The Armed Conflict of the Dniester

Three Decades Later

by Eugen Străuțiu (Volume editor) Steven D. Roper (Editor) William E. Crowther (Editor) Dareg Zabarah-Chulak (Editor) Victor Juc (Editor) Robert E. Hamilton (Editor)
©2023 Edited Collection VIII, 254 Pages
Series: South-East European History, Volume 3


Published to mark the three decades of a war whose grievances have never been satisfactorily resolved, The Armed Conflict of the Dniester: Three Decades Later brings together an international team of experts to discuss the causes and repercussions of the military operations carried out in 1992. Against the backdrop of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region of Transnistria—a strip of land between the Dniester river and the Ukrainian border—proclaimed independence from Moldova in 1990. In a development with notable contemporary resonances, the separatist movement was backed by Moscow, leading to intervention by the Russian Fourteenth Army alongside paramilitary formations recruited from former Soviet states. The subsequent conflict with Moldovan forces was brought to an end by the 1992 ceasefire, but few were satifised with the arrangement, and the political status of Transnistria has been unresolved ever since.
This book—the result of collaboration between The Laboratory for the Analysis of the Transnistrian Conict (Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania) and the Balkan History Association—presents a wide range of voices, and seeks to be non-partisan in its approach. Among the issues it tackles are the political and geopolitical causes of the war; the documentary sources and their analysis; quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the combat forces, their levels of training and professionalism, command structures, tactics, weapons, and equipment; the organization and actions of the paramilitaries; the interests of Russia, Moldova, and other international actors, and their political and military actions; and finally the political and patriotic capital generated by the war.
The book will be useful to scholars and students, but also to all those involved in the observation and regulation of the Dniester conflict. Finally, anyone interested in the evolution and status of ‘frozen conflicts’—particularly in light of recent events in Ukraine—will find much of interest.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • The 1992 Dniester Armed Conflict: An Analytical Approach to the Politico-Military Events from the Perspective of the Involved Parties
  • Support for Moldova’s Territorial Integrity in the Transnistrian Region from 1989 to 1992
  • Armed Stage in the Moldovan-Pridnestrovian Conflict: Causes and Political Consequences
  • Fighting for What and Whom? The Non-Resident Volunteers During the Armed Conflict in Pridnestrovie
  • War Memorials Published in Chisinau: Between Documentary Value and Patriotic Manifesto
  • The Russian Federation’s Approach to the Unresolved Dniester Conflict and Its Implications for the Security and Foreign Policy of the Republic of Moldova
  • Moldova and Transnistria’s Bargaining Strategies Towards Russia: Deciphering Bargaining Codes in Asymmetric Relationships
  • Russian Involvement in the Transnistrian War: A Prototype of Russian Modern “Hybrid Warfare”?
  • Revisiting Moldova’s Transnistria Dispute Amid Severing EU-Russia Ties
  • Notes on Contributors



   Eugen Străuțiu

In August 2021, the Laboratory for the Analysis of the Transnistrian Conflict (Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu)1 in collaboration with the Balkan History Association (Bucharest) launched a public call for proposals for chapters to be included in a future volume dedicated to the 1992 Dniester war and published by the prestigious international publishing house Peter Lang, as part of the series “South-East European History” – in conjunction with the Balkan History Association.


The moment of launching the project seems relevant due to the distance in time from the military confrontations on the Dniester (after three decades, the events have a chance to be described and explained in depth by historians) and the recent consequences (which can be successfully analyzed by experts in international law and political scientists – whether they are profiled in geopolitics, international relations or security studies). In our call, we noted: “Three decades later, resolving the conflict still seems far from a political solution. Reconstructing the facts and de-ideologizing the interpretation of the causes, essence, and consequences of the war remains a difficult task for historians and political scientists, who need additional expertise in various relevant fields such as international law, constitutionalism, geopolitics, strategic studies, security studies, or economic analysis. Unfortunately, sequential research and published memoirs remain partisan, with strong tendencies to provide founding myths to conflicting parties.” Consequently, the editorial team proposed deepening the current state of research according to the following theme: the political and geopolitical causes of the war; evaluations of documentary sources and partial analyses; quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the combat forces: level of training; the professionalism of the command structures; tactics, weapons, and equipment; the specifics of the organization and action of the paramilitaries; reconstitution of relevant military operations; the interests of international actors and their political and military actions; political/patriotic capitalization of the facts of war. Applicants were encouraged to propose their criteria and use intensive interdisciplinary methodologies.2

