Moldova’s population has declined since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The decrease is partly due to emigration and partly because the death toll has exceeded the birth rate for most years. A clear majority of residents are Moldavians, but there are significant minorities of Russians and Ukrainians.
Moldova has traditionally had a high population growth, but during the 1990s crisis in connection with the former Soviet Republic’s transition to market economy, childbirth began to decline and death rates rose. With the exception of a few years of zero growth in the 2010s, the population has continued to shrink even after the turn of the millennium when emigration due to poverty was extensive.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Moldova, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
The Moldavians speak a dialect of the Romanian language Romanian. About half of the language group calls their mother tongue Romanian, half state that they speak Moldovan (see below). Russians and Ukrainians together make up less than one-sixth of the population.
In Transnistria (see special chapter), Russians and Ukrainians are in the majority and constitute around 30 percent of the population each. They speak primarily Russian or Ukrainian. Around a third of the residents of the breakaway republic are moldavers.
Russians and Ukrainians were encouraged to move to Moldova during the Soviet era (1944-1991). The Russians live mainly in larger cities, while the Moldavans and Ukrainians distribute more evenly between the city and the countryside. Around the city of Comrat in the south live the Gagauz, who are a Christian, Turkish-speaking people. Other minorities are Romanians, Bulgarians, Jews, Tatars, Belarusians, Poles and Romans. The Roma are a vulnerable group with a higher proportion of poor, low-skilled and unemployed than other groups.
In an attempt to break the Moldavian ties to Romania, Soviet leader Josef Stalin decided in the 1940s that the Moldavian language should be called Moldavian instead of Romanian. The Cyrillic alphabet replaced the Latin one. Words of Slavic origin were introduced into the language. During the political relaxation in the late 1980s, a language reform was implemented and the Latin alphabet was reintroduced. Today, Moldavian differs from the standard Romanian, mainly through the Slavic loanwords.
The language issue is sensitive. Russians and Ukrainians in Moldova were against the reintroduction of the Latin alphabet. The 1994 Constitution called the official language Moldovan, which created dissatisfaction among groups advocating integration with Romania. In 2013, the Constitutional Court ruled that the official language will henceforth be called Romanian. In a 2014 census, around half of the Moldavans stated that they spoke Romanian as their first language, while half called their mother tongue a Moldavian.
According to the constitution, minority languages should be used in contacts with local authorities. Russian has a position as a language for communication between the groups.
Moldovan pronunciation guide
Ă = much like English indefinite article a
Â / Î = has a draw for a short ä
C = usually as “k”, but as “tj” before e and i; Ch = as “k” before e and i
G = usually as hard “g”, but soft as “dj” before e and i; Gh = hard “g” before e and i
i = is usually not pronounced at all if it is the last in a word, to get an i-sound last you write ii, there are also words ending in -iii and pronounced “iji”
J = voicing zj; Ș = sj; Ț = ts
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Moldaver 76%, Ukrainians 8.5%, Russians 6%, Gagauzer 4.5%, Romanians 2%, Bulgarians 2%, other ethnic groups 1% (Census 2004)
Number of residents
3 549 750 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
42.6 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
10.3 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
11.5 per 1000 residents (2016)
-0.1 percent (2017)
1.2 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
52.0 percent (2017)
72 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
76 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
67 years (2016)
Moldavian is the official language, Russian is widespread
Still deadlock on the presidential post
A fourth attempt to elect the president fails. Thus, new elections to Parliament must be re-announced – but only in 2010, as Parliament is allowed to dissolve only once a year.
Failed new attempt to elect president
A third attempt to elect a new ordinary president fails as the Communist Party boycots the vote in Parliament. The only candidate is Democrat leader Marian Lupu, who is nominated by the government.
Liberal Democrat new prime minister
Communist leader Voronin resigns as acting president and is replaced by President Ghimpu. Then Parliament elected Liberal Democrat leader Vlad Filat as new prime minister. The Filate Government declares that “integration with Europe” is its “highest priority”. Filat wants Moldova to enter into partnership with the EU on the same terms as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.
EU-friendly four-party government
The four EU-friendly parties form a government coalition, which is renamed the Alliance for European Integration. The Communist Party thus ends up in opposition and opposes the government parties in Parliament. When Liberal Party leader Mihai Ghimpu is elected President of Parliament, the Communists boycott the vote by leaving Parliament.
The Communists lose power
In a recent election to Parliament, the Communists lose the majority, although again it will be the largest party with 48 out of 101 seats. Four EU-friendly parties receive a total of 53 seats: Moldova’s Liberal Democratic Party gets 18 seats, Liberal Party 15, Moldova’s Democratic Party 13, while Our Moldovan Alliance gets 7 seats. The Christian Democratic People’s Party is again outside Parliament. The turnout is 59 percent.
The outgoing president remains
President Voronin, who according to the constitution is not allowed to stand for re-election, is elected President of the Communist-dominated parliament. It automatically makes him the acting president, as long as an ordinary president is not elected. The election provokes anger among the opposition and its supporters, as it is perceived as an attempt by Voronin to cling to power.
Stalemate in Parliament
The work in Parliament ends up in a serious deadlock, as communists and liberals oppose each other. When a new president is elected, Parliament cannot agree on a candidate. Two attempts are unsuccessful, and new elections are announced until July.
Critical newspaper articles are stopped
The state-owned printers suddenly face technical problems when Jurnal de Chișinău is about to publish an article series on the presidential family Voronin’s private fortune. The texts never come in print.
Disputed victory for the Communists
The ruling Communist Party wins the parliamentary election but is accused of electoral fraud by the opposition. The Communists receive 60 of the 101 seats, while the opposition together receive 41 seats (Liberal Party 15, Moldova’s Liberal Democratic Party 15 and Our Moldovan Alliance 11). The Christian Democratic Party falls outside the parliament.
Violent protests against the election result
When the election results are made public, violent street protests erupt among opposition supporters. Charges of electoral fraud are being spread via new social media on the Internet. The presidential palace and parliament building are stormed, and the latter is set on fire. Three people are killed and a hundred injured before the riot police regain control. According to the European Cooperative Organization OSCE, the security police are guilty of, among other things, the abuse and torture of the protesters. President Voronin is accusing forces in Romania of being behind the violence. Romania’s ambassador is expelled.
The election result is fixed after recalculation
Foreign observers, including from the OSCE, state that the election had some shortcomings but can essentially be described as free and fair. Despite this, the Constitutional Court orders that the votes be recalculated, but the result does not change.
Russia closes the gas tap
A conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the gas price leads to gas imports to Moldova being delayed for several weeks. Many Moldovan urban dwellers lack heat in their homes during the period.