A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine here in Tiraspol asked if I’d be willing to do some voiceover work (for free). Intrigued, I said yes.
Coincidentally enough, I’d actually seen the videos in question more than a year ago. Produced by PMR’s state-run television, they’re generic “here’s some basic information about our country” videos.
But the original English-language voiceover artist was a local whose Russian accent was quite thick, hence the request for me (as a native English speaker) to re-record the voiceover.
What followed was quite a bit more work than I anticipated, as some of the original text was just a lazy cut-and-paste job, and the whole thing had been Google Translated from Russian into English to boot. Always relishing a challenge, I rewrote nearly all of it from scratch.
I then went into the studio and recorded the new and improved English-language voiceovers.
Apparently, my voiceover work impressed somebody because I was contacted by state-run TV again, but this time they wanted to do an (on-camera) interview with me. Considering that I’ve only been living here a couple of months and my Russian language skills are quite basic, I was more than a little flattered.
We ended up doing some fairly typical “walk-and-talk” segments at a couple of places here in Tiraspol, including my beloved farmer’s market, and it was a fun and enjoyable experience all around.
Afterward, they contacted me again and asked me to be the guest for their interview show entitled “A Special Conversation” (Специальный разговор) with Victor Shavchenko and Yulia Sorokopud.
I’d seen the show once or twice, but I really should’ve paid more attention because it’s quite an intense experience (similar to BBC’s “Hardtalk” program). For 45 minutes, they asked me some surprisingly poignant and deep questions, and it was abundantly obvious that they had done their homework ahead of time about me.
Sometime soon, that show will air here, but all of my responses will be dubbed in Russian, so I’m afraid that it’ll be inaccessible for most of my readers (and me as well at this point). I’ll post a link to the video when it is uploaded to YouTube, but that’s not what I wanted to discuss today.
I’m Ready, Mr. DeMille
The format for the “A Special Conversation” show is a completely dark studio with just one spotlight on each person. As such, it’s a very intimate environment. And although we recorded it during the middle of the day, it really felt like we were having a late-night conversation.
At some point, we were talking about all the crazy crap that outsiders believe about Pridnestrovie. Not just perhaps-ignorant tourists (including this hapless fool who spent his whole time here pissing his pants in fear, using a fake name and lying non-stop about who he was) but even supposedly informed people like American generals or George Soros, to say nothing of bonkers shit like ghost buses and sinister conspiracies to destroy the world.
At that’s when Victor Shavchenko asked me, “Why is everyone so afraid of us?”
And that’s when it hit me, the real reason why my wife and I moved here and why I am so completely convinced that we did the right thing.
Let’s Go to the Videotape!
The begin with, Pridnestrovie is really quite a very small country. It is about 20 kilometers wide (USA/Belize: 16 miles) at its widest point and only five kilometers across in some places. It’s only around 240 kilometers long from north to south, making a long, thin ribbon of a nation. There isn’t a single mountain anywhere in Pridnestrovie, and most of the country is farmland, forest, or grasslands.
There are a few cities, of course, but a large chunk of the population lives in rural settings, including hundreds of tiny villages. And approximately one-third of the population is of retirement age (pensioners). There are also quite a lot of young children here as well.
Everyone disagrees about how many people live here, but even if you take the biggest number (~650,000 people), they could all comfortably fit inside of Chisinau with plenty of room to spare.
The only major body of water in Pridnestrovie is the Dniester River. As such, Pridnestrovie has no Navy. There’s also no Air Force as the country doesn’t possess a single flying military vehicle. There is an army, but, at most, they number around 700 people, and that’s only if you include the logistical staff, recruits, clerks, and cleaners.
In other words, Pridnestrovie really is a tiny country. Pridnestrovie is inordinately proud of their military forces, but they’re hardly in a position to threaten either Moldova (population ~3 million) or Ukraine (population ~70 million) much less anywhere beyond like Romania.
So yeah, Victor Shavchenko’s question really was on point – why in the world would anyone be scared of Pridnestrovie?
Even though all of the facts listed above are completely true, there actually is a pretty good reason why the US and EU (especially Romania) spend millions of dollars year to finance 30+ propaganda outlets to slander, belittle, and amp up hostility towards Pridnestrovie on a daily basis.
Pridnestrovie is powerful precisely because it is not under the thumb of anyone, especially not international bankers, the United States, the European Union, the Council of Rome, the BIS, or any other organization run by global elites.
And despite the rhetoric about PMR being a “Russian puppet state,” Tiraspol quite often does things that are completely against the Russian government’s wishes (see the 2011 presidential election for a prime example). Russian media also regularly complains that Pridnestrovie isn’t “Russian enough.”
Furthermore, if you want to know the real truth (and not all the horseshit armchair analysis that you’ll get from most so-called journalists), Vladimir Putin inherited the Pridnestrovian “mess” from his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
What Putin would really prefer is if Pridnestrovie came to some kind of agreement to reunite with the Republic of Moldova (which almost happened in 2003, but the EU fucked it up). Then he could be assured that Moldova would never ever join NATO or allow anti-Russian laws to be passed in Moldova (there are already several on the books).
But until anything like that happens, Putin is kind of stuck with a pro-Russian Pridnestrovie with lots of actual Russian citizens while, at the same time, he can’t afford to alienate the Republic of Moldova, which somehow got instant international recognition in 1991 when Pridnestrovie did not, making the whole thing a delicate balancing act, diplomatically speaking.
And now you know why Pridnestrovie scares the shit out of everyone – the global superpowers simply don’t have enough leverage to impose their narrative control on Pridnestrovie.
