BETWEEN ADAPTATION AND NOSTALGIA:
THE BULGARIAN TURKS IN TURKEY
FOREWORD - Antonina Zhelyazkova
THE SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ADAPTATION OF BULGARIAN IMMIGRANTS IN TURKEY - Antonina Zhelyazkova
MOTIVATION OF THE BULGARIAN TURKS TO MIGRATION - Tsvetana Gheorghieva
BULGARIAN TURKISH IMMIGRANTS OF 1989 IN THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY - Donka Dimitrova
UNDERSTATED, OVEREXPOSED - Peter Krasztev
RELATION TO BULGARIA, THE BULGARIAN PEOPLE, AND THINGS BULGARIAN - Jale Hodja and Emil Milanov
The idea of carrying out an ethnological investigation of the subject formulated in the title came from the Center for Minority Research and Intercultural Relations in Sofia as a logical follow-up of the 1992 study “A Tentative Oral History of the “Revival Process” and the “Big Excursion”1.
BULGARIAN TURKISH IMMIGRANTS OF 1989 IN THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY
(ADAPTATION AND CHANGES IN THE CULTURAL MODEL)
“No worse lot than being a Turk in Bulgaria,
no worse lot than being an immigrant in Turkey.”
Chosen as research sites were localities in different parts of Turkey inhabited by comparatively large, compact masses of immigrants who had arrived in 1989 (20-60 000 persons): in Ankara - the neighbourhood known as Pursaklar, situated along the way to the airport, and Sincan, a satellite town of the capital city; in Istanbul - the Avcilar district; in Bursa - the Huriet and Kestel districts: in Corlu - the Havuzlar neighbourhood, and in Edirne, where the number of immigrants is smaller, but they, similarly, inhabit separate neighbourhoods - Cadir kent (Camp Town ) and Bin evler (or Kooperatif evler).
Owing to chance, we could visit out of schedule several villages near Edirne, a little town by Bursa, Karacabey, and the town of Konya, where the immigrants numbered 700 persons. Because of the limited funds* and time the project did not include such towns as Izmir, Tekirdrag, Eski sehir, where large numbers of 1989 Bulgarian Turkish emigres were concentrated.
In order to examine the progress of the immigrants’ adaptation to the new setting, the study was conducted in three phases during three consecutive years: 8-16 October 1994, 21 April-19 July 1995 and 6 June - 3 July 1996.
To accomplish the main task - collection of comprehensive field information about the changes in the way of life and the cultural model of the immigrants in the process of their adaptation - we used the unstructured interview technique and the life-history method, more rarely - the ethnographic interview. (The field of observation was completely unknown and, it should be admitted, difficult. to handle.)
The informants’ age varied between the limits of (lowest) 3 and (highest) 88 years; they were of different social, educational and occupational backgrounds, and came from different Bulgarian regions.
Regardless of my efforts to stick to the framework of the subject initially set, in practice, making certain deviations from it proved to be inevitable. I met immigrants who had moved in 1926, 1950-1951, 1968-1978, and even as recently as 1993, and my conversations with them were certainly helpful for achieving a clearer profile of the similarities and dissimilarities between the 1989 group of emigrants and the other, much earlier emigration waves; they contributed to the deeper insight in the trends of development and adaptation of the “big excursion” community of June-August 1989 that we were interested in.
The subject matter was further enriched by my observations on some immigrants (of earlier periods or newcomers) from the Balkans and from the former Asian republics of the ex-Soviet Union, who had settled in Turkey following the dissolution of the USSR. Indispensable were also interviews with the local population - to establish how the native people perceived the inflowing immigrants (not only from Bulgaria) who were their rivals in seeking employment; what was their opinion of the care taken by the state to accommodate the new settlers. Of course, no less significant was the situation in Turkey, of which I was able to judge from the press, the radio, the television and my personal contacts.
The present text has no pretentions of offering the reader scientifically established highest-instance truths. Far from that. It rather aims to shed light on a developing process - the adaptation of the Bulgarian Turks to the new urban setting and the native Turkish population; to show, on the basis of rich empirical data gathered in the field, what happened to those of our yesterday’s neighbours, classmates, colleagues, friends, compatriots who had left for Anavatan (Motherland); to answer the question of whether the length of travel between Kapitan Andreevo and Edirne is measured by only a dozen kilometres or rather by the distance between two different socioeconomic systems and the ensuing factors, by the cultural distance between value conceptions, mentality, historically determined traditions.
In this presentation, faced with the risk of assuming the role of too self-confident an interpreter, with the hazard of taking a direction otherwise logical, but far from reality, I deliberately chose to give preference to what I heard from the people, to the responses given by the participants in the “big excursion” events five or six years later, to attach weight to their perspective rather than to the author’s commentaries and interpretations.
Chronology requires that we should first say some words about the “big excursion” mentioned above: about what it was like and how we came to it. On 29 May 1989 Bulgarian Head of State Todor Zhivkov, in a televised statement, promised the citizens of this country unsealed borders and world-wide valid tourist passports. On 3 June the same year the Bulgarian border with Turkey was opened up. And that was the aim - to induce the opening of the border on the part of Bulgaria’s southeastern neighbour, as an outlet of the tension accumulated in consequence of the Bulgarisation of the ethnic Turks’ names in 1984-85, the ban on using their mother tongue and burying their dead in conformity with the Muslim funeral rites, as well as a number of other absurd prohibitions generally termed “revival process”. These interdictions led to - this was the Turkish minority’s response - arsons, sabotage actions, demonstrations..., followed by fines, imprisonment, batteries, internment.
With the opening of the border started the emigration rush, and the Bulgarian people, already tired with the invariable positivist rhetoric used by the totalitarian regime, named it the “big excursion”. To think that the excursion trip to Turkey involved carrying along cookers and refrigerators. Thus the Bulgarian people responded with bitter irony to a violence clad in fine words.
From 3 June through 21 August 1989, when Turkey suddenly sealed its frontier, as many as 311 862 ethnic Turks managed to leave “on an excursion”2. (In practice, since June 1989 to this date, March 1997, emigration in various forms - immigrant visas, tourism, illegal migration - has not ceased.)
Parallel with the emigration flow towards Turkey, there has been a return movement. For example, only by 6 October 1989, i.e. even before Todor Zhivkov’s regime had fallen from power on 10 November the same year and before their tourist visas had expired, 35 000 persons, or 9 300 families had returned to Bulgaria.3 The mass home-coming took place predominantly in 1990, when, on 29 December 1989, the former names of the Bulgarian Turks were restored by a decree of the Council of Ministers of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. Within a year or a year and a half, that is by the end of 1990, 150 000 people arrived home in Bulgaria.4 Following this date the number of persons who chose to head back home, mainly older people, was insignificant, while the emigrants who were leaving for Turkey numbered tens of thousands. Because of the discouraging discrepancy between data obtained from different sources (by years) concerning the number of Bulgarian Turkish emigrants after 1990, I shall refrain from citing this information. To my mind, it is more important to say that, according to some unofficial records, from June 1989 till the beginning of 1997 some 400-450 thousand individuals settled in Turkey.
The reasons which led to the emigration rush of the ethnic Turks in Bulgaria in the summer of 1989 seem self-evident at first sight. Both those who had left the country, and those who had returned home, made about the same statement: they changed our names, they would not permit us to speak in Turkish, to attend mosque, to bury the dead according to our traditions, to wear headcloths and shalwars, to practice sunnet, to listen to Turkish music... I heard hundreds of similar assertions before being able to turn to the reasons they were silent about. The first one of them (and most important too) proved to be the ”bolluk” (abundance) or, put in other words, the difference in the living standards in Bulgaria and Turkey. This is how it was formulated by a fifty-year-old woman, immigrant in Bursa: “Why we came here... You know what happened. And because it’s bolluk here. Had it not been for the bolluk...” In spite of the sealed Bulgarian border till 1989, in spire of the lack of information, the latter being replaced by misinformation, Turkey’s economic prosperity under T. Yozal had never been a secret to the Turkish minority in Bulgaria. All who had made trips to that country and who had seen it with their own eyes would certainly describe it as: “A real big country, a golden country.”, “A rich state: goods sold everywhere, no room to turn round.”
The other reason, usually not mentioned by anyone, was voiced by a middle-aged man in a little store selling stationery in the Istanbul district Avcilar. At first he asked - by way of explaining emigration: “Can you give me a guarantee that all this (the so-called “revival process” - author’s note) will not be repeated?” And then he added: “It’s difficult for us, we love Bulgaria, but we are Turks, Muslims and our place is here.” The last sentence, combined, of course, with a whole set of other reasons, could be applied to all 11 emigration waves beginning from Bulgaria’s liberation in 1878, till the present day. Or, as a friend of mine, an ethnic Turkish woman, kept repeating: “I would like to wake up a Turkish woman among Turkish people.” (And in the long run, after a great deal of hesitation, she did wake up.)
In confirmation of the point of view described above, I shall also quote the words of some women, emigrants from the villages near Kurdzhali, now employed as cleaners in one of the hotels in Bursa: “In Bulgaria we were saving money to be able to settle in Turkey, for we would need it. Now we are saving for beams and cement, because we are building houses for ourselves.” Although no one had had even the slightest idea of the changes that would occur in 1989, money had been laid up, for one day their children, if not they themselves, might have woken up in Turkey.
What were the causes of the suppressed reasons? Most probably, suspiciousness and lack of trust in the society we lived in until recently; the bans which had become our second nature; the sacred frontier stripe and the sealed borders which nobody - neither a Bulgarian, nor a Turk - dared even think of crossing.
The 1989 emigration wave, unlike the other ten, found both Bulgarians and ethnic Turks unprepared. It surprised the world too: with its dimensions and its rate. (In Turkey they wrote that since World War II the world has witnessed no other mass migration of people as large as this one.)
A young woman from Sincan (immigrant from North Eastern Bulgaria) gave mouth of how she saw the exodus in the following way: “You know how we dashed away like sheep at that time. All of us rushed off. I rather preferred that dad and mom had stayed there. We would say: “Let alone we cross (the border - author’s note).” We thought that when we came here they would give us everything. But it turned out a different way...”
Everybody was leaving, so you could not stay either - how were you supposed to live without relatives and friends. “We set out with the young, for we would be left alone here”, the older people said. “Whom is my child going to marry (in a Christian country - author’s note)?”, said the young people.
All the money, running to about 4 billion levs, was drawn out from the State Savings Bank. Some sold their houses, belongings and furniture, livestock,... in most cases for a song.
And long convoys of vehicles started for the border. Authentically sounded the story told by Ivan R. from Razgrad, a truck driver during the “big excursion”: “When they started, the middle-aged generation believed it to be an adventure. It was for the first time they could leave the country, because until then they had never been allowed to. All of them were glad before they reached the border. The children were in a hurry to watch Turkish television. If meanwhile an old person or an infant happened to die, they were let ahead of turn because people wished to have them buried beyond the border. And only when their luggage was opened for a custom examination, their family would begin crying, in sudden confusion. And, oh, what neon lights and music on the other side, while this side was all in darkness...” Apropos of the light and as a logical continuation of the account given above, I shall cite the description a schoolgirl made of her experience: “When on 12 August 1989 we crossed the border, I couldn’t believe it. We studied nothing of Turkey during our geography classes, you know. The only thing we were told was that they imported electricity from our country. And everything was so lit up here that I thought: “This can’t be true, it must be just my imagination, because I am Turkish and I’m in Turkey already.”
It was bright and delightful. Some were kissing the Turkish flag. Others were weeping. At last, the Bulgarians, from whom they were fleeing, had been left behind, although the Bulgarians had worn name-badges together with them - “as if attending a congress”, by the expression of the above-mentioned Ivan R., and in spite of the fact that even the agents of repression were remorseful. You find it difficult to believe? Just hear the confession of an examining magistrate after a mass rally that took place in Razgrad in late April 1989, at which the demonstrators shouted “We demand our names, we demand our rights” and “Long live Gorbachev”: “Damn it, what a mess is this all. We stand up for Gorbachev, and they stand up for Gorbachev. They’ve put us in a tight corner - let’s beat them for standing by Gorbachev.”
According to the Turkish statistics, in the summer of 1989 the largest number of people who became permanent Turkish residents, came from the Razgrad and Kurdzhali regions - 57 623 and 55 151 individuals, respectively. These two regions were followed by the regions of: Shoumen - 20 543, Haskovo - 21 772, Silistra - 14 428, Varna - 11 667, Targovishte - 9553, Rousse - 7128, Plovdiv - 6829, Tolbukhin - 4887, Pazardzhik - 1755, Bourgas - 896, Sliven - 232, Gabrovo - 141, Veliko Turnovo - 48, Pleven - 35.5
I shall also adduce two tables making apparent the age group proportions of immigrants in Turkey, as well as their social status.6
|0-5 years||8 493||8 726||59||17 277||8.12|
|6-10||10 477||11 099||58||21 634||10.17|
|11-15||9 837||10 355||39||20 231||9.51|
|16-20||8 326||6 491||24||14 842||6.98|
|21-25||9 197||6 807||25||16 029||7.54|
|26-30||10 488||10 555||10||21 054||9.90|
|31-35||10 584||11 165||20||21 768||10.23|
|36-40||8 401||9 388||16||17 805||8.37|
|41-45||5 142||5 630||10||10 783||5.07|
|46-50||4 808||4 681||4||9 492||4.46|
|51-55||4 524||4 155||5||8 643||4.06|
|56-60||4 877||4 550||10||9 437||4.44|
|61-65||3 962||3 975||9||7 946||3.74|
|66-70||3 156||2 900||7||6 062||2.85|
|Over 71 years||4 636||3 667||120||8 423||3.96|
|Total||107 574||104 682||432||212 688||100.00|
The fact that the number of females is a bit larger than that of males - 50.8 per cent versus 49.2 per cent - can be explained by the number of young men serving in the army, who were not allowed to leave Bulgaria. The table shows one more thing: the largest group of people having chosen the new place of residence was the group of women and men aged 26 - 35. In addition, the young people under 35 years of age were nearly twice as many as those over 35.
|Salaried/professional workers||22 518||10.6|
|Free professions||19 217||9.0|
|Females on maternity leave||37 740||17.8|
The largest percentage is that of workers, their group including technicians, master workmen and ordinary workers. Second is the group of salaried/professional workers embracing teachers, physicians, qualified nursing and other medical staff, etc. As we shall see further below, they had the best chance of getting employment almost immediately, which meant a comparatively painless start in the new environment.
