Due to its strategic location on a route between Asia and Europe, the territory of modern Moldova experienced many invasions in late antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, including by Goths, Huns, Avars, Bulgarians, Magyars, Pechenegs, Cumans, Mongols and Tatars.
Founding of the Principality of Moldavia:
The founding of the Principality of Moldavia began with the arrival of a Vlach voivode (military leader), Dragoș, soon followed by his people from Maramureș to the region of the Moldova River. Dragoș established a polity there as a vassal to the Kingdom of Hungary in the 1350s. The independence of the Principality of Moldavia was gained when Bogdan I, another Vlach voivode from Maramureș who had fallen out with the Hungarian king, crossed the Carpathian mountains in 1359 and took control of Moldavia, wresting the region from Hungary.
The Principality of Moldavia was bounded by the Carpathian Mountains in the west, the Dniester River in the east, and the Danube River and Black Sea to the south. Its territory comprised the present-day territory of the Republic of Moldova, the eastern eight counties of Romania, and parts of the Chernivtsi Oblast and Budjak region of Ukraine. Like the present-day republic and Romania’s north-eastern region, it was known to the locals as Moldova.
Moldavian leaders profited from the end of the Polish-Hungarian union and became a vassal of king Jogaila of Poland on September 26, 1387. This relationship brought financial and military aid to Moldova in exchange for some territorial control.
For all of his success, it was under the reign of Alexander I that the first confrontation with the Ottoman Turks took place at Cetatea Albă in 1420. A deep crisis was to follow Alexander’s long reign, with his successors battling each other in a succession of wars that divided the country. Nevertheless, Moldavia was subject to further Hungarian interventions after that moment, as Matthias Corvinus deposed Aron and backed Alexăndrel to the throne in Suceava. Petru Aron’s rule also signified the beginning of Moldavia’s Ottoman Empire allegiance, as the ruler agreed to pay tribute to Sultan Mehmed II.
During this time, Moldavia was invaded repeatedly by Crimean Tatars and, beginning in the 15th century, by the Turks. In 1538, the principality became a tributary to the Ottoman Empire, but it retained internal and partial external autonomy. Moldova remained an Ottoman vassal state despite a brief period of Polish control that ended in 1621.
While most of today’s Moldova came into the Ottoman orbit in the 16th century, a substantial part of Transnistria remained a part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth until the Second Partition of Poland in 1793.
The Russian Empire:
In accordance with the Treaty of Bucharest of 1812, and despite numerous protests by Moldavian nobles on behalf of the sovereignty of their principality, the Ottoman Empire (of which Moldavia was a vassal) ceded to the Russian Empire the eastern half of the territory of the Principality of Moldavia along with Khotyn and old Bessarabia (modern Budjak), which Russia had already conquered and annexed. The new Russian province was called Oblast of Moldavia and Bessarabia, and initially enjoyed a large degree of autonomy. After 1828 this autonomy was progressively restricted and in 1871 the Oblast was transformed into the Bessarabia Governorate, in a process of state-imposed assimilation, Russification. As part of this process, the Tsarist administration in Bessarabia gradually removed the Romanian language from official and religious use.