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Chronology for Gagauz in Moldova

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Gagauz in Moldova, 2004, available at: [accessed 24 January 2018]
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Date(s) Item
1986 In response to pressures from the Gagauz, Soviet authorities relent and allow limited Gagauzi radio and television broadcasts as well as limited publishing in Gagauzi.
1988 Under pressure from Moldovan (Romanian) nationalists the Moldavian Supreme Soviet (still under Russian control) agrees to return the "Moldavian" language to the Latin alphabet. Under Stalin, the traditional Latin alphabet of the Romanian language was replaced with the Cyrillic alphabet in an attempt to foster the perception of Moldavia as a separate nationality from Romanian.
Jan 1989 The Moldavian Supreme Soviet makes Romanian the only official state language in the Moldavian SSR.
Aug 27, 1989 Moldovans fill the streets of the capital (Kishinev) demanding that Romanian be made the official language of the Moldavian SSR. The protests were organized by the Popular Front which quickly organized the opposition around the restoration of Romanian as the national language and identity of Moldovans (as well as demands for union with Romania). Several thousand Gagauz hold a counter rally against the language law. (A third rally was held by 2,000 Russians opposing the law).
Aug 31, 1989 Moldavian Supreme Soviet passes a new language law which makes Romanian the only official state language in the Moldavian SSR. The decision does reserve the rights of non-Moldovans to speak and write in their own languages (Russian is to be used for "inter-ethnic communication"), but all local and national authorities must be able to operate in Romanian (as well as Gagauz and Russian by the letter of the law in Gagauz and Russian areas). The law also designates the removal of officials who have not met the required proficiency. However, testing is not to begin until January 1994. (Twice, in 1993 and in 1994, the parliament has postponed the beginning of testing.) Earlier versions of the law would have given Gagauzi special status as an official minority language, but nationalist deputies won out and no such provisions are included. The law does allow the use of Gagauz in majority Gagauzi areas.
Sep 1 - Nov 30, 1989 Largely in response to the language law, the Gagauz form the Gagauzi Movement (Gagauzi Khalk) and hold their first congress in November which creates the Gagauz Autonomous SSR within Moldavia. The group was officially registered by the government in October.
Apr 1990 The Moldavian Supreme Soviet adopts a tricolor flag resembling the Romanian flag as the state flag.
May 1990 The Moldovan Supreme Soviet changes the republic's name to the Republic of Moldova.
Aug 1990 The Gagauz Khalk declares the secession of the Gagauzi territories from the Moldavian SSR, and their desire to remain within the Soviet Union. They set the date for elections for October 28, 1990. In response, the Moldavian Supreme Soviet dissolves and outlaws the Gagauz Khalk.
Sep 1990 Moldovan Supreme Soviet declares its sovereignty and nullifies the transfer of Moldavia from Romania to the USSR by the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In response to this move, Gagauz reaffirm their declaration of independence. In addition to the declaration by the Moldovan Supreme Soviet, the Moldovan parliament elects Mircea Snegur president with broad executive powers and calls for 10,000 Interior Ministry troops to protect residents in the Dniester and Gagauz regions.
Oct 1990 As the date for the Gagauz elections nears, tensions mount. Moldovan "volunteers" enter Gagauz cities in order to stop the elections by intimidation. The volunteers are backed up (and reportedly controlled by) the local police. Tens of thousands of Gagauz people dig trenches and set up barriers on roads to block the "volunteers." Busloads of Russian "volunteers" enter the region to aid the Gagauz in their struggle. Isolated clashes occur between the "Moldovan volunteers" and Gagauz-Russian demonstrators where three people die. All of the dead are Gagauz. Soviet troops are called in to keep the peace and the Moldavian parliament calls a state of emergency banning public gatherings in the region.
Oct 29, 1990 A compromise is reached between Moldova and the Gagauz Khalk. The Gagauz declare a moratorium on the elections and, in exchange, the Moldovan parliament declares a moratorium on the rejection of the Gagauz request for autonomy.
Mar 1991 Leonid Dobrov openly challenges the leadership of the chairman of the Gagauz Supreme Soviet, Stepan Topal. Dobrov challenges Topal on his acceptance of the October compromise and moderate negotiating positions.
Aug 1991 The Moldovan Supreme Soviet declares its independence after the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. Moldovan Interior Ministry troops arrest the leaders of the Gagauz Republic, charging that they had supported the attempted coup on Gorbachev. (They also arrest Dniester officials on the same charges.)
