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Republic of Moldova

Republica Moldoveneasca

CAPITAL: Chişinău

FLAG: Equal vertical bands of blue, yellow, and red; emblem in center of yellow stripe is Roman eagle with shield on its breast.


MONETARY UNIT: The leu is a paper currency, replacing the Russian ruble. 1mld = $0.07962 (or $1 = mld12.56) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is in force.

HOLIDAYS: Independence Day, 27 August.

TIME: 2 pm = noon GMT.


Moldova is a landlocked nation located in eastern Europe, between Ukraine and Romania. Comparatively, it is slightly larger than the state of Maryland with a total area of 33,843 sq km (13,067 sq mi). Moldova shares boundaries with Ukraine on the n, e, and s; and Romania on the w. Moldova's border length totals 1,389 km (864 mi).

Its capital city, Chişinău, is located in the south central part of the country.


Moldova consists mostly of a hilly plain that is cut by deep valleys with many rivers and streams. The terrain slopes gradually southward. The Codri Hills run through the center of the country and contain the nation's highest point of Mount Balanesti, at 430 meters (1,410 feet). The lowest point is along the Dniester River, with an elevation of 2 meters (6.6 feet).

The Dniester, along the eastern border, is the longest river with a total length of 1,400 kilometers (870 miles). The second longest river, the Prut, is a major tributary of the Danube. There are no major lakes, but saline marshes are found along the lower reaches of the Prut and in river valleys of southern Moldova.


The climate is of the humid continental type. The country is exposed to northerly cold winds in the winter and moderate westerly winds in the summer. The average temperature in July is 20°c (68°f). The average temperature in January is -4°c (24°f). Rainfall averages 58 cm (22.8 in) a year.


Three-fourths of the country's terrain features chernozem (black soil), which supports the natural vegetation of steppe-like grasslands. The central hill country is densely forested. Common trees include oak, maple, linden, hornbeam, and beech. Badgers, pole-cats, ermines, wild boar, foxes, and hares are common animals. Larks, blackbirds, and jays are common birds. Carp, bream, trout, and pike populate the lakes and streams. As of 2002, there were at least 68 species of mammals, 175 species of birds, and over 1,700 species of plants throughout the country.


The natural environment in Moldova suffers from the heavy use of agricultural chemicals (including banned pesticides such as DDT), which have contaminated soil and groundwater. Poor farming methods have caused widespread soil erosion. In 2000, total carbon dioxide emissions was at 6.6 million metric tons. As of 2003, 1.4% of Moldova's total land area is protected. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included four types of mammals, eight species of birds, one type of reptile, nine species of fish, and five species of invertebrates. Threatened species include the European bison, European souslik, and the great bustard.


The population of Moldova in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 4,206,000, which placed it at number 121 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 10% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 20% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 92 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be -0.2%; the rate fell below zero in the mid-1990s. The government is concerned about the low fertility rate and high emigration rate, both of which contribute to the population decline. The projected population for the year 2025 was 3,967,000. The population density was 125 per sq km (323 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 45% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.47%. The capital city, Chişinău, had a population of 662,000 in that year. Tiraspol had an estimated 209,800 people; Bălţi (Beltsy), 207,738; and Tighina, 144,900.


There was a net emigration of 6,000 in 197988 to other Soviet republics. This grew to 16,300 in 1989 and 29,800 in 1990. Since independence in 1991, Moldova has experienced difficulties. A short but violent civil war in 1992the Trans-Dniestrian conflictresulted in the internal displacement of some 51,000 people and the external displacement of some 56,000 refugees, who fled to the Ukraine. There is no central authority in Moldova that registers and determines claims for refugee status. In 2004, there were 57 refugees and 184 asylum seekers. In 2004, some 5,641 Moldovans were refugees in Germany and 4,799 in the United States. Between 2000 and 2004, 900 Moldovans sought asylum in European and non-European countries. However, in 2004 over 6,700 Moldovans sought asylum in European countries, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated -0.25 migrants per 1,000 population, a significant change from -5.8 per 1,000 in 1990. The government views the immigration level as satisfactory, but the emigration level as too high.


The most recent estimates indicate that the population is 64.5% Moldovan/Romanian; 13.8% Ukrainian; 13% Russian; 2% Bulgarian; 1.5% Jewish; and 5.2% Gagauz or other. The Gagauz are a Christian Turkic minority that live primarily in the south. The government estimates the number of Roma to be about 11,600; however, nongovernmental organizations have placed the estimated Romani population at anywhere between 20,000 and 200,000.


Moldovan, the official language, is considered a dialect of Romanian rather than a separate language. It is derived from Latin but, unlike the other Romance languages, preserved the neuter gender and a system of three cases. There are a large number of Slavonicderived words. Under Soviet rule the language was written in the Cyrillic alphabet, but Latin script was restored in 1989. This switch has caused problems, particularly in the separatist Transnistrian region where local authorities have closed schools that were teaching the Latin script.

Russian and Gagauz, a Turkish dialect, are also spoken within the country. Government officials are expected to know both Moldovan and Russian.


Over 90% of the population belong to one of two Orthodox denominations: the Moldovan Orthodox or the Bessarabian Church. About 3.6% of the population belong to the Old Rite Russian Orthodox Church (Old Believers). Other Christian denominations include Roman Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Mormons. The Jewish community has about 31,300 members. There are also communities of Muslims and Baha'is. Though there is no state religion, the Moldovan Orthodox Church has a privileged status with the state and the government imposes some restrictions on religious groups that are not officially registered. For instance, unregistered groups are not permitted to build churches.


In 2004, Moldova's railroad system consisted of 1,138 km (707 mi) of standard and broad gauge railways, not including industrial lines. Of that total, broad gauge accounted for nearly all of it at 1,124 km (698 mi). As of 2003, Moldova's highway system consisted of 12,730 km (7,910 mi) of roadway, of which 10,973 km (6,818 mi) were paved. As of 2004, Moldova had 424 km (263 mi) of inland waterways. As of 2005, Moldova's merchant fleet consisted of two cargo vessels of 1,000 GRT or more. Access to the sea is through Ukraine or Romania. There were an estimated 23 airports in 2004, six with paved runways, as of 2005. Air transport is provided by Air Moldova International and Moldavian Airlines, both private carriers, and a state company, Air Moldova. In 2003, about 179,000 passengers were carried on domestic and international airline flights.


The region that is now Moldova (also called Bessarabia) has historically been inhabited by a largely Romanian-speaking population. The region was part of the larger Romanian principality of Moldova in the 18th century, which in turn was under Ottoman suzerainty. In 1812, the region was ceded to the Russian Empire, which ruled until March 1918 when it became part of Romania. Moscow laid the basis for reclaiming Moldova by establishing a small Moldovian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic on Ukrainian territory in 1924.

The 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact assigned Moldova to the Soviet sphere of influence. Soviet forces seized Moldova in June 1940. After the Nazi invasion of the USSR, Germany helped Romania to regain Moldova. Romania held it from 1941 until Soviet forces reconquered it in 1944.

Moldova declared its independence from the USSR on 27 August 1991. In December, Mircea Snegur was elected the first president of the new nation. Moldova's new constitution was adopted on 28 July 1994, replacing the old Soviet constitution of 1979. The Agrarian Democratic Party, composed largely of former Communist officials, won a majority of seats in the new parliament elected the same year.

Although independent, Moldova has remained one of the poorest countries in Europe and has confronted internal problems with two breakaway regions, the predominantly Turkish Gagauz region in the southern part of the country, and the largely Russian Transdniestria region east of the Dniester River. Russian forces have remained in the latter region and have supported its Russian population in proclaiming an independent "Transdniestria Republic," with which the Moldovan government was still trying to reach a political settlement as of 2003.

Petru Lucinschi (Independent), former speaker of the parliament, defeated Snegur in a December 1996 presidential runoff election (54% to 46%) and became Moldova's new president early in 1997. The following year, Moldova's Communist Party won a parliamentary majority in legislative elections. By 1999 Lucinschi was seeking to strengthen the nation's presidency in order to overcome an extended stalemate between the executive branch and parliament that was preventing the government from effectively addressing the nation's pressing economic problems. In a referendum, voters approved constitutional changes proposed by Lucinschi, but they were rejected by the parliament.

In July 2000, parliament cancelled the direct election of the president, and he or she is now elected by parliament for a four-year term. Parliament failed to chose a new president by December 2000, and early parliamentary elections were held in February 2001. Communists took 71 of 101 seats, and in April, Vladimir Voronin, head of the Communist Party, became president. Voronin campaigned on a platform of protecting human rights, continuing the process of democratization, and ensuring that citizens had adequate food, employment, and medical care.

In February 2003, Voronin, a native of Transdniester, proposed a new initiative to settle the dispute with Transdniester. He called for a new constitution that would turn Moldova into a loose confederation of two states, and grant the Russian language official status. Both Moldova and Transdniester would have their own governing and legislative bodies, and budgets. Defense, customs, and monetary systems would be common for the federation. However, when in January 2002 plans had been announced to make Russian an official language and compulsory in school, mass protests were held, and ended only when the plans were revoked. As of February 2003, Russia maintained 2,500 troops in Transdniester, although in 1999 it agreed to withdraw all of its troops by 2001. The situation in Transdniester is complicated by fears among the Slavic population of Moldova's unification with Romania. On the other hand, at the beginning of 2003, consultations were taking place on the possible entry of Moldova into a union with Russia and Belarus.

The Communist Party stayed on track with market reforms and the European integration process. Although it is considered to be one of the poorest countries in Europe, and despite an economic base that is fairly fragile, between 2001 and 2004 Moldova registered GDP growth rates of over 6%. Also, the national currencythe Moldovan leuwas been very stable over this time period.

In the March 2005 elections the Communist Party managed to hold on to power by garnering 46.1% of the votes; the Democratic Moldova Bloc got 28.4%, the Christian Democratic Popular party (PPCD) got 9.1%, and other parties got 16.4%. The popularity of the Communist Party was not as big as it was in 2001they only won 56 parliamentary seats out of the 101 availablebut they still managed to vote President Voronin in for a second term.

Moldova's middle-term goal of joining the European Union, and its short term goal of having its citizens travel freely within the Schengen space, were hampered by the raging conflict in the Transdniester region. The European Union stated that Moldova had no immediate prospects for integration.


Elections to Moldova's first postindependence parliament were held on 27 February 1994. The parliament consists of a single chamber of 101 seats, and members are elected for four-year terms on the basis of proportional representation. In order to enter the parliament, parties must garner at least 6% of the votes; blocks of two parties need 9%, blocks of three or more parties need 12%, while independent candidates have to poll at least 3%. The votes obtained by the parties that did not pass these thresholds are redistributed in favor of the parties that did, according to their overall representation in the Parliament.

Prior to 2000, the president was directly elected. As of July 2000, however, the president is elected by parliament for a four-year term and may serve no more than two consecutive terms. The president nominates the prime minister upon consultation with parliament. The cabinet is selected by the prime minister, subject to approval by parliament.

The July 1994 constitution and the law provide for freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion; however, the law requires that religious groups register with the government. Peaceful assembly is allowed; however, permits for demonstrations must be approved and political parties and private organizations are required to register with the government.

Reforms approved in 1995 authorized the creation of a court to deal with constitutional issues and a system of appeals courts.


Although 26 parties or coalitions of parties participated in the February 1994 elections, only four received more than the 4% of the national vote (then) required to gain seats.

The Agrarian Party had been the largest political group in the parliament with a plurality of 46 seats, following the departure of 10 deputies in 1995. They left to join a new party, the Party of Renewal and Conciliation, headed by then-president Mircea Snegur. The Socialist-Edenstro bloc had 26 seats, while the pro-Romanian parties, the Popular Front and the Peasants and Intellectuals bloc, had 11 and 9 seats, respectively.

Although the Party of Moldovan Communists won the single largest number of parliamentary seats (40) in the elections held on 22 March 1998, they had insufficient support to form a governing coalition and thus remained an opposition party, while the governing coalition consisted of the Democratic Convention of Moldova (26 seats), the Bloc for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova (24), and the Party of Democratic Forces (11).

Twelve political parties or blocs participated in the parliamentary elections held on 25 February 2001. Three of them gained seats in parliament: the Communist Party, 71; the centrist Braghis Alliance (led by Dumitru Braghis) of the Social-Democratic Alliance of Moldova, 19; and the conservative Christian Democratic Popular Party, 11.

In 2005, 9 parties, 2 alliances, and 12 independent candidates entered the electoral race. The Communist Party (PCRM) won 56 of 101 parliamentary seats, the centrist and pro-Russian Democratic Moldova Block (BMD)led by Dumitru Braghis and Chişinău mayor Serafim Urecheanwon 34, while the rightist and pro-Romanian Christian Democratic Popular Party (PPCD) won 11. Despite their fragile majority, the communists managed to vote former president Vladimir Voronin in for a second termhe received 75 of the 101 parliamentary votes. Vasile Tarlev was the designated prime minister.


Following administrative reforms, Moldova's 40 districts, or raions, have been reorganized into nine counties, one municipality (Chişinău), and two territorial units (Transdniestria and Gagauzia).

The Russian minority on the east bank of the Dniester River have proclaimed their independence as the "Transdniestria Republic," but it has not been recognized by the Moldovan government, which is, however, willing to allow this region a degree of autonomy. The predominantly Turkish Gagauz region has also been granted autonomy.


There are courts of first instance, an appellate court, a Supreme Court, and a Constitutional Court. The Supreme Court is divided into civil and criminal sections.

The Constitutional Court was created in 1995. A 1995 judicial reform law provided for a system of appeals courts.

There are district courts of the first instance and five regional tribunals. The Higher Appeals Court and the Supreme Court are both in Chişinău. However, as of 2003, there was a backlog of cases at the tribunal and the Higher Appeals Court levels, due to lack of funding.

The Superior Court of Magistrates nominates and the president appoints judges for an initial period of five years. The judges may be reappointed for a subsequent 10 years, and finally, on their third term, they serve until retirement age. The judiciary is more independent now than when it was subject to the Soviet regime. The Constitutional Court made several rulings in 1996 that demonstrated its independence. For example, in April 1996 the Constitutional Court found that the attempted dismissal of Defense Minister Creanga by President Snegur was unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court also overturned a Central Electoral Commission decision to exclude a presidential candidate from competing in the November 1996 election. And in 2000, the Court ruled that legislation requiring political parties to be registered for two years prior to participating in elections was unconstitutional.

Criminal defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and are afforded a number of due process rights, including a public trial and a right of appeal. In practice, a number of convictions have been overturned on appeal.

In 2004 Moldova was deemed one of the most corrupt nations in the world. While the constitution states that the judiciary is independent, there have been several reports of political interference in the judicial process, and corruption among underpaid judges was believed to be pervasive.


In 2005 the active armed forces numbered 6,750 personnel, backed by 66,000 reservists. The Army had 5,710 personnel, with 44 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 266 armored personnel carriers, and 227 artillery pieces. The Air Force had 1,040 active members, with five transport aircraft and eight support helicopters. There is also a paramilitary force that consisted of 2,379 internal troops and 900 riot police, all of which are under the Ministry of Interior. The defense budget for 2005 totaled $9.2 million. Moldova has peacekeeping forces in Sudan, Côte d'Ivoire, and Liberia. Russia has an estimated 1,400 troops stationed in Moldova.


Moldova was admitted to the United Nations on 2 March 1992, and is a member of the ECE and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the IAEA, ICAO, ILO, IMF, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, WHO, and the World Bank. Moldova joined NATO's Partnership for Peace on 16 March 1994. It is also a member of the Council of Europe, the WTO, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Zone, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the OSCE, and the NATO Partnership for Peace. In 2001, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova formed a social and economic development union known as GUAAM. Uzbekistan withdrew from the partnership in 2005.

In environmental cooperation, Moldova is part of the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


At 51% of GDP in 2000, services comprise the most important sector of Moldova's economy, while agriculture accounted for 28%. The country's wide range of crops provides significant export revenue and employment.

Moldova has no major mineral deposits and must import all of its supplies of coal, oil, and natural gas. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, energy shortages have contributed to sharp production declines. Moldova is seeking alternative energy sources and working to develop its own energy supplies including solar power, wind, and geothermal. The country is implementing a national energy conservation program.

In 1998, the Moldovan economy experienced an 8.6% decline due primarily to fallout from the financial crisis in Russia, by far its biggest export market. Continuing financial turmoil in Ukraine and Romania hurt Moldova's exports, which were needed to pay for imports of fuel from these countries. About one-fourth of Moldova's external debt burden, which peaked at 75% of GDP in 2000, is traceable to energy imports from Russia, which has on occasion suspended gas supplies, and from the Ukraine and Romania, both of which have on occasion suspended electricity power to Moldova. Further isolation occurred in 1999 when the IMF halted loans following the refusal of the Moldovan parliament to carry out privatization plans. By year's end, the Moldovan economy had contracted to roughly one-third of its 1989 level, with end of period inflation soaring to 45.8%. In 2000, the contraction was halted with real GDP growth of 2.2%, and in December, the government entered into a three-year arrangement with the IMF under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). Although average inflation for 2000 was 31.3%, by the end of the year the rate had moderated to 18.5%. In 2001 and 2002, inflation has been reduced to single digits: 6.4% and 8%, respectively. Real growth was 6.1% in 2001 and peaked at 4.8% in 2002. The external debt burden had eased somewhat to 58% of GDP.

The economy continued to expand in the following years, registering GDP growth rates of 6.3% in 2003, and 7.3% in 2004; the estimates for 2005 place the growth at 6.0%. This increase was encouraged mainly by remittances send by Moldovans working abroad, and by a strong economic performance in Moldova's neighboring countries. However, the prolonged and deep economic recession that preceded this economic expansion put Moldova in a lagging position in comparison with all its neighbors.

Today, Moldova still is one of Europe's poorest economies. The GDP per capita was only $717 in 2004, and the country's production capacity was reduced due to the exodus of working-age Moldovans. The inflation rate was on the rise in 2004, reaching 12.4%, after falling to 5.2% in 2002. The fact that most of its industry is located in secessionist Transnistria and its dependence on trade with neighboring countries makes Moldova extremely vulnerable.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Moldova's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $9.4 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $2,100. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 12%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 20.5% of GDP, industry 23.9%, and services 55.6%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $465 million or about $110 per capita and accounted for approximately 23.5% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $117 million or about $28 per capita and accounted for approximately 5.1% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Moldova totaled $1.86 billion or about $438 per capita based on a GDP of $2.0 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 8.7%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 31% of household consumption was spent on food, 11% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 15% on education. It was estimated that in 2001 about 80% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Moldova's civilian workforce in 2005 totaled 1.34 million. As of 2003, industry accounted for 16% of the labor force, while 43% were in agriculture, and nearly 41% were in the service sector. The unemployment rate in 2002 was estimated at 8%. Approximately 25% of working age Moldovans are employed outside the country.

The law provides workers with the right of association, including the right to form and join labor unions. The General Federation of Trade Unions of Moldova (GFTU) is the successor to the previously existing Soviet trade union system. Various industrial unions still maintain voluntary membership in the GFTU, and there have been no attempts to form alternate trade union structures. Government workers do not have the right to strike, nor do those in essential services such as health care and energy. Unions in the private sector may strike if two-thirds of their membership assents. Collective bargaining is used to negotiate workers' pay and benefits.

The unrestricted minimum working age is 18, with restrictions as to the number of hours that may be worked for those between 16 and 18 years of age. Children generally do not work except in agriculture on family farms. The labor code stipulates a standard workweek of 40 hours, with at least one day off weekly. In 2002, the monthly minimum wage was $9.00 in the public sector and $12.75 in private firms. The median salary was estimated to be $39 per month.


Cropland covers about 65% of the Moldovan land area. Agricultural activities engaged 23% of the labor force in 2000. Agriculture is the most important sector of the Moldovan economy, accounting for 28% of GDP and 60% of exports in 2004. Agricultural output had an average annual decline of 13.7% during 19902000. Crop production during 200204 was up 7.2% from 19992001. In 2000, state-controlled farms accounted for only 1.2% of gross agricultural production, down from 10.2% in 1995. About 14% of all cropland is under irrigation.

Moldovan crops and their 2004 production amounts (in tons) include: sugar beets, 907,000; wheat, 690,000; grapes, 600,000; corn, 1,840,000; sunflowers, 331,000; barley, 260,000; potatoes, 318,000; and soybeans, 35,000.

Wine and tobacco products are important agricultural exports. Wine exports in 2003 were estimated at 20 million liters, accounting for about 3% of world market share. Tobacco production was 10,200 tons in 2004. All tobacco is grown on state farms; the monopoly and lack of buyers has limited privately grown tobacco. Wine and tobacco exports in 2004 were valued at $215.8 million and $8.9 million, respectively, and together accounted for about 23% of exports.


About 13% of the total land area consists of pastureland. In 2005, the livestock population included 400,000 head of cattle, 500,000 pigs, 830,000 sheep, 115,000 goats, and 14,000,000 chickens. Pork production amounted to 38,500 tons in 2005, when 23,500 tons of beef were produced. In 2005, 630,000 tons of cow's milk and 43,000 tons of eggs were also produced.


With no direct connection to the Black Sea, fishing is limited to the Dnister River. The total catch in 2003 was 2,981 tons, with carp accounting for 93% of the landings. Commercial fishing is not a significant part of the national economy.


Forested areas accounted for about 9.9% of the total land area in 2000. Production is largely domestically consumed; wood and paper product imports in 2004 amounted to $29.2 million.


Moldova did not possess significant mineral resources. More than 100 deposits of gypsum, limestone, sand, and stone were exploited. Production totals for 2002 were: gypsum, 32,000 metric tons (estimated); sand and gravel, 300,000 metric tons; lime, 3,500 metric tons; and cement, 300,000 metric tons. Moldova also produced crude steel, peat, oil, and natural gas.


Moldova, as of 1 January 2005, had no proven reserves of oil or natural gas, and as of 2002, no estimated recoverable reserves of coal. As a result, Moldova must rely upon imports of refined oil products and natural gas from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus to meet its fossil fuel needs.

In 2004 consumption and imports of refined oil each came to an estimated 33,000 barrels per day. In 2002, natural gas consumption and imports each came to an estimated 78 billion cu ft. In 2002, Moldova imported and consumed 200,000 short tons of coal.

Electric power generating capacity has declined since Moldova gained its independence in 1992 due to lack of funds, civil disturbances, and a general economic downturn in the 1990s. Total installed generating capacity in 2002 was estimated at one million kW. Total electricity generation and consumption in 2002 was estimated at 3.9 billion kWh and 4.6 billion kWh, respectively. Conventional thermal fuel sources provided around 78% to 90% of the electric generated, with hydropower providing the remainder.


Moldova's industry, including processed food, is composed of approximately 600 major and mid-sized enterprises and associations. It accounts for 23% of Moldova's GDP.

In 1998 the most prominent industries were: food processing (57%), electric energy (18%), engineering and metal processing (5%); production of construction materials (4%), light industry (5.4%), and forestry, wood processing, pulp and paper (3%). Other industrial products include agricultural machinery, foundry equipment, shoes, hosiery, textiles, washing machines, and refrigerators and freezers.

