Small, with scarce natural, industrial and financial resources but rather densely populated, Moldova pays the price of a difficult transition to independence with its position as the poorest country in Europe, achieved for the first time in 1991, at the time of dissolution of the USSR, after centuries of political submission to Moscow and Bucharest alternately. The new state had two major problems right from the start: the reconversion of the economy and social structures from the Soviet system to the “market” system and the search for a national identity capable of unifying a society in which ethnic roots coexist and different cultures. According to itypeusa, the economy, based on modest quality agri-food production destined for the cold regions of the Soviet empire, suffered a violent contraction with the independence due to the loss of its market; the state, lacking financial resources, was unable to maintain the previous levels of social security; and while a part of the population was oriented towards restoring the closest possible relationship with Russia and of a Soviet-type system, another part was aimed at pure and simple reunification with Romania (of which Moldova had been part between 1918 and 1945); only a minority was actively involved in the search for an autonomous way. Problems not unlike those that have affected almost all the other former Soviet Republics, aggravated, however, by the country’s peculiar conditions of poverty and violent nationalist tensions, which in the early 1990s also resulted in bloody moments of civil war, never completely overcome. Despite the conquest of political sovereignty, Moldova finds itself divided, with a non-negligible part of its territory and its population living isolated from the rest, in a regime of self-proclaimed but effective independence;
TERRITORY: PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY
Made up of the southwestern sector of the Sarmatic Lowland, completely devoid of sea views, Moldova extends almost entirely into the plain bordered by the course of two large rivers, the Prut to the W and the Dnestr (Nistru) to the NE, and just beyond beyond this up to the first undulations of the southern part of the Rialto Podolico, to E. The territory is crossed by numerous minor watercourses, tributaries of the Prut and Dnestr (Reut, Byk, Botna), of the Black Sea (Kogilnik) and of the Danube (Jalpug). The highest point is Dealul Balaneşti (430 meters above sea level). The climate is continental, with hot summers, cold winters and modest rainfall.
TERRITORY: HUMAN GEOGRAPHY
The Moldavian region has been a borderland between the Latin-Balkan population area and the Slavic settlement area since the early Middle Ages; this is still reflected today in the structure of the population, which sees Moldovan (75.8%), Ukrainians (8.4%), Russians (5.9%), Gagauzis (4.4%), Romanians (2.2%), Bulgarians (1.9%) and others (1.4%). The population density is high, approx. 117 residents / km²; the main city is the capital Chisinău, which with the suburbs reaches approx. 785.100 inhab. (2008); other important cities are Tiraspol ‘ (158,069 residents), Tighina (97,027 residents), Bălţi (122,200 residents), Râbnita (52,000 inhab.). It is estimated that approx. one fifth of the entire population has emigrated abroad or spends the greater part of the year there, to work. Most of the Russian and Ukrainian population live in the breakaway Republic of Transnistria, where Russian is the only official language and schools teaching Moldovan were closed in 2004. In 2004, after many negative years, the population growth rate turned positive again, as the percentage of births exceeded that of deaths; infant mortality (40.4 per thousand) and, in general, life expectancy at birth (73 years, which drops to 65 for males), however, remain much worse than the rest of Europe.
Most of the surface of Moldova is made up of agricultural land (over 55%), which is also the most serious threat of environmental pollution: the massive and systematic use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers on such a large share of the territory has produced over the years a serious pollution (especially from nitrates) of soils and aquifers, while the use of backward cultivation techniques has led to accentuated soil erosion. The woods and areas with spontaneous vegetation, flora and fauna are scarce and have no peculiarities compared to the rest of the south-eastern European region; the government has not so far given particular priority to the issue of environmental protection, so much so that there are no national parks but only a series of small and very small “natural areas” with a low level of protection (1.4% of protected areas).