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Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia (Gagauz Yeri)
Gagauz Yeri
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Long live Gagauzia!
Anthem: Tarafım (My Land)
Location of Gagauzia (red) within Moldova (white).
Location of Gagauzia (red) within Moldova (white).
and largest city
 -  Governor Irina Vlah
(since 15 April 2015)
 -  Chairman of the
People's Assembly
Ana Harlamenco
Autonomous region of Moldova
 -  Created 23 December 1994 
 -  Total 1,832 km2
707 sq mi
 -  2011 estimate 160,700
 -  Density 87.7/km2
227.1/sq mi
Currency Moldovan leu (MDL)

Gagaúzia (Gagauz: Gagaúziya or Gagaúz Yerí; Romanian: Găgăuzia; Russian: Гагаýзия, Gagaúziya), formally known as the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia (Gagauz Yeri) (Gagauz: Avtonom Territorial Bölümlüü Gagauz Yeri; Romanian: Unitatea Teritorială Autonomă Găgăuzia; Russian: Автономное территориальное образование Гагаузия, Avtonomnoye territorialnoye obrazovaniye Gagauziya), is an autonomous region of Moldova. Its name comes from the Gagauz people.


  • History 1
    • Russian Empire 1.1
    • Soviet Union 1.2
    • Independent Moldova 1.3
  • Geography 2
  • Administrative divisions 3
  • Politics 4
    • Elections 4.1
  • Economy 5
  • Transport 6
  • Demographics 7
    • Ethnic composition 7.1
    • Religion 7.2
  • Culture and education 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12


According to some theories, the Gagauz people descend from the Seljuq Turks that settled in Dobruja, or from Pechenegs, Uz (Oghuz) and Cuman (Kipchak) people that followed the Anatolian Seljuq Sultan Izzeddin Keykavus II (1236–1276). More specifically, one clan of Oghuz Turks migrated to the Balkans during the inter-tribal conflicts with other Turks. This Oghuz Turk clan converted from Islam to Orthodox Christianity after settling in the Eastern Balkans (in Bulgaria) and were called Gagauz Turks. A large group of the Gagauz later left Bulgaria and settled in southern Bessarabia, along with a group of ethnic Bulgarians.

According to other theories Gagauz are descendants of linguistically Turkified Kutrigur Bulgarians.[1] In the official Gagauz museum, a plaque mentions that one of the two main theories is that they descend from the Bulgars.

Russian Empire

In 1812, Bessarabia, previously the eastern half of the Principality of Moldavia, became part of the Russian Empire, and Nogai tribes that inhabited several villages in south Bessarabia (or Budjak) were forced to leave. Between 1812 and 1846, Russians settled the Gagauz people from what is nowadays eastern Bulgaria (which remained under the Ottoman Empire) to the orthodox Bessarabia, mainly in the settlements vacated by the Nogai tribes. They settled there in parallel with Bessarabian Bulgarians in Avdarma, Comrat, Congaz, Tomai, Cişmichioi, and other former Nogai villages. Some Gagauz were also settled in the part of the Principality of Moldavia that did not come under Russian control in 1812, but within several years village by village moved to the compact area they inhabit today in the south of Bessarabia.

With the exception of a five-day de facto independence in the winter of 1906, when a peasant uprising declared an autonomous Republic of Comrat, Gagauzians have been ruled by the Russian Empire (1812–1917), Romania (1918–1940 and 1941–1944), the Soviet Union (1940–1941 and 1944–1991), and Moldova (1917–1918 and 1991 to date).

