Page 40 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
Petka Balgarska
. The pantheon-ossuary has small containers of soil from the birthplaces of the
refugees, each of them labelled. The symbolic monument
Thrace with no borders
was built here
too, declared a historical culture site of local significance. The sculpture is meant “to symbolise
the suffering of the refugees and their being restored to life in the confines of mother Bulgaria.”
Thememorial complex is interpreted as part of the local heritage. On the official website of
the municipality, under the heading
Cultural and historical heritage
, along with the geographical
sites like the meanders of the Arda river, the archeological monuments, Thracian temples, and
rock tombs, one can see the Pantheon of the Thracians who lost their lives presented there. The
national tribute is described as the most significant event for the region. It takes place on the last
Saturday of September or the first Saturday of October. The fest has been a national gathering for
the descendants of the refugees from eastern and Western Thrace. In honour of the Bulgarians
slaughtered in 1913, a dirge is played and prayers for the souls of the dead are said, followed by
the speeches of the officials present and a programme that entails playing music, singing and
reciting poetry. After the more formal events, a folk singing competition takes place at the town
stadium, where amateur groups from South-Eastern Bulgaria perform Thracian folklore.
Here too the local government made attempts to exploit the resources of heritage. In the
municipality plan for development in the period 2007-2013, “due to the great public interest,”
the Thracian tribute was meant to be developed into a tourist attraction and an advertisement
for the municipality. Similar examples of taking advantage of the Thracian heritage in the local
government politics are documented and interpreted elsewhere too (on Tsarevo, see Zlatkova
2011; Penkova 2011a). Here, however, the attempt was abortive because of the power of the
past, which renews the trauma and the heroism of the events in 1913. The symbolism of ruin
is incompatible with considering the future. Paying tribute takes up the entire symbolic space
and channels emotions and perceptions in a certain direction, making other festive forms
inappropriate.
The Thracian sites of memory construct the space of the settled area or the landscape,
placing new symbolic emphases and creating a system of purposeful references. Monuments,
anniversaries and rituals make memory enduring. Through symbolic reminders and tributes,
memoriesbecomeestablishedandareentrusted to thenext generations. Heroismis accompanied
by stories of martyrdom. The experience of suffering is utilised with pathos and ceremonialism. In
the identity thus constructed, the awareness of sacrifice and injustice has a central place. This is
what legitimises certain positions, like the denial of forgiveness, and mobilises the descendants.
It would be appropriate to quote Renan’s statement that “suffering in common unifies more than
joy does. Where national memories are concerned, griefs are of more value than triumphs, for
they impose duties, and require a common effort” (qtd. in Assmann 2004: 175).
Interpreted between triumph and trauma, the UTSB calendar of cultural events is
structured on the memory of victims and heroes. The cultural events show a tendency
reminiscent of Nora’s apprehension that memorialising victims or heroes, absolutely justifiable
in itself, might take on the objectionable form of a “commemorative fever,” in other words, it