The Meskhetian Turks are one of history's victim diasporas. In November 1944, the Stalin regime deported almost the entire Meskhetian Turk population. The NKVD uprooted more than 94,000 people from their historic homeland in Georgia. Stuffed into cattle cars they spent over two weeks in transit to Kazakshtan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Here they spent over a decade living under special settlement restrictions. Over 15,000 perished from malnutrition, typhus and other poverty related ailments during the first four years of exile.Even after being freed from the special settlement restrictions, the Soviet government never allowed them to return home. The Georgian government still maintains this near blanket prohibition.
In 1989 a pogrom in Uzbekistan caused tens of thousands of Meskhetian Turks to become displaced again. Many of them went to Russia. Those unfortunate enough to end up in Krasnodar Krai have experienced severe persecution for over a decade and a half. The local authorities in Krasnodar have denied most of the nearly 15,000 Meskhetian Turks in the region permanent residence status. Absent documentation of this status they are legally banned from owning property, working in most jobs and attending institutions of higher education. They also suffer from ethnic defamation and even racially motivated violence. The regional government has made it clear that it does not want the Meskhetian Turks in Krasnodar Krai and has done nothing to discourage such attacks. Starting last year the US State Department began to resettle Meskhetian Turks from Krasnodar Krai in Pennsylvania as refugees.
Some 300,000 Meskhetian Turks are now spread across Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Turkey and now the US. Very few, however, live in their historical homeland of Meskheti-Javakheti in Georgia. Spread from Pennsylvania to Kyrgyzstan they exist as a diaspora people in exile. Unfortunately for them it will not be next year in Akhaltsikhe.