Introduction / History
The Meskhetian Turks in Ukraine are a Muslim people originally form the western edge of Georgia (Meskhetia) and were exiled to Uzbekistan by Stalin in 1944. In 1991 they faced ethnic conflict and so dispersed to various different parts of the former Soviet Union. Currently, they are scattered across Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine. Some have also ended up in America in light of further ethnic conflict in Russia. Their culture, heritage and language are important to them although they have also made a home for themselves in Ukraine.
Where are they located?
The Meskhetian Turks live in the oblasts of Donetsk, Kherson and Mikolaiv, which are located in the South and East of Ukraine. Most of them moved here from Uzbekistan about 20 years ago (although some came later from Russia). A few have also come intermittently since that time. Most of the Meskhetian Turks live in rural villages as farmers with a few from the younger generation who have gone to nearby cities to pursue further education.
What are their lives like?
The lives of most Meskhetian Turks are tied to the land. They often farm the land and sell their vegetables in nearby centers while others are involved in cattle farming. This is a continuation of their traditional way of life which was preserved in their time in Uzbekistan, although their language and cuisine has been influenced by their time in the former Soviet Union. Community and family are very important and weddings (which are usually in the fall) and other special occasions are opportunities for the community to gather and celebrate. Women tend to be at home or work near the home and are responsible for the children. It is still important for women to cover their heads and wear long clothing, although this is observed with various degrees strictness. In contrast to surrounding Ukrainians, they have larger families (often 3 or more children). However, generally they have good relationships with their Ukrainian neighbors.
What are their beliefs?
They are Sunni Muslims with a reasonable level of observance in their communities, having retained their religion through turmoil but also having been influenced by secularism of the former Soviet Union. Most men attend mosque every Friday and all are observant of major Muslim holidays. The mosque also acts as a cultural center in which people can meet and discuss issues. In addition, because of their troubled history, peace and the basic needs of life are very important to them. Some feel a strong connection to Turkey as their homeland and many have immigrated there, while others feel that Ukraine has now become their homeland.
* Pray for openness to the gospel and outsiders.
* Pray that they would see that following Christ does not conflict with their ethnic identity.
* Pray for wisdom in getting the Scripture into their hands in their own language.
* Pray that TESL would be effectively used to point people toward Christ.
Text source: Anonymous