Page 45 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
get in touch with fellow-villagers in origin, express their position on the Thracian question,
comment on the policies and activities of UTSB, etc. As these forums are not administered by
the institution, it cannot have control over the individuals’ memories or impose its manner of
thinking. Often, the comments on the UTSB are critical and demonstrate disagreement with
certain policies. Such an example is the forum of Thracian descendants in Dr At. Shterev’s blog
space; the forum distinguishes itself from the Thracian institution (dating back to March 2010).
The position expressed there maintains that sharing information is important “in order to get to
know the past,” and that “knowledge of our history is needed for us to learn how to live our lives
better without repeating the same old mistakes.” The author of the blog thinks that “recovering
the historical truth about the violent eradication of Bulgarians from those territories, about the
back-stage decisions of the Great Powers and the criminal passivity of the Bulgarian government,
is much more important than the compensation for the properties of the Bulgarians driven away
from Eastern Thrace” (www.atanas-shterev.com/?p=587).
The common ground where the institution and the descendants who do not identify
with it meet is the awareness of the important role of history and memory. The difference is
in the approaches they use and the objectives they have or, in more general terms, in their
instrumentalisation. Apart from the position demonstrated in Dr Shterev’s blog, the descendants
of Thracian Bulgarians, especially the younger generation, are unified in the position that, in
general, there is a ‘gap’ about this period in social memory and the knowledge of the events,
which led to the de-Bulgarianising of South Thrace, is inconsistent. The expectations are
addressed to the media and the educational sphere, which have to prepare society and assist in
understanding the tragic events from the early twentieth century. All discourses and practices
remain at the level of nationality, the space on this side of the boarder, and they charge Bulgarian
institutions and Bulgarian society in general with a sense of duty towards the past.
The border and the political usage of the Thracian heritage
UTSBdoes not hide its ambitions tobe an actor on thepolitical stage; it utilises the symbolic
capital of the Thracian heritage in order to form a political lobby and validate its strategic goals
and initiatives.
27
Due to the historical context, the community demonstrated its preference to
the political left. In 2001, the
Trakia
political club was founded: it could take part in the local and
parliamentary elections on its own or in coalition with other parties. Its manifesto declared that
the club shared the principles of the national Thracian movement. The leaders of the Thracian
organisation were among the founding members of the
Alternative for a
Bulgarian Revival
movement in 2011. The organisation consistently lobbies for the Thracian cause in the Bulgarian
Parliament and in the EU.
28
In the term of office following the previous elections, some mayors
27 As early as the beginning of the 1930s, the Committee for the Freedom of Thrace emphasised on the need
to have Thracian members of Parliament, who would look after the specific interests of Thracian immigrants (cf.
Samo
istina
).
28 At the time of holding a vote on Turkey’s progress report in 2011, the European Parliament’s Committee on
Foreign Affairs passed the amendment offered by the Bulgarian Socialist MEPs, Kristian Vigenin and Evgeni Kirilov,
according to which Turkey was called upon to make more efforts in the direction of regulating the unsolved problems