FOREWORD - Antonina Zhelyazkova
Appendix 1

Tsvetana Gheorghieva

Since 1989 Bulgaria has experienced a massive emigration boom. Hundreds of thousands of the country’s citizens have already left it, and still other thousands are planning to do so. Like all migration processes, this one, too, has taken a random course. Central and local administrations have no exact data available about the number of emigres and the direction of their movement. Provided such data exist, they are not published officially. The indicated number of emigrants is given in round figures - 500 000 or 700 000 - and reminds of the quantitative statistics presented by medieval chroniclers. No system exists for maintaining contacts with the emigrants. The mass character of the emigrations of predominantly young people, makes it a problem for thousands of families and this fact very much disturbs the public mind and is increasingly often related with the level of national security. The Bulgarian students, who initiated the protest actions against the Socialist government in January 1997 and brought about its downfall a month later, launched the slogan “We want to live in Bulgaria”. The UDF government itself is concerned about the incessant emigration flow and, through the means of propaganda, is trying to persuade the young people that the nation needs them and they should therefore stay in Bulgaria. Nevertheless, the media keep showing crowds of irritated and nervous people lining up and waiting for visas outside the Greek, the Italian, the Austrian consulate; all of them declare their intention to leave the country if not for good at least for a long period of time - “until Bulgaria comes right”. However, the emigration explosion has remained outside serious examination and analysis by specialists, administrative authorities and political parties, in spite of the tangled complex of problems it has caused and in spite of its being combined with a drastic reduction in birthrate. Actually, the media - where the emigration topic is being constantly discussed - present only its shop-window projection. According to their coverage, the main reason for emigration is the deep economic crisis, which has resulted in a drastic lowering of the living standard, as well as the lack of any real prospects in this country, which compel thousands of people to seek a place under the sun far from Bulgaria. The emigration tides are revealed as a national drama, as part of the apocalypse which we are going through and which endangers the nation’s future. The concrete situation is perceived as a specific characteristic of the contemporary Bulgarian setting, ruling out any parallels with other East European countries where similar processes occur, and, to an even lesser degree, with the large global migration flows. To the competent observers, who in certain cases interpret the Bulgarian migration boom example as part of the general crisis in the new East European democracies, it is one of the immediate consequences of the long period of isolation under socialism, as well as a natural response of the young people provoked by a wish to change their own lives more rapidly and more easily after emigrating to the rich and well-organised Western societies.

Past world experience shows that the first step to excluding the randomness of individual migration flows is the elimination of the emotional approach; this can be achieved by research systematisation and analysis of their actual parameters, as well as by applying administrative and governmental control. Obviously, the Bulgarian society and the Bulgarian state are still far from such practice and, accordingly, from the normalisation of the rhythm of emigration. The mass emigration of Bulgarian Turks to Turkey is both part of this general trend and its particular manifestation. One of its specific features is its “reverted” orientation. On a global plane, the large-scale migration flows, as a rule, move from the east to the west, and from the south to the north. The Bulgarian Turks make one rare exception, for in this case very large masses of people undertake west-east transborder migrations. The explosive beginning of this migration flow dates back to the summer of 1989. The drastic violations of the Communist regime against the ethnic and religious identity of the ethnic Turks living in Bulgaria and the concommitant outrages provoked the dramatic exodus of about 300 thousand Bulgarian Turks, who left the country between late May and early August of the same year. This was also the initial impulse of the Bulgarian emigration boom. It has been argued that in the subsequent years other 200 thousand ethnic Turks fled the country. Their number is strikingly large and it alone is a sufficient justification of the necessity of studying the reasons, motives, intentions and even dreams that had shaped the life strategies of these hundreds of thousands of individuals preceding their departure from Bulgaria. Precisely they form the research subject of this chapter which is based on field data and observations of ten ethnological expeditions, carried out by professors and students of the Institute of Ethnology at the “St. Clement Ohridsky” University in Sofia, in the Eastern Bulgarian regions - where the population is either of predominantly Turkish or of mixed origin - between 1991 and 1997 and financed by the “International Center for Minority Research and Intercultural Relations” Foundation. The accumulated empirical information, collected in hundreds of interviews and direct observations, outline the stable trends and the variable factors in the formation of


During the ethnological expeditions In Northeastern Bulgaria and in the Eastern Rhodopes, the problem of the ethnic Turks’ mass emigration proved to be one of the main focuses of the researchers’ attention. During the first expeditions in 1991 and 1992 to the small towns of Momchilgrad, Dzhebel, Isperikh and, especially to the near by villages, the depopulated houses presented a really striking sight. In our interviews, the informants kept mentioning the names of their close or distant relations, neighbours and friends, who had “left for Turkey”. Everywhere, at all village and town bus stations, hand-written notes announced the weekly time-tables of buses travelling to Bursa, Istanbul and Izmir. Almost all informants spoke of journeys to Turkey. In scores of houses, informants would show with satisfaction the articles in their homes’ interior they had received as presents by their friends and relatives or had brought themselves from Turkey. They expected these to be highly appraised because of their good quality, which was usually compared to the ”poor-quality Bulgarian goods”. The informants, both ethnic Turks and Bulgarians, would repeatedly point out the aid, in medicines and foodstuffs, they were being sent by their fellow-townsmen or fellow-villagers, who had already emigrated. The “Bulgaria-Turkey” opposition was represented in terms of “poor-rich” country.

The sharp rise in prices and the shortage of elementary commodities, including food, which marked the beginning of the deep crisis in the Bulgarian economy in 1991, created an atmosphere of insecurity and fear on both the social and the personal plane. “One can’t live in Bulgaria” was a statement in general currency, and emigration to Turkey was interpreted, especially in public, as the easiest way out of the crisis for the individual. The collective answer to the question “do you mean to emigrate to Turkey?” in almost all cases was a positive ”yes”. It was explained by the likelihood for the Communists, that is the Socialist Party, to win the elections and thus the latent danger of violence against the Turks be renewed. “We shall not allow having our names changed once again. We’re going back to Turkey.” However, when the same question, “are you going to emigrate to Turkey and settle there?” was addressed to a particular person, as a rule, it received a not that confident reply. The most positive form was conditional: “”We’ll leave, if Bulgaria keeps carrying on like that, or if the Communists are back”. Their fear of the rapidly growing economic crisis together with the menace of encroachments on their ethnic identity were among the major motives determining their potential or already planned emigration.

