Page 41 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
may bring about deformations of memory, which are destructive with regard to the future. Thus,
a range of activists from the UTSB or the local Thracian societies, representatives of the older
generation, in their capacity of legitimate authorised speakers of the Thracian descendants,
monopolise memory, impose their own viewpoint as the only one possible, which inevitably
leads to insulation, “hardening” of memory and heritage (cf. Penkova 2011a), and repelling the
younger generations, which obstructs continuity. An example I would like to draw here is the
discontent with the songs and dances of children’s folk groups accompanying the tribute to the
victims at Ilieva niva expressed by the ‘hard-liners’ and addressed to the local government and
the leaders of UTSB, with the stipulation that the day is meant to be a time of respect and sorrow
rather than of joyful celebrations. In the argumentative discourses, the place is represented as
the actual place of death of the children in 1913: “they dance on the graves of the victims.” The
truth about the past is privatised; truth is being manipulated in order to make a certain point of
view dominant because it is considered the right way forward, or in the spirit of the accepted
norm and morality.
The policies of UTSB on paying tribute to the victims and heroes aim at a long-term
‘implantation’ in the collective memory of the Thracian community and in the memory of
Bulgarian society. The construction and maintenance of memorial sites in the last few decades
plays an important role in “materialising” memory in the form of lasting representations and
building “frameworks of memory” (Halbwachs).
The resistance against the manner of thinking enforced by the institution or against
channelling perception is overabundant. The young descendants of the Thracians do not wish to
be associated with an organisation focused on the past and are trying to modify the ‘hardened’
framework of memory; they insist on including new perspectives and ways of remembering.
Here is the critical comment on the activities and messages of UTSB, made by a member of the
Thracian society in Kirdzhali:
On a national scale, the events follow a familiar and convenient script: typical general-
assembly speeches as the congress, historical sessions on tragic events from the past, an
assortment of folk performances in the programme, and introductory lines with declamatory-
illustrative pathos. Without downgrading what the leaders have achieved so far, because it is
really considerable, I’ll allowmyself to share the impressions I have gathered in the several years
of my membership in the organisation. Things get repeated annually, following the familiar
calendar plan, a vicious circle of the same events driven more by the inertia of superficial
marking and less by their in-depth meaning. There are no real attempts to contemporise the
approach (e.g. the type of attempts IMRO makes), or to get incorporated in the social and
political life of the country. I am already familiar with the faces of the participants in national
tributes, a bus-ful of people from Haskovo, Kirdzhali, Varna, Burgas, Yambol, etc., always the
same old people (may they keep alive and well!), driven by endearment, by the sentiment for
their irrevocably lost birthplaces. There are no Thracians from the young or from the middle