The Transnistrian Candidate
Pridnestrovskaya Moldavskaya Respublika (‘PMR’), more commonly referred to as Transnistria, is a sliver of territory squeezed between Ukraine and Moldova. Technically still considered part of Moldova, it declared independence in September 1990 and ousted Moldova after a civil war in 1992.
Like the other breakaway republics of the former Soviet Union — Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia — it has remained a ‘frozen conflict’ zone and in international limbo ever since.
Its ongoing independence relies very much on support from the Russian Federation. The location is strategically important, and the Russian military and ‘peacekeepers’ are present on its territory. By all accounts, this is set to expand.
The first time I visited, in 2006, I found a place of unparalleled corruption, controlled by the aptly-named President Smirnov. Without exception, every uniformed official demanded bribes, especially at the borders.
Since late 2011 Transnistria has had a new President, Yevgeny Sevchuk, who has sought to legitimise Transnistria while also declaring that it may one day become part of Russia. Corruption has been significantly reduced.
Transnistria's future is uncertain and opportunities for locals, often on desperately low wages, are limited. Yet normal lives are being led there, by honest and outward-looking people, who would like to see their young nation succeed, even when the odds seem stacked against it.
Transnistria is a candidate for something, but whether it is annexation, continued independence, or conflict, only time will tell.