The contemporary material and spiritual culture of the Gagauz is close to the culture of the surrounding peoples. Gagauz is spoken by , people The Gagauz language has been influenced considerably, primarily in vocabulary and syntax, by Bulgarian, Russian, Moldavian, and several other neighboring languages. Basic features of Gagauz include the presence of secondary long vowels, diphthongization, and iotization of high- and mid-rising vowels in initial word position, strong palatalization of most consonants in the environment of front vowels, free word order in the sentence, and well-developed conjunctive relationships.
The principal Gagauz dialects are Chadyrlung-Komrat central and Vulkanesht southern. Moscow, Published by Academician V. Petersburg, Dmitriev, N. Stroi tiurkskikh iazykov. Pages Pokrovskaia, L. Grammatika gagauzskogo iazyka. Michalet for applications of the Deleuze-Simondon obligation.
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It is no surprise that amongst the Gagauz the first clear expressions of ethnic consciousness and the search for a collective identity originate with a member of the clergy. The Gagauz national awakening, as we shall see in later chapters, was initiated with both a national and a religious motivation, and its eventual culmination in the creation of a Gagauz polity in is indirectly the result of earlier aspirations in the religious sphere as well as later explicitly national or ethnic political endeavours.
As well as inspiring and helping to shape this national awakening, the religious dimension of the historical discourse has also helped shape contemporary Gagauz religious practice. The principal example of this process can be found in use of the Gagauz language in both liturgical and paraliturgical religious life. It is the aim of this chapter therefore to make explicit the link between the historical narratives and discourses on the Gagauz that have gone before with the themes in contemporary Gagauz religious practice that will be explored in the chapters that follow.
Establishing the nature and operation of this link is essential as this is one of the principal means by which the contingent nature of the categories deployed within scholarship on folk religion are revealed. Methodologically this relies on the ability, through the practice of fieldwork, to relate the macro-discourses of national political, social and economic life to the micro-discourses of everyday religious life and practice.
Migration and Dislocation The Gagauz of Bessarabia arrived in their present home from various locations in the eastern Balkans via different routes and under varied circumstances. They were part of a general drift of the Orthodox Christian populations northwards out of Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia towards southern Russia that started in the second half of the 18th century. This mass migration was precipitated by economic hardship and social instability under the Ottomans and by the disruptions of the historical narrative and origins 49 successive wars between Russia and the Ottoman Empire during the course of the 18th and 19th centuries.
The movement of populations in this period created a new multi-ethnic Bessarabia whose future came to be determined by its ethnically diverse character and the twohundred-year struggle that ensued between Russia and Romania over the territory. The Gagauz are just one small component in a wider complex national, political and religious conflict that has not only defined, and perhaps created, Gagauz nationhood but also Moldovan identity and statehood. From the late 18th to the mid 19th century the majority of the Gagauz population migrated from the eastern Balkans, especially from the districts of Varna and Kavarna in Dobrudja, the region of Deliorman, and to a lesser extent from Thrace and Macedonia, and headed north over the Danube into the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia.
Text, Context and Performance: Gagauz Folk Religion in Discourse and Practice
After , and again after , they began settling in larger numbers on the Budjak steppe in southern Bessarabia, leaving much-diminished Gagauz populations, perhaps in the region of 20—30,, in North-Eastern Bulgaria and northern Greece. The period of the migration from the Balkan Peninsula presents a number of problems for the researcher of Gagauz history, possibly the most complex of which relates to their ethnic classification.
As mentioned earlier, in official statistics the Gagauz were designated as a separate ethnic or ethno-national group only from the midth century on, prior to this the Russian authorities recorded them as ethnically Bulgarian. The Romanian historian Arbore also presents data from a census of the Bulgarian population of the Budjak from that indicates that some Gagauz villages were already settled prior to the annexation by Russia.
See A. Elements of these populations settled in the Budjak directly from Bulgaria, others sojourned for periods of up to a couple of decades on either bank of the Prut river on the land of Moldavian boyars, or landed aristocracy, before being settled as colonists on territory made vacant by the eviction of the Nogay Tartars at the hands of the Russian Imperial army after Initially the region was granted an autonomous status and was governed according to special laws based on the traditional legal system of the Moldavian Principality.
The early years of Russian rule were marred by poor government and administration, which is often portrayed as the result of mismanagement and greed on the part of the local Moldavian nobility. Indeed, in the situation was so dire that the Russian authorities had to take steps to prevent the peasantry from fleeing abuse at the hands of the boyars over the Prut to the Romanian principalities.
Bessarabia lost her special administrative status in and was finally made a standard guberniia or province in Special privileges, preferential tax concessions and larger grants of land were conferred on the Germans, Bulgarians, Gagauz and Ukrainians that settled this sparsely populated land. These special colonial arrangements lasted from until The turbulence of war and migration was followed by a period of relative calm and stability, which for the farmers that were settled on the colonial territories were relatively prosperous times.
In the s the first schools were founded in the region; in Southern Bessarabia a total of 21 schools were opened in the colonial 4 G. The contribution of this period is central to his portrayal of the formation a unique Gagauz religious identity. The Crimean War ended Russian domination in the Danubian Principalities and resulted in the three most southerly raions, or regions, of Bessarabia, Cahul, Ismail and Bolgrad, being ceded to the Principality of Moldavia. Between and , first the Moldavian government and following this the Romanian government attempted to boost the ethnic Romanian presence on this territory, which resulted in the departure of a large number of Ukrainians and Russians, and also a number of Gagauz and Bulgarians, for Russian territories further east.
On the motivation for and the establishment of the German settlements in Bessarabia see G. The many Gagauz colonists, along with their Bulgarian, German and Ukrainian neighbours, therefore, had in a period of a few short decades, lived under first Moldavian and then Russian and finally Romanian administrations during which time they had experienced the formation of the Romanian nation state and been subject to periods of Russification and Romanianisation in education and first Slavicisation followed by Romanianisation of Church and liturgy.
It is debatable how directly these vicissitudes affected the deeply rural and peripheral Gagauz communities. This cycle, however, was to repeat itself several times before the end of the 20th century. In more recent times, the impact these economic, political and social dislocations had on the lives of Gagauz can be more clearly read, especially in the religious sphere. Meanwhile, on the Russian side of the new border created in , the loss of territory to Moldavia in the Crimean War and the decline in influence on the newly formed Romanian state heralded in a new period of Russification of Bessarabian society.
The civil authorities ceased provision of education in the Romanian language in , and from a policy of Russification of the Church, which we shall speak about in more detail in chapter three, was pursued enthusiastically by the new Archbishop Pavel Lebedev. However, within two generations, that is by the s and 80s, the land was incapable of sustaining the growing population. As we shall see in chapter 12 King, The Moldovans, Bulgar Komrat-Kishinev: Pontus, , The census reported that The Gagauz idiom was not officially codified until when the Moldovan Politburo introduced a Cyrillic alphabet for use in education.
Previous moves had been made, primarily in the interwar years in the Church sphere, to devise a literary form of the idiom. However, most Gagauz literary historians regard as the year of the birth of Gagauz secular literature and the literary idiom. See I. Kuroglo Kishinev: Ekin Basimi, , The twentieth century, much like the 19th, was characterised by territorial disputes and ideological battles between Russia and her successor state the Soviet Union and Romania, which resulted in frequent border and regime changes.
Despite their peripheral location the Gagauz were not oblivious of the political currents that swept the Russian Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. In the wake of the first Russian Revolution in a short-lived republic was formed in southern Bassarabia centred in the Gagauz town of Komrat. Today, Gagauz historians consider this the first expression of Gagauz statehood on the territory of Moldavia, giving them a valuable symbolic precedent for the creation of the Gagauz Autonomous Region on the 23rd December The First World War and the revolution of were to bring far more wide ranging and longer lasting changes.
The Moldovan movement, spearheaded by the Moldovan National Party, moved from calls for cultural and political rights within the Russian Federation and autocephaly for the Bessarabian Church to calls for full independence. The incorporation into the new Greater Romanian state, which was recognised by the Treaty of Trianon in , brought immediate and quite dramatic changes. Romania embarked on a nation building project in an attempt to forge a unitary state from diverse regions characterised by their ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity. Bessarabia, because of its multi-ethnic character, came to be considered a problem region in terms of national integration.
Much of the population was hostile to the union with Romania and from reports coming out of the southern provinces it seems that the Romanian occupying forces only exacerbated the situation with their harsh punitive treatment of the local population. The Soviets hoped for a socialist revolution in Romania, and in Bessarabia particularly, which with its significant Slavic and Jewish population, had been active in the revolutionary movement.
