On our journey through Moldova we also pass through Transnistria: a country that officially does not exist. Traveling through a country that is not recognized by the other states, but still does its thing? Exactly to our taste. The self-confident Transnistrians have established their own national border, introduced their own visa regulations (which is not particularly difficult and can be obtained directly at the border), their own currency, the Transnistrian rouble (you can’t get any money at the machine with an international VISA or Mastercard and can’t pay with it either), their own number plate and their “own” national language, namely Russian, in contrast to Moldavian, which is spoken in the rest of the country. Since the country has split off from the Moldovan/Romanian population due to the conflicts between the Russian minority in Moldova, which forms the majority in this part of the country, the choice of the national language is no surprise. Also the approx. 1500 Russian soldiers and the “peace keeping tanks” which intervened after the 1992 raging civil war and deescalated the situation and are stationed at the borders since then, show the clear sympathy of the small country to Mama Russia.
Entering Transnistria is a small act in itself, but worth the effort. You have to get different stamps, buy the right vignettes and go through a lot of bureaucracy, but the officials at the border were all very friendly and we made good progress with a mix of English and Russian. If you have any questions about entering the country or would like some tips, please feel free to contact us.
Transnistria is a small country. The biggest city Tiraspol, which is also the capital, has about 200000 inhabitants, the whole country about 475000. We stayed with Dimitrie, he and his parents are currently building a small hostel, the Red Star Hostel in Tiraspol. The family is very warm and hospitable, speaks super English and the garden was, for me, who loves gardening and self-catering, a pure joy! Such a beautiful place! Although very close to the city centre, the hostel is a real oasis, a quiet retreat and a great starting point to explore the city.
The whole of Tiraspol seems to be under construction. The parks are being renovated, public places like skateparks and beaches on the river are being built, new shopping centres are being built (of course by “Sheriff”, the only supermarket chain in the country, which is also the only mobile operator and has several other market monopolies) and new chic restaurants and bars are opening up. The city is trying to modernize and gradually reinforce the old, grey Soviet flair. Since about two years the modernization is going on now.
According to Julia, Dimitri’s girlfriend, who practically offers guided city tours and knows how to tell many interesting things about the history and life in Transdniestria, the most difficult and complicated part of life in an unofficially recognized state is the bureaucracy. Since the official documents outside the country are not worth more than the paper on which they are written, but the valid Moldovan documents are not recognized in Transnistria, one may try to obtain documents from both countries. So car purchase, weddings, births etc. become a huge effort and of course also a cost factor.
At the moment there seems to be a stalemate at the political level and the new borders and the state are “de facto recognized”, which means: everyone has more or less resigned themselves to the status quo and to undo the whole thing would cost so much effort that you can simply leave it at the current level.
It’s very striking and impressive that in every country of the former Soviet Union that we’ve visited so far, the pursuit of the “Western” standard is manifested. This glorification of the western way of life and modernization makes us think a little. What do our societies gain from all these supposed advantages? Of course, functioning health and social systems are undoubtedly an absolute blessing, but don’t the highly technological standards and fast-paced societies, often based on consumption, also have profound and worrying disadvantages?
What’s the big deal with having only one supermarket chain? What is the big disadvantage of a form of subsistence economy or at least a certain degree of self-sufficiency? Is higher, faster and above all more modern in the sense of NEW really BETTER than sustainable use of existing resources and the passing on of well-tried knowledge?
The experience to travel to such a country and to feel the power of the population, from which the whole thing developed, and to get to know people, who live daily with the advantages and disadvantages of such a situation, was very enriching and opened our eyes a little bit concerning the topics national borders and forms of government. Here lived history happens and similar to the situation in Ukraine the future will have to show in which direction country and people develop.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator