Mihail Calarașan – documentary photographer

Transnistria: The Man Without A Homeland [2017-2019]

The Man Without A Homeland

When my parents decided to concept me, they did not think that the world in which they were used to live had collapsed forever. And that great country, known to the whole world as Soviet Un- ion, stopped to exist not only on paper ,signed by big people in Belovejskaia Pushcha, but also in reality.

Moldovian MIG’s flying overhead and calls to cover the windows with blankets, to prevent glass from breaking out did not clarify the understanding that the familiar world would never return. This understanding will come much later, when presenters of «Первый канал» will start talking, from the screens of TV, about Moldovians as “labor migrants from the near abroad”.

A year later I was born. When I inhaled the air for the first time, my country was already divided in two parts: left-bank and right-bank. Since then, people who have lived side by side for decades have become enemies, they built a wall of misunderstanding and individually tried to find themselves in this new changing world.

Transnistria in many aspects reminded a teenager who is trying to do everything against his ancestors; starting with such common- place things as communications, currency, the army and official rhetoric, ending with the proud dictum “Independent Republic”.

There was no independence either in 1993 or in 2017. In fact, it was always unclear to me – I was born in a family where the father is a Moldavian from the right-bank of Moldova, and the mother – Russian, but also from the right-bank. All acquaintances, friends, relatives lived there – on the right-bank. From the beginning of perestroika, in 1985, my parents decided to move to a very promising industrial city and took root in it. I had to let them go too.

Every week , as being a small boy in short shorts and sandals, I was jumping into a old red “Zaporozhets” and going with my parents to my grandparents in the village on the right bank, away from factory pipes and politics. With the passage of time, nothing has changed significantly. I grew up, studied in a school where the flag of Transnistria hung, and the Transnistrian anthem sounded at the first bell in the beginning of September.

Even in the first grade, a little me, with a bouquet of flowers for a teacher, in a slightly large jacket, sat (was sitting) at the second desk on the right and listened (was listening) to the teacher’s words about creation of our “independent republic”. “Mamalijnik”, “Moldovashka” – these words where used by my newly made classmates when they tried to offend someone.

Transnistria flowed around me, as water does, flowing around the stone. Water sharpens the stone, but it takes a lot of time. I decided not to wait and after school I left on the right bank, in Chisinau.

My native language is Russian, despite the fact that inside I feel myself Moldavian. What is my bottom line? In Transnistria I am Moldovian and “internal enemy“, in Moldova I am Russian and “alien” despite citizenship and internal involvement in this nation.

I am a stranger. Everywhere. I have no homeland. There are only shreds of childhood memories that have nothing to do with the objective reality of the time. I still live with this feeling. People like me are called, by teachers from my university, where I studied from bell to bell for three years and never graduated from the masters-”people with a diffuse ethnic identity.”

One way or another, a person is a curious creature. And, since I am a person, then I’m curious too. Mainly - who am I, where am I from, and why am I?

Travelers can say that you understand yourself better during acquaintance with a foreign culture. Markers “our or foreign” are immediately activated. When I turned 23, I returned to Transnis- tria to explore the place where I was born and lived the first 18 years of my life.

With a dozen clips with a narrow film in my hands, I rediscover my own homeland. Because, since I breathed for the first time my “homeland” was limited to the house in which I grew up, a concrete path to the school and a dozen villages that I saw all my life only from the car window on the way to grandparents.

I began to take photographs, and these are photographs of a man who first sees his homeland. Sometimes I don’t understand anything, sometimes I’m afraid, but still, deepening, I understand that “this is mine”, and no one asked me if I want this to be mine. This culture has become a part of me, and nothing can erase it from the depths of my soul.

I am the same age as Transnistria, and we are almost simultane- ously ously experiencing the same psychological crises. Now I am 25, almost 26, and I groped my place in this world. I cannot say the same about Transnistria.

All I can do is to fill the color film into the camera an infinite number of times and cross the Dniester as many times to feel the at- mosphere in which a tiny, unrecognized state resides in almost the very heart of Europe. To see it through the eyes of a peer.

Mikhail Kalarashan


on the road

The former driver of the director of the Moldavian Metallurgical Plant hitchhiking to my hometown of Rybnitsa, which is located in the north of Transnistria.

Valchenko district in Rybnitsa. My hometown where I was born and raised. Most of the people living here are somehow connected with the Moldavian Metallurgical Plant, which for a long time belonged to Alisher Usmanov.


Ferry on the Dniester between Molovata and Molovata Nouă. Molovata Nouâ is located on the left bank of the Dniester, but belongs to Moldova. On the left bank there is a checkpoint for Russian peacekeepers. At this point, the border between Moldova and Transnistria is poorly controlled and local people often cross it illegally.

River port in Rybnitsa. In Soviet times, it was one of the city's leading enterprises, now it is in decline. Local fishermen love to fish here.


Maxim Rotar - lives in Rybnitsa, but works in the village of Yantarnoye in the vineyards of KVINT. Locals consider KVINT a national treasure and a symbol of their country. Its factory is shown on the 5 Transnistrian ruble banknote.


The main stop of public transport in Bender. Bendery is the second largest city in Transnistria. In 1992, a war was fought in this city.


Children from the village of Belochi in the north of Transnistria.


A man reads a newspaper in the waiting room of the Bendery Bus Station. 4 years later, in 2021, nothing will remain of this station - it was bought by a private company and completely changed the interior.


School corridor during recess. I studied at this school for 9 years.


A flower seller on a summer evening in Tiraspol.


A boy at a bus stop in Rybnitsa. He admitted that when he grows up, he dreams of becoming a policeman.


Church of Pokrovsky in the village of Rashkov. It was built as a Catholic church in 1740, but later became Orthodox. Destroyed in the 1930s and has remained the same since then.


Fishermen on winter fishing near the Dubossary hydroelectric station. In March 1992, the Transnistrian conflict began in this area.


Boat with Transnistrian numbers in Dnestrovka. This is the southernmost city of Transnistria. On the shores of the Kuchurgan estuary, local residents set up a “city on the water” - this village is called “Neptune”. Now it is a local “resort” for all those who do not want or cannot go to neighboring Zatoka or Odessa in Ukraine.

A reserve officer, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, is fishing with his wife and relative in the Neptune. It's mid-spring, Easter.


A guy stands on the edge of the ice on the Dniester near Dubossary.


Bridge over the Dniester in Tiraspol. This road connects Tiraspol and the village of Chitcani. Many people from Chitcani sell their crops in the Tiraspol markets.


A woman is having lunch at the "USSR Canteen". The canteen attracts tourists with its interior - Soviet artifacts are everywhere. However, locals perceive this place as a place where you can dine very cheaply.


Dubossarskaya HPP - was built in the early 1950s. During the Transnistrian conflict, there were very bloody battles here.


Larisa Kalik is a young journalist from Tiraspol. She wrote her first book about the Pridnestrovian Army. The book consisted of 12 anonymous interviews with former Transnistrian soldiers. For this, the local authorities declared her an extremist and opened a criminal case. Now she is facing 3 to 5 years in prison. She left Transnistria.


Fields on the border with Ukraine in the Kamenka region, in the north of Transnistria.


A forest near the village of Chobruchi.


Abandoned houses in the village of Butucheny, Rybnitsa region.


The beginning of winter in Rashkovo. There are many abandoned houses in the village, as in the whole of Transnistria.


Slavik with his children. He brings them up alone - his wife left for Moscow to work.


Old people in Bender beg for alms playing the accordion.

Tiraspol city beach.



Rashkovo in winter.


Spring in the house of Slavik (raising two children).


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