Transnistria is a country located along the left bank of the lower reaches of the Dniester River in Eastern Europe, near the Black Sea coast. A narrow strip of flat land about 200 kilometres long, it has a strong industrial development.
The country is internationally recognised as part of Moldova. It is de facto an independent state from Moldova, but with a strong economic, political, and military dependence on Russia.
Transnistria declared itself independent from Moldova on 2 September 1990, when both territories were still part of the Soviet Union. In November 1990 war broke out between the Russian-backed Transnistrian forces on the one side and the Moldovan forces on the other. A ceasefire was reached in July 1992 and has held to this day. Some 1,500 to 2,000 Russian troops are stationed in Transnistria, officially as peacekeepers and task forces.
A referendum on the future of Transnistria was held in 2006 in which, according to official results, 98 per cent of voters supported integration into Russia. The measure has not been implemented. Russia has preferred Transnistria’s status to remain unresolved so that it can permanently influence Moldova’s political affairs.
Since the 1990s, several international initiatives to resolve the Transnistria issue, notably through the so-called 5+2 format, have not led to a peace agreement.
The Transnistrian Constitution recognises three official languages: Russian, Romanian (officially called Moldovan), and Ukrainian. In practice, Transnistrian authorities use Russian as the only de facto official language, and have continued the linguistic policy of Russification undertaken by Soviet authorities. In the education system, Russian is used in 90% of classrooms.
Transnistria’s most recent census (2015) included a question on the national composition of the country. The results were: Russians 29.1%; Moldovans 28.9%; Ukrainians 22.9%; Bulgarians 2.4%; Gagauz 1.1%; Belarusians 0.5%; Transnistrians 0.2%; others 1.4%; undeclared 14%.
The 2004 census had yelded these results: Moldovans 31.9%; Russians 30.3%; Ukrainians 30.3%; Bulgarians 2%; Poles 2%; Gagauz 1.5%; Jews 1.3%; Belarusians 1%; Germans 0.6%; others 0.5%.
The two censuses, like the 1989 census, confirm the differential aspect of the Transnistrian demography in relation to Moldova in terms of national identity: the Slav majority in Transnistria as opposed to the Romanian/Moldovan majority in the rest of Moldova, mainly (but not only) as a result of Russian and Ukrainian immigration to Transnistria during the Soviet era. The 1926 Soviet census shows Romanian/Moldovan majorities existed in some districts and Ukrainian majorities in others, with the notable exceptions of the towns of Tiraspol (then already Russian-majority) and Rîbnita (Jewish-majority).
Moreover, in 2015, after some 25 years of de facto statehood, for the first time some 1,000 people declared their nationality to be Transnistrian.
Politics and administration
Transnistria is a semi-presidential republic. The president is elected by universal suffrage every 5 years. He or she is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Transnistrian armed forces, and sets the general linings of the country’s domestic and foreign policy.
Executive power is vested in the government, headed by the prime minister. Legislative power is vested in the Supreme Council (Transnistria’s unicameral parliament, elected by universal suffrage every 5 years) and the government.
Since 2005, the majority party in the Supreme Council has been the Republican Party Renewal (Republikanskaya Partiya Obnoblenie), which was promoted in 2000 by —and, according to sources, remains under the control of— Transnistria’s largest economic holding, the Sheriff Group.
(Last updated March 2022.)