Ahiska Turks in Philadelphia

  • International Journal of Social and Human Sciences 6 2012

    Ahiska Turks in Philadelphia: Keeping Cultural Identity and Religion in a Multicultural Environment

     Kenan Cetinkaya, Semanur Kodan

    Kenan Cetinkaya is a PhD candidate at the Department of Religion,
    Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA (e-mail: kenan@temple.edu).
    Semanur Kodan is a MA student at the Department of Psychological
    Counseling and Guidance at Ataturk University, Erzurum, Turkey (e-mail:

    Ahiska Turks in the Philadelphia area maintain a very complex, cultural heritage which they have carried with them for centuries from Georgia to Uzbekistan then Russia and lastly to the USA. While facing very severe conditions in the last half of the last century, their passion for their language, religion and tradition allowed them to keep their cultural identity. In the paper, the Ahiska Turks’ sorrowful story is reviewed and their struggle with keeping their identity in a multicultural environment of the USA is examined in the context of the Philadelphia area.


    AHISKA Turks or Meskhetian Turks generally are Sunni Muslims, and their original homeland is Meskhetia in the Republic of Georgia. Being under the Ottoman Empire for centuries and later under Soviet Russia, Ahiska Turks have a mix of cultures and traditions. In 1944 under the Stalin regime, Ahiska Turks were forcibly deported from their homeland and settled in modern day Uzbekistan. After facing a pogrom in Uzbekistan, many fled back to parts of Russia during the collapse of the Soviet regime. In 2004 many Ahiska Turks under a very severe situation were granted refugee status under the US refugee program and by the end of 2007 around 17000 settled in 66 towns of 32 states in the US. Ahiska Turks in Philadelphia constitute a big part of the refugee population with a population of around 400-450 people (about 85 families). Many of them live in the Northeast area of Philadelphia [7].In spite of such a complex history, they are trying to create a new homeland in the US. However, the capitalism, liberty, and prosperity they find in the USA pushes them to challenge their traditional, religious and cultural identity. In the research we focused on the issue of preserving cultures and religious identity in a multicultural society. The method of education of their culture and religion which they offer for their children and teenagers is another part of our focus. These questions are being asked: In contrast to the communist regime of Soviet Russia, what are the challenges of the capitalist system in terms of keeping their religious identity and culture? Do they consider themselves as
    Diaspora? How do/can they integrate/assimilate into the US society? Do they want to fully assimilate into the society or do they have any plans to go back to their homeland? What is the role of religion in their relationship with others and preserving their culture and identity? In the paper, we start with historical challenges Ahisk Turks have faced. In the second part we go deeper into how Ahiska Turks preserved their identity throughout exile and their time 

    in the USA by analyzing basic characters of their cultures, family structure and religious observances.

    A. Ottoman Period (1578-1825)
    Even though the history of Ahiskan Turks in the area of
    Georgia is not so clear in the research made before and there
    are so many debates, two important arguments appear strong:
    Ahiskan were Turkish families/clans who were brought to
    Georgia by the Ottoman Empire mainly because of its Turkish
    policy. According to this policy, the Ottomans, instead of
    forcing people of the newly conquered area to leave or
    convert, settled Turkish Muslim clans in this new area in order
    to make it a Turkish land and let people of different faiths
    integrate and harmonize. According to this view around 1578
    CE Ottoman Turks settled the area called Ahiska/Meskhetia
    and after 250 years it became a part of Anatolian Turkish
    settlements [9], [12].
    According to a second argument Ahiska Turks are Muslim
    converts of Georgians. This second argument is strong in
    terms of the use of the term Meskhetian for the people of
    Ahiska. However, there is a lack of enough materials to
    confirm this suggestion or historical documents to oppose it
    [such as during the Ottoman time, the people never were
    called Gurcuogullari/ sons of Georgians, but always were
    called Ahiskan Turks]. Coşkun and Sargin, discuss the
    problem of the concepts of Ahiska and Meskhetian very
    detailed in their MA theses [6], [13].
    Ottoman rule ended after the Ottoman-Russian wars in 1828
    and the region became a part of Russia. And in March 16,
    1921, with the Treaty of Moscow, Turkey gave the region
    totally to Russian control [9], [12], [14]. Especially because
    the Ahiska Turks struggled during the First World War with
    the Ottomans against the Russians, the Russians saw Ahiskans
    as a potential revolt community throughout the Soviet regime
    and post- Russian periods as well [2].
    The harsh attitude of Soviet policy toward the Ahiskan was
    so clear especially by denying their Turkish identity and by
    considering them Georgian. From 1926-35 many Ahiskan
    Turks were called Turks. However, the policy shifted after
    1935 when they were called Azeri and their passports stated that they were Azeri. From 1938 until Second World War
    they were called Georgians. [12]
    The year 1944 was the turning point in the history of the
    Ahiskans and the darkest year of their story. That is when
    Stalin pushed them to leave their homeland in present day
    Georgia because of his fear of a dividing Soviet Union [12],
    [4]. Ahiska Turks comprised a big part of the population of the
    region and they exhibited a very high percentage of Muslim
    background. Their population according to the census was
    137,921 [14].

    B.Russian Period and Exile (1825-1944)

    The assimilation policy of Russia toward the Ahiskan
    continued after the 1930s including being forced to change last
    names from Ahiskans to some Georgian last names. We can
    find some last names of Ahiskans, which are not Turkish,
    today because of this pressure. In late 1944 when Lavrenti
    Beria, Stalin’s trusted person, passed the resolution labeling
    minorities similar to Ahiskans as “untrustworthy populations”
    and therefore stating that they must be deported from their
    homeland in order to break the linkage and assimilate them,
    the worst days of the Ahiskan started. More than 100,000 –
    115,000 [14] people were forced to depart from the region in
    1944 and many of them lost their lives during this deportation.
    According to some research there were around 15-20 % of the
    whole population (around 20,000 people) forced to death
    during the expulsion [12] and in the first 18 month of the exile
    around 30,000 of them died because of the cold and harsh
    conditions [14].
    Therefore, November 15 became a commemoration of the
    death and suffering for the Ahiskan people. The deported
    people were spread to 18 districts and 264 regions [5] all over
    Soviet Russia especially to central Asian regions such as
    Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The people who
    settled in different areas were faced with a “special settlement
    regimes” until 1956 [12], [4]. According to this regulation
    they had to register with state police and they could not travel
    anywhere outside of the settlement without permission from
    the local government. Because they were deprived of so many
    civic and political rights they started working as agricultural
    laborers. In 1956, after Stalin’s death, Nikita Khrushchev
    lifted many restrictions applied to minorities and let them
    become more free in their life in the soviet regime. While
    many other minorities in exile were affirmed to go back to
    their homeland, Ahiska Turks did not get this chance and
    stayed in exile [9]. One of the reasons for that could be the
    geopolitical importance of the region during the Cold War era,
    and after the Cold-War [12]. Because of the impossibility of
    returning their homeland, Ahiska Turks continued to live in
    the different parts of Central Asia. Our attention shifts to
    Uzbekistan in/after 1989 because of the high pressure of
    nationalism among Uzbeks and their rejection of Ahiskan in
    their homeland.
    C.Uzbekistan Period Second Exile (1944-1989)
    Even though the Ahiskan in the different regions of Russia
    were separated from each other, nevertheless they continued to establish some organizations (The "Vatan Society" was the
    only Ahiskan organization during the Soviet regime and the
    "Hsna Society" was founded later for struggling to return to
    Georgia) especially after the sanctions toward them were lifted
    by the regime [11]. Some progress was achieved and between
    the years of 1981-1988 around 1300 people returned to
    Georgia. However, because of the high level of nationalism in
    Georgia and the settlement process, half of them were forced
    to go back into exile [9].Uzbekistan had a large number of
    Ahiska Turks settlements by June 1989. However, because of
    the rise of nationalism in Uzbekistan and lack of government
    support, a pogrom broke out and around 100 Ahiskan died in a
    region named Fergana Valley [7]. This is called by media and
    international level as “Fergana events” or “Fergana Pogrom”
    which started in June 3 1989 [4]. In the aftermath of this
    pogrom, the government asked some 17,000 (according to
    some other sources about 12,000-30,000) Ahiskan to move
    from there and later around 70,000 more to move to different
    parts of Russia. Many of them went to Azerbaijan while others
    moved to Ukraine and Kazakhstan [9], [4]. Therefore, in their
    first half century of the exile, the Uzbekistani Ahiskan Turks
    faced with second exile.

