Discover Transnistria, the capital of a country that doesn’t exist

We could discover Transnistria, on a visit to Tiraspol, just the week before the Russian troops broke into the Ukrainian borders. Transnistria is a country that doesn’t exist. Or better said, it is not recognized by almost no other country in the world, besides a few more in similar condition. 

We were in Chisinau celebrating Saint Valentine’s day. As other thousands we have chosen Moldova to do so. We decided to add a bit more of our way of romanticism. We had heard before that no United Nations member recognises Transnistria sovereignty and the region is officially part of Moldova to UN. As of 2011, only Abkhazia, the Republic of Artsakh and South Ossetia, all of them non-recognized countries as well, recognise the independence of this particular self-declared Republic. 

Once in Moldova, we asked how it is in this territory and they told us that it still works de facto as a Soviet Republic since they never accepted the failure of the union. For us it was interesting enough to decide to go. 

Moldova is a small country and if you have some extra time to spend you can take a look at Tiraspol. So far, it is easy and cheap to arrive, you can stay there for the night or go and come back on the same day. If you want to make true the famous song of the Beatles “Back to the USSR”, keep reading, we’ll explain to you how. 

How did Transnistria get into the current situation?

The Russian Empire advanced to the Dniester River, taking over some territory from the Ottoman Empire. In 1792 the Russian army built fortifications to guard the conquered territory. The modern city of Tiraspol was founded by the Russian general Alexander Suvorov in 1792 and Tiraspol took its name from Tyras, the Greek name of the Dniester River on which it stands.

With the Russian Revolution, appeared the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic as a part of Ukraine in 1924, with Balta as its capital. The republic had Romanian, Ukrainian and Russian as its official languages. Tiraspol became the capital of that Republic in 1929.

After the struggles of the IIWW, Transnistria stayed as part of the Moldovian SSR until the communist system failed and the USSR broke in pieces. But, in opposition with the rest of Moldova in Transnistria refused the change of the system. In early 1990, the citizens in Tiraspol passed a referendum declaring the city as an independent territory. The nearby city of Bendery also declared its independence from Moldova. 

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the territory east of the Dniester River declared independence as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), with Tiraspol as its capital. 

This matter evolved in a war with the Moldovian authorities that reached its peak in 1992. The Russians finished the discussion sending their own version of peacekeepers, keeping this Russian speaker territory as an unofficial satellite. 

The new republic was not officially recognized by the international community either by Soviet authorities, despite having received the unofficial support of old Soviet leaders and the current more than friendly treatment from Putin. Until he decides to take the territory.

How to visit Transnistria?

Probably the best way to arrive in Transnistria is by car. It is only 60 kilometers far from Chisinau but the trip still takes one hour and a half to get into Tiraspol. 

We were in Chisinau center and we switched on the Yandex app to get a cab. This is the way we recommend it if you don’t have your own rented car. You should get a trustworthy taxi and to negotiate the transfer and the price for his/her time there waiting for you or to pick you up for the return to the capital of Chisinau. 

The transfer to Tiraspol should cost (in 2022) around 400 LEI to go, 600 with return and 100 LEI per every hour your taxi driver will be waiting for you. A complete visit to Chisinau takes about three hours. Count a bit longer while drinking coffee or having lunch.

What to do in Tiraspol? 

The memorial of Glory 

The memorial of Glory at Suvorov square is a collage of tributes. It is dedicated to those who died in the Great Patriotic War, as they called the IIWW, the Soviet-Afghan war and the Transnistria war. All in one and at the same time. 

Tank Monument and St. George the Victorious Chapel

Tank Monument and St. George the Victorious Chapel at Memorial of Glory located on Suvorov Square of Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, is probably the most iconic image in town. The tank participated in the battle of Budapest. After, it was claimed and pulled back to the Soviet Union by the father of one of the crew members that fought in it. Currently is a symbol of Tiraspol contrasting with the close small and beautiful chapel.

Lenin Statue and Transnistria Parliament

The Lenin statue was made out of granite and modeled in 1970 by Nikolai Tomsky. Currently it is in front of the Transnistria Parliament but it has been on Leninplatz (currently United Nations Square) in East Berlin until 1992. It was replaced in Tiraspol since the will of the city was very nostalgic of the USSR period.

Lenin statue in front of the Transnistria Parliament

Katherine Park

Probably the most iconic park in town. You cannot miss it if you want to discover Transnistria, since it is the main center of Tiraspol, the capital of this non-existent country. It connects the 25th October Avenue with the Suvorov Monument and The Christmas Cathedral.

Pobeda Park

This is a very popular place to promenade, ideal either for families or for young couples. In the year of its inauguration, in 1947, this park was on the outskirts of the city. Currently, it is in the center of the city. It will definitely be one of your favorites in Tiraspol if you like the open-air spaces.

Green Market

The green building of Tiraspol Market looks modern. Actually, once you are inside you can feel that it is a well-done traditional farmers’ bazaar. This is the best place in Tiraspol to buy or taste some local goods. They have a delicious honey or excellent homemade cottage cheese.

Monument to Alexander Suvorov

In the very city center, in front of the tank and on the other side of 25th October Street, we can spot an excellent statue dedicated to Alexander Suvorov, which stands in Tiraspol, the city he founded in 1792.

Mini Fortress of Tiraspol

Just in front of Christmas Nativity Cathedral and with excellent views to it. There are some ducks on a pond where we can find Tiraspol mini fortress. This is a miniature representation of an ancient fortress where kids can play. 

The Christmas Cathedral

We can find the Christmas Cathedral right next to the Green Market. It opened its gates to public in 1999 to be the most important Russian orthodox church in Transnistria. It is worth it to get inside and admire the interior because of the decoration.

Christmas Nativity Cathedral view

Dniester river

The Dniester river is not the Danube but locals still enjoy it when it is warm. There are not impressive views from the bridge that crosses the river. In addition, a close look reveals that the water isn’t all very clean. Even though one of the things to do while you discover Tiraspol is a boat trip on the Dniester river.

Kvint liquor factory

To visit the Kvint liquor factory while you discover Transnistria is a great idea. The factory won more than 100 medals for its brandies at international competitions. A visit allows you to taste and buy the locally famous cognac of the region.

Where to stay in Transnistria?

It would not be a bad idea to stay for the night in Tiraspol to catch the real vibe of the city by spending a bit longer. If you have not that time to spend, you can visit the city easily in some hours coming from Chisinau. There are some options to stay in Tiraspol. Take a look to your options right down here. 

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