Known as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, Transnistria has everything, ever since its establishment in 1992: border control, currency, stamps, vehicle plates, a capital – Tiraspol – a government, a parliament, a constitution, a national anthem, a coat of arms, a flag – with the hammer and sickle, despite not being a socialist state, and a population of half a million.

Tiraspol, Transnistria, July 2018. The hammer, the sickle, the red star, and the writing: Glory to Work.

Yet, the international community considers it to be part of Moldova, and Transnistria is recognized only by three other non-recognized states: Abkhazia, Artsakh, and South Ossetia. All four are on the frontier of the former Soviet Union and form the Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations.

Tiraspol, Transnistria, July 2018. In the streets of the capital.

In short, there were the following historical regions: Bessarabia (to the west of Dniester) which was part of Romania, Transnistria which was part of Ukraine, and in 1940 the USSR created the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova with these two parts and Tiraspol as the capital. As soon as the Soviet Union was dissolved, for fear of seeing its Russian-speaking population become a minority, Transnistria fought its incorporation with Bessarabia into Moldova during an armed conflict that lasted from 1990 to 1992.

No wonder a third of the population is Russian, another third Moldovan, a smaller third Ukranian, and the rest are Bulgarians and Gagauz, Eastern Orthodox Christians of Turkic origin.

Tiraspol, Transnistria, July 2018. Standing tall in front of the Parliament.

As its name says, Transnistria is landlocked between the River Dniester and the Ukraine. It also has the colorful Noul Neamt monastery, and a few statues of Lenin. Religion and politics, part of life.

Chițcani, Transnistria, July 2018. View from the top of the bell tower of the colorful Noul Neamt Orthodox monastery.

The Noul Neamt Orthodox monastery is in the village of Chiţcani, one of the region’s oldest, dating back to 1367. From the tall bell tower we see in the far end the line of trees bordering the Dniester (“the close river”), Europe’s tenth in terms of length, with 1352 km, about 100 km ahead of the Rhine, and almost double the Seine, but much smaller than the Dnieper (“the river on the far side”), also in the Ukraine, to the East, 2290 km long.