The Autonomous Territorial Unit Gagauzia, a region consisting of 4 non constigous parts, is situated in the south of Moldova. The terminus “Gagauz” etymologically derives from Gok-oguz, meaning “heaven of the Oghuz Turks”. According to the National Gagauzian Museum of History and Ethnography in Beşalma, there are 23 different theories about the Gagauz origins. One of the theories say, that the Gagaguz descend from the two early nomadic tribes Guzi and Uzi which are branches of the Oghuz Turks. They settled in the Dobrudja region (today Bulgaria) alongside the Polovtsi and Kumani people in the 13th century. There the Guzi shifted to a sedentary lifestyle and adopted Orthodox Christianity. The ethnic mixture of the Guzi with the other Turkic tribes can be seen as direct ancestors of modern day Gagauzians.
In the late 18th and early 19th century the Tsarist government of the Russian empire allocated them land and gave them financial incentives to settle in Bessarabia, mainly in Comrat, Avdarma, Congaz, Tomai and Cismichioi. In 1988, activists from the local intelligentsia aligned with other ethnic minorities to create the movement known as the “Gagauz People”. Gagauzia declared itself independent on August 19, 1991. In February 1994 President Snegur promised a Gagauz autonomous region. On December 23, 1994, the Moldovan parliament produced a peaceful resolution to the dispute by passing the “Law on the Special Legal Status of Gagauz Yeri”. Gagauzia became a “national-territorial autonomous unit” with three official languages: Gagauz, Russian and Moldovan.
Today in the Autonomous Territorial Unit Gagauzia 150,000 inhabitants live in 26 communes, including the capital city Comrat and the towns Ceadîr-Lunga and Vulcăneşti. Dr. Mihail Formuzal, from the “United Gagauzia Movement”, has been Bashkan (governor) of Gagauzia since the last election in December 2006.