Added to this was significant discontent with the half-hearted land reforms that failed to bring real benefits to the mass of the peasantry. Three uprisings took place in the first decade after the war, the most famous of which was the Tatar-Bunar revolt of Supported by communists from Soviet Ukraine, the rising, centred in an area of the Budjak populated by a mixture of Ukrainians, Russians, Bulgarians and Moldovans, lasted several days and resulted in the declaration of the short-lived Bessarabian Soviet Republic. See Livezeanu, Cultural Politics, 98— This interwar period is particularly significant when considering the development of Gagauz national consciousness.
The experience of the intense state-sponsored nationalism of the Romanian authorities, the result of a project to unite all ethnic Romanians under one polity, could not help but draw attention to otherness. Ethnic difference became important in the Balkans and South Eastern Europe only with the rise of nationalism and nation building projects.
This had begun to impact from an earlier date on those Gagauz communities that had remained in the Balkans. From the s the struggle between the emergent Bulgarian state and breakaway Bulgarian Exarchate and the Greek-led clergy of Constantinople under the Ecumenical Patriarch resulted in an intense struggle for the religious and political allegiance of the Gagauz of the Varna region. The same southern Bessarabian representatives that were reporting to the Paris peace negotiations on the injustices suffered by the Bessarabian population at the hands of the Romanian army described Bessarabia before their arrival in the following terms.
The whole population inhabiting Bessarabia under the beneficent influence of Russia consisted of one sole people — the Russians. There existed neither Bulgarians, nor Moldavians, nor Gagaouses. All declared themselves with pride to be Russian. Such was Bessarabia, a land of smiling beauty, of corn and wine, prior to the arrival of the Romanians.
The Gagauz came out of this period with a history, a fledgling literature and the beginnings of the construction of an ethno-national identity defined by religion, language and race. These dimensions went on to became the main building blocks of a Gagauz national identity that was alternately propagated and suppressed in the Soviet era. The two main instruments the Romanian authorities had at their disposal in the s and 30s to pursue their national project amongst the populace were the schools and the Romanian Orthodox Church.
In the sphere of education the changes were immediate and comprehensive. Beginning in , Romanian schoolteachers were dispatched from ethnically Romanian regions to every school in the southern districts of Bessarabia. Russian continued to be used as a lingua franca, especially in the southern districts of Bessarabia, throughout the s and 30s. In Gagauz villages the Romanian schools are remembered as being strict but efficient.
Many older Gagauz informants demonstrably acquired a good command of Romanian in this period thanks to the enthusiastic zeal of their Romanian teachers. This brief survey has covered just over one hundred years of Gagauz history in Bessarabia up to the formation of Greater Romania.
These historical circumstances resulted in a series of dislocations from territory, from state entities, from Church institutions and from cultural and linguistic influences, all of which have contributed to a feeling of discontinuity with the historic past expressed by many Gagauz. These historical themes, recur again and again throughout the 20th century. Publice, The Gagauz of Bessarabia, located as they were between competing nation states and national discourses, were caught up in intense territorial and ideological disputes between Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Turkey.
The Discourse on Origins, Ethnogenesis and Race The overwhelming majority of the literature dealing with the Gagauz is concerned with the problem of their ethnogenesis. The historical period during which this ethnogenesis is judged to have taken place, depending on who one is reading, spans from anytime between Turkic pre-history in Mongolia and Central Asia through to the early modern period in the Balkans. The present study is not concerned directly with the issues that have consumed countless Turkish, Bulgarian, Russian, Polish, Czech and Romanian historians, ethnographers and linguists.
Many of these scholars, especially those writing in the early part of the 20th century, were motivated by the more or less general concern of the emergent Balkan and East European nations to determine and secure the borders of the nation, both geographically and ethnically. However, the discourse that resulted from these efforts to determine and authenticate the ethnic origins of the Gagauz has had a considerable influence on contemporary political discourse and relations between the Moldovan State, the Gagauz Autonomous Region, Turkey and Russia. In turn, this discourse and the issues of identity, language, religion and nationality that are the product of the interwar ideological nation-building projects and post-World War II nationalities policies of the Soviet era, have influenced the modes of religious practice and consciousness amongst the Gagauz.
In other words, the historical discourse on origins, the political discourse on nationhood and self-determination and patterns of religious practice and identity are intimately bound together. The beginnings of the academic discourse on origins is marked by the publication in of an article by the Czech historian Konstantin historical narrative and origins 59 Jiricek in which he proposed that the Gagauz were the descendents of Cuman or Kipchak tribes who, during the Middle Ages, crossed the Danube and settled in the Balkans.
