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Moldova Background

Official name Republica Moldova (Republic of Moldova)
Capital Chișinău
Population estimate (2008) 3,760,000


Since its independence in 1991, Moldova has been beset with an array of challenges stemming from four problematic situations. First, the country has sought to establish a viable state where no tradition of self-government and sovereignty had existed before. Second, without a local political tradition, it was difficult for Moldova to agree on a constitution and to find political leaders untainted by association with the highly centralized, authoritarian Soviet Union. Third, the transition from a controlled economy to a free market economy has been rocky. A largely agricultural economy based on state and collective farms had been developed under Soviet rule. When many of these farms were broken up and turned over to individuals after independence, considerable dislocation, loss of productivity, and allegations of corruption resulted. Finally, the economic transition was further impeded by the fact that much of Moldovan industry was located in the separatist region of Transdniestria, which had proclaimed independence from Moldova in 1990, resulting in a brief civil war. Although a cease-fire was declared in 1992, relations remained tense between Moldova and Transdniestria, and Russian troops are still present in the security zone. Transdniestria is also the source of much of Moldova’s electricity, which has been cut off at various times. Thus, Moldova’s road to nationhood has remained bumpy—from the first efforts at nation-building to the country’s pursuit of peace and prosperity in the 21st century.


About three-fourths of Moldova’s population consists of ethnic Moldovans. There are smaller populations of Ukrainians, Russians, Gagauz, Roma (Gypsies), and Bulgarians. The Ukrainian population of Moldova, the largest minority group, is divided between those who are native to the country (their ancestors having farmed for centuries in what is now Moldova) and those who migrated to Moldova during the periods of Russian and Soviet control. The former group makes up the majority of Ukrainians in Moldova. Moldova’s Russian population arrived during the periods of Russian imperial and Soviet rule, usually as civil servants and labourers. The Gagauz, a mainly rural people, have lived on the Bugeac Plain since the late 18th century. The country’s ethnic Bulgarians also are mainly rural and inhabit the southern districts, where they settled at the end of the 18th century. Only a small percentage of Moldovan citizens identify themselves as Roma.


During the 1960s the population of the republic grew rapidly; however, starting in 1970 it increased at a steady but slower rate. Since independence, though, Moldova’s population has decreased, largely owing to the emigration of Moldovans seeking economic opportunities elsewhere and to the virtual end of immigration from Russia and Ukraine, which had contributed to earlier population growth. Moreover, a sharp decline in the standard of living and in the quality and availability of public health and medical facilities in the early 1990s lowered life expectancy. Infant mortality and insufficient health care, especially in rural areas, were serious problems. The number of stillbirths and infant deaths, which had fallen significantly from the early 1970s to the early 1980s, rose in the late 1980s and remained high throughout the early 2000s. Although Moldova’s birth rate remains low compared with the world average, it is higher than that of nearby Romania, Ukraine, and Russia.


During the communist era a diversified industry was established in Moldova, agriculture was modernized, and transport and the building industry were overhauled. Following independence, the government began the gradual transformation from a command (centrally planned) to a market economy, establishing a program to privatize many state enterprises primarily through distribution of ownership vouchers to the public. The transition has been slow and uneven because of corruption, lack of foreign investment, and other economic pressures. In the early 21st century Moldova was among the poorest countries in Europe.

More than half of the country’s land is arable, and most of that land is used to grow temporary crops (those that are sown and harvested during the same agricultural year). About one-tenth of the land is used to cultivate permanent crops (those that are planted once but will not be replanted after each annual harvest). Most Moldovan farmers dedicate large shares of land for export crops.

Moldova’s greatest resources are its fertile soil and its climate, both of which contribute to the agricultural potential of the country. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moldova lost a large part of its manufacturing sector. This was due in part to the economic shock of the transition to a market economy and Moldova’s separation from the integrated economy of the Soviet Union and Soviet bloc. Moreover, the bulk of the country’s industry is located in the breakaway region of Transdniestria, though, owing to Transdniestria’s isolation from the rest of the country, manufacturing in the region has failed to live up to its potential.


Moldova is one of the poorest country in Europe and a major source country for people, predominantly women, who are illegally trafficked out of the country and forced into prostitution all across Europe.

80% of the Post-Communist countries 3.8 million population live below the poverty line and the mainstay of Moldova’s economy is agriculture (UN, 2008). The country has large foreign debt and there is high unemployment. Moldova gained its independence from the Soviet Union and until August 2009 the country was ruled by a Communist government. In April 2009 thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Moldova’s capital Chisinau to protest against the parliamentary elections which saw the ruling Communist Party win by 50% of the vote. There were accusations of vote rigging and parliament buildings were ransacked and set on fire (BBC, 2009). A revote was held in August 2009 and the anti-Communist opposition parties agreed to form a coalition in order to take the majority and have now established a new government, with the Liberal party leader Mihai Ghimpu acting as President ahead of the Presidential elections.

With such political, social and economical unrest it is not difficult to understand how many Moldavians want to live and work abroad. It is estimated that around 1 million Moldavians travel abroad for work (Beginning of Life Organisation, 2009). However, the criminal and secretive nature of trafficking means nobody can truly know the exact number of people forced into sex slavery. It is also difficult to identify where the victims are being sent to work, but we know popular destination countries include Russia, Turkey, Greece, Italy and the UK. It is common for women and girls to be lured with false adverts in papers and false promises from friends, family, and neighbours. They are told that if they go abroad they will find a better life and better money for themselves and their families. However, thousands of Moldavians will arrive in a foreign country to be sold to a pimp, have their passport taken from them, driven to a flat or hotel, beaten and brutally raped until they give in and agree to serve up to 40 men a night. It may seem unbelievable to trust that somebody you’ve never met will give you a safe job in a foreign country, but a quarter of all working-age Moldavians do go abroad to find work and to try and escape poverty.

Also, it is becoming increasingly common for traffickers to uses orphanages to find young and attractive girls. They pay for them to have better food and treatment and then ‘collect’ them when they leave and force them to ‘repay their debt’. This issue is fuelled by the countries problems with social orphans, who have been abandoned by their parents because they have gone abroad to find work. In recent years it has also become more common for sex trafficked women who have managed to escape or have been freed, to willingly place themselves back in the hands of their traffickers because they can see no other way of earning money to help their families out of poverty.

information supplied by Britannica Encyclopaedia & other research material.
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. matthew croak permalink
    April 28, 2010 12:37 am

    i really like this article, it is very informing on issues that have helped make and break moldova as a country. but id like to learn more about how it was started, my teacher says it was originally used by the Soviets as a death camp for those suffering genocide at the hands of the Soviet Union, and that the Soviets and Romanians just never got rid of it, and it kind of became a nation on its own.

    i await your reply=)

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