Resistance of Turkish Minority in Bulgaria
Bursa , Turkey
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Name of collection
- The Resistance of the National Turkish Minority against Exclusionary Politics in the People's Republic of Bulgaria.
Provenance and cultural activities
The collection is private, started initially as a scientific initiative of Dinç, Vildane (Alieva, Vildane), a PhD student born in socialist Bulgaria and studying in Bursa, Turkey. The idea was to conduct interviews and collect data and materials from ethnic Turks, who were expelled or left Bulgaria because of the nationalist politics of the socialist regime. Artum Dinç, a PhD student of sociology at the University of Ankara, joined the initiative. The collection was expanded with the support of Uludağ University, Bursa, however, it is mostly a result of the individual efforts of the collectors. The purpose of this collection-archive is to preserve and disseminate memories of witnesses, who – as the creator says – “found themselves in an extreme situation. Most of these people didn’t act actively, directly and politically against ethnic cleansing and against political authority, but they just didn’t comply with especially the implementation of namecide”. Their narratives share light on everyday life in Bulgarian villages and the cultural resistance of ethnic Turks to the discriminatory and assimilatory policy of the socialist state.
The communist policy toward the Turkish minority was not always coherent and changed over the decades. After the Communist takeover in 1944, in accordance with the classic doctrine of proletarian internationalism, the new regime declared itself in favor of all minorities, inter-ethnic equality and fraternity, and annulled all the "fascist" anti-Muslim decisions of the previous governments. The new constitution of 1947 included many provisions regarding minority protection and, in particular, guaranteed the right of education in mother tongue and the free development of culture for all national minorities. Starting in 1945, Turkish newspapers, magazines, and editions of Bulgarian press in Turkish were launched, airtime for radio broadcasts in Turkish was allocated; re-established were Turkish minority schools and new ones were founded.
Special efforts were made to further the active involvement of Muslims in the Communist Party and, thus, in the political life of the country. Until the mid1950s, the government introduced an affirmative action policy, offered Muslims privileged admission to universities without entrance exams, as well as various opportunities for professional development. At the same time, the communist power caused dissatisfaction among the Turkish minority with the secularization of education, the restriction of religious freedom and the beginning of collectivization. Because of the deterioration of relations with Turkey, the whole community became under suspicion of disloyalty. Between 1949 and 1951, more than 150,000 Turks left Bulgaria voluntarily or forcibly, but the emigration of Turks and Bulgarian speaking Muslim to Turkey was periodically obstructed by Turkey with tough requirements.
Starting in 1956, the regime gradually began to embark on a long-term assimilation policy towards the Muslims, which culminated in two periods of intensive campaigns, each lasting several years and was pursued, with more or less intensity, until the end of Communist rule. The new constitution of 1971, called the “Zhivkov constitution”, replaced the term “national minorities” with “nationals of non-Bulgarian origin”. The far-reaching and open campaign against the Turks took place in the years 1984 and 1985, and was officially called “the Revival Process”. This name was also used, though more rarely, for another large campaign, directed against the Bulgarian speaking Muslim community in between 1971 and 1974. One of the main aspects of these campaigns was the forced name-changing of the Muslim population, in addition to the efforts to obliterate traditional clothing, prohibit Muslim customs, and deny the use of the Turkish language. Publications in Turkish were closed down one by one and by 1981 only one newspaper (Yeni Işık ) survived, which in 1985 started publishing in Bulgarian. Apart from these violent outbursts, the long-term policy had other effects. The assimilatory politics of the socialist state caused mass protests and confrontations between the ethnic Turkish population and the Bulgarian State Security apparatus and army. The regime’s violence did achieve its immediate aims. All Muslims had been registered with Slavic names, Turkish was forbidden in public and the mosques abandoned. This has, however, strengthened the revival of the Turkish identity and the oppressed minority strongly re-defined itself as Muslim. Protest demonstrations took place in some of the bigger villages and towns; the ethnic Turks in Bulgaria used nonviolent ways to resist the regime's oppression, though there were clashes during the actual renaming process oppressed with violence by the regime.
The events found a response among Bulgarian intellectuals, who expressed openly positions against the violation of basic human rights and solidarity with the Turkish community. These protests played a significant role in shaping the open civil opposition to the communist regime. A number of intellectuals of the dissident groups – “Independent Society for the Protection of Human Rights”, Independent Trade Union "Podkrepa", "Committee 273", “Club for Support of Openness and Reconstruction”, "Ecoglasnost" – were proclaiming against the “Revival Process”. In the second half of 1988, Turks and Bulgarian-speaking Muslims joined the “Independent Society for the Protection of Human Rights”. In November 1988, the Democratic League for the Protection of Human Rights in Bulgaria, with chairman Mustafa Yumer and Secretaries Sabri Iskender and Ali Ormanli, was established. In April 1989, the "Supporting Society - Vienna 89" was founded in the town of Dzhebel. The demands of these organizations and their members for guaranteeing minority rights in Bulgaria got publicity mainly through statements in Western radios such as Free Europe, Deutsche Welle, and the BBC.
Although some authors dispute the relationship between the "Revival Process" and the "Big Excursion" – the euphemistic term of the massive emigration wave of Bulgarian citizens of Turkish and Roma ethnic origin to Turkey in 1989, there is interdependence between the two events. Only a few months after the opening of the Bulgarian – Turkish border for the expatriate Bulgarian citizens (June 1989), the huge flow of people forced the Turkish side to close the border again (August 1989). Over the course of several months, some 360,000 Bulgarian citizens of Turkish and Roma origin emigrated.
