The country that doesn’t exist on map

Oct 25, 2019 | Diaries, Europe, Moldavia

Have you ever heard about Transnistria? Pridnestrovia maybe?

I admit I’d never heard about till we entered Moldova. And since we visited the country we can assure you it really exists even if you will not find it on the map or in the list of UN countries. Its official name is PMR – Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic.

The existence of Pridnestrovia – this is how the locals call their state – is a unique case in Europe. It’s a breakaway state which is not recognised by any member of the UN. It’s a land strip sansdwitched between Moldavia and Ukraine on the eastern bank of Dniester river. 

Pridnestrovians are of Russian (34%) or Moldavian (33%) origins (there are also Ukrainian and Bulgarian) but their official language is Russian.

While in Chisinau all signs are Romanian with Latin characters, in Tiraspol everything is written in Cyrillic. Pridnestrovians use Cyrillic characters even when writting in Romanian, which they call it Moldavian. 

Pridnestrovia (or Transnistria) has its own flag, elected government, parliament, army and police. And its own currency, the Ruble, which has similar – but not same – value with the Moldavian Leu. Car plates are also different. The flag is red/green/red with the “hammer and sickle” and a star. Its the only flag in the world featuring the logo of communism. 

The citizens of Pridnestrovia can’t have their own passport, though, so they need to use their Moldavian document to travel abroad. Or their Russian, since many have acquired double nationality. 

Travelling from Chisinau to Tiraspol there is no warning that you are going to enter a different state. You just follow the signs to Bender, Tiraspol and Odessa and at one point you arrive at the border station.

You will be asked for your passport there, your data will be filed in a computer and in the end you will receive a printed entry card with your name on it. At the exit they will ask you to pay an obligatory road tax, which costs from 58 Pridnestrovian rubles, or 64 lei or 4 euros.

In the prefabricated office there were signs warning against corruption and bribing, advising travellers to keep a state number to call in case of a problem. The young officer who served us – the procedure was very long for 4 euros… – was very kind. He asked me where did I know his country from and I replied: “from Google”. 

The road to Tiraspol is good and well lit. Better maintained than anywhere in Moldova. After we crossed the Dniester river bridge we stopped on the Sherif supermarket, which was well loaded and cheap. Soon we would realise that Sherif brand is practically a monopoly in the country. A big business, which controls almost everything from supermarkets and petrol stations to a bank, a big textile industry and car dealerships.

Tiraspol is an ugly capital. It actually looks like a Soviet relic. It’s remarkable that they have kept all CCCP signs and Lenin statues and they proudly exhibit them. 

On the main avenue there is a huge statue with a local hero on his prancing horse on one side and a Soviet T-34 tank next to a picturesque church.

Let me tell you the history of Transnistria in short: when Moldavia declared its independence from USSR in 1990, Transnistria asked to stay under the Soviet Union, till it ultimately collapsed in 1991. 

In 1992 a bloody war erupted between Moldavia and Pridnestrovian militants, which ended in the summer of the same year. Since then PMR declared its independence but so far hasn’t been recognised by any country, except three similar post Soviet democracies.

We stayed two nights in Tiraspol but we couldn’t establish a conversation with a single local. Almost nobody speaks english here while our Russian is limited to two single words: spasiba and pazalsta. So this is a real report on the breakaway state.

But we can tell that cost of living is very low, as it is in Moldavia. Diesel costs 0,8 euros/litre and shopping goods are very cheap. 

Departing from Tiraspol we drove directly from PMR to Ukraine with no problems. We read that if a travellers enters from the same border his passport will not have an entry stamp and this may cause problems at the exit from Moldova to Romania.

The question we need to answer now is: should we add Pridnestrovia in the countries visited by The World Offroad or not? What do you think? 

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