    D.Returning Russia (1989-2004)

    The population of Ahiska Turks in Russia was not so small
    as to be easily ignored. According to 1989 census there were
    around 207,502 Turks living there. Since many of the
    Ahiskans were considered Azerbaijani we can argue their
    numbers could be more than 400,000 [1]. One of the
    settlements of Ahiskan after the Uzbekistan pogrom was
    Krasnodar. However, Krasnodar was not a convenient place
    for the Ahiska Turks since the local authorities of Krasnodar
    rejected the recognition of Ahiska Turks who settle there.
    Aydıngün explains their situation as “Regional politicians
    used xenophobia against non-Slavic people to keep the
    Meskhetian Turks, along with some other smaller ethnic
    minorities, a perpetually stateless people” [12]. Without
    recognition they could not even obtain property, work legally
    or join higher education. In addition to this hard situation the
    authorities forced the Ahiskans to re-register as guests in the
    region every 45 days. Moreover, the local authorities passed
    some regulations in order to maintain Ahiska Turks as
    unwanted people by not letting them obtain propiska
    (residence permit and migration recording tool in the Soviet
    Union) in the beginnings of 1992. The harsh conditions
    reached its peak in 2002 when authorities prevented Ahiska
    Turks from leasing and cultivating the land [4]. Around
    11,000 Ahiskans in the Krasnodar region had not been
    allowed citizenship by 2002. Local authorities asked them to
    leave on 27 th of March 2002 for the third exile in fifty years
    [10]. Around 40 Ahiskans staged a 10-day hunger strike to
    draw the attention of international and governmental powers
    [12].Several international organizations such as the Council of
    Europe and the International Organization for Migration, tried
    to solve the problem the Ahiskans faced in the region [12]. In
    terms of Georgia, the process was so slow that even by the end
    of 2008 no satisfactory development happened.

    Beginning in 2004 until 2007 the US government decided
    to let around 17,000 Ahiskans into 66 towns of 32 states in the
    US. The Ahiska Turks in Philadelphia constitutes a big part of
    the refugee population with a population of 400-450 people
    (around 85 families).
    Today, around 350 - 400,000 Ahiska Turks live in nine
    different countries throughout the world: Azerbaijan, Georgia,
    Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Turkey,
    Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the United States region [12], [11].


