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Написав Коробов Владимир Кузьмич    Перегляди: 10938
Субота, 09 грудня 2006, 18:44

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Vladimir Korobov, Georgii Byanov. The ‘Renewal' of Transnistria.//Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics (FJCS),Vol. 22, No. 4, December 2006, pp.

517-528. ISSN 1352-3279, print/ 1743-9116 online DOI: 10.1080 / 13523270601019581

© 2006 Taylor & Francis.






The ‘Renewal' of Transnistria


Transnistria (the ‘Dnestr Moldovan Republic' or PMR) and everything that takes place there is of great importance to Russia, Ukraine and the Commonwealth of Independent States in general, and much exceeds the territorial, demographic and economic potential of the region itself. Transnistria is in effect an indicator of whether the collapse of the USSR has already ended, or whether a geopolitical repartition of its former territory is still possible. How soon will such a new partition of the world order and the map of Europe begin? Is Russia capable of an independent foreign policy, notwithstanding the countries that ‘won' the Cold War? And are Ukraine's claims to regional leadership well founded? It is unlikely that the people of Transnistria feel any better in the light of their historical role, but they cannot escape it.

What Happened in Transnistria?

Recent events in Transnistria and in the alignment of political forces within it have attracted the attention not only of specialists but also of a much wider public in Moldova, Ukraine and Russia. Of central importance are the results of the elections that took place to the Transnistrian Supreme Soviet on 11 December 2005. As a result of these elections a public movement, Obnovlenie (Renewal), has become the most influential political force in the parliament of the unrecognized republic. Obnovlenie expresses the interests of the emerging business elite of Transnistria, and in particular of the financial structure called ‘Sheriff'. Yevgenii Shevchuk, one of the leaders of this movement, duly assumed the post of chairman of the Transnistrian Supreme Soviet. It is our belief that the sequence of change has not yet been completed and that in the near future there will be further transformation with far-reaching consequences.

Vladimir Korobov is Director of the South Ukrainian Frontiers Research Centre at Kherson National Technical University, Ukraine; Georgii Byanov is Deputy Director of the same Centre.

Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Vol.22, No.4, December 2006, pp.517-528

ISSN 1352-3279 print=1743-9116 online

DOI: 10.1080=13523270601019581 # 2006 Taylor & Francis

The details are difficult to predict, but the larger process is a tendency towards democratization, as forecast some time ago by the Moldovan politician Oazu Nantoi. This is one of the ‘three Ds' of Nantoi's programme; the other two are demilitarization and decriminalization (which requires the withdrawal of Russian troops and arms, and the dismissal and punishment of the ruling Transnistrian elite). Without necessarily sharing all of Nantoi's nationalist and emotive sentiments, it has to be admitted that the chances for the realization of this programme have greatly improved.

The process of democratization in Transnistria is closely attached to the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, who in his recent ‘plan' advanced the idea that Transnistrian transformation should begin with fair, transparent and competitive elections. Although the West and Moldova declared the elections undemocratic and even illegitimate, numerous observers pointed out that the elections were in fact competitive and fair. According to election law no political party was to take part in the elections, but in practice there were two rival proto-parties or public movements: Obnovlenie, articulating the interests of a new business elite, and Respublika, articulating the interests of the ruling ‘old guard'.

In this connection, what does the victory of Obnovlenie represent? ‘Renewal', according to Ushakov's Russian dictionary, means to ‘replace something old and superseded by something new', or to ‘reform and change by introducing innovation or arranging something in a new way', or to ‘change, reconstruct, repair, refresh, revive or give new vigour to something'. Will Obnovlenie rearrange and reorder? Will this ‘renewal' result in the strengthening of a de facto independent Transnistria, or in gradual collapse and reintegration into the Republic of Moldova? And will it be possible to make any of these changes without pain and the loss of living standards? The resources of Obnovlenie on its own will not be enough to resolve such issues.

The Sources of Change

What were the reasons for recent events in Transnistria, which many have seen as turning point in what has otherwise been a ‘frozen conflict'?

