Moldavia lies between the Eastern Carpathians and the Prut River. It is a geographic and historic region which evolved from a single, medieval principality, founded in the 14th century by a Romanian called Dragos. Under Stephen the Great (1435-1504), the principality incorporated large areas of what are now the Republic of Moldova and southern Ukraine. After surviving for years in a precarious independence, Moldavia became part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1775, the Habsburg Empire annexed the north of the country, calling it Bucovina (Bukovina). In 1812, the Russians took eastern Moldavia, which became known as Basarabia (Bessarabia). Moldavia entered the modern era separated into three regions, each with its own character. The western part of Moldavia is now part of Romania and the eastern part belongs to the Republic of Moldova, while the northern and south-eastern parts are territories of Ukraine.
In the 19th century, a large number of Jews arrived from Galicia. They represented 6.5% of the total of inhabitants, and 23.1% in the urban area. In Iasi, the capital of Moldavia, Jews represented a third of the total population (whereas in 1900, half of Iasi’s population was Jewish).