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
RELATIONSHIP TO BULGARIA, BULGARIANS AND THING BULGARIAN
Jale Hodja and Emil Milanov
SOME HISTORICAL NOTES. Situated at the crossroads of Europe
and Asia, the Balkan Peninsula represents an odd mixture of ancient and
modern, Christian and Muslim cultures. Its important strategic location
is the reason why the fate of the region has been determined not only by
the peoples inhabiting it, but also by the Great Powers seeking to implement
their geopolitical plans. From 1393 to 1878 Bulgaria was within the confines
of the Ottoman Empire. Similarly to other countries that hav? separated
from former empires, the ethnic and cultural spectrum in present-day Bulgaria
is really wide. Within the country’s territory there live Turks, Gypsies,
Jews, Armenians, etc. According to the official statistics , at 4 December
1992 the population of Bulgaria numbered 8 487 317 persons, and the number
of Turks was 800 052.
In the course of a long period following the Liberation, Bulgaria’s foreign policy was focused on uniting all the territories inhabited by Bulgarians that had remained within Turkish boundaries. The relations between Bulgarians and Turks have been historically entangled, a circumstance which is further complicated by the Bulgarians’ fear of the military strength of its neighbour Turkey. This makes the state of the Bulgarian Turks much more different than that of the other ethnic communities. However, neither this fact, nor the existing cultural and religious distinctions have ever been a hindrance to the good relations between Bulgarians and Turks. What is more, their century-old co-existence has led to the narrowing of the distance between the two cultures and to the functioning of adapted (in their practices) forms of Islam and Orthodoxy. Therefore, to both the majority’s and the minority’s surprise, between 1984 and 1989 the Turkish ethnic community in Bulgaria was subjected to discrimination on the part of the state institutions , which comprised limitation of the right to use their mother tongue, obligatory replacement of the Turkish-Arab names by Bulgarian ones, banning the practice of traditional rituals related with the Muslim religion professed by this community, etc. This is the reason why in 1989 some 370 thousand Bulgarian Turks left the country and immigrated in Turkey. Some of them (60 thousand or so) returned after the very first months of their emigration, and by the next year the number of persons who came back rose to 155 thousand. To be correct, we should mention that since 1878 there have been several mass migration waves. Unlike them, however, the latest tide was the only one provoked by a discriminating policy such as this applied by the Bulgarian state.
DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY
The subject of the investigation carried out in 1996 was
a small group of students studying at Bulgarian universities - children
of 1989 immigrants in Turkey. The major task we set ourselves in this inquiry,
was to get an insight into the cultural identity of this group of students,
as well as try to single out some of the changes resulting from the influence
of the Turkish culture they experienced during their stay in Turkey. Speaking
of the goals we had laid down, we take into account the difficulties we
had to face in the accomplishment of our task, which arose from the specific
characteristics of the group, from the fact that we communicated with the
survey subjects after certain changes had already occurred in their identities
and we had to judge about them based on their memories alone. The average
age of the undergraduates was 21.5 years, i.e. in the emigration period
they had been 15-16 years old. Consequently, during the “revival process”
they had been too young and their view of the events taking place in those
years could hardly be their own. The specific characteristics mentioned
above set up the objective limits of our research framework.
We have tried to accomplish the task initially set by estimating the respondents’ relation to Bulgaria, the Bulgarians, and things Bulgarian.
Our interest in this particular group had been provoked by the fact that these individuals were bearers of the two cultures, had permanent residence outside Bulgaria, had emigrated immediately before the democratic changes, had not witnessed the process of reforms over the last seven years and could provide both an “outside” and “inside” view based on their own world perception.
Our pre-expectations were that certain changes had taken place in our respondents’ identities, but, at the same time, some characteristics, specific of the Bulgarian society and culture, had remained. We expected that these changes would hardly be irreversible and that after their return to Bulgaria, some of the parameters of the subjects’ identities would be likely to resume their former features.
Our choice of the subjects of inquiry was not accidental. Cultural identity is one of the immanent characteristics, a fact of which one comes to be really aware, however, after one’s contact with other cultures. For to be manifested, it should be provoked. Our respondents’ destiny was of this particular type. Their cultural identity was provoked twice - first, in 1989, when they left Bulgaria, and, second, on their return to study at Bulgarian universities. In the collection of data we applied the technique of the semi-standardised interview. Our purpose was to comprise all individuals who studied in Sofia, being conscious of the fact that the number of interviewed persons was insufficient to make the use of quantitative methods relevant, and, on the other hand, the type of the research objectives was such that quantitative analysis would hardly produce the desired results. That is why, in our discussion we shall mainly seek to make qualitative evaluation of the results.
With respect to the set goals, the questions may be grouped in the following way:
1. Introductory, to make acquaintance and establish close rapport before going further into the substance of the interview;
2. Related to the respondents’ interpersonal communication and everyday contacts with “the others”;
3. Related to the changes in Bulgaria.
4. Related to the “revival process” and the emigrants.
5. Focused on comparing various spheres of social life in Bulgaria and in Turkey;
6. Focused on compatibility and incompatibilty by ethnicity and religion.
As we presumed, one of our most difficult tasks was to discover the addresses of our respondents-to-be and to establish contacts with them. The regular way to find the students was to seek the help of former, pre-emigration acquaintances and fellow-students. While examining the lists and identifying the migrants in conversations with students, it was mentioned that a large number of the immigrants, after their names had been restored, registered themselves in Turkey with new family names, different from the ones they had had before the “revival process”, most probably with the purpose of making their names acquire a more specific indigenous sound.
