History of Transnistria

History of Transnistria

This is the history of Transnistria.See also the history of Europe and the history of present-day nations and states.

Ancient history

In ancient times, the area was inhabited by Thracian and Scythian tribes. Pliny the Elder names the Tyragetae, a Getae tribe living on an island of the Dniester (ancient name "Tyras"), the Axiacae living along the Tiligul River (ancient "Axiaces") and the Crobyzi, a Thracian tribe living beyond the Dniester. [Pliny the Elder, "The Natural History" [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Plin.+Nat.+4.26 Chapter 26. Scythia] ]

At the mouth of the river, the Ancient Greeks of Miletus founded around 600 BC a colony named Tyras. It fell under the dominion of native kings whose names appear on its coins, and it was destroyed by the Dacians about 50 BC. In AD 56 it had been restored by the Romans and henceforth formed part of the province of Lower Moesia, which also included Dobruja (part of Romania) and northeastern Bulgaria.

Middle Ages

The area of Transnistria was under the rule of the Goths, who, in the 4th century century, were divided into the "Tervingi" and "Greuthungi" tribes, (traditionally identified with the Visigoths and Ostrogoths), the border between them being on the Dniester river. [Peter J. Heather, "The Goths", Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 0631209328]

Transnistria was an early crossroads of people and cultures, including the South Slavs, who reached it in the 6th century. Some East Slavic tribes (Ulichs and Tivertsy) may have lived in it, but they were pushed further north by Turkic nomads such as Pechenegs and the Cumans [Robin Milner-Gulland, "The Russians", Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 0-631-21849-1 p.44] . In the 10th century, the "Volohove" (Vlachs, i.e. Romanians) are mentioned in the area in the Primary Chronicle.fact|date=February 2007

Transnistria was inhabited by the Cumans and wars against them may have brought the territory under the control of the Kievan Rus' at times around the 11th century. [Charles King: "The Moldovans", Hoover Press, Studies of Nationalities series (Stanford University, 2000), page 179.] [John Haywood: Cassell Atlas of World History] [Penguin Atlas of Russian History (Puffin, 1995)] [David Christian: A History of Russia, Mongolia and Central Asia, Vol. 1 (Blackwell, 1999)] It became a formal part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 15th century.

The territory was divided after the Crimean Khanate conquered the southern part, which was included in 1504 in the region of Yedisan and was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The northern part remained under the control of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, as part of the historical region of Podolia. The border between the two states was set on a brook known in Moldavian chronicles as "Iahurlîc" (today "Iagorlîc", in Transnistria). [Sava, p.5]

Moldavia started from its nucleus in Bukovina and soon reached Prut and by the end of the 14th century the Dnister, which was set as their easternmost border. While there were some Moldavian military incursions beyond the Dniester in the 15th century, the earliest written evidence of Moldavian settlement beyond the Dnister dates from the 16th century: a 1541 letter written by Suleiman the Magnificent to Polish Sigismund II Augustus says that some of his Moldavian subjects plundered Tighina and Akkerman and then retreated and settled in the Polish territory. [Nistor, "Vechimea...", p. 6-7]

While the territory beyond the Dnister was never politically part of Moldavia, some areas of today's Transnistria were owned by Moldavian boyars, being given by the Moldavian rulers. The earliest surviving deeds referring to lands beyond the Dnister date from the 16th century. [Sava, p.4-6] Moldavian chronicle Grigore Ureche mentions that in 1584, some Moldavian villages from beyond the Dnister in the Polish territory were attacked and plundered by Cossacks. [Grigore Ureche ""] Many Moldovans were members of Cossacks units, two of them, Ioan Potcoavă and Dănilă Apostol, were hetmans of Ukraine.

