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The Republic of Moldova is a sovereign state, which is situated at the western edge of the former Soviet
Union, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. The largest part of the country
leis between two rivers, the Prut and the Dniester, with a long and narrow
strip of land, Transnistria, to the east of the Dniester. With a land area of
33, 700 square km., it is the smallest country in the former Soviet Union after
Armenia and had the biggest population density, with more than 129 inhabitants
per square kilometer. According to the 1990 census, Moldova is home to 4.3
million people, including 64% ethnic Moldovans, 13.8% Ukrainians, 13.5%
Russians, and 3.5% Gagauzes. Its south- eastern part has a large proportion of
Bulgarians. Other minorities are Greeks, Armenians, and Azerbaijanians, and
some other nationalities.
By religion, the greatest part of the population are Eastern Orthodox Christians. Moldovan Gagauzes
seem to be the only group of all Turk- origin people who are Orthodox
Christians too. Besides that Moldova also has other church communities such as
Catholics, as well as small groups of Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists and
Jews. There have been no conflicts between these denominations in the republic.
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Historians believe that ancestors of Moldavians to be Thracian tribes of the Dacians.
After the Roman conquest of this territory in the second and third centuries A. D., the local population
was Romanized, and together with the Roman colonists, they came together to
form the population of the lower Danube region and the inner Carpathian
After the colonization of the Carpathian- Balkan lands by the Slavs, the remaining part of the local
Romanized population entered into close and diverse contacts with the Slavs,
which led to the formation of a new ethnic group, the Volokhs. Historians are
inclined to believe the Volokhs were direct ancestors of all Eastern Romanian
One of the most successful epochs in the history of independent Moldova was during
the reign of Stefan cel Mare (Stefan the Great, 1457- 1504). During these years,
Moldova won important victories over Turks, Tartars, Polish, and other invaders. However, these temporary
successes could not serve as a guarantee of the future stability of the state. Under a constant threat of
aggression, these principalities, which existed in the region in those times,
Transylvania, Moldova, and Muntenia, came to realize that the only way to
oppose external invasion was unification. Their first unification took place
during the rule of Mihai Viteasul in 1593- 1601. This historic event served a
precedent for the subsequent unification of two principalities- Tara Romaneasca
and Moldova, which joined Romania in 1859.
Basarabia, a region between the Dniester and Prut rivers, which makes up the greater part of present- day
Moldova, was annexed by the Russian Empire as a result of the 1806- 1812 Russo-
Turkish was. Following the Crimea was, 1856, Russia lost the southern portion
of Basarabia to Moldova, only to gain it back from Romania in 1878 at the
Berlin Congress .With the collapse of
the Russian Empire, Basarabian leaders set up their parliament- Sfatul Tarii
(“Council of the Country”), and on March 27, 1918 it voted for unification with
However, the entire territory has shared this destiny. The authorities of the recently
formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) refused to recognize this unification, and in 1924 the
“designed” a competitive political entity, the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet
Socialist Republic (MASSR), included 14 districts east of the Dniester river,
including several districts currently belonging to Ukraine. According to the
notorious Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact and its secret appendices that outlined
“spheres of influence” for Berlin and Moscow, the region between the Prut and
the Dniester was incorporated into USSR, combined with 8 districts of MASSR,
and on August 2, 1940 a new Soviet republic was declared, the Moldovan Soviet
Socialist Republic (MSSR). The historic Moldovan lands to the north of the new
Soviet Moldova and to the south, bordering the Black Sea, were given to Ukraine.
Moldova had thus been deprived of its outlet to the sea.
In early 1940's, as the World War II was raging through Europe, Romania again claimed the territory of MSSR.
Following the war, this region was re- annexed to the Soviet Union. After 1944,
the Soviet leadership, seeking to create a uniform, patriotic empire inbred
with the Soviet culture, launched an intensive reorganization. This process
included a massive population migration, official introduction of the Russian
language and Cyrillic alphabet into everyday life, ousting of the Latin script,
and cultural re-education of the population in the Soviet traditions.
In June 1991, the Moldovan Supreme Soviet (parliament) announced the republic’s sovereignty, and on August
27, 1991, after and unsuccessful coup attempt in Moscow, declared the state
independence of the Republic of Moldova.
