Moldova History, Language and Culture
History of Moldova
Having declared its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991 – and gained formal recognition by the United Nations a year later – Moldova is now well established as a European nation.
The region has been inhabited since Palaeolithic times, more than a million years ago, and during the Stone Age its population farmed, hunted and made distinctive pottery. The first millennium saw the area occupied by various outside forces including Goths, Huns, Avars, Magyars, Cumans, Mongols and Tatars before the Principality of Moldova was established in 1359.
For most of the 19th century Moldova was split between the Ottoman Empire, Romania and Russia, then in the wake of the Russian Revolution the region voted to become part of Romania. The new Soviet Union objected and by 1924 had brought it within Moscow’s orbit.
Under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1940 Moldova was occupied by Soviet troops before the Nazi invasion of the USSR put it first under German control then Romanian. The Red Army overran it in 1944 and the Moscow government began its policy of detaching Moldova from its Romanian roots. Change gathered pace with the instigation of Gorbachev’s reform programme and by the late 1980s Moldova started to move towards independence.
Since the early-1990s, Moldovan politics have been dominated by the sometimes-violent friction between the Transnistria region – a sliver of land to the east of the Dniester River mainly populated by ethnic Russians – and the rest of the country. Attached to Moldova by Stalinist social engineering, Transnistria remains essential to Moldova for economic reasons but is run by its own parliament even though the United Nations considers it to be part of Moldova.
In 2014, following the example of the controversial annexation of Crimea by Russian forces, the breakaway Transnistrian government asked to join the Russian Federation and in July 2015 mobilised men aged 18-27 amid fears it could become an East-West flashpoint.
Did you know?
• Moldova has competed in the Eurovision Song Contest since 2005, with the pelvic-thrusting antics of Sergy Stepanov, sax player with the band SunStroke Project, achieving viral status in 2010.
• The national sport is tranta, a form of upright wrestling.
• It is estimated that up to one million Moldovans are working abroad.
Religion in Moldova
Mostly Eastern Orthodox Christian and other Christian denominations. A small amount of the population are Jewish.
Social Conventions in Moldova
Dress should be casual but conservative. For official engagements, men should wear a jacket and tie.
Language in Moldova
Moldovan (official), although considered to be virtually identical to Romanian. Russian is still the most widely-spoken language.
Browse our Video Guides