Along with a nomadic Nogai Tatar population, the area was populated by Romanians, Ukrainians, and Russians. In 1927, Columbia University Professor Charles Upson Clark, wrote that the lower Dniester was "an almost purely Romanian stream" since 1792 [ [http://depts.washington.edu/cartah/text_archive/clark/bc_29.shtml Charles Upson Clark] ] . Later research, states that the largest group living between Dniester and Bug (a bigger territory than actual Transnistria) in the 18th century was made up of Slavs, primarily Ukrainian peasants [Andrew Wilson: "The Ukrainians: Engaging the Eastern Diaspora" (Westview Press, 1998)] .

Russian Empire

In 1792, the whole Transnistria was ceded to the Russian Empire and at that time, the population was sparse and the Russian Empire encouraged large migrations into the region, including people of Ukrainian, Romanian, Russian and German ethnicity.

Russia began attempting to lure Romanian settlers (mostly from Moldavia, but also from Transylvania, Bukovina and Muntenia) to settle in its territory in 1775, after it gained the largely uninhabited territory between the Dnieper and the Bug. [Nistor, "Vechimea...", p. 14] But the colonization was to a larger scale after 1792, to Transnistria and beyond, when the Russian government declared that the region between the Dnister and the Bug was to become a new principality named "New Moldavia", under Russian suzeranity. [Nistor, "Vechimea...", p. 16]

Plots of tax-extempt land were distributed amongst Moldavian peasants, while 56 Moldavian boyars (belonging to famous families like Rosetti, Cantacuzino, Catargiu and Sturdza) received large estates which they helped colonize. Dozens of new villages were founded during this colonization stage, which lasted until 1812, when Russia annexed Bessarabia and Transnistria ceased to be a borderland. [Nistor, "Vechimea...", p. 15-16]

During World War I, representatives of the Romanian speakers beyond the Dniester (who numbered 173,982 in the 1897 census) participated in the Bessarabian national movement in 1917/1918, asking for the incorporation of their territory in Greater Romania. Nevertheless, Romania ignored their request, as it would have required a large-scale military intervention. [King, p.80]

Autonomous Moldavian Republic in Soviet Ukraine

At the end of World War I in 1918, the Directory of Ukraine proclaimed the sovereignty of the Ukrainian People's Republic over the left bank of the Dniester. After the Russian Civil War in 1922, the Ukrainian SSR was created.

The geopolitical concept of an autonomous Communist Transnistrian region was born in 1924, when Bessarabian military leader Grigore Kotovski proposed the founding under the auspices of Moscow of the Moldavian Autonomous Oblast that months later became the Moldavian ASSR of Ukrainian SSR.

In 1927 there was a massive uprising of peasants and factory workers in Tiraspol and other cities (Mohyliv-Podilskyi, Kamianets-Podilskyi) of southern Ukrainian S.S.R. against Soviet authorities. Troops from Moscow were sent to the region and suppressed the unrest, causing around 4000 deaths, according to US corespondents sent to report about the insurrection, which was at the time completely denied by the Kremlin official press. [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,737074,00.html Disorder in the Ukraine?] , "TIME Magazine", December 12, 1927]

During the 1920s and 1930s, thousands of Romanian Transnistrians fled to Romania, the government of which set up a special fund for their housing and education. A 1935 estimate puts the number of refugees to 20,000. [King, p.181]

While the creation of ethnic-based autonomous polities was a general policy of the Soviets at that time, with the creation of the Moldavian ASSR, the Soviet Union also hoped also to bolster its claim to Bessarabia. Soviet authorities declared the "temporarily occupied city of Kishinev" as "de jure" capital of the ASSR. The concept of "Moldavian ethnicity theory" was also born there, including the Moldovan language created through the cyrillization of the Romanian language spoken by approximately one third of the autonomous republic's population.

At that time, the population of Moldavian ASSR was 48% Ukrainian, 30% Romanian/Moldavian, 9% Russian, and 8.5% Jewish. In 1940, 6 of the 14 districts of MASSR were included in the new created Moldavian SSR, together with a part of Bessarabia.

