Staunton, December 14 – By seeking to impose a ban on Russian broadcasting and declaring Moldovan to be Romanian, Chisinau has infuriated the Gagauz, a Christian Turkic minority in the southeastern portion of Moldova and threaten to transform it into that country’s “second Transdniestria,” Svetlana Gamova of Moscow’s Nezavisimaya gazeta says.
Irina Vlakh, the head of the Gagauz autonomy, says that “the Gagauz will watch Russian television” even if they have to use “cable channels” because “the laws of the autonomy allow for that.” And she clearly shares the view that this Chisinau action is “the latest provocation against Russia, the strategic partner of our country” (ng.ru/cis/2017-12-14/1_7136_gagausia.html).
According to Anatol Tsaranu, head of Chisinau’s Center for Strategic Research, Russian television has divided Moldovan society and threatens the country’s security. Indeed, as a result of its impact, it is no accident that “polls show that Putin is the most attractive politician in Moldova.”
This problem might have been avoided, he continues, “if relations between the two countries were normal; however, that is not the case.” Russia has imposed an economic embargo on Moldova, and there are Russian military forces on Moldovan territory. Consequently, imposing a ban on Russian TV there is “a step in the right direction” even if somewhat late.
The situation in Gagauzia is special, Tsaranu says. People there view Russians as their saviors and thus want to watch Russian television because they share many of the values it promotes. Vlakh’s statements simply reflect the attitudes of the Gagauz population. And he acknowledges that some other Moldovans feel the same way.
What is going on, the Nezavimaya gazeta journalist says, is this. A week ago, the Moldovan parliament voted to ban news broadcasts in the republic from any country that had not ratified the convention on international television. Russia has not done so, and the parliament voted for fines if anyone carried its news programming in Moldova.
The Moldovan president has said he will veto the measure, but many parliamentarians feel as Tsaranu does that it is a simple act of promoting necessary information security. However, if the law does go into force and if Chisinau seeks to enforce it in Gagauzia, that could lead to the autonomy becoming “a second Transdniestria.”
That is all the more likely, the Moscow journalist suggests, because of Moldovan moves to become closer to Romania or even unite with us. “If Moldova changes its status,” the head of the Gagauz autonomy says, the Gagauz will never accept that and will instead pursue national self-determination.