Transnistria Then and Now

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Ancient and medieval period | Rusia at Nistru | Between WW1 and WW2 | Transnistria today

Transnistria at the end of the First World War

Moldavians separated from the country in 1812, organized into a Moldavian Democratical Republic, joined the Kingdom of Romania at 27th of March / 9th of April 1918. The authority that decided the Union with the Mother Land was called Sfatul Țării - the Council of the Land, being a parliament of broad and democratical representation. Sfatul Țării was born as consequence of the Congress of Moldavian Soldiers and Officers that took place at 20th of October 1917 in Chișinău. The Moldavians inside the Russian Empire did not have at the time any national organization or structure to represent them and defend their identity - they were not permited to entertain relations with the kingdom of Romania and the border on river Prut was impenetrable even for cultural exchanges. The only organized Romanians were the military inside the Russian army, so it was up to them to act on the behalf of Basarabians in those troubled times; they succeded in summoning at October 20th 1917 a national Congress meant to safeguard the fate of Basarabia as the Empire started to collapse. The Congress decided the autonomy of Basarabia, the creation of Sfatului Țării as well as its configuration, as the Moldavian soldiers and officers understood that a military leadership was not fit to provide democracy to the fledging statehood.

Delegate Toma Jalbă addressed the Congress of Moldavian Soldiers and Officers on the behalf of the Transnistrian Moldavians with these words: „...I ask your lordships, brothers, my brothers and my kin - because are we Moldavians of a blood, - to whom do you leave us, Moldavians? Why are we splintered from Moldavia's rib and live on the other bank of Nistru? Do we remain as the mice inside the tomcat's mouth? Our brothers! Do not leave us, do not forsake and do not forget us. And if you will forget us, we will the bank of Nistru dig and correct the water on the outer side of our land." Toma Jalbă received standing up ovations from delegates shouting „We will not forget you!” Ion Buzdugan gave the answer at the tribune, promissing „We will not leave you, brothers, come into our arms. The Nistru together will we dig and correct its water beyond the border of the Romanian soul, so that nothing come between us anymore."

Following the proceedings of the Congress of Moldavian Soldiers and Officers, the composition of Sfatului Țării was decided to be 70 % Moldavians (84 positions), 30 % other nationalities (36 positions). It was decided that, apart these 120 positions, 10 other be awarded to the Transnistrian Romanians.

The peace treaty of Versailles left many Romanians outside the ethnic and historical boundaries of Romanian land. East of river Nistru, in its close proximity especially, inhabited an important number of indigene Romanians in compact masses. The Transnistrian Romanians succeded in obtaining the avowal of their autochton existance in the creation in 1924 of a Moldavian Soviet Socialist Autonomous Republic.

However, the origins of Transnistrian statehood can be sought in the year 1917, when the Congress of Moldavians beyond Nistru took place at Tiraspol (17th - 18th of December). The Basarabian delegate from Sfatului Țării, G. Mare, was present at the proceedings, having brought as gift a Romanian tricolor that waved over the building of the Congress. He handed the flag with these words: "This is the flag of our Romanian lineage and for its victory we fight altogether in these times of great changes. Our strain that was until now oppressed by strangers shall not be henceforth slave to nobody." Transnistrian delegates asserted autonomous conditions (in the situation of the Russian Empire's downfall); they also demanded "the liquidation of Transnistria to Basarabia" and requested "We want to unite with Basarabia".

Despite these high hopes, Transnistrian Romanians remained outside the country after the peace treaties concluding the 1st World War were signed, inside the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (renamed later on USSR - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).

Autonomous Sovietic Socialist Republic of Moldavia

Following the decision of the Soviet government from August 3rd 1923 concerning the nationalities and the free use of the native tongue, the delegates of the Romanian villages held a congress in the Transnistrian town of Balta, at September 3rd in the same year.

As a result of these decisions, at October 12th 1924 the Autonomous Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was created, as a part of Ukraine. The capital of this republic was the town of Balta. This was the first statal organization in Transnistria. In the appreciation of this act it must be taken into account - besides the democratic opening inside USSR - the Soviet intention to use the newly created state as a trampoline for political agitations on the Western bank of River Nistru (in the former czarist gubernia of Basarabia, 1812 - 1917) and on the international political stage, aiming at a Soviet expansion to the west. Formally, the western frontier of the ASSRM was the Prut River, in the very heart of the historical Moldavia (as you can see in a contemporary map published at Odessa, pictured below). ASSRM spanned along the eastern border of Romania, from the county of Hotin to the River Nistru mouth.

Map of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Autonomous Republic
- Transnistria - (1930)

The Pan-Moldavian congress had fixed the borders of the new republic and also the constitution in April 1925, at Bîrzula. According to Soviet statistics, the newly created republic had 46% Ukrainians and 32% Romanians, spanning over 8.100 square kilometers. The territory was shared between 11 raions: Balta, Bîrzula, Camenca, Crut, Dubăsari, Grigoriopol, Ananiev, Ocna Roșie, Rîbnița, Slobozia and Tiraspol. In 1928 the capital was moved from Balta to Tiraspol.