Already during the first interviews we had to thoroughly explain the objectives of the study. Nonetheless, we felt that most of the people we talked to showed interest and willingness to be helpful in the investigation. In the succeeding interviews we made it possible for everybody who wished to get acquainted with the questionnaire in advance and thus the respondents were reassured that it involved no political insinuations, to which, as we had expected, they proved to be very sensitive. The use of a tape recorder contributed to avoid disruption of the interview. In certain cases, the unplanned presence of some guests produced inconvenience and we had to make additional arrangements. In most cases, we managed to put our interlocutors in the right mood to unbosom themselves, which greatly contributed to the thoroughness and frankness of their answers. At certain points, we even felt that the respondents were yearning to confide to someone their personal experiences in Turkey. The only question which produced embarrassment was the one concerning the “revival process”. The questions best predisposing the interviewees to open up their souls were the items about what they lacked in Turkey and in Bulgaria. In most of the cases, after completing the interviews, with the microphone already turned off, we discussed the particular thoughts the conversation just concluded had aroused in us, the interviewers, and in our respondents. Afterwards, we would write down some interesting fragments of these unstructured interviews. In many cases during these talks we were given much franker answers, and quite frequently - even information contradicting some of the replies given during the interviews just finished.
The interviewing was carried out in Bulgarian, with the exception of three of the first-year students recently arrived in 1996. They preferred to speak in Turkish, motivating their choice by saying that it was still difficult for them to speak in Bulgarian, since they had forgotten it.
According to data from the Ministry of Education and Science, the total number of foreign students from Turkey in the academic year 1995/96 was 291. Tracing up data by years, we established a tendency of a continuous growth - beginning from the 1990/91 academic year, when there were only three students registered, up to the academic year 1995/96, when their number was already as high as 291 persons. These students attended higher schools all over the country - in Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Stara Zagora, Gabrovo, Pleven, Blagoevgrad. Their most preferred fields of study were those in the higher schools of medicine - 166 persons. Technical disciplines had been chosen by 72 persons, and 30 persons studied economic subjects.
For the 1995/96 academic year a total of 69 students from the Republic of Turkey were registered in the capital city, including children of both immigrants and native Turks . Of these 69 students, 45-47 individuals were children of migrants.
The interviewed students, whose parents were emigrants, had been admitted to university training in conformity with their rights of foreign citizens holding Bulgarian citizenship as well, and in the majority of cases they had paid only 30 per cent of the fees required of the rest of the foreigners. Out of the 45-47 young people we had identified, based on recorded information, we succeeded in discovering 43 people - 10 girls and 33 boys. Eight people (males) of the addressed refused to be interviewed. Declining the interviews, they gave no serious reasons, and since most of them had been asked for the interviews indirectly, through some fellow-students, we practically had no contacts with them. The likely reasons for their unwillingness to participate in the inquiry were their mistrust, lack of interest, and perhaps also unpleasant recollections from the time of the “revival process” and, hence, some own considerations.
The interviewed persons were first to fourth-year students, aged between 19 and 26. Their former places of residence in Bulgaria had been in the regions of Kurdzhali (14 individuals), Razgrad (3), Targovishte (4), etc. The cities or towns of their permanent residence in the Republic of Turkey were Bursa (13 persons), Istanbul (11), Luleburgaz (4), Tekirdag (3).
RELATION TO BULGARIA, THE BULGARIANS AND THINGS BULGARIAN
Taking into consideration the above-mentioned objective limitations of the research framework, relationship to Bulgaria, the Bulgarians and things Bulgarian is, in our opinion, an applicable criterion for evaluating the national, cultural and ethnic identities of the subjects of the present study. To what extent do the respondents distinguish themselves from or identify with the Bulgarians, the Bulgarian Turks, or the local Turks?
DAILY INTERACTIONS - COMPATIBILITY WITH “THE OTHER”. Life
keeps getting us together with other people who are different from us.
What are, however, the feelings and experiences of these others and how
are they manifested in our everyday life? The answer to this question can
be found in a great variety of situations accompanying the social interaction
of the individuals.
Everyday relations, as well as the established social status and existing prejudices towards the others determine our conduct. How did the emigrants’ children - respondents in the present study - feel and explain the problems arising as a result of the discriminating attitude manifested by other people in their daily interpersonal communication with them?
The everyday life of the interviewed group embraced the time they spent at the university, at home, at their neighbours’ places, in the street. What were their problems in associating with the others? The questions asked, by which we sought to elucidate this issue, covered several aspects:
1. How did the respondents evaluate and perceive their Bulgarian professors’ and fellow-students’ attitudes to them?
2. What was their preferred type of company?
3. What level of intimacy were they prepared to allow in their relations with a Bulgarian - the level of a fellow-student, of a friend, or of a potential marriage partner who may become the parent of his/her children?
Based on the particular answers given by the respondents, we can differentiate three groups.
The first one is the group of those who think that they have no problems with their Bulgarian fellow-students, who associate without any barriers or alienation, who have close friends among them and do not consider them in any way different from themselves.
The second one is the group of those who believe that, in principle, they have no problems and carry on well with their Bulgarian fellow-students and acquaintances, but assume that when some problems do arise, the reason lies with the particular person, his/her character, rather than with the ethnic identity of the person they are “facing”. They deem that there are conflict-prone people holding nationalistic views, and say that they have met such people in their everyday life, but these people are an exception, so that to give too much attention to this fact is not worth while.
The third one is the group of persons who have problems and argue that there always exists some distance and some kind of barrier between them and their Bulgarian fellow-students. They think this is due to previously established prejudices and biased conceptions, as well as to the lack of knowledge about the Turkish society and culture.
We have been struck by the fact that, in the opinion of the latter two groups of respondents, the blame for the existing distance and barriers creating difficulties in their interrelations does not lie with them, but is rather the others’ fault. In most of the statements, we came across judgements of the sort: “In some cases they stare at me in a specific way, I can’t say why.” (int. 9, male, aged 22)
Turning to the concrete results, we can see the following configuration: eight of the interviewees answered that they neither had, nor were likely to have any problems with their Bulgarian fellow-students, indicating that their company was Bulgarian or prevailingly Bulgarian, and asserting that they had close friends among the latter, for example one respondent (int. 17, m., aged 22) said: “My company is exclusively Bulgarian... I don’t maintain contacts with the Turks.” They reported that they got along perfectly well with them and that they did not think there was any difference between themselves and the Bulgarians.
Another 10 people believed that, on the whole, they had no problems and their relations depended on the particular individuals alone, rather than on the fact who belonged to what national, ethnic or religious group. The implication was that they themselves did not discriminate by national, ethnic or religious characteristics, but “it depends on the people, there are surely some of them who are sort of more nationalistic” (int. 16, male, aged 21), or “well, we are just like all other people” (int. 6, f., aged 23).
