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Map of Transnistria.
Administrative divisions of Transnistria.
Transnistria, also known as Trans-Dniester or Transdniestria (see section "Names" for more) is a disputed region in Eastern Europe, located mostly in a strip between the Dniester River and Ukrainemarker. Since its declaration of independence in 1990, and especially after the War of Transnistria in 1992, it is governed by the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), which claims the left bank of the river Dniestermarker and the city of Bendermarker within the former Moldavian SSR. The modern Republic of Moldovamarker does not recognize the secession and considers territories controlled by the PMR to be a part of Moldova's sovereign territory.

After the dissolution of the USSR, tensions between the Moldovan government and the breakaway PMR escalated into a military conflict that started in March 1992 and was concluded by a ceasefire in July 1992. As part of that agreement, a three-party (Russiamarker, Moldova, Transnistria) Joint Control Commission supervises the security arrangements in the demilitarized zone, comprising 20 localities on both sides of the river. Although the ceasefire has held, the territory's political status remains unresolved: De jure part of Moldova, Transnistria is a de facto independent state. It is organised as a presidential republic, with its own government, parliament, military, police, postal system, and currency. Its authorities have adopted a constitution, flag, national anthem, and a coat of arms.

Transnistria is sometimes compared with other post-Soviet frozen conflict zones such as Nagorno-Karabakhmarker, Abkhaziamarker, and South Ossetiamarker. The latter two have recognised Transnistria as an independent state and plan to establish "diplomatic relations" in return for Transnistria's recognition of them (see Community for Democracy and Human Rights). No UN member recognizes Transnistria.

Names

It is known in English as Transnistria (which is also the name of the region in Romanian), Trans-Dniester or Transdniestria. Etymologically, these names come down to similar spelling variants of Transnistria, meaning "beyond the river Dniestermarker".

The official name of the region according to the local unrecognised authorities is: Pridnestróvskaia Moldávskaia Respública ( ; abbreviated PMR), Moldovan Cyrillic alphabet: Република Молдовеняскэ Нистрянэ ( ), . They also use ). The short form of this name is Pridnestrovie (transliteration of the Russian "Приднестровье"). Pridnestrovie means "by the river Dniestermarker".

Some documents of the government of Moldovamarker refer to the region as Stînga Nistrului (Unităţile Administrativ-Teritoriale din Stînga Nistrului), which means "Left Bank of the Dniester" ("Administrative-territorial unit(s) of the Left Bank of the Dniester").
Dniester river.


Geography

See also: Disputed status of Transnistria: Border issues
Transnistria is landlocked and borders Bessarabiamarker (i.e. the rest of Moldova, for 411 km) to the West, and Ukrainemarker (for 405 km) to the East. It is a narrow valley stretching in the North-South direction along the bank of the Dniester Rivermarker, which forms a natural boundary along most of the border with (the rest of) Moldova. Tiraspol, the capital and largest city of Transnistria, has about 160,000 inhabitants.

The territory controlled by the PMR is mostly, but not completely, coincident with the left (eastern) bank of Dniestermarker). It includes ten cities and towns, and 69 communes, with a totality of 147 localities (counting the unincorporated ones as well). Six communes on the left bank (Cocierimarker, Molovata Nouămarker, Corjovamarker, Pîrîtamarker, Coşniţamarker, and Doroţcaiamarker) remained under the control of the Moldovan government after the War of Transnistria in 1992, as part of the Dubăsari district. They are situated north and south of the city of Dubăsarimarker, which itself is under PMR control. The village of Roghi of Molovata Nouă Commune is also controlled by Tiraspol (Moldova controls the other nine of the ten villages of the six communes).

On the west bank, the city of Bendermarker and four communes (containing a total of six villages) to its east, south-east, and south, on the opposite bank of the river Dniestermarker from the city of Tiraspolmarker (Proteagailovcamarker, Gîscamarker, Chiţcanimarker, and Cremenciug) are controlled by Transnistrian authorities.

The localities controlled by the Moldovan authorities on the eastern bank, the village of Roghimarker, and the city of Dubăsari (situated on the eastern bank and controlled by Tiraspol), the six villages and one city controlled by the Transnistrian authorities on the western bank, as well as two (Varniţa and Copancamarker) on the same west bank under Chişinău control, form a security zone. The security situation inside it is subject to the Joint Control Commission rulings.

The main transportation route in Transnistria is the road Tiraspol-Dubăsari-Rîbniţa. North and south of Dubăsari it passes through the lands of the villages controlled by the central government (Doroţcaiamarker, Cocierimarker, Roghimarker, while Vasilievcamarker is entirely situated east of the road). Conflict erupted on several occasions when the Tiraspol authorities prevented the villagers from reaching their farmland east of the road.

Transnistrians are able to travel (normally without difficulty) in and out of the territory under PMR control to neighbouring Moldovan-controlled territory, to Ukraine, and on to Russia, by road or (when service is not interrupted by political tensions) on two international trains, the year-round Moscow-Chişinău, and the seasonal Saratov-Varna. International air travellers rely on the airport in Chişinăumarker, the Moldovan capital, or the airport in Odessamarker, in Ukraine.

Administrative subdivisions

Transnistria is subdivided into five raions (Russian names are listed in parentheses):

and one municipality:

Also, Bendermarker (Tighina; Бендéры), situated on the western bank of the Dniester (in Bessarabiamarker), geographically outside Transnistria, is not part of territorial unit Transnistria of Moldova as defined by the central authorities, but is controlled by the PMR authorities, which consider it part of PMR's administrative organization.

Political status

Transnistria is internationally recognised as being a legal part of the Republic of Moldovamarker, although de facto control is exercised by its internationally unrecognised government which declared independence from Moldova in 1990 with Tiraspol as its declared capital.

Prior to unification of the territory with Moldova in 1940, Tiraspol was the capital of the Moldavian ASSR, an autonomous republic within Ukrainian SSR, which existed from 1924 to 1940.

Although exercising no direct control over the territory, the Moldovan government passed the "Law on Basic Provisions of the Special Legal Status of Localities from the Left Bank of the Dniester" on July 22, 2005, which established Transnistria as a separate territorial unit within the Republic of Moldova, which could eventually be granted vast autonomy. The law was passed without any prior consultation with the de facto government in Transnistria, which considered it a provocation, and has since ignored it.

Between 300,000 and 400,000 Transnistrians (the majority of the population) acquired Moldovan passports by 2008. No country recognizes passports issued by the Transnistrian government. Russia opened a consulate in Tiraspol (against the will of Moldova) and issued about 80,000 passports to Transnistrians by the end of 2006.

There are unsettled border issues between Transnistria and Moldova. Nine villages from the Dubăsari district, including Cocierimarker and Doroţcaiamarker which geographically belong to Transnistria, have been under the control of the central government of Moldovamarker after the involvement of local inhabitants on the side of Moldovan forces during the War of Transnistria. These villages along with Varniţa and Copancamarker, near Benderymarker and Tiraspol, are claimed by the PMR. One city and six villages on the west bank are controlled by the Transnistrian authorities, but are considered by Moldova as a separate municipality (Bender and two villages), or part of the Căuşeni districtmarker (four villages).

Tense situations have periodically surfaced due to these territorial disputes, for example in 2005, when Transnistrian forces entered Vasilievca, in 2006 around Varniţa, and in 2007 in Dubăsari-Cocieri area, when a confrontation between Moldovan and Transnistrian forces occurred, however without any casualties.

According to Moldovan sources, in 13 May 2007 the mayor of the village Corjovamarker, which is under Moldovan government control, was arrested by Transnistrian police, together with a councillor of Moldovan-controlled part of Dubăsari district.

Politics



PRM has a multi-party system and a unicameral parliament named the Supreme Council. Its legislature has 43 members elected by Single-member district plurality. The president is elected to a five year term by popular vote.

Igor Smirnov has been the President of Transnistria since the declaration of independence in 1990, and he is currently serving his fourth mandate after being reelected in December 2006. In the parliamentary election in December 2005, the Renewal movement defeated the Republic movement and won an overall majority, its leader Yevgeni Shevchuk becoming speaker of parliament.

According to PMR data, only 15 of the 43 members of its parliament were born in the PMR territory (including 12 in Transnistria proper, and 3 in the Bessarabianmarker area in and around the city of Bendermarker, which is controlled by PMR), while 4 others in the rest of Moldova, with the remainder mainly born in Russiamarker or Ukrainemarker. Igor Smirnov, the leader of PMR, arrived in the region in 1987. Most of the MPs who were born elsewhere had moved to the region ten years or more before the conflict erupted. Despite the fact that Moldovans are around a third of Transnistrian population, no ethnic Moldovans are members in the Transnistrian council of ministers.

There is disagreement as to whether elections in Transnistria are free and fair. The political regime has been described as one of 'super-presidentialism'. In the latest presidential election, the registration of opposition candidate Andrey Safonov was delayed until a few days before the vote, so that he had little time to conduct an election campaign. Some sources consider election results suspicious. In 2001, in one region it was reported that Igor Smirnov collected 103.6% of the votes. Other organizations, such as CIS-EMO, have observed the elections and have called them democratic.

