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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
called“election tourism,”the right of double citizenship, or the political representation of Bulgarian
Turks nowadays. Presenting in a specific way the sensitivity that Bulgarian society he as about the
topic of “Revival” process, the diverse publications and the accompanying social debates testify
also about the role of these events as a major orientation point in migrants’ memory, as posing
them between two “motherlands” and two “realms in their biographies, the borderline between
which would be an object of transgressing and overcoming.
Among the most eloquent examples of overcoming this spatial and biographic boundary
are the cases of commemorative noting of the “Revival” process after 1989 in Bulgaria. Organized
by regional and municipal authorities in regions that were affected by these events, many of the
commemorations included the return of resettlers to their native places and their participation
in various activities held in connection with these commemorative occasions. The current text
has as its purpose to outline some of the aspects of this type of visits in the recent years and
to interpret them as a kind of travel through space and time, which reveals both the divergent
trajectories of remembering about the “Revival” process, and the specific duality of the resettlers
– as having returned to their native places to commemorate the events that had actually led
to their resettlement. The text results from observations carried out in 2009 and 2011 on the
commemorative noting of the “Revival” process and the participation of migrants who come
from Turkey to join these activities. Except from the work with media publications about these
commemorations and the observation of TV and radio programs on this topic, my work included
also conversations with Bulgarian Turks about the events of 1980s, about the ways in which they
had influenced their individual and family biographies, and on their interpretation across the
distance of the two past decades. A major focus of attention in the present text will be the forms
of commemorating the “Revival” process and the politics of memory – linked, on the one side,
with the returning resettlers’ interpretations of these dramatic events, and – on the other, with the
political uses of their commemoration nowadays.
The double-sided nature of commemoration – as an expression of collective remembrance
about past (most often traumatic) events, and as an object of appropriation (usually a political
one) for the needs of the present – has been widely commented over the recent years in numerous
works dedicated to the issues of memory in anthropology and its related disciplines. Having found
its place already in the classical for this research field of M. Halbawchs, P. Nora, and J. Assmann,
the problem of memory’s double-sided character is well outlined in the works of researchers,
such as P. Connerton, J. Gillis, Tzv. Todorov, etc., which analyze the relationship between individual
and collective dimensions of memory, the cases of “forgetful” remembering and the “abuses” of
memory in various cases of political commemoration.
3
A key point in many of these explorations
has been the understanding of memory and commemoration as a specific form of “return” that
takes place beyond the historical and chronological stream or the personal and biographic
time; a return, which overcomes the passage of time and links distant, albeit often incompatible
3 See Halbwachs 1996, Nora 2004, Assmann 2001, Connerton 1989, Gillis 1994, Todorov 1998, Young 1994. On
cultural memory, its representations and its role for maintaining collective identities, see also Ben-Amos, Weissberg
1999. On the political use of the past and memory, see Hartog & Revel 2001. On the anthropological dimensions of
memory, see Candau 2001.