Moldavia, not to be confused with the modern-day Republic of Moldova, is a historical region that has played a significant role in the history of Eastern Europe. It is located in the northeastern part of Romania, bordered by the Eastern Carpathians to the west, the Dniester River to the east, and the Danube River and the Black Sea to the south. The region also encompasses parts of today’s western Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.

Historically, Moldavia has been a melting pot of cultures, languages, and religions, reflecting the diverse peoples that have lived and governed there, and Moldavia’s history and culture are deeply intertwined with the broader narratives of Eastern European history. Today, Moldavia boasts a rich cultural heritage, evident in its architecture, folklore, music, and religious practices.

Despite the political and territorial changes it has undergone, the region remains a testament to the resilience and richness of its people and their traditions. Moldavia’s historical sites, natural beauty, and cultural legacy continue to attract visitors and scholars interested in exploring its past and present.



The history of Moldavia is marked by its strategic position on the trade routes between Europe and Asia, making it a target for various conquering peoples, including the Romans, Goths, Huns, and Mongols.

The Principality of Moldavia was established in the mid-14th century by Bogdan I, who declared independence from the Kingdom of Hungary. The early history of this principality was characterized by battles to maintain its autonomy against the powers of the time, including the Kingdom of Poland, the Hungarian Kingdom, and the Ottoman Empire.

One of the most notable rulers of Moldavia was Stephen the Great (Ștefan cel Mare), who reigned from 1457 to 1504. He is celebrated for his successful military campaigns against the Ottomans and for building numerous churches and monasteries across the region, some of which are now UNESCO World Heritage sites.

In the late 15th century, Moldavia became a tributary state to the Ottoman Empire, which influenced its political and cultural landscape for the next few centuries. Despite this, Moldavia retained a degree of autonomy, preserving its traditions and Orthodox Christian faith.

Moldavia in the 1800s and 1900s

In the 19th century, Moldavia underwent significant changes due to the political movements in Europe. The Treaty of Bucharest in 1812 resulted in the eastern part of Moldavia, known as Bessarabia, being annexed by the Russian Empire. The remaining parts of Moldavia later united with Wallachia in 1859, forming the basis of the modern Romanian state under the rule of Alexandru Ioan Cuza.

The 20th century brought further territorial changes following World War I and World War II. Bessarabia was briefly united with Romania in the interwar period, before being annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, leading to the creation of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, which eventually became the independent Republic of Moldova in 1991. The historical region of Moldavia now lies within the borders of Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Byzantine art

The painted monasteries of Bucovina, such as Voroneț, Sucevița, and Moldovița, are famous for their exterior frescoes depicting biblical scenes and are considered masterpieces of Byzantine art

The histroical region of Bucovina is located on the northern slopes of the central Eastern Carpathians and the adjoining plains, and has been variously considered part of either Central Europe or Eastern Europe. Today, the region is divided between Romania and Ukraine.

From 1387 to 1497, the region was under Polish nominal suzerainty and it was during this period – greatly due to the patronage of Stephen the Great and his successors – that Moldavia saw the creation of the famous painted monasteries in Bucovina, including Moldovița, Sucevița, Putna, Humor, Voroneț, Dragomirna, and Arbore. In my opinion, they are well worth a visit to see the marvelous exterior frescoes that adorn them. Some of them have been declared Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Moldavian cuisine

Moldavian cuisine reflects the region’s agricultural traditions and diverse influences, featuring dishes like mămăligă (polenta), sarmale (cabbage rolls), and mititei (grilled meat rolls).

Mămăligă is a staple in the region, even though corn (maize) was not introduced until after trade with the Americas commenced. In Moldavia, mămăligă is commonly served together with meat or stews, and can be garnished with sour cream or cottage cheese.

Sarmale are cabbage rolls filled with minced meat, and they have become especially common during holiday celebration.

Examples of common alcoholic beverages in Moldavia are divin (Moldavian brandy), vodka, and a rich variety of local wines. European grapes dominate the local vineyards, such as cabernet, sauvignon, and muscat. Fetească and rara neagră grapes are considered native to Moldavia.

The Moldavian Plateu

The Moldavian Plateu compries over two-thirds of the territory of the medieval Principality of Moldavia, with the final third being the Eastern Carpathian Mountains and the Bugeac Plain. Today, the east and northeast of Romania is found on this plateu, and so is most of the Republic of Moldova, and most of Ukrain’s Chernivtsi Oblast.

The plateu is bounded as follows:

  • To the west by the Carpathian Mountains
  • To the north and north-east by the Podolian Plateu
  • To the east and south-east by the Black Sea Lowlands
  • To the south by the Romanian Plain (Wallachian Plain) and the Bărăgan Plain
  • To the south-west by the Vrancea Hills, which are a part of the Sub Carpathians


The slope of the plateu follows the direction of the rivers from the Carpathian, from northwest to southeast. The highest point is around 700 metres above sea level, and then it decreases gradually down to an altitude of less than 200 metres.

Notable passages

The Siret Passage cuts the main part of the Moldavian Plateau from the Moldavian Subcarpathians.

The Prut Passage cuts the Moldavian Plateau in half in the north-south directon.

The Dniester Passage bounds the Moldavian Plateau from the Podolian Plateu to the Pontic Plain.

The Răut Passage separates the main part of the Moldavian Plateau from the Dniester Hills

Notable ridges

The Iasi Ridge, which is a steep edge of the Bârlad Plateau.

The Cornești Hills, which are the edge of the Central Moldavian Plateau.

The Dniester Ridge, which is the edge of the Dniester Hills.

When and how was the Moldavian Plateau formed?

The Moldavian Plateau was formed by sediments over an old continental platform during the end of the Neogene period. The sediments, mostly gravel and sand, were brought by rivers flowing from the Carpathian Mountains. After settling and being modelled by the elements, the sediments eventually hardened and formed griftstones. At the Moldavian Plateau, the griftstones are now interspersed with clays.

The strata of the plateau are clearly disposed in north-south and northwest-southeast aligned layers, which have created asymmetric valleys and ridges.