The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (Moldovan/Romanian: Република Советикэ Сочиалистэ Молдовеняскэ or 'Republica Sovietică Socialistă Moldovenească'; Moldavskaya Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika), commonly abbreviated as the Moldavian SSR or MSSR, was one of the fifteen republics of the Soviet Union. After the Declaration of Sovereignty on June 23, 1990 and until the Declaration of Independence on August 27, 1991, it was officially referred to as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova. Upon gaining formal independence, it became the Republic of Moldova.
After the failure of the Tatarbunar Uprising, the Soviets set up an autonomous Moldavian ASSR on October 12, 1924 within the Ukrainian SSR on part of the territory between the Dniester and Bug rivers, as a way to prop up the propaganda effort and help a potential Communist revolution in Romania.
On August 24, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a 10-year non-aggression treaty, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The pact contained a secret protocol, revealed only after Germany's defeat in 1945, according to which the states of Northern and Eastern Europe were divided into German and Soviet "spheres of influence". The secret protocol placed the Romanian province of Bessarabia in the Soviet "sphere of influence." Thereafter, both the Soviet Union and Germany invaded their respective portions of Poland, while the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia in June 1940, and waged war upon Finland (1939–1940).
On June 26, four days after France sued for an armistice with the Third Reich, the Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to Romania, demanding the latter to cede Bessarabia and Bukovina. After the Soviets agreed with Germany that they would limit their claims in Bukovina, which was outside the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact's secret protocols, to northern Bukovina, Germany urged Romania to accept the ultimatum, which Romania did two days later. The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was thereafter created following the entrance of Soviet troops on June 28, 1940.
The old Moldavian ASSR was dismantled and the Moldavian SSR was organized on August 2, 1940 from six full counties and small parts of three other counties of Bessarabia, and the six westernmost rayons of the Moldavian ASSR (about 40% of its territory). 90% of the territory of MSSR was on the right bank of the river Dniester, which was the border between the USSR and Romania prior to 1940, and 10% on the left bank. Smaller northern and southern parts of the territories occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940 (the current Chernivtsi Oblast and Budjak), which were more heterogeneous ethnically, were transferred to the Ukrainian SSR, although their population also included 337,000 Moldovans. As such, the strategically important Black Sea coast and Danube frontage were given to the Ukrainian SSR, considered more reliable than the Moldavian SSR, which could have been claimed by Romania.
In the summer of 1941, Romania joined Hitler's Axis in the invasion of the Soviet Union, recovering Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, as well as occupying the territory to the east of the Dniester it dubbed "Transnistria". By the end of World War II the Soviet Union had reconquered all of the lost territories, reestablishing Soviet authority there.
Stalinist period: repressions and deportations
Many Bessarabians who fled to Romania before the advancing Red Army were eventually caught by Soviet security forces; a high percentage of these were shot or deported, blamed as collaborators of Romania and Nazi Germany. On June 22, 1941, during the first day of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, 10 people were killed in Răzeni by Soviet authorities and buried in a mass grave. In July 1941 after Operation Barbarossa, a commemorative plaque was installed in Răzeni: "Aici odihnesc robii lui Dumnezeu Diomid, Niculai, Dănila, Nichita, Alexandru, Jurian, Alexandru, Ilie, doi necunoscuţi. Omorâţi mișelește de bolșevici comuniști. 12.VII.1941". A memorial was opened in 2009.
The Soviet authorities targeted several socio-economic groups due to their economic situation, political views, or ties to the former regime. They were deported to or resettled in Siberia and northern Kazakhstan; some were imprisoned or executed. According to a report by the Presidential Commission for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania, no less than 86,604 people were arrested and deported in 1940-1941 alone. Modern Russian historians put forward an estimative number of 90,000 for the same period. NKVD/MGB also struck at anti-Soviet groups, which were most active in 1944-1952. Anti-Soviet organizations such as Democratic Agrarian Party, Freedom Party, Democratic Union of Freedom, Arcaşii lui Ştefan, Vasile Lupu High School Group, Vocea Basarabiei were severely reprimanded and their leaders were persecuted.
A de-kulakisation campaign was directed towards the rich Moldavian peasant families, which were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia as well. For instance, in just two days, July 6 and July 7, 1949, over 11,342 Moldavian families were deported by the order of the Minister of State Security, I. L. Mordovets under a plan named "Operation South".
