Reason‘s December Special IssueThe 30th anniversary marks the end of the Soviet Union. We are exploring the legacy of this evil empire around the world and trying to ensure that it does not continue. The terrible consequences of communism cannot be ignored.
You have probably heard of Moldova if you don’t speak Russian or Romanian. It was the source of the 2004 Eurodance global number one. 1. The Romanian language chorus of the song, which was popularized by a YouTuber who lip-synched, and became viral, sounds something like “numa nua yay.”
You can also find out more about our products. Take a look at these ideas you’ve heard of Moldova, but maybe not quite with that spelling, you might well be remembering the fictional post-communist country of Molvanîa, whose motto in pre-Borat guidebooks and a comical Web 1.0 website was “a land untouched by modern dentistry.”
Unfortunately for Moldova, the post-Soviet republic that is still in existence, it has not been a laughing matter over the past 30 years. The landlocked country is wedged between Ukraine and Romania. It suffers from the history-based subjugations that are so common in small East Central European countries. An independent Moldova was faced from the beginning with a bloody skirmish about Transnistria (a breakaway pro Soviet republic that still retains some sovereignty).
Moldova has the second lowest per-capita annual income in Europe at just $5,000. This is behind Belarus, war-torn Ukraine, and poor Belarus. Even at the Balkan level, corruption has been a major problem. Since the collapse of USSR, population has fallen by one third to 3.5 million. This is the largest demographic fall on continent. This “near abroad” intervention by Russia has been so severe that, for the majority of the past decade, the Council of Europe called Moldova a “captive country.”
But somehow, miraculously Moldova may have the chance to be the belle of all the balls and not the bitt of the joke.
Moldovans were elected on July 11th, after 8 months without a government. The result was 53 percent to 27% for a reformist party, led by Maia Sandu (a Harvard-educated economist from the World Bank). It was the Washington Post editorial page described the vote as “a crushing victory over pro-Russian parties that had dominated Moldova’s politics for most of the past 30 years.”
Premature Western praises of reform-minded politicians in post-communist Europe are common. It is best to be cautious. Sandu is a clever man, and has managed to avoid incendiary geopolitics. She positions her government not as in thrall to Moscow or Brussels (or Bucharest), but she does so without inflaming overly concerned parties.
As with most other theoretically eligible countries Moldova seeks membership in the European Union. For the time being, the leader of this historically poor country is a man who advocates for liberal democracy, market economies, the rule of law, rather than oligarchs. It could happen anywhere, if it’s possible here.
Sandu stated that he hoped today would be the end for a troubled era in Moldova. “I hope today will see an end of the rule and corruption.”