Igor Smirnov: Wikis


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Igor Nikolaevich Smirnov
Игорь Николáевич Смирнóв

Assumed office 
2 September 1990
Vice President Alexandru Caraman
Sergey Fyodorovich Leontiev
Aleksandr Ivanovich Korolyov
Preceded by Position established

Born 23 October 1941 (1941-10-23) (age 68)
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Soviet Union
Political party Republic
Spouse(s) Zhannetta Nikolaevna Lotnik

Igor Nikolaevich Smirnov (Russian: Игорь Николáевич Смирнóв), (born October 23, 1941) is the President of the internationally unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic, also known as Transnistria. He has held this post since 1991.



Igor Smirnov was born in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Soviet Union (now in the Russian Federation) during World War II. He was the son of Nikolai Stepanovich Smirnov, a worker within the Soviet Communist Party apparatus and Zinaida Grigor’evna Smirnova, a journalist and newspaper editor. As the Party promoted Nikolai Stepanovich to ever more important positions, the family moved from Petropavlosk to the Ukrainian SSR, where the Red Army had recently expelled the Nazi German military. The Smirnovs initially benefited from Nikolai Stepanovich’s successes—he reached the position of First Secretary of the Golopristanskiy Raion (district) committee in Soviet Ukraine.

However, in the summer of 1952 Nikolai Stepanovich was arrested for irregularities in supply distribution among the Raion’s collective farms.[1] He was sentenced to fifteen years in the Soviet forced labor camps with a following period of five years’ internal exile. As the family of an enemy of the people, life was difficult for Zinaida Grigor’evna and her three sons, Vladimir, Oleg, and Igor. In the wake of Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953, Nikolai Stepanovich was released together with many Soviet inmates. The Smirnov family was reunited in central Russia near the Ural Mountains, where Nikolai Stepanovich directed a primary school and Zinaida Grigor’evna worked as the editor of a local Komsomol newspaper.[2]

Igor Smirnov presidential election poster

Professional life

In 1959, Igor Smirnov began work at the Zlatoust Metallurgical Factory at the age of eighteen. Soon, however, he moved back to Ukraine to work on the construction of a new hydroelectric power station in the town of Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson Oblast.

Smirnov displayed a great enthusiasm for Soviet life, pursuing higher education in the evenings and weekends after work and participating in a number of athletic and cultural activities. He met and married a young engineer named Zhannetta Nikolaevna Lotnik in the early 1960s and served in the Red Army from 1963-1966 as a Second Lieutenant. In 1963, Smirnov joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and served as a Komsomol organizer (komsorg) after returning to civilian life.

Once back from the military, Smirnov also continued the correspondence courses he had begun in the early 1960s, receiving a degree from the Zaporizhia Machine-Building Institute in 1974.[3] Meanwhile, he worked his way up from the shop floor to be an assistant director of one of the shops of the Novaia Kakhovska Machine-Building Factory. With his college diploma, Smirnov continued to be promoted. He soon became the shop director, then assistant to the factory’s chief industrial upgrades and new technologies engineer and finally an assistant director.

While he was not made director in 1987 when that position’s erstwhile occupant retired, he was given the directorship of the “Elektromash” Electronics Concern in the nearby Moldovan city of Tiraspol. Fatefully, the boy from the Soviet Far East accepted this position near the USSR’s Western border. It would be just over two years before Smirnov led the city’s municipal government as the chairman of the Tiraspol city soviet and just under three before he held the most powerful position in the embryonic — and unrecognized — Pridnestrovian Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic.[4]

Igor Smirnov, December 2006

The strike campaign

As communist states began to collapse at the end of the 1980s, people in some areas of the Soviet Union began to demand sovereignty for separate national identities. As the citizens of the Moldavian SSR debated the merits of introducing Moldovan as the official language of the republic—at first with Russian as a second official language and later without—the republic was divided over the issue of nationalizing Moldova. One side believed that Moldova should be independent from the Kremlin and turned into a nation-state, possibly in a union with Romania where a virtually identical language is spoken. The other believed that Moldova should remain a part of the supranationalist USSR, possibly in a post-communist, but still united country.

Smirnov and many of his colleagues were suspicious of the possibility of language laws from the very beginning — they suspected this to be the first step towards “nationalization” of the republic at the expense of “their country,” the Soviet Union. However, in August 1989, when it was leaked that Moldovan would be made the only official language,[5] Smirnov and other industrial workers in Tiraspol banded together to create the United Work Collective Council (OSTK— Объединенный Совет трудовых коллективов) and called an immediate strike that eventually led to the shutdown of most major industrial activity (concentrated in the Transnistrian region) throughout the SSR.

Entry into politics

When the strike campaign, from August 16 to September 22, 1989, failed to produce much of an effect in Chişinău, the OSTK re-examined its tactics. Smirnov and others saw the upcoming Moldovan elections as an opportunity to effect change through different means. Smirnov won two seats in the elections of February 1990, the 32nd district seat for the city soviet (municipal government) of Tiraspol and the 125th district seat for the Supreme Soviet of MSSR (republican government). Once in the city soviet, Smirnov ran for chairmanship of that body. In a dramatic demonstration of how much the Communist Party’s power had waned, Smirnov beat his challenger, the First Secretary of the city’s Party Committee, Leonid Tsurkan, by a 2-to-1 margin.[6] From this time forward, Tiraspol was an OSTK-controlled city.

Things did not go quite as smoothly for Igor Smirnov in the Moldovan Supreme Soviet. The OSTK candidates, mostly from Transnistria in the country’s eastern periphery, were a small fraction of the body’s overall membership—approximately 15 percent. In May 1990, these Transnistrian Supreme Soviet deputies were attacked and beaten by pro-independence protesters and quickly left the body for their homes in the East.[7] Unable to affect the course of events in Chişinău, these deputies acted to establish their own Soviet republic, a republic that would remain a part of the Soviet Union and not secede with the rest of the Moldova. Many Moldovans reacted with outrage at this infringement of their sovereignty and the Soviet central government publicly rebuked the separatists for making the situation worse and pushing Moldova further toward independence.

Proclamation of independence

Igor Smirnov emerged as a leader of the OSTK on a regional level as Transnistrian politicians and activists worked towards sovereignty from the Moldovan SSR in the summer and fall of 1990. When the First All-region Congress of Transnistrian Deputies created a self-contained Transnistrian economic zone in June 1990, Smirnov was elected chair of a coordinating council charged with carrying momentum forward to sovereignty. A second congress held on September 2 proclaimed the creation of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (PMSSR) and deputies elected him to chair the Provisional Supreme Soviet of the PMSSR.[8]

In his new role as chairman of the PMSSR Supreme Soviet, and later, president of the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic (PMR), Smirnov worked to gain recognition for the state. While this was never a likely outcome, Smirnov was successful at securing the cooperation of a locally stationed Red Army unit; as the conflict grew increasingly violent at the end of 1991 and going into 1992, Red Army leaders and enlisted men, often themselves from Transnistria, gave moral support, weapons and ammunition to PMR separatists. Eventually a number of Red Army soldiers joined the PMR Army.[9]

In December 1991 Smirnov beat Grigorii Marakutsa, his successor as chairman of the PMSSR Supreme Soviet and another challenger in an election for president of the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic. He won with 64% of the vote.[10]

Smirnov after the war

Smirnov with President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev in Barvikha on 18 February 2009.

The Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic has held three further presidential elections since the first in 1991.

Igor Smirnov has won all by a wide margin. On December 23, 1996, he took 72% of the vote against 20% for Vladimir Malakhov and on December 9, 2001, he took 81.9% of the vote against 6.7% for Tom Zenovich and 4.6% for Alexander Radchenko. On December 10, 2006, Smirnov was re-elected for a third time with 82.4% of the vote. His Communist Party opponent, Nadezhda Bondarenko got only 8.1% of the vote. Andrey Safonov, owner and editor of the Opposition newspaper Novaia gazeta got 3.9% and Renewal Party MP Peter Tomaily, standing as an independent candidate, got 2.1%. 1.6% voted for "none of the above" and 1.9% of the ballot papers were blank or spoiled. Turnout was 66.1%. None of these elections were recognized by the international community, which does not recognize the legality of the Transnistrian authorities and called for democratic elections for a self-governing territory within the boundaries of Moldova.

Smirnov has announced that he will retire from politics when the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic obtains international recognition as a sovereign state and has called this goal his life's work.[11]

Igor Smirnov usually drives around Transnistria in a Skoda and without bodyguards.[12]

The Vice President of the PMR is currently Aleksandr Ivanovich Korolyov.


  1. ^ In his memoirs, Igor Smirnov reports that his father "had seen to it that the families of those killed on the front [of WWII] were supplied with necessities (free of charge)." Igor Smirnov, Zhit’ na nashei zemle. (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 2001), 9.
  2. ^ Anna Volkova, Lider (Tiraspol’: [s.n.], 2001), 8. Available online at: http://www.olvia.idknet.com/soderjanie.htm
  3. ^ "Igor' Smirnov - kandidat [v prezident PMR] naroda," in Nepriznannaia respublika: ocherki, dokumenty, khronika: dokumenty gosudarstvennykh organov Pridnestrovia, Vol. II, Gryzlov, V.F., ed. (Moscow: Rossiiskaia akademiia nauk, TIMO, 1997), 19.
  4. ^ A collection of writings by participants in the OSTK movement printed in the PMR provides many personal, though uniformly positive, memories of Smirnov in this transition period. L. Alfer’eva, ed., Slavy ne iskali: sbornik vospominanii uchastnikov sozdaniia i stanovleniia PMR (Bendery: Poligrafist, 2000).
  5. ^ A deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Moldovan SSR, unhappy with the changes, leaked the new draft to the newspaper of the "Tochlitmash" Machine-Building Concern in Tiraspol. See: Efim Bershin, Dikoe pole: Pridnestrovskii razlom (Moscow: Tekst, 2002), 19-20.
  6. ^ Volkova, Lider, 37.
  7. ^ Moscow Domestic Service, May 23, 1990, trans. in FBIS, May 24, 1990, 117.
  8. ^ Viktor Diukarev, Pridnestrov’e—proshloe, nastoiashchee, budushchee, za kulisami politiki. Dubossary 1989-1992 gg. (Tiraspol’: Uprpoligrafizdat PMR, 2000), see esp. 198-203 for a first-hand, though partisan account of the proceedings.
  9. ^ The flow of Red Army men and materiel to PMR armed forces was widely reported in the CIS press at the time. See for ex., Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 18, 1992 trans. in FBIS, June 19, 1992, 63; and Radio Rossii, June 20, 1992, trans. in FBIS, June 22, 1992, 62.
  10. ^ “Vybory, referendumy, oprosy,” in Nepriznania respublika, Vol. II, Gryzlov, ed., 179.
  11. ^ "Transdnestr president: Recognition of Transdnestr is the matter of my life" Regnum, September 14, 2006. http://www.regnum.ru/english/704901.html
  12. ^ Igor Smirnov


External links

See also

Political offices
Preceded by
Position established
President of Transnistria
1990 – present

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