The Narodovlastie party and Power to the People movement faced numerous problems in 2001 and 2002 and were eventually dissolved.

A list published by the European Union bans travel to the EU for some members of the Transnistrian leadership.

In 2007, the registration of a Social Democratic Party was allowed. This party, led by former separatist leader and member of the PMR government Andrey Safonov, is allegedly in favor of a union with Moldova.

In September 2007, the leader of the Transnistrian Communist party, Oleg Horjan, was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 1½ years imprisonment for organizing unsanctioned actions of protest.

According to the Transnistrian referendum, 2006, carried out by the PMR government, the population voted overwhelmingly in favor of "independence from Moldova and free association with Russia."

International relations

A Transnistrian passport
Transnistria is not internationally recognized (with the notable exception of the breakaway South Ossetiamarker and Abkhaziamarker). Transnistria's "minister of foreign affairs" is Vladimir Yastrebchak. He is the replacement of longtime "foreign minister" Valeriy Anatolievich Litskai, who was fired on July 1, 2008, for not showing any progress in advancing Transnistria's currently still unrecognized status.

Transnistria border customs dispute

On March 3, 2006, Ukrainemarker introduced new customs regulations on its border with Transnistria. Ukraine declared that it would import only goods from Transnistria with documents processed by Moldovan customs offices as part of the implementation of the joint customs protocol agreed between Ukraine and Moldova on December 30, 2005. Transnistria and Russia termed the act an "economic blockade."

The United States, the European Union and OSCE approved the Ukrainian move, while Russia saw it as a means of political pressure. On March 4, Transnistria responded by blocking the Moldovan and Ukrainian transport at the borders of Transnistria. The Transnistrian block was lifted after two weeks. However, the Moldovan/Ukrainian block remains in place, and holds up progress in status settlement negotiations between the sides. In the months following the regulations, exports from Transnistria declined drastically. Transnistria declared a "humanitarian catastrophe" in the region, while Moldova called the declaration "deliberate misinformation." Cargoes of humanitarian aid were sent from Russia in response.

Russian military presence in Transnistria

A 1,200-strong Russian military contingent is present in Transnistria. The status of this contingent is disputed. The 1992 cease-fire agreement between Moldova and Transnistria established a Russian peace-keeper presence in Transnistria. Russian troops stationed in Moldova proper since the time of the USSR were fully withdrawn to Russia by January 1993.

On October 21, 1994, Russia and Moldova signed an agreement that committed Russia to the withdrawal of the troops in three years from the date of entry into force of the agreement, this however did not come into effect because the Russian Duma did not ratify it. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) included a paragraph about the removal of Russian troops from Moldova's territory and was introduced into the text of the OSCE Summit Declaration of Istanbulmarker (1999), in which Russia had committed itself to pulling out its troops from Transnistria by the end of 2002. However, even after 2002, the Russian parliament did not ratify the Istanbul accords. On July 19, 2004, after it finally passed through parliament President Vladimir Putin signed the Law on the ratification of the CFE Treaty in Europe, which committed Russia to remove the heavy armaments limited by this Treaty. During 2000-2001, although the CFE Treaty was not fully ratified, in order to comply with it, Moscow withdrew 125 pieces of Treaty Limited Equipment (TLE) and 60 railway wagons containing ammunition from the Transnistrian region of Moldova. In 2002, Russia withdrew 3 military equipment trains (118 railway wagons) and 2 of ammunition (43 wagons) from the Transnistrian region of Moldova, and in 2003, 11 rail convoys transporting military equipment and 31 transporting ammunitions. According to the OSCE Mission to Moldova, of a total of 42,000 tons of ammunitions stored in Transnistria, 1,153 tons (3%) was transported back to Russia in 2001, 2,405 tons (6%) in 2002 and 16,573 tons (39%) in 2003.

Andrei Stratan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Moldova stated in his speech during the 12th OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Sofiamarker on December 6-December 7, 2004 that "The presence of Russian troops on the territory of the Republic of Moldova is against the political will of Moldovan constitutional authorities and defies the unanimously recognized international norms and principles, being qualified by Moldovan authorities as a foreign military occupation illegally deployed on the territory of the state". As of 2007 however, Russia insists that it has already fulfilled those obligations. It states the remaining troops are serving as peace-keepers authorized under the 1992 ceasefire, are not in violation of the Istanbul accords and will remain until the conflict is fully resolved.

In a NATOmarker-resolution from 18 November 2008, Russia was urged to withdraw its military presence from the Transdnestrian region of Moldova.

