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HomeLatest NewsGagauzia, the weak link of Moldova

Gagauzia, the weak link of Moldova

At the foot of the hill, two flags and a sign welcome Gagauzia. This is not Moldova. The surviving statue of Lenin in front of the government building of the Autonomous Okrug is the least of all. The confession of faith goes inward and is not communist, but pro-Russian. To make matters worse, he does not come from a Slavic minority, but from a Turkish one. That, oddly enough, she is not only a Christian, but also ardently Orthodox and submits to the Moscow Patriarchate. The seams of Europe are thin and complex, and if the pressure becomes unbearable, they burst in the most remote places, such as this one.

Moldova is at the epicenter of the storm, but has never been a fashionable country. Even fewer people have heard of Gagauzia and Transnistria, two of its regions with a Tinta name, Russian influence and centrifugal tendencies. The latter is practically lost in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Not exactly the first, although bets are allowed. If the flames of war in Ukraine reach the Moldovan bedding, everyone fears that it will ignite in Transnistria with the risk of spreading to Gagauzia.

However, visiting this territory allows you to make sure that the genie has not yet left the lamp. Given that Gagauzia rebelled against supporters of reunification with Romania and the imposition of the Romanian language even before Transnistria, the relative peace of the territory within Moldova demonstrates a plausible direction for the identity conflict.

Turkey and Russia compete for influence in Gagauzia with different intergenerational effects

There are less than 200,000 Gagauzians, of which 130,000 live in Moldova, about 30,000 live in Ukraine, and the rest are almost all immigrants settled between Russia and Turkey. This last point has a reason. Although the origin of the Gagauz is confirmed by dozens of theories and confusion is often observed, the fact is that they speak Turkish, which allows them to communicate with their distant relatives. “I understand more than 50%,” says Hassan, a taxi driver from Kars, near the Turkish border with Armenia.

The Gagauz understand it even better. Moreover, Turkish TV series are also watched here, in the original version. “My favorite is Huérfanas,” explains young Dasha, who runs the Augusto confectionery, in Gagauz and English. “I understand a lot, but not everything.”

At six in the evening, most shops in Comrat, the capital of Gagauzia, are already closed. A flamboyantly dressed, elderly folk group completes a rehearsal in a Soviet-era theater. Soon only the youngest will be left on the streets. At this time, the Orthodox church – golden domes on mustard walls – represents a very worthy entrance – St. George has just passed – and the priests are taking communion surrounded by icons. The devotion of his parishioners is also turned to Moscow. But in recent years, with the approval of Chisinau, a counterweight has emerged to win their souls. Turkey.

The main public works in this enclave – in fact, in four nearby enclaves – seem to be the work of the Turkish, not the Moldovan state. “Our roads were built for us by Turkish workers,” admits Ted, an economics student. “It must be because they dominate the machine.”

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At the entrance to Comrat, Turkey has half of the macro-project of the “cultural and tourist center”, which is a quadrangle of almost a hundred meters on each side. “It has already created a hundred jobs here and thirty in Turkey,” explains Hasan, a friend of the manager. Other eye-catching buildings are the “Turkish Consulate” – out of place in a city smaller than most regional capitals – or a school, not to mention a brand new grass football stadium.

However, the project that Recep Tayyip Erdogan cherished so much did not work. “We told him no mosque, that our culture is Christian,” Ted explains. Moreover, the Gagauz economy largely revolves around vineyards and wine in a fertile and barely hilly area. Gagauzia is a poor region of a poor country, but in the capital, many modern shops and hypermarkets demonstrate relative agrarian prosperity.

The old man in the square thinks that anyone who addresses him in Turkish is a Muslim and feels obliged to justify himself by saying that his name is Russian because they are Christians. Next to him is a Gagauz with Slavic features, who says that he worked in Istanbul for some time.

In any case, neither autonomy nor all Turkish investments so far have helped reverse the decline of the language. In Gagauzia there is a Romanian school, the rest are Gagauz, but they teach in Russian, except for the subject of their native language.

In Comrat, forty-year-old Gagauz usually speak Turkish with their parents and sometimes with each other, and almost always in Russian with their children. Gagauz is spoken only with grandparents, at best. With the exception of the smallest towns, young people only speak Russian to each other. But this did not contribute to their rapprochement with Moscow. Unlike.

“Our teachers think Putin is very good, but my grandmother thinks Putin is a god,” the teenager explains, and her friends agree. “He also tells me not to go on the Victory March.” Why? “Boom,” he replies. “This is because of Russian television propaganda,” says her friend Yana, a classmate. “We, the youth, support Ukraine, and our parents support Russia,” he sums up, although he specifies that his own grandmother is Ukrainian. “Putin is Hitler,” he concludes.


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