    In this part it will be helpful to analyze basic characteristics
    of the Ahiskan culture in terms of creating their identity.
    It is clear that before their deportation, the people in the
    region of Meskhetia did not know much about ethnic
    differences or how to feel about it [2]. When they were forced
    to be assimilated away from their homeland, a religious,
    cultural consciousness appeared and formed in the individuals
    as well as in the community of the Ahiskan people.
    The First World War and the Second World War had a
    tremendous effect on the Ahiska Turk’s self-consciousness as
    Turks and on keeping their national identity as part of a
    Turkish society with myths and memories which pass from
    generation to generation [2], [1]. Rejection of Ahiska people
    by the Soviet regime and excluding them from the society
    helped Ahiska Turks to strengthen their feeling of
    Turkishness. Therefore, it can be said that ethnic identity of
    Ahiska Turks was shaped during the 1944 exile period [2].
    According to field work made in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan,
    Ahiska Turks emphasized their Turkishness and saw
    themselves as part of the Ottoman Empire. Ahiskan people did
    not accept or defined themselves as Georgians, or sons of
    Georgians in any level [16]. Their ethnic solidarity reduced
    their relationship with other ethnic groups to a minimum and
    thus by becoming a close community this allowed them to
    maintain their identity intact even though they were influenced
    by the society in a general manner [2]. Especially the practices
    of not marrying outside their ethnic group contributed to them
    keeping their identity during the exile. Also, their settlements
    in the different regions were very close to each other
    especially the rural and suburban settlements and this helped
    them to keep their communal consciousness in the regions
    where they lived. [12]
    After the long period of three or four exiles the gap between
    the generations in one family became very clear since the
    father could have been born in Georgia, a son in Uzbekistan
    and grandsons in the Ukraine or the USA [16]. Now we can
    look at basic segments of their cultural identity.
    In terms of their religious tradition, it seems that Ahiska
    Turks, similar to Bosnian Muslims, are not strictly observant
    Muslims, however they practice circumcision, refrain from
    pork, fast during the month of Ramadan and celebrate the
    Muslim holidays of Ramadan Bayramı (Eid al-Fitr) and
    Kurban Bayramı (Eid al- adha). And after dinner prayer (fast
    breaking during the Ramadan) they always remember the
    deceased relatives of the one who hosts the people in his/her
    house. Interestingly Ahiska Turks adopted some of the secular festivals of the Soviet Union such as New Year’s Eve and
    New Year’s Day on December 31 and January 1. Despite
    these influences their core values did not become those of the
    Soviet Russia. However, it is very clear that they accepted
    some of them in the course of history. [12]In terms of family
    structure of Ahiska Turks it can be stated that the lineage is an
    important tool for transferring historical and family ties to the
    next generation since there was no institutional structure in the
    community during their exile. So oral transferring of history
    depends on the lineage stories and myths of their homeland.
    Many Ahiskans can go back four or five generations when
    they are asked to mention their names and places they lived
    [12]. Nearly all Ahiska Turks know the name of the village in
    which their grandparents lived. Traditionally defining statues
    of interfamily relations also should bring some lights on
    Ahiska Turks’ self-identification. Kinship plays a very
    important role in their lives to increase respect and to keep the
    family ties very strong by connecting families as well as the
    groups. Therefore, there are many different names that have
    been produced for defining different relationship between the
    members of the family and interfamily.
    They have very specific names for instance for their
    relatives such as:
    æmi – father’s brother
    Aɰa æmi – father’s brother
    Bibi – father’s sister
    Hala – mother’s sister
    Paʃa hanɯm – father’s brother’s wife
    Paʃa abla – brother’s wife’s sister
    dʒidʒi – uncle’s wife
    ækæ – older brother
    Dada – older brother [16].
    After mentioning basic characteristics of Ahiska Turks
    culture in general, now we can reanalyze them in order to
    understand their response to multicultural environments of the
    USA. Even though they were living in a very multicultural
    environment before and during the exile, it is very clear that
    the hardships and persecutions were very effective on shaping
    their cultural characteristics and their response to pressure.
    However, their situation in the USA is very vivid in terms of
    being free and having intellectual, cultural and religious
    confrontation with non-Ahiskans. These new challenges -and