The first thing done by the Anavatan authorities, after the ceremonial welcome with flowers, music, and greetings concluded, was... to once more change their names, their family names. In principle, the Turkish name system is remarkably poetic, and the new family names taken by the immigrants, I admit it, amazed me with their excessive semantic meaningfulness. You can judge yourself: Vatansever (patriot), Tekulus (single nation), Yozturk (pure-blooded, genuine Turk), Savas (battle), Kilic (sword), Kahraman (hero), Zafer (victory, triumph), Basaran (successful), Mutlu (happy, lucky, blessed), Neseli (glad), Yilmaz (fearless), etc.
Does mere enumeration not sound like swearing fidelity, loyalty, is it not an expression of the deep emotion provoked by their encounter with their original home of which they had been dreaming so long.
And the first concern of the Turkish government was to provide accommodation. The Bulgarian Turkish immigrants streamed in from two different directions - Edirne and Kirklaleri, i.e. they followed the routes running through Kapitan Andreevo and Malko Turnovo. Those who had relatives came to stay with their kin, and beginning from 3 June camp centres were established for the rest of the exiles in: Edirne (next to the railway station), Kirklarleli (Lozengrad), Istanbul, Izmir, Tekirdag, Sparta, Eski Sehir, Ankara, Balikesir, Bolu, etc.
The most coveted destination for the majority of immigrants was Bursa, followed by Istanbul, Izmir and Tekirdag. According to one of the earlier (1978 ) immigrant’s account, about 60 000 persons had settled in Bursa. “Supposedly, they came to visit their relatives, but in fact many of them had no relatives at all.” It even became necessary to place barriers around Bursa, because the city could take no more people from a certain point on.
The Table below answers the question why the newcomers preferred the Marmara and Aegean regions: these were the areas where their relatives lived - people who had emigrated earlier, most of all under the agreements of 1950-51 and 1968-78.7
|Regions (Sea of Marmara
and the Aegean)
|Bursa||3 493||14 616||8 335||31 685||11 828||46 301|
|Istanbul||3 831||11 644||9 881||34 508||13 712||46 152|
|Izmir||2 123||10 141||2 751||10 121||4 874||20 262|
|Tekirdag||1 846||7 719||2 006||7 238||3 852||14 957|
|Eski sehir||1 600||7 009||1 912||7 066||3512||14 075|
|Kirkaleri||1 646||7 230||1 067||4 036||2 713||11 266|
|Manisa||1 885||7 961||603||2 280||2 488||10 241|
|Ankara||1 565||6 016||608||2 018||2 173||8 034|
|Kocaeli||727||3 478||967||3 636||1 694||7 114|
|Total||20 809||84 941||28 924||105 344||49 733||190 285|
|16 616||69 459||3 452||11 177||20 048||80 633|
|TOTAL||37 425||154 397||32 356||116 521||60 781||270 918|
Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, and partly the central area of Anatolia, as well as the Black Sea region were left out by the Bulgarian Turks as favoured places of settlement. In the first case the explanation can be found in the similarities, and in the second - in the great dissimilarities between Bulgaria and the mentioned Turkish areas in terms of climate and farming conditions. I have picked up two random examples from my field diary. Bilal, from the Ludogorie region, having returned home in Bulgaria after the “big excursion”: “When I worked in Ankara, farm work again, I could see no woods, no nothing around. That land is no good, and working there is no good either.” And an immigrant from the Veliko Turnovo region: “We, gocmens (immigrants) were a sort of soldiers. You have to go where they send you.” He had been advised to go to the countryside, he had been promised land, a horse and a cart, but he did not accept. After some time he had managed to escape and settle in Sincan, and later - in Ankara. He had mended his fortune and owned a number of spare parts stores. Most astonishingly, however, on parting he told me: “For all that, my girl, it isn’t Bulgaria here, it’s Anatolia.”
Anyway, let us go back to the events in 1989. What were the newcomers’ first impressions formed by their initial contacts with the new environment, the local people and earlier immigrants from Bulgaria? Naturally, everyone would be impressed by particular things corresponding to one’s age, profession, social status, etc. For example, in the case of a wage-earner this is money: “The Turkish liras with their many zeros at the end and their size, much larger than the Bulgarian lev banknotes. They gave me 200 000 liras and I thought I was already rich.” A young woman who had arrived to Sincan with her baby-in-arms: “The children. The fact that they are so many in Turkey. It’s a young nation.” A young girl from Shoumen, her new place of residence was Istanbul: “Only blocks of flats, one block next to the other, at arm’s length. It was hot, the air was dusty. Not a single tree around. Those were my first impressions. I thought to myself: How are we going to live here?” And one more description of Istanbul made by a 45-year-old woman, translator by profession, also from Shoumen: “One should not come here in summer for the first time. I was struck by the human crowds, by the dirty, dusty air, by the densely built-up urban areas, and the lack of trees. You are nobody here, I felt myself like a pin.” A high-school girl: “The highways. First class roads.” A primary-school girl: ”A very rich modern country.” An immigrant in Konya, former supplies manager: “That they work very hard in Turkey.”
And how did matters stand with the first impressions formed by the contacts with the local population? In this sphere matters were far more variegated, complicated, if not dramatic. If we use the existentialists’ conclusion that “hell abides in the others”, by “others” meaning “strangers”, i.e. those who belong to some other nationality or faith, this particular situation proved to be even more complicated, since the others (strangers) were in fact own people - persons of own faith, bizim millet (our nation).Own people, but a priori own. For in practice it was a confrontation encounter between two different socioeconomic systems, between two continents, between two cultural identities which, apart from all other things, knew too little of each other and even this little knowledge was very much distorted.
I should not like to present a second-hand description of the initial contact with “our own folk” in the summer of 1989. I could hardly be able to manage better than the very actors taking part in these episodes. As a rule, personal experience, especially when it is strong enough, picks up the most accurate expressions: “Their opinion of us had been quite different. They were surprised. They had believed us to be inferior. As soon as we were seen to get off the trains, or the cars, dressed up, wearing gold rings...”; “They didn’t accept us as equals, even those who had immigrated in 1978 did not treat us as equals.”; “They looked down on us.”; “They called us giavurlar, bulgarlar (infidels, Bulgarians); we’ve heard enough names.” “They asked us: why have you come, is it really for the sake of a name alone?”; “In the morning me and my cousin went for a walk (in Istanbul - author’s note) and to bring water from a fountain. Everybody was staring at us. I asked my aunt why they looked at us that way, and she said: “How could you go out in the street in only an undervest and shorts?”; “If you go out in a short skirt, you’ll be immediately labelled as being “of that sort”. And I was a little girl then, a fifth-grade pupil.”
In the first days and months after the arrival to their original homeland, those who had no relatives were entirely dependent on the government’s mercy. “In the camps (tent camps - author’s note) we were treated like soldiers - breakfast, lunch, supper, we were served what was cooked for the soldiers. In the morning - cheese, olives, at lunch time - the same diet, in the evening - the same diet, and bread - free of charge.”
Staying with relatives, with family members, was not short of clashes. In some households the visitors were crowds of 5 to 6 persons, even more - children, elder people, pregnant women. Relations within the earlier immigrants’ families got strained. It was the same with the newcomers’ families. Especially between the young and the old. Worst affected in all cases were the elderly. At some places they were told straightforwardly: “Go back, this is not a place for old people.” It was a rather superfluous remark, because they, the older people, were the first to understand how matters stood and the first to start home. “Life is very hard for us there (in Turkey - author’s note). The young ones work and make their own living.” (Razgrad region, 1992).
Visits to less close relatives were usually quite short. A typical example: “For ten days we stayed with some relatives of ours - immigrants since 1952. But you really shouldn’t keep hanging on them for too long.”
They would rent lodgings. The landlord would help them by providing the necessaries. Sometimes all the household furnishing was reduced to as little as only two mattresses. “Our landlady was very nice. She gave us practically everything - a bed, mattresses, dishes, everything. We spent one winter there.” “When we came here (in Istanbul - author’s note), some local people gave us mattresses, gave us a blanket. There was no bed, we were on the floor. My eldest daughter had a gran’son. They gave us some hand-me-downs.”
Then the difficulty to find a job became evident. Immigrants with diplomas - teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, technicians, etc. had no problems in getting employment (and were again given state assistance). In the rest of the cases, when going back to their memories of those days, the people I talked to, as if by general agreement, kept repeating the same words: “It was very difficult for us in the beginning.” Or: “It was next to starving in the beginning.” In almost every family one of the spouses had been on the point of packing his/her luggage and starting home, but the partner had managed to put sense into him/her. In 1995, 6 years after the hard times, one of these luggage-packing husbands praised his wife in the following way: “I wanted to go back home and if it wasn’t for her... Now I’m grateful to her. The Turks say that once in 40 years one should listen to his wife. Good for me to have listened to her.”
Some of them, however, as I have already mentioned, about 150 000 persons returned to Bulgaria. Generally, the reasons boiled down to: the individual’s motivation or the individual’s lack of motivation; one’s value system; a feeling named nostalgia; and last but not least - one’s ability to find a job. Examples: “My wife had grown weak, had turned yellow, and kept saying she wanted to go back home. We had no house, how could we build a house, it would take a dozen years to manage. Our daughter was 24, our son - 17, we needed a house, we had to marry them. Nothing could be done with a salary alone.” His daughter interfered: “Mother had grown thin and began talking stuff and nonsense, wanted to hang herself. Better let her go back, I say, than loose her.” “I couldn’t get accustomed to that place. I kept thinking of the people, the village, the streets; all my dearest people had returned home. I told my brother I wanted to go back, but he said: “Where you ache, I don’t ache.” But he, my brother, had lived for two years in Peshtera, two years in Stanketo, four years in the Soviet Union, he has no roots, while we had never left our village before. I drew our money to buy an apartment from Razgrad, while he remained in Istanbul.” His wife added: “D. didn’t go out for four months. Nostalgia gripped him as soon as we reached Kapikule”. And one more example: “We quarreled a whole month: we had no house, no money, when should we be able to build a new house? My son-in-law says: “We are going back too.” Because both his mother and father stayed alone in Bulgaria, and they are old people. Many people started home and so did we, the whole family.” (These records were made in the Razgrad region, 1992).
The last sentence certainly makes difference: “many people started home”. However, see how departure took place: everybody was leaving, how should they stay? The word “house” was repeated many times too, but I am going to dwell on this important factor further on.
There were also some drastic cases - and more than one or two. Here I shall reproduce a story I was told in Istanbul, Avcilar district. The story is curious, and for me personally it was indicative as to the particularly pronounced sense of dignity characteristic of the Bulgarian Turks. H.’s son-in -law, when he emigrated to Istanbul, brought there two demijohns of brandy. He drank and drank by himself but finally, when he could not endure it any longer, he invited his neighbour to come to his table. That had been the usual thing to do in Bulgaria. However, his neighbour said: “I’m not sitting at the same table with a giaour!” “You are not?”, replied H.’s son-in-law and the very next morning he was at Kapikule. He returned to the genuine giaours (in Rousse - author’s note). The neighbours heard them coming, were very glad to meet them and laid a very long table, as was their use.
Reading my notes over, I can declare with certainty that the first and most important reason for returning, prior to all other reasons, was the attack of depression suffered by the newcomers in Turkey because of the lack of job or any more or less suitable opportunities. And in some, not quite isolated, cases this prolonged unemployment led to suicide, neurosis, divorces: “My husband was right to say that we should go back”, told me a widow in Istanbul, “ but me, I wouldn’t like to, since all my relatives are here... Relatives, what are they for? Will they help you by any chance? And so we stayed. Only that I lost my husband. But why should I tell all this. We have come and that’s how it’s going to be. They, the other people did the right thing and went back.”
Repentance of what they had done could be witnessed both in those who returned to Bulgaria, and those who stayed in Turkey, with almost the same intensity, and every time at moments of deadlocks caused by unemployment, that is by lack of means of living. “Thirty people set off with the “big excursion”. Some of them really regret for having returned: it’s expensive there too (in Turkey - author’s note), but they make more money.” (Razgrad region, 1992)
According to statistics, in May 1990, i.e. nine months after their emigration from Bulgaria, of all 126 069 active persons only 67 292 had managed to begin work. (Of the latter - 43 283 males and 24 009 females.) The majority of them, as shown in the table below, became workers - agricultural and industrial, while the third position is taken by the “service” sector.8
The fact that only half the number of the newly settled immigrants had been lucky enough to find a job, was explained by one’s choice of place of residence; as was already mentioned, Bursa and Istanbul were preferred most, but the labour market there failed to meet the large demand of jobs. “However, if we set aside the official data - it is argued in a Turkish inquiry conducted in 1990 and entitled “The Mass Migration and the Motherland” - and refer to data obtained from the vilayet administration, it would turn out that some 100 000 people, i.e. 80 per cent, have started work. It means that: more than one person in each family is working.”
One’s relatives are also helpful in finding a job. Almost every one of the interviewed persons replied that he/she had been given help by some relative among the earlier immigrants. “When you have someone familiar, an uncle or someone like that, it’s all right here. No matter where you are, it’s good for you to have somebody you know.”
Another very important characteristic of the last emigration wave is the patronship on the part of the state. The newcomers have not been left by themselves. As for the state’s protection offered in the case of the 1989 immigration tide, it corresponded to a certain extent to that practised in 1950-1951, when “three thirds of the immigrants were furnished with houses specially built for them, were allotted large plots of land, were given sowing seeds, and were granted credits”.9
It is a curious fact that, in spite of all privileges and allowances granted by the state, the new settlers placed at the top of their gratitude list nothing but the lack of authorities-caused difficulties while they looked for employment or when they started work. Indeed, in 1989 there was no suspiciousness as the one earlier immigrants (1968-1978) met with during the cold war period, when they were regarded as potential agents of the socialist propaganda, or even worse - as foreign spies; a time when their diplomas were not recognised before two or three years had elapsed, and when, on starting work, they discovered that their payment was twice to three times (!) lower than that received by their local colleagues.
