Page 74 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
palimpsest of the town. For a long time now Tsarevo and the surrounding villages do not believe
themselves inhabited or even founded by Thracians; they consider themselves Bulgarian and
make their claims legitimate by means of their folklore, traditions, and mountains. The town itself
keeps deleting layers and validates new elements of its cultural heritage through the frequent
change of names in the 20
th
century: Vasiliko, Michurin, now Tsarevo. What the town ‘remembers’
are the villages that its residents came from; what it ‘forgets’ are the former town cultures. Unlike
Edirne, in Tsarevo there are no practices and rituals of recalling the descendants of the Greek
20
and
Turkish communities that emigrated after the Balkan wars.
“Where Strandzha kisses the sea,” is a quotation from the recorded text of the ‘legend’,
which tells us how today’s Kiten was founded,
21
bringing together the geographical topography
of sea and mountains with the ‘ancient’, i.e. universal, and ‘national’, expressed by the locality of
the Strandzha mountains. Beyond the construct of this formula, however, very few attempts to
reconstruct the images of small towns through the combination of sea andmountain can be found;
therefore, apart from the town, we shall consider the specific locality, which is being thought of
and inhabited by means of the border, the mountain, and the settlements there.
The space of Strandzha as part of the historical Thrace region is presented through some
strategies of inheriting and validating identities and communities at the beginning of the twenty-
first century. The‘contradictory successors’of Thracian Bulgarians, refugees fromTurkish Strandzha,
are characterised by: 1. Fluidity and complexity of position patterns in the network of social actors;
and 2. Aspects of transforming the cultural capital in the construction of heritage at a local level:
creating local brands (e.g. dancing on fire or oak-tree honeydew honey), organising children’s or
folklore festivals, initiating projects on transborder collaboration, performing rituals of recalling
(e.g. the excursions to one’s birthplace), etc.
“We are all settlers in Tsarevo.”
22
Therefore, in Tsarevo everyone is local. If we take up the
phrase of one of our interlocutors,
23
namely, that everyone in Tsarevo is a descendant of the
Thracian refugees,
24
it would be possible to conclude that there is no local population here from
before 1913. As the region is in the border zone, in the twentieth century there was no significant
migration from the interior of the country towards it.
25
The specificity of locality explains why,
20 Even though there are visits of Greek people, those are rather private visits or trips for the fests of the near-by
villages of Kosti and Brodilovo, which will be discussed later on in the text.
21 The town of Kiten and the villages of Lozenets and Varvara, which are the Black-sea settlements closest to
Tsarevo, are founded by refugees from the Turkish territories of Thrace and Strandzha, in particular.
22 These were the opening words of T.G., a resident of Tsarevo, a municipal councillor, a curator in the future
museum. We were advised to approach that person as an authority on cultural-historical heritage, as a Thracian and
as a local businessman, who, in the 1990s, started organising the first excursions to Turkey for the descendants of
refugees in Tsarevo and the surrounding villages. The interlocutor himself is the heir of Thracian Bulgarians, who
settled in the village of Kosti. T.K. is an important actor, who occupies a number of positions in the official institutional
networks, as well as in the networks (particularly important for the local communities) of ‘fellow countrymen’ and
actors, who have been constructing the field of dancing on fire and the communities of dancers dancing on fire as
a component of local knowledge and transborder interactions. Our team is very grateful for the support and the
invaluable information offered.
23 See footnote 22.
24 Four hundred families arrived in Vasiliko from settlements close to the border, such as Blatsa (Greek Oxia),
Madzhura, Pirgopolu, Seregen, Malak Samokov, Kamila, Megalovo, Meglavit, and Tsiknihor (Madzharov 2012: 165).
25 The border zones, especially those delineating the southern frontier of this country, had their own regime for