Moldova is a relatively small country in Eastern Europe. It borders Romania in the west, by the way to Ukraine.
As an independent state, Moldova is a young country. The country was a sub-republic in the Soviet Union after World War II and declared independent in 1991. During the interwar period, Moldova was part of Romania. The country’s economy was previously strongly integrated into the Soviet Union and was subjected to great strains through the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Moldova is today one of Europe’s poorest countries. It seeks to have good relations with Western countries, in particular the EU, and with Russia and Ukraine. Relations with Russia are still unstable because of Russian military support for the Transnistria breakaway republic on the eastern side of the Dnestr. Relations with Romania have also been changing, since in both countries there are forces that want Moldova to become part of Romania again, even though it is not considered as a current policy in either country.
Moldova wants EU membership, but recognizes that both the economic backlash and the Transnistria conflict are currently standing in the way of it.
Moldova’s national anthem is Limba noastră (‘Our language’).
Geography and environment
Moldova is a hilly plain and most of it is less than 400 meters above sea level. Three-quarters of the country has very fertile black soil. In the south, the soil is somewhat inferior. Extensive use of chemical pesticides has led to poorer soil quality and is one of the country’s biggest ecological problems. Deforestation and cultivation of steep slopes have contributed to erosion and landslides.
Moldova is surrounded by land on all sides without its own coastline, except for a 450 meter riverbank towards the Danube, where a free port, Giurgiulești, has been constructed. Moldova’s surface content is greater than for countries such as Montenegro, Slovenia, Macedonia and Albania, but smaller than, for example, each of the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Compared to Norwegian counties, Moldova is larger than Hedmark, but smaller than Nordland.
Plant life has been characterized by only approx. 10 per cent of the area is forested today. The most important tree species are oak and ash. Larger mammals include deer and reefs. There are also many rodent species. There are 281 bird species registered. The climate is relatively mild in winter and warm in summer.
People and society
Most of Moldova’s inhabitants belong to the Orthodox Church. Here from a ceremony in memory of the dead.
The population density is relatively high. It is higher than in neighboring Ukraine and Romania and about as high as in Poland. Defined by nationality, the largest population group is Moldovans with 75 percent (census 2014, Transnistria not included). In addition, 7 percent who in the census preferred to call themselves Romanians. The second largest group is Ukrainians with 6.6 percent and Russians with 4.1 percent. Russians and Ukrainians are overrepresented in the largest cities in proportion to the total population, and from Soviet times have often held leading positions in business and politics.
In 2014, 80 percent of the population stated Moldovan or Romanian (the same language) as their mother tongue. The Turkish-speaking minority group of Gagausians constitutes 4.6 per cent of the population nationwide, but as much as 82 per cent in the autonomous region of Gagausia. 43 percent of the population lives in cities (2014, Transnistria not included).
The dominant religion is Orthodox Christianity. The largest Orthodox church community is subject to the Moscow Patriarchate, a smaller one to the Patriarchate of Bucharest.
The official language is called Moldovsk in the 1994 Constitution, in the Declaration of Independence of 1991 it was called Romanian. The differences between Moldovsk and Standard Romanian are insignificant. Disagreements over the name of the language have political reasons. From the Soviet and Russian side it has been a point that it should be perceived as something other than Romanian. In December 2013, however, the Constitutional Court ruled that the text of the Declaration of Independence takes precedence as a constitutional document over the text of the Constitution in case of differences, and that the country’s official language is therefore Romanian.
State and politics
Parliament building in Chișinău. The Moldovan National Assembly was founded on the country’s independence in 1991.
Moldova’s constitution dates from 1994 with subsequent amendments and was drafted after the country became independent in 1991. Prior to that, Moldova had been a Soviet republic and part of Romania during the interwar period. The Constitution emphasizes democratic values, political pluralism and human rights.
The legislative and granting authority resides with a national assembly of 101 members. It is selected for four years at a time. Following a constitutional amendment in 2000, the country’s president was to be elected by the National Assembly for a term of four years. A majority of 3/5 was required, which meant that the country was not allowed to elect a president for periods, since none of the political main blocs had an adequate majority. In March 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that the change in 2000 violated the principles of the Constitution, so that from 2016 it was reverted to electing the President in direct elections, as in the 1994 Constitution.
Administratively, Moldova is divided into 32 district areas (counties, rum, raioane, roughly like counties), three urban areas and two autonomous territories, Gagausia and Transnistria. The last of these is beyond the control of the central government and has declared itself independent of Moldova, but is not diplomatically recognized, nor by Russia, which has troops there.
Moldova’s international neutrality is enshrined in the Constitution. The country is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. A Partnership for Peace Agreement with NATO dates back to 1994. Moldova is generally interested in strengthening relations with the EU, and from 2010 negotiations have been under way on an association agreement with the EU. There is military military duty for men, service time is 12 months.
Moldova is a member of the UN and most of the UN’s special organizations, including the World Bank, by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The country has from 1994 Partnership for Peace Agreement with NATO.
Economy and business
Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, and the economic situation has been difficult since independence. The economy was highly interwoven with the former Soviet Union. Moldova has no energy sources of its own and relies on imports from Russia and Ukraine, making the country vulnerable to political pressure. The country has no significant mineral resources, and much of the industry is located in the transnistria mining region.
About 75 per cent of the area is cultivated. Agriculture means a lot to the economy, but was hit by restructuring problems when the collectivization was lifted, besides natural disasters such as drought and floods. The most important agricultural products are wheat, maize, sunflower and barley. The livestock team is also significant. Moldova is especially known as the wine country, but also faced major problems in this area when the important Soviet market was reduced.
Gross domestic product (GDP) dropped drastically in the 1990s, reaching a minimum of 33 percent of its value for 1989 in 1999. From 2000, there has been economic growth, which lasted until 2008. With the international financial crisis of 2009, there was a sharp decline, but from 2010 there has been growth again. In 2011, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was USD 2128. Calculated according to purchasing power parity (PPP): 3540 USD. There are major social differences. A visibly prosperous but limited upper class in the capital and poor villagers are the highlights. It is estimated that over a quarter of working-age people work abroad, and almost a quarter of GDP stems from personal transfers to their home country (2011), over half of them from Russia. The main trading partners are Russia, Romania, Ukraine and Italy.
Knowledge and culture
The culture of the Republic of Moldova is characterized by both the linguistic and cultural community of the majority population with Romania, and long periods of Russification during the Tsarist Empire and the Soviet Union. Through the common past with Romanian Moldova (until 1812 and in the interwar period), the Principality of Moldova’s historical and religious literature of the 17th and 18th centuries is part of the country’s cultural heritage with authors such as Grigore Ureche and Dimitrie Cantemir. In Soviet times, cultural life was heavily politicized with socialist realism as a requirement. Well-known authors of this time were Emilian Bucov and Andrei Lupan. Grigore Vieru, Ion Druță and Vladimir Beșleagă have been more independent and innovative, with literary activity even after the country became independent.
The oldest Moldovan visual art is from the 16th century and was associated with the Orthodox church, both as murals and icons. Modern painting in the 1800s and 1900s often derived motifs from landscape and peasant life, in the Soviet era also with typical social-realistic motifs. Moldova has rich folk music with fast and complex rhythms.
In Moldova, it is compulsory nine-year school. Before the regular school start, there is one year compulsory preschool.
The mass media is characterized by the use of both Romanian and Russian languages. This applies to newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Some of the television channels besides the state-owned broadcast are branches of Romanian and Russian channels, where in addition to the transmission of programs from the two countries some local material is also produced.