Anton Polyakov

2012 - 2018


As the Soviet Union broke up and Moldova became an independent state, the small section known as Transnistria, where Russian is the dominant language and pro-Russian sentiment prevails, sought to break away. In 1992, Moldova decided to regain Transnistria as an independent state and started a military conflict. The conflict was stopped by Russia, entering the region with their troops and engaging a peacemaking mission.

Despite its non-recognition, Transnistria is now a presidential republic. It has its legislative and executive authority, state border and army, its own constitution, flag, emblem and anthem. The citizens of Transnistria have their own currency and passports, although nowhere except in Transnistria are they not valid. For the past twenty-seven years, the people of Transnistria, a region spanning approximately 125 by 20 miles, have lived in a frozen state. During this time, a new generation was formed and I belong to it.

My story is built around the simple Transnistrians and their daily lives. These are people of different generations and epochs, residents of urban and rural areas. They belong to various nations and cultures. As Transnistria have always been a borderline region, it can be compared to “the melting pot”, where Russians, Moldovans, Ukrainians and dozens of other ethnic groups have lived together for several centuries, and nowadays form the community named “Transnistrians”. I wanted to show the real people hidden under the label of “the non-existent country”, that managed to adapt to the complicated political situation and to the life in country, recognized only by them.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • On February 23rd each year, Transnistria celebrates Soviet Army Day. The paramilitary show and competition among different units are part of the big event, which takes place every year in the Republican Stadium within Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria.

  • Bender city. The building of the former Party Committee (Gorkom), the injured by bullets during a confrontation in 1992.

  • Alexander Sinika in his garage. Participant of military conflict between Transnistria and Moldova in 1992.
    To his right is the military uniform in which he fought.

  • A health clinic in Tiraspol. Many health and social assistance institutions haven’t changed since the Soviet times and have only been partially repaired since then. Last year, however, Transnistria implemented a program of building new clinics, schools and kindergartens with monetary assistance from both Russia and Europe.

  • A “pleasure boat” on the river Dniester, near the city of Tiraspol -- a popular pastime for residents during the summer.

  • Tiraspol is the capital of Transnistria. Private sector in one of the central districts of the city. In the cities of Transnistria, one-storey private houses are very common. The population of Tiraspol is 120 thousand people. In Soviet times it was the second largest city in Moldova.

  • Parade in honor of the Republic Day in the central square of Tiraspol.

  • Tiraspol. The parade is an important part of any major holiday in the republic. The state considers it important to cultivate patriotism, love for Russia and other conservative and traditional values among the youth.

  • A contestant at the Open Bodybuilding Championship in Tiraspol.

  • The Open Bodybuilding Championship in Tiraspol. Youth culture in Transnistria is developed mainly in the big cities, like Tiraspol, Bender and Rîbnița. Often the culture is associated with sports, like body-building, which can be practiced on the athletic fields and stadiums that remained after the Soviet period.

  • Tiraspol. Fans of Tiraspol football team Sheriff at the game of the group stage of the UEFA Europa League against the Czech team Zlin.

    LLC "Sheriff" is one of the largest economic agents of Transnistria. Sheriff owns a chain of petrol stations, a chain of supermarkets, a TV channel, a publishing house, a construction company, a mobile phone network, the football club FC Sheriff Tiraspol and other things.

  • Alexander Veryovkin, a famous Soviet footballer, on a bus in the city of Tiraspol. The bus is Number 19, named for June 19, the day the conflict began between Moldova and Transnistria.

  • Tiraspol. "Elektromash" plant. Once one of the largest machine-building plants in the Soviet Union

  • Central beach in Tiraspol city. A large part of the republic population is represented by pensioners and children. People of working age are often forced to leave for neighboring countries to work, and their children remain on care of grandparents.

  • The central beach in Tiraspol

  • Tiraspol. Typical panel houses, built in the Soviet era, constitute the main residential area of the cities of Transnistria.

  • Lisa Nalivaiko, 21 years old. Lives in Tiraspol. Lisa studies at the Institute of Arts and works in a symphony orchestra and church choir. Liza is also a young mother. Like most young people in Transnistria, Liza dreams of leaving to work in Russia, since the current salary does not allow her to provide for her family. Lisa's husband is a street musician and is currently going to go to Poland to work.

