Staunton, Aug. 19 – The Christian Turkic Gagauz autonomy in southeastern Moldova is increasingly at odds with the Moldovan government not only as a leader of economic protests but also because of what many in Chisinau view as the autonomy’s role as a cat’s paw for Russia in its drive to stop Moldova’s moves to integrate with the West.
Not only have economic protests in the autonomy increased over the last several months, but a new socio-political movement Gagauz Halk Birlii (“the Peoples’ Union of Gagauzia”) has been formed to pressure Chisinau and to highlight Gagauz support for closer ties with Russia (rubaltic.ru/article/politika-i-obshchestvo/20220819-za-sotrudnichestvo-s-rossiey-gagauziya-stanovitsya-tsentrom-protestnogo-dvizheniya-v-moldove/ and kommersant.ru/doc/5515492).
Experts both in Moldova and the Russian Federation are divided as to whether there are outside forces – that is Russian – involved and whether the economic protests in Gagauzia will grow into political demands for secession. But the temperature is rising not only because of the presence of Russian troops nearby in Ukraine but the action of Chisinau toward the autonomy.
On the one hand, the Moldovan government has routinely used its courts to declare various actions by the Gagauz assembly illegal; and on the other, Chisinau has set special forces into the autonomy, nominally for training purposes, that many Gagauz see as acts of political intimidation.
Clearly, the Gagauz pot continues to boil; and there is an ever greater risk that it will boil over if the Moldovan economy continues to deteriorate, Chisinau expands its ties with the West, and Moscow concludes that its best weapon against that policy is to play the Gagauz card once again.