News / Europe

Will EU Surround Russian-Speaking Island in Eastern Europe?

Will EU Surround Russian-Speaking Island in Eastern Europe?i
X
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.
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid