BETWEEN ADAPTATION AND NOSTALGIA:
THE BULGARIAN TURKS IN TURKEY
FOREWORD - Antonina Zhelyazkova
THE SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ADAPTATION OF BULGARIAN IMMIGRANTS IN TURKEY - Antonina Zhelyazkova
MOTIVATION OF THE BULGARIAN TURKS TO MIGRATION - Tsvetana Gheorghieva
BULGARIAN TURKISH IMMIGRANTS OF 1989 IN THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY - Donka Dimitrova
UNDERSTATED, OVEREXPOSED - Peter Krasztev
RELATION TO BULGARIA, THE BULGARIAN PEOPLE, AND THINGS BULGARIAN - Jale Hodja and Emil Milanov
THE SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ADAPTATION OF BULGARIAN IMMIGRANTS
THE STORY OF ETHNIC TURKS IN BULGARIA BEGINNING FROM 1878 UP TO 1989
Subsequent to their conquest by the Ottomans, the Bulgarian
lands were invaded by Islam, the latter adapted itself to the local beliefs
and a Muslim community was formed. The relevant culture-genic and ethnogenic
formative processes developed under the influence of various factors in
the course of long decades. Participants in the shaping of the Muslim community
in Bulgaria were colonists from Asia Minor, Muslim migrants from near or
far off provinces of the Ottoman Empire, prisoners of war and slaves of
motley ethnic origin, dragged along from the battle fields, as well as,
certainly, the native Islamised population.
For already 120 years Muslims have been emigrating from Bulgaria to Turkey. After each consecutive migration wave bound for this neighbouring country, no matter whether it occurred in the beginning of this century, in the 1950’s or in the 1990’s, the Bulgarian state and public every time tended to entirely forget their subjects/citizens and compatriots - as though they had never existed, and had not shared the good and evil fortunes of a common homeland.
- between 1878 and 1912 about 350 thousand Muslims (Turks, Pomaks, Circassians, Tartars) emigrated from Bulgaria;
- between 1913 and 1934, under an agreement regulated by international law, some 10-12 thousand people migrated each year;
- in the 1940-1944 war period, there were about 15 thousand emigres;
- the forcible collectivisation of the land was a signal for the start of a mass exodus from Bulgaria, and in 1950-1951 nearly 155 thousand ethnic Turks emigrated to Turkey;
- after the Bulgarian-Turkish agreement on the reunion of separated families had been signed, approximately 130 thousand people left for Turkey between 1968 and 1978;
- largest ever after the Liberation was the mass exodus in 1989, when approximately 360 thousand individuals emigrated to Turkey driven away by what came to be known as the “vazroditelen protses” (“revival process”). Some of them returned to Bulgaria after the downfall of Zhivkov’s regime, but nearly 240 thousand remained permanently resident in Turkey;
- in the period 1990-1997, as a result of the severe economic depression in Bulgaria, each year between 30 and 60 thousand persons left the country, with temporary or tourist visas, to seek jobs in Turkey.
According to some expert estimates, only during the period 1989-1996 the new immigrants from Bulgaria numbered as many as 400 thousand individuals.
* * *
For the third time in her history, Bulgaria was established
as an independent state in 1878 (following her Liberation from Ottoman
rule), when, under the Treaty of Berlin, she was allotted a trimmed down
territory, in which there lived not only Bulgarians, but also more or less
numerous ethnic and religious minority groups.
In the first Bulgarian Constitution (effective from 1879 until 1947) the Orthodox Church was determined as the ”predominant faith”, but “other believers” were guaranteed freedom of religion. The ethnic and religious minority groups were recognised as equal subjects and came to enjoy all the rights which the Bulgarian citizens were entitled to.
A large majority of the ethnic Turks emigrated to the Ottoman vilayets during the Russian-Turkish War and immediately after Bulgaria’s Liberation (1877-1878). Later on, this process was resumed in the periods of the modern and recent history of Bulgaria. In 1887 The Turks represented nearly 20 per cent of the Bulgarian population, in the first quarter of this century their share was about 12 per cent, towards the 1940’s - under 10 per cent, and in the 1950’s - 8.6 per cent. The Turks, who remained in their native places, did not cause any particular trouble to the authorities. They demonstrated more than once their loyalty to the state, including by their enlistment in the Bulgarian army and participation in the wars Bulgaria was involved in. The system of peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims, Turks and Bulgarians, functioned smoothly over the centuries, being based on a mutual respect of traditions, of the specific characteristics of everyday life, and the “komsuluk”. In moral and psychological terms, however, these relations, ever since the Revival until the present day, have been harassed by mistrust, prejudice and some sort of cultural and social revenge-seeking, which sometimes bordered on a stance of national domineering. For over a century, a serious national complex has been operating, which can be seen in a most synthesised and comprehensible form in a cliche of decade-old usage, referring to the “five centuries of dark Turkish yoke”.
After the Liberation, the status of the Turks and the entire Muslim community was arranged by the peace treaties to which Bulgaria was a signatory. As stipulated by some of these treaties (The Treaty of Berlin - 1878, the Treaty of Istanbul - 1909, the Peace Treaties of 1913 and 1919, the Treaty of Ankara - 1925), the Muslim community was granted large autonomy. Spiritually, administratively and judicially, the Muslims in Bulgaria were governed by the Supreme Spiritual Council, local mufti deputies and Muslim spiritual courts. The state allotted sums of its budget to maintain the mosques and provide payment to the Muslim clerics. The schools were private - under the administration of the mosques, but the state was responsible for providing the necessary funds. The functioning of the ethnicity- and culture-centred educational system impeded the association of the Turks to the country’s life. The prevailing majority of them did not speak Bulgarian, and, therefore, failed in the labour market competition, they were also marginalised as a result of the intensive cultural processes in Bulgaria and were unable to become normally integrated into the Bulgarian society.
In the 1930’s, a movement for establishing modern secular Turkish schools arose among the Turkish intellectuals. Of course, they were influenced by the reforms undertaken in Turkey herself and the charisma of Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In the newly established schools Bulgarian teachers were appointed, who were supposed to teach Bulgarian, geography, history - subjects that had not been studied by the Turkish children until then. In 1944, there were about 740 Turkish schools within the territory of the country, and in the early 1950’s they became more than 1100. Turkish high schools were also opened up.
From Bulgaria’s Liberation up to 1944, the members of the Turkish ethnic community freely enjoyed the right to circulate information in their own language. Several dozens of newspapers were published in Turkish. Many political parties issued some of their newspapers in the Turkish language. The dailies and other literature published in Turkey were available in Bulgaria.
The Turks had several cultural-educational and sport societies: Turan, Altin Ordu, Alparslan and some others, which terminated their activities in 1934, when all kinds of parties and associations were banned and the democratic liberties - restricted. Some attempts were made to create ethnic parties, but they failed. Nevertheless, in the Bulgarian Parliament there have always been deputies of Turkish or Muslim background, who have been elected by the ballots of the national parties.
