Welcome to Gagauzia!
Never heard of Gagauzia? I forgive you because not many people have… It is worth mentioning though because this autonomous region of Moldova was the scene of fierce fighting in the early 1990s between the Moldovan armed forces and Gagauz nationalists fighting for independence (with a little help from Transnistrian militia forces who are always game for a scrap).
Unlike Transnistria though, Gagauzia was eventually able to find its niche within Moldova through judicious mediation and Gagauz autonomy was officially recognized by the Moldovan government on 23 December 1994 (a day that is now celebrated annually as Independence Day). Thus, the republic has its own flag, its own police force, its own university and its own newspapers.
However, there is still simmering unrest between Moldova and Gagauzia over language and economic issues. Thus, it is not inconceivable that fighting could erupt here again in the future:
Gagauzia covers 707 noncontiguous square miles, but comprises just three towns and 27 villages dotted throughout three broken-up districts. I say “broken up” because Gagauzia has a Bulgarian district running through it which is not part of Gaugazia and Gagauzia is further Swiss-cheesed by several Bulgarian villages and a Moldovan one within the borders of Gagauzia.
The total population of Gagauzia is 171,500 and the Gagauz people themselves are a Turkic-speaking, Christian ethnic minority whose Muslim ancestors fled the Russo-Turkish wars in the 18th century. They were allowed to settle in the region in exchange for their conversion to Christianity. However, the Gagauz continue to look to Turkey for cultural inspiration and heritage.
The picture below was taken outside of Comrat, the capital of Gagauzia. This dusty little town has little to offer the conventional tourist, but it is home to some statues of Lenin and the world’s only Gagauz university. Founded in 1990, its four faculties (economics, agronomy, law and national culture) serve 1,500 students:
Gagauzia is a predominantly agricultural region with little industry to sustain an independent economy. The main export products are wine, sunflower oil, wool, non-alcoholic beverages, leather and textiles.
Aside from 12 vineyards on Gagauz territory that apparently produce fine wines (the profits for which Gagauzia accuses the Moldovan government of reaping), there are also two oil processing facilities, two carpet factories, a meat processing facility and a bottling company for non-alcoholic drinks:
Like I said, wool is one of the main exports… Ice and snow are not the only road hazards in Gagauzia:
A view out over the landscape within Gagauzia:
It’s an interesting place and worth a visit, dear readers.