Although the existence of the ASSRM was an ideological menace to the Romanian state, the Moldavian Republic slowed down the process of Russification and Ukrainization and conserved the language and the Romanian ethnical element in Transnistria. In this space functioned 145 Romanian middle schools, 18 Romanian high schools, a agronomical, a pedagogical and a polytechnic institute, all using the Romanian as teaching language. In the Romanian schools learned 23.400 pupils and 800 students. In the republic were printed various newspapers in Romanian. A theatre and a radio using Romanian language also existed. Starting from 1933 in "Transnistria" the Romanian was written with Latin letters. For the same Latin letters the later Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia (the nowadays the Republic of Moldavia) fought for many years, over to the very moment of the Proclamation of the Independence in 1991.

It is worth to mention that during the interbellum period the name used for the language was Romanian inside the autonomous republic, as it results from the pages of the Transnistrian weekly "Red Ploughman" from August 21st 1924 : "it was decided to use Romanian language in schools, houses and in Romanian cultural establishments". Then, the theory of the Moldavian ethnicity and language seen as opposed to the Romanian ethnicity and language must be much younger than supposed, even though its origins are in the same Russian influenced perimeter. This pseudoscientific theory has supporters in the entire Republic of Moldavia (but mainly in the separatist zone of Transnistria) even today. The most of these supporters are, of course, Russian speakers. This theory aims to "proove" as justified the political separation of the Romanians from the Eastern part of Moldavia from the other Romanians. The attempt of 1996 of Moldavian president Mircea Snegur to change the name of the official language from Moldavian to Romanian had no succes. Although the official language is named Moldavian, the tongue used de facto in the Republic of Moldavia in the institutions and publications is not the Moldavian idiom of the Romanian (idiom that had a decisive role in the creation of the nowadays literary form of Romanian), but the same literary Romanian language used in the Romanian state.

In 1937 a major change in the Soviet policy took place, and as a consequence of the new direction the intellectuality of the ASSRM was accused of having played the game of the class opponents and was exterminated. The government of the Republic and many Transnistrian writers were executed (between them Nicolae Smochină, Toader Mălai, Nicolae Țurcanu, Simion Dumitrescu, Petre Chioru, Mihai Andreescu, Mitrea Marcu, Alexandru Caftanachi, Iacob Doibani, Ion Corcin, Dumitru Bătrîncea, Nistor Cabac). The Stalinist atrocities have touched the rural regions too. For example, in the Butor village from in the raion of Grigoriopol 167 men out of 168 were shot (the 168th being the denouncer).

A large number of Transnistrians fled to Romania in this period, settling at Chișinău, Iași and Cluj. Many were shot by Russian frontier guards, their massacre being subject of international disgrace (e.g. the killing of 40 men, women and children from the village of Olănești on February 23rd 1932).

The colonizations with allogeneic peoples were very intense in the small Moldavian republic, having been caused mainly by the lack of specialized work force and the lack of intellectuals. As result of the immigration, in 1928 only 600 of 14.300 de industrial workers were Moldavians. In the rural regions the situation politics were opposite: as a result of the introduction of the collective farms by force, 2.000 families were deported in Kazakhstan.

The creation of a small Romanian state inside USSR raised natural suspicions inside the Kingdom. A rather strange and naive attitude at the times implied belonged to Nicolae Iorga, the greatest Romanian historian, himself a Moldavian. His optimistic opinion was that the Soviet Union did the right thing making to the entire world clear that Romanian demands at the peace treaties had not at all gone as far as they could have gone. The entire period between the world wars the Soviets used their decoy autonomous state as a territorial base for political agitation aimed at "reuniting" Moldavia (inside the Soviet Union, of course).

The occupation of Basarabia by USSR. The Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova

Lacking allies and incapable to use the guaranties obtained after the peace treaties that followed the first world war, the Romanian state ceded to USSR (after two Soviet ultimatums) important territories of the old Moldavian principality: Basarabia, the Northern part of Bukovina and the Herța region. The last zone had never been outside the national borders before the odious year 1940.

As a normal act on the thread of the events, ASSRM merged with the pretended Soviet territories between Nistru and Prut River. Moskow proposed that the Basarabian county of Hotin, the Bukovinian county of Cernăuți (never in Russian possesion since the founding of Moldavia) and two raions from the former Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldavia enter in the componence of Ukraine. The rest of the Moldavian lands were to form the new Moldavian republic. However, the president of the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine solicited, besides Cernăuți and Hotin, the Basarabian county of Cetatea Albă and no less than eight of the raions of the old ASSRM, i.e. almost all of them.

On August 2nd 1940 the Supreme Soviet of USSR adopted the law for the establishment of the Sovietic Socialist Republic of Moldavia in the variant proposed by Ukraine. The first capital of RASSM, Balta, passed to Ukraine. At May 10th 1941 the request of two villages to pass from Ukraine to the Soviet Moldavia was granted, only two of many that applied for this change. All the Romanians in the Soviet Union that remained outside the borders of the new republic lost the autonomy and the rights to officially use their mother tongue.

