Moldova - Acknowledgments and Preface
The authors are indebted to numerous individuals and organizations
who gave their time, research materials, and expertise on affairs in
Belarus and Moldova to provide data, perspective, and material support
for this volume.
The collection of accurate and current information was assisted
greatly by the contributions of Dr. Stephen Burant of the United States
Department of State, Professor Thomas E. Bird of Queens College, Valery
Kurdzyukou of the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus, A. James Firth of
the United States Department of Agriculture, John Mumford of The
Washington Group, Eugene Fishel of the United States Department of
State, Professor Paul E. Michelson of Huntington College, Professor
Ernest H. Latham, Jr., of the American-Romanian Academy, Raymond
Milefsky of the Defense Mapping Agency, and Iurie Leanca of the Embassy
of the Republic of Moldova. The authors also acknowledge the generosity
of all the individuals who allowed their photographs to be used in this
Thanks also go to Ralph K. Benesch, who oversees the Country
Studies/Area Handbook Program for the Department of the Army. In
addition, the authors appreciate the advice and guidance of Sandra W.
Meditz, Federal Research Division coordinator of the handbook series.
Special thanks go to Marilyn L. Majeska, who supervised editing; Andrea
T. Merrill, who performed the prepublication editorial review and
managed production; David P. Cabitto, who designed the book cover and
the illustrations on the title page of both chapters, provided graphics
support, and, together with Thomas D. Hall, prepared the maps; Ihor Y.
Gawdiak, who provided historical background information; and Glenn E.
Curtis, who critiqued the text. The following individuals are gratefully
acknowledged as well: Vincent Ercolano and Janet Willen, who edited the
chapters; Barbara Edgerton and Izella Watson, who did the word
processing; Francine Cronshaw, who compiled the index; and Stephen C.
Cranton, David P. Cabitto, and Janie L. Gilchrist, who prepared the
At the end of 1991, the formal liquidation of the Soviet Union was
the surprisingly swift result of partially hidden decrepitude and
centrifugal forces within that empire. Of the fifteen "new"
states that emerged from the process, many had been independent
political entities at some time in the past. Aside from their coverage
in the 1991 Soviet Union: A Country Study, none had received
individual treatment in this series, however. Belarus and Moldova:
Country Studies is the second in a new subseries describing the
fifteen post-Soviet republics, both as they existed before and during
the Soviet era and as they have developed since 1991. This volume covers
Moldova, a nation on the western border of what was once the
The marked relaxation of information restrictions, which began in the
late 1980s and accelerated after 1991, allows the reporting of extensive
data on every aspect of life in the two countries. Scholarly articles
and periodical reports have been especially helpful in accounting for
the years of independence in the 1990s. The authors have described the
historical, political, and social backgrounds of the countries as the
background for their current portraits. However, in general, Moldova has
been written about to a lesser extent than other former Soviet
republics. The authors' goal in this book was to provide a compact,
accessible, and objective treatment of five main topics: historical
setting, the society and its environment, the economy, government and
politics, and national security.
When Moldovan, a dialect of Romanian written in the Latin alphabet,
was designated the official language of Moldova in 1989, the Cyrillic
alphabet (imposed by Joseph V. Stalin) was dropped, thus obviating the
need for transliteration. However, the Moldovan names appearing in the
text of this volume are missing most of the diacritics used by the
language. In this case, it is a matter of lagging technology: the
typesetting software being used simply cannot produce the necessary
diacritics in the text (although they appear on the maps). For this the
authors apologize and hope that by the time this country study is
updated, missing diacritics will no longer be the norm.
Moldova and the Moldovans are referred to in different ways depending
on the period of history. Until the creation of the Moldavian Autonomous
Oblast (outside the traditional boundaries of Moldova) by Moscow in
1924, "Moldova" and "Moldovan" were the terms for
the region and the language. From 1924 until the parliament changed the
country's name officially in 1990, the terms used were
"Moldavia" and "Moldavian." The policy in this
volume has been to adhere to these different names during their
respective periods of usage, with the exceptions of names in which
"Moldova/Moldovan" was deliberately chosen over
"Moldavia/Moldavian" by the groups themselves.
The body of the text reflects information available as of May 1995.
Certain other portions of the text, however, have been updated. The
Bibliography lists published sources thought to be particularly helpful
to the reader.
Moldova - HISTORY
THE HISTORY OF THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA is the history of two
different regions that have been joined into one country, but not into
one nation: Bessarabia and Transnistria. Bessarabia, the land between
the Prut and Nistru rivers, is predominantly ethnic Romanian in
population and constitutes the eastern half of a region historically
known as Moldova or Moldavia (the Soviet-era Russian name). Transnistria
is the Romanian-language name for the land on the east bank of the
Nistru River; the majority of the population there is Slavic--ethnic
Ukrainians and Russians-- although Romanians are the single largest
ethnic group there.
To a great extent, Moldova's history has been shaped by the
foreigners who came to stay and by those who merely passed through,
including Greek colonists, invading Turks and Tatars, officials of the
Russian Empire, German and Bulgarian colonists, communist apparatchiks
from the Soviet Union, soldiers from Nazi Germany, Romanian
conationalists, and twentieth-century Russian and Ukrainian immigrants.
Each group has left its own legacy, sometimes cultural and sometimes
political, and often unwelcome.
Moldova's communist overlords, the most recent
"foreigners," created the public life that exists in Moldova
today. Independence has brought about changes in this public life, but
often only on the surface. What further changes Moldova makes will
depend partly on how much time it has before the next group of
"foreigners" comes to call.
Moldova - Early History
Moldova's Latin origins can be traced to the period of Roman
occupation of nearby Dacia (in present-day Romania, Bulgaria, and
Serbia), ca. A.D. 105-270, when a culture was formed from the
intermingling of Roman colonists and the local population. After the
Roman Empire and its influence waned and its troops left the region in
A.D. 271, a number of groups passed through the area, often violently:
Huns, Ostrogoths, and Antes (who were Slavs). The Bulgarian Empire, the
Magyars, the Pechenegs, and the Golden Horde (Mongols) also held sway
temporarily. In the thirteenth century, Hungary expanded into the area
and established a line of fortifications in Moldova near the Siretul
River (in present-day Romania) and beyond. The region came under
Hungarian suzerainty until an independent Moldovan principality was
established by Prince Bogdan in 1349. Originally called Bogdania, the
principality stretched from the Carpathian Mountains to the Nistru River
and was later renamed Moldova, after the Moldova River in present-day
During the second half of the fifteenth century, all of southeastern
Europe came under increasing pressure from the Ottoman Empire, and
despite significant military victories by Stephen the Great (Stefan cel
Mare, 1457-1504), Moldova succumbed to Ottoman power in 1512 and was a
tributary state of the empire for the next 300 years. In addition to
paying tribute to the Ottoman Empire and later acceding to the selection
of local rulers by Ottoman authorities, Moldova suffered repeated
invasions by Turks, Crimean Tatars, and Russians.
In 1792 the Treaty of Iasi forced the Ottoman Empire to cede all of
its holdings in what is now Transnistria to the Russian Empire. An
expanded Bessarabia was annexed by, and incorporated into, the Russian
Empire following the Russo-Turkish War of 1806- 12 according to the
terms of the Treaty of Bucharest of 1812. Moldovan territory west of the
Prut River was united with Walachia. And in the same year, Alexandru
Ioan Cuza was elected prince of Walachia and the part of Moldova that
lay west of the Prut River, laying the foundations of modern Romania.
These two regions were united in 1861.
Moldova - Beginning of the Soviet Period
In 1917, during World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, political
leaders in Bessarabia created a National Council (Sfatul Tarii), which
declared Bessarabia the independent Democratic Moldovan Republic,
federated with Russia. In February 1918, the new republic declared its
complete independence from Russia and, two months later, voted to unite
with Romania, thus angering the Russian government.
After the creation of the Soviet Union in December 1922, the Soviet
government moved in 1924 to establish the Moldavian Autonomous Oblast on
land east of the Nistru River in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
(Ukrainian SSR). The capital of the oblast was at Balta (Balta, in
Ukrainian), in present-day Ukraine. Seven months later, the oblast was
upgraded to the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
(Moldavian ASSR), even though its population was only 30 percent ethnic
Romanian. The capital remained at Balta until 1929, when it was moved to
Tiraspol (Tiraspol', in Russian).
In June 1940, Bessarabia was occupied by Soviet forces as a
consequence of a secret protocol attached to the 1939 Nazi-Soviet
Nonaggression Pact. On August 2, 1940, the Soviet government created the
Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (Moldavian SSR), with its capital at
Chisinau (Kishinëv, in Russian), by joining most of Bessarabia with a
portion of the Moldavian ASSR (the rest was returned to the Ukrainian
SSR). Part of the far northern Moldavian ASSR (Herta--in present-day
Ukraine), northern Bukovina, and southern Bessarabia (bordering on the
Black Sea) were taken from Romania and incorporated into the Ukrainian
SSR, leaving the Moldavian SSR landlocked.
Moldova - World War II
In June 1941, German and Romanian troops attacked the Moldavian SSR
and the Ukrainian SSR; the Nazis gave Romania, their ally, not only
Bessarabia and northern Bukovina but also the land between the Nistru
and Pivdennyy Buh (Yuzhnyy Bug, in Russian) rivers, north to Bar in
Ukraine, which Romania named and administered as Transnistria. This
arrangement lasted until August 1944, when Soviet forces reoccupied
Bessarabia and Transnistria. A 1947 treaty formally returned Bessarabia,
northern Bukovina, and Transnistria to the Soviet Union, and the
previous Soviet administrative divisions and Russian place-names were
Moldova - Postwar Reestablishment of Soviet Control
With the restoration of Soviet power in the Moldavian SSR, Joseph V.
Stalin's government policy was to Russify the population of the
Moldavian SSR and destroy any remaining ties it had with Romania. Secret
police struck at nationalist groups; the Cyrillic alphabet was imposed
on the "Moldavian" language; and ethnic Russians and
Ukrainians were encouraged to immigrate to the Moldavian SSR, especially
to Transnistria. The government's policies--requisitioning large amounts
of agricultural products despite a poor harvest--induced a famine
following the catastrophic drought of 1945-47, and political, communist
party, and academic positions were given to members of non-Romanian
ethnic groups (only 14 percent of the Moldavian SSR's political leaders
were ethnic Romanians in 1946).
The conditions imposed during the reestablishment of Soviet rule
became the basis of deep resentment toward Soviet authorities--a
resentment that soon manifested itself. During Leonid I. Brezhnev's
1950-52 tenure as first secretary of the Communist Party of Moldavia
(CPM), he put down a rebellion of ethnic Romanians by killing or
deporting thousands of people and instituting forced collectivization.
Although Brezhnev and other CPM first secretaries were largely
successful in suppressing "Moldavian" nationalism, the
hostility of "Moldavians" smoldered for another three decades,
until after Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power. His policies of glasnost
and perestroika created conditions in which national feelings
could be openly expressed and in which the Soviet republics could
Moldova - Increasing Political Self-Expression
In this climate of openness, political self-assertion escalated in
the Moldavian SSR in 1988. The year 1989 saw the formation of the
Moldovan Popular Front (commonly called the Popular Front), an
association of independent cultural and political groups that had
finally gained official recognition. Large demonstrations by ethnic
Romanians led to the designation of Romanian as the official language
and the replacement of the head of the CPM. However, opposition was
growing to the increasing influence of ethnic Romanians, especially in
Transnistria, where the Yedinstvo-Unitatea (Unity) Intermovement had
been formed in 1988 by the Slavic minorities, and in the south, where
Gagauz Halkî (Gagauz People), formed in November 1989, came to
represent the Gagauz, a Turkic-speaking minority there.
The first democratic elections to the Moldavian SSR's Supreme Soviet
were held February 25, 1990. Runoff elections were held in March. The
Popular Front won a majority of the votes. After the elections, Mircea
Snegur, a communist, was elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet; in
September he became president of the republic. The reformist government
that took over in May 1990 made many changes that did not please the
minorities, including changing the republic's name in June from the
Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic to the Soviet Socialist Republic of
Moldova and declaring it sovereign the same month.
Moldova - Secession of Gagauzia and Transnistria
In August the Gagauz declared a separate "Gagauz Republic"
(Gagauz-Yeri) in the south, around the city of Comrat (Komrat, in
Russian). In September, Slavs on the east bank of the Nistru River
proclaimed the "Dnestr Moldavian Republic" (commonly called
the "Dnestr Republic") in Transnistria, with its capital at
Tiraspol. Although the Supreme Soviet immediately declared these
declarations null, both "republics" went on to hold elections.
Stepan Topal was elected president of the "Gagauz Republic" in
December 1991, and Igor' N. Smirnov was elected president of the
"Dnestr Republic" in the same month.
