1. Transnistria: National Consensus is a Long Way off.

in Army · Conflicts 2017 · Crisis 2017 · Economics 2017 · EN · EX-USSR · History 2017 · Nation 2017 · Politics 2017 · Skepticism 2017 38 views / 2 comments
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GEOMETR.IT  conflicts.rem33.com


Background of the Conflict

The internationally recognized territory of present-day Moldova was formed in 1940 (confirmed in 1947) after the Romanian province of Bessarabia had been occupied and annexed by the USSR following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (1939) between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The Soviets stripped Bessarabia of some of her northern and southern districts (Izmail and partially, Akkerman and Khotin) and merged the remaining part of it with 8 of the 14 districts of “Moldavian ASSR” that had never been part of Romania thus forming a new administrative element of the USSR under the official name of “Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic”.

These territorial changes severely damaged geographical, cultural, economic and linguistic integrity of the area. In fact, the new “Republic” consisted of two parts (east and west of Dniester river) with quite different history, political culture and even ethnic makeup (click here to read more about the history of the area and to see historical maps).

The compatibility of the two parts of Moldavian SSR was put in question by the end of the 1980’s when the political landscape of the USSR started changing as a result of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of reform (“perestroyka”) and political liberalization. In Moldavian SSR just like in some other parts of the Soviet Union, various ethno-nationalist action groups formed Popular Front and started rapidly turning into the leading political force.

The Popular Front denounced Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and demanded sovereignty. In August-September 1989, the Moldavian Parliament (Supreme Soviet) passed language laws introducing Latin alphabet and recognizing Moldovan (variant of Romanian) as the state language instead of Russian. In  April 1990, the Parliament adopted Romanian tricolor flag (red, yellow and blue) with historical Moldavian coat of arms as the state flag and changed the national anthem to the one

identical to  Romanian. In June 1990 the Popular Front organized mass rallies calling for the re-union with Romania.

Political Confrontation

The above events were in a greater or less degree opposed by non-Romanian minorities thus marking the first Moldova’s steps towards independent statehood with intense ethnic conflict. The linguistic aspect happened to become crucial due to the fact that vast majoroty of non-Romanian population did not speak Moldovan (Romanian) language. Using the displeasure with the reform policies among minorities various anti-Romanian and anti-reform groups strongly backed up by Soviet secret service, denounced the new language law as “discriminatory” and launched the policy of confrontation.

One of the strongest groups opposing Moldova’s transition to democracy and sovereignty was “Edinstvo”. This group attracted many active Russian-speakers predominantly in the industrial cities on the left bank of Dniester where, unlike the rest of the MSSR, Romanian-speakers (ethnic Moldovans) were outnumbered by a Slavic majority.

This territory called Transnistria by Romanians and Podniestrovie by Slavs was merged with predominantly Romanian-Speaking Bessarabia only in 1940. It was not part of Romania in 1918-1940 and had never been associated with historical Moldova before that (See “Moldovan history” section for details). By the late summer of 1990,.Transnistria became the major bastion of anti-reform forces of Moldova.

At the same time, activists of Gagauz minority also aligned themselves with anti-reformists and formed their own anti-Romanian organization calling itself “Gagauz Halky” (Gagaus People) and aiming at secession of  mainly Gagauz-inhabited southern districts of the republic from Moldova or to at the very least, the achievement of broad autonomy. 

As we can see, the separatist sentiments in Moldova could be caused by the combination of factors including distinct history, fear of discrimination and destabilizing efforts of Moscow.

On June 24 of 1990, on the 50th anniversary of Bessarabia’s annexation by the USSR, thousands of Romanian citizens crossed the border into Moldova and rallied for re-unification of the two Romanian-speaking nations. The reaction of supported by Moscow anti-Romanian forces was quick. On August 20, 1990,leaders of  “Gagauz Halky “ and a group of Gagauz deputies of Moldovan parliament  proclaimed the Gagauz Republic (“Gagauz Yeri”) at a congress in Comrat

The new republic was claiming 5 southern districts of Moldova with a considerable proportion of Gagauz-speaking population. Next day the parliament of Moldova declared that decision unconstitutional and outlawed Gagauz separatist movement. 12 days later local authorities of Transnistria followed suit proclaiming Transnistrian Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic[2] later renamed to Transnistiran Moldovan Republic with its capital in Tiraspol. Transnistrian leadership also declared that only USSR laws will function on the territory east of the Dniester despite any political development in the rest of Moldova[3].

The 16-month period between September 1990 and January 1992, was marked with sporadic skirmishes between Moldovan police and separatist forces backed by the Soviet troops including November 1990 clash in Dubosari . However it was not until the middle of 1992 when the open war broke out.[4] In late November 1990 Transnistriaheld separate parliamentary elections and Igor Smirnov got chairmanship of the separatist parliament. In March 1991 Transnistria and Gagauzia hold the referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union despite the boycott in the rest of Moldova.

On August 27, 1991 Moldovan government denounced the attempted hard-liner communist coup in Moscow and the parliament issued the Declaration of Independence. The declaration specifically denounced the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact as well as all its political and legal consequences[5]. At the same time, leaders of separatist regions of Gagauzia and Transnistria declared their unequivocal support of the coup and commitment to the values of the Soviet Union. Tiraspol also interpreted the denunciation of the Nazi-Soviet Pact by Moldovan parliament as a legal basis for the secession of Transnistria keeping n mind the fact that before 1940 the area was part of Moldovan ASSR of the Soviet Union.



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  1. Its policies demoted the status of the Russian language in Moldova and discriminated against ethnic minorities, who made up more than half of the population of Transnistria, by promoting the joint Moldovan-Romanian culture as the “national culture.” Many of the ethnic Moldovans in the region were also native-Russian speakers. Upset by these developments and fearing that a Moldova-Romania union would further marginalize them, Transnistrians declared their region independent of Moldova and named it the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (Pridnestrove means Transnistria in Russian).

  2. A cease-fire was signed the same year by president of Russia Boris Yeltsin and president of Moldova Mircea Snegur. An agreement to withdraw all Russian forces from the trans-Nistrian districts of the Republic of Moldova was signed by Moldovan Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli and Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin in 1994. It stipulated that the 14th Army was to leave the Republic of Moldova within three years, but the agreement was never ratified by the Duma, Russia’s legislature.

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