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Travis Cunha

Mar 6, 2024

Longing for an Era Unfamiliar

There are not many places a modern Marxist Leninist can go to experience what life was like in the Soviet Union, unless you want to subject yourself to the Nazi propaganda conducted at Grutas Park in Lithuania. Here, you can experience the recreated gulag conditions as if you yourself were just arrested for trying to smuggle packs of Belomorkanal and bottles of Stolichnaya past a border checkpoint in Ramoniskiu.

While entertaining, this is a gross exhibit put on by anti-communists in an attempt to show just how terrible Lithuania was treated by the Communists in power. I am sure Lithuania is doing well with its anti-Communists past and is not doing legwork for Nazis right? 

So, where can a modern ML go to have some sense of what it was like to live in the USSR? Sadly the answer is probably nowhere, but as historical materialists we already know this.

History does not move backwards, sitting and wishing we could go back does nothing to help the modern working class, but we can take notice of a small region which has actually retained its Soviet symbols, and is slowly getting the attention of Western media due to its unique historical place in modern Europe, and recent developments which have thrust it upon the world’s stage.

Transnistria and the USSR

The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), known in the West as Transistria, currently controls most of the narrow strip of land between the Dniester river and the internationally recognized border of Moldova and Ukraine.

Like much of Eastern Europe, Transnistria has a long history of being under different political powers overtime and has a diverse mix of Romanian, Moldovan, Ukrainian, and Russian influence from their unique location.

Following the dissolution of the USSR and Moldova's emergence as an independent nation, there were concerns among many in the region about the possibility of Moldova seeking to unite with Romania. The primary apprehension stemmed from Russians and Ukrainians residing in this area, who feared such a union.

However, it's noteworthy that the Transnistrian population comprises 32% Moldavians, 31% Russians, and 29% Ukrainians, indicating that ethnic tensions were not the driving force behind the conflict, as there were no existing tensions among these major groups.

Instead, economic considerations and business interests linked to the former Soviet Union played a significant role in the desire for secession, which also garnered considerable support from Russia throughout the dispute.

Despite Moldova's independence since 1991, the presence of the Russian (ex-Soviet) 14th Army has persisted in Transnistria to this day.

The Republic of Moldova has attempted to keep control over the region for compelling economic reasons. Despite Transnistria's relatively small size, comprising only 12% of Moldova's territory, it hosts a significant portion of Moldova's industrial infrastructure.

Transnistria and Moldovan War

Leading up to the USSR’s collapse, both the governments of Transnistria and Moldova began a hostile relationship that quickly erupted into one of the least-discussed wars of the modern era, the Transnistria War.

Nearing the USSR’s end, tensions began to arise as Moldova replaced the national language from Russian to Moldovan, and removed the Cyrillic script with the Latin Alphabet. This decision, along with others angered the people of Transnistria which resulted in them declaring independence in September of 1990. 

The armed conflict started just two months later on November 2, 1990. Moldovan troops entered Transnistrian territory in the city of Dubăsari with the intention of dividing Transnistria into two sections, but their advance was halted by residents of the city who had barricaded the bridge over the Dniester River at Lunga.

Moldovan forces resorted to gunfire in an attempt to break through the blockade. During the confrontation, three locals from Dubăsari were killed by Moldovan forces, and sixteen others sustained injuries.

For almost two years, the joint Russa-Transnistrian forces held off the recently created Moldovan military, and was on the verge of entering into Moldova. The Moldovan military ordered airstrikes to destroy the main bridge entering their country. While the airstrikes missed and actually killed civilians, the bridge took enough damage and was not able to be crossed. The war halted at this point and both sides agreed to negotiate a ceasefire, which was achieved and signed on July 21, 1992.

The conflict has been essentially “frozen” since then, with Moldova having no control of the region, and with Transnistria acting as a de facto independent nation since the ceasefire. 

Transnistria’s Request Shakes Europe

Until now, Transnistria has been relatively unknown to the Western public other than to those who admire their Soviet flag and are interested in the fall of the USSR.

Recently though, the Transnistrian government has thrusted itself onto the world stage. On February 28, the government of Transnistria made an appeal to the Russian government for help with alleviating the problems which have arisen due to the economic blockade implemented by Moldova.

Vitaly Ignatyev, Transnistria’s foreign minister explained he wished for Russia to take “measures to protect Transnistria amid mounting pressure from Moldova,” stressing that nearly half of the 450,000 people living in the unrecognized country are Russian citizens. “We’ve asked to intensify political and diplomatic measures, since the Russian Federation is one of the international mediators in the settlement process.”

While the request for Russian assistance was a bit underwhelming considering many expected them to request to be outright annexed into Russia, it does highlight another area that can become troublesome for NATO.

The “mounting pressure from Moldova” may be seen as the anger from NATO resulting from Transnistria acting as a base for a Russian army on the Western border of Ukraine. NATO is constantly fear-mongering about a Russian invasion into NATO territory and having a Russian peace keeping force on their border can be used in the future as a reason to bring military force to the region.

The West has already tried to bring Armenia into the conflict by requesting them to open a second front on the Russian border, so it would not be a surprise to see Western manipulation of Moldova and force them to pressure the Transnistrian government to return to Moldovan control.

While the request from Transnistria seems small, it shows they are truly determined to retain the sovereignty they fought for and have their eyes set on strengthening ties to the multipolar world. 

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