Moldova, officially the Republic of Moldova, is one of the smallest members of the European continent. Surrounded by Romania and Ukraine, the country is nestled on the Eastern Europe. Moldova was once part of the Greater Romania and got incorporated into the Soviet Union at the close of World War II. The province declared its independence on 27 August 1991 but continued to be perturbed by the presence of the Russian forces on the east of the Dniester River supporting the Slavic majority population. The Russians are backing the people, mostly Ukrainians and Russians, here who are proclaiming for a Transnistrian Moldavian Republic.
Chisinau, formerly Kishinev, is the capital as well as the largest city of Moldova. Other major cities include Tiraspol, Balti and Bender. Spread across 33,800 sq kms. (13,050 sq miles) area, Moldova is home to 4,455,421(2005 estimate) people. Economically, Maldova is one of the poorest countries of the world but historically and environmentally, it is a potpourri of variations. Moldova has a number of rivers, lakes, forests and woodlands shelter a wide range of plants and wildlife. The Padurea Domneasca reserve in the River Prut area is home to many species of birds. There are also many architectural monuments of historical interest in Moldova.
Moldova shares its land border with Ukraine on north, east and south and bound by Romania on the west. Dniester or Nistru and Prut are the main rivers of the country. The Prut river separates it from Romania in the west. In the north and east, the Dniester River forms its approximate boundary with Ukraine. The country is also very close to Black Sea. Topographically, Moldova is a hilly plain that includes three physical geographic zones of plains, hilly steppes and river valleys. The maximal altitude of the area is of 429.4 meters.
The climate of Moldova is continental with warm summers and moderate winters. The average annual temperature is 8-10°C above 0. On January it is generally 3-5°C below 0 and on July it remains 20-25°C above 0. The average annual rainfall level is about 380 mm in the South and 560 mm in the center and northern parts of Moldova. The majority, 65% of the population is Moldovan while Ukrainians and Russians and other several smaller minorities consist of the rest. The Moldovan language is the official tongue and most of the people belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The history of Maldova has been witness to rise and fall of numerous dynasties. The first human settlements on the territory of contemporary Moldova date back to Paleolithic Age. In the mid-1500's Moldova was feudalized by Hungarian Kingdom, and in the 1359 it became the part of the Romanian Principality. From sixteenth century, for next three hundred years the principality of Moldavia and its neighbours lived under Ottoman reign.
Following Turkish and Russian wars in 1812, much of Moldova passed to Russian control and was called Bessarabia. In 1924 the USSR created an Autonomous Moldovan Republic on the east of the Dniester River as part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. During the World War II Moldova returned to Romania for several years, but after the war it was restored to USSR. In May 1991, the country was given the name Republic of Moldova and after the collapse of USSR in December 1991, Republic of Moldova became an independent state and the member of CIS.
However, conforming to the articles of the new Constitution, Moldova's Gagauz and Transnistria regions declared independence in 1994.
Moldova remains the poorest country in Europe. Its economy is dominated by agriculture, food processing and related industries which account for over half of the total output. But the industry accounts for only 20% of its labor force, while agriculture's share is more than one-third. Moldova's fertile soil supports a healthy harvest and horticulture too now has become an important source of income.
Under the Soviet system of economic planning, Moldova exported much of its output to other Soviet republics in exchange for raw materials and fuel products. But the fall of the Soviet system triggered a major collapse, which saw Moldovan economic output decline by 15 per cent annually during the early 1990s.
To combat the crisis, the government has undertaken economic reforms and has consequently received investment from international financial organizations. In 1992, Moldova joined the IMF, World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as a 'Country of Operation'. Privatisation and de-regulations was introduced in the economy.
Moldova is governed under the constitution of 1994. It has an elected 101-member unicameral parliament and the members are elected for four years term through countrywide votes. In 2000, the Parliament passed a decree making Moldova a parliamentary republic, with the president elected by Parliament instead of by popular vote. The president functions as the head of state and with prior approval of the parliament, chooses the prime minister. The prime minister acts as the head of government and sets up a cabinet.
Since the surprising poll results of February 2001, the Communist Party of Moldova is the largest party in the parliament till date. For administrative convenience, the country is divided into 32 districts or counties, 3 municipalities and 2 territorial units, one of which is Gagauzia that enjoys autonomy.