History

Antiquity and Middle Ages

The area where Transnistria is now located has been inhabited by Indo-European tribes for millennia, being a borderland between Dacia and Scythia. The Ancient Greek Miletiansmarker founded about 600 BC a colony named Tyras, situated on the right bank, in the mouth of the Dniestermarker river (Tyras), on the site of the present day city Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyimarker in Ukraine. The city later fell to the Romans.Early Germanic and Mongolic tribes were present in the area during their invasions of the Roman Empire.

South Slavs were present in Transnistria from the second half of the 6th century. In the early Middle Ages, Slavic tribes of Tivertsi and Ulichs populated larger areas, including Transnistria, followed by Turkic nomads such as the Petchenegs and Cumans. Possibly an early part of Kievan Rus', after the Mongol invasion of Europe in 1241, the territory was briefly under Mongol control (yet probably without any permanent settlements), and later under the Crimean Khanate.

Early modern period

From the 15th century, northern Transnistria (current districts of Camenca and Rîbniţamarker) belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and later to the Kingdom of Poland (1569-1793), which encouraged the migration of peasants into the territory from the neighboring populated areas (from north and from west). Prince of Moldavia Gheorghe Duca (1665-66, 1668-72, 1678-84) built a court at Ţicanova on the east bank of the Dniestermarker, and one at Nimirov on the Southern Bugmarker, last mentioned in Moldavian hands in 1765. The localities Dubăsarimarker, Raşcov, Vasilcăumarker, as well as four other currently in Ukraine are mentioned in 17th-18th centuries as fairs for the Dniester-Bug region. In 1769 a document dated at Benderymarker mentions the then title of the Mitropolitan of Moldavia as Mitropolitan of Proilaviamarker, of Tamarova, of Hotinmarker, and of all the borders of the Danube, of the Dniester, and the Han's Ukraine, the latter being a common reference to the then sparsely populated Dniestermarker-Southern Bugmarker-Dniepr area.

Prior to becoming part of the Russian Empiremarker in 1792 (southern part) and 1793 (northern part), the largest groups living between the Dniester and the Bug rivers were Moldavian (Romanian), Ruthenian (Ukrainian), and Tatar peasants. The Russian census of 1793 of the Ochakov region (southern part of the Dniester-Bug area) mentions a totality of 67 villages, of which 49 are mentioned as Moldavian and 18 as Tatar. The first candidate for the governor of the new Russian region was the Moldavian boyar Alexandru I. Mavrocordat. The northern part of Transnistria had Ruthenian (Ukrainian) and Moldavian villages.

Russian Empire

In 1792, the region became part of the Russian Empire as a result of the sixth Russo-Turkish War. In that year, the general Alexander Suvorov founded modern Tiraspol as a Russian border fortress. Until the Russian Revolution of 1917, the current Transnistria was divided between the imperial guberniyas of Podolia, Khersonmarker, and Bessarabiamarker. Most of the territory which now is Transnistria was part of the larger New Russia region, hence it witnessed a strong colonization process, with a multitude of ethnicities being settled: lands were given to enserfed peasantry from Russia and Ukraine (see also Nova Serbia), and Jews and Germans were brought to facilitate economic development.

Moldavian ASSR (in orange) and Romania, 1924-1940


Soviet Union

Transnistria became an autonomous political entity in 1924 with the proclamation of the Moldavian ASSR, which included today's Transnistria (4,000 km2) as well as an adjacent area (9,000 km2) around the city of Baltamarker in modern-day Ukrainemarker, but nothing from Bessarabia, which at the time was part of Romania. One of the reasons for the creation of the Moldavian ASSR was the desire of the Soviet Unionmarker at the time to eventually incorporate Bessarabiamarker. The Moldavian SSR, which was organised by a decision of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 2 August 1940, was formed from a part of Bessarabia (taken from Romania on 28 June, following the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact), and a part of the Moldavian ASSR which is roughly equivalent to present-day Transnistria.

In 1941, after Axis forces invaded the Soviet Union in the course of the Second World War, they defeated the Soviet troops in the region and occupied it. By March 1943, a total of 185,000 Ukrainian and Romanian Jews had been deported and the majority died or were murderedmarker in ghettos and concentration camps situated in an area immediately north and east of the current Transnistria, which as the latter was under Romanian and partially German occupation.