In the post World War II period, the Communists took power in Bulgaria, and the opposition was liquidated. After 1946, there was a development towards a rapid introduction and growth of the totalitarian rule and drastic limitation of the democratic freedoms. The political, economic and social models were taken over from the Soviet Union and absolutely automatically imposed on the Bulgarian scene, without any consideration of the specific Bulgarian mentality, historical, cultural and geographic characteristics. The new geopolitics became closely committed to the USSR.
Naturally, this new policy of the Communist government affected, in one way or another, minority groups and interethnic relations in Bulgaria. During the decades of this rule it was not possible at all to speak of either confessionalism or religious communities. A perpetual atheistic propaganda was being carried out among both Bulgarian Christians - Orthodox believers, Catholics, Protestants - and Mohammedans, Judaists, Armenian Gregorians. By some way of compensation for the eliminated religions and the related everyday-life traditions and rituals, the government, sticking to the ideological cliches of “internationalism”, granted broader freedom of expression to the various ethnic groups with their respective cultures. These astonishing acts of tolerance, especially towards the Turkish ethnic identity, were linked with the absurd idea of “exporting revolution” on a world-wide scale. In this particular case, the Bulgarian administration, pressurised by the Soviet secret services, took up the task of winning the confidence of the Turkish population and training the specialists required for exporting the Communist ideology to Turkey. The very technology of the transfer of the respective revolutionary heralds to Turkey’s territory was considered to be extremely simple to achieve - through conducting periodic emigration campaigns among the Bulgarian Turks.
One of the first steps undertaken in this respect was to make amendments to the People’s Education Act, providing for the establishment of public schools for the Turkish, Jewish and Armenian minority groups. The training of the Bulgarian Turks in private schools was terminated and placed under the administration of the Ministry of the People’s Education. In the newly established public schools the teaching of certain subjects in the Turkish language was retained, but some other subjects, which helped the integration of the Turks into the majority of the nation’s population, were introduced. In the field of culture, efforts seeking to preserve tradition were stimulated. In practice, the Turks were granted some sort of cultural autonomy: in addition to the hundreds of primary schools, a secondary school for girls and several more regular Turkish high schools were in operation too. Three institutes took charge of training teachers for the Turkish schools. Three newspapers and one journal were published in Turkish, the local newspapers had Turkish language supplements. There were urban area theatres in which some of the plays were staged in the Turkish language, emissions in Turkish were regularly broadcast on the national radio.
The first impression might lead to a seemingly unambiguous conclusion - in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, owing to the command administrative methods typical of the Communist government, the Bulgarian Turks were granted free expression of their ethnic identity. The state machine, however, had a different purpose - through the channels of education and culture, to promote the re-education of the Turkish minority in conformity with the Party spirit. This was not difficult to achieve in the schools. The Turkish, along with the Pomak, Bulgarian, Armenian and all other children, received an atheistic schooling, which was thoroughly ideologised and which led to the children’s complete moral and cultural unification. Being entirely based on cliches and ideologisation, the Turkish language press, in turn, used to reprint, or at least keep to their spirit, the articles published in the Communist organs. A Party nomenklatura was recruited from the midst of the Turkish minority and the Pomaks, who, in return for some valuable privileges and career opportunities, became agents of BCP’s policy addressed to the members of their own ethnic group - be it good or bad, repressive or partly repressive. In the 1950’s already thousands of Turks were members of BCP and the Fatherland Front, and tens of thousands held public office and top managerial posts.
In the early 1950’s, an increasing tendency to emigrate began to be witnessed among the Bulgarian Turks. It was mainly due to the shock caused by the decision to have their plots of land included in the cooperative farms, by the ban over reading the Sacred Koran, by the active Party agitation in favour of women’s equal rights. BCP started warring against the “manifestations of nationalism and religious fanaticism among the local Turks”. The offensive was nation-wide and total, because the forcible collectivisation of the agricultural land had to be accomplished within the fixed terms all over the country, and it had already reached the mountainous and semi-mountainous regions inhabited by Muslims. The fact of being deprived of their land struck panic in the Turks and the Pomaks, most of whom were agricultural workers and farmers. This let loose one of the largest Bulgarian Turkish emigrant tides flowing to the Republic of Turkey - nearly 155 thousand people in the period 1950-51.
In 1958, in consequence of a special Plenum of the Politbureau, the policy of the communist authority towards the Turks started to change - it became more restrictive with respect to their rights, tended to adopt and impose a new conception of the ethnic and national structures, and of interethnic relations in Bulgaria. The first “pilot” acts of assimilation affected the Gypsies. Their newspapers (bilingual until then) began to be published only in Bulgarian, their theatre was closed down, later mass actions followed by which the names of Muslim Gypsies were changed. In 1958, by a special decree of the Council of Ministers, the relatively few nomad Gypsies who lived in Bulgaria (20-30 thousand people perhaps) were compelled to settle in the respective places they happened to be at the time when the order was issued. Their horses and carts were confiscated by the state.
In the early 1960’s, the ideological foundations were laid for a drastic change in the policy regarding the Turks and the Muslim Bulgarians, meant to achieve the latters’ complete assimilation. BCP passed resolutions for carrying out a repressive and forcible integration of Muslims - Turks and Pomaks - into the Bulgarian society. The utmost strategic goal was, on the one hand, the thorough unification of all Socialist citizens, and, on the other - to declare Bulgaria a single-nation state, and the nation itself - to be homogeneous, ideologically and ethnically.
One by one the secondary schools were closed down, the syllabuses - changed, the public ethnic Turkish elementary schools - shut down, the number of newspapers decreased; parallel with this, the newspapers began to be published in Bulgarian, the theatres stopped working, etc. At the same time (in 1964), a futile effort was made to change the names of the Bulgarian Muslims from the Western Rhodopes. The resistance of the population was strong and the Central Committee of the BCP ceased the attempted assimilation.
In the Central Committee’s propaganda and agitation departments, as well as in the units dealing with the minorities, and also with the assistance of the secret services, a paranoiac conception was worked out and affirmed, which regarded the Turks as an alien element and as “the fifth column” of Turkey in Bulgarian territory. Just like in Orwell’s novel, an intricate and merciless state mechanism - comprising the party’s local organisations, the district political departments, the State Security departments, the Central Committee and Politbureau functionaries in charge - spread its net seeking to embrace, watch, and control the members of the Turkish minority. This concerned especially those who were distinguished by their outstanding character, their ambitions, intellect, talents and aspiration to levels of academic attainment higher than the average.
