It's Hard Being Young in a Country That Doesn't Exist
Young people in Transnistria are struggling to establish their own political and social culture. All photos courtesy of Anton Polyakov.

It's Hard Being Young in a Country That Doesn't Exist

Photographer Anton Polyakov's latest project documents how young people in Transnistria are struggling to establish some form of youth culture.

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

Photographer Anton Polyakov was born and raised in the self-proclaimed Republic of Transnistria, a tiny state that's been fighting for formal recognition from the United Nations since it declared independence from Moldova in 1990.

Last year, VICE spoke with Polyakov about his award-winning photo series "Transnistria Conglomerate," which aimed to raise the state's profile by showing outsiders what life is like in a country that technically doesn't exist.


The 27-year-old's latest work, "Pioneers Palace," focuses specifically on the challenges young people face in creating some form of collective identity—political and social—in a state that has few established traditions.

Young people sing along to a heavy metal track in a club in the state's unofficial capital, Tiraspol.

The project's name is an ironic nod to the Palace of Children and Youth Creativity, a sort of government-run youth center that's meant to help children find their passion. But Polyakov tells me that the institution—which most people still refer to by its Soviet-era name, the Palace of Pioneers—offers only outdated activities such as folk dancing, embroidery, and aero-modelling.

"The internet has replaced the Pioneer's Palace in the eyes of young people," he says. "They want to create their own communities and culture. They don't need the state to do that for them. Young people here can see what's going on around the world, and many are trying to recreate global youth culture here in Transnistria."

Scroll down to see more photos from Anton Polyakov's Pioneer's Palace

Fans of local football team Sheriff Tiraspol gather before a match.

This Sheriff fan was attacked by fans of local rivals Zimbru.

Young people hanging around an outdoor gym.

The wall of an abandoned printing company that was hosting a hip-hop gig

Another Sheriff fan on an away trip

Tanya Dunaevskaya, 21, is a tattoo artist.

One of Tanya's sketches

Eduard Gotynyan, 18, wants to move to Germany to get better at BMXing.

Tiraspol at night

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.