Monday, September 14, 2009
Some of the most interesting parts of the world are the tiny republics or autonomous regions that exist within other countries, somewhat independent bodies that are able to form a fair amount of domestic policy on their own but never end up showing up on a world map. Gagauzia is one of these, and most when hearing it for the first time would wonder if it wasn't a made up name, like Krakozhia from The Terminal or the Plaid Tongued Devils Klezkavania.
But Gagauzia is a real place, and you can see it somewhere near the centre of this map.
Zoom in a bit, and let's look at the capital. It's called Comrat.
There it is! It's part of Moldova. But you'd never know it from Google Maps, as no matter how much you zoom in it never shows up (other republics/autonomous regions of this type show up under Google Maps though, such as Kalmykia, the only Buddhist state in Europe). So we'll have to use Wikipedia to show exactly where it's located. You can see that it's composed of one main part, and three smaller areas.
So why is there a region inside Moldova called Gagauzia? Because it's a region populated by the Gagauz, a people that speaks a language extremely similar to Turkish. Unlike other Turkic minorities located in other countries though, the Gagauz are not Muslim but rather Orthodox Christian. Here's a video of some of their chants.
The proximity of the language with Turkish can be seen in this video from a Turkish series that visited Gagauzia for this episode.
If you know any Turkish you can check out the Gagauz test Wikipedia. I find Gagauz to be even more legible than Azeri, used in Azerbaijan (also closely related to Turkish). In a lot of places it simply looks like Turkish with a few consonants removed:
büük (Tur. büyük) - big
topraa (Tur. toprağı) - its area/land
or a slightly different word order with the verb coming second in the sentence instead of at the end:
2004-däkı halk sayımına, Мoldovada yaşêêr 147,5 bin gagauz.
The direct Turkish translation (though Turkish would use slightly different terminology) of this would be
2004'daki halk sayımına (göre), Moldova'da 147,5 bin gagauz(lar) yaşıyor.
English: according to the census in 2004, there are 147.5 thousand Gagauz in Moldova.
You also see a lot of words that look almost the same, like the word hem (and), which means also or both in Turkish.
Gagauz also has the Romanian ț (sounds like ts), and more loanwords from that language, giving words like:
ofițial diller (official languages), which would be resmi diller in Turkish. Or biblioteka for library instead of the Turkish kütüphane.
Gagauzia only has a population of 150,000 and according to Google News pretty much doesn't exist (11 hits for Gagauzia compared to 4,589 for Iceland with only twice the population), but it still still has a bit of a role to play on the world stage, because:
1) There's always the possibility that Moldova and Romania will find a way to unite some day in the future, and that would bring in 150,000 (mostly) Turkish-speaking citizens into the EU, but Orthodox Christians this time.
2) The establishment of Gagauzia as an autonomous region came through an extremely peaceful process, compared to the region in the east of Moldova (Transnistria), which achieved a certain independence of its own through a more typical method that we saw last year in Georgia as well: obtain Russian support, declare independence, fight a war and end up with a de facto but not de jure independent republic, and with bad blood between both sides and a frozen conflict as a result.
3) Gagauzia also has a lot to teach other countries (*cough* *cough* Israel and Palestine *cough* *cough*) about territorial integrity and running a state/country: Gagauzia doesn't have complete territorial integrity, but this doesn't matter when two peoples aren't constantly at war with each other. When the threat of war doesn't enter into the equation it makes it that much easier to sit down, talk and let cooler heads prevail.
For some more posts on Gagauzia, see here.