Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Anniversary of the Deportation of the Meskhetian Turks

On 15 November 1944, the NKVD began the systematic round up and deportation of the Meskhetian Turks, Kurds and Hemshins living in Meskheti-Javakheti. By 18 November 1944 the Stalin regime had forcibly removed over 80,000 people from this region. The NKVD loaded them into overcrowded and dirty cattle cars bound for Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Between 25-28 November 1944, the NKVD completed the ethnic cleansing of Turks, Kurds and Hemshins from Georgia. During these four days the Soviet security forces deported almost 10,000 more people from Ajaria. Later, soldiers demobilized from the Red Army, individuals forcibly repatriated from Europe and others joined their kinsmen in exile. In total the Soviet government banished nearly 95,000 Meskhetian Turks, Kurds and Hemshins to Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

Disease and other causes resulting from poor material conditions killed many thousands of the deportees both during the journey into exile and the years following. By 1948 the Meskhetian Turks had suffered some 15,000 such deaths. Like other deported peoples, the Meskhetian Turks lived under special settlement restrictions and in extreme poverty in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Unlike most other deported peoples in the USSR, they were never allowed to return to their homeland in the Caucasus. After their release from the special settlement restrictions in 1956, they remained banned from returning to Georgia. The issue of repatriation to Georgia still remains unresolved.

Today the Meskhetian Turks remain dispersed across Eurasia and other regions. Substantial Meskhetian Turk populations exist in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the US. The Meskhetian Turks in the US are refugees resettled from Krasnodar Krai in Russia. There is even a small community now in Tucson.


S.U. Alivea, ed., Tak eto bylo: Natsional'nye repressi v sssr, 1919-1952 gody (Moscow: Insan, 1993), vol. III.

N.F. Bugai, ed. , Iosif Stalin - Lavrentiiu Berii: "Ikh nado deportirovat'": Dokumenty, fakty, kommentarii (Moscow: Druzhba Narodov, 1992).

T.S. Kulbaev and A. IU. Khegai, Deportatsiia (Almaty: Deneker, 2000).

Arif Yunusov, Meskhetian Turks: Twice Deported Peoples (Baku: Institute of Peace and Democracy, 2000).

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