Transnistria is currently in the throes of a parliamentary and local election campaign. The main candidates talk of their loyalty to Russia and accuse their opponents of impoverishing the population of this unrecognised post-Soviet republic—the region is on the brink of an economic collapse. The elections are due to take place on 29 November. As usual, electoral observers from Russia and fellow de facto states Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are expected to take part. Taking the lead from Russia, the Transnistrian authorities will conduct a single day of voting, whereby city councils, village council heads and the parliament will be elected on the same day. But, unlike Russia, Transnistria is hosting a real election for parliamentary seats, and not just imitating one. Transnistria, a thin strip of land between Moldova and Ukraine, is the only territory in the world whose national symbol is still the Soviet hammer and sickle. State holidays include 7 November (the date of the October Revolution) and orthodox Easter. The republic’s principal symbol is Alexander Suvorov, the 18th century Russian military commander who founded Tiraspol (and now features on the republic’s currency).
For the past 25 years of its existence, Transnistria has existed under the dominating influence of Russia (although Ukrainian nationalists also took part in its campaign for independence). The Transnistrian authorities may frequently mention their desire to accede to Russia, but the lack of a common land border has proven difficult to overcome.
In 1990, when the territory was formed, Transnistria had a population of around 700,000-800,000. Nowadays, it is roughly 350,000-500,000. The rate of migration is high due to poor prospects and quality of life. A third of the population is Russian, a third – Ukrainian and third – Moldovan. Indeed, as Transnistria broke away from the Soviet Moldovan Republic in 1990-1991, Russian and Ukrainian communities were concerned that Moldova would join with Romania. In the years since, this hasn’t happened. Transnistria’s army is far more powerful than Moldova’s, though Moldova is 10 times bigger in terms of land mass and population.