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

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs