Original version by Svetlana Chervonnaya; edited by the FUEN-Sectretariat
The Meshket-Turks form a single ethnographical group within the Turk-people. Since mediaeval times they have settled and lived in the historic South-Westernmost part of Georgia which is named Meshketia, but also is known under the names Dshavachetia or Achalzychetia and nowadays is a part of Georgia. This group is a Turkish national minority, numbering approximately 400.000 people out of a total of ca. 45 mio. Turks all over the World. The Meshket have been living outside the borders of a Turkish state since 1829. For a long period of time, they formed a concentrated population in the Southwestern region of Georgia (the Achalzychski district). After the deportations under Stalin in 1944 they were scattered all over the Soviet republics of Central Asia, in the 1990ies residing in the states of the CIS, primarily Kazakhstan, Azerbajdzhan, Russia, and the Ukraine. It has to be underlined that this is not the case of a "normal" minority like any other group of Turks (Osmans) living abroad, outside Turkey. It is a distinct ethnographic group, wherein the local traditions dominate its culture, and that is formed through the long-lasting, permanent settlement and the contact with the Georgians.
In the ethno-psychological imagination of the Meshket-Turks the idea is predominant, that their historical homeland is no Turk-state as a unity, nor Georgia, but only the territory called Meshketia/Dshavachetia/Achalzychetia, where they have been living for eternity's and from where they or their ancestors were deported by Stalin in a very violent and brutal manner in 1944. Their objective is to gain Georgian citizenship, but they do not, however, perceive themselves as a Georgian Diaspora, which is willing to live anywhere in the state of Georgia, but see them selves as a core nation, the indigenous people of the former Achalzychsky district-"pachalyk", and exactly that is the place they want to return to, and want to work for a rebirth of.
The language of the Meshket-Turks is Turkish, e.g. the East-Anatolian dialect with strong influence from adapted words. Their traditional religion is Sunni Islam. The current Meshket-Turkish culture is secular without any tendencies towards Islamic fundamentalism, neither has any religious fanatism been noticed in their religious life or in their national movement.
The central political problem, the ethical task of overcoming the Communist past, and the questions of the life and preservation of the identity of this ethnic group are the claims for consequent rehabilitation of the deportees and the voluntary mass-repatriation to their historical homeland.
The Origins of the Meshket-Turks - Several Versions of the Ethnogenesis
The problem of the genesis of this ethnic group has for a long time been the subject of obviously political speculations that was aimed at the destruction of the ethnic Identity of this national minority. In the Georgian (Soviet and post-Soviet) historiography, in the ethnographic sciences and in published works a number of versions of the Georgian roots of the Meshket-Turks have been disseminated. According to these versions, they are no Turks (and have never been Turks), but are descending from the ancient Georgian tribe "Meshket", that has been mentioned in the Assyrian and Antiquity writings, f.x. of Herodot and Strabon. In the Middle Ages, this tribe inhabited the Georgian principality Ssanzche-Ssaatabago, that used to be strong and wealthy, but was jeopardized, sieged, and conquered under the attacks of the Tatar-Mongols conquests (13th Century), the campaigns of Timut (Tammerlans; 14th Century) and the late feudal disintegration of Georgia in 1469. In 1555 it was a vassal-state of the Osmannic Turkish Empire and under the name Achalzychsky Pashalyk (Pashalyk - the Land of the Pasha) it became a part of the Osmannic Empire. For almost three centuries this region belonged to Turkey and first in 1829 after the Adrianopolic Peace Treaty between Russia and Turkey did the region become a province of Russia , (or of the Georgian territory, since all of Georgia belonged to Russia). According to Georgian historians, the Georgian population were influenced by Turkish culture in the 16th to 19th Century, converted to Islam and consequently was separated from the Georgian nation.
These historical versions were the background of the nationalities policy of Soviet Georgia before the war (is was demanded, that the Meshket-Turks should change their nationality and identify themselves in passports and other official documents as Georgians, and change their family names, so they had to end with "shvili" and "dse", not with "oglu" or "kysy". The question: "Are they Turks or Georgians" became important again, when the question of their return from exile was put on the political agenda in the 1960's and 70's. It was attempted to convince all of the World, and the Meshket-Turks, that they were normal Georgians like all other inhabitants of the republic, and therefore, if they should actually return, they would have no legal claim on any "own" territory and would have to live in any place of Georgia, like any other Georgian.
For instance, the well-known Georgian historian Guram Mamulia writes in his foreword to the book of Klara Baratashvili: "Georgian Family Names of the Meshket Muslims" (Tbilisi 1997): "The so-called Turkish-Meshkets are ethnic Georgians from the old tribe of Meshkets". Even some Meshket-Turks agree with this concept and describe themselves as Meshkets. This opinion has clearly been presented in the article "We are Meshkets!" by K. and L. Baratashvili (Literaturnaja Grusija.9, 1988).
There are, however, other, contrary opinions, historical versions, and scientific theories on the origins of the Turk-Meshket ethnic group. Based on archaeological findings, written Arab sources and chronicles, linguistic information and other arguments they confirm that just a Turkish population owned this Transcaucasian territory in the 5th-7th Century, and that the Turkish-Muslim culture survived its high stage in this area in the period of the Seldchuks ( 11 th- I 3th Century). In the beginning of the second millennium, the Meshket mountain summit formed the border between the influence of the Georgian kings (Zars) and the Turkish sultans. In the middle of the second millennium, Meshketia changed from being the contact zone of the ethnic Georgian and Turkish cultures, the Christian and Islamic civilizations, into a bulwark of the Muslim religion, Turkish ethnicity, that was incorporated into the Osmannic Empire. The political situation was only changed in 1829, but still the Achalzysky district within Russia formed a distinct region for more than a century with a dominant Turkish population, Turkish language, Muslim Religion and cultural traditions. The impact of the real or invented old-Georgian component in the ethnogenesis of the Meshket-Turks was without any importance in the self-perception this group, because they identified themselves as Turks - Turks from Meshketia, Meshket-Turks. This local context al identification ("we are Turks from Meshketia") was very important for their national consciousness, especially after World War I. In no way did they perceive themselves as citizens of the new Turkey that was build on the ruins of the Osmannic Empire, they were never influenced by the "Young-Turkish" movement and ideology. They did not participate in the annihilation of the Armenians in 1915. In every way, they were and felt rather distant to the Turkey of the 20th Century. ( the other side, they were deeply and consequently integrated in the culture, politics, economy, and state structure Georgia. Although their vernacular tongue was Turkish, most of the Meshket-Turks before the deportations in 1944 al: spoke Georgian, and the ethnographs do find many characteristics of the Georgian influence on the traditional popular culture and everyday life. Within the young national intelligentsia, this fruitful influence on high culture, enlightenment arts and literature was even stronger. The Meshket-Turkish culture developed into a part of the culture of the Georgia Republic before World War H (with all the successes and failures of the Soviet period).
The majority of the Meshket-Turks were peasants and their work contributed to the agricultural success of South-Western Georgia in the first part of the 20th Century. Despite all the repression of the totalitarian communist regime, spite atoll the purges and campaigns (like the fight against the Kulaks, the brutal forced collectivization process, the abuse of the freedom of conscience, the terror of the 1930's), the Meshket-Turks were prepared to share the fate of all the Georgian people and refused the possibility of flight or emigration from Soviet Georgia to Turkey (which probably would have saved them). In all districts (rayony) of Meshketia, the Turks were not isolated, but lived in permanent contact al close neighbourly relations with the Georgians, as well as the Armenian minority in Georgia. In the course of decades firm historic tradition of cultural tolerance, gut neighbourhood and friendly relations was formed. In the period 1829 1944, no conflicts took place in this region between Meshket-Turks and other ethnic groups due to ethnic or religious reasons.
