Gagauzia is an autonomous region in Moldova, made up of four separate pieces of land in the south of the country. It has a total area of 1,832 km² and a population of almost 135,000 people, mostly Gagauzians, a Christian people speaking a Turkic language. Its capital is Comrat (Komrat in Gagauz), a town of around 26,000 people.
It isn't really known precisely where the Gagauz people came from, but it is likely that Turkic people settled in what is now Bulgaria and converted from Islam to Orthodox Christianity. When Bessarabia (eastern Moldavia) was annexed by the Russian Empire, Muslim Turkic Nogai people who lived in the south were forced to leave (they now live mainly in the North Caucasus) and Christian Gagauz were settled here by the Russians. They have always remained pro-Russian: now, with Gagauz Yeri an autonomous region, they still prefer Russian over Rumanian and Lenin's statue still stands on Lenin Street, the main street in Comrat.
Nineteen kilometres south of Comrat is the village of Beșalma; its name means "Five Apples" in the Turkic Gagauz language. In the village is the Gagauz National Museum of History and Ethnography, which was founded by Dmitriy Kara-Çoban (1933-1986), the noted Gagauz ethnographer, local artist, poet and educator, who dedicated a large part of his life to rediscovering the ethnographic and linguistic heritage of Gagauzia. It is a fascinating place to visit.