marți, 2 decembrie 2014

The Republic of Moldova: An Historical Background, Survey by Dr. Vasile Nedelciuc


Survey by Dr. Vasile Nedelciuc

Copyright © Vasile Nedelciuc, 2002

You can access this Survey by Dr. Vasile Nedelciuc in PDF format here:


The territory of the Republic of Moldova before 1991 never formed a unique and distinct political entity as it does today. Its history is perhaps one of the most complicated components of European history and, because of the inter-relationship with the history of other territories populated by Romanians, this history can only be described in an entirely separate context, except for the period after the Second World War.

Ancient times. Creation of Romanians

Born like the other Romance speaking peoples in the 1st millennium AD, the ancestors of those who are now known as Romanians have continuously inhabited the geographical space encompassing the territories stretching from the Pannonian Plain in the west to Transnistria (Transdnestr) in the east, from the Black Sea and Danube in the south to the Trans Carpathian area and Galicia in the north. Their forefathers, the Thracian tribes, had populated a larger area as early as the 2nd millennium BC. The Greeks called them Getae, the Romans called them Dacians, but they were actually a single Geto-Dacian people. The important historical references about them came mostly from Greek, Byzantine and Italian sources. From the 7th century B.C., the Greeks and then the Byzantines and Italians established their own ports and trading colonies along the northwestern shore of the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus) and on the Danube, and continued to trade with the local people.

Burebista (82 – around 44 BC) succeeded in uniting the Geto-Dacian tribes for the first time.  When the Dacian sovereign offered to support Pompey against Caesar (48 BC), he founded a powerful kingdom stretching  from the Beskids (north) to the Middle Danube (west), to the Tyras River (Nistru), to the Black Sea shore (east) and to the Balkan Mountains (south).

In the 1st century BC, as the Roman empire was expanding and Roman provinces were being created in Pannonia, Dalmatia, Moesia and Thracia, the Danube became the border between the Roman Empire and the Dacian world along 1,500 Km. In Dobrogea on the Northeastern shore of the Black Sea, which was under Roman rule for seven centuries beginning with the reign of Augustus, poet Publius Ovidius Naso was exiled to Tomis (8-17 AD) by order of the same Caesar, and he spent the last years of his life “among Greeks and Getae.”

Dacia was at the peak of its power under King Decebal (87-106 AD). After a first confrontation during the reign of Domitian (87-89), two extremely tough wars were necessary (101-102 and 105-106) for the Roman Empire, also at the peak of it’s power under Emperor Trajan (98-117), in order to defeat Decebal and turn most of his kingdom into the Roman province called Dacia. The 165 years of Roman domination over the Transylvanian Basin, and the plain to the south along the Danube and Black Sea, had an enormous impact on the destiny of  the Dacians to be freed from the Roman Empire, as well as on the already free Dacians. The Romans recorded their expansion north of the Danube on two famous monuments: one is Trajani’s Column in Rome, the work of Apollodorus of Damascus (113 AD), and the other is the Triumphal Monument on the site of their victory at Adamclisi in Dobrogea (109 AD). The defensive earthen walls (Roman vallum or bulwark) built by them in the southern part of the Prut and Nistru interfluves, traced from the banks of the Danube to the neighbourhood of Tighina (Bender), can now be admired and represent priceless historical natural deeds of Roman affiliation of these areas.

The slave-owning Romans brought with them a superior civilization and, when mixed with the conquered tribes, contributed to the formation of a new people speaking a tongue similar to Latin. These Romanised natives, be they of Roman or Daco-Roman descent, continued their uninterrupted existence as farmers, shepherds and hunters, even after the withdrawal of the Roman army and administration under Emperor Aurelian (270-275),  which moved south of the Danube as a result of the Goth attacks. But the ancestors of the Romanians remained for several centuries in the political, economic, religious and cultural sphere of influence of the Roman Empire.  After the empire split in 395 AD, they stayed in the sphere of the Byzantine Empire, which was later transformed into the Eastern Roman Empire.

The Daco-Roman ethno-cultural symbiosis was achieved and finalised in the 8th and 9th centuries by the formation of the Romanian people. It should be noted that Romanians emerged in history as Christians, since Christianity in a Latin garb was adopted by the Daco-Romans earlier during the 2nd – 4th  centuries. This is why, unlike the neighbouring nations which have established dates of Christianisation (the Bulgarians 864, the Serbs 874, the Poles 966, the eastern Slavs 988, the Hungarians 1000), the Romanians do not have a fixed date of Christianisation, as they were the first Christian nation in the region.

In the 4th – 13th centuries, the predecessors of the Romanians had to face waves of migrating peoples – the Goths, Huns, Slavs, Gepidae, Avars, Bolgars, Petchenegs, Hungarians, Cumans and Tartars – who crossed the territories of the Romanians. The migratory tribes controlled this space, from the military and political points of view, delaying the economic and social development of the natives and the formation of local statehood entities. The Romanised Dacians, actually the early Romanians still under the influence of the vanishing Roman Empire, survived in the mountainous and heavily forested regions of the country (named by their neighbours Valachs).

The Slavs, who since the 7th century massively settled south of the Danube, split the compact mass of Romanised population in the Carpathian-Danubian area: the ones to the north (the Daco-Romanians) were separated from the ones to the south, (Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians) who were moved towards the west and southeast of the Balkan Peninsula The Slavs who settled north of the Danube were assimilated little by little by the Romanian people and their language had traces in their vocabulary and phonetics of the Romanian language. To the Romanian language, the Slavic language (similar to the Germanic idiom of the Franks with the French people) was the so-called super-imposed layer.

Owing to their position, the Romanised natives south of the Danube were the first to be mentioned in historical sources (the 10th century), under the name of vlahi or blahi (Wallachians). This name came from Latin official documents, where they were called Vlachs, from which the Hungarian name Olah and the German name Wallach were derived. It clearly shows they were speakers of a Romance language and the non-Roman people around them recognised this fact. In 681, after the Slavs massively settled south of the Danube, a powerful Bulgarian czardom was established; thus the tie was cut between the Romanised world north of the Danube and the one south of the Danube. As they were subjected to all sorts of pressures and isolated from both the powerful Romanian trunk north of the Danube and Rome itself, the number of Romanised natives south of the Danube continuously decreased.  Their brothers north of the Danube, although living in extremely difficult circumstances, continued their historical evolution as a separate nation, the farthest one to the east among the descendants of Imperial Rome.

