You are on page 1of 336


Fatme M. Myuhtar-May

A Dissertation presented to the faculty of Arkansas State University In partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Degree of DOCTOR OF HERITAGE STUDIES

Arkansas State University August 2011

Approved by Dr. Brady Banta, Dissertation Advisor Dr. Erik Gilbert, Committee Member Dr. Gregory Hansen, Committee Member

UMI Number: 3460680

All rights reserved INFORMATION TO ALL USERS The quality of this reproduction is dependent on the quality of the copy submitted. In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion.

UMI 3460680 Copyright 2011 by ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. This edition of the work is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.

ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, MI 48106 - 1346

2011 Fatme M. Myuhtar-May ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



Fatme M. Myuhtar-May


a community inhabiting the Rhodope Mountains of southwestern Bulgaria. They speak Bulgarian as a mother tongue, but profess Islam as their religion unlike the countrys Orthodox Christian majority. Bulgarias independence from Ottoman rule in 1878. Today, taking advantage of Bulgarias Based on this linguistic unity, the Pomaks have been subjected to recurring forced assimilation since democratic rule, they are beginning to assert a heritage of their own making. Still, remnants of that effect.

This research explores selected cultural traditions and histories associated with the Pomaks,

entrenched totalitarian mentality in the official cultural domain prevent any formal undertaking to With the Pomaks as my case study, this research links the concept of heritage to identity and

the way dissenting voices negotiate a niche for themselves in public spaces already claimed by rigid master narratives. I advocate pluralistic interpretation of heritage in the public domain, where

master and vernacular narratives exist and often collide. Insofar as cultural diversity serves to enrich the heritage discourse, heritage professionals ought to serve as educators in society, not as creators of exclusionary master narratives. Using fieldwork, archival research, and available literature to heritage and what ways there are to promote and preserve alternative narratives. Five stories support a relevant theoretical framework, I strive for understanding of what constitutes (Pomak) regarding Pomak identity serve as my analytical frame of reference and constitute a premeditated threatened heritage.

effort to identify, formulate, and preserve in writing fundamental aspects of a highly contested and


of Ribnovo, a small village in the western Rhodope. The weddings most visible manifestation today is the elaborate and colorful mask of the bride, a ritual long gone extinct outside of Ribnovo. Four other case studies examine prominent aspects of Pomak heritage, including forced assimilation, nationalism, and historical narratives.

A striking example of a Pomak tradition which merits preservation is the elaborate wedding


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS dilemma was the choice of a dissertation topic. As the heritage studies field was new to me, it was not an easy undertaking to select a topic with which I would stick. Thus tormented by a dissertation Emory Law School (he taught a class on Islam at the Central European University which I took). Professor AnNaim could not solve the dilemma for me, but he gave me the best piece of advice: predicament, I flew to Atlanta to meet with my former professor Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed AnNaim of the When I started the Heritage Studies PhD program at Arkansas State University, my biggest

Whatever you do, choose something you feel passionate about. I only fathomed the wisdom of his

words two years into my research when I had grown frustrated with the whole dissertation writing abandoned the whole idea of pursuing a PhD degree.

business. Indeed, were it not for my passion to drive me further and deeper into my topic, I may have I owe a debt of gratitude to my dissertation advisor, Dr. Brady Banta, who painstakingly

scrutinized every paragraph I constructed, thus, pushing me to reflect on every sentence I wrote or I will ever write. As trying as it often was, this experience helped to boost my writing confidence process of conducting fieldwork, formulating ideas, and writing chapters. tremendously. More importantly, Dr. Banta motivated me to stay true to myself throughout the Many thanks to Dr. Erik Gilbert and Dr. Gregory Hansen, the two members of my dissertation

committee, the former for introducing me to the concept of nationalism and its incredible influence

on issues of heritage, and the latter for initiating me into the methodology of ethnographic research. Dr. Pamela Hronek, and Dr. Gina Hogue for boosting my confidence when I most needed it.

I am deeply grateful to Dr. Clyde Milner II, Dr. Carol OConnor, Dr. Deborah Chappel Traylor,

Cesur family of Istanbul, the Raim family of Istanbul, Melike Belinska, Mehmed Buykli, Mehmed Dorsunski, and many others for making it possible for me to collect information and build my

I owe eternal gratitude to Ivan Terziev, Ramadan Runtov, Ismail Byalkov, Fikrie Topova, the

research. They served as my gracious hosts, invaluable informants, and tireless research partners, and without their help my dissertation experience would not have been as fulfilling as it was. I am especially indebted to my friends Terry Thomas, Malissa Davis, Simon Hosken (with

whom we often went to see the wizard), Rose Ongoa Morara, and many others for being a source of cheer and inspiration for me. Finally, but not lastly, I thank my husband Michael, my parents Mehmed and Sanie Myuhtar,

and my in-laws Joe and Carolyn May for being the best support in life one could wish for.



List of Tables.................................................................................................................................................................................. xii List of Figures ............................................................................................................................................................................... xiii Chapter I FOREWORD ................................................................................................................................................................................... xvi

INTRODUCTION: Contested Identity and the Politics of Heritage ..........................................................1

Introduction...................................................................................................................................................1 Heritage as Discipline................................................................................................................................3 Heritage as Identity ....................................................................................................................................3 2. National (Dominant) Identity..........................................................................................7 Five Case Studies ...................................................................................................................................... 11 3. Pluralistic Approach to Interpretation Needed.................................................... 10 1. Vernacular (Dissenting) Identity ...................................................................................3


1912-1913 .................................................................................................................................................................... 15

NATIONALISM OF COERSION: The Case of Pomak Christianization (Pokrastvane) in Bulgaria,

The Thesis ................................................................................................................................................... 15 The Pomaks................................................................................................................................................. 23 1. The Balkan Wars ................................................................................................................ 33


War and Pokrastvane (Christianization) in 1912-1913 .......................................................... 32

2. The Pokrastvane ................................................................................................................. 34 2.2. The Killings Documented .......................................................................... 54 2.1. The Killings in Oral History...................................................................... 47

2.3. Humanity and Survival along the Way ............................................... 58 2.5. The Tide Is Turning ..................................................................................... 67 2.4. The Pokrastvane of Muslim Prisoners of War (POWs) ................ 64


(1944-1989) ................................................................................................................................................................. 78 Policy and Ideology of the Revival Process .................................................................................... 80 Introduction................................................................................................................................................ 78

REVIVAL PROCESS: The Forced Renaming of Pomak Muslims in Communist Bulgaria

Conclusion ................................................................................................................................................... 74

3. War and Pokrastvane No More .................................................................................... 73

From Pokrastvane to Revival Process............................................................................................ 108 2. Mission: Revival ................................................................................................................118 1. The Rebirth of Rodina ....................................................................................................108

A Gellnerian Model of National Sentiment.................................................................................... 93

Bringing about Crisis .............................................................................................................................. 88

Women in the Revival Process ......................................................................................................... 129 Conclusion ................................................................................................................................................ 134 1. External Pressure, Internal Turmoil, and the Big Excursion ................... 134

Turmoil in the (Western) Rhodopes ............................................................................................ 124

2. The End Is Near or Is It? .............................................................................................. 137

3. Implications for Pomak Heritage ............................................................................. 141



Oppression in Communist Bulgaria ................................................................................................................ 144 Meeting Ramadan ................................................................................................................................. 144 Synopsis..................................................................................................................................................... 144

THE REVIVAL PROCESS: A Pomak (Bulgarian-Muslim) Life of Dissent amidst Cultural

Prison Tribulations............................................................................................................................... 166

Bloody Revival in the Rhodopes ..................................................................................................... 160

Trouble in Exile ...................................................................................................................................... 157

Trouble in Kornitsa .............................................................................................................................. 151

The Revival Process Ordeal................................................................................................................ 147

1. Arrest, Detention and Trial ........................................................................................ 166 2. Tortured Prisoner........................................................................................................... 169 3. Release and Re-Imprisonment ................................................................................. 173

THE RIBNOVO WEDDING: A Pomak Tradition .......................................................................................... 180 Ribnovo: Place and People ................................................................................................................ 184 Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo ................................................................................................................. 189 Marriage: The Key Turning Point in Adult Life ............................................................... 214 From Ribnovo to the Delta ................................................................................................................ 210 Introduction............................................................................................................................................. 180

Conclusion ................................................................................................................................................ 177

Take the Passport or Die ................................................................................................................ 176


PRESERVING HERITAGE THROUGH MICROHISTORY: The Case of Salih Aga of Pamakl, Pomak Governor of the Ah elebi Kaaza of the Ottoman Empire (1798-1838)........................ 228 Heritage as Microhistory ................................................................................................................... 228 Finding My Own Good Story............................................................................................................. 231

Asserting Identity through Custom ............................................................................................... 220

Salih, the Family Man........................................................................................................................... 254

Salihs Family Tree................................................................................................................................ 249

Who Wrote about Salih Aga .............................................................................................................. 241

Salih Aga and His Time ....................................................................................................................... 235

1. Mustafa Adji Aga ............................................................................................................. 254 2. Salihagovitsa (the Wife of Salih Aga) ..................................................................... 259


CONCLUSION ............................................................................................................................................................ 278 The Role of the Heritage Broker ..................................................................................................... 281 Making Sense of the Past ................................................................................................................... 278

Conclusion: Salih Agas Heritage .................................................................................................... 275

The Death of Salih Aga ........................................................................................................................ 270

Salih, the Public Man ............................................................................................................................ 265

APPENDICES ............................................................................................................................................................................... 290 2.1: Pomak population in the Provinces Thrace and Macedonia during the Balkan Wars .... 290 2.2: Report of Pazardjik activists for Pomak conversion to Archiship Maxim ............................ 291

In Conclusion........................................................................................................................................... 285

2.3: Excerpts from the Carnegie Report on the Balkan Wars, 1914 ................................................. 293 3.1: Broken Tombstones ...................................................................................................................................... 295 3.2A: Applications for emigration submitted by Pomaks ..................................................................... 297

3.2B: Number of passports issued to Pomaks............................................................................................ 298

3.2C: Statistics on Pomak immigration ......................................................................................................... 299 3.3: Statistics on Zagrajden Municipality ..................................................................................................... 300 6.1: Ballad about the killing of Salih Aga ...................................................................................................... 305

BIBLIOGRAPHY ......................................................................................................................................................................... 308

6.2: Salih Agas Seal ................................................................................................................................................ 307




3-1. Number of Pomaks with censored attire and changed names by villages and towns...................... 113




2-4: A pokrastvane wedding ................................................................................................................................................... 46 2-6: A commemorative marble plaque next to the fountain ................................................................................... 51 2-5: A commemorative water fountain in Valkossel ................................................................................................... 50

2-3: Pokrastvane in the village of Banya, 1912-1913 .................................................................................................. 45

2-2: Pokrastvane in the village of Devin, 1912-1913 ................................................................................................... 44

2-1: Map of the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria ........................................................................................................... 38

3-1: National Sentiment Continuum ................................................................................................................................... 99

3-2: National Sentiment Continuum in regard to the Pomaks in Bulgaria ....................................................... 99 4-1: On the University of Marmaras campus, Istanbul (Turkey) ....................................................................... 145 4-2: Ramadan Runtov ............................................................................................................................................................. 148

4-3: Ramadan with his family, circa 1959-1960......................................................................................................... 154

4-4: A commemorative monument in the village of Kornitsa .............................................................................. 161

4-5: Ismail Kalyuor of Breznitsa died as a result of the events of March 1973 ............................................ 162 4-7: The happy, post-communist days ............................................................................................................................ 178

4-6: At Ismails ........................................................................................................................................................................... 164

5-1: Ribnovo .............................................................................................................................................................................. 185

5-2: Ribnovos public square: horo dancing ................................................................................................................. 186

