Moldova is a Romanian-speaking former Soviet republic in Eastern Europe. The country had been ruled by Romania (in 1918 then three-month-old Moldovan Republic gave up the struggle for survival and united with neighbouring Romania for a brief interlude) or Russia for centuries (in 1940 the Soviet Union reclaimed the former Russian imperial possession, and kept it until the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1990). Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991.
Capital city: Chisinau
Population: 1990 4.4m (The Economist, November 21st 2020, p.23).
Social mores: Moldova is described as socially conservative (The Economist, November 21st 2020, p.23).
Economy: ‘Ever since 2014, when the embezzlement of about $1 billion from three banks forced a taxpayer bail-out that has crippled the economy, the country has been lurching towards collapse,’ (‘A republic if you can steal it’, The Economist Jan 30th 2016, p.20). Moldova ‘is by far Europe’s poorest place,’ (‘A do-over in Moldova’, The Economist 18th Feb 2017, p.22).
‘Two of Moldova’s biggest trading partners [are] Ukraine and Russia. The Moldovan economy is heavily agricultural: about a third of workers are farmers. Most are smallholders. A free-trade agreement with the EU in 2014 provides a ready market for Moldovan commodities, including its wine,’ (‘A do-over in Moldova’, The Economist 18th Feb 2017, p.22).
Wine industry: In Soviet days almost all Moldovan wine went to the rest of the Soviet Union. In the 1980s its vineyards were uprooted when Mikhail Gorbachev began his anti-alcoholism campaign. With the collapse of the Soviet Union much of Moldova’s industry also collapsed; but the wine and brandy businesses did not. Russia, to which 80% of the country’s booze went, had an unslakable thirst for it. Moldova is wedged between Romania and Ukraine. A breakaway sliver, Transdniestria, is controlled by Russia. In 2006, when Moldova rejected a deal to end the frozen conflict over Transdniestria, Vladimir Putin’s Russia slapped an embargo on Moldovan wine. Millions of bottles already in Russia were poured away or never paid for. “The sector was dead,” says Gheorghe Arpentin of the National Office for Vine and Wine. The embargo was relaxed a little later, but Mr Putin redoubled it in 2013 when Moldova annoyed him by signing an association agreement with the European Union. Since then the industry has transformed itself. Moldova’s wineries have redirected their sales to the EU. The embargoes have forced producers to make better plonk: European oenophiles are picky. The main customers are former communist countries where Moldovan wine was already known, such as Poland and Romania. Chinese buyers are keen, too. Russia allows some imports, but only from Transdniestria, Gagauzia (a small pro-Russian region) and a handful of wineries lucky enough to have close Russian links. The Moldovans’ hard work is paying off. In 2017 exports were 19.4% higher than in 2015.’ Source: Cheers for Moldovan wine,’ The Economist 31 March 2018, p.30.