The Deportation 1944 and the Incidents in the Fergana Valley 1989 - The Two Largest National Tragedies of the Meshket-Turks in the 20th Century
After the Karatchai, Balkars, Crimea Tartars, and other mountain and steppe people of the South (the Crimea and tl Caucasus) which had already become victims of Stalinist arbitrariness and mass-terror, the Meshket-Turks were all deported from their homelands. This action was even more brutal, evil and senseless, because the land, they lived in, w. not occupied by any enemy during the war, and no collaboration of Meshket-'Itaks could take place with any occupants. Thus, not even any formal reason for the "punishment" of a whole nation was given. Furthermore, the Meshket-Turks hi paid for the Soviet victory in the Great Fatherlandic War (World War II) with the lives of a large share of their men. The mobilization of the army sent all men from the Meshket-Turkish settlements to the front-line, mostly in the infantry, at among these 40,000 soldiers some 20,000 died in the war. Despite these heroic actions all the remaining Turkish population - women, children, elderly people, and wounded soldiers - were deported without any guilt on one day, November 14t 1944, from the Georgian districts/rayony of Achalzychsky, Adygensky, Aspindsky, Achalkalaksky, and Bogdanovsky. It evident, that the excuse for the "cleansing" of this border region from "disloyal elements" at the end of the war, with the obvious neutrality of Turkey, was without any actuality - but even such a reason, no pretext, no official explanation was given.
There is no legal basis, no decrees or law, which today post-festum might be cancelled by the Supreme Soviet nothing. There was only the order of the State Committee for Defense No. 5279 ss ("strictly secret") with the signature I J. Stalin dated July 31 1944, and the order of the Peoples Commissioner of the Interior L. Berija dated September 20 1944 on the transfer of the Turks (as well as the Kurds and Chemshils) from Georgia to the Kazakh, Uzbek, and Kirgiz republics to "improve the conditions in the country" (there was no other motivation stated). According to the governmental order (decision of the Council of Ministers No. 35, January 8th 1945) the so-called "special transferred people" ("spezperesselenzy") had no right to leave to areas they were deported to (a possible departure was assumed to be an "escape"). They had engage in work that was "useful for society" and had to comply with the conditions of the special regime.
According to official data (that is far too low), some 115,500 Meshket-Turks were deported from South-Western Georgia. Of these, 17,000 died during the deportation. According to the report of the NKWD (Peoples Commissioner for the Interior), which only was published recently, in the year of 1945 599 people were born and 6902 died in the families of the Meshket-Turks ("special contingent from Georgia"). Under such inhuman circumstances, practically as prisoners, the Meshket-Turks lived in exile - in republics of Central Asia - up to 1956.
Only in 1956, after Krushev's disclosure of Stalin's crimes during the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR, were the illicit political accusations and sanctions against the civic rights of the Meshket Turks as well as other deported nations lifted. However, contrary to the case of the Chechen, Ingush, Karatshai, and Kulmyks who all the following year, 1957, were able to return to their homelands to their reinstalled autonomous republics and autonomous districts, the Meshket Turks together with the Crimean Tartars and the Volga Germans waited in vain for the consequent rehabilitation of their status, and the permission to return to their pre-war homelands. Under the cover of several false pretexts or without any explanation at all they were again and again refused permission to return to those areas that they were forcefully al unjustified deported from in 1944. The justifications ranked from the special situation in the border zone, the rights of the new settlers in these regions, who were the new owners of the deported peoples houses and villages, to the eternal enmity between Armenians and Turks and further to more invented explanations, that were meaningless due to the fact that they did not exist prior to the deportations and had not kept the Turks in Meshketia from living and working in a normal manner. The scarcely visible return of Meshket Turks that slowly took place in the 1970's and 80's during the reign of Eduard Sjevardnadse in Soviet Georgia was soon stopped by the central government in Moscow and was not revived in the first years of Georgian independence after 1991, whereas the nationalist doctrine of Zviad Gamsakurdia: "Georgia for the Georgians!" turned into new misfortune for the Meshket Turks and de facto led to a second forced deportation from Georgia.
In the last years of the Soviet period, in Spring and Summer 1989, this ethnic group also became the victim of another provocation that took place in Uzbekistan, the exile of many Meshket Turks, and where most of the deportees remained. These criminal provocations took place especially in the Fergana Valley, and were aimed against the process of "perestoika". They were organized, but supposedly were intended to appear like spontaneous inter ethnic conflicts. The savage harm within the masses with predominantly Uzbek youngsters was aimed against every non-Uzbek ethnic group, and led to attacks on those with relatively more financial fortune and a higher social rank, especially the Meshket Turks, Crimean Tartars, and Armenians in Fergana. The pogroms were carefully planed and implemented with modern telecommunications, transportation, swords, knives, and fire arms, often supported by the local militia police. In the course of the 17 days the pogroms lasted (May 23rd-June 8th 1989) the insane massed lead by junkies, drunks, bandits etc. burned down houses and humans alive, tortured their defenseless victims, murdered, raped, taunted, and robbed them - totally recklessly. They destroyed private cars and other properties and forbid to bury the dead. According to (far too low) official estimates in these days, 97 people were killed, more than 1000 were injured, and 752 houses were burned down. The authorities did not resist the pogrom-planners. A special track of this bitter violation and outrage in the memory of the Meshket Turks were formed due to the fact, that in the same period the first Congress of Peoples Deputies quietly took place in Moscow, and although the state leadership was fully aware of the tragic incidents in Fergana, the supreme power, the Congress of Peoples Deputies took no action to stop the acts of violence, to declare the region to a war zone or at least to rebuke the planners of the pogroms. Moscow was only alerted, when the monstrous situation already was created, and the "defenders" were not hurrying to living people, but to killing fields and embers. From this time onwards a firm stereotype was formed and disseminated within the political mentality of the Meshket Turks: the imagination, that the new, democratic institutions and authorities were equally indifferent and negative towards the Turks as the former Soviet powers. The saturated, calm (and if upset at all, then certainly with other things than the suffering of the Meshket Turks), strange faces of the democratic deputies which together with their speeches in those days were transmitted by television throughout I all of the country, in the souls of the Meshket Turks created hate and the thought, that the democrats were only able to defend such "victims" of the regime who were able to pay for the protection. This certainly was a false image, but no one could ever since convince the Meshket Turks, that democracy was willing to defend the interests of their ethnic group. The Turks observed how committed and passionate the democrats fought the violations of human rights in Sum gait (1988), Tbilisi (1989), later in Vilnius and Riga (1991) - against crimes of a kind that could not be measured or compared to the incidents in Fergana in the summer of 1989 where not tens, but hundreds and thousands became victimized, but none of the democrats (neither Sacharov, nor Srarovoitova, Jeltsin or Popov etc.) said any word of compassion to the Turks. This was a mistake of our young democracy, that partly can be explained by the lack of information (nobody actually knew what was really happening, and the information spoke about "fights on the market because of high strawberry-prices", and it did not seem evident who was responsible for the clash). A growing alienation of the Meshket Turkish national movement from the all-national, in all republics of the former Soviet Union ongoing democratic movements was the sad consequence of this mistake, that could not be reconciled.
The pogroms, murders, robberies, and other incredible crimes that lasted almost all of the summer of 1989 led to large waves of refugees and forced emigrants from Uzbekistan, among them many Meshket Turks.