However, the Romanised population from the south of the Danube continued to play an important political and military role in southeastern Europe, especially after the collapse of the Bulgarian czardom. Thus, between 1185-1258, they succeeded in maintaining a powerful Romanian-Bulgarian kingdom with the capital in Tarnovo which covered Bulgaria north of the Balkan Mountains. An extremely interesting episode in the history of this kingdom is its short-time union with the Roman Catholic Church, established by the King Ioniţă (Kaloyan) and Pope Innocent III in 1204.

By the late 9th century, the Vlachs (i.e., ethnic Romanians) north of the Danube appear to have accepted a Slavonic liturgy and Bulgarian ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The acceptance of the Slavonic liturgy, and circulation of the Slavic (not Russian!) language on the territories of Romanians, had a political explanation. The permanent and difficult controversies between Rome and Constantinople, and the dispute over the territories north of the Danube, increased after the Bulgarians (865) and Serbs (874) adopted Christianity, choosing allegiance to the Church of Byzantium. Remaining isolated from Rome and the Vatican by these two emerging Christianised nations, the Christian Romanised population from north of the Danube had to accept the authority of a nearest autocephaly seat settled by Constantinople on the territory of Bulgarian czardom (initially at Ohrida, and then at Tarnovo).  Since the Bulgarian territory was used by Romanians to access the most attractive markets of  that time, the Latin gradually lost his influence in the area.

The Christianisation of the Poles (966) and the Hungarians (1000) under Catholic Rome, which strengthened Rome’s influence and Latin’s usage in the region, didn’t strengthen the ties between Romanians and their neighbours. This was due to the fact that Hungarians, and less the Poles, continued their expansionist military actions against Romanians. These relations continued to deteriorate after the schism between the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Byzantium (1054).

These factors explain in large part why Orthodoxy extended its influence and authority over the territories of Romanians and why the first ecclesiastical metropolitan seats for the Romanian provinces were not created until the 14th century. The Slavonic Church remained the liturgical language until the 17th century, when Romanian began to replace it. But, although the Slavic language was even a chancery and cultured language beginning with the 14th – 16th centuries, it was never a living language spoken by the people in the Romanian territories. At a certain time during the Middle Ages, it played a role for the Romanians similar to that played by Latin in the West; in the early modern age it was replaced forever in church, chancery and culture by the Romanian language.

So, at the end of the 10th century the Romanians were and are until now the sole descendants of that Eastern Roman world, and their language (Romanian), along with Spanish, French and Italian, is one of the major descendants of Latin. Moreover, the Romanians are the only ones who, through their very name – Roman (coming from the Latin word “Roman”) – have preserved to this day in this part of Europe the seal of the ancestors, so that they have always been aware of their descent. This will show later in the name of the nation state – Romania.

Middle Ages. Principality of Moldova

When the great migrations ended, the Romanians began to descend from the forested piedmonts, hills and Carpathian mountains and gradually moved toward the lower southern and eastern lands once inhabited by their ancestors. The attraction of the new uninhabited lands, and the demographic pressure of the overcrowded lands “at home”, motivated the move. This slow natural movement took several centuries. In their eastward drive, the Romanians reoccupied the whole region between the eastern Carpathian range and the surrounding hills to the Nistru River, and crossed Nistru en masse as well as in scattered groups.

Beginning with the 10th century, documents of Slavic, Byzantine, Hungarian and Latin sources bear witness to the existence of state formations throughout the territory of former Roman Dacia and surrounding areas. These formations were known as knezdoms, voivodeships and dukedoms, commonly termed by the people as “ţări” (terrae) = lands, countries, i.e. Ţara Brodnicilor, Ţara Bolohovenilor, Ţara Sepeniţului.

The first state formation of Romanians, the voievodeship of Transylvania, reached a relatively high level of political and military organisation, putting up a long resistance to the military pressure of the Hungarians between the 9th – 11th centuries. In spite of this, Transylvania had to initially accept the Hungarian leadership, and later, by the end of the 11th century and most of the 12th century, to gradually fall under Hungarian domination, although it preserved its own organisation until the fall of the Hungarian Kingdom in the 16th century.

The changes that took place in Europe in the 14th century, alongside the weakening of the more than one-hundred-year-old Golden Horde, play a role in the appearance of two other Romanian principalities in the territories that lie south and east of Transylvania. The leading Romanian circles from Transylvania, then in conflict with the Hungarian Crown because of the latter's intentions to dissolve the local autonomies, urged and stimulated the process of unification of Romanians from the lower southern and eastern lands.

As people kept crossing the mountains, a new demographic inflow and further political experience were brought to the south-and east-Carpathian leaders. In 1352-1353 Voivode Dragoş from Maramureş (northern part of Transylvania) became the first appointed ruler of the boundary province of Moldova. The economic exchanges, the development of boroughs and of towns linked through transit trade routes with the commercial world abroad, offered a good chance to the Romanian political formations to place their unification projects on a viable basis. Once their independence from the Hungarian Crown had been won in battle, two other Romanian Principalities appeared – Wallachia in 1324, and Moldova in 1359.

The principality of Moldova occupied a larger area stretching from the Black Sea and the Danube in the south, to Galicia in the north, and from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to the Nistru River in the east. Moldova had a glorious and legendary century starting with the rule of Alexandru cel Bun (1400) and with the end of the rule of Ştefan cel Mare (1504).

Many internal and foreign documents from that century confirm the existence of a very tumultuous political and cultural life in the principality of Moldova, which should be regarded, to some extent, as an expression of the remote Renaissance in the region. Some of the ceramic vestiges and coins from that period indicate that the Latin language was still used in the Moldovan chancery.

Ştefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great or the “Saint” who  was  canonized in 1992) ruled Moldova between 1457-1504 and won European renown for his long resistance to the Ottoman Empire. Never before was Moldova so expanded and so highly respected as it was during Stephen the Great’s rule. A remarkable army commander and politician, he sought to strengthen princely authority, to organize and bring about prosperity for Moldova, and to fight for its independence against foreign invasions. Though it was marked by continual strife, Stephen’s long rule nonetheless brought considerable cultural development, and was a period of great ecclesiastical building and endowment. As the legend has it, he ruled for 47 years and led 47 battles, mainly against the Turks.  He built, rebuilt or patronized about the same number of fortresses, churches and monasteries, which won him the acclaim of Pope Sixtus IV as the “Athlete of Christ”. Eventually (in 1503, when he concluded a treaty with sultan Bayezid), he managed to preserve Moldova’s independence, but only at the cost of an annual tribute to the Turks.

Soon after Ştefan cel Mare’s death, Moldova, following Wallachia, was obliged to submit to the Ottoman Empire's control through Charters called “Capitulaţii” (Capitulations). Under such capitulations the Romanian Principalities preserved their state entity, their own political, military and administrative structures, laws and social organization, thus avoiding a massive settlement of Muslims on their territories, and preserving Christianity in the region.

After the battle of Mohacs (Hungary) in 1526, and the fall of the Hungarian Kingdom, Transylvania became an autonomous principality under Ottoman suzerainty, its political regime being similar to that of Moldova and Wallachia. This status would account for enhanced economic and political relations among the Romanian Principalities, which were also favoured by the unity of language and, in a certain geographical area, by the common tradition and historical heritage.

The heaviest burden of Ottoman suzerainty was not political, but economic. At the end of the 16th century, the tribute was raised steadily and demands for goods of all kinds, i.e. sheep, grain, and lumber supplied at a very low price, had no limits; Constantinople had become dependent on supplies from the Romanian principalities. Such a status, imposed for three and a half centuries, prevented Moldova from extending and developing strong ties with its western neighbours, to follow the political, cultural and economical evolution of the Western Europe, and so to become constituent parts of the developed, democratic Europe.

An important stage in the history of the Romanians was marked by the sway of Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave), the prince of Wallachia between 1593-1601. Mihai Viteazul joined the Christian League, an anti-Ottoman coalition initiated by the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire (Austria, Mantua, Ferrara, Spain), and won the battles of Călugăreni and Giurgiu against the Turks (1595), to regain the independence of his country. In 1600, he was the first who for a short while ruled and controlled the three Romanian lands – Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldova. But the great powers – Austria, the Ottoman Empire, and Poland – did not favour such a policy, so that the union was short-lived. However, the idea of unification, embraced earlier by Russians, was kept alive and gave fresh impetus to the Romanians’ struggle for the setting up of an independent national state.

A relatively prosperous period for the principality of Moldova during the Ottoman suzerainty was during the years of the rule of Vasile Lupu (1634-1653). Vasile Lupu succeeded to not only strengthen and modernize the state and local administration, but also to develop an educational system and stimulate the genuine cultural flowering of Moldova. Among significant reforms and achievements of that period are: erection of the unique church in Iaşi “Trei Ierarhi” (1639), opening of the first university in Moldova – Academia Vasiliana (1640), publishing the first printed monument of the Romanian language (“Romanian Book of Teaching for Sundays and Other Holidays”, 1643), adoption in 1646 of the first Moldovan code of law (“Pravila lui Vasile Lupu”) etc.

Actually, from a cultural point of view, the 17th and the first half of the 18th centuries represent a period of “Great Moldovan chroniclers,” which formed the basis of the Romanian literature and historiography. Among them Grigore Ureche (1590-1647) with his “Letopiseţul Ţării Moldovei” (“Chronicle of the Land of Moldova”), and  Miron Costin (1633-1691) with his “De neamul moldovenilor” (“On the Origin of the Moldovans”) had articulately and persuasively argued, for the first time in Romanian historiography, the Roman beginnings and Latin origin of the people of Moldova. The language and historical proofs we see in the chronicle “O seamă de cuvinte” (“Some words”) of Ion Neculce (1672-1745) certifies the genuine cultural development in Moldova of that period. Later, Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723), the ruler of Moldova between 1710-1711, succeeded to summarise and formulate in some of his fundamental works, written in Latin, Romanian or Turkish and translated in several European languages, the most important facts and aspects of Moldova’s history, geography, ethnography etc.

The end of 17th and the whole 18th century witnessed the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the Russian and Austrian ones. The Eastern question came to the core of European diplomatic debates. At that time the Romanian principalities experienced a period of political decline because of the enlarged foreign powers' involvement. Thus, in the wake of the Karlowitz Peace (1699), Transylvania fell under Austrian rule. Nevertheless, the province remained an autonomous principality. Meanwhile, in their organized expansion, the Russian armies appeared in Moldova in 1711, led personally by Peter the Great. Prince Dimitrie Cantemir and Peter the Great concluded the Lutsk alliance treaty against the Turks with Russia, recognizing fully the sovereignty of Moldova and her territorial integrity.  But the Russian defeat at the hands of the Turks in 1711 proved disastrous for Moldova.  From then until 1821, the Turks replaced the Romanian Princes in both principalities with Greek administrators from the Istanbul Phanar district.

Notable economic and social changes took place in the 18th century and in the early 19th century. Same as everywhere else in Europe, the national idea began to take shape, lying at the foundation of the future plans of the Romanian politicians. The union of a part of the Orthodox clergy in Transylvania with the Catholic Church (Greek-Catholics), achieved between 1699 and 1701, played an important part in the process of emancipation of the Romanians in Transylvania. Their struggle for rights equal with the three other nationalities (although they represented over 70% of Transylvania’s population), was initiated by bishop Inochentie Micu-Klein, and continued by the intellectuals grouped in the Transylvanian School movement.This contributed substantially to exploring and enriching the Romanian history, culture and literature, and played an extraordinary role in the cultural and political “new renaissance” of all Romanians.

Modern times: Bessarabia. Romania

With the help of the Phanariot princes and dragomans (i.e. foreign ministers), who were actually high Turkish officials, the Empire hoped to preserve its control over Moldova and Wallachia. At the same time, the Ottoman political and economic supervision increased, and so did corruption. Notwithstanding its own decisions, the Ottoman Empire started using the Romanian territories as if they were its own imperial possessions, while also negotiating peace with its two rival neighbours -- the Habsburg Empire and the Tzarist Empire.

Thus, at the Passarowitz Peace talks (1718), the Turks ceded Oltenia, a region of Wallachia, to the Habsburg Empire, which held it until the conclusion of the Belgrade Peace (1739). In 1775, the Habsburgs received another similar “donation” from the Turks, this time the northern part of Moldova -- Bucovina. Bordering with the Tzarist Empire since 1792 when Russia acquired the territory known today as Transnistria, and extending its borders to the west along the river Nistru (Dnester in Russian), the Ottoman Empire was permanently threatened to lose control over Moldova. Since Russia didn’t want to wait too long for the right moment, in 1812 the Ottoman Empire “ceded” her the eastern half of the Principality of Moldova as a result of the Russo-Turkish war of 1806-1812.

At the time of its annexation by Russia, the eastern half of Moldova between Prut and Nistru did not have a name.  In many ways its central part had become the core of Moldova.  The Russians gave the name Bessarabia to the entire region, which before that was defined only to the southern part of the interfluves area along the Black Sea.  It was actually a shrewd diplomatic move to circumvent the Tilsit Treaty (1807), which committed Russia to evacuate both Wallachia and Moldova. Since the Treaty did not mention “Bessarabia,” the Russian troops could remain there. In 1812, the Russians argued that Bessarabia was still different from Moldova and it was in their interest to extend that name to the whole territory between the Prut and the Nistru rivers. The Turks who signed the Treaty were not aware of how far the region extended either.

The annexation of Bessarabia had a dramatic impact over the destiny of Romanian Moldovans from this province which, since 1812, with some short interruption, remained under Russia’s discretion until the end of communism. The annexed province had an area of 46,000 square kilometres and approximately 480,000 people, of whom 90 percent were Romanians.  In the beginning Bessarabia was an autonomous province, but in 1829 when her autonomy was ended it became a simple Russian Gubernia. Life began to deteriorate immediately and thousands of Romanians, nobles and peasants alike, crossed the Prut into what remained of Moldova, preferring to live under Turkish suzerainty.

The Russian management of Bessarabia was a disaster. The land remained   underdeveloped and the people, the native Romanians in particular, remained   overwhelmingly illiterate. Bessarabia had the highest mortality rate in Europe, 50 percent higher than the Russian average.  The Romanian language was gradually eliminated from schools, administration and even churches. Almost  all the towns of Bessarabia had a massive settlement of Russians who controlled the local authorities and industry, and the Romanian Moldovans became a source of unqualified workers for the emerging regional Russian market. They remained aloof  and  could  not integrate into the new Russian administration. 

Meanwhile, although the Turkish suzerainty persisted in the rest of Moldova and Wallachia well into the 19th century despite unsuccessful revolutions in 1821 and 1848, the cultural and political life in both Moldova and Wallachia was gradually influenced by Western European countries, especially France. Indeed, after Russia was defeated in the Crimean War (1853-1856), this called into question again the fragile European balance. Owing to their strategic position at the mouth of the Danube, as this waterway was becoming increasingly important to European communications, the status of the Danube principalities became a European issue at the peace Congress in Paris (February-March 1856). The seven powers that signed the Paris peace treaty placed Moldova and Wallachia under their collective guarantee. These powers decided then that:

·        local assemblies be convened to decide on the future organisation of the two principalities;
·        the retrocession to Moldova of Southern Bessarabia, which had been annexed in 1812 by Russia (the Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail counties);
·        freedom of sailing on the Danube;
·        the establishment of the European Commission of the Danube;
·        the neutral status of the Black Sea.

The support received from the European powers encouraged cultural and political elites from dismembered Moldova and from Wallachia to launch a new wave of unification, formed mostly by individuals educated in the western universities, All social categories participated in electing the two Ad-hoc Assemblies, which met in Iaşi and Bucharest in 1857, and unanimously voted similar resolutions claiming the Union of Moldova and Wallachia under a foreign prince selected from a ruling family of Europe. French emperor Napoleon III supported this, but the Ottoman Empire and Austria were against it, so a new conference of the seven protector powers – Great Britain, France, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Turkey, and the Kingdom of Sardinia – was called in Paris (May-August 1858).

Consequently, under the Paris Convention of 1858, the respective powers decided that a Romanian ruler be elected for each principality, the country being called henceforth the United Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia. Each had its own parliament, one in Bucharest and one in Iasi, and a joint Court of Cassation at Focşani. However, the Romanian politicians did not wait for this resolution to be implemented but acted on their own, confronting Europe with a fait accompli. Thus, on January 5/17, 1859 in Moldova and on January 24/February 5, 1859 in Wallachia they elected colonel Alexandru Ioan Cuza as their unique prince, achieving de facto the union of the two principalities. A new national state was created, which took the name România in 1862 and settled its capital in Bucharest.

The new name was adopted because most people inhabiting the lands called themselves “Români” (Romanians). The new state, which included also the Southern Bessarabia with Cahul County that belongs now to the Republic of Moldova, thus became the only legal successor of the former two principalities. The country was not officially recognized immediately, but its existence changed the balance in Eastern Europe.  Romania exercised a great deal of influence over the Romanians left outside, and confronted Russia with a new situation. It can be said that the formation of modern Romania was instrumental in stopping Russia in her drive toward the Balkans.

Assisted by Mihail Kogalniceanu, his closest adviser, Alexandru Ioan Cuza initiated a reform programme, which contributed to the modernisation of the Romanian society and state structures. This program included the law to secularise monastery assets (1863), the land reform, providing for the liberation of the peasants from the burden of feudal duties and the granting of land to them (1864), the Penal Code law, the Civilian Code law (1864), the education law, under which primary school became tuition free and compulsory (1864), the establishment of universities in Iaşi (1860) and Bucharest (1864) and so on.

But in 1866 the reform-minded Cuza was forced to abdicate and the Prussian Prince Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was appointed ruling prince of Romania on May 10, 1866, as a result of a plebiscite. The New Constitution passed in 1866 (and remaining in force until 1923) proclaimed Romania a constitutional monarchy.

In 1877, at the beginning of the 1877-78 Russian-Turkish War, Romania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire, and fought beside Russia in that war. The war brought not only the independence of Romania, but after the war, in 1878, Russia re-annexed the southern part of the territory between Prut and Nistru Rivers, while the Bulgarian region Dobrogea became part of Romania. Thus, the whole of Bessarabia, a region predominantly populated by ethnic Romanians, remained under the Russian Empire control until the end of 1917.

Throughout the 19th century, the events in the western half of the old principality moved in a very different direction from those in Bessarabia. A century of harsh Russian rule prevented all of Bessarabia from becoming a constituent part of the modern democratic Romania. In Bessarabia, Romanian Moldovans were under a ferocious process of Russianisation, with very low literacy, and in a continuing decrease of their influence among the total population of Bessarabia (from 86% in 1817 to 47.6% in 1897).  In the western part of Moldova the Romanian Moldovans contributed substantially in creating a new modern state of Romania, in the founding of Romanian classical literature, and in establishing a new and remarkable elite of political leaders, scientists, economists.

In 1910, before the 1st World War, A. N. Kuropatkin, a Russian General, former Minister of War and a renowned military writer, wrote that the Romanian population of Bessarabia still lived in isolation and aloof from Russians. He added that in the future, be it by peaceful means or following another war, the unification of the Romanian people would be inevitable. The time of unification came only a few years later and the First World War hastened it.

Union of Bessarabia with Romania

After Romania entered World War I (1916) on the side of the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia), the Romanian soldiers from Bessarabia, Romania and Transylvania (still under Austria-Hungarian Empire) were forced to fight on different sides. Since the war scene encompassed their native lands, this encouraged them to look for a common post-war future.

