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 Ukraine.
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 Bogdan 1.
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 Russian-Turkish wars.
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 entered Chişinău.
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 Tiraspol.
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/ Romanian.
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 policy.
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 country.
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.