The number of the Meskhetes in the GUS
Because of the very dramatic and revolutionizing events in the former Soviet republics, it is very difficult to lay down the exact number of the Meskhetes and where exactly they lived - today in the modern states of GUS.
According to a cencus which was initiated by a group of Meskhetes, the number of the Meskhetes in the USSR was 400.000. The number is probably too high.
According to the latest official cencus of the USSR in 1989 the number of the Meskhetes was only 207.500, among these lived more than half- 106.000 - in Uzbekistan, 49.600 lived in Kazakstan, 21.300 lived in Kirgisistan, 17.700 in Azerbaijan, 9.900 in The Russian Federation (RF) (Encyclopaedia "Narody Rossiji". Moscow 1994, p 342).
All these numbers are, however, not to be trusted anymore because of the events in Fergana. In Uzbekistan the Meskhetes are no longer the majority. Today no more than 12.000 Meskhetes live there (in 6 different regions).
At the same time the number of Meskhetes in Kazakstan, Aserbaijan, and in RF has risen considerably.
The first group of fugitives (about 17.000) from the Fergana-valley was already evacuated to central areas of the RF (Belgorodskaya, Voroneschskaya, Kurskaya, Orlowskaya, Smolenskaya) in the summer of 1989. During the following months more than 70.000 people left Uzbekistan. According to the data from the Union of the Meskhetes "Watan" ("Fatherland") there are now more than 96.000 Meskhetes in Kazakstan, 63.000 in Aserbaijan (in 46 districts of these states), 73.000 in RF. Here the largest groups ofMeskhetes are concentrated. In the area of Rostowskaya 13.760 people, in the district of Krasnodarsky 13.240 people, in the district of Stawropolsky 7.240 people and in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic 5.147 people. In the Ukraine the number of Meskhetes is also rising.
The Crimea-Tatars moved to their families in Crimea after the events in Fergana, and now about 1.270 Meskhetes live in Crimea. Furthermore there are groups of Meskhetes (200 - 500 people) in Donezkaya, Chersonskaya, Charjkowskaya and other areas in the southern Ukraine.
Only in their homeland the number of Meskhetes is unchanged. Just a few families (187 persons) who considered themselves to be Meskhetes (Geogia-Muslims, not Turks!), have returned to Georgia over the last few years. Before them nobody had the chance to settle in the former Meskhetia.
Today the Meskhetes are one of the last of the deported (oppressed) people with no right to return to their homeland, neither for mass repatriation nor for individual immigration permits.
The national movement of the Meskhetes, their history, organization, programme and demands
The national movement of the Meskhetes started in the late 1950'es. Its first and foremost aim was always the full rehabilitation of an innocent people and its return to Meskhetia. Before the 1950'es it was more or less active but never completely stopped.
Its relation to the Soviet power apparatus was quite loyal. It expressed its opinions almost exclusively in "Petitions", publications which reached the highest Soviet- and party organs. Its radicals never formed an underground wing of political dissidents and therefore it was never victim of the brutal legal and illegal persecution during the Soviet time. In 1956 (shortly after the 20th congress of the CPSU) the first groups of "initiative", who were to prepare the Petitions, were formed. Thousands of Meskhetes took part in the meetings of this time, they signed the Petitions and collected money to be able to send the delegations to Moscow and Tbilisi. All in all there were 200 such delegations, but they never had any real success.
The first founding congress of the Meskhetian People's organization took place in Buka in the district of Tashkent in Uzbekistan in 1962. It worked illegally to obtain maximum secrecy. More than 600 delegates - representatives of almost all Meskhet communities of all regions, attended this congress. "The Provisional Organizations Committee of Liberation" (POCL - WOKO in Russian) was elected, and its regional departments and permanent commissions were set up.
Between 1962 and 1989 the Meskhetes carried out 10 congresses. The main issue on the agenda of all these congresses was the return to Georgia. Strategies and tactics of the struggle to obtain this goal were being prepared. The tactics changed, but never the political loyalty, the intention always to fight within the constitution, never to provoke confrontations with the Soviet Power.
A few steps were made in the beginning of the 1970'es. In April 1970 and May 1971 representatives of POCL contacted the Turkish Embassy in Moscow to ask for permissions to emigrate to Turkey. But this was an exemption from their normal policy, where POCL never sought a stratetic contact with Turkey. The majority of the Meskhetes didn't want to go to Turkey, because they were afraid, that USSR once again would consider them to be "Turkish agents and spies".
In the middle of the 1970's the Meskhetes had only a limited success. They were suppressed by the Brezhnev-regime. Activists from POCL were arrested and punished, sometimes legally, sometimes administratively. They were often accused of invented criminal acts, which hid the political aspects.
As an example the well known POCL activist Enver Odabashev was arrested in August 1971 in Baku and sentenced to 2 years in a camp, accused of having taken a collective area in his possession. In the camp he was furthermore sentenced for having spread lies about the USSR. In 1974 he was released from the camp.
Two of his employees in the regional Azerbaijanian POCL-organization were also sentenced in fabricated processes. M.Nijasov to 3 year in a camp and I.Karimov to 8 months in a camp for having violated the law of passport.
The Kremlin followed the congresses and the activities of POCL in the years from 1960 to the 1980's, but they didn't do anything to find a constructive solution. It was frozen. It seems that the Kremlin could use the Meskhetes in the relations to Georgia: They kept the Meskhetes in exile, untill Georgia would proclaim its independence, and then the Meskhetes became a Georgian problem, which would arouse nationalistic movements in the Georgian, the Armenian and the Meskhetian population!
Generations of Georgians were for many years told by the Kremlin, that a repatriation of the Meskhetes would create civil war and bloodshed a.o., and only Kremlin was able to avoid this situation.
There is, however, an example of mutual understanding between the different national groups in this region: In 1943 and in 1944, besides the Meskhetes also the Karachies and the Balcharians were deported. They are Turkish speaking Moslems and lived in the border region to Turkey, but they were released in 1956 and returned in 1957 to the reestablished autonome republic in RF called The Kabardine-Balcharian Republic and The Karachi-Chechenian Region.
This area was given as a gift from Stalin to Georgia in 1944, but in 1957 it was taken again, and so USSR solved the problems without any civil wars or any bloodshed. And the Georgian people, which in 1944 had settled in the areas of the deported people, welcomed the repatriated people and gave them their houses and cultural values back. So the problem was solved without any damage to Georgia.
But to USSR it could be a problem, if they couldn't use the repatriation of the Meskhetes as a threat to Georgia. And in Georgia this punishing syndrome created an anti reaction of animosities to the Meskhetes. USSR succeeded in presenting Georgia as nationalistic and inhuman so the state was isolated and got the Moslem world as its enemy. The Meskhetes were the hostages in this policy, so they couldn't be repatriated.
The Meskhetes had only one aim: the repatriation to their old territory in Meskhetia. That was proclaimed on the first congress in 1962, but the organization very quickly moved in more and different directions.
The main group worked for repatriation in Meskhetia. Another group, the Azerbaijanian, wanted to go to Azerbaijan for good, which area ethnically, linguistically and religiously is similar to the Meskhetian tradition. This group was represented by Mr.Mawlud Bajraktarov, who formulated this program in 1959. But only a small part of the Meskhetes followed him. A third group, the Georginian Meskhetes, didn't identify themselves as Turks, but as Moslems and Turkish-speaking Georgians. They talked about returning to their roots, which in reality ment the linguistic and cultural assimilation with the Turkish minority in Georgia. Some of these Meskhetes are repatriated in Georgia, among others Latifskak Baratasvili. He is dead now, but his children in Tbilisi are very active in the Meskhetian organization, which was established in 1962.