After that, the forum has drastically revised the legislation and conducted democratic multiparty
elections. One of the first and most important steps of the 1994- elected new
Parliament was the adoption of the new Main Law.
After Moldova had adopted the democratic Constitution in summer 1994, the republic made in impressive
breakthrough into the international arena. It was admitted into prestigious
international organizations, including the Council of Europe- the first of all
former Soviet republics (summer 1995). Later on Moldova established relations
with European Union, joined the Central European Initiative, and many other
Expanding its relations with the West, the Moldovan leadership, particularly the new Parliament, sought to
preserve its former ties and relations with former Soviet Union (FSU)
republics. Although the previous parliament refused to ratify the Agreement on
Moldova’s joining the CIS, the legislative forum did ratify the essential
document, despite the opposition’s fierce resistance. However, Chisinau made
one essential reservation: the Republic of Moldova shall participate only in
the CIS economic co-operation, and shall stay away from military and political
The current President of the Republic of Moldova is Vladimir Voronin. He represents Communist Party. Last
elections were held in 2001.
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Customs and Traditions
Since ancient times, Moldova has been proud of its popular traditions and customs,
which despite all historic hardships, are cherished and handed sown from
generation to generation. Situated at a crossroads of Latin and Slavic peoples,
Moldova has absorbed their best traditions, thus having enriched its own
culture. Simultaneously, the republic shows a bright example of how the
cultures of its many nationalities are preserved.
In all times, even during the communist rule with its total atheistic education
and de facto ban on religion, the Moldovan people hallowed many religious
holidays- Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, and other. On such days, city and
village streets are raided by groups of maskers dressed in traditional fairy-
tale costumes, which congratulate every home on a holy occasion, and wish good
and wealth to everybody. After independence these traditions have got their
historic breath back, and are even acquiring some new traits. Many of the
religious holidays have become official public holidays.
Alongside ancient holidays, there are some new- time “red days” in the calendar, such as
August 27, Independence Day, August 31, the Limba Noastra (Our Language)
Holiday, and May 9, Heroes Memory Day. Moldova is also famous for its craftsmen
who are known in many countries for their masterpieces made of clay, wool,
metal, willow, and vine.
Handmade pieces of art created by Moldovan craftsmen have been awarded with hundreds of
medals and prizes at international exhibitions. Every year, the republic
organizes traditional competitions at which the popular maestro’s demonstrates
their best works. They are also put up at traditional selling exhibitions where
visitors can not only look at the works, but also buy what they like. Unique
pieces of handwork can be seen also in many Moldovan homes, as well as in
A traveler can see hundreds of beautiful water wells along local roads, real
masterpieces of architecture with wooden and metal decorations. As a rule, such
wells bear elements of religious topics or are decorated with a popular symbols
originating from an ancient local legend.
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Culture and Arts
Moldova is a famous for its professional and amateur folk music and
dance companies. The indisputable leader here is Jok, a state run academic folk
dance company. In Moldovan language “jok” means a merry holiday with dances,
and a place in a village where this joyful performance takes place. Vladimir
Curbet heads the company “Jok”. The renowned maestro speaks about the national
culture- Guests coming to our sunny country are struck not only with its
beautiful nature, picturesque Codru woods, the Dniester, endless orchards and
vineyards and neat villages, but also the tender care with which Moldovans
uphold their ancient traditions, culture, and music. For centuries Moldovans
were known for their fiery dances, playing their generally simple national
music instruments, and beautiful songs. There are not so many countries left in
the world where modern light music companies and stars classed as are inferior
to folk performers, both in their number and professional skills. Not many
cultures have managed to preserve the art of their ancestors. And since the
folklore of different nations are often intertwined, there can hardly be a
single human heart which would remain untouched at hearing the gentle sounds of
an ancient song, or at seeing the gracious movements of a dancer in his or her
medieval costume, or at listening to an ancient ballad sung by history
At every wedding party, at every national holiday, in
small villages and big cities, Moldovans enjoy dancing their national dances
accompanied by tarafs- national orchestras. You cannot imagine Moldovans
without folk songs and dances, like food without a glass of good wine. Even on
geographic maps the outline of Moldova resembles a brunch of grapes.
