Gagauzia / Moldova / Places We Go

Welcome to Gagauzia…

Welcome to Gagauzia!

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

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.

gagauzia

Gagauzia

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 comrat

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:

gagauzia

Like I said, wool is one of the main exports… Ice and snow are not the only road hazards in Gagauzia:

Gagauzia

A view out over the landscape within Gagauzia:

gagauzia

It’s an interesting place and worth a visit, dear readers.

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5 thoughts on “Welcome to Gagauzia…

  1. They also look to Turkey for some financial support as well – I think the library in the centre of Comrat was financed by the Turkish government, plus some waterworks projects and whatnot. Gagauz is pretty easy to read for a Turkish speaker. I spent a few days last year looking through the Gagauz test Wikipedia to see what information there was on the region.

    It seems they’ve gotten a full Wikipedia since then so there should be some more interesting content there. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. well that was cool to learn thank you for sharing it with me and everybody else that has read this i would have never thoughtt there was a place called gagauzia.WOW HEEHEE. thanks again i want to go there after my trip to europe. well hope you ccome up with more good factsbye-bye.

  3. So sorry Justin, I so confused my countries – I was asking you about Transnistra but meaning Gagauzia. See, I went to look at both and got them right royally mixed up afterwords. Hence my questions to you were directed at the situation in Gagauzia and do not I now realise make sense in terms of Transnistra. Please tell me more of what you know of the Turkic christians there as well as food accomodation options etc.

    Many thanks, Wendy

    • Ahhhhh. Things make much more sense now, Wendy. Yes, I was rather puzzled by your connecting of Turkic Christians to Transnistria. However, I assure you that I have received many questions that are far more unusual.

      Anyway… To answer your questions:

      Your accommodation options are basically none. Gagauzia is really just a collection of scattered villages, but none of them are really large enough to support a hotel. The people are friendly though and if you speak the language, I am sure you could find someone’s home to stay in. Or if you ask around long enough, you might eventually find some very, very basic accommodation somewhere, but this is far from guaranteed.

      The food is good and you will definitely notice the Turkish influence – definitely more exciting than the standard Russian-influenced fare of boiled meat and potatoes. Oh, and the wine is quite good as well.

      You asked about churches before… I did not see any on our visit which I suspect has something to do with the former influence of the Soviet Union over the region. Today, I imagine, the churches must be relatively modest, nondescript affairs because they do not stand out at all (at least in all of the areas we covered).

      You also asked about other travelers to the region… No, absolutely none. Gagauzia is way, way off of the tourist track. Hardly anyone has even heard of this area. Given this dynamic, you will pay local prices if you visit rather than tourist prices and so a visit to Gagauzia is extremely cheap.

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