Am J Hum Biol. 2008 Dec 23. [Epub ahead of print]
Searching for the origin of Gagauzes: Inferences from Y-chromosome analysis.
Varzari A, Kharkov V, Stephan W, Dergachev V, Puzyrev V, Weiss EH, Stepanov V.
The Gagauzes are a small Turkish-speaking ethnic group living mostly in southern Moldova and northeastern Bulgaria. 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 by means of genetic distances, nonmetric multidimentional scaling and analyses of molecular variance. 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 "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.