In the 1970'es this organization were very active and had contacts to Georgian intellectuals and dissidents. It was also in that period, that Ed.Shevardnadze accepted, that several hundreds of families were repatriated, many of them with Georgian names. And it was also in that period, that this group denied to be Turk-Meskhetes, because they only intentified themselves as Meskhetes. But though about 18.000 used their new Georgian names, only a few hundred families were allowed to be repatriated in Georgia.
This disappointment supported the more radical elements in POCL. In the 1986 congress they reorganized POCL to POC, the Provisionel Organizations Committee under leadership of Mr.Jusuf Sarvarov, who represented the Turkish element. They were better organized with more regional groups.
The 9th Congress took place in Psikod in the Maysky Rayon in the Kabardin-Balkarian Republic on July the 28th in 1988. The 276 delegates were divided between the "Georgian Meskhetes" and the "Turkish-Meskhetes", with the "Turkish- Meskhetes" in majority.
This "Congress of Unity" passed a resolution, in which they condemned the loss of ethnic identity in return for the right to be repatriated as false and in opposition to the national interests of the Turk-Meskhetes. The congress decided to fight for the rights of the Turk-Meskhetes in relation to the Georgian government.
These attitudes were confirmed on the loth Congress in September 1989, after the events in the Fergana-Valley.
A new conference in 1990 decided to change the POC.to "Watan", (the Fatherland), with a new programme, in which they demanded "the total rehabilitation, the right to immediate repatriation for everybody who wishes this". And the "Watan" declared, that they respected the constitution of USSR and would be loyal to the government of Georgia.
After the dissolution of the USSR into many new countries in 1991, "Watan" continued to represent the interests of all the Turk-Meskhetes in these countries.
The new "Watan" had its first congress in Moscow on the 26th of November 1992 with 179 delegates from all regions with Meskhete populations. In 1996 "Watan" became a corresponding member of FUEN on the 41st FUEN Congress in Romania and it attended the 42nd FUEN Congress in Austria in 1997.
On the 43rd FUEN Congress in Prague in May 1998, the FUEN Congress adopted a resolution nr.1998-04 which expressed the delegates' concern for the connection between the many violations of the human rights of the Meskhetes in the Krasnodarsk Region and the problems with the failing repatriation of the Meskhetes. The resolution appealed to RF and Georgia to stop the discrimination of the Meskhetes and appealed to FUEN to visit Georgia on behalf of the Meskhetes.
The two basic movements of the Turkish Meskhets
Watan is the first of these and supports the majority of Turkish Meskhets in all states of the Community of Independent States. Its programme is based on the demand and wish of the masses to return home to Georgia, to the Meskhets, from where the Turks were deported in 1944 and to retain their Turkish identity.
They place no other demands (e.g. state, territorial autonomy; compensation for losses during deportation, exile, etc.). Watan takes into consideration that some of the people no longer intend to resettle in Georgia.
Watan defends and presents the interests of these people: Sometimes, it is a matter of wanting to move to Turkey and obtaining Turkish citizenship. Statements of this kind were expressed by a number of delegates at the 10th congress in September 1989. Watan attempts to help the people and families who intend to do this, e.g. to obtain the respective emigration visas from Turkish embassies in various states of the CIS.
However, this is mostly without any success because Turkey is neither able nor willing to accommodate such a wave of unexpected 'compatriots'. It is more important to help resident Turkish Meskhets who remain living where they are and wish to become naturalised. Watan, as an international organisation, is trying to support the interests and rights of these people in the CIS states.
The Meskhet Turks live under varying conditions in individual CIS states. For example, the legal, moral, cultural, and even the economic, situation of the Meskhet Turks in Azerbaijan is virtually immaculate. The Azerbaijani state is not just helping this minority in its day-to-day life, but also promoting its culture, language and identity. There is only one reason for the Turkish Meskhets to resettle: in Azerbaijan, the Turkish Meskhets are guests, in Georgia they are at home. Patriotic feelings among these people are so strong that some are willing to exchange their good living conditions in Azerbaijan for an uncertain future in Meskhetia. The Turkish Meskhets live in a totally different situation in the Russian Federation, (especially in the Krasnodar region where it is horrific) where even elementary human rights are violated, where physical existence is virtually impossible and where genocide is continually carried out against Turkish Meskhets. In the report by the human rights centre 'Memorial' 'Naruschenije prav vynuzdennych migrantov i etnitscheskaja diskriminadja w Krasnodarskom kraje. Polozenije messchetinskich turok' (Moscow, 1966; parallel in English 'The Violation of the Rights of Forced Migrants and Ethnic Discrimination in Krasnodar Territory. The Situation of the Turkish Meskhets'), many documents have been collected showing under what inhumane conditions the Turkish Meskhets live there. It is forbidden for Turkish Meskhets to work legally, to buy property, to obtain housing, to register themselves or even to marry. Teachers in the schools do not want to teach Turkish children.
The Turks are outlawed here and no law protects them. The outrageous pictures of such terror were documented during negotiations at the Chamber of Human Rights in the Political Consultative Council of the President of the Russian Federation on 28 January 1998 in Moscow (one of the last speeches by Galina Starovojtova protesting against the fascist policies of the Governor of Krasnodar district was held there). The Russian Ministry for Nationalities and Regionalism (head of the Department of Migration Dr H.F. Bugaj and others) favours, promotes and justifies this kind of policy and practice of the Krasnodar leaders and wants to hear no complaints from Watan, as was demonstrated to the FUEN delegation (on 12 November 1998).
Watan concerns itself with all these questions and tries to draw the attention of the world and influence public opinion in Russia.
The general people's meeting Watan called on 67 June 1998 in the Bolsaja Orlovka in the Rostov-na-Donu region, discussed all these issues and passed a resolution again emphasising that the prime target of the movement was repatriation without loss of the Turkish identity, that the conditions in which Turkish Meskhets live in the individual regions of the Russian Federation are unbearable intolerable.
This resolution underscores that the Turkish Meskhets expect a solution to the problem from Georgia, want to become 'loyal citizens' of the Republic of Georgia, and place no economic claims or demands on the Georgian government.
2. ASSOCIATION of DEPORTED GEORGIAN MUSLIMS
The second movement of the Turkish Meskhets, in contrast to Watan, is not of international character and restricted to activities within Georgia. It stems from activities of the Committee for Return led by L. Baratashvili and is now located in Tiflis as the 'Association of Deported Georgian Muslims' it means Meskhet, Chsna (Georgia - 'deliverance'). The conference founding Chsna took place in 1991 in the Chassanja settlement of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic. The headquarters were here until 1997.
The first chairman of Chsna was Haul Umarov-Gosalishvili (U1995), then Issa Ashrafilov, and from 1997 Jassin Hassanov, who lives in Tiflis. Apart from Chsna (in close cooperation) the youth organisation of the Meskhets 'Meschetti' operates in Georgia as well as the Latifschach Baratashvili foundation of the Union of Georgian Repatriates, that has published its newspaper WeMeskhets! since autumn 1997.
Many representatives of this movement are totally convinced that they are the ethnic Georgians are (see, e. g. the diary of Nuri Chossadse in the newspaper WeMeskhets!, 1997, No. 2. p. 5). The FUEN delegation met Kara Baratashvili, a member of this group's presiding committee, and others.
