Population: 4.4 million (July 2004).
Religions: Eastern Orthodox 98%, Jewish 1.5%, Baptist and other 0.5%.
Ethnic groups: Moldovan/Romanian 64.5%, Ukrainian 13.8%, Russian 13%, Jewish 1.5%, Bulgarian 2%, Gagauz and other 5.2% (1989).
Languages: Moldovan (official, virtually the same as the Romanian language), Russian, Gagauz (a Turkish dialect).
Country name: Republic of Moldova (local: Republica Moldova).
Government type: Republic.
Independence: 27 August 1991 (from Soviet Union). New constitution adopted on 28 July 1994; replaced the old Soviet constitution of 1979.
Administrative divisions: 9 counties (judetele, singular - judetul), 1 municipality (municipiul), 1 autonomous territorial unit (unitate teritoriala autonoma), and 1 territorial unit (unitate teritoriala). Counties: Balti, Cahul, Chisinau, Edinet, Lapusna, Orhei, Soroca, Tighina, Ungheni. Municipality: Chisinau. Autonomous territorial unit: Gagauzia. Territorial unit: Stinga Nistrului.
Terrain: rolling steppe, gradual slope south to Black Sea.
Total area: 33,843 km².
Highest point: Dealul Balanesti 430 m.
Climate: moderate winters, warm summers.
Formerly ruled by Romania, Moldova became part of the Soviet Union at the close of World War II. Although independent from the USSR since 1991, Russian forces have remained on Moldovan territory east of the Dniester River supporting the Slavic majority population, mostly Ukrainians and Russians, who have proclaimed a "Transnistria" republic.
The poorest nation in Europe, Moldova became the first former Soviet state to elect a Communist as its president in 2001.
Moldova remains the poorest country in Europe despite recent progress from its small economic base. It enjoys a favorable climate and good farmland but has no major mineral deposits. As a result, the economy depends heavily on agriculture, featuring fruits, vegetables, wine, and tobacco. Moldova must import almost all of its energy supplies from Russia. Energy shortages contributed to sharp production declines after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. As part of an ambitious reform effort, Moldova introduced a convertible currency, freed prices, stopped issuing preferential credits to state enterprises, backed steady land privatization, removed export controls, and freed interest rates. The government entered into agreements with the World Bank and the IMF to promote growth and reduce poverty. The economy returned to positive growth, of 2.1% in 2000, 6.1% in 2001, 7.2% in 2002, and 6.3% in 2003. Further reforms will come slowly because of strong political forces backing government controls. The economy remains vulnerable to higher fuel prices, poor agricultural weather, and the skepticism of foreign investors.
Currency: Moldovan leu (MDL).
Industries: food processing, agricultural machinery, foundry equipment, refrigerators and freezers, washing machines, hosiery, sugar, vegetable oil, shoes, textiles.
Capriana Monastery (photo UNDP Moldova).
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