Moldova's history begins with the founding of the
Principality of Moldova in the mid-1300s. From 1538 the
southeastern part of Moldova, Bugeac, was directly subject
to the Ottoman Empire, while the rest of the country was a
vassal state under the Ottomans. In 1812, the eastern part
of Moldova, including Bugeac, was conquered by Russia and
called Bessarabia. The remaining Moldova remained
subservient to the Ottomans until 1859, when this western
part united with Valakia to the new state of Romania. From
1918 Bessarabia was also included in Romania.
The Soviet Union never recognized Romania's right to
Bessarabia, and in 1924 established a Moldovan Autonomous
Soviet Republic on the eastern side of the Dnestr as part of
the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. In 1940, Bessarabia was
conquered by the Soviet Union and organized as the Moldovan
Socialist Soviet Republic. There were also some areas east
of Dnestr. But the areas in the south (Bugeac) and the north
(northern Bukovina) were added to the Soviet Republic of
Moldova became an independent state in 1991. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Moldova.
In the first millennium before our time, the area that
today constitutes Moldova was inhabited by goats and
sliders. On the Black Sea coast, the Greeks of the 6th
century BCE. colonies that traded within the country. As a
border area of the Roman province of Moesia Inferior, the
southern parts of present-day Moldova were a period under
the strong influence of the Roman Empire.
During migrations was Moldova with its open landscape
invaded many times, and over the centuries had different
people dominance of the area: Goths, Sarmat, Huns, Gepids,
Slavs, Avars, Hungarians, Pechenegs, Kuman and Mongols (the
Golden Horde from the 1200s).
At the end of Dnestr, the Italian city of Genoa had a
fortified trading station from the 1300s. It brought
commercial and cultural contacts with Western Europe.
Principality of Moldova
From the mid-1300s, probably from 1359, the Principality
of Moldova emerged as a continuation of earlier smaller
political units. This happened on the initiative of the
Hungarian King Lajos 1 as a buffer zone against the Mongols.
In the first years, the principality was under Hungarian
rule, from 1364 (or something earlier) independently under
The boundaries of the principality were gradually
extended to the east and south, so that at the beginning of
the 1400s they went by the Dnestr in the east and the Black
Sea in the south. The language of the dominant ethnic group
in Moldova was Romanian, meaning that it was descended from
Latin with strong influence from other languages in the
area, especially Slavic.
Under Turkish rule
A shorter time in the early 1400s, Moldova was under
Polish supremacy. But it was the Turks and the Ottoman
Empire that were to become the greatest threat to Moldovan
independence and territorial integrity - and then, from the
18th century, Russia.
The first Turkish conquest happened in 1484 (in Cetatea
Albă, Turkish Akkerman, today Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyj in
Ukraine), and in 1538 the Ottoman Empire annexed the
southeastern part of Moldova (Bugeac, from the 19th century
commonly called Southern Bessarabia). The area was placed
under direct Turkish rule. At the same time, what was left
of the Principality of Moldova became an autonomous vassal
state under the Sultan.
The weakening of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century
tempted both Austria and Russia to expand their influence.
The Russian pressure against Moldova began in the early 18th
century. The fact that Moldovan princes repeatedly sought
Russian support against the Turks made it easier for the
Russians to gain influence. In the 18th century, Russia
regarded Moldova as its natural sphere of influence, and
sought to undermine it in connection with several
During the Napoleonic Wars, Russia provoked a conflict
with the Ottoman Empire as a pretext to occupy Moldova and
Valakia in the fall of 1806. In the secret diplomacy of the
time, the two principalities were repeatedly used by the
great powers as lures and barter in negotiations with other
great powers. But Russia had to gradually reduce its demand
for renunciation of the two Danube principals. First, the
demand for Valakia was waived, Russia would settle for
Moldova and Bugeac. Then Russia agreed that not all of
Moldova should be renounced. The final result, decided by
the peace settlement in Bucharest (1812), was that Moldova
should be shared with Prut as a border river.
The name Bessarabia had until then only been used for
this area in the south, but its use was now extended to the
entire Russian conquest. The principality of Moldova was
thus divided roughly in the middle, with a somewhat larger
and more fertile part to Russia than the Moldovan prince
(still under Turkish supremacy) controlled Iaşi. Moldovan
protests against the split were not taken into account. In
the Russian part, 85 percent of the population were
Moldovans (Romanians). At the peace in Adrianople in 1829,
Russia, after a new Russian-Turkish war, pushed the border
south so that the Danube Delta became Russian.
