Staunton, July 7 – Moscow has long used the Gagauz nationality in Moldova to put pressure on Chisinau and block any moves by that country to closer ties with Romania and the West. (For a review of those efforts, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/gagauzia-object-lesson-for-ukraine-on.html).
Now, the Russian government is seeking to mobilize the Gagauz nationality against a new target and for a new purpose: it is promoting Gagauz complaints about the new Ukrainian law on indigenous peoples, a law that leaves out not only the Russians but also the Gagauz (odnarodyna.org/article/gagauzy-tozhe-pretenduyut-na-status-korennogo-naroda-ukrainy).
And it is doing so not only to put pressure on Kyiv to change that law by suggesting that it is directed not just as Russians but at others as well but also to give Ankara new reasons for backing away from Ukraine given that the Gagauz, although Orthodox Christians, are perhaps the Turkic nation outside of Turkey most closely related to the Turks inside that country.
Most Gagauz live in Moldova, in an area about 90 kilometers southeast of the capital. Gagauz activists claim there are as many as 200,000 but census figures put the figure at about two-thirds of that. There are also 32,000 Gagauz in Ukraine, 15,000 in Turkey and 13,500 in the Russian Federation.
Turkey has been a major supporter of the Gagauz since 1991 viewing them as part of the Turkic World, and so playing up a problem they have in Ukraine may lead some in Ankara to cast a more skeptical eye on Kyiv or even view the government there as hostile to Turkish interests and a Turkic people.
Yury Dimchoglu, the head of the Association of Gagauz Communities of Ukraine, says his people are “very glad” that the Krymchaks, Crimean Tatars and Karaims have been included within the indigenous peoples of Ukraine but believes that the Gagauz should have this status as well (strana.ua/news/341791-hahauzy-trebujut-chtob-ikh-priznali-korennym-narodom-ukrainy.html).
He adds that the Gagauz of Ukraine had urged that the draft law be rewritten to reflect that reality but says that the Ukrainian parliamentarians acted in haste and did not take note of Gagauz arguments.