Meskhetian Turks

Meskhetian Turks
Ahıska Türkleri / Meskhetian Turks / Ahısqa Türkləri
Total population
c. 400,000[1] -500,000[2][3]- 629,000[4]
Regions with significant populations
 Kazakhstan 150,000[5]
 Azerbaijan 43,000[6]-110,000[5]
 Russia 70,000-90,000[7]
 Kyrgyzstan 50,000[5]
 Turkey 40,000[7]
 Uzbekistan 15,000[7]
 Ukraine 10,000[7]
 United States 18,000
 Georgia 1,000[5]

Azeri  · Russian  · Georgian


Predominantly Sunni Muslims; minorities practice Shia Islam or no religion.

Flag of the Meskhetian Turks
The historical Meskheti region is now part of Georgia's Samtskhe-Javakheti region.

Meskhetian Turks, also known as Ahıska Turks (Turkish: Ahıska Türkleri; Azerbaijani: Ahısqa türkləri;[8][9][10][11] Georgian: თურქი მესხები, t'urk'i meskhebi or მაჰმადიანი მესხები, mahmadiani meskhebi; Russian: Турки-месхетинцы, turki-meskhetintsy) are the former Turkish inhabitants of Meskheti (Georgia), along the border with Turkey. They were deported to Central Asia during November 15–25, 1944 by Joseph Stalin and settled within Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Of the 120,000 forcibly deported in cattle-trucks a total of 10,000 perished.[12] Today they are dispersed over a number of other countries of the former Soviet Union.



During the rule of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), Turkish settlers moved into Meskheti as part of the Turkish expansion. The resulting mix of Turkish and Meskheti populations became known as the Meskhetian Turk.[13]

In 1958-62 the settlement of over 20,000 families was sanctioned by the government of Soviet Azerbaijan in the districts of Saatly Rayon, Sabirabad Rayon, Khachmaz Rayon and Shamkir Rayon.[14] In May 1989 a pogrom[15][16][17] of Meskhetian Turks occurred in the crowded and poor Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan as a result of growing ethnic tensions during the era of Glasnost. This triggered an evacuation of Meskhetian Turks from Uzbekistan. In the last years of the Soviet Union, pogroms in Uzbekistan brought the latest wave of Meskhetian Turks to Azerbaijan from 1989 onward, which settled mostly in the districts Balakan Rayon, Zaqatala Rayon, Qakh Rayon near the Georgian border. The Azerbaijani government, facing problems with its own 1 million internally displaced and external Azeri refugees from its break-away region of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, did not accept larger numbers and the further settlement of Meskhetian Turks to Azerbaijan was stopped in 1993.[14][18] According to the 1998 Citizenship Law, Meskhetian Turks as well as Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia, are all eligible for citizenship. By the end of 2001, UNHCR estimated that most of them were believed to have naturalized or be in the process of doing so.[19]

In the 1990s, Georgia began to receive Meskhetian settlers, provided that they declared themselves to be of ethnic Georgian origin. One of the human rights campaigners on their behalf was Guram Mamulia. Their resettlement created tension among the Georgian and Armenian population of Samtskhe-Javakheti province[citation needed]. Turkey, seen as their homeland by many Meskhetian Turks themselves, started a program of resettling Meskhetian immigrants in the underprivileged, Kurdish majority eastern regions of the country. This program was for fewer than 200 individuals, and fell short of expectations. The government of the Soviet Union encouraged Meskhetians to settle in selected oblasts of the Russian SSR, and most received Russian Federation citizenship in 1992. The legal status of those who moved to Krasnodar Krai, however, remained undetermined, and many were Stateless.[20] Their presence caused tensions with the local Kuban Cossack population, who, according to human rights activists, in coordination with local authorities[citation needed] lead persecutions of them. Russian authorities called the stateless Meskhetians "foreigners who have no right to remain in Russia"[citation needed] and play down reports about Cossack violence.[21] To help resolve the situation, the International Organization for Migration implemented a program to resettle Meskhetian Turks from the Krasnodar Krai to the United States between 2004 and 2007. In cooperation with the two governments (Russia and the US), approximately 11,500 individuals departed.


