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About Russia

Nations of Russia

The Gagauz

Small numbers of Gagauz live in Rostov oblast, Tyumen oblast, Khabarovsk kray, Moscow and St.Petersburg.
Language: Gagauz (central and southern dialects), belongs to Turkic group
Religion: Orthodox Christians
Diaspora: Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belorussia, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, Canada, Brazil.

The Gagauz are a small Turkic tribe with an unclear origin. One theory has it that they derive from Turkic-speaking Oguz, Uz and Kumans that migrated from the south Russian steppes by the Black Sea to the Dobrudja region in eastern Bulgaria in the Middle Ages. The Gagauz may also have been joined by groups of Slavs (Bulgars) who adopted the Turkic language but kept their religion, thus introducing the Gagauz to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. A third possibility is that the Gagauz are descended from Bulgarians who have been forcibly turkified but have managed to retain their orthodox faith.
During the Russo-Turkish wars of the 18th and 19th c., the Gagauz, together with thousands of Bulgars, migrated to Russia to escape Ottoman rule. Many settled in the southern parts of Bessarabia when that area became part of Russia in 1812. Non-Moldovans like the Gagauz were encouraged to settle in these border-districts of present-day Moldova to prevent Moldovan-Romanian unification.
The Gagauz tended to assimilate into the dominant Romanian culture, to the dislike of the Soviet authorities that took Bessarabia/Moldova back from Romania during World War II. The Soviets encouraged the Gagauz to retain their Gagauz identity or to russify.
By early 1990, the Gagauz in the Moldovan SSR began a movement for cultural and political autonomy, in response to Moldovan nationalism. They have struggled for several years now to get an autonomous territory within Moldavia. When the Moldovans declared their independence in 1990, the Gagauz proclaimed their "16th Soviet Republic". In August Gagauz elections were abandoned by the Moldovan government, and a state of emergency declared.
Gagauz nationalism is not very strong among those 10.000 Gagauz living in the Russian Federation.


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