The Military Museum at Bendery represents a rare collection of Soviet militaria, displayed within three consecutive carriages of a decommissioned Soviet steam train.
The train is located next to the town’s main station, itself no longer in use - nowadays visitors are able to wander through the grand ticket hall, admiring the elaborate socialist-realist architecture of this now-defunct state facility.
There is no entrance fee at the museum, which is curated by a team of middle-aged and elderly women. None of them speak English however, instead using Russian, the region’s language of choice. The fact that you can’t understand them won’t stop these babushkas from gleefully talking you through the exhibits regardless, and the team are very accommodating to photographers.
Amongst the exhibits inside the museum are a range of signed and stamped documents from Moscow, many of them bearing the portraits of Lenin and Stalin; glass displays housing period uniforms, medals and military regalia; an impressive collection of rifles, bomb shells, helmets and other military equipment; as well as a primitive handle-driven computing device, bearing a Soviet star and the letters ‘CCCP.’
The museum covers the military history of Bendery, charting the town’s involvement in numerous successive engagements: from the earlier Ottoman occupation of the area, through World War I, World War II and the 1990 War of Transnistria.
Speaking of the latter, it’s important to note that while the address displayed here places the museum in Moldova, it actually falls within the widely unrecognised Soviet Socialist Republic of Transnistria. Prompted by the imminent fall of the Soviet Union, this small region declared its independence from Moldova - and the bloody conflict waged from 1990-92 was later known as the War of Transnistria.
At present, an uneasy ceasefire hangs between Moldova and its breakaway state. While Transnistria (and by association, the Bendery Military Museum) remains open for international tourism, you’ll still need to get past the heavily militarised border first.
Know Before You Go
Located just to the left of the disused main train station in Bendery.