Bălţi (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈbəltsʲ]; Russian: ‘Бельцы’ [Bel’tsy] and Бэлць [Bėlts’]) is a city in Moldova. It is the second largest in terms of area and economic importance after Chişinău, and the third largest in terms of population after Chişinău and Tiraspol. The city is one of the five Moldovan municipalities. Sometimes also called “the northern capital”, it is a major industrial, cultural and commercial centre and transportation hub in the north of the country. It is situated 127 kilometres (79 mi) north of the capital Chişinău, and is located on the river Răut, a tributary of the Dniester, on a hilly landscape in the Bălţi steppe.
Bălţi is situated on the tops and slopes of three hills and in two small valleys. The land in the north of Moldova is very fertile, mostly consisting of black earth or chernozem. Several extraction sites for raw materials used in the construction industry are also found in the vicinity of Bălţi. The creeks Răuţel, Copăceanca, and Flămândă cross the territory of the municipality, and flow into the river Răut. Also, several lakes are situated in Bălţi: City Lake, Komsolskoe Lake, Chirpicinoe Lake, Strâmba Lake.
The municipality covers an area of 78.0 square kilometres (30.1 sq mi), of which the city proper 41.42 square kilometres (15.99 sq mi), the village Elizaveta (an eastern suburb) 9.81 square kilometres (3.79 sq mi), and the village Sadovoe (a north-western suburb) 26.77 square kilometres (10.34 sq mi). Of these, an important portion (20.11 square kilometres (7.76 sq mi)) is agriculturally cultivated.
In Bălţi, most industries are concerned with processing farm produce, notably flour milling, sugar refining, and wine making, but furniture, agricultural machinery.
This city is an important economic center, with manufacturing playing an important role. Besides traditional for Moldova wine making, sugar, meat processing, flour milling, oil production, and light industry in general, Bălţi is the center for manufacturing of agricultural machinery, of various construction materials, fur, textile, chemical and furniture industries. A mammoth Soviet-type conglomerate 8,000-worker factory (called “Lenin” before 1989 and “Răut” afterwards) produced a large variety of machine building products for consumer or industry use, from irons and telephone sets to sonar equipment for Soviet Military submarines.
However due to swift changes in the economic environment after the breakdown of the Soviet planned economy system, the manufacturing base of the city has severely suffered. However, more recently, new economic ties are being created, with collaboration and direct investment mostly from the European Union.