Watching the evening news on TF1 last night, something I rarely do, I saw a piece on the internationally unrecognised state to Transnitria (officially known as the Pridnistrovie Moldovan Republic), a sliver of landlocked province between Moldova and Ukraine, and which was in Soviet times a part of the Moldovan SSR until the war between its ethnically Romanian neighbour in the early 1990s. Much of the former Soviet Union is obscure to Westerners, even those very un-Russian parts of the Russian Federation, something which has allowed the fuelling of some hysterical stories about Russia in the Western media recently (I loathe Vladimir Putin as much as anyone else but it is unlikely that he ordered the killing of either Anna Politskovkaya or Aleksandr Litvinenko - he is, sadly, hugely popular at home and neither of those dissidents had any influence that could have threatened him at all, organised criminals are more likely the culprits). And so a nation like Transnistria can escape the radar of even a person like myself who would consider himself geographically aware.
It does not look like a terribly nice place to live, being an effective Russian-funded kleptocracy, with a Russian president named Igor Smirnov, and, according to the TF1 report it is a safe haven for organised crime, particularly for trafficking of women. An undercover segment in the bulletin bore this out. And the sickle and hammer is ever-present, just as it was in Soviet days, just like in Belarus, that other nostalgic state. I can't say that I am going to shout from the rooftops demanding Transnistria's independence, and I am more likely to agree with the Moldovan MP interviewed on the bulletin in calling the state a front for illegal activities. Though independence would hardly make this any worse.