    the fear of failing to transmit their cultural identity to the new
    generation- pushed Ahiska Turks to embrace their cultures
    much more than during the exile. We will analyze their
    cultures in terms of preserving their identity in a reaction to
    the multicultural environment. Before doing this it will be
    helpful to point out the need for preserving culture and
    identity in a multicultural society.
    A. The Need for Maintaining Culture and Identity in a
    Multicultural Environment
    Societies keep and develop their cultural structures in
    constant interactions; however, it is very difficult for minority groups to maintain their cultural values in multicultural
    environments where the intense interaction of values is
    dominate. Individuals who live in multicultural societies will
    either lose their cultural value, maintain their culture by
    isolating themselves (potentially causing the ultimate loss of
    their culture anyway) or they will accept a modified set of
    experiences through cultural exchange with other groups.
    Every individual feels a belonging to family, society and
    culture, and therefore struggles for maintain his or her own
    culture by assimilating the language, religion, family structure
    and feeling of society. Culture is the expression of self in
    every aspect of life since it explains life, past experiences and
    productions [19]. One who does not know himself/herself has
    to face and accept the identity offered by others and is always
    interested in movements around him/her [21].
    Creating the feeling of belonging is a very significant
    concept for individuals. The process of creation of identity
    starts from childhood and continues in adulthood. In the
    childhood phase two facts are important in terms of accepting
    or denying social and historical ties [17]. The individual who
    could give reasonable answers to the questions such as “Who
    am I?”, “What will happen to me?” or “What do I believe?”
    will constitute a positive identity [18]. In psychology the
    concept of identity which is explained with the concept of
    personality is shaped by dialogue with others and feedback
    toward their attitudes. The concept of identity is a concept
    whose center is the culture and it is constituted by dialogue
    with family and society [19].
    The individual, who is always in dialogue with society since
    birth, feels the desire of belonging by identity that is obtained
    through a connection with close family and society. Maslow
    summarizes peoples’ need in five categories: (a) physical
    needs (b) security needs (c) needs of belonging (c) need of
    respect (e) need of self-actualizing. The individual who has
    met their needs on a lower level would look for good
    relationships and be a better member of a family. The ones
    who then met their needs on an upper level would mostly
    show more feelings of belonging [17]. Therefore, in terms of
    individual identity the acceptance and integration into the
    society is so crucial. By doing this, individuals will identify
    the society with themselves and it will lead to maintaining
    their culture. Moreover, it must be pointed out that individuals
    have to tolerate the cultures they are in and should esteem it.
    Religion is a very significant dimension of Ahiska Turkish
    ethnic identity [2]. Even though they are not rigid or strictly
    practice their religions, they could identify themselves with
    Islamic faith during their exile in Russia, unlike Kazakh and
    Kyrgyz Turks. There are many stories in which they tell their
    children about how they faced difficulties in order to practice
    their religious obligations during this period. Thus, religion as
    part of their identity has been with them all the time - before,
    during and after the exiles. Exclusively showing their religious
    engagements to Islam and practicing religious obligation
    publicly has caused them to show their bond to Islam as their
    boundaries with the non-Muslims changed. Thus, the very characteristic of the religious life of Ahiska Turks opened a
    reasonable space for them to live their history, tradition and
    culture during the time of exile. Therefore, many Ahiska
    Turks in Philadelphia believe that religious education is so
    important to help the new generation to keep and construct an
    Ahiskan identity to which they could hold even in the worst
    situation. Therefore, they ask their children to learn religion by
    sending them to Philadelphia Dialogue Forum, a Turkish
    Cultural Center in Philadelphia. There they get basic religious
    education and participated in weekly prayers. The children's
    ages differs from 7-13 years old. Volunteer Turkish people
    there try to teach and educate them in religious tradition as
    well as Turkish tradition. On the other hand it is clear as
    Tweed states, in his book Our Lady of Exile, religious
    cartography is active, not passive [15]. There is a clear
    difference between Ahiska Turks and Turkey's Turks
    perceptions of religion. While Ahiska Turks see religion as a