Religious persecutions during the Soviet occupation targeted numerous priests. After the Soviet occupation, the religious life underwent a persecution similar to the one in Russia between the two World Wars.
Other deportation campaigns were directed towards the ethnic Germans (whose number decreased from over 81,000 in 1930 to under 4,000 in 1959 due to voluntary wartime migration and forced removal as collaborators after the war) and religious minorities (700 families, especially Jehovah's Witnesses, were deported to Siberia in April 1951 under the plan "Operation North").
Stalinist period: collectivisation
Collectivisation was implemented between 1949 and 1950, although earlier attempts were made since 1946. During this time, a large-scale famine occurred: some sources give a minimum of 115,000 peasants who died of famine and related diseases between December 1946 and August 1947, others put the figure at 216,000, in addition to 350,000 related sickness cases. According to Charles King, there is ample evidence that it was caused by the Soviets and directed towards the largest ethnic group living in the countryside, the Moldovans. The main cause was the Soviet requisitioning of large amounts of agricultural products, but it was also aggravated by war, the draught of 1946, and collectivisation.
Khrushchev Thaw: 1956-1964
With the regime of Nikita Khrushchev replacing that of Joseph Stalin, the survivors of Gulag camps and of the deportees were gradually allowed to return to the Moldovan SSR. The political thaw ended the unchecked power of the NKVD/MGB, and the centrally planned economy gave rise to development in the areas such as education, technology and science, health care, and industry (except in the fields that were considered politically sensitive, such as genetics or history).
Between 1969 and 1971, a clandestine National Patriotic Front was established by several young intellectuals in Chişinău, totaling over 100 members, vowing to fight for the establishment of a Moldavian Democratic Republic, its secession from the Soviet Union and union with Romania. In December 1971, following an informative note from Ion Stănescu, the President of the Council of State Security of the Romanian Socialist Republic, to Yuri Andropov, the chief of KGB, three of the leaders of the National Patriotic Front, Alexandru Usatiuc-Bulgăr, Gheorghe Ghimpu and Valeriu Graur, as well as a fourth person, Alexandru Şoltoianu, the leader of a similar clandestine movement in northern Bukovina, were arrested and later sentenced to long prison terms.
In the 1970s and 1980s Moldova received substantial investment from the budget of the USSR to develop industrial, scientific facilities, as well as housing. In 1971, the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted a decision "About the measures for further development of Kishinev city" that secured more than one billion rubles of investment from the USSR budget Subsequent decisions directed enormous wealth and brought highly qualified specialists from all over the USSR to develop the Soviet republic. Such an allocation of USSR assets was partially influenced by the fact that Leonid Brezhnev, the effective ruler of the USSR from 1964 to 1982, was the Communist Party First Secretary in the Moldavian SSR in 1950-1952. These alocations stopped in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when Moldova became independent.
Perestroika and the road to independence: 1985-1991
Although Brezhnev and other CPM first secretaries were largely successful in suppressing Moldovan nationalism, Mikhail S. Gorbachev's administration facilitated the revival of the movement in the region. His policies of glasnost and perestroika created conditions in which national feelings could be openly expressed and in which the Soviet republics could consider reforms independently from the central government.
The MSSR's drive towards independence from the USSR was marked by civil strife as conservative activists in the east (especially in Tiraspol), as well as Communist party activists in Chişinău worked to keep the MSSR within the Soviet Union. The main success of the national movement in 1988-1989 was the adoption on August 31, 1989 by the Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR of the Moldavian language as official, declaration in the preambule of a Moldavian-Romanian linguistic unity, and the return of the language to the pre-Soviet Latin alphabet. In 1990, when it became clear that Moldova was eventually going to secede, a group of pro-USSR activists in Gagauzia and Transnistria proclaimed independence in order to remain within the USSR. Gagauzia was eventually peacefully incorporated into Moldova as an autonomous territory, but relations with Transnistria soured.
On May 23, 1991, the Moldovan parliament changed the name of the republic from "Moldavian SSR" to "Republic of Moldova". Moldova then seceded from the USSR and became a sovereign, independent state on August 27, 1991, after the failed coup in the Soviet Union. Independence was quickly followed by civil war in the east of the country (Transnistria), where the central government in Chişinău battled with separatists, who were supported by pro-Soviet forces and by different forces from Russia. The conflict left the breakaway regime (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic) in control of Transnistria.