In the East of Moldova, bordering the Ukraine, lies a small area called Transnistria. It is a sovereign region that sought to remain a part of the Soviet Union and declared independence on September 2, 1990. Internationally Transnistria is considered part of the Republic of Moldova, although de facto control is exercised by a local separatist administration. Transnistria has its own currency, constitution, parliament, border controls and passports - but has not yet been recognized by a single other country.
The European Parliament's delegation to Moldova has named Transnistria "a black hole in which illegal trade in arms, the trafficking in human beings and the laundering of criminal finance was carried on." Ruled by a particular mix of soviet ideology and criminal business ethics, smuggling is an important source of income for the ruling elite. Power is concentrated within a very limited circle: One of President Smirnov's sons heads the Transnistrian border control, while the other is the head of the country's largest business conglomerate, the Sheriff company. Sheriff runs gas stations, supermarkets, casinos, a Mercedes dealership, newspapers and magazines, the only private owned tv channel, the largest mobile telephone operator, and a football club. It is a monopoly closely associated with the parliament, which is still called the "Supreme Soviet".
Housing a large stock of weapons from Soviet times and most of the major industries of Moldova, Transnistria has little trouble remaining independent, as long as Russia is supportive. Russian troups, despite promises from Moscow 10 years ago, are still stationed in the country. The conflict with Moldova is unlikely to be solved in the near future. The Transnistrian governement is hardly interested in changing the status quo as the current one is profitable to them. For the population, to the largest part ethnic Russians or Ukranians, an alliance with Russia is more attractive than being a part of Moldova and nostalgia for the old days under Soviet rule run deep. As long as the question of statehood is unsolved, Transnistria remains a living museum of Soviet times gone by.