5-3: Kadrie and Feim Hatip from Ribnovo as bride and groom in February 2005 ..................................... 187

5-4: A happy bride.................................................................................................................................................................... 189

5-5: Young women hold gifts at Kadrie and Feims wedding ............................................................................... 191

5-6: The wedding begins ....................................................................................................................................................... 192

5-7: Live music........................................................................................................................................................................... 193

5-8: Kardies father lifts the bayrak with one hand and drops a bill to the bearer with the other ...... 194 5-10: Kadrie wearing full bridal make-up ..................................................................................................................... 195

5-9: Kadries mother and father carefully assist her out on the way to her new life as a wife ............. 195 5-11: A Ribnovo bride fully arraigned in the traditional way .............................................................................. 196

5-12: Bride Kadrie Kadieva .................................................................................................................................................. 196

5-13: Sanie and Mehmed Myuhtar.................................................................................................................................... 199

5-14: Wedding of Fatme Aguleva of Kornitsa, Western Rhodopes, 1967 ....................................................... 200 5-16: Wedding of Atidje and Mustafa Chavdarov of Valkossel, 1972 ............................................................... 201 5-15: Wedding photograph of Atie Hadjieva of Valkossel, 1971......................................................................... 200

5-17: Wedding of Atidje and Mustafa Chavdarov of Valkossel, 1972 ............................................................... 201

5-18: Wedding of Gyula and Mustafa Chavdarov of Valkossel, early 1970s .................................................. 201

5-19: Wedding of Fatma and Mehmed Chavdarov of Valkossel, late 1960s .................................................. 202

5-20: Ayshe and Mustafa Drelev of Valkossel, early 1970s ................................................................................... 202

5-21: Wedding of Sadbera and Izir Chavdarov of Vakossel, 1968 ...................................................................... 202 5-22: Wedding of Nadjibe and Natak Dermendjiev of Valkossel, early 1970s ............................................. 202 5-23: The bride is about to be decorated ....................................................................................................................... 203 5-24: Ribnovo women demonstrate a decoration ..................................................................................................... 203 5-25: Fully decorate Kadrie is about to be dressed................................................................................................... 204 5-26: Veiling the bride - Step 1 ........................................................................................................................................... 205 5-27: Veiling the bride - Step 2 ........................................................................................................................................... 205 5-28: Veiling the bride - Step 3 ........................................................................................................................................... 206

5-29: Cheiz I ................................................................................................................................................................................ 208

5-30: Cheiz II............................................................................................................................................................................... 208 5-31: Cheiz III ............................................................................................................................................................................. 209 5-32: Cheiz IV ............................................................................................................................................................................. 209

6-1: The konak of Deli-Ali Bey in Smolyan .................................................................................................................... 233

6-2: Melike Belinska ................................................................................................................................................................ 234

6-3: The Smolyan Waterfall, also known as The Gorge of Salih Aga, postcard, c. 1960 ........................ 241

6-4: The konak of Salih Aga in Pamakl, 1920 (copy of original photograph) ............................................. 246

6-6: The konak of Salih Aga in Pamakl, 1921, gift from Todor Georgiev to Petar Marinov ................. 248

6-5: The konak of Salih Aga in Pamakl, undated ..................................................................................................... 247

6-7: Family Tree ........................................................................................................................................................................ 252

6-8: Inscribed metal dish ...................................................................................................................................................... 253

6-9: Inscribed metal dish, close view............................................................................................................................... 254

6-10: Scene I ............................................................................................................................................................................... 262

6-11: Scene II .............................................................................................................................................................................. 263

6-12: Scene III ............................................................................................................................................................................ 264 6-14: The Sycamore in Smolyan ........................................................................................................................................ 267 6-13: Scene IV............................................................................................................................................................................. 265

6-15: An arched bridge in Smolyan .................................................................................................................................. 268

6-16: An arched bridge leading to Salihs konak ........................................................................................................ 269


fourteenth century ushered in an era of Ottoman domination that lasted for nearly five centuries.

The collapse of the medieval Christian Kingdom of Bulgaria to the Muslim Turks in the late


Although during the half a millennium of Ottoman rule, a substantial part of the population converted to Islam, the millet system, introduced as early as the 1450s, provided for the religious autonomy of interested in the wholesale Islamization of their Christian subjects even though forced conversions Jews, Roman Catholics, Greek- and Armenian Orthodox Christians. 1 Indeed, the Ottomans were not

sporadically occurred following outbreaks of unrest or to ensure Ottoman control of strategically vital regions of the empire, especially in the Balkans. 2 Notwithstanding the system that facilitated religious tolerance, Sharia, the normative

them with additional taxes, including cizie (per capita tax) and ispene/hara (land tax). Because the cizie contributed up to a half of the empires revenue, 3 any forced Islamization would have run counter to the Ottoman financial interests. In fact, abundant evidence suggests that voluntary acceptance of Islam was the prevalent mode of conversion among (Christian) peoples of the

Islamic law of the Ottoman Empire, discriminated against the rayah (non-Muslims) and burdened

ones property, to avoid special taxes, to receive benefits from the state (i.e. pensions), and to enjoy a range of privileges only available to Muslims in the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, Ottoman archives
1 2 3 4

Balkans. 4 The change of religious affiliation stemmed from private ambitions to preserve or expand

The Slavic-speaking Christians in the Turkish realm, including the Bulgarians, were under the jurisdiction of the Greek Church or the Orthodox milletba (milletbashi) (i.e. Greek Patriarch) in Constantinople (Istanbul). For a detailed history of Bulgaria, see R.J. Crampton, Bulgaria (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria (London: Hurst & Company, 1997), 37.

contain formal petitions for conversion (kisve bahas) attesting that whole communities collectively

For a detailed account of the conversion to Islam in the Balkans, see Anton Minkov, Conversion to Islam in the Balkans: Kisve Bahas Petitions and Ottoman Social Life, 1670-1730 (Boston: Brill, 2004). xvi

accepted Islam. 5 When communities in Bulgaria converted, they often continued to speak their Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, or Pomaks, appeared. 6

mother tongue, thus becoming a group of their own. According to J.R. Crampton, this is how the Even though conversion to Islam in Bulgaria and throughout the Balkans was largely

voluntary, religious tension abounded in the Ottoman Empire. Strife often occurred among Balkan co-religionists. Indeed, the Bulgarian national revival arose, in large part, as a response to confrontations during the 1830s and 1840s with the Greek Orthodox Church and religious

dominance. The emerging Bulgarian intellectual and economic elite in the nineteenth century felt so independence. It was this protracted struggle for religio-cultural autonomy from the Orthodox direction of a political struggle aimed at the creation of independent nation-state 7 by the later nineteenth century.

utterly controlled by the Greek Patriarchate that in 1860 they pushed for declaration of ecclesiastical Greeks, J.R. Crampton contends, that turned a number of powerful and influential Bulgarians in the

the Bulgarians was to obtain Ottoman recognition of a separate Church. This effort, however, was fraught with frustration as the Ottoman government, confronting fierce opposition from the

After the unilateral secession from the Orthodox Patriarchate in 1860, the next vital step for

Orthodox Patriarchate in Constantinople which refused to accept the de facto separation, delayed a decision. Ultimately, Crampton argues, this difficult fight for religious independence helped define Greek dominion, the nation needed the Church for cultural leadership. 8 the emerging sense of Bulgarian nationalism. Whereas the Church needed the nation to free it from In fact, the Bulgarians were so intent on ecclesiastical autonomy from the Greeks that, by

decreeing the formation of a separate Bulgarian Orthodox Church. While the Bulgarian Exarchate
5 6 7 8

February 1870, the Ottoman government felt compelled to issue a ferman (royal permission)

Minkov, passim. Ibid., 25. Ibid., 64.

Crampton, 19-20.


(religious leadership) was still subordinate to the Greek Patriarchate on matters of doctrine, all in all, the Bulgarian struggle for ecclesiastical independence set the foundation for developing a Bulgarian Bulgaria know that the Eastern Orthodox faith was inseparable from the Bulgarian people, and that national consciousness. 9 In fact, in 1895, the Orthodox Exarch let the Catholic Prince Ferdinand of


of Bulgarian nationalism, and the emergence of the Bulgarian nation-state during the late nineteenth In addition to the Greco-Bulgarian religious conflict, there was also political antagonism

only the Orthodox Bulgarian was true Bulgarian. 10 Thus, the Church played a pivotal role in the rise

emerging within the Ottoman Empire. Gaining ecclesiastical independence from the Greeks in 1860

facilitated by the marked decline of the Ottoman Empire occurring in the early 1800s. The Serbs and Greeks revolted against their Turkish overlords in 1803 and 1821 respectively to emerge as independent nation-states by the centurys third and fourth decades. This national awakening in the Balkans was largely in response to the popular Western European nationalism spreading eastwards from France, Italy, and Germany. As Richard C. Hall observes: A strong desire to achieve national unity motivated the Balkan states to confront their erstwhile Ottoman conquerors. Balkan leaders believed that only after the attainment of national unity could their states develop and prosper. In this regard the Balkan peoples sought to emulate the political and economic success of western Europe by adopting the western European concept of nationalism as the model for their national development. 11

only hastened the Bulgarians resolve to build a nation-state of their own. Their ambition was greatly

unifications of Italy and Germany by the early 1870s, the Christian populations of the nineteenth-

Strongly influenced by the western ideal of nation-state, especially following the successful

century Balkan Peninsula revolted against their imperial masters almost in common agreement. In brutal suppression of the uprising generated international sympathy and support for the cause of Bulgarian independence. Taking advantage of the crisis, Tsarist Russia declared war on Ottoman

the spirit of all-pervading agitation in the Ottoman realm, the Bulgarians rebelled in April 1876. The

10 11

Ibid., 63-80. Ibid., 146. Richard C. Hall, The Balkan Wars, 1912-1913: Prelude to the First World War (New York: Routledge, 2000), 1. xviii

Turkey in 1877, partially in support of its Orthodox Slavic brethrens struggle for independence and partially in fulfillment of its own ambitions for dominance in the Balkans. The Treaty of San Stefano heart of the Peninsula. of March 1878 concluded the Russian-Turkish War and created a large Bulgarian nation-state in the The combination of a strong Bulgaria and potent Russian presence in the region, however,

did not square well with the interests of Great Britain, France, Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Italy. the Danube River to the north to the Aegean Sea to the south, dwarfing all its neighbors except

This new nation-state, under profound Russian influence, incorporated territory that stretched from Ottoman Turkey. Responding to a general sense of urgency, Otto von Bismarck, First Chancellor of Germany, convened a congress in Berlin in 1878, where the powerful of the day duly partitioned Bulgaria, reducing it to a hapless principality under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire. Most of

Ottoman authority, while Macedonia (west of Eastern Rumelia) was restored to direct sultanic rule. sense of loss among the Bulgarian nation that in coming years it stimulated the emergence of an the standing Berlin Treaty. 12

southern Bulgaria, better known as Eastern Rumelia, became a semi-independent province under

By partitioning the country, the Berlin Congress portended disaster for Bulgaria. So powerful was the

aggressive nationalism. Bulgarias neighbors Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro felt similarly hurt by As the party most aggrieved by the Berlin agreement, Bulgaria was the first to act against it.

