Submitted by George Callaghan…
It is a place that is in limbo. Transdniestria is officially part of the Republic of Moldova. But the Moldovan Government has had no control over it for almost 30 years.
Transdniestria lies on the east bank of the River Dniestria: hence the name. The name is clearly invented by Occidentocentric types. There is no major difference between people to the west and the east of the said river.
What is now the Republic of Moldova has changed hands between Romania and the Russian Empire over the centuries. The country borders Romania to the west. The adjacent Romanian province is also called Moldova. That is why some are careful to say the Republic of Moldova to indicate the independent country. This avoids confusion with the Romanian Province of Moldova.
At one time it was held by the Ottoman Empire. Legacies of the Ottoman epoch are found in those of Turkish stock, in those who speak a Turkic language (despite being Christian) and the Muslim community in the country.
The most recent time the country returned to Russian sway was in 1944. The Red Army took it back from Romania which was an Axis nation at the time. Stalin soon appointed Brezhnev to be general-secretary of the communist party there: effectively governor. Leonid Brezhnev became the witchfinder-general. He was rooting out dissidents.
In the autumn of 1991, the USSR dissolved. Moldova became independent. Moldova proclaimed its two official languages to be Romanian and Russian. The government later renamed the version of Romanian it used ‘Moldovan.’ In truth Romanian as spoken in that country is virtually identical to the language of Romania. Moldovans used some antiquated lexis and a few Russian loanwords.
Over the centuries many Russians and Ukrainians had moved into Moldova. Even Moldovans of the Romanian ethnicity often spoken Russian too in some cases fluently.
In the east of the country most people were mother tongue speakers of Russian. The Soviet Army was also stationed in the country. As of 25 December 1991 the USSR no longer existed. The Soviet Army was to be split up into 15 different armies. The Soviet Army was not the Russian Army. Only 50% of Soviets were Russian. But Russia was still much the largest entity within the former Soviet Union. The bulk of the Soviet troops in Moldova became Russian troops. Ukraine and Russia had every cordial relations back then.
The Russian Army was supposed to withdraw from the infant state. However, the Russian Army withdrew from Moldova west of the River Dniestria but remained in Trandniestria. Why? The army had weapons that could not be removed. The Russian Army managed to remove it weapons from dozens of other countries. But for some reason within was impossible only in Moldova.
If Russia could not take its arms away it could simply have turned them over to the Moldovans. If Moscow did not want to give these weapons to the Moldovans then it could have destroyed them. It took ten years before the Russian Army resolved the situation. The Russian Army is still there on what Moscow describes as a peacekeeping mission. This is not under the auspices of the UN. The Russian troops often fly into Chisinau before being transferred to Transdniestria. If the Moldovan Government does not want there soldiers there then it ought not expedite their arrival!
There was fighting in Moldova even before it was obvious that the USSR was about to break up. Some Transdniestrians did not wish to be part of Moldova.
A civil war erupted. Transdniestria declared independence. The war lasted a few months and was never very intense. Several hundred people were killed.
A truce was signed. The peace is now easy. You are able to cross from Moldova Proper into Transdniestria at several points.
Moldova is an excellent place to hide money. You can get car registration there in an advantageous manner. Transdniestria is a law unto itself. In this statelet there is a timewarp. It is as though the USSR never ended. The country used a version of the Soviet Flag. Its coat of arms is a Soviet sunburst cornucopia with a hammer and sickle crest. The place is as if preserved in aspic. No one will invest there because it is legally nowheresville. It is part of the Republic of Moldova but the Moldovan State does not control it.
The tiny unrecognised state of Transdniestria has under half a million people. It is about the poorest place in Europe. Many go abroad to seek their fortune. Some young women have been duped into prostitution. Some of them have gone to other countries on the promise of handsomely remunerated work in factories and kitchens. But in fact they are forced to sell their bodies.
Oddly Transdniestria has a football stadium which is compliant with the European Premiership regulations. FC Sheriff is there. It is the best team in the country. The Sheriff players are known as ‘soldiers’. The cheerleaders chant ‘go soldiers go!’ The team is based in Tiraspol. This is the capital of the breakaway region.
The outside world does not care much about Transdniestria. Even Moldova does not seem fussed about getting it back.
What is that is so different about Transdniestria that necessitates it being unofficially separated from the rest of the republic? The Gaugaz people live in Transdniestria but they are a tiny minority. They do not have to live somewhere outside of the control of Chisinau. Transdniestria is a bit more Russophone than the rest of the country. Romanian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet in Transdniestria. Romanian even in Romania used that alphabet until the 1850s.
People from Transdniestria are allowed to go to Moldova Proper and vice versa. There are people who go back and forth on a daily basis. Is this the government tacitly accepting the situation? Perhaps some politicians benefit from the situation.
There does not appear to be any resolution to the situation on the cards. The rest of the world is unbothered by it. Perhaps it shall remain a frozen conflict interminably. The Jammu and Kashmir Dispute has been in stasis since 1947. The situation remaining like this is not as bad as bloodshed. As Harold Macmillan said, ‘’better jaw-jaw than war war.’’
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.