In the present article the archive data is used to determine the ethnical attribution of the commercial bourgeoisie of Bessarabia in the first half of the 19th century. The author claims that this stratum of Bessarabian society was formed gradually and was ethnically and socially heterogeneous. This heterogeneity was deepened by the Imperial administration which contributed to the formation of the Bessarabian commercial bourgeoisie by implication (26 September 1830) of guild reform and introduction of new commerce policies. Notwithstanding the privileges for a 10 year term to the merchants from Bessarabia granted by the reform which allowed all social strata to start commercial enterprises regardless of the ethnicity, as well as the requirement to declare the capitals in order to be assigned to a commercial guild, the chances of the Moldavians to enroll into the category of the guild merchants were reduced.
Heterogeneous and poorly structured, both ethnically and socially, the commercial bourgeoisie was forced to allow foreign elements in its ranks. The Jews, Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, Russians, Ukrainians etc., shortly became dominant in the commercial life of Bessarabia.
The proportion of various ethnic groups among guild merchants is worth of attention. The analysis of commercial certificates issued in 1840s - 1860s suggests that the main role in the Bessarabian trade belonged to the Jews. They owned ca. 62% of the total number of the commercial certificates; they were followed by the “Christians”, Armenians and Greeks. Although the Jews played a prominent part in Bessarabian commerce, the wholesale merchants of the first and the second guild were mostly the Greeks, “Christians” and Armenians. The Jews, the second-hand dealers, were involved normally in petty trade. Therefore, the tsarist colonial policy in Bessarabia was obviously aimed at protecting the interests of its own bourgeoisie or its representatives in the region by offering privileges, which eventually lead to a constitution of a distinct social class. The weak national commercial bourgeoisie was distanced (especially due to the commercial activity of the Jews) from the privileged and dominant foreign business.
This politics slowed down the process of formation and constitution of national commercial bourgeoisie, replacing it with foreign settlers.