In September 1885, the Bulgarian Principality unilaterally proclaimed its unification with Eastern

Rumelia. Because none of the western Great Powers took direct action to enforce the Berlin decision, they implicitly validated the unification. Unable to reverse the course of events on its own, Turkey had formally recognized united Bulgaria by 1908. This development notwithstanding, the emerging territories remaining within the Ottoman Empire. The Bulgarians desired Thrace, the Greeks coveted Aegean islands, and the Serbs and Montenegrins aspired to annex Bosnia-Herzegovina and northern Albania respectively. All four, however, harbored ambitions to dominate Macedonia, a fertile region

Balkan nation-states still felt victimized by the Berlin Congress of 1878. They all had aspirations to

Hall, 1-21; Crampton, 23-95. xix

in the heart of Balkan Turkey. Thus, by the first decade of the twentieth century, Macedonia had become the pivot of territorial ambition for the most powerful Balkan nations. 13 Concurrently, in 1903, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) a pro-

against Ottoman authority. The rebellion, however, was promptly crushed. Thereafter, Bulgaria long-standing ambition to annex Macedonia. Aware of its inability to face the Ottomans alone,

independence movement with expressed Bulgarian leanings organized a revolt in Macedonia

claimed the right to protect the territorys Bulgarian population, but mostly it sought to realize its Bulgaria sought alliance and military support from Serbia. Russia, for its part, was simultaneously orchestrating an Orthodox coalition against Turkey. Although the initial cooperation between Balkan alliance against the Ottoman Empire. 14 Bulgaria and Serbia collapsed due to conflicting interests in Macedonia, the possibility emerged of a Apart from common territorial interests, one particular political development, according to

Hall, finally compelled Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro to work together against their

common Muslim adversary. That spark came from the Young Turk revolution and the Ottoman

Empires own attempt at espousing the ideology of nationalism. In July 1908, a cabal of junior officers staged a coup dtat in Constantinople, seizing control of government and immediately launching Young Turks (Jn Trkler), and their prime objective was to unify Turkey and to prevent further political reforms. The group called itself Committee for Unity and Progress, popularly known as the disintegration. In resonance with the Christian nationalists in the Balkans, the Young Turks sought to instill a sense of Ottoman identity among the various peoples of the empire. To prevent a further loss of territories to rebellious subjects, however, they set out to create a powerful, modern army. The empires to be nervous about achieving their territorial ambitions at the expense of the Ottoman realm. Whereas Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece feared their ability to withstand a potentially more powerful Ottoman military, the Habsburg and Romanov dynasties had aspirations, respectively, to
13 14

Young Turk revolution had a ripple effect in the Balkans and beyond, causing nation-states and

Hall, 1-21; Crampton, 97-188.

Hall, 1-21; Crampton, 150-219. xx

revolt and the celebration of Ottoman nationhood raised concerns in the Balkan capitals [and beyond] that the Balkan populations in a reformed Turkey would be less susceptible to their nationalistic blandishments. 15

control Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Straits of Bosphorus. As Hall aptly observes, The Young Turk

before the Young Turks reforms could produce any meaningful results. Russia, for its part, desired a Balkan alliance against the Austrians and the Ottomans in order to bolster its own position on the and Serbia finally signed an agreement in March 1912. In addition to providing for military Peninsula. Thus, pressured by nationalist concerns on one side and by Russia on another, Bulgaria cooperation against both Austria-Hungary and Turkey, it recognized Bulgarian interests in Thrace and Serbian interest in Kosovo and Albania, while also including provisions on Macedonia. The independence could not be achieved, they would divide Macedonia between themselves. This Macedonia could be subsequently annexed. 16 Macedonian question, however, was particularly difficult. The two nations nevertheless agreed that if arrangement satisfied the Bulgarian authorities because they believed that an initially autonomous Serbia, on the other hand, was not very enthusiastic about the treaty since the country

Both Bulgaria and Serbia felt the need to act together in defense of their shared interests

harbored its own aspirations for Macedonia. Thus, the agreement for military cooperation stood on

shaky grounds from the start. Meanwhile Bulgaria responded positively to Greeces overtures to join the pact. Since neither Bulgaria nor Serbia was a viable maritime power, the allies needed the Greek navy to police the waters of the Aegean and to hinder the Ottomans from provisioning their forces and from transferring more troops to Europe. Thus, a separate treaty of cooperation was signed

between Bulgaria and Greece in May 1912. Whereas Bulgaria took care to formalize its alliance with

Montenegro as with Serbia and Greece, the relationship among the later nations stood largely on oral

15 16

Hall, 7. For details on the Young Turks and Turkish nationalism, see Erik Jan Zrcher, The Young Turk Legacy and Nation Building: From the Ottoman Empire to Ataturk's Turkey (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010). Hall, 1-21; Crampton, 150-219.


agreement. This uncertain and complex political dealing, then, set the foundation for the Balkan League that would fight Ottoman Turkey in the First Balkan War. 17 The First Balkan War began in September 1912, when Montenegro attacked Ottoman

positions, invoking frontier disputes as an excuse. Later, in October 1912, the Balkan League

collectively attacked the Ottoman Empire. According to preliminary arrangements, the largest and and most fiercely defended by the Ottomans. Serbia invaded Macedonia, while Greece attacked Salonika, effectively curbing the Ottoman supply line through the Aegean Sea. An armistice

most powerful Bulgarian army focused its efforts on Thrace, the territory closest to Constantinople

temporarily halted the war during December and January, and the belligerents signed a preliminary This was the beginning of the Second Balkan War, in which Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro jointly attacked Bulgaria. This dramatic turn of events resulted from the fact that the more powerful

peace treaty in London on May 30, 1913. But as no compromise ensued, the conflict resumed in June.

Bulgarian army had occupied the biggest share of Ottoman territories during the First Balkan War, much to the chagrin of its former allies. Taking advantage of the moment, Turkey and Romania declared war on Bulgaria, too. Squeezed from all sides, by the summer of 1913, the Bulgarian forces were exhausted from fighting, forced to cover multiple battlefronts simultaneously, and plagued by Montenegro advancing from the west, Greece and Turkey from the south, and Romania from the Constantinople in September ended the Balkan Wars, but in less than a year the Peninsula was disease to top it all. Thus, the second Balkan alliance quickly overwhelmed Bulgaria, with Serbia and north. By the fall, Bulgaria was defeated. The peace treaties signed in Bucharest in August 1913 and embroiled in another war, this time global. 18

process of intensive territorial and cultural consolidation following five centuries of Ottoman

The Balkan Wars were a crucial period for Bulgaria. The nascent nation-state was still in the

domination. The enormous territorial expansion during the First Balkan War incorporated new and significant Muslim population into Bulgaria, most of which spoke Slavic (Bulgarian) language. Even
17 18


For a detail account of the Balkan Wars, see Halls The Balkan Wars, 1912-1913. xxii

after the loss of the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria still held on to most of the Rhodope Mountains, a territory compactly settled by Slavic-speaking Muslims (Pomaks). To legitimize its claim over the freshly acquired Ottoman territories, Bulgarias first order of business, following the conquest, was to proclaim the Pomaks Bulgarian, based on language commonality, and to attempt to convert them to Orthodox Christianity. The Balkan Wars pokrastvane religious conversion through Orthodox

baptism and name replacement began a sustained assimilation of Pomaks in Bulgaria. It would set a precedent for further religious conversion, name changing, and systematic suppression of Pomak cultural traditions. Following the pokrastvane, Bulgarian historiography institutionalized the thesis that the Pomaks descended from Bulgarians forcibly Islamized sometime prior to the eighteenth century. Acting upon this thesis, Bulgarian nationalists launched another round of religious conversion in the Rhodopes in 1938, but it was promptly aborted by the communist takeover in communist regime substituted the traditional Turkish-Arab names of all Pomaks with ones of

September 1944. The final and most comprehensive assimilation took place in 1972-1974, when the

Bulgarian-Orthodox significance. This state of affairs only ended with the collapse of communism in Bulgaria, and across Eastern Europe, in late 1989.


CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION: CONTESTED IDENTITY AND THE POLITICS OF HERITAGE Introduction Heritage is everywhere, David Lowenthal declares. People cherish their heritage and so it

the past, heritage comes to life and, in time, transpires as identity. As cultural identities are shaped, When master narratives dominate public spaces, dissenting voices inevitably challenge them by comes into play, it necessitates the existence of academic disciplines that study, promote, and

matters to them. 1 When individuals, communities, and nation-states assign narratives to places and

heritage becomes mandatory, and as national narratives are formed, heritage gets institutionalized. seeking inclusion or insisting on their separate versions of history. As the politics of heritage, thus, educate on pluralistic approaches to brokering heritage. This Introduction suggests a working

definition of heritage applicable to the case of the contested Pomak identity in Bulgaria. The Pomaks are a community of people that speak Bulgarian as a mother tongue, but profess Islam as their religion unlike the countrys Orthodox Christian majority. Based on the unity of language, the Pomaks have been historically subjected to recurring forced assimilation since Bulgarias independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878. Already in the early twentieth century, the nascent and aggressive

Bulgarian nationalism sought to convert the Pomaks to Orthodox Christianity as a way to consolidate territory and forge national identity. The underlying rationale for the assimilation rested on the claim that the Pomaks descend from Christian Bulgarians, whom the Ottomans converted to Islam at sword point sometime before the 1800s. Even as this narrative has taken deep roots in Bulgarias

David Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and Its Contradictions, in Giving Preservation a History, ed. Max Page and Randall Mason (New York: Routelege, 2004), 19-43. 1

historical discourse as the single, undisputable truth, there is an emerging recognition among

Bulgarian scholars that conversions to Islam among the Slavic population of the Balkans between the thesis and the deeply seated anti-Ottoman/Turkish/Islamic nationalism in Bulgaria (and the Balkans Bulgarian nationalism, Muslim means the Other, the Outsider, the Enemy. The Bulgarianas a whole) render it impossible for the Pomaks to stake a claim to Muslimness. In the vocabulary of fourteenth and nineteenth century were largely voluntary. 2 Nevertheless, the forced-assimilation

speaking Muslims, therefore, cannot profess Islam or maintain a separate religious identity and still be true Bulgarians. Repeatedly harassed to renounce their faith and traditions, the Pomaks have resisted every attempt at conversion or forced assimilation by various regimes in Bulgaria. Today, heritage of their own making. 3 Still, remnants of entrenched totalitarian mentality in Bulgarias official nationalist ideology nip in the bud any formal undertaking to that effect. 4

taking advantage of the countrys democratic rule, they insist on being able to freely assert a Pomak

voices negotiate a niche for themselves in public spaces already claimed by rigid master narratives. which to varying degrees limit or deny access of vernacular (minority, dissenting) narratives to the public domain. Drawing from my own research and case studies furnished by others, I strive to understand of what constitutes heritage and how to promote and preserve dissenting narratives. Five stories regarding Pomak identity serve as my analytical frame of reference and constitute a
2 3 4

In view of the Pomak case, this introduction links heritage to identity and the way dissenting

Often these are the official, government-promoted, institutionalized versions of the past and present,

premeditated effort to identify, formulate, and preserve in writing fundamental aspects of a highly
In this dissertation, the terms Pomaks, Slavic/Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, Bulgarian Muslims are used interchangeably as synonymous. For details, see Chapter II of this dissertation.

