Transdniestria or Pridnestrovia region Eastern Europe located east of the river Dniester, was part of the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova and was declared independent in 1990 under the name of Soviet Socialist Republic Moldava of Transdniestria, the capital Tiraspol. Its independence is not recognized by the international community and specifically by the Republic of Moldova.
Its official name in Russian is Pridnestrovie, or Pridnestrovskaya Moldavskaya Republika, Moldavian Republic of Transnistria. In the Middle Ages the territory was populated by the Slavic tribes of the Uliches and Tíveros, and sometimes by Turkic nomads such as the Pechenegos and the Cumans. The area came under the control of the Ottoman Empire in 1504 and almost three centuries later, in 1792, it was ceded to the Russian Empire. At that time, the population was mainly made up of Moldovan-Romanians and Slavs, and there was also a nomadic Tatar population.
The end of the 18th century marked the Russian and Ukrainian colonization of the region, with the intention of defending what was at that time the southwestern border of the Russian Empire.
After the Russian Revolution, the region was part of the Autonomous Moldovan Territory in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Moldovan residents continued to form a significant number of the population, and Moldovan languageclasses were taught. During the Second World War it was annexed to Romania.
After World War II, Transnistria was included, along with Bessarabia, in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, while Southern Bessarabia was included within the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Most of the industry built by then in the Socialist Republic of Moldova, was based in Transnistria, while the rest of the country continued with an economy based on agriculture. In 1990, 40% of Moldova’s GDP and 90% of its electricity production corresponded to Transnistria.
The civil War
In 1989 the Socialist Republic of Moldova, proclaimed Moldovan as the official language of the country, and began some negotiations for reunification with Romania. The Slavs on the eastern bank of the Dniester River on September 2, 1990 proclaimed the Moldavian Republic of Transnistria and brought about a civil war in 1992, with approximately 1,500 deaths. The war ended after the ceasefire negotiated by Moldovan, Transnistrian, Russian and Ukrainian representatives.
The 17 of December of 2006 a referendum to ratify the de facto independence of Transnistria was held. The pro-independence option garnered 97.2% of the votes.
Transnistria is landlocked, but it does have borders with Bessarabia to the west 411 kilometers and with Ukraine 405 km to the east. It is a narrow valley that runs in a north-south direction along the bank of the Dniester River and forms a natural border along Moldova.
Tiráspol, the capital and largest city of Transnistria, has around 150,000 residents.
The territory controlled by Transnistria includes ten cities and towns, and 69 communes, with a total of 147 localities.
According to the 1989 census, the population was 679,000, including all localities, even those that were under Moldovan control. According to the 2004 census, the population is 555,347 residents, excluding the areas under Moldovan control. The main ethnic group is Moldova (to which 31.9% of the population belongs), followed by Russian (with 30.4%) and Ukrainian (with 28.8%). There are smaller groups of Bulgarians, Poles, Germans, Jews, Gagauz, Belarusians and others, who make up the remaining 8.9%.
The population is now estimated to be 685,000. Currently there has been emigration due to the economic difficulties of the 1990s. This is one of the reasons why such a high percentage of the population is over retirement age.
The region has a majority of Slavic language speakers (Russian or Ukrainian) who resist unification with Moldova, although there is a significant minority (31.9%) of Romanian speakers.
Official statistics show that 91% of the population profess Eastern Orthodox Christianity, in addition to 4% belonging to Roman Catholicism.
The local government has supported the restoration and construction of new Orthodox churches. It is stated that the Republic has freedom of worship and that religious beliefs and 114 congregations are officially registered.
In 2005, there were problems for the registration of some religious groups, in particular Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In 2007, the American Christian Broadcasting Network denounced the persecution of Protestants in Transnistria.
Transnistria does not officially exist. To such an extent it is rejected by the international community that they are prohibited from entering the European Union.
But for all intents and purposes it is an independent state, with its own laws, currency, institutions, government, parliament, flag, anthem, army, police, postal system, its own car license plates and they even issue passports but like any local identification document. is rejected outside the country’s borders around 300,000 and 400,000 residents of Transnistria have acquired Moldovan passports.
Transnistria has a multi-party system with a unicameral parliament called the Supreme Council, made up of 43 members elected by proportional representation. The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term.
Igor Smirnov, a former civil servant of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, has been the head of state since 1990. In the elections held on December 10, 2006, he obtained 82.4% of the votes.
The main political party is República, with a strongly nationalist style, the only party that has governed the country. The main opposition forces are the Communist Party of Transnistria (of Marxist-Leninist ideology), and Renovation (of conservative tendency).
Despite continuing to use Soviet symbols, such as the hammer and sickle on the flag and on the national coat of arms, the government claims not to be communist, highlighting that the two main political parties are in favor of the development of a market economy with the participation of private companies.
The economy is mixed. During the 1990s there was a process of privatization of the companies. The economy is based on heavy industry, electrical production, and textile manufacturing. These three sectors account for 80% of total industrial production. GNP stands at over 420 million dollars in 2005 and GDP per capita, based on currency exchange, is $ 662, making the area one of the poorest parts of Europe.
The Central Bank of Transnistria is in charge of issuing the local currency; the Transnistrian ruble, convertible at a floating exchange rate. It is exclusively valid within this territory. The change is at about twelve rubles per euro. The average salary is close to $ 100 a month.
A walk through Tiraspol
At the western end of Ulitsa Oktober is an armored Soviet tank on which you can read “For the Fatherland” in Russian.
Behind it is the Cemetery of the Heroes with the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in memory of those who died on March 2, 1992 during the first outbreak of the fighting. There is also a memorial to the Afghan war.
Next to this monument you can visit the National Museum of Tiraspol, you can see an exhibition focused on the scientist Nikolai Dimitriovich Zelinskogo, founder of the first Soviet school of Chemistry. Actually it seems to be the house where he lived and carried out his experiments, his gas masks that were used by the Russian and allied armies during the First World War are also on display.