Initially, the Russian administration was relatively
liberal. The old laws would still apply. Tighina became the
first capital, but in 1818 Chişinău took over as its
capital. During Nikolai 1, Bessarabia lost its partial
autonomy in 1828, and the general lines of political and
economic development up to the First World War became part
of Russia's history.
During the Crimean War (1853-1856), Bessarabia was a
march area for the Russian forces, which occupied the
principalities of Moldova and Valakia. At the peace in Paris
in 1856, Russia had to relinquish the southern part of
Bessarabia (Bugeac) to Moldova. After the Russo-Turkish War
of 1877-1878, when Romania and Russia joined forces against
the Turks, Russia withdrew southern Bessarabia.
The Union of Moldova and Valakia in 1859–1862, which
created the new state of Romania (Kingdom of 1881), aroused
interest in Bessarabia, but did not lead to any national
movement. Only during the last decades under Russian rule
did a national movement emerge. It was a reaction to the
harsher Russification that characterized the second half of
the 19th century, but was also linked to the political
interest that accompanied the Russian revolution in 1905 and
the new political bodies, including elections to the Duma.
Association with Romania
The First World War brought with it secession from Russia
and union with Romania. For Bessarabia, the war initially
meant the mobilization of a large proportion of the male
population into Russian war service. Many were deployed to
the common Russian-Romanian front in Romanian Moldova and
thus gained new national experiences about the relations
between the two Moldovan territories.
Although the Central Powers lured Romania with
Bessarabia, in 1916 Romania chose to join the Entent powers
in the hope of getting Transilvania and Bukovina from
Austria-Hungary and thus became allied with Russia.
The Russian revolution in March 1917 also led to a hectic
political activity in Bessarabia. Founded in April, the
Moldovan National Party demanded autonomy, democratic rights
and the use of Romanian languages. The national requirements
also applied to the moldovans east of the Dnestr. The idea
of a separate national assembly got increasing support. In
December 1917, Sfatul Ţării (National Council) met in
Chişinău. On December 15, the council proclaimed the
Democratic Moldovan Republic and appointed shortly after a
government. This republic was to be part of a federative,
democratic Russian republic.
The establishment was based not only on general national
autonomy requirements, but also on the fear of Ukraine,
where many nationalists wished Bessarabia to enter Ukraine.
Moreover, the situation in the Moldovan countryside was
getting out of control, especially after the Bolshevik
takeover of power in Petrograd in November. The new
government did not have the means to restore order, and on
January 18, 1918, Bolshevik forces captured Chişinău. The
largest faction in Sfatul Ţării then met in secret and
requested Romania and its allies to intervene militarily
against the Bolsheviks. On January 26, Romanian forces
After clashes east of the country, the Bolshevik forces
withdrew. On February 6, Sfatul Ţării declared the
Democratic Republic of Moldova an independent state. The new
republic currently has little economic opportunity to exist
as an independent state, and felt threatened both by Soviet
Russia and by the German-backed Ukrainian government.
On April 9, 1918, Sfatul Ţării declared union with
Romania under certain conditions, including partial
autonomy. The conditions were removed in December 1918 after
the war ended and led to the formation of Greater Romania.
The Union between Bessarabia and Romania was internationally
recognized at the Paris Peace Conference in October 1920.
But the Soviet Union never recognized Romania's right to
the province. As a reminder, in 1924 they created the
Moldovan Socialist Soviet Republic on the eastern side of
the Dnestr (Romanian Transnistria), as part of the Soviet
Republic of Ukraine. The capital was first Balta, from 1929
From 1918 to 1940, the general lines of political and
economic development became part of Romania's history. As a
region of Romania, Bessarabia was the weakest economically
developed in both 1918 and 1940. Bessarabia's economy and
communications had been integrated with Russia, and the
region's export goods were in part coincident with Romanias,
making it difficult to find new markets in Romania.
Illiteracy in Bessarabia was the highest in Romania in
both 1918 and 1940, but progress was nevertheless made.
Overall, Bessarabia remained backward, and many Romanian
politicians soon lost interest in the region. The fear of
Soviet desires for recapture also seemed inhibitory.