The latest, among many, scandals involves the attempt of the Bulgarian Statistical Institute to democratically respond to peoples demands for free self-identification by including Bulgaro-Mohammedan and Macedonian identities, among others, in the 2011 census forms. Even though Bulgaro-Mohammedan or BulgarianMohammedan is the standard name of reference to the Pomaks in Bulgaria, the ultra-nationalist political formation VMRO immediately declared this act monstrous, Stalinist revisionism of Bulgarian history. The scandal generated a wave of resignations in the Bulgarian Statistical Institute as seasoned statisticians were accused of trying to create a Bulgaro-Mohammedan ethnicity in Bulgaria. Needless to say, the proposed changes to the census form were immediately dropped. Thus, during the forthcoming 2011 census, the Pomakss choice of identity is already restricted to Bulgarians, Turks, or Others. (Mihail Ivanov, Prebroyavaneto dogodina veche e comprometirano / Next-Years Census Has Already Been Compromised/ in of 23 September 2010). 2

contested, threatened heritage. By necessity, this work begins with discussion of what I perceive heritage to be and how it relates to identity. Heritage as Discipline

sections of various disciplines such as history, ethnography, tourism, geography, literature, folklore, Dictionarys definition, 5 heritage is [p]roperty that descends to an heir, something transmitted by or natural situation or birth. 6 Thus, in addition to specifying that heritage is an entity that is passed on archeology, environmental science, and others. According to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate

Heritage as an academic concept has an amorphous character because it explores the overlapping

acquired from a predecessor; a legacy, inheritance, tradition, something passed on as a result of ones

from one human generation to the next, the above definition suggests that heritage can be of both family heirlooms (real estate, jewelry, china, furniture, art works, etc.), vintage cars, architectural buildings and monuments, heritage sites, historical records, natural environment, and wildlife. Heritage that is of intangible or symbolic nature, on the other hand, reflects peoples sense of

material (tangible) and symbolic (intangible) nature. Material things that constitute heritage may be

identity, i.e. their understanding of who they are and their shared memories of the past as well as connected through being claimed, preserved, and celebrated by people. While physical heritage on commemoration as a way to preserve what cannot be rendered into objects: the sense of component of peoples sense of self and place in society.

aspirations for the present and future. Although distinct, these two aspects of heritage are inherently requires conservation to endure as material anchors of community identity, spiritual heritage rests belonging together. Ultimately, both forms of heritage are essential for promoting identity as a vital Heritage as Identity 1. Vernacular (Dissenting) Identity

5 6

Also adopted by the Arkansas State Universitys (ASUs) Heritage Studies Ph.D. Program. Available from ASU, at: Last accessed October 19, 2010. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh edition (Merriam Webster Incorporated, 2004), 582. 3

heritage is constructed by people to indicate their belonging to a communitytown, neighborhood, minority group, nation, regionin a way that reflects their idealized perception of self. Heritage is always claimed by someone. In the process of appropriating it, people shape and transform heritage creator, is never vicious or fictitious, but always good and truthful. Whereas for the dominant group in society the validation of a noble identity is a statement of power, for the underprivileged communities it becomes a campaign to assert an acceptable identity. 8

heritage] is inextricably bound up with group [community] identity. 7 Both material and symbolic

[I]t has become conventional wisdom, W. Fitzhugh Brundage posits, that memory [as

according to their need for an identity that is innocent, noble, virtuous, and glorious. Heritage, for its

Heritage, the authors specifies that heritage always reflects (1) a person- or groups search for

Identity, Peter Howard opines, is one of the central components of heritage. 9 In his book,

identity; (2) it is peoples interpretation of the past; and, (3) once heritage has entered the public

things that are of value to them. Heritage is, therefore, the universal human quest for a comfortable sense of self whereby the members of a community negotiate their identity with the rest in society commemoration of selected events or heroic person(s) from the past, and (2) through material festivities, rituals, and traditions. and among themselves. The community then affirms their constructed identity (1) through symbolic manifestations of heritage, including historic buildings and sites, monuments, written records, public Accordingly, three fundamental techniques of constructing an acceptable sense of self can be

domain, 10 it requires management. 11 All humans, according to the author, share a drive to preserve

gleaned from Brundages analytical account of Acadian culture in Louisiana: namely, (1) creating an idealized past by validating myths (idealization); (2) authenticating the past by identifying material
7 8 9

W. Fitzhugh Brundage, ed., Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 3. Ibid., 1-28 & 271-98.

10 The junction where heritage is being presented to the public via exhibits, battle reenactments, vintage car- or building restoration, heritage sites, and other activities. 11

Peter Howard, Heritage: Management, Interpretation, Identity (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003), passim. I.e. the practical execution of heritage interpretation.

anchors of memory (authentication); and (3) promoting heritage by selling it to tourists

(commoditization). 12 What drove Louisianas Acadians into (re)imagining their identity during the

rustic peasant folk. In this period, Acadian cultural enthusiasts revived and recreated a heritage that

revivalist movement of the 1920s-1960s was the unflattering Anglo-Saxon perceptions of them as

would evoke a sense of pride in the community. Consequently, they authenticated the romantic myth of a brave and devoted maiden, Evangeline, who spent a lifetime searching for her beloved Gabriel. 13 In Evangeline, the revivalists found both (1) desirable identity traits loyalty, determination, endurance, bravery to stress in the construction of heritage, and (2) a suitable identity icon to factual basis in history by identifying locations in Louisiana, presumably of significance to

epitomize the Acadian character. These narrative creators even provided the Evangeline myth with a Evangeline, including the very oak tree under which she cast a first glance at Gabriel. These physical entities then not only became the material anchors (authenticators) of the constructed Acadian identity, but subsequently they also emerged as great tourist attractions. Ultimately, the revivalists successfully imagined a culture of their liking that satisfied both Acadian peoples need of noble identity and Louisianas eagerness for tourist money. 14

splendidly narrated case studies reveal that the construction and promotion of cultural identity is a difficult process of negotiating, borrowing, and resisting cultural notions (stereotypes, contested (minority) heritages. 15 Kathryn VanSpanckeren, for example, describes how the black Creoles of identities) in a public domain with established dominant (majority) culture and a host of vernacular Louisiana assume the identity and costume of the Plains Indians when performing during Mardi Gras, thus, effectively authenticating a claim to Native American lineage. In analyzing the structure of the urban Indian Song Cycle, VanSpanckeren depicts two distinct types of performances those of the
12 13 14 15

Nor is the invention of heritage an easy undertaking. In Southern Heritage on Display, ten

The couple dramatically lost contact during the Great Exile, i.e. Acadian migration from Nova Scotia, Canada, to Louisiana. Brundage, 271-98.

Brundage, 271-98.

Celeste Ray, ed., Southern Heritage on Display: Public Rituals and Ethnic Diversity with Southern Regionalism (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003). 5

black and white communities in Louisiana, clearly projecting both groups sense of identity. While the black performance conveys a symbolic defiance of a former condition of subjugation (slavery), the white one projects a sense of confidence in tradition (as the historically dominant race). Thus, the mock battles that express rejection of white control, whereas the white performances are less

singing, dancing, and costuming of the black community are markedly warlike, heroic, and enacting concerned with emblems of oppression and resistance. This status quo highlights at least three public space is important to previously marginalized groups (African Americans). Second, the

crucial aspects of asserting heritage as identity: First, negotiating a desirable identity within the

Third, the group negotiating their identity through defiance and borrowing feels the need to affirm this constructed self-image in the public domain (via Mardi Gras performance). 16 In Melungeons and the Politics of Heritage, Melissa Schrift further elaborates on the

and borrowing from other vernacular cultures (from Native Americans) to dignify ones heritage.

process of constructing a desirable identity often involves defiance of the mainstream (white) culture

complexities of negotiating a cultural identity. Similar to Brundages Acadian stipulation, she

suggests that the term Melungeonness in eastern Tennessee constitutes an imposed identity that

originally was rejected by the majority of those whom it concerns. For the Appalachian population,

known to outsiders as Melungeon, the notion evoked popular racial slurs of dark-skinned, dirty, untrustworthy people epithets originating in outside perceptions of the locals as being of mixed African American, Native American, and European American pedigree. Negotiating an acceptable Melungeon identity, therefore, becomes paramount for the community. It stems from their need to where Melungeonness can be both distinct and respectable. As local Melungeon enthusiasts put

attain a heritage of their own making and find a safe niche within the mainstream cultural discourse, themselves to the task of constructing a desirable identity, Schrift observes how at reunions and

through the World Wide Web lively discussions ensue about physical characteristics that set the

Melungeons apart in a dignified way. Claiming Mediterranean ancestry Portuguese and/or Turkish
16 Kathryn VanSpanckeren, The Mardi Gras Indian Song Cycle: A Heroic Tradition, in Southern Heritage on Display: Public Rituals and Ethnic Diversity with Southern Regionalism, ed. Celeste Ray (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003), 57-78.

these Melungeon activists have elaborated a whole list of traits, 17 purportedly typical of their EuroMediterranean forefathers. Thus, at Melungeon gatherings, members of the community meticulously examine their bodies in search of characteristics that unite them. The act of discovering shared respectable identity, and sense of rootedness. 18 physical features, then, provides the descendants with the comforting reassurance of clean origins, 2. National (Dominant) Identity Not only vernacular communities feel the need for dignified heritage. Nation-states, too

especially previously subjugated ones aspire to venerable origins and claim glorious antiquities.

States, moreover, seek to affirm narratives of golden age via aggressive nationalism. In Imagined not some pre-existing pillars of social order, but cultural construct, which ruling elites invented in

Communities, Benedict Anderson brilliantly argues that nationness, nationality, and nationalism are response to pressing social needs. 19 Thus, the phenomenon of nation-state is an ideological construct that superseded the older feudal state structure once it became obsolete, rather than being a predetermined order of things. 20 The modern concept of the nation as a community of people sharing

culture and territory, therefore, is not preordained. Rather, it is an imagined entity, which has been (re)invented by elites under critical socio-cultural and political circumstances.

time Scotsmen come together to celebrate their national heritage, imposingly dressed in patterned

ancient tartan-and-kilt costume of Scotland is an eighteenth-century invention. 21 Therefore, every

Following Andersons line of reasoning, Hugh Trevor-Roper convincingly stipulates that the

tartans and adorned by kilts and bagpipes, they are not re-enacting a tradition from antiquity, but a
17 18

19 20

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991), 4. Ibid., passim.

Melissa Schrift, Melungeons and the Politics of Heritage, in Southern Heritage on Display: Public Rituals and Ethnic Diversity with Southern Regionalism, ed. Celeste Ray (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003), 106-29.

Among those are the Anatolian bump, the sleepy eyes, and the Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF).

21 Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland, in The Invention of Tradition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 15-41.

cultural construct from modernity. Shaped by the extreme political circumstances of the 1700s, the distinguishable tartan and kilt had come to epitomize the dignified Scottish identity by the late eighteenth century. Well into the 1700s, Scotland essentially existed as two detached portions,

the barbarian, roguish Highlands, as the author puts it. Whereas the Saxon Lowlanders followed European fashions of waistcoat and breeches, the Celtic Highlanders wore the tartan attire highly adapted to the rocky and boggy terrain of the Scottish mountains, as well as cheap to obtain. Not only did the tartan 22 firmly connect the Highlanders to Ireland, whence they had come from, but the large majority of Scotchmen considered it a sign of barbarism; a badge of roguish, idle, predatory Highlanders a nuisance to civilized, historic [Lowland] Scotland. 23

having very little in common: namely, the civilized, English-and-French-influenced Lowlands and

Rebellions in Scotland (1745), subdued the population, and outlawed the Highland dress with an act of Parliament (1746). Thereafter, the tense relationship between England and Scotland provoked while powerful Lowlanders elevated the Highland dress to an emblem of Scottishness, the many a Scottish nobility to adopt the tartan in symbolic resistance to English oppression. Ironically, Highlanders themselves substituted the tartan for breeches during the thirty-five-year-long English

By the mid-eighteenth century, however, England had crushed the last of the Jacobite

prohibition (the 1746 ban was later repealed) never to reconstitute its former omnipresence.

heritage. Neither the tartan nor the kilt possessed the ancient pedigree they were purported to have, but rather sprang from the Scottish drive to assert a distinct, noble identity. In the end, Highlanders and Lowlanders forged their sense of belonging together, as Scotsmen, in opposition to English tyranny and adopted the tartan and kilt 24 as the national costume of Scotland. Simply stated, in the
Tartan is a cloth woven in geometric patterns of color (Trevor-Roper, 18-19). Trevor-Roper, 15.

that transformed the tartan-and-kilt dress from a badge of barbarism into a symbol of heroic

Ultimately, it was the need of Scotland to resist subjugation and promote a dignified national identity

turbulent, modern age of nationalism, symbols of national identity have been abundantly, generously,

22 23 24

The kilt was invented by the Englishman Thomas Rawlinson, an ironsmith, to serve the practical purpose of holding the tartan of his Highland workmen in place while they operated his furnaces in the eighteenth century. 8

and continuously (re)imagined as ancient in a manner of state prerogative and to the exclusion of many dissenting narratives. Extremely aggressive nationalisms are particularly visible in previously subjugated nation-

states. Among these are most Southeast European states, including my native Bulgaria, which

developed aspirations to nationhood only after the disintegration of the last surviving multiethnic

century. Within these empires, the fledgling nations existed under a feudal social order and nationtradition in democratic rule, the newly independent Balkan peoples adopted the kind of romantic communities. 25 As nationalism equated aggressive dominance of the ethno-cultural majority,

empires Habsburg Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey in late nineteenth- and early twentieth

building was a sudden and violent process for them. With no foundation of sovereign government or nationalism that imposed what was perceived as the collective will of the leading ethno-religious violence against diverging groups especially those perceived as a threat to the nascent nation-state was rife. Coercion, therefore, became an integral part of the process of nation-building and affirming national identity. In defiance of the Ottoman Islamic dominance, the young nation-states of

Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro embarked on an ideology of nationalism meant to ensure the political dominance of the culturally prevalent Christian majority at all cost. All in all, the Balkan states at the turn of the twentieth century tended to be overly

oppressor. The politics of coercion these new nations often exerted took the forms of exclusion (expulsion), intimidation, and/or forced assimilation of religiously, ethnically, or linguistically differing groups within the national community. Whereas exclusion permanently placed certain

concerned with securing the dominance of the ethno-religious majority vis--vis the former

segments of the population outside of the identity discourse, ruling elites also resorted to coercive controlled. In the sense that assimilation of dichotomous groups proved crucial to the successful

assimilation to enforce, solidify, and maintain uniformity among the people of the nation-state they consolidation of the national state and to the continuing process of popular solidarity, ruling elites first attempted to assimilate diverging communities, including by force. When assimilation failed,

Hans Kohn, Nationalism: Its Meaning and History (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1955), 87. 9

exclusion and marginalization followed. This scenario certainly fits the treatment of the Pomaks in Bulgaria, whereby the authorities persistent attempts to assimilate this Muslim community have who resisted it. resulted in acceptance of those who embraced the assimilation, and marginalization of the majority 3. Pluralistic Approach to Interpretation Needed Whereas the Acadian and Melungeon heritages may be cultural inventions, the process of

have been imposed on them by outsiders in a disparaging manner. The ability of vernacular cultures the nation-state, or at least an entity endorsed by the establishment. Nation-states and national

constructing a dignified self-image is a legitimate way for both communities to contest identities that

to reject demeaning notions as a matter of right becomes even more compelling when the imposer is identities, too, have been forged in opposition to imperial master narratives as the case of Scotland illustrates. However, while no nation-state is immune to constructing and imposing master foster a public space free from suppression of dissenting (minority) narratives. narratives in the shared cultural domain, it behooves a democratic society, at the very minimum, to Arguing in favor of pluralistic heritage interpretation, this dissertation sets out to preserve

in writing engaging aspects of the contested Pomak heritage and, so far as possible, bring it into the public domain. As no single issue of the Pomak narrative is more important than the rest, I felt justified in the freedom to select specific cases to study instead. In the process, I identified,

researched, and narrated five separate stories with the help of archival papers, oral narratives, available literature, and compelling imagery. Each of these case studies, not only contains a fascinating storyline (independently of my storytelling abilities), but also belongs among the most prominent identifiers of Pomak history and culture. Specifically, they relate to (1) the Pomak Christianization (pokrastvane) of 1912-1913 (Chapter II); (2) the communist revival process of 1972-

1974 (Chapter III); (3) Ramadan Runtovs life of political dissent against the forced assimilation

(Chapter IV); (4) the elaborate wedding rituals of Ribnovo (Chapter V); and (5) the forgotten legacy of the Ottoman governor of Pomak origin, Salih Aga of Pamakl (Chapter VI). While known only locally, the personalities of Ramadan Runtov and Salih Aga personify the composite image of

numerous Pomaks who suffered political persecution during the communist regime for resisting the assimilation, on one side, and were written out of public history simply for being Ottoman administrators, on the other. All five narratives constitute a remarkable Pomak heritage in scholar is to document and preserve them.

themselves, and the modest goal as well as obligation I have as a cultural insider and heritage Five Case Studies Chapters II, III, and IV deal with the most dramatic and visible part of the collective Pomak

existence in Bulgaria: the various forced conversions/assimilations which ultimately defined the

communitys sense of self. The pokrastvane of 1912-1913 was the first attempt at comprehensive

state of Bulgaria. As a divergent group, affiliated with the former Ottoman oppressor by religion, and as a Slavic (Bulgarian)-speaking minority, they were immediately singled out for assimilation within the broader context of territorial, political, and cultural consolidation of the country. The Balkan Wars of 1912-1914 26 provided the opportune moment for Bulgarias ruling elite to launch the state and church authorities were involved in the pokrastvane, but also insurgent bands which facilitated the conversion through violence and murder of Pomak civilians. Because the

religious conversion of the Pomak Muslims as citizens of the new Eastern Orthodox Christian nation-

brutal business of pokrastvane. 27 The plethora of surviving records reveal that not only all levels of

Christianization of 1912-1913 was driven by a powerful nationalist ideology, the chapter elaborates on the definition of nationalism and offers a model of coercive nationalism to help explain the pokrastvane.

period in Bulgaria (1944-1989). The revival process was the final chapter in the long history of
26 27

Chapter III explores the impact of the revival process on Pomak life during the communist

This phrase is used by Jeromonk Pavel, Protosingel of the Plovdiv Diocese, in a letter to Stoyu Shishkov of 24 November 1912. The excerpt reads: Can we count on a more or less en mass conversion of the Pomaks (in the Rhodopes)? What do you think would be the best time to start initiating them in the Christian faith and baptism: right now or after our relations with Turkey have been reestablished? I am afraid that if we wait until the conclusion of the peace treaty, this opportune moment would be irrevocably lost [emphasis added]. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 52, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 818, pages 1-3. 11

See Chapter II for more details.

sustained forced assimilation of Pomaks in Bulgaria. However, while only Bulgarian-speaking Turkish-speaking Muslims as well. Consequently, the final Pomak assimilation of 1972-1974,

Muslims had been singled out for Bulgarianization previously, the revivalist policies targeted the conclusively replacing the traditional Turkish-Arab names of the community with Orthodox-

Christian ones, was obscured by the larger Turkish revival process of 1984-1985. The essential purpose of the renaming was to create a single, culturally uniform nation under the perpetual leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party. The chapter has two prominent components: Pomak identity crisis it generated; and (3) the political resurrection of Rodina, a nationalist

descriptive and theoretical. Descriptively, it examines (1) the ideology of the revival process; (2) the organization initially persecuted as fascist and subsequently redubbed patriotic to serve as the regimes propaganda machine. Theoretically, the chapter interprets the revival process through what I term the anger-satisfaction continuum model premised on Ernest Gellners concept of

nationalism as a shifting and deeply exploitable national sentiment. My argument is that the national sentimenti.e. the cultural majoritys attitude toward a vernacular cultureultimately determines what heritage becomes (un)acceptable in the public domain. Chapter IV narrates the life story of Ramadan Runtov, one of the most active Pomak anti-

revivalists in Bulgaria from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. For over thirty years, Ramadans life had

been a sequence of economic hardship, political persecution, imprisonment, and torture. Because of bogus treason charges (i.e. conspiring the overthrow the peoples regime), for which he faced the silence. Consequently, Ramadan spent over a decade behind bars as a political prisoner, where he endured a regimen of harassment, starvation, and sleep deprivation. 28 In the end, the regime his vocal opposition to the revival process, the regime promptly arrested Ramadan and tried him on

possibility of death penalty. The gravity of the charges, however, was largely a ploy to scare him into

rounded up Ramadan and his family and summarily expelled them from Bulgaria in May 1989, just six month before the collapse of communism in the country. The Runtovs eventually settled in

Istanbul (Turkey), where I interviewed the seventy-seven-year-old Ramadan in the summer of 2007.
Ramadan Runtov, interview by author, Istanbul, Turkey, May 21, 2007; Ismail Byalkov, interview by author, Istanbul, Turkey, May 20, 2007. 12

dissent, but also an essential component of Pomak heritage. A direct concomitant of one of the pivotal pattern common to thousands of Pomak expatriates, still permanently living abroad. 30 episodes in the communitys existencethe revival process, 29 Ramadans experience reflects a life Chapter V paints the portrait of a beautiful wedding ritual within the context of Pomak

The chapter argues that the life stories of exiles like Ramadan are not only an engaging narrative of

heritage. The event occurs seasonally in a remote corner of southwest Bulgaria, in the village of community, which has all but disappeared elsewhere. The elaborate colorfulness of the bridal makeRibnovo. The Ribnovo wedding is an age-old local tradition, typical of the Rhodopean Muslim

up not only has put Ribnovo on the map of Bulgarian national and international cultural phenomena, members as Pomak and known by the outside world to be Pomak. I start the chapter by walking the but also has raised questions of Pomak identity. Ribnovo is a Pomak community; identified by its

reader through the village of Ribnovo as I saw it in 2004 and 2009 with its isolated location, narrow winding roads, and clustered layout. I also attempted to depict the Ribnovo inhabitants as curious, colors. Next, I embark on a detailed description of the traditional Ribnovo wedding as a two-day conservative, hospitable and friendly people who have special appreciation for bright and dazzling event in the course of which the entire community celebrates. In this part, I put particular emphasis traditions in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta of the 1920s and in Ribnovo today, because I discovered a connection I analyze are: (a) the wedding as a family affair, (b) the wedding as a community number of similarities while reading Eudora Weltys book Delta Wedding. Among the points of

on the way of brides adornment and cheiz arrangement. Third, I draw parallels between the wedding

examined the ritual of marriage as a major rite of passage, in accordance with Arnold van Genneps classification and concept of schema. 31 Most importantly, however, I wish to project the Ribnovo

celebration, and (c) the wedding as an arena for enacting moral and socio-cultural values. Fourth, I

30 31

Note: Revival process is the literal English translation from Bulgarian of the phrase that has become the accepted academic reference to the forced renaming of Muslims in Bulgaria by the communist regime in the 1970s and 1980s. The term revival process herein is strictly used in the above sense, without relevance to the standard usage of the the words revival and process. See Chapters III and IV for details. Arnold van Gennep, Rites of Passage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960). 13


wedding as distinctly Pomak tradition, i.e. typical of the Bulgarian-speaking Muslims of the Chapter VI revives the memory of Salih Aga of Pamakl, the Pomak governor of the Ottoman

kaaza of Ah elebi between 1798 and 1838. He was a remarkable person who not only secured of a new type one based on equality between Muslims and Christians despite a discriminating Sharia (the normative law of the Ottoman Empire). 32 As Nikolay Haytov one of the most

stability in Ah elebi in turbulent times for the Ottoman Empire, but also established a social order

nationalistic Bulgarian writers sums it up, the governors most remarkable legacy lies in the fact that he elevated the status of the Christians to that of the Muslims in both civil and political aspect[.] 33 To this day, however, the heritage of Salih Aga remains obscure and unrecognized in local

public history, because he was a bureaucrat of the former Ottoman oppressor, and, moreover, a Pomak. This chapter utilizes the methodology of microhistory to recreate the life story of a and Bulgarian historiography neglects quite purposely as Turkish tyrant.

remarkable person, whom the annals of Ottoman imperial history overlook as petty local governor

32 33

Nikolay Haytov, Smolyan: Tri vurha v srednorodopskata istoriq/Smolyan: Three Pinnacles in the History of the Middle Rhodopes/ (Sofia: Izdatelstwo na Nacionalniq Suvet na Otechesvenia Front /National Council of the Fatherland Front Publisher, 1962), 27. 14

See Chapter II and VI for details.

CHAPTER II NATIONALISM OF COERSION: THE CASE OF POMAK CHRISTIANIZATION (POKRASTVANE ) IN BULGARIA, 1912-1913 If the history of forced assimilation is the defining aspect of Pomak heritage in Bulgaria, it

need to affirm sovereignty and forge respectable national identity that required the rejection of the Ottoman-Islamic past, as well as the purging of everything reminiscent of the former oppressors immediately singled out the Bulgarian-speaking Pomaks for conversion to Orthodox Christianity presence in the now Bulgarian homeland. In unison with that sentiment, the young nation-state

was the ideology of coercive nationalism that prompted it. After all, it was the young nation-states

because, as a sizable minority group, their assimilation would immediately fulfill two vital goals: First, it would enable Bulgarias claim to all territories settled by Pomaks, based on language

commonality. Second, it would help diffuse the freshly forged Bulgarian-Christian national identity to newly conquered populations, notably to the Muslim Pomaks. Ultimately, various Bulgarian regimes like many others consistently and effectively exploited the ideology of nationalism to achieve political and cultural consolidation, including though practicing violence. How this happened in the this chapter.

context of the first comprehensive Pomak Christianization of 1912-1913 is the subject of analysis in

The Thesis What I have come to regard as the classical definition of nationalism, established by

twentieth-century theoreticians, describes the phenomenon as eighteenth-century, Western-

European popular struggle against dynastic absolutism and revolutionary drive for increased


participation of the people in state government. 1 The early stages of nationalism were marked by While the English Civil War of mid-seventeenth century, whereby Parliament challenged and

civil revolutions in two of the most prominent Western European monarchies, England and France. effectively curtailed the authority of King Charles I, in effect set the wheel of nationalism into motion, revolt in both England and France brought royal tyranny to its knees, Hans Kohn argues that

it was the French Revolution of 1789 that made it spin at its fullest capacity. In the sense that popular nationalism was a sort of democratic movement projected at enhancing personal liberties and

limiting the absolute powers of monarchal regimes. 2 At the same time Kohn as one of the influential first theoreticians of nationalism expertly elaborates that this initial meaning of nationalism as an engine of liberty became distorted as the phenomenon began to move eastward on the European continent and beyond. The countries of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe (henceforth, Eastern Europe), where nationalism more or less turned into totalitarian exclusionism and

coercion during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, lacked English and French traditions in liberal government and statehood. One vital factor that determined the type of nationalism to develop outside Western Europe,

particularly in the Balkans, was the movement of Romanticism that emerged in Germany during the lacking in national pride, and in desperate need of dignified (if not glorious) collective identity.

late eighteenth century. The nations that embraced Romantic ideology were young for the most part, Because of the sort of inferiority complex that most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe had as previously subjugated nations, they embraced the Romantic concept of nationalism rather than its Enlightenment counterpart typical of England and France.

the dominant Western ideology of Enlightenment. Whereas Enlightenment political philosophers


Romanticism called for the celebration of vernacular (domestic) values as an alternative to

For more details on the above definition of nationalism, as well as on its origins and spread from Europe to the rest of the world, read Hans Kohn, Nationalism: Its Meaning and History (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1955); Carlton J. H. Hayes, The Historical Evolution of Modern Nationalism (New York: Richard R. Smith, Inc., 1931); Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991); and Liah Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992). Hans Kohn, Nationalism: Its Meaning and History (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1955), passim. 16

basic building block of society paramount, their Romantic brethren (such as J. G. Herder) stressed

(such as John Locke) held the rights and happiness of the individual viewed for the first time as the

on the preponderance of collective will in society. While the Enlightenment upheld universal truths,

philosophers who expressed themselves in the classical languages of Latin and Greek or other and strove to preserve them. 3

Romanticism proclaimed the supremacy of culture-specific ones. For example, unlike Enlightenment

trendy languages (such as French), Romantics underscored the importance of the native tongues It was the founding father of Romantic nationalism Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803)

who most significantly influenced the Balkan form of nationalism which rejected the tenets of universality and individual freedoms in favor of the glorification of domestic values and the

enforcement of collective (the cultural majoritys) will. Herders own ideas were shaped by the

cultural status quo of his native Germany during the second half of eighteenth century. In that period, the local aristocratic and artistic circles chose to fashion themselves according to French perceptions To elevate the vernacular culture, Herder declared that the German-speaking peasants were the true of refinement, casting off the native language and folk traditions as crude, boorish, and embarrassing. keepers of ancient Germanic values. Putting ideology to practice, he undertook to record and

preserve as much of the folklore as he personally could, charging other Germans with the same

hand in hand and he turned that ideal into the patriotic duty of every member of the national German society. 4 Another factor that helped shift the focus of nationalism from its initial Enlightened

responsibility. For Herder, upholding the nation-state and preserving the national character went

version to the restrictive Romantic form in Eastern Europe, including in my native Bulgaria, was the fact that most states from the region developed aspirations to nationhood only after the

4 William A. Wilson, "Herder, Folklore, and Romantic Nationalism," Journal of Popular Culture 6 (1973): 819-35; White, 50-60.

George W. White, Nationalism and Territory: Constructing Group Identities in Southeastern Europe (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000), 52. While Enlightenment put emphasis on reason, Romanticism exalted in the irrational spontaneity of human nature. While Enlightened philosophers preferred the urban environment as the locus par excellence for scientific thought, the Romantics declared rural settings as the ideal of human existence (Ibid.).


them. With no foundation of sovereign government or tradition in democratic rule, these newly

nations existed under a feudal social order and nation-building was a sudden and violent process for

Turkey during the late nineteenth-early twentieth century. Within these empires, the fledgling

disintegration of the last surviving multiethnic empires Habsburg Austria-Hungary and Ottoman

independent peoples altered the original meaning of nationalism from respect for individual liberties to patriotic imposition of what was perceived as the collective will of the leading ethno-religious communities. 5 Several decades after Hans Kohn (and others 6) formulated the definition of nationalism, in

the 1980s and 1990s, one of the most prominent modern theoreticians of nationalism, Benedict

Anderson, continues to analyze the emergence of nationalism in predominantly positive terms as a ness, and national state taken as synonyms are cultural artifacts 7 which ruling elites unifying force within the nation-state. Andersons signature argument is that nationalism, nation-

formulated in response to pressing socio-political needs at certain points in history to consolidate the masses under one leadership and under common ideology. Although Andersons analysis appears to be in line with Kohns positive idea of nationalism, his concept of the socially constructed nature of the phenomenon also condones the negative notion of nationalism as totalitarian, coercive, and violent ideology. On one hand, Anderson says, the very idea of nation-state evokes the image of

(imagined) community, i.e. an entity of fraternity or comradeship based on equality among people

from within. And it is this notion of imagined (socially constructed) egalitarian fraternity among the the other hand, the national ideal makes people willing to mutilate or kill for it. This proves to be particularly true for the people of those budding nation-states which have just emerged from (majority) members of the national state that makes people willing to fight and die for an ideal. 8 On

oppressive foreign rule. For previously subjugated people, the ultimate goal of nationalism was the
5 6 7 8

Kohn, 87.

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991), 4. Ibid., passim. 18

See footnote 1.

fulfillment of a national state of their own regardless of means. As a result, diverging cultural groups that remained within the territories claimed by nascent nations, particularly such groups affiliated with the former oppressors, became the first victims of a nationalism of forced assimilation or cultural majority rather than respect for individual freedoms and democracy. exclusion. For these fledgling entities, nationalism equated to aggressive dominance of the ethnoViolence against diverging groups, especially those perceived as threats to the nascent

nation-state, was rife. Coercion, consequently, became an integral part of the process of constructing book, Nationalism and Territory, George W. White explains how the concept of national identity is defined by place and territory. On a basic level, territory as physical entity provides a group with

and affirming the majoritys sense of collective self or cultural identity, within the nation-state. In his

natural resources for sustenance. But on a more symbolic level, territory becomes the embodiment of motherland (fatherland) that provides a collectivity of people with a sense of shared history and belonging. 9 White further analyzes the significance of place and territory to national identity via three

precisely the tenacity factor that measures the degree to which a people is prepared to exert

fundamental factors: (1) Site identification; 10 (2) Landscape description; 11 and (3) Tenacity 12. 13 It is

violence in order to defend (or take) given territory. Whatever the intensity of aggression (violence), protecting the perceived homeland is always expressed in positive terms, i.e. protecting, liberating way, emerge as the essence of identity construction, the need to protect and exert control over the or fighting for our land, but never seizing, invading, or occupying it. Because place and territory, in a homeland often results in conflict between different communities having aspirations to the same

I.e. the location of national institutions such as seat of government, various religious and educational institutions, and historic sites (battlegrounds, places of birth and events related to revered national figures).
10 11 12 13

White, passim.

I.e. natural formations such as mountains, rivers, valleys, lakes, and seas. White, 6.

I.e. the intensity or strength of a groups determination to protect or seize a place they perceive as homeland.


territory. The conflict arises between the protectors of the territory and its invaders; and whether one is a protector or occupier depends on ones affiliation. According to White, the strong attachment to homeland, and the proclivity to defend it, is

particularly pronounced in the Balkans. In southeastern Europe, 14 he correctly assumes, many

nations feel that their identities have been violated because their territories have been continually transgressed by other nations. Not surprisingly, conflict has been persistent in this region. 15 As a were young, unstable, relatively small, and only semi-independent. On at least four occasions,

matter of fact, from the late nineteenth until mid-twentieth century, the Southeast-European nations following momentous regional (and global) conflicts the Russian-Turkish War of 1876-1878, the

Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, the First World War, and the Second World War these nascent nationwas particularly true of the young Balkan nation-states, including Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and

states were reduced to hapless spectators of their own partitioning by the powerful of the day. 16 This Turkey. All of these countries incurred heavy human losses while fighting for the territories they

repeatedly felt their sense of identity and security violated because of the constant interference of outside forces. This reality of helplessness generated fear and mistrust within these new nation-states.

In this sense, White properly concludes that the nascent nation-states of southeastern Europe

perceived as homeland only to have it redistributed at the will of the politically dominant nations. 17

Henceforth, they embarked on an ideology of nationalism meant to ensure the political dominance of the culturally prevalent majority at least of those who ruled on the majoritys behalf at all cost, without much regard for individual liberties. Thus, the original Western idea of liberal nationalism

was gradually supplanted by an ideology of coercion as the nation-state phenomenon swept into the Balkans by the late nineteenth century. In the light of this coercive-nationalism idea, my argument is
14 15 16 17

Whites notion of southeast Europe includes Hungary, Romania, and Serbia, while my own mostly refers to the Balkan nations which I associate with Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, (European) Turkey, and others. White, 6.

The Western Powers (England, France, Germany, Italy, USA, etc.) and Russia later, the Soviet Union for the most part. For more details, read the main body of the chapter.


concerned with ensuring popular cohesion and loyalty to the nation based on the citizens integration rather than their exclusion, in the case of young and previously subjugated countries nationalism was by nature more antagonizing than unifying of its diverse body of people. The ultimate agenda of the nationalism of coercion was to consolidate territory and national identity in a union of congruence more concerned with securing the dominance of the ethno-religious majority vis--vis former

that while the concept of nation-state and nationalism, notably in democratic regimes, may have been

and indivisibility. The fledgling nations of the Balkans at the turn of twentieth century tended to be oppressors and affiliated local segments of the nation, including through violence against the latter, rather than with observing democratic principles. The politics of coercion these new nations often ethnically, or linguistically differing groups within the national community. As Anthony W. Marx effectively posits, nationalism as political process was initially rooted in exclusion regardless of exerted took many forms, including exclusion, intimidation, and/or forced assimilation of religiously,

from citizenship which they either could not or did not want to assimilate. 19 I extend this argument to accommodate my claim that, in addition to exclusion, ruling elites also resorted to coercive assimilation to enforce, solidify, and maintain uniformity among the people of the nation-state they the same process of nation-making, wherein the two could operate independently or jointly. In the

nation-state began its nation-making by excluding (or coercing into assimilation) certain minorities

where it occurred Western or Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, or the Americas. 18 In other words, each

controlled. Exclusion and integration (inclusive of coerced assimilation), therefore, were two sides of
18 19

Anthony W. Marx, Faith in Nation: Exclusionary Origins of Nationalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), passim.

Marx constructs his argument about the earlier, exclusionary origins of nationalism on the basis of the political portrait he paints of the three leading European powers in the period between fifteenth and eighteenth century Spain, France, and England. Thus, in order to consolidate Spain, in 1492 Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand resolved to drive out the Muslim Moors, dominating Southern Spain, beyond the shores of Europe, as well as to expel the Jewish population from their territories. Within less than a year, a consolidating Spanish state, unified by common religion, race, and language, emerged as the first true albeit undeveloped nationstate of Europe (Marx, 3 & 39). Enforcing state cohesion by exclusion ensued in France and England in the following centuries. The French Wars of Religion in the second half of sixteenth century culminated in The St. Bartholomews Day, whereby thousands of Huguenots (French Protestants) were massacred by the Catholic majority, and the country was destabilized by a violent conflict between two major contenders for the throne of France, the Catholic Valois and the Protestant Bourbons (Marx, 92). Queen Mary, for her part, plunged England into a bloody persecution of Protestants that ended only with her death in 1558. When Queen Elizabeth ascended on the throne, the long and bumpy road to national reconciliation began. The Pope, however, remained the enemy of the crown and the nation of England, inspiring the process of nation-building along the way (Marx, 95-103). 21

sense that assimilation of dichotomous groups may prove crucial to the successful consolidation of ruling elites generally attempt assimilation of diverging communities, including by force. Where assimilation fails, exclusion and marginalization follows. Where partial assimilation is the end product, partial marginalization complements it. 20 Ultimately, the use of one or another form of making.

every early nation-state, and subsequently to that nations continuing process of popular solidarity,

coercion (violence) in achieving national cohesion seems to be a constant in the process of nationIn the sense that nationalism often if not always operates through violence in the name of

territorial and cultural consolidation, I propose the following model of nationalism that is likely to be operational within a previously subjugated nation like my native Bulgaria, in regard to one or more originates in exclusion or forced assimilation of dichotomous minorities as a way to affirm of its differing minorities like the Pomaks: (1) Nationalism in a previously subjugated nation

sovereignty. (2) The policy of exclusion or assimilation is particularly directed at communities

affiliated with the former oppressor in some way. (3) Nationalism in such a newly independent nation and/or ethnicity, whereby, (4) in the process of nation-making, the nation-states majority glorifies asserts identity that distinguishes it from the former oppressor in terms of religion, language, race,

its own (imagined) identity and denigrates that of the oppressor. (5) If the divergent groups share

identity traits with the dominant cultural community in the nation such as language, race, or religion, the efforts are directed toward assimilating these minorities rather than excluding them; and (6) the

more closely shared such traits are, the more likely the attempted assimilation will be. As a rule, kept in check and treated with a degree of suspicion at all times regardless of shared ties.

however, (7) divergent groups, affiliated with former oppressors in whatever ways, are generally In this chapter, I undertake a study of coercive nationalism through analyzing the

pokrastvane (religious conversion through baptism and name replacement) of the Slavic (Bulgarian)speaking Muslims (Pomaks) in Bulgaria at the height of the Balkan Wars of 1912-1914. It was a


This has been the case with the Pomaks in Bulgaria as it shall be seen where the Bulgarian authorities persistent attempts to assimilate this Muslim community resulted in acceptance of those who have embraced the assimilation and marginalization of the majority who have resisted it. 22

and cultural consolidation following five centuries of Ottoman-Islamic domination. In doing so, I will consolidating power. Instead, I intend to point out that coercion (and its stronger connotation,

crucial period, when the nascent Bulgarian nation-state was still in the process of intensive territorial attempt to neither disclaim the classical definition of nationalism (above) nor denigrate nationalisms

violence) is inherent in the definition and essence of nationalism, particularly in the case of the young diverging segments of society into assimilation (and its milder connotation, integration) to

nation-states in the Balkans at the turn of twentieth century. Ruling elites generally pressured certain strengthen national unity most of the time. However, when violence took place, the result was often the opposite of the intended: namely, antagonistic alienation and (self)exclusion replaced cohesive been at least three major attempts to coerce the Bulgarian-speaking Muslims into religious and/or inclusion. The historical situation of the Pomaks in Bulgaria is markedly a case in point. There have

pokrastvane of 1938-1944, and the revival process of the 1960s and 1970s. While the two

cultural assimilation since Bulgarias independence of 1878: the pokrastvane of 1912-1913, the

pokrastvane affairs were in essence religious conversion, the revival process was religious

on the 1912-1913 Christianization as the first comprehensive and violent assimilation of Pomaks, which took place at the zenith of Bulgarias struggle for self-determination. The Pomaks Between the late fourteenth- and late nineteenth centuries modern Bulgarias territory

Bulgarian ones by the atheistic communist regime (1944-1989). 21 In this chapter, I specifically focus

suppression and involuntary substitution of the Pomak Turkish-Arab names with Christian-

constituted the heart of the European Ottoman Empire. In the course of five centuries, a significant number of the local population converted to Islam either voluntarily or by force. The Rhodope Mountains (southwest Bulgaria), within the Ottoman Empire throughout, remained a Muslim

stronghold until 1908, when the Kingdom of Bulgarias declaration of independence from Sultanic rule was recognized by both Turkey and the European Powers. The Treaty of Constantinople of

September 29, 1913, cemented this status quo by putting an end to the Balkan Wars and reaffirming
For details on the pokrastvane of 1938-1944 and the revival process, see Chapters III and IV. 23

the annexation of the (greater part of the) Rhodopes to Bulgaria. This was a turning point in the life of the prevalently Muslim Rhodopean population, the Pomaks, who changed citizenship almost Bulgarias majority, professed Islam rather than Orthodox Christianity as their religion. overnight (from Ottoman to Bulgarian). They spoke Bulgarian as their mother tongue, but unlike Since the pokrastvane of 1912-1913, the state-endorsed historiography has maintained that

the Pomaks are descended from Christian Bulgarians, forcibly converted to Islam by the Ottoman Turks somewhere between the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Involuntary

Islamization if indeed it happened could have been the result of residual Muslim grudge against same period. 22 Powerful religious ideologies drove these wars, whereby the Islam of the Ottoman Empire and the Christianity of the Vatican, Venice, Poland, Austria, and later Russia crossed

the Ottoman Christians following the inauspicious Turkish-Venetian and Russian-Turkish wars in the

swords in a violent struggle for hegemony over the Holy Land, the eastern Mediterranean, as well as hostilities had heavy repercussions for the Christian population within the Islamic Ottoman Empire, Ottoman rule in the Balkans, however, many adopted Islam voluntarily for both personal conviction when the Pomaks of the Rhodope Mountains became Muslims. 23

parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa dominated by the Turks. It is very likely that these Christian-Muslim segments of which must have converted at a sword point or for fear of retribution. In five centuries of and socio-political gains. Still, historians are yet to determine authoritatively and conclusively how or The dispute over Pomak cultural identity continues to pose problems for the community.

The official political discourse is one of actively discouraging the Muslim Rhodopeans from pursuing
22 23

For evidence of (voluntary) conversion to Islam, see Anton Minkov, Conversion to Islam in the Balkans (Leiden: Brill, 2004). See also Maria Todorova, Conversion to Islam as a Trope in Bulgarian Historiography, in Balkan Identities: Nation and Memory, ed. Maria Todorova (New York: New York University Press, 2004), 129-57; Maria Todorova, Identity (Trans)formation among Bulgarian Muslims (Location: Global, Area, and International Archive, 1998), at: Last accessed 30 November 2009; Ulf Brunnbauer, Histories and Identities: Nation State and Minority Discourses The case of the Bulgarian Pomaks, (Karl-Franzens-University of Graz, 1997), at: Last accessed 30 November 2009; Antonina Zhelyazkova , Bozhidar Aleksiev, and Zhorzheta Nazurska, Myusyulmanskite obshtnosti na Balkanite i v Bulgarija /Muslim Communities in the Balkans and in Bulgaria/ (Sofia: IMIR, 1997); Vera Mutafchieva, The Turk, the Jew and the Gypsy, in Relations of Compatibility and Incompatibility between Christians and Muslims in Bulgaria, ed. Antonina Zhelyazkova (Sofia: PHARE, 1994). 24

Bulgarska Akademiya na Naoukite (BAN) /Bulgarian Academy of Science/, Iz minaloto na balgaritemohamedani v Rodopite /On the Past of the Bulgarian Mohammedans in the Rhodopes/ (Sofia: BAN, 1958).

a cultural image of their own because of the presumption that, as offspring of converted Bulgarians, they are part of the Bulgarian ethnicity and, hence, cannot have a separate heritage. The double standard of publicly commemorating the nations triumph over the dark Ottoman past, while the Pomaks (and Turks) sense of cultural dispossession in Bulgaria. The status quo is further

altogether hushing the nation-states own violence against its Muslim population has helped enhance exacerbated by the strongly subjective and divisive language of the official historiography, describing everything Bulgarian (hence Orthodox Christian) as sacred and inherently good, and most things Muslim (hence Ottoman and Turkish) as immoral and backward. Consequently, the academic seriously undermined by the high degree of politization and nationalistic propaganda in the analysis. 24

credibility of some works treating Pomak issues, especially from the communist era (1944-1989), is

Thus, for instance, the statement about the Pomak forced conversion to Islam is extensively grounded on the chronicle of one Priest Methody Draginov, who authored it sometime during the late seventeenth century, when alleged mass Islamization was taking place. However, some of Bulgarias most renowned writers such as Nikolay Haytov, who makes references to the document, recognize that the so-called Historical Diary has been long lost to history, and that the only evidence of its existence are surviving passages, which dedicated patriots reportedly copied from it. (Nikolay Haytov, Smolyan: Tri vurha v srednorodopskata istoriya. /Smolyan: Three Pinnacles in the History of the Middle Rhodopes/ (Sofia: Izdatelstvo na Nacionalnia Suvet na Otechestvenia Front /National Council of the Fatherland Front Publisher, 1962), 6-13.) Ulf Brunnbauer, Assistant Professor at the Karl-Franzens-University of Graz (Austria), directly dismisses the chronicle as a fake and goes on to specify that it was a common practice [in communist Bulgaria] not to quote original sources, but to take them uncritically from other authors[,] [whereby] [o]ne author after the other perpetuated the quotation of the source without the slightest attempt at verification. (Ulf Brunnbauer. Histories and Identities: Nation State and Minority Discourses The case of the Bulgarian Pomaks, (Karl-Franzens-University of Graz, 1997), available at: Last accessed 4 December 2007.) Most importantly, Maria Todorova, Professor of History at the University of Illinois at UrbanaCampaign, authoritatively announces that the chronicle is a nineteenth-century creation of Stefan Zakhariev, with possible basis in some earlier works. In support of her statement, she cites the careful authenticity analysis of the linguistic historian Iliya Todorov, (Maria Todorova, Conversion to Islam as a Trope in Bulgarian Historiography, Fiction and Film, in Balkan Identities: Nation and Memory, ed. Maria Todorova (New York: New York University Press, 2004), 129-57.) Iliya Todorov judges the chronicle to be inauthentic for the following reasons: 1. The language of the document was too remote from the language of seventeenth century documents, and that it [the language] reflected nineteenth century forms and conventions. 2. There are apparent factological discrepancies between the chronicle and documentation of the Ottoman government from the same period. According to the Ottoman sources, the Chepino Valley villages--the arena of purported Islamization--were part of a vakuf property (charitable religious foundation in Islam) from the mid-1500s onwards, not a voynuk ([communities of] peasants, serving as soldiers in an auxiliary military corps of the Ottoman army, usually recruited from among the Bulgarians), as the chronicle describes them. 3. There is a clear anachronism in the chronicle, according to Todorov, stemming from the strong antiGreek feeling emanating from the document. The Bulgarian struggle for religious independence from the Greek Orthodox Church and the fervent anti-Greek sentiment, he stipulates, only date back to the middle of the nineteenth century, and certainly not to any period of the eighteenth century, when the supposed conversion took place. (Todorova, 134.) In conjecture to Zakharievs motives to create a forgery like that, Maria Todorova observes: 25