The social surveys carried out in recent years among the Turkish Meskhet population in Azerbaijan, the Volgagrad region and other parts of the Russian Federation have shown that there are many Turkish Meskhets outside Georgia who agree to being called Muslim Georgians in order to return home to Georgia.
However, not all have succeeded. There is no ideological confrontation between the state leaders of Georgia and the Chsna organisation (and here is the great difference in Chsnas' situation with whom the Georgian state structures actually work, and that ofWatan, that has no representatives in Georgia).
This does not mean that everything is fine for the Turkish Meskhets who belong to Chsna and that the 'stubborn, obstinate' Turkish Meskhets in Watan have unsolved problems. The meeting of the FUEN delegation with the head of the repatriation service in the Ministry of Migration Issues, Prof. Dr Guram Mamulia, who referred to these people as the 'discriminated minority' in Georgia, was about these Meskhets. Their rights are not guaranteed by Georgian legislation. Not all families have been reunited, not all Meskhets can obtain Georgian citizenship without obstacles, or find work, or purchase property, etc.
The new Georgian surnames they would have liked or not liked to take on do not protect them from the xenophobia (turkophobia) of parts of the population and administration. There have been many victims particularly among the Meskhets already living in Georgia during 'ethnic cleansing' and the overall aggressive nationalistic policy under the slogan 'Georgia for Georgians' of ex-President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Similarly, the Meskhet Achalscheni settlement in the Zulukidse region was totally destroyed in the early 1990s and has still not been rebuilt. New refugees were forced to migrate away from Georgia under Gamsakhurdia's government and have until today still not been able to return. The book by Marat Baratashvili The Legal State of Meskh Repatriates in Georgia (Tiflis, 1998) includes many examples of the inadequate legal situation of the Meskhets in Georgia.
The differences of opinion and contradictions between the Turkish Meskhets of Watan and the Meskhets of Chsna must not be overestimated. The contradictions actually exist in important questions when considering one's own ethnogenesis and the 'price' of repatriation. But not the main factor:
If normal, consistent repatriation were 'allowed' and carried out, the two groups of Meskhets will, in free, democratic Georgia, find their mutual language and understanding, will search for and define who among them are the 'Turkish Georgians' and who the Georgian Turks are, who their ancestors were, what name they will bear and which initial services Watan and Chsna rendered for their peoples and which mistakes they made.
The problem is that this repatriation has been neither secured, neither put into practice for the Turkish Meskhets nor for Meskhets and remains impossible. This mutual drama includes not only the two groups of Turkish Meskhets/Meskhets embodying the two facets of the national movement, but all deported minorities and the Georgian majority, who cannot become fully free and democratic until they have solved the issues of their minorities without any rights, of their persecuted and of their refugees.
One step forward, two steps back: state policy, legislation and executive violence for the Turkish Meskhets. Before 'Perestroika', the Soviet powers showed no reaction at all to the demands of the national Turkish Meskhet movement. After the only known decree by the Presiding Committee of the Upper Council of the USSR on 28 April 1956 'On the abolishing (decree) of restricted punishment in the regime of special settlements ('spezposelenije') of the Crimean Tartars, Balkarians, Turkish citizens of the USSR, Kurds, Chemshites and members of their families who had been banished during the Great Fatherland War' there was no mention of Turks in Soviet laws, constitutions or other official documents as if they did not exist in this country. At least so it seems. In reality, there were still a few state documents affecting, yet sometimes facilitating, the fate of the Turkish Meskhets in the sixties and seventies. For example, the order of 12 June 1968 by the Minister for the Security of Social Order allowed Turks, who previously settled in the Achalzychsky, Adygensky, Aspindsky, Achalkalaksky and Bogdanovsky districts of the Soviet Republic of Georgia to move and settle within the borders of the state 'on a common basis with all other citizens of the USSR'.
Also, the decree by the Presiding Committee of the Upper Council of the USSR of 3 November 1972 (No. 3521-VIII) 'on abolishing (decree) the restrictions in the selection of residence for certain categories of citizen' which more liberally corrected the decree of 28 April 1956. But all of these documents were stamped 'top secret', were not published at the time and unknown to the masses of people affected by them. It was the Georgia, the first, that had followed the calls, hopes and demands of the Turkish Meskhets during 'Perestroika'. But in official Georgian documents Meskhets, and not Turkish Meskhets appeared. The government (the Council of Ministers) of the Georgian SSR passed ordinance No. 600 on 8 December 1987 regarding the resettlement of Meskhet families to Georgia in 1987-1988 who wished to choose a permanent residence in Georgia. Here, very exact (very low) 'hard tasks' (limits, contingents, numbers) were laid down and confirmed. According to this, only 300 families (100 in Achalzychsky district, 200 in other regions of the Republic) could resettle. But even such a modest plan remained incomplete. The returning repatriates were spread, 56 families no more were settled in various districts of Georgia which the repatriates did not like; they felt lonely, isolated from relatives and friends, not rarely, did not wish to live under such conditions and moved back (mostly to Uzbekistan) away from Georgia. On 24. July 1988, the Council of Ministers passed the new ordinance (No. 293) totally stopping the resettlement of the Meskhets. At this time, the huge, slow machine of the all-unions bureaucracy had turned to the Turkish Meskhet issue. In June 1988, the special commission 'for studying (research) the possibilities for granting the wishes of the Turkish Meskhet population regarding returning home' was set up (with S.S. Slobodniuk at its head). The commission visited the locations from where the Turkish Meskhets had been deported, studied the demographic and economic situation. It was noted that 84 settlements (villages) of 220 in this region (Meschetia-Dschavachetia) were empty (without a population) and could be slightly repopulated (settled) with the repatriates, that 70% of farmland that had been intensively cultivated until 1944, was no longer tilled, (...) are incorrect, without cause and do not correspond to reality.
Nevertheless, no constructive results ensued from the work of this Commission: neither the government nor the Upper Council of the USSR drew the necessary consequences from their material. It was an advantage for the USSR until the end not to solve the Turkish Meskhet problem, to keep them in suspense, hope and desperation and, if necessary, to use them against Georgia. This necessity seemed to be more current to the leaders of the Soviet Union the more it became evident that Georgia wanted to split from the Soviet Union and fight for independence (particularly after the bloodshed in April 1989 in Tiflis, after the triumphant 1990 parliamentary elections, of the election campaign 'The round table free Georgia'). In Georgia, at this time in a very difficult situation, in danger and in isolation, there were no powers that could or wanted to reach out a hand of friendship to the Turkish Meskhets. Even the democratically oriented politicians were not willing to do this as they feared (perhaps not in vain) that Turkish Meskhetia with its new population coming and being sent from Russia, with its leaders suspected of being too close to communism, would become the stronghold of separatist anti-Georgian provocation, like South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The mistakes of the young Georgian politicians, mass prejudice, the successes of the old imperial policy 'Divide et Impera!', everything met together here. A sad example of misunderstanding, of a lack of wisdom and magnanimity on the part of Georgia is the letter 'On the issue of resettling the Turkish Meskhets' sent by the Council of Ministers of the Georgian SSR to the Upper Council of the USSR on 15 September 1989. It listed all the possible and impossible causes, from religious ones, geological ones ('the Caucasian mountain pass is a young geological formation continually experiencing occurrences like landslides, mudslides and avalanches') to prove and convince people that mass settlement of the Turkish Meskhets in Georgia were impossible. But at the end of nineties, the ice was broken; the tragic events in Fergana gave the central office the incentive to declare their sympathy and draw the attention of society to the misery of the Turkish Meskhets. On 20 June 1989, the Presiding Committee of the Upper Council of the USSR formed the Commission of Delegates on 'Problems of the Turkish Meskhet population'.The legal basis for the national movement of Turkish Meskhets also constituted a legal act, like the declaration of the Upper Council of the USSR on 14 November 1989, which condemned all repression of these peoples who had been 'punished', banished, deported and suppressed, as criminal, demanded rights for them and abolished the directive of the Upper Council of the USSR on 7 March 1991, which justified deportation or provided for restrictions regarding the peoples affected. In contrast, where the deported people did not have any right to return home, is where conflicts flared up, e.g. in Prigorodnyj district in North Ossetia. It has to be noted as pleasing that the changes mentioned in approaching the problem are happening literally before our eyes in Georgian society: many Georgian politicians, scholars, representatives of the creative intellectuals, religious leaders, delegates, young and old people we spoke to concerning many matters, have quite easily renounced their former prejudices and doubts and agreed that justice should triumph in free Georgia as regards the Turkish Meskhets, who were victims of Stalin. It is hardly possible to believe that these changes in public opinion we felt almost physically in Georgia will be forgotten tomorrow and everything will remain the same.