In a secret supplementary agreement to the German-Soviet
Non-Attachment Pact of 1939 (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact),
Germany agreed that Bessarabia should be a Soviet area of
influence. Against this background, in June 1940, the
Soviet Union demanded, in an ultimatum, that Romania
renounce Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. Romania found it
futile to resist, and on June 28 Soviet forces moved in.
In August 1940, the central part of Bessarabia, together
with part of the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Republic on the
other side of the Dnestr, was organized as a separate Soviet
Republic - the Moldovan Socialist Soviet Republic. Northern
Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina were incorporated into the
Soviet Republic of Ukraine, as was Southern Bessarabia
(Bugeac). A large number of people were arrested or killed,
not least the non-communist elite.
When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941,
Romania, now as an ally with Germany, occupied Bessarabia
after hard fighting. This occupation especially went beyond
the Jews. Tens of thousands were killed by German special
commandos and German and Romanian soldiers, and probably
over 140,000 were deported to concentration camps in
Transnistria. Over half died. When the German and Romanian
forces had to retreat to the advancing Soviet army in August
1944, Bessarabia again became the Soviet Republic after the
same borders as in 1940.
From 1944 to 1990, the general lines of political and
economic development in Moldova became part of the Soviet
Union's history. The forced collectivization of agriculture,
which began in 1940–1941, was seriously resumed in 1947 and
ended in 1950. Hundreds of thousands of people were deported
to Siberia. The Romanian language had to be called Moldovan
and written with the Cyrillic alphabet.
This was also the case last time Bessarabia was under
Russian rule. The difference was that the authorities now
avoided the name Bessarabia and instead claimed that the
Moldovans were a separate nation different from Romanians,
and that Moldovsk was a language other than Romanian. A
large part of the industrial building's labor was sourced
from other Soviet republics, which helped to increase
urbanization in the cities. When the Soviet regime collapsed
in 1991, about 65 percent of the population was Moldovan/
The road to independence
The struggle for democracy and national
self-determination in Moldova, when communism collapsed in
the Soviet Union, followed in essence the pattern of the
Baltic states. Often the independence processes in the rest
of Eastern Europe served as direct inspiration. The process
was somewhat more cautious in Moldova. One of the reasons
was that the Communist Party remained a conservative bastion
for a longer time than in the Baltics. Not surprisingly, the
steady immigration of Russians and the Russianisation of
society were among the first issues raised by oppositionists
when Soviet Prime Minister Gorbachev began his reform
The national manifestations got lots of scope from
January 1989. At a large demonstration in Chisinau, it was
demanded that the Moldovan would become an official language
and is written with the Latin alphabet, and that it should
be regarded as the same language as Romanian. Other demands
were to slow down immigration from other Soviet republics,
to rehabilitate the victims of Stalinism, to open closed
churches. Requirements were also made for environmental
protection. Conservative key figures in the party and mass
media were accused of standing in the way of perestroika.
Throughout the winter and spring of 1989, there were
several demonstrations with harsh clashes between police and
protesters. The question of language came more and more at
the center of the protests. In May, various opposition
groups joined the People's Front in Moldova, following a
pattern from the Baltic States. The pressure from the
national movement led to the Supreme Soviet of the republic
in September 1989 adopting a language law that, by the way,
met the opposition. This led to protests not only from the
Russians, but also from the Gagus in the south of the
In November 1989, Conservative Party leader Semion Grossu
was replaced. He had been sitting since 1980, and had long
succeeded in keeping nationalist tendencies at bay. His
successor was Petru Lucinschi, a native moldover who had
made a quick party career both in his home republic and in
other parts of the Soviet Union. He was given the task of
restructuring the "stagnant" party. However, it soon became
clear to him that it was too late to tempt people with the
perestroika. Instead, he opened up to national demands and
gave the Popular Front full freedom of movement.
In the spring 1990 elections, the People's Front got 40
percent of the seats in Moldova's upper Soviet Union, while
30 percent of the seats went to groups close to the People's
Front. Lucinschi administered the peaceful transfer of power
from the Communist Party to a government that had started
from a national assembly dominated by the People's Front.
Moldova's first non-communist National Assembly declared
its sovereignty in June 1990, a year and a half after
Estonia, as the first of the Baltic countries, declared its
sovereignty. After the unsuccessful coup against Gorbachev
in August 1991, Moldova, like most other Soviet republics,
declared its independence on August 27, 1991.