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Krzysztof Kolanowski

How Transnistria Retraced Borders

The “Law regarding the state border of Transnistria” signed by President of Transnistria Yevgeny Shevchuk has caused a storm in Moldova. There were two main troubling points: that the territory of Transnistria includes, among others, the city of Bendery with the village Varnitsa (Varniţa); and that until the Republic of Moldova recognizes the sovereign rights of Moldovan Republic of Transnistria and its people, Transnistria unilaterally establishes measures to protect its sovereignty at the border with the Republic of Moldova.

Dniestr, autor  Ostblog.org – Der Osten im Fokus źródło: flickr.com

Dniester, author Ostblog.org – Der Osten im Fokus, source: flickr.com

The document “On State Border of Moldovan Republic of Transnistria” (Law regarding the state border of Transnistria)

In the article “Moldova: What’s new in Transnistria?” (PL) I have already described the specific location of the village Varnitsa, which is under control of the Moldovan authorities, but located between two districts of the city of Bendery. That is why the so-called paper “inclusion” of Varnitsa into the territory of Transnistria is considered by some media a declaration of a new war and the threat of the same situation as  in early 1990’s. On the front pages the newspaper Naţional shouted of “the siege of Varnitsa” and insisted that its people would not give in without a struggle. Natalia Morar, a popular journalist and host of the talk show Politica, started her program dedicated to the situation in Transnistria with the words “We have never been so close to a new military conflict“. Next Thursday the Moldovan Parliament was supposed to have a closed meeting on the situation in the Transnistrian region, although some members (eg Mihaj Godea, non party member) insisted that the meeting should be hold as soon as possible, because “it may be too late“.

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In Chisinau this law is interpreted as an attempt to formalize the boundaries of Transnistria. Of course, the phrase about a “unilateral” protection of the “border” with Moldova causes concerns, while the “border” of Transnistria and Ukraine is considered completely undeniable – the very same border that separated the Moldovan and the Ukrainian SSRs. Thus, the separatist authorities almost claim the right to determine their western border with Moldova on their own.

Igor Botan in the said TV program Politica opined: “If, God forbid, someone loses nerves here, if there is even a spark, then an armed conflict will start immediately, as it was in Georgia. But in order for this to happen, there must be the basis for it: you need to know what the claimed borders are. Therefore, this law can be seen as a prelude of such events“.

If it is so, not only the Varnitsa people do have a point to worry about. On the left bank of the Dniester the biggest part of the Dubossari (Dubăsari) region is controlled by the Moldovan authorities, but again – it is difficult to set out a clear “border”, since there are a number of enclaves. Although Transnistria usurps the control over the whole territory of the region to the east of the Dniester River, quite a lot of area, especially near Dubossari, are under the Moldovan authorities control (the very city is controlled by separatists). For example, if you want to go from Chisinau to Cocieri village – where one of the Moldovan enclaves starts – you need to get through the “Transnistrian border” to Dubossari, and then, going north, pass one more point of the Russian peacekeeping forces to get back to the “normal” Moldovan reality.

Cerkiew mołdawska we wsi Corjova

МMoldovan church in Korzhova (Transnistria / Moldova) by Krzysztof Kolyanovsky, source: Krzysztof Kolyanovsky

Also you can observe an interesting situation in Korzhova (Corjova, according to the terminology of the Transnistria – Korzhevo), the birthplace of former President Vladimir Voronin. It has the specific atmosphere of dual power: right next to the Moldovan church built by Voronin, there is a cultural center, which is under the Transnistrian authorities, and on the local billboards you can find information from both the Transnistrian local administration and the Moldovan authorities. The best evidence that the village is a “Moldovan enclave in Transnistria” is the strong position of local authorities and people, and the fact that before here the most bloody clashes took place with the participation of the local population. In case of recognition of Transnistria by any of foreign states, the fate of these areas is, at least, unclear, as from the Transnistrian standpoint all these lands belong to them.

Meanwhile, the Transnistrian “authorities” seem to be surprised with the commotion caused by their actions. Nina Shtanski, “minister” of Foreign Affairs of Transnistria recalls that the law “On State Border…” does not contain any new formulations, as the “Transnistrian Moldovan Republic borders” have been clearly defined in its “constitution”, thus the fact that Varnitsa belongs to the Transnistrian “state” has long been reflected in the legal documents.

Wjazd do części rejonu Dubăsari, kontrolowanej przez Mołdawię

The Dubossari region: the entry to the region is controlled by the Republic of Moldova, by Krzysztof Kolanowski, source: Krzysztof Kolanowski

Mihaj Godea argues that “the problems of this kind, all these provocations will intensify before the upcoming summit in Vilnius to keep Moldova in the Russian sphere of influence; and all that has its origin in the Kremlin (…) This is nothing new (…) and all what has happened since 1990 – with the advent of so-called. Transnistrian Moldovan Republic and up to the present moment is the story of the same great provocation“.

According to him, all the events fit into the overall context of the “campaign” to promote the idea of ​​Eurasian integration. Indeed, the Transnistrian media pay much attention to the Eurasian Union, even if it is an empty debate due to the fact that none of the members of this union has not recognized the state of Transnistria; so it is difficult to talk about its belonging to such a union.

However, according to Godea, it is all about convicting Moldovan citizens that their future is not in the European Union do exist, as the accession of Moldova now seems rather a vague question, but in the Eurasian Union. This seems to be the general context of the recent meetings and conferences on the prospects of integration with the Eurasian Union, which last year took place in Transnistria, the autonomous region of Gagauzia, as well as in Russian-speaking Belcy. According to Godea and other Moldovan politicians, the aim of these events is also preventing the initialing the EU association agreement in Vilnius.

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The “border bridge” nearby the power plant in Dubasari by Krzysztof Kolyanovsky, source: Krzysztof Kolyanovsky

The irony of it is that Andrei Safonov, a known Transnistrian journalist, a former activist of the movement “Unity” fighting for the interests of the Russian-speaking population in the 1990s, and later a candidate for “president” of Transnistria, has some related posts in his blog. He has been repeating for several months already that Transnistria is interested in preventing the initialing of the agreement: “If it comes to signing the agreement in Vilnius, the situation at the border will turn to a new phase, as this will determine the boundary between the spheres of influence of the West and the East. Then the border will not be able to be as transparent and free, as it is now. Maybe then it will be impossible to move so freely from Transnistria to Moldova and back as before“.

However, there is still plenty of time before the summit in Vilnius. It is hard to say what time will bring. But for now Tiraspol seems to act, and Chisinau – just to re-act.

Translated by MA

Read more:

Transnistria: A Soviet “Antique” Replica Playing a Strategic Role in the EaP Future

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

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Krzysztof Kolanowski jest dyrektorem Centrum Informacyjnego dla Władz Lokalnych w Mołdawii, które dostarcza wszelkich potrzebnych informacji (know-how) władzom lokalnym, które mają pomysł na wdrożenie projektu, ale wciąż szukają zagranicznych partnerów i możliwości finansowania. Centrum jest projektem Fundacji Solidarności Międzynarodowej.

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