Transnistria Then and Now
Russia appears at Nistru (Dniester)
Starting approximately with the beginning of the 16th century, Russia incessantly had more territory than population to fill it. Consequently, large-scale colonization were accomplished with populations originating from almost all peoples in Europe, sometimes the force being used (the word "sila" means "force" in Russian, but "disgust, violation" in Romanian!) to move inside Russian borders the population of entire regions. To illustrate this idea, it is worth to be mentioned that after the 1735-1739 Russian Turkish war the Russian general Burkhard Christoph von Munnich (of German origin, born in Oldenburg) lifted "all the people from the Hotin county and from the border of Cernăuți [now Chernovtsy, in Ukraine]", approximately 100.000 people and withdrew in Russia with the armies and with this human loot. The Moldavian chronicler Ion Neculce put it that "And they shared the people like livestock. Some took the children, others the men, others the women. And they were selling them one to another, without a drop of pity, worse than Tatars do. And it was wintertime. Plentiful tears were there, that the voice was perceived over to the sky". Until now these regions remained impoverished in Romanian population, as a result of the Russian "samavolnicii" (Romanian word of Slavic origin, meaning discretionary abusive action - "deed of my sole will").
As a preliminary step in the plan of creating a kingdom of Dacia, a state controlled by Russia, the empress Catherine II colonized the empty space in the south of "New Russia" with many Romanians, not only from Moldavia but also from Walachia and Transylvania. The Romanians were attracted by taxe immunity, exemption from military draft, deduction of displacement expenses, the promise of autonomy and preservation of the newcomers' laws and language, of Church organization and even of the Moldavian coat of arms with the urus head. Starting from 1769 thousands of families were colonized in the Bug river region. Alexandru Mavrocordat (Alexander Mavrokordatos) was designated to govern this intended "New Moldavia" in the name of the empress. Alexander II Mavrokordatos Firaris ruled Moldova in 1785 and 1786 and from here he fled to Russia. He was named Firaris (the fugitive), maybe in order to distinguish him from his cousin Alexander I Mavrokordatos, nicknamed Deli-bey, that ruled in Moldavia between 1782 and 1785.
The Russian Empire did not reach the river Nistru until 1792, the year in which the entire Transnistria entered under Russian administration. The territorial extention to the line of Nistru was achieved under the command of marshal Suvorov that succeeded in pushing back the Ottoman Empire yet farther.
Alexandr Suvorov is one of the most known marshalls in Russian history, remarkable for his victories against superior enemy forces, in many battles waged in Eastern and Central Europe. On the nowadays territory of Romania he won the Battle of Rimnik (Rîmnic) against the grand vizier Koca Yusuf Pașa, (September 22nd 1789), battle that led to his receiving of the title Count of Rimnik from Catherine the Great. Near Rîmnicu Sărat there is a monument celebrating the victory of the great marshall on Romanian territory.
The Russian armies stood frequently in the Principality of Moldavia, as result of various wars before 1792 and after. The czar and emperor Peter I the Great came at Iași (Jassy) with his army in 1711, as ally and friend of prince Dimitrie Cantemir (named by the Russians Dmitry Kantemir). The Russian troops stayed in the principality also in 1739, between 1769 and 1774, in 1789, 1792, 1806 and 1812. After this last occupation Russia had swallowed half of Moldavia, meaning all territories between the Prut and Nistru (Dniester) rivers. Between 1828 and 1834 both Moldavia and Walachia were occupied. The occupations between 1848 and 1849, 1853 and 1856 followed. During the Independence War against the Ottoman Empire Russia was allied with Romania (the modern state born in 1859 by the Union of the two Romanian autonomous principalities). The alliance ended with an almost military occupation (1877-1878) and with harsh territorial requests from the Russians, their ally armies having turned to hostile enemies.
Realizing the military inferiority and lacking international support Romania was forced to accept territorial losses as result of severe Russian summonings, the three Romanian counties in the left of river Prut: Cahul, Izmail and Bolgrad that had been retrocedated to the principality of Moldavia by the peace treaty that ended the Crimean War. The last occupation of the Romanian space lasted from 1944 to 1957, masked by a false Romanian Soviet friendship that was born over night. The presence of the Russian Army garanteed practically the unconditioned vassalage of Romania.
The Land over Nistru - Transnistria - bears this name after the beginning of the 20th century only. In Romanian and Russian acception both, Cisnistria is understood to be the right, western bank (toward Romania), Transnistria (Prednistrovia) being the left, eastern side. Czarist Russia intended to baptize the newly seized and created gubernia east of Nistru with the name of New Moldavia, yet finally the decision was changed to New Russia.
