Page 60 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
the suffering and injustice they experienced.
40
Researchers of memory trace in such an attitude
towards the past the inability to interconnect with other memories, as well as a pronounced
tendency to construct polemically (Assmann 2004). Memory seals identities and establishes
borders, chooses thepast as its soleorientationand instill fears of thepast into today’s generations.
The Thrace Euroregion project is an attempt to look into the future, to overcome the
trauma and to utilise the possibilities of today and establish economic and cultural cooperation.
It is a reflection of the understanding that the past cannot be changed but there is the possibility
to get some material compensation, a symbolic recognition of those, who suffered. Dividing
memories can be transformed into forms of mutual acknowledgement.
The district and municipal authorities in the regions at the border
are important
social actors in the Bulgarian-Turkish cooperation. The Edirne municipality has endorsed a
memorandum of collaboration and cooperative agreements with the Haskovo municipality
(2004, renewed in 2009) and the Yambol municipality (2008). In the last few years Edirne worked
on collaborative projects with Haskovo, Yambol and Elhovo. Because of the major decision to call
off cooperation with municipalities that acknowledged the genocide of Armenians in Turkey,
the partnership with Burgas and Svilengrad was cancelled and since 2011 so was the agreement
with Yambol.
41
This, however, has not affected the active collaboration of the non-governmental
sector on both sides of the border, as well as the realisation of collaborative projects.
Although Edirne and Svilengrad have severed the official contacts between each other,
42
still there is cooperation in different types of activities. There are readings of poetry of Bulgarian
poets, presented in Bulgarian and in Turkish, at the Health Museum in Edirne. The professional
high school in agriculture and economics named after Hristo Botev in Svilengrad is involved in
collaborative projects with a college in Edirne. On the initiative of the mayor of Svilengrad, the
Day of Europe is marked by a bicycle tour of a route that goes through Bulgaria, Greece, and
Turkey, and which includes Greek and Turkish cyclists. The last stop of the one-hundred km route
is Edirne, where museums and Bulgarian churches are being visited.
The established fruitful beginning of the transborder cultural cooperation between
Bulgaria and Turkey and the contacts once made are the foundation for carrying out investment
and trade initiatives. A step towards their realisation is the project
Partnership info-days to
encourage entrepreneurship and improve the business climate in the transborder region Haskovo –
40 Cf. Trakiiski rodolubets, an information site of Thracian patriots with Bulgarian identity (www.meridian27.
com/trakia/politic.htm), especially Emilia-Boriana Slavkova’s article “The Thracian organisation and the intentions
for a Thrace with no borders”, dated 17.07.2011; other sources include: www.ideyazabulgaria.org (“Movement
Our
idea of Bulgaria
. An alternative to the
status quo
”), and www.desant.net/show-news/22671 (a national weekly of the
patriotic press
Dessant
). Those against the idea for the establishment of the Thrace Euroregion support their position
with misgivings about Turks buying off the land, Turkish capital dominating on our side of the border, economic and
political dependence on Turkey.
41 On the 29
th
January 2011 the
Trakia
Association for culture and solidarity of the Balkan Turks and the
Federation of the Turks from Rumelia and the Balkans, both based at Edirne, published declarations that criticise the
decision of the residents of Yambol and interpret it as renewing the ethnic conflict.
42 Svilengrad is a twin town with Uzunköprü.