The Russian army general V. Moshkov was one of the first Russians to propose an alternative theory to the Pecheneg or Cuman hypothesis. According to Moshkov, the Gagauz are a remnant of the Karakalpak that supposedly crossed back into the Balkans during the 13th century under pressure from the Mongols. Klasse and , 3— See also C. Gradeshliev, Gagauzite Sofia-Dobric , Balaschev, which was later taken up by the Polish scholar Kowalski in the s35 and by the Austrian scholar Paul Wittek36 and another Pole, Wolodimir Zajaczkowski, in the s,37 links the Gagauz with the Seljuk followers of Sultan Izz al-Din Key-kaus II, who during the 13th century fled to the Byzantine empire under pressure from Mongol invaders.
This theory, which rests largely on evidence from the epic tale of the history of the Seljuk of Rum, the Oghuzname by Yazicioghlu Ali, as well as being perhaps the most romantically evocative narrative of Gagauz ethnogenesis, is also the most widely accepted version of events outside the immediate region. See T. Leiden: E. Brill and London: Luzac, , — However, in recent decades the theory of the Greek origin of the Gagauz, whether Anatolian or Balkan, has once again begun to excite a small number of historians and activists on the Greek side and aid, if somewhat small in scale, from the Greek Church and government for the Gagauz Autonomous Region seems to indicate a tacit acceptance of links between the two peoples.
The establishment of a Greek origin for the Gagauz would ally them with the Greek state and in the 19th century would clearly have strengthened Greek claims in the ecclesiastical disputes that erupted in the Varna region of Dobrudja following the creation of the Bulgarian Exarchate in s. A Slavo-Bulgarian or proto-Bulgarian origin, which would imply a date for conversion of the ancestors of the Gagauz to Christianity somewhere 40 See A. Amongst the pieces of evidence cited by Iordanoglu is the fact that up to their migration to Greece during the population exchange of the s, a large portion of the Anatolian Greeks were in fact, as are the Gagauz, Turkishspeaking Orthodox Christians.
See N. They have largely assimilated linguistically into the Greek population and profess a Greek national identity. Officially Greece considers them an integral part of the Greek nation and not as an ethnic minority. However, they retain a distinct cultural identity and attempt to preserve aspects of their heritage. Bulgarian claims would also be employed in support of Bulgarian nationalist endeavours to incorporate the Gagauz minority into the Bulgarian ethnic nation. The Romanian historian Rezachievici also supports this theory but by locating the initial settlement of the Gagauz in the north of Dobrudja around the town of Babadag he is able to claim that the Romanians played a formative role in the Christianisation of the Gagauz due to the close proximity of the Wallachian Metropolitan of Vicina.
The central building blocks of the many theories listed above that have been advanced over the last century on the ethnogenesis of the Gagauz are significant in that they illustrate the highly contested nature 44 Today, Bulgaria officially recognises the Gagauz of Bessarabia as overseas nationals and accepts applications for Bulgarian citizenship from Moldovan and Ukrainian Gagauz. There are many more variations on these themes that incorporate various ethnic, linguistic, religious and national elements in the story of Gagauz ethnogenesis.
However, the most important point for us to note in these debates is that they originate with or support, either explicitly or implicitly, one or other of the national ideological narratives of the states in the region and that these states had a vested interest in determining ethnic, national or religious affiliation of the Gagauz in the hope of either securing the allegiance of the various Gagauz populations or securing the territory on which they were settled.
Historical Narratives and Discourses in the Construction of Gagauz National Consciousness One of the primary objects of this study is to illustrate how these discourses helped determine the shape of Gagauz ethnic consciousness and how, in turn, this has shaped the religiosity of the Gagauz of Bessarabia. In other parts of the Balkans this process followed divergent paths determined by the nationalist agendas of the countries in question.
In the Budjak Steppe of Southern Bessarabia, home to the largest concentration of Gagauz anywhere in the region, the conditions proved congenial for the emergence of an indigenous Gagauz national movement and clergy sympathetic to national aspirations. Now the Gagauz can know their own history that they knew nothing of till now.
He commanded extraordinary respect during his lifetime and today he has been adopted as the single most important founding father of the Gagauz nation and has been invested with considerable symbolic capital. As we discussed above, the inter-war period in Greater Romania was dominated by a totalising national discourse that sought to consolidate the ethnic Romanian nation.
