Author: Andreas Korsholm Sørensen
If you are going to Gagauzia and would like to know more about regional culture, a museum is an excellent starting point. So, in this post you will get a short introduction to the most important museums in region where you can learn more about the history and traditions of Gagauzia.
Comrat Regional History Museum
If you are a tourist and first-time visitor, I recommend that you head straight to Comrat, the capital of Gagauzia. After visiting the beautiful cathedral, you could visit the Comrat Regional History Museum on Lenin Street 162 — the main road in the city.
Comrat Regional History Museum was founded in 1969 by Anatol Marinov, so this year the museum celebrates its 50th anniversary. Marinov also became the first director, and like it is the case with most museums, they start out initially with an individual (or a group of peoples) who has a passion for collecting old things. And Marinov was such a person.
The collection spans from ancient times and up to the present day with a focus on archaeological findings, folklore, art, and documents and photos from the 19th and 20th century. The items that made the biggest impression on me were the beautiful dresses, embroideries and carpets plus the collection of musical instruments. In addition, there are a lot of informational boards explaining the historical development of the region, but during my visit in 2018, almost everything was in Russian. So, I recommend that you team up with a local guide who can translate, just like I did.
At the museum, you will also get to know more about the priest Mihail Ceachir (1861-1938) who is considered the most important person in the history of Gagauzia. His most significant work was the translation of the Old and the New Testaments into the Gagauz language. Throughout his life, he was deeply involved in describing and promoting Gagauz history and culture.
The entrance to the museum costs 10 lei. If you want to take photos, you need to pay an additional amount of 15 lei.
National Gagauz History and Ethnographic Museum
Another option is to go straight to Besalma, around 20 km south of Comrat. Here you will find the National Gagauz History and Ethnographic Museum. Just like in Comrat, the museum is located on Lenin Street, this time no. 110.
The National Gagauz History and Ethnographic Museum was founded in 1966 by Dmitry Kara-Choban — a teacher and artist who had a big passion for preserving Gagauz culture. In this video, his daughter describes how her father on Sundays went out on the streets and dragged people into the museum by telling them: «Come! Take a look! Your grandfather’s pictures are here! Images and films of your relatives are in the museum!»
After the founder’s death in 1986, his family and children took over management and as of 2019 they are still engaged in the museum. Walking around inside the building, you clearly feel the pride and respect for the founder of museum. So besides showing a wide range of Gagauz cultural artifacts, it also displays items related to particular interests of Dmitry Kara-Choban: literature and art.
The entrance to the National Gagauz History and Ethnographic Museum costs 10 lei. If you want to take photos it costs 15 lei extra. For the additional price of 50 lei, it is possible to have a guided tour around the museum, but this is only relevant if you speak Russian or you have someone who can translate since the level of English is very modest. I was lucky enough to have a translator with me, and during the tour, I was given an impressive insight into Gagauz culture and history. And do not be afraid of asking questions! The staff will be happy to answer and share their knowledge.
In case you do not speak Russian, you will still be able to enjoy the beautiful Gagauz craftmanship seen in pottery, carpets, dresses and more. There are also plenty of photos from the 20th century which describe the region’s development and traditions. And a little tip for the informational boards: here you can use the Google Translate app to get to know more.
So, to sum up: museums are a great place to get to know more about Gagauz culture, but for non-Russian speakers there is a language barrier since the museums are still not used to large amounts of English-speaking tourists.