We went to Transnistria yesterday. Trans-what? Exactly. Doesn’t really exist, but yet, it does…
Tiraspol is internationally recognized as the second largest city in Moldova, but is currently the capital and administrative center of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria.)
As we were leaving Chisinau, I was warned by Moldovans to “Be careful with your American passport!” I asked why, but there was no real answer in return. Just “Be careful. Maybe the border guards won’t be so nice.” That was nothing new to me as I’m used to being treated pretty badly at all road borders around the globe. I was traveling with a Ukrainian in her car, so I thought, “we’ll see how it goes. Worse comes to worst, we’ll just turn around at the border and head back to Chisinau.”
Naturally, I couldn’t take any photos at the border crossings, but suffice it to say, the experience was hands-down the best, most pleasant experience either of us have ever had with border controls. At the first crossing, the guard eyed over my friend’s Ukrainian passport for a lengthy bit of time, but declined to look at mine at all. (What?!)
At the second stop, as we went to register for a day trip, my friend overheard a guard saying to another visitor in Russian, “We’re very friendly ~ we welcome everyone!” No problems there, either, and we crossed over into Transnistria. Gone were any signs in English – everything was in Russian, and some Ukrainian.
Walking up and down October 25th street, the “main drag,” as they say…we couldn’t help noticing that the streets seemed quite empty. The whole place was quiet and subdued.
Here are some questions I wanted answered:
- What do people here do about passports? = “…it appears that people here still identify themselves as Soviet citizens, though they often carry double passports: Russian, Moldavian or Ukrainian, depending if they have family living in one of these countries. The Transnistrian passport itself is a thing on its own. It cannot be used anywhere else in the world. It is basically a book, which looks like a passport from the outside, but where on the inside you will find hand written personal details, approved with some official stamps.” http://www.offbeattravelling.com/transnistria-trans-what/
- As simply explained as possible, what happened to cause the breakaway from Moldova? = “The ostensible cause of the conflict was the fear, which was not beyond reason, that Moldova would merge with Romania. And these Slavic speakers in Transnistria did not want that to happen as they would become a minority in greater Romania.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adst/moldovas-transnistrian-co_b_11180694.html
We left a place that doesn’t really exist – ( it was like being ferreted back through history in a time capsule to the Soviet period ) – at sunset, and were more than happy to have had the experience and to have seen it for ourselves.
Border crossing on way back: Different guards from earlier, and still friendly. This time, one of them did take my passport, but it was more to just read about the places I’ve been and to ask about them.
Notes: They have their own currency, Transnistrian Rubles. About 14TRB = 1USD. Between my friend and I, we had about $20 and had a HUGE lunch (a whole fish with vegetables, a Greek Salad, a large pork chop with vegetables), 2 beers, then later on two coffees, and souvenir cookies and still had 2 rubles to spare.
8jul17. Tiraspol, Transnistria.
10 thoughts on “TIRASPOL, TRANSNISTRIA: A ROAD TRIP TO “NOWHERE””
Your photos transported me back into the 70s! BTW, Tiraspol is not new to being a capital; it was a capital of Moldavia from the end of 20s to almost the beginning of the was, when Russians grabbed Bessarabia in 1940, and Kishinev (Chisinau) became the capital of the republic stitched together. Bessarabian population was given 24 hours to decide whether to stay under the communist regime or get up and move to Romania. The fear of those post-soviet elements who want to remain in a “time capsule,” as you call it, is understandable, albeit not very reasonable -why would Romania want them?
Ah, I see…so that’s why it kind of makes sense that Tiraspol is capital of its own territory again. All I know is what I read and linked to in my post…the one side saying that they were afraid of Moldova merging with Romania and they didn’t want that. And in November 1990, shots were fired…and the rest is history…
Well, Moldavia was populated mostly by Russians and Ukrainians since the times of Catherine the Great and constituted a part of Odessa Gubernia (administrative division), as reflected in a famous poem by Pushkin. When it was merged with Bessarabia into one republic, Bessarabians, who considered themselves Romanian, i.e. quite civilized and sophisticated, looked down upon Russian and Ukrainian peasants who had taken over from the higher classes of society destroyed by communists. As you can see, the two parts forcibly married in 1940 have never really merged into one, and now they just went their separate ways.
Please see my comment below. I’ve tried to complete the historical account.
Read and responded, thank you.
Wow! That is much clearer to me now, thank you!
A wonderful photo-essay, if I may say so. I very much enjoyed reading your account of the day trip to the 1980’s, back to the USSR, and studying the pictures you posted.
It’s clear it made a great impression on you.
I’m not sure if koolkosherkitchen’s explanation is completely correct, but, from what I know, the River Dniester was the international border between Roumania and the USSR (Ukraine) between the end of the Great War until the start of the second world war. (The whole of Bessarabia was ceded to Roumania in 1919 as it had a majority Moldavian – Romanian-speaking population).
Tiraspol was originally a provincial border town in Odessa oblast, with Bender on the other side. A Moldavian republic was carved out of Ukrainian territory on the east bank of the Dniester, including Balta, Ribnitsa and Tiraspol as the only significant towns.
When the Soviet Union defeated Roumania in the Second World War, it took back all the Bessarabian territory to the river Prut, which had been the Russian imperial frontier.
A new Soviet Moldavian Republic was created, including most of Bessarabia and the strip of territory on the Dniester’s east bank. The southern part of Bessarabia was given to Ukraine and incorporated into Odessa province (which also meant Moldavia had no access to the sea).
When the USSR broke up in 1991, there was indeed fear that Moldova, where the majority, on the west bank of the Dniester, speak a variant of Romanian, would seek (re-)unification with Romania.
The right bank, that strange strip of territory that had previously been Ukraine, had a Slavic-speaking majority. And they asked for protection and support, from the old imperial centre, Moscow.
That’s why it’s called Transnistria (seen from the west) or Pridnestrovia (seen from the east).
Moscow likes these frozen conflicts: by supporting the pro-Russian minority, it’s a way to meddle in the internal affairs of these former Soviet republics. Tiraspol is stuck back in the 1980s, and Chisinau has an unsolvable problem.
The same thing is probably going to happen in Donbass, that part of Eastern Ukraine that is in conflict with the government in Kyiv. It will end up as a frozen conflict. As in Tiraspol, they have adopted the rouble, and are taking their lead from Moscow in everything they do.
Great report, hope this helps.
Thank you for taking the time to explain some more of this to me. I very much appreciate it. 🙂
Thank you for such a detailed historical report. I don’t see where my recollection differs from yours, other than the underlying conflicts within the social strata that I had many chances to observe firsthand.