In support of the above statement, I shall quote the words of an engine driver: “The best help for us was that we weren’t investigated, say, for 5, for 10 years, but were let in immediately. Those who were educated were admitted first..., now, at this stage, I’m an engine driver.”
It was difficult to find a job for people who had no profession or rather whose profession was not in demand on the Turkish labour market; so it was for young mothers and women over 50 years of age. Older men had difficulties too.
Some managed to take with them their money saved for rainy days, others had to start from naught. “What can you take with you from Bulgaria, when the room you are allotted in the wagon is about a meter wide. Quilts, mattresses... this sort of things.”; “I came here with only a car, you see, I had bought a “Zhigula 1200” in 1987, and a tent, with my two daughters, my wife and me.” “We left everything, took nothing with us but the car, and we had two TV sets, a colour and an ordinary one, so that we put in the colour TV and here we are.”
In turn, those who have arrived for the last 3 or 4 years as tourists, carried only a suitcase with them.
Nevertheless, they managed. “How did you manage?”, I asked immigrants from Bulgaria in 1995, when the interviews were already being conducted inside their 2 or 3-storeyed houses or fashionably furnished own flats. A sixty-year-old woman, who had settled in Istanbul: “Is there any other way? If you were me, you’d have managed too. You have to eat, don’t you? The day you work, you take the money, you take bread...” Then she added: “We are hard-workers. We work day and night. I’ve abandoned work a year now. So, we’ve got our houses, no paying any more. And everything we earn now is for the pleasures of the table, we eat and drink.” And a young woman, a college graduate, who had started her new life here as a cleaner: “It was very hard for us. But we drew back from no kind of work. Even now there are 55-57-year-old women who clean the houses of the rich.”
They work hard, all of them work. They would do odd-jobs against insignificant payment. And yet, they began saving money right away: for a home. “In 1990 we joined a house building cooperative. We paid 3 million each month and I begged them to leave us 200 thousand for bread. We were almost starving in the beginning. Our neighbours used to give us a little food now and then.”
Why, I wondered, was that rage for possessing an own home, an own house - and not just any house, but a junior-high-school building, as we say in Bulgaria. An own house - at once! By economising on an unimaginable scale, depriving themselves even of meals, as if it were a matter of life and death. I had to find the answer, or, more exactly, the answers by myself, because for these people to build a house - first of all and before everything else, as early as tomorrow - was as normal as any natural phenomenon, it needed no explanation. They do it for fear, I said to myself. Is it not for fear that they work tooth and nail? It is a fear that you will not be able to manage, that there is nobody to help you in this place of strangers. A fear of being left breadless. And to think how terrible it must have been for village people coming to the big city. “It was very hard in the first years. You have to buy everything - eggs, tomatoes, everything. And we had been used to producing everything we needed.” Even water had a price. “In Istanbul, in the Avcilar district, some new blocks of flats were built, but there was no water supply. A tank was offered for sale... They asked 500 liras for a bucket of water from the well.” Parenthetically, I would like to recount an episode concerning the price of water. In the summer of 1995, in the strongest heat of the day I rode on a bus full of immigrants, travelling from the neighbourhood of Pursaklar to Ankara. A man fainted, and, luckily, I had a bottle of water with me. I sprinkled him, then gave him to drink and he came to himself. And can you imagine what was the first thing he did? He asked: “How much is the water?”, and started to bring out money. At this point it was me who was about to faint.
Fearing for one’s bread. But bread is one thing, and the house, one’s own house - quite another. However, it was as important to them as, in fact, their daily bread. This might have to do with the formula “my house is my castle”, i.e. with an inviolable space in a hostile world. Hostile, for it was unknown. The house was supposed to replace the security of a lost home, a lost native place, where even the stones can help. But why should it be necessarily as large as a junior high school? In this connection, I was even told an anecdote in Bursa. A gocmen (immigrant) fretted and fumed, wailed and moaned, as though an irreparable misfortune had befallen him. “What’s the matter?”, they asked him. “Don’t ask me”, he said, “I’ve been here for three months now and I haven’t yet finished the third storey of my house.”
The spacious white houses, erected for a year or two, did not remain unnoticed by the local population. In Turkey one can see several generations in succession living in rented homes and they do not even think of buying their own house. Why should they, if there are plenty of dwellings to rent, if they can invest their money in some kind of business, spend them on their one’s children’s education, and finally, why should they set their heart on it.
The native Turks were apparently surprised by the lightning-speed construction offensive of the newcomers, and the latter, in turn, already owners of real estate (although only a rather small property for the time being), began pushing off from naught, gaining confidence, shaking off their fears and complexes of being “second-class people”: “They considered us to be second class in Bulgaria, and it’s the same here.”
In the summer of 1996 - in one of Bursa’s quarters inhabited by immigrants, the Huriet district - I made the following record: “We were able to build up our houses within a year, because we helped each other. We would get together relatives and build a storey in a week. We don’t feel embarrassed of any kind of work. Young, even children, and old - all of us work. The women cleaned homes. There was a lot of gossip about us, but after a year, when they saw what the gocmens had made, what houses they had built, their eyes were bulging.”
And yet, why did the Bulgarian Turks think it most important to resolve their housing problem first? It seems to me that the most correct answer to this question can be found in a very ancient cultural model, which they brought with them from Bulgaria to their new place of residence and which they obeyed instinctively. For is it not true that to a Bulgarian anyone “who hasn’t got a home, who hasn’t built a house, is a socially inferior person, a marginal man.10
The other point of support, making the immigrants feel confident and secure, apart from their house, is their community, a community of likes, people of own kind inhabiting en masse separate new quarters, usually situated at the city’s outskirts. And in places where the neighbourhoods are old, as the above-mentioned Huriet in Bursa, for example, they are also inhabited by immigrants from their own culture area, a bit different, it is true, a little while ahead of them in their adjustment to the new natural and social environment, but nevertheless, their own relatives, friends, acquaintances, classmates, fellow-villagers. The circumstance that, unlike earlier migration waves, in 1989 compact masses of Bulgarian Turks settled in Turkey, involved both positive and negative consequences with a view to their adaptation to the new setting. The positive aspects were manifested in the fact that their adjustment was less painful, and the negative were related above all with the slowed down process of adaptation. Yet, it seems to me that the advantages prevailed, for those who wished to advance faster, mostly the young people, were able to pick up the moment to cut the navel string connecting them with their own group and move to live among local Turks who were their peers in social status.
In 1995 I made a record of the dissatisfaction expressed by a 24-year-old girl, studying at the Ankara University, of her own weak will. She lived in the immigrants’ residential area Pursaklar. She was not satisfied with merely being able to manage alone - studying and working at the same time - far from her parents. She wanted to live in Ankara, not outside it; she did not like the socially motley crowd of residents in the neighbourhood, the “provincial”, in her own expression, public. She had already tried and failed to get away. “And here I am, back in the herd again”, she told me then. And, as if by way of excuse, she added: “But my classmates live here. We understand each other in half a word, while the locals... Even those who look different, are also like the rest of them.”
The next year I called to see her again. She had found rooms in an old, shabby building, situated, however, in the heart of Ankara. She shared an apartment with two other university students, native girls. She, who was in desperate need of understanding, had found it in her new circle of friends, certainly without breaking contacts with her former schoolmates.
Matters stood different, however, with another intelligent woman, a physician by profession, but at the age of not 24, but 50. She had moved here from Bulgaria in 1978. She was about to retire and wanted to sell her huge four-storeyed house, in order to settle in some “peaceful and quiet” place, in a smaller home, with less cares, but there was one important argument that prevented her from doing it, namely that there, in Huriet, “the neighbours are of our folk”: “What can I talk about with the locals?” And that after having stayed there for 17 years...
At the same time, those of the new settlers who, by concurrence of circumstances, had been able to find accommodation or build a house away from their own folk, would at their first convenience correct their “mistake”: “I live in a religious neighbourhood (in Bursa - author’s note). I’m going to get out of there in two months - I have money laid up. I’ll move to a place where our folk live, to breathe free. They are different.”; “We’ve buried ourselves in this graveyard (in a non-immigrant quarter - author’s note), but it won’t be long and we’ll leave and settle among our folk.”; “At first we lived in lodgings near the leather factory. It smelt bad. Then we built a house, but later sold it, because it was at the outskirts of the town and because we wanted to live in the Bulgarian section, in the Havuzlar district, where the gocmenler konutlari (the homes of immigrants) were.”
What are the immigrants’ neighbourhoods like and where does their attractiveness stem from? Above all - from neighbourly relations. Everybody knows everybody there. As I was told by a Pursaklar resident, an emigre from the Razgrad district: “I was visiting Bursa about Kurban Bairam and I met all our village there.” This creates the feeling that you are at home: speech is the same, nobody calls you “gocmen” or “giaour”, they do not mock your incorrect Turkish, you do not have to attend mosque, there are people to whom you can say “hullo” and ”how are you”, from whom you can borrow salt , there are children with whom your children can play...
It would not be useless, I think, to describe one of the neighbourhoods inhabited by immigrants. Let this be Yildiz Evler (Star Houses), or as it is also called, Pursaklar. It may be because it is isolated from the capital, as well as from the village of Pursaklar, where local people live, that this residential area represents no less than a patch of Bulgarian reality. In spite of the lunar Anatolian landscape. Specially constructed in 1992 to shelter immigrants, it was inaugurated by the president himself in the month of December the same year. Blocks of flats lined up on top of a high, windy hill - totalling about 1350 apartments, each with 3 or 4 inhabitants. For a mere three years, its immigrant residents had made the desert virtually blossom out. Outside around each block one could see well-cultivated flower gardens, at some places fenced with barbed wire. Flowers looking like carpets: daisies, Indian cress, hollyhocks, marigolds, pinks, roses... everything that grows in the Bulgarian soil too. Planted were also acacia trees, willows, chestnut-trees, mulberry trees, decorative trees. Certainly, there were also vegetable fields where tomatoes, pumpkins, onion, savory grew... let me not enumerate everything. Trellis vines. Decorative shrubs on both sides of each block’s entrance. Along with the flowers and vegetables, the trees were also watered without fail (irrespective of the water-supply restrictions). Window-boxes with petunias were seen on the balconies. (As a matter of fact, a great many of them are glazed in here too.)
And beyond the last buildings of the neighbourhood, all at once I lighted upon an amazing sight: in the very middle of the stony ground there were again vegetable fields showing green. Gardens that had been taken from the wasteland. “I shouldn’t be astonished”, I thought to myself, “for if these people plant a thing on the yonder rocks, it will surely come up and keep growing.”
Apart from the football ground, there was an amateur-made “Park” area: an open-air kindergarten knocked up from material at hand - swings and seesaws, slides, alcoves. This park was the older people’s achievement. As I was told: “They can’t really stand idle.”
The streets of Pursaklar, especially in the late afternoon and on Sundays, resounded with the cheerful uproar of boys and girls in shorts, young women in miniskirts. In Turkey one can encounter such ”defiance” very rarely - only along the elite street “Tunali” (Danubian) in Ankara, or in the fashionable resorts, but there fashion is set by foreigners.
What has been said of Pursaklar is also true of Cadir kent - the little tent town near the railway station in Edirne. In this neighbourhood, too, literally every inch of ground has been used for growing little gardens. “At least we don’t have to buy greens”, told me one of the hotel cleaners, residing in Cadir kent. And again flowers outside the houses, along the windows. In tin-plate white cheese containers, but no less flowers. On the facades one can see hanging ropes of onion and garlic, strings of red peppers.
It is clear, I hope, that the above-described gardens had been planted not of necessity alone. In Bursa, for example, in its Huriet district, a 77-year-old immigrant would every now and then have a look at the flowers in her garden, about the size of two aprons. Her flowers had been brought from Bulgaria. And not only the flowers, but also the savory and the fresh-planted vine-stocks, which were expected to give leaves for stuffing. A marketplace was located in her street and I, dumbfounded by the horn of plenty to be seen there - and that is the way all Turkish markets actually look like - could not help asking: “Why leaves for stuffing, why savory?” Her explanation was laconic: “Ours taste better.” And with reference to the savory: “The one that grows here is not as sweet-scented as ours.” I felt ashamed - should one really ask about self-evident things?
And here follows one more example. I was staying at the country house of a dentist, an long-term (since 1978) immigrant in Bursa. A neat country house like one in an American TV serial, with green grass, roses and two palms outside. In the back yard, however, the dentist had planted with his own hands two beds of strawberries and tomatoes. He showed them to me with supreme pride and, as if by way of excuse, explained: “I studied at an agricultural school. And, besides, I miss the land.”
As we were going over the household furnishing, floor after floor - three in all, and, needless to say, ultra-modern - I was in constant expectation of the “bed of tomatoes” to pop up from some place. It did, on the attic floor. It was furnished in a folklore style. And where do you think it was from - from his and his wife’s native place, of course, from the Rhodopes.
In the other old immigrants’ houses I would come upon now a peasant rug from Krichim laid next to the dish-washing machine, now a niche full of home-canned jars of winter supplies by the side of a gymnastic apparatus, now a drink cabinet, where mastic brandy was stored, by the side of hunting guns... The organic link with their old homeland emerged from most unexpected spots.
Fitting-up one’s house is next important to acquiring a house for the new immigrants, and that is why the household equipment at their places is also up-to-date. In fact, as in the case of their impressive houses, furnishing has followed the imperative: “we are not second-rate people”. I am not going to list refrigerators, television sets, sliding doors, lighting fixtures and the like, I wish to dwell upon the curtains. Some of the most beautiful things I saw in Turkey were window curtains - you could hurt yourself while gaping at them. Apparently, the immigrants had noticed them too. “Can you imagine”, exclaimed a mathematician in Istanbul, “the year before last I spent 6 million on curtains for the hall (the drawing-room- author’s note). Six million was a lot of money at that time. Just in order to be like them!” And another remark regarding curtains made by one of the old immigrants, this time in Bursa, while speaking of her neighbours having settled in 1989: “They built a three-storeyed house. How that? They saved on food. They would buy a kilo of apples for the whole week. While they watched television, she (the mistress of the house - author’s note) would cut an apple into four pieces. But finally she bought of the most expensive curtains.”
