KISHNEV, U.S.S.R. — KISHINEV, U.S.S.R. -- The parliament of the Soviet republic Moldova clamped a two-month state of emergency on its southern districts yesterday in an attempt to stop the secession of the Gagauz ethnic minority.
The decision came as thousands of Moldovans massed at the edge of the Gagauz region, some armed with metal chains and truncheons, in response to a call from nationalist leaders to "save the republic."
The breakaway "Gagauz Republic" was proclaimed in August at a congress of Gagauz elected officials and was immediately declared illegal by the Moldovan parliament.
The Gagauz, who number 153,000 out of Moldova's 4.3 million people, are Eastern Orthodox Chris
tians who speak a language closely resembling Turkish. They are one of more than 100 Soviet nationalities, most of which have experienced growing ethnic awareness in the last five years under the reforms of Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Moldova has been brought to the brink of civil war as a result of Gagauz elections to the parliament of their "Gagauz Republic."
Villages began balloting for the 54-seat parliament as early as Thursday morning in an attempt to get ahead of Moldovan plans to block the vote, originally set for Sunday. But Moldovan police and volunteers have vowed to prevent elections from being completed.
Yesterday, an emergency congress of Gagauz deputies raised the possibility that the elections might be postponed and chose a delegation to begin negotiations with Moldovan President Mircea Snegur. Mr. Snegur traveled to the Gagauz region Thursday, but Moldovan officials said Gagauz leaders at first refused to meet with him.
The Moldovan parliament's state-of-emergency decree dissolved the elected councils in Gagauz regions and set up a temporary committee to administer the area. It banned all public meetings and the use of duplicating equipment, and restricted travel in and out of the affected areas for two months.
nTC The tough response to the Gagauz election plan was partly motivated by Moldovan hopes of dissuading a second breakaway region, the "Dniester Republic," from holding analogous elections in November. The self-proclaimed republic is a Russian-speaking area in eastern Moldova on the left bank of the Dniester River.