What 'Independence Day' Is Like In Transnistria, An Unrecognized Country Inside Moldova

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/10/17/transnistria.html


Unrecognized country means… not a country, right?

No real currency, no international recognition, it sounds like their only real function is to serve as a foothold if Russia feels like invading, which is unlikely given Moldova’s size and strategic importance. It’s like Sealand, but fewer hippies.


Sounds like you don’t think it has geostrategic importance? I think that was the point of support for Transnistria by Russia, though.

Not-so-fun fact: the Russian-speaking minority in Moldova is quite large, and discriminated against. Taxi drivers, e.g., are mostly Russian-speaking. However, it is required by law that all public services and goods are traded in Moldovan (which, just FTR, is more like a Romanian dialect). Identity politics are alive and kicking in Moldova and around it since, well, a long time before the USSR even collapsed.

Stalin fucked this shit up for good, that’s for for sure.

ETA: Feel I should point out I’ve got nothing against Moldova, but something against nationalist bullshit. Same is true for Transnistria, Romania, and of course the whole bunch of states around them.

I have sad now.
Can I haz a soother?


And in Estonia, and in Lithuania. The Soviet Union moved people from Russia (and other Soviet states – many “Russians” in Eastern Europe are of Kazakh, Azerbaijani, etc. descent but speak Russian as that was the common Soviet language) into their newly acquired territories after WWII. Many of these people are technically stateless – they have neither Russian nor local citizenship


Well, they have got a flag.

And we all know that’s what really matters.


As I said.

Fucked up for good.

I’ve seen ghost towns in the Georgian planes, where only some very old Russian-speaking people still lived. Re-setteled there decades ago, they had no place to go. No idea what became them.

“Dystopian” doesn’t even begin to describe the resettlement programs.


Worth mentioning Moldovans drink more than anyone else. If I did my math right, something like 3.4 drinks per day per person. (Some tallies put Belarus slightly ahead though)

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Other fun facts (using your definition of “fun”):

  • During the whole CCCP period, Moldavans were discriminated against by the state as they were the wrong ethnicity/spoke the wrong language. This continues in what is left of Moldavans in Transnistria.
  • The ethnic Russians in Transnistria/Moldava are there in large part because Stalin deported a significant portion of the population that he considered unreliable to Siberia and offered up their vacated property to ethnic russians.
  • Transnistria only exists because Russian federal troops openly intervened to carve it out of Moldava after the breakup of the CCCP, One assumes that had Putin been in power back then that no russian troops would have been openly admitted to by Russia, just “Patriotic Vacationers”.

When one knows the history (all the history, not just that which the Transnistrian “government” hands out), is it any surprise that Transnistrians revere mother Russia and that most Moldavans actively dislike & discriminate against most russian speakers?


what are the winters like?

My Russian-descent landlady in Chisinau would give her toddler dessert wine like it was apple juice, in the belief it would make her strong. I found it rather shocking, to say the least.


In my experience, kind of like northeastern USA.

During my visit in 2005-2006, between New Year’s and the orthodox Christmas, they had their deepest snow in years. This was when Russia/Putin/Gazprom was having their spat with Ukraine and the pipelines were shut down. We were huddled under layers of blankets for days.


I kinda recognize them…

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I knew an ethnic Russian Azeri lady in college who was 95 pounds wet, tops.

She did not drink overly much. But one night she said she was going to drink like she did back home. Put down nearly a fifth of vodka, no problem. Could not believe my eyes.


Not only Soviet union. A lot of ethnic Russians in the region were there already in Tzarist times.

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From what I have heard of it is also a center of mayor smuggling operation. Having a chunk of territory that is in legal limbo is god sent to a person with financial means and in need of a friendly government.


What the hell did you do there?

I know people who have an excuse. Like, doing field work for their theses.

What’s yours?


The general question is usually, “Why Moldova?”

Um, painting?

For an artist from the west, Moldova and Ukraine are pretty inexpensive, but still maintain a decent enough standard of living and infrastructure to make it work if you want to paint full-time.
There’s the added bonus that enough younger people know enough English that you can carry on a lengthy conversation about more than just the weather.

My main reason was to see what I’d been missing during the Cold War of my youth (before Yeltsin/Gorbachev).

If I had more money than last time, I’d certainly go back. The countryside adjacent to Odessa and the Black Sea were also worthwhile side trips. One can stay at Hotel Laguna (40 km south of Odessa) in a double occupancy room with 3 meals a day for about $125 US for a week. Only a football field’s length from the water.

For the drinkers, I’d say Moldova is rife with decent, inexpensive wine and liquor. There’s even a huge wine cellar near Chisinau with a miles long tour that rides you through the tunnels behind a small tractor.


That’s a good reason to go, indeed. Also, judging from the stories and pictures people I know brought back from Moldova, there are definetly a lot of things to see which might have an lasting impact on an artist. The faces alone were already landscapes…

I haven’t been there, and I have no current plans to go, but I guess it would have been with a visit.


Historians and religious folk would probably enjoy the cave monasteries dug into the valley at Orhei, too. There’s some interesting iconography there.


Speaking of which, you should definetly add Georgia and Armenia to your bucket list. Even if it sounds like Moldova - wine, monasteries, caves, bad luck with separatists backed by much larger neighbours and so on, I think the Caucasus has something for artists which is quite special.

And that language. Especially when sung.