Prague, 30 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The German newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" (FAZ) yesterday described Transdnistria as a "poverty-stricken operetta state" on Moldovian territory.
The paper said that the odd state emerged in 1990. It calls itself the "Transdnistrian Moldavian Republic." It has its own emblems and troops, a "constitution," a "president," a "government" and a "parliament" which goes by the name of the "Supreme Soviet." And it uses the flag of the defunct Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic -- a banner of red, green and red stripes crowned with a yellow hammer and sickle -- as its emblem. With the exception of Serbia and Abkhazia, no other country has recognized Transdnistria.
The paper described the Transdnistrian "capital," Tiraspol, as a "ghostly grey hole, over which crows circle every morning and where the hourly chimes of Radio Moscow dictate the daily rhythm." It said that "the cement that keeps this poverty-stricken operetta-state on Moldovan territory from disintegrating is the ever-present reminder of the Soviet Union." A Council of Europe deputy has called it "the Museum of Communism."
Transdnistria is home to 700,000 inhabitants, mainly of Russian and Ukrainian origin. Its Slavic majority declared independence from Moldova in response to the declaration of sovereignty by Moldova's Romanian-speaking majority and out of fear of possible moves by Moldova to reunite with Romania.
While Moldova's territory west of the Dnestr river was part of Romania between the two world wars, what is today Transdnistria was Soviet territory.
As the Soviet empire was disintegrating, more than 200 people were killed four years ago in fighting between the police forces of Moldova and Transdnistria. Russian troops were sent in to keep order and maintain a ceasefire that still holds.
The Transdnistrian mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), says the number of Russian peacekeeping troops has greatly diminished during recent years (from 2,400 at the start of their mission to just 400). The reduction has allegedly resulted from financial difficulties. But the balance have been incorporated into the 14th Russian Army, which since last year has been renamed "Operative Group" and continues to maintain a force of 6,000 troops in Transdnistria.
There are no Western investors. "In contrast to Moldova's capital, Chisinau, there are few billboards to be seen in Tiraspol: no hint of Pepsi and Playboy capitalism," FAZ said, adding, "instead there are ration cards for subsidized bread."
One pays here with "Transdnistrian coupon rubles" -- 530,000 for one U.S. dollar, the paper reported, down from 257 to the dollar two years ago when the coupons were introduced. The hyper inflation is a tangible sign of the economic collapse of Transdnistria, once the industrial centerpiece of the otherwise mainly agricultural Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. The average monthly wage in Transdnistria is currently the equivalent of about $10.
In January Transdnistria's "President" Smirnov declared an economic emergency and further restricted freedom of assembly. The press was already subject to censorship.
FAZ noted that OSCE-supervised negotiations between Moldovan and Transdnistrian representatives have been continuing for "many months" without significant progress. Moldova's President Mircea Snegur over the summer unexpectedly branded as unsatisfactory an already initialed memorandum setting out the basis for Transdnistria's rights.
"The key to an accord between Chisinau (Moldova's capital) and Tiraspol lies in Russia," FAZ said. And it went on to report that "An agreement is possible after the elections in Moldova: Moscow could comply with Chisinau's wish and force the leadership in Tiraspol either to resign or at least to give in." The paper concluded that "Only then would the Transdnistrian 'Museum of Communism' finally have to close its doors for good."
But the paper also noted words engraved on a brass plaque on the wall of a house in Tiraspol that said "We are the generation which will experience the 100th anniversary of the Great October Revolution in 2017.