Approximately 50,000 armed Moldovan nationalist volunteers went to
Transnistria, where widespread violence was temporarily averted by the
intervention of the Russian 14th Army. (The Soviet 14th Army, now the
Russian 14th Army, had been headquartered in Chisinau under the High
Command of the Southwestern Theater of Military Operations since 1956.)
Negotiations in Moscow among the Gagauz, the Transnistrian Slavs, and
the government of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova failed, and
the government refused to join in further negotiations.
In May 1991, the country's official name was changed to the Republic
of Moldova (Republica Moldova). The name of the Supreme Soviet also was
changed, to the Moldovan Parliament.
Moldova - Independence
During the 1991 August coup d'état in Moscow, commanders of the
Soviet Union's Southwestern Theater of Military Operations tried to
impose a state of emergency in Moldova, but they were overruled by the
Moldovan government, which declared its support for Russian president
Boris N. Yeltsin. On August 27, 1991, following the coup's collapse,
Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union.
In October, Moldova began to organize its own armed forces. The
Soviet Union was falling apart quickly, and Moldova had to rely on
itself to prevent the spread of violence from the "Dnestr
Republic" to the rest of the country. The December elections of
Stepan Topal and Igor' Smirnov as presidents of their respective
"republics," and the official dissolution of the Soviet Union
at the end of the year, led to increased tensions in Moldova.
Violence again flared up in Transnistria in 1992. A ceasefire
agreement was negotiated by presidents Snegur and Yeltsin in July. A
demarcation line was to be maintained by a tripartite peacekeeping force
(composed of Moldovan, Russian, and Transnistrian forces), and Moscow
agreed to withdraw its 14th Army if a suitable constitutional provision
were made for Transnistria. Also, Transnistria would have a special
status within Moldova and would have the right to secede if Moldova
decided to reunite with Romania.
Moldova - Toward Political Accommodation
New parliamentary elections were held in Moldova on February 27,
1994. Although the election was described by international observers as
free and fair, authorities in Transnistria refused to allow balloting
there and made efforts to discourage the inhabitants from participating.
Only some 7,500 inhabitants voted at specially established precincts in
The new Parliament, with its Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova
majority, did not face the same gridlock that characterized the old
Parliament with its majority of Popular Front hard-line nationalists:
legislation was passed, and changes were made. President Snegur signed
the Partnership for Peace agreement of the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) in March 1994, and in April Parliament approved
Moldova's membership in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and
in a CIS charter on economic union. On July 28, Parliament ratified a
new constitution, which went into effect August 27, 1994, and provided
substantial autonomy to Transnistria and to Gagauzia.
Russia and Moldova signed an agreement in October 1994 on the
withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria, but the Russian
government balked at ratifying it, and another stalemate ensued.
Although the cease-fire was still in effect at the beginning of 1995 and
further negotiations were to include the Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations, there was little hope for
progress in the near future toward settling the dispute and getting the
Russian troops to leave.
In March and April 1995, Moldovan college and secondaryschool
students staged a series of strikes and demonstrations in Chisinau to
protest the government's cultural and educational policies. The students
were joined by segments of the local intelligentsia and later by workers
and pensioners who were protesting for economic reasons. The most
emotional issue was that of the national language: should it be
Moldovan, as named in the 1994 constitution, or Romanian as most experts
In an April 27 speech to Parliament, President Snegur asked
Parliament to amend the constitution and change the name of the language
to Romanian. The government's final decision was postponed until the
fall because of the stipulation that six months must pass before a
proposed change to the constitution can be made. The student
demonstrators declared a moratorium on further strikes until September
In 1995 Moldova was still faced with substantial domestic social and
economic problems, but it seemed to be on the road to making progress
toward the ideal of an open-market democracy. The country's complex
ethnic makeup and the political legacy of the Soviet period continued to
contribute to the government's difficulties, but the fall from power of
the extreme nationalists in the 1994 parliamentary elections lowered
ethnic tensions and allowed compromises to be made with the major ethnic
groups. With Russia now a partner in negotiations on Transnistria and
with pledges by the new government to respect the rights of the
country's Russian-speaking populace, the threat of international
hostilities has been greatly reduced.
Moldova - GEOGRAPHY
Located in southeastern Europe, Moldova is bordered on the west by
Romania and on the north, south, and east by Ukraine. Most of its
territory lies between the area's two main rivers, the Nistru and the
Prut. The Nistru (Dnister, in Ukrainian; Dnestr in Russian) forms a
small part of Moldova's border with Ukraine in the northeast, but it
mainly flows through the eastern part of the country, separating
Bessarabia and Transnistria. The Prut River forms Moldova's entire
western boundary with Romania.
Topography and Drainage
Most of Moldova's approximately 33,700 square kilometers of territory
(about the size of Maryland) cover a hilly plain cut deeply by many
streams and rivers. Geologically, Moldova lies primarily on deep
sedimentary rock that gives way to harder crystalline outcroppings only
in the north, where higher elevations are found on the margins of the
foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.
The gently rolling Balti Plain (Stepa Balti, in Romanian; Bel'tskaya
ravnina, in Russian) in northern Moldova (lying at ninety to 600 meters
in elevation in the north) gives way to thick, deciduous forests in the
Codri Hills (Podisul Codrilor, in Romanian; Kodry, in Russian),
averaging 350 to 400 meters in elevation, where the most common trees
are hornbeam, oak, linden, maple, wild pear, and wild cherry. The
country's highest point, Mount Balanesti (Balaneshty, in Russian), is
located in the west central portion of the country and reaches 430
The Bugeac Plain (Budzhak, in Russian) in the south has numerous
ravines and gullies. Transnistria has spurs of the Volyn-Podolian Upland
(Podisul Podolie, in Romanian; VolynoPodil 's'ka vysochyna, in
Ukrainian), which are cut into by tributaries of the Nistru River.
About 75 percent of Moldova is covered by a soil type called
chernozem. In the northern highlands, more claytextured soils are found;
in the south, red-earth soil is predominant. The soil becomes less
fertile toward the south but can still support grape and sunflower
production. The uplands have woodland soils, while southern Moldova is
in the steppe zone, although most steppe areas today are cultivated. The
lower reaches of the Prut River and the southern river valleys are
Drainage in Moldova is to the south, toward the Black Sea lowlands,
and eventually into the Black Sea, but only eight rivers extend more
than 100 kilometers. Moldova's main river, the Nistru, is navigable
throughout almost the entire country, and in warmer winters it does not
freeze over. The Prut River is a tributary of the Danube River, which it
joins at the far southwestern tip of the country.
Moldova - Climate
Moldova's climate is moderately continental: the summers are warm and
long, with temperatures averaging about 20°C, and the winters are
relatively mild and dry, with January temperatures averaging -4°C.
Annual rainfall, which ranges from around 600 millimeters in the north
to 400 millimeters in the south, can vary greatly; long dry spells are
not unusual. The heaviest rainfall occurs in early summer and again in
October; heavy showers and thunderstorms are common. Because of the
irregular terrain, heavy summer rains often cause erosion and river
Moldova - Environmental Concerns
Moldova's communist-era environmental legacy, like that of many other
former Soviet republics, is one of environmental degradation.
Agricultural practices such as overuse of pesticides, herbicides, and
artificial fertilizers were intended to increase agricultural output at
all costs, without regard for the consequences. As a result, Moldova's
soil and groundwater were contaminated by lingering chemicals, some of
which (including DDT) have been banned in the West.
Such practices continue in Moldova to the present day. In the early
1990s, per hectare use of pesticides in Moldova averaged approximately
twenty times that of other former Soviet republics and Western nations.
In addition, poor farming methods, such as destroying forests to plant
vineyards, have contributed to the extensive soil erosion to which the
country's rugged topography is already prone.
Moldova - Population
Although Moldova is by far the most densely populated of the former
Soviet republics (129 inhabitants per square kilometer in 1990, compared
with thirteen inhabitants per square kilometer for the Soviet Union as a
whole), it has few large cities. The largest and most important of these
is Chisinau, the country's capital and its most important industrial
center. Founded in 1420, Chisinau is located in the center of the
republic, on the Bîc (Byk, in Russian) River, and in 1990 had a
population of 676,000. The city's population is slightly more than 50
percent ethnic Romanian, with ethnic Russians constituting approximately
25 percent and Ukrainians 13 percent. The proportion of ethnic Russians
and Ukrainians in the capital's population decreased in the years
immediately after 1989 because of the emigration resulting from
Moldavia's changing political situation and civil unrest.
The second largest city in the republic, Tiraspol, had a population
of 184,000 in 1990. It is located in Transnistria and served as the
capital of the Moldavian ASSR from 1929 to 1940. It has remained an
important center of administration, transportation, and manufacturing.
In contrast to Chisinau, Tiraspol had a population of only some 18
percent ethnic Romanians, with most of the remainder being ethnic
Russians (41 percent) and Ukrainians (32 percent).
Other important cities include Balti (Bel'tsy, in Russian), with a
population of 162,000 in 1990, and Bender (or Bendery, in Russian;
Tighina in Romanian), with a population of 132,000 in the same year. As
in Tiraspol, ethnic Romanians are in the minority in both of these
Traditionally a rural country, Moldova gradually began changing its
character under Soviet rule. As urban areas became the sites of new
industrial jobs and of amenities such as clinics, the population of
cities and towns grew. The new residents were not only ethnic Romanians
who had moved from rural areas but also many ethnic Russians and
Ukrainians who had been recruited to fill positions in industry and
In 1990 Moldova's divorce rate of 3.0 divorces per 1,000 population
had risen from the 1987 rate of 2.7 divorces per 1,000 population. The
usual stresses of marriage were exacerbated by a society in which women
were expected to perform most of the housework in addition to their work
outside the home. Compounding this were crowded housing conditions (with
their resulting lack of privacy) and, no doubt, the growing political
crisis, which added its own strains.
Updated population figures for Moldova.
Moldova - Ethnic Composition
One of Moldova's characteristic traits is its ethnic diversity. As
early as the beginning of the eighteenth century, Moldovan prince and
scholar Dimitrie Cantemir observed that he "didn't believe that
there [existed] a single country of the size of Moldova in which so many
and such diverse peoples meet."
At the time of the 1989 census, Moldova's total population was
4,335,400. The largest nationality in the republic, ethnic Romanians,
numbered 2,795,000 persons, accounting for 64.5 percent of the
population. The other major nationalities were Ukrainians, about 600,000
(14 percent); Russians, about 562,000 (13.0 percent); Gagauz, about
153,000 (4 percent); Bulgarians, about 88,000 (2 percent); and Jews,
about 66,000 (2.0 percent). There were also smaller but appreciable
numbers of Belarusians, Poles, Roma (Gypsies), and Germans in the
population. In contrast, in Transnistria ethnic Romanians accounted for
only 40 percent, of the population in 1989, followed by Ukrainians (28
percent), Russians (25 percent), Bulgarians (2 percent), and Gagauz (1
In the early 1990s, there was significant emigration from the
republic, primarily from urban areas and primarily by Romanian
minorities. In 1990 persons emigrating accounted for 6.8 percent of the
population. This figure rose to 10 percent in 1991 before dropping
sharply to 2 percent in 1992.
Ethnic Romanians made up a sizable proportion of the urban population
in 1989 (about half the population of Chisinau, for example), as well as
a large proportion of the rural population (80 percent), but only 23
percent of the ethnic Romanians lived in the republic's ten largest
cities. Many had emigrated to Romania at the end of World War II, and
others had lost their lives during the war and in postwar Soviet purges.
As a consequence of industrial growth and the Soviet government's policy
of diluting and Russifying ethnic Romanians, there was significant
immigration to the Moldavian SSR by other nationalities, especially
ethnic Russians and Ukrainians.
Unlike ethnic Romanians, ethnic Russians tend to be urban dwellers in
Moldova; more than 72 percent of them lived in the ten largest cities in
1989. Many of them came to the Moldavian SSR after it was annexed by the
Soviet government in 1940; more arrived after World War II. Ostensibly,
they came to alleviate the Moldavian SSR's postwar labor shortage
(although thousands of ethnic Romanians were being deported to Central
Asia at the time) and to fill leadership positions in industry and the
government. The Russians settled mainly in Chisinau and Bender and in
the Transnistrian cities of Tiraspol and Dubasari (Dubossary, in
Russian). Only about 25 percent of Moldova's Russians lived in
Transnistria in the early 1990s.
Ethnic Ukrainians in Moldova are more evenly distributed between
rural and urban areas. Forty-seven percent of them resided in large
cities in 1989; others lived in long-settled villages dispersed
throughout the region, but particularly in the north and in
The Gagauz, Turkic-speaking Orthodox Christians (unlike most Turks,
who are Muslims), are concentrated in rural southern Moldova, mainly
around the cities of Comrat, Ciadîr-Lunga (Chadyr-Lunga, in Russian),
and Vulcanesti (Vulkaneshty, in Russian). Their ethnic origin is complex
and still debated by scholars, but it is agreed that they migrated to
Bessarabia from Bulgaria in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries. Shortly after Moldova declared its sovereignty, in June 1990
the Gagauz declared their own independent "Gagauz Republic" in
the southern part of the country. The 1994 constitution accorded them a
measure of autonomy, and a decree later that year officially established
Gagauzia (Gagauz-Yeri, in Gagauz).
