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Turkey: Caucasus Groups Put Aside Conflict to Live as Turks

Flags representing some North Caucasus republics decorate the walls of the Bursa Caucasus House. (Photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz)

Back home, their differences may run strong, but within Turkey, ethnic groups from the Caucasus often find that they have more in common than conflict.

In Inegol, a town of about 151,000 near the Sea of Marmara known for its furniture and its meatballs, one ethnic Georgian explains. "Our ancestors come from all different places in the Caucasus, but what we have in common is that we are Turks," says Inegol Deputy Mayor Yousef Sen. "Here, we are brothers under that nationality."

Sen's ancestors and thousands of other ethnic Muslim Caucasians from Georgia, Abkhazia and the North Caucasus left their homelands in the mid-19th century as Tsarist Russia took over the region.

When resistance to Russian rule failed, they fled across the Black Sea to the Ottoman Empire, which had promised them protection.

There, scattered throughout Turkey and Ottoman holdings in the Balkans, the migrants assimilated, but preserved strong ethnic identities.

To read the full story

Justyna Mielnikiewicz is a freelance photojournalist based in Tbilisi and the recipient of a second-place prize in the 2009 World Press Photo competition for her coverage of the 2008 war in South Ossetia.

Turkey: Caucasus Groups Put Aside Conflict to Live as Turks

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