Bessarabia, a historic region in southeastern Europe. Most of Bessarabia is in Moldova, the rest in Ukraine. Its area is about 18,000 square miles (46,600 km2).
The region is named for the Bessi, a Greek tribe that lived there in the seventh century A.D. In the Middle Ages, the Genoese established colonies in Bessarabia. During the 14th century the region became a part of the Romanian principality of Moldavia. The Turks ruled Bessarabia from 1504 to 1812, when the Treaty of Bucharest gave it to Russia. Russia lost part of the area to the principality of Moldavia in 1856, but regained control in 1878 at the Congress of Berlin.
Bessarabia proclaimed its independence in 1917 and united with Romania in 1918. The Soviet government did not recognize the union and forced Romania to return Bessarabia in 1940. Most of the region was incorporated into the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (now Moldova). The extreme northern and southern sections were added to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Romania held the region for a brief time during World War II (1941–44).