Moldova, or, as it is called officially, the Republic of Moldova, is a small country that lies in the central part of the old European continent in the northeastern Balkans, surrounded by Ukraine on the north, east and south, and separated from Romania on the west by the Prut River. The total length of the national land boundaries is 1,389 km including 939 km with Ukraine and 450 km with Romania. The country does not have a direct access to the Black Sea.
Moldova occupies an area of 33,843.5 square km (2002) or about 0.3 percent of the territory of Europe. The total area of the country includes the territories of its two autonomous regions, Transnistria with 3,363.22 square km and Gagauzia with 1,848.45 square km. The country is 18 times smaller than Ukraine, 7 times smaller than Romania, slightly bigger than Belgium, slightly smaller than Switzerland and 13 times bigger than Luxembourg.
The population of Moldova is estimated at around 4,250,000 people (as of January 1st 2002) (1.7 million in 1900, 2.3 million in 1950) or about 0.8 percent of the population of Europe.
In general, the surface represents a hilly plain with an average elevation of 147 m, cut by a deep network of river valleys, ravines and gullies.
Geographical position, the amount of solar radiation, the movement of air masses and the topographic features of the territory of the Republic of Moldova have determined the formation of a moderately continental type of climate. It is characterized by a lengthy frost-free period, short mild winters, lengthy hot summers, considerable temperature fluctuations, a modest amount of unevenly distributed precipitation, and long dry periods in the south. The average annual temperature increases southward from 7.7°C in the north (Briceni) to 9.9°C in the south (Cahul). July with an average air temperature of 21.4°C is the warmest month in the country. In January, the monthly average drops to –3.5°C, which makes it the coldest month.
Moldova is not rich in surface waters including rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, reservoirs and wetlands, although it has a well-developed network of more than 3,000 rivers, both permanent and intermittent, with the total length exceeding 16,000 km. Most rivers are small and only 8 exceed 100 km: the Nistru, Prut, Raut, Ichel, Bac, Botna, Ialpug and the Cogalnic.
The diversity of environmental factors in the Republic of Moldova such as topography, climate, drainage and vegetation has determined the development of an intricate mosaic of different soils varying in appearance, fertility, physical and chemical characteristics. Four-fifths of Moldovan land or about 2.5 million ha is covered with chernozem, which is Moldova’s main natural resource and the main reason for the agricultural orientation of the country’s economy. Moldovan chernozems are among the most fertile soils in the world. No other country in the world has such a high proportion of chernozems. In Transnistria, chernozems occupy more than 90 percent of the total land area.
The flora of the Republic of Moldova is rich and includes 5,513 species of wild-growing or spontaneous plants.
More than 15,500 species of animals exist in the Republic of Moldova including 462 species of vertebrates and more than 15,000 species of invertebrates. Forest ecosystems offer more diverse living conditions to animals. Aproximately 13% of Moldovan territory is covered by forest. The biggest forest called Codrii is situated in the central part of the country and it’s a state protected natural reservation.
There is a wide variety of flora and fauna populating, and if you are lucky, you may be able to spot a wild cat in Codrii.There are several caves in Moldova, the most interesting is called Emil Racovita. It is the 8th greatest cave on the planet, and it still keeps a lot of mysteries waiting to be discovered.
(Courtesy of: Andrei Feodorov of Terra Nova English Language Center)