Turkic people of Christian faith

Turkic people of Christian faith

The Gagauz people are descendants of the medieval Turkic nomadic tribes (Pechenegs, Oghuz Turks, Cumans), which were coming in waves to south-eastern Europe from the South-Siberian, Central Asian and Caspian steppes. During the process of migration, especially after the Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe, the ancestors of the Gagauz people migrated through the northern Black Sea steppes to the flat areas of Northeastern Bulgaria and the Lower Danube region. The Gagauz language belongs to the Oghuz-Bulgarian language subgroup of the southwestern branch of the Turkic languages.

The Gagauz people are the Turkic people of the Christian faith, the main part of which lives in thenorthern part of central Bugeac, which entered the southern limits of the Republic of Moldova in 1940. According to the 1989 census, 152 thousand inhabitants of the Republic of Moldova were Gagauz. About 40 thousand Bugeac Gagauzes live in the adjacent areas of the Odessa region of Ukraine. There are also some villages of Gagauz in the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine, in Kabardino-Balkaria, Kazakhstan and in Europe (Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Turkey).

To date, the history of the Gagauz people has been underexplored. The following facts on the history of the people are reliably known to historical studies of Gagauzes.

The Gagauz people, as an independent ethnos, was finally formed by the 13th century in north-eastern Bulgaria, mainly in the territory of Dobruja and the Deliorman. Back then it was possible, since the presence of the Turkic element in this region was a century-old tradition (Huns - IV-V centuries, Pechenegs - IX century, Torkils - Х-ХI century, Polovtsy (Сumans) - ХI-ХII centuries).

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There was the state formation Uzi Eyaleti on the territory of Dobruja in the XIII century, which scientists qualify as the first state of the Gagauzуы. After this state fell under the Ottomans, the history of the Gagauz ethnos in the Middle Ages remains unknown. In the 18th century, in the region of Varna, there was a mention about the allegedly Gagauzian republic of Vister. But like other information related to the history of the Gagauz, it requires additional research. At the end of the 18th century, history records Gagauzes as an original ethnos, mentioning them as part of Bugeac inhabitans from Northeast Bulgaria. As a result of these migration processes, intensified by the 1806-1812 Russo-Turkish war, the Gagauzes were divided into two parts: one part (lesser) remained in Bulgaria, the larger one settled in Bessarabia.

The struggle of the Gagauzes for their freedom from the claims of the Moldovan boyars after the resettlement was completed in December 1819 by the decree of the Russian Senate on granting the status of foreign colonies to central Bugeac. This actually meant autonomy for its population, a large part of which were Gagauzes. In the middle of the XIX century, the Gagauzes of Bugeac underwent another division of their ethnic territory in Southern Bessarabia. As a result of the 1856 Crimean War, the southwestern part of Bugeac (southern Poprutie and the villages of the present Vulcanesti district, as well as Bolgrad, considered the center of the Bessarabian colonies) moved to the Principality of Moldavia. This led to forced migration of the  Gagauzes to the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine. Following the 1878 Russian-Turkish war, these territories were returned to Russia in exchange for the lands of the Romanian Dobruja.

To be continued

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