Moldova is like a bunch of grapes on the map of Europe. It is located between Romania and Ukraine. Moldova is densely populated, with numerous ethnic groups represented by Moldovans, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Gagauz, and Russians, but the majority are ethnic Romanians. Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, is a moderate sized city that has preserved much of its pre-Soviet character. It also has an unofficial reputation of one of the greenest cities in Europe.
For thousands of years there were inhabitants in the area of present Moldova. The Dacian tribes were first settlers in this region. The foundation of Moldavia is attributed to the Vlach/Romanian nobleman Dragos from Maramures, who had been ordered in 1343 by the Hungarian king to establish a defense against the Tatars. The name of the principality originates from the Moldova River. Bogdan I, another Vlach/Romanian from Maramures became the first independent prince of Moldavia, when he rejected Hungarian authority in 1359. The most important prince of Moldavia was Stephen the Great, who ruled from 1457 to 1504.
It has been a long and bloody journey from the Principality of Moldavia to the Republic of Moldova. It has long been the focal point for border disputes and expansionist policies. Prior to its tenuous unification, it had been overrun, split up, reunited, conquered, annexed, renamed, and taken back again many times over. In the mid-14th century, Moldavia was subsumed under the Ottoman Empire, and it remained under Turkish suzerainty until 1711. In 1812, Turkey and Russia signed the Bucharest Treaty, which gave the eastern half of Moldavia to the Russians (renamed Bessarabia) while the rest of Moldavia and Wallachia became Romania. Bessarabia remained under Russian control until the 1918 Bolshevik Revolution, when it reunited with Romania as a protective measure. In 1939 the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact handed Bessarabia back to the U.S.S.R., and it became the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (M.S.S.R.). The area was taken by Romanian forces from 1941 until 1944, when the Soviet authorities once again took control. In times of Stalin the mass deportation of locals occurred regularly, with the largest ones on 12-13 June 1941, and 5-6 July 1949 of more than 50,000 deportees from MSSR alone.
The collapse of Communism in 1989 led to Moldova’s independence on August 27, 1991. While a part of population wanted to reunite with Romania, another ethnic group from east region of Dniester River proclaimed an independent Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (PMR), and Tiraspol became the capital city of PMR. The motives behind that move were the fear of the rise of nationalism in Moldova and the country’s expected reunification with Romania. In winter of 1991-1992 clashes occurred between Transnistrian forces and Moldovan police, which turned into a military conflict. The war was stopped by the Moscow Agreement on the principles of peace, despite Russia having signed international agreements to withdraw, the Russian military remains on PMR territory till today. Transnistria is internationally recognized as part of Moldova, but in fact the Moldovan government does not have any control over the territory. Moldova also joined the other former republics to form the Commonwealth Independent States (CIS), and in 1992 the Republic of Moldova gained admission to the United Nations.
In February 2001 Communists made strong gains in parliamentary elections with 70% of the seats. Vladimir Voronin, a member of the Communist Party, was elected president. He stepped down after serving the maximum two terms. April 7, 2009 anti-communist protesters started a peaceful march which turned in a violent demonstration against what they said were fraudulent elections. In 2016 Moldova held presidential elections with a pro-Russian politician winner (52.2%), Igor Dodon.