Bessarabia (/ˌbɛsəˈreɪbiə/; Gagauz: Besarabiya; Romanian: Basarabia; Russian: Бессарабия, Bessarabiya; Turkish: Besarabya; Ukrainian: Бессара́бія, Bessarabiya; Bulgarian: Бесарабия, Besarabiya) is a historical region in Eastern Europe, bounded by the Dniester river on the east and the Prut river on the west. Today Bessarabia is mostly (approx. 65%) part of modern-day Moldova, with the Ukrainian Budjak region covering the southern coastal region and part of the Ukrainian Chernivtsi Oblast covering a small area in the north.
In the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812), and the ensuing Peace of Bucharest, the eastern parts of the Principality of Moldavia, an Ottoman vassal, along with some areas formerly under direct Ottoman rule, were ceded to Imperial Russia. The acquisition was among the Empire's last territorial acquisitions in Europe. The newly acquired territories were organised as the Governorate of Bessarabia, adopting a name previously used for the southern plains, between the Dniester and the Danube rivers. Following the Crimean War, in 1856, the southern areas of Bessarabia were returned to Moldavian rule; Russian rule was restored over the whole of the region in 1878, when Romania, the result of Moldavia's union with Wallachia, was pressured into exchanging those territories for the Dobruja.
In 1917, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, the area constituted itself as the Moldavian Democratic Republic, an autonomous republic part of a proposed federative Russian state. Bolshevik agitation in late 1917 and early 1918 resulted in the intervention of the Romanian Army, ostensibly to pacify the region. Soon after, the parliamentary assembly declared independence, and then union with the Kingdom of Romania. The legality of these acts was however disputed, most prominently by the Soviet Union, which regarded the area as a territory occupied by Romania.
In 1940, after securing the assent of Nazi Germany through the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union pressured Romania, under threat of war, into withdrawing from Bessarabia, allowing the Red Army to annex the region. The area was formally integrated into the Soviet Union: the core joined parts of the Moldavian ASSR to form the Moldavian SSR, while territories inhabited by Slavic majorities in the north and the south of Bessarabia were transferred to the Ukrainian SSR. Axis-aligned Romania recaptured the region in 1941 with the success of Operation München during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, but lost it in 1944 as the tide of war changed. In 1947, the Soviet-Romanian border along the Prut was internationally recognised by the Paris Treaty that ended World War II.
During the process of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Moldavian and Ukrainian SSRs proclaimed their independence in 1991, becoming the modern states of Moldova and Ukraine, while preserving the existing partition of Bessarabia. Following a short war in the early 1990s, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic was proclaimed in the Transnistria, extending its authority also over the municipality of Bender on the right bank of Dniester river. Part of the Gagauz-inhabited areas in the southern Bessarabia was organised in 1994 as an autonomous region within Moldova.
According to the traditional explanation, the name Bessarabia (Basarabia in Romanian) derives from the Wallachian Basarab dynasty, who allegedly ruled over the southern part of the area in the 14th century. Some scholars question this, however, claiming that:
The region is bounded by the Dniester to the north and east, the Prut to the west and the lower River Danube and the Black Sea to the south. It has an area of 45,630 km2 (17,620 sq mi). The area is mostly hilly plains with flat steppes. It is very fertile, and has lignite deposits and stone quarries. People living in the area grow sugar beet, sunflowers, wheat, maize, tobacco, wine grapes and fruit. They also raise sheep and cattle. Currently, the main industry in the region is agricultural processing.
The region's main cities are Chișinău (the former capital of Bessarabia Governorate, nowadays the capital of Moldova), Izmail and Bilhorod-Dnistrovs'kyi, historically called Cetatea Albă / Akkerman (nowadays both in Ukraine). Other towns of administrative or historical importance include: Khotyn, Reni and Kilia (nowadays all in Ukraine), and Lipcani, Briceni, Soroca, Bălți, Orhei, Ungheni, Bender/Tighina and Cahul (nowadays all in Moldova).
In the late 14th century, the newly established Principality of Moldavia encompassed what later became known as Bessarabia. Afterwards, this territory was directly or indirectly, partly or wholly controlled by: the Ottoman Empire (as suzerain of Moldavia, with direct rule only in Budjak and Khotin), Russian Empire, Romania, the USSR. Since 1991, most of the territory forms the core of Moldova, with smaller parts in Ukraine.
The territory of Bessarabia has been inhabited by people for thousands of years. Cucuteni–Trypillia culture flourished between the 6th and 3rd millennium BC.
In Antiquity the region was inhabited by Thracians, as well as for shorter periods by Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, and Celts, specifically by tribes such as the Costoboci, Carpi, Britogali, Tyragetae, and Bastarnae. In the 6th century BC, Greek settlers established the colony of Tyras along the Black Sea coast and traded with the locals. Celts also settled in the southern parts of Bessarabia, their main city being Aliobrix.
