On June 26, 1940, in a note to the Romanian envoy in the Soviet Union, the Soviet Government demanded the immediate cession of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the USSR.
Russia, who has had interests in the area ever since the 18th century, acquired Bessarabia and half of Moldavia in accordance with the Treaty of Bucharest, signed in 1812, and had been in control of the region until World War I.
In 1918, taking advantage of the political unrest in Russia, Romanian troops crossed the Danube and advanced as far as into the territory as the Dniester River, openly voicing its intentions to annex Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina.
The nationalist movement in Bessarabia declared the region’s independence on January 24, 1918. The Treaty of Paris, signed on October 28, 1920, acknowledged the deal, but the Soviet Union refused to recognize Romania’s right to the disputed region, since it violated the earlier Russian-Romanian agreements. Besides, Soviet Russia deemed this territory historically Russian, and logically saw it to remain as such.
As for Moldavians, their major concern was to organize themselves into a separate state, even if it were under the general rule of the Soviet Union.
Throughout the entire interwar period, Soviet Russia sought to undermine Romania in numerous diplomatic disputes over this territory with the country’s government. The Secret Annex to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed on August 23, 1939, attributed Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina to the Soviet Union as one of its interest zones.
On June 26, 1940, Romania was offered to withdraw its troops and officials from the territory in a four-day period. Romania yielded to the ultimatum two days later.
During the six-day evacuation, from June 28 to July 3, Soviet troops were deployed on the territory, speeding up the evacuation of the retreating forces and civilians, who also preferred to leave. The Romanian Army, which entered Bessarabia before the Romanian administration finished retreating, had several armed encounters with the Soviet Army.
The conflict, however, was resolved in a relatively peaceful fashion. Generally, the situation was favored by the locals, many of whom were Jews or Ukrainians. The pro-Soviet meetings and demonstrations in many cities and villages were a common occurrence. A number of Romanian soldiers, mostly of Bessarabian origin, dropped their weapons and returned to their homes.
In August of 1940, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was formed out of the central districts of Bessarabia and a strip of Ukrainian territory on the other side of the Dniester River. The northern region of Bessarabia and the coastal plain from the Danube to the Dniester were added to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Bessarabia remained divided after Ukraine and Moldavia declared their independence in 1991.