MINELRES: For 60 years of the deportation of Meskhetian population from Georgia

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat Nov 20 12:19:55 2004

Original sender: Marat Baratashvili <marat@geo.net.ge>

For 60 years of the deportation Meskhetian population from Georgia

"I understand your problem very well. Meskhetians need naturalisation to
restore their citizen rights. This year, maximum - next one, must be
adopted some canons, which will solve complex of whade problems". 
(From Mikhail Saakashvili's talk whith Meskhetians 4.12.1997)


     Do you know who Meskhetians are? Someone maybe knows 
     and someone not. Meskhetians are part of the Georgian nation, 
     like Mingrelians, Gurians, Imeretians, Kakhetians, etc. They all 
     live in Georgia - except Meskhetians. Most of them live in 
     foreign lands. And it is not by their own will that they left 

On November 15, 1944 - 60 years ago - at 4 o'clock a.m., Soviet soldiers
rushed into the house where my grandfather, Latifshah Baratashvili was
living. It was in the village of Ude, Adigeni district of Georgia.

My granddad was a schoolteacher and member of the Communist Party of
Bolsheviks - he was an honest communist and believed in the rightness of
the Soviet system. The armed soldiers threw him out of his own house.
When he got outside, he was horrified: he saw that the same brute force
was being used to everyone in the village. The soldiers were pushing the
defenceless people into American trucks (provided to the Soviet Army by
the Land-lease Act). Only women, children and old people were living in
the village at the time: every adult man had taken the field of World
War II.

That was a secret strategic operation. 220 villages - it's about 125,000
people - were  depopulated in one night. It happened so quickly and
unexpectedly that the people could not take anything with them. But my
grandpa was able to take his dearest things - Lenin's and Stalin's books
- with him. Everything was left behind: the houses, provisions,
everything. A long row of freight cars was waiting in the nearest town
of Akhaltsikhe, ready to take the people. 

The soldiers thrust them in the cars without explaining them anything.
Relatives lost each other, families were divided in this bustle. As soon
as the cars started, a yell was heard from all over the train: farewell
to the homeland. They were going somewhere for 22 days in freezing cold,
and they did not know where. Thousands of people died in that nightmare.
The soldiers kicked the dead bodies out at the stations. And the corpses
were lying along the railway. 

The people were put off in Central Asia: in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and
Uzbekistan. From then on all of them were called "People's Enemies",
lived under a Commandant Regime and laboured like slaves for 12 years.
They made Golodnaya Steppe (The Hungry Steppe) burst into flowers with
their labour. 

After a while they learned that not only they were deported, but others
too: Crimean Tatars, Chechens etc. (About 16 nations of USSR were
deported at that time.) In 1956, 3 years after Stalin's death, the
Meskhetians were "freed": they could travel everywhere but not to their
homeland, Georgia, while all the other deported nations were
rehabilitated and could return to their homes. Then the Meskhetians
began their longstanding struggle for homecoming. One of their leaders
was my grandfather, Latifshah Baratashvili. Still they could not achieve
rehabilitation and the right to return to the Homeland. Their nostalgia
sounds in Meskhetian folklore:

The grass has wilted. What shall I do?
I can't forget my motherland.
Meskheti was my motherland;
I'm robbed of it. What shall I do?

In 1989 pogroms of defenceless Meskhetians were organized in the Fergana
Valley. Most of them were evacuated into the heart of Russia, some fled
to Azerbaijan. The government, as before, doesn't let Meskhetians to
come to Georgia. Besides, people invented a new term "Meskhetian Turks",
because the deported Meskhetians are Moslems. 

You could ask - why? Just because that for three hundred years
(1576-1829) Samtskhe-Javakheti, that is the south region of Georgia
where the Meskhetians lived, was a part of the Ottoman Empire under the
Turkish yoke. And the Meskhetians, ethnic Georgians, were forced to
embrace their religion and speak Turkish. But many of Meskhetians have
preserved their Georgian family names. 
My grandfather was not able to return to the Homeland and died in a
strange land. But some Meskhetians, including my father, have overcome
all obstacles and returned in spite of everything. It happened thanks to
support of Georgian intelligentsia. I want mention here one of those
helpers - 
Guram Mamulia. I am sorry to say he died last year.

I am happy that I am able to live here, in my Homeland, to study my
native Georgian language, to breath the air of my home. But many of my
compatriots don't live in Georgia, they are scattered all over the
ex-USSR, devoid of any of these sweet things. They are exposed to
Cossacks' pogroms in the Krasnodar Territory. The local government does
not give them citizenship or land there - and they can make their living
only by land! Their children are not accepted to schools. Their
situation there is so awful that even the USA has taken pity on them:
several thousands of Meskhetians got the refugee status this summer. The
conditions for work and life were created for them in far America.

Does it make me happy? Yes, I thank the US government; I am sure it will
care for my compatriots. But one fact makes me unhappy: that their own
Georgia is not interested in the fate of the natives of Meskheti, which
has given Georgia its greatest people like Shota Rustaveli, the poet,
Zachariah Paliashvili, the composer, Grigol Khandzteli, Shalva and Ivane
Akhaltsikhelis and others.

I love my Homeland and I am glad that Georgia is a member of the Council
of Europe. Like every country of the Council of Europe, Georgia has the
obligations to respect human rights, including those of the deported
Meskhetian population. The Georgian government has undertaken to write a
law, by which all Meskhetians would have the right to return to Georgia;
the law had to be written within two years after joining the Council of
Europe (1999). Five years have already passed, but the law is not
written yet. 

I, too, am Meskhetian. My name is Tamar Baratashvili. I ask the
government of Georgia to let every Meskhetian, who wishes to return to
his Homeland Georgia, do it. The deported Meskhetians are human beings
and Georgians like you, and they have every right to live in Georgia and
be citizens of their own country Georgia.

Tamara Baratashvili, 15 years,