Thus, in 1917, the Romanian soldiers and prisoners from the eastern front (natives from Bessarabia, the Kingdom of Romania, and Transylvania), together with legal representatives of workers, peasants, teachers and clerics from whole Bessarabia, initiated and organized the State Council (Sfatul Ţării) of Bessarabia, On  December 2, 1917 the Council declared Bessarabia an autonomous republic, and soon, on January 24, 1918 it proclaimed the independence of the Moldavian Democratic Republic (Bessarabia) and its separation from Russia.

Confronted with threats of isolation or absorption by the Ukraine, and in order to prevent the atrocities of the Russian soldiers withdrawn from the Romanian-Galician front, and the chaos prevailing in Russia after the Bolshevik revolution, the Sfatul Ţării called in the Romanian troops.  Soon after, on March 27, 1918, the Bessarabian council voted to reunite Bessarabia with Romania. During the same year, with the defeat of Austria-Hungary, the unification with Romania of three other Romanian territories – Banat, Transylvania and Bucovina – was finally achieved.

At the Paris Peace Conference on March 9, 1920, the three great western powers – the United Kingdom, France and Italy – consented to the reunion of Bessarabia with Romania, re-establishing the new boundary along the Nistru River as it had been prior to the annexation of 1812. The most important measures taken by the Romanian authorities after the reunion were land reform, building of elementary free-of-charge schools in all localities of Bessarabia, and creating conditions for the Romanian language to became the language of all inhabitants of the region. These reforms, along with the introduction of universal suffrage and the passing of a new constitution, one of the most democratic on the Continent, created a general-democratic framework and allowed for fast economic growth in Romania (e.g. the industrial production doubled between 1923-1938).

In such a new political, cultural and economic environment, the local population could recover its own native language and the national identity altered during a ferocious century of Russian domination in Bessarabia.  For the first time since 1812 all ethnic minorities could use their own mother tongues in local schools and communities and communicate with the majority of the population and state authorities in Romanian.

Meanwhile, the new Soviet government, aggressively opposing the union of Bessarabia with Romania, took various steps to acquire what it considered were “lost territories”. In 1924 a Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR) was established within the Ukrainian SSR on the border of Romania, in the territory known as Transnistria, of which about a third of the population were Moldovans/Romanians at the time. The town of Balta was its designated capital until 1929, when the capital was transferred to Tiraspol.

Located on the eastern, or “left”, bank of the Nistru River, the MASSR was meant to serve as a bridgehead for Soviet influence in the interfluves and, in the greatest possible hopes of the Soviets at the time, a paving of the way towards prospective “sovietization” of the entire Romanian kingdom. This “Bessarabia in miniature” provided Soviet policymakers and cultural planners with a diabolic laboratory. Indeed, the notion that Romanians and Moldovans in Bessarabia and the MSSR formed two separate ethno national groups, speaking different languages and possessing separate historical, cultural, and even biological traits, became a standard element of Soviet discourse on the Bessarabian question and the central justification for Moscow’s territorial claims. In a sense, the MASSR represented a first Stalinist step towards the “liberation” of the “Moldovan nation”.

Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic

The opportunity for the Soviets to “liberate” Bessarabia came in 1940. In August 1939, under the terms of the secret protocols to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Germany declared its “lack of interest” with respect to Finland, Estonia, Latvia, eastern Poland and Bessarabia. Less than a year later, although Romania declared its neutrality in September 1939, the USSR managed to force the Romanian government into conceding Bessarabia and northern Bucovina. Soviet forces occupied these regions in June 1940 within a matter of a few days.

At first the Soviet authorities continued to call the occupied interfluves area “Bessarabia”, but soon afterward the Soviet leadership proceeded to dismember the occupied territories. Thus, on August 2, 1940, the “Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic” was “proclaimed” by the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, and the former “Moldavian ASSR” was abolished. Northern Bucovina, northern and southern Bessarabia, and an important part of the Moldavian ASSR were included into the “Ukrainian SSR”, while 6 of 14 former districts of the Moldavian ASSR, and 6 of 9 Bessarabian districts entered the Moldavian SSR. The inclusion of Bessarabia’s Danube and Black Sea frontage into the Ukrainian SSR placed these strategic assets in the hands of a reliable Soviet republic rather than leaving them under the control of a newly created entity, not to mention a probable object of Romanian aspiration towards re-unification with its dismembered territory.

It is noteworthy to mention that such a decision did not correspond even to the provisions of the then USSR’s Constitution, which stipulated that the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union could only accept new soviet republics into USSR, not to proclaim/form them or to establish their boundaries. Actually, the Moldavian SSR was the sole soviet republic without any legal status within USSR.

Thus, it was the Moscow’s arbitrary decision to include in the Moldavian SSR the central part of Bessarabia (approximately two-thirds of that historical region), as well as a thin strip of Transnistria lying along Nistru River and bordered to the east by the Ukraine. The boundaries drawn by Moscow for MSSR in 1940 happened to be the boundaries in which, in 1991, the Republic of Moldova was proclaimed and recognised by the international community as an independent country.

Between 1941 and 1944 the entire territory of Bessarabia, as well as northern Bucovina again became parts of Romania, but in 1944 Soviet troops retook these territories. Finally, they remained parts of the USSR until the disintegration of the Soviet empire in 1991, when the independent republics of Moldova and of the Ukraine where established.

As the only republic in the union whose titular nationality was represented by a sovereign state outside the USSR (Romania), the MSSR represented a special case in Moscow’s economic and cadre policies. After the re-occupation of Bessarabia and northern Bucovina in 1944, the Soviet Union continued the colonial Tsarist policy of genocide implemented by means of mass deportation, organized famine (provoked by Communists grain requisitioning in 1946-47), forced nationalization and collectivisation. The leadership of the USSR tried its very best, using different methods by now infamous, to change the very ethnic structure of the occupied Romanian territories in an overall two-pronged approach: the diminution of the Romanian element, and the maximisation of the ethnic Slav element. The following statistical figures illustrate this policy:

Ethnic structure of population

Bessarabia,                 under Tsarist Russia
Moldavian  SSR,              under Soviet regime
In 1817
In 1897
In 1959
In 1989

Immediately after Bessarabia’s occupation, the Soviet regime concentrated on the creation of a distinctly “Moldovan” language and culture. Soviet cultural policy in Moldavian SSR was designed to sever any historical, cultural or linguistic links between Romanians and “Moldovans”, and to posit the existence of a distinct “Moldovan” cultural heritage. Thus, the Russian script replaced the Latin script; Soviet scholars declared “Moldovan” and Romanian to be separate languages within the same east-Romance language family; while all the “literary critics and historians” stressed the historical connections and traditions shared by Moldovans, Russians and Ukrainians. The Communist Party and cadres from Transnistria, controlled and supervised by KGB, played a leadership role in the implementation of this project.

In a strangely repetitive historical legacy, as Transnistria did at the time, it actually continues to have even now a crucial influence on the destiny of the Republic of Moldova. Although accounting for only an eighth of the Republic of Moldova’s land and population, it played a dominant role in the republic’s economy and political system. Moldova’s industrial enterprises were concentrated in Transnistria, in part because of the surety of future Romanian demands over Bessarabia. Skilled workers and even unqualified persons from other parts of the Soviet Union were relocated there en masse, as well as in the whole of the MSSR. The region’s temperate climate, rich in fruits, vegetables, and wine, also attracted many other individuals, especially retired members of the Communist party and Soviet Army. Since Transnistria had been part of the Soviet Union from as far back as 1917, cadres with family and professional ties to the region were seen as more politically reliable than their counterparts from Bessarabia, which had been a province of “bourgeois Romania” between the wars. In such circumstances, cadres from Transnistria controlled predominantly all state structures.

The difficulties which faced the native population from the Moldavian SSR were aggravated by some other specific particularities of this Soviet republic. Indeed, in comparison with the Baltic republics (Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia), the Moldavian SSR remained after 1949 without its own native (Bessarabian) elite or intellectuals. Almost all intellectuals from Bessarabia (public clerks, owners, managers, members of non-leftist political parties, teachers, doctors, priests, students, etc.) were deported to the remote Siberia or Kazakhstan’s areas (partially in 1940, and massively in 1949), exterminated locally or sheltered to Romania or other countries in 1944.

Moreover, Moscow resorted to further dispersion of Moldovans through enforcement of policies assigning young graduates from Moldova’s colleges and universities to compulsory workplaces scattered throughout the USSR, especially in Central Asia, the Urals, and the Far Eastern territory. And, in contrast, the Russian white-collar workers and simple workforce, or even non-qualified workers from other parts of the USSR, were continuously transferred to Moldova. Accordingly, for about 20 years all public life, economy, education and culture were dominated by non-Bessarabians, usually people who didn’t speak Romanian (frequently Russians and Ukrainians) and those Transnistrians who used an altered dialect of Moldovan/Romanian language.

In such circumstances, with no contacts in Romania until the Perestroika, and under a ferocious KGB’s surveillance, led by the communist party structures totally controlled by Kremlin, the Moldavian SSR was transformed into a region where Moscow could easily implement any of its ideological and economical experiences, leaving the native population without any chance to dream about union with Romania or independency.

Despite these facts, at the end of the 1970’s, especially after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968) and the adoption of the CSCE Helsinki Final Act (1975), there was a wave of discreet national movement in Moldova. Writers’ circles and academic groups launched it initially, but later it was supported by some of the small dissident groups representing a different social stratum. Some of those individuals had to suffer serious consequences for their views, including years of prison sentences.  Evidence of these developments can be seen until now in the significant increase of Moldovans with typical Romanian given names among all Moldovan strata, and the appearance of numerous literary works written in a genuine Romanian language, etc.

After Gorbachev started Perestroika, the long dormant grievances which smouldered among a grassroots element from all levels of Moldovan society motivated the appearance, in 1987, of a democratic mass movement. In 1988 this movement transformed itself into the Popular Front of Moldova, which grew rapidly into a real national movement for liberation in the MSSR. The issues of ethnicity and language became key to the political concerns of this movement, and these positions were indeed supported by a large part of Moldovan society at the time. In August 1989, the Supreme Soviet was forced to accept the demand of the Popular Front and adopted the law requiring that the “Moldovan” (Romanian) language be written in Latin characters, and that this be the state language of the republic. Local officials to the area east of the Nistru River however, refused to enact the language law in the area administrated by them where large numbers of Slavs resided. A similar reaction was also met in the southern part of Moldova where the Gagauz minority resided. In Chişinau, a political group, “Yedinstvo” (“Unity”),  was formed supporting Transnistrian leaders and promoting the idea of Moldova’s continued inclusion in the USSR.

Under the control of the KGB, and with crucial support from Moscow itself, including military support (the 14th Soviet Army headquarters were and are located in Transnistria), separatist movements were quickly organised in the southern and eastern portions of the country. Thus, on September 2, 1990 the “second extraordinary congress of deputies” from Transnistria “proclaimed” a self-styled “Moldavian Transnistrian Soviet Socialist Republic”. This was preceded by another “proclamation” from the southeast (August 19), that of the apparently autonomy aspiring people in the newly so-called “Gagauz Soviet Socialist Republic”. Since then the legal authorities of Moldova don’t control the border with the Ukraine crossing Transnistria, while the separatist authorities continue to govern this region with considerable, if not indeed crucial, economic and military support from Russia.

Republic of Moldova

The situation unexpectedly changed in favour of the legitimate Chişinău authorities in August 1991, after the failure of the soviet hard-liners military putsch in Moscow that year.  The Moldovan Parliament (acting in a similar fashion to the newly legitimate legislative bodies in other soviet republics which had been occupied by the now rapidly disintegrating USSR), took the opportunity to declare the independence of the Republic of Moldova on August 27, 1991. The Transnistrian separatist leadership, only a few days earlier, made its own declaration -- the independence of “the Moldovan Transnistrian Republic” from Moldova.

Mircea Snegur, the first president of the newly independent state, and his supporters in Parliament – mainly managers of collective farms, and communist and soviet leaders from the whole territory of Moldova -- became anxious because of the successive waves of democratic transformations, as well as by the emerging separatist movements.  He refused to follow the Baltic countries otherwise normal path towards a genuine independence. So it was that in December 1991, President Snegur found himself signing a declaration in favour of Moldova’s adherence to the newly created “Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)”, a successor state of sorts to the now decidedly buried Soviet Union.  By joining the CIS, however, Moldova didn’t manage to solve many of its problems. The issue of ethnicity and territoriality further degenerated into a dramatic confrontation between the pro-western and legitimate Chişinău government, and the pro-Moscow, and illegitimate Tiraspol government.

