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The JewishGen Bessarabia Special Interest Group (Bessarabia SIG) was created for those with Jewish roots in the region historically known as Bessarabia, an area now comprising the Moldova Republic and parts of Ukraine. Our research also covers Transnistria (Pridnestrovie), a small area adjacent to the eastern border of Bessarabia, formerly in Kherson and Podolia Gubernia of Russia and now part of the Moldova Republic / Transnistria self-proclaimed territory.

Many Jews started to settle in this land when it became part of the Russian Empire in 1812, first as the Bessarabia Oblast and later the Bessarabia Gubernia. Many came from Galicia, Ukraine, Poland, and other regions lured by tax incentives and other favorable rules. They brought with them special working skills, such as the ability to work on the land as farmers, and practiced various crafts and trades. It was on that land that Klezmer music thrived with influence from Romanian and Roma folk music.

Bessarabia in 1897 was a home for 228,000 Jews, 11% of the total population of the region. Its capital, Kishinev, had almost 50,000 Jews, half the population of this city. Tens of thousands of Bessarabian Jews emigrated to the USA, Argentina, Palestine, and other countries at the end of 19th century, before and especially after the infamous Kishinev Pogroms of 1903 and 1905. By the eve of World War II, the Jewish population in Bessarabia was estimated to be between 300,000 and 350,000.

Bessarabia is Yellow and Purple areas Bessarabia, 1882. The Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS) Transnistria (Pridnestrovie), Wikipedia, 2010

Bessarabia is a region between the Prut, Dniester, and Danube rivers and Black Sea, shown on the map above in Yellow and Purple. Our Bessarabia SIG is researching Bessarabia and also Transnistria, shown above in Green. The current Republic of Moldova is Yellow and Green regions.

The name Bessarabia is derived from the Wallachian princely family of Bassarab that once ruled territory in South Bessarabia. The name is of Cuman or Pecheneg origin and most likely meant “father ruler”. For the geography and history of Bessarabia, Moldavia (Moldova) and Transnistria see section on General History, Governments, Maps.


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