According to the Soviet census of 1926, in the districts of Camenca, Rîbniţa, Dubăsari, Grigoriopol, Tiraspol and Slobozia, a teritorry roughly similar with today's Transnistria, there were 44,11% Moldavians (Romanians), 27,18% Ukrainians, 13,69% Russians, 8,21% Jews, 3,01% Germans etc [ [http://www.mdn.md/index.php?day=363 Our Moldova - Article about the creation of MASSR, with details about 1926 Soviet census results] (in Romanian)] .

World War II

The Moldavian SSR, which was set up by a decision of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 2 August 1940, was formed from a part of Bessarabia taken from Romania on June 28, following the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, where the majority of the population were Romanian speakers, and a strip of land on the left bank of the Dniester in the Ukrainian SSR, which was transferred to it in 1940 (the strip being roughly equivalent to the territory of today's Transnistria).

In 1941, after Axis forces invaded Bessarabia in the course of the Second World War, they advanced over the Dniester river. Romania controlled the entire region between Dniester and Southern Bug rivers, including the city of Odessa, as "Transnistria". By March 1943, a total of 185,000 Jews had been murdered under the Romanian and German occupation. This figure includes Romanian and Ukrainian Jews deported from Romania and Bessarabia, but also local Jews who were hunted down by the Einsatzgruppen killing squads.

The Soviet Union regained the area in 1944 when the Soviet Army advanced into the territory driving out the Axis forces.

Soviet Moldavia

The Moldavian SSR became the subject of a systematic policy of Russification. Cyrillic was made the official script for Moldavian. It had an official status in the republic, together with Russian, which was the language of "interethnic communication".

Most industry that was built in the Moldavian SSR was concentrated in Transnistria, while the rest of Moldavia had a predominantly agricultural economy. In 1990, Transnistria accounted for 40% of Moldavia's GDP and 90% of its electricity production. [Mackinlay and Cross, p. 135]

The 14th Soviet army had been based there since 1956 and was kept there after the fall of the Soviet Union to safeguard what is probably the biggest weapons stockpile and ammunition depot in Europe, which was set up in Soviet times for possible operations on the Southeastern Theater in the event of World War III. Russia was negotiating with the Republic of Moldova, Transnistria and Ukraine for transit rights to be able to evacuate the military materiel back to Russia. In 1994, the 14th Army headquarters were moved from Moldovan capital Chişinău to Tiraspol.

The breakaway

Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of "perestroika" in the Soviet Union allowed the political liberalisation at the regional level in 1980s. The incomplete democratisation was preliminary for the exclusivist nationalism to become the most dynamic political force. Some national minorities opposed these changes in the Moldavian political class of the republic, since during Soviet times, local politics had often been dominated by non-Romanians, particularly by those of Russian origin. The language laws — introducing the Latin alphabet for written Moldavian and requiring proficiency in the Moldavian language (essentially—some would say exactly—the Romanian language) for public servants— presented a particularly volatile issue as a great proportion of the non-Romanian population of the Moldavian SSR did not speak Moldavian. The problem of official languages in the Republic of Moldova has become a Gordian knot, being exaggerated and, perhaps, intentionally politicized. This displeasure with the new policies was manifested in a more visible way in Transnistria, where urban centers such as Tiraspol, had a Slavic majority. The scenes of protests against the central government of the republic were more acute here.

According to the census in 1989, the population in Transnistria was 39.9% Moldavian, 28.3% Ukrainian, 25.4% Russian, 1.9% Bulgarian.

On 2 September 1990, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was unilaterally proclaimed as a Soviet Republic separate from Moldova by the "Second Congress of the Peoples' Representatives of Pridnestrovie". However on 22 December, the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed a decree "regarding the measures that would bring the situation back to normal in the Moldavian SSR". The decision stated that the proclamation of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian SSR was null and void. On 25 August 1991, the Supreme Council of the PMSSR adopted the declaration of independence of the republic. On 27 August 1991, the Moldovan Parliament adopted the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova, whose territory included Transnistria. The Moldovan Parliament asked the Government of the Soviet Union "to begin negotiations with the Moldovan Government in order to put an end to the illegal occupation of the Republic of Moldova and withdraw Soviet troops from Moldovan territory".

