Page 156 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
regions in Bulgaria’s neighbouring countries.
The period in which Bulgaria accepted refugees from all its territories which remained
beyond state borders was one of the most difficult for the country because it was marked by
wars. There was mass unemployment and poverty both among the arriving masses and the local
population. This led to the clustering of migrants and the poor in certain town districts – working
class or farmers’ neighbourhoods, always on the periphery of towns. Seeking employment in
factories or agriculture is what accounted for their being accommodated there. These districts
had problems even before the wars – the industrialization in towns at the end of the 19 and the
beginning of the 20 century had already had an effect on urbanization and on social policies,
especially at the local level. There was a decrease in the demand for working hands in agriculture
due to partial mechanization, especially after WorldWar I. On the other hand, the migrants carried
their specific crafts and skills, their folk dress, dialects, etc. and influenced in this way the economy
and the cultural milieu of the host settlements.
We have to take into account that these migrants were not typical refugees – they were
not linguistically, confessionally or ethnically different from the host population. They were
coming to their homeland, returning within its borders, even if not voluntarily. This was one of
the reasons for the deep drama and the discrepancy between expectations and reality, between
that which was desired and that which was achieved. Neither the local population nor the state
authorities did what was necessary for their accommodation and social and economic salvation.
Migrant studies very often regard mass migration in negative terms, but – on the other hand –
these migrant masses can often contribute to the development and renewal of towns (Neymarc
1998: 19) through national social programmes. In principle, when faced with such refugee masses
it is the central power which has to create certain opportunities, to assist the respective towns by
means of financial relief programmes, the construction of additional infrastructure, which would
also lead to solving old local problems (Alexander 2007: 4-5). In Bulgaria, because of the so-called
national catastrophe, this did not happen – the state was rather destitute. At the same time, both
at the local and at the national levels certain social instruments began to function, such as the Law
for Housing Crisis Relief and the urban programmes for poor relief aimed at delivering firewood,
clothes, and medicine to the poor. Most likely it is precisely the arrival of the refugees that lead to
the establishment of social care initiatives in towns such as Svilengrad (See to compare Almeida
2001: 2).
On a global scale, there exist many models for accepting, accommodating and integrating
migrants (cf. Bablo 2005). Here I discuss the two case studies of Haskovo and Svilengrad as
examples of opposite strategies – one is an example of acceptance through differentiation
(Haskovo), the other – of acceptance through integration (Svilengrad). In the sense in which they
are employed here, differentiation and integration are not moral or social categories, but political
and spatial such. They can be observed in urban development and the cultural landscape (not
only with regard to residential areas, but also in terms of public spaces and buildings) of the two
towns today. Besides the arrangements of settlement within the two towns, I discuss the policies
for accommodation and building construction as well, since they are also important for urban
physical transformation and with regard to studying migrant settlement models – occupation,