Remote Transnistria Has Lessons for Artsakh

Team Keghart Editorial, 16 March 2010

Most people would be hard-pressed to find Moldova, let alone Transnistria, on the map. Transnistria, in an obscure corner of Eastern Europe, sounds too much like a fictional tin-pot Ruritania. Yet the political entity, officially known as Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, has a capital (Tiraspol), currency (ruble), a national anthem and flag, government agencies, public holidays and a democratically-elected government. So far, it has no airline.

Transnistria is a sliver of land in eastern Moldova, along the shores of the Dniester River, across from Western Ukraine. It has iron mines and fertile soil.

Team Keghart Editorial, 16 March 2010

Most people would be hard-pressed to find Moldova, let alone Transnistria, on the map. Transnistria, in an obscure corner of Eastern Europe, sounds too much like a fictional tin-pot Ruritania. Yet the political entity, officially known as Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, has a capital (Tiraspol), currency (ruble), a national anthem and flag, government agencies, public holidays and a democratically-elected government. So far, it has no airline.

Transnistria is a sliver of land in eastern Moldova, along the shores of the Dniester River, across from Western Ukraine. It has iron mines and fertile soil.

Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region was part of the Moldavian Republic. However, in 1991 Transnistria seceded from Moldova when the latter declared Moldovan (a dialect of Romanian) the official language of the country. Slavic people, who make up the majority of Transnistria (30% Russian, 29% Ukrainian, and 5% other Slavs), resented the creeping Romanization of Moldova. To make matters worse, Moldova also changed the alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin. A mini-war (1992) between Moldova and Transnistria failed to change the status of the newly-independent region.

The tiny republic is recognized only by South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia, which doesn’t recognize the political entity, has a consulate in Tiraspol: Russia wants to retain Moldova as an ally without upsetting the Slavs of Transnistria.

Since declaring independence, Transnistria has been subjected to a blockade by Moldova and by Romania. In 2006 Ukraine enacted a customs regulation which forced all Transnistrian exports to carry Moldovan customs stamps. The Ukrainian law has resulted in $2 million to $2.5 million daily loss to the fledgling republic’ economy. But Transnistrians refused to be cowed by Moldova’s economic blockade and Europe’s refusal to recognize Tiraspol’s independence. In 2006 Transnistria held a referendum to decide the region’s future. According to government sources, 97% voted for pro-independence with free association with Russia. Three percent voted to rejoin Moldova. Transistrians are not intimidated by the blockade and hostility of Moldova, Ukraine and Romania.

Now go over the previous five paragraphs and note the similarities in the status of Transnistria and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). A comparison between the two “republics” would very quickly indicate that the Armenian political entity is better off, more secure, and has a far stronger justification for self-determination.

Some Armenians rightly feel insecure about the independence of Artsakh. They may also forget that the Artsakh/Azerbaijan conflict is not unique: There are a number of long-term, unresolved but de facto political limbos on the global scene. Taiwan, Cyprus, Palestine, the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia), Kuwait and Iraq, Northern Iraq (Kurdistan), Northern Ireland… are some of the better known of these interminable conflicts. One might condemn these unresolved situations, but the fact remains they are part of the global scene. And they exist because one of the warring parties is stronger (Israel in Palestine, Turkey in Cyprus…) than its antagonist. It’s not justice that has scripted their current status.

As long as Artsakh and Armenia retain their military superiority over Azerbaijan, Artsakh will remain independent. What Stepanakert and Yerevan have to do is persuade Baku that Armenians can live with the uncomfortable status quo indefinitely, despite the saber-rattling of Aliyev and his blowhards. Baku’s belligerence and intransigence force Armenians to embrace the lyrics of a century-old Armenian fedayeen song, “Meeyan Zenkov Gah Hayots Prgoutune” (Arms are Armenians’ Sole Saviour)—as far as Artsakh is concerned. Having justice on our side is not enough for political security. It has to be backed by force of arms.

 

14 comments
  1. The Russian factor

     

    An important factor in the Karabagh/Artsakh conflict, as in Transnistria, is Russia.  

    Russia controls so much Armenian industry and so much of its energy supplies and infrastructure (and apparently many of Armenia’s leaders too), that it may be able to force a "solution" to the conflict at the expense of Armenians.

    Russia has betrayed Armenians many times.  If Azerbaijan were to promise to sell Russia all, or nearly all, of its future gas and oil reserves (instead of selling it to the West and sending it through Georgia and Turkey), Russia would probably then make a deal with Azerbaijan in which the latter would, in return, get Karabagh back (not totally, perhaps, but enough to satisfy the Azeris).

    After all, it was Russia which gave Karabagh and Nakhichevan to Azerbaijan in the first place, something we often forget.

    Russia would also abandon the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia too, if Georgia struck a good enough deal with Russia.  Watch out for Russia.

    1. Can’t join the belt…

      Dave, you have some valid points but I think your analogy is incorrect.  It’s not only oil or money that Russia need to look for, but also the Western-influenced power belt that can be formed once it looses Armenia.

      Currently the only entity that causes instability in that region is Armenia and as long as it exists, the Turkish nations will not be able to unite and put pressure on Russia.

      Remember, it wasn’t Russia that divided Armenia, but the Soviet Union (I think there is a difference).  The Russians are smart enought to understand the strategic importance of Armenia in that region.  But again, they are using us for their own benifit, մեր սեւ աջքերուն համար չէ՛…

  2. Artsakh

    Your analogy is right on. Our behavior must reflect the reality of the de facto independence of Artsakh. Minus the security and trade agreements of international recognition, Artsakh is building an identity as a sovereign entity (aligned with Armenia of course).