The culmination of this forcible policy of assimilating the Muslim minority groups was the renaming of the Pomaks (in 1972-74) and, especially the campaign of changing the Bulgarian Turks’ names in the winter of 1984/85, with the sole purpose of erasing the specific cultural and religious characteristics of the Bulgarian Muslims, as well as the confessional and ethnic identification of the largest ethnic minority group in Bulgaria - the Turkish one. In fact, it is difficult for the scholars today to safely say whether this was the purpose of the Communist state apparatus and the ideological leaders, and whether it was the only one. The reason is that in the period of the one-man and totalitarian rule, decisions in Bulgaria were taken in secret, behind the high stone walls of the Party residences, very often without taking minutes or keeping other written records. On the other hand, the Party leadership’s medoicre cultural and educational level, or, in turn, the limitations of the ideologised administrative stereotypes, frequently made the acts of the functionaries in power impossible to reveal and analyse, because their rationale went beyond any historical, legal or humane logic and norm.
The state applied various forms of compulsion - intimidation by the local administrative authorities, economic blackmail, or overt violence. The routine procedure of filling in the application for changing one’s name was usually accompanied by beating up even women and children. In the several cases of organised resistance in the rural areas or in the small towns in the country, the government used fire arms and, indeed, human lives were lost. Often the highland villages met the dawn blocked by army and police, and the blockade used to remain until the last village-dweller adopted a new Bulgarian name. Thousands of people, members of the Turkish community, were arrested and, often without being brought to trial or after being given summary justice involving an in-camera court procedure, were sent to prison or to forced labour camps. All this was carried out in top secrecy and complete information obscurity.
Within several months the renaming campaign was completed and the authorities undertook extensive measures for consolidating the assimilation and persuading the wide domestic public and the world in the rightness and reasonableness of the venture just finalised. It became forbidden to use Turkish in public places and in interpersonal communication, banned were the traditional Muslim dress, the festive rituals, banned was the Turkish folk music. Without delay there began a replacement of traditional toponyms even in works of fiction. Paradoxically, a whole university subject was cancelled - Turkish philology. The Muslim graveyards were destroyed; the names of dead parents and ancestors were changed in the files of the municipal councils. Every remnant of whatever religious symbols were subject to extinction, and new, artificially created rituals were forcibly imposed. One of the many vandal acts of the government, aiming to erase all traces of Turkish identity, was the destruction of the personal health files and the records of hospitals and clinics for patients with chronic illnesses, thus pushing medical research on hereditary and chronic diseases several decades back.
The administration made a cunning (by reason of its long-term consequences) move - drawing in Bulgarians from the mixed-population regions to patrol, watch and impose fines for using the Turkish language or wearing ritual head covers. Decade-old good neighbour and friendly relations were spoiled and eventually broken. Simultaneously, the state’s entire propaganda machine was mobilised to circulate slanders defaming the Turks (“the fifth column of an enemy state”, “terrorists”, “separatists”), and instill mistrust and fear towards neighbouring Turkey and “its aggressive plans”. The irradiation of public consciousness was massive and deforming.
The encroachment on the Muslims’ names involved a dramatic element of intrusion into the most intimate personality domain (particularly in the case of older and religious people). According to the norms of Islam, the name plays a special role in one’s life and conception of the world. Being deprived of one’s own name, a Muslim, after dying, is unable to face Allah, who calls people by their names in order to judge whether they have lived sinlessly or not and, respectively, to take them to Heaven, if they have been righteous. In one word, the Turks and the Pomaks believed themselves doomed to eternal pains - before and after they died. All this led to a self-capsulation of the Turkish minority, caused by fear and a feeling of deep injury, but it was a response seeking to preserve their own identity. At the same time, this resulted in drastic deterioration, almost disruption of the relations between the two ethnic and religious communities - Bulgarians and Turks, Christians and Muslims, who had lived side by side in the Bulgarian lands for centuries. The propaganda engine instilled a paralysing fear of repression for any manifestation of discontent or for calling in question the outrage committed against the Turks. The Bulgarian society sank in disgraceful silence till 1988.
In the spring and summer of 1989 the Bulgarian Turks became engaged in mass protest actions in the northwest and south of Bulgaria demanding the recovery of their names. These actions led to clashes with the army and militia resulting in human killings and injuries. Turks’ protests in the spring of 1989 met with the moral support of individual intellectuals and informal dissident groups in Sofia that made humble attempts to undermine the measures initiated by the administration and discredit the totalitarian regime in the eyes of the world. The solution found by the Communist Party as a way out of this serious crisis was to open the Bulgarian borders with the Republic of Turkey. In order to provoke panic, right after this several thousand people, most active in the protests, were deported by force. This started a huge tide of refugees streaming into adjoining Turkey. Between June and August, when the border was closed on the insistence of the Turkish government which proved unable to accommodate this large mass of people: about 350 000 Bulgarian citizens - ethnic Turks - left their native quarters, abandoning their homes and household belongings, and very often their aged parents and their children. The international humanitarian organisations estimated this as the largest collective civillian migration following World War II. In the autumn of 1989, particularly after the downfall of Zhivkov’s regime in November of the same year, about 120 000 of the refugees returned but the prevailing majority of the runaways found their new homes in the Republic of Turkey.
THE ETHNIC TURKS IN THE TRANSITION PERIOD, 1990-1997
The contemporary condition of the relations between the
different ethnic and cultural-religious communities in Bulgaria has undergone
certain changes related with the vicissitudes of history and politics.
The outrages committed against the Muslims (Pomaks and Turks) in the 1970’s
and 1980’s put to trial the traditional model of a tolerant co-existence.
Fortunately, this model of joint-living tolerance, especially in the contact
regions (where the population is mixed, in terms of ethnic origin and faith),
proved to be stable and the relations, which had grown weak or torn in
consequence of the politicians’ brinkmanship, after 1990 began to be intensively
restored. In these hard times of transition and deep economic and social
depression,the common sense of the people living in the contact regions,
as well as the mainstay of the traditional values of the Bulgarian society
in general, facilitated the maintenance of interethnic relations in good
Of particular significance was the general political and psychological atmosphere in the context of which the democratic transformations in Bulgaria were initiated. First of all, the motive of protecting minority rights was conceived as a basic differentiating characteristic in a period when the Bulgarian society was seeking identification and when it suffered a bipolar division - into democrats and Communists (Socialists). The first democratic acts in Bulgaria after the collapse of the totalitarian regime were aimed at reinstating the Turks and Pomaks to their disregarded rights. Along with the establishment of the Union of Democratic Forces, a Committee for National Reconciliation (founded in 1989 and dissolved in 1991) was formed declaring its programme of tolerance and agreement in interethnic relations; in the main, it comprised intellectuals from the capital and other urban areas, representatives of all ethnic and religious groups in Bulgaria. This Committee actively contributed to the restoration of the Bulgarian Muslims’ rights and took preventive action, when there were warnings of rising tension in the regions of mixed population.
In late 1989 and early 1990 the Bulgarian Turks and the Pomaks organised a series of public actions in the capital city and in other places in the country demanding the restoration of their names, the release of detainees sentenced for resistance to the so-called “revival process”, and the reinstatement of their religious, cultural and social rights. The Committee for National Reconciliation made known to the international organisations and the European media these first steps directed to the defence of minority rights, and, simultaneously, stood at the head of and took part in the mass rallies and other protest actions of the Muslims.
The absence of extreme nationalism can be distinguished as a specific characteristic of the Bulgarian transition. The small parties, which emerged in 1990 and 1991 and had nationalist, racist and anti-minority platforms, failed to achieve prominence with the public. Some of them, although they had been created in the regions of mixed population by directive of the Communist party or its secret services in order to inspire tension between Bulgarians and Turks and maintain permanent fear of and suspicion towards the Muslims, did not find support among the local population. Being soon reduced to marginality, they have no weight whatsoever in today’s political life.
In order to mobilise the civil society, while making the first steps in the democratisation and reformation of their political and economic life, the Central European countries employed: anti-Sovietism, the feeling of national dignity, anti-Communism, the desire for breaking with the Eastern bloc and for immediately getting rid of the Soviet troops.
In Bulgaria, the mobilisation of the civil society for the transition, well before the anti-Communist motivation had been realised and brought into use, was carried out under the slogans of “democracy”, “human rights”, “equal rights for the minorities”. Characteristic of the initial stage of the transition period in Bulgaria was the perfectly discernible effort to humanise the societal system; the moral values of democracy were that mattered most. There existed a largely supported aspiration to immediately extinguish the consequences of the outrages committed against the Muslim Bulgarian citizens. A certain part of the Bulgarian society was united in its feelings of collective shame that no attempt had been made to defend the Pomaks and the Turks from violence and defamation, the way the Jews had been protected in earlier times. There was an apprehensive concern that a huge capital, gained by our ancestors when they saved the Jews and gave shelter to the Armenians, who had survived the genocide, might have been lost.
In more general terms, through the demonstrative acts of solidarity with the minorities and struggle in support of their rights, the public sought to compensate the lack of resistance against the Communist regime during the past 45 years (in contrast to the other countries of the former socialist camp - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, etc.). The solidarity with the ethnic Turks and the active civic position became facts owing to the unfavourable response in Europe and the world, owing to the grave international isolation in which Bulgaria had been left exactly by reason of the outrages committed by the regime against the Turks.
The decision for restoring the names of the Bulgarian Muslims, who had been affected by the renaming campaigns in the past, was taken by the State Council on 29 December 1989 under the pressure of the newly emancipated civil society. The rehabilitation of names began by adopting two acts - in March 1990 and (together with its amendments) in November the same year. By the spring of 1991 the applications of 600 000 Muslims for having their names recovered were satisfied. This process was a difficult one and had to overcome a massive nationalistic campaign, organised by the structures of the Communist party in the regions with mixed population and in the capital city.
With several amnesty acts, between 1989 and 1990 some of the Bulgarian Turks convicted of resistance against their forcible renaming, were set free. By presidential decrees in 1990 those of them who were still serving time, were pardoned. A bill passed in 1991 declared the political and civil rehabilitation of all persons repressed in the attempted forcible assimilation. The heirs of those sentenced to death and executed, of those killed in the clashes, of those having committed suicide and of the missing, were compensated and granted survivors’ pensions. What has not been done yet is to open the files concerning the so-called “revival process”, and bring the guilty to a fair trial. The political will to carry this out has been lacking, even on the part of the democratic forces and the other smaller liberal formations.
A certainly positive fact distinguishing the democratic processes in Bulgaria was the foundation (in 1990) and consolidation of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Its existence has been questioned by different strata of the Bulgarian society with entirely different motives. Even if we assume the thesis that the MRF had been conceived by the secret headquarters of the Communist Party, MRF’s development in the subsequent years and its real contribution to tolerance and democracy in Bulgaria undoubtedly testify that the Movement has made every effort to wriggle out of its creators’ control. The same holds true of its leader. The mediocre Bulgarian political “elite” is constantly trying to throw Dogan, portrayed in black-and-white, to the media and the public for laceration, without taking into account the fact that his name has already entered the pages of contemporary history, in spite of, or along with, the meanders and drama of his complex personality.
In the period 1990-1996, the Socialists and the nationalist organisations supporting them once approached the Constitutional Court with questions about MRF’s legitimacy and twice made subscription lists demanding the same. Naturally, each time their appeals were related not with particular anti-constitutional acts of the Movement, but with the fact that this was an organisation of the Turks and Muslims in this country. Most often the attacks against the MFR were conjunctural, associated with complicated economic and political situations, when the respective administration in power had lost public prestige and had to turn aside public attention.
The formation by the Turks and Muslims of a party of their own, a party that also won support by large numbers of Bulgarian Gypsies, was required by life itself and in the years of a complex transition inspired in the minorities tranquillity and confidence that, in the context of drastic changes and insecurity in all spheres of life, they would be able to defend their rights, as well as adequately engage in Bulgaria’s political and economic life. The sociological surveys since 1992 have shown a clear and strong tendency to a reduction in the negative stereotypes towards the ethnic Turks. Their presence in the public sphere through the medium of an autonomous political organisation has finally legitimised them in the eyes of the Bulgarian public. They are now perceived as an integral part of the Bulgarian nation and a competent subject in political life. This is an unprecedented occurrence for the past 120 years which is indicative of the unquestionable modernisation of social thought and Bulgaria as a whole.
THE SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ADAPTATION OF IMMIGRANTS IN TURKEY
The destiny of the large masses of refugees who, fleeing
from assimilation, sought asylum in the Republic of Turkey, is extremely
complex and manifold.
The social adaptation of the Bulgarian Turks is linked mainly with their professional and educational status. Naturally, the adaptation of those who have relatives or close friends in Turkey, is easier and they manage to evade the shock of the refugee camps or the temporary shelter given by absolutely strange families. Last, but not least, is the positive role of the centralised assistance provided by the Turkish government, supported by the international organisations, for the refugees from Bulgaria, in order to cushion the shock caused by the sudden loss of their native places, homes, possessions, and very often, by being separated from their dear people. Important for the adaptation of the new settlers are the cultural model and the specific way-of-life characteristics, acquired for generations in Bulgaria, which, depending on circumstances, environment and conjuncture, play an impeding or promotive part in the process of adjustment to the new economic and social conditions.
The assets of education. Most rapid and smooth is the social and economic adaptation of refugees having been educated in higher or specialised secondary schools. Emigrants in 1989 landed in an alien social environment, where the least crowded niche was that of the upper middle class having specialised qualification. The Turkish society felt a shortage of well-trained and experienced qualified physicians, dentists, pharmaceutists, auxiliary medical personnel, jurists, engineers, technicians, pedagogues, and specialists well-grounded in languages (particularly Russian).
