MOLDAVIA, an autonomous republic of the Russian S.F.S.R., created in 1925. Area 8,288 sq.km. Pop. (1926) 567,306. It is situated on the left bank of the Dniester river, in the Ukrainian S.S.R. between 48° 12' and 46° 32' N. and 28° 3o' and 3o° o6' E. Autonomy was granted to the region because refugees from Bessarabia, after the occupation of that country by the Rumanians, expressed a desire for cultural independence. The population consists of Ukrainians 48.5%, and Moldavians 30.1%, the rest being Jews, Germans, Bulgarians, Poles, Czechs and Greeks. Its surface consists of a plateau sloping gently from north-west to south-east, deeply dissected by small streams with steep banks. The great number of ravines thus cut in the spongy loess are unfavourable to agriculture, especially as the heavy rain storms of June and July often wash the surface soil away. The soil is chiefly black earth. The climate is extreme and most rain falls in very heavy storms during the growth of crops, so that the harvest is often damaged by these floods.
Agriculture thus labours under heavy disadvantages and has more than the usual element of chance : this has tended to prevent progress, and to lower social conditions. The chief crops are maize, wheat, rye and sunflower seed. Sugar beet, makhorka tobacco, fruits and vines are also cultivated. The number of cattle is poor compared with that in the rest of the Ukraine and diminished markedly after the bad harvest of 1924. Peasant in dustries to supplement the uncertain harvest are widespread and include the preparation of foodstuffs, flour-milling, oil-pressing and wine-making, the making of leather goods, especially boots and shoes, purses, etc., and the preparation of homespun garments.
Clay and alabaster are also worked, and household utensils, wood, metal and pottery made. Manufactures are little developed.
Balta was at first declared to be the temporary administrative centre and a hope was expressed that ultimately Kishinev and the surrounding district would be detached from Bessarabia and joined to the republic, and that Kishinev would then become the administrative centre. In 1928, however, Birzulav (Birzula), a small town of 9,973 inhabitants, in 45' N., 3o' E. was declared the administrative centre. The railway net is compara tively good, but roads are poor, and become impassable in flood time, those on the ravine slopes being sometimes completely washed away. The literacy rate is low and this militates against efforts to introduce scientific improvements to prevent the wash ing away of the surface of ravines. (See BLACK EARTH AREA.) The system of agriculture is mainly the traditional three-field system and agricultural implements are old fashioned and, in a population of fugitives, often lacking altogether. The migration of refugees into an area where the allotment of land to each peasant was already small, especially in view of the meteorological risks in this region, has created a very difficult problem.
The lack of diplomatic relations between Russia and Rumania and the consequent closing of the Dniester for trade between the two countries complicates the situation, and the region, which suffered severely during the war and civil war of 1914-20, and the famine conditions of 1921 and 1924, is in an unsettled social and economic condition. For the history see RUMANIA.