Transnistria - A Little Pocket of Communism
Transnistria is a little known break-away state from Moldova and is a sliver of land that runs along Moldova's eastern border with Ukraine. Technically it belongs to Moldova and internationally its sovereignty is unrecognized. However, for all practical purposes it operates independently and would prefer to be its own sovereign nation. From what I've gathered "independently" should be put in quotations since Russia helps bank role their military enabling them fend off Moldova. I can only guess at Russia's intentions since at present they gain little from the arrangement however it's assumed this is part of their effort to maintain influence in the region. I'm sure my grasp of the politics there is extremely superficial but if you read up on it before you go it'll add to the experience and help make sense of the place.
Politics aside, Transnistria is a wonderful little time-capsule of communism and is a must stop if you have any interest in visiting the now defunct communist world. Here again we should put "communism" in quotes because the day to day life there isn't much different that the rest of eastern Europe. There are no work collectives or gulags but there are plenty of hammer and sickles decorating the capital and a few Lenin statues to visit. In fact Tranistria is the is the last "country" in Europe to feature a hammer and sickle in their flag.
I spent most of my time in the capital of Tiraspol. I arrived in Tiraspol by train from Odessa, Ukraine in the dark at about 9pm. The train goes through to Chisinau but I jumped off at Tirspol with only a couple of other passengers. There at the Tiraspol train station, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a very friendly and helpful immigration official. Prior to arriving, I wasn't sure what to expect. Places like this have a reputation of shaking you down a little when you enter and I'd read about such stories online from other travelers. However, from my experience, the immigration official couldn't have been friendlier. He was happy to chat me up and answer the couple of questions I had. After he helped me fill out my immigration form and checked my passport I was on my way to find my hostel.
Tiraspol is a modest and somewhat charming little city. The streets aren't too busy, they're clean and life there seems modest and relaxed. There's no escaping the communist symbolism there. The main street that runs through the city is call "25th of October St" (25th of October 1917 marks the date the Bolsheviks launch their coup to start the Communist Revolution). On the 25th of October St you can find a cross street name "Lenin St" and there you'll find this prominent street sign proudly marking the importance of such a spot.
Walking up and down 25th of October St you'll get to see most of the sights there are to see in Tiraspol. Below is an image of one of the most modest parliament buildings I've ever seen. It, of course, proudly features a Lenin statue out front.
The 25th of October St expands into a wide multi-lane through fare in front of the parliament building. This is a nice little communist feature that enables elaborate military parades and various other spectacles with the aim of impressing the populace of the superiority of their government system.
Another Lenin statue is not too far away sitting in front of the House of Soviets building.
Another must see, a stone's throw from the parliament building, is the Tank Monument. Here an old T-34 Soviet tank sits facing the west to symbolically fight off the evil Western Capitalist Powers.
Also a stone's throw from the parliament building is a statue to Alexander Suvorov. He's their main national hero and is even on the money. He was an important Russian general in the 18th century and helped Russia expand it's empire at the time. Whatever his connection is to Transnistria I have no idea. From what little research I did, it just seems like they pulled his name out of hat and decided that he would be the face of the nation.
As I said earlier, Tiraspol is a small city and you can see most of what you need to in a weekend. However, also like I said earlier, it's a bit relaxed there so it wouldn't be a terrible place to go and chill out for a while. It seemed quite safe and the booze was cheap.
A short and very cheap bus ride (12km to the west of Tiraspol) will get you to another worthwhile site, the Bender Fortress. The Bender Fortress is an Ottoman Empire relic from the 16th century and is well maintained. Foot traffic is minimal and you'll likely have the place to yourself.
Lastly, I just wanted to throw in some more photos of the communist symbols. These relics are really what make Transistria novel and worth the visit.