The Republic of Moldova lies to the east of Romania.
The capital is Chisinau. Romanian is spoken in Moldova. Moldovan
Romanian contains some words that sound very old-fashioned to Romanian
ears. Some maintain their language should properly be called Moldovan,
which is what it is officially referred to. A treaty between Romania
and Moldova is said to end with the following words: This
treaty was drawn up in our common tongue.
The Republic of Moldova used to belong to the Soviet Union. Until
the 18th century, Romanian was written in the Cyrillic alphabet.
The Latin alphabet was introduced in order to emphasise the fact
that Romanian, as its very name suggests, pertains to the Romance
rather than the Slavic family of languages, and to
encourage the country's western outlook. In 1940,
Stalin imposed the Cyrillic alphabet on Moldavian but
when the countrybecame independent in 1991, it elected to return
once more to the Latin alphabet. My first Russian teacher came from
Moldavia. She said she remembers Moldavia like a sweet and plentiful
On the other side of the Dnjestr River, the steppes gradually begin,
and with them the land of Transnistria. Transnistria is a republic
that declared its independence in 1990. It has a total of 630,000
inhabitants. No country has yet recognised its independence. Transnistria
has its own currency, its own flag, its own number plates and its
own government. Transnistria is a socialist republic, and work is
organised into collective farms and associations.
Phone calls between Moldova and Transnistria are
not possible. Border controls line the bridges of the Dnjestr. A
tank lurks under a camouflaged net in the sun. 20,000 men are said
to bear arms.
However, the country's best football stadium is here in the capital
of Tiraspol. It belongs to the socialist republic's biggest entrepreneur,
whose football club is called Sheriff Tiraspol. His chain of petrol
stations is also called Sheriff. The stadium is the only one in
the country that is officially recognised by the International Football
Association. This means, of course, that for international games,
the Moldovan national team is obliged to invite teams from other
countries to play in the stadium which is in the non-existent Republic
A jounalist of the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk
and his team from Bucharest are our companions on the way from Romania
to Moldavia and are planning to travel with us to Transnistria.
The driver is Romanian, the cameraman is Moldavian and the sound
engineer a well-known musician. Such a thing has to be organised.
I used up to people on this! Matthias Morgenthaler says.
At the border he identifies the peculiar crew of the dark limousines
that get a preferred clearance as Mafiosi. The strong young men
loosen their shoulders. A well-decorated elder woman needing the
whole backseat of a car scornfully shuts her mobile with her chin.
We have been waiting for them since early morning, Matthias
was told by the frontier guards. From that we learned that the Mafia
no longer loves Mercedes. The Mafia uses Audi.
Transnistria seems to be an obscure place for journalism and is
soon out of consideration. We organise a lecture in the Pushkin-Museum
of the camerman's parents' village. The lecture is taking place
on the veranda. The Riesling is tasted with expertise. The head
of the museum gives me a rose - breed Sophia Loren. Pushkin
loved roses. The camerman's mother prepared a picnic and the father
is topping up the glasses with wine from the 160-liter-barrel he
has opened in the morning. Mulberries and castor-oil plants are
growing in the park .
Following soviet traditions the first day at school
on September 1st is a big celebration.
September 2nd is Indepen-
dence Day in Transnistria.
We put on our smartest clothes and join the festivities in
We're staying with Claudia Nesterowa or Claudia Wladimirowna,
as the students call her. She teaches Russian language and literature.
Russian is the main language in the village of Karmanowo in Transnistria.
Claudia lives in the house her parents built and has a big garden,
which she cultivates assiduously. Vine overshadows the yard. Her
sister Galja also lives here most of the time. Galja has a flat
in the tower blocks by the polytechnic, but work is waiting
to be done here. Her brother is a sailor in Murmansk and he
comes to visit most years. The road from Murmansk is dangerous,
she says. Highwaymen loiter in the Carelian hills and throw rocks
down on passing cars. Galja's daughter Olja also sometimes comes
to visit. She works for the police in Grigoriopol, and like most
women in the force, she likes to wear her skirt a little shorter.
Claudia had written to tell me that they only have water twice a
week. If I was willing to
put up with such circumstances, I was welcome to
stay at her house. The Wednesday water didn't come when we were
In the evening we go to fetch some water from Olja's flat on the
ninth floor. There is no light in the stairwell. The streetlights
are not currently in use. We buy some ice cream that tastes delicious.
It smells of hay, as we drive home through the dark country. A sign
says: Odessa, 105 km.
We jump into the lake along with the village youth. We marvel at
spots that would be great places to meet for a shashlik with friends.
We watch the brigades pick plums. Olja's grandfather gives us a
pot of honey and his friend gives us a honeycomb.
September 2nd is Independence Day in Transnistria. We put on our
smartest clothes and join the festivities in Grigoriopol. Some women
are in evening dress. Every village has decorated its square and
put the fruits of its labours on display.
There are garlands of peppers and mountains of vine,
and patterns of plums and tomatoes spell out the letters of the
Republic. The staff of the radiotelecentre sing Russian, Ukrainian
and Moldavian songs, but the chemists clearly have most fun.
The police stops us on the way to Tiraspol, and demands to see our
papers. They have to write up a report, is the conclusion. My
dear man, said Claudia, Today is our Independence Day
and these are our guests. They are in our republic for the first
time and they think it's absolutely beautiful here. It's up to you
to decide whether or not to destroy that impression.
The town's best supermarket belongs to the Sheriff empire.
We buy sausages, smoked fish and cake to celebrate our departure.
We should go for the Kiewer Torte, said Olja - that's always
been the best. Claudia gives a lovely speech and assures me that
my name sounds incomparably elegant in Russian: Ana Pawlowna Korablowa.
I couldn't agree more.