The first polity that is believed to have included the whole of Bessarabia was the Dacian polity of Burebista in the 1st century BC. After his death, the polity was divided into smaller pieces, and the central parts were unified in the Dacian kingdom of Decebalus in the 1st century AD. This kingdom was defeated by the Roman Empire in 106. Southern Bessarabia was included in the empire even before that, in 57 AD, as part of the Roman province Moesia Inferior, but it was secured only when the Dacian Kingdom was defeated in 106. The Romans built defensive earthen walls in Southern Bessarabia (e.g. Lower Trajan Wall) to defend the Scythia Minor province against invasions. Except for the Black Sea shore in the south, Bessarabia remained outside direct Roman control; the myriad of tribes there are called by modern historians Free Dacians. The 2nd to the 5th centuries also saw the development of the Chernyakhov culture.
In 270, the Roman authorities began to withdraw their forces south of the Danube, especially from the Roman Dacia, due to the invading Goths and Carpi. The Goths, a Germanic tribe, poured into the Roman Empire from the lower Dniepr River, through the southern part of Bessarabia (Budjak steppe), which due to its geographic position and characteristics (mainly steppe), was swept by various nomadic tribes for many centuries. In 378, the area was overrun by the Huns.
From the 3rd century until the 11th century, the region was invaded numerous times in turn by different tribes: Goths, Huns, Avars, Bulgars, Magyars, Pechenegs, Cumans and Mongols. The territory of Bessarabia was encompassed in dozens of ephemeral kingdoms which were disbanded when another wave of migrants arrived. Those centuries were characterized by a terrible state of insecurity and mass movement of these tribes. The period was later known as the "Dark Ages" of Europe, or Age of migrations.
In 561, the Avars captured Bessarabia and executed the local ruler Mesamer. Following the Avars, Slavs started to arrive in the region and establish settlements. Then, in 582, Onogur Bulgars settled in southeastern Bessarabia and northern Dobruja, from which they moved to Moesia Inferior (allegedly under pressure from the Khazars), and formed the nascent region of Bulgaria. With the rise of the Khazars' state in the east, the invasions began to diminish and it was possible to create larger states. According to some opinions, the southern part of Bessarabia remained under the influence of the First Bulgarian Empire until to the end of the 9th century.
Between the 8th and 10th centuries, the southern part of Bessarabia was inhabited by people from the Balkan-Dunabian culture (the culture of the First Bulgarian Empire). Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Bessarabia is mentioned in Slav chronicles as part of Bolohoveni (north) and Brodnici (south) voivodeships, believed to be Vlach principalities of the early Middle Ages.
The last large scale invasions were those of the Mongols of 1241, 1290, and 1343. Sehr al-Jedid (near Orhei), an important settlement of the Golden Horde, dates from this period. They led to a retreat of a big part of the population to the mountainous areas in Eastern Carpathians and to Transylvania. Especially low became the population east of Prut at the time of the Tatar invasions.
In the Late Middle Age, chronicles mention a Tigheci "republic", predating the establishment of the Principality of Moldavia, situated near the modern town of Cahul in the southwest of Bessarabia, preserving its autonomy even during the later Principality even into the 18th century. Genovese merchants rebuilt or established a number of forts along Dniester (notably Moncastro) and Danube (including Kyliya/Chilia-Licostomo).
After the 1360s the region was gradually included in the principality of Moldavia, which by 1392 established control over the fortresses of Akkerman and Chilia, its eastern border becoming the River Dniester. Based on the name of the region, some authors consider that in the latter part of the 14th century the southern part of the region was under the rule of Wallachia (the ruling dynasty of Wallachia during that period was called Basarab). In the 15th century, the entire region was a part of the principality of Moldavia. Stephen the Great ruled between 1457 and 1504, a period of nearly 50 years during which he won 32 battles defending his country against virtually all his neighbours (mainly the Ottomans and the Tatars, but also the Hungarians and the Poles), while losing only two. During this period, after each victory, he raised a monastery or a church close to the battlefield honoring Christianity. Many of these battlefields and churches, as well as old fortresses, are situated in Bessarabia (mainly along Dniester).
In 1484, the Turks invaded and captured Chilia and Cetatea Albă (Akkerman in Turkish), and annexed the shoreline southern part of Bessarabia, which was then divided into two sanjaks (districts) of the Ottoman Empire. In 1538, the Ottomans annexed more Bessarabian land in the south as far as Tighina, while the central and northern Bessarabia remained part of the Principality of Moldavia (which became a vassal of the Ottoman Empire). Between 1711 and 1812, the Russian Empire occupied the region five times during its wars against Ottoman and Austrian Empires.
By the Treaty of Bucharest of May 28, 1812—concluding the Russo-Turkish War, 1806-1812—the Ottoman Empire ceded the land between the Pruth and the Dniester, including both Moldavian and Turkish territories, to the Russian Empire. That entire region was then called Bessarabia.
In 1814, the first German settlers arrived and mainly settled in the southern parts and Bessarabian Bulgarians began settling in the region too, founding towns such as Bolhrad. Between 1812 and 1846, the Bulgarian and Gagauz population migrated to the Russian Empire via the River Danube, after living many years under oppressive Ottoman rule, and settled in southern Bessarabia. Turkic-speaking tribes of the Nogai horde also inhabited the Budjak Region (in Turkish Bucak) of southern Bessarabia from the 16th to 18th centuries, but were totally driven out prior to 1812.
By the Treaty of Adrianople that concluded the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829 the entire Danube Delta was added to the Bessarabian oblast. According to Vasile Stoica, emissary of the Romanian government to the United States, in 1834 Romanian language was banned from schools and government facilities, despite 80% of the population speaking the language. This would eventually lead to the banning of Romanian in churches, media and books. According to the same author, those who protested the banning of Romanian could be sent to Siberia.