Ethnic Bulgarians in Moldova live mainly in the southern part of the
country. Most of them are descendants of eighteenthcentury settlers who
came to the region because of persecution by the Turks. Others came to
Bessarabia when Imperial Russia encouraged their emigration in the
nineteenth century. Their numbers declined from 177,000 when the
Moldavian SSR was formed in 1940 to 88,000 in the 1989 census.
Although considered a religious affiliation in the West,
"Jewish" was considered a nationality by Soviet authorities,
even though Judaism was suppressed as a religion.
Although Jews had lived in Bessarabia and the region of Moldova for
centuries before Empress Catherine II of Russia established the Pale of
Settlement, Jews in Russia were restricted to living and traveling
solely within the Pale as of 1792. By the nineteenth century, the Pale
included Russian Poland, Lithuania, Belorussia, most of Ukraine, Crimea,
and Bessarabia. It was only in the second half of the nineteenth century
that exceptions were made.
Most of the prolonged military conflict of World War I and the
Russian Civil War took place in the Pale, inflicting heavy losses of
life and property on Jews. When it was created in 1940, the Moldavian
SSR (mainly Chisinau) held more than 200,000 Jews. However, their
numbers plummeted to only several thousand as a result of emigration.
Their ranks increased again during the 1960s and 1970s, only to decline
afterward, mainly the result of emigration.
In general, Jews in independent Moldova were not discriminated
against. But problems in Transnistria (home to almost one-quarter of
Moldova's Jews) and the anti-Semitic attitudes of the "Dnestr
Republic" authorities prompted many of them to think of emigration.
Moldova - LANGUAGE, RELIGION, AND CULTURE
The Moldovan dialect of Romanian, spoken by the majority of the
people of Bessarabia, was viewed by both the Russian Empire and the
Soviet Union as an impediment to controlling the local populace. Under
the tsars, Romanian-language education and the Romanian press were
forbidden as part of a process of forced Russification.
Stalin justified the creation of the Moldavian SSR by claiming that a
distinct "Moldavian" language was an indicator that
"Moldavians" were a separate nationality from the Romanians in
Romania. In order to give greater credence to this claim, in 1940 Stalin
imposed the Cyrillic alphabet on "Moldavian" to make it look
more like Russian and less like Romanian; archaic Romanian words of
Slavic origin were imposed on "Moldavian"; Russian loanwords
and phrases were added to "Moldavian"; and a new theory was
advanced that "Moldavian" was at least partially Slavic in
origin. (Romanian is a Romance language descended from Latin.) In 1949
Moldavian citizens were publicly reprimanded in a journal for daring to
express themselves in literary Romanian. The Soviet government continued
this type of behavior for decades.
Proper names in Moldova were subjected to Russianization as well.
Russian endings were added to purely Romanian names, and individuals
were referred to in the Russian manner by using a patronymic (based on
one's father's first name) as a middle name.
In 1989 members of most of the Moldavian SSR's nationalities claimed
their national language as their mother tongue: Romanians (95 percent),
Ukrainians (62 percent), Russians (99 percent), Gagauz (91 percent),
Bulgarians (79 percent), and Roma (82 percent). The exceptions were Jews
(26 percent citing Yiddish), Belarusians (43 percent), Germans (31
percent), and Poles (10 percent).
Although both Romanian written in the Cyrillic alphabet (that is,
"Moldavian") and Russian were the official languages of the
Moldavian SSR, only 62 percent of the total population claimed Romanian
as their native language in 1979. If ethnic Romanians are subtracted
from this number, the figure falls to just over 1 percent. Only 4
percent of the entire population claimed Romanian as a second language.
In 1979 Russian was claimed as a native language by a large
proportion of Jews (66 percent) and ethnic Belarusians (62 percent) and
by a significant proportion of ethnic Ukrainians (30 percent).
Proportions of other nationalities naming Russian as a native language
ranged from 17 percent of ethnic Bulgarians to 3 percent of ethnic
Romanians (urban Romanians were more Russianized than rural Romanians).
Russian was claimed as a second language by a sizable proportion of all
the nationalities: Romanians (46 percent), Ukrainians (43 percent),
Gagauz (68 percent), Jews (30 percent), Bulgarians (67 percent),
Belarusians (34 percent), Germans (53 percent), Roma (36 percent), and
Poles (24 percent).
On August 31, 1989, the Supreme Soviet of Moldavia passed the Law on
State Language, which made Moldovan written in the Latin alphabet the
state language of the Moldavian SSR. Because of pressure exerted by
non-Romanian ethnic groups, Russian was retained as the language of
interethnic communication. In areas where non-Romanian ethnic groups
were the majority, the language of that majority could also be used as a
means of communication. Because of strong objections raised by the
non-Romanian nationalities, implementation of the law was delayed.
The new Moldovan constitution, adopted August 27, 1994, states that
Moldovan, written in the Latin script, is designated as the official
language, but provisions were made for Russian and other languages to be
used in areas of minority concentrations. Russian was also to be the
language of interethnic communication.
On April 27, 1995, President Snegur asked Parliament to change the
name of the language in the constitution, from Moldovan to Romanian, in
response to demonstrations and strikes led by students. According to
Moldovan law, it would be six months before a proposed change to the
constitution could be made.
Moldova - Religion
Most of Moldova's population are Orthodox Christians. In 1991, about
98.5 percent of the population belonged to this faith.
The Soviet government strictly limited the activities of the Orthodox
Church (and all religions) and at times sought to exploit it, with the
ultimate goal of destroying it and all religious activity. Most Orthodox
churches and monasteries in Moldova were demolished or converted to
other uses, such as warehouses, and clergy were sometimes punished for
leading services. But many believers continued to practice their faith
In 1991 Moldova had 853 Orthodox churches and eleven Orthodox
monasteries (four for monks and seven for nuns). In addition, the Old
Russian Orthodox Church (Old
Believers) had fourteen churches and one monastery in
Before Soviet power was established in Moldova, the vast majority of
ethnic Romanians belonged to the Romanian Orthodox Church (Bucharest
Patriarchate), but today the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow
Patriarchate) has jurisdiction in Moldova. Russian, Romanian, and Turkic
(Gagauz) liturgies are used in the church. After the recent revival of
religious activity, most of the clergy and the faithful wanted to return
to the Bucharest Patriarchate but were prevented from doing so. Because
higherlevel church authorities were unable to resolve the matter,
Moldova now has two episcopates, one for each patriarchate. In late
1992, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia issued a decree upgrading
the Eparchy of Chisinau and Moldova to a metropolitan see.
Moldova also has a Uniate minority, mainly among ethnic Ukrainians,
although the Soviet government declared the Uniate
Church illegal in 1946 and forcibly united it with
the Russian Orthodox Church. The Uniate Church survived underground,
however, outlasting the Soviet Union itself.
Despite the Soviet government's suppression and ongoing harassment,
Moldova's Jews managed to retain their religious identity. About a dozen
Jewish newspapers were started in the early 1990s, and religious leaders
opened a synagogue in Chisinau; there were six Jewish communities of
worship throughout the country. In addition, Moldova's government
created the Department of Jewish Studies at Chisinau State University,
mandated the opening of a Jewish high school in Chisinau, and introduced
classes in Judaism in high schools in several cities. The government
also provides financial support to the Society for Jewish Culture.
Other religious denominations in Moldova are the Armenian Apostolic
Church, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Molokans (a
Russian Orthodox sect).
Citizens in independent Moldova have much greater religious freedom
than they did under the Soviet regime. Legislation passed in 1992
guaranteed religious freedom but did require that all religious groups
be officially recognized by the government. In 1992 construction or
restoration of 221 churches was under way, but clergy remained in short
Moldova - Culture
Moldova's cultural tradition has been influenced primarily by the
Romanian origin of its majority population and cannot be understood
outside of the development of classical Romanian culture, in which it
played a significant role.
The roots of Romanian culture reach back to the second century A.D.,
the period of Roman colonization in Dacia. During the centuries
following the Roman withdrawal in A.D. 271, the population of the region
was influenced by contact with the Byzantine Empire, neighboring Slavic
and Magyar populations, and later the Ottoman Turks. Beginning in the
nineteenth century, a strong West European (particularly French)
influence came to be evident in Romanian literature and the arts. The
resulting mélange has produced a rich cultural tradition. Although
foreign contacts were an inevitable consequence of the region's
geography, their influence only served to enhance a vital and resilient
The regional population had come to identify itself widely as
"Moldovan" by the fourteenth century but continued to maintain
close cultural links with other Romanian groups. The eastern Moldovans,
however, those inhabiting Bessarabia and Transnistria, were also
influenced by Slavic culture from neighboring Ukraine. During the
periods 1812-1917 and 1944-89, the eastern Moldovans were influenced by
Russian and Soviet administrative control as well and by ethnic Russian
Bessarabia was one of the least-developed and least-educated European
regions of the Russian Empire. In 1930 its literacy rate was only 40
percent, according to a Romanian census. Although Soviet authorities
promoted education (not the least to spread communist ideology), they
also did everything they could to break the region's cultural ties with
Romania. With many ethnic Romanian intellectuals either fleeing, being
killed, or being deported both during and after World War II,
Bessarabia's cultural and educational situation worsened.
To fill the gap, Soviet authorities developed urban cultural and
scientific centers and institutions that were subsequently filled with
Russians and with other non-Romanian ethnic groups, but this culture was
superimposed and alien. Urban culture came from Moscow; the rural ethnic
Romanian population was allowed to express itself only in folklore or
Although the folk arts flourished, similarities with Romanian culture
were hidden. Music and dance, particularly encouraged by Soviet
authorities, were made into a showcase but were subtly distorted to hide
their Romanian origins. An example is the national folk costume, in
which the traditional Romanian moccasin (opinca) was replaced
by the Russian boot.
Moldova's folk culture is extremely rich, and the ancient folk
ballad, the "Miorita," plays a central role in the traditional
culture. Folk traditions, including ceramics and weaving, continue to be
practiced in rural areas. The folk culture tradition is promoted at the
national level and is represented by, among other groups, the republic's
dance company, Joc, and by the folk choir, Doina.
The first Moldovan books (religious texts) appeared in the
mid-seventeenth century. Prominent figures in Moldova's cultural
development include prince and scholar Dimitrie Cantemir (1673- 1723),
historian and philologist Bogdan P. Hasdeu (1836-1907), author Ion
Creanga (1837-89), and poet Mihai Eminescu (1850-89).
Prominent modern writers include Vladimir Besleaga, Pavel Botu,
Aureliu Busioc, Nicolae Dabija, Ion Druta, and Grigore Vieru. In 1991 a
total of 520 books were published in Moldova, of which 402 were in
Romanian, 108 in Russian, eight in Gagauz, and two in Bulgarian.
In the early 1990s, Moldova had twelve professional theaters. All
performed in Romanian except the A.P. Chekhov Russian Drama Theater in
Chisinau and the Russian Drama and Comedy Theater in Tiraspol, both of
which performed solely in Russian, and the Licurici Republic Puppet
Theater (in Chisinau), which performed in both Romanian and Russian.
Members of ethnic minorities manage a number of folklore groups and
amateur theaters throughout the country.
Moldova - EDUCATION, HEALTH, AND WELFARE
In the decades prior to independence, the Moldavian SSR's education
system made substantial progress toward being available to all citizens.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, illiteracy had been common
among Moldova's rural population. But by 1992, the adult literacy rate
had risen to 96 percent. In 1990 the mean duration of schooling was six
years, and 30 percent of the population aged fifteen and older had
completed general secondary education.
Under the Soviet education system, the Moldavian SSR had parallel
systems of Romanian-language and Russian-language education through
secondary school, although Russian was seen as the key to advancement.
In 1990 a total of 614 preschools were taught in Romanian, 1,333 were
taught in Russian, and 373 were taught in both Romanian and Russian.
There were 1,025 Romanianlanguage primary and secondary schools with
399,200 students; 420 Russian-language schools with 239,100 students;
and 129 mixedlanguage schools with 82,500 students studying in the
Russian and Romanian languages, with more than half of the students
studying in Russian. Change occurred slowly at the university level,
however, and 55 percent of students continued to study in the Russian
language as of 1992.
Under Moldova's education system, ten years of basic education are
compulsory, followed by either technical school or further study leading
to higher education. In the early 1990s, the Moldovan government
restored the Romanian language in schools and added courses in Romanian
literature and history to the curriculum. The governments of Romania and
Moldova established strong ties between their education systems; several
thousand Moldovan students attended school in Romania, and the Romanian
government donated textbooks to Moldova to replace books from the Soviet
As Moldovan society became more industrialized and more complex under
the Soviet regime, the role of higher education also expanded (although
ethnic Russian and Ukrainian students were given preference in
university admissions during the Soviet era). Although there were only
ten students per 10,000 population enrolled in institutions of higher
education in 1940, this number increased to 120 per 10,000 population in
1992. In early 1995, Moldova had ten institutions of higher education;
four of these institutions had been established since independence. The
republic also maintained institutes of agriculture, economics,
engineering, medicine, the arts, pedagogy, and physical education.
