Facts About Transnistria
Main City: Tiraspol
Area: 4,000 sq km (1,500 sq miles)
Main Religion: Christianity
Main Languages: Russian, Moldovan, Ukrainian
Currency: Transnistrian Ruble (Unrecognized Currency)
The separatist region of Transnistria - a narrow strip of land between the Dniester river and the Ukrainian border - broke away from Moldova after a brief war in 1992.
The international community does not recognise its self-declared statehood, and the de-facto government, which remains in a tense stand-off with Moldova, is economically, politically and militarily supported by Russia.
A referendum on independence in September 2006, not recognized by Moldova or the international community. It saw the territory reassert its demand for independence and vote in support of ensuing a union with Russia.
Transnistria, officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, is a primarily unrecognized state that split off from Moldova after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
It mostly consists of a narrow strip of land between the river Dniester and the territory of Ukraine. Transnistria has been recognized only by three other mostly unrecognized countries: Abkhazia, Artsakh, and South Ossetia. The region is considered by the UN to be part of Moldova.
Transnistria is designated by the Republic of Moldova as the Transnistria autonomous territorial unit with special legal status Stînga Nistrului ("Left Bank of the Dniester").
After the dissolution of the USSR, tensions between Moldova and the breakaway Transnistrian territory escalated into a military conflict that started in March 1992. It concluded by a ceasefire in July of the same year.
As part of that agreement, a three-party (Russia, Moldova, Transnistria) Joint Control Commission supervises the security arrangements in the demilitarised zone, comprising twenty localities on both sides of the river.
Although the ceasefire has held, the territory's political status remains unresolved: Transnistria is an unrecognised but de facto independent semi-presidential republic. It has its own government, parliament, military, police, postal system, currency and vehicle registration.
Its authorities have adopted a constitution, flag, national anthem and coat of arms. It is the only country still using the hammer and sickle on its flag.
After a 2005 agreement between Moldova and Ukraine, all Transnistrian companies that seek to export goods through the Ukrainian border must be registered with the Moldovan authorities. This agreement was implemented after the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM) took force in 2005.
Most Transnistrians also have Moldovan citizenship, but many Transnistrians also have Russian and Ukrainian citizenship. The main ethnic groups in 2015 were Russians (34%), Moldovans (33%), and Ukrainians (26.7%).
Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Artsakh are post-Soviet "frozen conflict" zones. These four partially recognized states maintain friendly relations with each other and form the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations.
Soviet and Romanian Administration
Transnistria became an autonomous political entity in 1924 with the proclamation of the Moldavian ASSR, which included today's Transnistria (4,000 km2, 1,600 sq. mi.) and an adjacent area (9,000 km2, 3,500 sq. mi.) around the city of Balta in modern-day Ukraine.
One of the reasons for the creation of the Moldavian ASSR was the desire of the Soviet Union at the time to eventually incorporate Bessarabia.
The Moldavian SSR, organised by a decision of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 2 August 1940, was formed out of a part of Bessarabia (taken from Romania on 28 June, after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact) and out of a part of the Moldavian ASSR roughly equivalent to present-day Transnistria.
In 1941, after Axis forces invaded the Soviet Union during the Second World War, they defeated the Soviet troops in the region and occupied it. Romania controlled the entire region between Dniester and Southern Bug rivers, including the city of Odessa as local capital.
The Romanian-administered territory – called the Transnistria Governorate – with an area of 44,000 km2 (17,000 sq. mi.) and a population of 2.3 million inhabitants, was divided into 13 counties: Ananiev, Balta, Berzovca, Dubasari, Golta, Jugastru, Movilau, Oceacov, Odessa, Ovidiopol, Rîbnița, Tiraspol and Tulcin. This enlarged Transnistria was home to nearly 200,000 Romanian/Moldovan-speaking residents.
The Romanian administration of Transnistria attempted to stabilise the situation in the area under Romanian control, implementing a process of Romanianization.
During the Romanian occupation of 1941–44, between 150,000 and 250,000 Ukrainian and Romanian Jews were deported to Transnistria. The majority were executed or died from other causes in ghettos and concentration camps of the Governorate.
