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Cities in MOLDOVA



From Romans to Ottomans

Bessarabia, named after the Moldavian princely family Basarab, was inhabited in ancient times by wandering Skythians and later also by Thracians. In 106 AD the Roman Emperor Trajan annexed it to the Roman province of Davia.

Moldavia's Latin origin thus actually stems from the period of Roman occupation, when a mixed culture was formed between Roman settlers and the local population. After the Romans left the area in 271, Moldavia was occupied by several peoples: Huns, Ostrogoths, Bulgars, Magyars (Hungary) and Mongols. In the 13th century, Hungary expanded its empire towards present-day Moldavia. Eventually, the entire region was under Hungarian control until an independent Moldovan principality was founded by Prince Bogdan in 1349. The principality was first called Bogdania and extended from the Carpathian Mountains to the Dniester River and was later called Moldova after the river of the same name, which is now in Romania.

During the second half of the 15th century the whole of South Eastern Europe was threatened by the Ottoman Empire: Moldova initially successfully resisted the Ottomans from Turkey, but had to surrender in 1512 and for the next 300 years became indebted to the Ottomans. In addition to being indebted to the Ottoman Empire and later agreeing to the appointment of local administrators by the Ottoman authorities, Moldova was also regularly invaded by Turks, Crimean Tatars and Russians. In 1792 at the Treaty of Iasi, the Ottomans were forced to cede what is now Trans-Dniester to the Russian Empire. Bessarabia was annexed by the Russians after the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812 and the Treaty of Bucharest in 1812. In 1858 Moldavian territory west of the Proet River was united with Wallachia. In the same year Alexandru Ioan Cuza was elected prince over the area, which merged into Romania in 1861.

Domination by the Soviet Union

In 1917, during World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, political leaders in Bessarabia proclaimed the Independent Democratic Moldovan Republic in a federation with Russia. In February 1918, the new republic declared full independence from Russia and two months later agreed to merge with Romania. After the formation of the Soviet Union in December 1922, the Soviet government established the Moldavian Autonomous Oblast (oblast= state-territorial unit, established in the Soviet Union on a national or ethnic basis) east of the Dniester River in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The capital of the oblast was Balta. Seven months later, the area was upgraded to the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova, even though only 30% of the population were ethnic Romanians. Balta remained the capital until 1929, after which Tiraspol became the capital.

In June 1940, Bessarabia was occupied by Soviet troops as a result of a secret protocol added to the non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. On 2 August, the Soviet government formed the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova with Chisinau as its capital. A large part of Bessarabia and a part of SSR Moldova were merged. In June 1941, German and Romanian troops attacked SSR Moldova and Romania was given control by Germany over Bessarabia and a piece of land between the rivers Nistru and Pivdennyy Buh called Trans-Dniester. This agreement lasted until August 1944 when Soviet troops recaptured the area.

A treaty in 1947 formally regulated the return of Bessarabia , Northern Bukovina and Trans-Dniester to the Soviet Union, and Russian administrative districts and place names were reintroduced. After the war, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin wanted to Russify the population completely and cut all ties with Romania. The secret police pursued nationalist groups, the Cyrillic alphabet was reintroduced and Russians and Ukrainians were encouraged to settle in Moldova. The period 1945-1947 was further characterised by famine as a result of a prolonged drought.

The government policy at that time was such that most agricultural products were requisitioned despite the poor harvests and therefore there was little left over for the population. Furthermore, political functions, members of the communist party and academic functions were mainly given to non-Romanian ethnic groups.

Towards independence

In 1946, for example, only 14% of the political leaders were of Moldovan origin. All these measures naturally caused a great deal of unrest among the population, and in the early 1950s there was an uprising by ethnic Romanians which was crushed in a bloody fashion. At the same time, thousands of people were deported and the collectivisation of agriculture was forced through. The uprising was crushed by troops led by Leonid Brezhnev, the later party leader and president. Although Brezhnev and his successors succeeded in suppressing nationalist sentiments, the hostile attitude towards the Soviets lasted for three decades until Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union. His policy of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (change) led to a strong revival of Moldovan nationalism at the end of the 1980s and people could slowly start thinking about reforms. In this open climate, the political self-awareness of the Moldovans developed strongly from 1988 onwards.