Moldova - Health
In July 1994, Moldova's population was estimated at 4,473,033, with
an average annual growth rate of 0.38 percent. In 1992 the population's
birth rate was 16.1 per 1,000 population (compared with Romania's
fourteen per 1,000), the death rate was 10.2 per 1,000 (the same as
Romania's), and the rate of natural population increase was 0.7 percent
per year (0.9 percent for Romania). The instability that had occurred
throughout the Soviet Union at the time of its dissolution had a
significant impact on these figures. By 1992, the birth rate had fallen
from 18.9 in 1989 to 16.1 per 1,000, mortality had increased from 9.2 in
1989 to 10.2 per 1,000, and the natural population increase had declined
from 1.0 in 1989 to 0.6 percent per year. In 1992 the infant mortality
rate was thirty-five per 1,000 live births (compared with Romania's
twenty-two per 1,000 live births). In 1989 the size of the average
Moldovan family was 3.4 persons.
In 1991 about 28 percent of the population was under fifteen years of
age, and almost 13 percent was over sixty-five years of age. Life
expectancy in 1994 was sixty-five years for males and seventy-two years
Although the Soviet government had built health care facilities in
the Moldavian SSR, modern equipment and facilities were in short supply
in the early 1990s. In 1990 there were 129 hospital beds and forty
doctors per 10,000 inhabitants. The 1991 state budget allocated
approximately 12 percent of the total budget to health care, most of
which was provided to citizens free of charge.
The leading causes of death in Moldova are cardiovascular diseases,
cancer, respiratory diseases, and accidents. Other major health problems
are high levels of alcohol consumption and illnesses resulting from the
extensive and indiscriminate use of herbicides and pesticides.
Moldova - Welfare
Although Moldavia's official standard of living had long been below
the average for the Soviet Union, there were two mitigating factors. The
rural character of the country accounted for many households receiving
goods (mainly food) as well as cash wages. In addition, Moldavian
industry was based on consumer goods (including textiles, consumer
appliances, and processed agricultural goods), making them relatively
plentiful throughout the republic.
The hostilities in Transnistria and the turmoil surrounding the
demise of the Soviet Union were the major reasons for the falling
standard of living in Moldova in the early 1990s. The outbreak of
hostilities in Transnistria interrupted not only the flow of fuels and
goods from former Soviet republics through Transnistria into right-bank
Moldova but also cut off valuable inputs (for example, fertilizer) that
were produced in Transnistria. These, in turn, indirectly affected such
indicators as food consumption, a sign that everyday life was affected.
In 1991 Moldova set up the Social Assistance Fund (to provide
assistance to the needy) and the Social Security Fund (SSF). The SSF is
composed of the Pension Fund, the Social Insurance Fund, the
Unemployment Fund, and the Reserve Fund. Funding for the SSF comes
mainly from a payroll tax and from direct budget transfers.
The Pension Fund includes old-age pensions (age fifty-five for women
who have worked at least twenty years, and age sixty for men who have
worked for twenty-five years), pensions for invalids, pensions for women
who have raised three or more children, military and special merit
pensions, and pensions for people of retirement age or for people who
receive disability pensions yet continue to work.
In early 1994, approximately 900,000 people (about 20 percent of the
total population) received pensions. Legislation increased both benefits
for dependent children and the minimum pension in 1992, and a law was
passed to index benefits to inflation, but it had not been fully
implemented by the end of the year. Many felt that passage of this law
would add significantly to the demands on an already overburdened
Moldova - Housing
Even before independence, much of Moldova's housing stock was in
private hands because of the country's strong tradition of private home
ownership, especially in rural areas. In 1994 some 90 percent of rural
and 36 percent of urban apartments were held privately.
At the time of Moldova's independence, housing construction was
hampered by severe shortages of building materials and disruptions in
deliveries. However, the housing stock continued to expand in both rural
and urban areas. In 1990 private builders accounted for only 26 percent
of construction in urban areas, but they accounted for 95 percent of
construction in rural areas. In 1990 per capita housing space averaged
eighteen square meters (fourteen square meters in urban areas and
twenty-one square meters in rural areas).
All state-owned housing was scheduled for privatization, in stages,
beginning in May 1993 and using government-issued vouchers. Apartments
that did not exceed state norms for per capita space utilization were to
be turned over to their occupants free of charge. People living in
apartments that exceeded space norms would have to pay the state a
premium based on the average cost per meter of housing construction.
Privatization using vouchers was scheduled to be completed in the summer
of 1995, at which time there would be an open housing market.
Moldova - THE ECONOMY
Historically, the region now encompassed by the Republic of Moldova
was poorly developed. Economic activity was principally agricultural,
rural poverty was endemic, and the urban economy, such as it was, was
based almost entirely on commerce, food processing, and the production
of consumer goods. Development prior to the mid-eighteenth century
lagged for a variety of reasons, but principally because of limited
resources and political instability. The region of Moldova was
relatively backward in comparison with the rest of Romania.
The Economy in the Soviet Period
Under Soviet rule, the Moldavian ASSR (1924-40) experienced
considerable industrial development between the two world wars,
particularly in and around Tiraspol, the site of new manufacturing
activity. After World War II, substantial industrialization occurred
throughout the Moldavian SSR (1940- 91), especially in Chisinau, but
with a continuing focus on Transnistria as well. In addition to further
developing the foodprocessing industry, the government introduced the
textile, machine tool, and electronics industries.
Until independence, Moldova's economy was organized along standard
Soviet lines: all industry was state owned, as were commerce and
finance. Approximately one-third of all enterprises were subordinate to
the economic ministries of the Soviet Union, and two-thirds were
subordinate to republic-level authorities. Agriculture was
collectivized, and production was organized principally around state
farms and collective farms.
The Moldavian economy, robust in the 1970s, slowed down somewhat in
the early 1980s and contracted sharply in 1985, mainly as a result of
declining activity in the wine sector, a casualty of Gorbachev's
antialcohol campaign. In the late 1980s, the economy briefly regained
strength and grew faster than the economy of the Soviet Union as a
<>Independence and Privatization
<>Energy and Fuels
<>Banking and Finance
Moldova - THE ECONOMY - Independence and Privatization
Once independence was achieved, Moldova's government undertook
measures to begin privatization, which included passing a law mandating
privatization and establishing the State Department for Privatization to
direct the process. The overall reform policy was guided by "The
Draft Economic Reform Program of the Government of Moldova," a 1991
document calling for establishment of a market economy but permitting
significant provisions for government intervention.
In late 1992, the government presented Parliament with a more
market-oriented policy in its "Program of Activity of the
Government of Moldova for 1992-1995." Its goal was to form a new
social pact as a basis for a new society and economy for Moldova. The
two-part program would first aim at stabilizing the country and then
provide for the economy's recovery and growth by such means as agrarian
and trade reform, social protection, and a legal framework for a market
economy. The direction of the new government was elaborated in the
"Program of Activity of the Government of the Republic of Moldova
for 1994 to 1997," which was adopted by Parliament and which
focuses on restructuring the economy, reorganizing enterprises,
privatizing small and mediumsized enterprises, promoting
entrepreneurship, decreasing the budget deficit, implementing an
efficient fiscal policy, and formulating new mechanisms to create a
market economy. Another bill, the "Program for Privatization for
1995-1996," was approved by Parliament in March 1995. It focuses on
foreign investment, privatization of agricultural land, the introduction
of cash auctions, mass privatization, and the development of capital
markets. Over 1,450 state enterprises are to be auctioned off.
During 1992 enterprise privatization committees inventoried assets at
each enterprise in the republic; the aggregate result of this inventory
became the basis of calculations of Moldova's total industrial wealth.
Each citizen was to be provided with vouchers (or Patrimonial Bonds) in
1993, endowing him or her with a share of this total wealth based on
years of employment in the economy. Citizens would receive one voucher
point per year of work in the republic. Enterprise employees were to be
allowed to purchase up to 30 percent of the value of their enterprises
at nominal value. By special arrangement, 40 percent of the value of
enterprises in the food-processing sector was to be allocated to
suppliers. The program was to be completed by the summer of 1995. As of
the beginning of 1995, Moldova had 4,400 state and 57,000 private
Employees of collective and state farms were also to be provided with
vouchers based on the length of their employment in the agricultural
sector. In January 1992, Moldova expanded the amount of free land that
eligible families would receive from state farms to 0.5 hectare per
family, with an additional 0.1 hectare to be added for fourth and
subsequent family members up to a maximum of one hectare per family, on
the condition that it not be resold before 2001 (although it could be
Collective and state farms were to be converted into jointstock
companies first, and the land and property were to be allocated later.
In 1993 Moldova had 481 small private farms; by 1995 this number had
increased to 13,958. In 1995 1.5 percent of agricultural land in Moldova
was held by these small farmers. The reasons for slow privatization of
the agricultural sector include slow privatization of large
organizations, the use of outmoded production methods and equipment,
poor accounting practices, and a shortage of processing facilities.
At the same time that privatization plans were under way, actual
reform efforts were halting and relatively ineffectual, and Moldova's
economy declined. A number of factors contributed to the decline,
including the complicated political situation in the republic (which had
seen several changes of leadership in its first years of existence) and
the political and military conflict with Transnistria. Substantial
industrial capacity is located in Transnistria, and the disruption of
traditional economic ties with enterprises there has had a negative
effect on the economy of right-bank Moldova.
Further, because Moldova's economy was firmly embedded in the broader
economic structures of the former Soviet Union, it also suffered damage
from the breakdown in interrepublic trade, abrupt increases in external
prices, and inflation resulting from the Russian government's policy of
printing large amounts of money. (Moldova retained the Russian ruble as
its currency until November 1993.) The consequence of all these factors
has been a substantial economic downturn in both industry and
agriculture, accompanied by increased unemployment and a decline in
labor productivity. In 1991 Moldova's national income was only at 1985
levels. Moldova's industrial output in early 1995 was half of the output
of 1990. Moldova's gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 30 percent
in 1994 (by 5 percent in 1993 and by 28 percent in 1992), and its
industrial output declined by 34 percent (by 12 percent in 1993 and by
27 percent in 1992).
Moldova - Labor Force
Moldova's labor force still reflects the structure of the economy
under communism. In 1991, 78 percent of the population employed outside
the home worked in the state sector, 19 percent worked on collective
farms, and 3 percent worked in the private sector. The private sector
employed 9 percent of the workforce in 1995. In early 1995, the official
unemployment rate was 1 percent, but experts put the real rate at
between 10 and 15 percent.
Moldova - Agriculture
At the time of Moldova's independence, agriculture continued to play
a major role in the country's economy, as it had during the Soviet
period. In 1991 agriculture accounted for 42 percent of the net material
product (NMP) and employed 36 percent of the labor force.
The organizational backbone of independent Moldova's agriculture
continues to be its system of former state and collective farms,
one-quarter of which were transformed into joint-stock companies by 1994
and are now owned in shares by the people who work them. In 1993
Moldova's 600 collective farms covered 16.2 million hectares of land and
employed 401,300 persons; in the same year, its 389 state farms
encompassed 600,500 hectares of land and employed 168,200 persons.
Agricultural output from private farms increased from 18 percent in 1990
to 38 percent in 1994.
Moldova possesses substantial agricultural resources; its climate and
fertile soils (1.7 million hectares of arable land in 1991) support a
wide range of crops. The country is an important regional producer of
grapes and grape products, and its orchards produce significant amounts
of fruit, including plums, apricots, cherries, and peaches. Fruit
production is concentrated in the north, in the central region, and in
the Nistru River area. Tobacco is also an important commercial crop.
Sugar beets are grown throughout the republic and provide raw material
for a substantial (although antiquated) sugar-refining industry, and
sunflowers are grown for their oil. Cereal crops, including wheat, are
grown widely (corn is the leading grain) and are used for domestic
consumption, export, and animal feed.
Meat accounts for less than half of total agricultural production. In
1991 about half of total meat output was accounted for by pork (145,000
tons), followed by beef and veal (97,000 tons), chicken (56,000 tons),
and lamb (5,000 tons). From 1990 to 1994, the amount of arable land used
for livestock production decreased by some 25 percent; the number of
livestock in 1994 was 400,000.
Probably the most widely known products of Moldova are its wines,
sparkling wines, and brandies, which were recognized as among the finest
in the former Soviet Union. In 1991 these accounted for 28 percent of
the output of the food-processing sector, followed by meat processing
with 22 percent of production and fruit and vegetable processing
(including the production of canned fruits and vegetables, jams,
jellies, and fruit juices) with 15 percent. Moldova also produces sugar
and sugar products, perfume, vegetable oils, and dairy products.
