Why is the pro-Russian region of Transnistria in Moldova worried?

On Wednesday, April 27, shooting was heard near a Russian ammunition depot located in the heart of this region, despite the calm. On the same day, Moldovan President Maya Sandu met at the National Security Council. She denounced “this is an attempt to increase tensions”, saying that “the Moldovan authorities will take care to prevent the republic from being dragged into conflict.”

Moldova has been independent since 1991, when the Soviet Union fell.

Agence France-Presse / Daniel Mihailescu

What is Transnistria?

It is a region located in eastern Moldova, the size of Belgium, between Romania and Ukraine. With a length of 450 kilometers, Transnistria is above all a pro-Russian region, supported by the Kremlin, which declared itself an independent state in 1992. And this province has everything from a state. It has a name, “The Transnistrian Republic of Moldova” and its president, Vadim Krasnoselsky, who must respect the constitution and cooperate with Parliament. The region also has a capital: Tiraspol, home of the football club Sheriff Tiraspol, known on the European scene after beating Real Madrid 2-1 in the 2021 Champions League.

Transnistria covers an area of ​​just over 4,100 square kilometres.

Transnistria covers an area of ​​just over 4,100 square kilometres.

Twitter screenshot.

With its population of 500,000, one third of Romani origin and two thirds of Russian and Ukrainian, the region has its own education system, bank, currency (Transnistrian rubles) and even a flag. However, it is not recognized by the United Nations nor by any other country.

The flag is decorated with a sickle, a hammer and Soviet remnants.

The flag is decorated with a sickle, a hammer and Soviet remnants.

Twitter screenshot.

The area is also known to be a center for arms smuggling. In 2015, investigative media RISE Moldova revealed that between 40 and 60% of Transdniestria’s GDP depends on smuggling, mainly smuggling of weapons and products imported from Ukraine. Depending on the Ukrainian port of Odessa, the region is currently suffering from the Russian invasion which is putting pressure on its trade.

Why did Transnistria declared itself independent from Moldova?

Moldova’s current borders come from the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. But throughout its history, this region has been shared by many powers. The Principality of Moldavia – which had existed since the 14th century, was divided into two parts in 1812, when its eastern part, Bessarabia, was conquered by the Russian Empire, Don Transnistria, and later conquered in the 18th century.

A child standing on a Soviet tank displayed in the center

A child stands on a Soviet tank on display in the center of the “capital” of Tiraspol.

Agence France-Presse / Alexey Filippov

At the end of World War I, Bessarabia joined the Romanian Kingdom, while the remaining part, Transnistria, remained within the Soviet Union. The latter even created, in 1924, the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova, the beginning of this feeling of nationhood. In August 1991, Moldova, grouping within the same borders, the former Bessarabia and Transnistria, gained independence.

What happened in 1992?

But since March 1992, less than a year after the independence of the young Republic of Moldova, a civil war has broken out. Under discussion: the adoption of the Romanian language as an official language in institutions. Above all, the loss of influence of Russian speakers within governmental institutions led, at the time, to anger Transnistria, according to Catherine Durandin, a historian specializing in Romania, with “The World”.


The first “head” of Transnistria, from 1991 to 2011, was Igor Smirnov.

France Press agency

about the same topic

War in Ukraine: Transnistria, the next phase of the conflict?

War in Ukraine: Transnistria, the next phase of the conflict?

The war in Ukraine worries neighboring countries, primarily Moldova. The situation in this former Soviet republic is so precarious that, almost since its independence, it has had to deal with a pro-Russian breakaway region located in its eastern part, Transnistria.

The confrontation caused thousands of deaths. However, a ceasefire was signed in July 1992 and Moldova was cut off from part of its territory, its main industrial basin. Because Transnistria, with only 11% of the region and 17% of Moldova’s total population, actually provides more than a third of the country’s GDP. Its companies account for more than 40% of the economic fabric. During the period of secession, Transnistria was twice as rich as the rest of Moldova.

What is Moldova’s position on the Ukraine war?

In the texts of international law, the state has been neutral since 1994. This means that a nation cannot help a belligerent state, nor join a military alliance like NATO. However, the Moldovan government always showed its support for the neighboring country, Ukraine, at the beginning of the Russian invasion. It received nearly 400,000 refugees on its territory, but it did not adopt the sanctions imposed by the European Union.

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