Page 48 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
Bulgaria and Byzantium. On the road to the big Bulgarian dream, the city of emperors, Edirne
was perceived as “a gateway to Constantinople”. In the middle ages, Bulgarian rulers such as
Khan Krum, King Simeon I, King Samuil, and King Kaloyan had battles close to the town, laid
siege to it or conquered it. After the victory of King Kaloyan at Edirne, the town and a vast area
around it was joined to the territory of the Bulgarian state for the better part of the first half of
the thirteenth century. Edirne remained a border town between Bulgaria and Byzantium up to
1365 when it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Up to the conquest of Constantinople (in
1453), it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Considerable changes in the town structure and
the ethnic variety of population occurred in that period. Various crafts were developed in town.
Trade flourished with merchants fromVenice and Dubrovnik. The place was attractive for diverse
cultural communities.
This period of the Bulgarian national narrative references the German traveller and
diplomat Hans Derschwam, who postulates that“Bulgaria begins at Edirne”(1555). The eighteenth
and the nineteenth centuries were characterised by resettling Bulgarian population from the
interior of the country and appropriating new territories in Eastern Thrace. In the more recent
history of Bulgaria, Edirne is related to the victories of the Bulgarian army in the Balkan War (26
th
March 1913).
Documentary evidence and recollections portray the town and the region in terms of
demographics. According to the statistical data,
33
there were 10,000 Bulgarians in Edirne in
1878. Up to the Balkan Wars there were seven residential areas there, five of them populated
by Christians: Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians. According to Miletich, in 1912, there were
634 families of Bulgarian supporters of the Exarchy in town, and 1,016 families, supporters of
the Patriarchy and followers of the Uniate church. The Bulgarian population in the surrounding
villages was 40,000 people (Miletich 1989: 298).
Thus, the Bulgarian national narrative constructs Edirne as part of ‘our space’. This view
has been gaining popularity in the last couple of decades. It is aided by the developing political
relation between Bulgaria and Turkey, by the preserved Bulgarian traces, as well as the easier
physical crossing of the border. ‘Our’ space is defined by means of urban sites.
The
St George
church
was built in 1880 in the Kayak residential area, the Barutluk
neighbourhood (where the population was predominantly Bulgarian once). It has been restored
entirely within the framework of the international Programme for preserving immovable cultural
heritage, with the financing of the Directorate of Religions at the Council of Ministers of the
Republic of Bulgaria. The church was sanctified in 2004 by the metropolitan of Ruse, Neofit,
and the bishop of Adrianopol, Evlogiy, in the presence of the Prime Minister of the Republic of
Bulgaria. The church priest is father Alexander Chakarak, a Bulgarian from Edirne, who received
his religious education in Bulgaria.
33 Macedonia and the Edirne region. Statistics of the population from 1873. Sofia: Macedonian Institute of
Science, 1995, 70–71.