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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

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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