    basic cultural element, Turkish Turks see it as a more ritual
    and spiritual action in which they show their willingness to
    pray to God. In terms of Ahiska Turks understanding of
    religious practices, it is a symbol of their struggle during exile
    and remembering the hardships they faced just because of
    their religion and ethnicity. So, the symbolic importance of
    religion and its processive feature for the Ahiskans must be
    considered in terms of their century long struggles.
    The second most important thing that can be conceptualized
    as defining Ahiskan character, as well as keeping it, is
    language. Beside the Islamic faith during their struggle while
    in exile as well as in Philadelphia, in a multicultural
    environment, they always speak Turkish between themselves
    and are considered Turkish in their basic values. Now we will
    look at their perception of language deeper.
    Ahiska Turks clearly speak an Eastern Anatolian dialect of
    Turkish, which is very close to dialects of the provinces of
    Kars, Ardahan, Artvin as well as Azerbaijani Turkish. In
    terms of dialect, especially, it can be asserted that Turkish
    relationships with the Ahiska and their increasing connection
    may foresee the possibility of the Ahiskan dialect diminishing
    into the modern Turkish dialect in the near future [12].
    In terms of language Ahiska Turks, by keeping Turkish as
    their mother tongue, had to learn the countries' language in
    which they lived. So there are many languages that Ahiska
    Turks in the USA may know such as Turkish, Russian, Uzbek
    and English [7]. Turkish is a very important tool in terms of
    maintaining their loyalty to their history, culture, religion and
    self-respect. So, it means that if language is lost, everything is
    lost [12]. In terms of this Aydingün says “In fact, they judged
    their loyalty to the culture by their knowledge of the mother
    tongue, so much that sometimes language is treated as if
    language, ethnicity, ethnic pride and identity are one and the
    same thing” [2].
    Moreover, the exile and expulsion from their homeland has
    influenced their use of language also. Until 1926 they were
    using Arabic scripts and around 1920 it is replaced with Latin
    and later in 1930s they switched to Cyrillic alphabet. So, different generations of Ahiska Turks now know different
    kinds of alphabets in which they can read and reflect their
    writings. For instance, when I was interviewing with Imdat
    Aladinov he read a poem written by his friend in 1980’s in
    Turkish with Cyrillic alphabet when they were in Uzbekistan,
    in which he mentions the struggles from their first exile from
    Ahiska to Russia. Especially older Ahiska Turks in
    Philadelphia area now know different kinds of alphabets in
    which they can read and reflect in their writings. This
    however, does not prevent them from reading Turkish writings
    in different alphabets.
    With their family they talk Turkish, eat their traditional
    foods, practice Islamic religious obligations and live their
    traditional life. The design of their home in Philadelphia area
    is a very traditional Turkish home. Most of the traditional
    home decorations are made by Ahiskan Turks who live in the
    USA. Therefore, if a non-Ahiskan enters their home, he/she
    mostly will be surprised to see non-American cultures that are
    mostly very eastern and very Turkish home style.
    This very close and strictly traditional family structure of
    Ahiskan Turks can be compared with Amish society in a
    greater scale as a community. Similar to Ordnung [8], a
    written document binding Amish together, Ahiska Turks have
    a very strict oral law which they carried with them throughout
    their exile as well their life in the USA. Oral law is very
    effective in determining their relationship with each other as
    well as with others. Secondly, even though, the exclusion from
    community is not the way Ahiskan treat disobedient members
    of their society, the pressure they apply to their members and
    relatives is strong and effective on their decisions about their
    relationships with non-Ahiskans especially in terms of
    marriage with non-Ahiskans and non-Muslims.
    In addition to the home's external features, internally,
    family relations are so crucial for an Ahiska Turkish family.
    Usually Ahiska Turks consist of extended families which unite
    two to three generations together. Households’ size may vary
    between six to eight, sometimes to ten [2]. In terms of
    marriage, a traditional way of marriage is arranged marriages
    with relatives in order to strengthening family ties. Family
    structure is patriarchal in which the oldest male member is on
    the top of the hierarchy in the family [16], [12]. Even though
    the new generations were raised in different areas of the world
    such as Turkey, Azarbaijan or USA, they all understand and
    accept this core value of kinship [4].
    Moreover, Ahiska Turks are strong community oriented
    people, which extends beyond their own community. Russian