After the Red Army reconquered the area in 1944, Soviet authorities executed, exiled or imprisoned hundreds of the Moldavian SSR inhabitants in the following months on charges of collaboration with the "German-fascist occupiers".
A later campaign was directed against the rich peasant families, who were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia. Over the course of two days, 6–7 July 1949, a plan named "Operation South" saw the deportation of over 11,342 families.
In the 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of perestroika and glasnost in the Soviet Union allowed political liberalisation at a regional level.
This led to the creation of various informal movements all over the country, and to a rise of nationalism within most Soviet republics. In the Moldavian SSR in particular, there was a significant resurgence of pro-Romanian nationalism among ethnic Moldovans.
The most prominent of these movements was the Popular Front of Moldova. In the spring of 1988, PFM demanded that the Soviet authorities declare Moldovan the only state language, return to the use of the Latin alphabet, and recognize the shared ethnic identity of Moldovans and Romanians.
The more radical factions of the Popular Front espoused extreme anti-minority, ethnocentric and chauvinist positions, calling for minority populations, particularly the Slavs (mainly Russians and Ukrainians) and Gagauz, to leave or be expelled from Moldova.
On 31 August 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR adopted Moldovan as the only official language with Russian retained only for secondary purposes, returned Moldovan to the Latin alphabet, and declared a shared Moldovan-Romanian linguistic identity. As plans for major cultural changes in Moldova were made public, tensions rose further.
Ethnic minorities felt threatened by the prospects of removing Russian as the official language, which served as the medium of interethnic communication. Also by the possible future reunification of Moldova and Romania, as well as the ethnocentric rhetoric of the Popular Front.
The Yedinstvo (Unity) Movement, established by the Slavic population of Moldova, pressed for equal status to be given to both Russian and Moldovan. Transnistria's ethnic and linguistic composition differed significantly from most of the rest of Moldova. T
he share of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians was especially high and an overall majority of the population, some of them ethnic Moldovans, spoke Russian as a mother tongue. Ethnic Moldovans accounted for less than 40% of Transnistria's population in 1989.
The nationalist Popular Front won the first free parliamentary elections in the Moldavian SSR in the spring of 1990, and its agenda started slowly to be implemented.
On 2 September 1990, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed as a Soviet republic by an ad hoc assembly, the Second Congress of the Peoples' Representatives of Transnistria.
Violence escalated when in October 1990 the Popular Front called for volunteers to form armed militias to stop an autonomy referendum in Gagauzia, which had an even higher share of ethnic minorities. In response, volunteer militias were formed in Transnistria.
In April 1990, nationalist mobs attacked ethnic Russian members of parliament, while the Moldovan police refused to intervene or restore order.
In the interest of preserving a unified Moldavian SSR within the USSR and preventing the situation escalating further.
Then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, while citing the restriction of civil rights of ethnic minorities by Moldova as the cause of the dispute, declared the Transnistria proclamation to be lacking legal basis and annulled it by presidential decree on 22 December 1990.
Nevertheless, no significant action was taken against Transnistria and the new authorities were slowly able to establish control.
The Transnistria War followed armed clashes on a limited scale that broke out between Transnistrian separatists and Moldova as early as November 1990 at Dubăsari. Volunteers, including Cossacks, came from Russia to help the separatist side.
In mid-April 1992, under the agreements on the split of the military equipment of the former Soviet Union negotiated between the former 15 republics in the previous months, Moldova created its own Defence Ministry.
According to the decree of its creation, most of the 14th Soviet Army's military equipment was to be retained by Moldova. Starting from 2 March 1992, there was concerted military action between Moldova and Transnistria. The fighting intensified throughout early 1992.
The former Soviet 14th Guards Army entered the conflict in its final stage, opening fire against Moldovan forces; approximately 700 people were killed.
Moldova has since then exercised no effective control or influence on Transnistrian authorities. A ceasefire agreement, signed on 21 July 1992, has held to the present day.
