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The Repatriation process of Meskhetian/Ahiska Turks to their homeland in Georgia: challenges and prospects

Keskin, Serhat.
Meskhetian/Ahıska Turks are a Sunni Muslim, Turkish-speaking community, whose homeland is Akhaltsikhe (known as Samtskhe-Javakheti) in southern Georgia. They were deported by Stalin from their homeland to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan in 1944, and apart from some who managed to settle in Georgia, they have been unable to repatriate due to the preventive policies of the Soviet Union. When Georgia became a conditional member of the Council of Europe in 1999, the condition on organization of the repatriation of Ahıska Turks was imposed. Although Georgia enacted a law in 2007 related to the repatriation of Ahıska Turks, there has been little progress since that date. Based on fieldwork and interviews conducted in Azerbaijan (Baku, Saatlı, and Sabirabad) and Georgia (Nasakirali, Tbilisi and Tsitelubani) in 2015 and 2016, this thesis aims to analyze the repatriation process Ahıska Turks to their homeland following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and explain why this process has been ineffective. It is argued that the analysis of the related problems is threefold: passive role of the Council of Europe in monitoring the repatriation process, problems related to the implementation of the law of 2007, and concerns about a potential ethnic tension with the Armenians who lived in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region. In short, this thesis argues that the ethno-religious nature of the Georgian nationalism and national identity have made the repatriation and integration of Ahıska Turks difficult.