Secession to the present

In the 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of perestroika and glasnost in the Soviet Unionmarker allowed political liberalization at a regional level. This led to the creation of various informal movements in the Moldavian SSR, and the resurgence of pro-Romanian nationalism among ethnic Moldovans. The most prominent of these movements was the Popular Front of Moldova. Since the spring of 1988, PFM demanded from the Soviet authorities to declare Moldovan the only state language, to return to the use of the Latin alphabet and to recognize the shared ethnic identity of Moldovans and Romanians. The more radical factions of the Popular Front used extremely anti-minority, ethnocentric and chauvinist rhetoric. Some have called for minority populations, particularly the Slavs (mainly Russians and Ukrainians) and Gagauz, to leave or be expelled from Moldova.

On August 31, 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR adopted Moldovan as the only official language, with Russian retained only for secondary purposes, returned Moldovan to the Latin alphabet, and declared a shared Moldova-Romanian linguistic identity. As plans for major cultural changes in Moldova were made public, tensions rose further. Ethnic minorities felt threatened by the prospects of removing Russian as the de facto official language, the possible future reunification of Moldova and Romania and the ethnocentric rhetoric of the Popular Front. The Yedinstvo (Unity) Movement, established by the Slavic population of Moldova, pressed for the equal status given to both Russian and Moldovan.
Soviet symbols are still used in Transnistria
The nationalist Popular Front won the first free parliamentary elections in the Moldavian SSR in the spring of 1990, and its agenda started slowly to be implemented. On September 2, 1990, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed as a Soviet republic by an ad hoc assembly, the Second Congress of the Peoples' Representatives of Transnistria. The situation in the country began to escalate into violence, when in October 1990 the Popular Front called for volunteers to form armed militias in order to stop a Gagauz autonomy referendum by coercion. In response, volunteer militias were formed in Transnistria. In April 1990, nationalist mobs attacked ethnic Russian members of parliament, while the Moldovan police refused to intervene or restore order.

Citing the restriction of civil rights of ethnic minorities by Moldova as the cause of the dispute, in the interest of preserving a unified Moldavian SSR within the USSR and preventing the situation escalating further into violence the then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declared the Transnistria proclamation to be lacking legal basis and annulled it by presidential decree on December 22, 1990. Nevertheless, there was no significant actions taken against Transnistria and the new authorities were slowly able to establish control of the region.

The War of Transnistria followed armed clashes on a limited scale which broke out between Transnistrian separatists and Moldova as early as November 1990 at Dubăsarimarker. Volunteers, including Cossacks, came from Russia and Ukraine to help the separatist side. In mid-April 1992, in accordance with the agreements concerning the split of the military equipment of the former Soviet Union, negotiated between the former 15 republics in the previous months, Moldova created its own Defense Ministry. According to the decree of its creation, most of the 14th Soviet Army's military equipment was to be retained by Moldova. Starting from March 2, 1992, there was concerted military action between Moldova and Transnistria. Throughout early 1992 the fighting intensified. The former Soviet 14th Guards Army entered the conflict in its final stage, opening fire against Moldovan forces; since then, Moldova has exercised no effective control or influence on Transnistrian authorities. A ceasefire agreement was signed on July 21, 1992 and has held to the present day.

The OSCE is trying to facilitate a negotiated settlement. Under OSCE auspices, on May 8, 1997, the Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and the Transnistrian president Igor Smirnov, signed the "Memorandum on the principles of normalizations of the relations between the Republic of Moldova and Transnistria", also known as the "Primakov Memorandum", sustaining the establishment of legal and state relations, although the memorandum's provisions had diverging legal and political interpretations in Chişinăumarker and Tiraspolmarker.

In November 2003, Dmitry Kozak, a counselor of the Russian president Vladimir Putin, proposed a memorandum on the creation of an asymmetric federal Moldovan state, with Moldova holding a majority and Transnistria being a minority part of the federation. Known as "the Kozak memorandum", it did not coincide with the Transnistrian position, which sought equal status between Transnistria and Moldova, but was giving Transnistria veto powers over future constitutional changes, which hence agreed to sign it. Vladimir Voronin was initially supportive of the plan, but refused to sign it after internal opposition and international pressure from the OSCE and US, and after Russia had endorsed the Transnistrian demand to maintain a Russian military presence for the next 20 years as a guarantee for the intended federation. The refusal by the Moldovan side resulted in the sudden and long-term cooling of relations between Moldova and Russiamarker and halted further progress in the settlement negotiations.

Demographics

In 2004, Transnistrian authorities organized a separate census from the 2004 Moldovan Census.

In total, in the areas controlled by the breakaway authorities of Tiraspol, there are 555,347 people, including 177,635 Moldovans (Romanians) (31.99%), 168,678 Russians (30.37%), 160,069 Ukrainians (28.82%), 13,858 Bulgarians (2.50%), 4,096 Gagauzians (0.74%), 507 Gypsies (0.09%), 1,259 Jews (0.23%), 1,791 Poles (0.32%), and 27,454 others (4.94%).