In the wake of the economic downturn in 1998, Moldova's industrial production declined 11% from the previous year. Growth in industrial output was a component of improved economic performance in 2001, as industrial output registered a 3.1% growth rate that year. This growth expanded to 17% in 2004, but industrial representation in GDP and labor force remained low in 2004, at 24.8% and 14% respectively; agriculture made up 22.4% of the economy, and occupied 40% of the labor force; services came in first with a 52.8% contribution to the GDP, and 46% representation in the labor force. Most of the country's industry is situated in conflict riddled and politically instable Transnistria, which makes any current industrial strategy superfluous.


The Moldovan Academy of Sciences, founded in 1961, has sections of physico-mathematical sciences, biological and chemical sciences, technical sciences, agricultural sciences, and medical sciences, and 14 research institutes concerned with the natural sciences. Four scientific institutes conduct medical and agricultural research. Moldovan State University, founded in 1945, has faculties of physics, mathematics and cybernetics, chemistry, biology, and soil science. The Technical University of Moldova, founded in 1964, and the Chişinău Medical Institute and State Agricultural University of Moldova, founded in 1932, are located in Chişinău. M.V. Frunze Agricultural Institute is another educational institution in the sciences. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 52% of university enrollment. In 2002, there were 171 researchers and 201 technicians per million people that were engaged in research and development (R&D). In that same year, high technology exports totaled $8 million, or 4% of manufactured exports. In 1997 (the latest year for which data was available), Moldova spent $47.191 million, or 0.81% of GDP on R&D. Of that amount, 51.4% came from the business sector, followed by 47.8% from government sources. Higher education and foreign sources accounted for 0.2% and 0.6%, respectively.


Chişinău is the main commercial center, with a well-developed system for product distribution. Both national and foreign firms have a strong presence within the retail sector. Since two-thirds of Moldova is rural, local farm markets play an important role in the domestic economy. A great deal of progress had been made in liberalizing and privatizing the economy. With US assistance, nearly all of the nation's farmlands were under private ownership as of 2000. As of January 2003, nearly 2,000 small, medium, and largesized enterprises had also been transferred to private ownership.

In purchasing power parity terms, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was $1,900 in 2004, with more than 80% of the population under the poverty line. Most of the household consumption is fueled by remittances sent home by Moldovans working abroad.


Traditionally, Moldova has maintained a trade surplus with the other Soviet republics and a trade deficit with the rest of the world. However, as of 2005, Moldova's only significant trade surplus is with Russia. Total imports almost double total exports.

A trade agreement between the United States and Moldova providing reciprocal most-favored-nation tariff treatment became effective in 1992. The same year, an overseas Private Investment Corporation agreement, encouraging US private investment by providing direct loans and loan guarantees, was signed. In 1993 a bilateral investment treaty was signed between the United States and Moldova; a general system of preferences status was granted in 1995 as well as the availability of EX-IM bank coverage. Wine tops the list of Moldova's export commodities (24%), followed by apparel (16%). Other exports include tobacco (6.5%), glassware (5.7%), and meat (5.4%). The European Union was Moldova's main trade partner in 2003. Russia and the Ukraine came in second, with a representation of 22.4% and 16.7% in its overall trade respectively.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 790.3 1,398.6 -608.3
Russia 308.5 182.3 126.2
Romania 90.2 96.9 -6.7
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 82.4 116.6 -34.2
Ukraine 56.2 308.8 -252.6
Germany 56.2 135.3 -79.1
Belarus 41.1 50.6 -9.5
United States 33.6 34.5 -0.9
Austria 11.3 14.6 -3.3
France-Monaco 9.3 35.1 -25.8
Kazakhstan 9.2 48.1 -38.9
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account -142.3
    Balance on goods -622.3
      Imports -1,428.6
      Exports 806.3
    Balance on services -39.5
    Balance on income 215.0
    Current transfers 304.5
Capital Account -12.8
Financial Account 22.6
    Direct investment abroad -0.1
    Direct investment in Moldova 58.5
    Portfolio investment assets 2.0
    Portfolio investment liabilities -23.9
    Financial derivatives
    Other investment assets -49.7
    Other investment liabilities 35.8
Net Errors and Omissions 89.5
Reserves and Related Items 43.0
() data not available or not significant.

In 2004, exports totaled $1.03 billion (FOBFree on Board), while imports where almost double that at $1.83 billion (FOB). Russia remains Moldova's main export market, receiving 35.8% of total exports; it is followed by Italy (13.9%), Romania (10%), Germany (7.3%), Ukraine (6.6%), Belarus (6%), and the United States (4.6%). Imports came mainly from the Ukraine (24.6%), Russia (12.2%), Romania (9.3%), Germany (8.5%), and Italy (7.4%). Main import categories were fuel and energy, capital goods, and foods.


External debt stood at $1.3 billion in 2002. That year, $168.7 million in debt service payments were due, accounting for over 60% of all budget revenues. The government took the dramatic step of handing 50% of ownership of its gas lines to Russia's Gazprom, one of its largest creditors. In 2000, the IMF had approved a three-year $142 million loan to reduce poverty and promote growth.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Moldova's exports was $590 million while imports totaled $980 million, resulting in a trade deficit of $390 million.

Exports of goods and services reached $1.2 billion in 2004; imports climbed at $2.0 billion, resulting in a resource balance of -$766 million. The current account balance was -$173 million in 2004, an improvement from the previous year's -$181 deficit. External debt reached $1.4 billion in the same year, and its total reserves (including gold) were $321 million, covering only two months of imports.


Moldova's banking sector will play a key role in the country's transition from a managed economy to a market economy. The banking system was reformed in 1991. The National Bank of Moldova (NBM, the central bank) is charged with implementing monetary policy and issuing currency. State banks include the State Savings Bank, with 1,000 branches, and the Bank for Foreign Economic Exchange. Holdovers from the old Soviet system include three regional banks, which have been changed to joint-stock companies whose shares are owned by state enterprises. There are 20 commercial banks in the country with licenses to perform international transactions. The currency unit is the leu, introduced in late November 1993.

November 1993 was a turning point for Moldova's financial stability. The NBM became a fully independent central bank with its own administrative council, and was no longer required to finance industrial and agricultural funding shortfalls. As the leu was introduced, the NBM started phasing out credit emissions. As of January 1994, the NBM became fully responsible for monetary policy.

The bank has two policy instruments: reserve requirements which were raised progressively throughout 1994, and interest rates. The discount rate reached a peak of 377% in February 1994, and was kept high despite the subsequent dramatic fall in inflation. As of 2001, the money market rate was 11%.

The banking system comprises four former Soviet banks, Agroindbank, Molindconbank, Moldotsbank, and the Savings Bank, as well as 20 commercial banks at the end of 2002. As in many other republics of the former Soviet Union, licensing procedures in the early 1990s were quite lax, with the result that the country is now overbanked, with too many small institutions, and a relatively high level of nonperforming loans (11% of total commercial bank balance sheets as of mid-1996).

Moldova's 15 voucher funds have played an important role in the privatization program. Most citizens have opted to invest their vouchers in the funds rather than directly acquire shares in newly privatized companies.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $194.3 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $377.1 million. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 11%.

The Chişinău-based Moldovan Stock Exchange opened for business in June 1995. Trading is electronic and is based on an order-driven system. As of mid-1996, it listed 11 shares. The most actively traded shares are Cupicini Canning Factory and Banea de Economii. As of 1998, there were 15 investment funds and eight trust companies. A commodities exchange is planned. The government began auctioning 91-day treasury bills in 1995 and introduced 730-day treasury bills in 1997.

Foreign currency reserves at the NBM rose by one-third in 1996, from $226.7 million at end-1995 to $304.1 million. This is to be explained by the substantial inflows of funds from multilateral institutions, notably, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In December 1996, Moldova made its debut in the international bond market with a $30 million floating rate note issued as a private placement through Merrill Lynch.


The demand for insurance services continues to rise. Forty companies employing 2,800 persons competed for the insurance market in 1998.


In 1993, following independence, Moldova undertook a massive privatization program. By January 2003, 80% of all housing units were in private hands, as were nearly all small, medium, and large businesses. Agriculture was privatized ending in 2000 through a US-sponsored program called "Pamint" (land).

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Moldova's central government took in revenues of approximately $1 billion and had expenditures of $1 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $4 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 72.9% of GDP. Total external debt was $1.926 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were mld7,376.8 million and expenditures were mld6,828.5 million. The value of revenues was us$529 million and expenditures us$487 million, based on an exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = mld13.9449 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 33.4%; defense, 1.7%; public order and safety, 7.7%; economic affairs, 3.3%; environmental protection, 0.5%; health, 6.2%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.5%; education, 9.2%; and social protection, 36.5%.


The personal income tax rate ranges from 1050%. The corporate rate is a standard 18%. Capital gains derived from the sale, exchange or transfer of capital assets are taxed at an effective rate of 9%. Dividends are subject to a 10% withholding tax if paid to nonresidents, and 18% if paid to resident legal entities. Dividends

Revenue and Grants 7,376.8 100.0%
    Tax revenue 4,052.5 54.9%
    Social contributions 1,978.2 26.8%
    Other revenue 1,346.1 18.2%
Expenditures 6,828.5 100.0%
    General public services 2,279.4 33.4%
    Defense 114.7 1.7%
    Public order and safety 525.5 7.7%
    Economic affairs 227.8 3.3%
    Environmental protection 35.3 0.5%
    Housing and community amenities 0.8 <1.0%
    Health 421.8 6.2%
    Recreational, culture, and religion 101.6 1.5%
    Education 627 9.2%
    Social protection 2,494.6 36.5%
() data not available or not significant.

received by resident individuals from resident and nonresident companies are considered part of taxable income. Dividends paid to Moldovan citizens by resident firms are exempt from taxation. Payroll taxes are charged at rates of 4.730%. Also levied is a 20% value-added tax (VAT). A reduced rate applies to bread, milk and other dairy products. For five years, 2002 to 2007, a number of housing projects will be exempt from VAT.


Moldova's foreign trade environment is characterized by extensive export and import tariffs, exhaustive license requirements, and export quotas. Under the provisions of a 2001 budget law, all imports are assessed a 5% tax of their customs cost regardless of their country of origin. Moldova also levies customs tariffs on all imports except those from the former Soviet Union, Romania, the European Union, and a select group of countries with which Moldova has free trade agreements. Excise taxes apply to automobiles (30%), alcoholic beverages (50%), electronics (50%), and cigarettes (70%). Since 1998 most imports are subject to a value-added tax (VAT) that amounts to 20% of the customs value of the goods. Grain and medical supplies may be imported duty-free.


With the exception of certain state-controlled enterprises, current legislation does not restrict foreign capital participation in Moldovan enterprises. Some foreign equity participation in privatization of government-owned enterprises is also possible. Land under privatized enterprises can now be owned by the enterprise owners. Barriers in Moldova to foreign investment involve the underdeveloped banking, insurance, legal, and trade services.

In 1997 and 1998, average annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into Moldova had reached $77 million, up from about $24 million in 1996. In 1998, the financial crisis in Russia, which accounts for a 30% share of Moldova's inward FDI, helped reduce inflows to $40.6 million for the year, but in 2000 and 2001, record levels of FDI inflows of $143 million and $160 million, respectively, were attained. Total FDI stock has increased 22 times over since independence. The total stock of FDI in Moldova reached $620 million in 2001, equivalent to 36% of GDP and about 82% of gross fixed capital formation (compared to the world average of 22%). Moldova's share of world inflows of FDI from 1998 to 2000, while small in absolute terms, was 1.7 times its share of world GDP. Foreign investment was $110.8 million in 2003, and by 2004 total investments made up 17.1% of the GDP.

Moldova remains a relatively unattractive market for investors due to the ongoing conflict in Transnistria. It has however a significant future potential due to its highly educated population, low wages, and competitive costs.


In March 1993, the Moldovan government inaugurated the Program of Activity of the Government 199295 to make the transition to a market-oriented economy. The first stage focused on stabilization, including price liberalization, and the second stage concentrated on economic recovery and growth, including privatization, agrarian reform, infrastructure development, social protection, and trade reform. However, the government was slow to institute privatization in the agricultural sector. Although the government backed privatization, freed prices and interest rates, and removed export controls, economic growth was difficult. By 1998, Moldova's economy stood at one-third its 1989 level. In large part, this decline is due to unfavorable circumstances: the Transnistrian conflict, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the near-total loss of the grape crop in 1997, and the Russian 1998 financial crisis.

As of 2002, close to 2,000 small, medium, and large enterprises had been privatized, as were 80% of all housing units. Nearly all of Moldova's agricultural land is privatized as well. In 2000, Moldova negotiated a three-year $147 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to expire in December 2003. Moldova joined the WTO in 2001. That year, the government adopted laws to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The economy had turned around: spurred by industrial growth and a good harvest in 2001, real gross domestic product (GDP) growth increased by 6%. Nevertheless, Moldova carries a heavy external debt burden, and depends upon international financial support, including from the private sector.

Moldova remains one of Europe's poorest economies, and is highly dependent on agriculture. It has virtually no mineral resources, its industrial base is situated in conflict stricken Transnistria, and it relies on Russia and Romania for most of its energy supply. The World Bank considers Moldova to be a low-income country, and most of the household consumption (and subsequently most of its economic growth) is fueled by remittances from abroad.


A social insurance system provides benefits for old age, disability, and survivorship in addition to worker's compensation for injury and unemployment, and family allowances. Benefits are available to salaried citizens, agricultural workers, the self-employed, and public officials. The government contributes the whole cost of social pensions for those who are excluded from coverage from the national social security system. Medical care is available to all residents. Moldova has comprehensive legislation for the protection of children, including programs for paid maternity leave, a birth grant, and family allowances. Sickness and maternity benefits were first implemented in 1993, and were updated in 2003.

Although women are accorded equal rights under the law, they are underrepresented in government and other leadership positions. Nevertheless, the president of the country's largest bank is a woman, and women constitute a growing percentage of publicsector managers. Several women's organizations participate in political or charitable activities. Domestic violence remains a problem and is rarely prosecuted. In 2004 the government took efforts to increase public awareness of the problem.

The constitution provides for equality under the law regardless of race, sex, disability, religion, or social origin, but discrimination persists. The minority Roma population continues to suffer violence and harassment. Human rights are generally observed and respected, although there were reports of mistreatment of prisoners and detainees. Prison conditions remain harsh.


Moldova has been working on developing its own standards for health care. As of 2004, there were an estimated 35 physicians per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditures were 6.4% of GDP.

The birth rate was 14 per 1,000 people and the maternal mortality rate was 34 per 100,000 live births in 2003. Average life expectancy was 65.18 years in 2005. The infant mortality rate for that year was 40.42 per 1,000 live births. The overall death rate was estimated at 12.6 per 1,000 people as of 2002. In 1992, there were approximately 1,000 deaths from ethnic conflict within the country. Nearly the entire urban population (96%), but only 9% of the rural population, had access to sanitation.

Moldova's immunization rates for children up to one year old were: tuberculosis, 99%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 97%; polio, 98%; and measles, 99%. Despite immunization rates, epidemic diphtheria has spread throughout the new independent states of the former Soviet Union. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.20 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 5,500 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 300 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


In 2000, there were about 1.3 million housing units in about 910,000 buildings nationwide. Though the government has encouraged privatization of housing and individual home ownership, most residents, particularly in urban areas, find home ownership to be far too expensive in a poor economy. The existing housing stock is in serious disrepair and overcrowding is an issue. Most structures were built before 1980 and maintenance has been poor. Only about 28.9% of all dwellings have an indoor bathroom; only 31% have access to a sewage system. About 62% of all households use wells as a primary source of water. In 1999, only 2,900 structures were completed. Most new housing is built with brick or stone and concrete frames. The average number of rooms per dwelling is about 2.8.


While Moldova was a part of the Soviet Union, its education system was based on the Soviet pattern, and Russian was the language of instruction. However, after its separation, extensive changes were introduced in the education system. Education is compulsory for 11 years, between the ages of 6 and 17. Primary school covers four years of study. This is followed by five years of general secondary studies. Upper secondary studies may cover two or three years of study, depending on a student's interests. The academic year runs from September to July.

In 2001, about 39% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 79% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 69% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 82.5% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 19:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 13:1.

The Moldovan State University was founded in 1945 and uses both Moldovan and Russian as languages of instruction. In 2003, about 30% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program; 26% for men and 34% for women. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 96.2%.

The primary administrative body is the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.9% of GDP, or 21.4% of total government expenditures.


The National Library at Chişinău holds 418,000 volumes. The Scientific and Technical Library of Moldova holds about 600,000 volumes. The country's largest library, at the State University of Moldova, has over 1.82 million volumes, including a valuable rare books collection. The Technical University of Moldova has over 1.04 million volumes. The country had a public library system of over 1,300 branches.

Chişinău is home to several museums, including the National Museum of Fine Arts, the National History Museum, the Museum of Ethnography and Archaeology, and the Alexander Pushkin House and Museum. The Museum of Popular Art is in Ivancea.


Telecommunications links are via land line to the Ukraine and through Moscow's switching center to countries beyond the former USSR. In 2003, there were an estimated 219 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 88,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. Also in 2003, there were approximately 132 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

The state-operated Teleradio-Moldova operates one television and one radio station. Many stations are independent. In 2003, there were about 20 radio stations and 30 television stations in operation. In 2003, there were an estimated 758 radios and 296 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 24.6 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 17.5 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 80 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were nine secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

A wide variety of political views and commentaries are expressed through a number of newspapers and periodicals. National and city governments sponsor newspapers, as do political parties, professional organizations, and trade unions. The largest newspapers in 2002 were Moldova Suverana (Sovereign Moldova, circulation 105,000), Nezavisimaya Moldova (Independent Moldova, 60,692), and Viata Satului (Life of the Village, 50,000).

The constitution provides for free speech and a free press, and the government is said to generally respect these rights.


The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Moldova handles the internal and external economic affairs of the country. The Central Union of Consumers Co-operatives of the Republic of Moldova serves farmers as well as a variety of food producers and retailers. There are trade and professional associations throughout the country as well.

Political associations and organizations in the country include the Union of Council of Labor Collectives (ULC), Ecology Movement of Moldova (EMM), the Christian Democratic League of Women of Moldova, and the Alliance of Working People of Moldova.

The Academy of Sciences of Moldova works to promote public interest and education in scientific fields.

There are several sports associations within the country, including branches of the Special Olympics and the Paralympic Committee. The National Scout Organization of Moldova offers programs for youth.

The NGO Club was formed to assist in the development and consolidation of various organizations, as well as to serve as an informational network between groups. National women's organizations include the Women's Organization of Moldova (est. 1996) and the Gender in Development (GID) Project (est. 1994). International organizations with national chapters include Save the Children, Caritas, and the Red Cross.


Picturesque scenery, several casinos, and wineries are the primary attractions of Moldova, including Cricova, the underground wine city. Unfortunately, civil unrest since Moldova's independence has caused a decline in tourism. In 2003, there were 23,598 tourist arrivals and tourism receipts totaled $83 million. There were 2,559 hotel rooms with 4,632 beds and an occupancy rate of 22%. Tourists need a valid passport to enter Moldova. Members and candidates to join the European Union, Canada, Japan, the United States, and many other European countries do not need a visa to enter Moldova for stays of up to 90 days.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Moldova at $202.


Petru Lucinschi (b.1940) was elected president in 1996, and served until 2001. He succeeded Mircea Snegur (b.1940), the first president of the Republic of Moldova. Vladimir Nicolae Voronin (b.1941) became president in 2001.


Moldova has no territories or colonies.


Brezianu, Andrei. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Moldova. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Dannreuther, Roland. European Union Foreign and Security Policy: Towards a Neighbourhood Strategy. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Dima, Nicholas. From Moldavia to Moldova: The Soviet-Romanian Territorial Dispute. 2nd ed. Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 1991.

Dyer, Donald (ed.). Studies in Moldovan: The History, Culture, Language and Contemporary Politics of the People of Moldova. Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 1996.

Gribincea, Mihai. Agricultural Collectivization in Moldavia: Basarabia during Stalinism, 19441950. Boulder, Colo.: East European Monographs, 1996.

King, Charles. The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 2000.

Lobell, Steven E. and Philip Mauceri (eds.). Ethnic Conflict and International Politics: Explaining Diffusion and Escalation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Mitrasca, Marcel. Moldova: A Romanian Province under Russian Rule: Diplomatic History from the Archives of the Great Powers. New York: Algora, 2002.

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Republic of Moldova

Major City:

Other Cities:
Beltsy, Bendery, Tiraspol


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for Moldova. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Moldova is a picturesque country, all rolling green hills, whitewashed villages, placid lakes, and sunflower fields-with an old world charm that is hard to manufacture. It also has some of the best vineyards in Europe. It is densely populated, with numerous ethnic groups represented, but the majority are ethnic Romanians. The economy is heavily dependent on labor-intensive agriculture, and Moldova must import virtually 100% of its primary energy. Chisinau is a moderatesized city that has preserved much of its pre-Soviet character, with many low-rise, older structures and tree-shaded streets that have survived in the central city.

With its cultural ties to Russia, Romania, and Turkey, Moldova is something of an enigma. It has risen from the ruins of Soviet socialism to become a democratic republic split in two, one area controlled by the government and the other by separatist rebels loyal to Mother Russia. Unification with Romania, its closest neighbor, is an on again/off again issue, and yet it has more in common with other former Soviet countries. The official language, Moldovan, is phonetically identical to Romanian, but school and university classes are all taught in Russian. Everything in Moldova has an equal and opposite reaction.

Originally Moldova was part of the greater region of Moldavia. It lies directly between Russia and Romania and has always been the focal point for border disputes and expansionist policies. Prior to its tenuous unification, it had been overrun, split up, reunited, conquered, annexed, renamed, and taken back again many times over. It has been a long and bloody journey from the principality of Moldavia to the republic of Moldova, and it seems fitting that the flag includes a band of red signifying the blood spilled in defending the country.

The region was made a focal point for the diaspora of Magyars, Slavs, and Bulgarians spreading across Eastern Europe. By the beginning of the Middle Ages, Moldavia (as part of Romania) was already a potpourri of different races and cultures.

In the mid-14th century, Moldavia was subsumed under the Ottoman empire, and it remained under Turkish suzerainty until 1711. In 1812 Turkey and Russia signed the Bucharest Treaty, which gave the eastern half of Moldavia to the Russians (renamed Bessarabia) and the rest of Moldavia and Wallachia to Romania.

Bessarabia remained under Russian control until the 1918 Bolshevik Revolution, when it reunited with Romania as a protective measure. In 1939 the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact handed Bessarabia back to the U.S.S.R., which it renamed the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (M.S.S.R.). The area was reoccupied by Romanian forces between 1941 and 1944, when the Soviet authorities once again took control.

With the collapse of Communism in the mid-1980s and Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika, reform followed, and finally, in 1991, Moldova declared its full independence.

Unity and peaceful coexistence seem tenuous, as republicans struggle to keep all the pieces together and smooth over the contradictions of being part Romanian, part Russian, and wholly Moldovan.



