Staunton, March 23 – Gagauzia’s representative in Tiraspol says that his autonomous republic wants a voice in talks about the future status of Transdniestria and also on whether Chisinau orients Moldova toward Europe or the Russian Federation. He further warns that if Moldova unites with Romania, Gagauzia will declare its independence.
In a 3500-word article on the Moscow site, Materik.ru, Ivan Burgudzhi, the chairman of the human rights commission of the Popular Assembly of Gagauzia who represents that autonomy in Transdniestria says that Chisinau’s failure to live up to its 1994 agreement with Komrat forces Gagauzia to make these demands (materik.ru/rubric/detail.php?ID=16183).
Burgudzhi argues that Gagauzia made a fundamental error in signing its agreement with Chisinau in December 1994 and accepting the terms of a subsequent Moldovan law, when it sacrificed its drive for independence in exchange for Moldovan recognition of its special status, because Moldova did not fulfill the provisions of that agreement.
Over the last 18 years, he suggests, that Moldovan failure has given Chisinau rather than Komrat control over all spheres of life in Gagauzia and led to “discrimination against the Gagauz, a small people who nowhere in the world have their own statehood” by depriving them of corporate representation in the Moldovan government.
That situation can no longer be tolerated, Burgudzhi continues. “The Gagauz do not trust and cannot trust the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova where there is no representation of Gagauzia.” Nor can the Gagauz trust the executive power in Chisinau or its representatives in Komrat, the capital of Gaguzia.
According to Burgudzhi, in the early 1990s, there were “three independent sovereign states” on the territory of what had been the Moldovan SSR: the Gagauz Republic, the Transdniestr Moldovan Republic, and the Republic of Moldova.
“The international community as always acted selectively and recognized only the Republic of Moldova” rather than all three, the Gagauz official says, “even though the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova did not extend to the territories of the Gagauz and Transdniestr Republics” and even though Chisinau did not control their lands.
Encouraged by this outside support, Burgudzhi says, “the bureaucratsof the organs of power and administration of the Republic of Moldoca cannot yet recognize and understand that the status of a territorial autonomy like Gagauzia bears not an administrative character [alone] but is by its nature political.”
Such attitudes are reflected in Chisinau’s approach both to Transdniestria and to Moldova’s foreign relations. With regard to the former, the Moldovan government is negotiating about the future of “the so-called Transdniestria problem” without the involvement of Gagauzia and despite its clear interest in that issue.
Indeed, according to the Moscow memorandum of May 8, 1997, Burgudzhi says, Gagauzia’s right to be a participant in the talks was explicitly recognized.
And with regard to the latter, Chisinau has failed to obtain Gagauz sanction for its tilt toward Europe rather than towards the Russian Federation, and some of its leaders have expressed their desire to see Moldova unite with Romania. Both of these approaches are unacceptable to Komrat, Burgudzhi says.
Chisinau needs to organize a referendum on the former, and it needs to know in advance that if Moldova tries to combine with Romania, then, according to the terms of the 1994 agreement, Gagauzia “has the right to self-determination” and would move quickly, in Burgudzhi’s view, to declare independence and seek international recognition.
Burgudzhi’s statement is important not so much because of what it says about the Gagauz, a small Christian Turkic people who live intermixed with Moldovans in the southeastern portion of Moldova and who have few prospects for independence, than about what it indicates concerning the strategy of Transdniestria and the Russian Federation.
Both Tiraspol and Moscow have sought to bring ever more pressure on Chisinau to make concessions to Transdniestrian autonomy or even to accept the loss of this territory either to Ukraine, to the Russian Federation, or to some kind of Slavic union state. And both are only too pleased to involve Gagauzia and the aspirations of some of its leaders in this effort.
Most international players have forgotten about the Gagauz if they ever remembered them, but the statement of the Gagauz representative in Tiraspol shows that Tiraspol and behind it Moscow have not and are quite prepared to put this numerically small people in play not for its own sake but as part of a much larger game.