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The new association leaders – “the contradictory successors”
“I regret I didn’t pay enough attention to grandma’s tales about the days of yore. I
never had the time and now it’s too late – grandma’s gone”
(from an interview with Zlatka
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, there was a generational change of the
chairpersons of Thracian associations in the villages and towns in the Burgas region but what
has been defined as new activities is most often assistance in filling in declarations of owning
properties in Turkey and the so called ‘excursions to the native lands’,
Edirne and Istanbul or the
Strandzha villages near-by. Apart from that they keep the institutionalised forms of celebrations
and commemorations marked in the calendar of the Union of Thracian associations at a national
level. It was very difficult for the descendants of Thracian Bulgarians, refugees from the Turkish
part of Strandzha in the socialist period, to convert their cultural capital into economic capital,
and it gradually lost its symbolic value in the local dimensions of the villages and towns around
Tsarevo. Local specificity is not significant and all villages look identical, whereas Strandzha
is significant for the Bulgarian national topography as a ‘cradle of civilization’, because of its
‘distinctive folklore’, and in view of the ‘uniqueness of dancing on fire (
)’. As the state
border has been established, the symbolically significant centre is the capital and the interior of
the country, whereas in terms of national space it seems that the ‘only’ locals around Tsarevo, the
so called
keepers of the local traditions and dances on fire, are more or less identifiable.
After the visaswerewaived for Bulgarians visitingTurkey, one of the first tasks of the restored
associations was to organise the ‘return to the native lands’ for the third generation, who crossed
the border by means of a symbolic link, other people’s recollections (their grandparents’) and
experience (the refugees’). The Thracian heritage for this and the subsequent generations acquires
symbolic efficacy through this ritualised return: they are worthy successors of their ancestors,
they collect soil from the native lands, bring it to the graves of the deceased grandparents, and
construct narratives, restoring the social and familial network by means of researching properties.
This heritage is once again converted from cultural into economic capital; the descendants can
sell the seaside properties that the refugees received as compensation from the state.
At the beginning of our research, the team planted the hypothesis that there are strategies
for converting this cultural capital into a political position of the Thracians in the local and regional
government; in other words, their associations propose themselves as a political organisation. What
our preliminary research showed was that, for the local space of the Tsarevo municipality, the fellow
villagers’networks in the villages seekingmajority in themunicipal council are of greater importance.
The strategies for the development of the Malko Tarnovo, Primorsko, and Tsarevo municipalities, as
55 Zlatka Lozanova is the current chairperson of the Association in Tsarevo, the owner of a real-estate agency in
56 An in-depth research and participant observation are carried out by Valentina Ganeva-Raycheva and Natalia
Rashkova in the framework of the current research project. For more details, see Ganeva-Raycheva 2011, Rashkova
57 These are the residents of the Bulgari village, formerly called Urgari.