Chisinau, Moldova's capital, is located almost in the center of the country on the river Bik. The first written mention of Chisinau dates to the 14th century when the region was under Turkish domination. During WWII, extensive portions of Chisinau were destroyed. The post-war reconstruction includes many typical examples of Soviet architecture, but the older sections of town retain much of their charm. Despite the size of the city (approximately 800,000 people), Chisinau still has a small town feeling. There are numerous pastel-colored single-and two-story houses in the city proper, built by traders and merchants in the 18th and 19th centuries. With large trees lining almost all of the streets in the city center, Chisinau is one of the greenest cities on earth from April to October.


Electricity in Moldova is 220v, 50 cycle, AC. Items which depend on a stable supply of cycles (e.g., clock radios, answering machines with "date/time stamp" feature) to function correctly are not recommended: local 50 cycle current causes them to lose time every day. Bring 220v voltage stabilizers or surge protectors to protect sensitive, high fidelity, computers or similar equipment. A 110v computer with a voltage stabilizer or UPS will work through a transformer. Bring a good quality short wave radio that can run off 220v electricity as well as batteries.

Bring a supply of European electrical adapters and wall plugs.


There are two Western-quality supermarkets in Chisinau: Green Hills and Fidesco. These supermarkets have a good Western-made selection of goods, sanitary refrigerated meats, packed fruits and vegetables and pasteurized dairy products.

In spring and summer, fruits and vegetables are abundant in this agricultural country. Every visitor to Chisinau should experience the Central Market-it is the largest market in town for fresh meats, fruits, vegetables and dairy products. There are many smaller neighborhood markets. Most Moldovans have kitchen gardens, even in Chisinau. In season, you will learn what "vine-ripened" and "fresh-picked" really mean. During summer, people eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and Moldovans spend considerable time canning and preserving for winter months. Unfortunately, no one has found a way to preserve lettuce, which appears in the open markets briefly in early May. Occasionally, however, the supermarket Green Hills has lettuce in the winter. Beef, chicken and pork are available year round. The latter two meats are of excellent quality: beef usually requires a longer cooking time to become tender.

Some food products that are not usually available in Moldova are: peanut butter, brown sugar, dry yeast, baking powder, good quality powder sugar, vanilla extract, unsweetened cocoa, and unsweetened baking chocolate.

Chisinau's restaurants, small and large, are still short of international standards, but the scene is improving. One can have a good meal at very reasonable prices. Some restaurants accept credit cards but prefer to receive cash. Tips are generally not included in the bill, except for large parties. The standard tip is 10% or less. Reservations are recommended. Moldovan cooking is an interesting combination of Balkan, Romanian, Russian and Ukranian influences. Mamaliga (cornmeal, similar to polenta), feta cheese, and the abundant seasonal fruits and vegetables are staple items. The cuisine is not spicy but uses liberal amounts of onions, peppers, and garlic. Upscale restaurants serve a more international Eastern European cuisine, rather than true Moldovan cooking. There are also Indian, Chinese, Turkish, Georgian, and even two Moldovan-Mexican restaurants.

In summertime there is a wonderful explosion of sidewalk cafes with colorful Sprite and Coca-Cola umbrellas.

McDonald's has one downtown and one drive-thru restaurant, with more planned.


Moldovans are quite fashion conscious, and enjoy getting dressed up for social events, although there are few true "black tie" events in Chisinau. For most formal receptions, a dark suit is the norm for men, and a long or short dress for women. It is a good idea to bring a lot of warm winter clothes, as many public (and private) buildings are only minimally heated during the winter months. Long down or wool coats are a must, as are sturdy waterproof snow boots, since the streets are icy and muddy throughout the winter. Also plan to bring lots of warm socks and gloves or mittens. Locally made fur hats are both fashionable and practical. Clothes are available in Chisinau although they are labeled in European sizes. Business clothes are of poor quality or are very expensive.

Supplies and Services

Although Chisinau shops carry an ever-greater variety of items, do not rely solely on the local economy since supplies are erratic and the price/quality ratio is higher than in the U.S. The following items are available, although supply, quality and price fluctuate wildly: toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, first-aid items, tobacco products, laundry detergent and other basic home, recreational and entertainment supplies. A good basic rule is to decide how devoted you are to a specific brand or kind of product. The vast majority of generic items is available.

Generally, basic supplies and services are expensive and irregularly available. Most repairs are hindered by a lack of spare parts. Barbershops are, in most cases, satisfactory. Beauty salons offer a range of services from pedicures and manicures to hair and eyelash coloring. The variety of salon-quality products is limited. Therefore, if you use a specific brand of hair coloring and/or treatment products, you should purchase them where available. Good quality dry cleaning is available.

Domestic Help

Good, reliable help is available, and English-speakers are becoming easier to find.

Host country laws concerning payment and legal employment of local help are still vague and changing.

Religious Activities

Although most residents of Moldova are at least nominally Orthodox, Protestant churches have increased their activities in recent years with the increased religious freedom. Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and other denominations hold services in churches around Chisinau and in many other areas. At present, there are no American congregations, nor are services conducted in English, al-though there are American Missionaries working with some of the Protestant churches. The Salvation Army has also begun activities in Chisinau. There is a small Roman Catholic community, with one Catholic Church in Chisinau. It holds services in Romanian, Russian, Polish, and German (sometimes during the same mass). There is one working synagogue in Chisinau for the Jewish community.


QSI International School of Chisinau is an affiliate of Quality Schools International. All classes are taught in English and the school uses an American curriculum. Some expatriate families follow homestudy courses with their children. Enrollment (pre-K-8, at the QSI for the 1999-2000 school year was 22 students.

There are several, excellent private pre-K and grammar schools with curriculums taught either in Romanian or Russian. Both the Romanian and Russian curriculums emphasize foreign language training, English being one of the most widely taught languages. A growing number of expatriate children are enrolled in local pre-K and kindergarten programs (kindergarten typically is extended through age six, with children starting grammar school at age seven). Presently, there are no high-school age, expatriate dependents attending school in Chisinau.

University-level education in Moldova normally requires mastery of Russian or Romanian as a basic prerequisite.


Like any other city, Chisinau has a charm and warmth all its own. Visitors can easily find some interesting activities in Chisinau. In the fall and winter the local opera and concert circuit comes alive. The quality of the performances is excellent. Chisinau's numerous music schools support and promote classical music. Concerts are held at the Organ Hall, the National Palace, the Philharmonic Hall, and the Theater of Opera and Ballet.

There are two local movie theaters that meet Western standards: comfortable seating, surround sound, and large screens. The Patria theater screens American movies dubbed over in Russian. The Odeon Theater screens American movies in English with Romanian subtitles. In addition there is a local club that shows films in English throughout the week.

The National Library of the Republic of Moldova carries primarily Russian and Romanian books but has a small selection of English-and other foreign-language books. There are several museums in town, including the Museum of Natural History and Ethnography, the National History Museum, and the Pushkin Museum. (The famous Russian poet lived in Moldova 1820-23.)

There are a new amusement park and a variety of circus shows in Chisinau. Chisinau has a city zoo. A new, outdoor swimming pool complex opened in June 1999. In the cold winter months the Fitness Club offers a first-class sauna, with dunking pool, and a trained massage therapist.

Social Activities

The International Women's Club of Moldova sponsors activities and interest groups for its members. The Moldova-International Charity Association formed by expatriates, raises funds for Moldovan children. These two organizations sponsor several annual events that expatriates look forward to and attend: The October Charity Ball, the December Christmas Bazaar, and the March St. Patrick's Day Auction. Moldovans are generally curious to see how Americans live, and will respond to social invitations. They are generous hosts and appreciative guests, as Moldovans are willing to experiment with most foods. The music culture is very deep in Moldova and many people include the performance of music in an evening of dinner with guests.


The city of BELTSY is located in north central Moldova. Beltsy is the home of several major industries, among them wine making, sugar refining, and tobacco processing. Other industries in the city produce fur coats, machinery, and furniture. Beltsy has a population of approximately 162,000.

BENDERY is one of Moldova's oldest cities. Founded around the 2nd century B.C., the city is situated southeast of Kishinev on the Dniester River. Throughout history, Bendery has been attacked and occupied by various foreign powers. The city was totally destroyed during World War II, but has been completely rebuilt. Bendery is a manufacturing center for textiles, electrical equipment, and food stuffs. Silk manufactured in Bendery is among the finest in the world. A 17th century Turkish fortress still stands in Bendery and is a reminder of the city's ancient past. Bendery's population is roughly 132,000.

The city of TIRASPOL is located on the Dniester River just east of Bendery. Tiraspol was founded in 1795 and was incorporated into the Moldovian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1929. During World War II, the city was heavily damaged after a series of battles between the Soviet Union and Germany. The Soviets gained control of Tiraspol in 1944. Following the end of World War II, the city was rebuilt. Tiraspol is an industrial center noted for canning and wine making. Other industries in Tiraspol produce farm equipment, footwear, textiles, furniture, carpets, and electrical equipment. Tiraspol has a population of approximately 186,000.


Geography and Climate

Moldova encompasses what was until August 1991 the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, and is located between Romania and Ukraine. Except for a small strip of land on the Danube River, the country is land-locked. Moldova is a relatively small country, about 300 km long and 100 km across, about the same size as Maryland. Its total land boundary is 1,389 km. Its total area is 33,700 square km. The land border with Romania is 939 km and with Ukraine 450 km. The area east of the Dniester (Nistru) river, along with the city of Bender west of the Dniester, is the breakaway and officially unrecognized Transnistrian Moldovan Republic, or Transnistria. Transnistria is not recognized by Moldova, the U.S., or by any other country. Tiraspol is the capital of Transnistria. Moldova's total population is 4.4 million, of whom 800,000 live in Chisinau. The majority of the population lives in the countryside in villages organized around former state farms.

Moldova's climate is mild in the winter and warm in the summer-approximately that of New York City. Winter temperatures are typically in the 20s (F) but occasionally fall below zero. Highs in the summer are typically in the 80s but can go as high as 100. There are four distinct seasons, with foliage on trees between April and October. The climate is semi-arid. The countryside is comprised mainly of gently rolling agricultural lands with a gradual slope south toward the Black Sea. Seventy percent of the soil is composed of the famous, fertile "Black Earth" (chernozim) in this region. Because of the clearing of land for agricultural cultivation-especially in the Soviet era for grape production-there are few forests or woodlands. There has been soil erosion due to farming methods. The effect in the cities is that occasional dust can blow up from the streets in gusts. Humidity in the summer can be high but mildew and insects are not significant factors. Moldova is sparse in natural mineral resources, with some lignite, phosphorites, and gypsum. Moldova has suffered with other countries in the region from serious environmental damage from the heavy use of agricultural chemicals, including pesticides banned in the West such as DDT.

Substantial amounts of its soil and ground water are contaminated. Because of the extensive use of asbestos in construction, village and urban area soil may have, in some areas, high concentrations of asbestos mixed with the soil. The two principal rivers-the Prut on the west and Dniester in the east-are polluted. Untreated drinking water may have heavy metal contamination, as well as pollution from agricultural chemicals.


Moldova has approximately 4,400,000 inhabitants. It is the most densely inhabited of the former Soviet Union Republics. About 65 percent of the population is Moldovan (ethnic Romanian), 14 percent is Ukrainian, and 13 percent Russian. There are also small communities of Gagauz (Christian Turks) and Bulgarians, mostly in the south. Moldova is a largely agricultural country, with more than a third of the population employed in the agricultural sector and agroprocessing, including the production of wine and other alcoholic beverages (brandy, champagne), vegetables and fruits, sugar, grain, sunflower seeds and oil, cattle and pigs. The population in the countryside is largely ethnic Moldovan, with a number of Ukrainian villages, especially in the north. In the main cities, ethnic Russians and Ukrainians predominate. The state language is Moldovan (Romanian), although Russian is extensively used. Most of the population of Moldova is at least nominally Orthodox, and Moldova has preserved many Orthodox traditions, including colorful Easter celebrations and church festivals.

Moldova has a proud tradition of hospitality, and is renowned for its wine, cognac and champagne. Many people, even in the city, make their own homemade wines and are eager to share them with visitors. Local cuisine shows the mixture of cultures, with traditional Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian and Jewish foods popular. National dishes include mamaliga (similar to polenta), placinta (a pastry filled with cheese, potatoes, or cabbage), and sarmale (stuffed cabbage); Russian-style borscht and caviar are also favorites.

Public Institutions

In June 1991, the Moldovan Supreme Soviet (parliament) announced the republic's sovereignty, and on 27 August 1991, declared the independence of the Republic of Moldova. After that, the forum revised the legislation and conducted multiparty elections. In the summer of 1994, the Republic of Moldova adopted a Constitution, dividing the power between an elected president, a prime minister and the parliament. In the summer of 1995 Moldova was admitted to several international organizations, including the Council of Europe-the first former Soviet republic to be admitted. Expanding its relations with the West, the Moldovan leadership, particularly the new Parliament, also preserves its ties with former Soviet Union republics. Parliamentary elections in March 1998 yielded 40 seats for communists (30% of the votes), while the centrist pro-presidential party received 24 seats (18% of the vote), and two center-right wing parties received 25 and 12 seats (26% of the vote). The center and center-right parties formed a coalition government, the first true coalition government in the former Soviet Union, with the communist bloc as the opposition. Two new governments have succeeded the center-right coalition. The transition was peaceful and democratic.

Arts, Science, and Education

Chisinau has an active cultural life, especially in classical music, although the institutions have suffered from the economic difficulties of the country. During the season, from mid-autumn to late spring, there are regular performances by the opera, ballet, national symphony, and smaller musical groups. The Organ Hall and the Philharmonic Hall are frequent venues for concerts by local ensembles and touring groups. In addition to classical music, traditional folk music is very popular; Moldovan ensembles such as Flueras and Lautari are well known throughout the former Soviet Union. The folk dance ensemble " Joc " is especially admired for its performances featuring traditional dances from throughout the region. Chisinau also has several theaters performing in Romanian and Russian.

The Chekhov Theater performs classic Russian plays as well as some modern works and translations. The Eugene Ionescu Theater performs avant-garde and modern plays in Romanian. Several other theaters feature musicals, satirical plays or traditional favorites. A puppet theater in the center of town offers regular performances in Russian and Romanian, and the Circus hosts a wide variety of touring groups in addition to local performers.

Moldova has a number of institutions of higher learning, including the State University and the Independent International University, plus several pedagogical institutes and polytechnical institutes. Moldova has a special interest in agricultural research, and the Academy of Science has a large number of highly qualified specialists in this area. English is now widely taught and increasingly used, especially among young people.

Commerce and Industry

Moldova had relatively little of the Soviet military-industrial complex. Much of its industrial capacity was concentrated in light industry such as radioelectronics, clothing, and food processing. The industrial sector throughout Moldova has suffered from declining output, lack of investment, loss of markets, inefficient production, higher energy costs and new competition from Western producers. Many of the big enterprises have not been fully restructured. Industrial production continued to decline in 1999. Moldova's best export prospects for the future are agroindustry and production of wine and cognac, if these can be upgraded to assure consistent quality.



Poor road conditions and aggressive local driving habits increase the possibility that a car will need service and/or repair during its stay in Moldova. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is desirable and advisable in this environment.

A new former Soviet-made car can be purchased for from $3,000 to $8,000. Americans find the level of comfort and the quality of assembly to be below that of Western-made automobiles, but it is easier to get a former Soviet-made car repaired in Moldova than a Western-made car.

It is not possible to export a former Soviet-made car to the U.S., as it will not meet EPA standards. Unleaded gasoline is available and new Western-style gas stations with minimarkets and car washes are becoming common throughout Moldova.

There is a rental car service in Chisinau (dispatcher speaks English). Cars with drivers are available for hire. Americans have rented Western cars for driving around town and for longer trips. The rental rate for a car and a driver is $25 per day. Vans with a driver can be rented for $50 per day.


There is an extensive bus and mini-bus system, with low fares, but these are very crowded and uncomfortable. Expatriates seldom use public transport. A few Americans have encountered nonviolent theft on crowded buses.

Taxis are available by telephone or on the main streets. Taxi stands offer a blend of modern vehicles and decrepit older models, and the passenger does get to choose among them. Rates are reasonable. Most local cab drivers speak only Russian or Romanian. One telephone dispatch company aimed at expatriates does have an English-speaker dispatcher and drivers who speak at least some English. Some expatriates rely heavily on this company, which charges a flat rate, about $3 per trip.

Between the cities and the towns of Moldova, trains and buses are available at relatively reasonable prices. There are no internal air flights in Moldova.


Air Moldova, Air Moldova International, Tyrolean Airlines, TAROM, Moldavian Airlines and Transaero serve Chisinau. The following major cities are served at least 3 days per week: Athens, Beirut, Bucharest, Budapest, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Kiev, Moscow, Odessa, Paris, Tel Aviv, Vienna, and Warsaw. Americans can buy tickets in Chisinau for cash only: no travelers checks, credit cards, or other negotiable instruments.

American travelers have also gone to Kiev and Bucharest via train. It is less expensive than a plane, but it is a long, difficult trip. There is no heat in the winter or ventilation in the summer. Some travelers have had problems with border police on the train from Kiev.

Moldova and its neighbors have similar conditions for long-range driving. Moldova and all nearby countries use left-hand drive, have an extremely limited number of roads with more than two lanes, and have aggressive road police who often stop foreign cars. Carrying your diplomatic I.D. and/or your diplomatic passport at all times when driving is recommended, but especially when outside of Chisinau. In Moldova, the road police will usually not hinder any polite American diplomat carrying identification.

Travelers are advised to fill their tanks before they leave, although Moldova has seen a proliferation of gas stations along the major roads. Travelers should expect long lines at the borders. If you are in a vehicle with diplomatic plates and are carrying a diplomatic passport, you may slowly make your way to the front of the line and receive expeditious processing through the border. Russian-or Romanian-language skills are useful in these situations.


Telephone and Telegraph

Local telephone service is generally fair to good. Installation of new phones is possible but slow, as are repairs to existing lines. International calls to the U.S. and Europe can be placed via direct dial, and reception is generally good. Rates can vary between USD 1.50 to 3.00 per minute depending on the call. Overseas telegraph and Fax facilities, though available, are not always reliable. Cellular phone service is also available. The standard frequency is NMT analog. Cellular phones purchased in other countries, such as the U.S., can be used here but must be registered (cost is $300).

Radio and TV

There are two AM radio stations broadcasting daily with more scheduled to start soon. Several FM stations are also operating. All broadcast a variety of music and programs in Romanian and Russian with some English-language music interspersed. To receive shortwave broadcasts, such as the VOA and BBC, you need a good shortwave radio.

Moldova has one television station that broadcasts daily, mostly in the Romanian language. Moldova also receives two other stations, one from Bucharest in Romanian and the other from Moscow, in Russian. Shows cover the full range of local and international news plus sports, musical entertainment, locally produced plays, educational broadcasts, movies, and some American TV shows. Most programming is in Romanian or Russian with two or three movies and a few shorter programs shown weekly in English. TV is transmitted by the 625 PAL D/K European system, which can be picked up with a multisystem receiver. Some local electronics firms have opened, and multi-system televisions and VCR's are readily available. Moldova now has cable television. You can receive the above 3 stations plus 25 additional stations, 5 of which are in English, including CNN, EuroNews, and MTV HBO is available for an additional charge.

A number of private and commercial video libraries in Moldova rent tapes. These are all VHS cassettes for use with 625 PAL system equipment. The stock is mostly action-type and horror videos. All videos are in Russian. Bring a multisystem VHS videotape recorder and player if you want to rent from these collections.


Local service providers are available. The speed and reliability of E-mail service is inconsistent due to the limitations of the telephone system.

Health and Medicine

General Health Information

Local pharmacies in Moldova carry Western and local medicine but only a few of the supplies are in English. Aspirin (made in the U.S.) is available in most pharmacies. Bring a good supply of any necessary prescriptions, including contraceptives. If you have a chronic ailment, bring a large supply of the required medication.

Community Health

Weather and local sanitation can be a problem and aggravate certain health conditions. Garbage pick-up is often sporadic, but street sweeping is reliable, as is sewage disposal. Winter weather is hard because of fuel shortages, apartments and work sites often being irregularly heated. In winter, soot from burning wood and soft coal may aggravate sinus problems, asthma and allergies. Dust from unpaved roads and construction may also aggravate these conditions.

Drinking water and that used for cooking should be distilled, boiled, or filtered before using. After periods of disuse (about 8 hours), turn on taps and run water for a full 5 seconds prior to using for purifying. Running the water in such a way helps remove the lead that leaks out of the lead pipes found in most homes during periods of disuse. Bottled drinks are considered to be safe. Cholera has been identified in one of the suburban lakes near Chisinau and in some of Moldova's villages. Cholera can be prevented by treating drinking water and water used for cooking.

In addition, fruits and vegetables should be well washed, peeled, or cooked. These tend to be inexpensive during the summer but prove to be expensive in the winter.

AIDS and seropositive HIV have come to the forefront in Moldova as a public health problem, although there have been only about 20 cases registered. AIDS surveillance programs are being discussed in Moldova as well as programs for screening for HIV and Hepatitis B. Syphilis and tuberculosis are on the rise.

Preventive Measures

All immunizations must be current upon arrival. One should have Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, rabies, and meningitis inoculations. Children should have up-to-date DPT, MMR, and HIB vaccines. Bring blood-type records and immunization cards for all family members. Bring fluoride drops and vitamins with fluoride for small children. Respiratory, orthopedic, or other disorders that prohibit climbing stairs should be considered before traveling to Moldova. In Moldova, usually one flight of stairs is required to enter a building, and once inside the building, stairs abound, with either no elevator or an occasionally nonfunctioning one. Western-quality prescription glasses are available locally; however, it would be prudent to bring an extra pair of glasses and/or a copy of your prescription.


Passage, Customs & Duties

All flights to Moldova come into Chisinau airport, located roughly 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the city center. There are daily flights from Moscow, Budapest and Frankfurt, and several weekly flights from Paris, Bucharest, Vienna, and Warsaw, Prague and Bologna. Frankfurt is the most heavily used connection, with Budapest, Paris, and Vienna as good alternatives.

Chisinau may be reached by land from, with a drive that is very scenic but tiring. The eastern Carpathian Mountains in Romania require slow driving, even in good weather. Some travelers have taken a picturesque route through northern Transylvania and Bukovina, crossing the Carpathians near the Romanian city Suceava. Others have taken a southern route, crossing the Carpathians south of the Romanian city Brasov. Travelers may note that maps show routes over the mountains between these two points. These mountain passes can be dangerous and should be avoided without prior information on road conditions and weather.

Many gas stations are available enroute. Gasoline in Moldova and Romania may be purchased with local currency. Full-service stations (with windshield washing and oil checks) are available mainly in large cities, so be sure that your vehicle is in good condition before traveling. Carry spare belts, etc., for small emergency repairs on the road. In general, fill up the tank before traveling. Winter driving on Moldovan roads is hazardous, and you will not find places to stop should the need arise. Do not drive to Chisinau in winter. Avoid driving in threatening or treacherous weather no matter how sturdy or well equipped your car is. Bring nonperishable foods and soft drinks or bottled water for consumption on the road.

The drive to Chisinau can be made from Budapest in two driving days. From the Greek or Turkish borders driving to Chisinau should take about 24 hours. Roads in Eastern Europe are two lane, and traffic is light to moderate by Western standards. Encountering slow moving trucks, tractors, tractor-trailer trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, and horse-drawn carts is not unusual. Allow ample time for these inconveniences. Be sure your Moldovan visa is in order before arriving at the border.

