Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Transnistria

When I go to Chişinău, I plan on visiting Transnistria.  Trans-what??  Don't feel bad if you've never heard of it before.  Most people haven't.

The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), Transnistria, is a breakaway republic in Moldova.  It is a strip of land between the Dniester River and the eastern Moldovan border with Ukraine.  It is just a little smaller than Delaware.  The population is ~520,000.  The capital, and largest city, is Tiraspol with 160,000 people.

Moldova does not recognize Transnistria's succession from the country.  In fact, no other country officially recognizes it.  The only three "countries" that recognize it are Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia – all three of which are also breakaway republics (in Azerbaijan and Georgia).

Fighting erupted in March 1992 between Moldovan forces and separatists.  The Russian 14th Army entered in on the side of the PMR and a ceasefire agreement has been in place since July 1992.  Russia still has 1,200 troops in Transnistria which Moldova wants recalled.  Part of the ceasefire states that, if Moldova tries to merge with Romania, then Transnistria will be allowed to go its own way.

Transnistrian Ruble
Internationally, Transnistria has been accused of selling weapons and laundering money.  It is widely thought that the country has ties to the Russian Mafia.

When I go to Tiraspol I will have to show my passport at the PMR border.  I will have to fill out a customs form and carry it with me.  Since I'm not going to spend the night I won't have to register with the authorities (KGB).  When I leave, I just present the customs form to the border guard.  Since it is not a recognized country I don't think that they can stamp my passport.  Several of my Moldovan friends have said that I will probably have to bride the border guards to get in and out.  I'm told that the going rate is €10.  I'm sure that the guards won't speak anything other than Russian or Romanian.

Some people compare Transnistria to North Korea.  My friend, Norbert, thinks that I'm completely mad for going.  But if I'm going to be so close, it makes no sense for me to not check it out.  I've already registered with the U.S. Embassy in Chişinău and informed them of my visit to Transnistria.  I was advised that there are no restrictions on travel but if I get into trouble there, they won't be able to assist me until I get back to Moldova.  Wish me luck!!



Here's a YouTube video that gives some more info on Transnistria.

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