(...) After these legislative acts, the return home was theoretically open for the Turkish Meskhets. But the matter did not proceed easily or soon. The last words of 'Soviet Georgia' in the frequently quoted letter of 15 September 1989 sounded like this: 'We consider it to good purpose to deny the Turkish Meskhets the right to settle in the Georgian SSR'. Unfortunately, new, free Georgia, whose first president was Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1990, found no other wise words on this problem. Not until the government was succeeded by Eduard Shevardnadze (at the beginning of 1992) did a new approach to this problem begin to develop in Georgia.
What speaks in favour of this is the ordinance of Georgia's head of state (Shevardnadze was not yet president at this time) of 18 May 1993 'On the regulation of a series of social problems among deported peoples'. This ordinance concerns the return of Meskhet families who had been illegally forced to leave (deported) Georgia in 19891991 (during Gamsakhurdia's government) and looks into a programme to socially adapt them. In the Pedagogic Institute (Sulchan-Saba Orbeliani Institute), a two-year preliminary course, an adaptation centre and a student's residence were provided for Meskhets returning home.
The government ordinance of 15 November 1993 gave the people who had survived deportation in 1989-1991 the status of refugees which meant they had legal right to live in Georgia (unfortunately, legislation changed in early 1998 when the Georgian government passed the law 'On refugees' as this law defines: 'A person whose country of origin is Georgia can under no circumstances be a refugee'). On 9 November 1996, President Shevardnadze signed decree No. 802 'Confirmation of the state programme to solve legal and social problems of people who were deported and repatriated to Georgia'. A government commission was created to put this programme into practice and was led by the Minister for Refugees and Resettlement Issues, Valerij Waschakidse. This programme formed the first stage of repatriation for the years 1997-2000. It is planned for approx. 5,000 people to return home during these years. The legal basis for repatriation is the law 'On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression and on the reinstatement of justice'. However, the title and content of this law that took many years and controversies to prepare, changed so much that it is no longer about guaranteeing the rights of repatriates. Georgian parliament did not pass this law until December 1997 under the title 'On the recognition of Georgian citizens as victims of political repression and on the protection of their rights. In article 2 of the first part it says that the law applies only to the citizens of Georgia who survived persecution and repression in Georgia between 25 February 1921 and 28 October 1990. This means that the masses of Turkish Meskhets (the majority) who do not possess Georgian citizenship do not fall under this law. Neither does this law provide protection for those Meskhets who obtained citizenship in 1993 because, in article 3, it says it does not apply to the 'ethnic groups' deported from Georgia between 1921 and 1989 and that the rehabilitation of these groups will be considered individually and included in future laws.
Of course, the Meskhets (Meskhets and Turkish Meskhets) are very disappointed with this law, just like other ethnic groups, primarily the Germans. They consider the article mentioned above to be 'discriminating' and a violation of their interests. (See, e.g. the article by Marat Baratashvili 'Discrimination has been declared legal by parliament' in the newspaper WeMeskhets, No. 2, pp. 34,1997). The issue is even more complicated because when the new laws concerning ethnic groups were taken up, the Georgian parliament will not be hurrying and no one knows how long they will take to prepare. The constitutional court will (and can) not recognise this 'discriminating' article because the law says that the issue of deported ethnic groups have to be attended to individually. Not just legislative matters, also practical socio-economic implementation of the state programme for rehabilitating the Meskhets progresses slowly and not particularly successfully. In autumn 1997, Prof. Guram Mamulia commented on this: 'According to the programme, at least 750 (15% of 5,000) people are to return home to Georgia by the end of the year. But this hasn't happened. Only few families have come and they are also in a situation of a discriminated minority. All that we can see: 45 students studying in the adaptation centre. And that is too few, it is simply nothing. Imagine: from 1991 (from the moment Georgia was recognised as an independent state) no newly arrived Meskhet in Georgia received Georgian citizenship (...) Those among them in Georgia are now looked upon as foreigners! They are not allowed to buy property. This kind of policy is operated by Nodar Surmanidse, deputy governor in the Achalzychsky district. He has forbidden notary publics (verbally, but a command is a command) to certificate this kind of transaction with Meskhets. No Meskhet here has the right to buy a house or an apartment with his own money...' (Guram Mamulia: the legal viewpoint here is totally in a state of limbo (WeMeskhets!, No. 1,1997, p.2). To our great regret, Prof. Mamulia had the sad opportunity to repeat his words in an interview with him in Tiflis in autumn 1998 as nothing had changed. What is stopping Georgia accepting the deported people and what can possibly be solve this problem? We can state a few factors that are obstacles to finding a solution to the problem of the Turkish Meskhets, who are today the last (or one of the last) peoples repressed by Stalin's regime and whose rehabilitation, as far as territory is concerned, has not yet ended and not yet begun.
There are, without doubt, mutual economic difficulties which keep the present Georgia on the brink of a crisis and misery and which do not allow Georgia to solve simple repatriation problems for a whole people itself without external help. The viewpoint expressed by President Eduard Shevardnadze (Georgia has no right to leave matters of repatriation as they are; if it accepts repatriates, it should take on full responsibility for their fate, for the infrastructure developed and all conditions to allow these people normal existence) creates understanding and sympathy. It is correct. And if we take account of the destroyed and deformed economy that Georgia inherited from the Soviet regime, what kind of difficult situation would this country be facing in the nineties (extensively due to the Russian intervention in Ossetian and Abhkahzian conflicts and wars), when we remember that almost 300,000 refugees from South Ossetia and Abkhazia are now in Georgia without a roof over their heads and without any means of existence and who Georgia has to look after, we understand that Georgia simply does not have enough physical potential to guarantee the programme for repatriation of the Turkish Meskhets, to take care of them and to implement present parameters and distribute **Nicht ganz klar. And the Turkish Meskhets who have already survived so many disasters this century should not be faced with misery and poverty again after repatriation. Specific, controlled aid from abroad, from international organisations, European institutions, the Muslim world, foundations, etc, creating a special scientific and politically based programme of repatriation and rehabilitation for the Turkish Meskhets, funded in part by international capital, the state structures are able to remedy the most important causes which are today hindering Georgia in the mass repatriation of this ethnic group. But before creating this kind of programme, before the aid arrives from abroad and independent of this aid, vital steps are necessary on the part of the Georgian state. (...) by the initiatives of the national movement which can secure the return home and do not demand great financial and economic effort of Georgia. It cannot continue that indefinite dates are exceeded and a historic deadline for solving the vital issue with references and declarations that Georgia has its problems and difficulties. Nicht klar** Every state always has more or less serious economic problems and difficulties. It is an endless story and not a sound reason for not solving the problem of a people who are suffering and, innocently losing their home. The present demographic and economic situation in Meskhetia (Achalzychsky and other districts) allows the first groups of repatriates, who agree and are able, to buy and build houses there for their own money. These people have no demands on the state and want neither compensation for being deported nor financial support or aid. They only need the right to live where they want to, where they feel they are at home. To give them this right without delay and without obstacle is a sacred obligation for the democratic Georgian state which intends to exists in the European house, in the system of the UN, the Council of Europe and the European Union.
It has to be taken into consideration that the Turkish Meskhets, according to Watan's programme, have not violated the rights or interests of the people already living there and have the moral obligation to return home peacefully, that they want to cultivate the neglected properties and mountain terraces to plant orchards and vineyards, that they already have sound economic plans to obtain the cheap building materials gravel, stone and sand from the pits of the Kura river, to build plants to produce reinforced concrete and stone- crushing factories, to develop mining and the extraction industry on the basis of Meskhet resources. They are ready and willing to voluntarily and generously invest their own capital and energy in building mosques, schools, multi-storey housing on the new Turkish settlements. It is a crime to stop them reconstructing the renaissance of their home, the renaissance of Georgia.
The second and no less important fact today hindering the repatriation of the Turkish Meskhets has to be seen in the political culture, in national consciousness, in the mentality, in the prejudices brought forth by the broad Georgian public. It is not just a question of the Georgian population but probably far more, of other national groups and ethnic minorities of which the great Georgian state-nation consists who show total indifference to the problem of the Turkish Meskhets, or even worse, express wild turkophobia targeted chiefly at the Armenian diaspora as an eternal blemish. We will speak about the Armenia viewpoint in detail later. These are nationalistic prejudices which are widely common among various classes in Georgia's society, among various political groups, social, confessional and ethnic groups. Virtually the only exception is the worthy citizen's attitude of the Azerbaijani minority in Georgia. Meetings and talks with representatives of the Azerbaijani population in Gardabani district on FUEN's visit on 11 November 1998 convinced us that the Azerbaijanis look upon the return of the Turkish Meskhets to Georgia with understanding and sympathy and welcome this possibility. But particularly this, in our opinion positive, fact can be provocative and complicate the situation because a part of the Georgian and, in particular the Armenian, population fear the possibility that they could form a concerted front of Muslim, of Azerbaijani-Turkish solidarity.
During its brief visit, the FUEN delegation noticed various manifestations of turkophobia in Georgia, which have nothing in common and are not compatible with the democratic norms of behaviour and way of thought, with the rules and demands of present civilisation and European culture. In various official rooms and halls, including parliament, we heard voices saying that the Meskhets are not Turkish but Turkish-speaking Georgians (as if this changed any of their rights!). They recalled and recounted to which sultan, pascha or president in the neighbouring republic, or in which bygone years, the ancestors of these Turkish Meskhets sent their no longer up-to-date messages and letters. We also heard the historic 'prophets' who were certain that the civil war would immediately begin when the Turk Meskhets returned home. But we also have many examples of the repatriation of deported peoples in the former USSR and after 1991 (in the Ukraine, in the Crimea, where the Crimean Tartars returned): nowhere is normal, civilised repatriation followed by a civil war. We believe that the objective of a constructive solution to the Turkish Meskhet issue has not only awaken in the highest corridors of power of the Georgian intellectual elite but dominates there. We have reason to believe that there are sufficient healthy and bright forces in Georgian society that will not allow further discrimination against or degradation of the ethnic minority. Our talks with state president Eduard Shevardnadze, with the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II, with the president of the parliamentary commission, the famous director El Eldar Schengelaya, with the head of the Repatriation Services and historian Guram Mamulia, with the ambassador of Georgia in Moscow Malchas Kakabadse and with his deputy Ramas Sitschinawa, with the head of the Department of the Inner Nationality Policy of the Presidential Administration and famous physicist Alexsei Gerassimov, with journalist Paata Sakaraschvili (author of the honest and courageous article 'The state should not resemble a frightened ostrich', Obtschschekavkasskaya Gaseta, No. 3,1998, 1117 November, p. 7) and with other dignified people who convinced us: the voice of conscience of the best people who take the suffering of the small ethnic group to heart, sounds out loud and clear in Georgia.
President Eduard. Shevardnadze said exactly this: 'I feel the pain of these people (the Meskhets) as if it were my own pain' and 'I do not want to die or leave my position until I have solved this issue.' The FUEN delegation left Georgia with this in mind and with hope in their hearts that the problem of rehabilitation and repatriation of the Turkish Meskhets could be solved with Shevardnadze.
Russia did not give us much hope, and particularly in the comparison and contrast with Russia, we gained a clear impression of Georgia as a state, which is on a democratic way to development
- under the most difficult circumstances forced upon it by military blows, provocation, economic problems, shows consistent and effective care for its minorities, ethnic groups and indigenous peoples on its territory- is willing to solve its problem of repatriation for the Turkish Meskhets, perhaps the last in a series of formerly solved problems
- adheres to the norms of international law and the recommendations of the international community that defines the conditions for admitting a new member to the Council of Europe. In principle, Georgia's policy on national minorities corresponds to these norms, rules and recommendations. However, simultaneously, we have to emphasise that the government of Georgia and its progressive democratic powers will still have to overcome strong resistance in order to reach a decision in the Turkish Meskhet issue. This resistance is created by the united reactionary powers, who are ready at any minute to ignite a rebellion among the dark, ignorant, nationalistic population. Unfortunately, a number of the well-known and misled politicians play a role in this resistance and repeat that Georgia first has to solve the problem of its refugees (the Georgians from Abkhazia) before it can attend to foreign refugees. This attempt, of course, to split the refugees up into first and second categories is not permissible, is unacceptable from a democratic aspect. The attitude of a broad section of the delegates in Georgian parliament who block the passing of the bill that could form the legal basis for repatriation drastically shows how strong this resistance is and how complicated the president's job is who had promised to pass this bill during his rime in office. Georgia's leaders face complex tasks that not only require energy and determination, but also necessitate changing the opinion of the public, a 're-education' for parts of society that have not yet understood the paradigms of Georgia as a democratic multiracial state, in which every citizen has the same rights and where the Georgian majority respect and care for the various ethnic and religious minorities
The third serious factor preventing a solution to the problem is the increasing external pressure certain neighbouring states and international powers are exerting on Georgia. This is primarily diplomatic pressure on the part of Armenia and the attitude of the Armenian diaspora. Although common sense, tolerance and culture were and are highly developed among masses of the Armenian people, including the Armenian population that lived peacefully with the Turkish Meskhets in Meskhetia, we may however speak of a provocative role the organised Armenian diaspora plays which demonstrates a fanatic hate of all things Turkish and repeatedly blackmails the Georgian state with the possibility of placing Armenian territorial claims. During the meeting with representatives of the Armenian intellectuals of Tiflis in the Armenian State Theatre on 10 November 1998, the FUEN delegation was able to directly observe with which lack of inhibition this circle explained impudent claims and wild ideas marked by turkophobia. Here, Turkish Meskhets are not considered to be people, are referred to as 'rats' that live in grubby burrows and holes. They want to hear nothing of the Turkish Meskhets' right to return home. They are of the opinion that Meskhetia is Armenian territory, part of 'Great Armenia' and do not want to share this land with Turks. They collect various historic 'hours' of the Turkish Meskhets and make up evil, sometimes quite absurd stories: how the Turkish Meskhets demanded autonomy in 1918, the correspondence they exchanged with Kemal Ataturk in the twenties and thirties, the intentions (!) they had during the Second World War of 'teaming up with Turkey'. The most inexcusable hour of the Turkish Meskhets is considered to be the fact that today, 70,000 members of this ethnic group live in Azerbaijan as if simply to live in Azerbaijan were a crime. At this Armenian meeting (of the creative intellectuals!) where anti-Turkish hysteria was dominant, there was no one with a sensible voice in this wild chorus who could answer the question placed by Mr Heinrich-Hans Hansen: 'Why does the (Armenian) minority in Georgia have the rights and the opportunity to develop their culture, and why do they reject the same rights and opportunities for the other (Turkish) minority?'