Moldova. The year began with a Russian stop for gas deliveries via Ukraine to Moldova. to push higher prices. Previously, Moldova and other former Soviet republics had been allowed to buy Russian gas at a subsidized price. However, the sharp increases were perceived as politically motivated, as states with close ties to Russia were offered better conditions than, among other things, Moldova. After negotiations, Moldova agreed with Russian Gazprom on a temporary price to be followed by new negotiations.
In the spring, Russia introduced boycotts against Moldovan and Georgian wines, citing that they contained harmful substances. Four-fifths of Moldova’s wine exports normally go to Russia. According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Moldova include Independence Day (August 27) and New Year (January 1). The boycott was also perceived politically, and Moldova sent a delegation to Moscow to protest. Assessors saw Russia’s actions as an attempt to punish the former Soviet states moving away from Moscow in the west. Only at the end of the year was the Russian boycott of Moldovan wines lifted.
Moldova and Russia are in conflict over the breakaway Republic of Transnistria, which is supported by Russia. In September, a referendum was held in Transnistria, where 97% were said to vote for the area to continue its independent line in relation to Moldova and eventually join Russia. The referendum was not approved by the Moldovan government, nor by the EU. From the west, Transnistria’s leaders were urged to return to negotiations with Moldova. Russia, on the other hand, said they would respect that “referenda of this kind are held”. Russia has about 1,200 soldiers in Transnistria, but has shown no interest in incorporating the area. The breakaway republic has about half a million residents, and according to Moldova, the area is a stronghold for criminal groups. The EU supports Moldova.
In 1995, Chisinau increased the pace of the privatization program, and facilitated the introduction of foreign capital. President Snégur did not succeed in generating more support for his policy, and in the November 1996 election he was beaten by Petru Lucinschi, who continued economic reform. However, in the March 1998 parliamentary elections, the communists won by 30.7% of the vote, which was considered a defeat for his government. The Communist Party continues to emphasize state centralization and the re-establishment of a socialist state.
With the aim of reducing the severe economic crisis and reducing the pressure from domestic and foreign debt, in 1999 Lucinschi initiated a new phase of privatization. The country’s telephone company Moldtelecom and the electricity service were put up for sale. The electricity sector was plagued by inefficiencies and a catastrophic scam with the bills, with thousands of customers accustomed to not paying. In parts of the country there was only electricity a few hours a day. Most of the power came through a grid built in the Soviet era from Ukraine, where it was purchased. The tobacco and wine industries – two of the country’s economic crown jewels – were also put up for sale.
In November, Parliament declared its distrust of Prime Minister Ion Sturdza’s government. After 2 of President Lucinshi’s candidates for the post were rejected by parliament, Dumitru Barghis was appointed new prime minister. He was deployed on December 16.
The Communist Party won the elections in April 2001 with 49.9% of the vote, and Vladimir Voronin was elected president. One of the new government’s first acts was to introduce Russian as a second language in the school from the 5th grade. It sparked extensive discussions as 70% of Moldovans speak Romanian. A month earlier, the government had ratified a treaty with Russia as a strategic partner, which meant that the leap of language was seen as yet another step towards Russification.
Extensive demonstrations by the Christian Democratic People’s Party in February 2002 led the resignation of Education Minister Ilie Vancea and Minister of the Interior Vasile Dregenel. They had been advocating that the protesters were severely beaten, but instead the government chose a retreat in terms of language teaching and promised changes to the history books. The Christian Democrats are advocates of union with Romania.
In November 2003, Russia proposed building a federation to give greater autonomy to Transnistria, ending a 13-year conflict. The proposal meant that the nationalist opposition was immediately on the streets – even before President Voronin rejected the proposal. The opposition accused the president of preferring rapprochement with Russia, which already has a 2,500-man peace force in the area as well as large quantities of missiles and artillery. The opposition instead called for the deployment of peacekeepers from the US and Europe. Voronin’s supporters, in turn, accused Washington and the EU of exploiting the area’s instability to increase their influence.