This seven-night tour looks at Moldova’s recent history, the civil war back in the early 1990s, how Russia has managed to influence the region, and how Moldova, by far Europe’s poorest state has fared during that time. It examines how the war in Ukraine has affected the country most recently, and the steps now being taken to integrate it into the EU.

If Vladimir Putin had his way, Moldova would be in a very tricky position today. For decades since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russians have controlled a slither of territory the other side of the Nistru River – a soviet style mini-state that has defied the will of the Romanian government in Chisinau – complete with Russian troops. Had the war in Ukraine gone Russia’s way, Moldovan officials fear their state would have been next to fall.

Instead, the war in Ukraine has been the catalyst for a different kind of change. There is a feeling within Moldova and internationally that this frozen conflict needs to be dealt with for good. Still, the threat of a Russian led coup, while reduced, remains.

DATESSun 9 – Sun 16 June, 2024
DESTINATIONChisinau, Tiraspol
DURATION7 nights
INCLUDED
All AccommodationMeals and Water
Local TransportationExpert Guide
COSTCost: £4880.00
Single supplement: £740.00

 

Guided by Kamil Calus, a political analyst and expert advisor on Moldova’s bid for EU membership.

We ran this tour in September 2023 with great success.

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Complete with statues of Lenin, hammer and sickle emblems and even a security police called the KGB, Transnistria’s the kind of place you imagine Vladimir Putin would like all his neighbouring states to look like. Except its days may be numbered. The “Prinestrovian Moldovan Republic” (PMR), to give its unofficial name, lies within Moldova, an EU candidate state that has had enough of it. An almighty battle (this time without guns) is underway as Moldova and the West seek to get rid of this throwback to the USSR. We look at both sides.  Note: movements in Transnistria are restricted, and we have an official guide.

We will be accompanied by Kamil Calus, a political analyst and expert on Moldova and the region – he led our highly successful tour in September 2023.

Transnistria & Moldova  The Russian Breakaway State

Dates: Sun 9 – Sun 16 June, 2024

7 nights – Chisinau (3), Tiraspol (1), Chisinau (3)

Day 1

Sun 9 June: Chisinau

Evening start in Chisinau with dinner and introduction to the tour. Overnight Chisinau
Day 2

Mon 10 June: Chisinau

A short walking tour and brief drive through town visiting the Soviet Liberation Monument and Monument to the Romanian Patriots with Kamil Calus – for an overview of the competing versions of history.  Visit Moldova’s Military History Museum for a meeting with two veterans of the 1992 conflict that culminated in Transnistria’s breakaway from Moldova.  We learn about daily life meeting a family in their home- like the majority of people in Chisinau, they are Russian speaking.  Meet with a leading expert in energy, a critical issue for Moldova (most of it comes from Russia). Overnight Chisinau
Day 3

Tues 11 June: Chisinau-Gagauzi-Chisinau

We travel south to Gagauzia, one of Moldova’s most unique regions. It is inhabited mostly not by ethnic Moldovans, but by Gagauz, who – although of Turkic origin – adhere to Orthodoxy.  It is one of the most (if not the most!) pro-Russian parts of the country, which, like Transnistria, also disobeyed the authorities in Chisinau in 1990 and until 1994 functioned as the unrecognised Gagauz Republic.  Although today Gagauzia has the status of an Autonomy within the Moldovan state, its relations with the central authorities are complicated. The region remains dominated by pro-Russian politicians. When in 2022 Russia launched a full-scale invasion against Ukraine, some local politicians and activists declared that they were awaiting Russian troops in Moldova with open arms. Since 2023, the Autonomy has been headed by Evghenia Guțul, a politician who represents pro-Russian oligarch Ilian Sor, who fled the country in 2019 and was convicted for his involvement in a scandal involving the theft of US$1 billion from Moldova’s banking sector in 2014. Gutul has announced grand economic plans for her region – including the creation of an international airport. How is serious is Gagauzia’s pro-Russian stance – and what is the likelihood of better relations with the government in Chisinau? And what of the oligarch now in Israel?  Overnight Chisinau
Day 4

