This is one of those “factual opinion” questions – the sort of thing that asks for generally agreed significance rather than Google-able information. So I think but am not positive it’s proper in GQ.

My distinct impression is that Moldova, the small, poor nation just southwest of Ukraine and bordering Romania, is for all practical purposes Romanian in culture, speaking a Moldavian dialect of Romanian (considered a separate language by the Moldovan government but not by most linguistics scholars, culturally influenced by Russia and Ukraine but predominantly Romanian in culture, effectively a part of Moldavia (the northeast part of Romania, east of the Carpathians) that owes its separate legal existence to 20th century politics – it was part of Russia prior to 1918, then added to Romania, seized by the USSR in 1940 and made a SSR for the next 50 years.

Are there any significant ethnic or cultural differnces between Moldova and Moldavia? Does it have real ‘national’ distinctness as a region?

Following the Soviet annexation of Moldova, there was a policy of moving ethnic Russians and Ukrainians into the region to create a non-Moldavian community.

This has since led to complications. If you go by the internationally recognized borders of the Republic of Moldova, you’d find that about 20% of the nation’s population is Russian or Ukrainian. But a large number of these ethnic Russians and Ukrainians live in a region called Transnistria which is next to the Ukraine. And it’s an arguable point whether they should be counted as part of Moldova anymore. The people in the area declared their independance in 1990 and call themselves the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. They aren’t recognized by any other country but they aren’t controlled by the Moldovan government in Chisinau and have formed their own government in Tiraspol which has been running things since 1992.

So depending on how you count it, Moldova is either a country with a population of 3,383,332 of whom 483,624 are ethnically Russian or Ukrainian or it’s a country of 3,938,679 of whom 812,371 are ethnically Russian or Ukrainian. (Figures based on a 2004 census in which everyone self-declared what ethnic group they were.)

I sent the OP to a Moldovan friend who sent me the following in response:

If you want an entertaining look at the country from a Westerner’s perspective, I recommend Playing the Moldovans at Tennis by Tony Hawks (the British comedian, not the skateboard guy). It’s an easy read and Hawks is hardly the best ambassador for the West, but you do learn about Moldova.

I’ll leave those more knowledgeable about Moldova/Moldavia to settle this matter, but in general I’ll just add that among those studying nations and nationalism, there is a broad consensus that there is not such a thing as objectively observable ‘national distinctness’. For the largest part, the nation and nationalism is a social construct, which is to say it only exists because we say it does. A nation exists if there are people saying that they are part of that nation, that’s all the distinctness that is necessary. Just because they speak a language that is the same as or similar to Romanian, and have similar cultural/religious influences, does not necessarily mean that the Moldavia cannot be a nation of it’s own.

Distinct from other countries in the area, Moldova has a proud wine (bottle) making tradition.

They make wine too.

I love that whole area. I recall my mother was from Croatia and my father was from Serbia. Of course then it was Yugoslavia and both my mother and father spoke Serbo-Croation. Now it’s Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian and Montenegrin. Four languages where one was spoken before, (yes I know the Croats and Serbs use different alphabets but the spoken is the same)

Same with Macedonian and Bulgarian. Now people swear they are different. So is Moldovan and Romanian.

Of course the language is so different that it would be like me going to London or Melbourne and wanting an interpreter 'cause “English” is so different from “American”


My father’s side of the family were all Serbs from Croatia - a whole 'nother kettle of fish :D.

As for Moldova, in the guise of Bessarabia, it has been mostly seperated from Moldavia from about the beginning of the 19th century and thus have a slightly seperate history in the age of modern nationalism. Among other things it is far less monoethnic than Romanian Moldavia. But in general it’s about as distinct as Azerbaijan is from neighboring Azeri Iran ( or Turkmenisten from neighboring Khurasan-Iran ) - not all that much. But Švejk has the right of it - distinct or not, nationalism is all about internal processing. They’re distinct if they think they are.

And I have no idea if they think they are, though I see cckerberos has some input there.

Is this Transylvania? As in Dracula? Forgive my geographic confusion, but I thought that had some overlap with Hungary. How does modern Romania feel about part of the country being hived off like this?

I used to live in Slovakia, and being stereotypically Amerian, was stunned by the level of micro-nationalism. However, it was balanced out, in a way, by a strong sense that, no matter what the current borders were, there was a larger entity that really controlled things. Ethnic Hungarians along the Danube, for example, tended to shrug and say that they were currently Slovak citizens, but only until some indeterminate future date, when Hungary would shift the border back to where it belonged. The Hungarian government was very involved with enforcing the legal rights of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia, running Hungarian schools, and the like. The impression I had was that this goes on all over Central Europe, with governments both asserting their responsibility for “extra-territorial citizens*” and recognizing that other governments had similar rights.

I’m prepared to be told that I’m wrong, or that things have changed. (Are there still Franz Josef II clubs?)

*I made that phrase up because I don’t know what else to call them.

It used to be an integral part of Hungary, as was Slovakia. There was a sizeable Hungarian minority in eastern Transylvania in particular, but it was disjunct enough from the more concentrated Hungarian population on the Danube plain, that it wasn’t seriously considered as being included in the Hungarian nation when everything was partitioned after WW I. Dracula, the real one, was from Wallachia, the area just south of Transylvania. You can see the three chunks that became Romania here.

To a certain extent. Romania used to persecute the ethnic Hungarians something fierce, particularly during the Communist years. Within the fall of the Ceaucescus and the Romanian government now focusing its efforts on dragging the country out of the shithole it was in, persecution of minority groups is less of a priority than it used to be (although hardly non-existent). EU membership for Eastern European countries has really opened things up for these “extra-territorials” as well, as they can go to and fro much more easily than in the past and there is a broader platform for countries such as Hungary to address any issues affecting such groups.

My (Hungarian) grandmother was born in that region of Transylvania which was ceded to Romania after WW I, and her family definitely chafed at the restrictions placed on them (not allowed to wear native costumes, discouraged from speaking the language, etc). They eventually moved to Hungary proper, and after WW II she moved to America. She occasionally pined for the days when Hungary reached to the sea, but I don’t think she ever really expected it to happen again.