Meskhetian Turks are often described as the 'twice deported people'.[22] They were forcibly displaced from Georgia to Central Asia in 1944 by the Stalin regime. The majority moved to Uzbekistan but after violent riots which took place in 1989, they were moved to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

More recently, some Meskhetian Turks in Russia, especially those in Krasnodar, have faced hostility from the local population. The Krasnodar Meskhetian Turks have suffered significant human rights violations, including the deprivation of their citizenship. They are deprived of civil, political and social rights and are prohibited from owning property and employment.[23] Thus, since 2004, many Turks have left the Krasnodar region for the United States as refugees, which is now becoming their third deportation. They are still barred from full repatriation to Georgia.[24]

Country 1897
Russian Imperial Census[25]
Soviet Census[26]
Soviet Census[27]
Soviet Census[28]
Soviet Census[29]
Latest Independent Census' Current estimates Further information
Armenia 19 28 13
Azerbaijan 8,491 7,926 17,705 43,400 (1999 Azeri Census)[30] 90,000- 110,000[5] Turks in Azerbaijan
Belarus 9 17 55
Estonia 23 22 23
Georgia 115,000 853 917 1,375 600-1,000[5]
Kazakhstan 18,397 25,820 49,567 76,260 (1999 Kazakh Census)[31] 150,000[5][32] Turks in Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan 3,076 5,160 21,294 33,327 (1999 Kyrgyz Census)[33] 50,000[5]-70,000[34] Turks in Kyrgyzstan
Latvia 12 3 9
Lithuania 5 30 8
Moldova 26 20 14
Russia 1,568 3,561 9,890 95,672 (2002 Russian Census)[35] 70,000-90,000[7] Turks in Russia
Tajikistan 39 53 768
Turkey 40,000[7]
Turkmenistan 347 149 227 Turks in Turkmenistan
Ukraine 226 257 262 9,180 (2001 Ukrainian Census)[36] 10,000[7] Turks in Ukraine
United States 9,000[7]-15,000[37][38]
Uzbekistan 46,398 48,726 106,302 No census conducted since 1989[39] 15,000[7]-20,000[40] Turks in Uzbekistan
Total 208,822 115,000 79,489 92,689 207,512 435,000 to 505,000

      Homeland       Diaspora outside the USSR



Meskhetian Turks are predominantly Sunni Muslims. However some of them are Shia Muslims in Azerbaijan.[citation needed]


Meskhetian Turks speak an Eastern Anatolian dialect of Turkish, which hails from the regions of Kars, Ardahan, and Artvin. Their Turkish dialect is very close to Azerbaijani, to which it is closer than to the Istanbul dialect also called "Istanbul Turkish", which forms the standard of the Turkish language.[41]

The Mesketian Turks, especially the majority of the older generation, who settled in Azerbaijan receive their entire primary and secondary education in the Azerbaijani language, and due to the high mutual intelligibility of Meskhetian Turkish and the Azerbaijani language to which it is most closely related, has heavily influenced their everyday language to such an extent that they speak a mixed language, and, when writing, use the Azerbaijani language and the Latin-based Azerbaijani alphabet. The younger generation of Meskhetian Turks is more integrated or assimilated into the Azerbaijani population. That is why there is a danger of extinction of Meskhetian Turkish in Azerbaijan due to the risk of dialect levelling, that is, linguistic assimilation into the Azerbaijani language.[41]

Meskhetian Turkish Dialect

Meskhetian Turkish is not recognised as a separate language though ethnic Meskhetians refer to it as Ahıska Türkçäsi / Аҳыска Тÿркчäси using a variant of the Uzbek Cyrillic alphabet. For the most part, the Turkish alphabet is more widely accepted when writing, which would attempt to follow more closely with Turkish orthography and vocabulary. The majority of the older generation Meskhetian Turks received their secondary education in Uzbekistan and other former Soviet republics, therefore, when writing, the Uzbek alphabet or Kazakh alphabet, or a combination of the two is used. Meskhetian Turkish has no standardised orthography or standardised alphabet.

Meskhetian Turkish varies in several ways from Standard Turkish in pronunciation. Over the years, Meskhetian Turkish has picked up various sounds that are not represented in the Turkish alphabet. However, those differentiations of the dialect occurred after the exile in 1944. For instance, the sound [q] from Uzbek, represented by the letter q or қ in the word qabul etmäk or қабул етмäк and also the Uzbek pronunciation of the sound /ʁ/ represented by ğ or ғ instead of the Turkish. In Meskhetian, there is a obvious distinction made between [æ] and [ɛ], as opposed to Turkish. In addition to /h/, Meskhetian also makes use of the sound /x/.