At the end of the Crimean War, in 1856, by the Treaty of Paris, southern Bessarabia (organised as the Cahul and Ismail counties, with the Bolgrad county split from the latter in 1864) was returned to Moldavia, causing the Russian Empire to lose access to the Danube river.
The railway Chișinău-Iași was opened on June 1, 1875 in preparation for the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) and the Eiffel Bridge was opened on April 21 [O.S. April 9] 1877, just three days before the outbreak of the war. The Romanian War of Independence was fought in 1877–78, with the help of the Russian Empire as an ally. Northern Dobruja was awarded to Romania for its role in the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War, and as compensation for the transfer of the Southern Bessarabia.
The Kishinev pogrom took place in the capital of Bessarabia on April 6, 1903 after local newspapers published articles inciting the public to act against Jews; 47 or 49 Jews were killed, 92 severely wounded and 700 houses destroyed. The anti-Semitic newspaper Бессарабец (Bessarabetz, meaning "Bessarabian"), published by Pavel Krushevan, insinuated that a Russian boy was killed by local Jews. Another newspaper, Свет (Lat. Svet, meaning "World"), used the age-old blood libel against the Jews (alleging that the boy had been killed to use his blood in preparation of matzos).
After the 1905 Russian Revolution, a Romanian nationalist movement started to develop in Bessarabia. In the chaos brought by the Russian revolution of October 1917, a National Council (Sfatul Țării) was established in Bessarabia, with 120 members elected from Bessarabia by some political and professional organizations and 10 elected from Transnistria (the left bank of Dniester where Moldovans and Romanians accounted for less than a third and the majority of the population was Ukrainian. See Demographics of Transdniestria).
On January 14, 1918, during the disorderly retreat of two Russian divisions from the Romanian front, Chișinău was sacked. The Rumcherod Committee (Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Romanian Front, Black Sea Fleet and Odessa Military District) proclaimed itself the supreme power in Bessarabia. On 16 January, the Romanian Army began a full-scale invasion of Bessarabia; following several skirmishes with Moldavian and Bolshevik troops, the occupation of the whole region was completed in early March.
The county councils of Bălți, Soroca and Orhei were the earliest to ask for unification with the Kingdom of Romania, and on April 9 [O.S. March 27] 1918, in the presence of the Romanian Army, Sfatul Țării voted in favour of the union, with the following conditions:
86 deputies voted in support, three voted against and 36 abstained.
The first condition, the agrarian reform, was debated and approved in November 1918. Sfatul Țării also decided to remove the other conditions and made unification with Romania unconditional. This vote has been judged illegitimate, since there was no quorum: only 44 of the 125 members took part in it (all voted "for"). As of mid 1919, the population of Bessarabia was estimated at around 2 million.
In the autumn of 1919, elections for the Romanian Constituent Assembly were held in Bessarabia; 90 deputies and 35 senators were chosen. On December 20, 1919, these men voted, along with the representatives of Romania's other regions, to ratify the unification acts that had been approved by Sfatul Țării and the National Congresses in Transylvania and Bukovina.
The union was recognized by France, United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan in the Treaty of Paris of 1920, which however never came into force, because Japan did not ratify it. The United States refused to sign the treaty on the grounds that Russia was not represented at the Conference. Soviet Russia (and later, the USSR) did not recognize the union, and by 1924, after its demands for a regional plebiscite were declined by Romania for the second time, declared Bessarabia to be Soviet territory under foreign occupation. On all Soviet maps, Bessarabia was highlighted as territory not belonging to Romania.
The US also considered Bessarabia a territory under Romanian occupation, rather than Romanian territory, despite existing political and economic relations between the US and Romania.
On May 11, 1919, the Bessarabian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed as an autonomous part of Russian SFSR, but was abolished by the military forces of Poland and France in September 1919 (see Polish–Soviet War). After the victory of Bolshevist Russia in the Russian Civil War, the Ukrainian SSR was created in 1922, and in 1924 the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was established on a strip of Ukrainian land on the left bank of Dniester where Moldovans and Romanians accounted for less than a third and the relative majority of population was Ukrainian. (See Demographics of Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic).
Bessarabia under Romanian rule experienced low population growth due to high mortality (one of the highest in Europe) as well as emigration; Bessarabia was also characterized by economic stagnation and high unemployment.
The Soviet Union did not recognize incorporation of Bessarabia into Romania and throughout the entire interwar period engaged in attempts to undermine Romania and diplomatic disputes with the government in Bucharest over this territory. The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was signed on August 23, 1939. By Article 4 of the secret Annex to the Treaty, Bessarabia fell within the Soviet interest zone.
In spring of 1940, Western Europe was overrun by Nazi Germany. With world attention focused on those events, on June 26, 1940, the USSR issued a 24-hour ultimatum to Romania, demanding immediate cession of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina under threat of war. Romania was given four days to evacuate its troops and officials. The two provinces had an area of 51,000 km2 (20,000 sq mi), and were inhabited by about 3.75 million people, half of them Romanians, according to official Romanian sources. Two days later, Romania yielded and began evacuation. During the evacuation, from June 28 to July 3, groups of local Communists and Soviet sympathizers attacked the retreating forces, and civilians who chose to leave. Many members of the minorities (Jews, ethnic Ukrainians and others) joined in these attacks. The Romanian Army was also attacked by the Soviet Army, which entered Bessarabia before the Romanian administration finished retreating. The casualties reported by the Romanian Army during those seven days consisted of 356 officers and 42,876 soldiers dead or missing.