This national discourse also had an expressly religious dimension in the form of the political theology of Orthodoxism. In this way, somewhat counterintuitively, Turkishness, instead of strengthening associations with Islam, becomes one of the central means of securing the Christian credentials of the Gagauz. There is a lot of animosity between the Bulgarians and Greeks over the Gagauz, because the Bulgarians try to draw the Gagauz towards themselves and to Bulgarianise them, but the Greeks too work to pull them to their own side, and to Greekify them.
The ethnic differentiation between the two groups being reinforced by the fact that the Tukan always live separately from the Gagauz, in their own villages or, when they share a the Altay region or to the Uygur language and is certainly not mutually intelligible with the Turkic languages and dialects of Mongolia and Xinjiang. The conclusion he draws from these comparisons is that the Gagauz are nothing like Bulgarians or Greeks and are therefore Turks.
One of the main routes from Russia to the Black Sea and on to the Levant passed close to the Gagauz regions of Bessarabia. But the fact remains that the Gagauz, along with the other colonists from the Balkans, had fled precisely the same Turkic people with whom they were supposed to share such powerful affinities.
The Orthodoxy of the Gagauz was the dimension of their identity more than any other that had determined the course of their recent history. This character is formed from three components, the purity of their Turkic blood, which gives them 56 M. This was followed by an invitation from the Turkish president to come to Turkey and meet with him and to stay in Turkey for a year from the Autumn of Some Gagauz have begun shamelessly to abandon the religion of their mothers and fathers, to discard the true faith of Orthodox Christianity, like the Jew, to sell and discard the cross of Christ, and to become Baptists, Adventists, and join other sects.
Amongst the foolish Gagauz you can also find such stupid men who shamelessly become atheist communists, godless wolves. These, from year to year, are increasing and become heavy stones that weigh on the decadent shoulders of the Gagauz and their social life. The Orthodoxy of the Gagauz preserves the moral order of Gagauz society and their high moral virtues are in turn the mark of Gagauz identity. See for example I. I jud. Being religious, the Gagauz show their fear of God, humility, a strong faith in the Lord, hope, love and submission to his will.
Justice and honesty are the distinctive qualities of the Gagauz. As a result of his work as a religious and spiritual leader the Gagauz began to see themselves as a collective, as a nation. He was the spiritual shepherd of his people all his life and at the end of his life he became a symbol of the nation because he revealed the Gagauz national spirit. In the MolotovRibbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union effectively granted the Soviets free reign in determining the future of Bessarabia.
An ultimatum issued to Romania on June 26th gave her 24 hours to cede both Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, another contested province that had also once been part of the Moldavian Principality, to the Soviet Union. Within 4 days the territory was once again under Soviet control.
The newly annexed province was subsequently divided by Soviet authorities between a new Moldavian SSR, proclaimed on 2nd August , and Soviet Ukraine. However, this state of affairs was not to last long. The loss of territory to the Soviets strengthened the hand of the ultra-right and pro-German groups in Romania and by November the new prime-minister, Marshall Antonescu, had committed Romania to the Axis and therefore also ultimately to war with the Soviet Union. During the war years, the national discourse intensified and the place of ethno-linguistic and religious minorities within the Romanian state and their relationship to the titular ethnic nation became even more precarious.
The ideological discourse that underscored efforts to reoccupy and secure territory for the nation, both symbolically and physically, gave rise to racial policies that sought to identify alien elements within the national body that posed a threat, and develop plans to integrate them or expel them from the ethnic motherland.
This discourse utilised two distinct means of determining membership of the nation, one based on membership of the Romanian Orthodox Church with its role as the moral and spiritual centre of the nation, and the other based on the young sciences of eugenics and racial anthropology.
Text, Context And Performance: Gagauz Folk Religion In Discourse And Practice
In the s, the Antonescu regime began to utilise eugenic and racial anthropological studies to identify non-Romanian stock within the state. Population transfers of suspect and unwanted minorities had already been carried out between 68 Van Meurs, The Bessarabian Question, Part of this scheme was to evacuate all ethnically alien stock in Bessarabia, namely the Bulgarians, Gagauz, Russians and Ukrainians, and replace them with Romanians.
In the new socialist order Romania was obliged to once again cede Bessarabia to the Soviet Union. Inventar , Fond 78, Dosar , 6. See P. Ahonen, G. Corni, J. Kochanowski, R.