1. As a result of the transition from centralized administration to market liberalization and subsequent widespread privatization, a new business elite has been formed in the region, and it now plays a significant role. This group is not only looking for a new, more effective system of management, but is also aiming at domination. Such political dominance is needed to resolve its vital issues, such as settlement of the Transnistrian conflict, the legalization of property, and the provision of favourable conditions for the development of big business. Depending extensively on foreign economic partners, this elite has received substantial foreign political support and incentives for its political self-realization. Now it is evident why the creators of the ‘Yushchenko plan' had such a firm belief that the Transnistrian transformation should start with democratic and competitive elections to the Supreme Soviet. It is obvious that they were well informed about the intentions of the new business elite of the region and probably provided it with some direct support. The new business elite cannot but be oriented towards the West, as the region's economy is export-import oriented (the share of the EU in its exports is more than 33 per cent), and the industrial intentions, financial behaviour and value system of the elite are all pro-Western, as in neighbouring countries.

2. Shifts in public opinion have also provided favourable conditions for political change. The armed conflict of 1992 has become a thing of the past; a new generation has grown up that was educated not so much on the ideals of collectivism and struggle for the motherland as on personal enrichment and individualism; and ordinary people have became tired of their established political leaders and of social differentiation - they felt growing resentment in relation to the low living standards and stagnation in the region, and the parasitism, corruption and demoralization of the old elite, which was not able to generate an effective system of self-criticism and self-rejuvenation. That is why ordinary voters offered such support for the idea of political renewal. And they appear to believe that this renewal will take place for the benefit of the population at large. The new business elite - we shall call them ‘renewers' in what follows - make good use of such opinions. It can be said that the intentions of the elite with regard to the political modernization of the region coincide with those of the average voter.

3. Numerous ‘friends of Transnistria' - political players who are interested inthe affairs of the region - have also helped to establish an understanding with the new elite, to gain privileges and to establish influence and promote their own interests. All parties concerned act in the same way, but with different degrees of success. Ukraine demonstrates a rather unexpected increase in its influence in Transnistrian affairs and in the settlement of the Transnistrian or Moldovan-Transnistrian (as Tiraspol terms it) conflict, and this permits us even to speak of the ‘Ukrainification' of the peace-making process.

The non-violent replacement of the ruling elite in Transnistria has so far been taking place peacefully and gradually, without excesses and by means of democratic elections. In this succession, Obnovlenie has established its position quietly, considering every step. Such a form of devolution of power meets the interests of the population of the region, and of the other interests that have a stake in its future.

Politics and Economics

The educated public of Ukraine and Russia are both asking the medieval scholastic question of whether the gas war is ‘economics or politics'. It is difficult to understand the relationship between these issues and Transnistria. It seems that the historical pendulum swings to the one side and then to the other. First, economic necessity calls Transnistria into political existence, and then politics retreats and the Lord Economy prevails.

It is the belief of competent Moldovan economists that ‘the phenomenon of Transnistria is many-sided and in some way unique ... [and] is based not on ethnic or confessional factors. One can recognize economic issues within the general framework of the "Transnistrian problem" from its beginning'.1 It was just a decision of the congress of deputies of Pridnestrovie to create a ‘Transnistrian economic zone' in June 1990 that initiated the self-affirmation of the region as an autonomous territorial-economic, and later administrative and territorial formation. Such an opinion is not entirely accurate but has some basis in reality.

And now that the economic factors of the development of Transnistria are coming to the fore, a liberalizing Transnistrian economy finds itself constrained within an ‘unrecognized state', and is eager for a solution that will lead to the end of international restrictions. The key owners of the Transnistrian economy are trying to diversity their external links, to go into new markets, and to obtain new guarantees for their business.

