Gagavuz people, an Orthodox Christian Turkish community

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    Gagavuz people, an Orthodox Christian Turkish community

    Their number within the boundaries of the former Soviets Union is197.164 according to the statistics of population in 1989. The Bulgarians recognise the Gagauz people as “Bulgarians who became Turks”, the Bulgarian statistics do not state anything about them. Therefore, it is not possible to determine their numbers there. But taken into consideration all of Gagauz people, it can be possible to utter that their number is approximately 250 thousands.
    Gagauz people constitute a peculiar Turkish nation in respect of their religion, language and cultural characteristics. They particularly live in the Southern Moldavia that is called as Gagauzya-Gagauz place, in Odessa connected to Ukraine, in Belgrade, an ancient land of Bessarabia as well as in Kabardina-Balkar, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Greece and Romania.

    Gagauz people who still speak the pure Balkan Turkish are the Orthodox Christians. Nowadays, they live in a widespread geography that include Moldavia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Greece, Romania, Macedonia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and even Argentina.
    There were some hypotheses that were alleged about the origin of Gagauz people and the name of Gagauz respectively. Leaving alone all the untrue and insensible ones such as “Gagauz people are the descendants of the Turks who had run away from the Middle East to the continent of Europe upon the rejection of Islam”, we can classify the others as follows.

    1. Gagauz people were the descendants of Uz (Oguz) people and the name of Gagauz came from Gök Uz.
    2. Gagauz people were the descendants of the Anatolian Seljuk Turks that came and settled down in Dobruca under the leadership of Sarı Saltuk that folowed the Seljuk Sultan, İzzeddin Keykavus II and the name of Gagauz “came from Keykavus”.
    3. Gagauz people were the “Bulgarians that became Turks”.

    The young Gagauz researchers of today admit that the Gagauz people are the descendants of Oğuz people and they allege that the name of Gagauz came from Hak Oguz. Although we agree to thesis that Gagauz people come from the people of Oguz, it is not possible to accept that the name of Gagauz is rooted from Hak Oguz. It is not possible for a tribe to express its own name (Gagauz) with a word not included in its own language.

    As a consequence, the most sensible and historical reality is that Gagauz people were rooted from the Seljuk Turks that came and settled in Dobruca together with the Pecenek, Uz (Oguz) and Kipchak people that followed the Anatolian Seljuk Sultan, İzzeddin Keykavus II (1236-1276).

    This Turkish community was under the dominion of the Byzantine, Seljuks, Ottoman, Bulgarians, Romanians and Russians during the history. They were obliged to live with the resistance against the linguistic, religious and cultural externalisations and pressures. Furthermore, there are some Gagauz people that live near Provadya in Bulgaria, in the villages in Varna region, in Dobruca and Kavarna and within the surroundings of Yanbol and Topolovgrad in the south of Bulgaria.

    In the middle of the century VII, the waves of immigration initiated firstly by Pecenek people towards the west upon the dissolution of Gokturk State constitutes one of the most significant incidents in Turkish history. As a result of the internal fights that occurred in Turkish cities, Pecenek people advances towards the west, and they came to the environs of Don-Kuban Rivers between the years of 860-880. Afterwards, the Pecenek groups that continued their progress invaded the steppe lands that extended from Don towards Tuna. Thus, they became the neighbours of Kiev Russia, and then they besieged Kiev in 948 and killed the Prince, Svyatoslav.

    The existence of Peceneks in this area and their hostility against Russians prevented the Russians from the passage to the Black Sea. This situation provided the friendship of the Byzantine with Peceneks and the Pecenek-Byzantine relations started thereof. Meanwhile, Uz (Oguz) people who increased their attacks towards the eastern borders of Peceneks cornered the Pecenek people. As a result of the pressures imposed by both the Oguz groups and the Russians, a conflict aroused between Pecenek chiefs. In the year of 1046, Belçer's Son, Kegen rebelled against the Khan Turak with 20 thousands of Pecenek people.

    Kegen who wanted to get rid of this difficult situation decided to take shelter in the Byzantine Empire. Then, he adopted the Christianity. Turak wanted the extradition of Kegen from the Byzantine Empire, but his demand was rejected. Upon this rejection, Turak advanced with his own forces, passed through Tuna and started to devastate the Byzantine country. But as a result of the epidemic outbreak among them and Turak's insufficient evaluation about their conditions, the forces connected to Turak were defeated. Of these forces, 140 Pecenek squadrons were brought to Istanbul and forced to adopt Christianity. The other Pecenek people who were taken as prisoners were forced to settle down in savanna regions between Sofia-Nish. The rest of Peceneks were forced to settle down in Macedonia.

    The Peceneks who settled between Sofia-Nish rebelled against the Byzantine for several times, but they could not succeed. And Peceneks were defeated as a result of the Kipchak-Byzantine alliance on the date of 29th April 1091 and they lost their military forces. The remaining Pecenek people were forced to settle in different regions of the Balkans.Lots of Uz people were enrolled in the Byzantine army. Thus, these Uz people formed the military detachments called as Turkopol that would play an important role in the Byzantine history in the future. These detachments had provided great service in the Malazgirt Battle in 1071.

    The other group of Uz people returned and took shelter in Russia. They were charged as margraves of their frontiers and they helped the establishment of Karakalpaks. These Uz people who became Christians under the influence of the Russians were forced to immigrate in large groups upon the annihilation of the Russian- Kipchak army by the Mongolians in 1233. They passed over the Tuna River for the second time and settled in Dobruca in which Turkish groups lived in crowded groups.
    As for today, there are only a few Gagauz villages in Romania.

    Gagauz people were forced to immigrate frequently upon the invasions and the change of administrations and their ethnical core was subjected to these changes.
    Gagauz Turks have various similarities with the Anatolian Turks in respect of their culture, literature, traditions and customs. As a result of the long struggles, Gagauz people live in the Republic of Moldavia and maintain their existence within the structure of Gagauz Place Autonomous Republic referring to the Special Legal Status granted with an article added to the Moldavian constitution.

    'Çünkü ben Müjde'den utanmıyorum. Müjde, önce Yahudilerin, sonra da Yahudi olmayanların olmak üzere, iman eden herkesin kurtuluşu için Tanrı'nın gücüdür.' (İNCİl – Romalılalar 1:16).

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