Former principality, southeast-central Europe. Located on the lower Danube River, it was founded in the 14th century by the Vlachs and achieved independence in 1349. In the mid-16th century it became part of the Ottoman Empire. In the 18th century it came under increasing Russian influence. It lost its northwestern territory, Bukovina, to Austria in 1774 and its eastern portion, Bessarabia, to Russia in 1812. In 1859 Moldavia and Walachia formed the state of Romania. In 1918 portions of historical Moldavia east of the Prut River threw off Russian rule and joined Romania. In 1940 Romania was compelled to cede to the Soviet Union its territories between the Prut and Dniester rivers; these became part of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. This Soviet republic became the independent country of Moldova in 1991. See alsoMoldova.