After Moldova became a member of the United Nations on 2 March 1992, Moldovan President Mircea Snegur (president from 1990 to 1996) authorized concerted military action against PMR forces which had been attacking police outposts loyal to the Moldovan government on the left bank of the river Dniester (Nistru), and on a smaller section of the right bank around the southern city of Tighina (Bender/Bendery). The PMR forces, aided by contingents of Russian Cossacks and the Russian 14th Army, consolidated their control over most of the disputed area.

Forces of the 14th Army (which had owed allegiance to the Soviet Union, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Russian Federation in turn) stationed in Transnistria, had fought with and on behalf of the PMR side. PMR units were able to arm themselves with weapons taken from the stores of the former 14th Army. The Russian 14th Army's role in the area was crucial to the outcome of the war. The Moldovan army was in a position of inferiority which prevented it from regaining control of Transnistria. A cease-fire agreement was signed on 21 July 1992.


Despite the ceasefire agreement, Russia had continued to provide military, political and economic support to the separatist government, thus enabling it not only to survive but to strengthen itself and acquire a certain amount of autonomy from Moldova. General Aleksandr Lebed, the commander of the Russian Operational Group (the former Russian 14th Army) since June 1992, who acted as a Transnistrian politician, said many times that his army was able to reach Bucharest in two hours. In the security zone controlled by the Russian peacekeeping forces, the Transnistrian government continued to deploy its troops illegally and to manufacture and sell weapons in breach of the agreement of 21 July 1992. In February 2003, the USA and the European Union imposed visa restrictions against the Transnistrian leadership.

Although only 2,600 troops of the Russian 14th Army remain in the operational group, their presence has been used by Russia as an instrument of influence over the region.

The agreement to withdraw all Russian forces was signed in 1994, but while the number of troops decreased, an immense stockpile of ammunition and equipment remained. The arsenal of the former 14th Army consists of 49,476 firearms, 805 artillery guns, 4,000 cars, and 655 units of various military equipment, which is enough to arm four rifle divisions.ref|CFA

The OSCE is trying to facilitate a negotiated settlement and has had an observer mission in place for several years. The Russian army was still stationed in Moldovan territory in breach of the undertakings to withdraw them completely given by Russia at the OSCE summits in 1999 and 2001.

Primakov Memorandum on the "common state"

On 8 May 1997, the Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi and the separatist leader Igor Smirnov, have signed, in Moscow, with the mediation of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE Mission in Moldova, the "Memorandum on the principles of normalizations of the relations between the Republic of Moldova and Transdniestria" also known as "Primakov Memorandum" or "Moscow Memorandum".

In compliance with the final clause of the memorandum, the relations between the Republic of Moldova and Transdniestria shall be developed within the framework of a common state, within the borders of the Soviet Moldova. The Russian Federation and Ukraine stating their readiness to become guarantors of the Transdnestrian status observance, as well as of the Memorandum’s provisions. Chişinău and Tiraspol have decided to sustain the establishment of legal and state relations: the mutual decision coordination, inclusively regarding prerogatives delimitation and delegation, the safeguard of mutual security, the Transnistrian participation in the process of accomplishment of the foreign policy of the Republic of Moldova. In the same time, Transdniestria was recognized the right, subject to mutual agreement, to independently establish and maintain international connections in such fields as economy, science, technologies and culture. The Memorandum provisions had widely diverging legal and political interpretations in Chişinău and Tiraspol.

The Kozak Memorandum

In July 2002, OSCE, Russian, and Ukrainian mediators approved a document setting forth a blueprint for reuniting Moldova under a federal system. However, the fundamental disagreements over the division of powers remained, which rendered the settlement elusive.

