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Inside Transdniester, A Post-Soviet Relic In Europe

Just a few years ago, travelers to Transdniester, a Russian-backed breakaway region of Moldova, would encounter a living museum of the Soviet Union, where the hammer-and-sickle remained on city walls alongside red banners and propaganda billboards. In the early 1990s, when Transdniester's declaration of independence from Moldova ignited a brief war, its self-declared leaders showed little will to modernize. Years later, only limited tourism is officially condoned, although currency-exchange offices are ubiquitous, and a growing subsistence economy fuels the shops and market stalls of the capital, Tiraspol. (Photos by Anthony Georgieff)

A T-34 Soviet tank from World War II stands in downtown Tiraspol. During that war, the region came under Romanian and Axis occupation, and was the site of concentration camps where hundreds of thousands were killed.
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A T-34 Soviet tank from World War II stands in downtown Tiraspol. During that war, the region came under Romanian and Axis occupation, and was the site of concentration camps where hundreds of thousands were killed.

The main railway station in Tiraspol is eerily empty, but it is kept clean and well-heated. Most transport links to and from the isolated region have been suspended indefinitely. There is no international airport in Transdniester.
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The main railway station in Tiraspol is eerily empty, but it is kept clean and well-heated. Most transport links to and from the isolated region have been suspended indefinitely. There is no international airport in Transdniester.

A statue of Vladimir Lenin stands in front of a government building.
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A statue of Vladimir Lenin stands in front of a government building.

A sign identifies Lenin Street. The father of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution remains a familiar presence in Tiraspol.
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A sign identifies Lenin Street. The father of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution remains a familiar presence in Tiraspol.

A post office in the capital. Transdniester has its own postal service and issues its own stamps, which are not recognized internationally.
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A post office in the capital. Transdniester has its own postal service and issues its own stamps, which are not recognized internationally.

A billboard pays tribute to military officers.
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A billboard pays tribute to military officers.

A sign in front of Transdniester's Chamber of Commerce and Industry declares, "The republic is our pride."
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A sign in front of Transdniester's Chamber of Commerce and Industry declares, "The republic is our pride."

A vendor sells Chinese-manufactured goods at a street market.
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A vendor sells Chinese-manufactured goods at a street market.

A billboard points to a shop selling local Kvint brandy.
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A billboard points to a shop selling local Kvint brandy.

A vendor at Tiraspol's main market
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A vendor at Tiraspol's main market

At currency-exchange bureaus like this one, visitors can buy and sell Transdniestrian rubles, which are useless outside the region.
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At currency-exchange bureaus like this one, visitors can buy and sell Transdniestrian rubles, which are useless outside the region.

A small statue park honors historical figures associated with the "struggle for national independence." A police booth, labeled "militia," can be seen in the background.
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A small statue park honors historical figures associated with the "struggle for national independence." A police booth, labeled "militia," can be seen in the background.

A shuttered kiosk that sells kvass, the slightly alcoholic beverage made from fermented cereals or bread, in the warmer months.
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A shuttered kiosk that sells kvass, the slightly alcoholic beverage made from fermented cereals or bread, in the warmer months.

Trandniestrian company Sheriff controls everything from supermarkets and gas stations to the local stadium and soccer team. It was set up by former KGB operatives in the 1990s. Many locals believe it is controlled by Igor Smirnov, the leader of Transdniester from 1991 to 2011.
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Trandniestrian company Sheriff controls everything from supermarkets and gas stations to the local stadium and soccer team. It was set up by former KGB operatives in the 1990s. Many locals believe it is controlled by Igor Smirnov, the leader of Transdniester from 1991 to 2011.

The Heroes' Cemetery pays tribute to the victims of three wars: World War II, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Transdniester's battle in 1992 to break away from Moldova.
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The Heroes' Cemetery pays tribute to the victims of three wars: World War II, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Transdniester's battle in 1992 to break away from Moldova.

The flags of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia fly in front of an office in Tiraspol. Those regions, along with Nagorno-Karabakh, are the only territories that recognize the independence of Transdniester.
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The flags of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia fly in front of an office in Tiraspol. Those regions, along with Nagorno-Karabakh, are the only territories that recognize the independence of Transdniester.

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