Soviet Union

Gagauz nationalism remained an intellectual movement during the 1980s, but strengthened by the end of the decade, as the Soviet Union began to embrace democratic ideals. In 1988, activists from the local intelligentsia aligned with other ethnic minorities to create a movement known as the "Gagauz People". A year later, the "Gagauz People" held its first assembly in which a resolution was passed to demand the creation an autonomous territory in southern Moldova, with the city of Comrat as its capital. The Gagauzian national movement intensified when Romanian was accepted as the official language of the Republic of Moldova in August 1989, replacing Russian, the official language of the USSR. A part of the multiethnic population of southern Moldova regarded this decision with concern, precipitating a lack of confidence in the central government in Chişinău. The Gagauz were also worried about the implications for them if Moldova reunited with Romania, as seemed likely at the time. In August 1990, Comrat declared itself an autonomous republic, but the Moldovan government annulled the declaration as unconstitutional. At that time, Stepan Topal emerged as the leader of the Gagauz national movement.

Independent Moldova

"Welcome to Gagauzia" sign.
Physical map of Gagauzia.
Schematic map of Gagauzia.

Support for the Soviet Union remained high, with a referendum in March 1991 returning an almost unanimous vote in favour of remaining part of the USSR. Many Gagauz supported the Moscow coup attempt in August 1991, and Gagauzia declared itself independent on 19 August 1991, followed in September by Transnistria, thus further straining relations with Chişinău. However, when the Moldovan parliament voted on whether Moldova should become independent on 27 August 1991, six of the 12 Gagauz deputies in Moldovan parliament voted in favour, while the other six did not participate. Eventually, the Moldovan government toned down its pro-Romanian stance and paid more attention to minority rights.

In February 1994, President Mircea Snegur promised the Gagauz autonomy, but he was against outright independence. He was also opposed to the suggestion that Moldova become a federal state made up of three republics: Moldova, Gagauzia, and Transnistria.

Also in 1994, the Parliament of Moldova awarded to "the people of Gagauzia" (through the adoption of the new Constitution of Moldova) the right of "external self-determination". On 23 December 1994, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova accepted the "Law on the Special Legal Status of Gagauzia" (Gagauz: Gagauz Yeri), resolving the dispute peacefully. This date is now a Gagauz holiday. Gagauzia is now a "national-territorial autonomous unit" with three official languages: Romanian, Gagauz, and Russian.

Three cities and 23 communes were included in the Autonomous Gagauz Territory: all localities with over 50% Gagauz, and those localities with between 40% and 50% Gagauz which expressed their desire to be included as a result of referendums to determine Gagauzia's borders. In 1995, Governor (Romanian: Guvernator, Gagauz: Bașkan) of Gagauzia for a four-year term, as were the deputies of the local parliament, "The People's Assembly" (Gagauz: "Halk Toplușu"), with Petr Pashali as chairman.

Dmitrii Croitor won the 1999 governor elections and began to make use of the rights granted to the governor by the 1994 agreement. The central authorities of Moldova proved unwilling to accept the results initiating a lengthy stand-off between the autonomy and Chişinău. Finally Croitor resigned in 2002 due to the pressure from the Moldovan government, which accused him of abuse of authority, relations with the separatist authorities of Transnistria and other charges. The central electoral commission of Gagauzia did not register Croitor as a candidate for the post of the Governor in the subsequent elections and Gheorgi Tabunshik was elected in what was described as unfair elections.[2][3] Mihail Formuzal was the Governor of Gagauzia from 2006 until 2015, when Irina Vlah was elected to the position, with 51% of the vote.[4]

On 2 February 2014, Gagauzia held a referendum where an overwhelming majority of voters opted for closer ties with Russia over EU integration and also opted for the independence of Gagauzia if Moldova chooses to enter EU.[5][6]

On 23 March 2015, Irina Vlah was elected as the new governor after a heavy pro-Russian campaign, dominated by the quest for closer ties with the Russian Federation.[7] [8]


Gagauzia is divided into three districts. It also is split into four enclaves. The main, central enclave includes the cities Comrat and Ceadîr-Lunga and is divided into two districts with those cities serving as administrative centers. The second largest enclave is located around the city of Vulcănești, while two smaller enclaves are the villages of Copceac and Carbalia. The village of Carbalia falls under administration of Vulcănești, while Copceac is part of the Ceadir-Lunga district.