The refugees from Bulgaria who have this type of qualification find jobs easily, and soon after managing to solve the problems of their everyday life, they take steps to start practicing on their own and extend their business. As reported by most of the respondents with high qualification, for a period of five years they have achieved prosperity of parameters surprising even to themselves. The feeling of nostalgia for Bulgaria and the discomfort provoked by their separation from friends and relatives are being overcome more rapidly, if accompanied by the feeling that the so-called “revival process” and their exile from the Motherland have opened up chances for prosperity that would have been impossible even in a life time in their now lost home country. Very often they give as an example their achievements (within five years and as a result of the efforts of the whole family) in Turkey - two apartments (or a house and an apartment), a car (two cars), good education for their children, savings, stable professional practice, numerous clients and a tendency for an increasingly large demand for either the services provided by them, or for their specialised skills. They contrast this to the Bulgarian experience of their preceding generations - not for five years but in the course of a lifetime of ceaseless hard labour and insecurity of the relations with the state - all attainments were: a house for the family, a car, and a medium-paid job without any prospects for achieving prosperity and acquiring a good position in the social and public hierarchy. Frequently, the respondents make an interesting analogy between the fate of the Bulgarian refugees and that of the first settlers in America: “Having landed in a dynamically growing country, a well-grounded, intelligent and strong-willed person, resting on the sound basis of family support, is able to achieve much within a short time.”
The former nomenklatura and the people having attended the Party schools, have some advantages in their adaptation to the new social environment. First of all, in psychological terms it is interesting to note that people of the Party nomenklatura or business manager type, unlike the majority of emigrants, prefer the remote towns in the heart of Anatolia. They tend to report in their answers that they have chosen to settle farther away from the great bulk of refugees, because they could be easily recognised and subjected to ostracism for their time-serving conformism under the Communist regime in Bulgaria.
An advantage of the party and managerial school graduates is that they have acquired higher qualification - knowledge of the correct, standard Turkish language, good command of Russian, good orientation in all kinds of administrative documents, as well as the necessary bureaucratic managerial habits. All this has proved to be a highly paid commodity in large demand on the labour market in the Anatolian provincial towns. The refugees arriving from Bulgaria, who found shelter in Central and Eastern Anatolia, were provided with the opportunity to parallelly engage in different occupations - teachers in primary or secondary schools, consultants or office workers in the municipality, and private interpreters and negotiators for the Turkish businessmen who traded intensively with many of the former Soviet Republics.
The people who manage to commence a lawyer’s or doctor’s practice, do not find it difficult to gain prestige and clients (patients) already in the beginning of their professional experience there. A large contingent of the new immigrants comes to address them immediately. These new settlers need to find support in specialists who know well the displaced persons’ problems and the laws of both countries, who come from the same environment, and very often from the same place and from the same school, or who at least have no difficulties stemming from poor knowledge of standard Turkish. This circumstance ensures to that particular category of individuals a relatively rapid accumulation of original capital and possibilities for expanding their business, at the same time making it possible for them to be of help to their less educated but needy brothers or sisters having suffered the same fate of exiles.
The plants, enterprises and workshops also show an increased interest in the manpower coming from Bulgaria. The workers and technicians are skilled and disciplined. Seeking to overcome quickly the material losses and the psychological stress caused by their refugee status, they are willing and prepared to work hard, extra-time and for a relatively low payment. On the one hand, this facilitates their economic and social adaptation. On the other hand, however, it changes very fast the local people’s attitude to them. The mass feelings of compassion and sympathy for their exiled fellow-believers having suffered from the Communist repression, soon give way to a feeling of dissatisfaction and anger that the new-comers, in fact, prove to be too successful and, in a sense, disloyal rivals in the labour market competition.
For the majority of the immigrants it has been a surprise that the Turkish mother tongue they had spoken in Bulgaria is insufficient, incorrect and a lot different from the official language used in the Republic of Turkey. In this respect, the interference by the state is of extreme importance for promoting the adaptation processes. Accelerated language courses have been organised at different levels (some of them already in the refugee camps) in order to help the immigrants overcome the unexpected linguistic stress. This turns out to be especially important for the children and young people, some of whom do not speak the language at all, and have to accommodate to the differing systems of educational degrees in their new home, in order to avoid losing the school year or the university terms.
It is absolutely understandable that the adaptation of individuals who have finished only primary or secondary schools and have no special skills, or of those who come from rural areas and have found themselves in an urban environment, is most difficult and sometimes accompanied by insurmountable barriers. Their chances to find good and promising jobs are reduced to naught. At the same time, the percentage of the unemployed among the Bulgarian immigrants seems to be vanishing too, because they tend to accept any job which is not believed attractive by the native people. Unskilled immigrants step on the road of their local colleagues - Gastarbeiters in Europe. They work as cleaners, lavatory washers, do all sorts of underservant work in restaurants, hotels, firms, stores. It is difficult for them to get accustomed to the new conditions, nostalgia for their home places in Bulgaria torments them all the time and they build their lives with the hope that after getting their children well-established, they will sometime return to their old home country. The younger of them manage to compensate the disadvantages of their low qualification through diligence, ambition, hard work, additional training. This type of respondents keep giving optimistic examples by which they encourage themselves, which help them endure the difficulties. Their accounts refer to compatriots who have travelled the road from the lowest step, in a hotel for example, through chamber servants, waiters, bartenders to the high positions of administrators or even managers of these same hotels and are now even able to support the new-comers or other poverty-stricken people of the Bulgarian diaspora by opening jobs for them. All this is true and is not only a legend, because it is easy for the traveller and researcher to establish that in many of the towns situated in the European part of Turkey a large number of the staff employed in the hotels and little restaurants - from cleaners and cooks in the kitchen to chief administrators - are ethnic Turks from Bulgaria.
Very few among the exiled families that have earned their living for the past generations by farm work have common sense enough to prevent them from looking for an urban future in the new place and make them turn again to working in the villages - mostly in Turkey’s European area. They feel they are very well-received in the rural environment because of their good farming culture, experience and, almost inevitably, skills in working with agricultural machines and other equipment. Maybe some of the most harmonic processes of adaptation occur in the case of this type of new settlers. Regretfully, they are the least numerous, since the great bulk of peasant refugee families cannot resist the temptation to try their chance in the cities. The climate and the natural environment in the Thracian villages differ in almost no way from those they have been used to in Bulgaria. The richness and variety of soil and crops here are even greater than of those left behind in the Eastern Rhodopes. The respondents gladly demonstrate their acquisitions - houses, farm buildings and yields - they receive their guests warmly, it can be seen that they have avoided the inevitable shock embarrassing the lives of their fellow-villagers who have tried to make their living in the urban areas. They very often say they breathe the same air and see the same sky as in their old home.
To sum it up, the immigrants from Bulgaria, no matter what their educational and qualification start in Turkey has been and what they have achieved so far, are notably unanimous in their assertions that in their new home country there are jobs for everyone. If you are industrious, persistent and resolute, if you are not ashamed to accept the work you are offered regardless of its character, it is not possible for you to stay jobless in a dynamically developing economy as the Turkish. They judge very severely and uncompromisingly their compatriots who have failed to adapt themselves and have returned to Bulgaria, describing them as “feeble”, “lazy”, “weak-willed”, “drones”, etc.