The several heart-breaking scenes we witnessed in Kroumovgrad, Dzhebel and Podkova attending the departure of some young families and the parting with their old-aged parents, suggested that in practice to emigrate was far from being so easy and painless as described in the conversations we had with groups of people in the village square or in the cafes. During these collective interviews, ever more frequently we heard diverse opinions being voiced. It became a regular practice for one or two of the people present to argue that those who took the risk of emigrating to Turkey, had no idea what awaited them and only their youth was an excuse of the venture they were undertaking or intended to undertake. Most often, these were middle aged and older people who mentioned in passing that they had travelled to Turkey during the 1989 emigration boom, but had returned to Bulgaria. They refused to be interviewed individually, and their fellow-villagers described them as “weak people unable to manage things, who had failed to get along”, and therefore regarded them as some sort of marginal persons incapable of living a more dynamic life.

Later, when the barrier between “failed” emigrants and their surrounding community was gradually erased, the basic reasons for their return to the native places became clearer. Most of the older people did not hide their disappointment with the secular Turkish society. The decade-long isolation had mythologised Turkey not only as the Mother Country, but as a spiritual centre of genuine Islam, the faith which had been forbidden to them by the Communists and because of which they had been persecuted in socialist and atheistic Bulgaria. But the Turkish reality had turned out to be a bit different form what they had imagined. To a group of his peers, seventy-year-old H.A. from the town of Benkovski in the Eastern Rhodopes, summed up his disappointment with Islam in Turkey by saying: “The first time I saw them coming into the mosque in their shoes, I thought they were giaours, but they turned out to be Turks. My brother’s sons, who were born and grew up in Turkey, start laughing when they hear of Ramazan. Now it’ s better here. Our imam has followed a course of studies in Saudi Arabia, and if you come to attend mosque with us, you’ll see what sort of namaz we serve.”

The second reason for coming back, given by women mainly, was their inability to adapt to the climate. “My husband is a livestock expert and actually found a good job and nice accommodation. But I fell sick of neurosis. I couldn’t sleep. As soon as I closed my eyes, I could see the pines in Dzhebel. I kept weeping and weeping. Turkey is all right, but for those who were born there”, this is the story we were told by E.M., a female aged 30 or so. However, most of the individuals who had returned by that time indicated as a chief problem the shock caused by the dramatic change in the way of living and the infeasibility of their social adaptation. The majority of the emigrants who had returned laid special emphasis on the fact that they were people born and living in villages and small towns. The painful occurrences they had gone through during the mass emigration campaign in 1989 finally brought them to the megalopolis Istanbul and to some other cities with a population of millions as Ankara, Bursa, Izmir which they found to be a really alien world. Fifty-five-year-old widower L.M. from the village of Ostrovets, situated in the neighbourhood of Momchilgrad, described in a low and sort of confidential tone his own odyssey - how fate, for some reasons he never realised, cut him off from his fellow-villagers, with whom he was travelling along in the summer of 1989, and suddenly brought him to one of Istanbul’s stations. He did not know either where he was travelling to, or where he had arrived from. Both in the train and at the station it was difficult for him to understand the language of the people who wanted to help him. He remembered that for a very long time he had been standing at one of the platforms, absolutely at his wits’ end: “It’s a shame, because I am a man, but I started crying. And then Allah sent a good man of our own people, a Bulgarian Turk, who took me to his place. He gave me some money to go back home. He did a big khair [good turn]. May Allah repay him, and his children. I have told this to nobody, even to my son, but he seems to have guessed and has never asked me. Now he himself wants to leave. I’m not standing in his way. Let him try, he is young. And he’d better not be like me, for I had not been to any place farther than Kardzhali, and all of a sudden I set forth to Istanbul and I lost myself in life.” A much more energetic and effusive friend of his from a neighbouring village added his perspective of the problem of adaptation. “It‘s a madhouse there, in Turkey. Have you been to Izmir? This isn’t a city, it’s a beast. It’s roaring non stop. It never stops, and it isn’t just noise. It’s a roar. I stayed with my brother for three months, kept listening to this beast’s roar and told myself: “Come on, Ali, let’s go everybody to his place. You don’t belong here.” And I came back to my village because a peasant’s place is in the countryside. Now I’m sorry for the cow and the sheep, for I sold them for a mere song by my wife’s smart advice.” The accounts of these “marginal men” exemplified a counterpoint in the emigrants’ enthusiasm and very often the members of the active generation pointed out that to emigrate is not an easy personal decision to make. “We have got large houses. We were born here. It’s nice in Turkey, but one has to begin all over again.”

In the 1992 interviews, a new tendency in the emigration strategy began taking shape; a young man from a village in the neighbourhood of Kroumovgrad formulated it by way of his personal example: “It’s best for one to live between two countries. Me and my brother, we are waiters in the restaurant in our village. I work six months in Bulgaria. For the other six months I am unemployed. I’m being paid unemployment benefits and I go to work for a while the same job in Edirne. We take turns with my brother and so we look after our families.” Taking advantage of the situation, many of the Bulgarian Turks were actively involved in the “suitcase” trade, sometimes in fun, sometimes in earnest. S.T. from Haskovo introduced himself as a businessman unifying the economies of the East and the West by selling goods purchased at Kapali carsi on the market in Dimitrovgrad and vice versa. “A lot of alis-veris [dealings], you’ve got only to have brains and energy to work”, concluded he and his detailed account made it clear that an intensive traffic had already been established and he who managed to join in was going to live well both in Bulgaria and in Turkey, no matter whether he was a Turk, a Bulgarian or a Gypsy.

