Page 53 - MIGRATION

Basic HTML Version

51
MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
With the years passing by, the signs of Christianity multiply. In the yard of the
Saints
Konstantin and Elena
church there are four bells (three of them big and one smaller than the rest),
a gift from Bulgaria. At the church holiday on 21
st
May 2010, the metropolitan of Varna sanctified
two crosses ordered by UTSB and the Thracian Society in Varna. The event was interpreted as
a contribution to the revival of Orthodox Christianity in Edirne. In October 2010, in the yard
of the
Saints Konstantin and Elena
church, a monument of the Bulgarian Exarch Antim I (who
was born in Lozengrad) was erected, the funds being raised among the Thracian Bulgarians.
34
Setting up the monument has been interpreted as a historical and patriotic achievement: “the
first Bulgarian monument in Turkey since the liberation from Ottoman rule.” The joint unveiling
of the monument by the chairman of UTSB and the governor of Edirne has been construed as a
remarkable act.
Multiplying the symbols of Christianity intends to reinforce the appropriation of space.
Bulgarian sites are a peculiar combination of a Christian church, a culture house (
chitalishte
), a
museum, a library, an exhibition hall, a place to socialise, to buy books or items of the church
industry. In the spring, in the
St George
church you get a unique atmosphere with the
martenitsas
and the baskets with painted Easter eggs. It is obvious that there is an attempt to put together
in the limited space of the church as many cultural institutions and signs of Bulgarianness and
Christianity as possible.
The Bulgarian traces are defined as holy places that “each Bulgarian must see,” and as
birthplaces, where“you feel at home”, as“temples of the Bulgarian spirit,”and“places of patriotism
and pride.”
As soon as it was restored and officially opened, the
St George
church turned into a stop-
over for the Bulgarian pilgrims. A lot of emotional narratives of Bulgarians on a pilgrimage are
widely available on the web.
The Bulgarian churches are very much popularised. Info on them is already available on a
website of Orthodox Christianity. A visitors’book has been created with reference to the
St George
church: it is meant for people, whose roots are from Eastern Thrace, or are somehow related to
the region, who have visited the area or intend to do it, in order to exchange information and
impressions.
Festive programmes (organised by UTSB or transborder cultural initiatives) and tourism
have an important place in popularising the existing Bulgarian traces. As an example of the extent
of visit-frequency, I shall quote what one of father Alexander’s assistants said: “On Saturdays and
Sundays we have 7-8 coaches full of tourists from Bulgaria. It is similar during the week. Whereas
for St George’s day, there would be about 20 buses and hundreds of private cars.”
In the programmes of the tourist agents, Edirne is one of the tourist destinations, either
on its own or included in a tour to Istanbul. The town is an inevitable stop-over of the expeditions
“Back to where our forefathers came from,” organised to visit the places of origin in Eastern and
34 The monument is authored by professor Valentin Starchev. The Turkish entrepreneur Ali Erol took part in
putting it up.