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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
5. The border: institutionalised transborder links and locality in urban space
5.1. Bulgaria and Edirne
Edirne is recognisable as a town, linked to Bulgaria by its residents among other things, but
this is not the focus of our research here. What is important for the construction of the town close
to the border and across the border are some of the forms of institutional presence of Bulgaria:
not the tourist sites and places of pilgrimage, but those that organise everyday life for the local
migrants and their descendants. One of the consulates of Bulgaria in Turkey
60
is situated in Edirne,
which accommodates and legitimises the community of Bulgarian citizens (predominantly ethnic
Turks with dual citizenship) in the Thracian part of Turkey. Most of the events in the town, related
to the cultural and economic links between the two countries, are carried out with the support of
the consulate.
Town public space and festive life
Another institutionalised formof transborder exchange is theWeek of children and youth in
Turkey, which precedes Children’s Day (23
rd
April). In the festivals organised in this period, there are
a lot of children’s groups from neighbouring Balkan and other European countries that take part.
These events and the exchanged visits of children from Bulgaria in Turkey and vice versa
are a legitimate form of ‘intercultural dialogues’, ‘transborder collaboration’ and mutual getting
to know each other, encouraged by the EU. In this political framework, nevertheless, the local
forms of regional communities come to the limelight, at the level of towns. The requirements
of the Comenius programme,
61
which frequently finances projects about similar transborder
collaboration and exchange of visits between groups from Bulgaria and Turkey, are such that
the host country has to provide for the children’s stay. In Edirne, Bulgarian children are often
accommodated with the families of out-migrants from Bulgaria “in order to reduce the stress of
culture shock caused by the unfamiliar language and surroundings in everyday life” (in the phrase
of R.K., a headmaster in 2010). The out-migrants from Bulgaria to Edirne are in the situation of
translators of culture and institutions.
I had Bulgarian children from a village near Varna a couple of times [possibly as part
of the projects with the Valchi dol school, M.Z.’s note]. Then I got a phone call the year after;
they had my phone, the parents; the children were happy with their visit and wanted to come
again. They used to come for 4–5 days for this festival. They come on 21
st
and 22
nd
of April and
stay for four or five days. Last night my son went to that school and said that they had been
waiting for the visitors
(From an interview with R.K. 2010).
Although we do not have close observations on the agreements for collaboration between
schools, our observations on the cultural events with children from Bulgaria in the public space of
60 For more details on the activities of the Bulgarian diplomacy in Turkey and the policies of transborder
cooperation, see Dimitar Stanchev’s presentation (Kragla masa [Round table] 2012). Mr Stanchev is a senior expert at
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Neighbouring Countries Directorate.
61 http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong-learning-programme/comenius_en.htm