The ‘Sheriff' financial group plays a most important role in this process. V. Martynov, a Transnistrian author, refers to Obnovlenie as the ‘political wing' of Sheriff. It is symbolic that, in the elections to the Transnistrian Supreme Soviet, the largest vote of all was achieved by I.M. Kazmal, the director of Sheriff (more than 98 per cent). Sheriff was quite unambiguous on its external economic direction in a controversial article by A. Latynin, ‘How Russian Patriots Plunder Pro-Russian Enclaves', in which it was stated that its Russian ‘allies and friends' S. Baburin and V. Alksnis had ‘robbed Transnistria' of tens of millions of dollars through manipulating of the privatization of Moldovan energy.2 It has to be noted that Baburin was a guest of honour of President Smirnov and the unrecognized republic in the recent celebration of 15 years of Transnistria. This message from Sheriff was a notice to both Moldova and Ukraine that attitudes to Russia could become more pragmatic, and that the renewed region would be able to seek partners in other geopolitical directions rather than towards the traditional Russian vector.

Sheriff is the biggest corporation in Transnistria. Its sphere of interests covers all possible kinds of trade and production activity. The company is a monopolist in telecommunications, an exclusive internet provider, a monopolist in oil and petroleum trade (up to 90 per cent of the market), and owner of the biggest retail chain in manufactured goods and foodstuffs. The company also has a share in broadcasting networks (it owns the television channel TCV), and has the largest sports complex (which cost more than US$150 million) with an associated sports club. Its business interests include a chain of petrol stations, the football team ‘Sheriff', the ‘Exclusive' advertising agency, a Mercedes-Benz dealership, the publishing house Delo, the Tiraspol bread-baking complex and some other enterprises. In June 2005 it added the Tirotex company at a cost of US$22.9 million, with the obligation to invest US$43 million in reconstruction and to increase sales volume up to US$90 million by 2010.

The Question of Turnout

It is the view of election specialist Professor A. Davydov that the optimum proportion of people taking part in elections and those abstaining from voting is 60:40. A turnout of less than 60 per cent is prima facie evidence that the political and electoral system is malfunctioning, and that the electorate distrusts political institutions and the regime in general.

On 11 December 2005, 204,792 electors (50 per cent of registered qualified electors) took part in the parliamentary elections in Transnistria.3 This is a lower level than in the parliamentary elections in Moldova in 2005 (63 per cent), in Russia in 2003 (55 per cent), and in Ukraine in 2002 (69 per cent). The most active were voters in depressed agricultural areas - Grigoriopol and Kamenka. It should be noted that turnout was affected by the substantial loss of population through migration - a lot of people had left the region in search of higher wages. The lowest turnout was in Bendery and Tiraspol, where the main protest potential was concentrated. Overall, just half of the electorate cast their vote; the other half either could not vote or had no wish to do so, which was evidence of a relatively unfavourable political situation and a high level of distrust of political institutions (see Table 1).

The New Parliament: More ‘Green' than ‘Red'

As usual, victory was a stunning blow to the losers. The following facts help us to place the government's dismal mood into some kind of perspective. V. Guzun, for instance, a 26-year-old representative of Obnovlenie, beat G. Zhelyapov (the former director of Moldova GRES, the major powergenerating unit in Moldova) and A. Marakutsa (son of the speaker of the parliament and joint owner of the night club ‘Plasma'); the 28-year-old independent A. Dirkun defeated F. Kreichman, the well-known director of the ‘Elektronmash' plant in Tiraspol; the disgraced leader of pro-Ukraine forces



Percentage of electorate taking part















Transnistria, total


V. Bondar gained victory over S. Beril, rector of Transnistrian University and ideologist of the republic, who went into the elections with the slogan ‘Knowledge is power, vote for Beril'. Overall, the elections certainly showed that something is rotten in the state of Transnistria.

The supporters of the so-called moral-political unity of Transnistria (this term is deliberately used without quotation marks) are anxious to emphasize that Obnovlenie and Respublika have a majority of 33 seats between them in the newly elected parliament. This unity is confirmed by joint statements that ‘there is no alternative to the independence and sovereignty of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic', by a variety of compromises on matters that relate to the separation of powers, and by the allocation of political positions and the holding of joint press conferences.

