XII, 2016, 2

Bessarabia from Stephen the Great to Petru Rareş | p. 7–22

Bessarabia, Demetrius Cantemir’s map of Moldavia, Guillaume Levasseur de Beauplan’s map of Ukraine, Petru Rareş, Stephen the Great


Using an anonymous Spanish Chronicle of the Ottoman Empire and the maps of Ukraine by Guillaume Levasseur de Beauplan (1648) and of Moldavia by Prince Demetrius Cantemir, published first, by his son, in 1738, confronted with contributions of other historians (e.g. Nicoară Beldiceanu, Jean‑Louis Bacqué‑Grammont, 1982), the author offers a new restitution of the territorial evolution of Bessarabia from the Ottoman‑Moldavian Peace of 1486 to the end of the reign of Petru Rareş (1527–1538, 1541–1546).
As usual for the method of conquest of the Ottomans, the former Christian lands with a traditional political‑territorial organization became at the beginning districts – qazas or sanğaqs – in the empire of sultans, situation observed for the first time by the Hungarian historians concerning the mediaeval kingdom of Hungary, partially annexed by the Ottoman Empire.
Applied to Bessarabia, we can observe on Cantemir’s map of Moldavia the former domains of fortresses Kilia and Moncastro. The former was dominated in the late 17th and early 18th century – Cantemir’s time – by the fortress of Ismail (Şmil). The latter, represented on Cantemir’s map as a littoral band between the lake of Sasic (Conducul) and Dniester estuary, developed from the ancient “Parathalassia” (textual: the territory bordering the sea), in the Byzantine Greek title of Alexander the Good, Prince of Moldavia (1400–1432).
The seven villages of the west bank of Dniester, north of Moncastro, represented on the map of Ukraine by Guillaume Levasseur de Beauplan as belonging to the Khan, are the same ceded by Ieremia Movilă, prince of Moldavia, in 1595. Because these villages are situated south of the fortress of Bender (Tighina) erected by Suleiman the Magnificent after his campaign in Moldavia against Petru Rareş in 1538, we can conclude that the territory of pontic Moldavia from Stephen the Great to Petru Rareş was between lake Cahul to Conduc, delimitated north by the “Trajan wall”, and east by the narrow strip from here to Dniester estuary. Like the fortresses of Turnu (Holăvnic), Giurgiu or Brăila, Bender – in Turkish: the Gate – was from 1538 to 1595 an Ottoman bridgehead on the Romanian territory, and not a part of the Ottoman pontic Moldavia.