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CULTURAL PROFILE OF THE MESKHETIAN TURKS
26/Августа/2012, 11.25.57 AM
CULTURAL PROFILE OF THE MESKHETIAN TURKS

•Meskhetian Turks are a group of Turkish-speaking people originally from Meskhetia (now known as Samtskhe-Javakheti), a part of southern Georgia that borders with Turkey. Today, as a result of deportations and discrimination, Meskhetian Turks are widely dispersed throughout the former Soviet Union.




•In 1921 the Soviet Union gained control of Georgia and the region of Meskhetia was ultimately divided in two.

•The Soviet policy endorsed alternating views of ethnic identity, first grouping the Muslim population of Meskhetia as ethnically Georgian, then as a Turkic people, and later as Azeris, the predominant ethnicity of Azerbaijan.

•In 1944 Stalin’s policies dubbed the Meskhetian Turks as an "untrustworthy population” and ordered that they be deported to central Asia.

•Between November 15 and 17, 1944, Soviet troops forcibly removed approximately 100,000 Muslims from the Meskhetian region, confiscating their belongings and placing them in cattle cars destined for the Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

Map of exile of Meskheti Turks

•Deportees were forced to live in "special settlement regimes” and deprived of most civil and political rights.

•Meskhetian Turks were later prevented from returning home during the Cold War ear, because the area had become geopolitically important, as it was adjacent to the border zone between the Soviet Union and NATO.

•Meskhetian Turks have a long history of suffering. Victims of mass deportation from Georgia, pogroms in Uzbekistan, and human rights abuses in Russia, Meskhetian Turks are being resettled in the United States after 6 decades of exile from their homeland.
Culture, Religion, and Refugee Life

•Meskhetian Turks are Sunni Muslims. Due to the Soviet Union’s official policy of discouraging religion and promoting atheism, the majority of Meskhetian Turks, are not strictly observant Muslims. They practice circumcision, and some fast during Ramazan. Meskhetian Turks refrain from eating pork.



•Meskhetian Turk mullahs, or religious leaders, generally attend marriage ceremonies (toy), ceremonies for the deceased, and circumcisions. They also organize large religious celebrations twice a year that coincide with the Meskhetian Turks’ two most important holidays: Ramazan Bayram and Kurban Bayram.

•Nearly all Meskhetian Turks, whether born in Georgia or the descendants of people born there, know the name of the village in Georgia from which their grandparents originally came. Each village group has a specific name, formed from the name of the village in Georgia, with the suffix –li (meaning "from”) added to the name.

•In addition to village groups, Meskhetian Turks divide themselves into large groups of relatives (kovum or kohum). Most Meskhetian village groups included several different sets of kovum, each with its own separate name.

•The role of the family is essential in marriage, friendship, burial, and mutual help, and the elderly play a significant role in the preservation of the traditions.

•Many marriages are arranged. Meskhetian Turks generally avoid marriages in which the bride and groom’s families are related. Nonetheless, marriages between first cousins do occur. Traditionally Meskhetian Turks in Central Asia have not welcomed mixed marriages, even with other Muslims outside the community, because they are considered a threat to the preservation of their own culture and the future of the community.



•For Meskhetian Turks, the most important publicly observed life events are circumcisions, weddings, and funerals. These events reflect Muslim, Caucasian, and Russian traditions and practices, as well as those specific to Meskhetian Turks.

•The cuisine of Meskhetian Turks includes South Caucasian as well as Central Asian dishes. It also includes numerous elements specific to the urban life of the former Soviet Union. On a daily basis, people eat potatoes, rice, vegetables, meat, eggs, cheese, sour cream, and honey.

•Dislocation and modernization have led to the disappearance of traditional Meskhetian Turk dress, arts, and crafts.

•Most people dress in modern clothes, with some restrictions: Some married women wear head scarves, and elderly religious men wear Muslim caps (kudi). Younger women living in urban areas dress in a more modern fashion.

•Meskhetian Turks speak an Eastern Anatolian dialect of Turkish, which hails from the regions of Kars, Ardahan, and Artvin.



•While the Meskhetian Turk dialect uses mostly Turkish words for everyday life and for agriculture and animal husbandry, many other words have been borrowed from the languages that Meskhetian Turks have been in contact with during Russian and Soviet rule. Among other languages, these include Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Russian, and Uzbek.


Photo of Stephen Foster (right), Wright State's Associate Vice President for International Affairs, makes a point during the news conference. Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell (left) and Islom Shakhbandarov, (center) President of the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center, look on.

Adjustment to Life in America

•Bank failures and an unstable Russian economy after the breakup of the Soviet Union have led many in Russia, including Meskhetian Turks, to doubt the security of financial institutions. Moreover, Meskhetian Turks’ lack of legal status has limited their ability to use the formal banking sector. As a result, they tended to carry out economic transactions in cash in Russia, and modern banking practices will be new to some.



•Meskhetian Turks are known for their work ethic. In fact, a primary motivation for Meskhetian Turks is the chance to work freely and openly, since the right to work legally has been denied to them in Russia.

•For Meskhetian Turks, the two biggest obstacles to employment are their lack of English and the lack of other workers in the workforce who speak their language, resettlement staff say.

•While some women appear happy to work outside the home, others seem initially reluctant to work, apparently expecting that their husbands will earn enough money to support the family.



•While Meskhetian Turks are happy that their children no longer face discrimination at school, some express frustration that U.S. schools are not as rigorous and demanding as they are in Russia. Some parents have been known to ask their children’s teachers to provide more homework.

© NNA-TV



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