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In 1940, Bessarabia was occupied by the Soviet Union, and was split between the Ukrainian SSR and the newly created Moldavian SSR.
Tatar invasions continued after the establishment of the Principality of Moldavia in 1359, bounded by the Carpathian mountains in the west, Dniester river in the east, and Danube and Black Sea in the south.
In the Middle Ages, most of the present territory of Moldova was part of the Principality of Moldavia.
In 1812, the eastern part of this principality was annexed by the Russian Empire and became known as Bessarabia.
At first, the Russians used the name "Oblast of Moldavia and Bessarabia", allowing a large degree of autonomy, but later (in 1828) suspended the self-administration and called it Guberniya of Bessarabia, or simply Bessarabia, starting a process of Russification. The western part of Moldavia (which is not a part of present-day Moldova) remained an autonomous principality, and in 1859, united with Wallachia to form the Kingdom of Romania.
The Tsarist policy in Bessarabia was in part aimed at ethnic assimilation of the Romanian element by forbidding after the 1860s education and religious mass in Romanian; the effect was an extremely low literacy rate (in 1897 approx. The Treaty of Paris (1856) saw three counties of Bessarabia - Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail - returned to Moldavia, but the Treaty of Berlin (1878) saw the Kingdom of Romania returning them to the Russian Empire.