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Pridnestrovia: what's not in the textbooks



Here are some things nobody will tell you about Pridnestrovia.

  1. Many Pridnestrovians, in particular younger ones, have never left Pridnestrovia, except perhaps to go to Chisinau or one of the small Moldovan towns near Pridnestrovia. Some may have been to Odessa.

  2. No government officials speak English, save for the Foreign Minister.

  3. The Pridnestrovian government websites are written by Russian civil servants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any Pridnestrovian politician.

  4. The number of people who speak reasonable English in all Pridnestrovia (not including students of linguistics at Shevcherenko University who may come from any part of the CIS) can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand.

  5. The same is true of the number of Pridnestrovians who have studied abroad.

  6. There is nothing preventing the Pridnestrovians leaving. Virtually all of them have Moldovan, Ukainian and/or Russian passports as well as Pridnestrovian ones. They just don't want to. They are happy in what they see as their miniature paradise.

  7. Pridnestrovians are shockingly honest and the society is remarkable for the total absence of crime. Hence there are hardly any Police.

  8. Some would say that the reason for this is that the Pridnestrovians are very insular and even boring.

  9. Pridnestrovia is quite a multi-ethnic place, in the sense that virtually anyone can become Pridnestrovian (including the paperwork) if they are prepared to abide by the culture's anodyne conformity.

  10. Most Pridnestrovian tour guides are actually Moldovan because very few Pridnestrovians know what their own tourist sites are (of which there are many) or how to guide foreigners round them in foreign languages.

  11. Russian civil servants and soldiers stationed in Pridnestrovia have traditionally regarded it as a hardship post because it is so incredibly boring.

  12. There is currently a political battle between the President and the Foreign Minister over direction and control of the country and the diversion of her resources relating to the wartime efforts. The President Vadim Krasnoselsky is trying to maintain a neutral, emoliatory approach, whereas the Foreign Minister Vitaliy Ignatiev is pushing a more hard-line pro-Moscow line. Ignatiev may be seeking to depose Krasnoselsky in the same way as his predecessor, in a Moscow-supported 'coup'.

  13. Pridnestrovia purports to have absorbed 34,500 Ukrainian refugees into its territory using exclusively Pridnestrovian resources, but there is no way of checking this figure and it may be an over-estimate. On the basis of an assumed cost of USD3,000 per person, this makes the cumulative liability of the state in respect of such a refugee flow as in excess of USD103 million, a sum Pridnestrovia does not have. Plus under the policies of its hardline Foreign Minister Vitaly Ignatiev, Pridnestrovia is rebuffing offers of international aid and assistance.

  14. No refugees can be seen anywhere in the capital. There are four sanitoria in the country holding perhaps 1,500 people maximum. It is not at all clear where the other refugees are, if they exist.

  15. Should hundreds of thousands of refugees flow into Pridnestrovia from South Ukraine, Pridnestrovia will surely be overwhelmed.

  16. In Pridnestrovia the nightclubs will stay open all night according to their advertised time schedules, even if they have no customers all night.

  17. Pridnestrovians are so adverse to a tipping culture that they will bring you back every Ruble or Kopek of your change even if by the denominations of banknotes that you left it was obvious that you intended to provide them with a tip.

  18. Pridnestrovians as a rule have no comprehension of foreigners. Many of them can barely even comprehend the idea that there might be people who do not speak Russian.

  19. It is commonplace for foreigners to be trailed, albeit in a pretty benign and harmless way. Pridnestrovian security services must be some of the most incompetent in their fields at making it obvious that their targets are being trailed. The trails are almost always based on human intelligence. Hence you can shake them off for a bit by going for a very long walk; but as soon as you enter a venue with other people the trailers will be back on you within 10 to 30 minutes. Since the number of foreigners in town is pitifully low and most of them never step outside their 'USSR cultural icons tour', it is extremely easy for them to follow an independently minded foreigner: you're the only one in town.

  20. The most interesting people in Pridnestrovia are Russian, visiting for governmental or military purposes.

  21. Very few Pridnestrovians can even comprehend that Europe's biggest ground war since World War II is on their doorsteps, or that they are sandwiched in the middle of it.

  22. Most Pridnestrovians watch Pridnestrovian television as their dominant news source. (Pridnestrovian television covers only events taking place in Pridnestrovia.)

  23. The greater majority of Pridnestrovians are relaxed and happy with their lot, living in relative comfort and in near-total ignorance of the outside world.

  24. It is easy to meet anyone you want in Pridnestrovia, because Tiraspol is so small that everyone knows everyone else and social structure is rather flat. It is not unusual to see or say hello to a government minister in a bar or other hospitality venue sitting right next to you.

  25. Notwithstanding the relative success of their local football team FC Sheriff Tiraspol, most Pridnestrovians have no interest in football or in the international successes of their domestic team. (Some people follow the domestic Moldovan leagues.)

  26. Many or even most Pridnestrovians are not aware that their jurisdiction attracts so controversial an international juridical or diplomatic status. They think it is just another normal country, a bit like South Ossetia or Abkhazia (whose flags one sees everywhere).

  27. Because everyone lives in such blissful ignorance, it is hard to have any experience in Pridnestrovia that is not completely benign.

The longevity of 'free cities' or 'international territories' such as Pridnestrovia - for that is what it really is - is generally not positive. They typically last a few decades, the result of a balance of power between the Great Powers' influential in the region (here the EU and Russia), until (as it inevitably does) that balance of power changes. Once it changes, for whatever reason (getting bogged down in other conflicts; dramatic economic movements, and the like), the independent or internationalised or free territory, recognised by noone of significance, eventually gets gobbled up by one of the Great Power protagonists with an interest in it. That could be Russia, if she promptly advances as far as Odessa and then adds Pridnestrovia onto her territorial acquisitions; or it could be the EU and absorption into Moldova proper, if NATO decides to pre-empt Russia's continuing military advances by occupying Moldova and arranging for her constitution to be changed so that Moldova can have a NATO-leaning army. Because Russia has apparently moved all her troops out of Pridnestrovia, unless by the time this takes place she has already reached Odessa, then there will be very little that Russia can do in response to joint EU-NATO annexation of Moldova. Indications that the West is going in this direction are revealed by the accelerated EU accession process through which the EU is hurrying Moldova. Pridnestrovia would not go along with EU accession voluntarily; she would have to be invaded. And I think the EU and the United States already know that. So the prospects of military conflict in Pridnestrovia are high.


Even though the place can feel staid after any substantial period there, it is difficult not to find Pridnestrovia and the Pridnestrovians quietly agreeable. Heaven help them if the conflict in Ukraine kicks off there. They simply aren't ready for it. The best way of describing the problem is that through their insularity, they are too naive to cope with all the horrors and adversities that war carries with her.