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Demographics of Moldova

Although Moldova is by far the most densely populated of the former Soviet republics (129 inhabitants per square kilometer in 1990, compared with thirteen inhabitants per square kilometer for the Soviet Union as a whole), it has few large cities. The largest and most important of these is Chisinau, the country's capital and its most important industrial center. Founded in 1420, Chisinau is located in the center of the republic, on the Bīc (Byk, in Russian) River, and in 1990 had a population of 676,000. The city's population is slightly more than 50 percent ethnic Romanian, with ethnic Russians constituting approximately 25 percent and Ukrainians 13 percent. The proportion of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in the capital's population decreased in the years immediately after 1989 because of the emigration resulting from Moldavia's changing political situation and civil unrest.

The second largest city in the republic, Tiraspol, had a population of 184,000 in 1990. It is located in Transnistria and served as the capital of the Moldavian ASSR from 1929 to 1940. It has remained an important center of administration, transportation, and manufacturing. In contrast to Chisinau, Tiraspol had a population of only some 18 percent ethnic Romanians, with most of the remainder being ethnic Russians (41 percent) and Ukrainians (32 percent).

Other important cities include Balti (Bel'tsy, in Russian), with a population of 162,000 in 1990, and Bender (or Bendery, in Russian; Tighina in Romanian), with a population of 132,000 in the same year. As in Tiraspol, ethnic Romanians are in the minority in both of these cities.

Traditionally a rural country, Moldova gradually began changing its character under Soviet rule. As urban areas became the sites of new industrial jobs and of amenities such as clinics, the population of cities and towns grew. The new residents were not only ethnic Romanians who had moved from rural areas but also many ethnic Russians and Ukrainians who had been recruited to fill positions in industry and government (see Ethnic Composition , this ch.)

In 1990 Moldova's divorce rate of 3.0 divorces per 1,000 population had risen from the 1987 rate of 2.7 divorces per 1,000 population (see table 9, Appendix A). The usual stresses of marriage were exacerbated by a society in which women were expected to perform most of the housework in addition to their work outside the home. Compounding this were crowded housing conditions (with their resulting lack of privacy) and, no doubt, the growing political crisis, which added its own strains.

Population: 4,430,654 (July 2000 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 23% (male 523,373; female 505,064)
15-64 years: 67% (male 1,422,470; female 1,544,169)
65 years and over: 10% (male 161,659; female 273,919) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: -0% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 12.86 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 12.58 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: -0.31 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.59 male(s)/female
total population: 0.91 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 43.32 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 64.45 years
male: 59.92 years
female: 69.22 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.63 children born/woman (2000 est.)

noun: Moldovan(s)
adjective: Moldovan

Ethnic groups: Moldavian/Romanian 64.5%, Ukrainian 13.8%, Russian 13%, Gagauz 3.5%, Jewish 1.5%, Bulgarian 2%, other 1.7% (1989 est.)

One of Moldova's characteristic traits is its ethnic diversity. As early as the beginning of the eighteenth century, Moldovan prince and scholar Dimitrie Cantemir observed that he "didn't believe that there [existed] a single country of the size of Moldova in which so many and such diverse peoples meet."

At the time of the 1989 census, Moldova's total population was 4,335,400. The largest nationality in the republic, ethnic Romanians, numbered 2,795,000 persons, accounting for 64.5 percent of the population. The other major nationalities were Ukrainians, about 600,000 (14 percent); Russians, about 562,000 (13.0 percent); Gagauz, about 153,000 (4 percent); Bulgarians, about 88,000 (2 percent); and Jews, about 66,000 (2.0 percent). There were also smaller but appreciable numbers of Belarusians, Poles, Roma (Gypsies), and Germans in the population. In contrast, in Transnistria ethnic Romanians accounted for only 40 percent, of the population in 1989, followed by Ukrainians (28 percent), Russians (25 percent), Bulgarians (2 percent), and Gagauz (1 percent).

In the early 1990s, there was significant emigration from the republic, primarily from urban areas and primarily by Romanian minorities. In 1990 persons emigrating accounted for 6.8 percent of the population. This figure rose to 10 percent in 1991 before dropping sharply to 2 percent in 1992.

Ethnic Romanians made up a sizable proportion of the urban population in 1989 (about half the population of Chisinau, for example), as well as a large proportion of the rural population (80 percent), but only 23 percent of the ethnic Romanians lived in the republic's ten largest cities. Many had emigrated to Romania at the end of World War II, and others had lost their lives during the war and in postwar Soviet purges. As a consequence of industrial growth and the Soviet government's policy of diluting and Russifying ethnic Romanians, there was significant immigration to the Moldavian SSR by other nationalities, especially ethnic Russians and Ukrainians.

Unlike ethnic Romanians, ethnic Russians tend to be urban dwellers in Moldova; more than 72 percent of them lived in the ten largest cities in 1989. Many of them came to the Moldavian SSR after it was annexed by the Soviet government in 1940; more arrived after World War II. Ostensibly, they came to alleviate the Moldavian SSR's postwar labor shortage (although thousands of ethnic Romanians were being deported to Central Asia at the time) and to fill leadership positions in industry and the government. The Russians settled mainly in Chisinau and Bender and in the Transnistrian cities of Tiraspol and Dubasari (Dubossary, in Russian). Only about 25 percent of Moldova's Russians lived in Transnistria in the early 1990s.

Religions: Eastern Orthodox 98.5%, Judaism 1.5%, Baptist (only about 1,000 members) (1991)

The Soviet government strictly limited the activities of the Orthodox Church (and all religions) and at times sought to exploit it, with the ultimate goal of destroying it and all religious activity. Most Orthodox churches and monasteries in Moldova were demolished or converted to other uses, such as warehouses, and clergy were sometimes punished for leading services. But many believers continued to practice their faith in secret.