All of them are also unanimous in their positive evaluation of the great advantages provided by the education, qualification and experience they have acquired in Bulgaria. Sometimes they even idealise certain elements of the Bulgarian educational system and often their plans for the future of their offspring centre round the possibilities for the latter to receive schooling in the native country left behind. Sometimes in the immigrants’ tone one could also distinguish rings of arrogance towards their local fellow-citizens with respect to the level of education and modernisation. In all cases, the Bulgarian Turks feel to be much more European and much more adequate to the standards of the modern technologies and scientific achievements, to have more general knowledge and interests in greater variety of fields than their colleagues or neighbours in the new place. This self-assurance, however, plays a dual role in the process of adaptation. On the one hand, it has a positive effect in the cases of one’s presentation before various state institutions, local authorities, employers, academic commissions, and in fact in the context of all sorts of contests and competitions attending the process of seeking a place in the new social environment. On the other hand, the autochthonous population jealously qualify this hidden arrogance and high self-esteem as “impudence”, “shamelessness”, “lack of decency”, in some extreme cases of negation resorting to the short and synthecised labelling of the profound cultural discrepancy by means of a cliche - “giaours!”, i.e. infidels in the sense of “different others”.
There is also a not very large, but important, group among the immigrants, who have been educated in humanitarian university disciplines and are interested in science, research and teaching, and who have very successful academic careers, or contribute to the Turkish press. They provide a very reliable link between the two neighbouring countries and the two cultures by establishing contacts between the scholars and intellectuals on both sides of the border. The students they teach get source information about Bulgaria’s achievements, about Bulgarian literature, culture and science. These members of the diaspora act as mediators promoting joint scientific symposia, round tables on particular themes; they also contribute to the exchange of school and university students and researchers in linguistics, literature, folklore, anthropology, political and economic sciences.
Cultural and life-style adaptation. The Bulgarian immigrants
settled in Turkey bring with them in their new home a specific cultural
and life-style pattern entailing both advantages and disadvantages for
their adaptation to the new setting.
Perhaps the most significant difference between the Bulgarian immigrants and the local communities they face in Turkey lies in the attitude to religion and the degree of affiliation (demonstrative and internalised) to its official canons and everyday rituals. The encounters of two different levels of the same culture bring surprises to both sides.
The immigrants from Bulgaria, who, in the course of decades, have been a confessional and ethnic minority often subjected to discrimination of their faith, who have suffered because of the permanent restriction of their religious rights and the possibilities of developing their traditional culture, are now expecting to find at last a long craved spiritual and civilisation comfort. The isolationism practised by the Communist regime as regards its subjects, the random semi-mythical news coming from relatives and friends in Turkey, describing a much more secured life, the forbidden thoughts about the “motherland” and its hyperbolised attractiveness nourish some illusory overexpectations in the refugees.
The anticipations of the local people are not excessive, but are characterised by an assurance which is not really supported by facts that the arriving immigrants are their compatriots who had once remained, by reason of historical circumstances, behind the border, had been persecuted and repressed because of their ethnic and religious identity and are not supposed to be essentially different from themselves.
The Bulgarian immigrants bring with them a prominently secular way of life in which Islam has formed only a thin outer layer. In any case, although not well known, Islam has been of substantial importance to the ethnic Turks over the decades, because it has carried the basic minority identification characteristic. It has served as a barrier against the assimilation efforts of the authorities, as well as against the dangers of losing individuality under the influence of the natural processes of integration. It has become a key guarantee for the ethnic and cultural survival of the entire community.
Once in the new cultural background, without even knowing well the Coranic regulations, the Bulgarian Muslims come to enjoy the newly acquired freedom of observing freely, without any embarrassment and, of course, with greater splendour and uproar all everyday rituals inherited by their ancestors and parents. As reported by the respondents, one of the first festivals gladly organised in the new home were the “sunnet” rituals, which had been strictly forbidden in Bulgaria since 1984, and in previous periods often performed in secret and illegally, while it was one of the most important rituals for the boys’ initiation in the world of men and their responsibilities.
Very soon the differences between the two levels of religiousness begin to stand out clearly. Intergeneration differences among the immigrants can be witnessed, but they, concealed under the thin film of everyday Islam again, can most generally be differentiated into two types: 1) I believe, but do not worship, and 2) I worship, but do not believe. While the model of the majority of the native Turks current in Turkey is quite different: “I believe and worship, with a varying degree of demonstrativeness and personal commitment”.
The new-comers, even those who believe in and deeply respect Islam, do not find it necessary to disrupt their work or home pursuits five times a day to pray, they do not think it is a sin to attend mosque not every day, but only on Friday, and even not every Friday, but only on holidays. They feel embarrassed when their colleagues in the plants or other enterprises stop working to say their midday prayer or leave their workplaces for to attend the Friday service, but nevertheless they themselves do not do it, this fact appealing to the employers and making them more attractive and competitive employees. However, it deteriorates their social adaptivity in their own labour or neighbourhood environment.
Especially striking are the differences between women and between family attitudes towards women. She who arrives from Bulgaria is a completely emancipated woman, educated, possessing a profession and qualification, as well as the self-esteem of an absolutely adequate and equal family partner. Before the astounded gaze of the local women, who, as a rule - even if they come from social circles higher than the middle class and have good education - after getting married become housewives, the Turkish woman from Bulgaria rushes to achieving her personal realisation. What is more - she manfully stands side by side with her husband to take part in the struggle for the family well-being and for securing good prospects for the offspring. It is still more surprising when (their children at a teen age) girls of marriageable age do not hesitate to join their mothers in the work outside the home, at the same time making every effort to achieve a higher educational degree. - ambitions to be compared only to men’s ambitions, but nevertheless occurring in a still men’s world, which is the social model of the upper and lower middle strata in Turkey.
Regardless of the fact that women from Bulgaria ignore the prejudices against them as to jobs and education, in their leisure time and daily chores they begin very soon to feel lonely and isolated. On the one hand, the cafes and confectioneries are but places of contacts for men, and, on the other, it is difficult for them to find friends among the local women. Female immigrants report that with the native Turkish women they are unable to experience the kind of open-heartedness they used to share with their friends in Bulgaria. The local women would never complain to their friends of their husbands’: violence, matrimonial failures, infidelities, etc. Everything is perfect in their life... Their emotional world is a taboo. While the immigrant women have been accustomed to relaxing from their burdensome and stressful daily round over a cup of coffee with their friends, subjecting their husbands to killing criticism, sharing emotional, sexual and physiological problems, giving and receiving advice. In the emotional domain, they miss this enormously in their new life. Female respondents state categorically that they maintain good and kind, but not sincerely friendly relations with their female neighbours and colleagues. They turn to maintaining friendships either with other Bulgarian immigrants, having arrived during the previous campaigns (in the 1950’s or 1970’s), or with other immigrant women mostly from Bosnia, Macedonia or Kosovo.