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Schulze, T. Stark and B. Immediately after the war the Soviet authorities continued their policy of arrests and deportations of political undesirables, which had started in — Some were imprisoned, others sent to forced labour camps and isolated regions of Central Asia and Siberia. Many Gagauz, including entire families, were deported to Kazakhstan and the Altai on charges of collaboration with the Germans, of anti-Soviet activities, for being Kulaks, and for failing to declare and hand over agricultural produce under requisition.
The deportations intensified in the summer of during the collectivisation campaigns when from one Gagauz settlement alone, the village of Kazayak Cazaclia , 92 people were deported to the Altai and other regions of Siberia. The entire region suffered a terrible draught, and following grain requisitioning by the Soviet authorities, famine ensued bringing starvation and death on a massive scale. Most families were affected by one or other, or both, of these tragedies. The grandfather of my host family in the village of Kazayak was an orphan of the famine and his wife, the step-grandmother of the family, was deported as an infant together with her family to the Altai.
The hardship, suffering and loss of life experienced during these years played a significant formative role in Gagauz conceptions of collective identity and historical memory. These events were within living memory of many of my informants and the discontinuity and dislocation they caused are cited as reasons for the loss of much traditional knowledge and customs, especially in the sphere of lay religious practice.
In the religious sphere, the whole period from the s through to the late s was characterised by anti-religious propaganda and restrictive policies on the part of the authorities. The number of churches functioning in Moldova had fallen from over to just under by These sites constituted the principal places of official religious practice for the Gagauz community from the s through to the late s.
From the mids, in the atmosphere of Glasnost and Perestroika, the Gagauz, alongside many other Soviet nationalities, began to mobilise in defence of their cultural and linguistic rights. In the intervening years ethnologists, linguists, Turkologists and historians of the Soviet Union had paid no interest in the Gagauz and did nothing to sponsor the development of an ethno-national identity. After decades of state sponsored Russification, and in the atmosphere of renewed nationalism amongst ethnic Moldovans, the Gagauz now feared that the Moldovan government would pursue a policy of Romanianisation of her minorities.
In the early s the fear that Moldova would seek unification with Romania was also very real. The intervention of Soviet interior ministry troops prevented an escalation of hostilities but the stalemate continued until long after Moldova declared independence in Transnistria is the region of Moldova lying east of the Dniester River. This territory, even more ethnically heterogeneous than the rest of the republic, was the centre of Moldovan industry and was fiercely loyal to the Soviet Union and to its successor state, Russia. This dispute remains unresolved today, partly due to Russian intransigence due to her desire to keep Moldova, and also Ukraine, from moving closer to the West and away from the Russian sphere of influence.
In the early s the Gagauz were able to co-ordinate their efforts with the pro-Soviet leadership in Transnistria to put maximum pressure on the Moldovan government for concessions. After the elections, when the Moldovan leadership passed to more moderate forces prepared to compromise on national ideals in the interest of stability, a solution was reached with the Gagauz whereby individual settlements in the southern raions were given the option of opting in or out of the proposed autonomous region.
Since independence Moldova has supported close ties between the Gagauz and Turkey in the hope of weaning the Gagauz away from their traditional pole of gravity, Russia. Since the establishment of the Gagauz Autonomous Region, Turkey has poured considerable resources into the region. Turkey has funded improvements in infrastructure, especially water supply, Gagauz language newspapers and media, and education. However, Turkish involvement in Gagauziya is not always appreciated by ordinary Gagauz who often display mistrust, and even antipathy, towards Muslim Turks that visit or come to live in the region.
The arrival of this new element on the local ethnic and religious landscape seems to be prompting some reevaluation of ideas of Gagauz national consciousness and identity amongst the Gagauz intelligentsia and leadership. The creation of a Gagauz political entity at the close of the 20th century was not a forgone, or even a likely, conclusion. It was the result of a combination of chance events and political manoeuvres that arose from the national ambitions of competing states. Romania, 78 chapter two Russia, Moldova and Turkey, alongside the local Gagauz elite, all had a part to play.
As we have seen, Gagauz identity has been moulded historically by a series of geographical, political and social dislocations and constructed from a range of competing discourses that have instrumentalised and mythologised narratives of ethnogenesis, origins and religious destiny. In the post-Soviet era, the Gagauz of Bessarabia have been faced with new existential challenges determined by political and economic crises.
