestive tract (7.5%), external causes (4.8%), and other causes (13.9%).[305] More specifically, the leading causes of death in 2019 were Ischaemic heart disease, strokes, hypertensive heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and trachea, bronchus, and lung cancers.[319]

On 19 December 2016, the Moldovan parliament approved raising the retirement age to 63 years[320] from the current level of 57 for women and 62 for men, a reform that is part of a 3-year-old assistance program agreed with the International Monetary Fund. The retirement age will be lifted gradually by a few months every year until it is fully in effect in 2028.[321]

Education

As of the academic year 2022/23, Moldova had 1,218 primary and secondary schools, 90 vocational schools, and 21 higher education institutions, as well as 12 private higher education institutions.[305][322] There were a total of 437,000 pupils and students. As of 2015, Romania allocates 5,000 scholarships in high schools and universities for Moldovan students.[323] Likewise, more than half of preschool children in Moldova benefit from Romania funded program to renovate and equip kindergartens.[324] Almost all the population is literate: the literacy rate of the population aged 15 and over is estimated at 99.6%.[325]

Main building entrance of the Moldova State University.

The main higher education institutions in Moldova are the Moldova State University (est. 1946) and the Academy of Sciences of Moldova (est. 1961), both of which are located in Chișinău. The Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova (est. 1991) has featured on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and has educated a number of national leaders including current President of Moldova Maia Sandu and leader of the opposition Igor Dodon.[326] Other important universities include the Ion Creangă State Pedagogical University of Chișinău (est. 1940), Nicolae Testemițanu State University of Medicine and Pharmacy (est. 1945), and the Technical University of Moldova (est. 1964). Women account for 59.1% of students in higher education, and 70.1% of all foreign students in doctoral programmes in Moldova. 32.3% of employed women in Moldova have received higher education, compared to 24.5% of men, and 16.9% specialised secondary education compared to 11.3% of men.[305]

Regional differences and tensions

Tank in Bender, Moldova

Since independence, Moldova characterised by a substantial range of profound regional differences across its internationally recognised territory. Since independence, the country has struggled with issues of national identity, geopolitical strategy, and alliances, often torn between Romania and the European Union to the west and the Russian Federation to the east. Most notably, in eastern Moldova is the unrecognised breakaway state of Transnistria, which lies on the eastern bank of the Dniester river and borders Ukraine, which has pursued close diplomatic, military, and economic ties with Russia since 1992, with more than a thousand Russian soldiers stationed in the region. This has proved particularly difficult following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, as Transnistria's position on Ukraine's south-western flank and its hosting of more than a thousand Russian soldiers poses a potential threat to Ukraine's war efforts. The European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has confirmed that the pathway to accession does not depend upon a resolution of the Transnistria conflict.[196] There is further the issue of the autonomous territorial unit of Gagauzia. The Gagauz people are a Turkic-speaking people spread between southern Moldova and the south-west of Ukraine. While their exact origin is considered obscure, they have a strong sense of ethnic identity distinct from that of Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine, with a distinctive language and cultural traditions. They are nevertheless a heavily Russified group.[327] Support for integration with Romania and the European Union is substantially lower among Gagauzians than among the broader Moldovan population. In 2014, shortly before the Republic of Moldova signed its EU Association Agreement, nearly 99 per cent of Gagauzians voted in a referendum "to reject closer links with Europe in favour of joining the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union."[328] In 2015, "just over half of Gagauzians voted for the Russian-backed socialist candidate Irina Vlakh as governor."[328] Gagauzia continues to represent a serious challenge both to Moldova's territorial sovereignty and political stability due to Russia's systemic involvement in the region, especially by backing pro-Russian local parties and leadership candidates.[327][329] The European Centre for Minority Issues has also highlighted the role of supposedly-neutral NGO groups in Gagauzia as a new front in Russia's hybrid-war against both Moldova and Ukraine.[327] The region's current local leader, Evghenia Guțul, in July 2023 thanked the fugitive Moldovan oligarch Ilan Shor, leader of the outlawed Moldovan pro-Russian opposition Șor Party, for his personal and financial support and his "willingness to do what it takes so that we may fulfil our election promises", and expressed a desire for deeper diplomatic ties with Russia.[330]

