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Kishinev History

Moldova (formerly Bessarabia) was settled by people of many different nationalities, including Jews. Prior to 1917, Bessarabia was part of the Imperial Czarist Empire. [Today, northern Bessarabia belongs to Ukraine, southern Bessarabia to Romania.

"Today, three different territories use the name Moldova/ Moldavia, and they are geographically contiguous. At one time or another, all had been part of Romania, but only one was part of Romania from its inception to the present time. The other two regions, which lie east of Romania and were a single unit until three years ago, were shunted back and forth between Russian and Romanian influence for centuries and were for many years called Bessarabia. Its capital city was Kishinev.
When Bessarabia became part of the Soviet Empire after World War II, it was known as the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia. With post-Soviet independence in 1991, it became simply Moldova or the Republic of Moldova (or Moldavia). Soon after that, a civil war, fought over language and culture, ended in the breaking away of a section between the Dnieper and Dniester Rivers, now called the Transdnieper Republic of Moldova (or Moldavia). Its capital city is Tiraspol. The majority of Romanian Jews who perished in the Holocaust came from Bessarabia.
My destination was within the borders of present-day Romania, the region of Moldavia (or Moldova), and its historic capital, Iasi (pronounced Yash and known as Jassy to most of the outside world)."
(From "Romania: The Sudits and Other Jewish Discoveries," by Paul Pascal in Avotaynu vol. 11 (Spring, 1995))

"To set the stage, maps of Romania today and those between the two world wars and today, show two Moldavias adjacent to each other. This has been a source of endless confusion for genealogists in the West. The inner (southwestern) Moldavia is, and always has been, a province of Romania. The outer (northeastern) Moldavia has been shunted back and forth between Romania and Russia, each of which took turns annexing it. Currently, it is an independent republic. For many years, the outer Moldavia was known as Bessarabia. Some people have tried to make a distinction between the two regions by calling one Moldavia and the other Moldova. This does not help, however, because “Moldova” is simply the Romanian-language version of “Moldavia.” In this presentation, I will restrict myself to the expressions “Moldavia” and “Bessarabia” to refer, respectively, to the inner and outer regions. During the 19th century, the entire northeast region—inner Moldavia plus Bessarabia—held the country's highest concentration of Jews by far. The capital of the inner Moldavia is Iasi and has also been called Yassy, Jassy, Yosser and Tirgu-Yasski. The Romanian pronunciation is “Yash.” "
(From "Romania: the Sudits and Other Jewish Discoveries," by Paul Pascal in Avotaynu, vol. 12, Spring 1996)

" 1859–60, of which 124,897 lived in Moldavia and only 9,234 in Wallachia.
In the same period (1856), the Jewish population of Bessarabia, the eastern part of Moldavia which became part of the Russian Empire in 1812, amounted to 78,751. Up to the end of the 19th century, according to the 1899 census, the number of Jews in Romania doubled to 269,015 individuals, which represented 4.5 percent of the total population. Before World War I, a census taken in 1912 recorded a slight decrease in number and percentage (239,967 persons for 3.3 percent of the population) as a result of emigration due to a restrictive anti-Jewish official policy and refusal to grant civil rights." ... "In Moldavia and Wallachia, united in 1859 under the name of Romania, the modern unitary system of civil registers was introduced in 1865." ... "After 1918, with the establishment of Greater Romania, by the unification of Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania with Older Romania" ... "in 1940, northern Bukovina and Bessarabia were given to the Soviet Union."
(From "Genealogy and History Sources of Jewish Genealogical Research in Romania (18th-20th Centuries)," by Ladislav Gyémánt in Avotaynu, vol. 13, Fall 1997)

"Around the beginning of the 16th century, Moldova and Wallachia became part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. They preserved their own institutions, their princes and legislation, but had to pay taxes to the Turks and lost the right to their own foreign policy.
Because it was in the interest of Moldova and Wallachia to have Jewish merchants and money lenders who contributed to the independence of these two principalities, Jews enjoyed a relatively good situation there. They had the right to pursue economic activities, practice their religion and enjoy freedom of movement.
Things changed in Moldova and Wallachia in the 18th century when a new great power appeared in the area, the Russian Empire, whose aim was to conquer this area of eastern and southeastern Europe. Russia wanted access to the Black Sea and then to the Mediterranean Sea, and thus to control, with the Russian fleet, the main maritime routes to the Middle East, India and other important strategic points. Of course, the western powers England and France opposed the Russian policy. As a result, in the 18th and 19th centuries, Moldova and Wallachia became theaters of frequent wars between the Russians and the Turks. Several times the principalities were conquered by the Russians who took over some Moldavian territories. The process culminated in 1812 when the eastern part of Moldova the territories situated between the Prut and Dneister Rivers called Bessarabia became part of the Russian Empire."
(From "Historical and Demographic Background Of Jewish Family Research in Romania, by Ladislav Gyémánt in Avotaynu, vol. 19, Fall 2003)

"A Jewish cemetery is known to have existed in a village near Kishinev during the 18th century. In 1774, a hevra kaddisha was founded in the town with a membership of 144. When Kishinev became the capital of Bessarabia under Russian rule (1818) it developed rapidly, becoming a commercial and industrial center, and many Jews moved there from other places in Russia. The first rabbi of Kishinev was Zalman b. Mordecai Shargorodski. In 1816, R. Hayyim b. Solomon Tyrer of Czernowitz laid the foundation stone of the Great Synagogue and in 1838, in the wake of the authorities' efforts to hasten the assimilation of the Jews, the first Jewish secular school was opened. In time two other government schools were opened. The poet J. Eichenbaum and the scholar J. Goldenthal taught there."
(From "Kishinev Old Jewish Cemetery article at")

Moldova (formerly Bessarabia) is home to nearly 30 thousand Jewish people, and half of them live in Chisinau (formerly Kishinev).
"According to the 1989 census, Jewish people constituted 1.5% of populace in Moldova. Since then, however, the Jewish population has shrunk considerably due to active emigration to Israel, the United State, and Western Europe. In 2001 alone, 954 ethnic Jews from Moldova officially emigrated to Israel. Last couple of years, however, one can observe an inverse process: having come to face difficulties at the 'historic Motherland', many Jews are returning to Moldova"
(From Moldova Venerates Memory of Jewish Writers Repressed by Stalin's Regime, in Moldova Azi, August 16, 2004)

"Today, Chisinau's Jewish community is witnessing a great renaissance. With the assistance of Jewish groups outside the country, Chisinau's Jewish community reopened a "Yeshiva" or Jewish school, which has been closed since World War II. It has also begun printing newspapers in Hebrew and started running Jewish education classes for adults."
(From Moldova: A small country with many delights, in The Washington Times Advertising Department, April 22, 1999)

Towns near Kishinev that also have Jewish communities are Belts, Tiraspol, Bender, and Soroka.

In the 1930 census Bessarabia had a Jewish population of 206,000.

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