This soon led to armed conflict, and in the spring of 1992, after Moldova became a member of the United Nations (UN), Moldovan President Mircea Snegur (president from 1990 to 1996) authorized concerted military action against rebel forces which had been attacking loyal Moldovan police outposts on the left bank of the Nistru, and on a certain smaller section of the right bank in the southern city of Tighina (Bender). The rebels, aided by contingents of Russian Cossacks and the Russian 14th Army, consolidated their control over most of the disputed area, but by no means over all of it, as testified to by the heroic resistance of loyal Moldovan police and volunteer forces in battles at Tighina and Varniţa, at Cocieri-Dubăsari and Coşniţa-Doroţcaia plateaus. As a result of this civil war, hundreds of people were killed, and thousands were forced to leave Transnistria as refugees.

The Moldovan government made several futile requests for UN intervention, but  on July 21, 1992 was forced to settle for a combined Russian-Transnistrian-Moldovan peacekeeping force. In May 1993 the Moldovan side made several concessions to the opposing side, including the allowance of Russian federal forces in eastern Moldova until the region was granted some “special political status”. Still not satisfied despite their considerable gains against the Chişinău government, and under the shadow of soviet heavy artillery, the Transnistrian leadership even demanded that the Moldovan Parliament rescind parts of its 1991 declaration of independence and return the Republic of Moldova to a more subordinate political position within the CIS.  This they did not achieve.

In February 1994, Moldova held its very first post-independence, free parliamentary elections. The Communist-led Agrarian Democratic Party won the largest number of seats, and a pro-Moscow, “old mind” bloc of Socialist parties won the next largest percentage. Forming a large alliance, this majority immediately ratified Moldova’s adherence to the CIS Economic Union. In order to block any attempt of the opposition to claim a rapprochement between Moldova and Romania, President Snegur, under the pressure of Agrarian-Socialist block, organized a hurried referendum (March 1994), the main point of which was to underline “the peoples will” to build an independent Moldova, entirely separate from Romania. Such a measure, taken immediately after the elections (which otherwise reinforced the influence of the old nomenclature when the electorate continued to be in a deep depression provoked by the bloody and lost war in Transnistria, and by the unprecedented post-independence inflation), brought the expected results to the pro-Moscow faction.  Around 90 percent of those who participated in the pool supported a Republic of Moldova within its 1990 borders, entirely independent from Romania, but which would include the Transnistrian region.

Soon after, the Moldovan Parliament revoked the law which made the Moldovan national anthem identical to the Romanian one, and then in April 1994 suspended the provision of the 1989 law that required the Romanian language to be known in ten years by all public servants. Moreover, in July 1994, the newly adopted Constitution the Agrarian-Socialist majority stipulated that the name of the official language of Moldova is not Romanian but Moldovan, and proclaimed Moldova’s permanent neutrality (versus NATO’s rapprochements of neighbouring countries).

The Agrarian-Socialist block governance (1994-1998) had a dramatic impact on the Republic of Moldova’s development as a newly independent country. Although Moldova was the first CIS country to join the Council of Europe in 1995, and to implement the economic reform with the support of international and regional organizations, the “outcomes” of these reforms caused the country to be one of the poorest regions in Europe.  This was due to the fact that, enjoying the support of the IMF, World Bank and donors who during these years generously offered Moldova huge loans and grants totaling more than $1.3 billion, the Agrarian-Socialist government didn’t reform the agriculture, and opposed massive privatisation.  Instead of this, the former communist leadership redirected budget sources and different state-guaranteed loans and grants to non-reformed sectors of economy, or used these financial sources totally improperly, thus actually contributing to their embezzlement or stealing.

The Agrarian-Socialist government aggravated Moldova’s poorest preparedness for a smooth transition to market economics and democracy. Amid slow gains and painful setbacks to that transition, without clear political views for the country’s future, Moldova didn’t apply, as did other countries from the region, to become an aspirant to NATO or the European Union membership. As a member of the Partnership for Peace programme, its cooperation with NATO didn’t exceed the level of cooperation attained by other aspirant countries. Moreover, during the years of 1994-1998, Moldova did not take measures to be seriously and firmly supported by the U.S., European Union and other countries for pursuing the Russian Federation to withdraw its troop and armaments from the Transnistria region where Russian army troops prop up the breakaway authorities. They seized power by armed insurrection in 1992, like a group of ex-KGB, and OMON (special forces) officers arrived from Russia and the Baltic states (where they are wanted for their role in murderous reprisal operations in 1991 in Latvia and Lithuania), and continued to oversee Transnistria internal security services. Under such circumstances, having Russia as a guarantor and mediator in settling the conflict in the region, and the Russian “peacekeeping forces” and troops in Transnistria, Moldova remained in a very vulnerable situation from military and political points of view.

Accordingly, after the 1998 general elections when the Alliance for Democracy and Reform (ADR) took the government, it was not capable of rapidly solving many of the existing painful political problems.  These included the Transistrian issue, the huge Moldova external and internal debts inherited from the Agrarian-Socialist government (especially those used for importing from Russia the expensive energy resources), and the enormous arrears to pensions and salaries.

Although the new pro-European government clearly reoriented its foreign policy toward the West, and succeeded in including the Transistrian issue on the agenda of OSCE and to strengthen cooperation with the European Union, Moldova didn’t achieve the expected results. The duplicity in its dialog with Moscow didn’t allow it to fully benefit from the December 1999 OSCE summit decision regarding withdrawal of the Russian troops and armaments from Transnistria by the end of 2002.

Corruption at all levels of administration and justice, a huge and criminalized underground economy that connected with the uncontrolled Transnistrian regime, a divided and differently oriented political elite, all blocked ADR to convince the European Union to grant Moldova an associated status. Moreover, before the December 1999 Helsinki EU Summit, the plan incited and supported by President Lucinschi (elected in 1996) to dismiss the reformist ADR government and to split the ADR’s parliamentary majority was achieved. As a result, the Communists (which accounted for 40 out of 101 seats in Parliament) were brought again to the front of the political scene.

This latest crisis developed after many months of struggle between the president and parliament over Lucinschi's attempts to enlarge his powers. As early as February 1999, after parliament denied his proposal to extend his powers, Lucinschi turned to the public for support, initiating a consultative referendum on May 23. The plebiscite provoked only more confusion. Although 62 percent voted to accept the proposal (36 percent rejected it), voter turnout was two points below the 60 percent required by the election law.

The Central Electoral Commission, however, refused to declare the May 23 referendum invalid. Instead, on June 1 the commission asked the Constitutional Court to decide whether voter turnout was sufficient to validate the referendum. The Court refused to rule until the commission had clearly stated its own view, and on June 5 the commission declared—in a five to four vote—that the referendum was valid. Later, in autumn, the Constitutional Court explained that a constitutional referendum could be organized only by Parliament.