Of these, 439,243 people live in Transnistria itself, and 116,104 people live in localities controlled by the authorities from Tiraspol, but formally belonging to other districts of Moldova (the city of Tighina/Bender, the communes of Proteagailovcamarker, Gîscamarker, Chiţcanimarker, Cremenciug, and village of Roghi of commune Molovata Nouămarker).

Moldovans (Romanians) represent a majority in the two sub-districts in the central Transnistria (Dubăsari sub-districtmarker, 50.15%, and Grigoriopol sub-district, 64.83%), a 47.82% plurality in the northern Camenca sub-district, and a 41.52% plurality in the southern (Slobozia sub-district). In Râbniţa sub-district they are a 29.90% minority, and in the city of Tiraspolmarker, they constitute a 15.24% minority of the population.

Ethnic Russians represent a 41.64% plurality in the city of Tiraspolmarker, a 24.07% minority in Slobozia, a 19.03% minority in Dubăsari, a 17.22% minority in Râbniţa, a 15.28% minority in Grigoriopol, and a 6.89% minority in Camenca.

Ethnic Ukrainians represent a 45.41% plurality in the northern Râbniţa sub-district, a 42.55% minority in Camenca, a 32.97% minority in Tiraspol, a 28.29% minority in Dubăsari, a 23.42% minority in Slobozia, and a 17.36% minority in Grigoriopol.

In Bender (Tighina) and the other non-Transnistria localities under Tiraspol control, ethnic Russians represent a 43.43% plurality, followed by Moldovans (Romanians) at 26.15%, Ukrainians at 17.08%, Bulgarians at 2.89%, Gagauzians at 1.03%, Jews as 0.34%, Poles at 0.17%, Gypsies at 0.13%, and others at 7.78%. Specifically, Russians represent a 44.17% plurality in the city of Tighinamarker, and ca. 50% in the rural areas around the city. Moldovans (Romanians) represent the vast majority in the village of Roghimarker, and ca. 30% in the four communes around Tighina/Bender. Ukrainians are a 20% or smaller minority in each of these localities.

At the census of 1989, the population was 679,000 (including all the localities in the security zone, even those under Moldovan control). The ethnic composition of the region has not been stable in recent history, with the most notable change being the decrease of the Moldovan and Jewish ethnic populations and increase of the Russian .

Religion

Most religious Transnistrians are Orthodox Christians and the government has supported restoration and new construction of orthodox churches.

Transnistria's government affirms that the republic has freedom of religion and 114 religious beliefs and congregations are officially registered.

However, as of 2005, registration hurdles were encountered by some religious groups, notably the Jehovah's Witnesses. In 2007, the US-based Christian Broadcasting Network denounced the persecution of Protestants.

Economy

Transnistria has a mixed economy. Following a large scale privatization process in the late 90s, most of the companies in Transnistria are now privately owned. The economy is based on a mix of heavy industry (steel production), electricity production and manufacturing (textile production), which together account for about 80% of the total industrial output.

Transnistria has its own central bank, which issues Transnistrian currency, the Transnistrian ruble. It is convertible at a freely floating exchange rate but only in Transnistria.

Economic history

After World War II, Transnistria was heavily industrialised, to the point that in 1990, it was responsible for 40% of Moldova's GDP and 90% of its electricity despite the fact that it accounted for only 17% of Moldova's population. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Transnistria wanted to return to a "Brezhnev-style planned economy". However, several years later, it decided to head toward a market economy.

Transnistria's Central Bank


Macroeconomics

According to the government of Transnistria, the 2007 GDP was 6789 mln Transnistrian roubles (appx US$799 million) and the GDP per capita was about US$1,500. The GDP increased by 11.1% and inflation rate was 19.3%. Transnistria's government budget for 2007 was US$246 million, with an estimated deficit of approximately US$100 million which the government plans to cover with income from privatizations. Budget for 2008 is US$331 million, with an estimated deficit of approximately US$80 million.

In 2004, Transnistria had debts of US$1.2 billion (two thirds of which are with Russia), which was per capita approximately 6 times higher than in Moldova (without Transnistria). In March 2007 the debt to Gazprom for the acquisition of natural gas has increased to US$1.3 billion. On 22 March 2007 Gazprom sold Transnistria's gas debt to the Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov, who controls Moldova Steel Works, the largest enterprise in Transnistria. Transnistria's president Igor Smirnov has announced that Transnistria will not be paying off its gas debt because "Transdnistria has no legal debt ". In November 2007, the total debt of Transnistria's public sector was up to US$1.64 billion.