They do not wish to be provocative in their modernity and shock the local women, on the contrary, they seek compromise and a way to adapt to their circles unintrusively. For the sake of being well received in the new social setting, immigrant women have to forget some of the elements of the cultural model they have brought with them from Bulgaria. In a sense, this makes them feel dissatisfied, uncomfortable and isolated. Some female respondents acknowledge that they needed time in order to realise some elementary daily life rules, in order to overcome the negative stereotype assigned to them - that they lack “propriety”, that some aspects of their behaviour present them as “women of loose morals”. Quite curious are their accounts about the time it took them to find out the norms regulating the hanging out of washing - outmost should be the sheets and towels, and only hidden behind them and invisible to human eyes - their underwear, which had at first offended their neighbours’ eyes as a mark of their “immorality”. The free contacts with their female neighbours and colleagues, the greetings and polite conversations, quite natural to them, were perceived as defiance and have long been abandoned, although unwillingly, in the past.
These differences in the cultural and life-style model naturally lead to a certain self-isolation of the immigrant community. Of particular interest to the researchers is the formation of a rather stable, for this stage of adaptation, pattern of nondemonstrative but actual endogamy. The immigrants’ families prefer their sons and daughters to get married to the sons and daughters of immigrant families, including descendants of emigrants of past emigration waves. Obviously, the specific characteristics in the culture of everyday life, the hierarchical family relationships, the level of syncretism between tradition and modernity have been handed down from generation to generation. A marriage between children of migrants or descendants of migrants is supposed to be successful, perhaps more stable and free of conflicts. Certainly, we should not make this a rule, because there exist marriages with local boys and girls that are as successful and stable. The new-comers are attractive partners from a pragmatic, cultural and emotional point of view. For immigrants themselves, getting related to a local family leads to a much more rapid integration and adaptation to the new surroundings. Nevertheless, they are well aware that many difficulties lie ahead in the co-existence of the two differing levels of culture, tradition and modernity. What is more, the compromises they are expected to make are usually much bigger - sometimes bordering on rejection of essential elements of the value and world-outlook systems of the immigrants’ community.
The teenagers and the young people, who have undergone the brutal shocks of refugee hardships, are faced with some specific problems in the new setting. On the one hand, almost all of them have suffered the shock of the long journey (normal of their age), the change in stereotypes, the loss of their usual background - home, neighbourhood, school, friends. On the other hand, they have to rapidly adapt to the new educational system and, above all, to the entirely different rules of interpersonal communication characteristic of the circles of children and teenagers in Turkey. It is much more difficult for them to reconcile with the conservatism of morals, with the existing isolation and segregation in associating based on sex differences. They have to forget the ease with which they used to make friends, especially with reference to the opposite sex, as well as the noisier and freer forms of youthful pastime, which they remember from Bulgaria.
The feeling of discomfort is being intensified by the sense of duality of mind. On the one hand, they appreciate the much larger opportunities for realisation, professional achievements and economic prosperity in their new home country. On the other hand, they feel stagnated and emotionally deprived by the prejudices and a certain bias in socialising. Many of the rules they are obliged to learn and observe seem to them old-fashioned, outmoded, sometimes even irrational. Nevertheless, they associate their future with Turkey, because they remember the humiliation suffered by their parents during the “revival process” and, later, in the emigration campaign, and, at the same time, the economic depression in Bulgaria offers them no potential opportunities for making careers there.
Political orientation. Party agitators and analysts in
Bulgaria are shaping an incorrect conception of the civil orientation and
social attitudes of the Bulgarian emigrants. An impression is being created
that they are greatly interested in the Bulgarian political life and potentially
prepared to actively take part in parliamentary or local elections.
The purpose of all this is certainly to allow parties of various orientations
to formulate some speculative theses: some of them in order to make people
believe they are more influential than they really are, and others - in
order to be able to brandish the ethnic threat and warm up the large masses
of the Bulgarian society by nationalist slogans and simulated tension.
The Bulgarian diaspora in Turkey is closely watching the Turkish political life and is interested chiefly, and often solely, in it. The rationally-minded immigrants can see perfectly well that the future of their families is directly linked with the political parties, the local and central authorities in Turkey. They necessarily keep up with the electoral campaigns and participate in the mayoral elections. They are proud of the fact that in the Turkish Meclis there is a considerable number of deputies of Bulgarian background on whom they rely. They follow the course of pre-election debates and thereafter make their choice, be it right or wrong, to support one party or other. An extraordinary politician and hero in the eyes of the Bulgarian immigrants is the late Turgut Yozal, who made every endeavour to facilitate the more rapid and less painful accommodation of the large masses of refugees, who emigrated from Bulgaria in 1989.
The government of the Party of Prosperity (Refah Partisi) not only brought disappointment to the Bulgarian immigrants with its unfulfilled promises, but, at a certain point, even threatened to destroy the modus vivendi they had achieved by so many hard efforts, personal strain and sacrifices. The diaspora of the Bulgarian Turks, without ever undermining the sound basis of Islamic conservatism, traditional culture and customary norms of behaviour via their secular world outlook, which had gone through complex stages of modernisation, is in practice a mainstay of the civil society, of the public institutions and the parties withstanding laity and the other principles bequeathed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
At all events, these new settlers in Turkey are absolutely loyal citizens, just the way they were loyal to the Bulgarian state even in periods when it had treated them unfairly and violently.
Undoubtedly, this is part of the moral system and inborn political culture of the Bulgarian Turks. Throughout the decades in Bulgaria they had developed and maintained (including in places inhabited by an ethnically and religiously mixed population) a testamentary community model of internal self-government. On the face of it, this type of power mechanism, exercised by the Council of Elders or executed in some other form, under which the whole community strictly observes its decisions, may seem primitive. But over the years it had always produced stability and confidence responding immediately to any latent tension or conflict. If the members of the Bulgarian Turkish diaspora count on some improvements related with their adaptation to the new home, on the possibility to be reunited with their families, or to successfully resolve the problems related with their property and pensions in their former home, they surely do not depend on their personal involvement in Bulgaria’s political life, because they are realists and do not entertain fruitless illusions, but rather rely on the official steps to be made by the authorities in the Republic of Turkey and the respective measures to be taken by the new politicians in Bulgaria.
Emotional and psychological discourse. Actually,
in all matters examined thus far and associated with the adaptation of
the ethnic Turkish immigrants from Bulgaria, contain, in varying degrees,
elements of psychological evaluation and emotional characteristics. It
is so because over one hundred persons interviewed, irrespective of their
educational background and age (from children to old people), have discussed
their lot during the past 5-8 years in very emotional terms and quite often
the conversations have been accompanied by tears, laughter and embraces
on the part of both respondents and “impassionate” interviewers.