Do not drive at night in Eastern Europe. The road and most vehicles are poorly lighted, and people and livestock are often in the middle of the road. Never drive fast and be alert to pedestrians (who fail, in most cases, to look before stepping out into traffic and other obstacles. In Moldova, pedestrians do not obey traffic signals, and the streets are dimly lit. Streets in Moldova are dimly lit. Caution is strongly advised for evening driving. Fog can be a problem in fall and winter. Highways can be slippery when wet and one must beware of dirt and mud left by farm vehicles. Become familiar with international road signs before driving into Moldova. Have available your car's registration papers and the internationally recognized "green card" third-party liability insurance.

Obtain an international drivers license before arriving, which is available in the U.S. from the American Automobile Association. You must have a valid U.S. or foreign license and maintain its validity.

Travel by car into Moldova from the West through the Albita-Leuseni crossing in Romania is the most convenient Romanian border crossing for international land traffic. Crossings by car at some other Moldovan-Romanian border posts are possible but are less convenient. A traveler should expect possible delays at immigration and customs going in both directions at the Albita-Leuseni crossing.

Travelers in cars should expect to be occasionally waved over by local police for routine inspections. Travelers driving by car into the Eastern region of the country Transnistria should expect to be stopped by Russian "Peacekeepers" and then by Transnistria border guards at the outskirts of Tighina (Bender) and when crossing over to the left bank driving toward Tiraspol. Depending upon where a traveler is driving in or around Transnistria, a car may be stopped by Transnistrian authorities, Russian forces, Moldovan police, or joint patrols consisting of two or three of the above. Discipline of forces in the security zone and at internal checkpoints in Transnistria is problematic at night. The city of Tighina (Bender) is in the security zone.

International rail connections are possible from Bucharest, Moscow, and Kiev. However, staff who have used these routes have not reported favorably about the experience. Some travelers have been victims of theft. Carefully check routes and train changes (if any) before boarding.

Bring plenty of food and snacks when traveling by car or train in Eastern Europe.

Personal airfreight is sometimes slow in arriving, even from points in Western Europe or the U.S. (make allowance for at least 3 weeks). Bring as much as you can in your accompanied baggage, especially seasonal clothing, toiletries, and any special medications.

Air Moldova will charge for hand baggage over 20 kilograms. If so, be sure to get a receipt. Have cases no larger than 28 inches (71 centimeters) high by 55 inches (140 centimeters) long by 43 inches (109 centimeters) wide. Larger cases will not fit into the cargo holds of some Air Moldova planes.

Immunization records are not routinely checked. Have an international license plate issued by the country of sale for new cars purchased in Europe. No special regulations restrict incoming baggage: use common sense, as incoming baggage may be X-rayed at the airport and a suspicious-looking item could cause problems.

Visas are required of American citizens traveling to (or transiting) Moldova. All visas must be obtained in advance of arrival from a Moldovan Embassy or Consulate. Only those U.S. citizens who can provide evidence that they reside in a country in which Moldova has no Embassy or Consulate are permitted to obtain a tourist/business visa at the Chisinau airport. No invitation is necessary. Any person applying for a visa for a stay of more than three months must present a certificate showing that the individual is HIV negative. Only tests performed at designated clinics in Moldova are accepted. For more information on entry requirements, please contact the Moldovan Embassy, 2101 S. Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone: (202) 667-1130, (202) 667-1131, or (202) 667-1137, fax: (202) 667-1204, e-mail: [email protected].

All foreign citizens staying in Moldova for more three days or longer are required to register with local authorities at the Office of Visas and Registration. The place of registration (usually, a district police station) depends on where a visitor is staying in Moldova. Most hotels will register guests automatically. The Embassy encourages U.S. citizens to ask about registration when checking into a hotel. U.S. citizens not staying in a hotel are responsible for registering with authorities. To find out exactly where to register, a U.S. citizen may call the central Office for Visas and Registration at (373) (2) 21-30-78, and be prepared to give the address of the residence in Moldova. Under Moldovan law, those who fail to register with authorities may be required to appear in court and pay a fine. For more information on registering with Moldovan authorities, U.S. citizens are encouraged to call the Consular section at the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau (373) (2) 40-83-00.

Americans living in or visiting Moldova are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau and obtain updated information on travel and security within Moldova. The U.S. Embassy is located in Chisinau, Moldova, Strada Alexei Mateevici 103; telephone (373)(2) 23-37-72, after-hours telephone (373)(2) 23-73-45.


No regulations restrict importing cats and dogs. Before arrival, pet owners should ensure that their pets are properly immunized and that they have immunization records (primarily rabies vaccine) and health certificate records, certified by a public health authority in the sending country. The health certificate should have been issued within 1 week prior to the animal's departure. Bring or ship any special needs such as worm medicine or particular food. Properly documented animals are cleared quickly through customs. Be sure all pet records are completely up-to-date before arrival.

Since local veterinarians do not always have vaccines, make sure your pet has all needed shots before you come. If you anticipate a need for particular medicines, ship a supply or make arrangements with a veterinarian to send additional supplies.

Chisinau has a large number of homeless cats and dogs that live on the streets. Pets (especially dogs) should only be allowed out of the homes when accompanied Another danger to domestic animals may be from rodent-control poison, which car be set out without notice around garbage areas, resulting in reports of accidents and poisoning.

Firearms and Ammunition

There is one hunting club in Moldova. Presently membership in this club is required of anyone who wishes to purchase a rifle.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

Since November 1993, the Moldovan currency has been the leu (plural, lei, fractions, bani). It is convertible on the current account, and trades at a market rate against any other market currency, though it is not a "hard" currency. Bank transfers can be made into Moldova and bank accounts in hard currency can be opened, but checking accounts are virtually unknown and personal checks are essentially non-negotiable. Traveler, checks are accepted by at least one bank, but commissions for cashing them for hard currencies are high (for lei transactions, the normal commission is 2%) Credit cards are only slowly becoming accepted for purchases, so that Moldova remains largely a cash economy. This is in transition, and some ATMs have ever come on-line. By law, all payments it Moldova must be made in lei, not in dollars.

Moldovan currency regulations stipulate that an incoming traveler may bring in any amount of foreign currency or travelers checks, but amounts must be stated in a declaration and a currency exchange declaration form (a loose piece of paper) is placed in the passport. Travelers should ensure this paper remains in the passport until departure from Moldova. When leaving Moldova, the traveler must show the same currency and checks as upon entry, or list any amount named in a certificate of exchange from the Moldovan National Bank. Moldovan authorities enforce this rule unpredictably. Moldovan authorities prohibit the import or export of Moldovan lei.

Moldova is on the metric system.


Crime is a growing problem in Moldova and especially in the larger cities. The violent crime rate has been relatively low but is a growing threat to foreigners. Car theft is a problem. Travel by car and in a group is relatively safe at night, but visitors are advised not to walk alone far from public places after dark.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

Jan. 7 Christmas (Orthodox)

Mar. 8International Women's Day


Apr/May.Easter Monday*

May 1Labor Day

May 9Victory Day

Aug. 27National Day

Aug. 31Our Language



These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published in this country.

Dima, Nicolae. From Moldavia to Moldova.

Fonseca, Isabel. Bury Me Standing: the Gypsies and Their Journey. New York: Vintage Press, 1995.

Goma, Paul. My Childhood at the Gates of Unrest. Columbia, La.: Readers International, Inc., 1990.

Horton, Nancy. Chisinau, Moldova: The Essential Guide. Chisinau: Lonely Peasant Publications, 1999.

King, Charles. The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture. Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1999

Sugar, Pete S. Southeastern Europe Under Ottoman Rule, 1354-1804. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1977.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Moldova
Region: Europe
Population: 4,430,654
Language(s): Moldovan, Russian, Gagauz
Literacy Rate: 96%
Compulsory Schooling: 11 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 1,0.6%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 1,187
Libraries: 3,200
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 320,725
  Secondary: 445,501
  Higher: 93,759
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 97%
  Secondary: 80%
Teachers: Primary: 14,097
  Secondary: 28,615
  Higher: 8,814
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 23:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 97%
  Secondary: 82%

History & Background

Moldova is a small landlocked southeast European country of 33,843 square kilometers located between Romania in the west and the Ukraine in the east. It was a part of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) but declared independence in 1991 and became a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In the year 2000, Moldova had a population of over 4 million people, with 23 percent of its population 14 years or younger. The population growth rate was zero, implying a completely stable population. The life expectancy at birth was 64 years. It was among the fifteenth most densely populated nations in Europe with 128 people residing per square kilometer. Administratively, the country is organized into 10 judete (divisions), 1 municipality, the capital Chisinau, and 1 territorial unit, Gagauzia.

Moldova's economy is predominantly agricultural-based with a highly fertile land of which 53 percent is arable. Fifty-three percent of the country's population lives in rural areas. Of the urban population, 60 percent is concentrated in the capital city of Chisinau. However, the country has no mineral deposits and imports most of its fuel from abroad. As a result, Moldova is classified as a low-income group country with approximately three-fourths of the population living below the poverty line.

Moldova, for a large part of its recorded history, has been dominated by other cultures. In ancient times it was an outpost of the Roman Empire. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, an influx of Slavic and Vlach continued in the region until the formation of Basarabia in the 1400s. It narrowly escaped becoming a pashalik (Turkish province) under the Ottoman Empire in the fifteenth century. However, the Ottoman influence continued in the region until 1739 when it briefly came under Russian military occupation. After the Russo-Turkish War (1806-1812), Russia annexed the region. Russian rule was interrupted by its defeat in the Crimean War (1853-1856). At that time, the principalities of Moldova and Wallachia became independent and united to form Romania in 1862. However, this unification did not last long, and, after the Russo-Turkish-Romanian war in 1878, Russia regained southern Bessarabia. The Russian imperialism continued until the end of World War I (1914-1918) when Russia briefly lost control. A provisional self-government, Sfatul Tarii, with a majority of native Moldavians emerged and voted for union with Romania. This union had the blessings of the western powers, but was not recognized by the USSR. Stalin established a largely artificial Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR) on the east bank of the Nistru (Dniester) River in the Ukraine. Before the beginning of World War II (1939), under the Russian-German Pact, Moldova once again came under Russian control and Chisinau (Russian Kishinev) became the capital. Germany attacked the Soviets in 1941 and captured Moldova until 1944 when Russians again reclaimed the region.

After World War II, the Russification of Moldova began full scale when private property was abolished, collective farms were established, and a large number of people were deported to Siberia. As a result, the native population became bilingual, speaking both Russian and Romanian. In the 1970s the region was the "bread-basket" of the USSR with its agricultural boom. It was the smallest republic of the old USSR with less than 0.2 percent of the land, but ranked sixth in its agricultural production. However, the undercurrents against the Russification were present throughout the period and gained momentum in 1980s with the introduction of openness and the rebuilding of socio-economic policies by Mikhail Gorbachev. A new political group, the Moldavian Popular Front, demanded self-rule and free elections. At the same time, the USSR was in turmoil, and Gorbachev, surviving a failed coup, declared the dissolution of USSR into the CIS. On August 27, 1991, Moldova became independent with Mircea Snegur as president. It adopted its first constitution in 1994. In 1995 Moldova was admitted to the Council of Europe and ratified its Convention on the Protection of Ethnic Minorities the next year. In 1996, in the first multi-candidate presidential elections, Petru Lucinschi, a member of the Communist Party of Moldova, became the President. Present day Moldova is an ethnically diverse country with about 64 percent ethnic Romanians, 13 percent ethnic Russians, 14 percent ethnic Ukrainians, 3 percent Gagauz (or Turks who migrated in eighteenth century and adopted Christianity), 2 percent Jews, 2 percent Bulgarian, and 2 percent Belarussians and Gypsies. Furthermore, at the advent of twenty-first century, Moldova was reeling under foreign debt and the economy was in disarray with the quality of living at its lowest ebb. In 1999, the debt was 1,572 million lei, and the costs for servicing that loan were as high as 11 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP.)

The historical evolution of Moldova had important implications in the shaping of its educational system. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a large majority of the population was illiterate, and Romanian was the language spoken by the majority. Under Soviet rule, Russian was emphasized and became the official language. The USSR's education policies made education available to all citizens. However, Russian and Ukrainian ethnic students were given preference in higher education, and laws were passed to suppress Romanian culture. In the 1980s the growing nationalist movement led to the establishment of a literary debating society named after Moldovan poet Alexie Mateevici. This started an intellectual movement to restore the national culture and led to the development of the Moldovan language that reverted to the use of the Latin alphabet instead of the Cyrillic script. Since 1989, Moldovan has been the official language of instruction. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the country, undergoing serious economic crises, was poised toward privatization of education. This occurred primarily in the higher education sector, and Moldova struggled to maintain the benefits accrued from high levels of literacy.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Moldova is a democratic republic. The new constitution was ratified in 1994. The President is the head of the state and is elected every four years with a maximum of two consecutive terms. The unicameral Parliament is the supreme legislative body with 104 deputies elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The judiciary branch of the government is headed by the Supreme Court and includes the Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court. There are also Higher Magistrate's Council, Tribunals, and Courts at the local levels.

In 1995, Moldova's Parliament approved the Policy and Law on Education. This policy is the conceptual and legal framework of the educational system and is in consonance with Moldova's constitution, international documents on human rights, rights of children, and contemporary educational theories. A 10-year National Education Program for the period 1995-2005 was approved in 1995. The country is committed to free and universal education. Basic education in Moldova is compulsory for 10 years. After that, a student can pursue technical school or further study leading to higher education. The education system prior to 1991 was largely shaped by Soviet policies but, after its independence, Moldova has leaned more toward the Romanian system of education and greater privatization, especially of higher education based on Western Models. Textbooks and curricula have been donated by Romania to build the education system in schools separate from the old Russian model.

Educational SystemOverview

The education system in Moldova consists of preschool, primary, secondary and higher education. The preschool education is for children up to the age of seven years. The primary education is between grades one through four and typically involves children between the ages of 8-12. The secondary education consists of two tracks: general and vocational. General secondary education from grades 5-9 is called the gymnasium, and grades 10-12 is called liceul (lyceum). The vocational track is called the professional liceul. Higher education consists of two stages, short-term college education and university education. These institutions were traditionally awarding Diplomas but, in the year 2000, were also using the titles of Bachelor and Master to conform to international standards.

The language of instruction under the Soviet rule was Russian. However, since 1989, Moldovan was adopted as the official language and in the year 2000, nearly two-thirds of all pupils were studying in schools where Moldovan was the language of instruction. However, schools serving the needs of minorities and schools with Russian, Gagauzian, Ukrainian, and Bulgarian as the language of instruction are also present. Students of other nationalities (Jewish, Polish, and German) have the opportunity to study these as a separate subject. Nonetheless, state policy emphasizes that all citizens should study Moldovan. Since its independence the Moldovan government has also added substantial courses in Romanian literature and history to the curriculum. Strong ties have been established between the education systems in Romania and Moldova. Throughout the 1990s Romania extensively donated textbooks to replace books from the Soviet era. At the university level, change is coming slowly and Russian still remains the predominant language of instruction. The academic year starts on September 1 and continues until June with a winter break in December and January.

In 1994, there were 2,062 preschools with an enrollment of 223,300 students and 20,100 preschool teachers. In 1994, there were 1,692 primary and secondary schools with 731,000 students and 50,300 teachers. The number of colleges was 62 with an enrollment of 43,800 students. The higher education institutions were 18 in number and enrolled 55,200 students. In addition, there were 87 vocational institutions with 39,800 students.

Since the late 1990s, private education as an alternative to state education has also begun in Moldova. The institutions follow the regulations established by the Ministry of Education and Science. In 2001, there were 137 private institutions with 20 universities, 9 short-term colleges, 14 pre and primary schools, 12 gymnasiums and lyceums, and 82 schools of trade. In 2001, there were 19,800 students in these institutions. There is a growing emphasis in promoting the private sector for meeting the educational needs of the country. This is evident from several governmental policies. In December 1999, the Government proposed an Action Program that prioritized the agenda in the educational sector as improving the hierarchical-organizational and institutional structure of professional and higher education system; developing the private sector and accrediting private educational institutions; developing and widely using national education standards; upgrading the qualifications and training level of experts within educational institutions; and orienting public funds towards improvement of preprimary, primary, secondary, and vocational education.

Preprimary & Primary Education

The preschool education as defined by The Law on Education (Article 17) begins at age three and continues until age six or seven. The law allows for a guarantee of the education of preschoolers in nurseries and kindergartens through provision of material and financial support. However, the Ministry of Education and Science has noted that since 1993 there has been a decline in preschool education and has called this a phenomenon of "kindergarten depopulation." For example, in 1993 there were 1,877 kindergartens with 202,300 children enrolled, that declined in 1995 to 1,668 kindergartens with 161,200 children, and further to 1,581 kindergartens with 147,300 children in 1997, despite no significant change in demographic composition of the population. According to UNESCO statistics, in 1996 there were a total of 133,426 students in preprimary schools, of which 62,719 were females. Nearly 22,415 pupils were in the private preprimary schools. The gross preprimary enrollment ratio was estimated to be as low as 45 percent. The reasons for this decline included the closure of preschools by local authorities that could not sustain the financial costs to run these institutions. No significant differences in enrollment of male and female children have been found. Foreign bilateral and multilateral agencies have been supporting special projects in this area such as the Program of Early Individual Education (PETI) by UNICEF. In addition, the private sector has also started some preschools, but mostly in the urban areas, catering to the more affluent sections of the population. In 1996, the teacher-pupil ratio was one per seven pupils at the preprimary level. In 1996, all preprimary teachers were females.

The primary education includes grades 1-4 and typically involves children between the ages of 8-12. According to the Law on Education, "primary education contributes to children's formation as a free and creative personality, to the development of intellectual capacities, of strong reading, writing, and calculating skills, providing the development of communicating skills and the abilities of expression in a foreign language." Since the law mandates education, and schooling is mandatory at age seven, primary enrollment rates remain high when compared to other low-income countries. According to UNESCO statistics, in 1996, the intake in primary schools was 98 percent of all children in the age group. There were 320,725 children in primary schools of which 156,417 were females. The number of students in first grade were 81,067; in second grade 80,437; in third grade 79,709; and in fourth grade 79,512. The number of repeaters was very small with a total of 3,726 (1.2 percent) of which 1,736 (2 percent) were in the first grade; 1,721 (2 percent) were in the second grade; 617 (0.8 percent) were in the third grade; and 652 (0.8 percent) were in the fourth grade. According to UNICEF, in 1999 the gross primary enrollment ratio for males was 96 percent and 95 percent for females. A UNDP Report noted that in 1995, there were only 3,989 (0.7 percent) of all school aged children who were not in the primary school. Family poverty was the main reason for this non-attendance.

The teacher-pupil ratio at the primary level was 1 teacher per 23 students. A large majority of primary teachers were females (97 percent). The curriculum in primary grades emphasizes skills in reading, writing, and math. Two-thirds of all primary schools offer these skills through Moldovan while also teaching additional languages, such as Russian. Some primary schools also offer groups with prolonged programs extending into the afternoons. The examinations that determine passage or failure are held yearly at the school level.

Secondary Education

The secondary education consists of two tracks: general and vocational. General secondary education from grades 5-9 is called the gymnasium level. The gymnasium level accepts all primary school students without any competition. The emphasis of this level is to prepare the students for liceul or professional education. The level ends with final examinations in several subjects conducted by the Ministry. At completion of this level, the Gymnasium Studies Certificate is awarded.

The grades 10-12 (three years) are called the liceul level. The vocational track is called the professional liceul and may in some cases have three to five years of training. Admission to the tracks is decided through competition based on guidelines stipulated by the Ministry. Graduates from lyceum are awarded a Diploma of Baccalaureate. In cases of failure, the examinations can be taken at least two more times within the next three years.

According to UNESCO statistics, in 1996, there were a total of 445,501 students in the secondary school system of which 223,162 (50 percent) were females and 419,256 (94 percent) were in the general secondary track. In 2000, there were 79 professional vocational education units of which 17 were trade schools. About 33,000 students were studying in professional tracks.

Higher Education

At the tertiary level, colleges provide short-term higher education typically for two to three years. Universities provide education that lasts for four to six years to meet long-term needs. During the Soviet era, preference for higher education was given to Russian and Ukrainian students. In 1940, there were only 10 students per 10,000 people in Moldova. This had increased to 170 per 10,000 in the year 2000, with a growing representation of ethnic Romanians. According to 1996 UNESCO statistics, 93,759 students were enrolled in tertiary education of which 51,411 students were females. Of these students, 38,295 were in social sciences, 30,074 were in natural sciences, 9,181 were in medical sciences, 8,375 were in education (including religion and theology), 4,377 were in humanities, and 3,457 were classified as others. In 1996, 13,249 students graduated from the tertiary level.

In the year 2000, there were 53 colleges. Out of these 53 colleges, 48 were state governed and 5 were private. According to their area of specialty, 9 colleges were pedagogical, 10 were agrarian, 6 were medical, 5 were art and music, 9 were economics and law, 8 were technical, 2 were technological, 2 were military, 1 was ecological, and 1 was foreign language. At the university level, there were 28 institutions. Of these, 13 were state owned and 15 were private. About two-thirds of the students in the tertiary level were being supported by the state, and only one-third were paying for their studies.

Post university or doctoral and postdoctoral education in Moldova is also available for graduates from higher education. The admission is competitive and based on criteria established by the state attestation commission and the agreement with Academies. In the public sector, three Academies have been established. The Academy of Sciences is the oldest and was founded in 1961 in Moldova. In the year 2000, it had six sections: Physical-Mathematical, Biological and Chemical, Humanities and Social, Agricultural, Medical, and Technical. With a shift to the market economy and greater demand for professionals in economics and management, Moldova started the Academy of Economic Sciences in 1991. The academy had the following faculties: Management, Marketing, Accounting, Finance, International Economic Relations, Cybernetics, Economic Statistics, and Informatics. In 1999, there were 8,435 students enrolled in the Academy of Economic Sciences and there were 547 faculty members working in its 23 Departments. In 1999, eight years since its inception, 8,716 students had graduated from the Academy of Economic Sciences. The third Academy in Moldova is the Academy of Public Administration. The Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which culminates with a thesis defense, is awarded after post university education. The Doctorate of Science (D.Sc.) is conferred after two years of postdoctoral research work and attestation by a State Commission.

Higher education for graduates in professional positions is also available. The only public institution for higher technical education in the country is the Technical University of Moldova (TUM). At TUM, the education is offered in 58 branches of engineering, with 95 options, and undergraduate education is for a minimum four years. At the completion of undergraduate education, the Diploma of Licentiate Engineer is awarded. At the graduate level, TUM also awards a master's degree, a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.), and a Doctorate of Science (D.Sc. or postdoctoral degree). In 2001, TUM consisted of 9 faculties, 13 colleges, and had an enrollment of close to 10,000 students. The university had 750 faculty members with 4 serving as members of the Academy of Sciences (considered as the most prestigious recognition), 45 professors with Doctor of Science degrees, 400 associate professors with Doctor of Philosophy degrees, and 195 lecturers with minimum masters' level training.

