Moldova is considered to be one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Europe due to the soviet disapora, and many ethnicities such as turks, russians, romanians, and more went to work in the Moldovan SSR. However, one ethnic group has been there even longer.
The Gagauz Turks (or “Long Nose Turks”, “Turkish Speaking Bulgars”) migrated into Bulgaria on the tails of the Oghuz Turks, and resided there until the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, who expelled them from Russia just like he had tried to do with the Jews. Many Gagauz people still live in Bulgaria and Greece, but the expelled settled in Moldova, where they were forced to adopt Orthodox Christianity (formerly they were muslim) to stay.
The Gagauz community in Moldova was reportedly treated well by the USSR (although as you all know, these claims are hard to back up concretely), and just like in Transnistria, when Moldova flared with nationalism at its independence the Gagauz wanted out. There was fighting from 1991-1994, where the Gagauz were supported by the Transnistrian government.
the Gagauz were not as tied to Russia or in questionable industries like the Transnistrian government, and a decision was reached between them and the government in Moldova to grant the Gagauz communities the right to be an autonomous government under the Moldovan government, complete with their own universities, authorities, and leader figure.
There are still tensions, however. The Gagauz are fiercely loyal to their culture, and most speak Gagauz Turkish and Russian, but hardly any speak Romanian unless they live outside the republic. Moldovan university exams require the ability to speak Romanian, and the Gagauz accuse the Moldovans of intentionally holding their people back from jobs that pay more and require more education.
One main source of income for Gagauzia is wine, since the rural nature of the community (there is one city— the capital, Comrat— and two sizeable towns in Gagauzia) is perfect for large vineyards. They accuse the Moldovan government of stealing their wine profits— if you’ve heard of how famous Moldovan wine is… it just might be from Gagauzia.
Since boundaries were granted based on where the Gagauz lived, the Republic is very fragmented, and parts of Moldova and Odessa Oblast in Ukraine intersect it.
Gagauzia is in pink on the bottom left, Transnistria Orange on the right.
Entrance to Comrat
Unofficial flag of Gagauzia during the 1991-1994 conflict. The dog was an important symbol for the people. Comrat also has quite the problem with stray dogs.
Official flag of Gagauzia. Like Transnistria gets support from Russia, Gagauzia gets support from Turkey.
(sorry for the delay. Hopefully my posts will be less Blah in the future :) )