Frozen conflicts: Transnistria

Spent a weekend in Nagorno-Karabakh last month.

If you don’t know what or where Nagorno-Karabakh is… well, that’s healthy and normal. Most people don’t. But it’s pretty interesting, in a depressing sort of way.

When the Soviet Union broke up, it left a number of unresolved ethnic and territorial conflicts around its old frontiers. Four of these still survive today. In ascending order of nastiness, they are Trans-Dnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Would anyone be interested in an occasional series on these? Here’s one on Trans-Dnistria below the cut.

Trans-Dnistria, aka Transnistria, is a long sliver of land on the east bank of the river Dnistr, between Ukraine and Moldova. It used to be part of Ukraine, but Stalin grafted it on to Moldova because he wanted all of the lower Dnistr valley to be a single political-economic unit. Partly this was because he wanted to develop the lower Dnistr with all sorts of hydroelectric plants and heavy industry and stuff, and didn’t want two republics arguing over it; partly it was because Stalin had a tidy mind.

The Soviets pushed thousands of ethnic Russians into the new industrial towns. When the USSR broke up, these guys didn’t want to be part of Moldova. (Which is understandable. Even Moldovans don’t much want to be part of Moldova.) So they seceded. There was a brief nasty little war, which Transnistria won.

Since then, Transnistria has been a sort of post-Communist gangster state, notable mostly for human trafficking, money laundering, and privatizations that were corrupt even by post-Soviet standards. It’s run by a group of thugs who are sleazy, crude and dull even by the low standards of provincial Soviet nomenklatura. It survives — barely — on subsidies from Russia.

Visiting Transnistria is a trip back in time to the latter days of the USSR. The streets of Tiraspol are mostly empty of cars. There are red stars and statues of Lenin. People wear drab clothes and stare at foreigners. To some extent this is a look-and-feel issue; much of Transnistria’s business and industry has been privatized, there are opposition parties, and there’s freedom of religion as long as it’s Orthodox. On the other hand, the press is completely controlled by the government, serious opposition is not tolerated, everything that matters is run by a handful of famillies, and the same guy has been President since 1990. So a Brezhnev-era Communist would feel right at home.

Travellers unanimously agree that Transnistria is weirdly fascinating for the first hour or two, then just depressing and boring.

As for the conflict itself… well, it’s not so much frozen as dusty and abandoned. The original reason for it was that ethnic Russians didn’t want to be oppressed by ethnic Moldovans/Romanians. That has half disappeared. Moldova has promised autonomy and good treatment, and those promises are plausible; the Moldovans have treated their Russians inside Moldova pretty well, and have kept promises of autonomy made to their Gagauz. (The Gagauz are Christian Turks. Long story.) Also, while Moldova is still not exactly Switzerland, its prospects are a lot better than in 1991; it now borders the EU, trade and investment are picking up, and while it’s still the poorest country in Europe it’s comfortably more prosperous than Transnistria.

Also, Transnistria lacks other options. The country’s rulers would love to merge with Russia, and much of the country’s population would probably follow them. But Russia lacks enthusiasm for picking up another exclave. Especially one that is (1) hundreds of kilometers south of Russia’s current borders, (2) totally lacking in resources or strategic utility, (3) majority non-Russian, and (4) dirt-poor. Independence doesn’t make a lot of sense; Transnistria is small, ethnically divided, economically dependent on Russia, and geographically ridiculous.

Three things are blocking resolution of the conflict. One is the Moldovan leadership. The Moldovans have been hanging tough lately, because they think they’re in a strong position. They rejected an almost-reasonable offer from Moscow a couple of years back. This torpedoed a promising opening and threw negotiations back to square one.

Another problem is that the Moldovan leadership has shown a distinctly tin ear in relations with Moldova’s Russian and Ukrainian minorities. There are almost no Russians or Ukrainians in government, and the country has been undergoing a slow but steady process of Romanianization; in Chisinau, for instance, all the streets have been recently renamed after Romanian cultural heroes, and Russian signs are getting harder to find.

Second is, of course, Moscow. There are still Russian troops and weapons in Transnistria, Russian businessmen own everything of value, and the territory survives on Russian subsidies. (Its debt to Gazprom alone was more than double its GDP.) Moscow seems to be weary of Transnistria and is willing to consider giving it up. But no Russian politician can be seen as giving way on what has become an issue of “protecting Russians in the near abroad”.

Third is the Transnistrian leadership, especially President Igor Smirnov. Smirnov’s career was founded on ethnic Russian chauvinism, and he has never stopped insisting on Transnistria’s independence. He’s surrounded by a group of like-minded advisors. These guys are never going to surrender. About the only grounds for hope here is that most of them are not young. Smirnov is in his sixties, and most of his colleagues are too. Another decade or so and most of them will have left the building.

One other cause for cautious optimism: demographic change. In round numbers, Transnistria is about 30% each ethnic Russians, ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Moldovans (Romanians). The Russians are on top, the Ukrainians are half a step down and the Moldovans… well, there isn’t a single ethnic Moldovan minister or member of Parliament. But Transnistria has lost about a fifth of its population since 1990, and most of that loss was ethnic Russians. As Russia’s economy perks up, more and more of them are boarding the overnight train to Moscow. This is a slow process, but it’s going to gradually erode the basis for Russian dominance in the territory.

So, unlike the other frozen conflicts, there’s cause for (cautious, limited) optimism about this one. Transnistria won’t resolve this year, or next year. But in five years, or ten or fifteen, there’s a pretty good chance of a peaceful settlement.

What kind of settlement? That’s hard to say, actually. A loose union with Moldova seems most likely. On the other hand, one can reasonably ask why, when Czechs and Slovaks have separate countries, Transnistrians and Moldovans shouldn’t too. On the other-other hand, as noted Transnistria alone doesn’t make much sense as a country.

Still, of all the frozen conflicts, this one seems the least likely to erupt again into violence. So there’s that.