According to Yevgeni Shevchuk, speaker of Transnistrian Supreme Soviet, Transnistria is in a difficult economic situation. Despite a 30% tax increase in 2007, the pension fund is still lacking money and emergency measures must be taken. However, Shevchuk mentions that the situation is not hopeless and it cannot be considered a crisis, as a crisis means three-month delays in payment of pensions and salaries.

External trade

In 2006, the Transnistrian Republican Bank reported exports of US$422.0 million and imports of US$738.4 million. Compared to 2005, export decreased 27.2% and import decreased 13.7%. The trade deficit reached US$316.3 million. Over 50% of the export goes to the CIS, mainly to Russia, but also to Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova (whom Transnistrian authorities consider foreign). Main non-CIS markets for the Transnistrian goods are Italy, Egypt, Greece, Romania, and Germany. The CIS accounts for over 60% of the imports, while the share of the EU is about 23%. The main imports are non-precious metals, food products and electricity.

Economic sectors

The leading industry is steel, due to the Moldova Steel Works (part of the Russian Metalloinvest holding) in Rîbniţamarker, which accounts for about 60% of the budget revenue of Transnistria. The largest company in the textile industry is Tirotex, which claims to be the second largest textile company in Europe. The energy sector is dominated by Russian companies. The largest power company Moldavskaya GRES , which is located in Dnestrovscmarker, is owned by Inter RAO UES, and the gas transmission and distribution company Tiraspoltransgas is probably controlled by Gazprom, although Gazprom has not confirmed the ownership officially. The banking sector of Transnistria consists of 8 commercial banks, including Gazprombank. The oldest alcohol producer Kvint, located in Tiraspol, produces and exports brandy, wines and vodka.

Human rights

The human rights record of Transnistria has been criticised by several governments and international organizations. The 2007 Freedom in the World report, published by the US-based Freedom House, described Transnistria as a "non-free" territory, having an equally bad situation in both political rights and civil liberties.

According to the U.S.marker Department of Statemarker report referring to year 2006, The right of citizens to change their government was restricted[...] Authorities reportedly continued to use torture and arbitrary arrest and detention.[...]In Transnistria authorities limited freedom of speech and of the press.[...]Authorities usually did not permit free assembly.[...] In the separatist region of Transnistria the authorities continued to deny registration and harassed a number of minority religions groups.[...]The separatist region remained a significant source and transit area for trafficking in persons.[...] Homosexuality was illegal, and gays and lesbians were subject to governmental and societal discrimination.

Incidents

In the best known political trial, Ilie Ilaşcu was convicted in 1993 of killing two Transnistrian officials, and initially sentenced to death by Transnistria's Supreme Court, however this was repealed to a life prison sentence. Three other members of his group were sentenced to terms of 12 to 15 years' imprisonment, and confiscation of their property. Ilaşcu was released in 2001, following the intervention of the European Court of Human Rightsmarker against Moldova and Russia, while the other three were released in 2004 and 2007, having served the full term of their sentences. The ECHR stated that authorities had violated the right of freedom and safety of all 4 members of the group, and that the treatment Ilie Ilaşcu suffered qualifies as torture. As part of the ruling the court also stated that they believed that Transnistria was "under the effective authority or at least decisive influence of Russia". The court also ordered Moldova and Russia—which backs Transnistria—to pay the four a total of €750,000 (US$1,000,000) in compensation for the deprivation of their freedom and for torture and inhumane treatment while in custody. The members of Ilaşcu group were forced into exile after their release from prison.

In March 2007 several opponents of Transnistria's Government were arrested after they made public appeals during a protest rally against the Tiraspol regime's policy. On 19 March 2007 Transnistrian authorities also arrested Ştefan Urîtu, the leader of Moldovan Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, and two other local political activists. They were later released.

According to the Moldovan InfoTag news agency, Transnistrian authorities blockaded the polling station at Corjovamarker village, not allowing residents to participate in the Moldovan elections of June 3, 2007. At the same occasion, Iurie Cotofana, a local antiseparatist councilor was arrested and beaten. Valentin Besleag, a candidate for mayoral office in Corjova was arrested in 2 June for carrying electoral material from Moldova.

Situation of the media

There is a regular mix of modern news media in Transnistria with a number television stations, newspapers, and radio stations.

According to the OSCE, the media climate in Transnistria is restrictive and the authorities continue a long-standing campaign to silence independent opposition voices and groups.

