Before Moldova’s declaration of independence
from the Soviet Union in 1991, Transdniester, a strip of land between the river Dniester and the border with Ukraine, unilaterally declared its own independence. The move came after alarm over growing Moldovan nationalism, the possible reunification with Romania, and a 1989 language law proclaiming Moldovan as the official language. A "Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic" (TMR) or "Pridnestrovskaya Moldavskaya Respublica"
in Russian, was proclaimed in Tiraspol on 2 September 1990. This led to localised combat, in which several hundred people were killed and thousands more displaced.
The TMR is said to have organised paramilitary "workers’ detachments", on the basis of which a fully armed and professional "Republican Guard" was created in 1991. On 2 September 1991, Transdniester authorities voted to join the Soviet Union. On 28 March 1992, a state of emergency was introduced in Moldova. Fighting continued, however, with the summer of 1992 seeing a peak in armed clashes and victims, particularly in a battle over the city of Tighina/Bendery. There were allegations that the Russian 14th Army, stationed on the left bank of the Dniester, directly or indirectly assisted the secessionists. The then-Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) pointed to arms transfers, the transfer of an engineering battalion and training as having taken place between the 14th Army and military authorities of the TMR.
After peacekeeping within the CSCE or the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) frameworks was ruled out, a Moldovan-Russian initiative, signed in Moscow on 21 July 1992, found more success. The agreement called for an immediate ceasefire and the establishment of a demilitarised zone, 10km to the left and right of the Dniester river. A tripartite Joint Control Commission was to be set up, consisting of representatives of Moldova, Russia, and the TMR. Russian peacekeepers were brought in, alongside Moldovan and Transdniestrian ones, to stabilize the region and have remained in place ever since. In 2007, a US proposal
for their replacement with an international peacekeeping contingent was rejected by Tiraspol authorities.
While Transdniester enjoys de facto
autonomy, the Republic of Moldova and the international community do not recognize its independence. A September 2006 Transdniestrian referendum
reasserting independence and the wish for adhesion to Russia went similarly unrecognized. It is frequently referred to as a "frozen conflict"