Approximately half of Moldova's agricultural and food production is
sold to former Soviet republics. Traditional markets are Russia,
Ukraine, and Belarus.
Agricultural production has been in serious decline since the late
1980s, both in terms of overall production levels and in terms of
per-hectare production of most crops. Overall agricultural output in
1991 was at 1970 levels. A number of factors contributed to the decline,
including difficulties in providing necessary inputs and agricultural
machinery, disruption of the transportation system, failures in the
incentive system, difficulties related to political instability in
Transnistria, Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign, and, not the least,
Moldova's variable weather. In 1990 a drought resulted in a serious
decline in production. On the heels of the drought, 1991 saw a spring
freeze, severe summer flooding, and then the worst drought in some fifty
years. Overall agricultural output in 1993 was down 15 percent from the
previous year; grain production, one-third less than in 1991, was
particularly affected (especially corn, which was down over 50 percent
on average). The trend continued into 1994 when drought and storms with
hurricane-force winds caused agricultural output to decline 58 percent
from 1993 levels. Although Moldova was traditionally a wheat exporter,
it had to import 100,000 to 200,000 tons of wheat as a result of a 1994
harvest that was 800,000 tons less than the harvest of 1993.
In fiscal year (FY) 1992, Moldova participated in the United States
Department of Agriculture's P.L. 480 Title I program, which provided
US$7 million in long-term credit for government-to-government
concessional sales, offered repayment terms of ten to thirty years (with
grace periods of up to seven years), and provided low interest rates.
Moldova's line of credit was scheduled to increase to US$10 million in
By the beginning of 1994, total United States assistance to Moldova
included approximately US$12 million in technical assistance, in support
of Moldova's transition to a market economy and democracy, and US$68
million in humanitarian assistance. In 1995 the United States was
scheduled to provide US$22 million in technical assistance for economic
restructuring and privatization. This amount brings total United States
assistance to Moldova since 1992 to more than US$200 million.
Moldova - Industry
In 1991 industry accounted for approximately 38 percent of the NMP
and employed 21 percent of the work force. Some of the main products of
Moldova's industry include electrical motors and equipment, pumps for
industrial and agricultural use, and agricultural equipment, including
tractors and automobile parts. There is also a small chemical industry,
which produces plastics, synthetic fibers, paint, and varnish, and a
construction industry, which produces cement and prefabricated
The Moldovan consumer goods industry in the early 1990s was faced
with the same problems affecting the rest of the Moldovan economy. The
supply of cheap fuels and raw materials, provided to Moldavia under the
Soviet economic system (under which Moldavia specialized in consumer
goods and agricultural products), dried up with the demise of the Soviet
Union and the hostilities in Transnistria. Together with high inflation,
the cost of goods went up tremendously, sometimes doubling in the course
of one year.
In 1991 consumer goods accounted for 22 percent of Moldova's
industrial output; the textile industry accounted for approximately 50
percent of this, and food processing accounted for 40 percent. Clothing
manufacturing made up another 29 percent of total production.
In 1994 Moldova had eleven military-goods producing enterprises.
Attempts were being made to convert ten of them to civilian production.
However, these facilities were operating at only 15 to 20 percent of
capacity, as compared with the industrywide average of 40 percent of
capacity. As a result, conversion prospects were not bright.
Moldova's heavy industry is almost entirely the product of
development during the Soviet period. Machine building predominates
within heavy industry, accounting for 16 percent of total industrial
Moldova - Energy and Fuels
Among the most pressing difficulties facing the republic's economy is
a near total lack of energy resources. Moldova's own primary energy
sources consist of small hydroelectric power plants on the Nistru River
at Dubasari and Camenca (Kamenka, in Russian); minor thermal electric
power plants at Balti, Rîbnita (Rybnitsa, in Russian), Ungheni (Ungeny,
in Russian), and Chisinau; and firewood, all of which combine to meet
only 1 percent of domestic needs. A coal-fired power plant was under
construction at Cuciurgan (Kuchurgan, in Russian), in Transnistria, in
Another source of problems is the fact that almost 90 percent of
power and 100 percent of power transformers are produced in politically
troubled Transnistria. In addition, Transnistria's adversarial
"government" has frequently disrupted the flow of fuels into
Moldova from Russia and Ukraine.
Moldova has an electric power production capacity of 3.1 million
kilowatts, and it produced 11.1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in
1993. By 1994 electricity production had decreased 14 percent in
comparison with 1993. Over the same period, thermal electric production
decreased 22 percent.
Despite its lack of energy resources, the country continues to export
some of the electricity it generates to Romania and Bulgaria. However,
these exports have been cut back (the countries receive electricity only
to the extent to which they supply fuel). Some electricity shortages
have occurred in Moldova, mostly in winter, and have been dealt with by
rationing. Much of the country's generating equipment (which is not
produced by Moldova) and approximately one-quarter of its transmission
and distribution lines are in need of repair.
In the early 1990s, energy shortages were prevalent, and energy
availability was sporadic, leading to disruptions in economic activity;
imports of coal, natural gas, diesel fuel, and gasoline declined by an
estimated average of 40 percent from 1991 to 1992. In 1994 the picture
was somewhat different. Gasoline imports were up 33.6 percent and coal
imports increased 15.4 percent, while imports of diesel fuel, mazut, and
natural gas fell 25 percent, 51.5 percent, and 3.1 percent,
In 1994 Moldavia was dependent on Russia for 90 percent of the fuel
needed for its electric-power generation plants: diesel oil (88,000
tons), gasoline (65,000 tons), fuel oil (365,000 tons), and natural gas
(2.8 billion cubic meters). By March 1995, Moldova owed Russia US$232
million for fuel, with half of this amount owed by the "Dnestr
Moldova had started paying off this debt in goods, including
agricultural products, but beginning in late 1994 the government paid
these debts by giving Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled gas company,
equity stakes in key Moldovan enterprises. In January 1995, Moldova gave
control of Moldovagas, the state-owned gas company, to Gazprom.
Moldova - Banking and Finance
Moldova's banking system, part of the Soviet system during the
communist era, underwent major changes in 1991. The National Bank of
Moldova (NBM), established in June 1991 and modeled on the Bank of
Romania, is subordinate to Parliament. It has an extensive set of
monetary policy instruments (such as maximum lending rates and reserve
requirements) and is legally responsible for bank supervision. However,
shortages of trained staff and a lack of experience in making and
executing monetary policy caused the NBM difficulties in its early
In 1995 Moldova's banking system was composed of the NBM and
twenty-six private, joint-stock commercial banks, including the Joint
Bank for Export and Import (Banca Mixta Pentru Export i Import). In 1995
the largest commercial banks were Moldindconbanc, Banca de Economii,
Banca Sociala, Agroindbanc, Victoriabanc, and Interprinzbanca. The
banking system also includes four branches of foreign (Romanian and
After Russia enacted economic reform measures in January 1992,
Moldova liberalized prices for most of its commodities (except bread,
milk, energy, utilities, and transportation) and raised other prices by
200 to 425 percent. Price controls were eliminated gradually, with none
left after May 1994.
In early 1995, the average monthly rate of consumer inflation was
estimated at under 5 percent. This represented a major improvement, as
the annual inflation rate had been 105 percent in 1994, 415 percent in
1993, and a staggering 1,500 percent in 1992.
In the early years of its independence, Moldova used both the Russian
ruble and the Moldovan coupon (issued only to residents of Moldova) as
its currencies. The leu was introduced in November 1993 to replace these currencies
and to escape the inflation in other former Soviet republics. It has
remained reasonably stable against major hard currencies despite the
country's high rates of inflation.
Moldova - GOVERNMENT
On August 27, 1991, the Republic of Moldova declared its independence
from the Soviet Union and became a sovereign state, an act that
consummated the process of escalating political selfassertion under way
since 1988. Behind this phenomenon were glasnost and perestroika,
the general movement toward reform initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev in the
second half of the 1980s.
Gorbachev's more permissive approach to political life in the
Moldavian SSR enabled Moldovan nationalists to participate in the
campaign for election to the Soviet Union's Congress of Peoples'
Deputies in 1989 and to form the Moldovan Popular Front. On February 25,
1990, the first democratic elections for the Supreme Soviet of the
Moldavian SSR resulted in a Popular Front majority.
In May 1991, the country changed its name from the Soviet Socialist
Republic of Moldova to the Republic of Moldova. The name of the Supreme
Soviet was changed to the Moldovan Parliament. On August 27, 1991 (now
Independence Day), it declared Moldova's complete independence. This
pursuit of independence by Moldova's government put it increasingly at
odds with Moscow and at the same time led to growing tensions between
the ethnic Romanian majority and the non-Romanian minorities in the
Those tensions soon led to sporadic violence throughout the first
half of 1992 until a cease-fire agreement was negotiated by presidents
Snegur and Yeltsin in July. The conditions for withdrawing the Russian
14th Army were negotiated and were dependent on constitutional
provisions that were to be made after the parliamentary elections of
On February 27, 1994, parliamentary elections were held. In the
elections, the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova won a majority,
marking a turning point for Moldovan politics. The new Parliament was
able to make compromises between ethnic Romanians and ethnic Slavs, thus
enabling it to pass legislation and set a more moderate tone for
governing the country. Without a majority of Popular Front extreme
nationalists in Parliament, a solution to the problem of Transnistria
began to be more than just a futile hope.
<>The 1990 Elections
<>Conflict in Transnistria and Gagauzia
<>Lucinschi and Political Realignment
<>The 1994 Elections
Moldova - Government System
On July 28, 1994, the Moldovan Parliament approved a new
constitution, declaring Moldova a republic, which went into effect
August 27, 1994. Moldova's previous constitution was that of the old
Moldavian SSR (1979), with amendments. The new document defines Moldova
as an independent, democratic, "single" state and declares the
country's permanent neutrality. The Moldovan language, written in the
Latin script, is designated as the official language, but guarantees are
made for the use of Russian and other languages. The new constitution
includes a ban on the stationing of foreign troops on Moldova's
Moldova is a democracy with a unicameral legislature, the Moldovan
Parliament, previously called the Supreme Soviet. Following the earlier
Soviet model, the Moldovan Parliament maintains a Presidium, which
performs legislative functions when the larger body is not in session.
Parliament has 104 members elected by universal suffrage for a four-year
term. Any citizen eligible to vote (eighteen years of age and not
prohibited by law) is eligible for election to the Parliament. The next
parliamentary elections will be held in 1998.
Parliament ordinarily meets in two sessions per year. The first
session starts in February and may not go beyond the end of July. The
seocnd session starts in September and may not go beyond the end of
Parliamentary leadership consists of a chair and two deputy chairs
elected by the delegates. The work of Parliament is carried out by
fifteen permanent committees, which have purview in the following areas:
agriculture and rural social development, crime prevention, culture and
religion, ecology, the economy and the budget, foreign affairs, health
and social assistance, human rights and relations among nationalities,
law, legislative ethics, local administration and the local economy,
public relations and the mass media, science and education, state
security and military affairs, and women and family issues.
Moldova's head of state is the president of the republic, who shares
executive power with the Council of Ministers. Under constitutional
arrangements prevailing at the time of the 1990 national elections, the
president was elected by members of the Supreme Soviet, but provisions
introduced in 1991 called for the president's direct election by all
members of the population over eighteen years of age. The president, who
must be over thirtyfive years old, a resident of Moldova for at least
ten years, and a speaker of the state language, is elected to a
four-year term of office. The next election is set for December 1995. In
early 1995, the president was Mircea Snegur, named president by the
Supreme Soviet in September 1990 and confirmed by popular election in
The president's duties include nominating the prime minister and
members of the Council of Ministers, taking part in Parliament's
proceedings and debates, dissolving Parliament under certain conditions,
negotiating and concluding international treaties, serving as commander
in chief of the armed forces, granting political asylum, and iniating
Council of Ministers
The activities of the government are directed by the cabinet, or
Council of Ministers, headed by the prime minister and the first deputy
prime minister. In early 1995, the prime minister was Andrei Sangheli,
appointed in July 1992 and reappointed in March 1994. Candidates for the
Council of Ministers are nominated by the president (on the prime
minister's recommendation) and must be confirmed by Parliament before
taking office. In 1995 there were eighteen ministries: agriculture and
food, commercial services and housing, culture, defense, economy,
education, finance, foreign affairs, health, industry, information and
communication, interior, justice, labor and social and family
protection, national security, parliamentary relations, privatization
and administration of state property, and transportation and road
In addition to these ministries, the government has state departments
subordinate to the Council of Ministers. In 1995 there were nine state
departments: architecture and construction; customs control; energy,
energy resources, and fuel; environmental protection; national
relations; standards, metrology, and technical assistance; statistics;
trade; and youth and sports.