Only a small number of the young people were firm and positive in their declared wish, rather than in their intention, to move to Turkey for “personal reasons”. Their chief motive had no political, economic, or religious grounds, but was sooner based on their desire to make their own lives, without taking into consideration traditional family relations and without accepting to endure any longer the strong dependence on their parents’ families. “We want to try to live on our own. Whatever we may do - do it together, the two of us. To take care of our children by ourselves. We are going to work, like other people do. There are jobs for us in Turkey.”, said assuredly Y. and F. N. from Kurdzhali, students of mine at the local Teachers College in 1992. They rejected the life style of their parents, who “know nothing but working. They have been bending their backs over the tobacco leaves all their lives, in order to be able to build a three-storeyed house. We don’t want to and will not live like that.” I met them five years later, in 1997, when they had come to visit their relatives during Ramazan-Bayram. By then their youthful assurance in the choice they had made, was visibly shattered: “Maybe we have succeeded in achieving stability, in fixing up things at this point, but now we are not sure in anything. We bought a flat in Bursa. But had we known how difficult it was going to be, we shouldn’t have emigrated. Nobody warned us, but even if someone had done so, we wouldn’t have believed him. Anyway, risk has its good side too. We have a goal. Here (in Kurdzhali) people are confused. They don’t know what they are doing and why they are doing it. They speak of money alone. They want a lot of money, but neither know how to earn it, nor what to use it for. That’s why they have taken to jobberies. Before we left, we were like them too, but living in Turkey made us work hard and complain less. We work as our parents did, possibly even more. But I’m also glad we are rid of tobacco. You don’t even know what a trap it is for the Bulgarian Turks. Every young person wants to escape from tobacco. But, still, all of them go back to it sometime later. You would get married. The kids would grow up, you need money all the time, and at 40, no matter what your occupation is, you use to earn extra money by tobacco work. My children are not growing up with tobacco-stained hands. Let this alone be my benefit from emigrating to Turkey. Be this my only profit, it ‘s worth my efforts in Bursa”, summed up 28-year-old Y.N.

The field information gathered in the early 1990’s reveals in the overall attitude of the Bulgarian Turks to immigration in Turkey an explicit optimism. Their expectations involved better prospects, in the sense of easier life both at the individual and the social level. For straight decades having been regarded as the fifth column of bourgeois, NATO-involved Turkey, and therefore been placed in the position of suspicious Bulgarian citizens; having suffered the outrages of the so-called revival process, intended to change their identification through a brutal renaming and by entirely banning their religious cult; having gone through the tragedy of the mass exodus to Turkey in 1989 - encouraged by the Bulgarian security services as many of them believed, in 1991 and 1992 they were already convinced that the choice of the country where they would live in had finally become their own business and was not to be dictated by any authority, but would rather depend on their will alone. Their confidence originated from the evident transformations witnessed in Bulgaria, from their fulfilled desire to have their Muslim names restored, from the formation and legalisation of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which they regarded as their own ethnic party designed to defend their interests in the country’s political and economic life. The dependence of this choice on the general situation in Bulgaria was recognised and demonstrated through their huge interest in domestic political life. At that time their active involvement in the general politisation of the Bulgarian society was really impressive. Only by way of hint, I can point out that the debates in the Grand National Assembly, broadcast over the radio and on television, resounded in every village. The women listened simultaneously to Bulgarian and Turkish stations, in order to remember and recount to their working husbands both the immediate information from the parliamentary discussions, and the Turkish media comments on it.

The rationalised relationship between the individual and the group destiny of the ethnic Turks and the future of the Bulgarian society found expression in a phrase repeated more than once: “if the Communists win the elections again, we’re leaving for Turkey”. This, in turn, meant that if the Communists, i.e. the Socialist Party would not win the elections, they, the Bulgarian Turks, would stay in Bulgaria. However, the “staying” concerned the community, not the individual. Each one of the informants explained that he or she was trying to choose the better alternative for him/her, weighing carefully the pros and cons of emigrating or staying from a social, economic and personal point of view.

The unceasing trips to Turkey were not only visits to relatives having emigrated either long ago or recently, they were combined with shopping on a market of higher-quality and cheaper goods. Some of the informants jokingly referred to these journeys as “intelligence visits” helping them acquire orientation about the conditions of living and occupational opportunities offered by the Republic of Turkey. The latter’s attitude to the 1989 immigrants was one of the constant accents in our inquiries. The interviewed persons described, and obviously praised, the Turkish policy to immigrants from Bulgaria only in a positive light. As a result, three trends in the personal strategies of the Bulgarian Turks took shape in the interviews. People of the 40-plus age group, i.e. those who belonged to the middle- and old-age generation, estimated emigration as a venture and stressed the advantages of the familiar way of life and the familiar community in their Bulgarian milieu. Although not very firmly, this tendency was most clearly formulated in the statement: “For the time being, I intend to stay in Bulgaria.” The second tendency, whose bearers and mouthpieces were mostly young people between 20 and 35 years of age, motivated emigrating as a personal challenge that would give them an opportunity to rapidly and radically break with traditional family relations and therefrom independently organise and carry on with their own lives. Although involving certain nuances and reservations, it was expressed by the following remark: “I prefer living in Turkey.” The third tendency, to be found in the narratives of mainly young people between 30 and 40 years old, demonstrated the possibility already discovered of living in both countries, or, more specifically, the possible movement between the two states. In most of the cases when the third option had been picked up, the specific answer was carefully avoided and replaced by the evasive formula that “the country where money keeps flowing in is best”. Towards the middle of the 1990’s, this point of view changed the orientation of the prospective emigrants’ attitudes and got to be formulated by a great number of respondents through the statement


In 1993-1995 this phrase described best the responses given by almost every man of the young or the middle-aged generation, when asked whether he preferred to live in Bulgaria, or in Turkey. Their arguments were solid enough. The cost of living and the price of labour, represented by means of payment per working day and the prices of various goods, were compared to those in Turkey, and Bulgaria. The German supremacy was irrefutable. Besides, when comparing prices in Bulgaria and Turkey it was mainly foodstuffs that were mentioned, when speaking of Germany, however, cars, electronic appliances, or blue jeans at worst, were discussed. There the opportunity of “arranging one’s life”, as put by the respondents, proved to occur much faster and was, in their opinion, much easier to realise. These juxtapositions were being made on the background of the ever growing Bulgarian crisis and its increasingly varied manifestations which came to affect more and more seriously the lives of those ethnic Turks who had stayed in Bulgaria. The scarcity of goods that made everyday life in 1992 extremely difficult was overcome owing to the efforts made by the first UDF government headed by Ph. Dimitrov. This achievement, however, was accompanied by the first shock of soaring prices. The devaluation of the lev began to melt away the scanty personal savings - which in the case of the Turkish population had started decreasing already in 1989 - and gradually transformed people’s fear of an anticipated poverty into real impoverishment. The closing down of a great number of enterprises, the complicated and yet unfinished agrarian reform, the obvious chaos in the economy, resulted in the disruption of virtually all aspects of life, a process that had acquired formidable dimensions in the highland villages in the Rhodope mountains. Current rumours spoke of unemployment exceeding 90 per cent. Joblessness was a phenomenon of striking conspicuousness in every village and smaller town, where any visitor any time of the day was “welcomed” in the square by dozens and in some villages hundreds of men who did nothing.