An internationally respected trade institution of its own kind in Moldova is the College of Wine Culture. The College was established around 1850 and draws students from all over Eastern Europe and other parts of the world; it graduates about 300 wine experts every year.

In 2000, according to the Department of Statistics and Sociology in Moldova, only one in eight who completed higher education got a job. At the beginning of 2001, more than 75,000 students were registered for higher education in Moldova, a large number on part-time basis. Law and Economics were the most prestigious specialties in 2000.

Students pursuing higher education also seek opportunities to study abroad. Romania is the most popular destination for pursuing higher education because of proximity, language, and similarity in culture. Several exchange programs with universities in Romania have been established. The United States and countries in Europe are also popular places for seeking higher education by students. As reported in the media, the selection procedures for awarding these exchange scholarships are often a source of contention between politicians and academicians with each wanting greater role in selection and blaming the other for corruption.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

In 2001, the Ministry of Education and Science was the governmental division looking after the education sector. In 2001, the Ministry was headed by a Minister and four Vice Ministers, with each being responsible for a division of the Ministry. The four divisions under the vice-ministers are the Department of General Secondary Education, the Department of Vocational Education, the Youth and Sport Department, and the Higher Education Department. In addition, the Minister looks after the fifth division called the Department of Prognosis, Resources, and Funding and that is responsible for statistics, prognostication, administrative organization, direction of didactic personnel, attestation, personnel management, international relations, and interstate exchange education.

The Department of General Secondary Education is responsible for directing preprimary and primary education, general secondary education, language, didactic supply, libraries, quality assessment, and documentation. The Department of Vocational Education is responsible for the direction of projecting and assessment of vocational education, coordination of professional lyceums, and special education. The Youth and Sport Department provides direction to youth and sport activities. The Higher Education Department is responsible for the main direction of university studies, accreditation, and authorization. It is also responsible for continuing education of didactic personnel (educators). The Higher Education Department is further comprised of four institutions. The first is the Faculties of Institutions of Higher Education (FIHE) that oversees the training of education administrators at the "Ion Creanga" State Pedagogical State University of Moldova. The second is The National Institute of Physical Education and Sport (NIPES) that trains sport coaches. The third is The National Institute of Continuing Education (NICE) that trains personnel from private institutions, looks after bilateral agreements for training abroad, looks after the training needs of the Ministry personnel, and conducts various refresher courses. And the fourth is The Division of Teacher Training and Post University Centers.

Financing of the education sector in the new republic has been a constant struggle. In 2001, government funding ensured only basic functioning of educational establishments. No funding was allocated for construction or for teaching aids. In 1995, of the 93 book titles to be published, only 14 were issued. In 1999, the consolidated budget expenditure on education was 614 million lei. In 1990, the public expenditure on education as a percentage of total government expenditure was 17 percent, and in 1996 this was 28 percent. According to UNESCO statistics, in 1996, teachers' emoluments as a percentage of total education expenditure accounted for 71 percent. The percentage expenditure by level revealed spending as 25 percent on preprimary and primary levels, 53 percent on secondary levels, and 13 percent on tertiary levels. In 1996, expenditure per pupil as a percentage of GNP per capita was 24 percent for preprimary and primary school, 53 percent for secondary schools, and 64 percent for tertiary level schools.

Nonformal Education

Since the country has enjoyed very high levels of literacy as a byproduct of being a part of the former USSR, at present, there is no need for having formalized adult education sector. Furthermore, in independent Moldova, the 1995 Policy and Law on Education mandates that education and primary education rates continue to be near universal; adult education does not seem to be needed in the near future.

Another sector within the educational system is the education of children with special needs. In 2000, according to the Ministry of Education and Science, for children with special needs there were 9 institutions at the preprimary level and 64 at the primary level. In addition there were 32 auxiliary schools for children with mental deficiencies with an enrollment of 4,300 students. For children with physical deficiencies, there were 14 specialized schools enrolling 2,000 such students. There was one school for the visually impaired, which enrolled about 100 students. For children with speech deficiencies, there were 120 specialized centers enrolling 4,000 children. In addition, several speech therapy institutions have also been created in Moldova.

In the area of fine arts, Moldova also has 116 artistic schools, of which 10 are directly under the Ministry of Culture, and 106 are operated through Territorial Departments of Culture. Of the 10 institutions under the Ministry of Culture, 5 are music institutions, 1 is a choreography institution, 2 are fine art institutions, and 1 is a popular arts and general artistic activity institution.

The primary mode of distance education in Moldova was through correspondence courses offered through the Academies and the National Institute of Continuing Education (NICE). A person could even complete a doctoral thesis via correspondence study. As of 2000, Internet based online computer-mediated courses were nonexistent in Moldova. However, the Internet was gaining prominence in Chisinau, the main city and capital of Moldova. Perhaps in future years, online courses will be offered, especially at higher education levels.

Teaching Profession

According to UNESCO statistics, in 1996 there were a total of 18,395 preprimary teachers (all females), 14,097 primary teachers (of which 13,731 were females), 28,615 secondary teachers (of which 20,832 were females), and 8,814 tertiary level teachers (of which 3,928 were females). In 1990 there were 61 teachers at all levels per 1,000 people of the nonagricultural labor force. This ratio was down to 44 per 1,000 in 1996.

All teachers must complete further training in pedagogy through the "Ion Creanga" State Pedagogical State University of Moldova or its affiliates. The continuing education of the teachers is undertaken by the Division of Teacher Training within the Ministry of Education and Science. The Division of Teacher Training has four centers. These are the Center for training and qualifying technical instructors at The Technical University of Moldova, the Center for New Information Technologies at the Ministry, the Center for Training and Economic Assistance at The Academy of Economic Sciences, and the Center of Post University Studies at the University of Moldova.

In 2000, teachers were struggling with receiving salaries regularly and it was the norm for the salaries to be delayed by a few months. Strikes among teachers, once nonexistent, are becoming more common. For example, in March 2000 every Moldovan public school went on a strike. Teachers have formed unions and associations.


At the advent of the twenty-first century, Moldova has put aside the Russian dominance in its education and is working to establish the education system in native Moldovan as distinct from Russian and somewhat different from, but still similar to, the Romanian model. The primary education and literacy rates continue to be impressive for a newly formed country. However, Moldova has been undergoing a serious economic crisis throughout the 1990s that has been adversely affecting the educational sector. Compounding this problem are issues of unemployment, bureaucratic corruption, energy crises (especially in winter, which leads to school closures), foreign debt, inability to attract foreign investment, growing number of strikes among teachers due to delayed salaries and lack of increase in emoluments, and erosion of values. Moldova is struggling to maintain the high literacy levels inherited from the Soviet era. The emphasis in modern Moldova is to establish a greater base of qualified professionals at international standards who are well versed in market economy and managerial sciences. Moldova is looking more and more toward the private sector to deliver some of these goods. It is still uncertain how much success it will get in this direction through these measures.

Education in Moldova has received and continues to receive liberal assistance in "content" and "process" from Romania. Furthermore, the educational system in Moldova has been receiving financial help from World Bank. In 1998, the World Bank initiated a General Education Project to support the introduction of new general education standards, to develop tests and implement new curricula, to purchase teaching materials and textbooks, and to update teaching methodology and teacher training. The total budget for this project was US$20 million. How much this foreign aid will impact the already weakened economy and aid in strengthening the education sector remains to be seen.


Brezinau, Andrei. Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Moldova. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2000.

Central Intelligence Agency. Moldova in The World Factbook 2000. Washington, DC: CIA, 1999. Available from

Fedor, Helen, ed. Moldova Country Study. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division. Library of Congress, 1996.

King, Charles. The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture (Studies of Nationalities). Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2000.

Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000. Moldova, 2000. Available from

Technical University of Moldova. Informational Web-Pages, 2000. Available from

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Moldova. New York, 2000. Available from

. State of the World's Children 2000. New York: 2000.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Republic of Moldova Human Development Report, 1996. Available from

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Annual Statistical Yearbook 1999. Paris: UNESCO Publishing Office, 1999.

World Bank Group. "Moldova at a glance." World Development Indicators 1999. Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2000. Available from

Manoj Sharma

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Republic of Moldova

Republica Moldoveneasca



Located in southeastern Europe and bordered on the west by Romania and on all other sides by Ukraine, landlocked Moldova has an area of 33,843 square kilometers (13,067 square miles), making it slightly larger than Maryland. Moldova's border totals 1,389 kilometers (864 miles). The capital, Chişina˘u, is situated in its central part.

The portion of the country that lays east of the Nistru River is known as the Transnistria. Populated primarily by Slavs and economically and culturally oriented toward the Ukraine, the Transnistria has been in revolt against the Moldovan majority in the country (see below).


The population of Moldova was 4,430,654 in 2000 and its average density was 129.1 inhabitants per square kilometer (334 per square mile) in 1994. In 2000, the birth rate was 12.86 per 1,000 population, while the death rate equaled 12.58 per 1,000. With a net migration rate of-0.31 per 1,000 and a fertility rate of 1.63 children born per woman, the population growth rate was about zero in 2000. Over the 1990s, the population declined because of net economic emigration .

Moldova's population is youthful by European standards, with 23 percent below the age of 14 and 10 percent older than 65. Ethnic Moldovans (Romanians) account for 64.5 percent of the population, Ukrainians for 13.8 percent, Russians for 13 percent, Gagauz (a Turkic-speaking people of Christian faith) for 3.5 percent, Bulgarians for 2 percent, Jews for 1.5 percent, and other groups for 1.7 percent, according to 1989 estimates. In the early 1990s, interethnic violence occurred between the Moldovans and the Slavic majority in the Transnistria region (east of the Nistru [Dniester] River, with a population of 750,000) and the Gagauz in the country's south. The official language is Moldovan (Romanian) but Russian is widely spoken and is the second official language in Transnistria. About 98.5 percent of the population belong to the Orthodox Church. Moldova is predominantly rural, with about 54 percent of the population living mostly in large villages in 1999. The population in the capital of Chişina˘u was 667,000 in 1992; other major cities include Tiraspol and Tighina (Bender) in the east, and Balti in the north.


Moldova is among Europe's poorest countries. Before Moldova gained its independence from the USSR in 1991, the Soviet regime developed some of Moldova's industries, but Moldova's favorable climate, rich farmland, and lack of mineral resources defined its role as the USSR's primary supplier of fruits, vegetables, wine, tobacco, and processed foods. Soviet planners forced Moldova to develop those economic sectors, and Moldova imported its oil, coal, and natural gas from other USSR republics. The loss of Soviet markets and cheap energy sources with independence in 1991 caused a steep economic decline, energy shortages, and unemployment. Interethnic war, the Russian crisis of 1998, the problems of Ukraine and Romania (which, with Russia, receive 70 percent of Moldova's exports), and record droughts combined for the sharpest gross domestic product (GDP) decline seen in a former Soviet republic; in 1998, the economy reached only 33 percent of its size in 1989. By 1999, GDP was $2,033 per capita.

Since independence, Moldova has followed a path toward reform, introducing a convertible currency, freeing prices from state control, ending subsidies for state-owned enterprises, privatizing the formerly collectivized farmland, removing export controls, and freeing bank interest rates with assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. (Taken together, these corrections are called structural reform because they change the structure of the economy.) Mass privatization in 1994 transferred to the private sector 1,142 large and medium and 1,093 small enterprises. Cash privatizations were less successful; tenders for the Moldtelecom (the telephone company) in 1998 and the tobacco firm Tutun in 1996 were canceled, and other privatization deals were disappointing. In 1997 and 1998, 223 enterprises were sold at auctions, generating $4.45 million; foreign direct investment reached $7.6 million.

The country's external debt was estimated at $1.3 billion (December 1999) and posed a major challenge to the economy. The country handed 50 percent of its gas pipelines to Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom, its biggest creditor (Moldova owes it $320 million and Transnistria another $400 million). The country is dependent on economic aid, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have granted $547 million between 1992 and 1999.


Independent since 1991, Moldova is a republic with a multiparty system. Moldova's unicameral parliament is elected by universal suffrage. In February 2001, the Communist Party of Moldova (CPM) won 71 of the 101 seats, the formerly ruling centrist Alliance got 19 seats, and the right-wing nationalist Christian Democratic Popular Party (CDPP) won 11 seats. Popularly-elected President Vladimir Voronin of the CPM appointed a cabinet led by independent ethnic Bulgarian Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev. The CPM has generally opposed privatization and independence for Transnistria, and advocated reorientation towards Russia, but it is highly unlikely that market reforms will be reversed. With its absolute majority in parliament, the CPM will be able to pursue reform without distraction. It is expected that poorer voters will more readily accept austerity policies if they come from a leftist administration such as the CPM. The CPM retained key ministers from the previous reformist cabinet to stress continuity and it maintains rigorous inflation and budget targets, but it focuses on restoring industrial and agricultural output through policies that may antagonize the IMF. Also on the CPM agenda are reforming the public pension system by linking contributions to benefits and raising the retirement age; restructuring the public health care system by partially privatizing health services; and reforming the social assistance system. The IMF expressed satisfaction with its stabilization and privatization plans.

The Democratic Convention (DCM) is a right-of-center, pro-Western bloc, and the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM) is a centrist group that developed from the older Movement for a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova, the Popular Democratic Party, the New Forces, and the National Youth League. There are also a variety of small and relatively insignificant parties.

The government's role in the economy is large but declining as the size of the private sector has grown considerably over the 1990s. In 1999, an estimated 60 percent of the economy was in the private sector. Industries were more than 60 percent private, agriculture 86 percent private, retail and services 70 percent, and construction and transport almost 44 percent. The private sector accounted for 45 percent of GDP in 1999. The tax system is considered business-unfriendly, particularly with the introduction in 1998 of value-added tax (VAT) of 20 percent on imported goods and services, and of excise taxes in 1992. The business environment, legal framework, regulation, licensing, inspection, investment climate, access to bank credits, and business infrastructure have been deemed unfavorable to western investment.

Moldova has faced 2 major political conflicts since gaining independence in 1991. The most pressing of these conflicts was in the Transnistria region. The Transnistria region is a narrow strip of land laying east of the Nistru River (also known as the Dniester or Dniestr River). More heavily industrialized than the rest of Moldova, and populated primarily by Slavs, the region identifies itself more closely with Ukraine than with Moldova and has sought independence. Russian forces remained east of the Nistru River after 1991, supporting the self-proclaimed Transnistria Republic, which the government in Chişina˘u has not recognized. Russia and Ukraine are acting as mediators between Chişina˘u and Transnistria; the parties have observed a cease-fire since 1992, but progress to a settlement on the status of Transnistria has been slow. The region is still used for tax and customs evasions. The government in 2001 seems more willing to accept a Russian presence in return for greater pressure on Transnistria to discard sovereignty claims. Russia's influence will likely be acknowledged, and chances of political and economic union with Russia and Belarus may grow. Less pressing is the conflict in Gagauzia, a small region in the south of the country that is populated primarily by a Christian Turkic minority known as the Gagauz. Gagauzia has been granted a great deal of autonomy, including the right to control the privatization of assets in the region and the right to determine trade relations.


Moldova is landlocked and depends on railroad and road networks for trade. Soviet-built railroads are of decent quality and comprise 1,318 kilometers (824 miles) of tracks; 10,531 kilometers (6,582 miles) of roads account for most local transport and 80 percent of passenger travel. The major riversthe Nistru (Dniester) and the Prutare used for local transport. In 1995, the government established Terminal S.A., a joint Moldovan-Greek venture to build and maintain an oil terminal in Giurgiulesti on the Danube with the assistance of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The country is served also by pipelines for natural gas from Russia (310 kilometers, or 192 miles, in 1992). Air traffic is served by the state-owned carrier, Air Moldova, and by 2 smaller airlines.

Moldova's electricity production was 5.661 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 1998, 93 percent of which were generated in thermal plants and 7 percent in hydropower facilities. The country imported 1.8 billion kWh in 1998. Domestic sources account for 2 percent of primary energy supply, and gas accounts for 61 percent of the imports, oil for 20 percent, and coal for 10 percent. A large gas power plant in Transnistria produces 85 percent of the electricity. Moldova remains reliant on Russian gas, and Gazprom periodically cuts off supplies due to chronic non-payment, as do Romania, Ukraine, and Transnistria for unpaid electricity. Mounting bills result from non-payment by consumers, electricity theft, and wastage. The sector has been restructured into 2 generators and 5 distributor companies, and in 2000, Moldova completed

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Moldova 60 740 297 17.6 2 0.2 6.4 2.42 25
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Romania 300 319 233 119.2 29 N/A 10.2 9.01 600
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

the first round of electricity privatization, selling 3 of the distributors to Union Fenosa of Spain.

Moldova has an antiquated telephone system with 15 lines per 100 inhabitants in 1997, very few pay phones, many villages without service, and a mobile phone penetration rate of just 0.3 percent in 1998. Moldtelecom, the national telecom, is currently upgrading and has signed agreements with Denmark's Great Northern Telegraph (GNT), which is investing $10 million in a digital switch system and fiber-optic technology. The government intends to sell 51 percent of Moldtelecom following a failed attempt at privatization in 1998 to a Greek company. In 1998, Voxtel, a consortium comprising 1 French, 1 Romanian, and 2 Moldovan companies, launched mobile service in the GSM standard. In 2000, Moldova awarded a second GSM license to Moldcell, a joint venture between Turkish Turkcell (77 percent) and Chişina˘u-based Accent Electronics (23 percent). In 1999, the Internet usage was 5.8 per 1,000 of the population, there were 16 Internet service providers, and Moldova leased out its "md" domain name to inhabitants of the state of Maryland in the United States.


The entire economy of Moldova has been in decline since independence in 1991. In 1998, the contributions to GDP of the 3 major sectors were as follows: agriculture, 31 percent; industry, 35 percent (mostly from food processing); and services, 34 percent. Agriculture employed 40.2 percent of the labor force , while industry employed 14.3 percent, and other sectors employed 45.5 percent. Over the 1990s, industrial output declined 2.5 times due to the loss of markets and the drop in domestic farm production. The country has a development strategy focusing on light manufacturing (textiles, consumer electronics) and cement.


Agriculture provides employment for over 40 percent of the population and contributes nearly a third of GDP. Some 75 percent of Moldovan territory is fertile Chernozem (black earth) and agricultural products account for 75 percent of all exports. Twenty-one percent of Moldovan agricultural land was held as individual farms, 61 percent as cooperative farms, and 18 percent by state-owned farms in 1999; in all, 85,000 private farmers were operating throughout the country. Privatization of former cooperative farms has been slow (al-most nonexistent in Transnistria) and the land market has been small, not least because foreigners are not allowed to purchase land. Farm consolidation is taking root as approximately 10,000 larger farms were formed in 1998 and 1999.

Cereals, sunflowers, sugar beets, potatoes, vegetables, tobacco, fruits, and grapes are grown, but plantings of capital-intensive cropstobacco and vegetables have declined due to the loss of markets and limited domestic consumption. The number of livestock decreased considerably over the 1990s due to high costs and low demand. The agricultural sector has been affected over the 1990s by droughts, frosts, floods, and shortage of materials, machines, and fertilizers once supplied by the USSR. More intensive farming techniques have lowered productivity by 35 percent. The sector still receives subsidies and tax incentives, but recent command measures (such as the attempt to ban wheat exports) continue to repel potential investors.


Food processing (including sugar and vegetable oil) is the largest domestic industry, followed by power generation, engineering (mostly agricultural machinery, foundry equipment, refrigerators, freezers, and washing machines), hosiery, shoes, and textiles. Industrial production decreased by 10 percent in 1999 and the sector, which accounts for less than 15 percent of GDP, has been declining ever since independence, devastated by rising energy prices, the decline in agriculture, and the loss of markets. The conflict with Transnistria has had a significant effect on this sector since all production of electric machines, power transformers, gas containers, slate, 95 percent of the cotton fabrics, 87 percent of the electricity, and a large part of the cement industry are located there.

The food industry accounted for 58.2 percent of the manufacturing output in 1997, far ahead of energy production (18.4 percent), the second largest industry. The importance of the third largest sector, engineering and metal processing, declined from almost 18 percent in 1990 to 5.9 percent in 1997. Similarly, the importance of light industry, which was the second biggest sector after food-processing in 1990, has also declined, from 21.1 percent in 1990 to 5.8 percent in 1997. Efforts to produce exports for more stable and lucrative markets such as those in the European Union (EU) have been difficult due to the lower product quality of Moldovan firms. Wine represents a major product of Moldova's economy, with exports in a good year accounting for up to 50 percent of the total export income. The wine industry has attracted some western investment and loans from the EBRD, but in 1998 Russia still accounted for 85.6 percent of wine export sales. The tobacco processing industry remains one of the country's most important; during Soviet times, the republic produced 40 percent of the USSR's annual crop. Moldova plans to privatize Tutun, the country's largest tobacco concern. Some new industries, such as scrap metal processing, chemicals, and medical equipment, have also emerged since independence. The construction materials industry is expanding through exports of cement, gypsum, and ceramics, and through investment in civil engineering.


The banking system includes the independent National Bank of Moldova (NBM) and 21 commercial banks. Although small, the banking system has functioned well over the 1990s. Banking laws and accounting standards correspond to international standards, and there are no restrictions on foreign banks. There were 21 commercial banks in 2000; 3 others closed down in 1998. The largest banks, accounting for two-thirds of all assets and deposits, are Agroindbank, Petrol Bank, Banca De Economii, Moldindconbank, Banca Sociala, and Victoriabank. Victoriabank, a private commercial bank, has been most active in supporting small industry and retail. A network of savings and credit associations is being developed in villages, and insurance is becoming important, with 40 companies providing services.

Chişina˘u shows signs of developing a retail sector with several private Western-style shops and restaurants. Outside town, options are limited. The Green Hills is the largest of the supermarkets, while the Ninevia and the Fidesco supermarkets carry many imported supplies. High prices on imported goods make them unavailable for the majority of the population. Tourism is underdeveloped with a few Soviet-era hotels in Chişina˘u and no efforts to attract foreign visitors.


Exports amounted to $470 million in 1999 and included foodstuffs, wine, and tobacco (which accounted for 66 percent of total exports), textiles and footwear, and machinery. Most exports in 1998 were shipped to Russia (53 percent), while Romania took 10 percent, Ukraine 8 percent, Germany 5 percent, and Belarus 4 percent. Imports in 1998 were worth $560 million and included mineral products and fuel, machinery and equipment, chemicals, and textiles. The majority of imports originate from Russia (22 percent); other major importers were Ukraine (16 percent), Romania (12 percent), Belarus (9 percent), and Germany (5 percent). In 1998, the collapse in the value of the leu brought the trade deficit to $389.1 million from $297.3 million in 1997, due to lower exports and higher import costs.

Prospects for increased trade grew by the turn of the century. In 2000 alone Moldova's foreign trade rose 22 percent to US$1.27 billion dollars. Moreover, Moldova joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, an action which held the promise of opening trade beyond the limited confines of former Soviet countries.


