The city of Iași is located in eastern Romania close to the border with Moldova. It has a population of nearly 300,000, 98.5% of them ethnic Romanians. One of the country’s oldest and most important sites, Iași is known as the cultural capital of Romania. Historically, it was the capital of the independent state of Moldavia and has a rich heritage and many cultural assets.
The city had a significant Jewish community in the early 20th century. However, the combination of a pogrom and deportation during World War II, and mass emigration to Israel after the war, led to a community of more than 40,000 being reduced to a few hundred today. During the Soviet period, Iași’s population leapt by 235% and the city became highly industrialised. But urban planning in the socialist period left its scars on the city.
Today Iași is an important economic, banking and retail centre in Romania. The service sector is the main source of employment. It has focused on information technology and some important international software companies have settled here, including Amazon, Xerox, Bitdefender and Capgemini. It still has an active manufacturing sector, producing automotive parts, metals, textiles and clothing, wines and meat.
The city is well served for higher education, with some 65,000 students attending its five public and six private universities. These include the University of Iași, the oldest in Romania, and the country’s first engineering school. Despite progress in recent years, Iași is known as a poor area, where wages have remained low.