An international editorial team undertook the debate and validation of the project’s initial idea, the dissemination of messages in the academic environment, the establishment of a minimum set of rules to ensure the volume’s form and conceptual uniformity, and the implementation of the peer-review procedure. The team members are recognized for their expertise in geopolitics, geostrategy, security analysis, and political analysis, being the authors of important volumes, studies, and articles regarding the Republic of Moldova and the Transnistrian issue; they belong to Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu (Eugen Străuțiu), Institute of Legal, Political and Sociological Research, Chisinau (Victor Juc), US Army War College (Robert E. Hamilton), Florida Atlantic University (Steven D. Roper), Balkan History Association (Dareg Zabarah-Chulak), University of North Carolina at Greensboro (William E. Crowther).

Thirteen university professors and researchers from national research institutions or private research organizations responded to the project’s initial call; of these, following our peer-review procedures, qualified for nine, representing the Institute of International Politics and Economics of Belgrade (Ana Jović-Lazić), School of Political Studies of Tiraspol (Anatoliy Dirun), Istanbul Commerce University (Kamala Valiyeva), Maynooth University (Keith Harrington), University of Tübingen (Maximilian Ohle), Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu (Nicoleta Annemarie Munteanu and Mihai Melintei), University of Exeter (Tarik Solmaz) and Balkan History Association (Dareg Zabarah-Chulak).

The Crux of the Matter

Inside of the international research literature, investigating the category of “frozen conflicts” (a contestable and sometimes contested term), the Transnistrian one seems the least approached with the research methodology, and the least known. When it is given attention, results are almost invariably the least extensive and the least in-depth approach. The Dniester conflict began to become significant again from a geopolitical and geostrategic point of view only after the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in 2014. The Ukrainians mobilized to understand the nature and evolution of the conflict, needing learned lessons for their policies, and Western scholars followed the trend (less bravely).

Not by chance, for a long time, there was a lack of bibliographic compendiums, able to show the size and quality of the literature published globally.

The first project materialized in 2005 and returned in a revised and added form in 2021, under the signature of Lidia Prisac.3 The volume lists, in separate chapters, the works of authors from the Republic of Moldova, Western literature, and pro-separatist publications. The summary description of the contents of the categories (not of the works themselves) is illustrated by bibliographic notes, which indicate printed works dedicated to the Transnistrian issue, or broad themes that may be relevant to it.

An actual bibliographic project was undertaken by The Laboratory for the Analysis of the Transnistrian Conflict of Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu. In 2019, an integrative volume comprising the titles of volumes, volume chapters, studies, scientific reports, journal articles, memoirs, scientific periodicals, dissertations, and doctoral thesis titles was released. The research methodology and citation rules are presented in extenso. A summary inventory under the quantitative and qualitative aspects shows us an unexpectedly high number of titles (88 volumes, 71 chapters in volumes, 222 articles in scientific journals, 173 studies and reports, 19 scientific journals, and 23 volumes of memoirs).4 At the same time, the Laboratory launched a bibliographic information service, providing researchers with hundreds of research texts in their original format and thematic bibliographic lists, available upon request by researchers.5

Finally, in 2022, under the auspices of the Agency for History and Military Science and the “Andrei Lupan” Scientific Library (Institute), the volume Conflictul armat de la Nistru. Bibliografie [The Armed Conflict on the Dniester. Bibliography], with Constantin Manolache as editor was published. Comprising 308 pages, the work inventories the following categories of works: official documents; collections of documents and normative acts; monographs, articles, and master’s/doctorate theses.6

Attempting a brief review of the work tools mentioned above, we are faced with both strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the research claims made in the literature on the Transnistrian topic.

