Page 117 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
Let us first consider the empirical dimensions of the issues posed above the way they unfold
“on the other side of the border”.
3. The group of Bulgarian out-migrants in Edirne
The Association for Solidarity and Culture of Balkan Migrants uniting emigrants from
different Balkan countries was set up in Edirne in 1996, i.e. close to the time when the Union of
Thracian Societies in Bulgaria resumed its activities. Along with other local structures, established
in different towns and villages in the European part of Turkey, the Association laid the foundations
of the so-called
Federation of Balkan Turks
with its headquarters in Edirne.
This institutional structure is interesting for several reasons which justify a comparative
analysis with the Union of Thracian Societies:
1) the presidents of the Association and the Federation are Bulgarian out-migrants to
Turkey (similar to the inheritors of Thracian refugees who occupy leadership positions in the Union,
here the necessary condition for occupying a leadership position is to be an out-migrant and/or
successor of an out-migrant);
2) the organization is not formal;
3) its activities are in the sphere of culture, in organizing joint cultural events with the
regional authorities and Edirne municipality;
4) it aims at offering institutional and legal assistance to its members (similar to the large-
scale campaign of the Union of Thracian Societies to ‘educate’ the successors of the Thracian
refugees with regard to the legal and institutional details in filling in forms pertaining to documents
for reclaiming property);
5) its activities are in the sphere of developing the idea of “commonThrace” (for instance, the
project for building a Mall in Edirne which will function as a duty free zone for the three countries
– Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece);
6) it organizes commemorative events connected with the memory of “then”, i.e. the time of
mass migration (for instance, the month-long events marking the forced migration of Turks from
Bulgaria, accompanied by the opening of an exhibition of photography in Edirne and a conference
dedicated to the topic).
Possibly the only difference is that the Association openly declares its willingness to assist
representatives of Bulgarian political parties in organizing meetings with Bulgarian citizens in
Edirne and in making arrangements for conducting Bulgarian elections locally, unlike the UTSB
which until recently unequivocally declared its political neutrality (even if at a closer look one can
easily see the dominant presence of the successors of Thracian Bulgarians in the political, power
and institutional structures in the town of Tzarevo and the region, for example). Yet this is not a
difference in essence, just a difference in the manner of articulation, which makes it negligible.
The Federation organizes in its structures the greater part of Bulgarian out-migrants in
Edirne and in its capacity of a particular
network structure,
based on the principle of voluntary
participation, doubles theofficialTurkishauthorities. Considered intermsof“groupbelonging”, these
voluntary memberships cannot be equated to formal objective relations and function as symbolic