In 1991 Moldova had 853 Orthodox churches and eleven Orthodox monasteries (four for monks and seven for nuns). In addition, the Old Russian Orthodox Church (Old Believers--see Glossary) had fourteen churches and one monastery in Moldova.

Before Soviet power was established in Moldova, the vast majority of ethnic Romanians belonged to the Romanian Orthodox Church (Bucharest Patriarchate), but today the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has jurisdiction in Moldova. Russian, Romanian, and Turkic (Gagauz) liturgies are used in the church. After the recent revival of religious activity, most of the clergy and the faithful wanted to return to the Bucharest Patriarchate but were prevented from doing so. Because higher-level church authorities were unable to resolve the matter, Moldova now has two episcopates, one for each patriarchate. In late 1992, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia issued a decree upgrading the Eparchy of Chisinau and Moldova to a metropolitan..

Moldova also has a Uniate minority, mainly among ethnic Ukrainians, although the Soviet government declared the Uniate Church illegal in 1946 and forcibly united it with the Russian Orthodox Church. The Uniate Church survived underground, however, outlasting the Soviet Union itself.

Despite the Soviet government's suppression and ongoing harassment, Moldova's Jews managed to retain their religious identity. About a dozen Jewish newspapers were started in the early 1990s, and religious leaders opened a synagogue in Chisinau; there were six Jewish communities of worship throughout the country. In addition, Moldova's government created the Department of Jewish Studies at Chisinau State University, mandated the opening of a Jewish high school in Chisinau, and introduced classes in Judaism in high schools in several cities. The government also provides financial support to the Society for Jewish Culture.

Other religious denominations in Moldova are the Armenian Apostolic Church, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Molokans (a Russian Orthodox sect).

Citizens in independent Moldova have much greater religious freedom than they did under the Soviet regime. Legislation passed in 1992 guaranteed religious freedom but did require that all religious groups be officially recognized by the government. In 1992 construction or restoration of 221 churches was under way, but clergy remained in short supply.

Languages: Moldovan (official, virtually the same as the Romanian language), Russian, Gagauz (a Turkic language/dialect)

The Moldovan dialect of Romanian, spoken by the majority of the people of Bessarabia, was viewed by both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union as an impediment to controlling the local populace. Under the tsars, Romanian-language education and the Romanian press were forbidden as part of a process of forced Russification.

Stalin justified the creation of the Moldavian SSR by claiming that a distinct "Moldavian" language was an indicator that "Moldavians" were a separate nationality from the Romanians in Romania. In order to give greater credence to this claim, in 1940 Stalin imposed the Cyrillic alphabet on "Moldavian" to make it look more like Russian and less like Romanian; archaic Romanian words of Slavic origin were imposed on "Moldavian"; Russian loanwords and phrases were added to "Moldavian"; and a new theory was advanced that "Moldavian" was at least partially Slavic in origin. (Romanian is a Romance language descended from Latin.) In 1949 Moldavian citizens were publicly reprimanded in a journal for daring to express themselves in literary Romanian. The Soviet government continued this type of behavior for decades.

Proper names in Moldova were subjected to Russianization (see Glossary) as well. Russian endings were added to purely Romanian names, and individuals were referred to in the Russian manner by using a patronymic (based on one's father's first name) as a middle name.

In 1989 members of most of the Moldavian SSR's nationalities claimed their national language as their mother tongue: Romanians (95 percent), Ukrainians (62 percent), Russians (99 percent), Gagauz (91 percent), Bulgarians (79 percent), and Roma (82 percent). The exceptions were Jews (26 percent citing Yiddish), Belarusians (43 percent), Germans (31 percent), and Poles (10 percent).

Although both Romanian written in the Cyrillic alphabet (that is, "Moldavian") and Russian were the official languages of the Moldavian SSR, only 62 percent of the total population claimed Romanian as their native language in 1979. If ethnic Romanians are subtracted from this number, the figure falls to just over 1 percent. Only 4 percent of the entire population claimed Romanian as a second language.

In 1979 Russian was claimed as a native language by a large proportion of Jews (66 percent) and ethnic Belarusians (62 percent) and by a significant proportion of ethnic Ukrainians (30 percent). Proportions of other nationalities naming Russian as a native language ranged from 17 percent of ethnic Bulgarians to 3 percent of ethnic Romanians (urban Romanians were more Russianized than rural Romanians). Russian was claimed as a second language by a sizable proportion of all the nationalities: Romanians (46 percent), Ukrainians (43 percent), Gagauz (68 percent), Jews (30 percent), Bulgarians (67 percent), Belarusians (34 percent), Germans (53 percent), Roma (36 percent), and Poles (24 percent).

On August 31, 1989, the Supreme Soviet of Moldavia passed the Law on State Language, which made Moldovan written in the Latin alphabet the state language of the Moldavian SSR. Because of pressure exerted by non-Romanian ethnic groups, Russian was retained as the language of interethnic communication. In areas where non-Romanian ethnic groups were the majority, the language of that majority could also be used as a means of communication. Because of strong objections raised by the non-Romanian nationalities, implementation of the law was delayed.

The new Moldovan constitution, adopted August 27, 1994, states that Moldovan, written in the Latin script, is designated as the official language, but provisions were made for Russian and other languages to be used in areas of minority concentrations. Russian was also to be the language of interethnic communication.

On April 27, 1995, President Snegur asked Parliament to change the name of the language in the constitution, from Moldovan to Romanian, in response to demonstrations and strikes led by students. According to Moldovan law, it would be six months before a proposed change to the constitution could be made.

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96%
male: 99%
female: 94% (1989 est.)

See also : Moldova