The number of titles in circulation is significant, and the categories and approaches are diverse. Undoubtedly, the concerns to research the causes, forms, consequences, and perspective of the Transnistrian conflict are consistent and valuable. The category of work tools is also well represented, through bibliographies (mentioned above), but also through collections of documents7 and chronologies8.

Unfortunately, sometimes the quality of the research is questionable. Partisanship is poorly masked by the use of research tools. Sometimes the topics addressed are introductory and far too general, new data is not put into circulation, the interpretative added value is often missing, and the applicative value of the conclusions seems reduced. There are few researchers specialized in the Transnistrian conflict who have produced more than 2–3 titles; of these, some are diplomats or military personnel who, even when they use research tools correctly, cannot be considered researchers by profession and qualification. Finally, a large amount of research literature in Romanian (in fact, it represents the majority of titles in the bibliographies indicated above) remains of local interest, not being accessed by either English or Russian language users.

Through the present volume, we tried to overcome as many weaknesses of previous research as possible. First of all, we intended to reveal and comment on new data and facts, both from the most distant in time and (especially) from the present. Secondly, we have promoted new interpretive paradigms, likely to substantiate policies in conflict management. Thirdly, by minimizing partisan positions, the authors are now put in front of clear and uniform requirements regarding the objectivity and honesty of the research, so that the propaganda nuances can be reduced. Finally, by printing the volume in English, at a top international publishing house, the dissemination and accessibility of the results exceed the chances of accessing publications printed in the Republic of Moldova or Romania, however valuable these may be.

Partisanship in the Research of the Transnistrian Problem. Our Solutions

The process of coordinating this project and editing the volume raised some difficulties for the editorial team estimated already in the early phase, confirming known facts regarding the weak points of the research on Transnistrian separatism.

The first finding refers to the weak capacity of the research/researchers from Chisinau and Tiraspol to work in an international team and to use Western languages, but also to respond to the standards of a project that announces professional deontology requirements. Unfortunately, there the political factor has significantly (even fundamentally) altered the interest and quality of research on the Transnistrian conflict. For three decades, local authors have mobilized to support political viewpoints and combat the position of the political opponent (whether expressed through politicians or analysts). Faced with clear requirements regarding professional honesty and research objectivity, experts from Chisinau and Tiraspol often withdraw.

In the end, although they have the benefit of the proximity of documents and memoirs – so the most favorable position for the research of the Transnistrian problem, we could not associate only one author from Tiraspol and no author from Chisinau to the project. Although the publicity was consistent and the discussions were numerous.

Unfortunately, the problem of politicization of research goes beyond the borders of the Republic of Moldova. Sympathies for one or the other of the parties to the conflict or towards the third states involved are most easily observed in the Russian Federation and Ukraine, but can also be read in Western spaces. This was a major problem that our project had to deal with.

The most common error (intentional or not) seems to be the preferential selection of sources so that the argument leads to predetermined conclusions. When the author uncritically takes bibliographical sources published in Tiraspol9 or in the Russian Federation, it automatically positions itself pro-Tiraspol, without significant nuances. In the same propaganda category, we include Ukrainian analyses published until the invasion of Crimea by the Russian Federation (2014), which are obviously favorable to Transnistrian separatism; only after this date, Ukrainian analysts discovered the harmfulness of the separatist phenomena, swinging in the opposite direction. Similarly, ignoring studies from Tiraspol, the Russian Federation and Ukraine (until 2014) shows a deontological deficiency of the authors from Chisinau and the West. An acceptable proportion of the cited sources were in the reviewers’ attention, but this is where the fine-tuning becomes very fine. What does “acceptable” mean? How do we deal with the “trick” of using sources produced by the “opposing camp” exclusively to challenge them, and thus the proportion becomes mathematically “acceptable”? Finally, the reviewers’ observations regarding the existence of essential literature ignored by the author were formulated and addressed. The last decision on its integration (at least by flagging) rested on the author, the project giving credit rather to academic freedom and relying on the professional honesty of authors and reviewers alike.

Another major obstacle to the objective research of the Transnistrian conflict is the insufficient and tendentious use of specific political language. The political leaders from Chisinau and Tiraspol have been waging a merciless war of terminology since the signing of the “Agreement on the Principles of Peaceful Settlement of the Armed Conflict in the Transnistrian Region of the Republic of Moldova” (July 21, 1992),10 and the war was assumed by most local analysts – who became ideological soldiers.

