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Gagauz language
L. Chimpoesh
Gagauz language historical and modern problems of development

Seminar Material
Center for problems of minorities -
Carta europeana a limbilor - Instrument de protectie al diversitatii lingvistice si de intarire a dialogului intercultural in Moldova
 Comrat-Taraclia-Briceni-Chishinau, Vector, Kishinev, 2008

Links

http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/education/minlang/publications/MoldovaProceedings.pdf  Carta europeana a limbilor corectat 2.indd

Introduction

For political reasons, most of the 20th c., and in the 19th c., Gagauzes were denied their identity, and were labeled as either bad Slavic Bolgars who were Türkified by bad Ottomans, or undifferentiated Ottoman Türks who fortuitously converted to a true religion. On top of that, the early scholars, upon discovering mysterious properties of the Gagauz language, came up with a number of hypotheses about the origin of the Gagauzes. With time, a general linguistic picture has transpired. But even now, in spite of the half a century worth of fruitful research, the old illiterate ideas are still being promoted. The following review gives a general picture of the current linguistic state, and a wealth of names of those who contributed to the present knowledge. In a nutshell, Gagauzes are Early Middle Age N.Pontic Bulgars, who either moved to Balkans with Asparukh, or survived a 150-year period of Badjanak-Besenyo-Patsinak dominance of the N.Pontic, then survived the turmoil of Oguz control of the N.Pontic, and then for 2 centuries lived under their kin Kipchak dominance. Unless they already started as Manicheans or Nestorian Christians in the Jeti-su, Gagauzes likely converted to Christianity in the N.Pontic, before their migration to Balkans. The Gagauz language absorbed and preserved traces of all epochs, superimposing on the Bulgar substrate the N.Pontic Oguz (different from the Ottoman Oguz Turkish), the N.Pontic Kipchak (different from the Bulgar), probably their kin Badjanak-Besenyo-Patsinak, extensive Ottoman Oguz influence, and layers of local Slavic, Greek, and Vlakh (Rumanian) languages. The latest addition was the influence of the Russian language in Bessarabia. Fortunately, all linguistic influences were limited in scope by their respective social functions, leaving the backbone of the language fairly intact, which allowed linguists to discern the properties of the substrate Bulgarian and determine many admixtures. The first cornerstone in the scientific study laid N.A. Baskakov (1960) and Acad. N.K.Dmitriev (1962), and though no other scientist made a compatible contribution, their research was expanded on by later linguists, and summarized in the 2002 by A.V. Shabashov's monograph, who not only found additional conformities with Chuvash, Slavic Bulgarian, and Volga Tatar, but also investigated archaic terms of kinship, anthropology, and material and spiritual culture of Gagauzes.

N.A Baskakov's analysis  brought him to a conclusion that Early Middle Age Gagauzes in the beginning belonged to the northern Central Asian Oguzes, who have undergone Kipchakization, and after almost a thousand-year break they again were influenced by Oguzes, but this time by the southern Oguz branch of the Ottoman Turks. The question about Bechen influence or origin of the Gagauz language apparently would remain open, because to discern the influences of the Bulgar and Bechen languages appear to be impossible: Mahmud Kashgari in the 11-th century noted the affinity of Bechen language with Bulgar and Suvar languages. Therefore any hypothesis postulating Bulgarian substratum equally postulates both Bechen or Suvar substratum. The same reason excludes any linguistic association with the Alanian language, which Biruni in the 11-th century defined as a mix of Khorezmian and Bechen; Alanian would bring to the Gagauz language Khorezmian-Sogdian layer, entirely absent in Gagauz (Dron, Kuroglo 1989). The same argument rejects a Gagauz notion about their origin from Jeti-su Chigils, because since the 5th century, Jeti-su was densely populated by Sogdians, who would have left their imprint in the Gagauz language. The best indicator of the Gagauz origin is recorded in their self-appellation: in 19th century, prior to their migration to Bessarabia, the Bulgarian Gagauzes in the Ottoman Turkey called themselves "Hasli Bulgar" (True Bulgars) or "Eski Bulgar" (Old Bulgars) and considered the term "Gagauz", applied to them by thir Slavic neighbors whom they called "toukan",  demeaning, and held themselves to be Asparukh Bulgarians, the Slavic "Gagauz" was linguistical and not ethnic distinction. Gagauzes called their language Türkchya. In linguistics, the Gagauz language serves as an etalon of a Türkic language that has not been impacted by borrowing from the Iranian languges.

The modern Gagauz language consist of two lexical dialects, formed in the  N.Pontic Balkans. The main dialect is connected with loans from Slavic Bulgarian, it is a dialect of migrants from northwestern Bulgaria. The second dialect originated in the port areas with polyethnic population, it bears an essential layer of Greek loanwords. Distribution of the second dialect indicates compatriotic sense, they resettled in a single compact area.