Political Status of Transnistria
All UN member states consider Transnistria a legal part of the Republic of Moldova. Only the unrecognized countries of South Ossetia, Artsakh, and Abkhazia have recognized Transnistria as a sovereign entity after it declared independence from Moldova in 1990 with Tiraspol as its declared capital.
Between 1929 and 1940, Tiraspol functioned as the capital of the Moldavian ASSR, an autonomous republic that existed from 1924 to 1940 within the Ukrainian SSR .
Although exercising no direct control over the territory of Transnistria, the Moldovan government passed the "Law on Basic Provisions of the Special Legal Status of Localities from the Left Bank of the Dniester" on 22 July 2005.
It established part of Transnistria (territory of Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic without Bender and without territories, which are under control of Moldova) as an autonomous territorial unit within the Republic of Moldova.
The law was passed without any prior consultation with Transnistrian authorities, who called it a provocation and have since ignored it.
As of 2009 the population of Transnistria comprised about 555,000 people. 90% of the population of Transnistria are citizens of Transnistria.Transnistrians have dual or triple citizenship, including:
Citizens of Moldova – around 300,000 people (including dual citizens of Moldova and Russia (around 20,000) or of Moldova and the EU states (around 80%) of Romania, Bulgaria, or the Czech Republic).
Citizens of Russia – around 150,000 people (including around 15,000 dual citizens of Belarus, Israel, Turkey); excluding those holding dual citizenship of Russia and of Moldova (around 20,000).
Citizens of Ukraine – around 100,000 people There are around 20,000–30,000 people with dual citizenship (Moldova and Ukraine, or Russia and Ukraine) or triple citizenship (Moldova, Russia and Ukraine). They are included in the number of Ukrainian citizens.
Persons without citizenship – around 20,000–30,000 people.
There are unsettled border issues between Transnistria and Moldova.
Fifteen villages from the eleven communes of Dubăsari District, including Cocieriand Doroțcaia that geographically belong to Transnistria, have been under the control of the central government of Moldova.
These villages, along with Varnița and Copanca, near Bender and Tiraspol, are claimed by the PMR. One city (Bender) and six villages on the west bank are controlled by the PMR.
They are considered by Moldova as a separate municipality (Bender and village of Proteagailovca) or part of the Căușeni District (five villages in three communes).
Tense situations have periodically surfaced due to these territorial disputes, such as in 2005, when Transnistrian forces entered Vasilievca, in 2006 around Varnița, and in 2007 in the Dubăsari-Cocieri area, when a confrontation between Moldovan and Transnistrian forces occurred, however without any casualties.
PMR has a multi-party system and a unicameral parliament named the Supreme Council. Its legislature has 43 members elected by single-member district plurality. The president is elected to a five-year term by popular vote.
Igor Smirnov was the President of Transnistria since the declaration of independence in 1990 for four consecutive terms. He ran for president in 2011 also, but was defeated in the first round.
The majority in the Parliament of Transnistria belongs to the Renewal movement that defeated the Republic party affiliated with Igor Smirnov in 2005 and performed even better in the 2010 and 2015 elections. There is disagreement over whether elections in Transnistria are free and fair.
The political regime has been described as one of "super-presidentialism". During the 2006 presidential election, the registration of opposition candidate Andrey Safonov was delayed until a few days before the vote, so that he had little time to conduct an election campaign. Some sources consider election results suspect.
In 2001, in one region it was reported that Igor Smirnov collected 103.6% of the votes. The PMR government said "the government of Moldova launched a campaign aimed at convincing international observers not to attend" an election held on 11 December 2005 – but CIS election monitors had ignored that and had declared the ballot democratic.
The opposition Narodovlastie party and Power to the People movement were outlawed at the beginning of 2000 and eventually dissolved.
A list published by the European Union bans travel to the EU for some members of the Transnistrian leadership.
In 2007, the registration of a Social Democratic Party was allowed. This party, led by former separatist leader and member of the PMR government Andrey Safonov, allegedly favours a union with Moldova.
In September 2007, the leader of the Transnistrian Communist Party, Oleg Horjan, was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 1.5 years imprisonment for organising unsanctioned actions of protest.