In 1989, the Moldovan People's Front was established, an association of cultural and political groups that was officially recognised. Large demonstrations by ethnic Romanians led to the designation of Romanian as the official language and the replacement of the head of the Communist Party of Moldova. However, there was also dissatisfaction with the growing influence of ethnic Romanians. In particular, the Yedinstvo-Unitatea in Trans-Dniester, founded by Slavic minorities, and the Gagauz Halkî, a group consisting of a Turkish-speaking minority, the Gagauz.

Independent, but still many problems to overcome

The first democratic elections were held on 25 February 1990. The People's Front won the elections with a large majority. The communist Mircea Snegur was elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet and in September he became president of the Republic of Moldova. The new government took many decisions to the detriment of the country's many minorities. In August 1990, the Gagauz people proclaimed the Republic of Gagauzia and in September the Slavs proclaimed the "Moldavian Republic of Dniester" in Trans-Dniester with Tiraspol as its capital. Although the Supreme Soviet annulled all this, the two new republics held elections. Stepan Topal was elected president of the Gagauzia Republic and Igor N. Smirnov as president of the Dniester Republic. About 50,000 armed Moldovan nationalist volunteers marched into the rebellious areas. However, the Russians intervened and were able to prevent large-scale bloodshed. Negotiations in Moscow by the warring parties failed.

In May 1991, the name of the country was changed to Republica Moldova. The name Supreme Soviet was changed to Moldova Parliament. During the August 1991 coup against President Yeltsin, the Russian army declared a state of emergency in Moldova, but this decision was overturned by the Moldovan government, which pledged its support to Yeltsin. Then, on 27 August 1991, after the failure of the coup in the Soviet Union, Moldova declared independence, with the government expressing its preference for 'reunification with Romania'. In October Moldova organised its own army because, with the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union, it could no longer expect help from the Soviets. They were now left to their own devices to stop the increase in violence in Trans-Dniester. The elections of Topal and Smirnov and the official break-up of the Soviet Union led to increasing tensions in Moldova. In 1992, violence flared up again in Transnistria and escalated into a civil war.

A ceasefire was reached between Presidents Snegur and Yeltsin in July and a line of demarcation was maintained by a combination of Moldovan, Russian and Transnistrian troops. Moscow agreed to withdraw its 14th Army if an appropriate constitutional provision was made for Transnistria. Transnistria should also have a special status within Moldova and the right to secede if Moldova decided to merge again with Romania. The Transnistrian Parliament rejected Moldova's offer to give the region an autonomous status within the Moldovan state framework and insisted on an independent Transnistria. A hot topic was also the union with neighbouring Romania. Before 1940, Moldovans and Romanians lived in one state. President Mircea Ion Snegur and the Moldovan government opposed reunification because they feared it would further increase chaos and ethnic tension in the region.

New elections were held on 27 February 1994. Although foreign observers spoke of free and fair elections, many people in Transnistria refused to take part in the elections at the insistence of the authorities. On 6 March, a public opinion survey showed that 94.5% of the population believed that Moldova should remain an independent state. The new parliament, with the Agrarian Democratic Party of Moldova in the majority, was not as nationalistic as the hardliners of the Popular Front. Snegur wanted to strengthen ties with the Russian Federation, but at the same time maintain Moldova's independence. The big losers were the parties that advocated union with Romania. President Snegur signed the NATO Partnership for Peace in March 1994 and they joined the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) in April. In October 1994, the Russians and Moldovans signed an agreement to withdraw Russian troops from Transnistria and Tighina, but the Moscow government delayed its ratification and a stalemate ensued. By 1995 there was little hope that the Russians would leave. In March and April 1995, Moldovan students demonstrated against the government's cultural and educational policies. They were later joined by intellectuals, workers and pensioners who were also demonstrating for economic reasons. Emotions ran very high during the conflict over the national language: should it be called Moldovan as stated in the constitution or should it be called Romanian because the language experts thought so. During a speech to parliament on 27 April, President Snegur proposed changing the name of the language to Romanian, but the new Constitution of July 1994 stipulated that Moldovan would be the official language, which did not help relations with Romania. On 28 July 1994, the parliament adopted a new constitution, which came into force on 27 August, with far-reaching autonomy for the Russian separatists on the left bank of the Dniester and for the Turkic-speaking Gagauzes in the south.

But also in 1995, no further agreement could be reached with the Russian separatists. They were no longer satisfied with an autonomous status, but demanded a looser relationship with, among other things, the right to their own armed forces. A tough reform programme stabilised the economy in 1995 and 1996. However, the economic outlook was still overshadowed by the problems with Transdniestria, where almost half of all industrial activity is located. Good relations with Russia, the main supplier of energy and raw materials, are also essential. Several agreements were signed with this country in 1996, including one on debt restructuring with the Russian gas supplier Gazprom. Foreign policy is aimed at intensifying relations with the West and improving relations with CIS partners.