On August 2, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was established on most of the territory of Bessarabia, merged with the western parts of the former Moldavian ASSR. Bessarabia was divided between the Moldavian SSR (65% of the territory and 80% of the population) and the Ukrainian SSR. Bessarabia's northern and southern districts (now Budjak and parts of the Chernivtsi oblast) were allotted to Ukraine, while some territories (4,000 km2) on the left (eastern) bank of Dniester (present Transnistria), previously part of Ukraine, were allotted to Moldavia. Following the Soviet takeover, many Bessarabians, who were accused of supporting the deposed Romanian administration, were executed or deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan.
Between September and November 1940, the ethnic Germans of Bessarabia were offered resettlement to Germany, following a German-Soviet agreement. Fearing Soviet oppression, almost all Germans (93,000) agreed. Most of them were resettled to the newly annexed Polish territories.
On June 22, 1941 the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union commenced with Operation Barbarossa. Between June 22 and July 26, 1941, Romanian troops with the help of Wehrmacht recovered Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. The Soviets employed scorched earth tactics during their forced retreat from Bessarabia, destroying the infrastructure and transporting movable goods to Russia by railway. At the end of July, after a year of Soviet rule, the region was once again under Romanian control.
As the military operation was still in progress, there were cases of Romanian troops "taking revenge" on Jews in Bessarabia, in the form of pogroms on civilians and murder of Jewish POWs, resulting in several thousand dead. The supposed cause for murdering Jews was that in 1940 some Jews welcomed the Soviet takeover as liberation. At the same time the notorious SS Einsatzgruppe D, operating in the area of the German 11th Army, committed summary executions of Jews under the pretext that they were spies, saboteurs, Communists, or under no pretext whatsoever.
The political solution of the "Jewish Question" was apparently seen by the Romanian dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu more in expulsion rather than extermination. That portion of the Jewish population of Bessarabia and Bukovina which did not flee before the retreat of the Soviet troops (147,000) was initially gathered into ghettos or Nazi concentration camps, and then deported during 1941–1942 in death marches into Romanian-occupied Transnistria, where the "Final Solution" was applied.
After three years of relative peace, the German-Soviet front returned in 1944 to the land border on the Dniester. On August 20, 1944, a c. 3,400,000-strong Red Army began a major summer offensive codenamed Jassy-Kishinev Operation. The Soviet armies overran Bessarabia in a two-pronged offensive within five days. In pocket battles at Chișinău and Sărata the German 6th Army of c. 650,000 men, newly reformed after the Battle of Stalingrad, was obliterated. Simultaneously with the success of the Russian attack, Romania broke the military alliance with the Axis and changed sides. On August 23, 1944, Marshal Ion Antonescu was arrested by King Michael, and later handed over to the Soviets.
The Soviet Union regained the region in 1944, and the Red Army occupied Romania. By 1947, the Soviets had imposed a communist government in Bucharest, which was friendly and obedient towards Moscow. The Soviet occupation of Romania lasted until 1958. The Romanian communist regime did not openly raise the matter of Bessarabia or Northern Bukovina in its diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. At least 100,000 people died in a post-war famine in Moldavia.
Between 1969 and 1971, a clandestine National Patriotic Front was established by several young intellectuals in Chișinău, totaling over 100 members, vowing to fight for the establishment of a Moldavian Democratic Republic, its secession from the Soviet Union and union with Romania.
In December 1971, following an informative note from Ion Stănescu, the President of the Council of State Security of the Romanian Socialist Republic, to Yuri Andropov, the chief of KGB, three of the leaders of the National Patriotic Front, Alexandru Usatiuc-Bulgar, Gheorghe Ghimpu and Valeriu Graur, as well as a fourth person, Alexandru Soltoianu, the leader of a similar clandestine movement in northern Bukovina (Bucovina), were arrested and later sentenced to long prison terms.
With the weakening of the Soviet Union, in February 1988, the first non-sanctioned demonstrations were held in Chișinău. At first pro-Perestroika, they soon turned anti-government and demanded official status for the Romanian (Moldavian) language instead of the Russian language. On August 31, 1989, following a 600,000-strong demonstration in Chișinău four days earlier, Romanian (Moldavian) became the official language of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. However, this was not implemented for many years. In 1990, the first free elections were held for Parliament, with the opposition Popular Front winning them. A government led by Mircea Druc, one of the leaders of the Popular Front, was formed. The Moldavian SSR became SSR Moldova, and later the Republic of Moldova. The Republic of Moldova became independent on August 31, 1991; it took over unchanged the boundaries of the Moldavian SSR.
According to Bessarabian historian Ștefan Ciobanu and Moldovan philologist Viorica Răileanu, in 1810 the percentage of the Romanian (Moldavian) population was approximately 95%. During the 19th century, as a result of the Russian policy of colonization and Russification, the Romanian population decreased to (depending on data sources) 47.6% (in 1897), 52% or 75% for 1900 (Krusevan), 53.9% (1907), 70% (1912, Laskov), or 65–67% (1918, J. Kaba).