    As the years go on and the infrastructure of the country matures, the Azerbaijanis will find it increasingly difficult to alter that reality. The Armenians won their freedom with military superiority and the passionate commitment of the people. This will continue to be a critical deterrant to hopefully dissuade the Azerbaijanis from starting another futile attempt to usurp what is not theirs.

    1. Military Superiority?

      Your statement "The Armenians won their freedom with military superiority…" sounds funny.  Do you honestly believe that we won because of our military strength?

      1. Artsakh
        Arsen:

        Military superiority includes not simply the amount of hardware and the size of the armed forces, but the use of the equipment (including captured), the tactical effectiveness of the armed forces,their willingness to fight and their commitment to the goal.

        The Armenian experience in Artsakh proved the importance of these factors in the military equation. We will always have to worry about the role of third parties, but in a direct confrontation, Artsakh has and will prevail.

        We pray for peace, but they have to remain ready. The sheer numbers don’t always tell the whole story…Sardarapat…..Bash Abaran…Karabagh… faced with dire consequences amazing things can happen.
         

        Thank you.

        1. let’s be realistic

          Joe and Stepan, let’s be realistic; without the presence of the Russian army and their help militarily and more, we wouldn’t have been able to capture any land.
          I agree that the Armenian army is much more committed and morally ready to fight and one Armenian soldier is equivalent to 10 on the other side, however even that is not enough if we don’t have the quantity (and we don’t) and the equipment (Russian).

          Of course Russia didn’t do it for our own sake, they have their own agenda and are just using us for their political gains.  But the fact remains that we don’t have the power, training, equipment or even the finances to carry a successful war against any large and well equipped army.

          There are some Armenians who think that we have the strongest army in the world and that we can defeat any army if we want to, I admire their patriotism…but it’s time to wake up!

      2. Do you honestly have any

        Do you honestly have any evidence to the contrary? Or is this yet another expression of Mr. know it all?
  3. We have no real republic

    Let’s not forget Jacques Chirac’s statement about Armenia’s Republic; "What republic, when your foreign minister is travelling with a Russian passport?"

    You might know, that Edward Nalbandyan is Russian Foreign Minister’s son in law.

    Also let’s realize that we have no real republic.  We are still suffering under Russian domination. Not so long ago Russians gave away our Nogorno Karabagh, Nakhijevan (Historical Jugha) , Kars, Ardahan and even Ararat and Arax River to our arch enemies. And now under their secret agreement with the United States, they imposed on our so called independent government to sign the current infamous and tragic "Protocols" with our arch enemy, Turkey. This is the blackest page of our contemporary history!

    Did Sarkissyan and Nalbandyan heed to Diaspora’s and Armenia’s political parties’ objections and or requests?  Off course not!

    During the last ten or fifteen years I kept on saying let’s forget about the Armenian Genocide for a while and concentrate our forces on abolition of Kars Treaty, which includes the Ararat and Arax River.

    Supposing Turkey accepted the Armenian Genocide.  Then what?  Even if they agreed to pay some sort of compensation.  Who are going to be the benefactors ?   The few survivors in Diaspora?   Let’s not kid ourselves!  The money would go straight to the coffers of Russians and some of  Armenian oligarch puppets.

    1. I suggest that you chill out

      I suggest that you chill out a little and think, before you start to thow around your baseless and inflammatory anecdotes with out of control paranoia.

      Unfortunately there is way too much of this kind of mindset in our community.

      1. We have no independence
        Joe,
        I don’t know your age, capacity and or political experience.  I challenge you to point out with valid evidence and documents as to which part or parts of my statements are exaggeration, false or untrue, Otherwise put up or shut up!

  4. If Russia turns its back to

    If Russia turns its back to Armenia or tries to throw its weight around too much, Armenia can always pick the NATO option. Transnistria doesn’t have that luxury. Unlike Armenia, Transnistria also doesn’t have a diaspora–in Armenia’s case a strong and committed diaspora. Armenia-Artsakh also have the Iran outlet. Transnistria has no such outlet. Overall, I would say Arskakh is in a much better spot than Transnistria. One has to admire the courage and the spirit of independence in Transnistria, just as in Artsakh.

    1. If Russia Turns its back…

      I disagree with Mesrob. Although I have never been a fan of Russia, it is its presence that holds back the Mongolians at the frontier. If Russia does turn its back NATO  can not replace it, is nothing but a paper tiger….How soon you forget Gerogia’s love affair with  the "WEST"? What happened….? Russia took care of it with brute force….Also Mesrob….don’t you remeber  the Turkish president uttering the words of dropping a few bombs on us to teach us a lesson in Karabagh and Russia showed its teeth? Gee…how people forget the past so quickly?
  5. People might argue that

    People might argue that Artsakh existed before as part of Armenia, has centuries of history and culture, it’s not the case with Transnistria.

    However, it’s unbeleivable how much similarity there is between these two cases!!  I didn’t even know about Transnistria before.

  6. Some Armenians rightly feel

    Some Armenians rightly feel insecure about the independence of Artsakh. They may also forget that the Artsakh/Azerbaijan conflict is not unique: There are a number of long-term, unresolved but de facto political limbos on the global scene.

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