Moldova - Encounter Culture
This month Encounter Culture – Alliance Abroad Group will focus on Moldova. Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova emerged as an independent republic following the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The capital, Chişinău, is in the center of the country and has 740,000 inhabitants.
The name “Moldova” is derived from the Moldova River; the valley of this river was a political center when the Principality of Moldavia was founded in 1359. The origin of the name of the river is not clear. According to a legend recounted by Moldavian chroniclers Dimitrie Cantemir and Grigore Ureche, the river was named by prince Dragoș after hunting an aurochs: after the chase, his exhausted hound Molda drowned in the river. The dog’s name was given to the river and extended to the Principality.
History and Culture The bulk of the country, between the rivers Dniester and Prut, is made up of an area formerly known as Bessarabia. This territory was annexed by the USSR in 1940 following the carve-up of Romania in the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR.
Two-thirds of Moldovans are of Romanian descent, the languages are virtually identical and the two countries share a common cultural heritage. Many Moldovans consider themselves, their culture, and their language Romanian.
The industrialized 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.
There was fierce fighting there as it tried to assert this independence following the collapse of the USSR and the declaration of Moldovan sovereignty. Hundreds died. The violence ended with the introduction of Russian peacekeepers. Trans-Dniester’s independence has never been recognized and the region has existed in a state of lawless and corrupt limbo ever since.
Location and Geography Moldova is on a fertile plain with small areas of hill country in the center and north. Only 9 percent of its territory is covered by forest, mostly in the middle. In the northern part, fertile black soil prevails and the primary crop is sugar beet. In the central and southern zones, wine making and tobacco growing are widespread. The temperate continental climate in the center of the country, with long warm summers, relatively mild winters, and high rainfall, is favorable for agriculture. The semiarid Budjak steppe in the south has drought problems. The main rivers are the Dniestr in the east and the Prut in the west. Both originate in the Carpathians; whereas the Dniestr flows directly into the Black Sea, the Prut joins the Danube at the southern tip of the country.
Economy Moldova is at a crossroads geographically, politically, and economically. Positioned between Western Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Moldova has the advantage of geographical and cultural proximity to both western markets and eastern markets. Economic transition has been typical of most post-communist countries, change and adaptation has been a slow and complex process.
After the collapse of the USSR and the declaration of independence on 27 August 1991, Moldova began a transition to a market economy and experienced a significant economic recession. The crisis in Moldova lasted for 10 years, from 1990 to 1999. During this period GDP decreased by almost three times.
From 2000 the situation has become brighter and analysts point to a number of more positive economic tendencies. Between 2000-2005, GDP in real terms increased by 43% with steady economic growth of 6% per annum. However, starting in 2006, growth slowed again, to 4%, a situation mainly caused by an import embargo in Russia on Moldovan wines and fruits. In 2009, Moldova’s economic growth actually contracted by 6%, but has since rebounded modestly. The government is continuing efforts to attract investment and stimulate exports as means of accelerating Moldova’s economic growth.
An important part of Moldova’s growth since 2000 has been the large number of Moldovans working abroad. More than half a million Moldovans work in Europe and Russia. Remittances transferred to Moldova by these citizens are still an important contributor to GDP growth.
Agriculture and food processing are important to Moldova’s economy, accounting for about one quarter of the country’s GDP. Moldova’s fertile soil supports wheat, corn, barley, tobacco, sugar beet, soybeans, sunflower seeds, walnuts, apples, and other fruits. Beef and dairy cattle are also raised, and beekeeping is widespread. Wine is Moldova’s best-known product, produced from grapes from vineyards that are concentrated in the central and southern part of the country. Moldova also produces sparkling wine and brandy.
Light manufacturing, including the production of clothing and textiles, footwear, leather goods, and carpets is also important, ranking second in terms of output and first in terms of exports. These industries benefit from low labor costs, preferential customs duties, and Moldova’s proximity to Europe.
Finally, trade and services, telecommunications, information technology, and transportation, also contribute significantly to the economy, accounting for another 25% of GDP. The Moldovan information communications technology market is at an early stage of development; yet it is among the most dynamic sectors of the economy. Moldova has one of the highest Internet connection speeds in the world, especially in Chisinau. Double digit growth was recorded in the number of Moldovan Internet connections in 2009 and 2010, with increased provider efforts to cover the market as fast as possible. Excellent Internet connections, geographic and cultural proximity to Europe, a highly educated and multilingual workforce, and affordable labor costs have also sparked a thriving ‘near shore’ industry. Moldova has become a preferred near shoring destination for many European markets.
Explore Moldova further to learn more about its culture.