There is also substantial controversy over ethnic and linguistic identity in Moldova concerning whether the Moldovan language and Moldovan people constitute separate linguistic and ethnic groups to the Romanian language and Romanian people. The possibility of the unification of Moldova and Romania has remained a popular topic in both countries since Moldova's independence in 1991. Romania and Moldova enjoy exceptionally strong diplomatic relations. Romania supports Moldova's rapid accession to the European Union, provides vast economic assistance to Moldova's struggling economy, and provided up to 90% of Moldova's energy needs via discounted capped prices as Moldova sought to reduce its reliance on Russian oil and natural gas.[331][332] Relations have strengthened further since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.[333] Up to 74% of the Romanian public and more than 40% of the Moldovan public would support Moldova being integrated into Romania in one form or another, though most in either country believe that 'now is not the right time'.[334] A 2022 survey during the Russian invasion of Ukraine indicated that only 11% of Romania's population supports an immediate union, while over 42% think it is not the moment.[335]

Culture

Eminescu
Mihai Eminescu, the national poet of Moldova and Romania
Cantemir
Dimitrie Cantemir, Moldavian scholar of the early Enlightenment

Moldova's cultural tradition has been influenced primarily by the Romanian origins of its majority population, the roots of which go back to the second century AD, the period of Roman colonization in Dacia.[336] Located geographically at the crossroads of Latin, Slavic and other cultures, Moldova has enriched its own culture adopting and maintaining traditions of neighbouring regions and of other influential sources.[337] The largest ethnic group, which had come to identify itself widely as "Moldovan" by the 14th century, played a significant role in the shaping of classical Romanian culture. The culture has been also influenced by the Byzantine culture, the neighbouring Magyar and Slavic populations, and later by the Ottoman Turks. A strong Western European influence in Moldovan literature and arts was prevalent in the 19th century. During the periods 1812–1917 and 1944–89, Moldovans were influenced by Russian and Soviet administrative control as well and by ethnic Russian immigration.[336]

Moldovans wearing national costumes in Chișinău

The country's cultural heritage was marked by numerous churches and monasteries built by the Moldavian ruler Stephen the Great in the 15th century, by the works of the later renaissance Metropolitans Varlaam and Dosoftei, and those of scholars such as Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin, Nicolae Milescu, Dimitrie Cantemir[f] and Ion Neculce. In the 19th century, Moldavians from the territories of the medieval Principality of Moldavia, divided into Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Western Moldavia (after 1859, Romania), made a significant contribution to the formation of the modern Romanian culture. Among these were many Bessarabians, such as Alexandru Donici, Alexandru Hâjdeu, Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu, Constantin Stamati, Constantin Stamati-Ciurea, Costache Negruzzi, Alecu Russo, Constantin Stere.

Mihai Eminescu, a late Romantic poet, and Ion Creangă, a writer, are the most influential Romanian language artists, considered national writers both in Romania and Moldova.[338]

Cuisine

Moldova's fertile soil (chernozem) produces plentiful grapes, fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, and milk products, all of which have found their uses in the national cuisine. The fertile black soil combined with the use of traditional agricultural methods permits the growth of a wide range of foods in Moldova. Moldovan cuisine is similar to neighbouring Romania, Ukraine, and Poland, and the regions share many traditional dishes in common, often with regional variations. Moldovan cuisine has historically been particularly influenced by elements of Russian, Turkish, and Ukrainian cuisine. Main dishes often include beef, pork, potatoes, cabbage, and a variety of cereals. Popular alcoholic beverages are divin (Moldovan brandy), beer, and wine—of which the country is known for making high-quality offerings.[339][340]

Mămăligă
Mămăligă

There are several traditional Moldovan dishes. Plăcinte are stuffed and deep-fried pastries with fillings such as soft cheese (often Urdă), cabbage, potatoes, apples, sour cherries and others, either sweet or savoury.[341] Sarmale is a typical Moldovan dish usually consisting of cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, peppers, carrots, meat, and baked in oil. Regional variations can also be found in other former parts of the Ottoman Empire. Mămăligă is another staple, a kind of porridge made from yellow maize flour, and is popular in other countries but often named polenta, often served with sheep's cheese and sour cream. Plachyndy is a kind of flatbread often made with kefir or buttermilk, wrapped around herbs and pan-fried in oil.[342] Zeamă is a thin chicken soup, typically consists of homemade chicken broth that is prepared with a smaller whole chicken, water, thin homemade egg noodles (tăiței de casă), and a variety of finely chopped vegetables and herbs.[343] Brynza is a soft sheep/goat cheese with a crumbly texture and tangy taste, mostly produced and popular in Slovakia, Romania, and Moldova, and often used in salads, pies, and dumplings.[344]

