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38,000 (2009 census) |
19,000 Ottoman Turkish descendants (not including the Meskhetian Turks or Turkish citizens)
100,000 Meskhetian Turks (1999 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimate)
90,000 to 110,000 Meskhetian Turks (other estimates)
plus 17,577 Turkish citizens
|Regions with significant populations|
Ottoman Turks began to settle in Azerbaijan when the region came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire between 1578 and 1603 and then again in the second Ottoman conquest of 1724 until the end of World War I in 1918. The First All-Union Census of the Soviet Union in 1926 recorded 8,570 Ottoman Turks living in the Soviet Union. The Ottoman Turks are no longer listed separately in the census; it is presumed that those who were living in Azerbaijan have either been assimilated into Azeri society or have left the country. Approximately 19,000 descendants of the Ottoman Turks (not including the Meskhetian Turks) are estimated to be living in Azerbaijan.
The Meskhetian Turks first arrived in Azerbaijan at the end of the nineteenth century, and more followed in 1918-1920. However, migration to Azerbaijan increased dramatically after World War II when the Soviet Union was preparing to launch a pressure campaign against Turkey. Vyacheslav Molotov, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, demanded to the surrender of three Anatolian provinces (Kars, Ardahan and Artvin); thus, war against Turkey seemed possible, and Joseph Stalin wanted to clear the strategic Turkish population situated in Meskheti, located near the Turkish-Georgian border which were likely to be hostile to Soviet intentions. Thus, in 1944, the Meskhetian Turks were forcefully deported from the Meskheti region in Georgia and accused of smuggling, banditry and espionage in collaboration with their kin across the Turkish border. Nationalistic policies at the time encouraged the slogan: "Georgia for Georgians" and that the Meskhetian Turks should be sent to Turkey "where they belong". Joseph Stalin deported the Meskhetian Turks to Central Asia (especially to Uzbekistan), thousands dying en route in cattle-trucks, and were not permitted by the Georgian government of Zviad Gamsakhurdia to return to their homeland.
Between the late 1950s and 1970s, about 25,000 to 30,000 Meskhetian Turks settled in Azerbaijan; furthermore, approximately 50,000 Meskhetian Turkish refugees came to Azerbaijan due to continued discrimination when the Meskhetian Turks living in Uzbekistan became the victims of riots by the ethnic Uzbeks in the Ferghana valley which led to over a hundred deaths. Most of the first wave of Meskhetian Turkish refugees from the Ferghana Valley settled in the Saatli and Sabirabad region and the regions of Khachmaz, Beylagan and Baku. Some 5,000 Meskhetian Turks have also arrived to Azerbaijan from Russia during the 1990s, and a few hundred arrived from Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan proper during the 1991-1994 war.
|Turks in Azerbaijan according to the Azerbaijani census|
The Meskhetian Turks are settled mostly in rural areas and in the cities of Baku, Beylagan, Khachmaz, Saatli, and Sabirabad. Those living in urban areas tend to be better off than those in agricultural areas.
According to the 2009 Azerbaijani population census there were 38,000 Turks living in Azerbaijan. However, official data regarding the Turkish community in Azerbaijan is unlikely to provide a true indication of the population as much of the community is officially registered as "Azerbaijani". Furthermore, no distinction is made in the census between Meskhetian Turks and Turks from Turkey who have become Azerbaijani citizens, both groups are classified in the official census as "Turks" or "Azerbaijani".
Approximately 19,000 descendants of Ottoman Turkish migrants are still living in Azerbaijan and practice Sunni Islam. However, since the twentieth century a new wave of Turkish migrants arrived from Georgia (Meskhetia) and Turkey. In the late 1950s and 1970s approximately 25,000 to 30,000 Meskhetian Turks settled in Azerbaijan and a further 50,000 Meskhetian Turkish refugees arrived from Uzbekistan in 1989. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 100,000 Meskhetian Turks were living in Azerbaijan in 1999 Academic estimates have suggested that the Meskhetian Turkish community of Azerbaijan numbers 90,000 to 110,000. In addition, as of 2009, there were 17,577 Turkish citizens living in Azerbaijan.