As small and tiny as this country is, it poses a threat precisely because it is free. The government here is accountable solely to the people and pretty much no one else. That’s the very definition of democracy – something supposedly “good” but, in reality, a threat to any government, organization, or “deep state” hell-bent on world domination.
Of course, Pridnestrovie being such a small country, the government has to carefully balance its relationships with the outside world.
Pridnestrovie works quite openly with the United Nations on a number of projects. Some 70% of PMR’s exports go to the European Union. PMR citizens require free passage to neighboring Ukraine and Moldova, and the Pridnestrovian economy depends on imports from those two countries.
And, of course, Pridnestrovie has a very important relationship with Russia and the CIS, not just in terms of financing and peacekeeping but also things like securing work and study visas for Pridnestrovian citizens.
I should also add here that Pridnestrovie has a very good relationship with the United States. The American ambassador has been here several times, and the U.S. government finances an “American Center” at the university in Tiraspol. And, every year, the American government pays some poor sap to teach English at the center and otherwise amplify Washington’s “soft power.” Pridnestrovie even works with American law enforcement to extradite people wanted for serious crimes.
Therefore, Pridnestrovie is, in no way, an “isolated” country. Anyone can come and visit (or even move to!) Pridnestrovie.
Equally, citizens of Pridnestrovie are free to leave this country, as many have certainly done (but not nearly as many, percentage-wise, as Romania or Moldova or Ukraine). And every citizen of Pridnestrovie is eligible for citizenship in at least one other country, so nobody is ever “stuck” here.
Pridnestrovie also has one very unique factor that contributes to its independence that largely goes overlooked – its central bank.
Largely due to necessity (the Soviet ruble came to an end in 1994), Pridnestrovie has its own currency.
Now, you might think that lots of other partially recognized or unrecognized countries also have their own currencies as well, but you’d be mistaken:
- Palestine – Israeli shekel
- Kosovo – Euro
- Artsagh (Nagorno-Karabagh) – Armenian dram
- Western Sahara – Moroccan dirham
- South Ossetia – Russian ruble
- Abkhazia – Russian ruble
- North Cyprus – Turkish lira
- Donbass (LPR/DNR) – Russian ruble/Ukrainian hryvna
Besides Pridnestrovie, the only “unrecognized” state with its own currency is Somaliland.
Due to the international consensus that Pridnestrovie is an “illegal, breakaway province” of the Republic of Moldova, Pridnestrovie’s banks are completely cut off from the international banking system, including the SWIFT network. This means that you cannot send money into or out of Pridnestrovie, and foreign bank cards don’t work at Pridnestrovian ATMs.
Ostensibly, SWIFT is operated by a governing board in Belgium, but in practice, it is under the thumb of the United States. Furthermore, the NSA (America’s digital spy agency) regularly records and tracks all SWIFT activity.
And which central banks are currently excluded from SWIFT? Well, the list is quite short:
- North Korea
The circumstances of Iran and North Korea’s relationships with the global community are well known, of course. Iran, however, has very good relations with the European Union, so the financial blockade against Iran’s central bank is not as absolute, and US sanctions against Iranian banks change from year to year, depending on Donald Trump’s mood.
That pretty much leaves Pridnestrovie in the unique position of total freedom from outside interference and control, not just from global bankers but also from foreign speculators like George Soros who once crippled the British economy and yet is considered a hero of capitalism.
When you have a job in Pridnestrovie, you get paid in Pridnestrovian rubles. When it’s time to pay taxes, you absolutely must use Pridnestrovian rubles. All stores and businesses in the country accept only Pridnestrovian rubles for payment. In every possible way, the Pridnestrovian ruble is a viable and functioning currency.
Pridnestrovie also has its own debit/credit cards. And you can even pay for things with your mobile phone using a proprietary “touchless” payment system.
If none of this impresses you too much, then I recommend that you research the Wörgl experiment that took place in Austria in the early 1930s.
Facing a budgetary shortfall and a populace that was largely out of work, the mayor of Wörgl essentially created his own money.
And this is what happened:
Wörgl was the first town in Austria which managed to redress the extreme levels of unemployment [caused by the global Great Depression]. They not only repaved the streets and rebuilt the water system and all of the other projects on the mayor’s long list, they even built new houses, a ski jump, and a bridge with a plaque that proudly stated ‘This bridge was built with our own Free Money’.
Six villages in the neighborhood copied the system, one of which built the municipal swimming pool with the proceeds. Even the French Prime Minister, Édouard Dalladier, made a special visit to see first hand the “miracle of Wörgl.”
And how did it end?
It was at that point that the Central Bank of Austria panicked and decided to assert its monopoly rights. The people of Wörgl sued the central bank in November 1933. The case went to the Austrian Supreme Court but was lost. After that, it became a criminal offense in Austria to issue “emergency currency.”
One of the major reasons why Pridnestrovie is so independent is precisely because the country has full control over its money.
If, in the distant future, Pridnestrovie ever does reunite with the Republic of Moldova, you better believe that the first thing Moldova will do is shut down the PMR ruble.
There are many reasons why I moved to Pridnestrovie, including the abundance of beautiful nature, the lack of pollution, a strong emphasis on protecting the environment, my wife’s job, the friendliness of the people, and all of the urban attractions that Tiraspol has to offer.
But the most important factor of all for me is the opportunity to live in an independent, open, multi-ethnic, stable, and peaceful democracy. There are not too many places like this still left in this big old world, and I’m very happy to be here.
That being said, I don’t want to leave you with the idea that this is some kind of utopia where nothing bad ever happens. Of course, there are problems here! But this place is free and independent in a way that few other countries are.
AND NOW YOU KNOW!