Moldova and Moldovans
MOLDOVA AND MOLDOVANS
The independent Republic of Moldova has an area of 33,843 square kilometers (13,067 square miles). It is bordered by Romania on the west and by Ukraine on the north, east, and south. The population of as of 2002 was approximately 4,434,000. Moldova's population is ethnically mixed: Moldovans, who share a common culture and history with Romanians, make up 64.5 percent of the total population. Other major groups include Ukrainians (13.8%), Russians (13%), Bulgarians (2.0%), and the Turkic origin Gagauz (3.5%). Approximately 98 percent of the population is Eastern Orthodox.
Historically, the region has been the site of conflict between local rulers and neighboring powers, particularly the Ottoman Empire and Russian Empires. An independent principality including the territory of present-day Moldova was established during the mid-fourteenth century c.e. During the late fifteenth century it came under increasing pressure from the Ottoman Empire and ultimately became a tributary state. The current differentiation between eastern and western Moldova began during the early eighteenth century. Bessarabia, the region between the Prut and Dniester rivers, was annexed by Russia following the Russo-Turkish war of 1806–1812. Most of the remainders of traditional Moldova were united with Walachia in 1858, forming modern Romania.
While under Russian rule, Bessarabia experienced a substantial influx of migrants, primarily Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, and Gagauz. Bessarabia changed hands again once again in 1918, uniting with Romania as a consequence of World War I. Soviet authorities created a new Moldovan political unit, designated the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, on Ukrainian territory containing a Romanian-speaking minority to the east of the Dniester River. In June 1940, Romania ceded Bessarabia to the Soviet Union as a consequence of the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement, allowing formation of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia.
Independence culminated a process of national mobilization that began in 1988 in the context of widespread Soviet reforms. In the first partly democratic elections for the Republican Supreme Soviet, held in February 1990, candidates aligned with the Moldovan Popular Front won a majority of seats. The Supreme Soviet declared its sovereignty in June 1990. The Republic of Moldova became independent on August 27, 1991. The current constitution was enacted on July 29, 1994.
Moldova's sovereignty was challenged by Russian-speaking inhabitants on the left bank of the Dniester (Trans-Dniestria), and the Gagauz population concentrated in southern Moldova. The Gagauz crisis was successfully ended in December 1994 through a negotiated settlement that established an autonomous region, Gagauz-Yeri, within Moldova. The Trans-Dniestrian secession remains unresolved. Regional authorities declared independence in August 1990, forming the Dniester Moldovan Republic (DMR). Since a brief civil war in 1992, Trans-Dniestrian President Igor Smirnov has led a highly authoritarian government in the region, with the tacit support of the Russian Federation.
Trans-Dniestria has been a central issue in Moldovan foreign affairs. While officially neutral, Russian troops supported the separatists in the 1992 conflict. In August 1994 the Russian and Moldovan governments agreed on the withdrawal of Russian forces from the region within three years; this, however, did not occur. The situation has been complicated by the presence of a substantial Russian weapons depot in Trans-Dniestria. Despite the Trans-Dniestria issue, Moldova entered the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on a limited basis in April 1994 and has maintained positive, if guarded, relations with Russia since then. In 2001, Moldova and the Russian Federation concluded a bilateral treaty that named Russia as guarantor of the Trans-Dniestrian peace settlement.
Moldova's relationship with Romania has become increasingly difficult following independence. Romania was the first state to recognize Moldovan independence. Many Romanians supported unification with Moldova, which they consider an integral part of historic Romania. Romanian nationalists view Moldovan concessions to separatists and the Russian Federation as treason against the Romanian national ideal. This attitude led to a sharp decline in relations, especially following 1994 elections that brought more independence–oriented leaders to power in the capital city of Chişinău. Following the return to power of the Moldovan Communist Party in 2001, hostile rhetoric from official Moldovan sources regarding Romanian interference in Moldovan affairs increased, as did the anger of Romanian nationalists over Moldova's continued relationship with Russia.
The head of state of Moldova is the president of the Republic. The president is charged with guaranteeing the independence and unity, and overseeing the efficient functioning of public authorities. The president may be impeached by vote of twothirds of the parliamentary deputies. The president can dissolve parliament if it is unable to form a government for a period of sixty days. The president names the prime minister following consultation with the parliamentary majority. Once selected, the prime minister forms a government and establishes a program, which is then submitted to parliament for a vote of confidence. Until 2000 the president was chosen through a direct popular election. In that year, following a long-lasting deadlock between the executive and legislative branches, parliament passed legislation according to which the president is elected by the parliament.
The government of Moldova is made up of a prime minister, two deputy prime ministers, and approximately twenty ministers. Parliament is given the power to dismiss the government or an individual member through a vote of no confidence by a majority vote.
Moldova has a unicameral legislature made up of 101 deputies elected to four-year terms by means of a direct universal vote. Legislators are elected through a proportional representation closed list system, with a six percent threshold for participation. In a move that distinguished it from the vast majority of proportional representation systems, the Moldovans adopted a single national electoral district. The parliament passes laws, may call for referendum, and exercises control over the executive as called for in the constitution.
Moldovan economic conditions deteriorated disastrously in the post-communist period. The collapse of its agricultural exports to Russia badly hurt the rural sector. Simultaneously, the secession of the territory on the left bank of the Dniester dislocated industrial production throughout the republic. Without any significant energy resources, Moldova accrued massive external debts for oil and natural gas imports. Finally, the economic decline was also a consequence of its leaders' failure to provide any clear policy direction. A decade after independence, Moldova was poorer than any other country in Central Europe.
See also: commonwealth of independent states; gagauz; nationalities policies, soviet; nationalities policies, tsarist; trans-dniester republic
Crowther, William. (1997). "The Politics of Democratization in Post–communist Moldova." In Democratic Changes and Authoritarian Reactions in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, eds. Karen Dawisha and Bruce Parrott. London: Cambridge University Press.
Dryer, Donald, ed. (1996). Studies in Moldavian: The History, Culture, Language, and Contemporary Politics of the People of Moldova. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs.
King, Charles. (2000). The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.