ON THE INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF MOLDOVA

The fertile black earth soils are the country's only significant resource; the only mineral resources worth mentioning are limestone and gypsum, which are suitable for the production of building materials. Especially in the heartland between the Pruth and Dniester rivers, in today's Republic of Moldova, the conditions for industrialisation were therefore poor and the population lived in poverty for centuries.

In the Middle Ages, the Dniester served as an artery for trade between Poland and the Black Sea, and the Republic of Genoa built fortified bases on its banks. In this era, underground limestone mining also began in the hills around Cricova near the capital Chişinău. Today, the cleared-out underground halls serve as a warehouse for wine merchants and a viticulture museum.

In 1812, the backward land passed from the Ottomans to the Russian tsars, who called it "Bessarabia". They developed Chişinău into the capital of the new governorate with a rectangular street grid. In 1867, the first train towards Odessa rolled out of the railway station in Tiraspol in today's Transnistria, east of the Dniester. Chişinău was only connected to the railway a few years later. Then in 1877, none other than the French engineer Gustave Eiffel built a new bridge over the Pruth on the route to Romania. In 1897, the "Kvint" company, which still produces wines and spirits today, opened in Tiraspol, but a sustained upswing failed to materialise.

After the First World War, Moldova became part of Romania. Although the new government immediately started an agricultural reform, agriculture remained unproductive. Apart from traditional handicrafts, trade was limited to small businesses such as mills and oil presses that processed agricultural products.

After the Second World War, the country once again passed into Russian hands and the leadership in Moscow launched a comprehensive industrialisation campaign - unlike in most Soviet republics, however, with the emphasis on the mechanisation of agriculture and the expansion of the food industry: sugar factories, dairies and canning plants were built, Moldovan wines and brandies became important export goods valued far beyond the Soviet Union thanks to new large-scale wine presses and distilleries. Moldova's agriculture soon became one of the most productive economic sectors in the Soviet Union.

At the same time, factories for machine and tractor construction as well as factories for textiles and electrical appliances were built in the larger cities. Heavy industry, on the other hand, was concentrated east of the Dniester: since 1954, a hydroelectric power plant has been generating electricity at the Dubăsari reservoir, followed by the Kuchurgan power plant in 1964. In Rîbniţa, a large cement factory opened its doors in 1961 and a steelworks in 1985. The textile manufacturer "Tirotex" was founded in Tiraspol. The country's most important industrial plants are still located in Transnistria - the region that de facto seceded after Moldova's declaration of independence in 1991 and joined Russia. The more Romanian heartland, practically an agrarian state, which also lacks cheap energy and raw material supplies from the disintegrated Soviet Union, has since been in a severe, ongoing economic crisis.