75 thoughts on “Frozen conflicts: Transnistria

  1. Plus there’s terrific cognac to be had at the Kvint distillery. We’ve got some of the 40-year-old stuff, and it convinced us of the real differences among cognacs.

    I’m interested in the proposed series, particularly N-K. Bear in mind, though, that I wrote my master’s thesis on it back in the day, so I cannot claim that my enthusiasm is representative. The unwritten book on the subject is called “Just Add Oil and Money,” in which we get to see whether a petro-boom can change the geopolitics. Given that the Armenians hold all of the approaches up to the ridge lines, I’m skeptical. Plus Azerbaijan would have to show more military prowess than your
    average petro-state. Skeptical again.

    Transnistria, of course, is where Lebed got famous, something often forgotten when he was later lionized in points west. That helicopter crash is bound to still provoke conspiracy theories.

    Are Russian units still there? I thought this was one of the big complaints about Russia and the CFE, but confess to not being current on all things Tiraspolian.

    Also in re frozen conflicts, I am not sure that the Russian-Latvian and Russian-Estonian border treaties have passed both countries’ parliaments in each case. But then given the EU and NATO, probably far more frozen than conflict.

  2. I like this idea, and would definitely read about the other 3.

    In fact, would you like to add Kaliningrad to that list? It’s not exactly the same, but there are some similarities.

  3. Yeah, I’d love a series on the others too, it’s quite a fascinating subject (well, for a geopolitics geek like myself, anyway)

  4. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Moldova: Transnistria

  5. Another problem is that the Moldovan leadership has shown a distinctly tin ear in relations with Moldova’s Russian and Ukrainian minorities. There are almost no Russians or Ukrainians in government, and the country has been undergoing a slow but steady process of Romanianization; in Chisinau, for instance, all the streets have been recently renamed after Romanian cultural heroes, and Russian signs are getting harder to find.

    Doug, that was certainly true before the Communists returned to power in 2001. But I have to say I’ve felt Chisinau getting more Russophone-friendly, rather than less, in the course of my visits to the place since then. The Moldovan government, led by President Voronin (himself generally regarded as an ethnic Russian, though the full story is apparently a bit more complex) and Prime Minister Tarlev (an ethnic Bulgarian – nearly as long a story as the Gaguz), may well not have quite the same policy as the Chisinau city council, which has tended to be controlled by the opposition, whoever is in government. But the Communist Party, which has a clear (and farily won) parliamentary majority, is perceived as a protector of Russophone interests in Moldova proper. Certainly they all vote for it.

    However. To say that the Moldovan leadership has shown a distinctly tin ear in its relations with absolutely everyone is no more than the truth.

  6. BG and DM, the list of post-communist countries (especially post-Soviet countries) whose non-communist governmend didn’t have a tin ear for relations with Russia is probably a very short one. In some cases, the post-communists have done better, but obvsly not all. Unfortunately, the list of countries for which the Putin governments also has a tin ear is also not so short.

    Koenigsberg, hm. Speaking of tin ears, it wasn’t too long ago that Russia wanted to institute an extraterritorial corridor for transit to and from. Somehow the phrase made the Polish government very unhappy. Can’t imagine why.

    K’grad might be an interesting subject, but the long and the short is that nobody else wants it. Germany already has a poor formerly communist part to pour money into; Poland has plenty of ex-German territory; Lithuania doesn’t have a significant Russian minority and quite prefers it that way. Unless Sweden is buying (David?), Russia can keep Kantville.

  7. Pingback: Moldova » Blog Archive » Moldova - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  8. The Green Leopard Plague by W.J. Williams involves Transnistria in its backstory, and the place sounds so implausible (in a SF work!) I came away convinced it was a not-very-good concoction of the author.

    Anyway, more please.

  9. A series on these regions in limbo would be great.
    “group of thugs who are sleazy, crude and dull even by the low standards of provincial Soviet nomenklatura”
    Is that to say that Moskavite and other urban appartachiks were any more competent? Just a trick of like one would think.

  10. “The Green Leopard Plague” is a great little story, although I don’t believe in the McGuffin for a moment. I had a discussion with WJW on rec.arts.sf.written about it a few years ago… google should pick it up.

    The story also takes place in Palau (Micronesia), which is also pretty accurately described — Williams went there on a scuba diving trip.

    Abdul-Rahim, kinda sorta. Provincial Communists tended to be even more corrupt and less competent than the guys at the center. For an extreme case, review the history of the late Republic of Serb Krajina.

    Why? I’m not sure, but I smell an analogy to decolonization. Elites in, say, 1960s Africa tended to have an inflated view of their country’s importance and their own competence. Provincial Communists, same-same.

    In extreme cases — Serb Krajina is a good example — they were so abysmally incompetent that they were smugly, serenely unaware of just what colossal screwups they were. Until the roof caved in, anyway.

    Doug M.

  11. Another vote for K’berg and the rest of the series, especially the rise of “Euro-Russians” and whimsical attempts to rename Kaliningrad.

    What about Ukraine’s and Romania’s position in all of this? Who in Ukraine is getting rich off Transnistria’s smuggling? Aren’t half of Moldovans Romanian citizens? Is the country just going to empty out with everyone going to other richer countries in the area?

    Also, what is going on with the “Cyrillic” Moldovan front – I know this is a big political issue in Transnistria.

  12. Hektor, Cyrillic Moldovan is one of those silly issues that gets some people way, way too worked up.

    Moldovan is Romanian with an accent and some Russian loan words… it’s no more a language than American English or Quebecois French.

    Both Romanian and Moldovan can be written perfectly well in either the Latin or Cyrillic alphabets. In fact, Romanian *was* written in Cyrillic for hundreds of years — they didn’t switch until well into the 19th century.

    In Soviet Moldova, Romanian — hah, “Moldovan” — was written in Cyrillic. When it was written at all. Which it mostly wasn’t — the Soviets discouraged the use of Romanian outside the household. They wanted to reduce Romanian to a “kitchen language”. And they pretty much succeeded — even though Chisinau is 3/4 Romanian, you hear mostly Russian on the street.

