The break away "country" of Transnistria (Sept 2005)
Transdniester (it has numerous spellings) is on the border with Ukraine. Russians and Ukrainians combined out-number the Romanian speaking Moldovans. I am told this area has most industry because in the days of the USSR the Russians thought it wise locate it here as any uprising would be less likely to occur in the "Russian" part of Moldova. Following disputes over (in part) language a war broke out (the Transdniesterians, it is claimed, being supported by the Russians).
Although not recognised by any other state, in reality Transdniester is a de facto country, it issues its own currency, protects its borders and has its own democratically elected "Communist" (some say Stalinist) government.
The Soviet Parliament building:
The only sign that there is an ongoing dispute is the Russian Army peace keeping force stationed between the Moldovan and Transdniester "border" posts.
The capital of Transdniester is Tiraspol which has a population of 200,000. It has 2 hotels one of which is partly let out as office space due to the lack of tourists and visitors. Communist symbols such as the "Hammer and Sickle" and Lenin are evident, I had to resort to a few sneaky pictures as you are not allowed to take pictures of government buildings.
The "Communist President's" family is allegedly involved in arms smuggling and the family owned business (Sheriff)is the dominant company of the country which owns petrol stations, clubs, THE football stadium etc etc etc - so perhaps we have Communism with a Capitalist "C". People tell me he is very popular, and the city was clean and pleasant. I don't recall seeing any graffiti.
I believe Sheriff/the President kindly built this new church when another had to be demolished in re-development.
My experience and impressions
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise Brits not to visit this area, I found it pleasant, safe and peaceful. Reading between the lines I think this advice is only because you will be without any UK Gov representation if you have problems.Notice on entrance to Tiraspol Night Club - banned items.
My experience and impressions
Marisha came with me as my guide. We took a mini-bus from Chisanu to Tiraspol. This road between the 2 major cities would be equivalent to a good B road/A road in the UK, and I think the journey took about 2 hours.
There are horror stories about entering or rather exiting T, but I think these are things of the past. However I opted to go just for the day to avoid the need to register (it was difficult enough to register my stay at the Ministry of IT in Moldova). It was a simple procedure to get a day pass (visa) complete with Hammer and Sickle for a couple of dollars, unfortunately you have to hand it in on exit.
Tiraspol, with the one exception below, was clean, with open spaces, and wide but quiet streets and looked a thouroughly pleasant place to live. The city and parks were well kept (far better than a UK city) and they have even dedicated a "pallace" to/for children.
There is also a state youth group with Che Guevara as an icon!
En-route to Tiraspol I saw the odd military vehicle and group of soldiers, but within the capital itself, I only saw two tanks which formed part of the war memorial. I went on a Saturday, all marriages are registered at the one registry office, and it is tradition for the couple to be driven in a large convoy of cars all horns blaring to the war memorial, for pictures and video to be taken. In the space of a few hours I heard 7 of these motorcades.
It was such a pleasant place it went to my head and I extravagantly splashed out a couple of pounds for a 3 course meal for us both. I had red caviar (I think that is the cheaper version), it wasn't alright but nothing to write home about (whoops thats precisely what I'm doing).
My only negative (but amusing) experience was one ordinary (well brat)eleven year old kid walking along annoyingly rubbing his finger and thumb in front of my face wanting money purely because I was foreign. Marisha told him to bugger off without any success. I strode on uttering many "Niets" and he eventually gave up, as I walked on I felt an (empty) plastic bottle hit my back which he had thrown at me in frustration. And that is the only problem I had visiting the area. Travelling through it by train was another matter and cost me "BEEG Money".