It turned out, however, that you could not hide behind the expensive curtains and escape from the severe nostalgia you felt for the native places: the street, where you had played, the pine woods near the village, “the water - cool and sweet”, the quince tree in the yard, that “green, nowhere to be found”, or to put it in a nutshell - the magic known as one’s home country.
“Bulgaria is my home country”, kept repeating a primary-school teacher in Bursa, who had gone through the notorious Belene detention camp and later interned after serving a sentence during the “revival process”.
In their memories, the abandoned native land became paradise lost. “It’s very nice here”, said I to a young man carrying a blond child in his arms, in Corlu. “In fact it isn’t”, he replied, “it’s nice in Haskovo.” And not only Haskovo. In Ankara a 44-year-old man asked me about Shoumen: “Shoumen was a nice town, I don’t know if you have been there lately. I wonder if they have finished the hotel there? The centre... they made a very nice centre there on the occasion of the 1300th anniversary.” A waiter in the hotel in Bursa, having arrived as a tourist in 1993, confided to me: “Each night I dream of my native village, then I wake up and tell myself: “Damn it, I’m still here!” There are pine woods around everywhere.” “But Bursa is green”, I rejoined. “Green, nothing of the kind, it’s green in our place. Bursa is all over concrete.”
Well, if Bursa is not considered green, then can anybody tell where it is green. No wonder where - in that Bulgarian pine-surrounded village.
I kept defending Bursa’s natural environment, this time involving water. Bursa - the city of thermal springs and healing waters. Bursa, which had been described by Evlya Celebi in his famous work “Seyahatname” as follows: “In one word, Bursa is water.” My interlocutor’s reply was: “There is nothing like our water anywhere. Sweet and fresh. When I go back home, I’ll fill up a demijohn and have a good drink.”
And here follows another episode: In Corlu I met two young women, immigrants with different backgrounds. One of them, whose husband had managed to make a little pile of money by trading in leather articles, had only hours ago arrived from her holiday spent in Antalia and was at a loss for words to describe the beauty of the Mediterranean coast. The other woman, divorced and employed as a worker in a sewing factory, listened to her for some time and then uttered dreamily: “Yes, but you can find nowhere the greenery to be found in Bulgaria.” And then she said to me: “I keep thinking of things there. I want to earn enough money and come to either Varshets or Bankya to heal my nerves.” “But you’ve just heard what resorts there are in Turkey, haven’t you? And, what’s more, Bulgaria isn’t the same already”, I said. The woman shrugged her shoulders: “Only Bulgaria can help me. I was born there, I went to school there, I got used to that place. It’s green there.”
I said aloud what I thought: it was probably the lack of money that made nostalgic feelings stronger. The young woman energetically protested: “Oh, no, there are some people in Corlu that have got houses, and money, and yet they are homesick and miss Bulgaria. It’s different here.”
“I wonder why I keep thinking of life back there. By now we’ve lived in this place for seven years, but it’s always been the same thought....”, said, seeking my answer, a saleswoman at the immigrants’ market, the Bulgarian market as it was called in Bursa. And then suddenly started singing to me: “O you, my mother, my Native Land” (“The Hanging of Vassil Levski”). “I start crying every time I sing this song”, she said and tears filled her eyes.
What I heard most often was: “Golden Bulgaria is now gone.”; “Bright Bulgaria is no more.” I left Turkey with dozens of commissions: “Remember us to people there. With all our hearts.”; “When you pass by my native place, do not forget to wave at it on my behalf...”
The problem of adapting oneself to the new environment is most pronounced with the elderly people. They, I can definitely say, have no chance. Their dream boils down to being able to at least die in Bulgaria. I have put down the words of a 57-year-old woman from a village in the Shoumen area, immigrant in Ankara: “I’ve been weeping for five years. I’ve cried my eyes blind. Life is really hard here. And it’s green back there, the air is fresh. You can found that kind of green nowhere else. The graves of my beloved people are there, I was born there, I want to die there.”
Or the episode I heard from a Bulgarian working in Istanbul telling about Kadir’s quince-tree in the Razgrad region. Kadir asked him, should he go to the Deliorman, to stop in his village and see whether his quince-tree had yielded fruit. The tree turned out to be well-laden and my acquaintance called on his place hoping to please him. But Kadir began to cry and asked: “There was a decayed bough on the back side, has it fallen down?”
The native land they yearned for predominated in their memories, in their thoughts, in their dreams at night. I listened to many dream accounts “but about life there, what else can I dream of here...”. I would only like to retell one of them, which, at first sight, has nothing to do with either the 1989 immigrants, or with their adaptation to the new surroundings. This dream, it seems to me, touches deep into the human soul’s layers which would suddenly - and most inexplicably - start vibrating through the generations and which are rooted in family folk memory.
The story of the dream is as follows: In a small town not far away from Bursa, I knocked, quite at random, on a wooden gate and asked for water. In a cosy inner yard the mistress of the house, Sevgi, was getting ready to renew the paint. When I told her I came from Bulgaria, she exclaimed: “So, my husband proved to be right”, and straight away invited me in. Sevgi, aged 48, a Pomak woman, had heard from her father that her grandfather had come from Bulgaria. The night before she had dreamt her cousin, who had died two years ago. It had been the first time since then that she had seen her in dream. In the dream, Sevgi, her husband and her cousin, who was “esas Bulgar” (pure-blooded Bulgarian woman), were somewhere on a threshing-floor with nice, large, soft bales of straw around”. She had related the dream to her husband and he had interpreted it in the following way: “You may expect guests from across there (from Bulgaria - author’s note).” “That’s why I dreamt her, because you were to come from Bulgaria”, said delighted Sevgi. And after “chatting” for some time in Bulgarian - put in inverted commas, for she remembered only desultory words like bread, milk, spoon, straw..., - Sevgi plied me with questions “about across there” - questions betraying her commitment. I shall presume to quote some of them: “Are you one of us? Are you Pomak? Is there bread now in Bulgaria? Do they make you suffer there? Can you change your money for dollars and gold there? Can you have your own property there?” As it appears to me, no comment is needed.
Yet, it was not only later-life age that had to bear the burden of homesickness. In large measure, mental suffering was not unknown to younger people too, but it affected them less often, stayed with them for a shorter time, and the nostalgic mood was not as intensive and devastating. They had no time to indulge in retrospection. The future and its urgent tasks lay ahead. While the elderly people, having completed their labour activity, having given up their economic -factor position in the family, were burning out like candles, feeling their own uselessness. We should not also forget the fact that they had come from villages or small, for Turkey’s scale, towns and had been confronted with ”formidable” urbanised centres like Istanbul, Bursa, Ankara, Izmir. “Where can I go here? In my village, you can go out in the square. At ease. And where can I go here? I’ve been nowhere else. Look, they say, there’s a sea (the Marmara - author’s note), there is everything here. Why, is there anything at all here?”
Their social contacts were reduced to nought. Isolated, closed up in their own group and between four walls, they were left with only their memories about the times and places when and where they had been young, needed, esteemed: “To think of the weddings we used to give... Well, that time is gone.” And one more remark: “If only I could die there.”
The social contacts of immigrants in active age with the local population - both employees and employers - should be established leastwise at their workplaces. And they were being established, but rather formally. What were the factors determining the coldness present in their relations with workmates? In the first place , the immigrants were regarded as intruders, because they took their - the local people’s - jobs. I shall right away give an eloquent example. In Bursa, in a towel shop, an old woman with a headcloth on, virtually rushed on me. And she fell on me in such a way that the shop assistant had to interfere. She said she had worked in “Merinos” (textile mills). When the Bulgarian immigrants had come, she had been fired. It should be specified here that her dismissal had not taken place in 1989, but back in 1951. Since then, for straight 45 years, she had not been able to accept it: “Is their seed golden by any chance? The state has given them jobs, houses. Aren’t we human beings? Aren’t we citizens of this country too?” To say nothing of the newcomers, those who “have taken our jobs, who are egoists and do nothing but demand of the state”!
In the second place, the immigrants worked hard, took their colleagues’ duties, worked extra-time, some of them worked and studied, and had the feeling they coped well, they coped better. Frequently you could even hear quite bold assertions, as made by two former tobacco workers, then chamber-maids in one of the hotels in Bursa: “Had it not been for us, they would have been lost. In Bulgaria we were given the hardest work too, and it’s the same here. They are lazy, don’t feel like working” (I should admit that more than once I also heard remarks about the idleness of the Bulgarians.) In the third place, there was a drastic difference between the ways and practices in socialist Bulgaria’s enterprises, and the iron discipline and the all-powerfulness of the patrons (employers) in Turkey: “When at work here, one is on the move all the time. It’s not as it used to be in Plovdiv, I was a pupil nurse there and could watch what they did. Even if you want to go to the toilet, they ask you: “bowel movement or discharge”, and write down your name and how long you have been away.” (a nurse, Bursa). A worker in a sewing factory: “It’s not the way it used to be in Bulgaria. I could go out of work in Isperikh. I could move around the factory as I liked. While here you have to stay where you are placed. The patron may fire you, if he wishes so.”
The immigrants adapt with difficulty to the hierarchy in the Turkish society and the working environment in particular. As put by an ex-miner in Bursa: “I respected my boss in Bulgaria, because he did not discriminate. His family and my family used to make visits at each other’s places.” Surely, it will take a long time in this case, at least one or two generations, before they come to be on visiting terms not with their patrons, but even with their colleagues.
Even the new settlers that have come into money, being now patrons themselves, do not approve of the local employers’ omnipotence and claim that they ”are not like that”. An example: a family in Istanbul, aged 30 years or so, managed to start business and in 1996 the husband provided employment for 14 people. The wife’s account: “My husband is not like the locals. Even if they don’t work, he can’t sack them. We have one who is unable to fold up a newspaper and yet we pay him 20 million each time. The local patrons make no bones about dismissing someone.”
I mentioned already that the relations between the immigrants and their local colleagues could be described as cold. The curious thing in this case was that the immigrants maintained: “These people here are chilly - , they are not like people in Bulgaria.” The locals, in turn, asked me: “Are people in Bulgaria cold?”
Let us not pass over in silence the existing mistrust: “You are talking to someone decently, and he is stabbing you in the back. Someone who comes from Bulgaria must be a fool - that’s the way he thinks.” (Edirne, 1996.)
Having lived in a country where the forced social levelling was the norm, it was difficult for the Bulgarian Turks to adapt to the strong social stratification in their original home as well. Nevertheless, they treated the local people who had laid up huge fortunes, so to say, philosophically: “I don’t envy the rich, look, my patron has got milliards, but he has lost his health.”; “It is important to me to have a rich soul and good health.” Of course, you could often hear: “One can get rich only by sharp practice.” Or: “They may be rich, but we are intelligent, educated, Europeans...”, etc., all in the same vein. “Look, there are rich people here who don’t know the amount of money they have, but they don’t know how to live either.”
To my mind, if we have to specify the precise point where the initial intoxication with the tender reception they were given in the land of their original home changed into waking up after a hard drinking night (hang-over alluded), no doubt this would be the workplace. Many a time I tried and failed to get an insight into what was happening there, apart from discipline and hard work, but in most of the cases when I began making exulted tourist-style statements of the kind: “I love Turkey, it’s splendid!”, I was opposed by the same words: “How do you know? Just stay here for one year, but get employed, and then you’ll sing another tune. When I came here as a tourist, I was delighted too.”
The contacts between the immigrants and their classmates at school and fellow-students at the universities were also characterised by aloofness, restraint, coolness. The local young people avoided them, and the newcomers associated chiefly with one another or with the children of earlier immigrants. One of the causes of this phenomenon, at least in the beginning, was the poor knowledge of the Turkish language, which made the boys and girls from Bulgaria appear reticent and estranged. Most often this remained uncomprehended by both their teachers and schoolmates and the resulting misunderstandings were charged on the young immigrants’ bill. In Pursaklar a 23-year-old girl told me that when they had come to Turkey, she had only one year of study before finishing high school. In the beginning and in the end of the week, the students used to sing the national anthem, and the girl was alone in the classroom, because she did not speak Turkish. The teacher had scolded her in everybody’s presence. She had asked her: “Why have you come here then, you’d better have stayed there (in Bulgaria - author’s note).” In 1995, when the interview was conducted, the girl was already a university student, spoke in excellent Turkish, but still felt herself a strange little bird. She studied English with persistency and dreamt of finding employment somewhere in Europe, as a matter of fact, similarly to many other students of immigrant background. It appeared to them they would never be able to become adjusted to their new environment (youth and their “never” and “ever”) and saw the way out in reemigration, Germany and Australia being most often in their dreams.
In actual fact, the lack of knowledge of the language was the most easily overcome barrier in the process of adaptation. They quickly fell in step with the standard language, even with the jargon, and within only several years it would be impossible to tell them apart from the locals linguistically. But this fact did not seem to change and improve the situation very much. The isolation appeared to be insurmountable. “At school there’ s no friendship. Just “hello’s” and that’s all. Relations are insincere. You can trust nobody. They misunderstand you.” (a high-school girl’s account, Istanbul, 1995)
In the case of young people, problems came also from their unwillingness to comply with the norms of behaviour common to the local society, since they found these norms to be too conservative and needlessly restrictive of their personal freedom. They felt uncomfortable that they “are not received as equals” and “are looked down on”, but they themselves quite often, by way of reaction perhaps, demonstrated an arrogant behaviour, a forced liberty. “We do not feel free”, declared they in chorus and started with the clothes: “When the refahcis (Refah partisi - a pro-Islamist party - author’s note) won the local elections in Ankara in 1992, the people celebrating in the streets were calling us “orospu” (girls with short skirts were meant - author’s note).”; “It’s depressing here”, said a schoolboy in Bursa, “because of the uncivilised people who come from Anatolia. They look for jobs and instead of changing themselves, they would impose that style on us too. You can’t dress the way you like.”
