Origins and terms
Meskhetian/Ahiska Turks holding a banner saying "Osmanlıların Torunları: Ahiskalı Türkler" (The Ottoman Grandchildren: Ahiska Turks)
The origin of the Meskhetian is still unexplored and highly controversial. But now it seems to emerge two main directions:
- The pro-Turkish direction: The Meskhetians were ethnic Turks, descending from Ottoman settlers, in which some Georgian were ethnic parts.
- The pro-Georgian direction: Georgian historiography has traditionally argued that the Meskhetian Turks, who speak the Kars dialect of the Turkish language and belong to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, are simply Turkified Meskhetians (an ethnographic subgroup of Georgians) converted to Islam in the period between the sixteenth century and 1829 when the region of Samtskhe-Javakheti (Historical Meskheti) was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
However, Anatoly Michailovich Khazanov has argued that "it is quite possible that the adherents of this view oversimplified the ethnic history of the group, particularly if one compares it with another Muslim Georgian group, the Adzhar, who in spite of their conversion to Islam have retained, not only the Georgian language, but to some extent also the Georgian tradition culture and self-identification. Contrary to this, the traditional culture of Meshetian Turks, though it contained some Georgian elements, was similar to the Turkish one". Kathryn Tomlinson has argued that in Soviet documents about the 1944 deportations of the Meskhetian Turks they were referred to simply as "Turks", and that it was after their second deportation from Uzbekistan that the term "Meskhetian Turks" was invented. Furthermore, according to Ronald Wixman, the term "Meskhetian" only came into use in the late 1950s. Indeed, majority of the Meskhetians call themselves simply as "Turks" or "Ahiskan Turks (Ahıska Türkleri)" referring to the region, meaning "Turks of Ahiska Region". The Meskhetians claim sometimes that the medieval Cumans-Kipchaks of Georgia (Kipchaks in Georgia) may have been one of their possible ancestors.