Moldavia became part of the Russian Empire during the Napoleonic Wars in May 1812 and was renamed Bessarabia. In 1918 Moldavia was reunited with Romania but was annexed by the Soviet Union in June 1940, in accordance with terms of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 23 August 1939. Upon annexation, Moldavia's southern counties were ceded to Ukraine, thus cutting off its access to the Black Sea, while a part of the former Soviet Autonomous Republic of Moldavia (created by Moscow in October 1924) merged with Moldavia.
In order to integrate Moldavia into the Soviet system, the country was subjected to a process of deliberate denationalization. In 1941 an estimated 250,000 Moldavians were forcibly relocated to the Russian steppes. Other forced deportations occurred during 1944–1964. Moscow colonized Moldavia with ethnic Ukrainians and Russians, with some 250,000 of them immigrating to Moldavia during 1946–1953. Romanians always considered Moldavians as ethnically and culturally Romanian, but to justify the Moldavian annexation, the Soviets argued that Moldavian inhabitants were a distinct ethnic group. To emphasize this premise, Moscow insisted that the Moldavian language—which in its spoken form is indistinguishable from Romanian—be written in the Cyrillic alphabet. The Soviets also reinterpreted Moldavian history by falsely linking its culture with that of Russia. In the economic sphere, the main trends in Moldavia involved agricultural collectivization and the establishment of state farming cooperatives along with the accelerated development of state-owned industries.
Although local government did exist in Moldavia, most important decisions were made in Moscow. Even the Communist Party of Moldavia was merely a branch of the all-union government, and few Romanian Moldavians attained high positions within it. Among the key figures in the party were Russians, Ukrainians, and Russified Transdnestrian Romanians. Among officials were subsequent Soviet leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Konstantin Chernenko.
Following Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms and driven by the newly formed Popular Front of Moldavia, the republic government passed a law on 31 August 1989 that made Moldavian the official language of the MSSR, mandated the use of the Latin alphabet, and asserted its ties to Romania. In the aftermath of the failed August 1991 coup against Gorbachev, the Republic of Moldavia declared its independence, which was then quickly recognized by the international community.
Dima, Nicholas. From Moldavia to Moldova: The Soviet-Romanian Territorial Dispute. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.; King, Charles. "Moldovan Identity and the Politics of Pan-Romanianism." Slavic Review 53(2) (1994): 346–368.