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Marta Lis

Dubăsari at a Crossroads: Brothers and Sisters on the Two Sides of the River

How does being placed in the security zone make easy things impossible? Dubăsari district stands out of all the Moldovan district not thanks to its landscapes  but due to its geographical and administrative location in the security zone –  one of a few still existing in Europe.

Photo from the author's archives, source:

Students of the theoretical Lyceum in Dorotcaia, Dubăsari district. Photo from the author’s archives, source:

Map of Dubăsari sub-district (purple). These areas are controlled by Transnistria. Green areas are Dubăsari district, controlled by Chişinău, author: Aotearoa, source: Wikimedia Commons

Map of Dubăsari sub-district (purple). These areas are controlled by Transnistria. Green areas are Dubăsari district, controlled by Chişinău, author: Aotearoa, source: Wikimedia Commons

The security zone operates as a result of a conflict between Transnistria (a territory with limited political recognition  located to the east of river Dniester, on the border with Ukraine) and Moldova in 1992. As part of a ceasefire agreement, a three-party (Russia, Moldova, Transnistria) Joint Control Commission supervises the security arrangements in the demilitarized zone, comprising twenty localities on both sides of the river.

One of such localities is Dubăsari that on a daily basis has to face the challenges of administrative decentralization and operating  in the condition of territorial division into 3 territories and 3 corps of peacekeepers. The city of Dubăsari is  under the administration of the breakaway government of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, and the local government of the Dubăsari district operates in a village Cosnita.

Due to the functioning of the security zone, the economic investment in the district is really low although the location is good for agriculture and leisure – with its 27 square km of Dniester river bank.  Understandably, no one wants to invest in a territory of an unstable political situation when conflict can escalate any moment. Despite the ceasefire over 20 years ago, the conflict remains unresolved strongly influences all the domains of life of the district dwellers.

Photo from the author's archives

Local public administration of Dubăsari district in Cosnitsa. Photo from the author’s archives

Personal relations with the Transnistrians are friendly and normal. It is the politics that complicates the story. On the political level the agreement is hard to reach.  As the president of the district Dubăsari puts it – the perfectly mirrors the Moscow-EU relations. All the problems between individuals could be solved in one week, but as emotions run high the political tensions arise – to the extent that the president of Dubăsari district had to face severe restrictions to enter the Transnistrian part of the district.

 “We want to be a safe zone, not the security zone” – that is how the situation is seen by the pupils of the theoretical lyceum of Dorotskaia – a schools working within the borders of Dubăsari district. The pupils say “we are brothers and sisters on the two sides of the river”.

The theoretical lyceum of Dorotskaia is actually two schools in one. Apart from the pupils from the village that end classes around 1 pm, the pupils from Transnistria come in the afternoon as they are not allowed to use the Latin alphabet at the schools on „their side of the river”. What was intended to be a temporary solution for 3 months,  has lasted for 11 years already.  Two administrations and two directors are located under one roof. As a result, none of the schools can use the premises to the full. The pupils see clearly the absurdities of the situation. „Personally we are friends with the Transnistrian students, but we would like to have more extracurricular activities, there is no time for that as the schools cannot be merged”.  They would like to be able to study together, but politically it is impossible. At least as long as the district is a security zone, not a safe zone.


The text was written as a result of  ‘Europe in a suitcase’ junior team dialogue trip to Moldova in May 2013.

Europe in a suitcase

‘Europe in a suitcase’ takes young European experts in tri-national teams (German, Polish and the country of destination) on several dialogue trips to Eastern Partnership countries. In the course of discussion and talkshow meetings with their contemporaries, Junior teams unpack a European ‘suitcase’ and enable insights into the founding ideas of European integration as well as EU policies towards Eastern partner countries. The project is supported by European Academy Berlin and Robert Bosch Stiftung.

To learn more about the project visit a Facebook fanpage of  ‘Europe in a suitcase’.

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