    Anyway. The Cyrillic thing is used by the Transnistrian government to emphasize continuity with the good old Soviet days. Some Moldovans resent this, but most don’t seem to care much. After all, if you can read it in one alphabet, it’s pretty easy to transpose to the other.

    But it really gets up the noses of Romanians in Romania and Moldova. Which is another reason to do it, of course.

    Doug M.

  13. Press Censorship in Transdniestria
    http://transdniestria.co.uk/2007/press-censorship-in-transdniestria.html

    With (among other things) a challenge, the above post second guesses a recent BBC segment on the disputed former Moldavian SSR ( http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/news/former_moldavian_ssr_a_non_country_which_broke_in_two.html ) territory of Transdniestria (several related spellings), otherwise known as Pridnestrovie.

    ****

    Frozen Conflicts: Transnistria
    http://fistfulofeuros.net/afoe/europe-and-the-world/frozen-conflicts-transnistria

    A good deal of inaccurate commentary in this post, which is promoted by Global Voices ( http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/-/world/eastern-central-europe/moldova/ ). Hopefully, GV will show some balance by carrying material from Deciphering Transdniestria.

    The referenced Fistful of Euros post omits that prior to 1940, Moldova wasn’t part of the USSR like Pridnestrovie (Transnistria). It disingenuously suggests that Russians only arrived in Pridnestrovie during Soviet times. Pridnestrovie’s capital Tiraspol was founded by a famous Russian general ( http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/news/alexander_suvorov_russian_military_hero_and_founder_of_tiraspol.html ), with Pridnestrovie’s territory having been part of ancient Russia (Kievan Rus). Pridnestrovie was never part of an independent Moldova.

    Contrary to what’s stated in the post, Pridnestrovie has been without Russian aid since the beginning of this year. The post’s description of Russia’s position on Pridnestrovie overlooks what Russia has been ideally seeking; a reunited former Moldovan SSR confederation which is close to Russia ( http://www.eurasianhome.org/xml/t/expert.xml?lang=en&nic=expert&pid=1173 ). It incorrectly claims that Moldova is wealthier than Pridnestrovie.

    It falsely suggests that Orthodox Christianity is the only tolerated faith in Pridnestrovie ( http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/news/pridnestrovie_five_times_more_religions_than_moldova.html ).

    Its caricature of Pridnestrovie’s body politic grossly distorts against a multi-political diversity evident in that disputed former Moldavian SSR territory. Note how it employs a McCarthyite like labeling of Pridnestrovie as a Communist like land. Throughout the former Communist bloc, the red star has a somewhat redefined meaning. In Pridnestrovie, Russian Imperial General Alexander Suvorov is a considerably more revered figure than Vladimir Lenin. Meantime, Moldova has a duly elected Communist president (a point not noted in the Fistful of Euros post).

    Without any cited foundation, the post claims that Moldova offered autonomy to Pridnestrovie. In point of fact, Moldova turned down a settlement proposal on that very premise.

    Unlike Kosovo, the different ethnic groups in Pridnestrovie get along well. The post can’t seem to make up its mind on the issue of Moldova’s policy on ethnic groups. Note this quote in paragraph 10: “As for the conflict itself. well, it’s not so much frozen as dusty and abandoned. The original reason for it was that ethnic Russians didn’t want to be oppressed by ethnic Moldovans/Romanians. That has half disappeared. Moldova has promised autonomy and good treatment, and those promises are plausible; the Moldovans have treated their Russians inside Moldova pretty well, and have kept promises of autonomy made to their Gagauz. (The Gagauz are Christian Turks. Long story.)” Later on, the post states in paragraph 13: “Another problem is that the Moldovan leadership has shown a distinctly tin ear in relations with Moldova’s Russian and Ukrainian minorities. There are almost no Russians or Ukrainians in government, and the country has been undergoing a slow but steady process of Romanianization; in Chisinau, for instance, all the streets have been recently renamed after Romanian cultural heroes, and Russian signs are getting harder to find.”

    When belittling Pridnestroive’s case for independence, the post ignores how that land’s territory (about twice the size of Luxembourg) and population (roughly the same as Montenegro) is on par and in some instances greater than what’s evident with some other European countries. Pridnestrovie’s standard of living is noticeably higher than Albania’s and Moldova’s.

    The post’s conclusion ignores a point which is quite obvious to many in the former Moldavian SSR (Moldova and Pridnestrovie alike), regardless of their ethnicity. Moldova’s economy was much better off when it was linked to Pridnestrovie, Russia and the other lands making up the USSR. Due to Moldova’s developed post-Soviet poverty (it’s now considered the poorest country in Europe), it’s not likely to be picked up anytime soon by the EU, which hasn’t given full membership rights to two of its newest members (Romania and Bulgaria).

  14. “it’s no more a language than American English or Quebecois French”

    But all my German books say “translated from the American”!

    I’ll have to get an edition of Joyce to see if it says “translated from the English-speaking-Irish living in Trieste at the time” One of the conveniences of German being that you could say that last bit all in one word. A word that would last until Thursday next, mind, but still just the one word.

  15. Ah, yes, the Tiraspol Times. Can’t find a much better source than Transnistria’s own state-controlled press.

    One peculiarity of Transnistria: someone is funding a pretty good English-language disinformatsiya campaign. I say “pretty good”, except that of course not one English or American in ten thousand has ever heard of it. Still, the quality of the writing is not bad.

    At a guess, it’s the same people behind the relentlessly pro-Russian “British Helsinki Human Rights Group”. BHHRG, the English-language Tiraspol Times, and the “transnistria.co.uk” blog (which makes a plaintive post almost every day, though it does start to repeat after a while) all seem to be dipping from the same well. All quote each other constantly, and the prose style is often quite similar.

    Otherwise… Michael, go back again and read what I wrote, please. I never mentioned arms trading, nor did I say Transnistria’s territory was “useless”. (In fact, I specifically mentioned hydropower and industrial development.)

    Doug M.