The National Bank of Moldova (NBM) was established in 1991 and is responsible for monetary policy and banking supervision. The first years following independence were a difficult time for Moldovan finances. Inflation hit 2,700 percent in 1993, but prudent fiscal policies brought the inflation level down to 11.2 percent in 1997. The Russian crisis led to intense pressure on the Moldovan currency, and after the devaluation of the Russian rouble, the NBM abandoned support of the leu

Exchange rates: Moldova
lei (MDL) per US$1
Jan 2001 12.3728
2000 12.4342
1999 10.5158
1998 5.3707
1997 4.6236
1996 4.6045
Note: Lei is the plural form of leu.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

in order to conserve its foreign exchange reserves , and it was devaluated at 100 percent. Inflation rates that peaked at 40 percent during the Russian financial crisis were expected to drop to 10 percent in 2001.

Other elements of the financial sector are less developed but include the National Commodity Exchange, established in 1991; the Moldova Interbank Currency Exchange; the Moldovan Stock Exchange, established in 1995; 15 investment funds; and 8 trust companies. The National Commission on the Securities Market supervises the market participants. The Moldovan Stock Exchange (MSE) was established in June 1995 as an electronic, screen-based, order-driven system. Only 20 companies are listed, but the trade volume increased from US$2.5 million in 1996 to US$52.6 million in 1998. The unregulated over-the-counter market accounted for 48 percent of the transactions in 1999.


Under the Soviet regime, employment was almost total and provided modest livelihoods for nearly everyone in a relatively egalitarian society (with the exception of the more affluent groups of the communist elite and the underworld). But independence and the reforms of the 1990s generated unemployment, crime, corruption, poverty, and illicit fortunes. The population below the poverty line was estimated in 1999 at a stunning 75 percent (in Romania, it was 30 percent; in Russia and

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Moldova N/A 1,453 1,572 1,776 614
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Russia 2,555 3,654 3,463 3,668 2,138
Romania 1,201 1,643 1,872 1,576 1,310
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Moldova
Lowest 10% 2.7
Lowest 20% 6.9
Second 20% 11.9
Third 20% 16.7
Fourth 20% 23.1
Highest 20% 41.5
Highest 10% 25.8
Survey year: 1992
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

Ukraine, 25-50 percent). Moldova's Gini index (measuring economic equality, with 0 standing for perfect equality and 100 for perfect inequality) in 1992 was 34.4, far lower than in the United States (40.6), but considerably higher than in Bulgaria (28) and Greece (32).

The social cost of market reforms has been greater than was assumed, and the state has proved incapable of ensuring support for the poor. It failed to stimulate the private sector as a compensation for unemployment or to reorganize the social services. Mass privatization turned unworthy assets over to poor owners and funneled high-quality assets to the well connected. The reach of the underground economy (which was estimated at 35 percent of GDP in 1999), leads to corruption, reduced public revenues, and widening income inequality. Poverty is causing stress, particularly in rural areas, and limiting private economic initiative. To relieve poverty, the Moldovan government has relied on international aid, such as IMF's $142 million poverty reduction facility, and on plans to decentralize social services in order to boost social sector reform.


The labor force numbered 1.7 million in 1998, and the unemployment rate was about 31 percent in 2000. Economic instability, according to United Nations Development Program reports, makes it difficult for the government to uphold adequately the right to social insurance and protection (guaranteed by article 47 of the constitution), the right to work and labor protection (Article 43), the right to health protection (article 36), and the right to a favorable working environment (article 37). The state does not meet its commitments to protect family and orphans (article 49), the interests of mothers, children and youth (article 50), or the interests of persons with disabilities (article 51). The average monthly wage in 1999 reached $25, insufficient to provide a decent standard of living. Many workers were using outdated technology

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Moldova 31 5 11 3 15 12 23
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Russia 28 11 16 7 15 8 16
Romania 36 7 9 3 20 9 16
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

without adequate safety regulations, and work-place conditions were poor and often dangerous. Under the Soviet regime, unions were government-controlled; independent ones began to emerge in 1991, but their influence is limited partly due to the increasing size of the private sector.


14TH CENTURY. The principality of Moldavia is founded by the Vlachs, inhabitants of the Carpathian Mountains and other parts of the Balkan Peninsula.

15TH CENTURY. The Ottoman Empire absorbs Moldavia and develops a feudal agricultural society.

1812. Russia annexes the eastern portion of Moldavia, historically known as Bessarabia.

1856. European powers grant Moldavia and Bessarabia independence from the Ottoman Empire and Russia, respectively, and they are united with independent Walachia in 1859, assuming the newly-minted name of Romania.

1878. Russia regains Bessarabia.

1918. After the 1917 Russian revolution, Russian Bessarabia decides in favor of unification with Romania. Western powers recognize the incorporation at the Paris Peace Conference of 1920.

1924. The Soviets establish the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) east of the Nistru (Dniester) River within Ukraine.

1939. A German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact forces Romania to cede Bessarabia to the USSR.

1940. The Soviet government proclaims the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), including the territory of the former Moldavian ASSR (Transnistria), with a capital in Chişina˘u.

1941. Romania, an ally of Nazi Germany, declares war on the USSR and invades Bessarabia with German assistance during World War II.

1944. The USSR reestablishes the Moldavian SSR toward the end of World War II. Over the next 50 years its economy is integrated into the Soviet system with collective and state farms on expropriated farmland. The country remains rural, although new industries appear in urban areas, and Russians become the majority in the cities.

1985. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduces political and economic reforms in the USSR.

1989. The Popular Front of Moldova (PFM), the first opposition group, is formed.

1990. A local referendum approves autonomy for the predominantly Slavic Transnistria region, giving rise to a lasting controversy over the status of the region.

1991. The Moldavian SSR changes its name to the Republic of Moldova and declares its independence from the USSR.

1992. Moldova joins the International Monetary Fund.

1994. First multi-party elections; the first post-Soviet constitution is adopted.

2001. Moldova joins the World Trade Organization.


The economic future of Moldova depends on the successful completion of its reforms, the future strength of the Russian and Ukrainian economies, and the successful accession of Romania to the European Union, since these 3 countries receive 70 percent of its exports and supply almost all its energy. Prior to elections in 2000 Moldova appeared to be heading toward greater trade relations with the international community, but the ascension to power of the Communist Party of Moldova (CMP) puts such engagement in doubt. The CMP's control of government may reduce political instability, particularly regarding the Transnistria stand-off, but any slowing of economic reforms could limit GDP growth to 3-3.5 percent a year while possible fiscal and monetary liberalization may cause 20 percent inflation in 2001. The more pro-Romanian and pro-European direction of centrist foreign policy may give way to closer ties and even integration with the Russian-Belarusian union.

The CPM may also run contrary to the IMF agreement with its renewed price controls and state monopoly over the wine and tobacco sectors; it is unlikely, however, that the general direction of reform toward a market economy will be reversed. Moldova has good long-term growth prospects in terms of geographical location, resources, and a skilled workforce, but has a long way to go before an operational market economy could create the sustainable ground for improved living standards for the majority of the people.


Moldova has no territories or colonies.


Dawisha, Karen, and Bruce Parrott, eds. Democratic Changes and Authoritarian Reactions in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Moldova. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Fedor, Helen, editor. Belarus and Moldova: Country Studies. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1996.

Republic of Moldova. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Republic of Moldova Site. <>. Accessed August 2001.

United Nations Development Program. Human Development Report, Republic of Moldova. New York, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Moldova. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Valentin Hadjiyski




Moldovan leu (MDL; plural lei). One leu equals 100 bani. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 bani, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 lei.


Foodstuffs, wine, and tobacco (66 percent); textiles and footwear, machinery.


Mineral products and fuel (31 percent); machinery and equipment, chemicals, textiles.


US$9.7 billion (1999 est.).


Exports: US$470 million (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$560 million (f.o.b., 1999).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Moldova
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 4,431,570
Language(s): Moldovan (official), Russian, Gagauz
Literacy rate: 96.0%
Area: 33,843 sq km
GDP: 1,286 (US$ millions)
Number of Television Stations: 1
Number of Television Sets: 126,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 28.4
Number of Cable Subscribers: 50,740
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 11.8
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 3,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 0.7
Number of Radio Stations: 60
Number of Radio Receivers: 3,220,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 726.6
Number of Individuals with Computers: 63,500
Computers per 1,000: 14.3
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 52,600
Internet Access per 1,000: 11.9

Background & General Characteristics

In 2002, 180 newspapers and magazines were published in the Republic of Moldova. Printed media, as well as TV and radio programs appear in Romanian, Russian, Gagauzi, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, and Yiddish languages. Although the Constitution defines Moldavian as an official language, it is a regular practice among many people, including the intellectual elite and officials to refer to Moldavian as Romanian to emphasize once common history and culture of Moldova and Romania.

The Moldavian population is, in general, well educated and overall is interested in mass media. According to the census taken in 1989, 96.4 percent of the adult population were literate. About 70 percent of them had secondary or higher education. Moldova has a mandatory 9-grade school education for young people.

Press History

The history of the Moldavian press begins in 1790 when the first official periodical Curier de Moldavie (Moldavian Herald), in the French language, was initiated in the city of Yassy near the Russian Army Headquarters. The periodical was dislocated to the territory of the Moldavian Knighthood after the Russo-Turkish war of 1787-1791. In 1829, famous writer Georgi Asaki introduced to the public the first newspaper (Albina Romanesca, or Romanian Bee) in the native Romanian language. It was published in Yassy every two days on four pages. In July 1854, Moldova, which was then called Bessarabia and was a province in the Russian Empire, commenced the publication of the official newspaper Bessarabskie Oblastnye Vedomosti (Bessarabian Official Reports) under the auspices of the local governor authorities. The first magazine Kishinevskie Eparkhi al'nye Vedomosti (Official Reports of Kishineu Parish) which appeared in 1867, both in Russian and Romanian languages had religious orientations. In 1917, it changed its name to Golos Pravoslavnoi Bessarabskoi Tserkvi (Voice of Bessarabian Orthodox Church).

The history of private press begins with the Bessarabski Vestnik (Bessarabian Herald) which was published on a weekly basis in the city of Chisinau in 1889 by Elizabeth Sokolova, the wife of the local high official. Along with the official reports, it placed articles reflecting the social, political, and economic life of the province; literary essays; and humor stories. The weekly leaned toward democratic circles of the Bessarabian society.

In 1854-1899, Bessarabia had 28 printed publications, including 9 newspapers, 2 magazines, 14 publications by various institutions, and 3 address-calendars. Their number had increased dramatically to 254 by the beginning of the twentieth century. It included both official and non-official newspapers and magazines such as Literary Almanac, Bessarabian AgricultureWine and Gardening, Wine and Winery, among them. Sixteen publications were in Romanian.

In 1918-1940, the larger western part of Bessarabia became occupied by Romania, while the smaller one attained a status of Moldavian Autonomous Socialist Republic within the Soviet Ukraine. The Moldavian press in Romania developed under the great influence of local nationalism and Romanian culture, while in Socialist Moldavia (until 1991), all state-owned media promoted the ideas and practices of the Communist party and its ideology. No independent mass media existed in the Socialist Moldavia. Though mass media achieved significant accomplishments during the Soviet times, such as the publication of ninety printed editions in various ethnic languages, and the development of the huge radio and TV broadcasting networks, to name a few, they had a strict state and party censorship.

Mass Media under Democracy

In 1991, Moldova was proclaimed a sovereign state. As a democratic, free market-oriented country, Moldova eliminated the state and Communist party monopoly and the censorship in media production: state publishing houses, radio stations, and printed media became privatized. The emergence of independent media, news agencies, TV channels, and radio stations became a reality. Religious press grew fast. Demand, supply, and competition started ruling the mass media market. However, the first results were not quite encouraging for many media employees. The process of privatization did not proceed in a just, fair way for them, because journalists, reporters, and other media professionals were deprived of the right to purchase any publishing, broadcasting, and photographic facilities. Many media that were purchased, furthermore, could not find financial resources and consequently failed. In the mid-1990s, the government began to nationalize some of them. As a result, 50 percent of all printed and electronic media returned to state control. This, of course, did not promote the freedom of press in the country. The journalists faced a dilemma: to fight for a real independence, including a financial one, or serve the interests of the government which guaranteed salary and means for existence in exchange for surrendering certain freedoms. Due to the economic difficulties, many journalists chose a third way: to serve the political interests of the parties that mushroomed (over fifty at the beginning of 1990s) since the sovereignty was proclaimed. This decision led them, to a great extent, to lose their professionalism and objectivity. The political parties' press dominated the market in the first half of the 1990s. A decade later, when the citizenry realized that the press media was not objective, the number of parties and party press significantly dwindled. Though 40 percent of the press still belonged to the parties in 2002, their circulation did not reach the circulation of the independent press.

Most Popular Newspapers and Magazines

Two newspapers stand out on the media scene; Moldova Suverena (Sovereign Moldova), with a circulation of 7,000 copies, in Romanian, and Nezavisimaya Moldova (Independent Moldova), with a circulation of 10,500 copies in Russian. Both support the party in power and the political forces associated with it. This was borne out in 2001 parliamentary elections, when they both upheld the political alliance headed by the Prime Minister Dmitry Bragish.

The nationalistic resurgence movements of Moldova promote their agenda through a variety of newspapers. One of them, Literature si Arta (Literature and Art, with 18,200 copies), a weekly published in Romanian, belongs to the Union of Writers of Moldova. Traditionally, it leans toward the right and disseminates the national-patriotic sentiments. In 2001 parliamentary elections, it backed up the Party of Democratic Forces since its editor-in-chief Nikolai Dabizha could be found among the candidates of this party.

The right spectrum of the Moldavian press is represented by the daily Flux, which is considered the most influential newspaper in the Romanian language (36,000 copies). It expresses the outlook of the pro-Romanian circles in the country under the leadership of Yuri Poshka, the Chairperson of Christian-Democratic People Party. The independent Jurnal de Chisinau at 11,000 copies, and Tara (Country) at 7,500 copies, both in Romanian, and Novoe Vremya (New Time) at 10,000 copies, published in Russian by the Democratic Party, can also be numbered among this spectrum.

In 1995, the Party of Resurgence and Accord (PRA) headed by the ex-President Mircea Snegur launched the Russian-language newspaper Moldavskie Vedomosti (Moldavian Official Reports), at 6,000 copies. It gradually lost its party affiliation, though still remains between the right and the center media in the political arena. The former official newspaper, Luceafurul (Morning Star), with a circulation of 10,000 copies, claims to be independent from the PRA since 2001, however, it still adheres to a great extent to the politics of this party.

The Romanian-language weekly Saptamina (Week), 17,400 copies, represents the political views of the centrist movements and adheres to the party in power. It was founded in 1992.

Kishinevskie Novosti (Chisinau News), 8,400 copies, adheres to the left. Since its foundation in 1991, it remains one of three most popular newspapers published in Russian. It successfully combines information with advertisements, allocating balanced space to classified ads and to information on serious and light aspects of life in the capital.

The Communist Party of Moldova disseminates 25,000 copies of the newspaper Communist, both in Romanian and Russian, which was published once a week until 2001 and twice a week since then. The publication enjoys popularity predominantly among the Party supporters and elderly generation. Over time, it has become less orthodox in expressing Communist views and ideology.

The extreme political orientation of many national newspapers makes it difficult for the readers to form an objective opinion on the events in the country, since very few individuals, due to the present severe financial constraints, can afford to buy a diverse array of publications. The population is equally as swayed in the remote rural areas where they predominantly read press materials, listen to radio programs, and watch TV shows produced by local companies.

There are also periodicals for various sub-groups of the population. Some of them target children and teenagers, Noi (We), in Romanian; Drug (Friend), in Russian and a private magazine Welcome Moldova, in English; or youth Tineretul Moldovei (Young Moldavian), in Romanian and Otechestvo (Fatherland), in Russian; and others are designed for women. Most of the press comes from Romania, Russia, and Ukraine. There are also a variety of periodicals devoted to sports, hobbies, and recreation. Among the sports periodicals are Rest with Soccer, Sport Plus, and Sport-Curier.

On the territory of self-proclaimed Pri-Dnestr Moldavian Republic, the mass media work under strict state censorship. Most of them keep to pro-government orientation. Pridnestrovskaya Pravda (Pri-Dnestr Truth) andPridnestrovie (Pri-Dnestr) are the most known in that area.

The democratic processes in Moldova created opportunities for the development of new information agencies. The monopolist of the one state agency, ATEM, dissolved. Among more than a dozen new agencies, there is the government agency Moldpres (1940), the Chisinau municipal council agency Info-prim (1998), and the independent agencies Basa-pres (1992), NICA-pres (1993), Interlic (1995), AP "FLUX" (1995), and "DECA"-pres (1996).

Press Laws

Freedom of expression, speech, and access to information are basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Moldova, which was adopted in 1994. According to Article 32, every citizen is guaranteed "the freedom of thought, opinion, and their public expression in words, paintings, or by other means." Article 34 guarantees the right to have access to any information concerning governance and the functioning of state bodies. Article 5 forbids censorship.

The Constitution's articles of the press are supported by three major laws, the Law on Press (1994), the Law on TV and Radio (1995), and the Law on Access to Information (2000). The Law on TV and Radio is considered by legal experts a major step forward for it envisions the transformation of state broadcasting in public and private sectors. It also stipulates the procedures for the establishment of independent broadcasting companies.

The Law on Press guarantees political pluralism (Article 1, paragraph 1). Any legal organization or any citizen of the country over eighteen years of age has the right to open a news agency or launch a periodical (Article 5, paragraph 1). All media must be registered in the Ministry of Justice. The state pledges to defend the honor and dignity of journalists, their life, and property (Article 20, paragraph 3). The media must not inflict harm upon the honor and dignity of any citizen or to his/her private life, his/her right to have an opinion; to the national security, territorial integrity, public calm and law. They are not to disclose confidential information.

The Criminal Code of the Republic of Moldova, Article 7, guarantees citizens the right to file law suits against those media which publish false information about them. The Code stipulates significant fines (up to 200 minimum monthly salaries) for publishing false information in the press. Defamation in any print form can be punished by up to three years imprisonment or up to 50 minimum monthly salaries.

The Coordination Council on TV and Radio Broadcasting grants and revokes licenses for TV broadcasting and allocates radio frequencies on a competitive bid basis, sponsored by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The professional journalist organizations consider some articles of the laws inaccurate, incomplete, or contradictory, which interferes with the free functioning of the press. For example, they expressed concern about Article 7, paragraph 4 of the Law on Press, which does not specify in which cases the court has the right to terminate a license. It does not specify the words "misuse of the media" which can have multiple interpretations. The concerns were also expressed by journalists about the possibility of abuse of Article 7, paragraph 1 of the Legal Code for moral damage in cases of criticizing the activities of government officials.

State-Press Relations

Although the existing laws of the Republic of Moldova guarantee mass media the freedom of expression, from time to time many of them come across serious problems. The ban on censorship does not imply its total elimination. An unofficial, covert censorship often takes its place in many mass media. This perspective is supported by the survey of journalists conducted by the Center for the Support of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in November, 2001. The presence of direct or indirect censorship was acknowledged by 95.6 percent of journalists.

The party and political censorship grossly prevail. The government efficiently uses the imperfect laws and economic leverages in exercising its pressure on media. The laws are often used to defend not the freedom of expression and speech, but the reputation of corrupt individuals. About 800 lawsuits were filed by government officials against journalists since 1995. There are grave obstacles in implementing the Law on Access to Information. Since its adoption, not a single lawsuit was filed against any state official for hiding any publicly significant information. The press services of the government and governmental bodies appear to serve as filters, not suppliers, of information.

The licensing of electronic mass media serves as another powerful tool of intrusion and direct control of the state over the content of the press materials. The Coordination Council on Radio and TV Broadcasting includes only the representatives of the power; lay people are not among them.

The critical coverage of the government and governmental bodies can be found mainly in the opposition party media. Shutting down the Commersant Moldovi (Moldavian Salesman) in 2001 serves as an outstanding example of persecution of media for critical coverage of some events. The newspaper was accused of promoting separatism of the country when it published interviews with the leaders of the unrecognized Pre-Dnestr Moldavian Republic, which fought for secession from Moldova.

The state and independent mass media find themselves in unequal economic conditions. The low quality of life of the population (in 2002, 75 percent of the population lived below the poverty line) deprived independent mass media of their major financial support from their readers. The newspapers and magazines that had circulation of 200,000 and more during the Soviet times dropped their circulation to between 10 and 15 thousand copies. The high cost of paper imported by Moldova, constantly increasing tariffs for photographic services, and taxes which are as high as in other businesses put many publications on the brink of bankruptcy. In these conditions, the government uses sales tax as one of the forms of manipulation with mass media. The introduction or elimination of the tax depends upon every new government. Growing tariffs on subscription and delivery of media worsen the situation.

Foreign capital's ownership of stock in Moldavian print-media companies is restricted by law to no more than 49 percent; for electronic media the percentage cap is 85 percent.

The deepening economic crisis in the country does not allow private businesses to place their commercial advertisements in media to increase their income. Additional taxation of advertisement does not encourage media hunts for potential customers. Many companies spend tiny amounts of money on advertising.

The journalists encounter many problems because they do not have a trade union of their own. They are members of the Union of the Workers of Culture, a part of the independent trade union of Moldova Solidaritatea (Solidarity), which does not effectively defend its members. As a result, in 2002, a group of concerned journalists created a steering committee to establish a professional union of their own.

The journalists of Moldova can join various creative organizations, such as the Union of Journalists of Moldova. The newly created League of Journalists of Moldova acts as an alternative association to support and defend their rights and to promote professionalism. The journalists exercise their rights and actualize interests and needs through other alliances, such as the Association of Electronic Press or APEL, the Committee for the Freedom of Press in Moldova, Independent Journalism Center, and Center for the Support of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

The Republic of Moldova is a democratic society. In 2002, over 70 foreign publishing houses, information agencies, radio and TV companies received accreditation with ITAR-TASS, RIA Novosti, Radio Free Europe, BBC, Editing-Frans, Deutsche Press, ARD, International Media Corporation, Journalism 2, and PRO-TV among them. The accreditation of foreign journalists is carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in accordance with the Procedures for Accreditation and Activity of Foreign Journalists, approved by the government in 1995.

The Western press is distributed mainly by subscription. It is not available for retail sale. One can purchase Western newspapers and magazines only in the governmental institutions, elite hotels, and restaurants. Private companies deliver The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Guardian Europe, Financial TimesBildLe Monde,Newsweek, and others.

The press from Russia prevails in retail sale due to high demand. Three Russian publications Argumenty I Fakty (Arguments and Facts), Komsomol'skaya Pravda (Komsomol Truth), and Trud (Labor) have supplements with an overview of major political, economic, and cultural events in the Republic of Moldova.

Broadcast Media

While prior to 1991 Moldova had only one state-run TV company, in 2002 there were 39 non-cable TV studios and 47 cable TV studios. Only four of them belong to the state. These stations are, Teleradio-Moldova, Gagauzia, Euro TV-Chisinau, TV-Balti. The most popular private TV studios are NIT, ORT Moldova, PRO-TV, TV6-Balti, and TV26-Chisinau. The biggest cable TV studio, SunTV, is a joint venture of USA and Moldova with 70 percent of the stock belonging to the American side. The cable TV network develops rapidly not only in the capital Chisinau, but all over the Republic, with Balti-6 and TV-SAD in Beltsy; Centru-TV, SATELITTV, and Alternative-TV in Chisinau; and Inter-TV in Faleshty. Practically every district, capital, and big city has cable TV. Though censorship is outlawed in radio and TV, the hidden censorship influences the work of some companies. It relates to the greatest extent to the state company Teleradio Moldova. Its chair is elected by the Parliament and often exercises subtle pressure on the journalists in the interests of the Parliament majority and blocks the opposition from access to the listeners. In one case, the head of the company repeatedly dismissed two journalists. Yet in each case they appealed in court and were reinstated.

