A Brief History of Moldova

Moldova spent the greatest portion of its history serving either as a real estate buffer swapped between its neighbors in various power ploys disguised as treaties or as actual booty in full-fledged wars.  This is why it has suffered through shifting permutations of its national language, from Russian written in Cyrillic, to Romanian written in Cyrillic, to Moldovan (which is virtually identical to Romanian) written in Latin alphabet.  Their history is recorded in such varied languages and alphabets that is it difficult for the average Moldovan to study or politically/contextually incorporate.

This is also why there are only a very few architectural or historic sites of interest in the country.  There existed no standing government for any protracted length of time to construct monuments or castles or fortresses or bridges; the only ancient buildings that remain here are the few monasteries that were too insignificant to be targeted in battle. Mostly it has been an agricultural resource for its various conquerors to exploit.

The modern history of Moldova can be traced to the 1350s, when the Principality of Moldavia, the medieval precursor of modern Moldova and Romaniawas founded.  Stefan Celmare is probably the most revered person in Moldavan history, because he was able to maintain the principlality’s independence during his reign from 1457 through 1504.  He successfully fended off incursions by Hungary and Poland and the Ottoman Empire; only at the end of his life, in 1503, did he conclude a treaty with Sultan Beyazid II that preserved Moldavia’s self rule at the cost of an annual tribute to the Turks. From the 16th century on, the Principality of Moldavia would spend three hundred years as an Ottoman vassal.

Stefan Celmare (Stefan the Great)

In 1812, following one of several Russian-Turkish wars, the eastern half of the principality, Bessarabia (where most of today’s Moldova is located), was annexed by the Russian Empire. In 1918, Bessarabia briefly became independent as the Moldavian Democratic Republic and united with Romania. In 1940 it was annexed by the Soviet Union, joined to the Moldavian ASSR, and became the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Severe drought and famines occurred during the period of Soviet rule which was a strong motivator for rebellion. In the time between 1944 and 1953, there were several anti-communist armed resistance groups, however, the Soviet government had most of them arrested, executed or deported. The Soviet government aggressively promoted the ethnic Moldavian identity as different from the Romanian identity, in order to sever any lingering ties to Romania which might bolster the insurrection.

In 1985, new political conditions were created in the Soviet Union due to the glasnost policy introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev. In support of perestroika, a Democratic Movement of Moldova was formed which in 1989 became the Popular Front of Moldova.

From 1988 onwards, Moldova, along with several other Soviet Republics began to move toward independence. On August 27, 1987, a mass demonstration called the Great National Assembly was organized. It pressured the Soviet Republic authorities to adopt a language law that would proclaim Moldovan written in Latin as the state language. This provided a clear demarcation between the budding nationalism of the Moldovans and any lingering loyalties to the Soviet Union. The first general elections to establish an independent parliament were held and that parliament subsequently adopted the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Soviet Socialist Republic Moldova. Finally, on August 27, 1991, Moldova declared its independence.  Consequently, Moldova celebrates both its independence (on 8-27) and its national language day (on 8-31,) as a result of the two events being so intertwined.

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