Such a tendency to political unity in view of grave outside threats is of considerable value and one of the important conditions of the survival of the region. But it cannot be a substitute for an analysis of the political processes that are taking place in present-day Transnistria. In addition to the tendency to unity, there are also signs of the emergence of a multiparty system (Obnovlenie and Respublika can be considered as proto-parties). It is Obnovlenie that now predominates in the new parliament, although different authorities give different estimates of its representation. Of the 43 members of the new parliament, the newspaper Obnovlenie names 11 as representatives of the movement,4 to which one can add E. Shevchuk (the newly elected speaker) and I. Kazmaly (director of Sheriff). Our own inquiries suggest that there are in fact 23 ‘renewers' in the new parliament (a core of six, another 11 firm supporters and six sympathizers). Moldovan sources have estimated as many as 29 ‘renewers', with only 14 seats for ‘Respublika'.5 The future conduct of the deputies themselves will make clear the real alignment of forces in the new parliament.




Up to 30 years


30-40 years


40-50 years


50-60 years


Over 60 years


The age structure of the new parliament certainly corresponds to the idea of political renewal: about 33 per cent of the newly elected deputies are quite young, no more than 40 years old. The youngest deputy, Guzun, is 26 years old, and the oldest, A.K. Belitchenko, is 67 years old (see Table 2).

There is also some continuity: 9.3 per cent of all the successful candidates had been deputies of the Transnistrian Supreme Soviet at some point in the past; 53.5 per cent were deputies of the third or fourth convocations, and 37.2 per cent are re-elected deputies of the fourth convocation. The share of female representation, however, is still modest: just four persons (9.3 per cent). About 35 per cent of the deputies are enterprise managers.

Obnovlenie and the Transnistrian Supreme Soviet

The election of the chairman of the Supreme Soviet was not uncontroversial. Some observers even doubted that the ‘eternal' chairman G. Marakutsa would be re-elected, and disagreements of this kind led to the postponement of the opening session from 28 to 29 December 2005. In the end the parties, afraid of a political split and a confrontation with the government branch, agreed a compromise and Yevgenii Shevchuk, the 37-year-old leader of Obnovlenie, was elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Dnestr Moldovan Republic (SS PMR). Marakutsa was wise enough to withdraw his candidature and urge his supporters to vote for Shevchuk. As a result, 39 of the 40 deputies who were present at the session voted for Shevchuk,6 and Marakutsa received the consolation prize of special representative of the Supreme Soviet on inter-parliamentary relations.

The election of Shevchuk was viewed with great interest in the West and in neighbouring countries. The Moldovan president, Vladimir Voronin, identified him as a figure with a promising future; in Ukraine Shevchuk was considered to be pro-Ukrainian, and in Russia there was some irritation at his election. The additional efforts of President Smirnov were required to ensure Shevchuk's reception in the Russian capital.

The membership of three standing committees and seven boards was approved at the second session of the Supreme Soviet of the PMR on 11 January 2006. Obnovlenie took control of the board of the economy, budget and finance, headed by M. Burla with the participation of Sheriff director Kazmal and Tirotex general director V. Ordin. Ye. Koval, also a ‘renewer', headed the board on agrarian policy, industry and natural resources. S. Cheban, a leader of Obnovlenie, was appointed head of the social policy, health protection and ecology board. V. Tobukh and O. Gukalenko, Obnovlenie sympathizers, headed the board on public institutions, youth policy, sport and media and the board on education, science, culture, family and childhood, respectively. Respublika received the board on legislation, public rights and liberty (headed by G. Antyufeeva, wife of a famous general and special services head), and also the board on security, defence and peacemaking (headed by the deputy state security minister, O. Gudymo). In other words, Obnovlenie took control of five of the seven boards (or possibly six of the seven: some consider Antyufeeva a supporter of Obnovlenie as she had participated in the ‘board of 17' which in May 2005 had raised the question of restricting the president's powers).

The standing committee on foreign policy and international relations (headed by S. Cheban), the credentials, steering and deputy ethics committee (L. Rybyak) and also the chamber of accounts (V. Moraru) are all controlled by Obnovlenie.