Administrative divisions

Gagauzia consists of one municipality, two cities, and 23 communes containing a total of 32 localities.[9]

Official name Gagauz name % Gagauzians
Comrat (municipality) Komrat 72.8%
Ceadîr-Lunga (city) Çadır 73.7%
Vulcănești (city)
Vulcănești, loc. st. c. f.
Avdarma Avdarma 94.2%
Baurci Baurçu 97.9%
Beşalma Beşalma 96.7%
Beşghioz Beşgöz 93.0%
Bugeac Bucak 61.8%
Carbalia Kırbaalı 70.2%
Official name Gagauz name % Gagauzians
Cazaclia Kazayak 96.5%
Chioselia Rusă Köseli Rus 25.2%
Chiriet-Lunga Kiriyet 92.6%
Chirsova Başküü 45.6%
Cioc-Maidan Çok-Maydan 93.1%
Cişmichioi Çöşmäküü 94.4%
Congaz Kongaz 96.1%
Congazcicul de Sus (Congazul-Mic)
Congazcicul de Jos
Copceac Kıpçak 95.0%
Official name Gagauz name % Gagauzians
Cotovscoe Kırlannar 95.4%
Dezghingea Dezgincä 94.5%
Etulia Nouă
Etulia, loc. st. c. f.
Ferapontievca Parapontika 28.0%
Gaidar Haydar 96.5%
Joltai Coltay 96.0%
Tomai Tomay 95.1%


The autonomy of Gagauzia is guaranteed by the Moldovan constitution and regulated by the 1994 Gagauz Autonomy Act. If Moldova decided to unite with Romania, Gagauzia would have the right of self-determination.[10][11] The Gagauzian People's Assembly (Gagauz: Halk Topluşu; Romanian: Adunarea Populară) has a mandate for lawmaking powers within its own jurisdiction. This includes laws on education, culture, local development, budgetary and taxation issues, social security, and questions of territorial administration. The People's Assembly also has two special powers: it may participate in the formulation of Moldova's internal and foreign policy; and, should central regulations interfere with the jurisdiction of Gagauz-Yeri, it has the right of appeal to Moldova's Constitutional Court.

The highest official of Gagauzia, who heads the executive power structure, is the Governor of Gagauzia (Gagauz: Başkan;Romanian: Guvernatorul Găgăuziei). She/he is elected by popular suffrage for a four-year term, and has power over all public administrative bodies of Gagauzia. She/he is also a member of the Government of the Republic of Moldova. Eligibility for governorship requires fluency in the Gagauz language, Moldovan citizenship, and a minimum age of 35 years.

Permanent executive power in Gagauz Yeri is exercised by the Executive Committee (Bakannik Komiteti/Comitetul Executiv). Its members are appointed by the Governor, or by a simple majority vote in the Assembly at its first session. The Committee ensures the application of the laws of the Republic of Moldova and those of the Assembly of Gagauz-Yeri.

As part of its autonomy, Gagauzia has its own police force.[12]

Gagauz Halkı is a former Gagauz separatist political party, now outlawed.


During the last three elections AEI's vote share increased by 872.4%

Parliament elections results
2010 23.44% 13,380 59.97% 34,224
July 2009 11.32% 6,482 77.78% 44,549
April 2009 2.43% 1,376 63.69% 36,094
  Summary of 28 November 2010 Parliament of Moldova election results in Gagauzia
Parties and coalitions Votes % +/−
Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova 34,224 59.97 −17.81
Democratic Party of Moldova 9,115 15,97 +10.09
Humanist Party of Moldova 3,722 6.52 +6.52
Social Democratic Party 3,686 6.46 -3.41
Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova 3,581 6.27 +4.99
Other Party 2,770 4.81 -0.38
Total (turnout 51.36%) 57,596 100.00


The base of the Gagauzian economy is agriculture, particularly viticulture. The main export products are wine, sunflower oil, non-alcoholic beverages, wool, leather and textiles. There are 12 wineries, processing more than 400,000 tonnes annually. There are also two oil factories, two carpet factories, one meat factory, and one non-alcoholic beverage factory.


There are 451 kilometers of roads in Gagauzia, of which 82% are paved. Turkey loaned Moldova USD$35 million to improve Gagauzia's road network.


According to the 1 January 2011 census, Gagauzia had a population of 160,700, of which 40.4% urban and 59.6% rural population.

  • Births (2010): 2042 (12.7 per 1,000)
  • Deaths (2010): 1868 (11.6 per 1,000)
  • Growth Rate (2010): 174 (1.1 per 1,000)

Ethnic composition

According to the 2004 census results, the ethnic breakdown in Gagauzia was:[13]
Ethnic group Population Percent of total
Gagauz 127,835 82.14%
Bulgarians 8,013 5.15%
Moldovans 7,481 4.81%
Russians 5,941 3.82%
Ukrainians 4,919 3.16%
Romanians 38 0.02%
Others 1,409 0.91%


There is an ongoing identity controversy over whether Romanians and Moldovans are the same ethnic group. At the census, every citizen could only declare one nationality; consequently, one could not declare oneself both Moldovan and Romanian. The combined figure for Moldovans (Romanians) is 7,519 (4.85%).

Culture and education

Gagauzia has 55 schools, the Comrat Pedagogical College (high school plus two years over high school), and Comrat State University (Komrat Devlet Universiteti [14]). Turkey financed the creation of a Turkish cultural centre (Türk İşbirliği Ve Kalkınma İdaresi Başkanlığı) and a Turkish library (Atatürk Kütüphanesi). In the village of Beşalma, there is a Gagauz historical and ethnographical museum established by Dimitriy Kara Çöban.

Despite declaring Gagauz as the national language of the Autonomy, the local authorities do not provide any full Gagauz-teaching school, most of those are Russian-language as opposed to inner Moldovan full Romanian language education.[15] Although pupils are introduced to all of the usual school languages (Russian, Romanian, English or French, Gagauz), the local language continues to be least popular.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Стойков, Руси. Селища и демографски облик в Североизточна България и Южна Добруджа, Известия на Варненското археологическо дружество, т. ХV, 1964, с. 98.
  2. ^ Information on previous elections of Governor of Gagauz ATU (English) (Russian) (Romanian))
  3. ^ Moldova Strategic Conflict Assessment (SCA), Stuart Hensel, Economist Intelligence Unit.
  4. ^ Moldova: Semi-Autonomous Region Elects Pro-Russian Leader
  5. ^ , in: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume: 11, Issue: 23.The Gagauz Referendum in Moldova: A Russian Political Weapon?Dumitru Minzarari:
  6. ^ , RFE/RL, February 03, 2014.Gagauzia Voters Reject Closer EU Ties For Moldova
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ (Romanian) Organic Law No. 292-XIV (see Annex 4), Republic of Moldova, 19 February 1999.
  10. ^ East - West Working Group. Levente Benkö. Autonomy in Gagauzia: A Precedent for Central and Eastern Europe?
  11. ^
  12. ^ (Romanian) Moldovan law on the special legal status of Gagauzia
  13. ^ 2004 census results
  14. ^ Comrat, street. Galaţan, 17, tel: (0-298) 2-43-45
  15. ^
  16. ^

Further reading

  • Shabashov A.V., 2002, Odessa, Astroprint, "Gagauzes: terms of kinship system and origin of the people", (Шабашов А.В., "Гагаузы: система терминов родства и происхождение народа")
  • Delinski, Andrian; Kahl, Thede; Lozovanu, Dorin; Prishchepov, Aleksandr (ed.) 2014: Gagauziya (Gaguz Yeri). Avtonom Bölgesi Atlası. Atlas of ATU Gagauzia (Gagauz yeri). Chișinău: Proart. ISBN 9789975411653

External links

  • Official website
  • Gagauzia at DMOZ
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