According to the 2006 referendum, carried out by the PMR government, 97.2% of the population voted in favour of "independence from Moldova and free association with Russia."EU and several other countries refused to recognise the referendum results.
Russian military presence in Transnistria
The 1992 cease-fire agreement between Moldova and Transnistria established a Russian peace-keeper presence in Transnistria and a 1,200 member Russian military contingent is present in Transnistria. Russian troops stationed in parts of Moldova except Transnistria since the time of the USSR were fully withdrawn to Russia by January 1993.
In April 1995 the former Soviet 14th Guards Army became the Operational Group of Russian Forces, which by the 2010s had shrunk to two battalions and no more than 1,500 troops.
On 21 October 1994, Russia and Moldova signed an agreement that committed Russia to the withdrawal of the troops in three years from the date of entry into force of the agreement; this did not come into effect, however, because the Russian Duma did not ratify it.
The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) included a paragraph about the removal of Russian troops from Moldova's territory and was introduced into the text of the OSCE Summit Declaration of Istanbul (1999). In which Russia had committed itself to pulling out its troops from Transnistria by the end of 2002.
However, even after 2002, the Russian parliament did not ratify the Istanbul accords. On 19 July 2004, after it finally passed through parliament President Vladimir Putin signed the Law on the ratification of the CFE Treaty in Europe, which committed Russia to remove the heavy armaments limited by this Treaty.
During 2000–2001, although the CFE Treaty was not fully ratified, to comply with it, Moscow withdrew 125 pieces of Treaty Limited Equipment (TLE) and 60 railway wagons containing ammunition from the Transnistrian region of Moldova.
In 2002, Russia withdrew three trainloads (118 railway wagons) of military equipment and two (43 wagons) of ammunition from the Transnistrian region of Moldova, and in 2003, 11 rail convoys transporting military equipment and 31 transporting ammunition.
According to the OSCE Mission to Moldova, of a total of 42,000 tons of ammunition stored in Transnistria, 1,153 tons (3%) was transported back to Russia in 2001, 2,405 tons (6%) in 2002 and 16,573 tons (39%) in 2003.
Andrei Stratan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Moldova, stated in his speech during the 12th OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Sofia on 6–7 December 2004 that "The presence of Russian troops on the territory of the Republic of Moldova is against the political will of Moldovan constitutional authorities and defies the unanimously recognized international norms and principles, being qualified by Moldovan authorities as a foreign military occupation illegally deployed on the territory of the state".
As of 2007 however, Russia insists that it has already fulfilled those obligations. It states the remaining troops are serving as peacekeepers authorised under the 1992 ceasefire, are not in violation of the Istanbul accords and will remain until the conflict is fully resolved.
On the other hand, Moldova believes that fewer than 500 soldiers are authorised pursuant to the ceasefire and, in 2015, began to arrest and deport Russian soldiers who are part of the excess forces and attempt to use Moldovan airports.
In a NATO resolution on 18 November 2008, Russia was urged to withdraw its military presence from the "Transdnestrian region of Moldova".
In 2011, US Senator John McCain claimed in a visit to Moldova that Moscow is violating the territorial integrity of Moldova and Georgia and one of the "fundamental norms" of "international behavior". On 21 May 2015, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law terminating five co-operation agreements with Russia.
This law effectively terminates the "Agreement on transit of Russian military units temporarily located on the territory of the Republic of Moldova through the territory of Ukraine" dated 4 December 1998.
One point of access for Russian soldiers traveling to Transnistria remains Chișinău International Airport and the short overland journey from there to Tiraspol.
Over the years, Moldova has largely permitted Russian officers and soldiers to transit the airport on their way to Transnistria, though at some points (for example in 2015) Chișinău has periodically blocked and deported soldiers who were not clearly identified as international peacekeepers or who have failed to give sufficient advance notice.
Chișinău would likely only ever agree to the possibility of moving employees, officers, and soldiers of the peacekeeping forces. The passage of soldiers of the 14th Army would be illegal.
On 27 June 2016, a new law entered in force in Transnistria, punishing actions or public statements, including through the usage of mass media, networks of information and telecommunications or the Internet, criticizing the peace-keeping mission of the Russian Army in the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic, or presenting interpretations perceived to be "false" by the Transnistrian government of the Russian Army's peacekeeping mission.