These long political disputes and debates among parliamentary factions, and between the President and Parliament, culminated with the modification of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova on June 5, 2000, when the Moldovan Parliament, with a large majority, transformed Moldova into a parliamentary republic.  According to the amended Constitution the President of the Republic of Moldova shall be elected by Parliament, not by popular vote, and the Government was invested with broader, extra powers.

The elections of the new president of Moldova by the Parliament proved to be a difficult task for the Parliament, which split into different antagonised groups. Although the Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin fell just two votes short of becoming Moldova's third president in the first tour of elections, on December 21 the right-centrists factions (Democratic Convention of Moldova, Democratic Party, Party of Democratic Forces, and Christian Democratic Popular Party), candidate, Pavel Barbalat, received only 35 votes, and boycotted the second round of a repeated presidential election. Accordingly, after the Constitutional Court concluded that all the conditions there allowed the President to dissolve the Parliament, it was dissolved by President Lucinschi on December 30, 2000.

But the new preliminary elections of February 25, 2001 happened to be a dramatic event for the Republic of Moldova. Refusing to form an electoral bloc, almost all reformists, pro-European political parties, and of course the incumbent President, Petru Lucinschi, contributed to transform Moldova into the first post-Soviet country in which the Communist Party legally came back to power. Only two other political forces -- an ad-hoc pro-presidential political alliance led by the incumbent prime-minister Dumitru Bragiş, and the Christian Democrat Popular Party, supported indirectly by President Lucinschi, -- have passed the required 6% threshold, getting together 30 out of 101 seats in Parliament.

As expected, on April 2, 2001 the Communist controlled Parliament elected the Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin as Moldova's third president.  With its own president and 71 seats in the legislature, the Party of Communists now has more than sufficient power not only to change the Constitution as it sees fit, but also to cardinally reorient Moldova’s future. In this situation, the achievements and reforms made by the previous government, and cooperation with IMF, World Bank, European Union and NATO, are at risk. They could be partially or perhaps largely lost through further destabilization of Moldova's internal politics, and a consequent leftward and eastward shift in the complexion of its government.

The issue of Moldova’s accession to the Russia-Belarus Union, and the possibility of holding a referendum on that issue, arose after the Communist’s won the last elections. The recent observer status, which was granted to the Moldovan Parliament at the Russian-Belarus Parliamentary Assembly, indicates  a real threat for Moldova’s European orientation.

The prospect of a political settlement between Chişinău and Tiraspol seems more distant than ever after the latest developments in the OSCE-mediated negotiations. The situation puts the prestige of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at risk, as the deadline it has set for the withdrawal of Russian forces approaches without a single Russian piece of combat hardware or ammunition trainload being withdrawn.

On May 13, 2001, for the first time ever, Transnistrian troops physically prevented a Moldovan head of state – President Vladimir Voronin – from visiting territory controlled by the secessionist authorities. Tiraspol, moreover, announced that Voronin must from now on request permission from Transnistria's self-styled president Igor Smirnov for any visit there. This incident was followed by the seizure of a monastery and theological seminary on the right bank of the Nistru River by left-bank Transnistrian troops under ex-KGB officers' command. As Vladimir Socor, one of the most active authors on Moldova’s politics, recently wrote, “this sort of event was probably not witnessed in Europe since Stalin's days, yet it seemed to have passed without condemnation by any of the three mediators”.

Moreover, Transnistria’s leadership demanded for Chişinău to recognize that it committed military aggression in 1992 against “the people of Transnistria,” to apologize for it, and to pay compensation for damages. This clearly indicates that the international community should react properly in order to find a feasible solution for this conflict, taking into consideration that Tiraspol repeatedly demanded (last time on May 16, 2001) that Chişinău should officially repudiate the OSCE's 1999 decisions on the withdrawal of Russian forces from Transnistria.

The latest agreement between Chişinău and Tiraspol from May 16, 2001 regarding official recognition by Chişinău of administrative and economic acts and documents of all types issued by the “Transnistrian republic” was used by the Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov to issue a “decree”, according to which the soviet type passports follow to be replaced with the Transnistrian ones starting with October 1, 2001. This way Smirnov underlines that Tiraspol (that is, Moscow) doesn’t want at all to solve the conflict under international norms conditions.

The latest actions of the Communist government and parliaments indicate that from this cornerstone, the Republic of Moldova enters into a way that is difficult to oversee. Hopefully, with the support of the international community, its own people and the political elite, Moldova will nevertheless follow the path of democratisation and integration into European structures.

The author of this survey is not a professional historian. Spending 11 years in the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, including as chairman of Foreign Policy Committee and Head of Moldovan delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, he noticed a big lack of updated historical surveys/overviews about the Republic of Moldova, especially in the English language, both in Moldova and in the West. The existing books or articles written by foreign professionals unfortunately are not available for many of those who are not historians but are interested or visiting Moldova, or do not meet their time demands as busy or hurried people.

Actually, it is the second attempt of the author to help such readers.  On the eve of the war in Transnistria in the spring of 1992, he published the handbook “The Republic of Moldova” (in Romanian, English and Russian), which aimed to provide international organizations, such as the Council of Europe, as well as simple readers from Western countries, the genuine and updated facts about this new emerging state and the separatist conflict in Transnistria. Now, when the author came back to his previous activity and started working with English speaking people from Western software companies, he decided to provide them, via the website of his company, a direct, comprehensive and concise historical overview of the Republic of Moldova.

In preparing this survey, the author used or interpreted several paragraphs from the two most significant and relevant books about Moldova edited in the U.S. by persons with whom the author had maintained useful and productive contacts during the years:

“The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture” by Charles King (Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University. Stanford, California, 1999)


“From Moldavia to Moldova. The Soviet-Romanian Territorial Dispute” by Nicholas Dima (East European Monographs, Boulder Distributed by Columbia University Press, New York, 1991).

Some paragraphs from this survey which reflect the recent developments in Moldova are repeated opinions of well-known political analyst Vladimir Socor, as stated in his latest articles published in The Jamestown Monitor (Washington).  The author maintains useful and productive contacts with him during the post-communist years.

The author also consulted the “Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Moldova” by Andrei Brezianu (European Historical Dictionaries, Nr.37. The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Lanham, Maryland, and London, 2000), and the following websites:

If a Moldovan professional historian finally acts and writes a valuable and convincing survey in English about the Republic of Moldova, the author will accept with pleasure replacement of his work from this site.

If this survey motivates a person to go, read and reach different conclusions from other sources, this presentation would have had a useful purpose.

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