Chişinău is not for the faint-hearted. Tourists are few and far between and every time I open my mouth, people laugh. Not a ha ha amused laugh – but a ‘hey … poor you – you get to deal with her’ laugh. It’s just a tad disconcerting. They’re all very friendly but it’s like being the butt of a huge joke that everyone else gets and I don’t. People stop and stare when I take photos – just to see what it is that’s caught my eye. This shack, for instance, has been there since 12 July 2010 – ‘there’ being the steps of the Moldovan parliament building. In it lives a survivor of the Transnistrian war of 1992.
To my shame, this is the first I’ve heard of this forgotten conflict. I know I can’t know everything, but as happened last year in Lithuania, I am once again left wondering how much I missed out on when I was in the USA. The war itself ran from April to July of 1992. Transnistria used to be part of the Soviet Moldovian Republic, sandwiched between the Ukraine and Romania, with a population fairly equally divided between Russians, Ukranians, and Moldovians. When Moldova declared its independence, with Romanian as the official language, a growing nationalism in the region of Transnistria claimed autonomy with Russian as a second official language. Ethnic Moldovans were in the minority there. An interesting line from Wikipedia (with a source cited so it must be true 🙂 ) says: While some believe that the combination of a distinct history (especially 1918 – 1940) and a fear of discrimination by Moldovans, gave rise to separatist sentiments, others believe that ethnic tensions alone fail to account for the dynamics of the conflict. According to John Mackinlay and Peter Cross, who conducted a study based on casualty reports, significant numbers of both Transnistrians and Moldovans fought together on both sides of the conflict. They suggest that the conflict is more political in nature.
And, while around that time the union of Romania and Moldova seemed likely (what with the adoption of the Romanian national anthem and the Latin Romanian alphabet) Russian speakers must have felt that they would be exclused from public life were this to happen. And so the war began with Russian and the Ukraine supporting Transnistira and Romania supporting Moldova. No prizes for guessing who won. A ceasefire was signed on 21 July and since then Transistria has been an unrecognised state… well, it’s recognised by two UN non-members: Abkhazia and South Ossetia and yes, you’re right in thinking that I have never heard of them before, either.
The mind boggles.