The remaining 17 individuals maintained that between themselves and their Bulgarian fellow-students and professors there appeared problems which could be best described as some sort of distance, a more special attitude, insufficient appreciation, underestimation of their qualities. By way of confirmation, some of the respondents said: “It’s none too warm, most of them have a chilly attitude. They have many prejudices and, in fact, give the cold shoulder.” (int. 19, f., aged 20) Some of the subjects in this group complained that their professors displayed a somewhat different attitude to ethnic Turks as compared to Bulgarians, for example a respondent (int. 23, m., aged 23) said: “Some professors don’t treat me well, because I’m a Turk. I even avoid classes and don’t attend at all the lectures of one of them, because he speaks ill of the Turks.” Another respondent tried to find the reasons for this attitude in old-time prejudice - “some of them think in a more... a more Communist-like way”. Most often in the responses given by subjects in this group we came upon formulations like “there always exists some kind of distance”, or “there is some kind of difference and estrangement”. The replies given and comments made by these respondents are close to the statement made by a 22-year-old female subject: “They keep me at a distance, as a foreign student... they would look on me as a stranger.” (int. 1, f. aged 22) The attitude referred to here is regarded as stemming from the Turkish citizenship adopted. To this undergraduate, her fellow-students’ attitude is not just the natural attitude to a foreign student, although she in fact belongs to the group of foreign students.
In a company of Bulgarians alone, most of the interviewed (27) would feel somewhat embarrassed, some of them attributing this to the differences, others - to not knowing the language, still others - to the permanently existing distance and barriers; “in company, some would stare at you in a peculiar way, I’d feel a bit embarrassed” (int. 4, m., aged 20).
The above conclusion is in contrast with the declaration made by the overwhelming majority of the respondents that they have friends among the Bulgarians. It might be that in this case we are faced with a contradiction between the individual and the member of the community, formulated by I. Katsarski as an opposition between individuum-centredness and group-centredness (sociocentrism). On the one hand, “we are like all other people”, and, on the other, “they think that Turkey is a backward country and I have to defend my home country... that women are deprived of rights and I give them the example of Tansu Ciller” (int. 21, f., aged 21). How much the view of this respondent is the result of only inward conviction, and not a reaction in defence of her community, we can discern already in her next answer, where she said: “People are freer in their thinking here... I like free thinking.”
Most of the respondents believed that there were certain differences, distances, and barriers between them and their Bulgarian fellow-students with whom they had daily contacts. In their opinion, this discrimination was not their fault. They emphasised that they did not mind the contacts and friendships established between them and the Bulgarians, they were not hostile to the latter and did not cherish the prejudices they attributed to the others; actually they thought they themselves were in every way “people like all others” and, being such, they should be accepted rather than discriminated and isolated in whatsoever way. Asked whether she felt any barriers in her contacts with fellow-students, an undergraduate replied: “Particularly my fellow-students - no, they treat me as one of them, but there are some professors who are hostile, even certain sort of remarks are thrown out, while there are other professors who sympathise with us, for it is not easy to have to replace your native land, your home. Still, some of the professors make this discrimination.” (int. 12, f., aged 22). There is another point here - they are really open to others, attaching huge importance to their fellow-students’ and professors’ attitudes, but they would like to be accepted and treated as equals, as no strangers, being “allowed”, at the same time, to be different. Here is how a student (int. 12, f., aged 22) described her difficulty: “Before telling some Bulgarian that I am a foreigner, that is that I am Turkish, I think twice - to say or not to say, and when this happens (when I don’t say - author’s note), I sometimes feel guilty that there is a kind of barrier that I’ve failed to overcome.”
How do matters stand with respect to acceptance of the other as a marital partner?
As many as 16 of the interviewed persons reported they were categorically opposed to their children’s possible marriage to Bulgarians. They explained their objections by saying (int. 1, f., aged 20) that “sooner or later problems do arise” because of the existent differences based on both ethnic and religious grounds.
The rest of the respondents were not that positive in their attitude and gave hesitant answers, saying that they “would not hamper in any particular way such a decision” possibly taken by their yet unborn children and for the time being they did not mind specifically their [children’s] eventual decision to marry either Bulgarians or others. For two of them the problem did not lie in religion. In their view, “the Westerner” is a better suited partner than the Bulgarian; another one (int. 34, m., aged 20), in turn, would not agree his children to be married to other people but Bulgarians, for “the Bulgarians are different (different from the others - authors’ note)”, which might have been caused by a feeling of cultural affinity.
The general impression was that, although quite a great number of the students had already overcome the barriers and either had had before or had at that time Bulgarian girl/boyfriends, yet they were unable to transgress the bounds and become linked by marriage to a member of the other ethnic group. We can discover the underlying reasons in the answer given by one of the respondents (int. 15, f., aged 24) who confessed: “I had a boyfriend who was Bulgarian, we were getting along very well... I gave this up only because my folks would not agree... if I were a bit more self-reliant, or, let’s say, independent... but it’s my mother, for she’s rather old and may not get over it, so that’s why I...” In this case the problem is not rooted in the individuals themselves or their parents, but rather in the community which, in its instinct for self-preservation, has developed unwritten rules, which one is not permitted to break.
The problem of accepting the other person - a fellow-student, a close friend, or a potential marital partner of their children to be born - is, of course, bilateral: it depends on the extent we are open to the others -people who are different from us, but also on the degree they would be able to accept us. While a large number of the respondents attributed the problems in their interpersonal communication relevant to the first two aspects (as implied in the three questions formulated above) to prejudices which the Bulgarians had, in the third case they tended to scrutinise themselves and their own community, which, together with the Bulgarian one, had been involved in the setting up of a generation-old borderline.
RELATING TO THINGS BULGARIAN - EDUCATION, POLITICS, ECONOMY,
CULTURE. The respondents’ comparisons between the various aspects of social
life in Bulgaria and Turkey made it easier for us to analyse their affiliation
to things Bulgarian and Bulgaria.
We can judge about the qualities of the Bulgarian educational system by the fact that for many years large numbers of foreigners completed their university education in Bulgaria. During the years that followed the changes, in spite of the serious failures in the Bulgarian economy, the Bulgarian education succeeded in retaining its good quality and is, therefore, still attractive for students from abroad. After 1990, students from neighbouring Turkey, too, came to be educated in Bulgaria, their number regularly growing each year. The majority of the persons interviewed in this inquiry characterised the Bulgarian educational system as very good and its level as high. Making comparisons with education in Turkey, 30 students were positive that the secondary education in Bulgaria is much better than that in its southern neighbour. An interviewed student expressed her opinion, typical of most of the subjects: “Some things are lacking in the Turkish secondary education, education in Bulgaria is much better.” (int. 12, f., aged 22). The same number of 30 respondents thought that the level of the Bulgarian higher education was not lower than education in Turkey. They said that, on the whole, there were very good Turkish universities as well, but very few people, belonging to particular social strata, had the chances to study there. They took into account the fact that, being entitled to preferential fees, as compared to those paid by the other foreign students, they stood the chance of graduating from high-rate universities and thus had the opportunity of practising gainful professions. For example, a respondent made the following point: “I have always repeated that education in Bulgaria is better,” (int. 26, m., aged 19).
Only four of all interviewed persons reported some interest in Bulgarian politics. Only ten of the respondents had some orientation in it. On the other hand, half of their total number showed willingness to participate in the future elections. This reduced interest in Bulgarian politics can be explained both by their tendency to permanently settle in their new home country, as well as with the capitalising of various political formations on the problems of the ethnic communities in Bulgaria: “There should exist a group to defend [human] rights, as is MRF, but not overacting like MRF. They do nothing but aggravate relations between the minorities and the Bulgarians.” (int. 17, m., aged 22) On the background of this decreased interest in politics, we registered a contrasting desire to take part in the elections, by means of which the respondents hoped to help elect decent rulers capable of leading the nation to better economic circumstances. The economic condition was the basic factor forming the preference given to Turkey by the majority (29) of the interviewed persons in their answers to the question “Where can one live better?”. At the same time, some of them (5) specified that freedom here was larger. The point of the greater cultural freedom, without being directly formulated as a question, was present in the answers of almost all of the 35 interviewees. For some of them it was the thing which connected them with Bulgaria, for others - this was the best thing in this country, for still others - it was the reason which made some of the Turks return after their emigration to Turkey. Emphasising the larger cultural freedom of the Bulgarian young people, they point out that in Turkey the young people, complying to the existing traditional morals, cannot allow themselves a great deal of things. One of the students (int. 19, f., aged 20) reported: “I can’t, for example, go and have a cup of coffee with a friend”. Another one (int. 11, f., aged 21), explaining that young people reckoned with the conservatism of the older generation, declared: “Well, what can I say, just call to mind that Turkey is a Muslim country, a girl who’s a bit more fashionably dressed...”
Most of the respondents did not approve of Erbakan’s Islamist party; in the opinion of some of them, it would thrust Turkey 40 years back in her development, according to others this party’s coming into power would be absolutely disastrous, and there was one (int. 17, m., aged 22) who said: “That’s why I maintain closer contacts with Bulgaria, in order to be able to come back here. If they take over, there won’t be any room for people like us there.” The fact that they are adherents of the secular principle, is beyond doubt and it would put them in an extremely unfavourable position provided the Islamists assumed power. It was no chance that during Erbakan’s short term in office in 1997, the rumour of deporting the immigrants back to Bulgaria became widely spread.
Bulgarian music, along with Turkish music, was listened to with pleasure by most (31) students and still, a student (int. 6, f. aged 23) said she listened “only to old-time songs, which... I don’t listen to the new ones, there’s nothing in them”. In addition to their reference to the things they like in Bulgaria, they pointed out that people here had become chillier, less polite, ruder, while people in Turkey were much kinder, warmer and responsive. “What is lacking most is people’s warmth, the kind attitude between people. The Bulgarians are sort of curter, colder.” (int. 14, m., aged 20)
It is not difficult to see that the students are affiliated to the Bulgarian culture, which influences their perception of the surrounding world. It has contributed to their successful self-realisation and it, again, has almost made them return (int. 12, f., aged 22). “Me and my family, too, were on the brink of going back, bad knowledge of the language was an obstacle, people’s mentality is different, the existing religious pressure...” In this particular statement the student seems to have most clearly defined the major parameters of the cultural distinction between immigrants and native people.
THE CHANGES IN BULGARIA. The majority of the students
were well-acquainted with the current socioeconomic and political situation
in Bulgaria, showing commitment and concern for the people’s plight and
the existent economic crisis in this country. They sympathised with the
young people on account of the limited opportunities for realisation and
chances of advancement opened up to the university graduates. This hard
situation seemed to deprive them of options and the place of their future
self-realisation proved to be the economically prosperous Turkish society.
The main question, which implied evaluation of the changes that had taken place, was the one involving comparison between the situation prior to 1984 (before the “revival process”) and the period following the changes. We were aware of the fact that, while comparing the situation before and after the “revival process”, the respondents would be influenced by what they had been told by their parents. It is no accident that some of them began to compare the situation before and after 1989. Eventually, this had no effect on the results, since the respondents gave answers to this question from three perspectives - economic changes, security, and minority rights.
In terms of Bulgaria’s economic state, we could classify the answers in the following way: the majority (22) of the students thought that before “democracy” the economic situation in Bulgaria had been better, others (10) asserted that the current situation was better, an insignificant number (3) said that both before 1985 and after 1989 people had lived well, and made no difference.
The respondents of the first group associated the former economic situation mainly with the fact that people had been relatively better off, there had been no unemployment, there had existed free medical services, opportunities for recreation and tourism and “the other benefits the working class enjoyed”; besides, many of them admitted the peace and security enjoyed by the citizens. The answers given by almost all 22 subjects repeated one another. The most characteristic description of this period was made by one of the respondents (int. 16, m., aged 21) who said: “I believe it was better before. At that time life for everybody was good and normal, but all were isolated from the world abroad. One could see that after 1989 Bulgaria fell into a rather difficult situation. Crime rates are very high, people are not satisfied, they don’t get what they deserve... There is no democracy in the real sense of this word.” These are the reasons why the interviewees prefer their yet unborn children not to live in Bulgaria, and one respondent (int. 14, m., aged 20) gave the following explanation: “I think there is a big difference between a Turkish and a Bulgarian citizen. Democracy there has existed for many years, while here democracy is in the making”, he added.