In March and April, 2002, the bigger part of the journalist core of the Teleradio-Moldova company went on "passive" strike to protest against the subtle censorship. The journalists also demanded the adoption of the Law on Public TV and to turn the state TV company into a public one to reflect the interests of all layers of Moldavian society.

The international TV companies must get a license to operate in the country. Among those that were granted licenses are Romanian Public Television TVR-1 and TV company TV-5 (Francofonia, a Belgium-France Switzerland conglomerate). Broadcasting of Russian TV channels is regulated by the Agreement, signed in 1997 by the governments of the Moldavian Republic and the Russian Federation. Some other international channels are aired by local companies on the basis of bilateral agreements, which are registered by the Coordination Council on TV, and Radio Broadcasting. Russian ORT, RTR, NTV, RentTV, and Romanian PRO TV enjoy the most popularity among the Moldavian audience.

As Moldova received independence, the number of radio stations significantly grew in the country. There were 28 stations in 2002, with 21 of them in the capital city of Chisinau. Radio-Polidisc (Chisinau), Radio-Nova (Chisinau), HIT-EM (Chisinau), BlueStar (Beltsy), Radio-Sanatate (Edintsy), and the State Radio Station are known to be the most popular.

The following foreign radio stations acquired licenses to broadcast in the Republic: France-International, Free Europe, and the BBC. Radio stations of Russia and Romania are very popular too.

The Coordination Council on TV and Radio Broadcasting issues licenses. The Council also controls the implementation of laws by TV and radio companies. Its nine members represent each branch of power on an equal basis. The Council is re-elected every five years and the chair is elected by its members.

In the late 1990s, the country witnessed the growth of electronic online press., MoldNet, MoldovaOnline,, Integrare Europeana,, Moldova-Azi, and Press are among the most popular electronic information agencies. In general, access to electronic media among the population is still insignificant because of its high cost. Only the few wealthy individuals, big companies, and some universities can afford subscriptions to the Internet. The Internet is more accessible in the capital Chisinau and in big cities; less so in rural areas where the majority of the population lives.

Education & TRAINING

Until 2001, Moldova State University had been the only educational institution that prepared the journalist cadres for the country in both Romanian and Russian languages. Between 1966 and 2002, 1,500 journalists graduated from the University. In 2001, departments of journalism were launched in two private institutions, the International Independent University and Slavic University.


Corlat, S. Editii Electronice in Format HTML. Chisinau: Centrul Editorial al FJSC a USM, Moldova, 2002.

Coval, D. Jurnalism de Investigatie. Chisinau: Centrul Editorial al FJSC a USM, 2001.

. Problematica Presei Scrise. Chisinau: Centrul Editorial al FJSC a USM, 1997.

Dreptul Tau: Accessul la Informatie. Chisinau: Universul, 2001.

King, Ch. The Moldovans : Romania, Russia, and the politics of culture. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, 2000.

Koval, D. Pervaya Chastnya Gazeta v Bessarabii v XX Veke. Chisinau: Centrul Editorial al FJSC a USM, 1996.

Marin, K. Comunicare Institutionala. Chisinau: Centrul Editorial al FJSC a USM, 1998.

MASS-MEDIA in Societatile in Transitie: Realitati si Perspective. Chisinau: Central Editoria al FJSC a USM, 2001.

Moraru, V. Mass Media Versus Politica. Chisinau: Centrul editorial al FJSC a USM, 2001.

Grigory Dmitriyev

Viktor Kostetsky

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Moldova (məldō´və), officially Republic of Moldova, republic (2005 est. pop. 4,455,000), c.13,000 sq mi (33,670 sq km). Chişinău (formerly Kishinev) is the capital and largest city.

Land and People

Moldova is landlocked. The Prut River separates it from Romania in the west. In the north and east, the Dniester River forms its approximate boundary with Ukraine, on which it also borders in the south; in the east there is a narrow strip of Moldovan terrritory between the Dniester and the Ukraine border (the predominantly Russian and Ukrainian Trans-Dniester Region). Mostly a hilly plain, Moldova occupies all but the southernmost and northernmost sections of former Bessarabia. Its proximity to the Black Sea gives it a mild climate.

More than 75% of the population are Moldovans, who are ethnically identical to Romanians; Ukrainians and Russians make up about 15%, and there are several smaller minorities, including the Turkish-speaking Gagauz, Bulgarians, and Jews. Most of the people belong to the Orthodox Church, and legislation passed in 2007 recognized the Orthodox Church for its special role in Moldovan history and society. The official language, which has been called alternately Moldovan or Romanian, is largely indistinguishable from Romanian.


Moldova's fertile soil supports wheat, corn, barley, vegetables, sugar beets, sunflowers, and tobacco, as well as extensive fruit orchards, vineyards, and walnut groves. Horticulture is important for the production of essences such as rose oil and lavender. Beef and dairy cattle are raised, and there is beekeeping and silkworm breeding. Industries include food processing, winemaking, and the manufacture of agricultural machinery, foundry equipment, major appliances, textiles, and footwear. Remittances from Moldovans working abroad are also important to the economy. After achieving independence, Moldova took steps toward converting to a market economy and launched an ambitious privatization program, but the country remains undeveloped industrially and ranks as one of the poorest nations of Europe. Exports include foodstuffs, textiles, and machinery. Moldova imports all of its oil, coal, and natural gas, as well as machinery, chemicals, and automobiles. The principal trading partners are Russia, Ukraine, and Romania.


Moldova is governed under the constitution of 1994. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by the legislature for a four-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president, as is the cabinet. Members of the 101-seat Parliament are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. Administratively, Moldova is divided into 32 raions (districts or counties), three municipalities, and two territorial units, one of which (Gagauzia) is autonomous.


A historic passageway between Asia and S Europe, Moldova was often subject to invasion and warfare. It is historically part of a greater Moldavia, the main part of which was an independent principality in the 14th cent. and came under Ottoman Turkish rule in the 16th cent. It became a highly fortified Turkish border region and was a frequent target in Russo-Turkish wars. East Moldavia passed to Russia in 1791. Russia acquired further Moldavian territory in 1793 and especially in 1812, when the Russians received all of Bessarabia (the name for the area of Moldavia between the Prut and Dniester rivers). The rest of Moldavia remained with the Turks and later passed to Romania, which seized Bessarabia in 1918.

In 1924, the USSR, refusing to sanction the seizure, established the Moldavian ASSR in Ukraine, with Balta and then (1929) Tiraspol as the capital. Romania was forced to cede Bessarabia to the USSR in 1940. The predominantly Ukrainian districts in the south and around Khotin in the north were incorporated into Ukraine, as were parts of the Moldavian ASSR; the rest was merged with what remained of the Moldavian ASSR and made a constituent republic (the Moldavian SSR). Taken by Romania in 1941, the republic was reconquered by the USSR in 1944. In June, 1990, the Moldavian SSR adopted a measure calling for greater sovereignty within the USSR. In Aug., 1991, Moldova, which is the Romanian name of the region, was declared an independent republic; Mircea Snegur was elected president, and it reluctantly joined the Russian-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

With independence, a guerrilla war began that sought secession of the Trans-Dniester Region, where there were many ethnic Russians who feared a Moldovan merger with Romania. In 1992 a cease-fire went into effect that granted limited autonomy to the region, and Russian troops were stationed there. In 1995, in a move termed illegal by the central government, residents overwhelmingly voted for independence from Moldova. A peace accord was signed in 1997, giving the region more autonomy but agreeing that Moldova would remain a single state; relations between the region and central government are occasionally tense. Gagauzia, a region dominated by ethnic Turks, was granted limited autonomy in 1994, with the right to secede in the event Moldova should merge with Romania.

In the first post-Soviet parliamentary elections in Moldova (1994), Snegur's Agrarian Democratic Party (ADP), running on a centrist platform and in opposition to unification with Romania, won a majority. Intraparty conflicts led to a split in the ADP in mid-1995, when Snegur organized the new centrist Party of Revival and Harmony. The pro-Moscow faction remained within the ADP. A crisis was precipitated in Mar., 1996, when Snegur attempted to remove the defense minister. The largely ADP army resisted Snegur's order, and his actions were subsequently ruled unconstitutional.

Petru Lucinschi, a former Communist running as an independent, won a presidential runoff election against Snegur in Dec., 1996. A coalition of center-right parties formed a goverment following legislative elections in 1998, although Communists won the largest bloc of seats in parliament. In 1999, Russia agreed to withdraw its remaining troops from Moldova by 2001, but about 1,500 remain in the Trans-Dniester Region. The Communist party won nearly 50% of the vote and 71 parliamentary seats in the 2001 elections; subsequently, Vladimir Voronin, a Communist, was elected president. Although they came to power advocating closer relations with Russia (and provoked antigovernment demonstrations by attempting to require Russian in schools and make it a second official language), the Communists became somewhat more pro-Western during the subsequent four years.

A Russian-sponsored accord on the Trans-Dniester Region was rejected in Nov., 2003, after mass demonstrations against it by Moldovans; the agreement would have permitted Russian troops to stay in the region in a buffer zone until 2020. An attempt by Trans-Dniester to force the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in its Moldovan-language schools led to heightened tensions between the breakaway region and Moldova in 2004, and led to economic retaliation by Moldova.

In the 2005 parliamentary elections the Communists won 46% of the vote and 56 seats, and the new parliament reelected Voronin. In mid-2005 the parliament passed a law that offered Trans-Dniester a special regional status in exchange for an end to its separatist movement. Moldova secured some leverage over Trans-Dniester in Mar., 2006, when Ukraine, partly in response to European Union concerns about smuggling, began requiring that goods coming from Trans-Dniester clear Moldovan customs. Russia subsequently (Apr., 2006) imposed a ban on the importation of Moldovan wines, brandies, and meat, ostensibly for sanitary reasons.

In Sept., 2006, Trans-Dniester held a referendum in which voters called for the region's independence and union with Russia, but it had little effect on the stalemate concerning the region's status. After Moldova threatened (Nov., 2006) to link its trade dispute with Russia to Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization, Russia and Moldova reached an agreement under which the importation bans were lifted. In Apr., 2008, there were talks between the leaders of Moldova and Trans-Dniester following signs of an accommodation between Moldova and Russia over Moldovan ties with the West. Further talks have been held since then, but have produced no significant change in the situation.

In Apr., 2009, the Communists again won the parliamentary elections, with roughly half the vote and 60 seats. The opposition accused the government of fraud and demanded a recount or a re-vote, and protests in the capital turned violent, leading to the storming of government buildings. The president accused Romania fomenting the violence, which Romania angrily denied; Moldova also expelled the Romanian ambassador. After the violence, President Voronin, who had rejected a recount, called for one. The recount confirmed the results, but the opposition called the recount procedure too narrow and boycotted it. The Communists, however, lacked enough seats in parliament to elect a president, and after two unsuccessful votes, parliament was dissolved in June and new elections called for July.

Although the Communists won a plurality of the seats, three pro-European opposition parties combined won a majority. In September, Voronin, who had remained on as acting president, resigned, and Mihai Ghimpu, the parliamentary speaker elected by the pro-European coalition, became acting president. The governing coalition, however, also was unable to secure enough votes to elect a president. A Sept., 2010, referendum on electing the president by direct popular vote failed to secure a large enough turnout to be binding, and parliament was subsequently dissolved.

Elections in November again gave a majority to the pro-European coalition, but not enough to guarantee that they could elect a president. Marian Lupu was elected parliamentary speaker in Jan., 2011, and became acting president; subsequent attempts to elect a president were unsuccessful until Mar., 2012, when Nicolae Timofti, a senior judge, was narrowly elected to the office. Disagreements in the governing coalition led the government to lose a confidence vote in Mar., 2013, and the cabinet resigned. In May a new government was formed.

Russia banned Moldova's wine and spirites in Sept., 2013, saying they contained impurities, but the ban as seen as political one resulting from Russia's displeasure with Moldova's moves toward joining the European Union. The move in 2014 by Trans-Dniester to seek Russian annexation (after Crimea was occupied and annexed) was denounced by Moldova. Moldova signed a partnership agreement with the European Union in June, 2014. In July, Russia signed several agreements with Trans-Dniester and announced it would seek closer ties with the breakaway region; it also banned imports of fresh fruit from Moldova and subsequently imposed import duties on Moldovan products.

In the Nov., 2014, election the governing coalition won a narrow majority, but the election was marred by the banning, on charges of being financed from abroad, of a new pro-Russian party that was popular with many voters. Two of the former governing parties formed a minority government in Feb., 2015, with the support of the Communist party, but questions about the educational credentials of Chiril Gaburici, the prime minister, led to his resignation in June.

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Official name: Republic of Moldova

Area: 33,843 square kilometers (13,067 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Balănesti (430 meters/1,410 feet)

Lowest point on land: Dniester River (2 meters/6.6 feet)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 150 kilometers (90 miles) from east to west; 340 kilometers (210 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 1,389 kilometers (864 miles) total boundary length; Romania 450 kilometers (280 miles); Ukraine 939 kilometers (583 miles)

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Moldova is a comh2etely landlocked country of about 33,843 square kilometers (13,067 square miles) in area; after Armenia, it is the second-smallest republic of the former U.S.S.R. It is located in southeastern Europe, east of Romania and north, west, and northeast of Ukraine. The country's entire border with Romania lies along the Prut River in the west; on the east, the Dniester (Nistru) River follows some of the northern border with Ukraine, but it flows mostly within the nation's eastern region.


Moldova has no territories or dependencies.


The Moldovan climate is continental, with conditions kept somewhat moderate by the influence of the Black Sea. Winters are generally dry and mild, with average daily temperatures in January ranging from 5°C to 3°C (3°F to 27°F). The long summers are warm; average daily temperatures in July exceed 20°C (68°F), and daily highs may even reach 40°C (104°F). Precipitation in Moldova is typically light and sometimes irregular, often resulting in dry spells. Rainfall is lightest in the south, on average 35 centimeters (14 inches) per year. At higher elevations, it can exceed 60 centimeters (20 inches). Early summer and October are the rainy seasons, with heavy showers and thunderstorms common, often causing erosion and river silting.


Moldova is mostly a hilly plain cut by the deep valleys of many rivers and streams. In general, the terrain slopes gradually south toward the Black Sea, although the country is separated from the sea by a narrow arm of Ukraine. Moldova's average elevation is only 147 meters (482 feet) above sea level.


Moldova is a landlocked nation and thus borders no oceans or seas.


Lake Stânca-Costesti, through which the Prut River flows, lies on the Moldovan-Romanian border in northwest Moldova. Two other lakes fed by the Prut in Moldova are the Manta and the Beleu. The Manta is a valuable fish spawning area; in fact, both of these lakes have been slated for wetlands protection by the Moldovan government.


Moldova has more than three thousand rivers and streams, but only eight are longer than 100 kilometers (60 miles). The two largest rivers are the Dniester (called the Nistru in Moldova) and the Prut, which both originate in the Carpathian Mountains north of Moldova in Ukraine. The longer Nistru flows south through eastern Moldova. It forms a short section of the Moldova/Ukraine border in the northeast, flows into Moldova, then borders Ukraine again in the southeast. It finally reenters Ukraine in the south shortly before emptying into the Black Sea. The second-longest river is the Prut, a major tributary of the Danube River. The Prut River forms Moldova's entire border with Romania before flowing south into the Danube. Like the Nistru, the Prut originates in the Carpathian Mountains in southwestern Ukraine; it flows a total distance of 909 kilometers (564 miles). Smaller Moldovan rivers include the Ialpug, the Bâc, and the Răut.


Moldova has no deserts.


Moldova's hills are more accurately described as rolling, hilly plains that rise in elevation to the north as they approach the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. The hill country is cut by deep ravines and gullies from the country's many rivers and streams.


Moldova is a generally low-lying country with no real mountain systems. Its highest point, Mount Balănesti, rises to 430 meters (1,410 feet) amid the Codri Hills of west-central Moldova.


Scientists have explored and documented a number of caves in northern Moldova. The largest is the Emil Racovita Cave located near an area of karst topography in the Edinet region. Archaeological digs have dated the Brinzeni Caves, also in the Edinet region, to the Paleolithic era.


Southern Moldova lies in an area called the Bugeac Steppe. However, in Moldova essentially the entire steppe zone has been cultivated.


The ruins of a medieval town have been unearthed at Tribuzheni, near Orhei on the Raut River.



Dawisha, Karen, and Bruce Parrot. Democratic Changes and Authoritarian Reactions in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Hawks, Tony. Playing the Moldovans at Tennis. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2001.

Sheehan, Patricia. Moldova. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2000.

Web Sites

International Language Training Center. (accessed April 24, 2003).

Moldova Country Guide. (accessed April 24, 2003).

The Republic of Moldova Site. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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33,700 sq km (13,010 sq mi)



capital (population):

Chisinau (711,700)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Moldovan 65%, Ukrainian 14%, Russian 13%, Gagauz 4%, Jewish 2%, Bulgarian


Moldovan (Romanian) (official)


Christianity (Eastern Orthodox)



Republic in e Europe; the capital is Chisinau.

Land and climate

Moldova is a mostly hilly country. A large plain covers the s. The main river is the Dniester, which flows through e Moldova. The climate is moderately continental, with warm summers and fairly cold winters. Most rainfall occurs during the warmer months. Forests of hornbeam and oak grow in n and central Moldova. In the drier s, most of the region is now used for farming, with rich pasture along the rivers.

History and Politics

(for history pre-1991, see Moldavia) Following independence in 1991, the majority Moldovan population wished to rejoin Romania, but this alienated the Ukrainian and Russian populations e of the Dniester, who declared their independence from Moldova as the Transdniester Republic. War raged between the two, with Transdniester supported by the Russian 14th Army. In August 1992, a cease-fire was declared. The former communists of the Agrarian Democratic Party won multiparty elections in 1994. A referendum rejected reunification with Romania. Parliament voted to join the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In 1994 a new constitution established a presidential parliamentary republic. In 1995, Transdniester voted in favour of independence in a referendum. In 1996, Russian troops began their withdrawal and Petru Lucinschi was elected president. In 2001 Moldova became the first former Soviet state to elect a communist president, Vladimir Voronin.


Moldova is a lower-middle income developing economy (2002 GDP per capita, US$2500). Agriculture is important and major products include fruits and grapes for wine-making. Farmers also raise livestock, including dairy cattle and pigs. Moldova has no major natural resources and has to import materials and fuels for its industries. Major manufactures include agricultural machinery and consumer goods. Exports include food, wine, and tobacco.

Political map

Physical map


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Culture Name


Alternative Names

Moldavian, Romanian, Bessarabian. Moldavia is the Anglicized version of the Russian Moldavija and is not used by Moldovans. Many Moldovans consider themselves, their culture, and their language Romanian. Moldovans/Romanians in the region between the rivers Prut and Dniestr sometimes call themselves Bessarabians.


Identification. The principality of Moldova was founded around 1352 by the Transylvanian ruler (voievod ) Dragoş in what today is the Romanian region of Bucovina. According to one legend, Dragoş successfully hunted a wild ox on the banks of the river Moldova and then chose to stay in the land, which he named after the river. The name "Moldova" probably derives from the German Mulde, "a deep river valley with high banks."

Location and Geography. The Republic of Moldova is a landlocked country between Romania and Ukraine that covers 13,199 square miles (33,845 square kilometers). It includes the Gagauz Autonomous Region in the south and the disputed Transdniestrian region in the east. The latter region separated from Moldova in 19911992 but did not gain official recognition. The capital, Chişinău, is in the center of the country and has 740,000 inhabitants. Chişinău was first mentioned in 1436 and was the capital of the Russian province of Bessarabia in the nineteenth century.

Moldova is on a fertile plain with small areas of hill country in the center and north. Only 9 percent of its territory is covered by forest, mostly in the middle. In the northern part, fertile black soil prevails and the primary crop is sugar beet. In the central and southern zones, wine making and tobacco growing are widespread. The temperate continental climate in the center of the country, with long warm summers, relatively mild winters, and high rainfall, is favorable for agriculture. The semiarid Budjak steppe in the south has drought problems. The main rivers are the Dniestr in the east and the Prut in the west. Both originate in the Carpathians; whereas the Dniestr flows directly into the Black Sea, the Prut joins the Danube at the southern tip of the country.

Demography. Moldova has 4.32 million inhabitants. In the 1989 census, 64.5 percent of the population was Moldovan, 13.8 percent Ukrainian, 13 percent Russian, 3.5 percent Gagauz (a Christian Orthodox Turkic people), 2 percent Bulgarian, 1.5 percent Jewish, and 1.7 percent other nationalities, mainly Belarussians, Poles, Greeks, Germans, and Rom (Gypsies). Although the official number of Rom is only 11,600, the real number probably is 100,000. There are few concentrated Rom settlements in Moldova, and the degree of linguistic assimilation (Russian or Moldovan) is high. The Ukrainian population traditionally settled in the north and east. Gagauz and Bulgarians have concentrated settlements in the southern Budjak region. The Russian population, for the most part workers and professionals brought to Moldova after World War II, is concentrated in Chişinău, Bălţi, and the industrial zones of Transdniestria. Jews have lived in Moldovan cities in great numbers since the early nineteenth century, but many have left. Between 1990 and 1996, Moldova experienced a total migration loss of 105,000 persons. Jews, Ukrainians, and Russians were the most likely to leave. Consequently, the Moldovan portion of the population was believed to have increased to 67 percent by 1998. The population density is the highest in the territory of the former Soviet Union.

Linguistic Affiliation. As a written language, Moldovan is classified as being Romanian, a Daco-Romanian language in the family of eastern Romance languages. As a subdialect of Daco-Romanian, Moldovan is spoken not only in the Republic of Moldova but in the entire territory of the former principality. It displays dialectical features particular to its geographic region and exhibits influences on its grammar and vocabulary from Russian and Ukrainian, languages with which it has been in contact for centuries. Since the fourteenth century, Moldovan has been the traditional name of the language spoken by the population of this region. Until the early seventeenth century, Church Slavonic was used in official documents, but it was slowly replaced by Moldovan, which was written in Cyrillic at that time. When the principalities of Valachia and Moldova united in 1859, the Latin alphabet was introduced for Romanian. In the eastern part of Moldova, which became the Russian province of Bessarabia in 1812, the language continued to be called Moldovan and the Cyrillic alphabet was used until Bessarabia joined the Romanian kingdom in 1918. After the Soviet annexation of Bessarabia in 19401944, the Cyrillic alphabet was reintroduced. Intensive Russification and a policy aimed at showing that Moldovan and Romanian were different languages led to a deterioration in the "purity" of the language spoken by the majority of the population. Russian loan words were used widely, especially in technical fields, and Moldovan became a "kitchen language." Moldovans who were educated in Russian-speaking schools still have difficulty expressing themselves in areas other than daily encounters. Russification and "de-Romanization" were considerably more pronounced in urban than in rural areas, but those policies were resisted by Moldovan intellectuals, who upheld the use of their language. The national awakening that took place in the late 1980s led directly to the adoption of a language law on 30 August 1989 that defined Moldovan, written in the Latin script, as the state language. Although the language is still officially named "Moldovan," considerable re-Romanization has made the difference between Romanian and Moldovan virtually a distinction between a standard written language and a dialect. Cyrillic is used to write Moldovan only in the separatist region of Transdniestria. Ordinary Moldovans on the right bank of the Dniestr, however, may use Cyrillic for private notes or letters, especially if they are 40 to 60 years of age and uneducated. Despite the change of state language, very few non-Moldovan residents are fluent in Moldovan, and many have a negative attitude toward that language. Between 1940 and 1989, Russian was the lingua franca. The introduction of new requirements in 1989 aimed at fostering the use of Moldovan was widely regarded as forceful Romanization and conjured unhappy memories of Romanian rule in Bessarabia. Fears of possible unification with Romania also played a major role. The political battle over the future status of the Moldovan and Russian languages is deeply connected with the conflicts that arose in 1990 between the central government and separatist movements in Gagauzia and Transdniestria. The language issue remains highly politicized, and attitudes toward Moldovan, especially when it is called Romanian, continue to be largely negative among the non-Moldovan population. Moldovans who were born and brought up after 1980 tend to speak less and less Russian, a development that could lead to growing problems of interethnic communication.

