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Moldova - Introduction

Bessarabia, the land between the Prut and Nistru rivers, is predominantly ethnic Romanian in population and constitutes the eastern half of a region historically known as Moldova or Moldavia (the Soviet-era Russian name). Transnistria is the Romanian-language name for the land on the east bank of the Nistru River; the majority of the population there is Slavic -- ethnic Ukrainians and Russians -- although Romanians are the single largest ethnic group there.

Moldova has an estimated total population of 3.95 million, including 532,000 in the secessionist-controlled region of Transnistria. An estimated 900,000 citizens, including approximately 250,000 Transnistrians, lived outside the country. Gagauzia, or Gagauz-Yeri, is a region in the south of Moldova consisting primarily of 150,000 Gagauz, a Turkic ethnic group but traditionally Orthodox Christian by religion. The region gained autonomous status through Moldovan legislation promulgated in 1995, which includes the right to independently determine issues relating to its political, economic, and cultural development. Comrat is the regional capital.

"Demographic crisis" and "latent depopulation" are terms, frequently used to describe the current demographic realities of the Republic of Moldova. The decreasing number of people is determined by the low birth rate, emigration and increased death rate, and the complex interaction of these factors accelerated even more the depopulation phenomenon. The demographic realities in the Republic of Moldova can be defined as a demographic crisis or latent de-population. During 1997-2007, the present population of the Republic of Moldova (without the Transnistrian region), has fallen by 2,1%, in the rural areas by 0,5%, and in the urban areas by 4,3%. The decreasing population is determined by the reduced birth rate, by emigration and higher mortality, while their complex interaction has catalysed even more the de-population phenomenon. Disintegration of the family institution, as a basic cell of the society, added essentially to those realities. Delayed European integration resulted in mass application by Moldovans for Romanian citizenship. Most Moldovans are easily assimilated in foreign environment and give up their national identity. This is true in particular for young people who emigrate and abandon without any regrets most of the local features in favor of the values of their new homeland.

Ethnic groups represented in Moldova include Moldovan/Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Gagauz, and Bulgarian. Romanian (officially known as Moldovan) is the official language; Russian, Ukrainian, and Gagauz are also spoken. The great majority of Moldova's population is Christian Orthodox -- 90% of the population nominally belongs to one of the two main Orthodox denominations. The Moldovan Orthodox Church (MOC), an autonomous diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church and subordinate to the Patriarch of Moscow, has 1,281 component parts, including churches, monasteries, and other buildings; the Bessarabian Orthodox Church (BOC), subordinate to the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate in Bucharest, has 309 component parts. A November 2008 Gallup poll found that 87% of respondents identified themselves as members of the MOC, and 8% identified themselves as members of the BOC. In addition, followers of the Old Rite Russian Orthodox Church (Old Believers) have 15 component parts. The government does not seek out or record the number of adherents of religious organizations.

In addition to state-sponsored media, there are several independent newspapers, radio and television stations, and news services. The independent media organizations, along with some that are affiliated with political parties, often criticize government policies. In August 2004, Teleradio Moldova (TRM) was officially transformed from a state-owned company into a public broadcaster. However, journalists and civil society representatives, who claimed the process was nontransparent and meant to stack the new TRM staff with those favorable to the government, met this move with large protests. In February 2007, a controversial privatization process shut down the popular, pro-opposition Chisinau radio station Antena C, and installed new, pro-government management. The U.S. Ambassador, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and western diplomatic missions condemned the developments, which seemed to run counter to the Moldovan Broadcasting Code and risked silencing political opposition. In 2008, independent station ProTV Chisinau faced government harassment that included a criminal investigation into the station's ownership, and refusal by the AudioVisual Coordinating Council to extend ProTV's broadcasting license automatically. However, apparently in response to strong expressions of concern by the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and the U.S. Embassy, the Audiovisual Council announced in December 2008 that it would allow all broadcasters with expiring licenses to continue broadcasting until after the spring 2009 parliamentary elections.

A new law on public assembly, which took effect in February 2008, eliminated the need to obtain permission to demonstrate. In spite of this change, NGOs continued to express concern that the government limited freedom of assembly. Private organizations, including political parties, are required to register with the government. Moldova enacted a new law on religion in July 2007. The law, while noting the special status of the Moldovan Orthodox Church in Moldovan history and culture, in theory simplifies registration procedures and allows religious groups more access to public places. Although numerous religious groups have applied for registration under the new procedures, all, except for the Unification Church, have been refused on what they claim are arbitrary grounds.

Trafficking in persons (TIP) remains a very serious problem, as Moldova is considered a major source and, to a lesser extent, transit country. On the basis of positive actions undertaken by the Government of Moldova since March 2008, the Secretary of State has determined that the government does not yet fully comply with the minimum standards in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance. This is the standard for placement on Tier 2 of the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report. The Secretary has placed Moldova on the Special Watch List because the determination that the Government of Moldova is making significant efforts is based, in part, on commitments by the country to take additional steps over the next year. Since the release of the June 2008 TIP Report, the Moldovan Government has presented evidence that it is taking tangible steps to address the problem of trafficking-related complicity.

Moldova's pro-Russia President Igor Dodon proposed a new flag for his country that would eliminate similarities the current banner has with the flag and coat of arms of neighboring Romania. Dodon said on 02 February 2017, Moldova's statehood day, that he wants lawmakers and civil society to discuss the idea and come up with legislative proposals "in the weeks or months ahead."

Legal experts concluded that changing Moldova's national flag would require parliamentary legislation that is unlikely to be approved by the current ruling coalition. That's because the three parties in the pro-European Union governing coalition control a majority of parliament's 101 seats while Dodon's supporters in the Socialist Party of The Republic of Moldova (PSRM) control only 25 seats. Meanwhile, critics of Dodon's plan say it is part of his broader efforts to steer Moldova away from a course toward the EU membership that Romania has already achieved.

The tricolors of the current flags of Moldova and Romania reflect a common heritage dating back long before the late 19th century when the lands of present-day Moldova formed part of the Kingdom of Romania. Dodon's proposal also would remove the eagle from Moldova's flag -- a symbol that is similar on the coat of arms of both Moldova and Romania. Instead, the new design suggested by Dodon would retain the head of an ox, a star, a flower, and a crescent from Moldova's coat of arms. That imagery has long been a symbol of the historic principality of Moldavia -- a region dating back to the 14th century composed of territories that now form parts of Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine.




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