Making or breaking the Republic of Moldova: the autonomy of Gagauzia
This paper describes the process of self-determination and the creation of a territorial autonomy of the Gagauz people in the Republic of Moldova. It also analyses the situation in the autonomy after the change of government in Chisinau in 2009 and evaluates the current status of accommodation of the Gagauz’ interests in the country. Aspects of state-building and the influence of external actors are explored as well. Gagauzia (Gagauz Yeri) is one of the first post-Soviet autonomies. Since its establishment in 1994, no violent conflict has taken place there. However, the Gagauz language and culture remain relatively unprotected, and incentives as well as support for the integration of the Gagauz are low. The article outlines the potential for future disputes between the central government and local authorities, due to continuous attempts to limit Gagauzia’s self-governance and conflicting interpretations of how the autonomy should work. Furthermore, struggles between Gagauz political leaders and other local realities hamper the successful realization of Gagauz Yeri. With respect to Moldova’s efforts to resolve the Transnistrian conflict and to integrate with the European Union, compromises and cooperation through an ongoing dialogue between the centre and autonomy are clearly due. Resolving the remaining stumbling blocks could make Gagauzia a living, rather than symbolic autonomy.