With most of the Bulgarian Turks the enthusiasm invoked by the collapse of communism was replaced by a gloomy pessimism, which very soon erased the politicalisation of people’s conduct in both public and personal life. Disappointment was growing as a consequence of inner conflicts, and, as hinted by our informants, the corruption in the MRF. Their conviction that it was a party which would take care of their interests was waning. The psychological stress was complemented by the ever pending issue of the price of tobacco and its delayed purchases which shattered the budgets of a huge number of families relying on this sole source of income. One of the major complaints in the interviews became the anxiety caused by the uncertain future of their children because of their inability to obtain the resources necessary for securing education higher than primary. Given the shortage of money, the expensive transport and the high rents asked in the cities where secondary vocational schools were based proved to be unaffordable for many families from the rural areas.

The travels to Turkey were going on, but they were not referred to as pleasant voyages, but rather as business trips. The tendency of living between two countries, which was realised through the “suitcase” trading, was presented as the most efficient way to make any living at all. New accents appeared in the regular accounts of the next regular visits to Turkey. The most pronounced one was the reported rapid business and personal economic prosperity of the immigrants, who in less than four or five years had managed to “arrange their lives”. A proof of their newly achieved economic stabilisation was the apartment they had bought in Turkey. The support they were given by the Turkish government was already rarely mentioned, but instead the immigrants’ extraordinary industry, economy and ability to make their way in life were underlined many times. They were indicated as the main factors which provided a fast, although not easy, way leading to a normal life; a life which, compared to that of people living in Bulgaria, seemed even opulent. Pointed out was the successful adaptation of the Bulgarian Turks to the labour market in Turkey, made possible by the skilled labour of both men and women, who, according to the respondents’ accounts, were preferred by all employers and could easily find jobs.

In this way, the collective image of the prospering Bulgarian Turk emerged, a person possessing indisputable advantages compared to the majority of “Turkish” Turks. In the stories about emigrants it was stressed that they had several jobs, but spent only a minimum, scarcely one tenth of their income. Their way of life was said to be almost identical with the well-known pattern of “incessant work and maximum economies” followed by the ethnic Turks in Bulgaria in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when an intensive process of modernisation and urbanisation developed in their circles. However, in the interviews the differences between the two models began taking shape, at first only occasionally, but then ever more clearly. In Bulgaria, the ethnic Turks used to build houses, furnish them, and raise their own living standard by collective efforts in which the family and village communities were a uniting mechanism. Among the immigrants in Turkey traditional kinship ties, let alone neighbour relations, were considerably eroded. Accounts relating of visits to kin folks in Turkey became increasingly laconic, and the visits themselves - increasingly shorter. In 1994 and 1995 one of the continuous complaints of ethnic Turks in Momchilgrad and Kroumovgrad were that they were compelled to look after the children of some relatives, who lived in Turkey. These relatives were said to be in the habit of leaving very little money for their children’s sustenance, believing that life in Bulgaria was cheap. “My sister and my brother-in-law in Bursa told us they couldn’t support us at all, but brought their son along to study here, because, they said, they had to economise to buy an apartment. They don’t bother at all that we cannot even think of economies here, racking our brains how to survive”, this is how G. B., a young woman, shop attendant in Momchilgrad, expressed quite openly, unanimously backed by her three friends too, her indignation with her closest relatives. In 1996, H.D., a teacher in Madzharovo, summed up one of the respondents’ most frequent complaints by making the following statement: “We travel to Turkey only on business and rarely stay with our relations there longer than a week, while their children live at our place all the time. They have changed a lot. They are concerned with their own interests alone and have turned us into slaves.”

Most likely, during these short business visits to relatives, quite a number of the Bulgarian Turks discovered the network which made access to work in Germany possible for some time. In contrast with the rapid impoverishment of most of the people, those who had been employed for even a few months in Germany, demonstrated incredible prosperity. They not only arrived home with cars and up-to-date household appliances, but had also financial resources to start some small business of their own. Their example was really tempting and soon many of the young families took the road to emigration again. For them, Turkey very soon changed from a Mother Land to only a station on their way to the rich European world, which alone could secure their “easy-circumstance” existence. The concrete information and the contacts established in Turkey with the local immigration centres gave new impulses to aspirations for emigrating and extended the geographic range of the emigrants’ desired destinations. Along with Germany as a “dream country” the young respondents began mentioning Holland, Denmark, Sweden. In the accounts given by the Bulgarian Turks, Turkey’s image darkened once again. Quite often, and already in negative terms, they described the difficult life led by the immigrants, the hard toil they had to engage in, the envy nourished and the obstructions made by the “Turkish Turks”.

Nevertheless, to many people the possibility of a secondary emigration to the West and the hope it engendered in them of wriggling out of poverty proved to be transient. Both Germany and Turkey placed serious barriers to stop the new immigrants and the Bulgarian Turks, who had left to work abroad, began coming back, for instead of arriving in Koln or Amsterdam, they had found themselves in the small towns of Eastern Turkey or Northern Cyprus. The explanation of the failure of these trips was again sought in the climatic and social adaptation, which had proved unsuccessful or, in more precise terms, impossible. However, it was difficult to forget the German dream, and quite a lot of the Bulgarian Turks made attempts to fulfil it in a different way. Many of them had new passports issued, adopted Bulgarian names again and addressed the Bulgaria-based agencies recruiting labour force for Western Europe. Initially, this operation was being performed in secret, but gradually it became a wide practice and lost its “secret character”. Even older people, who felt uneasy to report that their son had taken a new passport and a Bulgarian name, because of his desire to leave for Germany, showed understanding by explaining that “they wouldn’t let in Turks there, because they [Turks] have become too many”, and regarded this fact as a necessary step in order to “survive in these hard times”. The money earned by working in Germany was not declared any more and was not estimated in terms of cars, TV sets or pairs of jeans. For both males and females it was the needed original capital to “start their own business”. Usually, it was invested in expanding trade, the latter seldom being self-dependent business. So, the German dream darkened and, within a short period of time, in the late 1995 and early 1996 many of the young people were already trying to stabilise their pattern of living in Bulgaria. One of the major motives underlying their intentions, as reported by themselves, was the official information about the opening up of new checkpoints along the Bulgarian-Greek border in the Rhodope region. A relatively speedy and positive change in the economic situation in this region was expected, owing to the intensive traffic and the prospective easy access to the Greek markets.

