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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

Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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