Sep 1991 More than fifteen hundred Gagauz protesters demonstrate against Moldovan independence and demand their own republic in Comrat (the capital of the self-declared Gagauz Republic). Many shout their support for the Soviet Union and Gagauz police actively check for "outsiders" and are prepared to place barricades in case Moldovan "volunteers" attempt to break up the rally.
Dec 8, 1991 Moldovan Presidential elections are held amid high ethnic tensions. The only candidate running in the elections is Mircea Snegur (due in large part to the election law). Separatists both in Gagauz and Dniester declare they will not participate in the elections. Not surprisingly, Snegur wins the elections and becomes the first president of Moldova.
Dec 21, 1991 - Mar 20, 1992 Following the elections, Dniester leaders begin a low-key military campaign through the winter to prod action from Moldovan authorities and to allow their secession. Fighting in the region takes dozens of lives through the winter, but intensifies in the Spring. The Gagauz maintain a low profile and continue negotiations with the Moldovan government.
1992 The Moldovan parliament passes a law ensuring freedom of religious practice, but only for those religions which are officially recognized by the government.
Jan 1 - Feb 28, 1993 Moldovan President Mircea Snegur calls for a referendum on reunification with Romania. The parliament rejects his call and the speaker, Aleksandru Mosanu resigns in protest of Snegur's call. Pyotr Luchinski is elected the new speaker.
1993 Gagauz leaders continue to call for territorial and cultural autonomy, but parliament continues to reject their calls for territorial autonomy. The Moldovan parliament has made some concessions for cultural protection for the Gagauz, but continue to insist on no territorial autonomy.
Sep 1993 The Moldovan parliament re-legalizes the Communist Party.
Feb 27, 1994 Moldova holds its first multi-party parliamentary elections. Voter turnout was 79% and results strengthened the position of the Agrarian Democrats (winning 56 of 104 seats) who advocate an independent Moldova. Finishing second (with 22% of the vote and 28 seats) was a predominantly Slavic bloc, the Unity / Socialist Bloc (a descendant of the Yedintsvo organization). No polling occurred in the Dniester Region as officials there banned participation in the election. With the renewed victory of the Agrarian Party, Moldovan independence has been strengthened. The Agrarian Party has moved Moldova away from reunification with Romania. While this has assuaged the fears of many non-Romanians, especially the Gagauz, it has irritated the Romanian nationalists in the country. These nationalists, represented mainly by the Christian Democratic Popular Front, have complained about political repression by the Moldovan government.
Mar 1994 A referendum is held in which Moldovans "overwhelmingly" (approximately 70%) supported the independence of Moldova (according to the U. S. State Department).
Jun 1994 The Moldovan parliament votes to delay the implementation of the language testing of Moldovan government employees from the 1989 Language Law until 1997.
Jul 6, 1994 A panel empowered by the Political Commission of the Council of Europe at Moldova's request criticized the autonomy plan for the Gagauz as "too far-reaching." The criticism points to provisions which "establish an inner border between the Gagauz region and the rest of Moldova and which would delegate to the regions authorities certain functions which the panel feels properly belong to the central government" (RFE/RL 7/7/94).
Jul 11, 1994 The Moldovan parliament on 8 July voted overwhelmingly to adopt the country's draft constitution in the first reading, but deferred the debate on the most controversial issues until later. Moldovan media report that the draft declares Moldovans permanent neutrality, codifies human rights and political pluralism as overriding values, rules out any kind of state ideology, and defines Moldova as a common home of all its citizens, guaranteeing them the preservation, development, and expression of their ethnic and linguistic identity. The pro-Romanian minority calls for defining Moldova in effect as a national Romanian state and opposes the draft's provisions on establishing special-status regions in Transdniester and for the Gagauz Turks.
Jul 27, 1994 Moldova adopts a new constitution providing for separate executive, legislative and judiciary branches by a vote of 81 to 18. The new constitution improves protection for basic human rights and protects parents' rights to choose the language their children are to be instructed in. A subtle change has been to refer to the "Moldovan people" in the constitution as opposed to the "people of Moldova" in direct opposition to the demands of the Romanian nationalists. Most notably, it provides for the autonomy of the Transdniester and the Gagauz regions (RFE/RL 7/29/94). The Moldovan parliament also has approved a law establishing Gagauzia as a "national-territorial autonomous unit." The new region will have its own elected legislative and executive authorities, will use three official languages--Gagauz/Turkish, Russian, and Moldovan/Romanian--and will be entitled to secession from Moldova in the hypothetical case of the latter's merger with Romania. Chisinau had offered these terms already in the spring of 1993 but the Gagauz leaders had held out for more. The agreement is vehemently opposed by pro-Romanian nationalists and Romania itself.
