Is Crimea the Next Transnistria?

Hard to imagine the people of the Crimea might want to break away from Ukraine and link up with Mother Russia? Visit Transnistria and it is even harder.

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Their friends across the Black Sea in the Moldovan breakaway state of Transnistria have been at it since 1990, including a war in 1992, and now it idles along in one of the world’s ‘frozen conflicts,’ sharing the distinction in ex-Soviet territory with Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia.

I visited a year ago when Russia was making mischief with Moldova over wine exports. Border formalities were a bit chaotic but no one asked for bribes or even a fee. Buses from Chisinau separate by locals who speed through non-locals who need to go through formalities. The office wrote “Go 21:00” on my entry card and made clear I was not welcome to spend the night.

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Nothing much was happening in Transnistria except a holiday favored by newlyweds so I saw many groups taking pictures in front of propaganda statues and tanks.

Not much of a police state. In the cold weather I walked around totally unmolested, even walking the 10 km from Bendery back to the border through crumbling neighborhoods, a dilapidated amusement park, and across flat farmland. Nice people, sad state of affairs.

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  • Mr. Cool

    how convenient.. another travel opportunity for the summer!

  • Anglo Large Clawed Otter

    It’s like SkyTeam, but for countries!

  • Not all that surprising, even without the Transnistria reference. Much of Crimea was strongly pro-Russia during the split and their loyalties generally remain there.

  • Mr. Cool

    i wonder what this means for the ~4M annual holidaymakers

  • @Anglo Large Clawed Otter – I think you have sewn up the quip of the year award, a new Freddie’s category is needed.

  • Calin

    When I see how Ukraine is invaded by Russia I can’t help thinking that somehow they deserve it. Back in 1990-1992 they stood by the imperialistic Russians instead of ally with the native Moldavians. In Transnistria there are a third Moldavians, a third Ukranians and a third Russians. If Ukranians would have supported the Moldavians this sinister “state” would not be present in the middle of Europe. I hope that, at least now, they realise that Transnistria is a threat also for them, because Russians can invade from there the western Ukraine. I understand that Russians are their relatives but this is not an excuse to back up their horrific policy. Russians are also relatives with Poles but they do not support their policy at all.

  • Mike Manna

    In case you are interested, they actually wrote “do 21:00” on your entry form, not “Go 21:00” In Russian, the little “g” makes a “d” sound. “Do” means “until” so you were allowed to stay until 21:00, or 9 pm. But your interpretation is the same, just not as harsh as “go.”
    I have also done train through Transneister. Very interesting border crossing.

  • @Mike Manna – thanks for that tidbit, a useful lesson. I keep telling myself that I need to get better at Russian and Cyrillic.

    @Calin – thanks for that historical background. I did not put specific commentary in my post because I do not know enough about the complex history to make public pronouncements.

  • Mike Manna

    @Calin – I know this is not the place for political commentary, but I must say the current Ukraine administration is WORLDS APART from the Ukrainian government during the Transnistria war. In fact, the war started when there was no Ukrainian government, it was still the Soviet Union. I lived in Kiev 10 years, and visited both Moldova and Transnistria. Personally, I think no one deserves an invading foreign army.

  • @Mike Manna – thanks for the counterpoint. I wish I knew more about this region. I have now traveled all the ex-Soviet republics, and some of greater Eastern Europe, but always hindered by language and time constraints. It has been grim times for too many people in too many places. What I want to know, is how the heck Belarus sails on? I was there in October and could not figure out how the places stays at it is.

  • Mr. Cool

    yeah, pretty crazy how clean minsk is.
    my guess is that their stability is assisted by there being a relatively-small & relatively-homogenous populus….and their being an economic/financial vassal of their big neighbor. totally bankrupt

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  • Joey

    nice thumb in the pic, Stefan Andrew! 😉 hehe. jk