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Meskhetians

From Academic Kids

1. Meskhetians (Meskhs) are ethnic Georgians, indigenous population of Meskheti (Samtskhe-Javakheti province of Georgia).

2. Meskhetian Turks are the former Muslim inhabitants of Meskheti (Georgia), along the border with Turkey. They were deported to Central Asia in 1944 by Josef Stalin and settled within Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Today they are dispersed over a number of other countries of the former Soviet Union. Majority (more than 80%) of Meskhetian Turks are ethnic Turks (Yerli and Terekeme) and Kurds and Muslim Armenians, minority (about 20%) - descendants of indigenous Georgians forced into Islam in the 17th-18th centuries. Estimated population of Meskhetian Turks is around 300,000. They are known as Ahıska Türkleri (Akhaltsikhe Turks) in Turkey.

In May 1989 a pogrom of Meskhetian Turks occurred in Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan as a result of growing ethnic tensions in the overcrowded and poverty-ridden area of Fergana. This triggered massive evacuation of Meskhetian Turks from Uzbekistan.

In the 1990s, Georgia began to receive Meskhetian settlers, in case they declare an ethnic Georgian origin. This rose protests among the Armenian population of Samtskhe-Javakheti province. Azerbaijan accepted a number of Meskhetians, however, having problems with the refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, it showed no further will to accept a larger portion. Turkey, seen as their "true homeland" by many Meskhetian Turks, started a program of settling Meskhetian immigrants in the underpriviliged, Kurdish majority eastern regions of the country, falling far behind satisfying their expectations. Meskhetians settling in Krasnodar Krai of Russia nourished an "anti-Turkish" sentiment among the local Cossack population.

Starting in February of 2004, and in cooperation with the governments of Russia and the US, the International Organization for Migration started a program to resettle Meskhetian Turks in the Krasnodarskiy Kray to the United States. As of 2005 several thousand individuals had been processed and accepted into the program, and several thousand had departed to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Knoxville, Tennessee, and many other American cities.

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