The Russian Census of 1817, which recorded 96,526 families and 482,630 inhabitants, did not register ethnic data except for recent refugees (primarily Bulgarians) and certain ethno-social categories (Jews, Armenians and Greeks). Official records indicated 3,826 Jewish families (4.2%), 1,200 Lipovan families (1.5%), 640 Greek families (0.7%), 530 Armenian families (0.6%), 482 Bulgarian and Gagauz families (0.5%). In the 20th century, Romanian historian Ion Nistor extrapolated the number of Romanians at 83,848 families (86%) and Ruthenians at 6,000 families (6.5%). The estimate was based on the assumption that Ruthenes constituted up to a third of the population of the Khotin county, while the rest of the recorded population was exclusively Moldavian or Romanian. An alternative estimate for the same year indicates 76.4% Romanians, 8.7% Ukrainians, 5.1% Bulgarians and Gaguzes, 4.5% Jews and 2% Russians. An 1818 statistic of three counties in southern Bessarabia (Akkerman, Izmail and Bender) that had witnessed strong emigration of the Muslim population and immigration from other regions, including Ottoman lands south of the Danube, recorded a total population of 113,835. There are conflicting figures regarding the national distribution (first figure cited by Poștarencu, second by Ungureanu): 48.64/37% Moldavians, 7.07/8.9% Russians, 15.65/17.9% Ukrainians, 17.02/21.5% Bulgarians and 11.62/14.7% others. Still in 1818, statistics for the Khotin county in northern Bessarabia indicated 47.5% Moldavians and 42.6% Ukrainians.
According to an incomplete administrative census made in 1843–1844 at the request of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the following proportions were recorded, in a total of 692,777 inhabitants: 59.4% Moldavians, 17.2% Ukrainians, 9.3% Bulgarians, 7.1% Jews and 2.2% Russians. It should be noted that, in the case of some urban centres, figures were not reported for all ethnic groups. Furthermore, the size of the total populations differs from other official reports of the same period, which put the population of Bessarabia at 774,492 or 793,103.
Church records gathered around 1850–1855 put the total population at 841,523, with the following composition: 51.4% Moldavians, 4.2% Russians, 21.3% Ukrainians, 10% Bulgarians, 7.2% Jews and 5.7% others. On the other hand, official data for 1855 record a total population of 980,031, excluding the population on the territory under the authority of the Special Administration of the town of Izmail.
According to Ion Nistor, the population of Bessarabia in 1856 was composed of 736,000 Romanians (74%), 119,000 Ukrainians (12%), 79,000 Jews (8%), 47,000 Bulgarians and Gagauz (5%), 24,000 Germans (2.4%), 11,000 Romani (1.1%), 6,000 Russians (0.6%), adding to a total of 990,274 inhabitants. Historian Constantin Ungureanu provides significantly different figures for the same year: 676,100 Romanians (68.2%), 126,000 Ukrainians (12.7%), 78,800 Jews (7.9%), 48,200 Bulgarians and Gaguz (4.9%), 24,200 (2.4%) Germans and 20,000 Russians (2%) for a total of 991,900.
Russian data, 1889 (Total: 1,628,867 inhabitants)
Russian Census, 1897 (Total 1,935,412 inhabitants). By language:
Some scholars, however, believed in regard to the 1897 census that "[...] the census enumerator generally has instructions to count everyone who understands the state language as being of that nationality, no matter what his everyday speech may be.", thus a number of Moldavians (Romanians) might have been registered as Russians.
According to N. Durnovo, the population of Bessarabia in 1900 was (Total: 1,935,000 inhabitants):
|Cahul and Ismail1||109,000||53,000||11,000||27,000||44,000||244,000|
|Cetatea Albă County||106,000||48,000||11,000||52,500||47,500||265,000|
Notes: 1 The two counties were merged.
Romanian Census, 1930 (Total: 2,864,662 inhabitants)
|Cetatea Albă County||62,949||70,095||58,922||11,390||71,227||7,876||55,598||3,119||341,176|
Notes: 1 Includes Lipovans. 2 Poles, Armenians, Albanians, Greeks, Gypsies, etc. and non-declared
The data of the Romanian census of 1939 was not completely processed before the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia. However, the estimates of the total population rise to approximately 3.2 million.
In the 1979 Soviet census for the Moldavian SSR (including Transnistria; northern and southern Bessarabia - nowadays both part of Ukraine - were not included): 63.9% identified themselves as Moldovans and 0.04% as Romanians. For the Soviet census of 1989 (conducted in the Moldavian SSR): 64.5% declared themselves as Moldovans and 0.06% Romanians. In the Moldovan census of 2004 (not including Transnistria): 75.81% declared themselves Moldovans and 2.17% Romanians.
Bender ([benˈder]; de facto official name Bendery (Russian: Бендеры, [bʲɪnˈdɛrɨ]); also known by other alternative names) is a city within the internationally recognized borders of Moldova under de facto control of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria) (PMR) since 1992. It is located on the western bank of the river Dniester in the historical region of Bessarabia.
