The politics of belonging in Gagauzia: negotiating language usage, ethnic labels, and citizenship



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Tartu Ülikool



This case study of Gagauzia reveals the complex nature of belonging and its interplay with a wide variety of factors by bringing to light personal attitudes in Gagauzia towards ethnic labels and languages. Analysis of empirical data collected during three months of fieldwork explores in what situations ethnic categorizations are activated, identifies patterns of ethnic labeling, and draws conclusions on how ethnicity interlinks with negotiation of the politics of belonging. In doing so, this work reflects on how Soviet legacies, namely language policies and assigned ethnicity, continue to have a huge impact on the everyday realities of belonging in Gagauzia. Moreover, it illustrates the role that economic instability can play in negotiation of belonging by examining the effect that enormous out-migration has had not only on demographics, but on the standing of Gagauzian language and feelings of personal identification among Gagauzians. In multiethnic Gagauzia, ethnic identification, language usage, and citizenship very often do not align, and this thesis addresses how Gagauzians attach meaning to these elements, frame them in forming identity, and utilize them in the construction of boundaries. This work employs in-depth qualitative analysis that draws out relationships among various phenomena related to ever-changing conceptualizations of belonging in Gagauzia. It not only fills a void in ethnographic research on an understudied region, but it also contributes to the existing broader body of literature on topics of identity and belonging in the post-Soviet space.