Meskhetian Turks

Meskhetian Turks, also referred to as Turkish Meskhetians, Ahiska Turks, and Turkish Ahiskans, (Turkish: Ahıska Türkleri[14][15] Georgian: მესხეთის თურქები Meskhetis t'urk'ebi) are an ethnic subgroup of Turks formerly inhabiting the Meskheti region of Georgia, along the border with Turkey. The Turkish presence in Meskheti began with the Turkish military expedition of 1578,[16] although Turkic tribes had settled in the region as early as the eleventh and twelfth centuries.[16]

Meskhetian Turks
Total population
1944 deportee population only:
est. 400,000 in 1990[1]
(excludes pre-1944 muhacirs in Turkey)

current deportee population only:
500,000-600,000[2][3][4][5][6]
(excludes pre-1944 descendants in Turkey)
Regions with significant populations
 Georgia1,500[7][8]
 Turkey100,000-1.5 million (latter including 19th and 20th century muhacir descendants)[9][10]
 Kazakhstan150,000-250,000[7][8][9]
 Azerbaijan90,000–130,000[7][8]
 Russia70,000–100,000[8][7][9]
 Kyrgyzstan42,000-55,000[7][8][9]
 Uzbekistan15,000-38,000[11][7][9]
 Ukraine8,000-15,000[7][11][9]
 United States9,000-16,000[11][7]
 Northern Cyprus180[7]
Languages
Meskhetian Turkish
Azerbaijani  · Russian  · Georgian  · Kazakh
Religion
Predominantly Sunni Islam, minority Shia Islam[12][13]
Related ethnic groups
Abkhazian Turks

Today, the Meskhetian Turks are widely dispersed throughout the former Soviet Union (as well as in Turkey and the United States) due to forced deportations during World War II. At the time, the Soviet Union was preparing to launch a pressure campaign against Turkey and Joseph Stalin wanted to clear the strategic Turkish population in Meskheti who were likely to be hostile to Soviet intentions.[17] In 1944, the Meskhetian Turks were accused of smuggling, banditry and espionage in collaboration with their kin across the Turkish border. Expelled by Joseph Stalin from Georgia in 1944, they faced discrimination and human rights abuses before and after deportation.[18] Approximately 115,000 Meskhetian Turks were deported to Central Asia and subsequently only a few hundred have been able to return to Georgia. Those who migrated to Ukraine in 1990 settled in shanty towns, inhabited by seasonal workers.[18]