The flag of Transnistria is one of the few flags still functioning with a hammer and sickle on it, just another time warp aspect of this fascinating breakaway state. To understand the story of the Transnistrian flag, we need to go back to the history of the flag of the Moldovan SSR.
The flag of Soviet Moldova
Following a change-up after the Soviet recapture of Moldova in the second World War, a new flag was needed for the Soviet Republic of Moldova. On the 31st of January 1952, the new Soviet Moldovan flag was unveiled. It featured three horizontal bands of red, green, and red, with a hammer and sickle in the canton. As defined by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic on the flag description:
The national flag of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic consists of a panel of red color with a green stripe in the middle of the whole flag length, with the image on top of the red part of the flag from the flagpole golden hammer and sickle above a five-pointed red star framed by a gold border. The ratio of the flag’s width to its length is 1:2 with the bandwidth of green to the width of the flag 1:4.
With perestroika in force during the 1980s, Moldovan nationalism began to arise with the Popular Front of Moldova coming to prominence. On the 27th of April 1990, the new flag of the Moldavian SSR arose and consisted of the Romanian tricolor with the emblem of the Moldavian SSR in the center. However, it was decided to use the flag without the emblem until new symbols were worked on. When Moldavia declared sovereignty in June 1990, the new flag was adopted on 6 November 1990 and remains the flag of Moldova to this day.
The flag of Transnistria
As it was part of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic until 1991, the flag of the Moldavian SSR served as the republic’s flag until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. When Moldova became independent and adopted its new flag, some places in Transnistria refused to fly the new Moldovan flag and continued to fly the flag of the Soviet Union.
Continued use of the flag of the former Moldavian SSR was popular and it was officially reintroduced as the flag of Transnistria in 2000. Confusingly, despite the flag and coat of arms, Transnistria is not a socialist state. It is the only state in Europe that uses the hammer and sickle on its flag. Although the flags of Bryansk Oblast, Vladimir Oblast and Oryol city in Russia also have the hammer and sickle, these are cities and regions and not unrecognized countries.
In 2009 the Parliament of Transnistria discussed a proposal to replace the flag with a new flag, carrying three horizontal stripes in the colors white, blue, and red, being almost identical to the flag of the Russian Federation, but with a different aspect ratio. The primary reason for the second flag is that it indicates Transnistria’s desire for closer ties with Russia, a guarantor of Transnistria’s independence from Moldova. In 2017, the Transnistrian Supreme Council passed a motion making the new flag Transnistria’s second official flag. Thus almost every government building now has a Russian flag flying alongside a Transnistrian flag.
The coat of arms of Transnistria
Similar to the flag of Transnistria, the coat of arms of Transnistria constitutes a remodeled version of the former Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic emblem, as substituted by the internationally recognized Moldovan government after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The only major pictorial change made in the Transnistrian version involves the addition of waves, representing the River Dniester.
However, the inscriptions on the Transnistrian coat of arms were also changed: unlike the Moldavian SSR emblem, which bore the acronym РССМ (for “Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic”) and the USSR state slogan “Workers of the world, unite!” in the Russian and Moldavian languages, the Transnistrian emblem bears the name of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic in the Moldovan, Russian and Ukrainian languages.
In Moldavian, it reads “Република Молдовеняскэ Нистрянэ” (transliterated: “Republica Moldoveneascǎ Nistreanǎ”); in Russian, it reads “Приднестровская Молдавская Республика” (transliterated: “Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublika”); and, in Ukrainian, it reads “Придністровська Молдавська Республіка” (transliterated: “Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublika”). The emblem features a prominent hammer and sickle, but again, Transnistria is not a socialist state.
When in Transnistria, the national flag in a variety of different qualities as well as the flags of local and Russian military units can be bought in various bookstores. They make a great souvenir from a country that technically doesn’t exist. In addition, a popular souvenir is a replica of the unit flag that was raised over the Reichstag during the Battle of Berlin in WW2.