    persecution did not prevent Ahiska Turks creating good
    relationships with others even in the hard times in Krasnodar.
    Many say that Russian neighbors gave some of their bread
    which they bought with the permission of the local
    government to the Ahiska Turks. Especially since Russian was
    a common language for the older Ahiska Turks, they built
    good relationships with Russians in the USA in order to adapt
    to the work and social environment [12].
    E. Turkish Cultural Centers
    Turkish Cultural Centers which are established around the
    USA by Turkish people who came from different areas of
    Turkey became very important meeting, educating and
    religious places for Ahiskan Turks. Lacking of sound religious
    education primarily because of the exile years, they could not
    teach deep, religious knowledge to their children. The
    opportunities in the Turkish cultural centers in the USA to
    teach Turkish, Islam and Turkish culture became a crucial
    social environment for the Ahiska Turks. Ahiska Turks’ strong
    relationship, respect and love for their forefathers’ land,
    Turkey, enabled them to create very strong relationships with
    American Turks [4]. In one of the Ramadan Bayramı speeches
    to his Ahiskan fellows, Mikhail Latipov, in 2009 in
    Philadelphia, said “during the Russian regime we faced with
    very difficult times and situation but we could keep ourselves,
    religions cultures from Russian assimilation. However, in the
    USA, because of the extraordinary level of prosperity and
    freedom and pressure of capitalist regime to be more
    individualistic society endanger our self-conscious of being
    Ahiska community. That is why we need of our Turkish sisters
    and brothers for staying together, teaching together.” His
    worries show how he was so afraid of assimilation of any
    kind. In terms of using and learning English as their second
    language they always emphasize to their children the
    importance of Turkish for their identity. Therefore, in the
    Turkish Cultural Centers Turkish, instead of English, becomes
    the major language that people speak. This is a very
    convenient environment for Ahiska Turks to show their future
    generations a natural environment even though there are some
    dialectical differences. Turkish Cultural Centers, as in
    Philadelphia, became meeting places for religious services,
    funerals and marriage ceremonies. Every aspect of their life,
    then, they can live and experience in the cultural centers with
    their Turkish fellows. The Turkish flag is not only Turkey's
    flag, it is one of the most important symbols which Ahiska
    Turks respect, love and keep in their homes. During their exile
    period these kinds of symbols were helping them to feel a
    belonging to Turkey and Turkish people. In the Philadelphia
    area Ahiska Turks keep Turkish flags in their homes and
    rooms. Going back to Turkey in the future is another symbolic
    value which brings Ahiskans together in many circumstances.
    Thus, these two significant symbols belonging to Turkey
    contribute to their cultural identification of being Turkish.
    Ahiska Turks' stories start in a very dramatic way. Many
    Ahiskans have a strong desire for having a homeland where
    they can live free. In this respect the USA is one of the best
    places that they could find. However, the capitalist system that
    presses on individualism and assimilation are the two biggest
    fears Ahiskans keep in their minds. In order to maintain their
    cultural identity, history and religion, they try to strongly
    embrace their core values: family, language and religious
    education. Turkish language as their mother tongue transmits,
    connects and creates strong relationships between them and
    their fellows around the world. Many Ahiska Turks' relatives
    live either in Russia or different parts of the Asian countries.
    Therefore, just as they were successful keeping their identity by holding their language, their aim in the USA is to not lose
    their consciousness of being Ahiskan by dreaming of going
    back there or to Turkey. On the other hand, many of them
    after feeling freedom in the USA do not want to go back
    because of the fear of facing similar destruction. Therefore,
    the best thing to do is to integrate into the US society without
    losing their identity. In order to do this, educating their
    children is so important to them. Collaborating with Turkish
    Cultural Centers around the USA is the one of the most
    significant chances they think that they have found here. Thus,
    by holding their family relations, practicing religions,
    dreaming about returning to Turkey, even though not
    considering themselves as Diaspora, they try to integrate into

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    Identity: Ahiska/Meskhetian Turks in Soviet and Post-Soviet Contexts”,
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    Kaynak: http://www.waset.org/journals/ijshs/v6/v6-61.pdf 


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