Wed 12 June: to Tiraspol

We head to Moldova’s breakaway Republic, Transnistria this morning. At the border we will pass two Russian checkpoints and stop at the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic check point to cross the border. You will be given an entry visa ticket for the length of the stay (nothing is stamped in your passport). We meet our local guide – an enthusiastic proponent of tourism and PMR’s history – for the next two days and do a brief walking tour around the city centre.  Next we visit the city’s main agricultural and produce market to get a take on prices and the cost of living. Transnistria’s border is closed with Ukraine and its imports come through Moldova.   Lunch in the market.  After lunch we head to the pride of PMR – the sports complex & grounds of a football team in the Champions League. Their stadium is on the edge of town.  We then head out of town to Ciobruci, a nearby village for a meal hosted by a local farmer.   Overnight in Tiraspol
Day 5

Thurs 13 June: Tiraspol-Chisinau

We look at the local economy. Transnistria has profited from effectively free Russian gas for decades, enabling it to export products (including steel and concrete) and at highly competitive prices. The question remains if these industries can continue when the free gas ends. We take a look at two similar businesses in the city. Visit a caviar farm on the edge of the city – this visit includes a caviar tasting session.  After a brief lunch we head to one of Transistria’s main export company’s – it produces cognac and other drinks.  Overnight in Chisinau
Day 6

Fri 14 June: Chisinau

Briefing with a leading political and economic think tank in Moldova. We get an understanding of public opinion in relation to the EU (then NATO) and as well shifting political trends. We also look at how Moldova can best to handle the integration of Transnistria at the same time as EU integration. We visit Digital Park. Tech is Moldova’s fastest growing industry. The park is country’s prime centre for foreign investment and local start ups.  We have a series of meetings with politicians and analysts. Overnight Chisinau
Day 7

Sat 15 June: Chisinau

Meet with a local journalist  and TV presenter for an independent news agency based in Chisinau.   We head out of the capital to one of Moldova’s best-known wineries.  It is around 45 minutes’ drive.  Moldova was the 21st largest exporter of wine in the world in 2021 ($140M) mainly to Romania, Belarus, Czechia and Poland.  We will meet with the winemaker.Overnight Chisinau
Day 8

Sun 16 June: Tour ends

Farewell over breakfast & departures to airport.

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This tour will start on Sunday evening, June 9th at 7pm and ends on Sunday morning, June 16th in the capital city of Moldova, Chisinau. 

When booking your flights the tour will still start and end in Chisinau (Chisinua airport -KIV).

Complete with statues of Lenin, hammer and sickle emblems and even a security police called the KGB, Transnistria’s the kind of place you imagine Vladimir Putin would like all his neighbouring states to look like. Except its days may be numbered. The “Prinestrovian Moldovan Republic” (PMR), to give its unofficial name, lies within Moldova, an EU candidate state that has had enough of it. An almighty battle (this time without guns) is underway as Moldova and the West seek to get rid of this throwback to the USSR. We look at both sides (movements in Transnistria are restricted and we are given an official guide) over six days.

Guided by Kamil Calus, a political analyst and expert advisor on Moldova’s bid for EU membership.  We ran this tour in September 2023 with great success.

 

Dates: Sun 9 June to Sun 16 June

Price: £4880.00

Single Supplement £440.00

7 nights

(Total £5320.00)

NOTE: This tour will start on Sunday evening, June 9th at 7pm and ends on Sunday morning,  June 16th in the capital city of Moldova, Chisinau. 

Following on from last years tour in June 2023, we are refining the itinerary and will change a night or two to include a southern city instead of going north to Balti.  We visit Gagauzia, a pro-Russian opposition run region- inhabited by ethnic Bulgars. We explore the differences and struggle between the large Orthodox churches in Moldova- sub-ordinated to Moscow patriarchate and the smaller churches loyal to Bucharest.

When booking your flights the tour will still start and end in Chisinau (Chisinua airport -KIV).

 

 

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Kamil Całus

Kamil is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) for the Republic of Moldova (since 2012) and also Romania (since 2018).

He is a graduate (MA) of International Relations (Eastern Studies) and Journalism and Social Communication (BA) at the Adam Mickiewicz University (UAM) in Poznań. Kamil  holds a postgraduate degree in “Energy Trade on the European Market” at the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) in Warsaw.

His academic exchanges include universities in Prague (Charles University), Moscow (State Linguistic University), Chisinau (Moldovan State University) and Kyiv (Taras Shevchenko University).

