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, 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.
Republic of Moldova
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)
President: Maia Sandu
Former prime minister Maia Sandu thwarted pro-Russian President Igor Dodon's attempt to win re-election in November 2020.
A pro-European who failed to unseat Mr Dodon in 2016, Ms Sandu briefly headed a government in 2019, but it fell after dispute over the appointment of a prosecutor-general.
Prime Minister (acting): Aureliu Ciocoi
Foreign Minister Ciocoi took over in December 2020 when Prime Minister Ion Chicu declined to remain in office on a caretaker basis after the election of President Sandu.
Mr Chicu had the backing of the pro-Russian Socialist Party and the centre-left Democratic Party for a nominally non-party government largely staffed by former aides of then-President Dodon.
Successive administrations have struggled to prosecute suspects in a long-running scandal over the embezzlement of $1bn, 12.5% of the country's GDP, from the banking system.
The internet is the second most important source of news after TV. Around 70% of Moldovans are online.
The top social network is Russia's Odnoklassniki, followed by Facebook.
Political battles between pro-Russia and pro-West camps are played out in the media.
1924 - Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic established east of the Dniester River within Ukraine.
1940 - Russia annexes Bessarabia from Romania, and combines it with most of the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic to form Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.
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.
2014 - Moldova signs association agreement with the European Union, prompting Russia to impose import restrictions on the country's agricultural produce.
2015 - 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.