  • The ferry across the river Dniester. The river is the main water artery of the region and the natural border between Transnistria and Moldova. Thousands of people from both banks of the Dniester are closely related by family relations or working contacts. The Dniester gave the name of the republic - Transnistria.

  • Tiraspol. Watchmaker

  • Russia is the main guarantor of security in the region. Most people living in Transnistria want recognition of the region from Russia. As a result of the referendum held in 2006, most people voted for independence and potential future integration into Russia.

  • Vladimir Kucheryavtsev, 88 years, the veteran of the Great Patriotic War. "I was born in Tiraspol. I remember how everything was here 70 years ago when we were at war with the Nazis. I feel like a citizen of Russia, what would we do without it?" - Vladimir says.

  • Tiraspol. The skatepark in the heart of the city. One of the most popular places in the city among young people.

  • Graduation School No. 2 in Grigoriopol, a small town in the center of Transnistria.

  • Children playing in the schoolyard in Grigoriopol.

  • There is a unique kolkhoz in Transnistia with the name Puti Lenina (The Lenin Way). The kolkhoz is the residue of Soviet period. It is a collective farm which belongs to state. Other agricultural companies in Transnistria are private.

  • Hristovaia village. Swimming in the lake is a popular pastime for youth. Most young people are forced to leave their villages at the end of the school due to the fact that in the villages they can not develop and find work. Mostly young people leave for Russia, or for the cities of Transnistria. These processes lead to the extinction of villages.

  • Arrival of the Moscow train to the railway station in Tiraspol. Every day at the railway station in Tiraspol you can observe a large crowd of people who leave or come from Russia. Annually from Transnistria, according to official data, about 1.5-2 thousand people emigrate. One third of them leave for Russia, mainly for economic reasons. Russia has been and remains the main labor market.

  • The flea market in Tiraspol

  • Children play on a statue of the Russian General Alexander Suvorov in Tiraspol. In the eighteenth century, his efforts ensured that Transnistria became a part of the Russian Empire.

  • The Lutheran church in the Kolosovo village is now used as House of Culture. The village was located near the border with Ukraine. It was founded in 1809 by German colonists and was called Neudorf. Here, still live ethnic Germans, who remember the times when in the village could hear German speech.

  • Vladimir Weiss a resident of Kolosovo village (earlier Neudorf). The Weiss’s ancestors were Austrian Germans.

    Uniqueness of Transnistria is that many other nationalities live here. About a third of the population - Moldovans, a third - Russian, another third - the Ukrainians. In total, representatives of 35 nationalities live here. This land was inhabited by various peoples (Germans, Armenians, Poles, Bulgarians, etc.). Now this territory is a mix of different cultures and tradition

  • Tiraspol. Reconstruction of the battle of the Great Patriotic War during the Victory Day

  • Tiraspol. Reconstruction of the battle of the Great Patriotic War during the Victory Day

  • Overlooking the village of Hristovaia.

  • Haymaking near Rotar village

  • Trinta, the traditional Moldovan wrestling, practiced in Kolosovo during the Village Day celebration. The winner receives a ram as the main prize. The Village Day is considered one of the most important holidays for the villagers

  • Children in the countryside are involved in the household from an early age, and they work as hard as adults. Maxim, 12, lives with his father. For the whole summer, he moves to live with his grandparents and helps them with the housework.

  • Maxim’s life is linked with the river Dniester. His home is at 100 meters from the shore. The river is a big part of his life: here he grazes the goats, goes fishing and swims. Sadly, his mother drowned here years ago.

  • Hrușca village. The absence of cultural medium and entertainment is also a problem of countryside. Bar is practically the only place where young people spend their evening time.

  • Celebrating Easter in the church of Cioburciu village. The main religion of the country is Christianity: mostly Orthodoxy, but Catholicism and Protestantism are also practiced by certain ethnic groups.

  • The village of Cioburciu is situated in the South of Transnistria. In the Soviet era it was a large and developed village; today it is sleepier.