To Oppose Moldova’s Rapprochement with Romania, Gagauzia Again Ready to Declare Itself a Republic
Staunton, January 29 – In 1990, when
some Moldovan politicians sought to unite their territory with Moldova, the
Gagauz, a Christian Turkic minority numbering 150,000, sought to declare their
independence from Chisinau. They were blocked from doing so by force and
ultimately agreed in 1994 to being an autonomy but not a republic.
But now, with more Moldovan
political parties again talking about a rapprochement with Romania as a means
of moving away from Russia and towards Europe, some Gagauz political figures
are again talking about the possibility of declaring a republic as a means of
blocking such Moldovan plans.
Sergey Chimoesh, a deputy in the
Gagauz Popular Assembly, says that Moldovan parties are seeking to dictate
their will to the Gagauz and draw them into Romania, something the Gagauz do
not want, and that the Gagauz must end the activities of such parties on Gagauz
As a first step, he tells Svetlana
Gamova of Moscow’s Nezavisimaya gazeta,
Gagauzia must have the right to prevent candidates from these parties for
running for election on its territory, an arrangement he says has worked well
“in the Alan Islands and in other political autonomous formations in Europe.”
That would ensure that the
government in Gagauzia would be formed by the Gagauz themselves and that they
would thus assume “responsibility for everything which takes place in the
autonomy.” Such an arrangement would allow existing Gagauz parties to grow
stronger and new ones to emerge.
According to Chimpoesh, “Moldovan
parties do not simply exert pressure on the [35-member] Popular Assembly; they
in fact run the autonomy thereby undercutting the rights of the Gagauz.”
Indeed, as a result, they have reduced the autonomy to the point where it is
The Gagauz issue, of course, is not just
between Comrat and Chisinau. It is about relations between Russia and the West.
Chimpoesh says that “95 percent of Gagauz look to Russia and five percent to
Turkey,” while elsewhere in Moldova, opinion is split evenly between those who
look to Russia and those who look to Europe.
Whenever Moldovan political parties
talk about unity with Romania, the Gagauz speak up either because of their own
feelings or at the urging of Moscow as a reminder that they will oppose any
such move and could, like Transdniestria, take steps that would make it
difficult for Romania and the EU to take Moldova in.
That some Gagauz are now talking
about moving toward the declaration of an independent republic shows just how
great concerns are about Chisinau’s position in both Comrat and Moscow. Indeed,
they are a better indication of such worries than of any actual move. One
reason to think so is provided by Chimpoesh.According to him, people living in Gagauzia – he doesn’t specify their
ethnicity but 82 percent of the region’s population are Gagauz – are
“massively” leaving, “in part to Turkey but the majority to Russia,” a step
they might not take if they expected to have their own country anytime soon