In the spring and especially in the summer of 1996 these hopes were already regarded as illusions and increasingly often the young respondents stated that they saw their only way out of this ever more deteriorating situation in their prospective emigration to Turkey. Many of them described their decision as an important and well-prepared act in their lives, rather than as a risky one. The indispensable first step in its successful realisation was believed to be the starting of “their own business” in Bulgaria, in order to obtain the resources required for a secure and successful new start in Turkey. These prospective emigrants maintained that they knew well the conditions the Turkish economy would offer them and intended to be best prepared for the situation.

Already in mid-1994 the overall atmosphere in the localities inhabited by Turkish or mixed population changed essentially. The groups of unemployed men vanished. Most of them had found employment as construction workers and the traditional rhythm of living seemed to be restored. Men would work for two or three weeks outside their native place, then come back for a week and next leave again. Complaints of extreme misery also seemed to decrease. A new theme began to prevail in the interviews - it was defined by the informants, irrespective of their gender and age, through the verbal formula: “we’ve seen much and we have changed, we are not the same as before”. M.D. from Momchilgrad explained his view of the changes in the following way: “In the old times... someone of our folk (Turks) would come from some village or from some place in Northern Bulgaria and after wishing you “good day” would say “me, I’m sent by so-and-so”, our relative or friend from those parts. The fellow would stay at your place, would be a guest. Every day he would sit at the table and you would neither ask why he had come, nor when he was going to leave. After finishing his job, he would say “bereket versim” and would leave. Now nobody is coming, neither we are going anywhere. I sent my daughter to Istanbul to stay with my sister and she sent her back in a week. My son visited his uncle in Silistra and had to put up at a hotel for the night. And this is not what happens with my children and my relations only. All of us live like that.”

The matter of the change felt in their interpersonal relations was formulated as a question in our interviews and soon found plenty of confirmations and explanations. A group of about a dozen students in Kurdzhali, the majority of whom came from the near by Turkish villages, kept persuading us that this change had generation-rooted characteristics and was caused by the changes having taken place in the value system of the young generation, who did not any longer share the traditional values of their parents and older relatives. “I feel fine only in the company of my peers. My parents do not understand me and they believe I’m an absolute egoist. They think they provide for me, but in fact I wouldn’t be able to live on the money they give me for even three days. It’s good that I have got my own deals done. They do not accept that what I do is an occupation. They think I’m an ungrateful and lazy egoist. Once I finish my studies, I’m leaving for Turkey and then they’ll surely miss me.” All students who were present there confirmed the overall tension underlying children - parents relations, as well as their desire to escape from it by means of the separation - involving no conflicts - consequent upon their expected emigration to Turkey, which they believed to be inevitable. “I study in order to have a profession in Turkey. You don’t think I ‘m going to stay here to be a teacher in Chernoochene, do you?” The intergeneration conflict was a painful experience because, according to informants of all age groups, it was for the first time that young people dared not only contradict their parents, but follow their own pattern of living. “We are different. The most important thing for me is money, and good life. We are not egoists, but we don’t want to be considered naive. I’m ready to help everyone, who would help me, but I would not let anyone cheat me without paying for it. I shall live in Turkey and with nobody but my husband. No mother-in-law, no father-in-law, no father, no mother or any other relatives. I’m prepared for living on our own and I don’t care what other people think of me”, that is how 21-year-old L.Sh., a second year student, married for two years, summed up her life strategy, but she thought that she needed no children for the time being. The conflict with her parents stemmed from the young couple’s approach to “family planning”. The old people had been unable to understand at all that a married woman would not want to bear children, and had kept sending to the doctor now her, now her husband, until the moment when her mother had found in L.Sh.’s bag a pack of condoms. This had led to a complete break off between the two families - a situation “unprecedented in the family’s history”, as reported by the informant.

The interviews conducted with a group of men in the tavern of Madzharovo revealed the change which had taken place in the community of the ethnic Turks from a much broader perspective. “Events have made us change a lot. Once, although we may have not been equal, we leastwise felt equal. Well, some of us were low- or higher-rank chiefs, but if we needed them for asking a favour, we were sure they would do whatever they could. We paid back by either working at their houses, or with a sack of potatoes in autumn. You could bring a chicken or a lamb to the doctor, and he would treat all your family. Now we are already different - some are rich, but very rich indeed, others are poor, but really very poor. The rich are patrons. You serve them, and you don’t need the poor. We Turks used to be very honest people. But now I do not believe even my own brother. Why should I believe him, when I know the way I lie and the things I do. Why should I expect him to be necessarily better than I am.” This confession was made by 45-year-old B.S. who explained this by the specific nature of life between Bulgaria and Turkey, which logically turned people into cheats, because they faced many and all sorts of temptations. Five years after the waiter from Kroumovgrad had praised the advantages of living between two countries, his compatriots from Madzharovo were already aware of its negative aspects. Travelling between Bulgaria and Turkey opens up opportunities for a relatively rapid and easy accumulation of resources, but it also destroys in short time the traditional relationships and the respective values which the middle-aged generation is familiar with and is sorry for. For the present, their children prefer the radical change which they see as full independence and right to make their own choice of how to live.

The economic intra-community division engendered by the already accumulated resources and the contacts with different groups in the Turkish society, including criminal circles, has deformed the traditional network of interrelations that has developed on the basis of kinship and local communities. It is experienced most painfully within the family and finds expression in the ever more severe conflict between the generations, which is presented as an absolutely new one for the community of Bulgarian Turks. In the interviews with older people, whose children had emigrated to Turkey, increasingly often there were blames for neglect and ingratitude. “They’ve left us here to live out our days. Not to stand in their way, to watch over their property, as long as we are still alive”, was the commentary made by a group of old men from a village in the Lovech district. In Isperikh, V.N. and his wife expressed the same bitterness in different words, and added: “All who respected their parents, took them to stay in Turkey. They [parents] are not a burden to them. The people from our village come back every spring. They would take their pensions, look after their property and in the autumn, after selling what they can, they would buy some ten or fifteen boxes of mastic brandy and leave. In Turkey they sell the mastic and this is enough to carry them through the winter. They are burden to nobody. But they are good, their children. Our son-in-law doesn’t like us and that’s why we are here to live alone.”

