Gagauzian Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

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Gagauz people originated in Turkey and Bulgaria prior to their migration to Bessarabia at the start of the 19th century. They currently live primarily in southern Moldova (the semi-autonomous region called Gagauzia, or Gagauz-Yeri in their language, where they form the majority of the population in some cities and villages) and southwestern Ukraine (Budjak), and some live in southeastern Romania (Dobrogea) and northeastern Bulgaria. Thousands still live in Turkey as well.

Gagauzians speak a Turkic language within the Oghuz branch. Once written using the Greek alphabet, it is nowadays written using the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.

Most Gagauz are Orthodox Christians by religion, in line with many of their neighboring ethnic groups.

Major studies of Gagauzians

Alexander Varzari, V. Kharkov, Wolfgang Stephan, V. Dergachev, V. Puzyrev, E. H. Weiss, and Vadim Stepanov. "Searching for the origin of Gagauzes: inferences from Y-chromosome analysis." American Journal of Human Biology 21:3 (May-June 2009): pages 326-336. Excerpts from the Abstract:

"[...] The origin of the Gagauzes is obscure. They may be descendants of the Turkic nomadic tribes from the Eurasian steppes, as suggested by the "Steppe" hypothesis, or have a complex Anatolian-steppe origin, as postulated by the "Seljuk" or "Anatolian" hypothesis. To distinguish these hypotheses, a sample of 89 Y-chromosomes representing two Gagauz populations from the Republic of Moldova was analyzed for 28 binary and seven STR polymorphisms. In the gene pool of the Gagauzes a total of 15 Y-haplogroups were identified, the most common being I-P37 (20.2%), R-M17 (19.1%), G-M201 (13.5%), R-M269 (12.4%), and E-M78 (11.1%). The present Gagauz populations were compared with other Balkan, Anatolian, and Central Asian populations [...] The analyses showed that Gagauzes belong to the Balkan populations, suggesting that the Gagauz language represents a case of language replacement in southeastern Europe. Interestingly, the detailed study of microsatellite haplotypes revealed some sharing between the Gagauz and Turkish lineages, providing some support of the hypothesis of the [partial] "Seljuk origin" of the Gagauzes. The faster evolving microsatellite loci showed that the two Gagauz samples investigated do not represent a homogeneous group. This finding matches the cultural and linguistic heterogeneity of the Gagauzes well, suggesting a crucial role of social factors in shaping the Gagauz Y-chromosome pool and possibly also of effects of genetic drift."

Ivan Nasidze, Dominique Quinque, Irina Udina, Svetlana Kunizheva, and Mark Stoneking. "The Gagauz, a Linguistic Enclave, are Not a Genetic Isolate." Annals of Human Genetics 71(Part 3) (May 2007): pages 379-389. First published online on November 28, 2006. This study examines uniparental DNA. Gagauzians are more closely related to their non-Turkic neighbors in southeastern Europe than to Anatolian Turks. Table 3, "Y chromosome SNP haplogroup frequencies in Moldavians and Gagauz, and their geographic neighbours", reveals the following frequencies for Gagauz people according to the 49 Gagauzians sampled:
20.4% in E-YAP,
2% in F-M89,
4.1% in G-M201,
32.7% in I-M170,
14.3% in J2-M172,
2% in K-M9,
2% in P-M45,
8.2% in R1-M173,
14.3% in R1a1-M17.

"The Gagauz are a Turkic-speaking group that migrated from Turkey to their present location in the southern part of the Republic of Moldova about 150 years ago. Surrounded by Indo-European-speaking populations, they thus form a linguistic enclave, which raises the following question: to what extent have they remained in genetic isolation from their geographic neighbours? Analyses of mtDNA and Y chromosome variation indicate that despite their linguistic differences, the Gagauz have admixed extensively with neighbouring groups. Our data suggest that there has been more mtDNA than Y chromosome admixture, in keeping with the patrilocal nature of these groups. Moreover, when compared with another linguistic enclave, the Kalmyks[,] there appears to be a correlation between the amount of genetic admixture and the amount of linguistic influence that these two linguistic enclaves have experienced from neighbouring groups."

Alexandru Varzari, Wolfgang Stephan, Vadim Stepanov, Florina Raicu, R. Cojocaru, Y. Roschin, C. Glavce, V. Dergachev, M. Spiridonova, H. D. Schmidt, and E. Weiss. "Population History of the Dniester-Carpathians: Evidence from Alu Markers." Journal of Human Genetics 52:4 (2007): pages 308-316. First published electronically on February 16, 2007. Based on Alexandru Varzari's dissertation "Population History of the Dniester-Carpathians: Evidence from Alu Insertion and Y-Chromosome Polymorphisms" for the Faculty of Biology Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität on July 27, 2006. These scientists analyzed 12 binary autosomal markers from individuals belonging to 6 ethnic groups in the Dniester-Carpathian region, including 2 Gagauz populations. Genetically, the Gagauzes "show closer affinities to their geographical neighbors than to other Turkic populations."

Bayazit Yunusbayev, Mait Metspalu, Ene Metspalu, Albert Valeev, Sergei Litvinov, Ruslan Valiev, Vita Akhmetova, Elena Balanovska, Oleg Balanovsky, and Shahlo Turdikulova. "The Genetic Legacy of the Expansion of Turkic-Speaking Nomads across Eurasia." PLoS Genetics 11:4 (April 21, 2015): e1005068. 12 Gagauz samples, newly collected by the authors, were included in this paper's data set.

Alena Kushniarevich, Olga Utevska, Marina Chuhryaeva, Anastasia Agdzhoyan, Khadizhat Dibirova, Ingrida Uktveryte, et al. "Genetic Heritage of the Balto-Slavic Speaking Populations: A Synthesis of Autosomal, Mitochondrial and Y-Chromosomal Data." PLoS ONE 10:9 (September 2, 2015): e0135820. This is a comprehensive autosomal DNA analysis encompassing thousands of SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). Among the populations in the study, Gagauzes were found to be most closely related to Macedonians, followed by Greek Macedonians not including residents of Thessaloniki, and also other peoples of the Balkan region including Bulgarians, Romanians, and Montenegrins.

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