From 2016 to 2019, Kamil was co-coordinator of the Horizon 2020 research project EU-STRAT (http://eu-strat.eu/).

Apart from his analytical studies, he regularly writes on Romanian and Moldovan issues (including Tygodnik Powszechny weekly magazine).  He is author of an essayist-reporter book “Moldova. The state of unnecessity” (published in Polish by Czarne Publishing House, 2020).

 

 

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Feedback from tours in the region…

These trips bring real, usually politically-connected, people to the table.  All of us are free to ask whatever we want and to follow up with tough questions.  Reading about situations isn’t even close to finding out things firsthand.  There is nothing like being on the ground, face-to face, with people who are making or impacting policy.     (ME, Baltics)

 

I rate this trip A+ for access, activities, organization, and seeing Russia and its people from different vantage points, whether rural, metro, professional, educational, political, or governmental.  Once again, this is why I (and likely most others) travel with Political Tours.  (ME – Russia)

 

The travelling companions could not have been better. Smart and seriously interested. Taking everything in a stride and seeing the revolutionary complexities with a perfect sense of humour.  It was of course great for me to get out of the shadows of retirement and playing at being the foreign correspondent I once was. Though it was a bit sad having to leave and not go on with the story.”  (HHR – Ukraine)

Quite the most comprehensive way of finding out what makes a country and the individuals in it tick.    PT arrange access to all sorts of different people and experiences that would be impossible to access on one’s own and the organisation is excellent.     The tours aren’t cheap, but, when you consider all that is on offer, they are very good value for money. (JB – Russia)

‘As it said on the tin’, the tour gave us a fuller understanding of the political and military situation, and to some extent, the economic and social situation in the three Baltic countries, allowing us to assess Russian and other threats to the region.   It leaves us well positioned to understand anything that happens next in the region. (SS – Baltics)

Just as my previous Political tour experience in Israel and Palestine had a significant impact on how I saw and understood this region, the Baltics and Putin’s Russia gave me access, insights an understanding of these countries I simply would not have otherwise.  I now feel much more informed, and can get greater value from articles or books I might read on these locations.    Political Tours is like a deep immersion study tour leaving your brain both stimulated and exhausted from all the information, sights and experiences.  And this experience stays with you.  Each tour had enormous personal impact with the bonus of absolute enjoyment and great company every day. (CF – Baltics, Russia, Israel & Palestine)

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Two days in Tiraspol

  • Tiraspol is the regional capital of Transnistria/Trans-Dniester where the hammer and sickle is still proudly displayed over the buildings.
  • Meetings with local leaders in Transnistria.
  • A look at Sherriff Ltd- a shadow company that controls 60% of the breakaway region’s economy – including everything from banks, the media to supermarkets, shops and the Sherriff Tiraspol FC, a football team now in the Champions League.
  • The impact of war in Ukraine on the region’s border (now closed).
  • Public opinion among Moldova’s estimated 400,000 Russian population (now probably fewer). Also it’s notable Russia does not have a border with Moldova – Russians here know they are now on their own.

Moldova’s Economy and Politics since 1992

We spend two days looking at Moldova’s development since the war, based in Chisinau and will visit to the surrounding region.

Four days in Chisinau & surrounding region

  • We look at some of the key issues affecting Moldova’s economy since the civil war; substantial outflows of people and aging population coincide with an economy that was slow to adopt economic reforms. It is heavily dependent on remittances.
  • We take a look at some of the soviet era industry – Moldova’s economy is now largely service orientated – these towns feel left behind.
  • Agriculture still plays a large role. Visit with Asconi wine producer (30 km from Chisinau). Wine industry is important to Moldova and had to pivot from Russian to European market
  • How dependency on Russian oil and power generation affected politics.
  • The role of oligarchs and corruption in the Moldovan economy – until recently the state was regarded as one of the most corrupt in Europe.
  • Pro-Russian politicians have also been dominant within Romanian speaking Moldova and the Communist party has been a significant force.

What Next?

  • A look at recent elections and the new pro-European government.
  • Impact of the conflict on Moldovan party politics
  • Meetings with think tanks and leading politicians and analysts.

While the Russian backed state is arguable weaker than it has ever been, there is little agreement on how this should be done. The key question remains, how can a country as politically and economically weak as Moldova absorb a state that was until very recently a loyal Kremlin stalwart.

 

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