Republic-matryoshka you in the womb of Moldova

Post-war reality, fraternal friendship with Moscow and brandy in Tiraspol, the capital of the unrecognized Transnistria

Milena Dimitrova
Exclusively for “Sega”

The world does not care and does not want to know about the fratricidal feud tearing appart a nation in Europe.
It was just its luck to live on the border between two former empires. The Moldovians establish their state in the XIV century, in spite of the flowering of the Ottoman Empire, while a significant proportion of the population still is not at peace with the fall of the Soviet Union. Tiraspol, capital of the unrecognized Transnistrian Moldovan Republic (PMR), which is something like a state within a state of Moldova, lives under the motto “Our strength is in unity with Moscow”. The slogan is on the facade of the Palace of children and youth in the central square, to the left is the monument to Suvorov, and opposite – a tank. Yes, a tank parked on the banks of the river Dniester, a reminder of the bloodshed in 1992, which led to the containment of the Transnistrian Republic within Moldova, east of the Dniester.
As the painted hollow wooden Russian dolls-matryoshki fit into each other their several smaller sisters, in the womb of the Moldova matrioshka shouts, hisses and fights for her rights the even more invisible to the world’s Transnistria matryoshka. It has a hymn (“We praise you, Transnistria …”), a flag and coat with corn grade hammer and sickle. It eveh has its own currency – the Transnistrian rubles, the course it’s slightly different from the Moldovan lei, but currencies remind of the joke that one euro is exchanged for a kilo of dried notes.
How quickly one forgets what he’s been through!
With my ears I heard in the cities of Tiraspol, Bender and Rybnitsa compact hate against Gorbachev, because of betrayal for closing the USSR, curses against Yushchenko for his pro-European orientation and love, praises for “Bolyshoy Medvedy”, calling him the Russian President.
Neither Brussels nor Washington nor Paris inspire confidence in Transnistria.
Besides Moscow, the other Great Powers and the globalized world are alien planets to the people there. Inspite of the Internet and satellite communications, only Moscow shines as a beacon, guiding the Transnistrians with a red star.
“A piece of Soviet shrapnel, that’s what we here are, a living fragment of the USSR, compared Tamara, one of my new friends in Tiraspol (the names of the interlocutors have been changed to save them any trouble with the police). On the streets of Tiraspol the Moskvich and Volga now give way to the Volkswagen, Toyota and Chrysler and an impressive quantity and Chevrolet, from which descend brides and newlyweds to serve up flowers at the monuments to Lenin and Suvorov, and to tanks in the city center. Most of the books that I recieve as presents from Transnistrian artists were published in Moscow between 2006 and 2009 and then by publishing “Soviet writer”.
Russians are the peacekeepers, whose relentless guard barracks watch over moldovians on both sides of the river Dniester. This both inner and claiming international boundaries is guarded with tanks, barbed wire, dogs, police, and even fines if you defaulted with one or two hours time of authorized stay.
Per law the transnistrians are Moldovans of citizenship and passports, but they do not like Moldovans, in their minds is built another home. The drama is that the world does not recognize it, ignoring land over 6000 sq km and a half million people.
Of stubbornness and pride in Tiraspol people pretend to not notice the isolation. They have their own industry, mostly mild, even an electrical station, but they say it’s heated with cheap Russian gas. They have a university, a football team called “Sheriff” and wine, vodka and cognac with good quality are produced in the factory “Quintus” with over one hundred years of history. It supplied the Red Army and now they say that it supplies the Kremlin with spirits. Cognacs, aged 6 years, cost as much as small beer at the airport in Bucharest.
In Chisinau, where I heard someone mock the abbreviation PMR should be read as Moscow Transnistrian Republic, because it has nothing to do with Moldova, there were parliamentary elections on 28 November. They did not apply to Tiraspol! In Transnistria, the elections are on the 12 of December. The Moldovan parliament indirectly elects a president, and he forms the government, while the Transnistrian president votes directly and by this fact we can see how democratic this county is. In fact, since 1992 the only Transnistrian president is Igor Smirnov.
“I don’t want to vote for anyone, we the citizens, do not know anything about our rulers,” says one of my new acquaintances in Tiraspol. I realize that people have expressed dissatisfaction with the opacity in government and public pressure obliged it to declare what it holds. “So we read that our candidate in the election had only Zhigulas, but how to believe him and his team, when they arrived with a Lexus at a meeting with the electorate,” said the man about how his confidence in the elite had cracked.
Since when does Thransnistria baricade itself, while the two “matryoshki” worsen their relationship? The conflict erupted in the early 90’s.
“My own brother came to me with a gun to shoot me in 1992, because I wrote the article” Pentru Moldova Uniqa” – for a unified Moldova” says journalist Catherine. War began in the city of Dubossary. How did the woman survive?
She got in front of the barrel of the kalashnikov and offered: “shot me, but let’s drink a cup one last time, we are one blood after all.” Bottoms up, and not glasses, but bottles, until the soldier lost his desire and ablility to shoot, he dropped his gun …
Around a thousand people died in the fratricidal war.
“It was cruel bloodshed. At day we were drinking with the transnistrians and at night we threw grenades at each other” said 50-year-old Sasha from Chisinau. He fought on the side of Chisinau, although he had alot of family members on the other side of the fence.
“The earth trembled, and I was nursing my just-born son. At night we went down to sleep in the basement, and in the morning we counted the collapsed houses in the neighborhood, it could have been ours. We didn’t leave our homes because marauders were everywhere. Since then, I’m not afraid of anything, the war wiped the feeling of fear away” recalls Natasha from Dubossary.
Military actions were conducted from March to July 1992 before Moldova agreed to split. Tiraspol has historical experience: it was the capital of the Autonomous Republic of Moldova from 1929 to 1940, but because of all the historical and political circumstances, it looks like the work of Orwell or a movie for the GDR and FRG prior to unification of Germany.
Emigration also bleeds the republic to death. The official campaign “Mom, do not walk away” is fighting on all media to heal and to embrace “social orphans”. These are children, abandoned by grandparents, aunts, and sometimes left alone. The media alerts for a lone brother and sister, 6 and 10 years of age. The children did not go to school, the neighbors fed them. They had to amputate an 11-year-old boy’s kidney, it was irreparably damaged. Parents handed their son to his grandparents, they drank quite a lot and nursed the infant with vodka.

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