De Facto States: The Quest for Sovereignty

By Tozun Bahcheli; Barry Bartmann et al. | Go to book overview

5

From frozen conflict to frozen agreement

The unrecognized state of Transnistria

Steven D. Roper

The war in Chechnya serves as a reminder that de facto territorial solutions do not eliminate the eventual possibility of further conflict. After the 1996 ceasefire, Chechnya enjoyed a semi-independent status within the Russian Federation and for many years thereafter, scholars and policy makers alike talked about the region's semi-independent status and possible confederation with Russia. However, the military offensive in September 1999 demonstrated that regional solutions must be institutionalized. These solutions must include a defined legal basis agreed to and implemented by both sides in order to contain conflict and promote a structured devolution of power. Chechnya represents one regional scenario in the former Soviet Union that, unfortunately, has occurred repeatedly in areas such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Nagorno-Kharabakh.

Transnistria is similar to these other regions in which a status quo ceasefire has endured for a number of years. Since 1992, when the Moldovan-Transnistrian dispute erupted into violent conflict, Transnistria has remained virtually independent of Moldova. 1 However, as intractable as the Transnistrian problem has been, the Moldovan government was able to resolve another conflict involving the region known as Gagauzia. This region declared independence even before Transnistria on 19 August 1990; however, the Moldovan and the Gagauzian leaderships were able to agree on the devolution of power and the creation of an autonomous territorial status in 1995. Therefore, the settlement of the status of Gagauzia in 1995 prevented the creation of another de facto state on Moldovan territory.

The first part of this chapter examines Moldova's contemporary history and addresses the development of inter-ethnic relations and elite mobilization before independence in 1991, with a focus on how Moldovan and Transnistrian officials used history, language and culture to justify actions that ultimately led to the 1992 civil war. The second section discusses the origins and the consequences of the Transnistrian civil conflict. While this conflict was portrayed as an 'ethnic' struggle, the linguistic and cultural issues were soon overwhelmed by political and economic concerns. Moldovan and Transnistrian elites used ethnicity in order to further their own political and economic agenda. There were legitimate and real concerns among the Moldovan population concerning linguistic and cultural freedom. However, elites exploited and manipulated these concerns in order to

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