Gagauzia (Gagauz Eri) is an autonomous territorial unit of the Republic of Moldova. Gagauzia’s special legal status affords the self-determination of the Gagauz people, acting in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. Gagauzians – ethnically Turkic in origin and affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox Church – migrated from Bulgaria together with ethnic Bulgarians and settled in Bessarabia between 1812 and 1846.
Gagauzia is situated in the southern part of the Republic of Moldova and belongs to the southern economic and geographical region of the country. The eastern edges of the autonomy borders the Ukrainian region of Odessa. Gagauzia is located in the central European time zone, i.e. +2 hours (Greenwich Time Deviation). There are 3 districts in the structure of the autonomy - Comrat, Ceadir-Lunga and Vulcanesti.
Gagauzia is comprised of one city, two towns, twenty villages and three communities. The administrative center of the autonomy is the city of Comrat, a distinctive cultural, transportation and economic center in the south of the Republic of Moldova. Comrat is located on the map of Moldova at the crossroads of Chisinau/Cahul/Bucharest and Balti/Ceadir-Lunga/Odessa and shares a railroad and highway with its neighboring districts. Comrat is 104 km from the capital of Moldova, Chisinau.
According to the all-Union census in 1989, there were 197,757 Gagauzians living in the Soviet Union, 153, 458 (77.6%) of whom were living in Moldova; 31,967 (16.2%) in Ukraine; and 12,332 (6.2%) in the rest of the territory of the USSR. According to the official statistics, about 15,000 Gagauzians also live in Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Macedonia. Approximately 23.3 thousand people residing in Comrat, the capital of the Autonomous Region of Gagauzia.
The Gagauz language (Gagauz dili) is a Turkic language spoken by the Gagauz people, approximately 150,000 in total. Originally the language was written in Greek script, though was converted to the Cyrillic alphabet in 1957. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the alphabet was once again converted, and the current Gagauz script is a Latin-based alphabet modeled after Turkish. The Gagauz language and literature are taught in 55 schools, although Gagauz is still not used as the language of instruction in educational institutions. Russian and Moldovan (Romanian) are the official languages in Gagauzia, and the majority of the population prefers to speak the Russian language.
The local law “On the Functioning of the Languages on the Territory of Gagauzia,” adopted by the People’s Assembly of the Gagauz-Ery, stipulates that all legal procedures, criminal, civil and administrative cases in the territory of Gagauzia are performed in the Moldovan, Gagauzian or Russian languages.
Short History of the Gagauz People:
The Gagauz are an enigmatical people in many regards. Gagauzians managed to preserve over the course of centuries their language, their original cultural set-up, and their rather rich folk art, without an alphabet. Unfortunately, the history of the Gagauz people has been poorly studied and documented.
The following facts of the Gagauz people have been certified: The Gagauz people settled as an independent ethnicity definitively in the 12th century in the area of northeastern Bulgaria, mostly in the territory of Dobruja and Deliorman. A state formation in the territory of Dobruja known as Uzi Ayalet, was established in the 12th century and has been qualified by most scientists as the first state of the Gagauz people.
Another territory of the Gagauzian people, the Varna Gagauz republic of Vister, was mentioned in the 18th century. After the Russian-Turkish war and the signing of the Treaty of Bucharest on May 12, 1812, Bessarabia was passed on to Russia and the Russian tsar, Alexander I. The treaty allowed all Christians willing to leave Dobruja to settle in Budjak. The Autonomous Region of Gagauzia was declared by the people’s expression of will on August 19, 1990 and legalized by the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova on December 23, 1994.