Ian Fleming could not have imagined a better place to set his latest thriller: an upstart mini-state at the edge of Europe, Transnistria is a nowhereland, a Soviet museum occupied by Russian peace-keepers near the Black Sea. Its oligarchs in Adidas tracksuits hunt wild boar with AK-47s. Its young people train for revolution at the Che Guevara High School of Political Leadership. Its secret factories have supplied arms to Chechnya and electrical cable to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant. Its isolation and tiny size belie the real threat it poses to the West. To many observers Transnistria is the North Korea of Europe. Yet its new president has launched a cunning coup of political marketing, appointing as his top ministers personable young women like the Facebook-savvy Cheryl Cole lookalike Foreign Minister, sexing-up the republic's image abroad, and using their glitter to obscure this internationally unrecognised non-state's shadowy past. Now ambassadors and foreign ministers are queuing up to meet them.
Rory MacLean and Nick Danziger, two of Europe' s most intrepid travellers and chroniclers, document life in the only country in the world not to have recognised the collapse of the Soviet Union. Readers will find themselves truly back in the USSR - with a difference.