Those 10 respondents, who expressed their preference for the new economic conditions, evaluated the situation in terms of the existing possibilities of competition, achievements and good prospects for advancement depending on one’s personal qualities: “My parents were doctors before and received 150-200 levs, while a bar tender or a driver would take 500, now, if you are a good doctor, if you open up a consulting room - you can rely on your own abilities...” (int. 3, m., aged 26) A more detailed analysis of the answers, in terms of their estimation of the situation - former and present, may also reveal some social aspects. Their interpretation, however, is not among the goals of our study.
All of the interviewees were sympathetic as regard Bulgaria’s problems and hoped things would improve. For example, a respondent (int. 27, m., aged 21) said: “More or less, it makes no difference to me how things are going, but still I want things to be all right.” They noted that, from an economic point of view, things had turned worse for everybody, irrespective of one’s ethnic identity. As for the questions focused on the political situation in Bulgaria at that time, all 35 subjects approved of the processes of democratisation which had resulted in the liberalisation of all spheres, making reference to and approving the liberties that the minorities had been granted: “Now freedoms and rights have been granted... In the communist times there was a very strong pressure, and it is gone now.” (int. 32, m., aged 20). Or: “I think there are some improvements. The Turkish language is taught now. That was not the case before. Believers can attend mosques. They can worship and affirm their faith.” Nevertheless, most of them believed that the minorities as a whole had enjoyed a better status and conditions of life prior to 1984, before their renaming: “Till 1984 the minorities lived better, but later, with the change of names, they ruined everything.” (int. 35, m., aged 20). On the whole, this opinion was typical of most of the interviewees. The respondents found also pre-1984 relations between Bulgarians and Turks to have been much better, and involving no problems, and thought that currently things had changed. “Till 1984-1985 no basic difference was made, everything went all right - you are Turkish, you are Bulgarian and that’s all, but now - you are Turkish and things come to be scrutinised, it’s simply unnecessary. I lived amidst people where no difference was made, but with this process things have really turned upside down.”
Analysing the above conclusions, we should take into account the fact that our respondents have a sentimental-romantic attitude to their past and, especially, to the carefree childhood years preceding 1984. “Things were fine before, they aren’t now, nothing good has been left. The way we used to live then, before the renaming, people’s attitude was different. We had always lived side by side with Bulgarians, they created no problems, our relations were closer than kinship, kinder. So, almost nothing has remained of it now.” (int. 6, f.,, aged 23)
“THE REVIVAL PROCESS”. The discriminative policy of the
Bulgarian authorities, termed the revival process, has left indelible traces
in the minds of a large number of the Bulgarian people, regardless of their
ethnic or religious identification. No one knows how many years have to
pass before the relations ruined by this “process” will be reestablished
and the barriers between the members of the Turkish ethnic community and
the others will be lifted. No wonder then that the most painful question
in the interviews we conducted was the question about the consequences
of the “revival process”. This is the reason why it was asked at the end
of the interviews.
In our conversations, we met with reluctance to even mention this topic, or only hackneyed cliches were used in the answers. The unpleasant memories, the accumulated distrust, the reflex formed in the past years of fear of freely voicing one’s opinion, the mortification resulting from the way they had been treated, all these have left long lasting traces in the respondents’ lives. In their minds this has been associated with the unfair treatment they were given in this period. A student spoke of the barriers between Turks and Bulgarians having risen as a consequence of the process. (int. 12, f., aged 22) Another student articulated her view in the following way: “Before they changed our names, there was no ill-will towards or grudge for the government, but, you know, when something is imposed (by force), hatred starts to grow... And maybe it was deliberately that we began to speak in Turkish, because we were forbidden to, while until that moment, before they changed our names, we even tended to speak in Bulgarian mostly, lest we were identified as Turks...” (int. 15, f., aged 24) Then she added: “But for this renaming and some other [things]... there wouldn’t have been so many emigrants, it’s not that easy to leave behind everything and settle in a strange country.” On a personal plane, some of the students mentioned the embarrassment they felt to face their classmates and friends having to be called new Bulgarian names, and stressed that this was a very painful experience for them and this period, in general, was associated with humiliation. They did not “consider it natural to be called by one name once, and then by another, this is absolutely nasty” (int. 4, m., aged 20).They described their feelings during that period most often by terms as shame, humiliating, depression, painful, outrage, mortifying, wrong. An interviewed student added that “the government, after deciding to label us, thought that they could change us, but this did not happen, we are not like the rest of the people, because we are Turkish and this is something prideful”. Some of them believed that their teachers’ attitude to them had not been impartial and they had been underscored, “they gave us lower marks than the Bulgarians got” (int. 21, m., aged 21). We can single out the view expressed by two respondents, who considered the things that had happened to be positive, because they had been able to emigrate to Turkey (int. 10, m., aged 23, and int. 11, f., aged 20). Another student (int. 20, f., aged 20) expressed the following opinion: “The first days it was very disparaging... I felt hurt because it had been done by force, they didn’t allow [us] to speak Turkish. Had it been on some sort of voluntary basis, it wouldn’t have had a bad effect.”
Of all 35 interviewees, 4 persons declared that, after all, the “revival process” had not in any way affected them personally, because they had been very young. Of the remaining 31 individuals, two asserted that, in principle, this event had not caused any problems for them, but, still, it need not have happened. The majority of 26 persons shared the opinion that “of course it did have” a negative effect. The rest 3 persons refused to comment.
An evident conclusion is that in spite of the painful memories involving the feeling of not being treated in the same way as their fellow-countrymen of Bulgarian origin, 33 persons laid the blame for the “revival process” solely with authority - the government, those in power (T. Zhivkov), involvement of foreign factors. The fact that these 33 people did not put the blame on the Bulgarians themselves was a result of the friendly relations, to which most of the respondents made references, maintained between Bulgarians and Turks even in the period of the “revival process”.
Out of the total number of interviewed students, 18 blamed the then head of state himself together with the other officials in power. Almost all (33) laid a charge against the policy pursued by the authorities, five of them (males) being convinced that this had happened under the influence of external factors and, most of all, Russia’s policy. One of them underlined that this had been a policy prompted by other countries targeting Turkey. Only 2 subjects found fault with the Bulgarians too, one of them (int. 21, f., aged 21) stressing that “anyway Zhivkov and his people have some fault, because some of our friends turned their back on us at that time”, and the other respondent (int. 3, m., aged 26), who cast the blame on the Bulgarians, said that “certainly (they are to blame - author’s note) - these books that have been written, Bulgarians have written them.”
The “revival process” has opened a deep wound in the relations between Turks and Bulgarians and the more we pick it, the less likely it becomes for it to be healed. “Whenever such things happen, unpleasant memories remain. Time is the best cure and I’ve made my mind to forget it....” (int. 14, m., aged 20). This student’s statement seems to be continued by I. Katsarski’s reflections: “Talking calls up memories about insults and injuries, awakens unhealed wounds, does not let time and oblivion disclose their soothing effect. The way to peaceful and harmonious co-existence... runs through the unique experience of each one of us in associating with the other person - accepting the fact of someone else’s existence, getting accustomed to the other person... Should this prove useless, it means nothing could be of use.” It is to be regretted that, in search of popularity, quite a few political and non-governmental formations “overact” with respect to the revival process, thus only “straining the relations between minority groups and the Bulgarians” (int. 17, m., aged 22). Unfortunately, seeking to shed light on the destiny of our compatriots in Turkey and contribute to acquiring a better knowledge of the Turkish community in Bulgaria, this study also touches on some painful memories, whose recollection does not help improve the relationships between Bulgarians and Turks.
BASIC CONCEPTS USED IN THE INVESTIGATION OF THE PROBLEM.
Before focusing on the substance of the problem discussed, we should like
to make a review of the basic concepts to be applied in our presentation.
This deviation proves to be necessary, since in the different sources the
same terms are very often used to designate different notions and sometimes
this misleads and confuses the reader. Perhaps we should start first with
the two models underlying the nation concept, the civic and the ethnic,
and therefrom approach the two conceptions of national identity. In her
article on “Ethnicity, National Identity, Nationality” A. Krasteva
summarises the two conceptions by pointing out that “the civic model of
nation means historical territory, political and legal entity, political
and legal equality of its members, a common civic culture and ideology”,
while “the core of the ethnic model is native culture, community of birth”.
The emphasis is laid on origin, rather than on territory. The nation is
perceived as a big family, and its members - as brothers and sisters, as
close relatives.” Within the framework of this discourse, national identity
should also be supposed to mean identification with the nation-community
in its two models. If we should express our view regarding the above-mentioned
two tendencies, which have divided contemporary scholars into adherents
of one or the other, we should note that they are not opposed. It could
sooner be claimed that they touch on different zones of the human mind.
In any case, the two identity models co-exist in man’s consciousness or
subconsciousness and under certain conditions and for certain periods of
time each one of them, if provoked, could predominate in the individual
and group mind and being. In our discussion, when referring to national
identity, we mean its civic model.
Where could we position cultural and ethnic identity? With the modernisation of society, the media began to pervade ever larger areas of human consciousness - so large that sometimes it seems as if modern culture has entirely displaced the traditional one. This is only a false feeling, however, there is always a corner left in human mind for traditional culture, without which one feels inadequate, rootless, deprived of mainstay. In this sense, it appears that cultural identity may be considered to be a basic component of national identity as implied in the civic model of nation, and ethnic identity - as semantically almost overlapping national identity as implied in the ethnic model of nation. In our further argument, when speaking of cultural identity, we are going to give priority to identity shaped by modern culture. Referring to Vsevolod Isayev , Katherina Verdery maintains that “nearly all analysts consider common culture or the sharing of objective cultural traits, along with shared origin, as central to ethnic identities”. Challenging is also Barth’s opinion, analysed by Katherina Verdery, that “the critical focus of investigation... becomes the ethnic boundary that defines the group, not the cultural stuff that it encloses”. Ethnicity differentiates individuals who consider themselves, or are considered by the others, to have common characteristics, distinguishing them from the other groups in society within which they develop a different cultural behaviour Ethnicity is based on membership acquired on the grounds of a common historical origin, which may include also shared culture, religion and language. It should be distinguished from kinship, in so much as kinship is tied with heredity. A. Krasteva points out that ethnic identification is not one’s absolutely free choice, that options are limited and depend on the other person’s vision, because not only the way I think of others, but also the way they think of me is of substantial importance. In contrast to ethnic identity, cultural identity is characterised by a much stronger dynamism, and - unlike national identity perceived in its civic pattern - has much clearer outlines.
The subject matter of this study comprises the identity characteristics of a group of university students - offspring of 1989 emigrants to Turkey. An attempt has been made to grasp some of the changes in the respondents’ identities which have taken place in consequence of the changed cultural environment.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SUBJECTS’ CULTURAL IDENTITY. The
respondents’ cultural identity is revealed most clearly in the answers
to questions focused on juxtaposition of various aspects of social life
in Bulgaria and Turkey. The answers betray also the respondents’ personal
affiliation to the cultures of both countries. The majority of interviewees
manifest their preference for the Bulgarian system and quality of education,
indicating it as a ground for their choice to study in Bulgaria. In most
cases, the choice had been made by their parents, and this circumstance
shows the immigrants’ families shared appreciation of the advantages offered
by the Bulgarian education. In some cases the motives are entirely pragmatic
- admission without examinations, entitlement to preferential fees, etc.
Comparing attitudes to the political situation in the two countries, we
can see a keen interest in political life in Turkey and a much lower interest
in Bulgarian politics, a fact which is an indicator that the subjects have
already readjusted their national identities to their new home country.
Their explicit discarding of Erbakan’s Islamist party and commitment to
the secular principle has turned the immigrants, compared to the large
majority of the native Turks, to dissidents, to destroyers of the traditional
morals, which the more religious portion of the population would like to
be restored. Half the number of all respondents expressed their willingness
to participate in the forthcoming elections in Bulgaria, and this is close
to the average percentage of Bulgarian voters who had reported their readiness
for participation before the latest parliamentary and presidential elections.
This fact, as well as the recommendations concerning Bulgaria’s social
development in the future, show that they are still concerned about the
problems of the country where they spent their childhood years. On the
other hand, only one third of them would not object to their children’s
living in Bulgaria. This circumstance may be attributed to, first, their
altered national identities and, second, the more favourable economic situation
in Bulgaria’s southern neighbour. The above-stated assumption is confirmed
by answers of the following type: “One has many opportunities in Turkey.
I believe it is better there. Education is highly valued and, in fact,
there are jobs, and I think wages are higher. It’s better there, there
are larger opportunities.” (int. 16, m., aged 21) Or: “The question might
be approached from two points of view, there is more freedom here, but
there’s shortage of money.” (int. 17, m., aged 22) Nonetheless, the feeling
of temporariness has not entirely left them. Most of them specify that
“for the time being” they feel better there.
One of the respondents (int. 14, m., aged 20) expressed his preference for the Bulgarian culture by saying: “I think that the Bulgarian people is more educated. Bulgaria is more advanced culturally.”
The questions treating contacts with Bulgarians reveal to what extent the subjects have been able to adapt to their old new environment. The feeling of estrangement between them and their Bulgarian fellow-students, mentioned by many of the interviewed undergraduates, upsets and disturbs them. Most of them have close friends among their fellow-students of Bulgarian origin, but yet the circles preferred by most of them are those of the Turkish students. Although all of them said they had no problems with the ethnic Turks living in Bulgaria, and probably this held fully true of relatives and friends of former times, in a post-interview talk, one of the girls mentioned indignantly such compatriots of hers who sometimes did not even greet them and kept only Bulgarian company. She supposed they did not wish to be confused with emigrants having Turkish citizenship.
Only half the number of all respondents would not object to their children’s marrying Bulgarians. Nevertheless, they are hesitant, since they know very well that this will not be favourably received within the community, which, even in Bulgaria, is rather hostile to mixed marriages. On the other hand, the unbiased attitude of young Turks in Bulgaria to contracting intermarriages, has not been disrupted regardless of their five or six -year-long stay in Turkey. In our chats during or after the interviews, some of the students acknowledged they had had earlier or had at that time Bulgarian boy/girlfriends. One boy (conversation subsequent to int. 23, m., aged 23) confessed: “It happened to me several times to make acquaintance of a Bulgarian girl - everything would go well, but should I present myself as a Turk, she would at once become reserved.” Here we can approach the problem from its other side - how great is the Bulgarians’ disposition to intermarry with Turks. I. Tomova , while describing a survey carried out in the early 1980’s , maintains that the Turkish community was much more open than the Bulgarian one. Consequently, the barrier is not, and could not be, set by one side alone.
All the interviewed persons admitted that they spoke in Bulgarian when they were in Turkey, and especially when they told or made jokes. Some assigned this to “habit”, others used it as a way of preventing people around from being able to comprehend, still others - “lest they should forget it”, and still others - “may be out of spite”. Their obvious disagreement with the views regarding young people’s behaviour, voiced many times by emphasising the greater cultural freedom Bulgarian young people enjoy, makes the young Bulgarian Turks prefer the company of emigrants like themselves. Dissimilarities, with respect to the locals, in intrafamily relations, in some cases lead to limiting contacts with the native Turks to such extent that marriages with them are sometimes even not preferred.
How did the students characterise the merits and demerits of 1989 emigrants? In their answers, the respondents evaluated the major positive and negative traits of the immigrants compared to the native Turks. Asked about the strong sides of the immigrants revealed in their integration into the Turkish society, most of the interviewees named: greater industry (27), higher level of education (17) and ambition (5). The largest share of the students mentioned this fact with overt pride. “They (immigrants) are very persistent, and strong-willed too, more diligent. Bulgaria has provided most of them with good education - at a high level, which helped them succeed.” (int. 6, f., aged 23) Others, while not denying industry, attributed the success and material well-being, achieved within a short time, to the fact that they had received very large support both by the Turkish government and by their relatives. Some of the interviewed persons made the point that the immigrants had no other choice and this helped them get settled. “There was no way back and we believed in a better life.” (int. 17, m., aged 22)
When asked the question of what hindered their adaptation, the respondents pointed to cultural difference (5), idleness (4), the capitalist system (4), their being less intelligent (4). “They were not accustomed to such a way of living, they were used to the socialist ways, but were confronted with the capitalist way of life, a different culture, were more impatient, kind of weak-willed” (int. 16, m., aged 21). The apparent contradiction with the previously mentioned characteristics stems from the fact that in this case our respondents alluded to the others - those who had returned. They wished, by all means, to be distinguished from them. In this instance we can easily discern reflexes formed during the time spent in Turkey, a desire to demonstrate to the locals their negative attitude to the ungrateful, to those that had not praised enough the magnanimous gesture of the mother land . In this distinction we can also perceive their desire to be among the permanently established immigrants. Obviously, this is a matter that continues to worry them.
Nevertheless, the respondents distinguished themselves from the local population - the industry, higher responsibility, and higher level of education of the immigrants they assigned to the time spent in Bulgaria, to the value system and habits bearing the imprint of Bulgarian culture. The distinction “we” (immigrants) - “they” (locals), which may be discerned in the description of the respondents’ way of living in Turkey, shows once again the differentiation of the immigrant community within the Turkish society.
THE DYNAMICS OF CULTURAL IDENTITY. It is best felt in
the answers to questions requiring comparison between the pre-1985 and
post-1989 situations in Bulgaria.
