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representative of Bulgarian institutions. In private conversations, based on mutually established
trust between an anthropologist and an informant, when individual experience and positions are
shared, this issue has never been raised. When addressed to the official sphere this strategy works
to a great extent – the Turkish authorities recognized from the very beginning the re-settlers from
Bulgaria as part of the Turkish ethnos; recently the Bulgarian Parliament signed a declaration
recognizing the policies of the “Revival Process” as an attempt at ethnic cleansing. The symbolic
significance of these official political steps is that both states recognize the re-settlers from 1989 as
“one of their own”, as active and significant participants in political, social and historical processes.
At other levels however, this attempt at re-negotiating formal categories is not accepted
without resistance. On the everyday level the re-settler is not unequivocally recognized as “one of
ours”, “part of us”and their “foreign-ness” is still present. In Bulgaria the re-settlers are still regarded
as an “external” element by emphasizing the differentiating characteristics of them living outside
Bulgaria and their direct involvement in the politics of the country – at the local and national
levels. In Turkey, they also emphasize their difference on the everyday level and countering
official categorization often refer to them as “
” (immigrant/s) frequently with pejorative
The re-settlers themselves have an additional motive for striving after “re-categorization”
– their recognition as “one of ours” among the local population in Turkey delineates them from
the later day economic migrants who come from Bulgaria – who are also predominantly ethnic
Turks but who have an unenviable social position and lower prestige in both places and from
which the re-settlers want to differentiate themselves (See further on the topic Parla 2009b). In
Bulgaria not being treated as re-settlers (people who left the country and settled permanently in
another country) but as repressed Bulgarian citizens would legitimize more firmly their place in
post-communist Bulgarian society and consolidate their status as citizens of the EU. The latter will
heighten not only the prestige of their position as Turkish citizens, who are already EU citizens as
well, but will confirm their ambivalent and transnational position as a resource and will contribute
to developing strategies for life realization based on transnational practices.
In conclusion
In this essay I discussed issues related to including Bulgarian Turks – the 1989 re-settlers to
Turkey – in different systems of social categorization on both sides of the Bulgarian-Turkish border.
In connection with the chosen focus I considered the border as a complex social construct which is
regarded differently by the communities and individuals living on its either side. An emphasis was
put on considering the border itself as an instrument for correlating categories applied to people
and communities. With our present case study in mind, it is precisely the traumatic experience of
displacement which renders a numerous and diverse group of people recognizable as a delineated
whole both in the society of origin and in that of settlement. In its turn, this generates a range
8 There are two words in Turkish for emigrant –
, of Arab and Turkish origin respectively.
The second one has two senses: 1. immigrant, emigrant; 2. migratory birds or other animals which migrate to warmer
climes. In everyday speech
is used for older immigrants, while
refers to the more recent newcomers.
I am grateful for this linguistic note to Sadriye Güneş, professor of linguistics at the Yıldız Technical University.