Coping as kin : responses to suffering amongst displaced Meshketian Turks in post-Soviet Krasnodar, Russian Federation
This thesis examines responses to displacement and suffering among a small Muslim population presently resident in post-Soviet Russia. The Meskhetian Turks were deported from Georgia in 1944, and resettled in Central Asia. In 1989, violent attacks led to further migration of most Meskhetian Turks in Uzbekistan. Some moved to Krasnodar in southern Russia, where they continue to suffer discrimination by the region's authorities. The thesis examines how Meskhetian Turks live in diaspora, and how their traumatic experiences have been integrated into and mediated through everyday and life-cycle practices. It critiques the representation of post-Soviet and post-displacement lives as dominated by crisis, arguing that Meskhetian Turks rather emphasise continuity and the mundane experience of life in diaspora. The events of 1989 and 1944 are rarely discussed, are not commemorated and do not consolidate a political community. I argue that this absence of discussion of suffering in this context is consistent with wider Meskhetian Turkish practices of restraint in the verbal expression of personal feelings and desires. While silence must be examined as a language for expression of pain, absence of commemoration can also be integral to the continual process of living ordinary lives in diaspora. Such continuity is partly obtained through stressing the importance of being a related person. The construction of new kin at marriage occasions the most significant Meskhetian Turkish celebrations, which themselves highlight the value attached to mundane domestic practices constitutive of Meskhetian Turkish persons and households. Rather than being blamed for their suffering, the Soviet Union is celebrated, and its disappearance provides the basis for acceptable public expression of loss. But neither the positive affiliation with a state, nor village association as a form of relatedness, rely on identification with a physical place. The thesis thus questions the assumption of refugees' and others' territorial identification.