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Tiraspol: Back in the U.S.S.R.

Published: April 12, 2014 (Issue # 1805)



  • Founded by Russian General Alexander Suvorov, above, in 1792, Transdnestr has become a rebel region, functioning as aseparate state with its own government, currency, passports, police andarmy.
    Photo: Pedro Vizcaino Pina / flickr

  • The region continues to survive thanks to financial assistance from Russia.
    Photo: Pedro Vizcaino Pina / flickr

  • Pushkin one of the many Russian references found throughout the city.
    Photo: wikimedia commons

  • Built in the 1830s and then bombed during World War II, Chisinaus main Orthodox church, Nativity Cathedral, re-opened again in 2000.
    Photo: Dieter Zirnig / flickr

TIRASPOL Thestuffy minibus carrying passengers fromthe Moldovan capital, Chisinau, cranks toa halt atthe border with theself-proclaimed Transdnestr republic. Athrong ofRussians, Moldovans andUkrainians jostle forposition inthe passport control queue inside asmall hut just beyond thedemilitarized buffer zone.

Onthe other side ofthe window sits acurvaceous woman with long bleach-blond hair wearing akhaki military uniform. Her face is expressionless except forthe blood-red lipstick but she suddenly comes tolife onseeing aBritish passport, warning, You need toleave by9 p.m.

Visiting Transdnestr, also known as thePridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, or simply thePMR, conjures thoughts ofJames Bond movies, heavy weaponry andone ofthe worlds most secretive states.

Inreality, Tiraspol is thecapital ofa rebel region whose independence is only recognized bytwo other only partially recognized states, Georgias breakaway regions ofSouth Ossetia andAbkhazia. But despite thelack offormal recognition, Transdnestr has its own government, currency, passports, police andarmy, andfor all intents andpurposes it functions as aseparate state.

Transdnestr occupies anarrow sliver ofland between Moldova tothe west andUkraine tothe east. Its population ofabout 550,000 is evenly split between Moldovans (32 percent), Russians (30 percent) andUkrainians (29 percent). Thetwo main cities worth visiting are Tiraspol, theSoviet-inspired capital, andneighboring Bender, which has amore cultured, laid-back feel toit.

After crossing theunofficial border, patrolled byMoldovan andTransdnestr soldiers, as well as Russian peacekeepers, theold minibus shuttles its resilient passengers onward toward Tiraspol.

Through thewindow thelandscape reveals clapped-out Ladas, propaganda posters proclaiming therepublics independence, andmakeshift markets selling everything fromclothes tospare car parts. It is otherwise gray andnondescript. But there is acertain thrill atarriving ina place you feel you should not be, where rumors abound ofthe mafia, weapons smuggling andthe KGB.

Recent history has generated this myth, which inturn is making Transdnestr anincreasingly popular place tovisit because ofits very uniqueness, particularly forthose fascinated bydisputed territories andpolitical black holes.

As theSoviet Union fell apart andMoldova swiftly promoted its own non-Soviet national identity andlanguage, themainly Russian-speaking diaspora tothe east ofthe Dniester River, forming Transdnestr, feared alienation anddeclared theregions secession fromMoldova inSeptember 1990.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although the Peter and Paul Fortress sand sculptures are more central and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today. The World Collection of Sand Sculptures that have been on display at the park reaches its final day, so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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