Page 16 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
terms, it excludes or includes communities, cultures, identities; the rules of crossing it define it
as both impervious and permeable. This ambivalence derives from deposited layers of meanings
and images of the border extracted from people’s experience – they may be dominated by the
definitions of the “center”, but they can also be very different, influenced by particular forms of
cross-border experience.
The border is the center’s instrument for categorization. It serves as an identification of
the nation and offers classification for the diversity in it (majority/minorities; reliable/unreliable
elements; enemies/friends). A range of terms describing difference – ethnic, religious, linguistic –
can be activated on both sides of the border. The typological classification of groups and individuals
“through”the border depends to a great extent onwho lies across the border of the respective nation
and how this nation regards its “neighbours”. These are relations which undergo changes across
time often however linked to stable connotations which are entrenched in the national narrative.
The typology of communities established according to their attitude to the border and that which
lies beyond it (See further Wilson and Donnan 1998: 14) is rendered more complex through the
real processes of interaction at the national and local levels which foster varied, sometimes even
contradictory responses: while for some a certain community is defined as different or“foreign”, even
as an enemy, for others this same community may be described in terms of closeness, similarity,
affinity, even kinship.
For the ethnic Turks born in Bulgaria who took part in the mass out-migration across the
Bulgarian-Turkish border in the summer of 1989 as well as for their relatives, the crossing of the
border was a turning point in their biographies. It changed fundamentally their way of life and set
up new life beacons and strategies. There are several reasons for that – the dramatic conditions
of the process of re-settlement itself, intensified by its mass character, the effects which it had on
both bordering societies, the beginning of life “from nothing”.
The experience of out-migration is simultaneously shared and vested with particular
personal life-stories. On the whole, this experience of border crossing is connected with political
pressure, discrimination, chaos, tension and fear. Such is the context of the“Revival Process”which
led to mass leaving of birthplaces. This is the atmosphere of out-migration itself – characterized
by abandoned or sold in haste property, by focusing on the family as the basic prerequisite for
survival, by the mass flow of people gathering at the border controls, by the long waits at the
border in extremely poor and dire living conditions, by the anxiety of waiting to be let across and
the no less anxious thoughts about what to expect once let in, where they will be relocated to in
Turkey, thoughts about the initial period of hardshipwherebymany relatives will be living together
(often three or more nuclear families) in small lodgings, for many of them by mass return too. This
experience creates the image of the border in the participants in the process of out-migration, an
image described in terms of political violence, victims, discrimination, drama, and trauma – these
are the first associations which feed into the knowledge of the border, the knowledge they pass
on to the next generation.
Even if the exodus by definition is political migration, the political pressure of Bulgarian
authorities – be it direct or indirect – is not the single driving force behind leaving their birth