Page 20 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
view of Turkish national doctrine Turkey is the birth mother (Anavatan) of all ethnic Turks around
the world (Hann and Bellér-Hann 2001: 35–66). Irrespective of where they were born or where
they live, they are all part of the Turkish nation and are accepted if they want to “return” to Turkey
as “ethnic relatives” (soydaş) (Parla 2009b: 53). Since for the Turkish nation the ethnic belonging
of the “returnees” is of paramount importance the official discourses of categorization note the
regions in general, not the particular countries of origin. The notion behind such a classification is
in the spirit of national mythology: all Turks wherever they are share the same characteristics and
ideals, the same virtues and values, and a sense of attachment and loyalty to the“Mother country”.
Reality is somewhat different of course hence the underlying skepticismof my interlocutors
with regard to the existence of such an entity as “Balkan Turks”. This category serves to unite out-
migrants fromdifferent Balkan countries who came toTurkey at different times and under different
circumstances – some of them are already a third or fourth generation of immigrants, others have
just arrived and haven’t quite adapted yet to the local society. These are peoplewho have socialized
in different ways, have grown up and spent their formative years in different cultural milieus, in
different political and ideological systems. Their reasons for migrating and settling in Turkey are
also different. The conditions under which they are placed in Turkish society also differ. All these
considerations explain the relatively few commonalities that exist among different cohorts of
“Balkan Turks” and on the subjective level they even lead to fostering a degree of reluctance with
regard to possible closeness (and mixing) among them. Nearly the only thing that connects them
is them being treated by the national narrative as “ethnic relatives”.
Besides expressing loyalty and stating allegiance to a certain national idea, the rejection
of the term “Bulgarian Turks” can also be regarded as an expression of rejecting another similar
ideology – that of the Bulgarian nation-state. This positioning “against” the ideology of the
Bulgarian nation-state is directly motivated by the circumstances of being exiled and is very
strong in the first years of living in Turkey, as well as when marking anniversaries of those events.
In her work Parla discusses an example along such lines in the emotional reaction of a number of
re-settlers provoked by a publication in the Milliyet Daily referring to “Bulgarians” (Parla 2009b:
61).
The repertoire of terms used by the newspaper is not simply a journalistic ploy. It is an
expression of another level of classification applied to out-migrants – not so much tied with
national ideology but rather reflecting the everyday interactions between newcomers and
locals. A number of researchers discuss the slippages between the attitude of official authorities
in Turkey to the re-settlers from 1989 and that of the local population at the local level (See for
instance Maeva 2006, Parla 2009b, Dimitrova 1998, Elchinova 2005). Under the conditions of
everyday interactions, there are abundant situations which forefront a range of differences in
worldviews, behaviors or ways of life of the two groups. More often than not these differences
provoke contradictions and reveal that at the everyday level those who came from Bulgaria are
not unambiguously or unquestioningly accepted as “one of ours”. While national ideology aims at
including them in a homogenous and rather monolithic category – “Turks” – and official statistics
does not even “recognize” them as migrants (Parla 2009b: 51), on the local level the “Turkish-ness”