  16. http://www.serbianna.com/columns/averko/

    Doug:

    Here’s what you wrote on Prid: “totally lacking in resources or strategic utility.” You didn’t refute the posted comments about arms smuggling.

    The Tiraspol Times (TTT) is far more objective than the three main Moldovan news orgs. At TTT, you will find material that’s pro and anti Kosovo independence, an anti-Pridnestrovie government petition signed by Moldovans outside of Pridnestrovie, a recent anti-Pridnestrovie commentary from one of the top three Moldovan news orgs. and regularly posted/published material from inside Pridnestrovie, which is critical of the Smirnov administration (Smirnov’s family included). In addition, I know that TTT invited a leading critic of it to submit an article, with the understanding that it wouldn’t be censored. That person declined the offer.

    Some aren’t sympathetic to Pridnestrovie having a Russocentric direction. TTT correctly reflects Pridnestrovie’s political climate, while being open to posting/publishing other views.

    Meantime, your commentary has been proven to be considerably more faulty.

  17. PS: Doug, when compared to the BHHRG and TTT, Edward Lucas, Vladimir Socor and Steady State aren’t the more informed/objective sources on the former Moldavian SSR.

    As for your characterization of Prid’s political parties, they’re more diverse than the Repubs. and Dems. That one party system divided between the two of them.

  18. A hydroelectric dam is a “resource”? If you say so.

    (Ah, serbianna.com. Bet I’ve spent more time in Kosovo lately than you have.)

    TTT is full of stuff about how Transnistria is “the undiscovered gem of Europe” and how “compared to Moldova, it’s like the Riviera”. (That last one seems to be a made-up quote that appears in TTT, BHHRG, and transnistria.co.uk alike.) Oddly, TTT doesn’t mention Transnistria’s Russian nickname: “Haiti on the Dnestr”.)

    Its criticism of Smirnov has that calculated “see! look! we’re not totally uncritical of the President!” feel of good disinformatsiya. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll notice its criticism of the Smirnov clan is careful not to go too far… and you won’t see a word about, say, Alisher Usmanov. Never mind permananet head of the security services “Major General” Vadim Shevtsov – slash – Antufyeev. Who AFAIK is still wanted by Interpol.

    I’m not sure where Edward Lucas, et al come into it.

    (I’m required to express an opinion on every comment? I do have a life, of sorts.)

    Doug M.

  19. BTW, you do know what PMR stands for?

    Officially, it’s “Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublika”. But ask any Transnistrian, and he’ll tell you it’s for “Papina i moia Respublika” — Daddy’s and My Republic.

    Referring, of course, to President Smirnov’s loathsome offspring, and the fact that they’ve installed themselves in ministries, made multimillion dollar fortunes, and basically set up as feudal lords.

    Transnistria: where you can still find authentic old-fashioned Soviet humor.

    Doug M.

  20. Claudia

    There’re a good number of multi-lingual, well traveled propagandists out there, providing all kinds of misinformation. Since the end of the hypocritically warped aggression against Yugoslavia, there’ve been a good number of Soros thinking folks who’ve been to Kosovo. Ethnically cleansed Kosovo, where repackaged KLA goons roam wild.

    Pridnestrovie provides electrical power to parts of Moldova, Romania and Ukraine. It has a much better case for independence that Kosovo.

    When Will Russia Apply “The Reverse Holbrooke”? http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/news/when_will_russia_apply_the_reverse_holbrooke.html

    Speaking Serbian in Kosovo can get you killed. On the other hand, speaking Moldovan in Pridnestrovie is more tolerated than utilizing the Russian language in Latvia and Estonia.

    Here’re two fact based and very informative articles on the former Moldavian SSR:

    Red Dawn in Moldova? http://www.antiwar.com/nagle/n031601.html

    Transdnestr: Myths and Realities http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20070731/70039794.html

    As for corrupt families, check out Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin’s son:

    http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/news/son_of_moldovas_president_defends_his_riches_i_dont_steal.html

    On the other hand, one can’t find such perks for the Smirnov family:

    http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/news/smirnov_loses_in_court_to_anti_independence_candidate.html

    So much for your faulty propaganda.

    Serbianna rocks!

  21. “It has a much better case for independence that Kosovo.”

    Why?

    Serbianna “rocks” if one thinks that The Cure’s song “Killing an Arab” was a policy recommendation, not a reference to Camus’s The Stranger. Blaming Serbia’s problems with ethnic diversity opn a global conspiracy of the identikit “Muslim” isn’t the most productive approach to the Kosova/o issue.

  22. Randy:

    The details to your question are addressed in some of the previously hyperlinked and linked linked material.

    In brief: Kosovo is more akin to Serbia than Pridnestrovie’s relationship with Moldova. Pridnestrovie was never part of an independent Moldova. Unlike Moldova, it was part of the USSR from its very beginning. Prior to that, it was part of the Russian Empire and ancient Russia (Kievan Rus). Kosovo has been part of modern day Serbia since 1912. It was never part of an independent Albania. Albanians didn’t predominate in Serbia before the Serbs. Kosovo had been part of ancient Serbia. It’s only within the last 100 years that Albanians have replaced Serbs as the majority in Kosovo. The reasons for this are described in the next paragraph. Pridnestrovie is at multi-ethnic land at peace unlike what’s evident in Kosovo. Pridnestrovie’s political leadership doesn’t match the goon like background of the Kosovo Albanian one. Pridnestrovie has no claims in other lands. On the other hand, there’s a noticeable Greater Albania movement claiming land in parts of the FYROM of Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece and Serbia minus Kosovo.

    You distort the Serb position. Present day Serbia minus Kosovo is far more tolerant than Albanian dominated Kosovo. A domination largely the result of decades of ethnic cleansing campaigns against non-Albanians, illegal immigration and a comparatively high birth rate.

  23. Mr. Averko:

    “In brief: Kosovo is more akin to Serbia than Pridnestrovie’s relationship with Moldova. Pridnestrovie was never part of an independent Moldova. Unlike Moldova, it was part of the USSR from its very beginning.”

