Mircea Snegur, who led Moldova to independence and served as its first president, died on Thursday at the age of 83, the country’s current president announced.
Snegur, a former communist who became a pro-Western liberal, declared independence from Moscow on August 27, 1991, amid the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
“I learned with deep sadness that Mircea Snegur, the first President of the Republic of Moldova, died this night,” President Maia Sandu wrote on Facebook.
“Mr. Snegur lived in historic times and played an essential role in promoting the independence, freedom and sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova,” she added.
Sandu announced the day of Snegur’s funeral, president from 1990 to 1996, to be a day of national sorrow.
She said that his words from August 27, 1991 — “Long live independent Moldova!” — would continue to guide the country.
Snegur, who was born on January 17, 1940, in the northern Moldovan village of Trifanesti, worked as an agronomist before joining the Communist Party of Moldavia.
He led Moldova to independence as president, but its Russian-speaking portion of Transnistria refused to follow and declared independence.
Russia has sent troops there following a brief civil war. Its independence is not recognized globally.
After pro-Russian Petru Lusinschi was elected in December 1996, Snegur was replaced as president with executive power.
Snegur is the father of two children. Natalia Gherman, his daughter, has previously served as deputy prime minister and foreign minister.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the 2.6 million-strong country applied to join the European Union.
It joined Ukraine as a candidate country in June 2022.
Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, sandwiched between Ukraine and EU member Romania.
For decades, it was part of the Ottoman Empire, then Russian domination, and finally Romania before becoming the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1940.