Meskhetian Turks

Meskhetian Turks
Total population
est. 400,000 to 600,000[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
 United States9,000-16,000[8][6]
 Northern Cyprus180[6]
Azerbaijani  · Russian  · Georgian  · Kazakh
Related ethnic groups
Turks and Azerbaijanis (Qarapapaqs and Terekeme)

Meskhetian Turks (Turkish: Ahıska Türkleri,[10][11] Georgian: მესხეთის თურქები Meskhetis t'urk'ebi) are an ethnic subgroup of Turks formerly inhabiting the Meskheti region of Georgia, along the border with Turkey. The Turkish presence in Meskheti began with the Turkish military expedition of 1578,[12] although Turkic tribes had settled in the region as early as the eleventh and twelfth centuries.[12]

Today, the Meskhetian Turks are widely dispersed throughout the former Soviet Union (as well as in Turkey and the United States) due to forced deportations during World War II. At the time, the Soviet Union was preparing to launch a pressure campaign against Turkey and Joseph Stalin wanted to clear the strategic Turkish population in Meskheti who were likely to be hostile to Soviet intentions.[13] In 1944, the Meskhetian Turks were accused of smuggling, banditry and espionage in collaboration with their kin across the Turkish border. Expelled by Joseph Stalin from Georgia in 1944, they faced discrimination and human rights abuses before and after deportation.[14] Approximately 115,000 Meskhetian Turks were deported to Central Asia and subsequently only a few hundred have been able to return to Georgia. Those who migrated to Ukraine in 1990 settled in shanty towns inhabited by seasonal workers.[14]

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:

  1. The pro-Turkish direction: The Meskhetians were ethnic Turks, descending from Ottoman settlers, in which some Georgian were ethnic parts.[15]
  2. 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.[16]

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".[16] 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.[17] Furthermore, according to Ronald Wixman, the term "Meskhetian" only came into use in the late 1950s.[18] 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.[19]

Other Languages
aragonés: Meskhi
azərbaycanca: Axısqa türkləri
Deutsch: Mescheten
español: Meskh
Esperanto: Mesĥetaj turkoj
français: Meskhètes
Bahasa Indonesia: Turki Meskhetia
македонски: Месхетски Турци
Nederlands: Mescheten
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Mesxetin turklari
português: Turcos mesquécios
română: Mesheți
svenska: Meschetier
татарча/tatarça: Месхет төрекләре
українська: Турки-месхетинці