Transnistria: The Country That Doesn’t Exist On The Map

Most people have never heard of Transnistria, Moldova’s breakaway entity that shares a border with Ukraine. That is part of what makes it so interesting to visit. Transnistria is a fantastically strange location, unrecognized as a nation by any member of the United Nations despite proclaiming independence in 1990, a year before the Soviet Union fell apart. It is a breakaway republic that legally belongs to the Republic of Moldova but has unilaterally declared itself an independent state, with Tiraspol as its capital. However, no other country recognizes its self-proclaimed statehood. 

Transnistria: The Country That Doesn't Exist On The Map
via Wikimedia Commons/AwOiSoAk KaOsIoWa

Tiraspol, located less than 70 kilometers south-east of Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, is sometimes described as “trapped in the USSR.” Indeed, from the imposing monument of Lenin protecting Transnistria’s Brutalist parliament building to avenues named after Communist heroes and key anniversaries, the country is replete with Soviet-era antiquities. Furthermore, a violent civil war erupted shortly in 1992. Since then, Russian peacekeeping forces have patrolled the border between the two opposing factions.

But can you travel to Transnistria?

Despite the fact that Transnistria is legally part of Moldova, you will have to deal with Transnistrian border control at the two countries’ borders. After crossing the border, you technically enter another nation, but not legally, because the official authorities classify you as being in Moldova.

Your phone might abruptly change to a Transnistrian mobile phone carrier, and you are unable to pay using Moldovan currency. The people are Transnistrians, yet you can’t travel anywhere with a Transnistrian passport since it’s not recognized. In a nutshell, it’s a ridiculous scenario that Transnistrians love to tell you about, because living in an unrecognized state is surely not normal!

Is it really that absurd?

Everyday life in Transnistria is one of the most fascinating aspects of the country. Although there isn’t much of a difference on the surface, you’ll notice the unique predicament of an unrecognized country.

They have their own plastic money as well. When you first see it, you might believe it’s monopoly money, but you can actually pay with it. However, you will be unable to use your Western bank card because Transnistria is not an official member of the International Monetary Fund. There are other items, such as personal license plates, stamps, and the telephone provider.

Why should you go there?

Apart from its precarious state, the “thrill” of entering Transnistria is that it still appears so Soviet. Visitors who recall the USSR frequently describe a time-travel aspect of their visit. Indeed, Tiraspol, with its enormous Lenin heads, memorials, socialist-realist paintings, and slogans, provides the visitor with the strange feeling of traveling back to the USSR. The House of Soviets is a highlight, not just because of the absolutely magnificent Lenin figure in front of it, but also because of the line of massive photographic portraits on either side of the square encircling Lenin.

On the other side, there is a lot of modernism contrasted with the old USSR-like features, such as the new state-of-the-art Sheriff Tiraspol football stadium on the outskirts of town, or the Sheriff supermarkets all around town. Sheriff is a near-monopoly brand name in the area. In addition, the metropolis appears to be exceptionally neat and clean. Parts of the city center do resemble an open-air museum.

But would you visit the country that does not exist on the map? Would you be daring enough to disappear?

Also read about Bavljenac, the island that looks like a fingerprint .

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