The Judicial System
Independent Moldova's judicial and legal systems are carryovers from
the Soviet period and conform to practices that were standard throughout
the former Soviet Union. The most powerful legal institution is the
General Prosecution Office, formerly called the Procuracy. Headed by the
prosecutor general, the General Prosecution Office directs
investigations, orders arrests, and prosecutes criminal cases. It is
also charged with administering the judicial system and ensuring the
legality of government actions. In the early 1990s, the Procuracy's
corruption and political ties to the Communist Party of Moldavia made it
the subject of substantial controversy in discussions on constitutional
reform. A significant element of political opinion advocated the
abolition of or the radical transformation of the Procuracy.
Moldova's judicial system is based on a network of local courts and
higher-level appeals courts, with the highest court being the Supreme
Court (Curte Suprema). Judges do not have a tradition of political
impartiality and independence, and the role of defense attorneys is
limited. The government of Moldova has initiated reform efforts, but
corruption and a lack of organization continue to plague the legal
system. Many former Soviet-era judges and chief prosecutors were
replaced in 1990 and 1991 during a parliamentary review, but an
independent judiciary was still not realized. The system was being
reviewed in 1995.
Moldova - Local Government
Below the central government, Moldova is divided administratively
into forty raioane (sing., raion; rayon/rayony,
in Russian; see Glossary), as in the Soviet period. Each raion
is governed by a locally elected council. Raion councils elect
executive committees from among their members. The heads of these
executive committees are the chief executive officers of the raioane.
City and village governments are organized much like the raion-
level governments. In addition to the raioane, Chisinau (the
national capital), Balti, Bender, and Tiraspol are designated
municipalities and are directly subordinate to the national government.
In 1991 the national government began work on an administrative
reorganization intended to alter this structure and to reintroduce a
system of counties (judete), communes, and villages similar to
the one that had been in effect during the interwar period, and one that
was still in use in Romania. Under the new system, the counties would
consolidate functions carried out by the smaller raioane, and
local executives would be elected directly. However, this effort was
stalled by the secession of Transnistria and the declaration of
sovereignty by the Gagauz region, and the Parliament elected in 1994 put
the matter aside.
Moldova - Political Parties
In 1993 more than twenty political parties and movements were
registered in Moldova. Until 1990 the Communist Party of Moldavia (CPM)
was the dominant political force in the republic. It had controlled the
administrative, economic, and cultural affairs of the Moldavian SSR from
its establishment until 1990. During that period, CPM officials
monopolized virtually all politically significant government positions.
However, once democratic elections were decided upon, the party's power
disintegrated swiftly. The CPM was formally banned in August 1991,
following the abortive August coup d'état against Soviet president
Gorbachev, but former communists continue to participate actively in
politics through their membership in a variety of successor
In the wake of the 1990 elections, the Moldovan Popular Front,
founded in 1989 and consisting of an association of independent cultural
and political groups, moved into a commanding position in the country's
political life. It emerged as an advocate of increased autonomy from the
Soviet Union and of the rights of the Moldavian SSR's ethnic Romanian
population. Popular Front delegates were able to dominate proceedings in
the Supreme Soviet and to select a government made up of individuals who
supported its agenda. The Popular Front was well organized nationally,
with its strongest support in the capital and in areas of the country
most heavily populated by ethnic Romanians. Once the organization was in
power, however, internal disputes led to a sharp fall in popular
support, and it fragmented into several competing factions by early
1993. In February 1993, the Popular Front was reformed as the Christian
Democratic Popular Front (CDPF).
Several other parties, primarily composed of ethnic Romanians, were
organized after 1990. The largest and most influential of these
ethnically based parties is the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova,
which is a coalition of former communists and moderate to status-quo
supporters of Moldovan statehood and closer economic ties with Russia.
The party's support comes mainly from the rural populace, economic
conservatives, and ethnic minorities opposed to reunification with
Romania. The Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova won a majority of the
votes in the 1994 parliamentary election.
A much smaller but still influential political group is the Social
Democratic Party of Moldova. Most of the Social Democrats' leaders
originally participated in the Popular Front but later formed their own
organization in response to what they perceived as the increasingly
nationalistic position of that party. The Social Democrats are
multiethnic, and their constituency consists mainly of educated
professional and managerial groups. Their support is strongest in the
Another independent formation committed to promoting a less
nationalistic agenda for the republic, the Democratic Party for the
Rebirth and Prosperity of Moldova (PDRPM), was formed in late 1990. The
PDRPM draws its support primarily from among ethnic Romanian
intellectuals and is active primarily in the capital.
At the other extreme of the political spectrum is the National
Christian Party (NCP). The NCP is more expressly nationalistic than the
Popular Front and its other competitors-- Congress of the Intelligentsia
(which is a component of the Congress of Peasants and Intellectuals, a
bloc in the 1994 elections), the Democratic Party, and the Democratic
Labor Party- -and it campaigned openly for reunification with Romania
during the 1994 election. Other parties active in the 1994 campaign for
the Parliament were the Reform Party, the Yedinstvo/Socialist Bloc, the
Republican Party, the Democratic Labor Party, the Green Alliance, the
Women's Association of Moldova, and the Victims of Totalitarian
In late 1993, former Prime Minister Valeriu Muravschi, along with
several other leading members of Parliament unhappy with the direction
of policy under the existing government, formed yet another party, the
Socialist Workers' Party, in order to counter what they saw as the
excessively conservative influence of the Democratic Agrarian Party of
Moldova. Non-Romanian ethnic communities have also formed political
organizations representing their interests. In the early transition
period, the most influential of these was the Yedinstvo-Unitatea
Intermovement. Yedinstvo, whose members include not only Russians but
also Ukrainians, Bulgarians, and other Russian-speaking residents of the
republic, is politically conservative in its support of the pre-1990
status quo. Based primarily in Transnistria, it is strongly pro-Russian.
In Parliament, its positions are represented by the Conciliere
Yedinstvo emerged in 1988 from the mobilization of Russianspeaking
workers responding to efforts to alter the republic's language laws and
demote the status of the Russian language. During the transition period,
Yedinstvo was the most effective and influential minority nationalist
organization. Its representatives walked out of the first session of the
democratically elected Moldavian Supreme Soviet in 1990. In local
elections, its adherents won control over local and raion
governments throughout Transnistria.
Gagauz Halkî (Gagauz People) is a second pivotal minority political
group, formed to represent Moldova's population of approximately 153,000
Gagauz. Like the Russian-speaking community in Transnistria, with whom
they had been close political allies, Gagauz nationalists gained control
over local government in the five southern raioane, where their
numbers continue to be concentrated. Like the Transnistrians, the Gagauz
declared themselves sovereign in 1990.
Moldova - The 1990 Elections
The first democratic elections for the Supreme Soviet were held in
February and March 1990. Delegates were elected for terms of four years
in 380 single-member electoral districts (by early 1993 this number had
decreased to 332 following removals and resignations). Electoral rules
called for candidates to be nominated by electoral districts rather than
by "social organizations," as had been the practice
previously. Meetings of work collectives of 100 persons and residents'
meetings of fifty or more persons were empowered to nominate candidates.
In order to be elected, candidates had to receive more than 50
percent of the votes cast in an electoral district. When there was no
victor in the first round of elections, the two candidates with the
highest number of votes competed against each other in a second round.
In 1990 the republic was divided by the secession of separatist
regions and by the outbreak of widespread fighting in Transnistria. At
the same time, economic crisis loomed, a result of the collapse of the
economic institutions of the Soviet Union. The Moldovan government
pursued reforms to address this crisis, but progress toward a market
economy was slow, partly as a result of the government's preoccupation
with the conflicts among the ethnic groups and partly because of
resistance to reform on the part of those with vested interests in the
In contrast to the artificial quiescence that characterized previous
contests, the 1990 elections saw considerable controversy. While
national CPM officials, including then-First Secretary Petru Lucinschi,
promoted open access to the political process, local communist officials
in many areas used traditional means to retain power. Reformers
complained that local electoral commissions were controlled by
"enemies of restructuring" and that the administrative
apparatus was being used to subvert the nominating process.
Just as important in determining the outcome of the election as
bureaucratic resistance, however, was the Popular Front's organizational
weakness in many localities outside the capital, especially in
comparison with the local strength of the CPM's rural party apparatus.
Despite these difficulties, Popular Frontapproved candidates were on the
ballot in 219 out of Moldova's 380 electoral districts by the February
25 election date. Meanwhile, the CPM, enjoying a rebound in popularity
and effectiveness under Lucinschi's direction, accounted for 86 percent
of all candidates.
A high degree of cooperation between the Popular Front and reformers
within the CPM hierarchy was also evident during the early transition
period. On February 11, 1990, the Popular Front, with the support of
government authorities, had organized a "Republic's Voters
Meeting" in Chisinau. This was attended by more than 100,000 people
and was addressed by Lucinschi and other high-level communist officials.
Among the candidates supported by the Popular Front one could find
the names of ranking CPM members such as Mircea Snegur. A Central
Committee secretary since 1985, Snegur was appointed chairman of the
Presidium of the Moldavian Supreme Soviet by the staunchly antireform
CPM leader Simion Grossu in July 1989. By early 1990, however, Snegur
had realigned himself with the Popular Front and its political program.
The results of the first round of elections in February confirmed the
main trends that had appeared during the nominating process. Competitive
races were held in 373 of the 380 districts, and turnout was 84 percent
of the electorate. In the 140 contests decided without a runoff,
reformers claimed victory for fiftynine of the candidates, although 115
of the total elected were CPM members (some of whom were supported by
the Popular Front). As during the nominating phase, reformers alleged
that significant violations of the election law had occurred, despite
the Central Electoral Commission's finding of no major infractions.
The second round of elections, held on March 10, 1990, filled the
bulk of positions in the republic's Supreme Soviet and had a decisive
impact on the country's political life. A fall in turnout for the second
round, to 75 percent of the electorate, appears to have hurt the
performance of the Popular Front, which won in only forty-two out of 237
districts, a considerably weaker showing than in the February contest.
With the conclusion of the runoff, 305 of the deputies to the new
Supreme Soviet were CPM members; 101 of the Supreme Soviet deputies were
selected from the list supported by the Popular Front. With the support
of deputies sympathetic to its views, however, the Popular Front could
control more than half of the votes in the new Supreme Soviet.
Political Developments in the Wake of the 1990 Elections
As the political influence of the Popular Front increased in the wake
of the elections, the powerful faction of Romanian nationalists within
the organization became increasingly vocal in the pursuit of their
agenda. The nationalists argued that the Popular Front should
immediately use its majority in the Supreme Soviet to attain
independence from Russian domination, end migration into the republic,
and improve the status of ethnic Romanians.
Yedinstvo and its supporters within the Supreme Soviet argued against
independence from the Soviet Union, against implementation of the August
1989 Law on State Language (making Moldovan written in the Latin
alphabet the country's official language), and for increased autonomy
for minority areas. Hence, clashes occurred almost immediately once the
new Supreme Soviet began its inaugural session in April 1990. Popular
Front representatives, for example, entered a motion to rename the
Supreme Soviet the National Council (Sfatul Tarii, the name of the 1917
legislature), which, they argued was in keeping with national tradition.
Although this motion failed, it provoked an acerbic public exchange
among the deputies, which made subsequent cooperation difficult at best.
A second controversial motion, on establishing a Moldovan flag (three
equal vertical stripes of bright blue, yellow, and red, like the
Romanian flag, but with Moldova's coat of arms in the center), passed in
the Supreme Soviet but was widely and conspicuously disregarded by its
The selection of a new legislative leadership also provoked political
confrontation. Those appointed to high-level posts were overwhelmingly
ethnic Romanians, a situation that left minority activists little hope
that their interests would be effectively represented in deliberations
on key issues. Ethnic Romanians accounted for only 70 percent of the
Supreme Soviet as a whole but for 83 percent of the leadership. All five
of the top positions in the Supreme Soviet were held by ethnic
Romanians, as were eighteen of twenty positions in the new Council of
Faced with what they considered a concerted effort by ethnic Romanian
nationalists to dominate the republic, conservatives and minority
activists banded together and began to resist majority initiatives.
Organized in the Supreme Soviet as the Soviet Moldavia (Sovetskaya
Moldaviya) faction, the antireformers became increasingly inflexible.
As confrontation grew among legislative leaders, initiatives
undertaken at the local level drew the republic into worsening
interethnic conflict. In the minority regions, local forces actively
resisted what they considered to be discriminatory legislation from
Chisinau. May Day celebrations in Tiraspol became mass protests against
the republic's Supreme Soviet. The Tiraspol, Bender, and Rîbnita city
councils, as well as the Rîbnita raion council, each passed
measures suspending application of the flag law in their territories.
Deputies from Tiraspol and Bender, unable to block legislation they
considered inimical to their interests, announced their intention to
withdraw from the Supreme Soviet. Pro-Popular Front demonstrators
outside the Supreme Soviet responded to what they perceived as the
obstructionism of minority legislators by becoming increasingly hostile.