Borscht, a sour Eastern European soup made from beetroots, meat stock and vegetables, is also popular and commonly served in Moldova. As with other parts of the region, pierogi (known as chiroște in Moldova) are another traditional staple and are often stuffed with a soft cheese in Moldova. The dough is made with wheat flour and is boiled in salted water, pan-fried in oil or baked in the oven.[345][346] Medovik, a cake of Russian origin (and called Tort Smetanik in Moldova) is a popular layered cake with honey and smetana (sour cream) or condensed milk.[347]

Total recorded adult alcohol consumption is approximately evenly split between spirits, beer and wine. Notably, Moldova has among the highest alcohol consumption per capita in world, at 15.2 litres (4.0 US gal) of pure alcohol imbibed in 2016.[348] This has fallen somewhat in recent years, but it remains a serious ongoing health concern.[349]

Holidays

Most retail businesses close on New Year's Day and Independence Day, but remain open on all other holidays. Christmas is celebrated either on 7 January, the traditional date in Old Calendarists Eastern Orthodox Churches, or on 25 December, with both dates being recognized as public holidays.[350]

On 1 March features mărțișor gifting, which is a tradition that females are gifted with a type of talisman that is given for good luck.[351]

Music

Zdob și Zdub performing at the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest.

Among Moldova's most prominent composers are Gavriil Musicescu, Ștefan Neaga and Eugen Doga.

In the field of pop music, Moldova has produced the band O-Zone, who came to prominence in 2003, with their hit song "Dragostea Din Tei", which topped multiple notable single charts. Moldova has been participating in the Eurovision Song Contest since 2005. Another popular band from Moldova is Zdob și Zdub that represented the country in the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest, finishing sixth, also in 2021, with a similar result.

In May 2007, Natalia Barbu represented Moldova in Helsinki at the Eurovision Song Contest 2007 with her entry "Fight". Natalia squeezed into the final by a very small margin. She took tenth place with 109 points. Then Zdob și Zdub again represented Moldova in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest finishing 12th.

The band SunStroke Project with Olia Tira represented the country in the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest with their hit song "Run Away". Their performance gained international notoriety as an internet meme due to the pelvic thrusting and dancing of Sergey Stepanov, the band saxophonist. He has been dubbed "Epic Sax Guy". SunStroke Project featured again in the 2017 Eurovision entry "Hey Mama" which got third place.[352]

In 2015 a new musical project by the name of Carla's Dreams has risen in popularity around Moldova. Carla's Dreams reached the top charts in multiple countries in Europe with the release of their song "Sub Pielea Mea" in 2016. The song received a lot of airplay and reached number one place on the charts in Moldova as well as Russia. The group is still active and released their latest album in 2017. The theme of the musical group is "Anonymous" as they perform with painted faces, hoodies and sunglasses. The identity of the group members is still unknown.

Among most prominent classical musicians in Moldova are Maria Bieșu, one of the leading world's sopranos and the winner of the Japan International Competition; pianist Mark Zeltser, winner of the USSR National Competition, Long-Thibaud-Crespin Competition in Paris and Busoni Competition in Bolzano, Italy.

Media

The right to freedom of speech and right to information are guaranteed by the Moldovan constitution. Reporters Without Borders improved Moldova's Press Freedom Index ranking to 28th in 2023 from 89th in 2020, partly due to government legal reforms which made it easier for journalists to access official information.[353][354] However, they cautioned that "Moldova's media are diverse but extremely polarised, like the country itself, which is marked by political instability and excessive influence by oligarchs." Moldova's media are divided into pro-Russian and pro-Western camps and on party political lines.[355] Oligarchs and political leaders strongly influence their editorial stances.

Television remains the most popular and trusted medium, while online social media is exerting increasing influence. Most private FM radio networks rebroadcast output from Russian and Romanian stations.[355] The first publicly funded national radio broadcaster, Radio Moldova, has been broadcasting since 1939 from the capital city, Chişinău. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is also widely available. Moldova's state-owned national radio-TV broadcaster is Teleradio-Moldova (TRM), which broadcasts the TV channel Moldova 1.

