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From Surgun to Vatan : ethnic identity construction and the repatriation processes of the Crimean Tatars and the Meskhetian Turks Cavoukian, Kristin T. R.

Abstract

The Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks are former-Soviet ethnic groups who were deported en masse by the Stalinist regime in 1944, from present-day Ukraine and Georgia to Central Asia. Even after Stalin's death and the official acknowledgement of the harm caused by their deportation, neither group was allowed to return to its homeland. Today, both groups are struggling to repatriate to regions of independent post-Soviet states, the Crimean Tatars to the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, and the Meskhetian Turks to the Meskheti-Javakheti or Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia. Both regions contain a regional majority, a minority at the state level - Russians in the Crimea, and Armenians in Javakheti - which is hostile to the return of the deported group. Despite remarkable parallels between the experiences of the two groups, the Crimean Tatars have been relatively successful in returning to their homeland, whereas the Meskhetian Turks' repatriation movement has largely failed. Using a constructivist (or social constructionist) approach, this paper examines the role played by ethnic identity construction in the repatriation movements of the two groups. Ethnic identity construction is examined with respect to the deported groups and the regional majorities, as well as the state-level identities of Ukraine and Georgia, and is shown to account for the differential results experienced by the Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks. The nature of ethnic identity is revealed as a dialogue between internal and external factors, with the role of the state emerging as a significant external factor in both cases.

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