Besides, they did not accept the restrictions in intersexual relationships. I shall quote an excerpt from the lecturing of a lady from Razgrad addressed to a young girl: “ Don’t you know that should they only see you with a man in the street, they would start insinuating: this one has got married! And if they see you once again with some other man, your tale is told.” Or a remark made by a young man (in Edirne): “As soon as you go out with a girl here, people start gossipping, as if something big has come about.” (As a matter of fact, the entire immigrant community was affected by gossiping. An old woman remembered her village in the Shoumen region and made comparisons: “It’s morning, 4 o’clock, snow around, people are going to work, there’s no such gossiping. They only peer out from behind the windows.” And one example of the middle-aged generation, based on comparison again: “In our country you could drink coffee with anybody you liked, but we had no evil thoughts in our minds. Here you can’t talk to or just sit over tea with a colleague. They would right off come around to thinking all sorts of things. Through ignorance.”
Nevertheless, the young people were most sensitive regarding this matter and reacted most vigorously against the division of the two worlds - male and female - by Islam. “There is one world”, they said. “Why should the hostels, for example, be only for boys or only for girls, the boys’ access to girls’ hostels being absolutely forbidden.” Or, as an English philology student summarised all questions in this respect by asking herself: “How can you turn a skirt into a fire secret?”
The asylum sought - by way of deliverance from gossips, coolness, misunderstanding and distrust - was found in the family. The latter was expected to compensate for the unquenched thirst for full-fledged association, as well as to alleviate the disappointment of being strangers in their land of origin.
In a conversation about the pensions and length of service of those who had left Bulgaria, a former tractor-driver from the Omourtag area told me he wanted nothing of the Bulgarian authorities, since whatever might the emigres have lost, they had gained a Mother Country. This statement, however, was immediately followed by a young woman’s objection: “Oh, really! They have gained, if you please, a Mother Country! Why, the locals don’t care a bean for you! Maybe the children of our children will have a motherland, but we...” And she told us how in her family her granny had wished to give one of her grandchildren the name of Yurt (motherland), and her father had asked: “What has the poor child done to you that you want to call him “yoghourt” or “hostel”? (In the Turkish language the three words sound in a similar way.)
The closure within their own ethnic group witnessed in Bulgaria during the renaming period and the subsequent acts of repression, became even more confined in the new environment, for it was reduced to the limits of the family alone.
One should expect that in extreme situations the family would stick closer together, but sometimes it was the other way about. The stress caused by their moving from one place to another, by the unsuccessful efforts to find work and the resulting depression proved to be difficult to cope with by, mostly, some of the younger and more intelligent couples and they came to be divorced. After the marriage had been dissolved, the care for the children was shared, but divorced women had to work harder and face and cope with more solitude. All the divorced women I met, in addition to accommodation, food and expenses, paid their children’s private lessons fees. “Even in times when I got 5 million”, told me a divorced woman in Edirne, “I took loans in order to be able to pay for my daughter’s private lessons in English and mathematics.”
I was surprised by the sacrifices made by the immigrants for the sake of their children. The basic human duty - to bring up offspring - was combined with the effort to provide for them good education. You may starve, but you will spend your last money to buy a computer for the little one, as well as on extra lessons, on studying in some other city, at a prestigious university.
It was not fatal for the native parents if their son did not study at an university: he would simply start work in his father’s shop and continue the family business. They had been prepared for this since their childhood years. There were no such opportunities opened up before the immigrants. Having no property, they relied solely on their working ability, on their professional qualification. Hence the fear they felt for their children. Hence their aspiration to secure them with better paid professions, i.e. to guarantee their future. “The most important investment in this world is to bring up your children and provide good education for them. I value best the education, culture, and discipline Bulgaria gave me and these I want to give to my son”, said a female immigrant in Bursa.
“There is no one to rely upon here, relatives don’t help”, was what I heard from all directions. But was it not with the help of relatives that their houses had been built, were not the relatives those who would lend assistance in one’s search of a job? Later on I was able to realise that they did not help with money: “I have an uncle in Turkey, but relatives don’t help. They emigrated earlier. I asked him to lend me some money, 300 thousand, but he refused to.” In fact, how could they, taking into account that their own means, too, were scanty. Moreover, in most of the cases, they rarely saw one another, being scattered all over the country. “Relations gather for Bairams, weddings, sunnets. You can’t help going, although it’s an outlay. They’ll be cross.” And some other reasons - their work duties do not allow, or they cannot afford it - “it’s an outlay”.
Festivities here have nothing to do with the large and crowded feasts in Bulgaria. It happened that even during Bairams no relatives were visiting. “Everybody celebrates the Ramazan at home. When the Bairam comes, you can see a bustle here. The children... from door to door. But we, adults (think - author’s note) of what we’ll be able to do from now on, my son is in the army...” It might even happen that at an engagement party (this was the practice with the old-time immigrants, who had learnt to be economical) the stress be mostly laid on dancing. “It was good that we had taken a meal before that”, exclaimed an acquaintance of mine in Istanbul. “We were dying with hunger. There was nothing like that in Bulgaria. Can you imagine, all the treat was a chocolate each. Just a chocolate each! At any rate, we could dance horo and kocek. I like the straight horo best.”
The Bulgarian Turks celebrate New Year too, “although it’s considered a Christian festival here”. It is true that you cannot really have a fur cut, but there is nothing to prevent you from preparing fortune-slip pasty. “Well, we are here, but we keep on our customs, again New Year, birthdays...”; “We have big New Year festivities. You can see champagne cracked after 12 at midnight.” (Edirne, Cadir kent)
In order to overcome this closure within the family, in order to satisfy an age-old human need for association, affiliation and intimacy, friends are invited to visit the house. Again immigrants. “I have friends and we see each other every night, but all of them come from our circles”; “No local women are to be found among my friends. It is not possible to make gercek (true) friendship with them. They smile in your presence, but behind your back - ikiyuzlu (hypocrite).” “There are some families here we are friendly with, they’re immigrants too. Besides, a family of doctors, intelligent people. Well, there are some nice people among the locals. I have a colleague in the hospital, a very nice woman. A local. Yes, she’s local, but her mother’s mother is also an immigrant.”
The main entertainment during these visits of friends was television. Watching television is a major family entertainment in Turkey not only for the new settlers. There are about 380 television transmitters with a dozen private and four public channels focused on the everyday life, traditions and morals of the Turkish citizen. Certainly, there is a good number of American serials. Very popular among the TV viewers are the topical programs hosted by popular commentators and some musical and entertainment shows. For the immigrants television broadcasts are an important means for integration into the new social atmosphere; it is a source moulding commitment to the national events. Provided, of course, one manages to swallow the endless advertisements which have very often a maddening effect on the Bulgarian Turks who have not been accustomed to the mechanisms of market relations. “In Turkey they say”, I was informed by a doctor in Bursa, “if you have 100 thousand liras, you should spend 70 on publicity and 30 - on business.”
The personalities to be seen on the screen, pop singers mostly, provide one of the main conversation subjects, and the family TV sagas - a topic to discuss at women’s parties. In Turkey the women have their own, entirely female, companies that use to gather in the course of years, usually in the afternoon hours to have tea and cakes on fixed days each month. Given the prevailing commodity-and-money relations, this type of contacts is far from being an end in itself. Each one of the women would give a certain sum of money, depending on the current price of one gram of gold, and this money is granted to the hostess - a specific form of savings.
The newcomers still visit each other disinterestedly - make visits for the visits’ sake. Female immigrants of earlier periods have adopted the local model and have also at least two companies - the first one, in conformity with some unwritten law, consisting entirely of immigrant women from their own native places, and the second one - of members of their respective professional circles.
It happens sometimes, mainly among the youth, that native girls invite a female colleague, immigrant from Bulgaria, to similar gatherings, but their invitation is declined, because “they keep speaking only of dowries, it’s boring.” And particularly of one indispensable element of the dowry - crocheted laces. Or, as put by a university student in Istanbul: “Why should you waste your time for this long-drawn-out crochet-hook nightmare, when you can buy it.” As a rule, only the students allow themselves a neglectful attitude, the others, although reluctantly, obey: “My wife and my daughter were awfully harassed by a large crocheted table-cloth, they’ve been crocheting it for the last one year. There was nothing of the kind in Bulgaria”, confided an immigrant from Haskovo.
Not only the immigrants from Bulgaria give priority to the family in Turkey. For the native Turks, too, the most important event in human life is marriage. The songs over the radio, the films on the television, the advertisements, everything operates in favour of love. It is a different matter how many of the marriages are contracted for love.
The local features of the marriage institution represent one of the things to which the newcomers adapt most rapidly. Here the young couple lives in their own home, possibly rented, but in all cases separately from their parents. “We keep to the American model”, said in reference to this practice (and on other occasions too) the locals. It is an obligation of the boy, that is of the male side, to provide the young couple’s permanent accommodation, while the girl’s dowry includes the furniture and the above-mentioned laces.
The immigrants’ marriages are contracted within the community as a rule. “We intermarry, we don’t get married to the locals. It’s a civic marriage. The Bulgarians (Bulgarian Turks - author’s note) don’t attend mosque.” Here follows an explanation of endogamy given by its very bearers: “I want my sons to marry Bulgarian Turkish women, because they are some of us - we have everything in common - our education and all other things.”; “We get married to other immigrants. They (the locals - author’s note) have a different way of thinking. A girl of their midst will not make a wife to one of us. They have not been used to work like our women, that is hakana hanims. Only the husband works.”; “The immigrants marry European immigrants (i.e. such who come from the Balkans - author’s note ).”
There are, of course, some exceptions. As was explained to me, girls from Bulgaria married native people, ”when they are rich and because of their connections”. They and the local boys were said to prefer gocmen women, but their parents objected.
A most important factor in a marriage is identity of faith, followed by ethnic identity. The attitude of the Turkish society itself is alike. According to sociological survey data, the two absolutely indispensable conditions for a stable marriage are: in the first place - identical religion and, in the second place - identical ethnos.
I remember the arguments given by one of the earlier immigrants when his hesitant brother-in-law was getting ready to head back to Bulgaria: “If you’d like your daughter to marry a Bulgarian, then go back!”
Nonetheless, among the young people one could notice beginnings of a largely prejudice-free way of thinking regarding both confession and marriage in general. “It’s a good thing that you have married a Turkish woman”, said I to a young boy in Bursa, who had confided to me that all his dates before he married had been Bulgarians. “Why do you think so?” he asked. “My cousin married a Catholic, an Italian man. Very rich. And they live very well.” While his other cousin, immigrant in Istanbul, did not find any sense at all in marrying someone as long as one can live with somebody else without marriage, thus strongly embarrassing her parents and other relations: “So smart, self-dependent, strong-willed, but just listen her talking!” - they were at a loss.
A frequent explanation of endogamy I came upon was food. “Immigrants intermarry, because the food is different here. The locals cook mostly vegetable dishes.”
Food is also considered to lie at the bottom of physical differences - between native-born people and immigrants ( naturally, to the advantage of the latter). “Local women are petilik (small). Women here have thighs as short as half a metre. I would say to them: “You’ve been eaten up by this tea here.” And what do they have for breakfast? It’s tea again, some olives and white cheese. While we there ( in Bulgaria - author’s note), used to slaughter two cows at a time, sausages, milk. It’s because of the besleme (nutrition) that their men are so short and thin.”
Food is also perceived as a mark of hospitality. I mentioned already the long-long tables in Bulgaria. Generally speaking, the tradition of “laying out the best things available when you have guests” has been preserved here too. “We are like that, generous, not like the locals.” I shall quote the indignation of a female immigrant from Rousse in reference to the local customs: “I don’t care if she should invite me to tea - as soon as you’ve finished your tea and you have to go, that’s all her reception. There’s not much you can talk of either, she’ll set tongues wagging about you immediately.”
Indeed, there is a great deal of tea-drinking in Turkey. Besides, the native people take their meals with the rapidity of lightning. Before you can say knife, the table is served and cleared. The solid meal is taken in the evening - there is no time left during the daytime. A news-man outside the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul shed some light on this matter: “In Turkey everybody has a distended stomach, because they eat most at supper. I would eat up a whole loaf of bread at supper. They work much and eat much in Turkey.”
The speedy eating, imposed by the dynamism of life, is perceived by the newcomers as a sheer disrespect of the guest. I was having lunch with a female acquaintance of mine in Istanbul, while the waiter kept lifting my dishes, so she remarked: “You are now familiar with their manners, aren’t you? My father, although he was born in the countryside, would not let anything be taken away from the table before all the guests had left.”
It seems that in the process of adaptation eating habits and cooking practices fade away last. In my initial contacts with the extraordinary variety of the splendidly delicious Turkish cuisine, I could not even imagine what I was to be faced with at my meetings with the immigrants. The first “blow” was dealt on me in the bus travelling from Bursa to Ankara. There was a blonde woman sitting next to me, and her travelling bag was crammed up with boxes of Bulgarian waffles. Said she: “There is a Bulgarian market in Bursa. You can find everything there, everything from Bulgaria.” And in reference to the waffles: “We eat them much here. Well, there are better ones in Turkey, but there you are!” Similar statements were made by the other immigrants whenever we began discussing foodstuff subjects: “There is everything here, but we’ve been used to our food”; “I cook the same dishes here that I cooked in Bulgaria. I’ve got accustomed to it, so have the children.” “What I used to make in Bulgaria, that’s what I make here. I pack jars too. You can buy it, but it’s tastier.” (I visited a family that had immigrated in 1957 from Sancak. The main course at lunch was “Bosniac pita”.)
As a matter of course, there are innovations too. The women exchange recipes for mince-stuffed eggplants, for cakes with curds, for various kinds of pasty: “There (in Bulgaria - author’s note) pasty was cooked with cheese only, you know...”
“Don’t be misled”, the immigrants advised me, “for they really look nice. They’ve got no flavour (the local dishes - author’s note).” There followed comparisons: “Is that meat what they have? It’s full of potatoes and soya. And what meat we used to eat. Me, my cellar in Rousse was crammed with packed jars of meat. These guys here don’t have meat, they may taste it once in a month, or they may not.” “The meat has no taste here. It is stuffed with hormones (the cattle - author’s note). Both fruit and vegetables are tasteless too.”
In the Huriet neighbourhood in Bursa, whoever you may ask, you will be told the way to the “Rozhen” confectionery. It is kept by immigrants from Ardino, who had arrived in Turkey in 1976. They opened it the next year and until the present day they have enjoyed an excellent business. The father had worked for 22 years in the bread-making plant in Madan, and now his sons prepare jam buns, patties, cheese-cakes, Easter cakes. “The weight is also the same as in Bulgaria”, the sons said.
Largely popular are the markets known as “immigrants’ markets”, which appeared after 1989: in Istanbul, the Avcilar district; in Edirne, the Bin evler neighbourhood ; in Bursa, the Huriet neighbourhood; in Ankara, the Pursaklar district.
“It’s cheaper, and we’ve got used to it”, said the customers. On the immigrants’ market in Edirne, for example, one can buy meat at a twice lower price. The merchandise is transported by Turks, but also by Bulgarians, mostly from Kurdzhali and the Kurdzhali region. On the stands of the above-mentioned markets one can find white cheese, butter, yellow cheese, olives, sausages, frankfurters, various flat sausages, tinned food - fish and boiled veal, spices, pepper puree, jam, waffles, Turkish delight, khalva, coffee, herb teas, mastic, fine brandy, sparkling wine, cosmetics, medicines (from analgin-quinine to antibiotics).
Immigrants who have enough money can also be seen here, and they, too, say they find the Bulgarian food tastier. “No matter whether there is pork in the sausages.”
The Bulgarian relationship is far from being materialised on these markets alone, especially when after 1994 the individuals who had left Bulgaria in 1989 were entitled to both Turkish and Bulgarian passports, “iki vatandaslik” (dual nationality), as termed by the Bulgarian Turks. Enjoying this privilege, they can visit Bulgaria once a year without paying 40 dollars for a visa and 100 dollars for the so-called “konut fonu” (housing stock) fee paid down by each Turkish citizen on leaving the country. During the summer months the children come back to Bulgaria to spend their vacation, and the retired people - to take care of their gardens, to can food for replenishing the winter supplies, and to receive their pensions.
Those who are more enterprising collect money with the purpose of starting business with Bulgarian or Russian companies in partnership with Bulgarian middlemen. So far, business contacts between Bulgaria and Turkey are still maintained on the “suitcase trade” level, regardless of the 1200 Turkish companies registered in Bulgaria. As a matter of fact, according to an investigation carried out by the Institute of Economics “The Turkish investments have not been directed to the regions of mixed population, but rather to the large cities, and this fact describes better capital than the ethnic relations in the country.”11
Baby food is being bought from Bulgaria, if a child is ailing, because he or she had been fed on them first. Or a doctor is brought here outright, since the “local doctors (in Turkey - author’s note) don’t care a straw”. Clothes are also being bought from Bulgaria, irrespective of the fact that the Bulgarian market is flooded with Turkish goods. A habitual commentary: “local clothes are not worth anything; the shoes are worn out in only two months.”
Some of the young immigrants prefer sitting for admission examinations in Bulgaria and studying at Bulgarian universities. Others choose to serve in the Bulgarian army, because it is believed that the children of the newcomers are usually sent to serve as soldiers in the Kurd-inhabited regions in Turkey, where a war is waged against the Kurdish terrorists, as they are called here. A mother in Edirne, whose son was serving near the Lake of Van, told me that she had come to believe in Allah with worry: “In Bulgaria I wasn’t a believer, I became one here. It’s not that I attend mosque or things like that, but I am at my wits’ end to whom I should pray to have him back safe and sound.”
It seems that the Bulgarian Turks, like the Bulgarians themselves, think of prayers only when they find themselves on their knees. Maybe at this point I should mention something about the immigrants’ religiousness and its significance for the processes of adaptation to the new Islamic context.
On the face of it, the very discussion of these adaptation processes might seem inadequate, for both those who had left Bulgaria and the native-born Turks are members of one and the same religious community, share one faith and have common traditions. However, this is only on the face of it. We should not forget that the immigrants come from a Christian country, where over the last 50 years the role of religions - both Christian faith and Islam - has been appreciably reduced and atheists have practically been predominant compared to believers. This circumstance could not but reflect on the Bulgarian Turks. In their prevailing majority they openly declare: “I believe in nothing.” (It seems to me that the syndrome is common: the Bulgarian case is the same - they have religion, but have no faith.) Or they would say that: “religion has had its day”: “In the old days there were no mass media and it was the imam who preached, who spoke and then things got spread...”
Even those who call themselves “believers” have major discrepancies with the prescriptions of the Holy Quran, and not only in respect of certain food taboos, and the forbidden alcohol consumption, but on the subject of the very five pillars (i.e. the five basic rules) of Islam: testament, prayer, fast, charity and pilgrimage; the most typical example in this respect being worship and mosque attendance. “It is written in the Koran”, they say, “that it’s more important to create, rather than to pray.” Or: “It isn’t necessary to attend mosque in order to be a good Muslim. The good Muslim should not steal, should not lie..., and not just attend mosque. Allah is in one’s heart, not in the mosque.”
It is by lack of time that they motivate the fact that, even in their first home, they still keep away from the mosque as a place of worship: there is much work to be done, when work gets less, the mosque’s turn comes. “We, I don’t know, it’s not been our use, we don’t attend (mosque - author’s note)”.; “Of us immigrants, both in Bulgaria and here, only older men attend mosque, because while they are young, they have to work.”
In 1995 I witnessed a sort of hide-and-seek between father and son in Istanbul. The father, an immigrant from Bulgaria (1972), was a respected, and deeply religious, man. The son, an educated and well-bred boy, did not want to hurt his old father and when asked “Hasan, why were you not in the mosque”, he replied: “ Well now, dad, I was, I was uptown!” (If his father had been to the downtown mosque, as the case may be.)
But if you ask the Bulgarian Turks what they are, everyone of them will answer they are Muslims. And not just Muslims, but good Muslims, no matter that in their case Muslim does not at all mean believer, but rather one who observes particular rules and rites in everyday life.
Then, given the neglect of Islamic dogmas and rituals, where does their confidence stems from in saying: “We are good Muslims.” Maybe their life experience gives them grounds for it by showing them that, after all, much more important proves to be the moral imperative written by God in everybody’s heart - “Allah is in one’s heart, not in the mosque” - and which, in fact, is the same for all world religions. “I don’t believe in anything” , they say and always add a “but”. “But I think that one should be honest, should not steal, should not lie, should not kill and should help.” Or, in the phrase of one of the “believe -in-nothing” women: “What is left behind one? You are left with only a sheet. If you have done good, if you have given help, this is what is left behind - a good memory.”
When speaking of “who is a good Muslim”, I used to hear similar statements from even native people who described themselves as atheists: “They pay obeisances to Allah (false believers - author’s note), he will forgive them, but the rest of the time they keep cheating. Very religious, indeed.”
And as soon as their work grows less, attending mosque turns into a kind of social contact for the older immigrants. On weekdays, even on Fridays, the public in the mosques in the immigrants’ neighbourhoods is an exact resemblance of that in a Pensioners’ Club.
Of all my encounters, I would like to pick out two men, each aged 70, from two different towns, both of whom had declared themselves to be devoted Muslims. When the appeal for prayer “Allahu akbar” (Allah is almighty) was heard over the roofs, they did not just make for, they virtually ran to the mosque. What they had in common was not only their running, but also the fact that they were former Communist party secretaries in large enterprises. Or, as the daughter of one of them blasphemed: “He, my father, saw his Communist ideals collapse, and one can’t do without ideology.”
On the whole, the Bulgarian Turks, and I dare say it with all the energy and conviction I am capable of, have retained in large measure both their religious tolerance and the absolute lack of religious fanaticism they had brought with them from Bulgaria. There were students, downcast by their first love partings because of religious differences, who asked me: “Why should people be discriminated by their religion? Isn’t it possible for everybody to be an atheist?” A girl confided that she had entered a church in Istanbul, because she wanted to pray to God in order that her mother be restored to health. She had lit a candle and her prayer had been heard. “Why - asked I -didn’t you go to a mosque?” “Because you can’t light candles there”, was her answer.
With some of the older immigrants we discussed the Christianity - Islam topic. They argued that the difference between the Bible and the Koran was “as thin as an onion peel” and what is more, Bulgarians and Turks - “bir kokten geliyoruz” (are of common origin). Then adding: “And with the Arabs we have only a common religion, but it, too, is different.”
The Bulgarian immigrants’ chances of being more rapidly adapted to the new Islamic background apparently lie in the fact that their land of origin is Turkey - a secular country, and not only constitutionally - rather than some of the Islamic states.
Whenever I voiced my apprehensions about the coming of the Islamist Party of Well-being into power in 1996, not only the immigrants but the native Turks, too, kept convincing me that the “process is irreversible”, since “The Father of Turks, Ataturk, has done his work well”, as well as that “a guarantee of the secular foundations of the state is the army, which is not going to dishonour the legacy of Mustafa Kemal”.
As for the locals’ attitude to the immigrants with respect to the religiousness issue, their attitude varies from one extreme to the other, i.e. they either call them directly “gavurlar” (infidels), because they are “bulgarlar” (Bulgarians), or declare them to be more devoted Muslims than they, locals, are.
In fact, I have deliberately left for the end the discussion of the issue of the native population’s attitude to the immigrants - not only the problem of religious devotion, but generally the question of the various relationships: between the immigrants themselves, between immigrants of earlier and later times, between native-born and immigrants..., the whole vast realm known as human relations. I have done so, because I hope you will agree that one can hardly name another domain of the social sphere the study of which is more difficult and thankless - in terms of practice and in terms of description - than communion is. And when entire communities and the description of their mutual contacts and relationships are concerned, the task turns so complicated as to become almost unattainable. In the case of the “big-excursion” immigrants, things became complicated already at the border. The border became a dividing line in their lives. If the Bulgarian Turks of previous emigration waves had made their independent, voluntary choice to leave Bulgaria, the emigrants who left in the summer of 1989 felt compelled to, felt driven away from the country. If the past-time emigrants had not been able to return because of the one-way permeability of the border, during the latest migration tide there were more options. One could choose between one’s native place and one’s first home, and precisely this choice proved to be painful. For if in the 1970’s Turkey, as described by earlier emigres, was a backward country, right towards the end of the 1980’s it was a powerful and economically prosperous nation. “When we came here in 1978, Turkey was not like it is today. It became what you see now in the course of 10-15 years. We used to wonder: “Where have we come?” Terror, no constructions like today’s, rubbish, misery and ignorance everywhere. We didn’t get off a horse to mount a donkey, but rather to go straight on foot. Shouldn’t the border have been sealed, I would have been the first one to go back.” In 1989, however, the frontier was opened, and the Republic of Turkey was already an attractive place to live in. So it appeared. The newcomers made their choice and then, weighing its pros and cons, came to the laconic conclusion: “No worse lot than being a Turk in Bulgaria, and no worse lot than being an immigrant in Turkey.”, and in this brief statement the whole spectrum of attitudes towards the Turkish minority in Bulgaria and the gocmens (immigrants) in Turkey was focused.
Taking the risk of undermining the integrity of my presentation, I would not like to skip the first part of the assertion, namely - “no worse lot than being a Turk in Bulgaria”. What were the hardships of being a Turk in Bulgaria? I shall summarise them in the way they were formulated by the Bulgarian Turks themselves (setting aside the extreme situation in 1984-1989): “we are looked upon as second-class people; we are given the dirtiest jobs; nobody defends our interests; we are given lower marks at school; we are suspected of being potential emigrants, with an eye always turned to Turkey; artificial unemployment is provoked in our regions in order to make us emigrate, to clear Bulgaria of the Turks...”
Some of the enumerated (and omitted) assumptions are false, I think, and result from the tendency of each minority’s members to explain their personal failures with their affiliation to some small group. This reminds me of S. Stratiev’s personage - seed-vendor Chohadjian and his racial theory summarised in the following observations:“Chohadjian is Armenian. Chohadjian, the Armenian, sells seeds at the most inconvenient places. The largest taxes are levied on Chohadjian, the Armenian. Chohadjian, the Armenian is not respected. They take Chohadjian’s place. They beat Chohadjian, the Armenian. They set Chohadjian’s shed on fire.”
And when the Turkish minority is concerned, the burden of the historical complicatednes of the relations between Bulgarians and Turks makes things worse - there emerges the weighty image of the oppressor, of the age-old enslaver, an image that had come to life already in the early years of the conquest and has invariably come back to life in times of crises until the present day. The immigrants in Turkey asked me: “When will the Bulgarians stop it? They sing songs even to their infant babies of how the Turks had slaughtered them.” And also: “Well, how many times did they show “The Goat-Horn” and “Parting Time”, just say, how many times? (during the “revival process” - author’s note).”
And in the third place, but not least important, is Bulgaria’s inconsistent policy as regards its national question and, more specifically - the way the state treated the ethnic Turkish population in Bulgaria. At one moment it guaranteed them complete religious freedom (in the period following the Liberation in 1878), at another restricted their confession (subsequent to the sociopolitical changes that occurred after 1944). Not to mention the methods applied to integrate this population through a forceful renaming of the Bulgarian Muslims, and in the late 1984 - of the Bulgarian Turks. Even after the state had taken a number of social measures to improve the way of living, the educational level and culture of the Turkish minority group, the results were swept away at one stroke by the so-called “revival process”, when this minority became a scapegoat of the need for a social outlet of a hopelessly impracticable economic policy.
Before approaching the second part of the mentioned statement - “no worse lot than being an immigrant in Turkey” - I would like to dwell upon an issue of significance for the existing interrelations: the division of the Bulgarian Turks into Deliorman Turks and Kurdzhali-region Turks and the relations, or rather the lack of relations, between them as a result of this division.
The Turks from both regions admit that “they are different”, that “they cannot understand each other’s language”, that they have anthropological distinctions. The Ludogorie (Deliorman) Turks consider themselves to be “better looking, more intelligent, more open-minded”, and point out that the Kurdzhali-region Turks are “more backward, more conservative, more devoted to religion” (“they look much more towards the imams”).
This division was preserved after their immigration in Turkey. “We had not many contacts in Bulgaria either, it’s the same here. You can’t understand the way they talk. When they say they are from the Kurdzhali region... They are far away from us. It’s the same here.” (Edirne, 1994)
My observations on immigrants from earlier periods (1950-1951, 1968-1978) revealed, however, a better adaptability of the Kurdzhali-region Turks, and of the Turks from the Rhodope region in general, to the market economic relations in the Republic of Turkey that were new to them. They proved to be more inclined to take risks, they showed more enterprise, and more easily went into dealings or private business in general. The Deliorman Turks preferred to take salaried employment. “It’s more secure”, they said. Or, as put by a dealer who had come from Dzhebel: “They who are tied to the land, to the fruit-bearing land, as a rule, would not jump to a risky enterprise.”
Irrespective of the Deliorman Turks’ views, the Kurdzhali-region Turks are not wanting in self-confidence. They believe themselves to be “better united, more successful”. In Bursa, for example, I met immigrants of different periods, who worked together (at least three generations) in the trade sphere - as fellow-villagers from the Kurdzhali region, rather than on the principle of “muhacir muhacirini buluyor” (an immigrant would meet his match). And what might be better evidence of enterprise than the living proof of the richest people in Bursa - Ali Osman Sonmez and Mumin Gencoglu - both of whom are immigrants from Dzhebel. A shopkeeper selling ready-made clothes, who had emigrated from the Kurdzhali region in 1968, even told me an anecdote about a Jew who, after having been cheated in Kurdzhali, had exclaimed: “Oh my God, if you created the Kurdzhalites, then why did you create me?”
There exists also another type of intragroup division, the division of immigrants which is based on the town-village principle. The citizens of Rousse, Razgrad, Shoumen, and Silistra thought it very important and constantly underlined their place of residence in Bulgaria. They believed that the girls who had come from the countryside to a large city as Istanbul, Izmir, Bursa, or Ankara, had “looser morals” and no ethical inhibitions. These same urban people spoke with a kind of irony, which bordered on sarcasm, of the immigrants from the Bulgarian rural areas. A typical example in this respect was a woman from Rousse, living in Istanbul, who would find targets of her criticism at every step, making comparisons to the favour of her native city, and when I objected saying that there were people who, in turn, did like Istanbul, she answered back: “Do they, it is some Gypsy woman (meaning peasant woman - author’s note) from the countryside who likes it. She has come from a village and as she sees a pavement for the first time, she’s bound to like it. She’s not supposed to hoe maize here, is she? She has shut herself up between four walls and there you are - how nice it is! Very nice, but for her! Ask my son. But he’s a cultivated boy...”
In a sense, this woman from Rousse was right, because even the lowest paid peasant immigrants reported: “We are rid of the dirty work. We used to eat our bread with tarred (tobacco-stained - author’s note) fingers. Here you know your job, eight hours.”; “At least we are rid of the cattle”, etc.
However, it is also true that the haughtiness of my urban interlocutor prevented her from comprehending that one’s “liking” had another important cause - the opportunities which a country like Turkey provided for individual initiative and growth. Opportunities for which some of the villagers, predominantly the young ones, proved to be prepared, i.e. well-educated: “We are obliged to Bulgaria for having given us education, for having made it possible for us to learn languages. The Russian language is a fortune here.” These are the words of a young woman who had really escaped from - if not the corn - the vine-yard where her mother-in-law made her dig, and she liked Istanbul very much. She and her husband had engaged in merchandising 2-3 year before that and “We spent 12000 dollars only on the decoration of our apartment”, boasted the newly fledged businesswoman.
Then why is there “no worse lot than being an immigrant in Turkey”? Why really - now that you have built a house, have a job and your children go to school? Because (if we should again start from the border itself) they have welcomed you with the cordial “soydas” (compatriot), but you have waken up next morning to hear the contemptuous “gocmen” (immigrant). Because even immigrants of earlier periods, again from Bulgaria, have coined separate verbal formulas - some to describe themselves and others to describe you, formulas that are equivalent to dividing lines (and sometimes resemble front lines): they have identified themselves with the group of “eski muhacirler”, while you have been related to the group of “yeni gelenler” (newcomers) or “soydas”, the first term having a negative connotation, and the second - a derogatory one; that is to say, your yearning after Anavatan, your illusions have been confronted with the facts of life and you yourself have to cope with disappointment. Because - everything in this world being semiotics - you come to enter ever deeper into a forest of symbols, which you are not able to decipher, or in other words - you cannot find your way in the social structure of relationships in the new world, where you have found yourself. Because your knowledge of the language is of no help whatsoever to you, on the contrary, it extends the existing communicative isolation, since your very language is different and betrays you at every turn. Because of your discomfort in a hostile world and your sorrowful longing after the old one, where you were understood without words on the sole account that the others lived the same life as yours. Because of the disinterestedness surrounding you. Because you have come from a different culture area and you have to overcome the cultural distance between your mentality and value conceptions and those of the native population. Because you lack skills for living a new life together with new people... or, in the long run, because of all those components that can be reduced to a common denominator called the pains of adaptation.
Then how can we explain the attitude of old-time immigrants to the newcomers? Had they, too, not passed through the same, and even more exhausting, process of adjustment, a process which - it should be emphasised - has lasted until the present day and which is not alien to their offspring either, although the latter were brought up or born in the new place of residence? By this very reason perhaps, they treat the newcomers as a guardian would regard a pupil entrusted to his care, and therefore judge, in my opinion, much too severely. “Till 1989 we were proud to say that we were from Bulgaria. This meant many things until 1989: decency, honesty, skills, erudition... And now, one should feel ashamed of being a Bulgarian Turk.”
What are the offences of the newcomers that have cast a reflection on the name of the Bulgarian Turks? I shall present them in the expressions of the “eski muhacirler” themselves, taking the liberty, however, to add a brief commentary by way of explanation: “Can you imagine, they drink beer during Kurban-Bairam and taste the sacrifice meat as relish.” I was told about this blasphemy during the Bairam. On that day, 15 May 1995, the daily newspapers wrote that “because of the heavy traffic in connection with the Kurban-Bairam, many road accidents had occurred in the country involving 266 killed and 9505 injured. The causes: high speed and consumption of spirits.”
I, on my part, did not dare ask who had consumed this alcohol, only the new immigrants? And it was useless to ask, I myself could answer such a question. For I, too, needed time to become able to distinguish that specific duality of the Turkish society - the “outward”, visible, strictly regulated aspect of behaviour, and the “inward”, hidden, invisible, when the left hand is not familiar with what the right is doing. The newcomers had eaten Bairam meat openly, which might have appeared demonstrative, while at the same time the native residents... I would better quote them: “It’s not true that the Turks don’t drink, because their religion forbids them. It may be forbidden, but still we drink, although only at home. In Turkey people drink much. I drink vodka, brandy and beer. And the peasants in Anatolia make strong brandy of grapes, of water melons, it is not like the “yeni raki” that is on sale in the shops.” (Ankara, 1995); “I like drinking, but I never do it in the presence of my workmates, lest I lose my job. They, for they are supposed to be good Muslims, professedly don’t drink.” (Istanbul, 1995)
Some other transgressions: Here follows what I heard from a woman, an immigrant in Ankara since 1978: “When the new immigrants came, I was responsible for the relief. They were served meals in a school building, and they used to carry bread home. The Turks (the native ones - author’s) wondered why they did so.” (In fact, they should not wonder, for one feels more secure with a slice of bread in his pocket.); “We performed sunnet and gave a little gold coin to each of the boys. They [the coins] were counted and were not enough, because two of the children had taken two coins each.”
In Bursa, some immigrants, of earlier periods again, recounted: “They were given flour free, and they sold it afterwards.”; “They took items on the instalment system and returned to Bulgaria leaving it to their guarantors to pay.”; “They collected them at night (the girls of ease - author’s note) with trucks from Uludag (the mountain near Bursa - author’s note). Now Bulgarian Turkish women have become notorious across Turkey. Tell me, how is it possible for Turkish women to go to that bad. They now come next to Romanian women and Natashkas. They try to make an easy living.”
First, this story about the “trucks” is sheer hyperbole, it was acknowledged even by previous-period immigrants themselves, and, second, in the few cases of “sin” the “easy living” was absolutely out of the question, it was a matter of survival rather than of morality: to retain one’s employment, to provide for one’s children...
“Eski muhacirler” themselves believed they had every right to keep watch and sanction even the most innocent misdeeds of the newcomers, since it was they who had been coining the good name of the Bulgarian Turks over the years, especially in the period of the Cold War: it had not been that difficult for people to get to known that either your father had been a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party, or you yourself had been a secretary of the Komsomol students’ committee, or, else, that in a greatly stratified society you had spoken of how in Bulgaria “all people are equal and everybody receives the same salary - both doctors and workers”, which was considered to be “export of revolution” and for such talk law provided three years of internment to the Eastern parts of Anavatan.
Moreover, as I was able to make sure more than once, one of the first places in the value system of the Bulgarian Turks was taken by one’s name, meaning one’s honour and dignity: ”One lives for his name alone.”; “One only lives for his honour.” Or the often cited statement: “If you lose a fortune, you have lost nothing; if you lose courage, you have lost by half; if you lose your respectability, you have lost everything.”
Actually, the newcomers were welcomed with flowers and music, while the one-time immigrants had to prove their loyalty to the original motherland in order to be called compatriots. In fact, the old immigrants relied “only on themselves from the very first day” and “had not received a penny by the state”, while the 1989 immigrants “were given jobs in the large cities, even persons without diplomas, who had lied that the communists had torn their diplomas; they were provided with homes; their children were admitted to university studies after symbolic competitions; in the course of one year the state paid for their rents and provided food for them...” It seems that this fault-finding attitude towards the “cadgers” was caused by their concern - lest they should prove to be ungrateful and incorrect, or, possibly, disgrace the name of Bulgarian Turk.
Of course the offences I mentioned were a transient phenomenon. In 1995 the new immigrants, by that time well-established and having taken up permanent residence, having built their own houses, were already obliterating the liabilities: “We have credit now. Now, wherever you go they ask you: “Where are you from? From Bulgaria? You can be trusted.”; “Now to lease something (buy it on the instalment plan - author’s note), you may fail to make payments for as long as a whole year, nobody comes to ask you. They say now: “You have got a house, as soon as you have a fixed address...” (Istanbul, 1995); “They respect us very much here, because we are honest. When I was paying instalments for my furniture, and each time went 2 or 3 days earlier, the people there were amazed at the gocmens’ integrity.” (Bursa, 1995)
In principle, the self-assessment of the people who left Bulgaria during the “big excursion” (but also of earlier immigrants) was expressed in the following order: “We are honest , hard-working, well-bred, educated, persistent, disciplined...” They often declared: “Our immigrants are very smart and, in fact, all the people from Bulgaria with whom I have lived together - Bulgarians, Turks, Gypsies, all kinds, are generally very bright and advanced. I have travelled all over the country. I worked as an engine driver. I’ve been everywhere, except down there in Petrich.” (Ankara, 1994)
And whenever I made attempts to advance the view that everywhere around the world there were clever people, I had to hear that maybe I was right, but people from the Balkans were particularly intelligent. Then I would give examples of distinguished personalities on the Turkish political scene, in order to learn, for instance, that the then Prime Minister Tansu Ciller was descended from the village of Cile (?), in the Silistra region (that not only her husband, but she, too, was of Bulgarian stock). There was one more belief - that she herself came from Plovdiv. President Demirel and his wife were said to be immigrants from the Balkans, Ismet Inyonu - from Bulgaria, Kenan Evren - to be an immigrant from the Razgrad region, etc.
The immigrants maintained that they were respected by the state institutions because of these same above-listed qualities. Here I shall refer to one of these institutions: “In the Ministry of Health in Ankara they greatly respect the immigrants, because we are educated, persistent and industrious”, said a laboratory assistant in Edirne.
They are highly valued and given preference by the employers: “It means that our education is apparently and fundamentally distinguished. I am a teacher, there are local teachers, but there is a great difference between us. We are very disciplined. As soon as the bell starts ringin’, we are in the classroom. They (the principals - author’s note) are absolutely delighted with us.” (Istanbul, 1994); “My former patron was a native man. I worked in the book-keeper’s office. They valued me highly.” (Corlu, 1996)
Respected and better liked by institutions and employers, but what about the native population? As reported by the newcomers “the locals can’t stand us any more - we all work and rapidly make careers”. (Corlu, 1996) This is an exaggerated assumption, but there really was displeasure. And not only on account of immigrants from Bulgaria. The local people often calculated the number of immigrants for the past years and estimated it at as high as about 5 million: “In Turkey, - they said, - there is freedom and democracy, that is why immigrants keep flowing in: from Iran, from Turkmenistan, from Azerbaijan, from Bulgaria, from Bosnia... The state provides them with relief funds, with jobs. This policy is to the detriment of the native people.”
Were the native people, who felt harmed by the state’s policy towards the immigrants, setting up a wall between themselves and the new settlers? Did the Bulgarian Turks feel to be intruders in Anavatan? Asking my question “Did you get used to this place?”, why did I get the following answers: “Does it make any difference? Life is fun. We’ll manage it one way or another.”; “Life is but a span, wherever we may be, we’ll live it out.”; “What is one to do but get accustomed, as long as he’s here. It’s different here, it’s not like it used to be in Bulgaria.”; “One can get used to anything, otherwise we wouldn’t be alive.”
What is this “anything” which one should get accustomed to? The “anything” was epitomised in one single word: Turkey. So they kept repeating the following explanations: “Burasi Turkiye (it’s Turkey here). You see: it is Turkey here. There is a signboard at Kapikule: Turkey.”
To them Turkey from the signboard meant, above of all, a different sociopolitical order, money-commodity relations, a new model of social system for which they proved to be unprepared: “Everything rests on money here. It was only here that we began to value the free medical services and free-of-charge education. This money thing was new for us, but it’s been like that for ages here and they are accustomed to it. I can’t get used.”; “Everything is money here. There’s no humanity. Money, money... I was riding on a bus once, a man fainted, they got him off the bus and left him behind. And what if he had no money with him? If he should die like a dog in the street? I got frightened of the city I lived in.”
Money - the sole standard of any human activity. This was the great novelty which the Bulgarian Turks - exiled from a society in which it had been almost indecent to speak of money - had to come to terms with. Money and the absence of humanity. Humanity, a value which the Bulgarian immigrants placed just next to health: “May only we be in good health and enjoy kindness.” To keep to the truth, the words I heard from the local people, who were supposed to “be used” to the “everything is money” principle, were not much different: “They say Istanbul is nice. Yes, it is nice, if you have money. A lot of money. Everything costs money to buy.”; “There is freedom in Turkey. Yes, absolute freedom - to pay.”; “The rich have no fellow-feeling. In this world humanity is scarce. No matter what is the case in point, it’s always money...”
The first market-economy lessons the immigrants had to learn were, as a rule, hurting. They easily fell victims of cheats of various calibre: “We are not fools”, said in a monologue an immigrant in Istanbul , “we’ve been cheated so many times, so many times... Go lay up money, I’ll build you a house. When you come to see, you find other people fixed up there. We are no dupes or human guinea-pigs. I’ve lived here for six years and I’ve seen many a fraud.”
Encounters with frauds, about which everyone tells the other members of the community, had led to the generalisation: “There’s a great deal of cheating here, really, most shameless cheating. Everybody’s a cheat.” The collective image of the deceitful native people produced anxiety and suspiciousness, although “when you get cheated one or two times, you become used to it and keep your eyes open”, and distrust becomes firmly established in the relations between locals and immigrants. The indigenous population are attributed all kinds of wrongdoing. I shall cite an instance providing evidence of the dimensions of the mistrustfulness that had seized the immigrants’ minds: “The locals cheat a lot. My mother is afraid that when I get married, my husband will rob me of my miras (inheritance). They quarrel a lot over legacies here. They take care of their parents only before the latter die and not because of filial gratitude, but because of their possessions.”
“For the locals lying is absolutely in the nature of things” - this topic was most often discussed in connection with that element of buying-and-selling known as “bargaining”. For the reason, perhaps, that it occurs virtually at every turn. Those who have visited Turkey know that there is not always a price-label on an article offered for sale, and even if there is one, buyer and seller start a long lasting outwitting, the purchaser trying to get the initial price down, and the tradesman - to withdraw in good battle array. As a rule, it is the buyer who wins, although the price has been deliberately inflated and the shopkeeper is never out of pocket.
In Turkey bargaining is regarded seriously. Nobody considers it to be dishonourable. Sometimes it comes to thrashing, and when, in the long run, the parties engaged in argument meet over the price, they shake hands. If they manage to take more money from you, it does not mean that you have been fooled, but rather that they, the tradesmen, have done a good stroke of business. Bargaining is a business and it should be done well.
However, for the immigrants, who had not been used to that kind of market relations, bargaining is either “absolute vulgarity”, or they see in it only one of the many dishonest ways of “robbing your money”, “palming off their goods on you”. Quite often they take it as something personal - believing that it is precisely they whom people want “to beguile”, because “once they come from Bulgaria, they must be fools”. As put by a husband after his own wife had succeeded in getting the price from 9 down to 4.5 million, i.e. by half: “Do they really think we are everybody’s fools?”
Just next to deficiency of humanness, an occurrence to which immigrants prove unable to become hardened, comes, how shall I call it, the shortage of sincerity, no matter how romantic it may sound. I am going to explain this. The first things in Turkey I myself was delighted by in my contacts with the people there, were their respectfulness, helpfulness, heartiness. You could see people in the street kiss each other on meeting and on parting, you are always asked “how are you?”... But when I exchanged my impressions with the newcomers, in the sense that “people here are very cordial”, their response was unexpectedly severe: “Cordial, you say, how did you make that up? Good afternoon, how are you. Is this cordiality?” And yet more: “There is a great deal of kissing here. I don’t like it. Sheer hypocrisy.”
Hypocrisy - that was the key word. Respect - claimed they - is only seeming. “It’s not a matter of obligingness, it’s a matter of interests. You ask about the way to some place and everybody will lead you there, not because he is helpful, but rather because he receives a charge by the shopkeeper: “I’m bringing over a customer, where is my commission?”
Why, is there anything wrong with interests, especially when they coincide? We reached again the pains of adaptation. Adaptation to a new social system, where it was interest that produced respect and responsiveness, not humanity. The latter did not exist, as it had become clear.
With respect to the above-mentioned “absolute hypocrisy” and the longing for frankness, I ask myself today - was it not a matter of folk psychology. In Turkey I heard the following statement about the Bulgarians: “The Chinese don’t say what they think. The Japanese think first before they speak. The Bulgarians say what they think.” I wonder whether, having lived side by side with the Bulgarians for a long time, the ethnic Turks did not catch this vice (or virtue), and that is why they sought for openness so frantically.
While the issue of “openness” may be disputed, the attitude towards women, the family pattern and the main family roles - the male and the female, this particular model is much closer, resembles much more the Bulgarian than the local one. As prescribed by Islam, “a man may have four lawful wives, in case he is able to look after them equally well”. The number of wives nowadays is reduced to one, but in Turkey the duty of maintaining the family is entirely the husband’s responsibility. The Bulgarian Turks ignored the circumstance that in modern-day Turkey an increasing number of women were gainfully employed and even the number of female patrons was sharply growing (10 per cent were mentioned), and claimed that: “In Turkey women don’t go to work, they only peddle gossip around.” Maybe this is due to the fact that all of the Bulgarian Turkish women, with no exception, are employed and earn as much as men do, even more. Equality in labour generates equality in their relations. Equality, emancipation of women was how we used to call it in Bulgaria. Here follows the point of view of a 42-year-old female immigrant I recorded in Edirne: “The local men know one’s wife’s price. While our men there (in Bulgaria - author’s note), ‘cause we work like slaves.... they don’t know our price here either. It’s different, maybe from this one point of view, ‘cause their wives are at home, whereas we are very practised. Me, I’d have a man dress himself where he has undressed (!), while their women, when her man comes home, she would wash his feet, tea, coffee, nothin’ of the sort. And it’s just the other way about with us. I don’t beg. Why needn’t I beg - because we have qualities.”
“Men are the masters in Turkey”, said the native Turks. “A man is an important person here”, a 17-year-old boy explained to me, again in Edirne.
Men’s hegemonic role in the family is one of the major distinctions between native people and immigrants, which, while hindering marriages between the two communities, also slows down the process of adaptation.
As far as I could become acquainted with the situation, men’s right to be masters was sooner sheer obligation. In our capacity of women shaped under socialism, which is to say unaccustomed to being maintained by a husband, we exchanged experience with a Bulgarian Turkish woman married to a member of Parliament. She described laughingly how, on her arrival in Ankara, she embarked on making herself the wedding dress, for people in Bulgaria economised on everything except one’s own labour, while the local women, being presumedly under male suppression, started instructing her: “How’s that you should make the dress yourself? You have to ask the most expensive one! If you have two dishes, break one of them.” Another Bulgarian Turkish woman, not an immigrant - that is an emancipated woman, was also present and listened to this conversation. In this connection, she confided to me that she worked extra time, in order not to be compelled to ask money of her husband - a physician by profession - lest she should produce complexes in him. “You know what the doctors’ salaries in Bulgaria are, don’t you?”, she said.
The point was not whether the salaries of the Bulgarian physicians were symbolic. In Turkey the medical practitioners’ incomes are comparatively high, but in the doctor’s families I came to be acquainted with, including families of earlier immigrants, no change for the better could be detected. (By “better” I mean that the husband shoulders responsibility for the family’s maintenance.) I shall cite the words of a woman, a doctor in Bursa, a 1978 immigrant: :”When we arrived in Turkey, I was impressed by the way women here take care of their appearance. We have remained the same as before, taking no care of our looks at all. My female colleagues wonder how I manage to provide for my children and support my parents as well. They spend their wages on buying things for themselves. Generation after generation they rent their homes, but enjoy themselves. They frequent restaurants... Whereas we are saving money all the time, building all the time. “When are you going to live? - they ask us. - Leave your children make money. Why should you work for them?”
The attitude to the children was also different. “All of us work, while they have many children and send them to the street”, said the immigrants. “We have only one or two kids, because we are Europeans”, emphasised they. Is their family planning reduced to only two children for the sole reason that they are Europeans, or it rather corresponds to their notion of a parents’ duty which involves care and maintenance not only when the children are still young, but, in fact, as long as the parents live. In Bursa I became closely familiar with a family of Bulgarian Turks in which, following two successive migration waves, in 1978 and 1989, three generations had come to live together. The oldest member of the family, already 90 years of age, had remained in Bulgaria and kept sending to her 70-year-old daughter foodstuffs as pinto beans, couscous and the like.
In their new place of residence, owing to the existing higher standard of living, the immigrants imposed yet higher self-requirements on their parental duties: “In Bulgaria we were satisfied with one room only, but here the young ones, looking around, want a whole house floor and want it tiled and furnished with ceramic fixtures...”
A dilemma of the type whether the mother or the children should work does not face the Bulgarian immigrants at all. The mother works in all cases. And not only because of emancipation - a phenomenon of more recent times, but rather because in lands Bulgarian one has to work hard to earn a living - in blood-and-sweat toil from dawn till dusk. It is by no chance that folk songs would describe a female character as: “pretty and hard-working too”. I presume that the quality of “hard-working” has not been put in the first place for mere tact - she is a woman after all, let us call her pretty, though we know that by “pretty” we mean “tough and hard working”.
When in Bursa a 75-year-old woman from the Kurdzhali region was telling me the story of her life, she said, as if incidentally: “The years 1942-1944, those were years of scarcity. We would grind walnut shells and beans to make bread. I gave birth to two little boys, twins. It was better they died right after they were born. I would have been unable to look after them, we had to work hard.”
“We are Europeans”, declare the immigrants not only when referring to the number of children. They think of themselves as bearers of a mentality different from the local one and call it European. Laying the stress on the Europe-Turkey cultural distance, they affirm: “Now look, one who hasn’t looked beyond Edirne, he knows nothing.”
I heard statements as the following: “Turkey is lagging 50 years behind Europe.”; “Never mind they are so well economically, they are lagging at least a hundred years behind us.”; “Turkey is lagging at least 20 years behind Bulgaria in its mentality.” It seems to me that the underlying reasons of such opinions are the inequality of the sexes in the Turkish social relations, the absence of freedom and openness in the relations between those two closed up worlds - the male and the female; as well as that pretended, in the immigrants’ view, religiousness, which at the very end of the 20th century seeks to be revived and push the nation into “the dark of ignorance”.
I would not say, in fact, that only very few of the members of the native population think in a similar way, only few frown at the young girls and women veiled in black from head to toe, saying curtly: “They do it by way of demonstration, just see how pious we are.” Or: “They must have been paid for dressing like that, as if they were in the sands of a desert.” The fact that they had been named “kara bocekler” (black insects) is another evidence of a serious rejection of this belated religious devotion.
Many a time in my presentation I noted, putting aside the differences, that the immigrants and the native population suffered from just the same imperfections of the society they lived in, and enjoyed just the same achievements of freedom, economic growth and democracy present in Turkey. Irrespective of the slighting attitude of the indigenous population to the newcomers and their lack of understanding, the immigrants are positive that the influence of their cultural model on the new environment will bring changes in the way of thinking of the local people and will speed up breaking with the archaic stereotypes, will accelerate cultural progress. As put by that emancipated woman in Edirne: “Listen, I’d like to tell you something, here it is: one-time Turkey is gone. You might have heard there - Turkey this, Turkey that - Aurope, Aurope! First, we [are in] Edirne, a tourist town, isn’t it, and second, now we are here. When we came here, we sort of opened up things a little. We opened Turkey!”
Even if it was not they who did it, the cultural nuance introduced by them in the existing variety seems encouraging, as well as stimulating the overall positive tendencies.
I saw the Bulgarian Turkish immigrants, the sons and daughters whom Bulgaria lost in the summer of 1989, five or six years later with hearts yearning for and aching after both their native land and their Anavatan. Equally committed to the country that had brought them up and the country that had given them asylum, they dreamt of open borders. When in July 1995 president Demirel, before departing on a 3-day official state visit to Bulgaria, declared to the journalists that he was going to propose to the Bulgarian side “to lift the border between the two countries”, the immigrants were buying newspapers and following the event, trusting this would happen. For them, it was logical that “the gate between the two yards be open”. “This is the way it should be between neighbours”, they said.
Taking into consideration the facts of life, although they may be the realities of an elapsing century, I could not, on my part, very much hope for “lifted” borders. My expectations, if I am allowed to say, are turned to a quite different direction: if only we could - Bulgarians, Turks, and why not all peoples in the Balkans, all this “ethnic conglomeration”, as we have been labelled - if only we could lift prejudices and century-old negative stereotypes in our attitudes to each other, then our economic ill successes and the opening of the ”gate between the neighbouring courtyards” would look like children’s play. Is it really so difficult to achieve?
For I keep thinking of that decayed bough of the quince tree in Kadir’s yard in the Razgrad region. Has it fallen? And if so, will there be anyone to tell him?
*I owe gratitude to the "International Center for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations" Foundation and the Open Society Foundation, Sofia, without whose kind assistance this project would have remained in the sphere of good intentions alone.
2 Dogan, K. Buyuk Goc ve Anavatan (Nedenleri, Boyutlari, Sonuclari. ) Ankara, 1990, s. 61, 77. One can come across still other numbers: 310 000, 320 000 - in statements made by the then president K. Evren, prime-minister T. Yozal, state? ministers (Konukman) before the mass media. By May 1990 the number of emigrants had grown to as many as 345 960 people.
3 Huriet, 7 November 1989.
4 According to a statement made to radio “Free Europe” by Ismet Sever - president of the Organisation of Balkan Turks in Istanbul. There are also reports of 200 000 people.
5 Dogan, K. Op. cit., s. 80.
6 Ibidem, p. 78, 80.
7 Ibidem, p. 46.
8 Ibidem, p. 92.
9 Huriet, 1 October 1951.