Sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, Moldova emerged as an independent republic following the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
The bulk of it, between the rivers Dniester and Prut, is made up of an area formerly known as Bessarabia. This territory was annexed by the USSR in 1940 following the carve-up of Romania in the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact between Hitler's Germany and Stalin's USSR.
Two-thirds of Moldovans are of Romanian descent, the languages are virtually identical and the two countries share a common cultural heritage.
The industrialised territory to the east of the Dniester, generally known as Trans-Dniester or the Dniester region, was formally an autonomous area within Ukraine before 1940 when the Soviet Union combined it with Bessarabia to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.
At a glance
- Politics: Prime Minister Vlad Filat heads a pro-West three-party coalition
- Economy: One of Europe's poorest countries, Moldova depends on agricultural exports and transfers from citizens working abroad
- International: Moldova's government seeks closer European ties. The mainly Russian-speaking Trans-Dniester region proclaimed independence in 1990 but has not achieved international recognition
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
This area is mainly inhabited by Russian and Ukrainian speakers. As people there became increasingly alarmed at the prospect of closer ties with Romania in the tumultuous twilight years of the Soviet Union, Trans-Dniester unilaterally declared independence from Moldova in 1990.
There was fierce fighting there as it tried to assert this independence following the collapse of the USSR and the declaration of Moldovan sovereignty. Hundreds died. The violence ended with the introduction of Russian peacekeepers. Trans-Dniester's independence has never been recognised and the region has existed in a state of lawless and corrupt limbo ever since.
The region reasserted its demand for independence and also expressed support for a plan ultimately to join Russia in a September 2006 referendum which was unrecognised by Chisinau and the international community.
It still houses a stockpile of old Soviet military equipment and a contingent of troops of the Russian 14th army. Withdrawal began under international agreements in 2001 but was halted when the Trans-Dniester authorities blocked the dispatch of weapons. Subsequent agreements to resume did not reach fruition as relations between Moscow and Chisinau cooled.
The Moldovan parliament granted autonomous status to the Turkic-language speaking Gagauz region in the southwest of the republic in late 1994. It has powers over its own political, economic and cultural affairs.
Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe and has a large foreign debt and high unemployment. Its once-flourishing wine trade has been in decline and it is heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies.
The Russian gas supplier Gazprom cut the gas supply off at the beginning of 2006 when Moldova refused to pay twice the previous price. A temporary compromise arrangement was reached soon afterwards and the two sides agreed a new price in July 2006 with a further rise in 2007.
Gas supplies were cut off again for several weeks in January 2009, this time as a result of a dispute over prices between supplier Russia and transit country Ukraine.