Gagauz Turks

Written by TR Dergisi

The Gagauz have survived to this day by displaying an extraordinary national resistance. We continue to explore this colourful nation.

Gagauz culture contains major elements from Orthodoxy but the effects of Islam can also be observed both in the language and foundations of culture. The folk beliefs, traditions and customs, oral culture and folklore of Gagauz Turks, bear significant traces from the main Turk source. However, through Balkan and Slavic influences emerged in later periods, Gagauz culture attained a very colourful and rich image.

Traditions such as Hederlez (Hıdırellez), 40 Mecik (Newroz), Monster Feasts (blessing bozkurt as a symbol), and sagas as Köroğlu, Aşık Garip, Arzu and Kamber, Tahir and Zühre, Dengi Boz ( Bamsı Beyrek Boyı, son of Kam Püre in Dede Qorqut stories), Tepagöz (Where Basat killed the Cyclopes), Shah İsmail (Bulgarian Gagauz), folk songs, folk poems, Nasreddin Hodjajokes, and proverbs called “söleiş” are some of the deep-rooted common assets of Turkish culture.


Gagauz Turkish falls under the South, South -western group according to directions in Turkish dialect and accent classifications, under Oghuz group according to historical Turkish tribes, and under Dağlı group yev subsection according to phonetic criteria. Contemporary Turkish dialects that are related to Gagauz Turkish, are Turkish in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

The sub-layers of Gagauz Turkish have elements from dialects of Old Bulgarian, Uz, Kovu, Berendey, Turpey, Boyut, Kaspıt or Karaklobuk and Pechenek Turks. These elements subsequently combined with language features of Kuman (Kipczak) Turkish and Ottoman Turkish.

The Seljuks and Ottoman Turks who began to enter the Balkan lands after 12th century and Gagauz groups settled in these regions merged after a while. As a result, words from Turkey Turkish and Arabic-Persian languages entered Gagauz Turkish. This way, Gagauz Turkish began to acquire a new face. The phonetics of Gagauz Turkish, a written language since 1957, is especially rich in terms vowels. In this dialect, with 10 normal and 10 long vowels, the essential long vowels are particularly interesting. In addition, vowel ‘o’ pronounced with u- diphthong, and ‘o pronounced with -ü diphthong, derivation of y+ in initial phoneme or vowel ‘e pronounced with i- diphthong, and vowel e pronounced with a sound between i-e are principal vowels that distinguish Gagauz Turkish.

In Gagauz Turkish, word construction and conjugation are within general Turkish language ruies. There is oniy a difference in semi-functionai grammaticai gender affix -yka, taken from Siavic ianguages. The task change seen in case suffixes is a resuit of the influence of Baikan ianguages, as weii as the different perception of movement-object reiation due to time or geography, based on historicai and contemporary Turkish diaiects.

The syntax of Gagauz Turkish is different in many aspects compared to other grammaticai areas.

This is due to the Gagauz merging the syntax and logic of Turkish language with other languages in multilingual environments. However in Gagauz syntax, plain sentences are used like general Turkish language.

There are two main dialect groups in Gagauz Turkish. First is Merkez (Central) dialect spoken in Çadır and Komrat regions. Avdarma, Kirsova, Baurçu, Beşalma, Beşgöz, Caltay, Çok-Meydan, Gaydar, Kazayak, Kiriet, Kongaz, Kongazcık, Kıpçak, Tomay villages are in this region. Written language is based on central dialect.

Second is the southern dialect spoken in Valkanesh region at the south of Gagauzia and in Odessa region which is Ukrainian territory today. Çeşmeköy, Etulya near Valkanesh and Dimitrovka, Novoselovka, Karakurt, Czervonoarmeysk, Vinogradovka villages in Odessa are in this region. Although written language is largely based on central dialect, some sound characteristics of Southern dialect are also considered.

The efforts launched in early 20th century to adapt Gagauz Turkish to written language, yielded certain results in mid-century. When Gagauz Turkish was suddenly adapted to written language in the 20th century, a period in which concepts became considerably more diversified and complex, people appealed to the prevalent language of the Eastern bloc, Russian to correspond to new concepts, and a large number of words from Russian and other Western languages were included. This is the reason why many archaic characteristics unique to historical Turkish dialects and words can be observed in Gagauz Turkish as well as the influences of Slavic language constraints in terms of phonetics, morphology and syntax brought about by both historical and social circumstances and words of Western origin, introduced through these languages.

The autonomy officially won in 1995, also includes numerous provisions concerning language. According to this, there are three official languages in Gagauzia, namely Russian, Moldovan and Gagauz Turkish. All texts will be written in all three languages in government buildings, business enterprises and schools. These issues stated in Moldovan language law, were approved in Gagauzian Constitution, and with legislations and laws made by Gagauz Parliament.


Gagauz Turks read the books of Christian Turks in Anatolia and books in Karamanlı language, other Turkish-speaking Christians (Turkish written in Greek letters) when they were under the Ottoman rule, and in this w ay they received religious and cultural education in Turkish. These books were about life of the saints, prayers, the mythical stories of well-known figures such as Alexander the Great, and Anatolian folk tales.

İn 1904, Mihail Çakır, a Gagauz intellectual and clergyman, translated prayers and the Bible into Gagauz Turkic with Russian Cyrillic alphabet and obtaining the required permission in 2017, he had the Bible published in Kishinev. İmmediately afterwards, in 1909 and 1910, Ai Evangheliea was published in Gagauz Turkish with Cyrillic letters. When Moldova came under Romanian rule in 1918, Mihail Çakır republished some works, previously published in Cyrillic alphabet, with Romanian based Latin alphabet, and he published other books he wrote in this period again in Latin alphabet.

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