Electoral Geography: Revolutionary South and Conservative North

Obnovlenie and Respublika drew on very different parts of the country for their support. Analysis of the results in the seven largest regions shows that Transnistrian voters were divided into a revolutionary south and a conservative north. Obnovlenie was more strongly supported in Tiraspol (75 per cent), Slobodzia (62 per cent) and Bendery (50 per cent). The stronghold of Respublika was Rybnitsa (57 per cent), where the revolution of the 1990s began, and also Dubossary (66 per cent), which provided its most unequivocal support (see Figure 1).7

The reasons for such a distribution are not entirely clear. But in metropolitan regions the public is more politically sophisticated, more ambitious, and more affected by external factors; it is here that the electorate feel themselves closer to the authorities, and see more of their defects. On the other hand, people in Rybnitsa quite possibly know not only the positive merits of the ‘renewers', but also their shortcomings. There is also the rather self-sufficient Moldovan metal plant, an enterprise that can be a political force of its own; nor can we leave out of the reckoning the patriotic tradition in its various forms.



Source: Official website <http://pridnestrovie.net/map.html>.

After the Elections

The elections to the Supreme Soviet of PMR can have quite serious repercussions in Transnistria and throughout the region. In the near future the gradual democratization of Transnistria will take place, together with the emergence of a civil society and mass media that are free from state control. The new elite would like to develop not only modern forms of trade and business, but also new and up-to-date forms of political manipulation, government and control. This is particularly evident in the attention that ‘Sheriff' has paid to the establishment of modern broadcasting, which can influence public opinion in the region and change the view that is taken of the social order and of the optimal relationship between state and citizens.

The PMR president, Smirnov, has already announced his intention to participate in the next presidential election. He will have to lead the political changes that are now impending and shape them into moderate forms that preserve the continuity of his policies. He has the support of the Russian factor and the power ministers, political experience, and his own popularity among a considerable part of society. The first steps of the newly elected SS PMR show that it has chosen the tactic of merging the active part of the ‘old guard' with the ‘new business elite'.

It is quite possible that a new post of prime minister will be introduced and that the premiership will concentrate all executive authority into its hands, making the presidency a nominal one. This would represent a broader shift towards a parliamentary-presidential republic within which Obnovlenie (that is, Sheriff) would be able to control all branches of power. Ukraine's influence on this scenario is rather obvious, as something like this is now happening there.

Russia will hardly relinquish the delivery of energy at advantageous rates to Transnistria, providing Smirnov retains power. The new elite will not intensify its conflict with Russia, which provides the region with such important support. For Ukraine it will be more profitable to maintain the economic and geopolitical status quo (an independent Moldova and an unrecognized Transnistria) and to continue to let Transnistrian goods pass through Ukrainian borders. European Union monitoring has shown that there has been no contraband in arms, drugs and humans along the Transnistrian section of the Ukraine-Moldova border. Contraband was in fact rather commonplace and could be found at any section of the Ukrainian border. Nor will the United States, with its current interests in the Islamic world, put forward any rash initiatives in the near future. The conflict, on this analysis, will be a protracted one. It is apparent that an understanding will be reached only by a new generation of the political elite, and not by Voronin and Smirnov. Transnistria is meanwhile leaving Moldova behind in the process of elite renewal. The present situation is actually developing in ways that are helpful to the independence of Transnistria. There will be a new chance of its legitimation in connection with the possible international recognition of Kosovo. Yushchenko's plan has meanwhile some chance of outliving its creator, and its realization will be long and successful.

The Ukrainization of Transnistria

The role of Ukraine in the Transnistria issue and its influence in the wider region will also increase. This follows from a series of factors:

1. The new Transnistrian elite is more pro-Ukrainian than its predecessor.

This is explained by the long-term consolidation of business and of Ukrainian-Transnistrian relations, together with the establishment of a Transnistrian lobby in Ukraine and of a Ukrainian lobby in Transnistria. Without an appropriate regime along the Transnistrian section of the Ukrainian border, transit services provided by Ukraine and the delivery of Ukrainian foodstuffs, the normal existence of the region will be quite difficult.