Together with its suburb Proteagailovca, the city forms a municipality, which is separate from Transnistria (as an administrative unit of Moldova) according to Moldovan law. Bender is located in the buffer zone established at the end of the 1992 War of Transnistria. While the Joint Control Commission has overriding powers in the city, Transnistria has de facto administrative control.
The fortress of Tighina was one of the important historic fortresses of the Principality of Moldova.Bessarabia Germans
The Bessarabia Germans (German: Bessarabiendeutsche, Romanian: Germani basarabeni, Ukrainian: Бессарабські німці) were an ethnic group who lived in Bessarabia (today part of the Republic of Moldova and south-western Ukraine) between 1814 and 1940.
From 1814 to 1842, 9,000 of them immigrated from the German areas Baden, Württemberg, Bavaria, some Prussian areas of modern-day Poland and Alsace, France, to the Russian governorate of Bessarabia at the Black Sea. The area, bordering on the Black Sea, was part of the Russian Empire, in the form of Novorossiya; it later became the Bessarabia Governorate.
Throughout their 125 year history, the Bessarabia Germans were an overwhelmingly rural population. Until their moving to the Greater Germany (Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact), they were a minority consisting of 93,000 people who made up some 3% of the population. They were distinguished from the Black Sea Germans who settled to the east of Odessa, and from the Dobrujan Germans in Dobruja.
The most prominent person of Bessarabian German ancestry is the former German President Horst Köhler. Before emigrating in 1940, his parents lived in the German colony of Rîşcani in northern Bessarabia, being later on moved to Poland, which was by that time occupied by Germany, where Köhler was born.Bessarabia Governorate
Bessarabia Oblast was an oblast (1812–1871) and later a guberniya (Guberniya of Bessarabia, 1871–1917) in the Russian Empire. It included the eastern part of the Principality of Moldavia along with the neighboring Ottoman-ruled territories annexed by Russia by the Treaty of Bucharest following the Russo-Turkish War, 1806-1812. The Governorate was disbanded in 1917, with the establishment of Sfatul Ţării, a national assembly which proclaimed the Moldavian Democratic Republic in December 1917. The latter united with Romania in April 1918.
Around 65% of the territory of the former governorate now belongs to the Republic of Moldova (and the breakaway region of Transnistria), and around 35% to Ukraine.Bessarabian Bulgarians
The Bessarabian Bulgarians (Bulgarian: бесарабски българи, besarabski bǎlgari, Romanian: bulgari basarabeni) are a Bulgarian minority group of the historical region of Bessarabia, inhabiting parts of present-day Ukraine (Odessa Oblast) and Moldova.Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi
Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi (Ukrainian: Білгород-Дністровський, Romanian: Cetatea Albă, Russian: Бе́лгород-Днестро́вский ), formerly known as Akkerman (see naming section below), is a city and port situated on the right bank of the Dniester Liman (on the Dniester estuary leading to the Black Sea) in Odessa Oblast of southwestern Ukraine, in the historical region of Bessarabia. Administratively, Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi is incorporated as a town of oblast significance. It also serves as the administrative center of Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi Raion, one of twenty-six districts of Odessa Oblast, though it is not a part of the district. It is a location of a big freight seaport. Population: 50,086 (2015 est.)Budjak
Budjak or Budzhak (Russian, Ukrainian, and Bulgarian: Буджак; Romanian: Bugeac; Gagauz: Bucak, historical Cyrillic: Буӂак; Turkish: Bucak) is a historical region in Ukraine and Moldova. Lying along the Black Sea between the Danube and Dniester rivers, this thinly populated multi-ethnic 600,000-people region of 13,188 km2 is located in the southern part of historical Bessarabia. Nowadays, the larger part of the region is included in Ukraine's Odessa Oblast, while the rest is included in the southern districts of Moldova. The region is bordered to the north by the rest of Moldova, to the west and south by Romania, and to the east by the Black Sea and the rest of Ukraine.Greater Romania
The term Greater Romania (Romanian: România Mare) usually refers to the borders of the Kingdom of Romania in the interwar period. It also refers to a pan-nationalist idea.
As a concept, its main goal is the re-creation of a nation-state which would incorporate all Romanian speakers. The phrase is strongly associated with the Kingdom of Romania between 1918 and 1940, often considered the realization of the pan-Romanian goal. In 1918, after the incorporation of Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia, the Romanian state reached its largest peacetime geographical extent ever (295,049 km²). Today the concept serves as a guiding principle for the unification of Romania and Moldova.
The idea is comparable to other similar conceptions such as the Greek Megali Idea, Greater Hungary, Great Yugoslavia, as well as Greater Italy.History of Moldova
The history of Moldova can be traced to the 1350s, when the Principality of Moldavia, the medieval precursor of modern Moldova and Romania, was founded. The principality was a vassal of the Ottoman Empire from 1538 until the 19th century. In 1812, following one of several Russian-Turkish wars, the eastern half of the principality, Bessarabia, was annexed by the Russian Empire. In 1918, Bessarabia briefly became independent as the Moldavian Democratic Republic and, following the decision of the Parliament (Sfatul Țării), united with Romania. In 1940 it was annexed by the Soviet Union, joined to the Moldavian ASSR, and became the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic until the dissolution of the USSR. In 1991 a part of the country declared independence as the Republic of Moldova.Khotyn
Khotyn (Ukrainian: Хотин, Ukrainian pronunciation: [xɔˈtɪn]; Romanian: Hotin; see other names) is a city in Chernivtsi Oblast of western Ukraine, and is the administrative center of Khotyn Raion within the oblast, and is located south-west of Kamianets-Podilskyi. According to the 2001 Ukrainian census, it has a population of 11,124. Current population: 9,422 (2015 est.)Khotyn, first chronicled in 1001, is located on the right (southwestern) bank of the Dniester River, and is part of the historical region Bessarabia. Important architectural landmarks within the city include the Khotyn Fortress, constructed in the 13-15th centuries (new fortress started in 1325, major improvements in the 1380s and 1460s), and two 15th century constructions by Moldavia's ruler Stephen the Great: the Prince's Palace (Palatul Domnesc) and the city's clock tower.
