The country of Moldova, officially known as the Republic of Moldova, is located in eastern Europe. This landlocked nation, which is bordered by Ukraine and Romania, is home to approximately 4,043,065 people. The local population is made up of residents from a variety of ethnic backgrounds including Ukrainians, Russians, Gagauz, Polish, Romanians, Bulgarians, and Romani. Moldova’s long history includes its past as a part of both the Ottoman and Russian Empires. The country finally achieved its political independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991.
The country’s name is derived from the Moldova River which flows through the modern day country of Romania. This Slavic name is derived from the word for spruce or fir (trees) with the last part, “ova”, being a reference to ownership.
The Moldova River is a tributary of the Siret River. It originates in the Obcina Feredeu Mountains in Romania before joining up with the larger Siret waterway near the Moldavian city of Rome. In total, the Moldova River spans a distance of 132 miles with its basin covering an area of 1,660 square miles. The river passes through a number of communities including Baia, Câmpulung Moldovenesc, Gura Humorului, Moldova-Sulița, Păltinoasa, Roman, Vama, and Voroneț.
The historic settlement of Târgul Moldovei (a name meaning "the market of Moldavia”) once served as the first capital city of Moldova. This modern-day urban area, now known as Baia, is located on the Moldova River and has a population of approximately 6,793 residents.
There are several non-proven theories concerning the origins of the name of this important eastern European river. One popular notion involves the founder of Moldova, Dragoș, a Vlach noble, who was said to have hunted wild oxen in the area in 1359. According to the myth Dragoș’ hunting dog, named Molda, chased an ox into the river where both animals lost their lives. The river, in turn, was then named in honor of the canine.
Other theories surrounding the origin of Moldova's name are tied to its Gothic roots which derive from the words for dust, dirt, or mud as well as the Old German word which is a reference to the practice of open pit mining.
The Moldovan region has undergone several name changes throughout its rich history. During the time when the area was under the control of the Ottoman Empire it was called Black Wallachia which in Turkish can be translated to Kara-Eflak. This name is rooted back to the time of the reign of Bogdan I (or Bogdan the Founder) which spanned the years 1359 to 1367. Moldova was also once called Bogdania, again in connection with the Romanian founder of the region.
Moldova was also once known as Bessarabia. Today approximately two-thirds of this historic land area lies in Moldova with the remaining portions located in Ukrainian territory.
During the course of its storied history, Moldova has been referred to by numerous alternative names which in large part were determined by its political system and affiliation at the time. These other names include the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, Moldaviya, Republic of Moldova, Republica Moldova, and Republica Moldovenească.