According to a U.S. Department of State report for 2006, "Both of region's major newspapers were controlled by the authorities. However, , no evidence has been produced to support these claims. There was one independent weekly newspaper in Benderymarker and another in the northern city of Rîbniţa.[...]Separatist authorities harassed independent newspapers for critical reporting of the Transnistrian regime.[...]Most television and radio stations and print publication were controlled by Transnistrian authorities, which largely dictated their editorial policies and finance operations. Some broadcast networks, such as the TSV television station and the INTER-FM radio station, were owned by Transnistria's largest monopoly, Sheriff, which also holds a majority in the region's legislature.[...]In July 2005 the Transnistrian Supreme Soviet amended the election code to prohibit media controlled by the Transnistrian authorities from publishing results of polls and forecasts related to elections."

Moldovan schools

Public education in the Romanian language is done using the Soviet-originated Moldovan Cyrillic alphabet. The usage of the Latin script (the norm) was restricted to only 6 schools. Four of these schools were forcibly closed by the authorities, who claimed this was due to the refusal of the schools to apply for official accreditation. These schools were later registered as private schools and reopened. This process may have been accelerated by pressure from the European Union

The OSCE mission to Moldova has urged local authorities in the Transnistrian city of Rîbniţa to return a confiscated building to the Moldovan Latin script school located in the city. The unfinished building was nearing completion in 2004, when Transnistria took control of it during that year's school crisis.

"In November 2005 Ion Iovcev, the principal of a Romanian-language school in Transnistria and active advocate for human rights as well as a critic of the Transnistrian leadership, received threatening calls that he attributed to his criticism of the separatist regime."

Military

Ministry of Interior badge insignia.
As of 2007, the armed forces and the paramilitary of Transnistria were composed of approximately 16,000 soldiers, divided into four motorized infantry brigades in Tiraspolmarker, Bendermarker, Rîbniţamarker, and Dubăsarimarker. They have 18 tanks, 107 armoured carriers, 73 guns, 46 anti-aircraft installations, and 173 tank destroyer units. The air force is composed of 9 Mi-8T helicopters, 6 Mi-24 helicopters, 2 Mi-2 helicopters, and several airplane of An-2, An-26 and Yak-18 models.

Security concerns

Arms control and disarmament

Following the collapse of the former Soviet Union the Russian 14th Army left behind 40,000 tonnes of weapony and ammunition. In the subsequent years there were concerns that the Transnistrian authorities may try to sell these stocks internationally and intense pressure was applied to have these removed by the Russian Federationmarker.

In 2000 and 2001, the Russian Federation withdrew by rail 141 self-propelled artillery and other armoured vehicles and destroyed locally 108 T-64 tanks and 139 other pieces of military equipment limited by the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). During 2002 and 2003 Russian military officials destroyed a further 51 armoured vehicles, all of which were types not limited by the CFE Treaty.The OSCE also observed and verified the withdrawal of the 48 trains with military equipment and ammunition in 2003. However, no further withdrawal activities have taken place since March 2004 and a further 20,000 tons of ammunition, as well as some remaining military equipment are still to be removed.In the Autumn of 2006 the Transnistria leadership agreed to let an OSCE inspectorate examine the munitions and further access agreed moving forward.Recent weapons inspections were permitted by Transnistria and conducted by the OSCE.The onus of responsibility rests on the Russian Federation to remove the remainder of the supplies.

Transnistrian authorities declared that they are not involved in the manufacture or export of weapons. The OSCE and European Union officials state (2005) that there is no evidence that Transnistria "has ever trafficked arms or nuclear material" and much of the alarm is due to Moldovan government's attempts to pressure Transnistria.

Foreign experts working on behalf of the United Nations say that the historically low levels of transparency and continued denial of full investigation to international monitors have reinforced negative perceptions of the Transnistrian regime, although recent good levels of cooperation on the part of Transnitrian authorities in some areas may reflect a shift in the attitude of Transnistria. Also it says that the evidence for the illicit production and trafficking of weapons into and from Transnistria has in the past been exaggerated, that although the trafficking of light weapons is likely to have occurred before 2001 (the last year when export data showed US$ 900,000 worth of 'weapons, munitions, their parts and accessories' exported from Transnistria. The report also states that the same holds true for the production of such weapons, which is likely to have been carried out in the 1990s primarily to equip Transnistrian forces.

The OSCE mission spokesman Claus Neukirch spoke about this situation: "There is often talk about sale of armaments from Transnistria, but there is no convincing evidence."

Personal security

On May 25, 2007, Valeri Emelianov, a Tiraspol city councillor, was shot dead.

In March 2007, Victor Neumoin, a local politician was shot dead.

In July 2006, a bomb killed eight in a Tiraspol minibus, and in August 2006, a grenade explosion in a Tiraspol trolleybus killed two and injured ten.

See also

References

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