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Bessarabia (Basarabia in Romanian, Бесарабія in Ukrainian, Бессарабия in Russian, Бесарабия in Bulgarian, Besarabya in Turkish, Bessarabien in German, בעסאַראַביע in Yiddish) is a historical term for the geographic entity in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west. This was the name by which Imperial Russia designated the eastern part of the Principality of Moldavia, ceded by the Ottoman Empire (to which Moldavia was a vassal) to Russia at the Peace of Bucharest in the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish War, 1806-1812. The remaining western part of Moldavia united with Wallachia in 1859 in what would become the Kingdom of Romania. (For a short period between 1856 and 1878, two of the nine traditional counties of Bessarabia were also part of Moldavia and then Romania.)

In 1918, slightly before the end of World War I, Bessarabia declared its independence from Russia as the Moldavian Democratic Republic, and after three months united with the Kingdom of Romania.[1] In 1940, Bessarabia was occupied by the USSR. Romania, at the time one of the Axis Powers, recaptured it between 1941 and 1944. In 1947, the Soviet border set along the Prut River was internationally recognised by the Paris Treaty that ended World War II. The core part of Bessarabia was reorganised by the Soviets as the Moldavian SSR, to which parts of the previous Moldavian ASSR (Transnistria) were added. At the same time, smaller parts of Bessarabia, in the south (two traditional counties; Budjak) and north (half of one county), were transferred to the Ukrainian SSR. During the process of dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Moldavian SSR declared itself sovereign (23 June 1990), was renamed the Republic of Moldova, and on 27 August, 1991, the latter declared independence from the USSR. The areas allotted to the Ukrainian SSR in 1940 are part of newly independent Ukraine since 1991.


The region is bounded by the Dniester River to the north and east, the Prut to the west and the lower River Danube and the Black Sea to the south. It has approximately 17,600 sq mi (45,600 km²). The area is mostly hilly plains with flat steppes. It is very fertile for agriculture, and it also has some lignite deposits and stone quarries. People living in the area grow sugar beets, 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 Chişinău, the capital of Moldova, Izmail, Bilhorod-Dnistrovs'kyi (historically called Cetatea Albă and Akkerman). Other towns of administrative or historical importance include: Khotyn, Lipcani, Briceni, Soroca, Bălţi, Orhei, Ungheni, Bender/Tighina, Cahul, Reni and Kilia.


  1. Clark, Charles Upson (1927). Bessarabia. New York City: Dodd, Mead.