    A minor pity, then, that it was never a self-governing unit inside the Moldavian republic, unlike a Kosova/o that had come by the 1980s to take on the qualities of a Yugoslav republic.

    “Prior to that, it was part of the Russian Empire and ancient Russia (Kievan Rus). Kosovo has been part of modern day Serbia since 1912.”

    1912 until 1915, thereafter under Central Powers occupation, then Yugoslavia. Three years is an awfully slender reed, don’t you think? One might do better to argue that Serbia should be under Turkish rule–after all, Serbia was Ottoman for more than four centuries, five centuries in part, and the imprint of Turkish culture and Islam on Serbia is deep.

    “It was never part of an independent Albania.”

    It’s worth noting that Kosova/o’s attachment to Albania hasn’t been debated by the Kosovars or by the Albanians.

    “It’s only within the last 100 years that Albanians have replaced Serbs as the majority in Kosovo.”

    It’s debatable that a Serb majority existed in Kosovo in 1912. It didn’t exist in 1939 despite Serb colonization and forced Albanian emigration, and it didn’t exist in 1981, or …

    “The reasons for this are described in the next paragraph. Pridnestrovie is at multi-ethnic land at peace unlike what’s evident in Kosovo.”

    Pridnestrovie, as a former housemate once told me, is a place run by mafioso who’ve managed to co-opt control of the local state for their own nefarious purposes, in so doing making it the poorest region of Europe’s (arguably) poorest country.

    “On the other hand, there’s a noticeable Greater Albania movement claiming land in parts of the FYROM of Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece and Serbia minus Kosovo.”

    Doug Muir can try to demonstrate that Greater Albania is a minority position, I lack the patience.

    “You distort the Serb position. Present day Serbia minus Kosovo is far more tolerant than Albanian dominated Kosovo.”

    Yes, “without Kosovo.”

    “A domination largely the result of decades of ethnic cleansing campaigns against non-Albanians, illegal immigration and a comparatively high birth rate.”

    Ethnic cleansing? Cite, apart from 1999 and after.

    Illegal immigration? When, under Hoxha?

    A comparatively high birth rate? Yes, and what is this supposed to signify?

    At any rate, I tend to follow Renan’s prescription that a nation–perhaps by extension a state–is made up of people who want to live together. Albanians clearly don’t want to live with Serbs, and if your position is at all representative, Serbs don’t want to live with Albanians, at least not with Albanians whose right to existence they question. Let Kosova/o be independent if the population so wishes. (For that matter, let Transnistria be independent, a stupid idea that might be.)

  24. “Ethnically cleansed Kosovo, where repackaged KLA goons roam wild.”

    Translation: Kosovo is full of Albanians… it’s really scary! Anyway, I don’t need to go there; I already know everything about it!

    — You know, when I lived in Serbia, I met… let’s say five hundred people, over the years. Of which maybe five had ever been to Kosovo. And of those, all but one had been forced to go there — i.e., for military service — rather than choosing to.

    (I’m not counting the young woman whose family used to drive /through/ Kosovo, back in the 1980s, en route to Macedonia. She’d been through the province probably fifty times, but never in it. Why? Because the family never stopped the car. Not because of The Albanian Menace, but because Kosovo was “dirty”… a place where you wouldn’t stop to use the bathroom, never mind get something to eat.)

    Anyway. Maybe five Serbs in Serbia… but in years of hanging around with Serbs from the diaspora, I never met a single one who’d been there.

    Not that this has ever stopped diasporids from going on about Kosovo. And on, and on.

    Doug M.

  25. http://www.serbianna.com/columns/averko/

    Mr. MacDonald:

    Your selectively comparative point on Pridnestrovie versus Kosovo doesn’t successfully rebut the totality of the claim that that former has much better independence case than the latter. This largely explains why the majority of Moldovans in Moldova (as per a recent poll) are more willing to part with the idea of Pridnestrovie being put into a Communist drawn Moldavia, when compared to the Serb position on Kosovo. In your reply, you overlook how Kosovo had been part of Serbia centuries ago. When keeping as objective a score card as possible, the Albanian side has done the most ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Kosovo was NEVER made a republic in Communist era Yugoslavia. For sound reasons, it’s autonomy status within the Serb republic was taken away as explained in paragraph 6 of the below link:

    http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/8375-25.cfm

    On Pridnestrovie, your “housemate” isn’t objective given the kind of leaders evident in Moldova and Kosovo. Moldova and not Pridnestrovie is the poorest of lands comprising Europe. Moldova’s separation from an inter-linked economy of Russia and some other former Soviet states hasn’t brought it prosperity. As previously noted, Pridnestrovie is noticeably better off than Moldova.

    Your stated lack of patience notwithstanding, Greater Albania is a reality unlike greater Pridnestrovie.

    Turkish and Iraqi actions against the Kurds was noticeably worse than what the Serbs could ever be legitimately accused of doing to the Albanians. Moreover, the Albanians are far from being an innocent victim as FAIR and AIM among others have noted. As for your stated “stupid idea”, it’s stupid to grant independence to a ethnically intolerant state run by people with dubious backgrounds. That’s far more evident in Kosovo when compared to Pridnestrovie.

    Claudia:

    After WW II, Tito made it difficult for ethnically cleansed Serbs to return to Kosovo. In more recent times, this is also true. You’re of course free to hypocritically pooh pooh the manner of Thaci, Ceku and Haridnaj as you caricature Pridnestrovian officials.

  26. “After WW II, Tito made it difficult for ethnically cleansed Serbs to return to Kosovo.”

    …most of the collapse in the Serb population of Kosovo dates from after WWII.

    As more than one observer has noted, “The Serbs would do anything for Kosovo — except live there.”

    Doug M.

  27. Not to let Kosovo hijack the thread. (Hey, I can do a post on Kosovo.)

    Human rights in Transnistria: Michael is quoting mostly from transnistria.co.uk and the Tiraspol Times. As noted, these are basically the same thing — part of a circle-jerk of English-language disinformatsiya.

    TTT, in particular, is not aimed at the English-speaking population of Transnistria. There isn’t any. There are no embassies, there’s almost no tourism, there’s no investment from anywhere but Russia, few English-speaking businessmen or investors go there. No, it’s aimed at the greater English-speaking world, and its main purpose is to drum up support for Transnistrian independence.

    It’s not the only voice out there, of course.

    “The State in Transdniestria has overwhelming control over the majority of the media, either through open ownership or through indirect control… The authorities own one TV channel (out of two regional ones), one radio station, three newspapers (in Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldovan), and one news agency.

    “The Senior Adviser met with the editors of TV, radio, the news agency Olvia-Press, and two newspapers, Pridniestrovie and Adevarul Nistrean. All of them had more or less the same views… no difference of opinion was noted among the editors during a one hour meeting.

    “All insisted
    that their media provide for a variety of opinions, that censorship did not exist, that they were not told what to write or what to broadcast. However, after looking through several issues of different “state” newspapers, and talking to independent journalists, it became clear that this was not the case. As one local observer put it: “the newspapers smear the opposition [and] condemn any contacts with the right bank [Moldova]…”

    “The editors in unison repeated on several occasions that they offered space to two prominent local opposition leaders, Alexander Radchenko and Nikolai Buchatskii, but both had declined to be interviewed. Buchatskii disputed that fact saying that, on the contrary, he had asked for air-time but was rebutted.”

    Who are these Radchenko and Buchatskii guys? Well, they run one of the two independent newspapers. Or try to:

    “Olvia Press, the official Transdniestrian agency, published a number of articles accusing Radchenko of treason, in particular of collaborating with Chisinau and various western countries. Buchatskii was described… by the editor of “State”radio as a “drunk and a traitor.”

    “The Office’s Senior Adviser visited the office of Chelovek i Ego Prava [their newspaper] and saw that the building where they were renting space, and only that building in the neighbourhood, had been defaced with obscene graffiti, and most of its windows had been broken. Buchatskii and Radchenko were physically attacked on several occasions. The office is located next to the headquarters of the local leadership, and this area is heavily patrolled by security forces, none of which took any action to prevent assaults against persons and property of the paper.

    “On 16 December activists from two officially sponsored Transdniestrian “NGOs” – the League of Transdniestrian Youth and “Tiraspolchanka,” a patriotic organization of women pensioners – picketed Radchenko’s newspaper office in Tiraspol. The demonstrators burned Moldovan flags and portraits of Radchenko and Voronin. When Radchenko arrived at his office, demonstrators pelted him with water, plastic bottles, and debris. Radchenko suffered slight bruises. A lengthy, laudatory account of the events, with several pictures, appeared immediately on the Olvia-Press website.”

    And people say state-owned media are sluggish and nonresponsive. Tch.

    “At the same time, activists distributed and posted derogatory leaflets in the building in which Radchenko resides. “Attention – Danger,” the leaflet read, “In apartment 129 in our building lives a maniac!” The flyer accused Radchenko of writing obscenities on the walls himself, and warned residents to protect their children. “Think how to isolate this monster in human form,” the leaflet concludes. “Say NO to the maniac. Say YES to a peaceful and happy life.””

    And who, after all, doesn’t want a peaceful and happy life?

    Doug M.

  28. Doug:

    Like I said, it’s tough to live in an area that’s prejudiced against your ethnicity. Serbs are by no means the only non-Albanian ethnic group to have suffered the wrath of Albanian nationalist orchestrated terrorism in Kosovo.

    Your gross mis-characterizations of Pridnestrovie’s media situation blatantly ignore reality. BTW, who in Kosovo freely criticizes Thaci, Ceku and Haridinaj? English is the lingua franca. It’s good to have venues which factually confront the misinformation out there.

    As previously noted:

    The Tiraspol Times (TTT) is far more objective than the three main Moldovan news orgs. At TTT, you will find material that’s pro and anti Kosovo independence, an anti-Pridnestrovie government petition signed by Moldovans outside of Pridnestrovie, a recent anti-Pridnestrovie commentary from one of the top three Moldovan news orgs. and regularly posted/published material from inside Pridnestrovie, which is critical of the Smirnov administration (Smirnov’s family included). In addition, I know that TTT invited a leading critic of it to submit an article, with the understanding that it wouldn’t be censored. That person declined the offer.

    Some aren’t sympathetic to Pridnestrovie having a Russocentric direction. TTT correctly reflects Pridnestrovie’s political climate, while being open to posting/publishing other views.

    There’s greater political diversity in Pridnestrovie when compared to what one finds in the US. It also includes the existence of a pro-reunification with Moldova party. That party is small because most people in Prid. aren’t sympathetic to its views.

    Instead of repeating faulty propaganda, try some direct replies to what has been posted.

    Like how Voronin’s family exists when compared to Smirnov’s:

    http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/news/son_of_moldovas_president_defends_his_riches_i_dont_steal.html

    http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/news/smirnov_loses_in_court_to_anti_independence_candidate.html

  29. Brief note on electricity, and Russian economic support.

    Transnistria exports electricity to Ukraine, because they own the big hydropower plant at Dubossary. Dubossary went online in the 1950s; it was rated at 48 MW, but sedimentation has since reduced its peak output to around 40 MW. There’s also a smaller plant at Cuciurgan which runs around 10 MW.

    Now, 50 MW is not that much. In fact, it’s chump change. There are American subdivisions that use more than 50 MW. Hell, there are American amusement parks that use more. Still, it’s more than Transnistria needs, so it exports the surplus, true enough.

    But: the reason it doesn’t need much is because Transnistria doesn’t use electricity for heat. They use natural gas, instead. Which they import from Russia. And don’t always pay for. The gas bill to Russia has been building for over 15 years, and currently stands over $2 billion. Since this is several times larger than Transnistria’s GDP, there is no way this can ever be paid.

