Sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine is the landlocked ‘nation’ of Transnistria. A nation that isn’t recognised as a nation at all. The United Nations identifies it as part of Moldova. Moldova identifies it as its own ‘autonomous territorial unit’. You won’t find its name printed on Google Maps.
With no official title, Transnistria is a monument to the former USSR, a place frozen in time in Eastern Europe.
Transnistria, or the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, resides to the east of the Dniester River and was first formed in 1990, when the USSR dissolved. For the next two years, the country would fight a war with Moldova before the conflict escalated in March 1992 resulting in the loss of over 1000 lives. A ceasefire was signed in July, 1992.
I first came across Transnistria in a music DVD by Horse the band, a mid-2000’s hardcore band from the US. In the DVD, which recounts their experiences during a world tour, the band decides to take a shortcut through what they describe as ‘Europe’s Black Hole’ to ensure they can get from Moldova to the Ukraine overnight.
They have a run in with Moldovan border security that tell them it’s best they turn back and drive around Transnistria, as opposed to going through it.
About half a million people still live in Transnistria, which still proudly displays a large statue of Lenin outside its Parliament house. The not-country clings to its USSR beginnings and longs for independence but, for now, it has not been forthcoming.
One of my favourite pieces about the rogue nation was written back in 2016 for Wired and features photography by Justin Barton. It provides an excellent, in-depth look at Transnistria from the inside, with photographs of the people that live and work there everyday.
Unsurprisingly, they face the same struggles as we all do, but there does seem to be an uneasiness about the future and as Laura Mallonee describes in the piece “an intense melancholy” pervades the series of images.
In 2017, the Moldovan President began a process to reconcile the conflict between Moldova and Transnistria, stating that it has divided the country for too long. Late last year, Transnistria requested ‘observer status’ with the UN, which would allow them – like Holy See and Palestine – to participate in the UN’s General Assembly, with some limitations.
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