The interviewed persons kept stressing that money had become an important factor for emigrating to Turkey. The “black seals” put by the Turkish consulates in Plovdiv and Sofia had long been considered as the instrument used by the Republic of Turkey to carry out a purposeful selection of immigrants. It was very difficult for elderly, poor, disabled people to get visas and very often the black seal, once affixed in their passports, blocked their access to Turkey for ever. University graduates, specialists, who had finished secondary technical schools, and young men had an advantage. Since the mid-1990’s many of the informants have affirmed that in return for money anyone could get a visa without any restrictions. They gave the names of active participants in the outrages committed against their countrymen under the Communist regime, who, regardless of the “black seal”, had long been living in Turkey, because they had paid for it. Their accusations were not addressed to the authorities in Turkey, but rather to Turkey’s representatives in the consulates, some of whom were not indifferent to “gifts in green currency”, as reported by the informants.

I make this point, because it demonstrates an essential change in the attitude of the Bulgarian Turks to migration. While in the first half of the 1990’s they used to emigrate to Turkey in order to earn, by working hard and economising, the original capital for their new life, towards the middle of the decade money turned out to be a preliminary necessity, a basic condition for emigrating. If these statements, made by our respondents, are true, during the second year in office of Zh. Videnov’s government thousands had already the sums they needed, because in the autumn of 1996 the authorities had to close down dozens of schools in villages which had been virtually depopulated. This was an undeniable result of the


which had set in without any emotions, visible tensions or media fuss.

It provoked no response in either the Bulgarian or the Turkish society. The migration of ethnic Turks had long become a commonplace fact in Bulgaria’s and in Turkey’s reality, and, most of all, a trivial event in the life of this population. The mass media assert that between 1994, when Turkey legalised the citizenship of 174 793 immigrants, and 1997 another 200 000 ethnic Turks from Bulgaria have settled there. Various administrative bodies confirm these assertions, without giving exact data. Field observation data and surveys carried out in 1995 and 1996 show that for most people emigration to Turkey was the only way out of the continuously growing crisis in the Bulgarian economy, in the Bulgarian state and in the Bulgarian society. Now emigrations are perceived neither as drama, nor as an adventure. Their preparation is long and purposeful. The first conspicuous fact betraying the mass adoption of a stable attitude to migration was the incredible spread of satellite antennas in all places where large groups of ethnic Turks lived. In the large cities inhabited by mixed population, like Kurdzhali, Haskovo, Razgrad, they are presented and perceived as a specific ethnic mark indicating the national identification of each household’s residents. It might seem curious, but many of the Bulgarians do not hesitate to affirm that only the Turks have satellite aerials.

Interpreted by the Bulgarian press as instruments of the Turkish propaganda among the Bulgarian citizens, these aerials show an obvious, but long uncomprehended fact. Through the emissions of the Turkish television the Bulgarian Turks used to learn and are learning Turkish - the Turkish language spoken in present-day Turkey - in order to ensure unhampered contacts at all levels of society. And while in Bulgaria different political parties, public institutions and especially some of the mass media have constantly maintained the public discussion “pro” and “con” the teaching of mother tongues in the schools, the channels of the Turkish television became the real teachers of the young generations of the Bulgarian Turks. During the 1989 exodus, before and especially after it, the emigrants came to know perfectly well that the first and very serious barrier to their social adaptation was the language they spoke. For the immigrants coming from Bulgaria the literary Turkish language, rapidly developing in the 20th century, proved to be not only different, but largely incomprehensible. Regarded by the Turkish public as something even more outdated than a provincial dialect, in the interpretation of modern-day nation-states, the language of the Bulgarian immigrants placed them in a marginal position from the very start. The lesson was learnt and the emigrants of succeeding migration waves made conscious and persistent efforts to overcome the language barrier by means of these unsystematised, but practically unceasing TV lessons. Unanimously, all informants mentioned them as an indispensable training needed for their planned settlement in Turkey. Moreover, Turkish TV transmissions provide useful information about the events taking place in this country, showing various aspects of life in Turkey and making it familiar and intimate. Following daily the emissions of the Turkish television, the Bulgarian Turks can understand and learn if not the real, at least the valued pattern of living. This permanent television contact makes them feel and believe that they know life in Turkey and are acquainted with its requirements, rules and opportunities. Combined with their own impressions formed during shorter or longer visits, it contributes to the rationalisation and articulation of the motives and purposes of their planned emigration. Almost all Bulgarian Turks are convinced they know Turkey as a state, as a society, as a way of life.

The prevailing majority of 1989 Bulgarian immigrants made for the Motherland, but found themselves in an unknown and alien world. People who left Bulgaria to settle in Turkey after the mid-1990’s had no emotional motives, but were sure they knew where they were going and what for. Field data show that until the summer of 1996 only a few individuals firmly and unhesitatingly declared their intentions to seek permanent residence. The most frequent answers to a direct question were “we don’t know”, “we’ll see”, “we haven’t decided yet”. Most of them were still hesitating, but at the same time quite a few left in order to take “temporary” employment in some “regular” jobs they knew well. “I’ve been working for several years in a canning factory in Bursa. I work there in the summer, and in winter I go back to Kurdzhali”, told us H.B. from Kurdzhali in 1996. He worked underground in Turkey, had no insurance, and his wife was a teacher in Bulgaria. Many, chiefly young, people, use to work for several successive years in the Turkish resorts. They also work underground, receive poorer payment than the Turkish citizens, but the money they earn make it possible for them to live better in Bulgaria, and what is most important, to lay up the resources needed for an eventual future migration. This seasonal occupational migration reinforced the tendency of living between two countries as an optimum alternative in the life strategy of many people, but it acquired very rapidly a new and important aspect. Along with the people actively engaged in the already functioning commercial, and other channels, “the temporarily employed” formed quite a large group of individuals who accepted lower payment in return for an ensured realisation on the Turkish labour market. These persons gradually gained confidence that they had secure jobs. During their multiple seasonal migrations to the same town and their temporary work in the same enterprise, they managed to establish contacts with not only the immigrant community, but with the larger local community. Ever more often the informants began to mention their “Turkish” Turk acquaintances and did not hide the rising tension in their interrelations. In the second half of the 1990’s it was no exception to hear complaints of bad attitude towards the immigrants, including those who had already obtained Turkish citizenship. “We, Bulgarian Turks work better and are more coveted employees. That’s why the local people don’t like us and often stand in our way”, this statement was made by many interviewees, as they explained their hesitations in choosing a permanent place of residence. A particularly strong argument in support of their preferences for Bulgaria was the attitude to working women prevalent in the Turkish circles they would have contacts with in their immediate work. In their opinion, female labour is an important factor for the stabilisation of the immigrants’ families, but it is implicitly or explicitly opposed by the “Turkish kadins who are not accustomed to working”.