Following a series of confrontations in the capital, a leading
legislative representative of Yedinstvo was badly beaten; 100 deputies
associated with the Russian-speaking Soviet Moldavia faction withdrew
from the Supreme Soviet on May 24, 1990.
A new reformist government, with Mircea Druc as chairman of the
Council of Ministers, took over that same day after the previous
government suffered a vote of no confidence. The many changes wrought by
this government included a ban on the CPM, a ban on political parties
becoming in effect synonymous with the government, and the outlawing of
government censorship. In June 1990, the country changed its name from
the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic to the Soviet Socialist Republic
of Moldova and declared its sovereignty.
Increasing strain between nationalists and their opponents had become
apparent since the opening session of the Supreme Soviet. In the
culmination of this trend, delegates to the second congress of the
Popular Front passed measures signaling a clear break with the CPM and
took an openly nationalistic direction. The Popular Front's new program
called for the country to be renamed the Romanian Republic of Moldova,
for its citizens to be called "Romanians," and for the
Romanian language to be designated the language of the republic. The
program also called for the return of ethnic Romanian-inhabited areas
transferred to Ukraine when the Moldavian SSR was formed and for the
withdrawal of Soviet forces.
The Popular Front's promotion of this agenda, which was perceived by
minority populations to be expressly nationalistic in character,
inexorably fractionalized the population. Many of Moldova's ethnic
Romanians also perceived the Popular Front as extremist, excessively
pro-Romanian, and ineffectual. The opposition was able to bring the
public's general dissatisfaction with the Popular Front into focus and
eventually bring about a reversal in the political fortunes of the
Moldova - Conflict in Transnistria and Gagauzia
As the summer of 1990 advanced, the country's initially inchoate
political divisions transformed themselves into competing governmental
authorities. Delegates to city and raion councils in
Transnistria and in the Gagauz region met independently with their
Supreme Soviet delegates and called for regional autonomy.
Republic-level officials denounced these efforts as separatist and
As efforts to reach some form of accord foundered, more decisive
measures were taken. On August 21, 1990, the Gagauz announced the
formation of the "Gagauz Republic" in the five southern raioane
where their population was concentrated, separate from the Moldavian SSR
and part of the Soviet Union. The Transnistrians followed suit on
September 2, proclaiming the formation of the "Dnestr Moldavian
Republic," with its capital at Tiraspol, as a part of the Soviet
It was under these circumstances that violence broke out in the fall
of 1990. A decision by Gagauz leaders to hold a referendum on the
question of local sovereignty was intensely opposed by the republic's
government and by the Popular Front. Rival political forces mobilized
volunteer detachments to defend their competing interests by force.
Adding to the volatility of the conflict between the Gagauz and the
ethnic Romanians, militia forces from Transnistria entered the Gagauz
region to support the sovereignty movement there.
In the Transnistrian city of Dubasari, the militia seized the city
council building as part of its preparations for a referendum on
autonomy in the region. When the republic's police sought to retake the
building, new forces were mobilized from ethnic Romanian regions as well
as from Russian-speaking regions. In the ensuing conflict, three persons
were killed and dozens more wounded.
Relations between the separatists and the republic's government were
characterized by mutual denunciations and sporadic violence from late
1990 until early 1992, when conditions took a sharp turn for the worse.
As efforts among Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to mediate the
conflict floundered and as the Transnistrian separatists consolidated
their position with the support of Russia's 14th Army, pressure built on
President Snegur to take decisive action to resolve the conflict.
In late March 1992, Snegur declared a state of emergency across the
republic, and soon afterward the government made an effort to disarm the
separatists' militia. These efforts were met by armed resistance, which,
by May 1992, had escalated into a full-scale civil war as weapons
released to the Transnistrians by the 14th Army were used against
Moldovan military units.
By the close of the summer, more than 300 people had been killed in
the conflict, and more than 1,000 had been wounded. A large part of the
city of Bender, which had become a focal point of the conflict, had been
devastated; thousands of refugees flooded out of the region.
Easing of Tensions
While combat in the civil war remained at a bloody stalemate into
mid-1992, the political situation in Moldova changed dramatically, at
least partly as a consequence of popular dissatisfaction with the
conflict. In the first stage of the realignment, former CPM First
Secretary Lucinschi was named ambassador to Russia. Lucinschi, the
highest-ranking "Moldavian" outside of the country during the
communist era, was able to use his connections with the Moscow political
elite to promote accommodation.
Soon afterward, in July 1992, Prime Minister Valeriu Muravschi (who
had replaced Mircea Druc) was replaced by Andrei Sangheli of the
Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova. Sangheli was a former CPM raion
committee first secretary and member of the Council of Ministers.
Sangheli's new government included significantly improved minority
representation and promised a more efficient economic reform program, as
well as a more moderate approach to the ethnic conflict.
By taking this more flexible approach, Moldova was able to reduce the
level of violence involved in the separatist dispute, if not to bring
the conflict to an end. But the shift in policy direction precipitated a
strong backlash from the more extreme elements of the Popular Front,
which felt that it was slipping from power. This and popular
dissatisfaction with the failing economy forced a fundamental political
In December 1992, President Snegur, who clearly supported the more
conciliatory course, touched off a crisis by delivering a speech to
Parliament in which he laid out a course of foreign policy based on the
pursuit of national independence. Snegur warned against the extremes of
either unification with Romania or reintegration into some form of
alliance with Russia. His public position against efforts to promote
unification further soured relations between himself and the Popular
Front and at the same time sharpened divisions between moderates and
more extreme nationalists within the Popular Front itself.
Fallout from Snegur's speech was almost immediate. In early January
1993, Alexandru Mosanu, chair of the Moldovan Parliament, offered his
resignation, citing the differences between himself and the president of
the republic and complaining about tendencies within the government
favoring the previous political system.
If, as some suggest, Mosanu's resignation was intended to rally
support in an effort to undermine President Snegur, it failed miserably.
Not only was the resignation accepted, but Parliament voted
overwhelmingly to replace Mosanu with Petru Lucinschi, a leader of those
very forces about which Mosanu had warned.
Moldova - Lucinschi and Political Realignment
Lucinschi's election on February 4, 1993, to the leading position in
Parliament marked the peak of a process of political realignment in
Moldova. By early 1993, the Popular Front, now named the Christian
Democratic Popular Front (CDPF) was in neartotal disarray. Moderate
intellectuals (such as Mosanu), who had added tremendously to the
prestige of the Popular Front during its early years, organized the
"Congress of Intellectuals" in order to promote a
nationalistic, but less extreme, agenda. As a result, they were expelled
from the CDPF in mid-May.
As a consequence of factionalism and defection, the CDPF's voting
strength in Parliament was reduced to approximately twenty-five
deputies. With the CDPF in decline, power shifted to the bloc of
Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova deputies (the Viata Satului
legislative club), which, with support from independent deputies, was
able to play a dominant role in Parliament.
Lucinschi's election and the realignment of forces among the deputies
brought Parliament into much closer alignment with President Snegur and
Prime Minister Sangheli's government on the ethnic conflict. As a
consequence, Moldova was better positioned than it had been in the
previous two years to end the infighting that had characterized its
political life during that time. There was hope that Moldova's leaders
would be able to resolve the ongoing civil conflict, which had, of
necessity, been the dominant issue in the republic since its inception,
and to proceed with the reforms that Moldova so desperately needed.
At the same time, the realignment moved Moldova's government into a
more conservative position with respect to economic and political
reform, marginalizing legislators who were elected as opposition
candidates and vesting more power in the hands of those who were
originally elected as representatives of the CPM. In particular, the
realignment gave near-veto power to the bloc of Democratic Agrarian
Party of Moldova deputies, many of whom were state and collective farm
presidents. Although the great majority of these individuals supported
democratic politics, the strength of their commitment to the transition
to a market economy was questionable.
Despite the powerful combination of government, the presidency, and
Lucinschi's parliamentary leadership working in harmony, the hopelessly
tangled web of factions and rivalries within Parliament could not be
overcome, and legislation ground to a halt. The pro-Romanian faction
objected, but a vote was taken to dissolve parliament and hold early
Moldova - The 1994 Elections
Campaigning for the February 27, 1994, parliamentary elections
revolved around economic reform, competing strategies for resolving the
separatist crises, and relations with both the CIS and Romania. Debate
on the issues of moving to a market economy, privatization, land reform,
and foreign policy was polarized.
The results of the election quickly changed the course of Moldovan
politics and stood in sharp contrast to the results of the 1990
election. Nationalist and pro-Romanian forces were rejected
overwhelmingly in favor of those backing Moldova's independence and in
favor of accommodating ethnic minorities.
Under laws passed in preparation for the February 27, 1994,
elections, the Parliament was reduced from 380 seats to a more
manageable 104. Fifty of these delegates were selected from fifty newly
drawn single-member districts, and the remainder were elected from
larger multimember districts on the basis of proportional
representation. Candidates were nominated by voters (independent
candidates had to submit petitions with at least 1,000 signatures),
political parties, or "sociopolitical organizations"; parties
had to receive at least 4 percent of the vote to be accorded seats.
The Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova won a majority of fifty-six
of the 104 seats, followed by the Yedinstvo/Socialist Bloc with
twenty-eight seats. Two pro-Romanian unification parties did not do
well: the Congress of Peasants and Intellectuals won eleven seats, and
the CPDF won nine seats. A number of other parties did not get a high
enough percentage of the popular vote to be represented in the new
In March the chair of Parliament, Petru Lucinschi, was elected to his
post, and the prime minister, Andrei Sangheli, was reappointed to his
post. In April Parliament approved a new Council of Ministers, Moldova's
membership in the CIS, and Moldova's signing of a CIS charter on
economic union (although the country would not participate in political
or military integration within the CIS). A referendum on March 6, 1994,
confirmed the country's course of political independence for the future:
the Moldovan electorate voted overwhelmingly for Moldova to maintain its
Now that the legislative logjam was broken, Parliament was able to
work on a new constitution, which it ratified on July 28 and implemented
August 27, 1994. The new constitution granted substantial autonomy to
Transnistria and the "Gagauz Republic" while reasserting
Moldovan national identity and sovereignty. Gagauzia (in Romanian;
Gagauz-Yeri, in Gagauz) would have cultural, administrative, and
economic (but not territorial) autonomy and would elect a regional
legislative assembly, which in turn would elect a guvernator
(in Romanian; baskan, in Gagauz), who would also be a member of
the Moldovan government. This was ratified by Parliament in January
Members of the Democratic Agrarian Party of Moldova held a cautious
attitude toward marketization and privatization, leading experts to
believe that progress in economic reform would be slow, but would be
more consistent and better implemented than previously. The hard-line
nationalists and the former communists could not vote as a majority to
Moldova - Human Rights
The adoption of Moldova's constitution of August 27, 1994, codified
certain basic human rights (including the rights to private property,
individual freedom and personal security, freedom of movement, privacy
of correspondence, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of
assembly), which were observed more in the breach during the Soviet era.
However, the constitution still contains language that could limit the
activities of political parties and the press.
Although there is not government censorship of Moldova's independent
periodicals and its radio stations and cable television stations,
journalists complain that editors encourage them to soften their
criticisms of government officials for fear of confrontation and
possible retribution. This seems to be a well-grounded fear in
Transnistria, where the authorities have cut off funding for two
newspapers for occasionally criticizing some government policies and
have physically attacked a cable television station for broadcasting
reports critical of the authorities.
In 1994 Parliament considered a new law on the press, which
journalists criticized strongly because it limited their right to
criticize government policies. After reviewing recommendations from the
Council of Europe and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in
Europe (CSCE), Parliament liberalized the law but left some restrictions
that appear to be aimed at writings favoring reunification with Romania
and those questioning Moldova's right to exist.
The Moldovan Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of National
Security were investigated on several occasions in 1994 as to whether
they had exceeded their legislated authority. They were accused of
monitoring political opposition members and using unauthorized wiretaps.
There were also claims of interference with opposition activities during
the campaign preceding the 1994 elections, but there was no public
investigation of those charges. The police, subordinate to the Ministry
of Interior, are known to use beatings in their dealings with some
detainees and prisoners.
Reform of the judiciary (to bring it more into line with Western
practices) was approved, but Parliament had not passed the laws needed
to implement it by the end of 1994. For example, prosecutors rather than
judges issue search and arrest warrants, there is no judicial review of
search warrants, and courts do not exclude evidence obtained illegally.
There are also reports that local prosecutors have brought unjustified
charges against individuals in retaliation for accusations of official
corruption or for political reasons.
Trials in Moldova are generally open to the public, and the accused
has the right to appeal. Bail does not exist, but release usually may be
arranged by obtaining a written guarantee by a friend or family member
that the accused will appear in court.
Because the security forces and the government of the "Dnestr
Republic" are so closely connected, human rights abuses in
Transnistria are more flagrant. The worst of the abuses in Transnistria
occurred in 1992, during the height of the fighting. There were reports
of beatings, ill treatment, abduction, torture, and even the murder of
civilians by members of the police and the so-called Republic Guard.
