Capital of Moldova, situated in a rich agricultural area; population (2004) 647,500. It is a commercial and cultural centre; industries include cement, food processing, tobacco, and textiles.
Founded in 1436, Chişinǎu was the capital of Bessarabia. It was wrested from three centuries of Ottoman control by Russia in 1812. It was taken by Romania in 1918, by the USSR in 1940, and by Germany in 1941, when it was totally destroyed. The USSR recaptured the city and surrounding region in 1944, and rebuilding soon began. Nationalist demonstrations were held in Chişinǎu in 1989, prior to Moldova gaining independence in 1991.
Chişinǎu was formerly known for its large proportion of Jewish inhabitants, estimated at 46% of the populace in 1896. This ethnic group was subject to repeated acts of genocide by successive rulers of the city: in Easter 1903, 49 Jews were killed and 500 injured in a pogrom encouraged by the Russian authorities; from 1918–40 Chişinǎu was the centre of organized Romanian antisemitism; while the German occupation 1941–44 saw the virtual extermination of the Jewish population.