Noticeably, in the course of the unstructured interviews following the interviews, most of our interlocutors spoke of the preceding situation in the plural 1st person: “everything was normal before, we used to go on holiday” (int. 3, m., aged 26), “we were young then, it was very nice” (int. 4, m., aged 20), but while describing the current situation, they used the plural 3rd person: “they have now given freedom” (int. 1, f., aged 20), “now they fear nothing, neither policemen, nor nothing”. Most of them favoured the situation before 1985 - predominantly on account of the relations between people, the tranquillity and the more or less easy circumstances - and did not like the current situation, although they noted the positive changes in the policy pursued towards minority groups. It seems that the main reason for this is the deep economic crisis and the stratification of society. Their negative attitude to the changes having occurred in Bulgaria, indicate that their affiliation to the Bulgarian culture is diminishing and becoming ever more a projection of the past, as well as that Bulgaria in transformation is not the country they remember and which they relate themselves to, and this is one more reason for becoming estranged from the Bulgarian culture and breaking with the Bulgarian national identity. On the other hand (int. 1, f., aged 20), the fact that “I belong to the majority there, and not to the minority...” is, evidently, a serious motive not to “feel isolated there as I feel here”.
And yet, the degree of their integration into the new culture is maybe most clearly seen in the questions: “What do you miss in Bulgaria?” and “What connects you with Bulgaria and what do you like here?”. In most of the cases they answered these questions by saying that in Bulgaria they missed their family (11) and relatives (2), as well as the warm relations (4) which had already been gone here: “It was nice before, it isn’t any longer. Nothing good is left.” (int. 6, f., aged 23). They felt related to Bulgaria by freedom (4), memories (6), birthplace (7), friends (3). I like the free life (6), merry-making (3), nature (2). The question “Why do you like merry-making particularly? Isn’t it fun there too?” one respondent (int. 7, m., aged 21) gave the following answer: “Yes, it is, but since we’ ve been immigrants for only five or six years, we haven’t got company there yet...” If one has failed to find one’s own circle after five or six years spent at the new place, this is indicative of serious problems in one’s adaptation to the new social conditions.
A significant indicator of cultural identity is one’s company and the friendly relations established by the students on their return to Bulgaria. The analysis shows that only eight of the respondents associated with prevailingly Bulgarian companions, the rest of them preferred Turkish companions. “I am Turkish, so I’m in the midst of Turks.” (int. 20, f., aged 22). Who were these Turks, anyway - mainly immigrants like herself, who had come back to continue their education in Bulgaria.
The fact that in Bulgaria the subjects prefer to keep the company of their likes and sometimes feel themselves like foreigners, as well as their differentiation from Bulgarian Turks and returned emigrants, speaks of the changes taking place in their national and cultural identities. When asked to say how much she had changed, a respondent (int. 11, f., aged 21) gave the following account: “I’ve come to better know the Turkish culture, I became familiar with many Turks, the way they speak, I learnt to speak Turkish correctly. I think I have really progressed... most of all I have developed my Turkish side.”
In spite of the pronounced aspiration to a rapid and complete
social and cultural integration of the Bulgarian Turks into the new society,
which become evident from almost all respondents’ attitudes, this would
hardly be possible to achieve even by the next generations of immigrants.
They will continue to be considered such, because, when immigrating, they
use to settle in groups, to intermarry, they prefer to have contacts with
their likes. This is particularly true of the Alian sect , which is not
recognised as Muslim by neither of the two main Islamic doctrines - Sunnism
The ethnic identity of the Turkish community had been stable even before leaving Bulgaria, and in the new environment it is further consolidated, rapidly falling in line with that of the native Turks. For example, nearly all of them after their immigration did not restore but rather changed their previous family names, letting them acquire a perfectly indigenous sound. Their cultural identities are in a process of change. Remarkably, in a Turkish environment, their Bulgarian-period characteristic traits are manifested, while in a Bulgarian environment - the changes brought about by their 5-6- year stay in Turkey come to the fore. Yet, it cannot be affirmed that any serious changes in the respondents’ self-identification have taken place during this period. That is, we have to admit that the statics of the respondents’ cultural identity surpassed our preliminary expectations. National identity represents this aspect of identity which has undergone most serious transformations and this is due to the attained Turkish citizenship and rights, as well as to their overall disposition to settle permanently in their new home country. Nevertheless, the respondents have also obtained Bulgarian citizenship by birth, which means that they have not entirely broken away from the Bulgarian national identity. These emigrants from Bulgaria have already crossed the bridge connecting the two sides, and their eyes are turned to the future now - to the new and enticing things; behind them are things old-time and native. They have arrived to stay there, but the bridge behind them has not been destroyed yet...
In the summary of “Identities” , while dwelling upon the changes in the identification of Bulgarian Turks ensuing from the 1984-1985 renaming, A. Krasteva points out that their problem-free Bulgarian Turkish sociocultural existence was broken, by means of a single act, into two incompatible parts. In this study we can see that after a certain period the broken parts have been put together and one possible reason for this may be the new cultural environment which, through its differences, brings them back to their identification of Bulgarian Turks, bearers of the Bulgarian cultural identity above all. The “drama” of this cultural split, A. Krasteva describes further on, could not be overcome in one generation alone and will keep leaving its traces on the next generations - owing to the sometimes unconscious cultural identification, but much more owing to the other’s perception and distinction, whose effect largely exceeds the outcome of self-identification.
2 This discriminative policy was termed “revival process” by those in power.
5 The questionnaire used in the interviews is presented in Appendix 1.
6 This is how Bulgarian Turkish immigrants called the Turkish citizens.
8 According to data from the Ministry of Education for the 1995/96 academic year, the number of students from neighbouring Greece alone was over 6000 persons.
11 Isajiw, W. Definitions of Ethnicity. In: Ethnicity 1, New York, Academic Press, 1974, pp.117-118.
12 Verdery, K. Ethnicity, Nationalism and State-making. - In: The Anthropology of Ethnicity, Amsterdam, 1994, p. 40.
13 Barth, F. Ethnic groups and boundaries: the social organization of culture difference. Little Brown, Boston, 1969, p. 15.
14 Marshall, G. (ed.) Ethnicity, ethnic group. In: The Concise Oxfrod Dictionary of Sociology. Oxford University press, Oxford and New York, 1994, pp 157-158.
15 Stone, J. Ethnicity. In: The Social Science Encyclopedia. Routledge, London and New York, 1996, pp 260-262
19 Anavatan (Turkish) - homeland or land of origin.
20 Kizilbasi or aliani are Bulgarian names for the Muslim sect Alevi.
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