L. Chimpoesh
Head of Gagauz Etnology Sector IKN ANM, chairman of fund "Kainak" fund
Gagauz language historical and modern problems of development

184

Review

Officially, about 250 thousand Gagauzes are in former Soviet Union republics. Main part of Gagauzes live in Budjak region in the south of Moldova. According to the Moldova 2004 census, population numbers 147,500 Gagauzes. According to 1989 census in Dnieser region lived 3,200 Gagauzes, in Bendery municipality lived 1,600. Gagauz villages are in Ukraine, in Odessa and Zaporoj areas, in Romania, in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Northern Ossetia. About 20 thousand Gagauzes live in Bulgaria and Greece.
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Ethnogenetical core of the Gagauzes are Oguzes and Uzes (which are synonyms in different languages). In the 11th century Uzes were noted in Byzantine written sources, when they crossed Danube and settled in the Balkans in Macedonia, Greece, and Bulgaria. In these regions Oguzes accepted Orthodox Christianity. The ethnic mix of Oguzes with other tribes, Besenyo (Badjinaks), Kypchaks- Kumans produced direct ancestors of the today's Gagauzes.

In the beginning of the 18 century a part of Gagauzes migrated to Bessarabia just conquered by Russia across the Danube, and settled in Southern Bessarabia (actually, it was an act of political-religious cleansing, Moslems were deported to Turkey, and in return Christians were released to Russia.  Russian bureaucrats did not realize that they are getting Christian Türks, they were imported as "Bolgarians", along with Slavic-speaking Bolgars and other minorities - Translator's Note) . Russia allocated to Danube immigrants "virgin lands" (steppe pasturelands of deported Nogai natives - Translator's Note), gave them a number of economic and legal breaks (main attraction for enticing immigrant settlers - Translator's Note), and created conditions for their subsistence in new territories.

National consciousness and processes of revival among Gagauz intelligentsia invigorated at the end of the 1980's, when in Soviet Union started democratic changes have and appeared opportunity to raise cultural and economic problems of the Gagauzes. The aggravated linguistic, cultural and economic problems pushed the population of region to disobey the center, and to support the aspiration of the Gagauz people for independence.

Many European human rights organizations recognized Gagauzia as a successful example for resolution of local national conflicts in other countries. As a result of a referendum were defined Gagauzia borders. In accordance with the wishes of the population it included 3 cities and 27 villages. The ATO Gagauzia (Gagauz Eri) includes 3 areas (dolai): Komrat, Chadyr-Lunga and Vulkanesht. Its area is 1848 sq km, 5,5 % of all Moldova territory. In 1995 as a result of democratic elections was elected the first head - Bashkan.

Gagauz language

Gagauz books were published in Greek, Old Russian, Romanian, (Turkish) Arabic and Turkish alphabets. Mainly, it was a translated church literature (in Russian and Greek alphabets), published by missionaries in the Balkans or in Kishinev (M.M.Chakir), and also such original compositions as History of Bessarab Gagauzes by M.Chakir in Romanian alphabet, folklore collections published in Kazan in 1895 in  (Tatar) Arabic and in parallel in Russian academic transcription, in Sankt Petersburg in Russian academic transcription (V.A.Moshkov Vernaculars of Bessarab Gagauzes, Examples of national literature of Türkic tribes, published by academician V.V.Radlov in 1904), etc.
Gagauz language is defined as an independent language of Oguz-Bulgarian subgroup of the Oguz (Southwest or Western Hunnish) branch of the Türkic linguistic family.

People call themselves with an ethnonym Gagauz (pl. Gagauzlar), and call the native language with the term Gagauz dili or Gagauzcha (Gagauz language) and, recognozing it as Türkic ("Türkcha"), do not identify it with Turkish (V.A.Moshkov, K.Irechek, M.Chakir, S.E.Malov, W.W.Radloff, N.A.Baskakov, N.K.Dmitriev, L.A.Pokrovskaya, E.Mamut, A.Amanjolov, V.Y.Zaionchkovsky, D.E.Yeremeyev, etc.).
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About individual and systematic distinctions of the Gagauz language wrote K.Irechek, T.Kowalsky, V.A.Moshkov, S.E.Malov, A.Manov, N.A.Baskakov, D.E.Yeremeyev, N.K.Dmitriev, E.Mamut, L.A.Pokrovskaya, G.A.Gaidarji, B.G.Gafarov, T.G.Kalyakina-Kaledin, B.P.Tukan, etc. A majority of scientists note a prevalence in Gagauz language of Oguz features. At the same time, it is also characterized by a presence of Kypchak and Bulgarian linguistic layers (K.Irechek. T.Kowalsky, N.A.Baskakov, L.A.Pokrovskaya, G.A.Gaidarji, etc.) . A mixed character of the modern Gagauz language is predicated by heterogeneity of its genetic sources. On the leading Oguz substrate inherited from the languages of Northern Pontic Oguz tribes, superimposed northern (Türkic Bulgar and Kypchak) features. Contacts with neighbors caused adoption by the Gagauz language of a significant number of Slavic, Eastern Romance, Greek and Arabo-Persian elements. (I.K.Dmitriev, L.A.Pokrovskaya, E.K.Koltsa, A.S.Amanjolov, S.Dimitrov, V.A.Sycheva, etc.)

Ethnic history of Gagauzes developed far from the Iranian peoples, therefore in the Gagauz language the Iranian loanwords are almost absent (See: Dron, Kuroglo, 1989, pp. 57, 64. Dron I.V., Kuroglo S.S. Modern Gagauz toponymy and anthroponymy. Kishinev, 1989).

With all the affinity of the Gagauz language with the modern Turkish language, the facts testify that there are no reasons for their identification. Location on the modern linguistic world map of the three groups of Oguz type Türkic languages: Oguzo-Bulgarian, Oguzo-Turkmen and Oguzo-Seljuk, reflects the developmental result of the ethno-historical, ethno-cultural and glottogonic  processes after disintegration of the Oguz tribal and linguistic unity (7th-10th centuries) (Considering that Oguzes started as a confederation Tokuz-Oguz, a confederation of nine tribes also called Ui-gur = confederation of nine tribes, of which the Western Oguzes were a splinter, the idea of Oguz tribal and linguistic unity sounds quite a metaphysical concept, equally remote from Oguzes and histrory - Translator's Note). About Gagauz arrival in the Balkans by a northern, instead of the southern route that was used by the Turks, also testify the language features that reflect tribal dialects of the Eastern European Oguzes, Kypchaks, and to a lesser degree Türkic Bulgars; the anthropological data, the traditional life and culture (K.Irechek, V.Moshkov, T.Kowalsky, V.Diachenko, D.E.Yeremeyev), the confessional affiliation.

By these attributes on one hand Gagauzes are close to the Balkan Türks (Chitaks, Surguches, Dadjals), on another hand to the medieval Türks of Northern Pontic (Uzes (= Oguzes), Torks (= Türks), Besenyo (Badjinaks), Black Klobuks, Berendeys, Kovuys) who belonged to the Black Klobuk or Kipchak (Uzo-Kumano-Polovetses) tribal union, mostly Christianized before leaving to the Balkans (This mumbo-jumbo has something in it, though the terminology and concepts that stands behind belong to heavily exploited Slav/Rus annals and are 1000 years behind times. The idea is that those attributes belong to the pre-Mongolian N.Pontic tribes of Oguzes, Badjinaks, and Kipchaks; the Berendeys are Suvarian dynastic clan Baryn, Kovuy is Türkic Bulgarian aristocratic clan Kovuy; all of them had their own distinct vernaculars - Translator's Note).

The Gagauz language lexicon has a significant proportion of general and terminological lexicon which is absent in many Türkic languages, including the Turkish (G.A.Gaidarji).

The Gagauz language inherited "pre-Ottoman" lexical elements of the Türkic Bulgar and Kypchak origin, that exists only in modern Chuvash, or only in Bashkir and Tatar, or only in Gagauz, "Slavic" Bulgarian, and Chuvash languages.

The lexical parallels in the languages of Volgo-Kama and Balkano-Danube areas, which do not contact each other, can only be explained historically, as a result of Uzo-Bulgaro-Kumano-Polovetses linguistic influence during Medieval Epoch, caused by mixing of tribal unions (and languages) in the N.Pontic steppe zone (Another mumbo-jumbo, where Polovetses = Kumans, Uzo-Bulgaro =Oguz-Bulgar did not exist, but Bulgar and Kipchak layers can be and in fact were discerned - Translator's Note).

About Gagauz ethnic and linguistic presence in Bessarabia also testify Moldavian annals. So, Grigory Ureke noted north of the Moldavian city Bendery the Turkic-speaking population Chutach (Chitaks). Till now the Bessarab Gagauzes distinguish two main ethnic subgroups - Chitaks and Gadjals (Chitaklar, Gadjallar) which was reflected in the toponymy, microtoponymy, Gagauz and Moldavian Nominalia (see: Gagauz-Rus-Moldavian Dictionary, Appendices, and also Directories of Moldavian Surnames).

Unfortunately, no real traces of tribal or clan structure could have been detected among Gagauzes, centuries of turbulent life and regular cataclysms wiped out any previous social ties. Adoption of foreign religion could have been one of those cataclysms, it was known that clans, tribes, and neighbors were split along religious lines, with new converts migrating to new places and joining their co-religionists as minor ethnic units. With abandonment of ancestral cemeteries, abandonment of rituals and cyclical calendar services, the like community events, and the ancestral literacy, the ethnical identity is easily lost. The groups noted by L. Chimpoesh do not designate ethnicities:

Chitaks - Indicates newcomers speaking in a different dialect, giving impression of distorted or broken language. Under moniker Chitak can be found ethnically different Türkic families, Türkified Slavic Bolgars, Armenians, Moldavians, Ukrainians, Russians, etc.

Gadjals - Negative appellation with connotation of rude, uncivilized person, this term was applied to the Türks in Deliorman, distinct in language and appearance, who call themselves simple "Türks" and do not know the name "Gadjal". The term Gadjal also has extended usage, as "opponent", and "powerful" in a sense "rich", it can be found applied to ethnically different Türkic families or people. The term is also used by Slavic Bolgars in reference to Moslem Türks.

(Shabashov A.V., 2002, Odessa, Astroprint, "Gagauzes: terms of kinship system and origin of the people", .., ": ", p. 405-406)

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Home
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In Russian
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Avar Dateline
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8/5/2009
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