In the summer of 1995, some of the informants from Kurdzhali and the near by villages were trying to persuade us that the emigration tide had begun to subside. “Those who left for Turkey stayed there, those who stayed here are still here”, maintained H.L. from Ardino. Of course, this conclusion was accompanied by a hope to obtain dual citizenship for the emigrants and green cards for those who had stayed in Bulgaria, which would make the two-way trips of both groups easier. In addition, it was expected that the authorities would open up the planned Makaza checkpoint between Bulgaria and Greece, as well as assumed that the most difficult crisis years in Bulgaria were already past experience. But in 1996 hopes were rapidly waning to finally turn into infeasible illusions. Bulgaria entered her next and extremely strenuous round of a total crisis.

The rule of the Socialist government, headed by Zh. Videnov, led to an ever more growing inflation, increasing unemployment, collapses of banks. This repeated painful fiasco affected the entire Bulgarian society. It was felt most bitterly by the Turkish community in the Eastern Rhodopes. In this mountainous area in which there is no local grain produce, the acute shortage of bread acquired formidable dimensions. In the villages where bread supplies are daily transported from other places, the population’s anxiety was undisguised and justified. People would buy flour in sacks continuously calculating how long they could live on this limited reserve. Perhaps it should be reminded that in this region modernisation had a relatively late start, in the middle of the 1960’s, and many people not only of the older but also of the middle-aged generation were familiar with malnutrition as a daily occurrence. The respondents’ fear of an impending mass hunger became a persistent topic in field interviews and soon amplified to the extent of panic. Our subjects’ grounds were extremely serious. With the closing down of plenty of enterprises, especially the mines, a great number of the male population were thrown out of work and had to join the unemployed on the labour exchange. Most of the families were permanently in straightened circumstances, which made it impossible for them to meet their regular, though modest, daily needs. The insolvency of some banks, which, by offering high rates of interest, had drawn in a significant portion of the individual families’ available resources, extended the range of people directly threatened by actual misery. The administration’s regular speculation with tobacco prices and government purchases affected almost the whole Turkish community, a huge number of whom depended mostly on incomes from the sale of tobacco they had grown. In the summer of 1996, interviewees from villages in the Kardzhali region were awaiting the coming winter as an inevitable apocalypse. Under these circumstances the only possible solution became again emigration to Turkey. The fever of emigration had seized a vast number of the young people in Bulgaria, but among the ethnic Turks a good deal of the middle-aged population was involved too. At first, their share in the overall high rate of emigration was inappreciable. They kept leaving, as usual, with tourist visas, carrying not much luggage with them, the way they used to travel over the past years to make visits or to engage in seasonal work at some Turkish enterprises. But most of them did not return. In the autumn of 1996 it became clear that new rural localities had almost entirely lost their population but for a few aged people who had stayed. A classical example is the village of Madzharovo, an ore-mining centre: its 16-thousand population had imperceptibly melted away to drop down to a number lower than 8000. The new tide of this practically illegal emigration seriously enlarged a phenomenon first witnessed as early as 1989. I do not know the term that might describe it best, but I am familiar with its basic characteristic. It is the social desolation of the people who remained here without their relatives, without their friends, and even without their neighbours. In their large majority, they were old people and children whose parents had departed but at the same time kept making legal or illegal attempts to take them out of Bulgaria. Moreover, a good number of young people, especially in the rural areas, were ever more categorically asserting that they had nothing more to do in Bulgaria, since all their friends were already in Turkey. They declared that no barriers on the part of either the Bulgarian or the Turkish authorities would prevent them from leaving and their emigration is imminent. They were absolutely certain they would be able to quickly find a job and the problem of adaptation to life in the other country did not exist for them. “I have no adaptation problems in Turkey. My family is there and all my acquaintances. The point is that I’m unable to adapt in Bulgaria, where I was born. This is the sad thing for both me and you”, concluded H.S. who had left his native village and was living in Kurdzhali waiting to obtain a Turkish visa. His wife had already departed for Turkey and had found permanent employment there in a knitwear factory. He was the first one to hint the successive change in the emigrants’ strategy. Whenever a family could not move together, the first to emigrate was the husband, who was supposed to prepare the arrival of his wife and children. Now it was the wife that left first. The explanation is that women got visas easier and it was less difficult for them to find jobs in the textile and leather industries. This fact reveals the density of network ties within the immigrants’ community which secure, in high measure, control over single women. Before the mass exodus, in the course of many decades, the vast majority of the Bulgarian Turks worked outside of their villages, where they came back for only several days in two or three weeks. The daily burden of family chores was shouldered by the women, who, while they were young, were strictly watched by the elder generation and the entire village community. Emigration remoulded this traditional pattern of the temporarily separated family by admitting women to the active position of bread-winners. As a matter of fact, this model is generally applied in Bulgaria. The crisis compelled large groups of Turkish women to work in the tobacco factories or in other enterprises far away from their villages. The male respondents characterised both alternatives as an indicator of the severity of the crisis and the total disbalance of life. They used them as illustrations of the broken routine of the regular way of life and the disrupted stabilty of family relations; and the family occupied the unquestionable leading place in the value system of the Bulgarian Turks. According to most of the male respondents, this was an irrefutable evidence of the impossibility of living in Bulgaria and the indispensability of emigrating to Turkey.