In the presidential elections of December 1996, Petru Lucinschi, leader of the Social Progress Party, defeated incumbent President Snegur. In the parliamentary elections of March 1998, the communists, who had been excluded from participation in 1994, were the big winners. They benefited from the dissatisfaction of many voters with the economic reforms. The Peasant Democratic Party, which had won almost half of the votes in 1994, did not return to parliament. Despite their election victory, the communists were kept out of the government.

The Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, the Democratic Convention of Moldova and the Party of Democratic Forces formed a new government in June, and on 1 February 1999 Ion Ciubuc resigned as prime minister. He blamed the ruling parties for making it impossible for him to govern. These parties were hopelessly divided over the necessary economic reforms. The new Prime Minister, Ion Sturza, had to resign in November after the parliament passed a vote of no confidence. After difficult negotiations with President Lucinschi, the communists, the Christian Democratic People's Party and some independents formed a government led by Dumitru Braghis in December of that year.

21th century

The parliamentary elections of both 2001 and 2005 were overwhelmingly won by the Communist Party of Moldova (CPM). It now holds 56 seats of the 101-seat parliament. In April, the parliament elected Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin as president and subsequently approved a new government led by businessman Vasile Tarlev. The opposition has consistently campaigned strongly against the Tarlev government, leading to massive street protests in 2002 and 2003. The main opposition parties are the right-wing Christian Democratic People's Party and the more centrist Democratic Party, Social Liberal Party and Our Moldova Alliance. The latter three parties together formed the Democratic Moldova Bloc in the March 2005 parliamentary elections, which has since disintegrated.

Since the March 2005 elections, the situation has calmed down somewhat. Three of the four opposition parties supported the CPM in Voronin's re-election. Meanwhile, there is talk of a so-called constructive opposition, especially in connection with the programme for accession to the EU. The question is how long the situation will remain calm.

In the local elections of 25 May 2003, the CPM succeeded in winning 48% of the local council seats and 53% of the mayoral posts. However, an opposition candidate was re-elected mayor of Chisinau.

Many Romanians in the area hope for a possible Romanian-Moldovan reunification, but under Vladimir Voronin there is no chance of this. When neighbouring Romania joined the EU in 2007, Romanian embassies in Moldova went into a frenzy; 800,000 Romanians from the Republic of Moldova applied for Romanian citizenship.

In March 2008, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev resigned and Zinaida Greceanii became the first female prime minister of Moldova. In April 2009, the ruling Communist Party won the elections even after recounts and the opposition remained doubtful. In May and June 2009 the opposition blocked the election of Zinaida Greceanii as president.

President Vladimir Voronin of Moldova resigned on 11 September 2009. Voronin's communists narrowly lost the parliamentary elections in July. Moldova's communist government then formally stepped down to make room for a new, pro-Western government. Voronin had been president since 2001. Marian Lupu, who switched from the communists to the Democratic Party (DP), hopes to succeed Voronin. The parliament has to vote on this. To be elected president, a candidate needs the support of at least three out of five members of parliament.

In September 2009, four pro-Western parties formed the government. Vlad Filat of the Liberal Democrats became Prime Minister. In March 2010, the constitutional court wanted to dissolve parliament because it was unable to elect a president. This can only be done in July 2010 as the law states that the parliament can only be dissolved once a year. Nicolae Timofti has been president of Moldova since 23 March 2012.

Vlad Filat resigned in March 2013 after a vote of no confidence in the parliament. On 31 May 2013, Lurie Leanca becomes the new prime minister. In March 2014, President Timofti warns Russia not to try to annex the Trans-Dniester region. He asks the EU for accelerated membership to avert this threat. In November, the pro-European parties retain the majority in the parliamentary elections and in February 2015 Chiril Gaburici becomes prime minister but falls in June because of a bank scandal. In January 2016, Pavel Filip forms a new coalition. In November 2016, the pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon wins the presidential election. Foreign Minister Ciocoi took over in December 2020 when Prime Minister Ion Chicu refused to stay in office after the election of President Sandu. In August 2021, Chico will be succeeded by Natalia Gavrilita.


Williams, N. / Romania & Moldova
Lonely Planet

Belarus & Moldova : country studies
Federal Research Division, Library of Congress

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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