    Note that this large bill is despite heavily subsidized prices. For most of the period in question, Transnistria was paying less than half the market rate. Interestingly, the Russians have been cracking the whip on this point — they’ve raised the price to about 2/3 market, and beginning next year, they want Tiraspol to pay full market rate. This is part of a fascinating trend in which Moscow is deciding that subsidizing Belarus and Abkhazia is very nice, but hard currency is even nicer… but I digress. Point is, despite cheap cheap gas, and free electricity, they’ve still managed to run up a multibillion dollar energy tab. This suggests something either about the energy efficiency of Transnistrian industry, or the state of its administration. Or both.

    Anyway, Transnistria may deserve another post. Stay tuned!

    Doug M.

  30. “In your reply, you overlook how Kosovo had been part of Serbia centuries ago.”

    Because it isn’t relevant.

    Centuries ago, the part of Ontario where I live was under the jurisdiction of the Huron Nation, now dissipated thanks to what basically amounts to an Iroquois-led genocide in the mid-17th century. Centuries ago, the Archbishophric of Liege was a sovereign state. Centuries ago, the Qing homeland stretched north and east to the sea of Okhotsk, even as Muslim dynasts ruled northern India. On, and on, and on it goes.

    What do the people who live there now think free from coercion? should be the principle that one should work by. Being driven by nostalgia for a medieval Serbian kingdom dead for more than six centuries or a Tsarist Russia that’s by now been thoroughly disarticulated is silly. The same goes for pretending that a Transnistria run by people who’ve managed to drive out a third of the population thanks to remarkable misgovernment is a good thing, for that matter.

  31. Pridnestrovie provides power for parts of Romania and Moldova as well as parts of Ukraine. What’s considered chump change for an outsider isn’t considered as such for folks there. Prid. is a small market. The bottom line is that the former Moldavian SSR would be better off in the proposed Common or Joint Economic Sphere involving Russia and some other former Soviet republics. Modova’s post-Soviet economic abyss is its fault.

    Randy’s assessment of “relevant” is overly subjective in a grossly hypocritical way, that flies in the face of reality. Points which have been previously detailed in full. When comparing history and human rights, Pridnestrovie has the much better case for independence than ethnically cleansed/criminally run Kosovo. His will of the people for Kosovo is highly hypocritical. The Prid. independence unfriendly Doug acknowledges that Prid. seeks to rejoin Russia and that Prid. was willing to join a former Moldavian SSR confederation, which Moldova didn’t accept.

  32. Moldova’s leadership is far from pristine. Should its international recognition be taken away from it?

    The Kurds have a much better case for a state than the Kosovo Albanians. The Serbs don’t deserve to lose their territory as the Turks and Iraqis are permitted to maintain the largely Kurdish inhabited parts of their respective boundaries.

  33. “Pridnestrovie provides power for parts of Romania and Moldova as well as parts of Ukraine. What’s considered chump change for an outsider isn’t considered as such for folks there.”

    …you know, for an “independent analyst”, you’re not showing much capacity for analysis.

    Romania is shifting from being a net importer of electricity to a net exporter; the difference will be their new nuclear plant, which should go online next year. Total electrical output in Romania is around 21 Gigawatts, with demand about the same.

    Ukraine is a net exporter, and will be for a while. That’s because Ukraine is awash in electricity. The Soviet Union left them *fifteen* nuclear reactors in four power plants, including the Zaporozhe complex, which at 6000 MW is one of the largest in Europe. Then half a dozen hydropower plants /and/ some huge coal thermal plants /and/ several natural gas plants as well.

    So Ukraine exports terawatt-hours of electricity every year. But it also imports a little. Most countries do, even if they’re net exporters. That’s because of (1) distribution issues, (2) peak load issues, and (3) cost — different sorts of electricity cost different amounts, and the prices of inputs go up and down over time. So sometimes its cheaper to import someone else’s hydropower than to burn your own natural gas.

    Still with me? Okay, so Ukraine imports a little electricity from Transnistria. But Ukraine’s total output is around 35 gigawatts. That’s 35,000 megawatts.

    So even if Transnistria sold all 50 MW of production to Ukraine, they’d be providing around a tenth of one percent of total output.

    That’s chump change. The Dubossary power plant could shut down tomorrow, and Ukraine would barely notice. Ukraine exports more electricity in a week than Transnistria produces in a year.

    “Modova’s post-Soviet economic abyss is its fault.”

    You do know that Moldova and Transnistria have almost exactly the same per capita GDP, right?

    Transnistria was by far the wealthiest part of the Moldovan SSR; wages were much higher than in Moldova. (Which is why tens of thousands of ethnic Romanians moved across the river.) Yet despite the benefit of massive subsidies from Russia, they’ve fallen to the point where Moldova is about even with them.

    “Post-Soviet economic abyss”, forsooth.

    Doug M.

  34. Keep dreaming Doug. Your economic analysis is off the mark. Socio-economically, Prid. is much better off than Moldova, Albania and present day Kosovo You overlook how much bigger Moldova is than Prid. On the surface, such a size differential can often explain why some raw economic stats. can be misleading without further clarity.

    A good number left Prid. shortly after the period which saw the Soviet breakup, war with Prid. and Yeltsin era economic chaos. The overwhelming majority of ethnic Moldovans in Prid. support the Sept. 17, ’06 referendum result. Of recent note, there has been no mass exodus. You can find other places (in the form of internationally recognized countries) where people have left in good sized numbers.

  35. “Socio-economically, Prid. is much better off than Moldova, Albania ”

    …now this is just silly.

    I know that, as a Serb nationalist, you have to trash-talk Albania. But as an “independent analyst” you should be able to check basic numbers.

    Transnistria claims a per capita GDP of about US$1090. I doubt it’s that high, but let’s go with it.

    Albania’s pcGDP is about $2700. (That’s the IMF figure for 2005. The projected figure for 2007 is about $3100.)

    Albania has had very rapid economic growth recently; they’ve nearly doubled the size of their economy in the last ten years. They’re just a little behind Serbia ($2900) and could catch and pass it by 2012.

