Back in the USSR – Time travelling in Transdniestr

Transdniestr, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic

Each year, I aim to do a “mum with just one daughter”-trip. This way, each girl will get all the attention for a few days. In 2008, I took my oldest to Transdniestr.

Much as she might have preferred shopping in London for the umpteenth time, I’m drawn to the world’s more obscure places, so instead we went to Moldova to explore its chic capital Chisinau, the archaeological finds at Orheiul Vechi and, most importantly, to have a look at the non-existent country Transdniestr.


Wedged between Ukraine and Moldova, the breakaway Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, better known as Transdniestr or Transnistria, is still adhering to a Soviet system. This is a different world; a living museum of times gone by.


After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Moldova seriously considered joining Romania, much to the Transdniestrians chagrin. They have more in common with Ukraine and Russia, so after a brutal war in 1992, the region decided to break away, and declared its independence from Moldova.

Tiraspol War Memorial
Tiraspol war memorial

The self-declared, break-away republic doesn’t officially exist. Yet there’s a Transdniestrian government, a Parliament, an army, a police force, a flag, a national anthem, currency and postage stamps.

Transnistrian postage stamps

Not internationally recognized, its citizens need Moldovan passports in addition to their 3-language Transdniestrian one.

Hearing horror stories of Transdniestr border patrol officers, we were pleasantly surprised when everything ran smoothly. Nobody demanded any bribes or anything.

Moldovan - Transnistrian border
Border post near Bendery

Tiraspol, the capital, is a nice enough city. Wide, leafy avenues, imposing buildings, plenty of monuments and pretty churches.

Orthodox church, Tiraspol
Russian Orthodox Church in Tiraspol

Lenin in Transdniestr

In front of the Transdniestrian parliament, and elsewhere in town, Lenin still reigns supreme:

Parliament and Lenin, Tiraspol
Parliament, Tiraspol

Lenin, Tiraspol
More Lenin

Yuri Gagarin, the world’s first man in space, is cherished as well:

Yuri Gagarin statue, Tiraspol

Transdniestrian authorities select “best citizens” and their photos are displayed prominently. Some are selected for a year, some for life. President Igor Smirnov is found in the latter category.

Upstanding citizens of Tiraspol

Want to read more about this anachronistic little state? A more comprehensive travel tale is published as Transdniestr – Back in the USSR on WAVEJourney


18 Responses to “Back in the USSR – Time travelling in Transdniestr”

  1. Raymond @ Man On The Lam 23 September 2011 1645 #

    I have never heard of Transdniestr before — you do find the most obscure places! :)
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..The Problem with Planning

  2. Jeremy Branham 23 September 2011 1725 #

    The former Soviet Union fascinates me. I guess it is because my first ever trip was to Estonia. There is something intriguing about the communist era. Would like to visit Moldova one and see more of the the former USSR.
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Where in the world am I?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 23 September 2011 1801 #

      @Jeremy – Estonia is one of my favourite countries and Tallinn is a cool little capital – easy to walk around, quirky cafes, full of intriguing folklore and mysteries…

  3. Angela 23 September 2011 1807 #

    Never heard of this country either, I can’t even pronounce it actually! Very fascinating, we never know how many of these obscure places are in the world, I too love discovering them.
    Angela recently posted..Sardinia, land of mystery. Part 2: Atlantis’ lost civilization?

  4. Jade 23 September 2011 2224 #

    Now I have that song in my head! Sounds like an interesting place, and like Raymond… I’ve never heard of it!
    Jade recently posted..Hollywood Lights for #FriFotos

  5. Vera Marie Badertscher 23 September 2011 2230 #

    Wow! If I didn’t know you, Sophie, I’d think this was all made up. A Great April Fool’s joke. Leave it to you to visit a place that isn’t there.
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Portugal Explained

  6. jenjenk 23 September 2011 2236 #

    I’m still trying to rack my brains to figure out where that place is!!

    i love that you have one daughter per trip!! what a wonderful bonding experience filled with such memories!
    jenjenk recently posted..Photo Friday: Lights

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 September 2011 0844 #

      @Jen – Good point. I’m now inspired to look for a plug-in for adding maps to blog posts. Thanks :)

  7. James Cook 24 September 2011 1035 #

    I had never heard of this country before! The old Soviet countries are so interesting though. I have been to the Ukraine before an it was a beautiful place!
    James Cook recently posted..Why I’m Not Working At Rugby World Cup

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 24 September 2011 1547 #

      @James – In the Ukraine, I’ve only been to Kiev – so interesting and beautiful.

  8. ayngelina 24 September 2011 1629 #

    I love that you do a vacation with just one of them, its things like that they will remember forever.
    ayngelina recently posted..Returning to the land of meat eaters

  9. The Travel Chica 24 September 2011 1642 #

    Wow! They fit a whole 3 vowels in the name of the city. Impressive :-)
    The Travel Chica recently posted..Finding the Best Without Leaving Home

  10. Andrea 26 September 2011 0008 #

    The mum with just one daughter trip idea is fantastic – I can imagine it’s tough to really focus on each child when you’re travelling – would be a great experience for them (and you! =)

  11. Nomadic Samuel 26 September 2011 0255 #

    It’s great that you’re showing your children the world and by taking one of them at a time it’ll really make it a special experience.
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..Machu Picchu | Peru | Part 2 | Travel Video

  12. Suzy 26 September 2011 0617 #

    Like the majority here, I have never heard of Transdniestr. Sounds like a fascinating find in a part of the world that is largely ignored by travelers.
    Suzy recently posted..The Simple Joys of American Hotels

  13. robin 26 September 2011 1229 #

    Love the one daughter trip idea. I don’t know whether i find this little country, whose name I’m pretty sure I can’t pronounce, chilling or hilarious. Don’t they watch TV??? Read the papers??
    robin recently posted..La Granja

  14. Audrey 1 October 2011 1851 #

    This is fascinating!! I had never heard of Transdniestr before! It’s so cool that you got to explore this unknown gem with your daughter. Definitely beats shopping in London 😉
    Audrey recently posted..Hopewell Rocks for Sunrise

  15. Lucie 12 May 2012 1111 #

    I’ve been here 4 years ago, this really something different! It’s like being in a museum or being in a history book, a great experience! As opposed to you, we’ve been asked to pay at the border, but we refused and they let us go, same thing on the way back. They were not particularly annoying about it, just trying. I’m sure a lot of people would pay since it’s quite impressive to see all these soldiers :) Loved your article!
    Lucie recently posted..Londres: Canalway Cavalcade à Little Venice

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