Thursday, July 21, 2005

Meskhetian Turks and historiography

Today, I got through the section of the cotton paper on Meskhetian Turks. They are a hard group to write about historically because of a lack of sources. Until fairly recently most of them were illiterate. Hence compared to groups like the Russian-Germans and Crimean Tatars they have left a much smaller written record about themselves. There are a few memoir pieces written in Russian in such works as Tak eto bylo, but I have not found much else signficant.

There are of course the Soviet records, but alot of the document collections on various deported groups have been compiled by scholars from the nationalities themselves. Having either a state structure in the Russian Federation such as the Kalmyk Republic or a foreign patron such as Germany or South Korea helps alot in terms of having resources to publish these document collections. The Meskhetian Turks have no state structure in Georgia, their historical homeland, and the Turkish Republic has not taken an active interest in them the way the German and South Korean governments have with their respective kinsmen. Further, none of the various Meskhetian Turk communities around the world are in a position to promote historical research. They are still victims of ongoing persecution in Krasnodar Krai, Russia. Since the recent revolution their status in Kygyzstan has been precarious. Even 16 years after the Fergana pogrom they still maintain a low profile in Uzbekistan. Those in Turkey suffer from poor economic conditions and an ambigious legal position. Finally, those that have come to the US are very recent immigrants still adjusting and trying to integrate into their new surroundings in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and upstate New York.

Oral history would be helpful here. Unfortunately, I like most historians who do not specialize in Africa have no clue how to do such research well. What I have found helpful have been the works of anthropologists dealing with subjects that use oral history. After one discards the worthless academic jargon there is usually alot of good stuff left. When I was writing my doctoral thesis I found a couple of anthropology dissertations and books that contained good oral history data on the various deported peoples. For the Meskhetian Turks, I found Kathryn Tomlinson's Ph.D. thesis at UCL quite informative. I do not know when it will see publication as a book. It is one I would like to own. Last I heard she was in Sumatra.

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