Requests for visits by Amnesty International and the International
Committee of the Red Cross were routinely refused.
In Transnistria four of the six ethnic Romanians of the
"Tiraspol Six" remain in prison following their conviction in
1993 for allegedly assassinating two Transnistrian officials. The
fairness of the trial was seriously questioned by international human
rights groups, and there were allegations that the defendants were
prosecuted solely because of their membership in the CDPF.
Moldova has several local human rights groups, which maintain
contacts with international organizations, including Helsinki Watch and
Helsinki Citizens Assembly. The government does not interfere with human
rights groups' operations.
Moldova - The Media
The main daily newspaper in the republic, Moldova Suverana,
is published by the government. Sfatul Tarii is published by
Parliament, which also publishes the daily Nezavisimaya Moldova
in Russian. Other principal newspapers include Rabochiy Tiraspol'
(in Russian, the main newspaper of the Slavs in Transnistria), Tara,
Tineretul Moldovei/Molodëzh Moldovy (in Romanian and
Russian), and Viata satului (published by the government). The
main cultural publication in Moldova is the weekly journal Literatura
si arts, published by the Union of Writers of Moldova. Other
principal periodicals include Basarabia (also published by the
writers' union), Chiparus, Alunelul, Femeie
Moldovei, Lanterna Magica, Moldova, Noi,
and SudEst . Kishinëvskiye novosti, Kodry,
and Russkoye slovo are Russian-language periodicals. Other
minority-language periodicals include Prosvita and Homin
in Ukrainian, Ana sözu and Cîrlangaci in Gagauz, Rodno
slovo in Bulgarian, and Undzer col/Nash golos in Yiddish
and Russian. In all, 240 newspapers (ninety-seven in Romanian) and
sixty-eight magazines (thirty-five in Romanian) were being published in
the republic in 1990. Basa Press, an independent news service, was
established in November 1992.
Moldova - FOREIGN RELATIONS
In the wake of its proclamation of sovereignty in 1990, Moldova's
main diplomatic efforts were directed toward establishing new
relationships with the Soviet Union's successor states, establishing
diplomatic links with other national governments and international
bodies, gaining international recognition, and enlisting international
support to resolve the conflict in Transnistria. Although substantial
gains have been made in each of these areas, Moldova's foreign policy
efforts have been complicated by its geographic position, its history,
and the ongoing ethnic conflict within its borders.
After it declared independence, Moldova made significant progress in
international relations in a relatively short period of time. The first
state to recognize Moldova's independence was neighboring Romania. By
early 1995, Moldova had been recognized by more than 170 states,
including the United States (which extended recognition on December 25,
1991), although foreign diplomatic presence in Chisinau remains limited.
As of early 1995, Moldova had been admitted to several international
organizations, including the CSCE (renamed the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, in January 1995), the United Nations
(UN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the North
Atlantic Cooperation Council, and the Community of Riparian Countries of
the Black Sea. It also had observer status at the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the
successor to GATT.
By mid-1994 Moldova had accepted all relevant arms control
obligations of the former Soviet Union. It had ratified the Conventional
Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty (with its comprehensive limits on key
categories of conventional military equipment). Even though Moldova had
not acceded to the provisions of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,
it had indicated that it intended to do so.
<>Commonwealth of Independent States
Moldova - Commonwealth of Independent States
The domestic political ramifications of Moldova's civil conflict in
Transnistria were matched by its effect on foreign relations. Domestic
sentiments limited the foreign policy flexibility of the government in
dealing with the former Soviet Union. Although President Snegur signed
the Minsk Agreement (which created the CIS; see Appendix C) on December
8, 1991, and the Alma-Ata Declaration (which expanded the membership of
the CIS; see Appendix D) on December 21, 1991, Moldova's Parliament,
strongly influenced by the Popular Front bloc of delegates, refused to
ratify the agreements.
Further, along with Ukraine and Turkmenistan, Moldova refused to sign
a January 1993 agreement that would have strengthened political and
economic integration among CIS members. It thus embarked upon a
difficult course of independence, maneuvering between Russia and
Romania, both of which have strong interests in the region, and each of
which is more powerful than the young republic. It was only in April
1994 that the new Parliament finally approved Moldova's membership in
the CIS and signed a CIS charter on economic union.
Moldova - Romania
The relationship between Moldova and Romania, while generally good,
is far from trouble free. Although Romania was the first state to
recognize Moldova and has provided substantial support to the new
republic in relation to Bucharest's means, ties between the two
Romanian-speaking states are fraught with political difficulties for
The relationship between Romania and Moldova began to deteriorate
shortly after Moldova's independence. Because of their different
histories, with Moldova part of the Russian Empire and later the Soviet
Union, Moldovans and Romanians have different attitudes about basic
social and political issues, such as the extent of social payments (i.e.
welfare). Many Romanians see the Moldovans as "Russified" and
hold the condescending view that they are in need of assistance to
overcome their cultural disabilities. This has been a source of growing
resentment among the majority of Moldovans.
For his part, Romania's president, Ion Iliescu, worked consistently
to maintain a positive relationship with Russia. On the one hand, moves
on his part that could be seen as destabilizing the interethnic balance
in Moldova and tipping it toward civil war would be potentially
disastrous for his country, both in the limited sense of setting back
Russian-Romanian relations and in the more serious sense of potentially
drawing Russia into a regional conflict. On the other hand, any
precipitous move on the part of Moldova in the direction of Romania
would immediately raise fears of imminent unification with Romania among
the Russian-speaking population and among the Gagauz and would feed
interethnic hostility in the republic. The March 6, 1994, referendum
confirmed to all interested parties, in no uncertain terms, that the
populace of Moldova is not in favor of reuniting with any country.
In late 1994, President Iliescu made comments questioning Moldova's
independent status. Although relations between the two countries remain
cordial, these comments reflected the Romanian nationalistic parties'
greater influence in national politics and in the parliament.
Moldova - Russia
In the case of Russia, interethnic conflict in Moldova produced
results similar to those that followed outbreaks of violence in other
former republics of the Soviet Union soon after they had proclaimed
their independence. Intrinsically, Moldova was probably of little
interest to Moscow, but the presence of an ethnic Russian minority in
Moldova altered Moscow's perspective. Moldova's ethnic Russians found
the prospect of Moldova's reunification with Romania alarming, because
it would alter their status from that of a large and politically
powerful force to that of a small and politically powerless minority.
Moldova was geographically important to both the Russian Empire and the
Soviet Union because it formed part of the border of both. In this way,
it formed a barrier between Russia itself (in both cases, the ruling
entity) and the outside world.
Although officially neutral, the Russian 14th Army (stationed in
Transnistria) played a vital role in the conflict between the government
of Moldova and the "Dnestr Republic." Its commanders permitted
the transfer of weapons from their stockpiles in Moldova to the
Transnistrian militia and volunteered the services of "Cossack"
forces that entered the region once fighting broke out
(there were approximately 1,000 "Cossacks" in Transnistria in
1994). Furthermore, strong indications suggested that elements of the
14th Army actively intervened on the side of the separatists during the
fighting, using their heavy weapons to turn the tide in the fighting
Eventually, however, it became evident that the Transnistria conflict
was not about ethnic issues (especially once implementation of the
language law of 1989 was delayed, and the Popular Front extremists lost
much of their power), but about political systems. The Transnistrian
leadership wanted to return to the days of the Soviet Union and was wary
of the Yeltsin government (it never repudiated its support of the August
1991 coup d'état) and the reformists.
In July 1992, an agreement negotiated by presidents Snegur and
Yeltsin established a cease-fire in Transnistria, which brought an end
to the worst of the fighting in Moldova. Transnistria was given special
status within Moldova and was granted the right to determine its future
should Moldova reunite with Romania. Russian, Transnistrian, and
Moldovan peacekeeping troops subsequently were introduced into
Maintaining the agreement was, however, complicated by the
instability of Russia's central government and by the implications of
the 14th Army's involvement for Russia's domestic politics. The 14th
Army's commander, Lieutenant General Aleksandr V. Lebed', was
politically extremely conservative and, despite repeated warnings from
his superiors to restrain himself, had stated publicly that he would not
"abandon" Transnistria's ethnic Russians. Like Lebed',
Russia's conservatives generally considered abandonment of the ethnic
Russian minority to be an anathema. In 1995 nationalists in Russia
(whose strength was growing) were ready to protect the
"rights" of Russians in the "near abroad" and would,
no doubt, politically attack moderates who might be willing to end the
conflict through compromise.
By 1994, however, relations between the Transnistrian leadership and
the 14th Army had deteriorated to the point that both sides were
accusing each other of corruption (including arms trafficking, drug
running, and money laundering) and political provocation. General Lebed'
also saw many in the Transnistrian leadership as not cooperating with
Russian efforts to mediate the conflict and as actively hampering the
After the 1994 change in Moldova's government, compromises were made
by both the Moldovan and the Russian governments to improve relations
over the issue of Transnistria. The status of the 14th Army was
scheduled to be reduced to that of an "operational group,"
General Lebed' was to be released from his position, and the number of
officers was to be reduced. The two countries signed an agreement in
October on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria within
three years. Moldova accepted a linkage between withdrawing Russian
troops and achieving a political solution to the conflict in
Transnistria. Transnistrian observers, who had feared that the Yeltsin
government would strike a deal without their consent, saw the agreement
as a blow to their existence as a Russian entity (and also to their
illegal money-making activities) and walked out of the negotiations.
However, peace was not to come so easily to Transnistria. The October
1994 agreement was a "gentlemen's agreement" that was signed
by the two prime ministers and was to be approved by the two
governments, but would not be submitted to the countries' parliaments.
The Moldovan government approved the agreement immediately, but the
Russian government did not, citing the need to submit it to the Duma
(the lower house of the Russian parliament), although it still had not
submitted the agreement in mid-1995.
According to General Lebed', three years was not enough time to
withdraw the 14th Army and its matériel (although an American company
working in Belarus offered to buy the 14th Army's ordnance and destroy
it). Some members of Russia's Duma flatly refused to consider
withdrawing the 14th Army. Under these circumstances, there was little
hope for the agreement to be implemented.
In mid-1995 General Lebed' resigned in protest over the
still-scheduled downgrading of the 14th Army. He was believed to be a
likely candidate in the 1996 Russian presidential elections.
Moldova - Ukraine
Moldova's relationship with Ukraine, another important player in the
Transnistrian conflict, is also complicated. Historically, areas that
were traditionally part of the region of Moldova or Romania (northern
Bukovina, Herta, and southern Bessarabia), and that continue to be
inhabited in part by ethnic Romanians, were annexed by Ukraine when the
Moldavian SSR was formed. The potential claims on these territories
created tension between the two neighbors in the early years of
Moldova's independence, when the Popular Front made public demands for
Another potential problem is the presence of a large ethnic Ukrainian
minority in Moldova. Ethnic Ukrainians have sided with the local ethnic
Russians in the dispute over Moldova's language law, and many ethnic
Ukrainians have supported the separatist effort in Transnistria.
However, the government of Moldova took significant measures to meet the
demands of the Ukrainian minority for cultural autonomy and appears to
have met with substantial success in defusing opposition to Moldova's
In 1995 potential problems between Ukraine and Moldova were
subordinate to what had emerged as a strong common interest in
containing the Transnistrian conflict. Given their own dispute with
Russia concerning the status of Crimea, Ukrainians had little interest
in supporting the presence of Russian military units outside Russia.
As a more practical question, it was not in Ukraine's interest to
have a large and well-equipped Russian military formation based in
neighboring Transnistria. The 14th Army could reach Russia only by
traversing Ukrainian territory or airspace, so its presence could only
be seen as a potential source of danger and instability. Therefore, it
is not surprising that Ukrainian president Leonid M. Kravchuk made
several statements supporting Moldova's position in the Transnistrian
conflict, protested the movement of "Cossack" volunteers
across Ukrainian territory to Transnistria, and refused to recognize
Transnistrian claims to sovereignty.
Moldova - Turkey
Politically moderate Gagauz received support from Turkey, which urged
the leadership of the "Gagauz Republic" to negotiate with the
Moldovan government rather than resort to violence, as had been the case
in Transnistria. Turkish president Süleyman Demirel visited the
"Gagauz Republic" in mid-1994, urging the Gagauz to accept
regional autonomy and to be loyal citizens of Moldova. Turkey pledged to
invest US$35 million in the Gagauz region via Chisinau.
Moldova - United States
Moldova has pursued cooperation with, and has strived to maintain
good relations with, the West. It has joined a number of international
organizations and has been responsive to foreign concerns about the pace
of its conversion to capitalism. A January 1995 trip by President Snegur
to the United States was the setting for an announcement by President
William J. Clinton of additional assistance to Moldova for its
privatization program and for economic restructuring. Moldova has also
signed bilateral treaties with European Union (EU) members.
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