Europe

Moldova country profile

  • 15 November 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Moldova

Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova emerged as an independent republic following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with its economy relying heavily on agriculture.

Two-thirds of Moldovans are of Romanian descent. The languages are virtually identical and the two countries share a common cultural heritage.

The industrialised territory to the east of the Dniester, generally known as Trans-Dniester or the Dniester region, was formally an autonomous area within Ukraine before 1940, when the Soviet Union combined it with Bessarabia to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

This area is mainly inhabited by Russian and Ukrainian speakers. As people there became increasingly alarmed at the prospect of closer ties with Romania in the tumultuous twilight years of the Soviet Union, Trans-Dniester unilaterally declared independence from Moldova in 1990.

Fierce fighting followed. Trans-Dniester's independence has never been recognised and the region has existed in a state of limbo ever since.

FACTS

Republic of Moldova

Capital: Chisinau

  • Population 3.5 million

  • Area 33,800 sq km (13,050 sq miles)

  • Major languages Romanian (called "Moldovan" in official documents), Russian

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 66 years (men), 73 years (women)

  • Currency leu

LEADERS

President-elect: Igor Dodon

Image copyright AFP

Pro-Russian candidate Igor Dodon was elected president in November 2016 beating pro-European rival Maia Sandu with 55 percent of the vote.

His election marked the first time in 16 years that Moldova's head of state was chosen directly by the people and not by parliament.

During his election campaign Mr Dodon pledged to end Moldova's seven-year flirtation with the European Union and steer his country back towards Russia.

In 2015, Moldova was wracked by a banking scandal leading to deep public discontent over high-level corruption and poor living standards.

A former economics minister, Mr Dodon has led the Party of Socialists since 2011. His party is keen to scrap a 2014 blueprint for closer trade and political ties with the EU and instead sign up to the Russian-dominated Eurasian Customs Union.

Outgoing president: Nicolae Timofti

Image copyright Getty Images

Nicolae Timofti was elected president in a parliamentary vote in March 2012.

His appointment finally brought to an end the years of political stalemate that followed the resignation of Moldova's previous full-time president, the Communist Vladimir Voronin, in September 2009. The opposition Communists boycotted the vote to choose him.

Mr Timofti is an independent who had not previously been involved in politics. He had 36 years of experience as a judge, culminating in his appointment as chairman of the Supreme Magistrates Council.

In an address to parliament before his election, he strongly supported the aspirations of Prime Minister Vlad Filat's government for closer European Union integration.

Prime Minister: Pavel Filip

In January 2016 Pavel Filip became Moldova's third prime minister in the course of a year, the previous two having been brought down by an unfolding scandal over the embezzlement of $1bn (12.5% of GDP) from the banking system.

Like his predecessors, Mr Filip is part of the three-party pro-European-Union coalition that has run Moldova since 2009.

MEDIA

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wine is Moldova's most important export

The internet is the second most important source of news after TV. More than 1.7 million Moldovans were online by 2015 - around 49% of the population.

The top social network is Russia's Odnoklassniki (more than 800,000 accounts) followed by Facebook (570,000 accounts).

TIMELINE

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The mainly Russian-speaking Dniester region declared independence from Moldova in 1990, sparking a conflict in which hundreds died. It failed to gain recognition and remains in limbo

1924 - Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic established east of the Dniester River within Ukraine.

1940 - Russia annexes Bessarabia and combines it with most of the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic to form Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

1941-1945 - Following Nazi attack on USSR a Romanian puppet regime is installed in Moldavian SSR but driven out shortly before the end of the war when the Soviet Union regains control.

1991 - Moldova declares independence. It joins the Commonwealth of Independent States, the successor to the Soviet Union.

2001 - The elections see the communists under Vladimir Voronin win just over 50% of the vote. Voronin is elected president.

2014 - Moldova signs association agreement with the European Union, prompting Russia to impose import restrictions on the country's agricultural produce.

National Bank uncovers official inaction over embezzlement of $1bn - about 12.5% of annual GDP - from the banking system, prompting a major political crisis and credit crunch.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Moldova includes the autonomous region of Gagauzia, where nostalgia for the Soviet Union has been evident

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