|c. 89 995 - 100 000|
|Regions with significant populations|
| Georgia |
Samtskhe-Javakheti: 89 995 or 43,4 % (2002)
Ardahan province: unknown
|Meskhetian dialect of Georgian language|
|Predominantly + Georgian Orthodox Church|
Catholic and Muslim minority.
|Part of a series on|
|Ancient Kartvelian people|
|History of Georgia|
Meskhians (Georgian: ?, Meskhebi) are an ethnographic subgroup of Georgians who speak Meskhetian dialect of Georgian language, which among Georgia's regional dialects is relatively close to official Georgian. Meskhetians are indigenous population of Meskheti, historical region in southern Georgia. Today they are mainly followers of Georgian Orthodox Church, while part of them are Catholics.
Several authors have connected Meskhetians or Meskhians to Mushki tribe or Moschoi () in Greek sources, who were an Iron Age people of Anatolia. Meskhian tribes came to the fore, gradually moving northeast and forming their settlements in the very heart of Kartli. Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Iberia (literarily means "town of Meskhs") was one such settlements, deriving its name from the ethnonym "Meskhians". According to the Cyril Toumanoff, Moschians were the early proto-Georgian tribes which played a leading role in the consolidation of Iberian tribes largely inhabiting eastern and southern Georgia.
Between 9th-11th centuries Mesketi, also known as Tao-Klarjeti, was governed by the Bagrationi dynasty and the region played a crucial role in the unification of the Georgian principalities into a single Georgian state in 1008. Meskheti gave many prominent people to the Georgia: such as Shota Rustaveli, who is considered to be the preeminent poet of the Georgian Golden Age and one of the greatest contributors to Georgian literature. Rustaveli is the author of The Knight in the Panther's Skin, which is considered to be a Georgian national epic poem.
Thereafter, the kingdom of Georgia declined and eventually disintegrated under hegemony of various regional powers, including the Mongols, Timurids, Black and White Sheeps. After the Mongol invasion of Georgia, Meskhetian princes gained virtual independence from the Georgian crown and established Principality of Samtskhe under the mongol patronage.
By the Peace of Amasya (1555), Principality of Samtskhe was divided into two, with the Safavids keeping the eastern part and the Ottomans gaining the western part. In 1578, the Ottomans performed a successful invasion into the Safavid possessions in Georgia, initiating the Ottoman-Safavid War of 1578-1590, and by 1582 they were in possession of the eastern (Safavid) part of Meskheti as well.
The Georgian population of Meskheti was displaced to inner regions of Georgia such as Imereti and Kartli. Those who remained gradually became Muslim, the process is also known as Turkification of Meskhetians (then Meskhetian Turks).