Gagauz - Orientation

Identification. There is no exact information about the number of Gagauz in the world today. In addition to the now-independent former republics of the Soviet Union, Gagauz also live in Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey, and, in small numbers, in Canada and Brazil. In pre-Revolutionary documents, they are most often called "Turkish-speaking Bulgars."

Location. Today in the former Soviet Union, 152,752 Gagauz (77.5 percent) live in the republic of Moldova; 32,017 (16.2 percent) in Ukraine; and 10,057 (5.1 percent) in Russia. The number of Gagauz in the remaining former republics is small.

Demography. Over the thirty years between Soviet censuses, the Gagauz population as a whole, including those in Moldova, has grown by 59.2 percent, which is about 1.6 percent more than the growth of the former Soviet Union as a whole. The Gagauz population increased by 26.5 percent in the 1960s, 5 percent in the 1970s, and 13.8 percent in the 1980s. The sharp drop in the rate of increase in the 1970s can be explained by the Soviet assimilationist policy, and, in particular, by the fact that, after the Krushchev thaw of the early 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, conditions in Moldavia blocked the development of Gagauz identity and channels for social and professional mobility. To adapt to the realities of the Moldavian Republic it was necessary to affiliate with the nationality of the majority ("the basic nationality"). The Gagauz did, registering themselves as Moldavians.

According to the census of the 1970s, one-third of the Gagauz were living in cities and two-thirds in villages. The number of males and females was the same.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Gagauz language belongs to the Southwestern (Oguz) Subgroup of the Turkic Group of the Altaic Language Family. There are two spoken dialects: central (spoken by people in the Chadyr-Lungsky and the Komratsky regions) and southern (spoken by people in the Vulka Neshtskey region).

Before the Revolution, folklore texts were published in the Russian script. In the years of Romanian occupation, some literature, in particular the religious and historical, was published in the Romanian alphabet. In 1957 a writing system was created on the basis of the Russian alphabet. The Gaugaz have preserved their native language with relative stability: 94.3 percent were speakers in 1959, 93.6 percent in 1970, 89.3 percent in 1979, and 87.4 in 1989. They also speak other languages, mainly Russian. The Russian language had been mastered by 63.3 percent in 1970, 68 percent in 1979, and 71.1 percent in 1989. Some Gagauz in Moldova are fluent in Romanian (as spoken in Moldova)—about 6 percent of the population in the 1970s and 1980s.

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