Staunton, March 23 – In an article entitled “Incompetence or Betrayal? Gagauzia Learns to De-Russify from Tatarstan,” Ivan Shilov calls attention to and expresses outrage over the latest effort of the Kazan Tatars to provide leadership for fellow Turkic groups not only in Russia but in former Soviet republics like Moldova (http://regnum.ru/news/polit/2100106.html
According to Shilov, “the authorities of Gagauzia intend to study and introduce in the autonmy the experience of Tatarstan on ‘the preservation and development of native language’ and ‘the realization of bilingualism.’”
Rimma Ratnikova, head of Tatarstan’s State Council, told the Gagauz visitors that their two peoples have much in common because “at one and the same time we passed through the same historical path of the upsurge of national self-consciousness and the preservation of traditions, language and culture.”
The Gagauz leaders visiting Kazan, Shilov continues, were “particularly interested in the issue of the preservation and development of the native language.” Gagauzia currently has three state languages – Russian, Gagauz and Moldovan – but government work is conducted almost exclusively in Russia. Some Gagauz would like to change that.
Shilov says that “practically 100 percent of the population” of Gagauzia speaks Russian, although he acknowledges that 92.3 percent of the Gagauz living in Moldova declared in the 2004 Moldovan census that they consider Gagauz their native language.
What is striking, he adds, is that the supposedly “’pro-Russian’” Gagauz leadership is suddenly promoting the Gagauz language at the expense of Russian and doing so with the help of the Tatars. In this, Shilov says, the Gagauz are pursuing precisely the line that “Russophobes from Chisinau” favor.
Indeed, the Regnum commentator notes, some in the Moldovan capital routinely criticize the Gagauz because they say that “the Gagauz autonomy is hardly ‘Gagauz’ given that people there speak Russian, educate their children in Russian and on the whole are oriented toward Russia.”
Shilov concludes his commentary by noting that Irina Vlakh, the bashkan (head) of Gagauzia was elected to that post “with the active support of the Kremlin and its ‘reliable’ Moldovan ‘partners’” and brought in many people from Chisinau to run things in Komrat. Now, however, she or at least some of her subordinates appear prepared to go in a different direction -- and with Tatarstan’s help.