07/07/2022
Transnistria is a Russian-backed breakaway region of Moldova.

Register in a tile company in the town of Bandar.

It is located on the border with Ukraine and is home to more than 300,000 people.

Casino and bus station in Bandar

Transnistria declared itself an independent country after a brief war in 1992.

traditional knowledge
Residential building in Bandar

The war came after Moldova declared its independence from the Soviet Union.

traditional knowledge
Residential building in Bandar.

The newly independent Moldova made Romanian its official language.

traditional knowledge
Cargo terminal in Bandar

Russia then intervened ostensibly to protect the rights of Russian speakers in Transnistria.

traditional knowledge
An empty freight yard in Bandar.

No country recognizes the so-called sovereignty of Transnistria, including Russia.

traditional knowledge
Ticket office closed at Bandar train station

But at least 1,500 Russian soldiers are said to be stationed in the area as “peacekeepers”.

traditional knowledge
Cargo terminal in Bandar

Peacekeepers are stationed in armored vehicles on the de facto border between Moldova and Transnistria.

traditional knowledge
Calendar 2020 at Bandar Station

Transnistria cannot stamp passports, so foreign visitors are given a piece of paper telling them how long they are allowed to stay.

traditional knowledge
Recycled battery box at Bandar train station

When Insider visited, authorities did not ask any questions about the reporter’s US passport, allowing him to stay for up to 12 hours.

traditional knowledge
Soviet-era telephone at Bender train station

Shortly after the Insider’s visit, the Transnistrian authorities reported a series of eruptions, which they attributed to external elements.

traditional knowledge
Moldovan soft drinks at Bandar train station

Russian officials claimed that they intended to partially occupy southern Ukraine to connect Transnistria to Crimea.

traditional knowledge
Signed at Bender . Train Station

Russia’s stated intentions raised fears of a new war in Transnistria.

traditional knowledge
Banners commemorating the Russian Tsar

Transnistria was the most industrialized part of Moldova under the Soviet Union.

traditional knowledge
Parking at Bandar Train Station

Today, it continues to supply most of Moldova’s electricity, with free Russian gas fuel.

traditional knowledge
14 platforms at Bandar Station

Transnistria has its own army, believed to number up to 10,000 soldiers, with a much larger number in reserve.

traditional knowledge
Soviet-era carriages at Bender Station

It also houses one of Europe’s largest munitions depots, a relic of the Soviet Union cited by Russia to justify its military presence.

Railway wagons on tracks
Vans in Bandar

In late April, Transnistrian authorities claimed that the area around the arms depot had been attacked and that reconnaissance drones had been launched from Ukraine.

traditional knowledge
High Pass in Bandar

Ukraine denies launching attacks inside Transnistria.

traditional knowledge
High Pass in Bandar

Some military experts believe that the alleged attacks were carried out by Russia either to justify intervention or to distract Ukraine.

traditional knowledge
Graffiti in Bandar

The attacks contributed to the desire of the Moldovan authorities to enhance their military capabilities.

traditional knowledge
Graffiti on the wall near the freight yard in Bandar.

The Transnistrian authorities have long expressed their desire to join Russia, with Russian flags hanging from government buildings in the capital, Tiraspol.

traditional knowledge
Railway Museum in Bandar

But Transnistrian officials did not openly support Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

traditional knowledge
Railway Museum in Bandar

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians live in Transnistria, including the youngest refugees.

traditional knowledge
Leninstrasse in Bender

The only general sign of war in Ukraine is the Ukrainian license plates on newcomer vehicles.

Lenin's system
Statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in a park in Bender, Transnistria.

Despite its political isolation, the region does not appear to be economically weaker than Moldova.

traditional knowledge
A cinema in Bandar shows some of the latest films from Hollywood and Russia.

Clean streets lined with cinemas, cafes and restaurants.

traditional knowledge
Film poster at the cinema in Bandar.

The streets are also full of modern luxury cars.

traditional knowledge
Photocopy and printing shop in Bandar.

What you won’t find in Transnistria are many international companies, where Russian banks dominate the financial sector.

traditional knowledge
Many in Transnistria have Russian, Moldovan and Romanian citizenship, the latter allowing them to travel to Europe without a visa.

traditional knowledge
Bandar Residential Building

Despite Russian support, Transnistria has close ties with Europe, with much of its exports going to the European Union.

traditional knowledge
EU project at Bandar Castle.

Insider witnessed EU projects aimed at boosting the tourism industry in Transnistria.

traditional knowledge
Banners announcing the European Union’s support for the reconstruction project of the Ottoman Citadel in Bandar.

Russian soldiers and local volunteers work together at military bases in Transnistria.

Military base
Bandar Military Base.

Military equipment can be seen from the tower of an Ottoman-era castle in Bandar.

traditional knowledge
Bender Castle in Transnistria.

Despite undergoing regular combat training, troops in Transnistria rely on outdated Soviet-era equipment.

Military base
Military equipment seen at a base used by Russian forces in Bender, Transnistria.

Most of the Transnistrian region is located on the eastern side of the Dniester River.

bridge over the river
A bridge in Bender, Transnistria painted in the colors of the Russian and local flags.

Over the past 30 years, residents have been taught that Moldova is trying to eliminate Russian speakers in the region.

Russian Soldier Museum Statue
A museum at the Ottoman-era Bender Castle in Transnistria celebrates the Russian intervention.

Almost all shops in Transnistria are controlled by oligarchs, with the “Sheriff” brand in supermarkets and football fields.

A man walking in front of a supermarket
Supermarket in Tiraspol.

The Moldovan authorities noted an elite split between the military and economic powers of Transnistria.

traditional knowledge
A building believed to house military officers in Transnistria.

Despite some uses of Soviet-era imagery, capitalist Transnistria is practiced in the Russian style.

Transnistria billboard with flag and crescent moon
A bulletin board in Tiraspol welcomes visitors to the Pridnestrovian Republic of Moldova.

Leaders are more nostalgic for the pre-communist Russian Empire than for the Soviet Union.

tank set up
A tank monument in Tiraspol commemorating Russia’s “Great Patriotic War” and the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

The Russian and Transnistrian flag flutters on Suvorov Square in Tiraspol, the self-proclaimed capital.

Flags of Transnistria and Russia
Suvorov Square in Tiraspol on April 23, 2022.

Photographing government buildings in Transnistria is not recommended.

traditional knowledge
Government building in Tiraspol, Transnistria.

On a Saturday in April, the streets were full of cars, including a BMW drivers club, and the sidewalks were full of pedestrians.

traditional knowledge
Public monument in Tiraspol.

Tiraspol hosts the consulates of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two other breakaway regions allied with Russia that have not been recognized by the international community.

traditional knowledge
traditional knowledge

A menu in Tiraspol advertises Russian and Ukrainian cuisine.

traditional knowledge
Restaurant in Tiraspol.

As it is not an internally recognized country, Transnistria cannot produce its currency through reputable printers, forcing it to resort to plastic tokens like those used in casinos.

Sign the coins
An advertisement for a Transnitrian coin in Tiraspol.

Tiraspol airport is not open to commercial aviation and was recently the target of an alleged attack.

traditional knowledge
Travel company in Tiraspol.

In light of the recent eruptions, the Moldovan authorities have intensified searches for vehicles leaving Transnistria.

traditional knowledge
A burning building can be seen from the main street of Tiraspol.

In the center of Tiraspol stands a monument to the 18th century Russian general Alexander Suvorov.

traditional knowledge
Suvorov Square in Tiraspol.

Transnistria is officially known as Pridnestrovian Moldova.

painting
A billboard saluting the Transnistrian people in front of the tank monument in Tiraspol.

The new buildings feature modern architecture that wouldn’t look out of place in American or European cities.

traditional knowledge
Great restaurant in Tiraspol.

The House of Soviets in Tiraspol is now used as the town hall.

traditional knowledge
House of the Soviets in Tiraspol.