The Transnistria region stretches some 400 kilometers between the eastern bank of the Dniester River in Moldova and the country’s border with Ukraine. Most of the breakaway region’s population of 470,000 speaks Russian, although residents identify themselves as ethnically Moldovan, Ukrainian or Russian.
Moves to make Moldovan the official language of Moldova in 1989, when it was still part of the Soviet Union, alarmed the population of Transnistria. The region declared independence in 1990 and fighting broke out. Fighting intensified in March 1992 and lasted until a ceasefire in July. It is estimated that more than 700 people died in the conflict.
As part of the cease-fire agreement, a contingent of 1,500 Russian troops remains in Transnistria as peacekeepers. Since July 1992, the region has insisted that it is not part of Moldova, which itself had declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The breakaway region has retained many Soviet forms and iconography, including the use of the hammer and sickle image on its flag and many statues of former communist leaders. But by and large it has remained peaceful, and some tourists come to enjoy the anachronisms.