13 April, 2009

Phantom Countries: Transnistria

Transnistria exists on territory recognised internationally as part of Moldova. It is divided from the rest of Moldova by the Dniester river (hence then name, though the variation in spelling confuses me). I understand that it is inhabited mainly by ethnic Russians (despite being separated from Russia by Ukraine), while Moldova proper is mainly inhabited by ethnic Moldovans (who may or may not be a subset of ethnic Rumanians). Moldova was part of the Soviet Union, and when the USSR broke up it became an independent state. Transnistria came into being when some local politicians decided that they would rather have their own little country. Russian troops based in the region supported their rejection of Moldovan rule. Since then, Transnistria retains its independence thanks to the ongoing presence of Russian troops. Transnistria also houses most of Moldova's electricity plants, so if the Moldovans ever get bolshy then Transnistria turns off their lights.

As far as I know, Transnistria has no external recognition, although it gets ambiguous support from Russia. Its situation is thus somewhat analogous to that of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Politically, Transnistria seems to be run by a thuggish authoritarian clique. I understand that the country functions as a kind of Soviet theme park, with its towns still full of red stars and statues of Lenin. I have also read it described as the kind of country you would not want to stay in after dark, particularly if driving in a car with Moldovan registration plates.

Image source


Mr Toys said...

"Politically, Transnistria seems to be run by a thuggish authoritarian clique."

- So it's much like here then!

jennifer said...

Fascinating. And I love the name: Transnistria. So sinister. It also reminds me of a long lost 80s feedback-heavy noise-pop band, Aspidistra.

Anonymous said...

The river Dniester (in English) is called Nistru in the Romanian / Moldovan language. So the name of the country in that language becomes TransNISTRIa (emphasis mine).

In English we would more correctly call it Transdniestria or Transdniester.

In Russian the name of the river is Dnestr, and the country is called PriDNESTRovie.

There is a more detailed information of the naming issues on www.Pridnestrovie.net

ian said...

Thanks... it's odd how the Moldovan/Romanian name for a Russian-speaking area has become the standard one (am I right in thinking that that Transnistria is mainly Russian-speaking?).

Anonymous said...

I wrote a couple of short articles about Transnistria over at the Fistful:



One correction: ethnic Russians aren't a majority in Transnistria. (Very roughly, it's about equal numbers Russians, Ukrainians, and Romanians/Moldovans). It was a regional and class war, not an ethnic conflict.


Doug M.

ian said...

thanks for the links.

Anonymous said...

The separatists are russian-planted colonists during the cold war, and their leaders are known KGB. Yhe current situation is only a contionuation of the russian aggression against Europe.

ian said...

Calling them colonists seems a bit extreme, given that, apart from a short period after the First World War, Moldova has been part of Russia or the USSR for a very long period of time. Even if the state encouraged them to move there, isn't it a bit like people moving from one bit of a country to another?

Anonymous said...

So, you're writing essentially an opinion piece defaming the government of a country you know little about and have never been to. Nice. How educational.

ian said...

While you are hiding behind the cloak of anonymity to make ad hominem attacks rather than correct the factual errors you seem to have identified?