Moldova (), officially the Republic of Moldova (Moldovan/Romanian: Republica Moldova) is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, located between Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east and south. It declared itself an independent state with the same boundaries as the preceding Moldovan SSR in 1991, as part of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. A strip of Moldova's internationally recognized territory on the east bank of the river Dniester has been under the de facto control of the breakaway government of Transnistria since 1990.
The country is a parliamentary republic and democracy with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. Moldova is a member state of the United Nations, Council of Europe, WTO, OSCE, GUAM, CIS, BSEC and other international organizations. Moldova currently aspires to join the European Union, and has implemented the first three-year Action Plan within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
The name "Moldova" is derived from the Moldova River; the valley of this river was a political center when the Principality of Moldavia was founded in 1359. The origin of the name of the river is not clear. There is an account (a legend) of prince Dragoş naming the river after hunting an aurochs: after the chase, his exhausted hound Molda drowned in the river. According to Dimitrie Cantemir and Grigore Ureche, the dog's name was given to the river and extended to the Principality.
During the Neolithic stone age era Moldova's territory was the middle of the large Cucuteni-Trypillian culture that stretched east beyond the Dniester River in Ukraine, and west up to and beyond the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. The inhabitants of this civilization, which lasted roughly from 5500 to 2750 BC, practiced agriculture, raised livestock, hunted, and made intricately designed pottery. Another remarkable feature of this society was the enormous settlements that were built, some of which numbered up to 15,000 inhabitants.
In Antiquity Moldova's territory was inhabited by Dacian tribes. Between the I and VII centuries AD, the south was intermittently under the Roman, then Byzantine Empires. Due to its strategic location on a route between Asia and Europe, the territory of modern Moldova was invaded many times in late antiquity and early Middle Ages, including by Goths, Huns, Avars, Bulgarians, Magyars, Pechenegs, Cumans, Mongols and Tatars.
The Principality of Moldavia, established in 1359, was bounded by the Carpathian mountains in the west, Dniester river in the east, and Danube and Black Sea in the south. Its territory comprised the present-day territory of the Republic of Moldova, the eastern eight of the 41 counties of Romania, and the Chernivtsi oblast and Budjak region of Ukraine. Like the present-day republic and Romania's north-eastern region, it was known to the locals as Moldova. Moldavia suffered repeated invasions by Crimean Tatars and, since the 15th century, by the Turks. In 1538, the principality became a tributary to the Ottoman Empire, but it retained internal and partial external autonomy.
In accordance with the Treaty of Bucharest of 1812 and despite numerous protests by Moldavian nobles on behalf of their autonomous status, 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).
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. As part of this process, the Tsarist administration in Bessarabia gradually removed the Romanian language from official and religious use. The western part of Moldavia (which is not a part of present-day Moldova) remained an autonomous principality, and in 1859, united with Wallachia to form the Kingdom of Romania.
The Treaty of Paris (1856) returned three counties of Bessarabia — Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail — to Moldavia, but in the Treaty of Berlin (1878), the Kingdom of Romania agreed to return them to the Russian Empire. Over the 19th century, the Russian authorities encouraged colonization of the south of the region by Ukrainians, Lipovans, Cossacks, Bulgarians, Germans, Gagauzes, and allowed the settlement of more Jews, to replace the large Nogai Tatar population expelled in the 1770s and 1780s, during Russo-Turkish Wars; the Moldovan proportion of the population decreased from around 86% in 1816 to around 52% in 1905.
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 Ţării was elected in October–November 1917 and opened on December 3 [O.S. November 21] 1917. The Sfatul Ţării proclaimed the Moldavian Democratic Republic (December 15 [O.S. December 2] 1917) within a federal Russian state, and formed a government (December 21 [O.S. December 8] 1917).
Bessarabia proclaimed independence from Russia on February 6 [O.S. January 24] 1918 and requested the assistance of the French army present in Romania (general Henri Berthelot) and of the Romanian army, that occupied the region in early January. On April 9 [O.S. March 27] 1918, Sfatul Ţării decided with 86 votes for, 3 against and 36 abstaining, to unite with the Kingdom of Romania. The union was conditional upon the fulfillment of the agrarian reform, autonomy, and respect for universal human rights. 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.
This union was recognized by the principal Allied Powers in the 1920 Treaty of Paris, which however was not ratified by all of its signatories. Some major powers, such as the United States and the newly communist Russia did not recognize the Romanian rule over Bessarabia, the latter considering it an occupation of Soviet territory. 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 Soviet Socialist Republic (Moldavian ASSR) was formed.
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. On June 28, 1940, the Soviet Union, with the acknowledgement of the Nazi Germany, 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) was established, comprising about 70% of Bessarabia, and 50% of the now-disbanded Moldavian ASSR.
As part of the 1941 Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, Romania seized the territories of Bessarabia, northern Bukovina, and Transnistria. Romanian forces, working with the Germans, deported or exterminated about 300,000 Jews, including 147,000 from Bessarabia and Bukovina (of the latter, approximately 90,000 perished). The Soviet Army re-captured the region in February–August 1944, and re-established the Moldavian SSR. Around 150,000 Moldovan soldiers perished during World War II, including about 50,000 in the Romanian Army (including prisoners-of-war), and about 100,000 in the Soviet Army.
During the Stalinist period (1940–1941, 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 and 35,796 deportees respectively. Other forms of Soviet persecution of the population included 32,433 political arrests, followed by Gulag or (in 8,360 cases) execution.
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. In 1946-1947, at least 216,000 deaths and about 350,000 cases of dystrophy were accounted by historians in the Moldavian SSR alone. Similar events occurred in 1930s in the Moldavian ASSR. 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.
In the postwar period, many Russians, Ukrainians, and other ethnic groups migrated into the new Soviet republic, especially into urbanized areas, partly to compensate for the demographic loss caused by the emigration of 1940 and 1944. 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.
After the death of Stalin, political persecutions changed in character from mass to individual. 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 Chişinău), that allotted more than one billion Soviet rubles from the USSR budget for building projects, subsequent decisions also directed substantial funding and brought qualified specialists from other parts of the USSR to develop Moldova's industry. All independent organizations were severely reprimanded, with the National Patriotic Front leaders being sentenced in 1972 to long prison terms. The Commission for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in Moldova is assessing the activity of the communist totalitarian regime.
In the 1980s, political conditions created by the glasnost and perestroika, a Democratic Movement of Moldova was formed, which in 1989 became known as the nationalist Popular Front of Moldova (FPM). Along with several other Soviet republics, from 1988 onwards, Moldova started to move towards independence. On August 27, 1989, the FPM organized a mass demonstration in Chişinău that became known as the Grand National Assembly. The assembly pressured the authorities of the Moldavian SSR to adopt a language law on August 31, 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.