Feb 1995 Moldovan parliament sets the date for a referendum for residents to decide whether or not to join the Gagauz Autonomous Region. Villages with majority Gagauz make-ups are automatically a part of the autonomous region, the referendum will decide what other areas will make it up. It will be held on March 5 and elections for a Gagauz assembly will follow in May.
Mar 1995 Of the 36 districts which took part in the referendum on Gagauzia, 30 voted to join the autonomous region. Some of the districts were reported to have voted in favor of joining by close to a 90% majority, far higher than the proportion of ethnic Gagauz in any of the districts.
Apr 1995 In local elections throughout Moldova, the Agrarian Party took the largest number of offices (62% of the valid mandates) while the opposition Alliance of Democratic Forces won approximately 21% of the valid mandates. The Unity-Socialist Bloc which has allied itself with the Agrarian Party in parliament and is made up of ethnic Slavs won less than 3% of the mandates. In Gagauzia, Communists won a plurality of the votes gaining 16 of 27 seats in the region.
May 1995 Four candidates have registered for the presidential elections for Gagauzia. The four candidates are Stepan Topal, former president of the self-proclaimed Gagauz republic; Gagauz parliament chairman Mikhail Kendigelean; George Tabunshik, former first secretary of the Komrat Committee of the Moldovan Communist Party; and Dimitri Croitor, chairman of the Ceadir-Lunga regional Executive Committee. Infotag says Tabunshik is the favorite to win the elections (RFE/RL 5/04/95). In the general Gagauz elections, 25 of the 35 seats to the Gagauz Assembly are filled and two presidential candidates are chosen for a runoff election to be held June 11. The electorate will choose between George Tabunshchik, who gained 45% of the vote in the first round, and Mikhail Kendigelean, who received 28%. Turnout at the 28 May election was approximately 70% (RFE/RL 5/30/95).
Jun 1995 After elections, Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli declared an end to the conflict between Gagauz separatists and the Moldovan government. A general amnesty was granted until late August for the hand-over of weapons and the Gagauz fighters were incorporated into the Interior Ministry's Carabineer Forces.
Jun 11, 1995 Georgy Tabunshchik, 55, a former communist functionary who has become a businessman, won the runoff to become the first bashkan (leader) of the Gagauz autonomous region. Tabunshchik favors close ties with Kishinev. After the parliamentary run-off elections the final breakdown the assembly gives 10 seats to Vatan Party (a party which is considered "radical" by observers), 9 to the Communist Party of Moldova, 4 to the Democratic Agrarians, 1 to the Gagauz People's Party with 10 going to independents (1 remains unfilled).
Aug 1995 Prime Minister Sangheli declared an end to the five-year conflict between the government and Gagauz separatists. The formal declaration was made after Gagauz fighters had handed over all their arms at the end of July. A law adopted by Moldova's Parliament disbanded the self-proclaimed "Republic of Gagauzia" and declared it an autonomous region of Moldova. A referendum was held to determine which villages would join Gagauz Yeri (land).
Sep 1995 Turkish President Suleyman Demirel said Turkey will continue to extend every kind of support to the Gagauz people. Demirel received a visiting Gagauz delegation, led by Georgi Tabushchik, leader of the autonomous region. Demirel also said Moldova had nothing to fear from Turkey and encouraged the Gagauz to maintain good relations with the Moldovan government and to resolve disputes without conflict.
Dec 1, 1996 Parliamentary leader Petru Lucinschi defeated incumbent president Mircea Snegur in Moldova's Presidential election. In the upset victory, Lucinschi won with 54% of the vote. Both candidates staunchly supported independence, but Lucinschi is considered to be friendlier to Moldova's minorities. Lucinschi received 93% of the votes cast in the Southern regions which are inhabited mainly by Gagauz and Bulgarians. Lucinschi said that the Trans-Dniester "Republic" must return to governmental control. Heavy economic and diplomatic pressure has failed to dislodge the old-school Russian leaders of the region who are backed by 6000 Russian Army troops. Lucinschi favors a settlement offering Trans-Dniester wide-ranging autonomy like the Gagauz have.
