20 August 2006

945) The Meskhetian Turks

MESKHETIAN TURK HISTORY (pronounced Mesk-HET-ee-an)

1300s: Turkish settlers begin moving into the area along the borders of Georgia and Turkey known as the Meskheti. They become known as Meskhetian Turks.

1944: Soviet government deports the Turks living in this region to other regions in the Soviet Union because of fears they would be disloyal in a conflict with Turkey.

1989: Overcrowding and poverty lead to ethnic tensions and violence against the transplanted Turks. Most flee, with many later settling in the Krasnodar Krai region of southwestern Russia. There, many are denied citizenship and the benefits that come with it.

2004: U.S. State Department grants the Meskhetian Turks living in Krasnodar refugee status and offers to help them resettle in the United States. . . .

Religion: Islam
Languages: A Turkish dialect with Russian and Uzbek influences and/or Russian

300,000: Worldwide population of Meskhetian Turks
15,000: Population living in the Krasnodar Krai region of Russia
12,000: Total approved for refugee resettlement in the United States
8,000: Resettled in the United States as of mid-June (the most recent number available from the State Department)

Copyright ©2006 Daily Press
August 20, 2006

1. Meskhetians (Meskhs) are ethnic Georgians, indigenous population of Meskheti (Samtskhe-Javakheti province of Georgia).

2. Meskhetian Turks are the former Muslim inhabitants of Meskheti (Georgia), along the border with Turkey. They were deported to Central Asia in 1944 by Josef Stalin and settled within Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Today they are dispersed over a number of other countries of the former Soviet Union. Majority (more than 80%) of Meskhetian Turks are ethnic Turks (Yerli (Turkish-speaking agriculturalists) and Terekeme (Azerbaijani-speaking pastoralists) and Kurds and Hamshenis, minority (about 20%) - descendants of indigenous Georgians who became Muslim in the 17th-18th centuries. Estimated population of Meskhetian Turks is around 300,000. They are known as Ahıska Türkleri (Akhaltsikhe Turks) in Turkey.

In May 1989 a pogrom of Meskhetian Turks occurred in Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan as a result of growing ethnic tensions in the overcrowded and poverty-ridden area of Fergana. This triggered massive evacuation of Meskhetian Turks from Uzbekistan.

In the 1990s, Georgia began to receive Meskhetian settlers, in case they declare an ethnic Georgian origin. This rose protests among the Armenian population of Samtskhe-Javakheti province. Azerbaijan accepted a number of Meskhetians, however, having problems with the refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, it showed no further will to accept a larger portion. Turkey, seen as their "true homeland" by many Meskhetian Turks, started a program of settling Meskhetian immigrants in the underpriviliged, Kurdish majority eastern regions of the country, falling far behind satisfying their expectations. Meskhetians settling in Krasnodar Krai of Russia nourished an "anti-Turkish" sentiment among the local Cossack population. [1] (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/17/AR2005111702014.html)

Starting in February of 2004, and in cooperation with the governments of Russia and the United States (the State Department's Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration), the International Organization for Migration started a program to resettle Meskhetian Turks from the Krasnodarskiy Kray to the United States. As of September 2005, 21,000 individuals had applied to the program, and 5000 had departed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Atlanta, Georgia; Knoxville, Tennessee; Waukesha, Wisconsin; Kent, Washington; and 60+ other American cities.

Robert Conquest, The Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities (London: MacMillan, 1970) (ISBN 0333105753)
S. Enders Wimbush and Ronald Wixman, "The Meskhetian Turks: A New Voice in Central Asia," Canadian Slavonic Papers 27, Nos. 2 and 3 (Summer and Fall, 1975): 320-340
Alexander Nekrich, The Punished Peoples: The Deportation and Fate of Soviet Minorities at the End of the Second World War (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978) (ISBN 0393000680).

External links
Open Society Institute, Forced Migration Projects: Meskhetian Turks (www2.soros.org/fmp2/html/meskpreface.html)
Meskhetians (www.policy.hu/sumbadze/Nana--Meskhetians5.html)



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