News / Europe

Will EU Surround Russian-Speaking Island in Eastern Europe?

Will EU Surround Russian-Speaking Island in Eastern Europe?i
October 25, 2013 8:28 PM
Moldova and Ukraine, two former Soviet republics, seem to be starting to work toward eventual membership in the European Union. But sandwiched between them is a breakaway splinter of a region that says "no." VOA's James Brooke reports from Transdniester, the Russian-speaking secessionist region of Moldova.
James Brooke
Moldova and Ukraine, two former Soviet republics, seem to be starting to work toward eventual membership in the European Union. But sandwiched between them is a breakaway splinter of a region that says "no." Transdniester is the Russian-speaking secessionist region of Moldova.
From a Russian Orthodox monastery, the bells ring out across flat farmland.

In the capital, a Lenin statue greets visitors to the local Supreme Soviet. The central square is dominated by a statue of a czarist general on horseback. And a golden hammer and sickle embellishes the red flag of Transdniester.

This looks like a corner of Russia. But as the map on a local bottle of vodka shows, Transdniester is a long, skinny strip of land, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine.

Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca says it is a breakaway region of his country. “We are unfortunately still hosting this protracted conflict it so does not make us happy at all. It shows we still have a wound that it still bleeding,” he said.

But here in Transdniester, Russian-speaking locals say they fought a generation ago to win independence from Romanian-speaking Moldova.

  • The Dniester River divides Moldova's majority Romanian-speaking heartland on the West bank, from its majority Russian-speaking region on the East bank. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Once in Transdniester, Latin letters vanish, and everything -- in Russian and Romanian, is written with Cyrillic letters. This billboard with the 'national' emblem reads: "Transdniester: Created for Survival!" (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Lenin with a cape, sometimes called "Batman Lenin" stands outside Transdniester's Supreme Soviet, or parliament building. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • In central Tiraspol, a memorial to the fallen in Transdniester's war for independence in the spring of 1992. Russian troops tipped the balance in favor of Trasndniester and there has been no fighting since. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • The war memorial honors Transdniester's dead, about half of the 1,500 people who died during the five-month war of secession in 1992. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • A blind man plays Soviet songs on his accordion. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • On Saturdays, pensioners gather in a park to sell momentos, many from the days of their Soviet youth. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Kvint exports Transdniester's best known products -- brandy and vodka. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • At a Kvint store, a saleswoman shows a vodka bottle with a label outlining Transniester's stringbean shape. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Off the beaten track, a small ferry, guided by a steel cable, takes cars and trucks across the Dniester River. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • The leaders of Russian-speaking Transdniester declared a regional holiday on Sept. 9 to celebrate the visit from Moscow of Kirill I, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Viewed from halfway up Moldova's highest bell tower, the 19th century Noul Neamt Monastery glows in the late afternoon autumn sun of Kitskani. (Vera Undritz for VOA)
  • Built in 1538 by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the Bender fortress still dominates a Transdniester enclave on the west bank of the Dniester River. (Vera Undritz for VOA)

Outside the new Hotel Rossia, Vladimir Yastrebchak, the region’s former ‘foreign minister,’ thanks Moscow for its support.

“Really the Russian Federation is our main strategic partner for more than 20 years, I mean for almost the whole period of Transdniester’s sovereign existence,” he said.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin visited Moldova last month. He warned that Russian troops will guarantee Transdniester’s autonomy.

He warned that Moldova has to take Transdniester into account when making decisions that will effect people on both sides of the Dniester River.

Moscow worries that at a meeting next month in Vilnius, Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine will move toward membership in the European Union.
Ernest Vardanean, a journalist from Transdniester, said, “If Ukraine signs and ratifies the documents in Vilnius and after Vilnius, and if Moldova moves the same way, I guess that Transnistria will get many trouble because it will be pressed... it will be sandwiched between two pro-European countries.”

Since the Soviet collapse, as much as half of Transdniester’s working-age population has left - to work in Russia, or in the West.
Moldova’s prime minister said jobs and development eventually can reunite Moldova’s two language groups, now separated by the Dniester river.
“We need to show those living on left bank of the Dniester River. We are capable of building a political social economic system that is attractive for them as well," said Leanca. "Because just a few years ago, the roads on the right bank were as bad on the left bank, the migration was as high here as on the right bank, the health care was unattractive on either side.”

But for now, Transdniestrans seem happy to live as Russia’s lost colony in Central Europe.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Sergei from: New Zealand
October 27, 2013 9:38 PM
Expel them all to Russia, together with Lenin's idol and hammer and sickle. They're but a handful of people (in subdivision of the British India a population of more than 14 million was exchanged between India and Pakistan) and totally unfit to live in EU. Let's hope in a century or two the civilized world will be able to welcome Russians to the family... but not yet.

by: Voareader from: USA
October 27, 2013 11:34 AM
A map would have been helpful.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs