25 Mart 2016 Cuma

Muslims in Greece and Bulgaria "Self and Other"

The Perception of Muslims in Greece and Bulgaria: between the "Self and the "Other" 
University of Graz, Dept. for Southeast European History

1. Introductory

This paper investigates the shifts in perception of Muslims in Greece and Bulgaria, regarding mainly official and semi-official representations of Muslims. More precisely, the focus is put on political and "scientific" definitions of the ethnic and national affiliation of Muslim populations in Bulgaria and Greece and of their ethnic identities. Related to this, the paper also tries to draw attention to the political consequences - as well as causes - of the various ways of perceiving Muslims in these two countries after their "liberation" from Ottoman domination. Perceptions of Muslims have been experiencing shifts and changes. These changes were both dictated by the political settings as well as by nationalist aspirations of the national élite of both Bulgaria and Greece and by internal pressures. In terms of the "Self" and the "Other", Muslim populations (foremost the Turkish and the Pomak ones) were placed on various points of this scale at different moments of time. In both countries, Pomaks and Turks were, at a specific moment in time, declared the "Self", after having served as the main "Other", against whom consolidation of the nation had been aiming.

The question of Muslims in Bulgaria and Greece and of "Otherness" are related to the problem of ethnic and national identity. The policies of both the Bulgarian and the Greek nation states eventually intended to ascribe a fixed ethnic identity to the whole population. Initially, Muslims were excluded from the ethnic group which was the nucleus of the nation state, but as ethnic cleansing ceased to be possible and various attempts of assimilation through integration failed, Muslims were declared to be of the same ethnic origin as the "Self" group. The Bulgarian and Greek nation states tried to establish specific ethnic frontiers in order to include Muslim minorities into the nation. Muslims should display the same fixed ethnic identity as the majority population. It was the task of intellectuals, especially of historians, ethnographers and human anthropologists, to create the "cultural stuff" (Barth) inside this frontiers in order to prove the belonging of Muslims to the "Self" ethnic group. Politicians had then to implement this findings into actual policies, as the Muslims were loath to accept imposed identities by their own. Perception of Muslims by the officials of the nation state turned into a struggle about their identities. Finally, the attempts of the nation states to replace ethnic boundaries with ethnic frontiers aimed at making the administrative border coincide with this frontier (see: VERENI 1996). Opposing identities - both fixed national as well as flexible, contextual ones - had to be routed out in order to accomplish this task.

Roughly speaking, there were three different patterns of perceiving Muslim vernacular identities, each of which corresponded to a respective political strategy: 

(1) non-tolerance towards the Muslim "Other", which was politically expressed in ethnic cleansing and discrimination, 

(2) acceptance of the "Other" and gradually assimilating him in the national community with integrative policies, and 

(3) perceiving the "Other" as the "Self" and denying its "Otherness" at all, a perception, on which radical and forceful assimilation was grounded. However, it was a long and protracted way from the perception of Muslims as main "Other" to the perception of Muslims as "Self". And there have been important differences between Bulgaria and Greece in this respect, because Greece did not pursue these changes and shifts of perception with the same vigor as Bulgaria.

Unfortunately, my paper cannot regard vernacular identities, i.e. self-perceptions of the respective Muslim populations. This is yet an almost unstudied field - with the important exception of Bulgarian Muslims (Pomaks in Bulgaria). A thorough analysis would probably show - as Yuljan Konstantinov has already suggested (KONSTANTINOV 1992a) - that vernacular identity makers operate with the same concepts of identity as nation states. This means that they also aim at imposing fixed identities on their fellow nationals. 

2. The early Greek and Bulgarian nation states and their Muslim minorities: Eradicating the "Other"

In 1861, the historian George Finlay wrote:

"In the month of April 1821, a Muslim population, amounting to upwards of twenty thousand souls, was living, dispersed in Greece, employed in agriculture. Before two months had elapsed the greater part was slain - men, women, and children were murdered without mercy or remorse. Old men still point to the heaps of stones, and tell the traveller, 'There stood the pyrgos (tower) of Ali Aga, and there we slew him, his harem and his slaves'; and the old men walks calmly on to plow the fields which once belonged to Ali Aga, without a thought that any vengeful fury can attend his path. The crime was a nation's crime, and whatever perturbations it may produce must be in a nation's conscience, as the deeds by which it can be expiated must be the acts of a nation" (cit. McCARTHY 1995, p. 10). 

In September 1878, the former British Vice Consul in Plovdiv and then Acting Consul in Edirne, Edmund Calvert wrote on the first months of "liberated" Bulgaria:

"The Russian government allows the Christians to take the law into their own hand and to visit the Turkish Community at large with present and indiscriminate bloodshed, rapine, and pillage. The result is now before the world, and I hope I, who assuredly have at no time been backwards in denouncing Turkish provincial misrule, may be believed when I state that the evil state of things now prevailing is of an incomparably more widespread, harsh, and barbarous type than that which it is manifestly intended as a set-off" (cit. McCARTHY 1995, p. 92)

In another British consular report, this one from the First Balkan War in 1912, the author wrote:

"It may be said without exaggeration that there is hardly a Turkish village in the districts of Cavalla and Drama which has not suffered at the hands of Bulgarian Comitadjis and of the local Christian population. In many, scores of males have been massacred; in others, rape and pillage have taken place. In the Cavalla region, apart from the murder of Cavalla Turks by comitadjis, already reported, the massacre of some 200 Turks is announced from Pravishta, and of an equal number at Sarishaban. In the Drama District, Chatalja, Doxat and Kirlikova have been the scene of murders of Turks. Most of these murders took place shortly after the Bulgarian occupation, but some have recent occurence" (McCARTHY 1995, p. 141). 

These reports confirm the first way of "perceiving" Muslims in the new independent nation states of Greece (1821) and Bulgaria (1878) during the time of their "liberation" and subsequent expansion at the expense of the shrinking Ottoman Empire. Muslims as such were viewed as national enemies by the nationalist groups in these new Balkan states. Muslims were not to be tolerated as part of the nation, because they represented the "Other" in various ways: neither did they belong to the same ethnic nor to the same religious group. But ethnicity and religion were closely linked in the phase of "national awakening" and nation building in the Balkans. Greek and Bulgarian nationalists drew their identity and legitimacy from ethnic descent and religious affiliation. For Greeks, Greek orthodoxy and ancient Hellas defined membership in the Greek nation. Thus, all Orthodox people living on the territory of ancient Greece were considered "Greeks". This had two important consequences: first, this concept of nationhood denied the existing ethnic heterogeneity of the orthodox population, and secondly, Muslims could not become members of the Greek nation even through forced assimilation. Muslims were outsiders by definition (SARIDES 1987, p. 6). Similar was the case in Bulgaria. Bulgarian language and Orthodoxy defined the boundaries of the Bulgarian ethnic group. Muslims could therefore not be part of it - although in the case of Bulgarian speaking Muslims (Pomaks), the Bulgarian concept of ethnicity would allow their inclusion. But this was not yet the case.

These concepts of ethnicity to a large extent stressed the role of religion and were the result of Ottoman millet-system which organized society according to religion and allowed all officially acknowledged religious communities a high degree of autonomy. Both the Bulgarian and the Greek nations had therefore a strong religious connotation. But their respective new nation states were also inhabited by people from other national or religious affiliations. Hence the new national political classes and intellectuals wished to build a homogeneous nation state which would include all dimensions of the particular ethnic group. Both the early Greek and Bulgarian nation states regarded as their fundamental incompleteness the fact that their national borders did not coincide with their ethnic frontiers and also they felt that only members of their particular ethnic group could live inside the borders of the nation state. From their very establishment both states thus pursued an expansionist policy. This policy, however, was directed not only outside, but also inside the boundaries of the nation state. The general aim of expansion - to merge the frontiers of the ethnic group with the borders of the nation state - led on the one hand to irredentism and on the other to assimilatory internal policies. During the 19th and the early 20th centuries, both expansionist tendencies had a similar objective: to expel the Ottoman Empire and its legacy from Europe. Thus, Muslims became the main target of expansionism and assimilation, as they were considered not appropriate to belonging to the nation; they were the main "strangers" inside the new nation states. They were not only viewed as "infidels", but also as former oppressors and expropriators. Their life-styles were described as so backward and strange, that their integration into a "modern" constitutional state seemed virtually impossible. This was the basic cause for extermination or expulsion of hundred of thousands of Muslims that accompanied every national revolution in the Ottoman Balkans and the occupation of former Ottoman territory.

No ambiguity, no difference was to be accepted. The nation states of Bulgarians and Greece considered themselves "to be the political-territorial expression of an ethnic group defined by a common culture and language as well as by the same genealogically proved origins" (GIORDANO 1995, p. 99). The people of these new states should display the sentiment of a single kind of belonging. Their identities had to be less flexible and ambiguous than they were under Ottoman domination. The bulk of those who were to become "Greeks" and "Bulgarians" were living in the countryside as small-holders with a parochial identity, one not expressed in national terms. They might have considered themselves as "Christians" but rarely as "Greeks" or "Bulgarians", as national movements would have liked them to do. Neither were the Greek and the Bulgarian societies homogenous: the champions of nationalist ideas were urban based and oriented towards modern developments in Western Europe, while the rural masses have been living in a completely different world. The main problem for nationalist intellectuals and the political classes was therefore to spread a common language and the sentiment of common ethnic descent which is so crucial in order to construct a fixed identity which is transmitted from generation to generation. The rural masses should join the "imagined community" (Anderson) of the nation. Beyond education, formation of national media and establishment of a national bureaucracy, the construction of an "Other" was an essential task, as ethnic groups need boundaries which define who belongs to them and who not (VERDERY 1994, p. 45f.). Through constructing an "Other" and active measures against this "Other", the nation could project an image of itself as more homogeneous than it really was. For obvious reasons, Muslims became this "Other". 

Perceiving "Turks" or "Muslims" as the main "Others" was based on a long tradition of negative images concerning them, both in Greece and in Bulgaria. The most important reason for this was of course Ottoman domination, which both Greek and Bulgarian nationalists perceived as a "cruel yoke", almost five hundred years of terror and oppression, and a main cause for "backwardness". Both folklore and intellectual historiography painted the Ottoman period only in the darkest colors. For example, the rich folk poetry had an pronounced heroic streak which was based above all upon the opposition of Greeks/Bulgarians and Turks/Ottomans/Muslims. In folk poetry, Christians and Muslims were mostly in conflict. In Greek folklore, the Klepthes - a mixture of brigands and freedom-fighters against Ottoman rule, mostly the former - became one of the most praised of heroes. Other popular folk themes, which were reproduced in various cycles and with various peculiarities, dealt for example with Christian girls, enslaved by Ottoman Turks, with the Ottoman practice of devshirme (i.e. forced recruiting of Christian boys for the Janissaries, which was one of the factors in "Islamization" and "Turkization"), or with forced conversion to Islam of large Christian population groups, like the Pomaks. Simply, as the main theme of another folk poetry cycle put it, "all kinds of misfortunes are due to the Turks" (MUTAFCHIEVA 1995, p. 65). Thus, by continued reproduction of these images of Turks respectively Muslims, a specific mentality was formed in the Balkans, which the Bulgarian scholar Vera Mutafchieva calls "folkloric thinking" (ibid.). These stereotypes, which had been formed during the centuries of Ottoman domination, have survived until the emergence of movements for "national liberation". Poets, like the Bulgarian Khristo Botev, and intellectuals reinvented these clichés of the "Other" from folklore, knowing only too well how deeply they were rooted in public consciousness. Georgi Rajkovski, one of the leading Bulgarian nationalist émigrés of the second half of the 19th century, described the "Turks" as full of Asian cruelty, who are only able to live the lives of parasites. Another famous Bulgarian revolutionary, Lyuben Karavelov, used the most deprecatory epitomes for Turks: they were "of raw Asiatic character", "a half-barbarous, half-rotten, half-dead people", "fanatics", "idiots", "with sodomic greed", "with wild cruelty". Most often, he called them simply "perverts" (MUTAFCHIEVA 1995, p. 20). In doing so, Karavelov reproduced all the folklore stereotypes, translated into the modern language of revolutionary nationalism.

The massacres during the Greek uprising against Ottoman rule in 1821 and during the Greek war of liberation as well as the mutual slaughtering of Bulgarians and Muslims during the April Uprising of 1876 and the Russian-Ottoman War of 1877/78 proved to be a especially fertile ground for the reproduction and wider dissemination of images of "Turks" as a barbarous, bloodthirsty, backward people, whose only ability was to kill innocent Greeks and Bulgarians, who seek liberation from Asiatic despotism. The Bulgarians even managed to establish their perception of the Turks and their crimes on the European scene, as shown by the public outcry of liberal Europe after the massacre of the Christian populations of the towns of Batak and Perushtica in the course of the Ottoman repression of the Bulgarian April Uprising from 1876. The Greeks could rally even more support for their cause. Massacres of Muslims committed by Christians during these uprisings and national revolutions gained, of course, much less attention. It is not very surprising that after "liberation" those images did not change very much. In Bulgaria for example, text-books reproduced those folklore stereotypes without many new arguments. 

Expulsions and killings of Muslims dramatically changed the demographic situation in the Balkans. In 1877, the Muslim population of what was to become the principality of Bulgaria and the autonomous region of Eastern Rumelia was approximately 1.5 million. Ten years later, the Bulgarian census of 1887 recorded 672,215 Muslims (McCARTHY 1995, p. 91). The Greek Revolution took the lives of some 25,000 Muslims and another 10,000 took refuge in then still Ottoman territories. Another huge drain of Muslim lives was caused by the Balkan wars. These wars were not only full of the worst atrocities against civilian populations, but they were also intended to ethnically cleanse regions which the belligerent countries claimed as their own national territory. The main victims were again Muslims. In 1911, one year before the outbreak of the First Balkan War, Muslims formed the majority of what then had remained of Ottoman Europe. Of the 6.3 million inhabitants, 3.2 were Muslims (51 percent). The Greek and the Bulgarian millets were much smaller, with 25 and 19 percent respectively. If we exclude Albania, 2.3 million Muslims lived in the Ottoman areas which in 1912/13 were occupied by Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia. Ten years later, only 870,114 remained. 62 percent had left or were killed. Greece was most successful in expelling Muslims from the areas it had occupied: of almost 750,000 Muslims, who lived in Agean Macedonia in 1911, only 124,460 remained in 1923 (figures from McCARTHY 1995, p. 162ff.). Annihilation and expulsion of Muslims did not stop with the Balkan Wars. Emigration of Muslims, with different rates of intensity, has been continuing ever since. The two largest single events in this process were the Greek-Turkish population transfer in 1923 and the mass-exodus of Bulgarian Turks in 1989 (see below). But throughout this period, a constant flow towards Turkey drained the Muslim population of Greece and Bulgaria. Especially in the latter, at various moments during the 20th century, ten of thousands of Turks left the country, each time during short periods of some months or years. 

These first wave of expulsions and killings of Muslims in Greece and Bulgaria, which started with the Greek national liberation war in 1821 and ended with the Greek-Turkish population transfer in 1923 is characterized by dealing with Muslims as a homogenous group. Muslims were killed and forced to leave their homes independently of their "ethnic" identity. Not much difference was made between ethnic Turks, who formed the bulk of the Muslim population in Ottoman Europe, and Slav Muslims (Pomaks), Muslim Roma, Tatars and Cirkassians. All were subjected to the same policy of ethnic hatred, violence and discrimination. It is worth noting that in the case of Bulgarian speaking Muslims (Pomaks), Bulgarian intellectuals were very well aware of their distinctiveness from ethnic Turks, but during the Russian-Ottoman War of 1877/78 and the first decades of its independence, Bulgaria treated its Pomaks like Turks. Pomaks were, for example, listed under the rubric "Turks" in the first Bulgarian national censi. In 1905, for the first time respondents had the opportunity to declare themselves "Pomaks" (PANAYOTOVA 1994, p. 276). As Muslims ("Turks"), Pomaks had to attend Turkish minority schools, which were religious and not secular. In those schools, the language of instruction was Turkish and to a smaller extent Arabic, in order to teach the pupils to read the Koran. Pomaks were thus instructed in what was for them a strange language, and they were excluded from the secular Bulgarian school system, which was the key to all kinds of professional careers.

Similarly, Greek policy did not differentiate when dealing with Muslims. The best example for this undifferentiated perception of Muslims was the Treaty of Lausanne "concerning the exchange of Greek and Turkish populations" as of January 30, 1923. This treaty defined "Turks" not by referring to language or ethnicity, but only by the criterion of religion. The treaty continued the tradition of the Ottoman Millet-system to divide society into population groups according to their religious affiliation. Pomaks and other non-Turkish Muslims have been also among the 434,000 Muslims, who left Greece because of the Treaty of Lausanne. The main exception to the forced population exchange concerned the Muslim population of Western Thrace. The treaty granted them the right to remain in Greece and to enjoy some basic minority rights. The Pomak population of this region was, however, denied any special status and was included in the Muslim - or "Turkish" - minority. I will later return to the consequences of this policy. 

Greece and Bulgaria could not expel their Muslim minorities completely. The national élites were even more concerned that, after 1878 in Bulgaria and after 1923 in Greece, the rights of Muslim minorities had become subject of international treaties. Both states were forced to guarantee some minority rights which foremost concerned education, cultural life and political representation. They had to develop policies towards their Muslim minorities, and these policies were based on specific perceptions. These are the perceptions, I want to consider in this paper. However, I will deal only with two Muslim minorities, Bulgarian Muslims (Pomaks) and ethnic Turks. 

3. Claiming the "Other" the "Self": Pomaks in Bulgaria and Greece 

Generally, most Western - and Bulgarian - authors agree that Pomaks are Bulgarian-speaking Muslims of Bulgarian ethnic background. Apart from the fact that this definition is challenged by various non-Bulgarian nationalists (especially Turkish - like MEMISHOGLU 1991 - and Greek ones; for examples see: BALIKCI 1997), the definition itself already suggests the problems of Pomak identity and perception of Pomaks, as they do not fit any of the classic concepts of nationality. This obvious ambiguity makes the case of the Pomaks most interesting for the study of ethnic identities and perceptions of the "Other". Their case allows us to reconstruct strategies of perception as well as that of identity politics. Moreover, it sheds some light on theoretical questions of ethnic identity. 

Nowadays, Pomaks live mainly in compact settlements in the Rhodope mountains, which are divided between Bulgaria and Greece (mostly in Bulgaria). In Bulgaria, the districts of Smolyan, Blagoevgrad, Pazardzhik and Kurdzhali have the largest Pomak populations. Smaller Pomak communities exist near the town of Lovech (LORY 1987), and in a few villages around Zlatarica near Veliko Turnovo (KONSTANTINOV / ALHAUG 1995). Over 90 Percent of the Bulgarian Pomaks, however, inhabit the Rhodopes. Before the mass exodus of Muslims from Bulgaria after 1878, Pomaks also lived in larger numbers in other parts of the country. In Greece, Pomak settlements are concentrated in Western Thrace, i.e. the southern slopes of the Rhodope mountains (prefectures of Xanthi, Evros, and Rhodopi). The numbers of Pomaks in Bulgaria and Greece are difficult to assess, because mostly they are not counted separately in censuses. Besides, many refuse to declare themselves as Pomaks in censuses. According to the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior, in 1989 almost 270.000 Pomaks lived in Bulgaria (see: KONSTANTINOV / ALHAUG 1995, p. 24). The Greek Pomak population is estimated at between 30,000 and 40,000 (APOSTOLOV 1996, p. 728). Some authors put the figure slightly higher at around 45,000 (MEINARDUS 1985, p. 51, fn. 19).

It is even more difficult to estimate the number of Pomaks in the past. In 1903, a Bulgarian ethnographer put their number at 300,000 to 400,000 (SHISHKOV 1903, p. 17). This estimate seems rather reasonable, as after the Second Balkan War around 190,000 Pomaks remained in Bulgaria, including territories which today belong to Greece (GEORGIEV / TRIFONOV 1995, p. 6). The Pomak population of Western Thrace was approximately thirty thousand after World War One. According to the Greek census of 1951 - the last one which asked for "mother tongue" and "religion" - 26,592 Pomaks lived in the prefectures of Xanthi, Rhodopi, and Evros (ANDREADES 1956, p. 9)

Traditionally, Pomaks pursued a very isolated way of life. During the 19th century, contemporary observers described the Pomaks as a backward, conservative people who lived mainly as self-sufficient agro-pastoralists. Their villages were dispersed in the mountains and far away from the centers of trade and commerce. Pomaks were inclined to reduce their contacts with the outside world to a minimum and to preserve their village communities, as well as kinship-solidarity. Their economy was as closed as their general life-style, which was based on their Islamic belief and common law (for a description of traditional Pomak life see: POPKONSTANTINOV 1893; SHISHKOV 1903 and 1936; PRIMOVSKI 1940). The only market-oriented activity was tobacco-growing.

In Bulgaria, the social and economic organization of Pomak communities was radically changed only by Communist collectivization. But even during Communism, Pomaks were able to keep some of their specific social features. The main reason for this was that they did not take part in the migratory movements into towns and new industries, which affected the rural masses in Bulgaria from 1950s. Pomaks tried to remain in their native villages. This was made possible by the way collectivization was carried out, as well as by the subsequent "domestication of industry" (for the latter see: CREED 1995). The formation of collective farms (TKSZ) in the 1950s created new jobs in the villages. Salaried job-opportunities increased in the late 1960s and 1970s when a great number of small factories and work-shops were set up in the countryside to help relieve the urban housing-shortage, chronic consumer goods deficits and transportation problems. As a result, Pomaks had no reason to seek paid work in urban centers. To earn a state salary and to own a small plot of land for the production of the food for the family in the framework of the traditional village community was and, to a large extent still is, the ideal of Pomak life.

In Greece, the situation was different because of the lack of a similar, centrally conducted and propagated drive towards modernity in Greece as in Bulgaria under communism. Greek Pomaks continued their traditional economic activities and remained confined to their old settlements and life-styles even more and longer than Bulgarian Pomaks (see: ANDREADES 1956, p. 9). In Greece, it was mainly the deliberate policy of the government which kept the Pomaks isolated and "backward", and not so much their own strategy towards self-isolation and segregation as in Communist Bulgaria. During the 1970s and especially the 1980s, Greek Pomak communities have been opening more towards the outside world, as infrastructure development and emigration into towns made themselves felt.

This very brief survey of the social and economic features of the Pomak communities is important to understand their self-definition and how they are perceived by outsiders. Due to their reluctance to go to the towns - as, in the Greek case, because of formal obstacles - and to disappear into the anonymous life of modern industry and urban centers, Pomaks have managed to retain a position at a certain distance from the majority society. 

3.1. The Pomaks of Bulgaria

As Muslims, Pomaks have been in conflict with the Bulgarian majority ever since the establishment of an independent Bulgarian nation state in 1878. As noted, during the first decades they were treated as Turks. Voices of intellectuals, who proclaimed the Bulgarian ethnicity of the Pomaks, had not yet become politically dominant.

A political event led to a radical change in the official Bulgarian policy towards the Pomaks. Having occupied Ottoman territory during the First Balkan War, Bulgaria was faced with the problem of integrating a region with an ethnically, religiously, and socially very heterogeneous population (Pirin-Macedonia, Western Thrace, Southern Rhodopes). Above all, the occupied territories were predominantly Muslim (about 320,000 of a total population of 580,000 - most of them Pomaks; McCARTHY 1995, p. 162). In this situation, Bulgarian officials resorted to specific perceptions of Pomaks which had already been propagated by some Bulgarian intellectuals before: Pomaks were said to have been formerly Christians, who had converted to Islam, and therefore their "real" ethnicity and religion could be "reborn". The Bulgarian Orthodox church began to turn this perception into reality and started a baptizing campaign among the Pomaks in 1912, during which most of them were Christianized. The church could rely on help from the army, which was stationed in the newly occupied lands, and from the government, which openly supported forced baptizing. In the words of a contemporary priest and activist in this campaign, "there is a strong tendency in favor of returning to Christianity through baptizing" among the Bulgarian Muslims (GEORGIEV / TRIFONOV 1995, p. 13; my italics). This was also the view of church and government officials. This was the moment, when the "Other" became again the "Self", or, as some members of the social élite of the town of Pazardzhik expressed it in their common letter to the then prime-minister Ivan Geshov: "They [the Pomaks in the newly acquired territories] are an impressing, compact mass of people, speaking pure Bulgarian, but praying in a strange language. In their language and their customs, a tremendous wealth is hidden. This people owns to be kept with us. But if they remain under the influence of Hodzhas, they will continue to be as fanatic and illiterate, as they have been in the past. [...] Only Christian education can enlighten their minds and soften their hearts. Only if they accept Christianity and thus unite with us, then this people will stick to our lands" (GEORGIEV / TRIFONOV 1995, p. 15).

The Christianization campaign already displayed the features of future attempts at forced assimilation of Pomaks in Bulgaria: their common point of departure was the notion that Pomaks "in fact" were Bulgarians, and that their Muslim faith was based on forced, non-voluntary conversion. Assimilatory measures were therefore directed against all visible cultural features of Pomak life, which separated them from the Christian majority population. Since Pomak habits and costumes were very much determined and formed by religion or even expressed in form of religious rituals, eradicating all signs of Islamic culture was the foremost aim of assimilation. This could be realized through "Christianizing", as well as later through the Communist battle against all forms of religion. Turkish-Arabic names, Muslim prayers and holidays, religious rituals, and traditional dresses of women (their traditional trousers, shalvari, and the veil, feredzhe) as well as for men (the fez) were to become the main focii of assimilation. The struggle for - and against - assimilation was thus fought mainly on the battlefield of cultural symbols. The ultimate failure to assimilate Pomaks was caused exactly by this fact: assimilation could not be reached only through attacks on the symbolic manifestations of Pomak culture, without changing the economic and social basis of Pomak life. But Pomaks would prove very successful in keeping their traditional ways of life, and they even managed to adjust their culture to radically changing political and economic circumstances. Without any economic benefits, assimilation was doomed to fail. This had been also the case with the forced conversion in 1912: as soon as the troops left the Rhodopes with the priests following them, Pomaks without exception returned to Islam. Moreover, after having lost the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria was forced in the peace-treaty of Bucharest to guarantee all Muslims on its territory the right to freedom of religion. Apart from this, the new Bulgarian government sought a rapprochement with the Ottoman Empire, which was to become its ally in the First World War. So, the only lasting effect of forced mass-conversion was to increase the already existing alienation of Pomaks from the Bulgarian state. For many Pomaks, Christianization was the ultimate ground to leave Bulgaria for Turkey (GEORGIEV / TRIFONOV 1995, p. 9). 

After World War One, the Bulgarian government considerably relaxed its minority policies. This affected mostly the Turkish minority, however. Pomaks did not enjoy specific minority rights and were often treated as second class Bulgarians. They became gradually integrated into the Bulgarian school-system, but their general ways of life did not change very much. Nor did their self-identity change: a worried observer wrote in 1931: "Talking about themselves, the Bulgarian Mohammedans call themselves 'Turks'. If you tell them that they are not Turks, but Bulgarians of Mohammedan belief, they will look at you with big eyes, as if they are threatened by great harm" (Rodopi 1931). Four years later, the human geographer Ivan Batakliev put it bluntly: "The Bulgaro-Mohammedan population has no Bulgarian national consciousness" (BATAKLIEV 1935, p. 187).

In 1937 a second cycle of assimilation began with the foundation of the organization "Rodina" (motherland). Its efforts were directed towards the inclusion of Pomaks into the Bulgarian majority society as ethnic Bulgarians. In the beginning, the organization drew its members predominantly from educated Bulgarian Muslims, and its main means were education and "enlightenment". During World War Two, however, the activities of this organization became increasingly harsh. Activists would publicly tear down fezes and feredzhes. Beatings and humiliations of fellow Bulgarian Muslims who refused to renounce their Islamic belief and customs were not uncommon. Finally, the campaign - with support from the authoritarian Bulgarian government - turned to changing names. Immediately after the Communist takeover on September 9, 1944, the Rodina-movement was defined as "fascist" and thus forbidden. The reinstitution of Turkish-Arabic names and dress was allowed, and most Pomaks made use of this right (see: KONSTANTINOV 1992b, pp. 345f.). Again, the Pomaks were re-instituted in their traditional "Otherness".

Despite this relaxation of assimilatory pressures during the first years of Communist rule, the Communist government soon reaffirmed its policy towards minorities. Pomaks were again regarded as Bulgarians, but with one shortcoming: they were Muslims. Of course, Communists interpreted this flaw not in religious, but in social and political terms. Belonging to Islam was equated with being pre-modern, backward, and an obstacle in building a Communist society. In the eyes of Communist party and state officials, the whole Pomak social and cultural organization represented remains of the old order. It was only a question of time when the Party would turn against Pomaks to bring them back into the future (see: BRUNNBAUER 1998). Parallel to various assimilatory measures which lacked however a clear strategic goal and which were mostly results of fears concerning problems at the border to Greece (see: KONSTANTINOV 1992b, pp. 346-349), the Communist regime gave much attention to the "academic" proof of the ethnic Bulgarian character of the Pomaks. This eventually would be the basis of wholehearted efforts to make Pomaks, finally, the "Self" during the 1970's.

Extensive ethnographic, historical, and other writings about the Pomaks were intended to prove that, even after conversion to Islam, Pomaks had continued to keeping their Bulgarian language, together with Christian and even some pagan traditions and customs, and thus were pure Bulgarians (see for example: VRANCHEV 1948; VASILEV 1961; VAKARELSKI 1966). Much emphasis was given to the explanation as to why Pomaks were Muslims. The assumption of voluntary conversion or, even worse, the idea that Pomaks were descended from pre-Ottoman Muslim populations in the Balkans, would have put their ethnic self-consciousness as Bulgarians in doubt. The only option was to invent a history of forceful Islamization. The logic of this argument was: Ottomans, or "Turks" as they are called in most Bulgarian popular history books, tried to absorb part of Bulgarians' "Self" folk, but they did not manage to alienate them completely from "Us". Thus, Bulgarian Muslims essentially remained kin to Christian Bulgarians, who had only to remind them of this fact, if necessary by harsh means.

The most ambitious and authoritative of those histories of Bulgarian Muslims is the book "On the Past of the Bulgarian Mohammedans in the Rhodopes". It was edited in 1958 by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and had gathered some of the best known and most respected Bulgarian historians of recent times, like Vera Mutafchieva and Nikolai Todorov, for its composition. This book reflects the official as well as the popular way of thinking about Pomaks. Thus it anticipated the name-changing campaign of 1971-1974 which formed the first phase of the so-called "Process of Rebirth" among Bulgaria's Muslim populations. In that process, all Pomaks had to change their Turkish-Arabic names into Bulgarian ones (for more details of the renaming-process see: KONSTANTINOV / ALHAUG 1995). The Academy's book can be viewed as the consequence of a cultural policy that considered the Pomaks as Bulgarians, but with a certain shortcoming, a blemish - their Islamic religion.

The part of the book which interests us most is the chapter on "The enforced Islamization of the Rhodope Bulgarians". The author, Nikolai Todorov, was one of the few Bulgarian historians who had been publishing in the West before 1989. He explains Islam among the Pomaks as deriving from two waves of forced conversion to Islam, one in the 16th century and the other in the second half of the 17th century. The main sources for Todorov's assertion are two chronicles, allegedly written in the 18th century, "not long after the events" (Bulgarska Akademiya na Naukite 1958, p. 68). Todorov concedes that both chronicles were lost and that we know of them only from secondary sources.

Most likely, these chronicles are simply fakes which were made in the context of Bulgaria's national awakening. One author after the other perpetuated the quotation of these alleged sources without the slightest attempt at verification. A whole literature was built on very few documents which were often fakes. But the point is that this (hi)story, however contrived, was accepted as genuine. What was created, was a genre with a number of constantly repeated topics. One of these features is an incident in which "some Bulgarians who preferred to be killed or to leave their homes rather than to adopt Islam. They stayed devoted to their grandfathers' faith. Others converted to Islam under the threat of death. They did so in order to save their lives. But although they changed their faith they did not cease to be sons of their people" (Bulgarska Akademiya na Naukite 1958, p. 70).

Other themes which do not miss in most of the accounts about Pomaks are: "In every Pomak village there is at least one grave of a Christian who was killed by the Ottomans for his protest against Islamization." Another recurrent motif is that a lot of toponyms "recall" the Christian past of the Pomaks and the victims of enforced Islamization. Such names are, for example, derivatives from words like "church", "blood", "bride" or "virgin". The story is that villages in the Rhodopes bearing such names had been founded by Christian fugitives who had hid in the forests, having fled from Ottoman troops. Another point is made by emphasizing the good everyday relations between Pomaks and Christians, and the bad ones between Pomaks and Turks. A popular story relates that one of these two communities had come to the rescue of the other during wartime: Pomaks rescuing Christians from retreating Ottoman troops during the Liberation War of 1877/8, or, vice versa, Christians providing defense for the Pomaks in the face of the advancing Russian army. Indisputable massacres, such as the ones in the Christian villages of Batak and Perushtica in 1876, or the expulsion of the Pomak population of some Rhodope villages in 1912, are, if they cannot be ignored at all, attributed to a small group of fanatics in both communities and to the senseless and fatal policy of the state. So it is claimed that nothing could destroy the "Bulgarianness" of the Pomaks. They continued to keep their Bulgarian ethnicity against all odds. The main premise of such versions of history is that not religion, but language defines ethnicity: "They (the Pomaks) speak an old and pure Bulgarian language, which is the best proof of their Bulgarian origin" (Bulgarska Akademiya na Naukite 1958, p. 72). Thus, Pomaks are Bulgarians, but with a certain defect: i.e. that they do not belong to the Christian community, but cling to the faith of the former oppressor. This can be rectified however and the Pomaks can be returned ("reborn") into their true and pure "Bulgarianness". The removal of that defect was seen as a cultural (anthroponymic) operation which could be imposed on the Pomaks by employing violence if necessary. Books like the academic volume referred to above anticipated such operations.

The last conversion cycle, which started in 1971, was the most brutal and vigorous one (for a good description of this campaign and the resistance against it from the perspective of a small town in the Rhodopes see: KARAGIANNIS 1995, pp. 20ff.). The assimilation translated the academics' thoughts on Pomaks into policies. It was carried out with administrative orders and with the support of the army, the secret police, special police forces, and para-military troops. Any attempt to resist the measures - and there have been such - was crushed by force. An unknown number of Pomaks, who refused to accept their new names, were killed or injured, several hundred people were interned in the notorious prison camp on the Belene Island in the Danube.

The Communist Party aimed at the destruction of all symbolic representations of a distinctive Pomak culture. Not only names, but also traditions and customs, as well as wearing of traditional costumes were forbidden. The idea was to remove all public symbols of the Pomaks' different faith and different culture - an ambition which unwittingly laid bare the fact that such differences did exist. Another point which the authorities were trying to make was that the campaign of "rebirth" was a voluntary step towards modernization, thus the Socialist State was helping the Pomaks to escape their "backwardness" - a backwardness identified with Islam.

Thus we can observe a process in which academic or literary fictions, created by historians, ethnographers and writers on the topic of the Pomaks as forcefully Islamicized Bulgarians, escalated to a military operation designed to bring the Pomaks back into a state of complete "Bulgarianness". In this process, all representations which could serve as a basis for a distinguished Pomak identity, or even worse - for a Turkish one - were targeted for extinction. 

After 1989 the Pomak identity was again open for redefinition, because soon after the fall of Todor Zhivkov's regime all legal discriminatory measures against Muslims were abolished. Pomaks could take back their old Turkish-Arabic names, they could again dress traditionally, and the were allowed to profess their faith openly and without restrictions. For Bulgarian nationalists, this was a traumatic experience: "For short-sighted political gains the minds of the people [i.e. the Bulgarian Muslims] were again confused. [...] In the district of Smolyan, cassettes with prayers and commentary in a foreign language, which nobody understands, are distributed, muddling the consciousness of our brothers [the Bulgarian Muslims]" (PECHILKOV 1993, p. 18). Historians like Pechilkov as well as other scholars still believe in the stories of forceful conversion of the Pomaks. For them, Pomaks are Bulgarians, and nothing else. The more liberal of them would define Pomaks as an ethnographic group like others in Bulgaria. But not as a minority. This view is also upheld by many teachers as well as in schools and at universities.

The official view of the Pomaks has been rather inconsistent since 1989. The main fear seems to be "Turkization" of the Pomaks, which is also fueled by the traditional feeling of being threatened by Islam (see: BRUNNBAUER 1997). Newspapers have been full of reports on - alleged or actual - activities of fundamentalist missionaries. During the discussions on the ratification of the Framework Convention on National Minorities in 1997 and 1998, it became clear that neither the majority society nor its political representatives were willing to accept Pomaks as a "national minority". In terms of nationality (ethnicity), they are still regarded as Bulgarians. The official view now seems to favor the definition of Pomaks as a religious minority. However, some Bulgarian historians, ethnographers and ethnologists tried to study Pomak communities without any ideological bias (KONSTANTINOV 1992a, 1992b., [together with Gulbrand Alhaug] 1995, 1997; KALYONSKI 1993; PANAYOTOVA 1994; ZHELYAZKOVA et al. 1997; ZHELYAZKOVA 1998; the ethnographic films produced by Asen Balikci on Pomak everyday-life should also be mentioned). One result of these studies is the view that Pomaks do not necessarily regard themselves as Bulgarians. Thus, researchers could firmly establish an unbiased approach, which hopefully will also influence the opinion of the dominant society and the main political actors. 

3.2. The Pomaks of Greece

In 1919 in annexing Western Thrace, Greece acquired also a considerable Pomak population. During the population exchange between Greece and Turkey after the treaty of Lausanne in 1923, many Pomaks had to leave Greece and migrate to Turkey. But nevertheless, around 20,000-40,000 plus Pomaks continued to settle in the Greek parts of the Rhodopes, mainly north of the towns of Komotini and Xanthi (SEYPPEL 1989, p. 41).

The Greek perception of and attitude towards Pomaks resulted from the Greek concept of nation: "Greekness and citizenship in the new state were intricately connected with membership in the Greek Orthodox Church, and so it has endured to the present" (POULTON 1997, p. 83). Therefore, Pomaks could not qualify as "Greeks". Their remaining in Greece was mainly a result of international stipulations in the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which forced Greece to grant minority status to its Muslim population between the Nestos and Evros rivers (SEYPPEL 1992, p. 377). Those Muslims were exempted from expulsion or "exchange".

During the inter-war period, official Greece continued to regard Pomaks as Turks. Pomaks did not enjoy any specific minority rights, but only those Greece had to grant to its Muslim population in general. If attending school at all, Pomak children would attend either Turkish minority schools (in Komotini and Xanthi) or Greek schools. In the area which was most densely inhabited by Pomaks there were only Greek schools, and therefore school-attendance was very limited (SEYPPEL 1989, p. 44). Religious institutions were firmly controlled by Turks. The Greek government developed no great interest in the Pomaks, leaving this Muslim population open to heavy assimilatory pressure from the larger Turkish population. Attitudes of the Greek government towards the Pomaks changed after the Second World War, when Bulgarian troops occupied Western Thrace and had subjected the Pomaks of Western Thrace to a vigorous Bulgarization campaign. As a reaction to this, in the Greek Civil War, Pomaks were regarded as the fifth column of Bulgaria and of communism. This was also related to the fact, that due to Soviet involvement in the Civil War, the Greek government stopped regarding Turkey as the main threat, and redirected its attention towards Bulgaria. It was now the "threat from the North" which would determine Greek foreign policy. Similar to the fate of Slav Macedonians in Greece, who supported the Communist side in the Civil War, the Pomaks became the object of military action. Their areas of settlement were declared closed military zones, which could be entered and left only with special permissions. Foreigners could not enter them at all (SARIDES 1987, p. 13). This status did not change until recently.

As the example of the Civil War shows, Greek policy towards Pomaks was mainly a reaction to foreign policy considerations. As soon as Bulgaria posed a threat to Greece, the Greek government assessed the Pomaks as a group, which had something in common with Bulgarians and thus could be used by that hostile state. However, this change in perception did not lead to a theoretical re-assessment of the ethnic or national character of the Pomaks, but it remained on a pragmatic and strategic level. In fact, popular opinion as well as official policy continued to regard the Pomaks as Turks. This view was strengthened by the Cold War (SARIDES 1987, p. 20; POULTON 1997, p. 85). In 1954, the government even ordered the replacement of the terms "Muslim" with "Turk" or "Turkish" "for every respective case" (for the text of the order, see: ANDREADES 1956, p. 14). Pomaks were obliged to learn Turkish and they had to call themselves "Turks" (POULTON 1997, p. 85). Moreover Turkey was at least a NATO-partner, and Pomaks as "Turks" were supposed to pose a lesser threat than Pomaks as "Muslim Bulgarians". Thus the Greek government even encouraged assimilation of Pomaks into the Turkish population. With this policy, Greece intended to show the international community that the Turkish population of Cyprus had no reason whatsoever to fear Greek rule over the island and that Muslims were not threatened by discriminatory or assimilative measures in Greece (MEINARDUS 1985, p. 58). But the Greek-Turkish honeymoon was only short-lived. Since the 1960s, as the Turkish government showed no signs of approving unification of Greece and Cyprus, tensions grew and both countries have been on the brink of war several times. Especially after the successful military coup-d'étate from April 21 1967, the Greek government started to suppress Greece's Muslim minorities. Muslims were discriminated in their access to land and had many difficulties in receiving various permissions and licenses (MEINARDUS 1985, pp. 58f.).

But during the 1950s, other views of the Pomaks were raised, too; e.g., K. G. Andreades, a retired officer of the then Royal Greek police, wrote in 1956: "At any rate, the term 'Turks' is not ethnologically correct since, according to the numbers listed above, among the Muslims of Western Thrace, there are 26.592 Pomaks [...], who have no linguistic affinity with the Turks; they speak a slav tongue mixed with many Greek words. Ethnologically they are probably descendants of the old Thracians (Agrians)" (ANDREADES 1956). The Pomaks had allegedly even "philhellenic sentiments", notwithstanding their "fanatic attachment to Mohammedanism". Therefore, "they are not very popular with the Neo-Turks". Neither were they with the Bulgarians, as "it is also well known that the Bulgarians turned against them with much hatred especially during World War I, on account of their deep attachment to Greece" (ANDREADES 1956, p. 10).

It took a shift in Greece's foreign policy in order to win official approval of such theories. This did happen after the worsening of relations between Greece and Turkey as a consequence of the crisis over Cyprus: in 1968 the ruling Colonels canceled the decree of 1954 (SARIDES 1987, p. 20). What was to follow was without any doubt the deepest change in official Greece's perception of Pomaks, as Pomaks virtually became regarded as Greeks. The "Other" was finally made the "Self" in Greece, too. The democratic governments continued this policy after the fall of the colonels in 1974. In 1990, the two main political parties, conservative Nea Demokratija and socialist PASOK reached a compromise on minority policies, which was to be based on the division of the Muslim minority in order to reduce the influence of ethnic Turkish politicians (POULTON 1997, p. 86). In order to substantiate this policy, many Greek historians, ethnographers and anthropologists tried to produce evidence that the Pomaks were neither Turks nor Bulgarians, but of Greek - or at least Thracian - ethnic descent. The basic theory was that Pomaks had descended from ancient, classical Thracian tribes who have been subsequently Hellenized, Romanized, Slavized, Christianized, and finally Islamicized. Greek scholars who participated in this campaign in order to prove the "Greekness" of the Pomaks based their theories, above all, on two bases - linguistic and racial: firstly, they inferred the Greek ethnic origin of the Pomaks from some Greek words in their idiom; secondly, blood group categories were cited in order to prove that the distribution of blood groups among Pomaks was much more similar to that among Greeks, than the one among Turks or Bulgarians. Other racial arguments were put forward, too: it was regarded as evidence of the Pomaks' Indo-European, Greek, origins that more blond, blue-eyed, and fair-skinned persons could be observed among them than among Turks (see: SEYPPEL 1989, p. 42). Some authors also regarded Pomaks as descendants of Thraco-Greeks (see: SEYPPEL 1992, pp. 389f.).

The language argument was, of course, difficult to sustain, as the Pomaks clearly speak a Slav idiom. But some Greek authors claimed that Pomaks used several ancient Greek words which had been lost in modern Greek. In making this argument, they could refer to the work of the well known Greek historian Stilpon Kyriakides (professor at the University of Thessaloniki and corresponding member of the Academy of Athens), who by 1946 alleged that the most important words in the idiom spoken by Pomaks have a Greek etymology. This was taken as unequivocal proof that in former times Pomaks must have been bilingual (see: SEYPPEL 1992, p. 387). This argument is strikingly similar to the Bulgarian assumption that Pomak dialects are close to the "original" Bulgarian of the times of the period Saints Cyrill and Methodius. By these means Pomaks were transformed from status as the "Other" to one of a better, purer version of "Self".

The most consistent efforts to prove the Greek character of the Pomaks by academic means date from the 1980s. One author urged the government to develop a policy which aimed at separating Pomaks from Turks, as both are not bound together by "racial ties". "It is therefore unavoidable to conduct a campaign of enlightenment among the Pomaks in order to inform them about their origin and that racial kinship of them with Turks does not exist. [...] The Greek authorities must show their great interest and all their love for the Pomaks, who must regard themselves as Greek Muslims" (cf. SEYPPEL 1992, p. 381).

Generally, most of the material published on Pomaks only tried to prove, how close they were to Greeks. One of the most influential works in this respect are Nikolaou Xirotiri's physical-anthropological race studies on Pomaks. This author wants to employ an "biological", and thus "objective", approach. He concedes that Pomaks speak a Bulgarian dialect. "This, however", as he continues, "does not say anything about their origin, the more so as in the Balkans populations of different origins and of various anthropological kinds had been Islamicized and linguistically Slavized" (XIROTIRIS 1975, p. 126). Xirotiris tries to reconstruct the Pomaks" - or "Achryans'", as he calls them - origins by means of metric measurements, dermatology, and serology. He measured the skulls of Pomaks and determined the colors of their hair, skin, and eyes. According to these indicators, the author claims that the Achryans (Greek Pomaks) have to be separated from the Bulgarian Pomaks (XIROTIRIS 1975, p. 127). Another indicator, which Xirotiris used, was fingerprints. These also lead him to the conclusion that Greek and Bulgarian Pomaks are two different populations (XIROTIRIS 1975, p. 128). In his summary, Xirotiris writes: "thus we could prove that Achryans [Greek Pomaks] and Pomaks are two anthropologically different population groups" (XIROTIRIS 1975, p. 129), suggesting that Achryans are more closely linked to the majority Greek population than to Bulgarians.

The political rationale of this Greek attitude towards Pomaks was to cut all ties between Pomaks and Turks respectively Turkey on the one hand, and to prevent any identification of the Pomaks with Bulgaria. The latter has to be seen in context of the - as it seemed to the Greeks - obviously successful Bulgarian assimilation campaign of 1971-74. The actual policy of the Greek government was thoroughly in accordance with those above mentioned "scientific", i.e. racist, findings and suggestions. During the 1970s and 1980s, Greek-speaking kindergartens and schools were established in Pomak areas in order to diminish Turkish influence on Pomaks, imposed through education. However, if we can believe the Turkish Media, those kindergartens and schools remained rather empty. 

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Greek government is now confronted with a completely new situation. Bulgaria ceased to be the main strategic threat to Greece, and Turkey again took this place, despite of the common NATO-membership of both countries. On the other hand, the Greek government had to concede the complete failure of its policies towards the Pomaks. Instead of integrating and gradually assimilating them into Greek majority society, Pomaks had either adopted a wholehearted Turkish identity or had remained in a situation of switching, multiple identities. Their religious identity is still based on identification with Islam, and often without any ethnic components - that means an identification, which rejects all the important features of nation state and/or ethnic concepts of fixed identity. Similarly to Bulgaria, the Greek government had pursued a policy of forced symbolic identification of Pomaks with Greeks, without accompanying measures which would have made a change to Greek identity attractive for Pomaks. Assimilation attempts remained superimposed and on the level of symbolic manifestations of identity and culture. Popular opinion also could not be changed. It might have regarded Pomaks somehow as Greeks, but would never have accepted them as full-fledged Greeks. Greeks see Pomaks closer to Turks than to themselves.

The eventual economic and social policies towards the Pomaks had contradicted all attempts to making them Greeks. Until in the late 1980s and early 1990s the Pomaks have remained administratively confined to their isolated areas in Western Thrace. Their access to land and to cheap credits was severely limited, and the authorities neglected infrastructure improvement in this region until the 1980s. Muslims continue to be subjected to an unofficial policy of discrimination and exclusion from the local labor market. Moreover, Pomaks often lack relevant training for better jobs and are thus especially vulnerable against labor shortages (TRUBETA 1998, pp. 654f.). Pomaks simply had and have no incentive to abandon their traditional identity and to adopt a new one, which is hostile to their main identity marker, Islam. On the other hand, this attitude leads to accusations from Greeks that Pomaks deliberately isolate themselves from Greek society. Pomaks are often described as religious fanatics, untrained, backward, and submissive (TRUBETA 1998, p. 655). As a result, it "appears incontestable that the Pomak community of Western Thrace is becoming Turkicized; hence the Greek government's minority policy seems to have failed" (POULTON 1997, pp. 90f.). Younger Pomaks especially support the radical rhetoric of ethnic Turkish leaders and often use the Turkish language instead of the Bulgarian spoken at home by their parents and grandparents.

During the last few years, the Greek government seems to have somewhat changed its attitudes towards the Pomaks, tacitly confessing the failure of assimilation. As a consequence, the military regime in the Pomak settlement area was relaxed. Their settlements became more accessible and their right to movement was lesser restricted. Pomaks joined the general migration trends from rural areas to towns and from the mountains to the plains (for contemporary social developments among the Greek Pomak community see: TRUBETA 1998). And finally, there have been attempts to perceive the Pomaks as a distinct group, which is neither Bulgarian, Turkish, nor Greek - though close to the latter. In Saloniki in 1996, a Greek-Pomak dictionary and a Pomak grammar have been published. Some authors stress again the alleged Thracian origins of Pomaks, what would bring them ethnically closer to Greeks than to Bulgarians (see: POULTON 1997, p. 89, fn. 18). The overall strategy behind those re-interpretations of Pomak ethnic and national identification seems to support a feeling of distinctness among the Greek Pomaks in a situation where the administrative separation of them from Pomaks in Bulgaria is ever more difficult to sustain and the negative economic consequences of this policy become more obvious. But these attempts to create a separate Greek Pomak identity are doomed to fail, too, as Pomaks regard all official attempts to manipulate their identity with great suspicion.

4. Ethnic Turks in Bulgaria and Greece: the foe or the lost "Self"?

In contrast to perception of Pomaks, ethnic Turks were initially regarded as such both by the Greek and Bulgarian nation states, although Greece referred to them as "Muslims". However, without any doubt, Turks represented the main "Other" during the national revolutions of Greeks and Bulgarians, both on the level of official policies and ideology, and of popular sentiment.

Bulgaria after 1878, and even more so after 1912, and Greece after 1919, hosted large Turkish minorities. In both countries, Turks were killed and expelled in great numbers in a first wave of nation-building, in order to make the national borders and ethnic boundaries converge (see above). But as soon as this ceased to be possible due to international obligations, Bulgaria and Greece had to find other ways of dealing with their Turkish minorities. Unlike the Pomaks, no voices were raised which intended to include the Turks in the nation. On the contrary, neither the Greek nor the Bulgarian state gave much attention to the integration of the Turkish minorities into their administrative and societal structures. Turks were granted some important minority rights (like schooling in their native language, political representation, newspapers and journals in Turkish, freedom of religion) due to obligations emanating from international treaties, but neither the Bulgarian nor the Greek governments seriously tried to assimilate Turks. Turks remained excluded from the social mainstream.

Bulgarian and Greek nationalism defined membership in their nations by the criteria of language and religion. Turks met neither. They were viewed as the "Other" who carried a sequence of opposite features to the definition of a Bulgarian and a Greek. Turks belonged to an alien faith, spoke another language, and did not derive their ancestry from the same origins as Bulgarians and Greeks. Even more, they came with the former oppressors and, therefore, remained a constant reminder of those times now known as the "Ottoman yoke" or "Ottoman slavery". Bulgarian and Greek schoolbooks portrayed Turks as the "Other", who neither historically, nor from a contemporary perspective, belonged to the "Self" (MUTAFCHIEVA 1995, p. 26). On the level of popular perception and everyday contact, ideological constructs of Turks as the "Other" were constantly being reproduced, as ethnic Turks did not adjust to the societal mechanisms of the surrounding majority society: instead, they kept to their own traditions, beliefs, and habits.

The first important shift in perception of Turks was the one from religious/ethnic "Otherness" to social "Otherness", at least as regards official ideology and propaganda. This change was more detectable in Bulgaria than in Greece, as it was mainly Communist ideology which broke with the religious definition of nation. The view of the Turks as the religious and ethnic "Other" was step by step replaced by the perception of Turks as socially different. This view was also connected with religion, because Islam was regarded as a particular backward ideology. Backwardness became a popular label for Turks in Greece, too. Authors who did not deny the existence of an ethnic Turkish minority at all attributed to them features of extreme backwardness: "Their low level [of education] is a consequence of their religious beliefs and their inborn laziness" (Giannis Magkriotis, cf. SEYPPEL 1992, p. 378). Thus, even modern perception of Turks could refer to the traditional notion of faith as an ethnic marker.

Religion and the notion of "backwardness" would play a particular important role, how the Bulgarian Communist regime dealt with its Turkish population. After 1950, Bulgarian authorities began to perceive Turks not only as a threat because of their hostile kin nation state, but also as obstacles to modernizing the country in a communist way. Muslim minorities in Bulgaria as well as in Greece showed a very depressed level of education and of integration into the formal labor market. Muslim women were particularly affected by underdevelopment. Illiteracy rates of Muslims were much above the national average, as minority education was carried out by religious schools, which often did not meet the most elementary standards for modern education. On the other hand, many Muslims refused to send their children into official, majority schools. 

4.1. Ethnic Turks in Bulgaria

After a few years of official tolerance and non-discrimination after 1944, the Bulgarian Communist regime completely changed its minority policy. The basic cause was the Muslims' reluctance to join the wave of modernization, which was the main goal of Communist rule in Bulgaria. The clash between communist modernization efforts and the quiet resistance by ethnic Turks led to a huge wave of emigration of Turks to Turkey in 1950-1951. According to rough estimates, 155.000 ethnic Turks left Bulgaria within less than a year (HÖPKEN 1992, p. 360f.). This emigration was also a kind of protest against a Bulgarian policy, which aimed at integrating ethnic Turks by creating a secular, "Communist" Turkish élite and establishing a non-religious life-style for ethnic Turks. Most of the Turks regarded those modernization attempts more as an attack on their traditional identity, which was closely connected with Islam rather than as a positive development. After acknowledging the failure of its tolerant policies after 1944, the Bulgarian Communist government again resorted to forced emigration as a mean to ease ethnic tensions. Socialist ideology obviously could not be accommodated to the mentality and the habits of Bulgaria's Turks. The best illustration is collectivization, which did not pay any attention to the peculiarities of Turkish life-style. It destroyed traditional livelihoods on which Turkish identity was based. For example, it aimed at integrating women into the public sphere and the formal economy - two developments, traditional Turks could only oppose. Many Turks who had migrated to Turkey later said, that collectivization and the revolution in everyday life had forced them to leave socialist Bulgaria (see: HÖPKEN 1992, p. 363). 

After 1951, the Bulgarian Communist government again changed its attitude towards Turks. It started a policy of integration through education and secularization of Turkish culture. To some extent, this policy succeeded: during the 1950s the educational level of the Turkish population was raised considerably. A Turkish party-élite was also formed. But this liberal period of Bulgarian minority policy, which aimed at assimilation by integration, and not by force, did not last long. The Cold War and increasing tensions between Bulgaria and Turkey soon changed the party's perception of Turks in Bulgaria. Once again, they were labeled potential enemies, a probable fifth column of NATO-member Turkey. The Party now was even afraid of unintended consequences of its cultural liberalism among Turks: the secular Turkish élite, after having renounced religion as their main identity marker, was now supposed to turn to Kemalism and secular Turkish nationalism as more recent forms of Turkish self-consciousness. The growing class of well-educated Turks indeed was very well aware of its national, i.e. Turkish -no longer only Muslim - identity (TRÖBST 1987, p. 240). The Communist party had hoped that progress in education would reduce the role of religion but, in fact, it unintentionally laid the ground for secular Turkish nationalism in Bulgaria. The party's answer to this new situation was easily found: instead of raising the national consciousness of Turks in Bulgaria, it intended to establish a firm socialist identity among Turks as well as among all other population groups. This shift of perception was to become the starting point of a campaign, which in its final stage would deny the very existence of Turks in Bulgaria.

The new view of Turks in Bulgaria was laid down in the statement of the Party's Central Committee plenary session in April, 1956. It claimed that "Bulgarian Turks are an inseparable part of the Bulgarian people". Cultural autonomy ought to be downgraded, in order to making the Turks merge into the uniform, socialist Bulgarian nation (MUTAFCHIEVA 1995, p. 29). This nation, of course, would speak only Bulgarian. The April 1956 plenary session was to become a watershed in Bulgaria's minority policies. From then on, Bulgaria's policy towards her minorities was aimed at eliminating all signs of their "Otherness". As a result, one minority group after the other was claimed to be "Bulgarian" by nationality and ethnicity. Those ethnic markers which came under the fiercest attacks were religion, names, dress codes and finally language.

Those policies of "national rebirth" were first conducted among the smaller Muslim minorities (Muslim Roma and Pomaks) who became something like a training-ground for the final assimilation attempt with the Turks. Since the late 1950s, these Muslim populations, which were allegedly Bulgarians, were said to be in danger of being "Turkicized" by the larger Turkish minority. In order to substantiate this policy, the Bulgarian population was brainwashed with new arguments for the "Otherness" of Turks. On the other hand, the Bulgarian character of the other Muslim minorities had to be proved, in order to assimilate them totally into the ethnic Bulgarian population. At this moment, neither official ideology nor - and even much less - popular perception would have yet denied the fact that the Turkish speaking Muslim population of Bulgaria formed part of a distinct ethnic group with a kin-nation state, that is Turkey. The mainstream view was, as Ali Eminov wrote: "Until the late 1970s Bulgarian historians not only acknowledged the existence of a sizable Turkish minority in Bulgaria but also located the origins of this minority outside the Balkan peninsula" (EMINOV 1997, p. 8). But by the late 1970s, even ethnic Turks were increasingly considered Islamicized and Turkicized Bulgarians.

This view was initially propagated only by some authors, but with changing political circumstances in the 1970s and early 1980s it was generally accepted. The most important events in this process were the Bulgarian constitution of 1971, which did not mention "minorities", but only "Bulgarian citizens of non-Bulgarian origin", and the elimination of Turkish as the language of instruction in minority schools. Even the department of Turkish studies at the University of Sofia was closed down to be reopened and renamed as the department of Arabic studies. In 1977, the Communist Party of Bulgaria stated that "Bulgarians are almost of one ethnic type and are moving towards complete homogeneity" (MUTAFCHIEVA 1995, p. 31). There was constant pressure on Turks to abandon their traditional dresses as well as habits. The latter, which were mostly related to rites de passage which were replaced by secular rituals under the control of the state (TRÖBST 1987, p. 246). But all those assimilatory measures failed; the Turkish population of Bulgaria remained a group which differed from the majority population in its language, its dress codes, its habits, its religion, its demographic behavior , and its self-perception. Finally, the Party therefore turned to the most radical attempt of "solving" the Turkish question: in 1984 it officially declared the Bulgarian Turks to be Bulgarians. They were no longer perceived as a different ethnic group, but as ethnic Bulgarians who had been forced to adopt Islam and Turkish as their mother tongue under the "Ottoman Yoke". Like Pomaks, Turks were now viewed as Bulgarian Muslims, and since religion could not determine ethnic belonging, they were real Bulgarians whose ethnic identity had gotten lost but could now be restored. As a consequence, their Bulgarian names were to be renewed, a process which started in June 1984 and intensified in December of that year (for a detailed description of the "process of rebirth" see: STOYANOV 1998, pp. 160-200). The second most important and visible measure was a ban on the use of Turkish in public. The Turkish-language daily Yeni ishik (New Light) began to appear only in Bulgarian, Turkish place-names were changed, the observance of Muslim customs was strictly banned, Turkish tomb-stones were destroyed, in some libraries even Turkish-Bulgarian dictionaries disappeared. This radical Bulgarization campaign was accompanied by a wave of "academic" literature which tried to prove the Bulgarian ethnic character of Bulgarian Turks.

By the early 1980s, Turks had increasingly disappeared from official Bulgarian history (for examples see: EMINOV 1997, p. 9). A lot of research was undertaken to produce pseudoacademic "evidence" for the Bulgarian origins of ethnic Turks. The common historical explanation of the existence of "Turks" in Bulgaria was that they had descended from Islamicized and further Turkicized Bulgarians. It was said that there had been several means of accomplishing Islamization and Turkization which were allegedly the carefully directed policies of the Sultans: enslavement of Christian Bulgarians, devshirme (the forced recruitment by the Ottomans of Christian boys into the Janissery corps and the administration), marriage of Muslim soldiers and Ottoman officials to Christian women, who had then to convert to Islam, and finally conversion to Islam by coercion. All this had been the standard repertoire for proving the Bulgarian character of the Pomaks, but now it was also applied on the Turkish-speaking Muslims. "There was the Ottoman policy of imposing the language of the ruling ethnic group upon the Islamicized population. The new Muslims were required to speak Turkish. [...] For those who refused to speak Turkish various sanctions were used, including the cutting off of their tongues" (KHRISTOV 1989, p. 101). So, all ethnic Turks, who had come to Bulgaria as colonizers, soldiers, and administrators, had allegedly left with the "liberation" of Bulgaria. "In the Bulgarian territories, only Mohammedans of proven Bulgarian descent have remained" (PETROV 1988, p. 16). These Islamicized and Turkicized Bulgarians allegedly had even fought against Ottoman domination, because they had been exploited by the feudal élite of the Ottoman empire in the same way as the Christian raya (literally: "flock", i.e. the non-Muslim, underprivileged inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire). Moreover, they had retained an "ubiquitous memory for their Bulgarian origins", and even in their language there had been "thousands" of Bulgarian words, and "Bulgarian proverbs as well as a Bulgarian syntax", not to speak of their essentially Bulgarian customs, habits, and dresses (PETROV 1988, pp. 49f). Physical anthropology, biology and medicine were also used in order to document that the Bulgarian Turks were ethnic Bulgarians. It was stated, for example, that Bulgarian Turks displayed a much higher share of fair-haired people than ethnic Turks in Turkey.

These theories were solely based on ideological considerations, and not on historical evidence. There had been neither a directed policy of Islamization nor of Turkization during Ottoman times. Neither Bosnian nor Bulgarian Muslims, nor Muslim Albanians had, for example, to abolish their native languages after converting to Islam. Nevertheless, those theories were widely believed and could even draw considerable support from Bulgarian intellectuals, who since the 1960s had been increasingly obsessed with questions of nationality and ethnicity. During the 1970s, intellectual endeavors to re-write Bulgarian national history in order to prove the continuity between modern Bulgaria and Great Bulgaria of the Middle Ages were connected with the name of Ljudmilla Zhivkova, daughter of the Bulgarian dictator and influential minister for culture. Ljudmilla Zhivkova was able to pursue a cultural policy which was both liberal, by Soviet-bloc standards, and vigorously nationalist. Her policies supported the idea of the unitary state with its deep and uninterrupted history since the Middle Ages. In such a state there was no accommodation for ethnic or other minorities. Thus, Zhivkova's approach, with its esoteric and pseudo-intellectual appearance, could gather the support of dissident and non-Communist intellectuals - especially historians and ethnographers - behind the common "national" goal of the "national rebirth" of Bulgaria's Turks. "National rebirth" was to extinguish all differences, which an oppressive history had created among the Bulgarian nation. Finally, all Bulgarians should have a Bulgarian socialist consciousness, which, in fact, was in no way internationalist. It was nothing more than the pseudo-socialist interpretation of Bulgarian ethnic nationalism.

The "process of rebirth" was intended to strengthen the body of the nation, because it was supposed to switch around 10 percent of the population from the notion of "Other" to that of "Self". But it ended in a disaster. The Bulgarian authorities met unexpected resistance when applying their assimilatory measures. They also were confronted with a wave of international critique. Western governments and NGOs, like Amnesty International, put the Bulgarian government under heavy pressure. The Turkish government Especially exploited the fatal Bulgarian policy. Even more important, the Bulgarians did not enjoy support of the Soviet Union, as in the era of perestroika and glasnost, coercive campaigns like the Bulgarian one were definitely outdated. Despite brutal enforcement of the assimilation measures, which took the lives of many people - and the freedom of many more, who were imprisoned -, internal opposition also could not be silenced. On the contrary, during 1988 and 1989 resistance intensified, with an emerging Turkish terrorist movement. Deaths and injuries were even officially reported (STOYANOV 1998, p. 204). In this situation, the regime tried to expel the Turkish masses and the political and intellectual leaders of the resistance against assimilation. The regime simply lifted restrictions for traveling abroad for the Turkish population of Bulgaria. Many of them took the chance to leave the country. From May until August 1989, more than 350.000 Turks departed. Their mass-emigration not only had serious consequences for the economy of the concerned regions, but also intensified the process of dissolution of Communist rule in Bulgaria. Consequently, one of the first important acts of the post-Zhivkov government (after the downfall of Todor Zhivkov on November 9, 1989), was to abolish the "process of national rebirth" and to lift its discriminatory bans and stipulations.

Summing up the logic of the "process of rebirth" from the point of view of the nation state, four main motives can be identified: 

(1) a feeling of threat coming from Islam and especially from Turkey, as well as from the alleged demographic potential of the Turkish population; 

(2) tensions resulting from an obvious contradiction between Communist rhetoric of modernity and the traditional life-style of the Muslim minorities; the Communist Party accepted that its policy of assimilation-through-secularization-and-integration had not only failed, but had led to increasing nationalist sentiments among the growing group of Turkish intellectuals; 

(3) the dominance of a strongly nationalistic faction in Communist Party leadership; and 

(4) the attempt to establish a national consensus at a time, when the traditional pillars of communist rule became weaker, partly due to the growing economic problems. 

After 1989, only the fiercest Bulgarian nationalists would claim that Bulgarian Turks were in fact Muslim Bulgarians. The official as well as popular common-sense perception in democratic Bulgaria was that the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority consisted mainly of ethnic Turks whose ancestors came from outside the Balkans. This view was also strengthened by the rapprochement with Turkey, who no longer posed a military threat to Bulgaria. Moreover, a party which is widely acknowledged as the "Turkish party" was established in 1989 and afterwards gained considerable support, as it could collect almost the whole Turkish vote. The party's careful and comprehensive policies, especially as regards minority policy, led to a considerable decrease of ethnic tensions and to a strong representation of Turks in Bulgarian national policy. I do not intend to paint an idyllic picture, because both Turks and Bulgarians continue to view each other with great suspicion. Tensions occurred, for example, concerning the restitution of the property of Turks, who had left in 1989 and later returned; or about the alleged attempts of assimilating the Pomaks into the larger Turkish community. Media as well as politicians often referred to missionaries from Arabic countries who would spread Islamic fundamentalism among the Muslims in Bulgaria. The involvement of the Islamic world - especially the rich Arab states - in renewing mosques and in supporting Islamic educational institutions is generally met with suspicion by the public. On an everyday level, many Bulgarians complain that, in a situation of economic crisis, the Turks could rely on help from Turkey and other Islamic countries, while nobody would care about the Bulgarians. Also the level of common engagement and of links with the other group - e.g. through inter-ethnic marriage (see: KARAMIKHOVA 1995) - continues to be low. Until now, traditional forms of interethnic communication and conflict resolution have, however, prevented serious clashes despite the negative mutual sentiments and despite of the often dramatic social and economic conditions. And the official perception of the Turks is now in conformity with reality and not any longer motivates political assaults on their identity. Turks are once again closer to the "Other" than to the "Self", but at least they are now accepted in their "Otherness" and ways are sought to integrate them as citizens of Bulgaria. The recent ratification of the "Framework Convention on National Minorities" by the Bulgarian parliament can be another important step towards a sustained policy of peaceful and democratic integration of Bulgaria's national minorities. 

4.2. Ethnic Turks in Greece

Compared to the Bulgarian case, the shifts in perception of Turks in Greece were much less spectacular. The main reason for this is the partnership of Greece and Turkey in NATO. Although it did and does not prevent constant conflicts and rhetoric of war between those countries, it at least confined the policy of each state towards the other to a level of conflict, which would not harm strategic interests of the USA in the region. Thus, a campaign of coercive "Greek" assimilation of Turks in Greece, similar to the Bulgarian "process of rebirth", would have been unthinkable. Moreover, Turks in Western Thrace are, due to the international treaty of Lausanne of 1923, the only recognized minority in Greece.

As already mentioned, the first main shift in Greek perception of Muslims on the territory of Greece concerned the change from viewing them as "Muslims" to regarding them as "Turks", i.e. a religious definition was replaced by an ethnic one. Later, the ethnic or linguistic categorization became even more important, and Greek Muslims were differentiated into "Turks", "Pomaks", "Roma" and other, smaller Muslim minorities. The minority which was initially defined and perceived as a religious one became divided into various national/ethnic groups. This change of perception was connected with increasing secularization, which led to a decreasing importance of religion as ethnic marker in favor of language and origin. Already during the late 1920s, Greek authorities began to refer to the Muslim population of Western Thrace as "Turks" (ANDREADES 1956, p. 47f.). This policy, which was related to a rapprochement between Greece and Turkey was continuing after 1945, intensified by both countries' anti-Communist orientation. Moreover, Greece sought to win international approve for unification of Cyprus with the Greek main-land with a non-discriminatory policy towards its Turkish minority (SARIDES 1987, p. 20; see above). After the 1960s Muslims in Greece ware again objects of official discrimination.