Historically, the town was part of the Principality of Moldavia (1359-1432, 1459-1538, 1541-1562, 1572-1615, 1621-1673, 1699-1712), the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1432-1459, 1538-1541, 1562-1572, 1615-1620, 1673-1699) and the Ottoman Empire (1711-1812) . Subsequently, it was part of the Bessarabia Governorate of the Russian Empire (1812–1917), Moldavian Democratic Republic (1917–1918), Romania (1918–1940, 1941–1944), the USSR (1940–1941, 1944–1991) and Ukraine (1991 - ).Kingdom of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania (Romanian: Regatul României) was a constitutional monarchy at the crossroads of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It existed from 1881, when prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was crowned as King Carol I of Romania, until 1947, when King Michael I of Romania abdicated and the Romanian parliament proclaimed Romania a socialist republic.
From 1859 to 1877, Romania evolved from a personal union of two vassal principalities (Moldavia and Wallachia) under a single prince to an autonomous principality with a Hohenzollern monarchy. The country gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire during the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War (known locally as the Romanian War of Independence), when it also received Northern Dobruja in exchange for the southern part of Bessarabia. The kingdom's territory during the reign of King Carol I, between 14 March (O.S.) (27 March (N.S.)) 1881 and 27 September (O.S.) (10 October (N.S.)) 1914 is sometimes referred as the Romanian Old Kingdom, to distinguish it from "Greater Romania", which included the provinces that became part of the state after World War I (Bessarabia, Banat, Bukovina, and Transylvania).
With the exception of the southern halves of Bukovina and Transylvania, these territories were ceded to neighboring countries in 1940, under the pressure of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. Following a disastrous World War II campaign on the side of the Axis powers and name change (Legionary Romania), Romania joined the Allies in 1944, recovering Northern Transylvania. The influence of the neighboring Soviet Union and the policies followed by Communist-dominated coalition governments ultimately led to the abolition of the monarchy, with Romania becoming a People's Republic on the last day of 1947.Metropolis of Bessarabia
The Metropolis of Bessarabia (Romanian: Mitropolia Basarabiei), also referred to as the Bessarabian Orthodox Church, is a Moldovan autonomous Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan bishopric of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The Metropolis of Bessarabia was created in 1918, as the Archbishopric of Chișinău, and organized as a Metropolis, in 1927. Inactive during the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia (1940-1941) and the Soviet rule in Moldova (1944-1991), it was re-activated on 14 September 1992. In 1995, the Metropolis of Bessarabia was raised to the rank of exarchate, with jurisdiction over the territory of Moldova. The current Metropolitan of Bessarabia is Petru (Păduraru).Moldavian Democratic Republic
The Moldavian Democratic Republic (Romanian: Republica Democratică Moldovenească), also known as the Moldavian Republic, was a state proclaimed on December 15 [O.S. December 2] 1917 by the Sfatul Țării (National Council) of Bessarabia, elected in October–November 1917 following the February Revolution and the start of the disintegration of the Russian Empire.
The Sfatul Țării was its legislative body, while the "Council of Directors General", renamed the "Council of Ministers" after the Declaration of Independence, was its government. The Republic was proclaimed on 2/15 December 1917, as a member with equal rights within the Russian Federative Democratic Republic.Moldova
Moldova ( (listen), sometimes UK: ), officially the Republic of Moldova (Romanian: Republica Moldova), is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered by Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east, and south. The capital city is Chișinău.
Most of the Moldovan territory was a part of the Principality of Moldavia from the 14th century until 1812, when it was ceded to the Russian Empire by the Ottoman Empire (to which Moldavia was a vassal state) and became known as Bessarabia. In 1856, southern Bessarabia was returned to Moldavia, which three years later united with Wallachia to form Romania, but Russian rule was restored over the whole of the region in 1878. During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Bessarabia briefly became autonomous and then the independent Moldavian Democratic Republic until it was integrated into Romania in 1918 following a vote of its assembly. The decision was disputed by Soviet Russia, which in 1924 allowed the establishment, within the Ukrainian SSR, of a Moldavian autonomous republic (MASSR) on partial Moldovan-inhabited territories to the east of the Dniester. In 1940, as a consequence of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Romania was compelled to cede Bessarabia to the Soviet Union, leading to the creation of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (Moldavian SSR), which included the greater part of Bessarabia and the westernmost strip of the former MASSR.