There were 3 million internet users by July 2022, approximately 76% of the population, and digital infrastructure is well-developed, with 98% 4G coverage of territory. There are a number of daily and weekly newspapers published in Moldova, among the most popular being Timpul de dimineață and Moldova Suverană, but print media has an overall small audience in Moldova. Independent media are struggling to ensure financial sustainability in the face of diminishing advertisement revenues due to inflation, economic stagnation and uncertainty caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In 2022, the government removed the broadcasting licenses from six television stations for broadcasting pro-Russian propaganda and disinformation about Russia's invasion of Ukraine in violation of the country's Audiovisual Services Code.[356] The government stated that this was done in order to "prevent the risk of disinformation or attempts to manipulate public opinion".[357] All six were either owned or affiliated with Ilan Șhor, a fugitive pro-Russian politician and businessman who fled to Israel in 2019 after being convicted of fraud and money-laundering and sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia.[358] In October 2023 Orizont TV, ITV, Prime, Publika TV, Canal 2 and Canal 3 were also banned for undermining the local elections as well as blocking a number of Russian media outlets which includes the news agencies TASS and Interfax.[359]

The cinema of Moldova developed in the 1960s during the Soviet period, nurturing a small but lively film industry.[360] Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and Moldova's independence, the country's economic stagnation and poverty has hampered the Moldovan film industry.[360][361] Nevertheless, some films have seen some international success. Perhaps best-known are Lăutarii (1972), written and directed by Moldovan film-maker Emil Loteanu, and Wedding in Bessarabia (2009), which was co-produced by Romania, Moldova, and Luxembourg. In recent years Moldovan cinema has gained greater international attention. Carbon (2022), directed by Ion Borş, received positive acclaim by magazines such as Variety.[362] It was the winner of the Transilvania International Film Festival's Audience Award.[363] For the 37th edition of the Fribourg International Film Festival, Moldova was featured in its 'New Territory' section, which celebrates little-known film-making cultures.[364] In July 2022, the United Nations Development Programme announced that it would be using state-of-the-art equipment to transfer more than 1,600 films from the Moldova-Film archive for posterity and cultural preservation. The United States assisted by equipping in 2021 a digitization laboratory to restore and preserve its archive feature and documentary films, representing an important part of Moldova's historical, cultural, and artistic heritage, and many of the films were broadcast on national TV with Romanian subtitles.[365][366]

Sports

Moldova national football team in 2015

Association football is the most popular team sport in Moldova. The governing body is the Moldovan Football Federation, which belongs to UEFA. The Moldova national football team played its first match in 1994, but never qualified to the UEFA European Championship. The most successful football club is Sheriff Tiraspol, the first and only Moldovan club to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League and the Europa League. Other winners of the Moldovan National Division include Zimbru Chișinău, Dacia Chișinău, FC Tiraspol and Milsami Orhei.

Trîntă (a form of wrestling) is the national sport in Moldova. Rugby union is popular as well. More than 10,000 supporters turn out for home internationals. Since 2004, playing numbers at all levels have more than doubled to 3,200. Despite the hardships and deprivations the national team are ranked 34th in the world.[367] The most prestigious cycling race is the Moldova President's Cup, which was first run in 2004. In chess, the Republic of Moldova has several international masters, among which can be mentioned Viorel Iordăchescu, Dmitry Svetushkin, and Viorel Bologan.

Radu Albot is one of the most successful Moldovan tennis players, with ATP singles (2019 Delray Beach Open) and doubles (2015 Istanbul Open) titles.

Athletes from Moldova have won European medals in athletics, biathlon, football, and gymnastics; world medals in archery, judo, swimming, and taekwondo; as well as Olympic medals in boxing, canoeing, shooting, weightlifting, and wrestling. Moldova made its Olympic debut at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Olympic medalists include Sergei Mureiko, Oleg Moldovan, Vitalie Grușac, Veaceslav Gojan, and Serghei Tarnovschi. Nicolae Juravschi represented the Soviet Union at the 1988 Seoul Games, winning two medals.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ There is a controversy over the self-identification of Moldovans, with some authors considering them ethnic Romanians.
  2. ^ The de jure area, accepted by the Moldovan government and the Tiraspol authorities for Transnistria, is 3,509.6 square kilometers.[8] The de facto area administered by Transnistria is 3,653 square kilometers, while the area claimed by Transnistria is 4,163 square kilometers.
  3. ^ a b c d Excludes data for Transnistria.
  4. ^ The Jewish minority was more numerous in the past (228,620 Jews in Bessarabia in 1897, or 11.8% of the population).[45]
  5. ^ Note: Further 11,844 were deported on 12–13 June 1941 from other Romanian territories occupied by the USSR a year earlier.
  6. ^ Prince Dimitrie Cantemir was one of the most important figures of the Moldavian culture of the 18th century. He wrote the first geographical, ethnographic, and economic description of the country. (in Latin) Descriptio Moldaviae, (Berlin, 1714), at Latin Wikisource.

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