2. Yushchenko's team was more pragmatic and determined in regard toUkraine's participation in conflict settlement, peacemaking efforts and interregional relations. Yushchenko openly received President Smirnov in Kiev, put forward his plan directed towards the democratization of Transnistria and settlement of the conflict, made a joint statement with President Putin, and has not allowed an economic blockade of Transnistria that former President Kuchma had already defined as a ‘blockade of


3. Yushchenko and ‘orange' Ukraine is turning out to be a good compromiserin negotiations between the two conflicting parties, Moldova and Transnistria. Russia, understanding its community of interests with Ukraine in this respect, is ready to accept an increase in Ukraine's role in conflict settlement and peacemaking.

4. Fourth, Transnistria is in the grip of ‘Russia fatigue', alienated byMoscow's wavering and remoteness. And it is Ukraine that is regarded as the embodiment of public hopes. A referendum on 17 September 2006, purporting to show 97.2 per cent of the electorate supporting independence and subsequent ‘free association' with Russia, was not recognized by many countries and international organizations, including the EU and Ukraine.

5. Finally, the position of supporters of Ukrainian-Transnistrian relationswill be strengthened by the possible accession to power of Viktor Yanukovich and the Party of the Regions. The following tendencies will result: an increase in the number of Ukrainian citizens in Transnistria and of Transnistrian students in Ukraine, and the reinforcement of Ukrainian-Transnistrian economic and cultural relations. At the same time Ukrainian capital will take a more active part in privatization in the region; and it is quite possible that the military involvement of Ukraine in the peacemaking process will also increase.


A lot of preconceptions have been challenged by recent developments in Transnistria. Even in the international expert community there are people who still create a grossly misleading impression that is far from reality. It is said that criminal lawlessness, political authoritarianism, national intolerance and even a specifically ‘anti-democratic' mentality are inherent to the region. There are many problems in Transnistria, but none that is fundamentally different from those that exist in Ukraine, Moldova and Russia. Nor is there a substantial difference between the Transnistrian and south Ukrainian mentality. Citizens of Ukraine and Russia, and specifically of their southern regions, feel close to the Transnistrians and take a natural interest in their destinies.

We well remember our own participation in the international conference on the Transnistrian conflict that took place in Lublin, Poland, in December 2005. The papers were preceded by a computer presentation of photographs taken in the region. That presentation was received with great interest - especially a photograph of a currency-exchange booth. There was general surprise that a booth of this kind could exist in Transnistria. It is our belief that the development of international humanitarian co-operation should have no political preconditions. The unrecognized status of Transnistria must not be an obstacle to the exchange of ideas and information or to co-operation in science, culture and education.


1. The Transnistrian Market: Its Influence on the Politics and Economy of the Republic of Moldova, prepared by the Centre for Strategic Research and Reform (CISR) together with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Kishinev-Tiraspol, June 2005, available at <http://www. cisr-md.org/pdf/0507%20transnistria-rus.pdf>.

2. A. Latynin, ‘How Russian Patriots Plunder Pro-Russian Enclaves', Obnovlenie, 29 Nov. 2005.

3. The authors thank the Central Electoral Commission, Obnovlenie representatives and expertsfrom Odessa who were observers at this election and placed their findings at the authors' disposal.

4. Obnovlenie, 29 Nov. 2005, p.1.

5. G.A. Nistryany, ‘You Know the Wings Can Be Clipped ...', Centre for Monitoring and Strategic Analysis, 13 Jan. 2003, available at <http://www.mdn.md>.

6. V.O. Zhuravlev, ‘About Elections of the Speaker of the Transnistria Supreme Soviet', availableat <http://www.kreml.org>.

7. The authors are aware of the conditional meaning of the term ‘independent'; in this context thisterm implies deputies who have not openly associated themselves with either Obnovlenie or Respublika.

Vladimir Korobov, Georgii Byanov. The ‘Renewal' of Transnistria. // Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics (FJCS), Vol. 22, No. 4, December 2006, pp. 517-528. ISSN 1352-3279, print/ 1743-9116 online DOI: 10.1080 / 13523270601019581 © 2006 Taylor & Francis.



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