Drinking with the Enemy – Opponents Fought by Day and Boozed Together By Night in the Transnistria War

Transnistria received support from the Russian 14th Guards Army in its war against Moldova in 1992.

Transnistria received support from the Russian 14th Guards Army in its war against Moldova in 1992.

The pages of military history contain a number of examples of soldiers sharing the occasional drink with their foes. For example, at the outbreak of the War of 1812, British officers stationed along the Canadian side of Niagara River were entertaining their American counterparts from the opposite shore when a messenger arrived with news that England and America were suddenly enemies, the hosts insisted that their guests at least stay to finish their after-dinner-port before returning home to commence with the hostilities. A century later, German and British troops in Flanders famously emerged from their trenches at Christmas in 1914 to swap greetings as well as bottles of rum and schnapps.

But this sort of liquor-fuelled camaraderie was taken to new heights during the two-year war between the small former Soviet republic of Moldova and the tiny 4,000 sq. km. breakaway region of that country known Transnistria.

The localized conflict, which ran from 1990 through to 1992, saw government forces and separatists fight by day and then meet to drink at night. And according to numerous reports, these no-man’s-land get-togethers weren’t just a one-time thing either. They were a nightly ritual — as regular as Happy Hour. In fact, the friendly binges became so well-known, the locals refer to the entire conflict as the “Drunken War”. Amazingly, the opposing forces became so chummy with each other that individual soldiers on both sides made personal agreements not to shoot one another during the next day’s hostilities. “The war is like a grotesque party. During the day we kill our enemy, during the night we drink with them. What a bizarre thing war is,” one combatant supposedly wrote of the conflict. [1]

The Transnistria struggle wasn’t all beer and skittles however. As many as 1,200 people on both sides were killed in the two-year contest, which was fought between the ethnically-Romanian Moldovans and Russian-speaking inhabitants of Transnistria.[2]

The war grew out of a crisis within Moldova, once known as the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. When in 1989, Moscow’s grip on its various republics and Eastern European satellites melted away, Moldavia declared independence. It renamed itself Moldova and immediately sought closer ties with its historic ally Romania.

Transnistria, a tiny sliver of territory on the far eastern side of Moldova, was largely ethnically-Russian and Ukrainian. Fearing assimilation into the larger Romanian Moldova, Transnistria declared its own independence from the new republic and sought protection from Moscow and Kiev. In 1990 and 1991, tensions mounted as Moldovan police and troops clashed with Transnistrian rebels.

In 1992, full scale war erupted when the 14,000-strong Russian 14th Guards Army, already stationed in Transnistria, began arming and training the rebels and even fighting on their behalf. [3] Up to 5,000 more volunteers from Russia and Ukraine streamed into the region to join in the struggle against the Moldovans as well. [4] Romania responded by sending weapons and military advisors to help the 30,000-strong Moldovan army.[5]

By the summer of 1992, both sides had agreed to a ceasefire. It has remained in effect to this day. And while Transnistria remains officially unrecognized by the international community, the tiny republic has its own government, military, constitution, flag and currency.

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1. http://weirdscaryandusualstuff.tumblr.com/post/15827441817/this-war-began-shortly-after-the-collapse-of-the
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_Transnistria
3. Ibid
4. Ibid
5. Ibid

7 comments for “Drinking with the Enemy – Opponents Fought by Day and Boozed Together By Night in the Transnistria War

  1. 4 July, 2012 at 4:42 am

    If the agreements not shoot each other the next day have saved at least one life, I would say that one should always drink with the enemy!

    • MHN
      4 July, 2012 at 7:12 am

      Makes sense to me. Interesting though… In many wars through history, there are examples of this sort of mutual respect for the enemy. It’s usually abandoned after the first atrocity is committed.

  2. Elen
    24 February, 2014 at 2:04 am

    I don’t understand where you find an information about two-year war between Moldova and Pridnestrovie. You can read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_Transnistria this article and then realize you have done the bigest mistake!

  3. john hughes
    8 August, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Your otherwise excellent site is let down by an apparent blind spot in differentiating between England and Britain. FYI, England is one of four constituent parts of the UK (the UK’s full name being the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland). Most people would accept you referring to Britain as the whole country as acceptable, though people in N Ireland do often feel excluded by this term, so for all post-1945 references ‘UK’ would be best.

    • 8 August, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      To avoid using the word Britain over and over and over again in the same paragraph, it is ***entirely acceptable*** to substitute “England” for the sake of the reader, much like “Russia” can be used as shorthand for “the Soviet Union” to avoid repetition when writing about the now defunct U.S.S.R. Yes, England is just one part of the wider United Kingdom, but historically, it was the centre of power. Most understand this principle and are willing to overlook any impact on precision in the interest of word variety. The key is to refer to Britain upon first usage.

  4. john hughes
    8 August, 2017 at 10:46 am

    For historical references, such as your mention of the War of 1812, ‘Britain’ would have clearly been preferable, and accurate, whereas ‘England’ is not. At that stage, in 1812, Britain’s admittedly confusing constitutional history would have been at the stage of ‘the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’. This lasted from 1801 – 1922. In 1922, the Irish Free State was established, splitting the island of Ireland politically, with Northern Ireland remaining part of the UK.

  5. john hughes
    8 August, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Prior to 1801, the ‘Kingdom of Great Britain’ was in existence, lasting from 1707 – 1800. This did not include any part of Ireland. It was brought about by the Union of the Parliaments, in 1707, when the parliaments of Scotland and England united politically. The two nations had already been brought together, in 1603, by the Union of the Crowns, when the Scottish monarch James VII acceded to the English throne. He should always be referred to as James VII & I (and his son as James VIII & II) as he was already king of Scotland prior to taking the English throne. Referring to James VII & I as James I simply because he was the first James to sit on the English throne is another common mistake made in historical writing.

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