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“Old Mother” Europe is famous for its thousands of cities,
ancient and young, beautiful ad no so beautiful, big and small, some noisy and
some tranquil, and all of them individual in their own way.
Chisinau is one of these cities, it is not a major
European city like London or Paris, nor it is renowned for its outstanding
beauty like St. Petersburg or Venice, or a past as heroic as that of Rome and
Athens, but like any city, its emits a charm and warmth all of its own.
History has dictated that Chisinau was to become the capital of Moldova, and the
leading center of the Dniester- Prut interfluves. Its history proves that
Chisinau has been the example of chance, persistence, and ambition. It is
difficult to believe that only two centuries ago the capital city of the
Republic of Moldova was a simple settlement covering a territory less then any
of it present day suburban communities. It is also of interest to note that
many other Moldovan cities, like Orhei, Tighina, Lapusna, Soroca, Cetatea, and
Alba, were much larger in size and played a more important role in the country
than Chisinau did. However, it was destined to become the regions center, and
the capital of Moldova.
The history of Chisinau is fairly short, though the place was populated since time
imme- morial, as can be established by many of the archaeological findings and
historical documents that have been uncovered. The earliest documentary proof
of Chisinau existence dates back to 1436. A document of no lesser significance,
written in 1466 by Stefan the Great, which certifies the transfer of Chisinau
into the ownership of Vlaicu Parcalab. In the Soviet period this document was
considered as the first official mentioning of the settlement’s existence.
As a town Chisinau was first mentioned in
century document. Its steady development and growth was
largely due to its good location on the trade road between Iasi and Tighina. The
devastating invasions by Turks and Tartars, who burned the town to ashes, were
of course a considerable impediment to its development. However, the residents
did not give in and each time restored the place anew. Eventually, by the
beginning of the XIXth
century, its population had reached
approximately 7 thousand residents. The town had about 80 small shops, 50 workshops,
6 churches, and several schools.
The real landmark of its history took place in 1812, when Basarabia acceded to the
Russian Empire. Metropolitan Banulescu- Bodoni chose Chisinau as his residence,
and the town became the administrative center of the Basarabian province. This
circumstance gave a powerful impulse to its development.
The heart of Chisinau is the Square of the Great National Assembly with its two
still existing historic elements- the Arch of Triumph and the Cathedral. The
Arch was built in 1840 to commemorate the victory of the Russian army over the
Ottoman Empire. The Cathedral is one of the most magnificent buildings in
Chisinau. It was built in 1830- 1836 in the neoclassical style under the design
of Melnikov, a St. Petersburg architect.
The Square’s south- western corner, decorated by the monument of King Stefan cel
Mare, was built in 1927. The monument which features the magnificent figure of
Stefan, who reigned Moldova for several decades since 1457, has become the
symbol of Chisinau. This genuine patriot and warrior successfully defended the
country, without any foreign assistance, from the attempted invasions by the
Turks, Tartars, Hungarians, Poles, and other aggressors.
In post- World War II decades the city was rapidly developing, building new
residential communities, which do not have any ancient- style edifices. The
majority of modern buildings are built using the same type of design and
construction to look very much alike. Such properties used to be worked out for
the whole of the Soviet Union, and due to this fact all new residential
communities in Chisinau resemble those in Moscow, Kyiv, Minsk, or in any other
city in the former USSR. Some of the most recent buildings are beginning to
attract the spectators’ eyes with the originality of the design. Such buildings
are the Presidential Office, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Opera,
the Universal Bank, and some others.
Today Chisinau has over 750 thousand residents, and the city territory covers over
170 sq. km. The city accounts for approximately 40% of the national industrial
output. Chisinau is home to the central offices of all commercial banks and
major investment foundations, all publishing houses, newspapers, and magazines.
Chisinau is the nation’s spiritual center, and is home to the Moldova’s first
free economic zone.
Despite all historic hardships, wars, aggressions, and conquests, Chisinau each time
has risen from the ashes like a Phoenix, walking up from its historic past as a
medieval Moldovan settlement to a civilized European city.
Thus, Chisinau is not just a capital city. It is the country’s soul, the place where
the country’s history is made, and the city where Moldova begins.
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