Аҳыска Тӱрклӓринин Алфавити
Аа Ӓӓ Бб Вв Гг Ғғ Дд Ее Жж Җҗ Зз
Ии Ыы Јј Кк Ққ Лл Мм Нн Оо Ӧӧ Пп
Рр Сс Тт Уу Ӱӱ Фф Хх Ҳҳ Чч Шш

Ahıska Türklärinin Alfaviti
Aa Ää Bb Cc Çç Dd Ee Ff Gg Ğğ
Hh Xx İi Iı Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Öö
Pp Qq Rr Ss Şş Tt Uu Üü Vv Yy Zz

  • халк or xalk - people, compare with Turkish halk
  • ҳӓрбир or härbir - everyone, compare with Turkish herbir
  • қaбул eтмӓк or eтмaх - qabul etmӓk or etmax - meaning accept, admit, receive, approve, compare with Turkish kabul etmek
  • чoх or çox - meaning very, compare with Turkish çok
  • ҳӓ or - meaning yes. Compare with Turkish evet or he or hä (rural dialect)
  • jox or yox - meaning no. Compare with Turkish yok or yox (rural dialect) or hayır
  • сaғoлун or sağolun - рaхмäт or raxmät (Uzbek origin) - meaning thank you, compare with Turkish teşekkür ederim or its familiar form teşekkürler (Arabic origin), or sağolun, which is rather used in another concept.

See also

  • Turks in the former Soviet Union


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  2. ^ Todays ZAMAN. "Will the Meskhetian Turks return to Georgia?". Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  3. ^ EveryCulture. "Meskhetians". Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Aydıngün et al. 2006, 13.
  6. ^ Results of population censuses in Azerbaijan for 1979, 1989, and 1999.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Aydıngün et al. 2006, 14.
  8. ^ Şurəddin Məmmədli (1991), Paralanmış Borçalı... və ya Ermənilər 1918-də Borçalının güney qismini işğal etmişlər (Azerbaijani)
  9. ^ Fahri Valehoğlu (Haciyev) (2009), Gürcistan Coğrafyasında Eski Türkler: Buntürklerden Karakalpaklara, I. Uluslararası Uzak Asya’dan Ön Asya’ya Eski Türkçe Bilgi Söleni, 18-20 Kasım 2009, Afyonkarahisar (Azerbaijani)
  10. ^ Gürcüstanda repatriant qanunu dəfn olundu
  11. ^ Quzey Qafqazda Ahısqa Türkləri üçün yeni problemlər
  12. ^ as retrieved on 29 April 2008 20:59:44 GMT
  13. ^ Wisconsin Department of Health Services. "Culture Profile: Meskhetian Turks". Retrieved 2009-01-27. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b Azerb. "Meskhetian Turks in Azerbaijan". Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  15. ^ Pål Kolstø, Andrei Edemsky (1995), Russians in the Former Soviet Republics, p. 224. Indiana University Press, ISBN 0253329175.
  16. ^ Kathleen. Collins (2006), Clan Politics and Regime Transition in Central Asia, p. 2006. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521839505.
  17. ^ J. Otto Pohl (1999), Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949, p. 18. Greenwood Press, ISBN 0313309213.
  18. ^ Education in Azerbaijan. UNICEF.
  19. ^ International Protection Considerations Regarding Azerbaijani Asylum-Seekers and Refugees. UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 2003
  20. ^ Russian Ministry of Foreign relations. "О положении турок-месхетинцев в Краснодарском крае Российской Федерации". Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  21. ^ Peter Finn (November 18, 2005). "Revival of Cossacks Casts Muslim Group Out of Russia to U.S.". The Washington Post: p. A19. 
  22. ^ Cohen & Deng 1998, 263.
  23. ^ Barton, Heffernan & Armstrong 2002, 9.
  24. ^ Coşkun 2009, 5.
  25. ^ Демоскоп Weekly. "Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи 1897 г. Распределение населения по родному языку, губерниям и областям". Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  26. ^ Rywkin 1994, 67.
  27. ^ Демоскоп Weekly. "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1970 года. Национальный состав населения по республикам СССР". Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  28. ^ Демоскоп Weekly. "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1979 года. Национальный состав населения по республикам СССР". Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
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  30. ^ The State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan. "Demographic indicators:Population by ethnic groups". Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
  31. ^ Rasuly-Paleczek & Katschnig 2005, 231.
  32. ^ Blacklock 2005, 7.
  33. ^ Economic and Financial Data for Kyrgyz Republic. "3 Население по национальностям и языку". Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
  34. ^ Blacklock 2005, 10.
  35. ^ Centre for Russian Studies. "Ethnic groups 2002". Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
  36. ^ State Statistics Committee of Ukraine. &n_page=6 "The distribution of the population by nationality and mother tongue". &n_page=6. Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
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  39. ^ Uzbek News. "Local activist starts census in Tashkent". Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  40. ^ Blacklock 2005, 8.
  41. ^ a b Aydıngün et al. 2006, 23.



  • Robert Conquest, The Nation Killers: The Soviet Deportation of Nationalities (London: MacMillan, 1970) (ISBN 0-333-10575-3)
  • 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 0-393-00068-0).
  • Emma Kh. Panesh and L.B. Ermolov (Translated by Kevin Tuite). Meskhetians. World Culture Encyclopedia. Accessed on September 1, 2007.

External links

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