    Anyway, Albania is much richer than Transnistria. And if you’ve been to both countries, you’ll have seen the difference instantly.

    Doug M.

  36. Nonsense from someone posting that Moldova is economically better off than Pridnestrovie.

    Someone who appears to be more of an Albanian nationalist as opposed to the Serb nationalist tag put on me.

    People leave Albania in noticeable numbers to go to Kosovo and not vice versa. What’s Kosovo’s current unemployment rate? Socio-economically, Prid. is better off. This despite the influx of aid poured into Kosovo as Prid. has faced some salami tactic like embargos.

    Like I said, there’re some well traveled propagandists out there who distort reality.

  37. Albanians have left Albania in significant numbers to settle in Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and the FYROM. It doesn’t appear that any significant number of non-Albanians have settled in Albania. Now, we’re to suggestively believe that Tiranhe has reached the modernity level of Belgrade and Novi Sad. Economic statistics can often be misleading when either not fully understood, incorrect or misused.

    As per an earlier point, of all the currently disputed former Communist bloc territories (Kosovo, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Pridnestrovie), I suspect that Prid. has (in per capita numbers and perhaps otherwise) the fewest number of emigrants.

  38. Okay, we’re officially in Fantasy Land.

    1) Ethnic Albanians are moving from Kosovo into Albania, not vice versa. There are Kosovar guest workers all over Shkoder, and they’re starting to pop up in Tirana.

    Makes sense, right? Albania’s economy is much stronger than Kosovo’s; unemployment is falling, wages are rising, and per capita income is over 50% higher. Also, the climate is nicer.

    It’s not as profitable as moving to Italy or Greece and being a guest worker there, but on the other hand you don’t have to learn a new language and can go home on weekends.

    The Albanian government is already expressing concern over what will happen when the new Kosovo highway is finished. Prishtina – Shkoder is a seven hour drive now; that will drop to more like three (or, with Albanian drivers, two and a half and close your eyes on the switchbacks). Albania is nervous that they’ll get tens of thousands of Kosovars. I suspect they’re right.

    2) /By its own figures/, Transnistria has lost more than 20% of its population since the breakup.

    They had 679,000 people in 1989. In 2004 their census found 555,000. The 2007 estimate is 537,000.

    That’s major population decline even by post-Soviet standards. And most of the decline has been from emigration, and most of the emigration has been Russian.

    — There’s other stuff, but at this point I can’t be arsed. You don’t really know much about this stuff and — more to the point — you don’t want to.

    If you were a real analyst, there are a bunch of ways you could counterpunch. You could talk about PPP, productivity, human resource indexes, and the Gini coefficient. “Maybe Albania has a higher GDP. But Transnistria has a flatter wealth distribution curve and a better social safety net. Also, prices in Transnistria are much lower, so the real income difference is not that great.” You’d still be wrong, but at least you’d be making serious arguments.

    Instead you’re just flailing. “Albania nearly as rich as Serbia NO NOT POSSIBLE don’t care what the bad numbers say!”

    Brief googling of your name strongly suggests you’re a crank with way too much time on your hands. You’re not obnoxious enough to delete, but you’re not worth debating.

    Feel free to finish the thread.

    Doug M.

  39. Thanks for substantiating my point.

    Prior to the KLA, the reverse (Albanians entering into Kosovo) was the norm. Since the end of the NATO bombing campaign, Kosovo has become so bad, that a good number of Albanians are now going back to Albania. No “Serb oppression” and plenty of money thrown in there.

    Albania’s “economic boom” is relative, given the comparatively (to other Balkan states) pre-growth low point it has been at. Among others, a Greek grad student finance major is in stitches at some of the claims (suggestive and otherwise) made at this thread.

    Kosovo has lost more people than Pridnestrovie. I suspect the same holds true of the other disputed former Communist bloc territories (at least in % terms).

    In addition to previously raised points, the above stated (in this post) indicates how Prid. has the better case for independence.

    You don’t know much about the subject as proven by the initially posted absurdities, which I answered. BTW, I could’ve also brought up GDP/GNP relative to differing inflation rates and other quality of life determining factors.

    To borrow one of your earlier retorts: Should I reply to everything?

  40. “Prior to the KLA, the reverse (Albanians entering into Kosovo) was the norm.”

    So, Albanians from Albania were entering Kosova/o in large numbers during the Milosevic era?

    “Albania’s “economic boom” is relative, given the comparatively (to other Balkan states) pre-growth low point it has been at.”

    ? The economic growth is absolutely quite high. Relative to other Balkan countries like Romania or Bulgaria, never mind Croatia or Greece, incomes in Albania are quite low. That said, this Albanian economic growth has coincided with substantial economic contraction in many of Albania’s northern neighbours–Kosova/o, obviously, but also Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the more distant Moldova.

    At any rate, the commentary over at Global Voices about your unrealistic portrait of Transnistria

    http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2007/09/18/moldova-transnistria/#comment-1195649

    says it all.

  41. Yes, indeed. It “says it all” in the form of people like yourself citing someone positing the link of an anonymous bigot in addition to misrepresenting he content at a given news org. I prefer shooting for accuracy.

    The statistically (in some instances) “quite high” Albanian growth rate doesn’t negate the overall economic standing in Albania (low) when compared to others in the region.

    During the Milosevic era, KLA terrorists used northern Albania as a terror base, much like how the PKK used western Iraq and how Lebanese territory has been used against Israel. When compared to Israeli and Turkish actions (bombing and invading its its neighbors), then Yugoslavia had every right to bomb those terror bases in northern Albania. Such is the hypocrisy. During and before the Miloswevic era, terrorists made their way from Albania into Kosovo.

  42. The views of Pridnestrovie’s (Trans-Dniester’s population) have been communicated to (among others) DC based attorney Chad Nagle, Moscow based analyst Sergei Markedonov the British helsinki Human Rights Group, The Tiraspol Times and yours truly.

    Unlike some others, those sources haven’t distorted the post-Soviet realities in the former Moldavian SSR (Moldova and Pridnestrovie)

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