These have once again provoked some reassessment within Gagauz society on how to conceive Gagauz identity and nationhood. The Contested Nature of Gagauz Identity in the Post-Soviet Era Since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Gagauz Autonomous Region conceptions of nationhood and identity have become subject to a far more diverse set of influences.
Gagauzian Genetics - DNA of Gagauzes in Moldova, Turkey, and Ukraine
An increased awareness and experience of the world has been precipitated by economic collapse and dislocation at home. Large numbers of Gagauz, perhaps as many as one third of the working population, work abroad in Russia, Turkey and the EU. For most families, transnational labour migration has become the norm rather than the exception. According to one estimate, about 50, Gagauz have worked or are working abroad and of these about half are women working in Turkey.
However, this influence is tempered with suspicion on the part of ordinary Gagauz. Gagauz who work in Turkey, mainly women who take domestic employment with families, despite their shared language, find little in common with Turks culturally and are generally suspicious of Islam. Marriages between Turkish men and Gagauz 80 L. A significant number of Turkish students also study at the Gagauz State University in Komrat where rivalry and mutual mistrust between Gagauz and Turkish students was often tangible during my stay there.
In the Gagauz cultural revival that came in the s, these historical themes became particularly popular. The way in which the line between fiction and history have become blurred in popular consciousness can be demonstrated by the remarks made by one the most eminent Gagauz professors of literature in his introduction to Uzun Kervan. We can say that it was prepared in former times with the true events of our lives. Such a great work in the form of an epic novel offers the possibility of answering many questions that appear in the life of a people.
It shows that a people wishing to know about its own roots, wishing to understand the events of history, can do so with the help of literature.
Literary constructions of a mythic Gagauz Golden Age and medieval statehood, in the form of the Uzi Eyaleti,83 have entered 81 D. Uzi Eyaleti was the name of the administrational unit eyelet created by the Ottomans at the end of the 16th century, which stretched from the border at the lower Dnieper deep into the eastern Balkan Black Sea coastal regions.
Evliya 82 80 chapter two popular consciousness through the works of writers such as Stamatoglu, who also advances the idea that the Gagauz are autochthonous to Bessarabia and that they played a crucial role in the foundation of the Moldavia principality. The presence of Muslim Turks in Gagauziya is of special concern to the Orthodox priesthood who are more wary than most of Turkish influence.
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Like their parishioners, members of the local Gagauz clergy are also becoming more mobile. Priests, for example, are now aware of and are in contact with Gagauz from the Balkan countries to the south. The Gagauz populations of these countries on the whole reject ideas of Turkish or Turkic ancestry and Islamic connections and consider themselves full members of the Greek or Bulgarian ethnic nation Celebi, who visited the north eastern Balkan territories of the Ottoman empire in the 17th century, referred to this region by its official name at the time, the Uzi Eyaleti.
Brill, , Gagauz priests are also aware of other Turkish speaking Christians from the ex-Ottoman Empire, such as the Pontic and Cappadocian Greeks, who were deported from Turkey to Greece due to their religious affiliation in the s, and who are also vehemently anti-Turkish and reject the idea that they are part of a pan-Turkic nation. During the course of my time in Gagauziya, two highly-visible symbols of Turkic affiliation disappeared from the public space.
The removal of these symbols from public view may mark a gradual shift within the Gagauz leadership and intelligentsia away from expressions of affiliation with Turkey and Turkish nationalist politics. The struggle with the central Moldavian authorities in the early s and memories of harsh treatment and assimilationist policies of the Romanians during the war years mean that on a popular level the strongest pole of gravity remains Russia and Russian culture.
The Russian language is still the main literary language in the region and is very strong in public life despite official efforts to promote Romanian in the southern region and to support the development of the Gagauz language. The Orthodox Church also remains staunchly pro-Russian in the Gagauz and Bulgarian regions of the south. Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, in an attempt to shift the gravitational pole of the Bessarabian Gagauz, has given them the right, alongside the local ethnic Bulgarian population, to apply for Bulgarian passports.
It seems likely that this was done to help counter Turkish and Romanian influence in the region and to give Bulgaria more political leverage should the continued existence of the Moldovan state ever come into question. This period also marked the move from a state of relative obscurity and anonymity to a political status just short of statehood. From largely illiterate monoglot speakers of a Turkish idiom, the Gagauz of Bessarabia have become proficient speakers of Russian and their own idiom has been elevated to the status of fully-fledged state language.
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