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Tiraspol: Back in the U.S.S.R.

Published: April 12, 2014 (Issue # 1805)



  • Founded by Russian General Alexander Suvorov, above, in 1792, Transdnestr has become a rebel region, functioning as aseparate state with its own government, currency, passports, police andarmy.
    Photo: Pedro Vizcaino Pina / flickr

  • The region continues to survive thanks to financial assistance from Russia.
    Photo: Pedro Vizcaino Pina / flickr

  • Pushkin one of the many Russian references found throughout the city.
    Photo: wikimedia commons

  • Built in the 1830s and then bombed during World War II, Chisinaus main Orthodox church, Nativity Cathedral, re-opened again in 2000.
    Photo: Dieter Zirnig / flickr

TIRASPOL Thestuffy minibus carrying passengers fromthe Moldovan capital, Chisinau, cranks toa halt atthe border with theself-proclaimed Transdnestr republic. Athrong ofRussians, Moldovans andUkrainians jostle forposition inthe passport control queue inside asmall hut just beyond thedemilitarized buffer zone.

Onthe other side ofthe window sits acurvaceous woman with long bleach-blond hair wearing akhaki military uniform. Her face is expressionless except forthe blood-red lipstick but she suddenly comes tolife onseeing aBritish passport, warning, You need toleave by9 p.m.

Visiting Transdnestr, also known as thePridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, or simply thePMR, conjures thoughts ofJames Bond movies, heavy weaponry andone ofthe worlds most secretive states.

Inreality, Tiraspol is thecapital ofa rebel region whose independence is only recognized bytwo other only partially recognized states, Georgias breakaway regions ofSouth Ossetia andAbkhazia. But despite thelack offormal recognition, Transdnestr has its own government, currency, passports, police andarmy, andfor all intents andpurposes it functions as aseparate state.

Transdnestr occupies anarrow sliver ofland between Moldova tothe west andUkraine tothe east. Its population ofabout 550,000 is evenly split between Moldovans (32 percent), Russians (30 percent) andUkrainians (29 percent). Thetwo main cities worth visiting are Tiraspol, theSoviet-inspired capital, andneighboring Bender, which has amore cultured, laid-back feel toit.

After crossing theunofficial border, patrolled byMoldovan andTransdnestr soldiers, as well as Russian peacekeepers, theold minibus shuttles its resilient passengers onward toward Tiraspol.

Through thewindow thelandscape reveals clapped-out Ladas, propaganda posters proclaiming therepublics independence, andmakeshift markets selling everything fromclothes tospare car parts. It is otherwise gray andnondescript. But there is acertain thrill atarriving ina place you feel you should not be, where rumors abound ofthe mafia, weapons smuggling andthe KGB.

Recent history has generated this myth, which inturn is making Transdnestr anincreasingly popular place tovisit because ofits very uniqueness, particularly forthose fascinated bydisputed territories andpolitical black holes.

As theSoviet Union fell apart andMoldova swiftly promoted its own non-Soviet national identity andlanguage, themainly Russian-speaking diaspora tothe east ofthe Dniester River, forming Transdnestr, feared alienation anddeclared theregions secession fromMoldova inSeptember 1990.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphotos exhibition On Both Sides, chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organizations office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Centers series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this months lessons being visual arts.



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