On 27 August 1991, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union was under way, the Moldavian SSR declared independence and took the name Moldova. The Constitution of Moldova was adopted in 1994. The strip of the Moldovan territory on the east bank of the Dniester river has been under the de facto control of the breakaway government of Transnistria since 1990.
Due to a decrease in industrial and agricultural output following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the service sector has grown to dominate Moldova's economy and is over 60% of the nation's GDP. Its economy is the poorest in Europe in per capita terms and has the lowest Human Development Index in the continent. Moldova is also the least visited country in Europe by tourists with only 11,000 annually recorded visitors from abroad.Moldova is a parliamentary republic with a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. It is a member state of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and aspires to join the European Union.Orhei
Orhei (Romanian pronunciation: [orˈhej]; Yiddish Uriv – אוריװ), also formerly known as Orgeev (Russian: Орге́ев), is a city, municipality and the administrative centre of Orhei District in the Republic of Moldova, with a population of 21,065. Orhei is approximately 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the capital, Chișinău.Sfatul Țării
Sfatul Țării (Country Council; Romanian pronunciation: [ˈsfatul ˈt͡sərij]) was a council that united political, public, cultural, and professional organizations in the greater part of the territory of the Governorate of Bessarabia in the disintegrating Russian Empire, which proclaimed the Moldavian Democratic Republic as part of the Russian Federative Republic in December 1917, and then union with Romania in April [O.S. March] 1918.Soviet deportations from Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina
The Soviet deportations from Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina took place between late 1940 and 1951 and were part of Joseph Stalin's policy of political repression of the potential opposition to the Soviet power (see Population transfer in the Soviet Union). The deported were typically moved to so-called "special settlements" (спецпоселения) (see Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union).
The deportations began after the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, which occurred in June 1940. According to a secret Soviet ministry of interior report dated December 1965, 46,000 people were deported from Moldavia for the period 1940—1953.Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina
The Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina from June 28 – July 4, 1940, of the Romanian regions of northern Bukovina and Hertza, and of Bessarabia, a region under Romanian administration since Russian Civil War times. These regions, with a total area of 50,762 km2 (19,599 sq mi) and a population of 3,776,309 inhabitants, were subsequently incorporated into the Soviet Union.The Soviet Union had planned to accomplish the annexation with a full-scale invasion, but the Romanian government, responding to a Soviet ultimatum delivered on June 26, agreed to withdraw from the territories in order to avoid a military conflict. Nazi Germany, which had acknowledged the Soviet interest in Bessarabia in a secret protocol to the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, had been made aware prior to the planned ultimatum on June 24, but had not informed the Romanian authorities, nor were they willing to provide support. The Fall of France, a guarantor of Romania's borders, on 22 June, is considered an important factor in the Soviet decision to issue the ultimatum.On August 2, 1940, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed as a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, encompassing most of Bessarabia, as well as a portion of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, an autonomous republic of the Ukrainian SSR located on the left bank of the Dniester (now the breakaway Transnistrian state). The Hertza region, and the regions inhabited by Slavic majorities (northern Bukovina, Northern and Southern Bessarabia) were included in the Ukrainian SSR. A period of political persecution, including executions, deportations to labour camps and arrests, occurred during the Soviet administration.
In July 1941, Romanian and German troops recaptured Bessarabia during the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union. A military administration was established and the region's Jewish population was either executed on the spot or deported to Transnistria, where further numbers were killed. In August 1944, during the Soviet Jassy–Kishinev Offensive, the Axis war effort on the Eastern Front collapsed. A coup d'état in Romania on 23 August 1944 caused the Romanian army to cease resisting the Soviet advance and join the fight against Germany. Soviet forces advanced from Bessarabia into Romania, capturing much of its standing army as POWs and occupying the country. On September 12, 1944, Romania signed the Moscow Armistice with the Allies. The Armistice, as well as the subsequent peace treaty of 1947, confirmed the Soviet-Romanian border as it was on January 1, 1941.Bessarabia, northern Bukovina, and Hertza remained part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991, when they became part of the newly independent states of Moldova and Ukraine. In its declaration of independence of August 27, 1991, the government of Moldova condemned the creation of the Moldavian SSR, declaring that it had no legal basis.Trajan's Wall
Trajan's Wall (Valul lui Traian in Romanian) is the name used for several linear earthen fortifications (valla) found across Eastern Europe, in Moldova, Romania, and Ukraine. Contrary to the name and popular belief, the ramparts were not built by Romans during Trajan's reign, but during other imperial periods. Furthermore, the association with the Roman Emperor may be a recent scholarly invention, only entering the imagination of the locals with the national awakening of the 19th century. Medieval Moldavian documents referred to the earthworks as Troian, likely in reference to a mythological hero in the Romanian and Slavic folklore. The other major earthen fortification in Romania, Brazda lui Novac (Novac's Furrow), is also named after a mythological hero.Union of Bessarabia with Romania
On April 9 [O.S. March 27] 1918, the Sfatul Țării, or National Council, of Bessarabia proclaimed union with the Kingdom of Romania. The Romanian prime-minister at the time, Alexandru Marghiloman, was to admit however that the unification was decided in Romania, as the Moldavian leaders Daniel Ciugureanu and Ion Inculeț, aware of the widespread distrust of Romanian rule, feared an overt annexation would lead to a revolutionary situation.
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