The punishment is up to three years of jail for ordinary people or up to seven years of jail if the crime was committed by a person of responsibility or a group of persons by prior agreement
Transnistria has a mixed economy. Following a large scale privatisation process in the late 90s, most of the companies in Transnistria are now privately owned.
The economy is based on a mix of heavy industry (steel production), electricity production, and manufacturing (textile production), which together account for about 80% of the total industrial output.
Transnistria has its own central bank, the Transnistrian Republican Bank, which issues Transnistrian currency, the Transnistrian ruble. It is convertible at a freely floating exchange rate but only in Transnistria.
Transnistria's economy is frequently described as dependent on contraband and gunrunning, with some labelling it a mafia state. These allegations are denied by the Transnistrian government, and sometimes downplayed by the officials of Russia and Ukraine.
After World War II, Transnistria was heavily industrialised, to the point that, in 1990, it was responsible for 40% of Moldova's GDP and 90% of its electricity, although it accounted for only 17% of Moldova's population.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Transnistria wanted to return to a "Brezhnev-style planned economy". However, several years later, it decided to head toward a market economy.
According to the government of Transnistria, the 2007 GDP was 6789 mln Transnistrian roubles (appx US$799 million) and the GDP per capita was about US$1,500. The GDP increased by 11.1% and inflation rate was 19.3% with the GDP per capita now being $2,140, higher than Moldova's GDP per capita that is $2,040.
Transnistria's government budget for 2007 was US$246 million, with an estimated deficit of about US$100 million that the government planned to cover with income from privatisations. Budget for 2008 is US$331 million, with an estimated deficit of about US$80 million.
In 2004, Transnistria had debts of US$1.2 billion (two-thirds are with Russia) that was per capita about six times higher than in Moldova (without Transnistria). In March 2007 the debt to Gazprom for the acquisition of natural gas increased to US$1.3 billion.
On 22 March 2007 Gazprom sold Transnistria's gas debt to the Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov, who controls Moldova Steel Works, the largest enterprise in Transnistria. Transnistria's president Igor Smirnov has announced that Transnistria will not pay its gas debt because "Transnistria has no legal debt to Gazprom". In November 2007, the total debt of Transnistria's public sector was up to US$1.64 billion.
According to a 2007 interview with Yevgeny Shevchuk, the then-speaker of the Transnistrian Supreme Council, Transnistria is in a difficult economic situation. Despite a 30% tax increase in 2007, the pension fund is still lacking money and emergency measures must be taken.
However, Shevchuk mentioned that the situation is not hopeless and it cannot be considered a crisis, as a crisis means three-month delays in payment of pensions and salaries.
Leader of Transnistria
President: Vadim Krasnoselsky
Vadim Krasnoselsky beat incumbent president Yevgeny Shevchenko in the December 2016 elections with 62% of the popular vote.
During his election campaign, Mr Krasnoselsky said he saw no point in Western-brokered talks as the region's goal was to join Russia, not to reintegrate with Moldova.
He later softened his stance, suggesting Transnistria would pursue an "evolutionary" accession to Russia.
A former speaker of the region's parliament, he enjoys the support of the opposition Renewal party, which in 2016 entered into a partner relationship with the Moscow-based United Russia party.
He served as interior minister from 2007 to 2012. He then left politics, returning as a member of parliament in 2015.
3-Day Ultra Budget Tour
Our 3-Day Ultra Budget Tour gives you a quick peak into this mysterious unrecognized country famous for its Soviet imagery and nostalgia.
This tour is just enough time to get an authentic feel for this unique region in the heart of Eastern Europe and perfect for adventurous travellers with a limited amount of time.
8-Day Ultimate Soviet Tour
Our 8-Day Ultimate Soviet Tour will take you deep into the Soviet history of this unrecognized country.
Transnistria is a country with most of its relics from the Soviet Union are still in their original places, untouched since the fall of the former superpower. It is often considered the best example of the Soviet Union today.
Contact us with any questions you have about Transnistria!