. Recently, the Armenian diaspora has more and more frequently played the role of 'the fifth column', of Russian influence. It must not be forgotten that the Russian Federation (half officially and half secretly) supports Armenia in its war against Azerbaijan and is consequently a considerable counter power (Armenia - the non-recognised Republic ofKarabakh) against the alliance of Georgia-Azerbaijan in Transcaucasia. These concerted powers mean that the Armenians in Georgia feel Russian support behind them in all their demands. The official heads of neighbouring Armenia do not hesitate to exert open political pressure on Georgia in its repatriation issue. Evidence of this was seen on the last official visit (in November 1998) by Armenian President Robert Katjarian to Georgia. In talks with Georgian President Shevardnadze, not being ashamed to interfere coarsely and directly in Georgia's home affairs, he drew 'particular attention to the repatriation of Turkish Meskhets in Dschavachetia' and said that 'this repatriation could cause the situation in this region to flare up' (see: Michail Woronin. Kotjarian visited Georgia: the President of Armenia and Georgia have paid particular attention to the problem of Dschavachetia //Nesavissimaja Gaseta, 25November 1998.p. 5). Shevardnadze replied that the problem of repatriating the Turkish Meskhets would not be solved immediately, but in stages and that today's focus is primarily for Georgia to attend to the problem of the refugees returning from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and he invited Kotjarian to visit Dschavachetia next year, where the Armenian diaspora lives compactly. Unfortunately, there is today no political strength or power in Transcaucasia or in the wide Eurasian area that could neutralise this pressure exerted on Georgia by the officials in Yerevan and support Georgia in its hardly visible attempts to open the doors to its banished people. Turkey, whose internal affairs are based on the principles of hard integration of all ethnic groups and minorities in a Turkish nation-state and mercilessly fights any kind of (primarily Kurd) separatism, is by no means willing to take on the care of a national minority (Turkish Meskhets) that, from the aspect of this kind of state doctrine, is considered suspicious, and presses more for repatriation not to Turkey but to Georgia. Officially, Turkey demonstrates this neutrality more as it does not wish to place any imperial claims on Transcaucasia: if such claims existed. Turkey would probably needs to have 'its people' somewhere in Georgia, but Turkey does not intend to play any similar games. And so the only thing the Turkish Meskhets (who peep hopefully over the icy summit of Ararat towards Istanbul and Ankara) can expect from Turkey is humanitarian aid (and they obtain aid from various Turkish foundations and NGOs; a great deal of this goes to Azerbaijan), and the narrow stream of legal emigration through the embassies and consulates of Turkey in the Community of Independent States (CIS). Emigration, with which they will indubitably end their existence as an special ethnocultural group and begin a non-carefree life as normal citizens of Turkey with its non-flourishing economy and critical social problems. Nicht ganz klar: The other 'Turk' state, Azerbaijan, which seems to constitute the political counter power in Transcaucasia due to its confrontation with Armenia and could exert opposing pressure on Georgia is advised to accelerate repatriatation of the Turkish Meskhets. And with the pressure and influence on Georgia, Azerbaijan has all the means and mechanisms because Georgia is interested in sending oil from Baku and goods for the Silk Route over the Baku - Tiflis line, but it is not rushing with such advice. With all the friendly and notably improved relations between Azerbaijan and Georgia in recent years and personally between the two presidents, Heidar Alijev has still not said one word about the Turkish Meskhets to Shevardnadze. Probably because this is not in the rejective interests of Azerbaijan to lose such masses of its own citizens (Turkish Meskhets living in Azerbaijan), who are deeply integrated in the Azerbaijani economy and are a great benefit to the state with their work, and to give these to someone else. It is in Azerbaijan's interests to keep these people in the state (according to various statistics, these vary from 67,000 to 74,000) where they live and work in the mountain and steppe districts, which were razed and destroyed after the Armenian population fled and was banned, and who are consistently loyal and grateful to the Azerbaijani state. On top of this, they demonstrate Azerbaijan's care for its national minorities to the whole world. Totally hopeless perspectives (as regards real assistance for the Turkish Meskhets) is shown throughout official relations between Tunis and Moscow. The more evil and cheeky the reproaches of Russian nationalists, including civil servants responsible for nationality policy, when addressing Shevardnadze, the more doubts exists as to whether these Russian politicians will actually secure repatriation to Georgia for the Turkish Meskhets. It is in fact in their interests to keep this minority without rights in Russia in order to obtain humanitarian aid from foreign foundations (the tiniest part of which hardly reached the Turkish Meskhets in Russia), and what is most important, to maintain the high temperature of political blackmail against Georgia. The dictator of separatist Abkhazia, Vladislav Ardsinba, who sits on the Russian bayonets in Sokhumi, has not infrequently added the issue of Turkish Meskhets to his diplomatic weapons. In replying to the demands to allow the Georgian refugees to return to their home settlements and securing this, he often adds the Turkish Meskhet issue to his lazy old excuses and demagogy.
Finally, the fourth cause lies in the insufficiencies and mistakes that mark the present national movement of Turkish Meskhets structured as an international organisation Watan. Their inadequate political maturity, the absence of transparency in their democratic programme, the scrupulousness of their leaders, who are willing to cooperate with disputable reputations and questionable persons (from Zhyrinovsky to Achilgov and Ibrahim-Belle), can be estimated. In any case, it is quite clear that Watan with Jussuf Sarvarov at its head it is totally different from, e.g. the Crimean Tartar national movement under Mustafa Dschemilev working in the Ukraine today in the noble role of a strategic partner for the Ukrainian national movement 'Ruch'. We would very much like to see the Turkish Meskhets return home to Georgia in a similar way as the Crimean Tartars did to the Crimea, and that, this small but long-suppressed people, obtains a good political ally in Tiflis in its fight for more independence. Yet we cannot be sure if the historic event will develop along these lines. And we understand the doubts and disquiet among Georgian leaders and Georgian intellectuals who have certain fears that less friendly powers will enter Georgia on the heels of the repatriates and form a bastion of anti-democratic opposition. That Watan, which today is dependent on the Russian ministries and not the best state and ideological structures of the Russian Federation, will also act in the interests of these structures in Georgia, cannot be ruled out. Here, we have a real contradiction... of this contradiction between the noble objectives of the national movement of Turkish Meskhets and the imperfection of their organisation welter unklar The most important task is not to disregard the genuine national interests of Georgia and the Turkish Meskhets as its indigenous people and ethnic minority, who... unklar. The return home of the Turkish Meskhets in the short term should be a triumph of justice and an important factor in strengthening the authority of Georgia as a democratic state with many nationalities on the international stage.