Moldova, Moldavia, Bessarabia #romania
I have received an email >from Marilyn (you can see part of the message
below), I am responding to the whole Bessarabia SIG, Rom-SIG, Ukraine SIG
and to JewishGen Discussion group. The reason is that I am getting similar
questions all the time, and I understand the confusion of Marilyn and many
other Jewish Genealogists.
My goal is to clear this confusion. If you have questions after my
explanation, please do not hesitate to email me or the whole group.
Let's start with terminology.
The term Moldavia and Moldova mean the same region! Moldova is in Romanian
language and Moldavia was adopted by Russian and other languages, including
English. Charles King in "The Moldovans. Romania, Russia, and the Politics
of Culture", Stanford U., 1999 writes that "It is a myth that Moldova
changed its name >from Moldavia. What happened in the 1990s was simply that
we in the West became better informed about what locals themselves had
always called it."
So let's dive into the history of the region:
Moldavia is known as a country or Principality >from 14 century until 1812.
There were also two other Danube or Romanian Principalities Walachia and
Transilvania. At some point in the history Moldavia joined other
Principalities. In 1538 Moldovia surrendered to Ottoman Empire, and
remained under Turks for about 300 years. It was not a colonization in a
strict sense. Moldavia inhabitants exercise their Christian Orthodoxy,
Turks were not able to settle in the region, except in several fortified
towns on the border, and in far north and south parts of the region.
You can find details about the history, governments of the region at our
Bessarabia SIG website or directly at
History of Jews in Bessarabia in the 15th to 19th Centuries Geography,
History, Social Status, 2008, Yefim Kogan
You also can find a set of historical maps on Moldova at Wikimedia at
and many more maps and articles on the topic of today?s discussion.
Here is a simple version (I probably missed a few details).
Starting >from 18 century Russia tried to influence Moldavia, occupied it at
the end of 18 century, established military rule, fought many wars on the
territory of Moldova with Ottomans. Finally Moldavia was divided in 1775,
when Austrian Empire occupied part of Moldova - Bukovina, and in 1812
Russian Empire received the eastern part of Moldavia, a region between
rivers Prut and Dnester. That region became Bessarabia Oblast and later in
19c Bessarabia Gubernia (province).
In 1812 the rest of Moldova (western part) was still under Ottoman rule
until Moldavia and Walachia formed Romania. Romania was officially
recognized as an independent country in 1878.
One additional swap of lands: >from 1856-1878 south-western part of
Bessarabia went back to Moldova. That region included towns of Izmail,
Kiliya, Reni, Leovo, Kagul. You can see the map with that region on page 4
of the article above.
Let's follow the history: until WWI nothing changed in the region. After
WWI and Russian Revolution of 1917 and Russian Civil War, the region of
North Bukovina and Bessarabia went back Romanian rule. This is why who ever
lived in Bessarabia in 1920-1940 knows that they were born in Romania, but
in many cases their parents who were born in the same shteitlakh, but before
1917 know that they were born in Russia.
In 1940 Soviet Union took the lands of Bessarabia and North Bukovina back.
This is the time that was formed Moldavskaya Sovetskaya Sotsialisticheskaya
Respublika (MSSR, one of 15 Soviet Republics. MSSR Included most part of
Bessarabia and a small region on the left side of Dniester River, now called
Transnistria (with towns of Tiraspol, Rybnitsa, Kamenka, Slobodzeya,
Rashkov, etc.) Also south region of Bessarabia with towns of Akkerman,
Kiliya, Ismail, Reni, and far north region of Bessarabia with towns of
Khotin, Sokeryani, Klishkivtsi, Novoselitsa, etc. became part of Ukraine
Here is my personal story >from my family who lived in what is Bessarabia for
- I was born in the Soviet Union, Republic of Moldova;
- My parents were born in Romania;
- Grandparents were born in Russian Empire?
What's happening in 1990s you probably know well.
I hope I did not bored you?
Why we are confused?
- Our members are looking for information about their relatives, and they
see that now Bessarabia Vital records database and Bessarabia Revision List
database has more than 250,000 records. But if the towns the relatives live
are Moinesti or Tirgu Ocna no records will be in the Bessarabia Database!
The thing is that the Romania (Moldova) and Bessarabia (Republic of Moldova
+ parts of Ukraine) have different genealogy. Bessarabian records are
written mostly in Russian or Russian and Hebrew, and Romanian (Moldova)
records most likely were written in Romanian.
Also most of the Bessarabian records are held in Chisinau (Kishinev, this
is how I remember that town), and of course the Romanian records are most
likely in Yassy, a provincial center in what used to be Moldova
Principality, and later a large center in Moldova region of Romania.
- The same names Moldova, or Moldavia are used for land in current state of
Romania, that is the western part of Romania, as well as the whole country
of Republic of Moldova.
I have suggested a number of times to JewishGen to avoid at least some of
1. Rename the Romanian Database to Romania-Moldova Database or
2. At the list of Romanian Databases there is a section Moldavia, but it
should be Romania (Moldavia)
3. The section of Moldavia Vital Records should be renamed Romania
(Moldavia) Vital Records.
I believe that these small modifications will be very helpful.
If you have any questions or probably even more questions than before,
please let's discuss, send to me or to the group.
All the best,
Bessarabia SIG Coordinator
Researching KOGAN, SPIVAK, KHAYMOVICH, SRULEVICH, LEVIT in Kaushany,
Bendery, Tarutino, Akkerman, Kiliya - all in Bessarabia, KHAIMOVICH in
Galatz, Romania, KOGAN in Dubossary, Moldova, SRULEVICH in Shanghai, China
Subject: Moldova Cem. Project
I've been following this project and appreciate your more complete break
down in today's Jewishgen Digest. I did contribute to Bob Wascou before he
passed. The reason for this message is that I'm confused. My family were
from Moinesti and Tirgu Ocna, both near each other in Moldova. However,this area was not Bessarabia. ?..
Can you explain what areas of Moldova are covered other than Bessarabia and
Florida, formerly Pittsburgh