From the ideological point of view, the main consequence was an increasing tendency - at least among historians, ethnographers, and Greek administrators in the region - to regard the Turkish population of Western Thrace not as Turkish at all. The Greek perception of the Turks as their "lost Own" did not lead to the same political excesses as in Bulgaria, but it nevertheless could win considerable support. Otherwise, how should a population be treated, whose kin nation state was the main enemy since the late 1950s/early 1960s? Expulsion was impossible, hence it was a logical step to try to disrupt the links between this population and its homeland. Disruption would concern not only physical contacts and communication, but also the notion of belonging to the same nation.

Andreades wrote in 1956: "Among the 67.099 Turks of W. Thrace however, and according to the statistics of 1951, an important number are Greeks ethnologically, who had been forcibly converted to the Mohamedan religion, from the end of the 14th century onwards, when Thrace was under Turkish domination. This does not require any explanation. Turks are not in the least likely to have come as emigrants or settlers from the interior of Asia Minor" (Andreades 1956, p. 10). This author displayed the same way of thinking as the ideologues of the Bulgarian "process of rebirth".

During the 1980s, probably not only by chance at the same time, when the Bulgarian "process of rebirth" took place, the number of publications which denied the existence of a Turkish minority in Greece rose. In their book "The Muslim minority of Thrace", Neofytas Gonatas and Paraskevas Kydoniatis claimed that the Yuruks, a Turkish tribe of Central Anatolian transhumant sheep breeders, who were settled in large numbers in the Balkans after Ottoman conquest, were "most probably of Greek origin" (cf. SEYPPEL 1992, p. 379). Only a small part of the "Turkish" minority originates from the Ottoman conquerors. "Then, where are they, Turks in Thrace? Muslims, yes, Turkophones, too, but where are the Turks by origin? The fact, that unrelated tribes have accepted a Turkish consciousness is another fact" (cf. SEYPPEL 1992, p. 380). 

5. Conclusion

This last statement points to a crucial aspect of ethnic/national perception: ethnicity is often viewed only in terms of origin and "objective" features which are even more deep-seated than cultural traits. This means, as a consequence, that even a population which does not speak the same language and does not belong to the same faith as the dominant majority could be viewed as part of the "Self", as a member of their own ethnic group. This fact is even more striking, if we consider the initial paramount importance of language and religion in the definition of the Greek and Bulgarian nations. Extreme Bulgarian and Greek ethnic nationalism can therefore be regarded as basically racist, because it defines ethnic groups as existing over time without changes. Within such a concept, ethnicity and nationality cannot be changed, because the subjective role of human behavior for creating ethnic identity is denied (see: VERDERY 1994, pp. 49f.). Ethnicity becomes a natural, and not a social fact. But, however, this is only one side of the problem. The other concerns the establishment of ethnic frontiers, which nationalists want to make non-contextual and non-manipulative, although they are essentially dynamic and dependent on the given political setting. This is the paradox of ethnicity: on the one hand, nationalists claim ethnic identity to be fixed, unchangeable, and transferable from generation to generation, but on the other hand the same ideologists manipulate ethnic boundaries in accordance with political - and of course economic - considerations.

Both in Greece and Bulgaria, the boundaries of what was defined as the Greek and Bulgarian ethnic groups have been undergoing changes since the very establishment of independent Greece and Bulgaria, in order to include or exclude specific Muslim groups in the community of the "Self". These dynamics were related to nation building and to attempts at making ethnic boundaries, frontiers, and at merging those frontiers with the national borders. The right content of Bulgarian and Greek ethnicity was constantly redefined. As Katherine Verdery has already remarked, ethnicity is not the cause of nation building, but its product (VERDERY 1994, p. 47). Concerning Muslims, ethnic boundaries initially excluded them from the majority society. Muslims were the "Other". But later on, as the political frameworks changed, those boundaries were redefined in order to include the Muslim populations as the "Self", too. In this respect it is worth remembering Barth's assumption, that in the study of ethnicity, "the critical focus [...] becomes the ethnic boundary that defines the group, not the cultural stuff that it encloses" (BARTH 1969, p. 15). However, it is worth investigating also the "cultural stuff", but from the perspective of its definition, construction and implementation. In our case, redefinition of the cultural stuff and official policies, which aimed at imposing these views, manipulated the basic ethnic markers in order to include or exclude specific groups. These groups were, as a consequence, sometimes viewed as the "Other", and at other times as the "Self". The rationale of this process was to strengthen the body of the nation through homogenizing its elements. Finally, the Bulgarian and Greek governments aimed at inculcating the sentiment of a single kind of belonging to the whole population of Bulgaria and Greece. All citizens of these countries needed to manifest a similar identity which was to be unchangeable and in accordance with what national ideologists described as respectively "Bulgarian" and "Greek". This policy was directed as well against the fixed national and ethnic identity of the Turkish population of both countries and against the pragmatic and flexible identity of the Pomaks, for whom ethnicity often was and is not a meaningful category in their self-consciousness. The very ambiguity of Muslim identities, which is often in conflict with ethnic and national identities, as well as the firmness of the ethnic Turks' vernacular identity were perceived as a threat by the nation states to their concept of the unitary state. Thus, Muslim identities were the primary target of national identity policies. In any case, this policies paid absolutely no respect to vernacular identities and the self-perception of the concerned minorities. 

As I have tried to show, the notions of "Self/Other" concerning Muslims have in fact been very dynamic both in Greece and Bulgaria. At different moments of time, other differences have been regarded as meaningful and differentiating. The nationalists' view of nationality and ethnicity as unchangeable in their spatial and cultural dimensions is thus profoundly misleading. Ethnic and national identities are negotiable and can be manipulated. They are also contextual. Fixed national/ethnic identities are thus a myth - a myth "on which our world is founded" (VERENI 1996, p. 1).

Paper for the Center for Austrian Studies conference
"Creating the Other.The Causes and Dynamics of Nationalism, Ethnic Enmity and Racism in Central and Eastern Europe" Minneapolis, May 6-9, 1999. (© 1999) :


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Bulgar iftirası yalan çıktı

Bulgaristan'ın Osmanlı egemenliğinde bulunduğu sıralarda ülkenin Batak köyünde, 131 yıl önce yaşanan ve "Batak Katliamı" olarak adlandırılan olaya Alman bilim adamlarının getirdiği yeni yorum ülkeyi karıştırdı

Bulgaristan'ın Osmanlı egemenliğinde bulunduğu sıralarda ülkenin Batak Köyü'nde, 131 yıl önce yaşanan ve "Batak Katliamı" olarak adlandırılan olaya Alman bilim adamlarının getirdiği yeni yorum ülkeyi karıştırdı.

Alman tarihçi bilim adamları, Bulgar tarihçilerin, "Osmanlı yönetimine karşı 21 Nisan 1876'da başlatılan Batak isyanı sırasında, çoğu kadın ve çocuk 5000 kişinin Batak'taki Sveta Nedelya kilisesinde Osmanlılar tarafından kılıçtan geçirildiği" yolundaki iddialarını çürüttü.

Öğretim üyesi Bulgar kökenli Martina Baleva ile Doğu Avrupa Enstitüsü üyesi Ulf Brunbauer, "Batak katliamı" olarak bilinen olayın aslında bir "düzmece" olduğunu açıkladılar.

"Bulgaristan'ın resmi tarihçilerinin Batak'taki olayları fazlasıyla abartarak, Bulgar halkı arasında Müslümanlara ve özellikle Türklere karşı nefret duyguları oluşturmaya çalıştıklarını" belirten Brunbauer, "Bu da herkesin bildiği gibi Komünizm döneminde Türklere karşı uygulanmaya çalışan asimilasyon kampanyasına ilham vermiştir" diye konuştu.

Alman tarihçi, yaptıkları araştırmalar sonunda, özellikle Komünizm döneminde bazı çevrelerin Bulgar-Türk ilişkilerine zarar vermek için "hayali efsaneler" ürettiklerini ve tarihsel olayları saptırdıklarını belirlediklerini bildirdi.

Baleva ve Brunbauer Batak olayları ile ilgili yaptıkları araştırmalardan elde ettikleri sonuçları 17 Mayıs 2007 tarihinde Sofya'da düzenleyecekleri konferans ve sergi ile kamuoyuna açıklayacaklarını söylediler.

Konferansa, karşı görüşü savunan bilim adamlarının da davet edileceği öğrenildi.


Aynı zamanda tarih uzmanı olan Bulgaristan Cumhurbaşkanı Georgi Pırvanov ise iki bilim adamının başını çektiği araştırma ekibinin Batak olayları ile ilgili ortaya attıkları yeni teze tepki gösterdi.

Konuyla ilgili özel bir açıklama yapan Pırvanov, bu tezin Bulgaristan'ın milli tarihine ve milli değerlerine karşı düzenlenmiş bir "provokasyon" olduğunu ileri sürdü.

Pırvanov, "tezde yer alan iddiaların tarihsel gerçekleri saptırmaya yönelik olduğunu" belirterek, "Batak halkının canları pahasına başlattığı isyan Dostoyevski, Turgenev, Mendeleev, Gladston ve Garibaldi gibi dönemin en parlak fikir adamları tarafından da kabul edilmiştir" diye konuştu.

Bu arada ırkçı ve aşırı milliyetçi görüşleriyle tanınan ATAKA partisinden yapılan açıklamada da "Batak olayının Bulgar halkına karşı bir soykırım olduğu" öne sürülerek, "Batak katliamını reddeden kişilere 1 yıldan 5 yıla kadar hapis ve 5 bin levadan 50 bin levaya (2500-25.000 avro) kadar para cezası verilmesini öngören bir yasa tasarısı hazırlandığı bildirildi.

Açıklamada, söz konusu yasa tasarısının parlamentoya sunulduğu ve en kısa zamanda yasalaşması için her türlü girişimin yapılacağı kaydedildi.


"Bulgaristan'da: 1930'lu yıllarda büyük baskıların yaşandığı Bulgaristan'da, yeni yazıyı kullanmaları yasaklanan Türkler, Arapça alfabe kullanmaya itilmiştir. Türklerin aydın din adamları görevden uzaklaştırılmıştır." 
Gürbüz Evren