Turkey Vows To 'Actively Support' Meskehtian Turks

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
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Toronto
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Turkey has vowed to continue "to support the cause" of the Meskhetian Turks, voicing solidarity on the 74th anniversary of their deportation from Georgia to Central Asia under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

In a statement on November 14, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that Ankara is "closely" following "the conditions and repatriation process" of Meskhetian Turks.

Some 115,000 Meskhetian Turks, also known as Ahiska Turks, were deported from Georgia in cattle cars on November 14, 1944, by the Soviet government, which accused them of loyalty to Turkey.

Almost 13,000 people -- many of them children and the elderly -- died during the trip across the steppes of southern Russia to Central Asia.
Unlike the majority of other ethnic groups deported from the Caucasus under Stalin during World War II, Meskhetian Turks have never been officially rehabilitated.

Although Georgia adopted a law on their repatriation in 2007, Meskhetian Turks have faced numerous bureaucratic obstacles in obtaining documents from Georgian authorities allowing them to return to their historic homeland.

There are some 600,000 Meskhetian Turks in the world, most of them in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the United States.
Turkey Vows To 'Actively Support' Meskehtian Turks

Meskhetis in Ukraine


Mukhtar Mukhtarov, ethnic Meskheti footballer from Kazakhstan, who has played for their national team


Ethnic Meskheti college students in Kyrgyzstan


Meskheti lady and kids in Russia


Russia and Kazakhstan today host the largest Meskheti communities, over 100,000 in each country. Turkey has around 70,000 of them, including some they gave refuge in recent times, from combat zones in Donbass, in Ukraine. Ukraine had around 10,000 as of 2001 Census, but about 2,000 of those were in the Donetsk region, where the conflict broke out, and most of those left for Turkey, Georgia, or Russia with other refugees. Georgia has around 5,000 Meskhetis, currently.

About 50,000 of them live in the United States

("Ahiska" is another name some of them are known to use for themselves; though it is not common among the Russian-speaking ones who live in ex-USSR; "Meskheti" is the word usually used there)

In Russia, they mainly live in the South, in the Slav-majority Stavropol, Rostov, and Krasnodar regions and in some of the ethnic republics nearby. Some also live in Astrakhan region, on the shores of the Caspian sea.

In 2015, there was a major incident in an ethnically-mixed village called Russkoe in Ossetia, where, allegedly, mass fighting and brawling broke out between Meskhetians on one side and ethnic Russian and Ossetian men on the other (who claimed that the Meskhetians had acted inappropriately towards Slavic and Ossetian women; but defending of females is a common excuse used by the aggressors in inter-ethnic violence over there... The Meskhetiws, in turn, claimed that the other side attacked them without any provocation and it was they who were defending their families...). The Meskhetis were severely outnumbered and took the worst of it, several ended up in hospital in very bad state: http://kavpolit.com/articles/turok_meshetintsev_raskachivajut-21532/

A local Meskheti community leader talks to police afterwards


Some even figured, at the time, that the conflict may have a religious dimension (Meskhetis being Muslim, while both Russians and Ossetians - Orthodox Christian). But this theory stopped making sense when it emerged that there were also ethnic Kabardians (also Muslims) who had also fought there, on the Russian and Ossetian side...

The police never did charge anyone for this violence and we still, to this day, don't really know what the heck it was all about.

But, before then, there were also tensions in a town in Rostov region, between Cossacks and Meskhetis. The latter wanted to build themselves a new mosque. The former, the Cossacks, didn't want a mosque in their town. The resulting brouhaha involved the under construction building repeatedly vandalized, a pig carcass thrown in there, and, at one point, set ablaze; the imam of the Meskheti community physically assaulted while attempting to prevent altercations between Meskheti and Cossack youths outside the local school; and at one time OMON paramilitary units actually deployed to the town to keep the peace there... Some Meskheti families ended up moving away from there over this, I believe.

Overall, though, not a lot of troubles with them (Meskhetis), unless, as above, it is others make troubles with them. Meskhetis themselves, the ones I've met anyway, always seemed like nice people, to me, law-abiding and never themselves looking for a fight...

And I say that as some who was taught by my own Armenian mother that, with the blood in my veins, any kind of a Turk is, basically, my natural enemy in this world...
 
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