Early in its history, Bessarabia was divided into the large estates of the boyars and the wealthy monasteries and convents. For protection, villages were often hidden off the main roads on the slopes of hills to avoid the plundering incursions of Tatars, Turks, and others. Today the majority of the population is still rural, although some villages have recently been elevated to the status of towns or even cities—Edintsy and Kotovsk, for example. The twenty larger towns and cities include the capital, Kishinyov, and Tiraspol, Beltsy, Bendery, Kagul, Rybnitsa, Soroki, and Orgeev.
Rural houses are built of bricks made from a mixture of clay and straw. Clay floors and twig fences are typical in the forested areas, whereas clay fences are usual in the steppe to the south. Tile roofs are rare—most roofs are covered by fir shingles. A corridor separates the house into two parts: the guest room, ornate with embroidery, pillows, and beautiful carpets on the walls and the floors; and the living room, which includes the kitchen, a wooden table, benches, and footlockers covered with ornate carpets. At present those who can afford it have modern furniture and television. Outhouses or plain latrines are outside the vividly painted houses. The Moldovans plant colorful flowers in front of their houses and even along streets and highways. The Soviet Union promoted the building of modern skyscrapers in urban areas.