Chisinau, formerly Kishinev, capital and largest city of Moldova, located on the Byk River, in the central part of the country. Chisinau is the largest population center in Moldova and accounts for most of the country’s industrial output. Manufactures include processed food, wine, clothing, and tobacco products. A university and the Moldovan Academy of Sciences are located in Chisinau.
Founded in the 15th century, Chisinau sprouted from a small settlement built around a monastery in the principality of Moldavia. Less than a hundred years after the town was established, the Ottomans captured the city. Chisinau subsequently blossomed into a trade center. In 1812, following one of the Russo-Turkish Wars, Russia annexed Chisinau, renamed it Kishinev, and made the city the center of the Bessarabia region.
In 1918, in the wake of the Russian Revolutions of 1917, Romania annexed Bessarabia, including Chisinau. In 1940, during the early stages of World War II (1939-1945), Romania was forced to cede Bessarabia to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The Soviet authorities made Kishinev the capital of the newly created Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR).
The city and the republic subsequently were occupied by German forces from 1941 to 1944. Most of the city’s large Jewish population was exterminated by the Nazi forces. Chisinau suffered extensive damage during the war; nearly half the city lay in rubble when the Soviet army finally defeated the Germans and re-won control of Chisinau. The Soviet government directed the reconstruction of Chisinau, targeted the city for industrial expansion, and eventually established it as the region’s primary manufacturing center.
As the USSR began crumbling in the late 1980s, Chisinau became the scene of nationalist demonstrations that often erupted into violence. Following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Chisinau became the capital of independent Moldova, taking its present Romanian name to reflect the city’s close ties with its neighboring country.