Introduction & Overview
The Armed Forces of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (AFPMR) were founded on the 8th of September 1991. Their primary purpose is to uphold and maintain the sovereignty and independence of the largely unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), commonly called Transnistria.
History & Foundations
Transnistria emerged as an unrecognised state in a highly conflictual environment. The region, part of the Moldovan SSR, always enjoyed a special relationship with Moscow, as it was seen as a region inhabited by politically reliable and pro-Soviet people (1). It proclaimed its independence from the Soviet Union in November 1991, but even earlier than that, Transnistrian secessionists had started assembling a military force, which was founded in September 1991 as “Transnistrian Republican Guard”.
Since reform attempts inside the Soviet Union had been proclaimed under the slogan of Perestroika in 1986, tensions in the most peripheral areas of the Union had significantly increased, especially in conjunction with a revival of pro-Romanian feelings and the idea of Moldovan-Romanian unification (2).
Tensions between the Romanian-speaking Moldovan SSR and the Russian-speaking Transnistrian region reached breaking point when a brief war broke out along the river Dniester in 1992. Ever since then, Moldovan authorities have had no access to Transnistria and the Armed Forces of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic have continued to uphold the region’s self-proclaimed independence.
Ideology & Objectives
The military conflict involving Moldovan forces has become a significant element within the shaping of Transnistrian identity (3). For instance, the conflict is integrated into the broader civilisational ideology of the Russkij Mir, the 'Russian World' (4). This ideological element represents a set of ideas for the Transnistrian people, who are ethnically divided between Moldovans, Russians, and Ukrainians. Indeed, some polls carried out in Transnistria highlight how 2/3 of respondents identified their country as part of the 'Russian World' (5). In essence, the conflict against Moldova has solidified, per se, their affiliation with the ‘Russian World’. The status of the military in Transnistria is enshrined in its constitution (6), which entrusts the President of Transnistria with the power to command military forces (article 71). Other legal acts describe the AFPMR’s task of upholding the sovereignty and independence of the PMR (7).
Political Abilities & Approach to Resistance
The AFPMR are thought to number around 7000 active members (8), with about 15,000 reservists (9), and have inherited substantial military equipment and expertise from the Soviet/Russian 14th Guards Army. The latter has also participated in the final phase of the Transnistrian War. They also maintain their own SOBR special forces (10) and paratroopers (11).
The complete international isolation of Transnistria has meant that the AFPMR have largely been unable to import any modern military technology, but the relationship with the Soviet/Russian Army has led the AFPMR to inherit disproportional amounts of very specialised equipment. For example, the AFPMR holds IRM 'Zhuk' combat engineering/river-wading vehicles, UR-77 mine-clearing vehicles, and 9P148 tank destroyers (12).
Together with these unique vehicles, outdated or locally-produced vehicles are also used. The Transnistrian Armed Forces are also equipped with more standard Soviet equipment, such as 19 T-64BV tanks (13), BMP-2 IFVs and BTR-60/60 APCs. Generally, the AFPMR’ military capabilities remain relatively low, and most of their equipment is outdated Soviet vintage. Nonetheless, it must also be noted that their direct opposition — the Moldovan Army — is possibly in an even worse condition, with all of their helicopter gunships and tanks believed to be unserviceable (14).
International Relations & Alliances
The ”Operational Group of Russian Forces”, the heirs to the Soviet/Russian 14th Guards Arm, are the most important partner of the AFPMR, both historically and contemporarily. While the purpose of their stay in Transnistria is to guard an old Soviet arms depot said which contains more than 20,000 tons of degraded weapons and ammunition, Russian forces in Transnistria are also mandated to deter any Moldovan incursion on Transnistrian territory (15), and may have grown to a size of 12,000 according to some reports (16). These are believed to be mostly Transnistrian residents with Russian citizenship, who opt to serve in the Russian Armed Forces for better pay and perspectives.
Additionally, the AFPMR hold cordial relations with the armed forces of other unrecognized states, such as South Ossetia (17) and Abkhazia (18), although this does not imply that they cooperate concretely.
While the AFPMR have not engaged in any military operations ever since the Transnistria War, a series of bombings in 2022 (including an attack on the Ministry of State Security) have prompted Transnistrian authorities to elevate all security forces to the maximum alert level (19).
Works Cited (Chicago-style)
(1) - Cfr. Cojocaru, N. Nationalism and Identitiy in Transnistria. In: Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 19(3-4), 261–272.
(2) - ibid.
(3) - ibid.
(4) - Cfr. Babilunga. N. V. Russian National idea and Transnistria (Русская национальная идея и Приднестровье). In: Journal of Cultural Research (Культурологический журнал), 4, 34, 2018.
(5) - Cfr. O’Loughlin, J. Toal, G. & Kolosov, V. Who identifies with the “Russian World”? Geopolitical attitudes in southeastern Ukraine, Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. In: Eurasian Geography and Economics, 57:6, 2016, 745-778.
(6) - Constitution of the PMR, http://zakon-pmr.com/DetailDoc.aspx?document=62295
(7) - Law-decree 303-3, 9/06/2000 http://zakon-pmr.com/DetailDoc.aspx?document=36819