A Soviet buff’s dream and an adventurer’s playground, Transnistria is known as the last remnant of the Soviet Union. For a small strip of land wedged between Moldova and Ukraine, it certainly packs a big punch in the history department. A Russian-speaking breakaway state officially known as ‘The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic’, it boasts a population of just under half a million people. The majority are Russian, with the rest being mostly Moldovan and Ukrainian.
A brief history of a country that doesn’t exist
Transnistria’s journey to declaring independence began way back under Mikhail Gorbachev’s tenure as leader of the Soviet Union. In 1990 The Popular Front of Moldova (PFM), a pro-Romanian nationalist party, won the first general election of Moldova since they became members of the USSR. The PFM moved to scrap the use of the Cyrillic alphabet and switched the official language from Russian to Moldovan. Feeling aggrieved by these policies, the minority population of Ukrainian and Russian slavs in the Transnistria area declared the region independent on September 2nd 1990, becoming one of the four unrecognized republics that appeared throughout the USSR alongside Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Transnistrian War soon followed as armed clashes broke out between Transnistrian separatists, volunteer Cossacks, Russian troops and the considerably weaker Moldavian police and paramilitary. The fighting intensified over the next two years with the worst of the conflict happening in the city of Bender, where Moldavian troops stormed the town and arrested a major from the Russian Army, as well as destroying three Russian T64 tanks. As a result, the PMR and Russian forces overwhelmed the Moldovans and re-captured the town, causing urban warfare on the busy streets on the city. Dozens of civilian and military casualties were reported, but thankfully a ceasefire agreement was signed on July 21st 1992 between the Russian, Moldovan and PMR forces and has been respected ever since.
The Transnistrian football team
The football scene in Transnistria is wacky to say the least. The lack of a national league means that Transnistrian teams compete in various different levels of Moldovan football, and at one point they had a team curiously named ‘Happy End’ playing in the top flight. Unfortunately for them they prematurely folded after only 3 years of existence!
By far the most successful team in Transnistria is Sheriff Tiraspol. Founded in 1996 as Tiras Tiraspol, only a year later they were taken over by Sheriff – the second-largest company in Transnistria – which is owned by a couple of ex-special service agents. They adopted the name FC Sheriff Tiraspol and within four years had won the Moldovan Premier League as well as winning two Moldovan FA Cups. They have dominated Moldovan football ever since, picking up 18 league titles and 18 domestic cups as well as hosting teams such as Tottenham Hotspur and Olympique Marseille in the UEFA Europa League. They play their football at the 13,000-seater Sheriff Stadium, which sits in the middle of a huge sports complex that includes 15 training pitches, tennis courts, apartments for the players and a 5-star hotel.
The Football Federation of Pridnestrovie (FFP) was established in 2015 and is chaired by Pavel Prokudin, who is the former president of Transnistria. They became members of CONIFA in the same year, but are yet to play a single competitive game. They will be hoping to qualify for the 2020 edition of the CONIFA World Cup in Skopje, North Macedonia, but it will be a difficult task with only 4 spots remaining for European teams!
Join us on the Ultimate Transnistria Victory tour and experience one of the only Soviet-style military parades left in Europe!