Asked to formulate the main underlying reasons of the incessant and ever growing migration flow, all interviewed persons ranked first the general and increasingly growing crisis in the Bulgarian society and the Bulgarian state. From their personal perspective, they referred to the uncertainty, lack of opportunities and impossibility for the individual to organise and manage his/her own life. This time “Bulgarian chaos” and “Turkish order” were contrasted. In their opinion, one’s life in Turkey depended on one’s own efforts and abilities, in spite of the inevitable and quite difficult illegal period. This was believed to be Turkey’s great advantage, which made it once again an attractive Promised Land, although everybody was aware of the difficulties awaiting the immigrants there. All or almost all romantic motives associated with the Motherland, with the possibility of rapidly growing rich, with the unlimited opportunities and absolute freedom enjoyed there had already been overcome. Still, the economic crisis and the persistent impoverishment witnessed in Bulgaria were the constantly indicated motives for emigration, while Turkey restored its image of a saviour state. It provided an opportunity to the ethnic Turks to flee from the Bulgarian reality and its condition of impasse. Many of the informants believe that those who have emigrated to Turkey have made an unequivocal choice. They are not expected to ever come back. Tens of thousands are ready to depart as soon as they find it possible. “Bulgaria won’t be able to manage in the next one hundred years. The young Bulgarians are leaving too. Only the Gypsies will stay”, the respondents repeated the same pessimistic prognoses about Bulgaria’s future relentlessly publicised by the Bulgarian media. Some of the interviewees added that they had been lucky enough to be born Turks, because, on emigrating, they knew where and to whom they were going. But this total negation of the Bulgarian reality disappeared as soon as they had to answer the question


The members of the middle-aged generation, whose children were teenagers, and the younger generation, whose children were still little, as well as the members of the youngest age group, whose children were not born yet, presented almost identical life plans. According to their scenarios, their children should complete their primary education in Turkey, in order to learn the standard Turkish language. In the family however, they had to learn Bulgarian and maintain their knowledge by annual visits to relatives or friends in Bulgaria. They were supposed to get higher or specialised secondary education in Bulgaria, since “it is better than that in Turkey”, having in mind the popular Turkish educational system and in full awareness that, lacking the necessary resources, it would be difficult for them to ensure their children’s access to the elite educational centres. After graduating, their children could “work and live where they choose, for both in Bulgaria and Turkey life is difficult”. They regarded the tendency of living between two states - and even between three, provided the checkpoints on the Bulgarian-Greek border were opened up - as an infeasible dream, rather than as a practicable project. On a personal plane, the fiasco of this dream was marked by the sale of one’s Bulgarian house. “In order to have some original capital in Turkey, you need to sell your house here dirt cheap. You are forced to, although you know that when the Makaza checkpoint is opened up, it will cost five times as much, even if it’s in the most god-forsaken hamlet of all. You’ll never be able to buy it back. We know it’s a loss, but we have no choice. Even if we are given dual nationality, we won’t be able to come back. It may turn out after some time that those who have stayed in Bulgaria will be the winners, but that’s life - you never know what’s for better”, this is how the minor hesitations of the emigrating Bulgarian Turks were summed up by E.Z., whose husband worked underground in a pizza restaurant in Istanbul, while she herself was preparing to leave as soon as she got her Turkish language teacher diploma from the Kurdzhali-based department of the Plovdiv University.

The ethnological observations seeking to discern the motives of the emigrating Bulgarian Turks, and the analysis presented above provide grounds for certain conclusions which, perhaps lacking absolute accuracy, demonstrate nevertheless the general tendencies characteristic of the yet unceasing migration flow. Its vigorous start in 1989 was of an explicitly political character, being a manifestation of the opposition of the ethnic Turks to the outrages against their ethnic identity committed by the Communist regime. The political motivation lost its significance towards the mid-1990’s, but nine years after it had begun, emigration is still in progress, being now determined by the economic situation in Bulgaria and by the already lost hope that it could change in the foreseeable future.

In 1989 the ethnic Turks were leaving Bulgaria collectively, the family, kinsfolk and friends pressurising those, who were not willing to emigrate and chose to stay in Bulgaria. As time went by, emigration became a matter of personal choice in making which the possible liabilities and assets were considered, estimated and accepted as a norm. Over the recent years, even the youngest informants did not view life in Turkey as a sequence of achievements, but kept repeating that they themselves wished to assume the responsibility for their own lives.

In a relatively short time, emigration to Turkey transformed the traditional way of life of the Bulgarian Turks, tangibly upsetting kinship ties and the corresponding relations. At this stage, however, the prospective emigrants still regard those who already live there as a community which they could at least rely on, if not entirely depend upon, during the first months of their immigrant life. “My sister won’t leave me on my own”, “my brother is there”, or the classical “blood is thicker than water” are perpetual arguments in describing the expected advantages of emigration. The circumstance that the vast majority of immigrants live in the same quarters maintains their we-feeling. The imposing number of immigrations has formed an impression that the integrity of the larger group is being preserved, and the latter has been transformed from a community of ethnic Turks in Bulgaria into a community of the Bulgarian Turks in their new home country, Turkey.

With this change in the characteristics of the attitudes to migration and the overall migration process, the wave of Bulgarian Turkish emigres lost its initial uniqueness and became part of the general migration flow pervading mankind and - quite intensively - the Bulgarian society for the past decades. The quest for better living conditions is the major motive driving migrants to move from and to particular regions. It is not a lot different from the motives and intentions of thousands of Bulgarians who leave Bulgaria to seek better life in Europe, America or Australia. In fact, in the autumn of 1997 the informants from the Kurdzhali region mentioned many times companies organising the emigration of Bulgarians and ethnic Turks to California, the Czech Republic, the Ukraine, Israel, the South African Republic. In vague terms and without mentioning concrete names of agencies, people and places, they told of large contingents of Bulgarians and Turks who had departed in order to be employed as construction workers, but who had been gradually naturalised, who had obtained permanent residence permission and some of whom had already visited their birthplaces. “These are the really successful people, not our Turks from Istanbul who, after buying a panel apartment in Avcilar and an old, but red, car, come here to knock us dead”, maintained A.S., a sixty-year-old Turkish woman from Dzhebel, in whose opinion it was not clear yet who had emigrated where, who lived where and, most importantly, who was engaged in what pursuits. According to her, the cleverer persons were neither in Bulgaria, nor in Turkey, but had dispersed in all parts of the world. She meant the people who had belonged to her narrow circle in Dzhebel some ten years ago, but her words quite accurately described the destination amplitude of Bulgarian Turkish emigration. It is possible for these vague reports of Bulgarian-Turkish colonies in Europe, America and Africa to represent some new version of the German dream expanded over the entire globe. It is possible for these accounts to reflect a new situation in the migration strategy of the people preparing to emigrate to Turkey, which will help them to realise their desire - namely, to ensure that their children will be able to live where they like and where they choose to.