Symbolism. The national symbols represent over six hundred years of history as well as a close connection to Romania. The state flag is composed of the traditional Romanian colors of blue, yellow, and red. In the center is the republic's seal, consisting of the Romanian eagle with the historical Moldovan seal on its breast. Since the fourteenth century, the seal has consisted of an ox's head with a star between its horns, a rose to the right, and a crescent to the left. The national anthem was the same as that of Romania in the early years of independence but was changed to "Our Language" (Limba noastră ), which is also the name of the second most important secular holiday. Its name has a special integrating power in two respects: Language is the most important national symbol for Moldovans, and it evades the answer to the question of how this language should be labeled: Romanian or Moldovan. All these symbols, however, do not appeal to other ethnic groups and thus confine the idea of an "imagined community" to the titular nation.

In regard to the conflict over symbols between "Romanians" and "Moldovans," the ballad Mioriţa plays a crucial role. It tells the story of a Moldovan shepherd who is betrayed and murdered by two Romanian colleagues: For the Romanian side, this story is about an "incident in the family," while for the Moldovan side, it reproduces the distinction between the good, diligent, and peaceful Moldovan and the mean and criminal Romanian. Next to hospitality, diligence and peacefulness are the national characteristics Moldovans associate with themselves. When Moldovans want to show pride in their country, they refer mostly to the qualities of its wine and food and the beauty of its women. Wine is an especially powerful symbol, associated with quality, purity, and healing. The cellars of Cricova with their extensive collection of old wines are considered the state treasure. Moldovans are also eager to underscore their Latin heritage, expressed by the statue of a wolf feeding Romulus and Remus in front of the Museum of National History in Chiţinău.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. According to official historiography, the Republic of Moldova derives directly from the Moldovan principality that was founded by Dragoş and gained independence from the Hungarian kingdom under the Valachian voievod Bogdan I in 1359. The government thus celebrated the 640th anniversary of statehood in 1999. However, what is today the Republic of Moldova consists only of the central and eastern parts of the original principality. The Transdniestrian region was never part of the principality, but Moldovan colonists settled on the left bank of the Dniestr in the fifteenth century. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the principality extended from the Carpathians to the Dniestr. Under Stephen the Great (14571504), who defended the principality successfully against the Ottoman Empire, Moldova flourished. Many churches and monasteries were built under his regency. Stephen is regarded as the main national hero of contemporary Moldova. His statue stands in the city center of Chişinău, the main boulevard is named for him, and his picture is printed on every banknote. However, soon after Stephen died, Moldova lost its independence and became, like the neighboring principality of Valachia, a vassal state of Constantinople.

In the Treaty of Bucharest of 1812, the Ottoman Empire was forced to cede the area between the Prut and the Dniestr to the Russian Empire under the name Bessarabia. In 1859, western Moldova and Valachia formed the united principality of Romania, which gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878. Thus, the Moldovans in Bessarabia were excluded from the Romanian nation-building process and remained in an underdeveloped, remote, agricultural province of the Russian Empire. Only with the upheavals of the World War I and the October Revolution did the Moldovans of Bessarabia join the Romanian nation-state. The Moldovan parliament, the Sfatul Ţării, declared the independence of the "Democratic Republic of Moldova" on 24 January 1918 but then voted for union with Romania on 27 March 1918. The unification was mostly due to the desperate circumstances the young, unstable republic faced and was not applauded by all sections of the population. The following twenty-two years of Romanian rule are considered by many Moldovans and non-Moldovans as a period of colonization and exploitation. The subsequent period of Sovietization and Russification, however, is regarded as the darkest period in the national history. Stalin annexed Bessarabia in June 1940 and again in 1944, when the Soviet Union reconquered the area after temporary Romanian occupation. The northern and southern parts of Bessarabia were transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), and in exchange the western part of what since 1924 had been the Moldovan Autonomous Socialist Republic on the territory of the Ukrainian SSR was given to the newly created Moldovan Socialist Soviet Republic. Having been ruled by foreign powers since the sixteenth century, Moldova declared its independence on 27 August 1991.

National Identity. After sentiments ran high in favor of unification with Romania at the beginning of the 1990s, the tide turned, and in a 1994 referendum 95 percent of the voters elected to retain independence. As a result of their close historical, linguistic, and cultural ties with Romania, many Moldovans see themselves as Romanian. At the same time, the one hundred eighty years of separation from Romania and the different influences Bessarabia has experienced since the early nineteenth century have preserved and reinforced a distinctive Moldovan identity east of the Prut. Unlike Romanians, a high percentage of Moldovans have an ethnically mixed family background. Consequently, probably less than 5 percent of the people consider themselves to have a pure Romanian identity, whereas another 5 to 10 percent would identify themselves as Moldovan in the sense of being outspokenly non-Romanian. The existence of these two groups is reflected in a fierce debate between "Unionists" and "Moldovanists." Most inhabitants of the titular nation consider their Moldovan identity as their central political one but their Romanian identity as culturally essential. Since discussions on unification with Romania have disappeared from the public agenda, the question of how to form a multi-ethnic nation-state is growing in importance.

Ethnic Relations. Bessarabia has always been a multiethnic region, and ethnic relations generally are considered good. Especially in the north, Moldovans and Ukrainians have lived together peacefully for centuries and share cultural features. In recent history, Moldova has rarely experienced ethnic violence; in April 1903, for example, 49 Jews were killed and several hundred injured during the Chişinău pogrom, but mainly by Russians rather than Moldovans. In the late 1980s, when support for the national movement began to grow, ethnic tension between Moldovans and non-Moldovans increased, initially in Transdniestria and Gagauzia and later in Chişinău and Bălţi. Whereas the conflict between Gagauz and Moldovans was kept below the level of large-scale violence, the Transdniestrian conflict escalated into a full-fledged civil war in spring 1992. More than a thousand people were said to have been killed, and over a hundred thousand had to leave their homes. Although this conflict had a strong ethnic component, it was not ethnic by nature; it was fought mainly between the new independence-minded political elite in Chişinău and conservative pro-Soviet forces in Tiraspol. Moldovans and non-Moldovans could be found on both sides. On the right bank of the Dniestr, where the majority of the Russian-speaking community lives, no violent clashes took place. Since the war, additional efforts have been made to include non-Moldovans in the nation-building process. The 1994 constitution and subsequent legislation safeguarded the rights of minorities, and in the same year broad autonomous powers were granted to the Gagauz.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Chişinău's city center was constructed in the nineteenth century by Russians. Official buildings and those erected by the early bourgeoisie are in a neoclassical style of architecture; there are also many small one-story houses in the center, and the outskirts are dominated by typical Soviet-style residential buildings. Small towns (mainly enlarged villages) also have examples of Soviet-style administration buildings and apartment blocks. Depending on their original inhabitants, villages have typical Moldovan, Ukrainian, Gagauz, Bulgarian, or German houses and a Soviet-style infrastructure (cultural center, school, local council buildings). Houses have their own gardens and usually their own vineyards and are surrounded by low metal ornamented bars. Interaction differs in urban and rural areas. In the villages, people are open and greet passersby without prior acquaintance; in the cities, there is a greater anonymity, although people interact with strangers in certain situations, for example, on public transportation.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Mamaliga, a hard corn porridge, is regarded as the national dish. It is poured onto a flat surface in the shape of a big cake and is served mainly with cheese, sour cream, or milk. Non-Moldovan inhabitants joke that Moldovans would be unhappy if they could not eat mamaliga once a week. The main foods in daily life are a mixture of vegetables and meat (chicken, goose, duck, pork, and lamb), but the availability of vegetables depends on the season. Filled cabbage and grape leaves as well as soups such as zama and the Russian borsch also form part of daily meals. Plăcintă is a pastry filled mainly with cheese, potatoes, or cabbage that often is sold on the streets. Restaurants in Chişinău offer Russian, Moldovan, and Jewish dishes along with an increasingly international cuisine.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Orthodox Christian baptisms, funerals, and weddings are accompanied by large gatherings where several meat and vegetable dishes, desserts, and cakes as well as wine are served. Homemade vodka and brandy also are offered. At Easter, a special bread, pasca, is baked in every household, and eggs are painted in various colors. Families go to the graveyard to celebrate their dead kin; they eat food at the graves while drinking wine and offering it to each other as they remember the dead.

Basic Economy. The national currency is the leu (100 bani ). Besides gypsum and very small gas and oil reserves, the country has no natural resources and is totally dependent on energy imports, mainly from Russia. Moldova has experienced a sharp downturn in its economy in the last ten years. In 1998, the gross domestic product (GDP) was 35 percent of the 1989 level, and the state is unable to pay pensions and salaries on time. As a result, more people produce food and other necessities for themselves now than in the 1980s. This includes virtually the entire rural population and many city dwellers who own small gardens in the countryside. The parallel economy is estimated to account for 20 to 40 percent of the GDP.

Land Tenure and Property. During the Soviet period, there was no private land, only state-owned collective farms. Since 1990, as part of the transition to a market economy, privatization of land as well as houses and apartments has taken place. However, the process is still under way and has faced fierce resistance from so-called agroindustrial complexes.

Commercial Activities. Moldova in general and Chişinău in particular have many traditional Balkan-style markets. There are mixed as well as specialized markets for food, flowers, spare parts, and construction materials. This "market economy" clearly outsells the regular shops. Besides foodstuffs, which are partially home-grown, all products are imported. These types of commercial activities are flourishing because of market liberalization and the economic downturn. Many educated specialists find it easier to earn money through commercial activities than by practicing their professions.

Major Industries. Industry is concentrated in the food-processing sector, wine making, and tobacco. Other fields include electronic equipment, machinery, textiles, and shoes. The small heavy industry sector includes a metallurgical plant in Transdniestria that produces high-quality steel.

Trade. The main trade partners are Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, and Germany. Russia and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries accounted for 69 percent of exports and 58 percent of imports in 1998. Exports are mainly agroindustrial products (72 percent), especially wine, but also include shoes and textiles (12 percent). The main import goods are mineral products (31 percent), machinery and electronic equipment (19 percent), and chemical products (12 percent). To realign foreign trade away from Russia and toward Western European and other countries, Moldova has constructed an oil terminal on the Danube and is seeking closer economic ties with Romania and the European Union. It is expected to join the World Trade Organization.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Large landowners (boyars ) disappeared after the establishment of Soviet power. There is an emergent class of high-ranking officials and managers who had access to state enterprises or funds in the Soviet period and appropriated some of those resources during the transitional phase and young entrepreneurs who amassed wealth after the introduction of a market economy through new business ventures. Social stratification is determined mainly by economic and political power. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, those who had higher positions in the government tended to be Moldovans, while Russians dominated the private sector. Urban workers have maintained their rural connections and grow fruit and vegetables on small plots of land in the towns.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Newly built ornamented houses and villas, cars (especially Western cars with tinted windows), cellular telephones, and fashionable clothes are the most distinguishing symbols of wealth. Consumer goods brought from abroad (Turkey, Romania, Germany) function as status symbols in cities and rural areas.

Political Life

Government. Moldova is a democratic and unitary republic. Since the territorial-administrative reform of 1999, it has been divided into ten districts (judeţe ) and the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia. A special status is envisaged for the Transdniestrian region. The political system is mixed parliamentary-presidential, with the parliament (one hundred one representatives) and president both directly elected for a four-year period. The prime minister is appointed by the president only after the minister and his or her cabinet have received a vote of confidence from the parliamentary majority. The rights of the president to dissolve the parliament are very restricted. Some executive powers are vested in the president's hands: he or she can issue decrees and has special powers in defense and foreign policy. The delicate balance of power between parliament, government, and president is held to be responsible for the relatively high level of democracy as well as the blocking of important reform projects. Consequently, there have been discussions aimed at strengthening the powers of the president. Judicial powers are vested in the courts.

Leadership and Political Officials. Patrimonial structures and the Orthodox tradition of godfatherhood have strong political implications. Personal networks established over the years help people gain political posts, but such contacts also make them responsible for redistributing resources to the people who have backed them. Although kinship has a certain influence on these personal networks, relationships established in other ways during education and earlier work may be more important. Today's political forces have their roots either in the Moldovan Communist Party or in the national movement of the 1980s. The national movement started with the creation of the Alexe Mateevici Cultural Club in 1988 as an intellectual opposition group. In less than a year, it evolved into a broad mass movement known as the Popular Front of Moldova. Although the party system has experienced striking fluctuations in the last ten years, the main political forces have in essence remained the same. The Communist Party, whose place was taken temporarily by the Agrarian Democratic Party, is still one of the strongest political players. It has a mixed ethnic background and is backed mainly by the agroindustrial complexes. It is opposed to privatization and other reforms and strongly favors the idea of "Moldovanism." At the opposite end of the political spectrum are the Christian Democratic Popular Front and the Party of Democratic Forces. Both derive directly from the Moldovan national movement and have no former communists in their ranks. The Front favors unification with Romania and advocates liberal market reforms and democratization. The Party of Democratic Forces also favors stronger ties with Romania and the West but has abandoned the idea of unification; it too blends market reforms with social democratic ideas. The former president, Mircea Snegur (19921996), a previous Communist Party secretary and the "father" of Moldovan independence, has been joined in his Party for Rebirth and Reconciliation by other former communists who switched to the national movement early on. Petru Lucinschi, who was elected president in 1996, held high posts in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and has extensive, well-established connections among the social-democrat-oriented former political elite. Unlike Snegur, he and the parties associated with him are widely trusted by non-Moldovan voters. In Moldovan politics everybody knows each other and personal interests, sympathies, and antipathies as well as tactical reshuffles play an important role.

Social Problems and Control. The economic crisis resulted in an increase in poverty, theft, and petty and large-scale racketeering. Illegal cultivation of opium poppies and cannabis takes place on a limited basis, with both being trafficked to other CIS countries and Western Europe. In the villages, where people relate to one another in a less anonymous way, hearsay and gossip are effective tools of social control.

Military Activity. The army consists of 8,500 ground and air defense troops and has no tanks. As a landlocked country, Moldova has no navy, and after it sold nearly its entire fleet of MIG-29 fighters to the United States in 1997, it was left practically without an air force. The 1999 budget allocated only $5 million to defense spending, 2 percent of the total budget. The Republic of Moldova takes part in the NATO Partnership for Peace Program but has no plans to join either NATO or the CIS military structure. Although it is a neutral country and the constitution rules out the stationing of foreign military forces on Moldovan soil, Russian troops are still stationed in Transdniestria.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

A system of social security covering unemployment benefits, health care, and pensions for the elderly and the disabled as well as assistance for low-income families has been set up. However, the level of social benefits is very low, and they are not paid in time because of the socioeconomic crisis. National and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) aid orphans and street children.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Several international NGOs are active, especially in the fields of human rights and development. There are several local NGOs, most of which are small and inefficient. A Contact Center tries to coordinate the activities of the Moldovan NGO community. NGOs are frequently politically biased and get involved in political campaigns. Many NGO activists often see their organizations principally as vehicles for the pursuit of their own interests.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women in both urban and rural areas carry the burden of domestic duties and child care in addition to working outside the home. As a result of tradition and economic necessity, women engage in domestic food-processing activities in the summer to provide home-canned food for the winter months.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Although men seemingly have more decision-making power in the public and private spheres, women act as the organizers of daily and ritual life. They organize social gatherings, gift-giving relations, and the infrastructure of numerous official and semiofficial events. There are no moral restrictions on women's participation in public life, although many women choose not to have executive positions and give priority to their domestic duties.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. When a young couple decides to marry, it is not unusual for the girl to go to her boyfriend's house and stay there. The next day her parents are informed about this, and the families come together to agree on the marriage. It can take a couple of months before the civil and religious wedding ceremonies are held. Divorce is common, and many women have to earn a living on their own after being abandoned by their husbands without the marriage being officially dissolved.

Domestic Unit. Newlyweds usually live together with the groom's parents until they can build a house in the village or rent an apartment in town. In the villages, there is a general rule of ultimogeniture (the youngest son and his family live with the parents, and he inherits the contents of the household).

Inheritance. Inheritance is regulated by law. Children inherit equally from their parents, although males may inherit the house of their parents if they live in the same household.

Kin Groups. Relatives support each other in performing agricultural and other tasks as well as ceremonial obligations. The godparenthood system regulates the mutual obligations between the parties. Godparents are responsible for the children they baptize throughout life-cycle rituals, especially marriage and the building of a house. Godparenthood is inherited between generations; however, it is also common for this role to be negotiated independently of previous ties.


Infant Care. Babies are taken care of by their mothers and grandmothers. In villages, babies are wrapped in blankets during the very early months, and cloth diapers are used. Toddlers walk around freely, and their clothes are changed when they wet themselves.

Child Rearing and Education. Children generally grow up close to their grandparents, who teach them songs and fairy tales. Girls are expected to help their mothers from an early age and also take care of smaller siblings. A good child is expected to be God-fearing and shy and does not participate in adult conversations without being asked to do so.

Higher Education. A few universities remain from the Soviet period, together with about fifty technical and vocational schools. As a result of economic difficulties, people sometimes complete higher education in their late thirties, after establishing a family. The College of Wine Culture is a popular educational institution that offers high-quality training.


It is proper to drink at least a symbolic amount of wine during a meal or in a ritual context to honor the host and toast the health of the people present. Occasionally in villages, toasting with the left hand may not be regarded as proper. It is improper to blow one's nose at the table. Smoking in private homes is an uncommon practice; both hosts and guests usually go outside or onto the balcony to smoke. In villages, it is highly improper for women to smoke in public. People usually acknowledge passersby in the villages irrespective of previous acquaintance.


Religious Beliefs. The majority of the population, including non-Moldovans, are Orthodox Christians (about 98 percent). There are a small number of Uniates, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostalists, Armenian Apostolics, and Molokans. Jews have engaged in religious activities after independence with a newly opened synagogue and educational institutions.

Religious Practitioners. During the interwar period, Moldovans belonged to the Romanian Orthodox Church, but they now belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. There is an ongoing debate about returning to the Bucharest Patriarchate. Priests play an important role in the performance of ritual activities. In the villages, there are female healers who use Christian symbols and practices to treat the sick.

Rituals and Holy Places. The Orthodox calendar dictates rules and celebrations throughout the year, such as Christmas, Easter, and several saints' days. Some of the rules include fasting or avoiding meat and meat fat as well as restrictions on washing, bathing, and working at particular times. Baptisms, weddings, and funerals are the most important life-cycle rituals and are combined with church attendance and social gatherings. Easter is celebrated in the church and by visiting the graveyards of kin. Candles are an inseparable part of rituals; people buy candles when they enter the church and light them in front of the icons or during rituals.

Death and the Afterlife. The dead are dressed in their best clothes. Ideally, the corpse is watched over for three days and visited by relatives and friends. A mixture of cooked wheat and sugar called colivă is prepared and offered to the guests. If possible, the ninth, twentieth, and fortieth days; the third, sixth, and ninth months; and the year after the death are commemorated. However, this usually depends on the religiosity and financial resources of the people concerned. Graveyards are visited often, wine is poured on the graves, and food and colivă are distributed in memory of the dead.

Medicine and Health Care

Modern medicine is widely used. Health care is poor because of the state of the economy.

Secular Celebrations

Major holidays include New Year's (1 January), Women's Day (8 March), Worker's Day (1 May), Victory Day (9 May), Independence Day (27 August), and Limba noastră ("Our Language"), a celebration of the national language (31 August).

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. In the Soviet period, state funds provided workshops for painters and other artists, who were guaranteed a regular income. This practice has ceased, and funds for workshops and other financial support are very limited. However, artists have better opportunities to sell to foreigners and the new business elites. National and international sponsors provide more encouragement for artistic activity than does the state.

Literature. The most important work of early literature is the ballad Mioriţa. Oral literature and folklore were prevalent until the nineteenth century. This and the classical Moldovan literature of the nineteenth century can hardly be distinguished from Romanian literature. The greatest Romanian writer, Mihai Eminescu, was born in the western part of Moldova and is perceived by Moldovans as part of their national heritage. Other renowned Moldovan writers include Alexei Mateevici, the author of the poem "Limba noastră ;" the playwright Vasile Alecsandri; the novelist Ion Creangă and the historian Alexandru Hâjdeu. Ion Druţa, Nicolae Dabija, Leonida Lari, Dumitru Matcovschi, and Grigorie Vieru are regarded as the greatest contemporary writers and poets.

Graphic Arts. Besides the painted monasteries around Suceava (Romania), sixteenth-century icons are the oldest examples of Moldovan graphic arts. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the sculptor Alexandru Plămădeală and the architect A. Şciusev added their work to the heritage of Bessarabian arts. Bessarabian painters of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries concentrated on landscapes and rural themes as well as typical motifs of Soviet realism. Since the recent changes, however, young modern artists such as Valeriu Jabinski, Iuri Matei, Andrei Negur, and Gennadi Teciuc have demonstrated the potential and quality of Moldovan art.

Performance Arts. Folkloristic and classic music dominate, but Western music, especially jazz, is widely performed. The Soviet system helped popularize a systematic musical education, and people from all sections of society listen to and perform music of different styles. The opera singer Maria Bieşu, the folklore ensemble LauŢării, the folklore dance ensemble Joc, and the dance ensemble Codreanca have become famous outside the country. Folklore and classical concerts are relatively cheap and are attended by young and old people of different social statuses. Rock and pop concerts are expensive but attract many young people.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The Academy of Science was the traditional place for research in Soviet Moldova. In an agricultural country, particular stress was placed on agriculture-related sciences, and a special Agricultural University was established for the education of specialists and for research in that field. After the political transition, the State University was reorganized and private universities, focusing mainly on economic subjects, were established.


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The people of Moldova are called Moldovans. About 65 percent are ethnic Moldovans. Other groups include Ukrainians (about 14 percent) and Russians (about 13 percent). For more information on Ukrainians, see the chapter on Ukraine in Volume 9; on the Russians, see the chapter on Russia in Volume 7.

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