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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe

 

Modern Transnistria
AD 1990 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1990-2022), Dniester Republic, & Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic

Officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (or Pridnestrovie), the Trans-Dniester republic or Transnistria is a secessionist republic which lies along the eastern edge of Moldova in Eastern Europe. It forms a large part of that state's eastern border, while it is itself bordered to the east by Ukraine. With a capital at its largest city of Tiraspol, Transnistria remains divided from Moldova but unrecognised as a nation state in its own right.

The bulk of Moldova lies between the rivers Dniester and Prut. Historically this region was known as Bessarabia, while the equally historical region of Moldavia - which often included Bessarabia - incorporated double the territory of today's Moldova, stretching an equal distance to the west of the Prut. The eighteenth century principality of Moldavia was adjoined to the kingdom of Romania in 1918, although the First World War meant that the kingdom's political history was rarely calm.

With the Second World War looming in the east, the USSR seized Romania's territory of Bessarabia in 1940 before the kingdom could become an active ally of Germany. Prior to that happening, the industrialised territory to the east of the Dniester, generally known as Trans-Dniester or the Dniester region, had already formed an autonomous area within Ukraine. This was now taken from the 'Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic' and combined with Bessarabia to form the 'Moldavia Soviet Socialist Republic', seemingly to add a Russian-speaking element to Moldavia's generally Romanian-speaking population.

Almost fifty years later, as the USSR was clearly heading towards disintegration after 1989, the Moldavia SSR was planning its independence with the ultimate hope of reuniting with post-monarchy Romania. In June 1990, Moldavia became the 'Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova', but ethnic Russians along the Trans-Dniester strip opposed Moldova's plan to introduce the Romanian language.

Instead the Transnistrians declared their independence as the Dniester Republic (Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (PMSSR)), on 2 September 1990, before Moldavia had even announced its own independence plans.

Independence from the USSR was declared on 25 August 1991, immediately following the attempted coup there. The republic's socialist ideology was abandoned at the same time. Life in Transnistria is little changed from the high-point of Soviet occupation. Soviet-era signs and statues are widespread, and the republic's passport is accepted only by Russia.

The state's refusal to work with Moldova has taken its toll on the population, with figures declining rapidly. Officially the population has fallen from 750,000 to 500,000 since independence, but an unofficial count puts it as low as 300,000, plus fifteen hundred permanently-stationed Russian troops.

The Balkans Mountains in Albania, by wiredforadventure.com

(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information from Security Dynamics in the Former Soviet Bloc, Graeme P Herd & Jennifer D P Moroney (2003), from Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe, Jan Zielonka (2001), from Russia - Continuity and Change, Gerald Hinteregger & Hans-Georg Heinrich (Eds), from European Yearbook 2000, Francis Rosenstiel, Edith Lejard, Jean Boutsavath & Jacques Martz, from De Facto States: The Quest for Sovereignty, Barry Bartmann, T Bahcheli (2004), from Washington Post (7 December 2003), and from External Links: BBC Country Profiles, and Moldova (Flags of the World), and Moldova (Rulers.org), and How the conflict started (Veridica), and Moldova and the Russia-EU tug of war explained (The Week), and Moldova holds security meeting (The Guardian), and Moldovan PM resigns (The Guardian), and Barcelona Centre for International Affairs (CIDOB), and Where is Transnistria...? (The Guardian), and Inside Transnistria... in pictures (The Guardian).)

1991 - 2011

Igor Smirnov

First president of the breakaway Transnistria.

1992

Following the official dissolution of the Soviet Union and the declaration of Moldovan sovereignty, fierce fighting takes place in the Trans-Dniester region as it tries to assert its 1990 declaration of independence in the form of a presidential republic. Although violence has been building for some months, it is 2 March 1992 which is marked as the start of the Transnistrian War.

Burned Russian tank in Moldova, 1992
A Russian 14th Army tank as used by the guards of the pro-Russian separatist, self-proclaimed Trans-Dniester republic, having been burned out by Moldovan police near Bendery, Moldova, on 27 June 1992

Between March and July 1992, hundreds die, and the violence only ends with the introduction of Russian 'peacekeepers' acting on the side of the separatists. Calling itself the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR, also known as Pridnestrovie), Trans-Dniester's independence remains unrecognised and the region exists in a state of lawless and corrupt limbo. Moldova refers to it as Stînga Nistrului, meaning 'Left Bank of the Dniester'.

2006

The Trans-Dniester region (Transnistria) reasserts its demand for independence from Moldova and also expresses support for a plan ultimately to join Russia in a September 2006 referendum which is unrecognised by Chișinău and the international community.

It still houses a stockpile of old Soviet military equipment and a contingent of troops of the Russian 14th Army. Withdrawal had begun in 2001 under international agreements but this had been halted when the Trans-Dniester authorities had blocked the dispatch of weapons. Subsequent agreements to resume the removal of weapons do not reach fruition as relations cool between Moscow and Chișinău.

A health clinic in Tiraspol in 2014
Many health and social assistance institutions have not changed in Transnistria since the Soviet period, although in 2014 the republic implemented a programme of building new clinics, schools, and kindergartens with monetary assistance both from Russia and Europe, perhaps meaning that this older health clinic in Tiraspol could be in danger of being upgraded

2011 - 2016

Yevgeny Shevchuk

President. Born 1968. Fled to Moldova in 2017.

2016 - On

Vadim Krasnoselsky

President. Born 1970.

2022

On Monday 22 February, after months of increasing pressure from his side, President Putin takes the politically manipulative step of formally recognising as independent states the Russian-created breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. Almost immediately afterwards, Putin orders Russian troops which had been massing along Ukraine's borders (and even its Belarussian border) to enter Ukraine and occupy it, although the plan immediately falters quite spectacularly.

For its part, Moldova starts taking in refugees who mainly enter via its northern and southern borders with Ukrainian territory. By April the separatist region of Transnistria is experiencing an increasing level of paramilitary actions against its pro-Russian forces (there are still fifteen hundred Russian troops permanently stationed in the region).

The Moldovan fear is that this is either the start of internecine fighting or a pretext for Moscow to invade - not that it is capable by this point, having failed to meet any of its targets in Ukraine.

Transnistria residents leaving in 2022
Explosions in Transnistria in 2022 heightened worries that republic could be drawn into the Ukraine war, leading to lines of vehicles forming at the Moldovan border

 
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