Transnistria & Donetsk: A Comparison

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

By: Šárka Humlová

Transnistria and Donetsk

Transnistria has existed for 23 years longer as a de facto state than the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), which can be observed from the differing degrees to which they have consolidated internal sovereignty.

Both entities have managed to adopt their own flags, national anthems, coats of arms, as well as other state symbols and have established basic state institutions.

However, Transnistria’s institutionalisation, as well as the sheer development of various state bodies is far more developed than in DPR.

This is especially clear when looking at the economy of these two entities, since DPR is less successful at levying taxes or trading with the outside world and is therefore much more dependent on Russia.

Although Transnistria still relies on Russian financial help, it is more capable in terms of collecting taxes, but also when it comes to international trade since it has been included in the EU-Moldova DCFTA Agreement.

Finally, although both entities have their own central banks and fiscal policies, only Transnistria has its own currency (Transnistrian Ruble), which contributes to the symbolic aspect of state-building.

State Institutions in Transnistria & Donetsk

When it comes to state institutions in general, Transnistria’s political system still faces some of the same problems as DPR’s.

For instance, political parties are only slightly more established in Transnistria than in DPR and although DPR has a more restricted political plurality, Transnistria’s political system is also far from achieving plurality itself.

Although both contested states hold regular elections, neither elections are recognized or monitored by independent organisations.

The same problem of non-recognition also faces the documents issued by the authorities of both Transnistria and DPR; however, while the use of Transnistrian passports has been incentivised by a domestic policy, the increased interest in DPR’s passports mainly came from a Russian policy.

Overall, it is clear that both entities attempt to use these state-building practices to further develop their internal sovereignty by developing effective state institutions; however, so far DPR has been less successful in achieving this goal, which is also partially caused by the extensive Russian influence within DPR.

Externally, both entities adopted various strategies in their pursuit of international recognition. Both Transnistria and DPR have created a substantial internet presence, which helps them to promote their interests internationally.

Their CONIFA membership can also be considered as a way of increasing their visibility on the world map and hence their pursuit of international recognition.

Moreover, they try to establish relations with other unrecognized countries that have recognized them by mimicking, as closely as possible, traditional diplomatic relations.

Likewise, both entities maintain close relations with their patron state – Russia; and aim to develop closer relations with other states in the post-Soviet region.

In terms of multilateral relations, they both participate in their respective peace negotiations, yet it seems that DPR’s role in the negotiations is slightly more restricted due to the dual format of the negotiations.

Finally, the Order of Friendship (a state decoration of the Russian Federation established by Boris Yeltsin by presidential decree 442 of 2 March 1994 to reward Russian and foreign nationals whose work, deeds and efforts have been aimed at the betterment of relations with the Russian Federation and its people) as well as the establishment of sub-state relations has been utilised by both entities to further their interactions abroad and gain access to new resources.

Despite these similarities, the strategies of the DPR and Transnistria diverge in some important respects.

For instance, the recognition of Transnistria by a larger group of contested states enabled it to become a member of the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations, which serves as a platform for mutual cooperation within the community, which the DPR is unable to join.

Conversely DPR’s network of representation offices is more extensive Transnistria’s, yet this might change in the future since Transnistria plans to open two new representative centres, meanwhile one of DPR’s centres closed down following a court’s ruling and another representation is currently facing a trial.

Finally, Transnistria has established quite a robust system through which it trains its Transnistria Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, which enables it to use its own trained officials in its embassies as well as the representative office in Russia, while the DPR makes use of honorary consuls (citizens of the host state) in running their representations abroad.

Although the policies of the two analyzed unrecognized countries differ in some respects, overall, they use similar strategies, internally and externally, to demonstrate their readiness to become full members of the international system by achieving international recognition.


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