On the Gagauz people in Moldova, and their relationship with Turkey and the Turkish language

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Location of Gagauzia (purple) in Moldova...

And location of the Gagauz language (surrounded by the red circle) along with nearby Turkic languages (official languages in dark blue, regional languages in light blue) to show the geographic proximity.

There's an interesting interview here in French with the governor of Gagauzia, an autonomous territory located in Moldova where the people speak the Gagauz language, a language closely related to Turkish. Taking a look at one of the pages in their test Wikipedia here, I don't see a single word that I don't know. Take this part for example:

Gagauz Yerinin eski insannarı - übür türk halkı nogaylar zamanna göç ettilär Dobruca hem başka regionnara.

One difference you can see is the plural -lar being replaced by -nar after a consonant (you see this in Korean too by the way) along with -la after a consonant also becoming -na (zamanna instead of zamanla) and there's of course a bit of a difference in the vowels with ö sometimes becoming ü and e becoming ä, but that's really not a great difference at all.

Sometimes consonants seem to be removed as well:

topraaları (its lands) would be toprakları in standard Turkish,

topraan büük bir kısmını içersinä alêr. - this would be toprağın büyük bir kısmını içerisine alır. ("takes a large part of the land within it").

So we have an autonomous region in Moldova with a population of 155,700, 82% of which are ethnic Gagauz. Apparently the language is spoken by 150,000 as well, making a fairly large block of people that can easily speak and understand Turkish. The reason why this is interesting is that even though there's a fair amount of opposition to the entry of Turkey into the EU, a lot of countries that have recently entered have quite a large Turkish population (Bulgaria has 800,000 or so), and a lot that are going to enter (Macedonia) or might enter much later on (Moldova) also have large Turkish populations, along with Cyprus that if unified will also bring in Turkish as an official language of the EU before Turkey even joins.

Here's most of one part of the interview in French about the links the Gagauz people have with Turkey:

CdB : Quels liens les Gagaouzes ont-ils gardé avec la Turquie ?

MF : Tout d’abord, je voudrais préciser qu’il existe de nombreuses hypothèses sur nos origines. Et l’on ne sait toujours pas aujourd’hui laquelle est la bonne. Peut-être ne le saurons nous jamais. Ce qui et sûr, c’est que les Gagaouzes parlent une langue très proche du turc et qu’ils étaient autrefois de bons paysans, de bons éleveurs mais aussi de bons combattants puisqu’ils ont longtemps protégé le Sud-Ouest de l’Empire russe. Pour en revenir aux Turcs, ils nous aident dans tous les domaines et ne nous demandent rien en échange. Sur le plan économique, Istanbul subventionne de nombreux projets de développement sur notre territoire. Cette année encore, ils ont investi 5 millions de dollars dans un projet d’alimentation en eau à Ceadâr-Lunga. De même, les liens culturels sont très forts. Certaines de nos villes sont jumelées avec des villes turques, comme notre capitale, Comrat, avec la ville d’Isparta située à l’ouest de la Turquie. Une majorité de Turcs a déjà entendu parler de notre petit peuple que ce soit à travers les médias locaux, les festivals ou d’autres projets culturels. Toutefois, s’il est vrai que nous sommes un petit peuple, nous avons des liens avec d’autres pays que la Turquie. Nous travaillons notamment avec la Roumanie, la Biélorussie, la Russie, l’Ukraine et même la France. Enfin, en matière de diplomatie, c’est bien Chişinău qui garde la main, malgré l’autonomie dont nous bénéficions.

CdB: What links to the Gagauz people maintain with Turkey?

MF: "First, I would like to clarify that there are a number of hypotheses about our origins, and one can't say which one is the best. Maybe we will never know. What's certain is that the Gagauz speak a language very close to Turkish and that they were good citizens, good farmers but also good fighters because they have long protected the southwest part of the Russian Empire. Getting back to the Turks, they help us in all domains and do not ask anything back in exchange. On the economic front, Istanbul supports many development projects in our territory. Just this year they have invested $5 million in a water supply project to Ceadâr-Lunga. Our cultural ties are also very strong. Some of our cities are twinned with cities in Turkey, like our capital, Comrat, with the city of Isparta in the west of Turkey. A majority of Turkish have heard about our small people whether through local media, festivals or other cultural projects. However, though it's true that we're a small people, we have links with other countries besides Turkey. We work particularly with Romania, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and even France. Finally, in terms of diplomacy it's Chişinău (the capital of Moldovia) that holds the upper hand there, despite the autonomy that we enjoy."

You can see the rest of the interview translated automatically by Google (if you don't know French) here. Note that it begins by saying that Gagauzia is not seeking any type of independence (i.e. it's not even close to the same situation as places like South Ossetia or Abkhazia), but rather just the protection of their language and culture. That shouldn't be difficult at all considering how closely linked it is to a much larger Turkish language that is in no danger of going anywhere. As for culture...well, that generally comes along with language so as long as they can maintain the Gagauz language on its own (I would suggest continuing to build up their test Wikipedia so that it can become a real Wikipedia to aid this) it shouldn't be all that difficult to do.

Gagauz Yerin bayraa - flag of Gagauzia.


Emmet said...

The French interview is very good--hadn't seen it!

You might also want to check this out--a colleague and I did this a few years back


Emmet said...

The French interview is very good--hadn't seen it!

You might also want to check this out--a colleague and I did this a few years back


  © Blogger templates Newspaper by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP