No need to apologize, Minister! On March 17, in the Dospat village of Barutin, the participants in a commemorative rally dedicated to the victims of the “restoration” process asked that this episode in the Bulgarian history find a place in school textbooks. “Not in order to instill a sense of guilt, but to uplift everyone who has denounced it, so that no one would dare to repeat it”. In response to this declaration, the Minister of Education, Daniel Valchev, and the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Science, Miroslav Mourdzhev, stated that it would be possible to study these events in 20 - 30 years’ time (according to the Minister) or in 50 years (according to the Chair). In turn, the Blagoevgrad voivodi, united in an organization with the symptomatic name of VMROVardar, requested in a counterdeclaration that the Movement for Rights and Freedoms apologize for the April Uprising...
Evgeniya IVANOVA I am extremely gratified that the opinion of the competent institutions about academic research on the “restoration” process is being made public now. If the rally in Barutin, held five years ago on the occasion of the 30th anniversary from the purges, had issued such a declaration and the reaction of the competent authorities had been the same, my book1 dedicated to these events would surely be banned. Fortunately, its circulation has already been sold out and many residents of the Smolyan, Satovcha and Gotse Delchev areas have asked me for a re-print. The competent institutions, however, may rest assured. Even without their sanction, research on the “restoration” process conducted by Bulgarian scholars is scarce2. The interest abroad is much greater. Even today, however, the memories of the participants exceed the scientific research in both quantity of titles and circulation3. Would they serve as sources of information for textbook authors in 20, 30 or 50 1 The Rejected “Incorporated” or the Process Called “Restoration”(1912-1989), S., 2002 2 This topic is partially covered by Valeri Stoyanov, Antonina Zhelyazkova and Ibrahim Yalamov; Mihail Gruev used it for his doctoral thesis. Lately, there has been a growing interest in this topic, especially among younger colleagues, most of whom have graduated abroad. 3 Memories (and even “analyses”) about the “restoration” process were published by the former Minister of the Interior, Dimitar Stoyanov, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party, Stoyan Mihailov, the First Secretary of the Regional Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party in Blagoevgrad, Petar Dyulgerov, his counterpart in Smolyan, Velichko Karadzhov, the Fatherland Front activist Paunka Gocheva, one of the ideologists of the process, Orlin Zagovor (Shukri Tahirov) and other less known participants in the process.
years? This does not seem so incredible, considering the fact that today the Islamization, for instance, is being studied mostly through A Time of Divide. Despite the fact that several times more than 20-30-50 years have passed and that quite a few serious scientific studies have been published. By the way, almost a century has passed since the start of the “restoration” process. The first change of Muslim names, known as “the Baptismal”, took place in 1912, when the Bulgarian state and church, inspired by the forefathers of today’s Blagoevgrad voivodi, converted to Christianity the Pomaks all over the Rhodope mountains. Many were killed, thrown from bridges or beaten to death and died from their wounds. Others escaped on Ottoman territory still not retaken by the allies. Their neighbors pillaged their homes, barns and shops. You cannot not read about this in history textbooks. In the public mind, the “restoration” process is remembered only with its end - the events of 1984 - 1985, however, it actually began in 1912 and continued, with varying intensity, until the 1980s. Its most acute manifestations follow a 30-year cycle: 1912, 1942, 1972. This covers only the Pomaks, to whom socialism added the Roma and the Tatars. The Turks were considered untouchable, mostly due to fear of modernizing Turkey. The modernization of the Bulgarian Turks was nipped in the bud: while in the 1930s the children from Pomak families were recruited to the municipal schools and received secular education, the Turkish kids were left in the mosque schools, where they only studied the Holy Koran. The Zveno government issued special orders to this effect.
According to government officials, the literacy of the Turks posed a threat to national security. In 1942, the National Assembly adopted a special supplement to the Persons Act which ensured quick and unhindered replacement of “non-Bulgarian names with Bulgarian ones”. After the pogroms and reprisals accompanying “the Baptismal”, the government stopped ordering and began to issue only recommendations. Locally, however, the recommendations were interpreted as orders and the change of names went relatively fast but by far, not without opposition. The process was now managed by the Rodina Association, a cultural organization established by several Pomaks from Smolyan. The organization was presented as “grassroots”, an emanation of the aspiration to modernization, but it was in fact deftly managed by the Ministry of Popular Enlightenment. Not only the names were changed. The costumes were also replaced. There was an attempt at “quick” replacement of the traditional culture: lifestyle, customs, relationships. It was an attempt to replace the identity. You cannot read about this in history textbooks either. Having diligently memorized the Soviet postulates on proletarian internationalism and the priority of the class before the nation, The communist government the communist government returned the Muslim names and even sentenced to death or to many years imprisonment the Rodina activists, branding them as nationalists and fascists. Modernizations and innovations were implemented in the Rhodopes and the Teteven area, where Pomaks also lived: electricity supply, industrial development, communications, compulsory education and healthcare. Children from these areas enjoyed preferential treatment at higher education institutions and boarding schools in the cities. It looked as if that the “restoration” process had been buried in the past forever. The policy towards the Turks was different. The communists, often criticized for their inconsistency on this issue, were actually very consistent in emulating the attitude of the bourgeois authorities to this group as “an alien element”, a threat to national security at all times. In 1950 - 1951, the initial resettlement policy (to areas in Northern Bulgaria away from Turkey) was transformed into a deportation policy. The “golden age” of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria began in 1951 when Turkey refused to admit any more deportees. Following the “Azerbaijan model”, the government began to “woo” the Turks. New Turkish high schools were established, a Turkish language
and literature department was created at Sofia University, Turkish theaters were opened, the number of newspapers and radio broadcasts in Turkish increased, as well as the massive recruitment of the Turkish elite into the Bulgarian Communist Party. The “courting” became pointless in 1968, when a new repatriation agreement was signed with Turkey. The very next year, many newspapers and theaters were closed, the publishing of books in Turkish was stopped, the language classes were restricted and gradually terminated. Decision ¹ A 84-25/021969 of the Politburo is the first to mention the threat of “cultural and national autonomy” - the main scarecrow used to explain the change of the names in 1984 - 1985. When Turkey terminated the agreement in 1978, the authorities began to consider “the natural process of overcoming ethnic differences”, later called “restoration”... Six years earlier, in 1972, the Politburo reached its “historic” decision on the “class, party, patriotic and international education of Bulgarians of Muslim faith”. By 1976, all Pomaks - except those who managed to resettle in Turkish areas - had their names changed4. The shalwars, headscarves, circumcisions and offerings were banned. Special envoys “inspected” refrigerators and basements during Kurban Bayram; if meat was found, it was confiscated and its owner was fined. The names on the tombstones were stroked out and corrected. Haytov himself replaced the names of the protagonists in his Wild Stories with Bulgarian ones. Dozens were killed in the Western Rhodopes, in Madan and that same Barutin. Many more were beaten. Many others died “of natural causes”, as their names were erased from the medical records. This is one more thing you cannot find in history textbooks. 35 years have passed since then: sufficient according to the Minister, insufficient according to the Chair... The planning of the 1984 - 1985 events did not occur spontaneously in someone’s paranoid mind. The “success” of the “restoration” process among the Pomaks, and Turkey’s refusal to admit more deportees, generated in the minds of those in power the idea of total “unity of the Bulgarian socialist nation”. From 1978 onwards, gradually and with blood-freezing meticulousness, the names of children from mixed marriages, of the people living in border areas (between Turks and Pomaks) and of people with “proven Bulgarian ancestry”5 were changed. By Christmastime of 1984, the change had reached Kardzhali. The end of 1984 saw the names changed all over Southern Bulgaria. By the 4 Many of them have been returned to their previous domiciles and renamed. The archives are full of anonymous reports and correspondence pertaining to their identification. 5 Almost all scientific institutions were involved in delving into the “Bulgarian family roots”: philologists, musicologists, ethnographers, cultural anthropologists...
end of January 1985, the same happened in Northern Bulgaria. On January 28, the Politburo announced “the beginning of a restoration process aimed at restoring the Bulgarian national self-determination of the renamed, so that they could finally become part of the Bulgarian nation”. It turned out that the “restoration” process was yet to materialize. Would this be included in the history textbooks? The legal term “prescription” has nothing to do with the way history is taught. History is everything that happened yesterday. Historiography is not about judgment, it is about analysis. Analysis not only of the “significant” (from whose point of view?) events, but of everyday life as well. The “restoration” process in itself is an event of sufficient significance to be analyzed. I would very much like to hear the arguments with which the Minister or the Chair of the committee would question its significance instead of using legal terms, such as “prescription”. With or without “prescription”, it would be better if we analyzed the “restoration” process as a significant event, rather than an everyday occurrence... Denying analysis makes it possible for significant (and therefore, extraordinary) events to be regarded as regular occurrences. I disagree with the statement of the Barutin declaration that history education “instills a sense of guilt” or “uplifts”. The policies of the Bulgarian governments and the attitude of Bulgarian citizens to the Muslims are historical facts that cannot be passed over in silence just because someone is going “to feel a sense of guilt”; nor should they be studied only to “uplift” someone else. One or another historical event, one or another historical process should be studied simply because it has happened. As long as history is being used as a tool of “instilling guilt” (in ministers, committee chairs or political parties) or of “uplifting” (other political parties), instead of as an object of scientific analysis, speculations with it will continue. It would seem increasingly natural for us to apologize to the Greeks, for having conquered their “national territories” or for them, to solemnly forgive us that Krum had used Nikephoros’s skull for a purpose different from its original use... Forgiveness has a moral purpose when granted for events that have to do with one’s personal responsibility for a certain action or inaction. We are personally responsible for events from the time of communism (including the “restoration” process) - both for our actions and inactions. Today’s Turks are not responsible for the crushing of the April Uprising. Just like today’s Englishmen are not responsible for slavery. Maybe the demands for 20-30-50 years of prescription could be explained with the unwillingness of competent bodies to ask for forgiveness and the erroneous belief that history education is necessarily constrained by it. No need to apologize, Minister! Just include the “restoration” process in the textbooks. OBEKTIV 3
Published on Feb 28, 2011
Published on Feb 28, 2011
On march 17, in the Dospad village of Barutin, the participants in a commemorative rally dedicated to the victims of the "restoration" proce...