Staunton, September 25 – There are currently 14,000 Meskhetian Turks in Kabardino-Balkaria, a community that has become well-off thanks to its agricultural efforts and that feels itself very much at home in that North Caucasus republic with few of its members showing much interest in moving to Russian cities, back to Georgia, or to the West.
Their success is important both for the future of the Meskhetian Turks as a people given that they became a nation only after Stalin deported them from Georgia in 1944 and because they represent potentially important allies for the Turkic Balkars, the junior partner in that binational republic and for the Turkic Karachays, the dominant partner in the other remaining binational republic, Karachayevo-Cherkessia.
The Meskhetian Turks have only occasionally attracted attention in recent years because most have moved out of the region to parts of the Russian Federation or to Western countries, but their role in the region may be defined by the progress of the community in Kabardino-Balkaria.
That makes a new article by the Eto Kavkaz portal today especially important (etokavkaz.ru/obshchestvo/beskonechnyi-chai-teplitcy-i-noch-khny-kak-zhivut-turetckie-obshchiny-na-severnom-kavkazewindowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/11/74-years-ago-today-stalin-deported.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/09/the-other-divided-nation-of-north.html).
Ansar Usmanov, a Meskhetian Turk from KBR who does research at the North Caucasus Federal University on the rehabilitation of repressed peoples, says that Georgians traditionally viewed Meskhetians as Turkified Georgians; but in fact, they are an ancient Turkic people and call themselves Ahiska Türkleri, Akhyskin Turks.
He notes that the Russian law rehabilitating the deported nations did not touch the Meskhetian Turks because they were from Georgia, now outside the borders of the Russian Federation. When Georgia adopted its rehabilitation law in 1997, it explicitly excluded groups like the Meskhetian Turks from its operation.
When the Meskhetians ceased to be classed as “special settlers” in 1956, they were not allowed to return to their homeland in Georgia. Instead, they settled in Azerbaijan and in southern regions of the RSFSR. Then, many emigrated to other parts of Russia, Central Asian countries, Turkey and the United States. They total “about 500,000.”
The KBR diaspora is among the most successful in maintaining the national language and in keeping young people from moving away. The diaspora there has been formed in waves with each set of new arrivals integrating well, according to Svetlana Akkiyeva, the author of a book, Meskhetian Turks in the KBR (in Russian, Nalchik, 2016, 92 pp. available online at kbigi.ru/fmedia/Макет-Аккиева-2016-г.pdf).