Below are mentioned some villages from ASSRM that passed to Ukraine: Lunga, Hîrtop, Visterniceni, Borș, Dabija, Carlești, Șerpa, Culmea Veche și Nouă (in the raion of Bîrzu), Valea Hoțului, Tocila, Grecu, Perișori, Handrabura, Șalpani (in the raion of Nani), Păsat, Holmu, Pîrlita, Păsățel, Mironi, Bănzari, Bursuci, Moșneanca, Raculova, Herbina (in raion of Balta), Budăi, Buza, Strîmba, Broșteni, Slobozia, Buchet, Timcău, Ploți, Șerbi (in the raion of Crutîi), Ocna Roșie, Clăveni, Tiscolung, Tiscol, Odaie, Ideia, Coșari, Dihori, Mironi, Slobozia, Dubău, Țîbuleanca, Sahaidac, Topala, Ciorna, Perlicani, Basarabia, Bahta, Mălăiești, Ilie, Brînza, Untilovca, Găvănosu (in the raion of Ocna Roșie). Many of the Romanian toponyms were changed, in order their information about their settlers to be lost and to give another ethnical aspect: Bîrzu became Kotovsk, Mărculeni - Dimovka, Voloșca - Pisariovka, Întunecata - Svetloe, Nani - Ananiev, Vrabie - Vradievka, Valea Hoțului - Dolinskoie, Mălai - Karataevka, Urîta became Elenovka and so on.

Transnistria in the World War II

During the second world war Romania administrated Transnistria between Nistru and Bug dividing it into counties ("județe", just like in the Kingdom, namely Ananiev, Balta, Berezovca, Dubăsari, Golta, Jugastru, Movilău, Oceacov, Odesa, Ovidiopol, Rîbnița, Tulcin and Tiraspol), but did not incorporate the province. The province was administrated by a governor.

The surface area of the Romanian Transnistria was of 39.733 square kilometers, divided into the mentioned 13 counties, having 1292 de communes and two municipalities (Odessa and Tiraspol). In 1942 the population was 2.326.226 people. Before the war the population was 3.492.552 people (the draft of the Red Army must be taken into account).

For the Transnistrians regardless of their nationality, the Romanian administration meant a comeback of Christianity and a mouthful of air for the Romanian element. Courses for 800 Romanian teachers from Transnistria were organized, numerous newspapers published and cinemas were establish at Tiraspol, Ananiev and Odessa. At Tiraspol was establish the Romanian High School Duca Vodă, former Moldavian prince and hetman of Ukraine in the 17th century. In the village of Hîrjău Romanians from Kuban were repatriated (504 families from the other bank of River Bug had been repatriated in Transnistria at the beginning of the operation).

Established in 1942, the Romanian Orthodox Mission in Transnistria was very active. With the see at Tiraspol and then at Odessa, it focused on returning Christ to the bolshevized zone, that was administrated in three eparchies, Balta, Tulcin and Odessa, over to the return of the Red Army. Out of more than 1.000 churches suppressed by the communists, in 1943 only 76 had not yet been repaired. Beside 219 local priests, 250 priests from the country officiated. The war of Romania in the East was carried under the sign of the cross, being named the "Holy War against Bolshevism". As head of the Romanian Orthodox Mission was theology professor Iuliu Scriban, replaced in 1942 by the metropolitan of Bucovina Visarion Puiu (who founded two theologic seminaries inside the province, at Odessa with Russian tuition and at Dubăsari with Romanian tuition) and then by archimandrite Antim Nica.

Bust of metropolitan Visarion Puiu Romanian counties of Transnistria

In 1943, at the National Military Museum in Bucharest arrived from Odessa a flag, sent by metropolitan Visarion, chief of the Romanian Church Mission for Transnistria. The flag was identified as belonging to Constantin Ipsilanti, ruler of Moldavia (March 1799 - June 1801) and of Walachia (between 1802 and 1807, with interruptions). The discovery of such a flag in Transnistria, a both military and religious item, confirmed the tight cultural bonds that existed between the two banks of River Nistru in the Dark Age and in the modern times.

Although during World War II Romanian administration issued special stamps for Transnistria that were used only between Nistru and Bug rivers, no sort of legal tender coinage existed in the case of Transnistria before the war at Nistru ended in 1992.

Only banknotes existed, issued by INFINEX - Institutul de Finanțare Externă (Romanian Institute for External Financing), that were prepared for entering circulation in Transnistria during the Second World War.

Three postal issues were printed, in 1941, 1942 and 1943, two with prince Duca Vodă and one with chronicler Miron Costin. Accordingly to Filatelia review (November-December 1990 issue), these stamps have been only sold in Transnistrian post offices.

Ancient and medieval period | Rusia at Nistru | Between WW1 and WW2 | Transnistria today

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For further information confront the Modern and contemporary history section inside the Brief and Comprehensive History of Romanians and Romania page.

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