|General background: Formerly ruled
by Romania, Moldova became part of the Soviet Union
at the close of World War II. Although independent from
the USSR since 1991, Russian forces have remained on
Moldovan territory east of the Dniester River supporting
the Slavic majority population, mostly Ukrainians and
Russians, who have proclaimed a "Transnistria"
republic. One of the poorest nations in Europe, Moldova
became the first former Soviet state to elect a Communist
as its president in 2001.
Slightly larger than Maryland.
Moderate winters, warm summers
Rolling steppe, gradual slope south to Black Sea.
Population: 4,434,547 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Moldovan/Romanian 64.5%, Ukrainian
13.8%, Russian 13%, Jewish 1.5%, Bulgarian 2%, Gagauz
and other 5.2% (1989 est.)
note: internal disputes with ethnic Slavs in
the Transnistrian region
Religions: Eastern Orthodox 98.5%, Jewish
1.5%, Baptist (only about 1,000 members) (1991)
Language: Moldovan (official, virtually the
same as the Romanian language), Russian (official),
Gagauz (a Turkish dialect)
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on civil law system; Constitutional
Court reviews legality of legislative acts and governmental
decisions of resolution; it is unclear if Moldova
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction but accepts many
UN and Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) documents.
Economic overview: Moldova enjoys a favourable
climate and good farmland but has no major mineral
deposits. As a result, the economy depends heavily
on agriculture, featuring fruits, vegetables, wine,
and tobacco. Moldova must import all of its supplies
of oil, coal, and natural gas, largely from Russia.
Energy shortages contributed to sharp production declines
after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. As
part of an ambitious reform effort, Moldova introduced
a convertible currency, freed all prices, stopped
issuing preferential credits to state enterprises,
backed steady land privatisation, removed export controls,
and freed interest rates. Yet these efforts could
not offset the impact of political and economic difficulties,
both internal and regional. In 1998, the economic
troubles of Russia, by far Moldova's leading trade
partner, were a major cause of the 8.6% drop in GDP.
In 1999, GDP fell again, by 4.4%, the fifth drop in
the past seven years; exports were down, and energy
supplies continued to be erratic. Following the return
to positive GDP growth in 2000 (1.9%), Moldova experienced
strong 6.1% rise in GDP in 2001, driven by a marked
improvement in industry and a 20% improvement in agriculture.
Communication/Telephone system: Inadequate,
outmoded, poor service outside Chisinau, some effort
to modernize is under way.
Places of interest: Moldova is a picturesque
country - all rolling green hills, whitewashed villages,
placid lakes and sunflower fields - with an old-world
charm that's hard to manufacture. It also has some
of the best vineyards in Europe.
Travel tips: Care should also be taken in Transdniestr.
Separatist rebels, put out by being annexed to Moldova,
can occasionally stir up trouble, although travel
in the self-declared republic is usually safe. Stay
away from military objects and installations - Transdniestrians
tend to be suspicious of anyone showing the slightest
curiosity about them.