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The KGB is considered to be one of the best-functioning institutions in Transnistria. Indeed, that is one reason that nobody has found it necessary to change its name. All of the country's newspapers are closely monitored while spying, eavesdropping, intimidation and threats are common. The popular Internet forum PMR has been blocked and the only independent correspondent bureau closed.
The second, extremely successful institution is called Sheriff, a varied conglomerate that was founded by two former policemen. Sheriff's vast holdings include a chain of gas stations, a caviar factory, an industrial bakery, a supermarket chain, the Rossiya Hotel, the Kvint distillery, the local Mercedes dealership, the radio station Inter FM, the country's only Internet provider and the football club Sheriff Tiraspol, which won the CIS Cup in Nobody seems particularly concerned about the fact that the majority of state-owned assets is now in the hands of oligarchs.
And that's not all. The political party Renewal is the company's political arm; the country's president until , Igor Smirnov, is from the party. Across from Tiraspol's registry office, a heavily chromed Mercedes S is parked, blocking the sidewalk along Sverdlov Street.
Following the collapse of communism, he made his money selling sex toys. His store, called Intim, smells of smoke and is reminiscent of a small grocery, except that instead of carrots on display, Pankov has carefully laid out corn-shaped vibrators, artificial vaginas and phalluses the size of medium-range missiles -- most of it imported from Germany.
The cardboard packaging bears the image of Bill Clinton. Pankov then opens a low door behind the counter: The shop's backroom is plastered right up to the ceiling with Soviet banners, red-satin party flags bearing Lenin's likeness and heroic embroideries with the slogan: It is a devotional shrine to the Soviet empire, a chamber of Bolshevik relics -- and only separated from the "Hot Lady" drops by a thin wall.