Jan 17, 1997 The People's Assembly of Gagauz has adopted the 1997 budget for its autonomous territorial unit.
Feb 26, 1997 Moldova's prosecutor's office refused to institute criminal proceedings against the former president Mircea Snegur. He was accused of misappropriation of funds in establishing the first battalion of Moldova's National Army during the Gagauz conflict.
Mar 6, 1997 In a general referendum, 95% of the voters throughout Moldova favored continued independence from both Russia and Romania.
Mar 14, 1997 Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erkbakan said Turkey has a duty to help its brothers in Gagauz, especially with economic development.
May 23, 1997 The leaders of the Moldovan Parliament and the Dniestr Supreme Soviet sign a memorandum on May 8 to work out an agreement on the final status of the Dniestr region. This allow talks to be restarted. Both sides reject the Gagauzian autonomy agreement as the basis for talks (BBC, 05/23/97).
Aug 28, 1997 Authorities in Turkey and the Gagauz region of Moldova agree to cooperate to prevent the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) from establishing bases in the Black Sea region of Turkey. The PKK is seeking an independent Kurdish state and has been involved in a protracted insurgency in Turkey (Info-Prod Research, Middle East, 08/28/97).
Sep 4, 1997 The Moldovan government appeals to the Supreme Court against an Appeals Court decision to register the Metropolitan See of Bessarabia, which is governed by the Romanian Orthodox Church. Since it was formed in 1992, the Metropolitan See of Bessarabia has been in conflict with the state-registered, Russian Orthodox Metropolitan See of Kishinev and Moldova. Hundreds of priests protested last week against the registration, asserting that it is a political move to promote unification with Romania (Tass, 08/20/97, 09/04/97).
Sep 18, 1997 Opposition parties in Gagauz-Eri contend that the region is being run by an "antipopular regime" which has imposed tough censorship laws to prevent any dissidence. The Communist, Vatan, and Gagauz People's Parties also accuse Kishinev and foreign countries, especially the US, of backing the rulers in Komrat. They contend that a spokesman for the US embassy in Kishinev gave $20,000 in aid to the official Gagauz television service and that this money was used for advertising for the government's candidate in recent elections for the Komrat mayorship. The opposition's candidate won the August 31 mayoral elections but the results were declared null and void as only 15% of voters participated (BBC, 09/18/97).
Feb 1, 1998 The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will send observers to Moldova to monitor parliamentary elections slated for March 22. Some Moldovan politicians, including President Petr Lucinschi and the leadership of the Gagauz-Eri, believe that the existing electoral system, which is based on party lists, doesn't ensure adequate representation. They want the system dismantled (Tass, 02/01/98).
Mar 23, 1998 No party captures a majority of seats in Moldova's national elections. The Communist Party emerges with the largest number of seats, 40 out of 101; it is followed by former president Mircea Snegur's the Democratic Convention of Moldova (26 seats). The Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Party wins 24 seats and the Democratic Forces 11. The OSCE indicates that there were no major irregularities (Quest Economics Database, 11/98).
May 21, 1998 A coalition government, led by the Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Party, is formed at the national level. It also includes the Democratic Convention of Moldova and the Democratic Forces Party. Ion Ciubuc is named Prime Minister. The Communist Party received the largest number of seats in March's parliamentary elections but was unable to form a government (Quest Economics Database, 11/98).
Jun 30, 1998 While on a visit to Moldova, Turkey's President Suleyman Demirel travels to the Gagauz-Eri. He states that the Gagauz Turks are an important bridge between the two countries which are deepening their economic relations (Info-Prod Research, Middle East, 06/30/98).
Jan 15, 1999 Leaders of the Romanian and Russian Orthodox Churches continue their talks to avoid a split in the Moldovan Orthodox Church (Tass, 01/15/99) (see 4 September 1997).
Feb 22, 1999 A new territorial and administrative system will be implemented in Moldova following local elections to be held on May 23. The country's 40 districts will be reorganized into 9 provinces and 2 autonomous regions, Gagauzia and Dniester. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) inspired changes are expected to cut spending on local officials and make the new units pay their own expenses. Moldova is experiencing its severest economic crisis since independence (Tass, 02/22/99).
Mar 18, 1999 Georgiy Tabunshchik, the leader of the Gagauz-Eri, visits Turkey and meets with President Demirel. He asks for aid to promote Turkish language programs in the autonomous region. Turkey is currently funding a water project and will supply assistance for an irrigation plan (BBC, 03/18/99)

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