At the Soviet Europe office of Young Pioneer Tours, one of our greatest passions is promoting tourism in what are known as ‘breakaway states’ or ‘unrecognized countries’. In the former Soviet Union there are four unrecognized states in existence: Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Fraught with struggles of post-civil war independence and isolation – and frequently subjected to unjust stereotypes – travel to these countries is never easy, but once inside the rewards and unique experiences are endless.
Whilst we run a large number of scheduled group tours to breakaway states throughout the year, our private tours are just as popular and are often undertaken by those who have a unique interest in a certain area, from photographers who need more time on tour to media or simply those who want to tailor a tour to their own needs and desires. To organise a private trip to any of the breakaway countries below, simply email us with your aims and we will get back to you with a sample itinerary and quote
1. Private Tours to Transnistria
Since the Transnistrian conflict in the early 1990s, the Transnistrian Republic has survived and advanced itself in many ways. Transnistria is the least visited part of Europe’s least visited country: Moldova. The Russian-backed republic offers many opportunities for the most adventurous travellers. Since the brutal Transnistria war, the republic has been a member of the brotherhood of breakaway states, the capital of Tiraspol is one of the few places in the world to see the embassies of other breakaway states, such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and unrecognized countries’ flags can be found flying in the street. From a vast amount of communist relics and a Soviet way of life, there is arguably nowhere else like Transnistria on earth.
Transnistria has always been a Young Pioneer Tours favourite since the early days of the company. We are the longest-running adventure travel company continually leading the way in Transnistria tourism, and our innovative tours to the republic are constantly expanding across the entire map of Transnistria. On our many journeys there we have learned many lessons about life in the country; the YPT founder Gareth Johnson even lived there! Transnistria is always a surreal and unforgettable experience which defines adventure travel, so come and join us in the last stronghold of the USSR, the land of bullet-riddled Lenin statues, plastic Transnistria coins, nuclear bunkers and the reign of the Sheriff Corporation!
2. Private tours to Abkhazia
In times gone by, the beautiful region of Abkhazia was once called the jewel in the crown of the USSR. With jaw-dropping mountains rolling into the sparkling waters of the Black Sea and palm-tree-lined streets with grand, Tsarist-era buildings running into lush gardens, the region is truly beautiful and was the destination of choice for the Soviet elite, such as Josef Stalin himself. All that changed during the outbreak of war in Abkhazia.
In the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, Abkhazia refused to be incorporated into the newly formed Republic of Georgia, which resulted in a blood soaked ethnic conflict and saw thousands slaughtered in brutal urban warfare and ethnic cleansing. Georgia suffered a bitter defeat in the Abkhazia war and withdrew from the region which rapidly descended into anarchy.
Today, the Republic of Abkhazia remains unstable but survives on cash flow from Russia and a steady flow of Russian tourists seeking a cheap Black Sea vacation. The breakaway republic remains a fascinating time warp back to the Soviet Union. This is a place where Lenin still stands and the local zoo proudly shows off the apparent descendants of the monkeys the Soviets sent into space decades ago. Despite the trauma of war, the Abkhazian people are warm, friendly and hospitable and welcome guests with open arms.
YPT have been running group and private tours for a number of years and encouraging Abkhazia tourism, from trips to along the coast exploring the Soviet heritage and stunning natural beauty, to the volatile and war-torn south where we explore decimated ghost cities and discarded tanks from the Abkhazian war. Abkhazia is an unforgettable and often sobering travel experience. We are able to provide drivers and security, as well as provide an Abkhazia visa with ease. Get in touch and visit Abkhazia with us!
3. Private Tours to South Ossetia
Alongside the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, the Republic of South Ossetia is amongst the youngest breakaway states in the world. In 2008, the region was the focal point of a 5-day war between Russia and Georgia known as the “South Ossetia War”. South Ossetia is a paradise for adventure travellers and is one of the least-visited republics on earth due to the difficulty of entering. Luckily, YPT can guarantee entry into the republic and obtain permits fast.
South Ossetia has found a place in the hearts of YPT Soviet Europe, as the countries of the South Caucasus region are slowly being enveloped by mainstream tourism, South Ossetia is a bastion of how the Caucasus used to be, with ancient traditions, delicious food and warm, hospitable locals.
We are able to organise private South Ossetia tours throughout the year. The tour can begin in Moscow or Vladikavkaz and can also include trips to other parts of the North Caucasus such as Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan. You will be joined by a YPT guide and translator and accompanied by our local team in South Ossetia. We can arrange trips across the entire country and in the past have arranged specialist trips focusing on ancient monasteries, war history, political history, cultural trips, pagan history and even front row seats at the republic’s independence day where you can see the South Ossetia military take part in one of the last surviving Soviet military parades left in the world.
4. Private Tours to Nagorno Karabakh
The region of Nagorno Karabakh – or the Republic of Artsakh – is set in the mountains between Southern Armenia and Azerbaijan and once had a split population between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. In the 1990s, during the collapse of the USSR, the area exploded into the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between both ethnicities. The Armenians came out triumphant over Azerbaijan, and today, in the aftermath of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, the republic remains an unrecognized country supported by Armenia and currently in a military standoff with Azerbaijan.
Young Pioneer Tours have been running group tours and private tours to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic for a number of years, building up a solid expertise and many contacts in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. At a size of 4,400 square kilometres (1,699 sq. mi.), half of the terrain in this mountainous republic is over 950 metres (3,120 ft) above sea level. From dense forests and alpine meadows to awe-inspiring peaks, Nagorno-Karabakh is a paradise for nature lovers. For those interested in Soviet and military history, the winding roads are packed with Soviet relics, burnt out tanks and sometimes discarded weaponry. Incredible Armenian wine and brandy, national creations held with great pride in the hearts of many Armenians, are produced and readily available here.
To organise a private tour to any breakaway state, contact us for an itinerary and quote.
Whatever your travel goals are in unrecognized republics, YPT have the contacts and experience to make it happen, as always with the YPT ethos of an unbeatable price, unforgettable travel experiences and the 24-hour service of a multilingual YPT guide and local team.