Sunday, February 12, 2006

Facts about Moldova

I hesitated for a while before deciding to publish the post I had written while still in Chisinau. I decided to do it because, after all, it is a expression of my first impressions. However, having stayed there for more two days, I gathered other information and I will now share it with you.

As I already said, the Republic of Moldova is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, located between Romania and Ukraine. Historically part of Romania, it was reunited with it in 1918; then, it was annexed with force and war by the Soviet Union, becoming in 1945 the Moldavian Socialist Soviet Republic. It declared its independence from the USSR in 1991 and now hopes to join the European Union in the near future. As a consequence of its history, Moldova is split between building ties with the West or with Russia.

In 1992, Moldova was involved in a short-term war against Russian armed forces and Ukrainian Kazak units. This was mainly because the part of Moldova east of the Dniestr River, Transnistria - which is populated by a larger proportion of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians brought there by Stalin - claimed independence fearing the Moldovan unification with Romania. Since then, Russia has maintained a military occupation of the eastern regions of Moldova, even though a referendum held in March 1994 saw an overwhelming majority of voters favouring continued independence. The separatist Transnistrian regime established in the oocupied territory is undemocratic, has enforced Russification, the denationalization of ethnic Ukrainians and discrimination against Moldovans. A friend that was there claims that the region is a paradise for crime and all sort of illegal economic activities and traffic (arms, drugs and women).

While Moldovan emotional ties to the Romanian "motherland" remained strong, Moldova did never unite with Romania. Nevertheless, these close links are visible in the flag (which is similar to the Romanian one, with the same color but with the addition of a coat of arms), in the currency (which has the same name of the Romanian one, "leu") and in the fact that Stefan cel Mare, the most important prince of Moldavia back in the 14th century, is considered a national hero in both countries.

The prospect of union with Romania is still an issue; while most of the Romanian political parties would support an unification, in Moldova only the Christian-Democratic People's Party (9% of votes in last elections) supports it. However, in September, President Voronin, after a meeting with his Romanian colleague, declared "we go with Romania until the end", meaning that Moldovans and Romanians are the same nation and will have a common future. The government has stated that Moldova has European aspirations but there has been little progress toward EU membership. Once Romania joins the European Union next year, any unification between the two countries would presumably bring Moldova into the EU if it later unified with Romania, just as East Germany entered the EU when it reunified with West Germany in 1990. At present, Moldova remains one of the poorest country in Europe, with rampant corruption and a sadly booming trade in people.


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