In mid-November 2003, Russia unexpectedly provided a much more detailed memorandum proposing a united "asymmetric" federal Moldavian state with an attached key proposal to locate a Russian military base on Moldavian soil for the next 20 years [http://www.interfax.ru/e/B/politics/28.html?id_issue=11413920] . First published in Russian on the website of Transnistria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the text was promoted by a Russian politician Dmitry Kozak, known to be a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and one of the key figures in his presidential team. The memorandum presented an end to the previous Moscow policy, which assumed that the region would have equal status in federation with the rest of the country.

It was proposed that the competences of government of the federal Moldova would be divided into three categories: those of the federation, those of individual subjects and those of joint competences. The plan presented several issues risking to cause blockage in policy-making. A lower house, elected by proportional representation, would pass legislation by simple majority. All laws would also need the assent of the senate, however, whose representation would be highly disproportionate with respect to population figures: 13 senators elected by the federal lower house, nine by Transnistria and four by Gagauzia. According to the 1989 census, Transnistria had 14% and Gagauzia 3.5% of Moldova's total population. By this plan, Transnistria would be an outright blocking minority.

Large demonstrations against the Kozak memorandum took place in Chişinău in the days following the publication of the Russian proposal. Moldova's leadership declined to sign memorandum without the coordination with the European organizations. A visit by President Putin to Moldova was cancelled. Later in 2005, President Vladimir Voronin made a statement rejecting the 2003 Kozak memorandum because of contradiction with the Moldovan constitution which defines Moldova as a neutral state and could not allow any foreign troops on its soil, while the country cannot join military alliances. Moldova and the Kozak memorandum was a key issue at the OSCE ministerial meeting in Maastricht in December 2003, and disagreement between Russia on the one hand, and the EU and the US on the other on Moldova, was one of the principal reasons why a final joint declaration was not adopted after the meeting.

2004 crisis

In the summer of 2004, a crisis erupted over the issue of Moldavian schools in Transnistria. It led to a breakdown in negotiations and economic retaliations by both sides. The issue was resolved by compromise: The PMR government gave the schools autonomy and the schools formalized their registration with the PMR Ministry of Education.

Ukraine-sponsored talks

In May 2005, the Ukrainian government of Viktor Yushchenko proposed a seven-point plan by which the separation of Transnistria and Moldova would be settled through a negotiated settlement and free elections. Under the plan, Transnistria would remain an autonomous region of Moldova. The United States, the EU and the PMR itself expressed some level of agreement with the project.

In July, Ukraine opened five new customs posts on the PMR-Ukraine border. The posts, staffed by both Moldovan and Ukrainian officials, are intended to reduce the hitherto high incidence of smuggling between the breakaway state and its neighbors.



* cite book
author = Anne Applebaum
title = Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe
publisher = Pantheon Books
month = October | year = 1994
id = ISBN 0-679-42150-5
"see Chapter 4"
* cite book
author = Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Ivan Krastev
title = Nationalism After Communism: Lessons Learned
id = ISBN 963-9241-76-8

* cite book
author = Aurel V. Sava
title = Documente moldoveneşti privitoare la românii de peste Nistru (1574-1829)
year = 1942

* Ion Nistor, "Vechimea aşezărilor româneşti dincolo de Nistru", Bucureşti: Monitorul Oficial şi Imprimeriile Statului, Imprimeria Naţională, 1939
* John Mackinlay and Peter Cross (editors), "Regional Peacekeepers: The Paradox of Russian Peacekeeping", United Nations University Press, 2003, ISBN 92-808-1079-0
* Charles King, "The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture", Hoover Institution Press, 2000

See also

* War of Transnistria
* Disputed status of Transnistria

= External links =
* [http://pridnestrovie.net/taxonomy/term/36 Pridnestrovie.net history section] (Official Transnistrian site)
* [http://www.vspmr.org/?Part=5&Lang=Eng History of creation and development of the Parliament of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR)]

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