The town of Tiraspol was settled in the very year of the frontier movement on Nistru - 1792 - over an old village named Sucleia Veche and inhabited by Moldavian fishermen, next to the fortress of Tighina, fortified by the Turks and an important center of military pressure since the first half of the 16th century when Moldavia lost it in the times of prince Petru Rareș. Initially there was nothing more than a wooden fort bearing the name of Sredneaia - Midway - but shortly after it received the name of Tiraspol by the ukase of czarine Catherine II. As they advanced west and south, the Russians stumbled upon the vestiges of ancient Greek civilization, that cast in turn a special fascination over the new masters. So justifies the name of Tiraspol for an entirely new settlement after the ancient Greek name of river Nistru and of the town of Cetatea Albă (Tyras) at the mouth of the river at the Black Sea. Similarly has Odessa received its name (founded in 1794, over the settlement of Hajji-bey), from the ancient Greek city of Odessus (today Varna in Bulgaria), Ovidiopol (founded in 1792, over the settlement of Khaji-dereh), after the Roman poet exiled at Tomis. Other toponyms created in the same period were Kherson (1788), Eupatoria, Leukopol, Sevastopol, Simferopol, Phanagoria, Theodosia (old Genoese city of Caffa), Olbiopol (1781) from the city of Olbia at the mouth of river Bug.
The city of Tiraspol was part of the New Russia gubernia (Novorosia - 1795), than of Nikolaev gubernia (1802) and Kherson (1806).
The colonizations into the south of the empire began between River Don and River Dnieper (Nohai steppe), after 1792, and between River Bug and River Nistru (Yedisan or Edisan steppe) after 1793. In 1812 already the Russian border moved farther, half of the Moldavian Principality being seized and incorporated to the Empire as the gubernia of Basarabia (Romanian name, yet used abusevily in the case). After 1812 began the colonization of the Eastern Moldavia with allogenic people, especially the zone of correctly named Basarabia, namely the Bugeac steppe (from River Danube and from Black Sea to Tighina). The name Basarabia (used abusively in that case) was proper chosen, because a state named Moldavia continued to exist, and Basarabia was a Romanian autochthonous name. Beside that, the annexation of a land called Basarabia to Russia raised less suspicions and lulled the vigilance of other great powers, less informed in the Romanian problems but eventually interested into defending the European balance of power and the Romanian rights, badly hurt by the Russian occupation of 1812.
At east from River Nistru the colonizations were not made with allogeneic people only. In Yedisan country, also named the Ukraine of the Khan (Ukraine means a frontier region), czarina Catherine the Great alloted after 1792 estates to many Moldavian boyars (between 10 and 25 thousand hectares to each one) from illustrious families like Cantacuzino, Sturza, Catargiu, Balș and others. These land distributions have created approximate twenty new villages settled by four thousands Moldavians that came from the West bank of River Nistru.
In 1799 the czarist counselor Sumarokov noted after his visit into the newly annexed territories: "in Ovidiopol the inhabitants are, almost all of them, Moldavians and Greeks, only a few Russians. All are merchants from Akkerman [Cetatea Albă] that came with goods. Tiraspol has only 350 houses, and the inhabitants are: Malorussians [small Russians, a.k.a. Ukrainians], Moldavians, Walachians, Jews and Gypsies." About the Dubăsari town he says that the town is inhabited mainly by Moldavians, secondly by Greeks, Bulgarians, Jews and "only a few Russians" - probably the recently arrived czarist administrators. The counselor mentioned that all the villages at the East of River Nistru are Moldavian (he passed personally through Mălăiești, Butor, Tașlîc, Puhăceni).
The czarist Russia offered to the foreigners that wanted to settle in Moldavia very good conditions, planned for attracting as many of them as possible. The Russians intended to change the ethnicity of this territory and partially succeded in creating puzzling ethnic issues that last even now in the eastern Moldavia (the Republic of Moldavia, that is). Each family of Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian or German settlers received up to 50 hectares of fertile land, agricultural inventory and other advantages. Similar conditions were offered to Moldavians only if they left Moldavia to colonize Crimea, the Caucasus or remote parts of Siberia. Many have left Moldavia pushed by poverty and by the Russian population policy, settling villages scattered from Crimea over to Amur River.
Mihai Frunză, a genius commanding officer of the Red Army during the years after the October Revolution in 1917, was a descendant of a such Romanian family from Basarabia or Transnistria. He was born in the Central Asia, at Bishkek, today in Kyrgyzstan. He died in 1925, and from 1926 his name was given to the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, under the spelling Frunze - Frunză is a Romanian word meaning leaf. The name was changed back to Bishkek in 1991 - after the proclamation of independence of Kyrgyzstan. His name and the name of the city can be found in books and on maps only under the ortography Frunze, because in Russian neither the sound ă nor the corresponding letter exist, thus being replaced with e.
For further information confront the Modern and contemporary history section inside the Brief and Comprehensive History of Romanians and Romania page.