UNHRC Report: The North Caucasian Diaspora In Turkey
The North Caucasian Diaspora In Turkey
Publication: Date 1 May 1996
The Abkhazians living in Turkey have preserved very well the customs, languages and dances carried there from Abkhazia by their ancestors. The etiquette of the Abkhazians [apswara] is strictly observed. Of late they have been asking us to send them copies of the alphabet, books, teaching manuals, films on Abkhazia, recording of songs, language-primers. In hundreds of letters sent to the homeland there resounds a passionate longing to become acquainted with the life and culture of the Abkhazians residing in the motherland, and we believe that the time will soon come when many of them, setting foot on soil of their forebears, will say: 'Greetings, our father Caucasus, greetings, our mother Apsne!'
In 1989, when the conflict between Abkhazia and the central government of Georgia began, the Abkhaz formed only a 17.8 per cent minority in Abkhazia. In August 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic, with most of its ethnic Georgian members absent, declared independence. The Abkhaz nationalists took the lead in this process, supported by most other ethnically non-Georgian groups.
Their demographic weakness was a major concern for the Abkhaz national movement. To secure ethnic survival, independence from Georgia and a change in the republic's ethnic balance was considered desirable. Remigration of the Abkhaz diaspora became a cherished goal of the separatist government of Abkhazia, and a source of concern for ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia.
The vast majority of the North Caucasian diaspora, several millions of people, lives in Turkey and the wars in the Caucasus have strongly enhanced national feelings among them. They identify with the cause of the Abkhaz and the Chechens. When the wars broke out, meetings were held, solidarity committees were established, money was collected, and volunteers joined the separatist armed forces. These activities met with a great degree of sympathy among the Turkish public. At present, Chechen flags and portraits of Dzokhar Dudayev can be seen all over Turkey, and money is collected at virtually every bus station.
There exists a great deal of speculation about the significance of the diaspora's contribution to Abkhazia and Chechnya, but the extent of their efforts needs yet to be investigated. This paper offers a short introduction to the North Caucasian diaspora in Turkey. It is based on interviews and publicly available sources. There has been no research done in Turkey and the Caucasus region, which makes it far from comprehensive.