Back in the USSR: Heroic Adventures in Transnistria

Ian Fleming could not have imagined a better place to set his latest thriller: an upstart mini-state at the edge of Europe which looks to Lenin and Stalin for leadership, with a Facebook-savvy Cheryl Cole-lookalike foreign minister, a breathtakingly wealthy football club founded by KGB officers that’s determined to dominate the European Champions League, and a retired general with private zoo and free-roaming anaconda. Is this wild and wacky Cold War fiction? No, it’s real, modern day Transnistria.

Transnistria is a nowhereland hugging a narrow valley near the Black Sea. No bigger than Cornwall or Rhode Island, this unrecognised country is a Soviet museum occupied by Russian ‘peace-keepers’. Its oligarchs in Adidas track suits hunt wild boar with AK-47s. Its young people train for revolution at the Che Guevara High School of Political Leadership. Its secret factories have supplied arms to Chechnya and electrical cable for Iran’s nuclear power programme. Yet its supporters champion it as a peace-loving exemplar of cyber-age democracy.

Friends! Comrades! Come and join me and the award-winning photojournalist Nick Danziger on a journey into the heart of the new age Russian Revolution. Venture to this terra incognita with us as we lift the veil on Europe’s most secret state. Gaze in awe at the audacity of its creation, the slickness of its business elite and its personable, drop-dead-gorgeous government ministers. Visit a Red Army retirement home. Learn how to sustain the half lotus yoga position with a KGB colonel.

Transnistria is unique in being the only country in the world not to have recognised the collapse of the Soviet Union. So let the balalaikas ring out as the Great Game is played on, and find yourself back in the USSR… with a difference.

‘Back in the USSR’ is published by Unbound.