Bessarabia, «BEHS uh RAY bee uh», is a region in southeastern Europe. It covers 17,147 square miles (44,411 square kilometers). It occupies parts of Moldova and Ukraine. Bessarabia is bordered by the Dniester River on the north and east. The Black Sea and Danube River are on the south. Its western border is the Prut River. Northern Bessarabia is a fertile highland. River valleys cut through the central hilly section. Plains and swamps cover the southern area. Most of Bessarabia’s people are Bulgarian, Moldovan, Russian, or Ukrainian farmers.
In 1812, Russia gained Bessarabia from the Ottoman Empire. This empire was based in what is now Turkey. Southern Bessarabia was given to Moldavia in 1856, at the end of the Crimean War (1853-1856). Russia regained the region in 1878. After World War I (1914-1918), Romania controlled Bessarabia until 1940. Then the Soviet Union seized the region during World War II (1939-1945). Romania reoccupied Bessarabia in 1941, but the Soviet Union regained it in 1944. Bessarabia then became part of the Moldavian and Ukrainian republics. These were part of the Soviet Union. The Moldavian Republic was renamed the Moldovan Republic in 1990. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova and Ukraine became independent nations.
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