Attempting a brief review of the most important conceptual disputes, we first have to resolve the acceptable name of the political-administrative structure organized under the authority of Tiraspol. The authorities from Tiraspol claim to use the name “Transnistrian Moldavian Republic” together with all the names decided and used by the constituent institutions of this unrecognized republic. From the point of view of the Republic of Moldova, the use of this terminology is unconstitutional, illegal, and in contradiction with international law. The Chisinau government requests the use of the names of the coordinated institutions from Tiraspol, indicating in the first position “the so-called (…)” (this expression being used in public and internal communication). The authorities from Tiraspol (we are already in error towards the constitutional authorities from Chisinau, who only accept the expression “the de-facto authorities” from Tiraspol) react furiously to these “deprecatory” formulations and pretend to be “constitutional authorities”.

Alternatively, what is the “Transnistrian Moldavian Republic” from the point of view of Tiraspol, is named the “Transnistrian region”11 or “the Eastern districts of the Republic of Moldova”12 from Chisinau’s point of view. Interestingly, the only attempt to regulate the Transnistrian analytical language was assumed by the “IMPACT” project – which produced three volumes under the title Moldova–Transnistria: Eforturi comune pentru un viitor prosper [Moldova–Transnistria: Joint Efforts for a Prosperous Future] (2009). The project coordinators established as an editorial rule “avoidance of the use of terms regarding the conflict zone that could be offensive, for example: ‘districts/raions on the left of the Dniester’, ‘Transnistrian region’, ‘TMR’, ‘unrecognized republic’, only if this use of the terms was necessary for the analysis of the phenomena, perceptions, and concepts that these terms describe”.13

Until recently, the term “Pridnestrovie” was unanimously accepted (both in political communication and in research) as a synonym for the term “Transnistria” in the Romanian and English languages. But the political factor insinuated itself here as well. In 2019, Tiraspol leader Vadim Krasnoselski requested the exclusion of the term “Transnistria” from public communication: “This term appeared during the Second World War, defining the left bank of the Dniester occupied by the Romanians. This included Transnistria and part of Ukraine. For me personally, as a person who respects its history and its people, the term Transnistria is a synonym for the word Holocaust (…) Foreigners have to get used to pronouncing the real name”,14 namely “Pridnestrovie”. The consequence of this challenge is the automatic placement of Western authors who use “Pridnestrovie” in their English-language analyses, on the side of the official Tiraspol argument. We note that the historical facts do not fit Krasnoselski’s construct. The administrative structure organized by the Romanian authorities in the period 1941–1944 under the name “Government of Transnistria” does not even remotely match, geographically and administratively, today’s “Transnistria”.15 It disappeared and there is no reconstruction project, no matter how much we search for authors and texts. And the argument for the connection with the Holocaust is weak: the names of the administrative regions in Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and other states which were the scene of the Holocaust were not replaced or eliminated for this reason.

Figure 1.1.Map of Transnistria in the regional context.

Figure 1.1.Map of Transnistria in the regional context.


VIII, 254
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2023 (August)
Transnistria Republic of Moldova Transnistrian Conflict Russian Federation Ukraine Romania National Identity Armed Conflict Geopolitics THE ARMED CONFLICT OF THE DNIESTER THREE DECADES LATER EUGEN STRĂUȚIU
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Chennai, Lausanne, Oxford, 2023. VIIII, 254 pp., 2 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Eugen Străuțiu (Volume editor) Steven D. Roper (Editor) William E. Crowther (Editor) Dareg Zabarah-Chulak (Editor) Victor Juc (Editor) Robert E. Hamilton (Editor)

The members of the editorial team belong to Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu (Eugen Străuțiu), Florida Atlantic University (Steven D. Roper), University of North Carolina at Greensboro (William E. Crowther), Balkan History Association (Dareg Zabarah-Chulak), Institute of Legal, Political and Sociological Research, Chisinau (Victor Juc), and US Army War College (Robert E. Hamilton)


Title: The Armed Conflict of the Dniester