In late fall of 1944, Muhabat Mamedova recalls, she got married and moved to her husband’s village in south-central Georgia. She planned to live her whole life there. Yet, within a few weeks, she had to leave the village, Zharali, forever.
Mamedova was among an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Meskhetian Turks forcibly deported by Soviet authorities from the Caucasus to Central Asia. Meskhetian Turks weren’t the only nationality to suffer such fate: among other national groups sent into internal exile during the Second World War were Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans and Chechens.
NKVD troops explained to Mamedova’s family that they were being evacuated in anticipation of a Nazi German attack. In reality, Soviet authorities questioned the loyalty of the deported nationalities and moved them far away from the fighting to guard against the possibility that they could act as a Fifth Column.
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Temo Bardzimashvili is a freelance photojournalist based in Tbilisi.