Probably the major psychological characteristic continues to be the deep emotional affiliation of most of the emigrants to the places where they were born and to their former home country. Striking is their persistent desire to keep in touch with Bulgaria, no matter in what particular way. A repetitive type of dream of the future concerns the possibility for the borders between the two neighbouring countries to be opened one day and the free movement of people in both directions to become real. This is due to their sentimental wish to maintain old-time friendships and to their nostalgia for the familiar natural environment, as well as with their pragmatic plans to engage in business on both sides of the boundary. For many of them it is attractive and profit-yielding to practise their profession in part-time employment during the winter season in Turkey, and return during the spring-summer season to cultivate their own plots of land in Bulgaria, to sell the crop, to enjoy the beauties of nature and the contacts with relatives and friends, and in the autumn to return again to their well-paid jobs of skilled workers, technicians, etc.
One should not also underestimate the wish of many immigrants to send their offspring back to study in Bulgaria, where education is cheaper and its quality well known. The young boys want to serve in the Bulgarian, not in the Turkish army, where service is longer and more risky because of the collisions in the southeastern parts of the country. The old people, in turn, would like, when they see the future of the young families well arranged, to go back and end their lives in the lands of their parents and grandparents - more specifically, enjoy the beauties of the Rhodopes or the rich lowlands of northeastern Bulgaria, but, most of all, the familiar company of their neighbours.
Perhaps the most striking fact is that the majority of emigrants have not come to hate the Bulgarian people as a result of the repression against them and their sufferings during the years of the so-called “revival process”. In all circumstances, they cut short one’s attempts at apologising or taking upon the blame, for, definitely, their accusations lie with the Communist regime, and even with particular persons who had frustrated their lives.
They show huge sympathy for the Bulgarian people because of the hardships the latter suffered during the period of transition to market economy, because of the scarcity of goods, the unemployment and low payment of labour, the stress and the political mess. Notable for its kindness and compassion is a remark repeated many a time by respondents scattered all over Turkey’s territory, and therefore appropriate to be cited word for word: “We have already managed, may you, poor things, soon be all right too!”
Scattered in all Turkish towns, they would rush across the street when they hear Bulgarian speech in order to help, to recommend a cheaper hotel, to offer their assistance as navigators, their car steering the way out of the traffic jams, open their homes, tell their stories, speak of their plans and dreams. Undoubtedly, the immigrants feel lonely and emotionally deprived in their new environment. They note sadly that life there is not like it had been in Bulgaria, that people are less communicative, less hospitable, colder and more cautious in their human contacts.
Very often conversations revert to geography, climate, nature. When asked how is it that they chose exactly Bursa... the respondents would take you to the hill from where a fine view opens out to the town and say: “It’s just like back in our place, doesn’t it remind you of Turnovo? In any case, we breathe the same air here...” The air refrain is repeated amazingly often, and many times pragmatism fails the immigrants, their choice of a new place to settle in being motivated by its similarity to the landscape of the old-time home, rather than by the economic opportunities it provides. As a matter of fact, Bursa is one of the Turkish urban areas where the number of immigrant population is largest and is therefore called by the native people “giaour-Bursa”. At first, this byname used to frighten the refugees from Bulgaria, while now they mention it already with a good-hearted sense of humour.
In certain cases, regardless of the dramatic character of the events having taken place in the spring and summer of 1989, the immigrants have a positive opinion of the possibility they have had to start their lives again and turn a new leaf. For many of them, who are ashamed of some of the things they did In the past - acts involving collaborationism, conformism, betrayals of people belonging to their own community, as well as some financial or purely human wrong-doings - the possibility of sinking in the anonymity of a giant cosmopolitan city like Istanbul, or to just get lost in the huge territory of Turkey and its 60-70-million population, is a chance of which they take maximum advantage. This story sounds too fictionalised, but real life is often more surprising than literary fantasies. For some people it proves possible to replace their experience of individuals despised in their social or family surroundings - because of moral trespasses - with living among new, respectful neighbours and fellow-townsmen, a really well-deserved attitude in response to their newly adopted pattern of behaviour. Of course, this is not a typical occurrence, but in Turkey it is possible to encounter a former party secretary, now a mosque councillor, who actively engages in charity and teaches the children in the small country town how to seek peace with, first of all, themselves.
The Bulgarian immigrants’ community is already creating its mythology and folklore. Recounted are dramatic stories of partings, of parental or filial sacrifices in the name of adaptation and success, marvellous episodes of unexpected encounters and fervent love. Quite frequently, the respondents wish so strongly to persuade their audience in the truth of their narrative, that insist to present the respective characters in person, in the flesh. Fancy intertwines with reality so often and so intimately that it is difficult for a researcher to grasp where one ends and where the other begins. There exist close ties between immigrants of migration waves of different years, as well as newly established relations between their descendants, who were born and raised in Turkey, but who preserve most jealously everything they have learnt by their parents about the old home country, and those whose childhood years had passed in Bulgaria, but whose adolescence and adult life have been spent in Turkey. All this has deposited various chronological, regional, and generation perspectives of both real memories and mythologuemes about the former mother country, about experiences there, pastoral and warm patriarchal pictures of earlier life periods. In fact, a vast new territory lies in front of the researchers - anthropologists, sociologists, ethnologists - waiting to be explored, a field hiding huge revelations and amazingly rich layers.
* * *
It is very difficult for scholars to make generalisations concerning processes which are still far from being completed. Dozens of unresolved problems lie ahead of the new settlers in Turkey. Most urgent are the questions related with disunited families, especially in cases where under-age children or helpless elderly people are concerned. There still are open legal cases of abandoned property and unsettled pension insurance. Still, in the new home country there are families faced with unresolved residential difficulties and legal problems of employment. It is too early to discuss the psychological and cultural problems which are now only at a stage of identification, while the point of their solution and perception as part of a regular routine is far ahead. The political and governmental will on both sides of the frontier is not yet sufficient and the implementation of the bilateral agreements concerning the migrants is being carried out at a very slow rate, which lags behind the daily needs of hundreds of thousands of people. It should be clearly stated that in Turkey, one way or another, life imposes its imperatives and the adaptation of the Bulgarian Turks advances, sometimes slower - having to overcome bureaucratic, civilisation and psychological barriers, sometimes faster - owing to the dynamics of social, political and economic life in that country. Bulgaria is in the losing position of a state which has quickly forgotten its diaspora in a nearby, adjoining country, and which has not shaped yet even the rudiments of some rationalised policy towards these people who have anyway been related with it for generations, and who, on the emotional plane - secretly or manifestly, are not willing to break their ties with it. Therefore, it is perhaps of major importance to prepare a series of scrupulous studies of the destiny of Bulgarian Turkish emigrants; the civil society should have a clear position on and attitude to its former citizens, to demand of its politicians and statesmen definite steps for further maintaining the cultural and economic relations with neighbouring Turkey in general, and, as a priority, with the Bulgarian diaspora there in particular. Certainly, it is the future that will show how tightly we have been bound together and how much we can achieve together.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
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