At the end of 1989, after the 10th November plenary session in the capital and the squares of the Muslim villages throughout Bulgaria, protests started. As a result of mass protests with requests for the return of the names, in December 1989 the Extraordinary Plenum of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party decided to return the names of the Bulgarian Muslims. After the change of the political regime by the end of 1990, some 150,000 expatriates returned to Bulgaria.
In 2012 the Bulgarian Parliament adopted a declaration condemning the Communist regime's attempt to forcefully assimilate Bulgarian Muslims. It states: "We announce the expulsion of over 360,000 Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin in 1989 as a form of ethnic cleansing by the totalitarian regime."
The brief overview explains the social importance of the collection. However, the subjectivity of the collectors, both of them living and working in Turkey, has to be considered. By using the terms “ethnic genocide” and “namecide” Vildane and Artum Dinç aim to deepen the debates. The collection is supposed to represent the personal points of view of the „victims of the Bulgarian socialist regime”. Thus, the collection’s focus is on the autobiographical narratives. The collectors-owners have ambitions to develop their collection further and to include it in a broader international network, which would allow visibility of the oppressed views and comparisons of the different perspectives.
Description of content
- The collection includes oral history interviews with around one hundred witnesses of the Bulgarian communist regime, who today live mostly in Turkey. It also contains photos and scanned documents, such as documents about detention in a forced labour camp, or "concentration camp" as Dinç, Vildane (Alieva, Vildane) has defined it, and government enforced exile.
- legal and/or financial documentation: 10-99
- photos: 10-99
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 100-499
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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- visits by appointments
- Özkan A.D., Vildane 2015. “1980’lerde Bulgaristan Devleti’nin Nüfus Politikaları Kapsamında Sınırdışı Etmeler Göç mü? [Deportations in 1980s in the Scope of Population Policy by Bulgaria are ’Migration’?].” In Yılında Bulgaristan’dan 89 Göçü [25th Year – Migration of 1989 From Bulgaria], edited by Seher Boykoy 25, 40-47. Bursa: Nilüfer Belediyesi Yayınları.
- Özkan, Vildane. 2014. “Bulgaristan’da Siyasi Otoritenin Ulusal Türk Azınlığı Üzerindeki Politikaları: Belene Toplama Kampı Örneği (1985-86) [Politics of Bulgarian Political Authority on National Turkish Minority: A Case of Belene Concentration Camp (1985-86)].” In Türkiyat Araştırmalar, edited by Cahit Celekçi. Hacettepe Üniversitesi Türkiyat Araştırmaları Dergisi, Spring 20, 117-162. http://www.turkiyat.hacettepe.edu.tr/dergi/20sayi.pdf)
- Özkan, Vildane 2012. “Эффекты и появлений процесса имяцид от социалистической к постсоциалистической Болгарии [The Effects and Appearances of Namecide Process From Socialist to Post-Socialist Bulgaria].” Вісник НТУУ «КПІ». Серія Політологія. Соціологія. Право, 4/16: 32-36.
Author(s) of this page
- Kasabova, Anelia Dr.
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Ангелов, Веселин (Съст.) Борба без оръжие. Турско националноосвободително движение в България 1985-1986. София, 2009 [Angelov, Veselin (Ed.) Fighting without weapons. Turkish National Liberation Movement in Bulgaria 1985-1986. Sofia, 2009].
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Знеполски, Ивайло, Александър Везенков, Даниел Вачков, Даниела Колева, Иван Еленков, Мартин Иванов, & Чавдар Маринов. История на Народна република България: Режимът и обществото. София: Сиела, 2009 [Znepolski, Ivaylo, Aleksander Vezenkov, Daniel Vachkov, Daniela Koleva, Ivan Elenkov, Martin Ivanov and Chavdar Marinov. History of the People's Republic of Bulgaria: Regime and Society. Sofia: Siela, 2009].
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Ghodsee, Kristen Rogheh. Muslim Lives in Eastern Europe: Gender, Ethnicity and the Transformation of Islam in Postsocialist Bulgaria. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
Стоянов, Валери. Турското население в България между полюсите на етническата политика. София: ЛИК, 1998 [Stoyanov, Valeri. The Turkish Population in Bulgaria between the Poles of Ethnic Politics. Sofia: LIK, 1998].
Леви, Самуел (Съст.) Истината за "Възродителния процес": документи от архива на Политбюро и ЦК на БКП. София: Институт за изследване на интеграцията, 2003 [Levi, Samuel (Ed.) The Truth about the "Revival Process": Documents from the Politburo Archives and the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party. Sofia: Institute for Integration Studies, 2003].
Груев, Михаил, Алексей Кальонски. Възродителният процес. Мюсюлманските общности и комунистическият режим. София: Сиела, 2008 [Gruev, Mihail and Aleksey Kalyonski. The Revival Process. Muslim Communities and the Communist Regime. Sofia: Siela, 2008].
Zhelyazkova, Antonina (Ed.). Between Adaptation and Nostalgia. The Bulgarian Turks in Turkey. Sofia: International Center for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations, 1998.
Иванов, Михаил. За тези събития трябва да пише в учебниците. Интервю на Даниела Горчева с Михаил Иванов. 22 март 2009 [Ivanov, Mihail. These Events Need to be Discussed in the History Textbooks. Interview of Daniela Gorcheva with Mihail Ivanov] 22th March 2009. Retrieved from http://www.mediapool.bg/za-tezi-sabitiya-tryabva-da-pishe-v-uchebnitsite-news150414.html)
Höpken, Wolfgang. Der Exodus: Muslimische Emigration aus Bulgarien im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. In: Osmanen und Islam in Südosteuropa. Göttingen: De Gruyter, 2013, pp. 303-432.
Eminov, Ali. Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities of Bulgaria. New York: Routledge, 1997.
, interview by Kasabova, Anelia Dr., . COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection