In a nearly-forgotten corner of the former
Soviet Union, a region of Moldova sandwiched
between the Dniester river and Ukraine is
celebrating 12 years of unrecognised
Despite economic hardship and diplomatic
rejection, the self-proclaimed Dniester
Moldovan Republic - recognised by the world
as the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova -
appears determined to preserve the traditions
of its recent past.
The Trans-Dniester region,
with a population of less
than a million mostly
Russian and Ukrainian
declared independence from
the then-Soviet republic of
Moldova on 2 September
1990 as people became increasingly alarmed at the
prospect of closer ties with Romania.
Fighting broke out in the turmoil following the
collapse of the Soviet Union, with hundreds
dying before the introduction of Russian
peacekeepers in mid-1992.
The civil war against what the authorities in
Trans-Dniester's capital, Tiraspol, refer to as
nationalist Romanian aggression will again be
the main theme of patriotic festivities.
More about Transdniestria-Moldova-Russia relations
While Moldova marks its independence from the
Soviet Union nine years ago, a breakaway
region in the east of the country seems likely
to overshadow the official celebrations with its
The self-proclaimed Transdniestria region, on
the east bank of the Dniester river, has been
outside central control from the very beginning
of Moldova's life as an independent state.
Originally part of Soviet Ukraine, the east bank
was joined with regions of Romania ceded
under the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact to form a new
Moldavian Soviet republic.
Transdniestria declared its own "independence"
from Moldavia on 2 September 1990, when its
Slav population feared that west bank
politicians were planning to join the republic to
Moldova is only
prepared to allow it the
status of autonomy
subordinate to the
central government in
And centrist Moldovan
Lucinschi, who seemed
prepared to accept the
compromise solution of
a federal state with equal rights for both sides,
was rendered a lame duck in July by
constitutional amendments curbing his powers.
Impatient with the progress of talks,
Transdniestria leader Igor Smirnov recently
instituted a presidential system and set up a
foreign ministry, whose main purpose will be to
seek international recognition for the region.
He has also invited top Russian politicians to
the much-vaunted independence day
celebrations in the self-declared capital,
Tiraspol, which include a big military parade.
Mr Smirnov seems to
have been buoyed by
the election of Vladimir
Putin as Russian
seemingly weak foreign
policy had led
politicians to favour
communist and nationalist movements in
Now a younger and apparently more energetic
Russian leadership has given new confidence
to Transdniestria, and the local branch of the
pro-Putin Yedinstvo movement has rapidly
gained in popularity.