Muslims to reflect the institutionalized viewpoint that they are descendants of Bulgarian Christians, whom the Ottomans did Islamize. The term Islamization has two important connotations in the language of Bulgarian nationalism: forced and voluntary. The forced Islamization thesis different periods between 1400s and 1800s through various forms of coercion. One way of promotes the idea that the formerly Christian population of the Rhodopes accepted Islam during conversion to Islam reportedly occurred through the institution of slavery whereby the invading

Officially, the Pomaks are largely referred to as Bulgarian Mohammedans or Bulgarian

Ottomans turned part of the subjugated indigenous population into slaves, who were subsequently

by taking local women for wives, who were then converted to Islam. A third yet way, much touted by Bulgarian historians, was the forced recruitment of Christian boys for training and service in the (the devirme practice). 26 Only in the last decade have some Bulgarian academics conceded the yenieri (janissary) institution (from Turkish yeni eri, new soldier), elite Ottoman military units possibility that many Christian families volunteered their sons to the Ottoman army, because Muslims. 27 As the Bulgarian historian Vera Mutafchieva posits, the violence-ridden forced

emancipated and given land upon becoming Muslims (the atik/muatik practice). 25 Another form was

conversion to Islam was the only way to secure a lucrative military career, generally off limits to nonIslamization thesis has played a prominent role in the national history and folklore, being the
The motives of Stefan Zakhariev were obvious. He was working in a period when the cultural struggle for emancipation among the Bulgarians had reached a critical degree, and he was totally engrossed in this struggle. The 1860s, in particular, saw the culmination of the ecclesiastical conflict with the Greek Constantinople Patriarchate, and all intellectual efforts were directed at proving the rights of the Bulgarians to an independent church. [An] independent church for the Bulgarians meant independent national existence. It was also a time when history was the foremost legitimizer of nationhood in terms of historic versus non-historic nations. Zakhariev himself lamented in 1860s we do not have antiquities from which we can explore our bygone deeds so as to put together a detailed and true history of our past life. This was [also] the height of romanticism which in the eighteenth and nineteenth century produced famous mystifications or outright forgeries in many European states including France, Spain, Germany, Scotland, Italy and Russia [(Ibid., 134-35)].

25 26 27

Mutafchieva, 9-10. Ibid.

Mutafchieva, 10; Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria (London: Hurst & Company, 1997), 43-44. 26

subject of rather emotional interpretations by generations of Bulgarian historians. 28 Nevertheless, including in textbooks.

the strongly negative forced Islamization thesis is still prevalent in the national historic narrative, The milder, voluntary side of the Islamization theory, only recently endorsed by scholars

in Bulgaria as briefly noted above recognizes that private ambitions to escape from poverty and move to a higher social status were compelling reasons to adopt Islam. To fully appreciate this argument, one has to account for the fact that under Sharia (the public law of Islam), operative barred the latter from social and political advancement, but also burdened the non-Muslim

within the multi-ethnic Ottoman state, Muslims and non-Muslims were not equal. Sharia not only communities with additional taxes such as ispene (land tax), hara (in-kind tax), or cizya (cizie, jizya) (per capita tax) 29 for land-owning and being provided with military protection. According to the

one-half of the Empires revenue. 30 Considering these sizeable returns to the royal coffers, the

historian Ali Eminov, the cizya was a significant tax burden since it contributed from one-third to

Undoubtedly, the Ottoman rulers (Sultans) as the caliphs of Islam, were initially spreading the faith through both sword and persuasion as they advanced their conquest into the Balkans. But the preservation of property and social status, as well as the desire to acquire new privileges, was the

assumption is that any forced Islamization would have run counter to the imperial financial interests.

fundamental driving force behind the conversion to Islam of both Bulgarian commoners and former ruling elites since early on. 31 This is not to say, however, that all conversion was entirely voluntary Bulgarian Orthodox Church effectively used the forced Islamization claim to impose another
28 29 30

or en mass. Whatever the case regarding Pomak passage into Islam, the Bulgarian authorities and the

Mutafchieva, 10. Eminov, 37.

A tax imposed on all non-Muslim adult males, who were not allowed to serve in the army.

31 For instance, the conversion of the son of the last Bulgarian king Ivan-Shishman, Alexander Shishman (fourteenth century), is a well-known case, kept under tight lid in Bulgarian history books until recently. Alexander Shishman voluntarily converted to Islam to retain his privileged position. He was promoted governor of the Ottoman province of Aidan under the name Sleyman Pasha. (For more details, see Ibrahim Yalamov, Istoria na Turskata Obsjtnost v Bulgaria /History of the Turkish Community in Bulgaria/ (Sofia: Kragozor, 2002), 11-65).


conversion on the community this time to Christianity under the cover of the Balkan Wars of

1912-1914. Even though the proclaimed aspiration of the pokrastvane was to bring the Pomaks back to the religion of their forefathers, most certainly its real objective was to consolidate the fledgling Bulgarian nation both territorially and culturally, thereby affirming the states sovereignty and its sizeable Pomak population.

claim over the newly acquired territories of Thrace, the Rhodopes, and eastern Macedonia all with Thus, in accordance with the nation-building model I propose, the act of pokrastvane was

essentially a way to assert sovereignty by the forced assimilation of the Pomaks as a dichotomous minority in the fledgling nation-state of Bulgaria for two fundamental reasons: 1) Of all minority groups within the new state, the elites perceived the Pomaks to be the 2) At the same time, however, the Pomaks also were affiliated with the former OttomanThus, the nations ruling elite not only considered the assimilation of the Pomaks desirable

most closely associated with the national majority by language and ethnicity; 32 Turkish oppressor by the religion of Islam.

and necessary, but also possible based on the shared-language claims. The resolve to action by the young country was additionally bolstered by the Romantic perception of language as the defining essence to identity, in the era of Romanticism language became a major driving force in the When Romantic ideology began to take hold in the Balkans in the early nineteenth century,

characteristic of national identity. Although in the multiethnic Ottoman Empire language was not of subjugated peoples struggle to define themselves, along with ethnicity, religion, and shared history. developing well into the twentieth century, vernacular languages indeed became a prominent factor in claiming territories and building identities among the new nations. 33 It was on the premise of shared language that Bulgaria was able to validate its claim over most of the Rhodope Mountains

For example, the ethnic Turks, who commonly speak Turkish language, were not to be directly assimilated, according to the internal instructions of the pokrastvane. A letter of Maxim, Archbishop of the Plovdiv Diocese, to the Orthodox clergy, in charge of the pokrastvane of Haskovo, Stanimaka, Pazardjik, Panagyurishte, and Peshtera, reads: The conversion of pure Turks is not absolutely prohibited. But they can only be baptized if they have wished to do so, and only after they have partly learnt the [Bulgarian] language. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 115, page 464. 33 White, 180.


after the Balkan Wars. Complicit with Romantic nationalism, the Slavic-speaking Pomaks were recast as pure-blood Bulgarians who spoke the purest Bulgarian language and preserved the truest In confirmation of this, the historian Maria Todorova writes: Bulgarian traditions. Initially, Bulgarias Christian majority perceived the Pomaks merely as Turks. The social context for this [the promotion of the forced Islamization thesis] was the process of nation-building, specifically the attempts at integration and homogenization of the population. It concerned first the Bulgarian-speaking Muslim population (Bulgarian Muslims, or the so-called Pomaks), and its place in the newly independent state which at first did not attempt to integrate it but treated it as indistinguishable from the larger Muslim group. In all censuses in the late nineteenth century (1880, 1885, 1888) the Bulgarianspeaking Muslims were entered under the heading Turks. It was only in the 1905 census that a separate group Pomaks appeared. Beginning with the 1890s but especially during the 1920s and 1930s a sustained campaign in the press urged public opinion to discriminate between religious and ethnic allegiance, and to accept the Pomaks as part of the Bulgarian nation. This idea was most intensely espoused by small educated elite among the Pomaks... 34 Indeed, within the Ottoman Empire, prior to the rise of nationalism, language and ethnicity

carry out their religious, educational, and legal affairs with their own resources. This status quo

subjects into semi-autonomous religious communities (millets) which were free to organize and

were factors with little meaning. The existing millet system in the empire categorized all Ottoman

enabled the millets to preserve their religious and/or ethnic identities under the leadership of their

established religious institutions. Thus, all Eastern Orthodox Christians Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, The Muslim millet (Umma), on the other hand, consisted of the totality of Muslims in the Ottoman

and others - were categorized as Millet-i-Rum, i.e. people belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Church. Empire (and beyond) with no reference to defined territory, language, or race. The latter held a status of superiority over the non-Muslim millets, the rayah (or raya). 35 Since language in the Ottoman Empire was not a basis for identity prior to the rise of

Romantic nationalism, the young Balkan nations, freshly out of sultanic grip, struggled to define themselves. In Bulgaria, patriotic literati such as Georgi Rakovsky, Petko Slaveykov, Lyuben
34 35

Todorova, 138-39. White, 180.

White, for instance, writes: All Eastern Orthodox Christians were the same to the Ottomans. The Ottomans made no attempts to distinguish one Orthodox Christian from another, whether they were Russians, Bulgarians, Serbian, Greek, or others. Ethnicity was irrelevant, and modern nationhood had no meaning. (Ibid.) Also Christopher Cviic, Remaking the Balkans (New York: Council of Foreign Relations Press, 1991), 7. 29

Karavelov, and the Miladinov Brothers, similar to Herder in Germany earlier, began to study the remnants and medieval manuscripts, to publish folksongs and fairy tales, to collect artifacts with ethnographic value and exhibit them in museums. In the period 1850-1900, these intellectuals

history of the Slavic languages, to compile bibliographies, to write grammars, to collect archeological

helped establish universities where a range of academic disciplines were taught, including political linguistic history), and traditional culture (clothing, architecture, food, holidays)[.] 36

history, philology (the historical study of language and literature), national folklore (its literary and Nor were the Bulgarian patriots alone in promoting language commonality as a cause for

territorial and cultural consolidation. In fact, their Slavic brethren from already independent Serbia first immersed into Herderian activism towards strengthening Serbian nationalism. Like Herder in identity in Serbia. He classified everyone who used the tokavian dialect (spoken by the Serbs as some tokavian speakers were Roman Catholic, White notes, Karadic labeled them as Roman Germany, the intellectual Vuk Stefanovi Karadi (1787 -1864) laid the foundations of national

well) as a Serb by applying the Romantic notion that nations were defined by language. 37 Because Catholic Serbs, and because some tokavian speakers were Muslims, Karadic classified them as

Muslim Serbs [largely Bosnians]. Significantly many of these people whom Karadic classified as

36 Alexander Kiossev, The Dark Intimacy: Maps, Identities, Acts of Identification, in Balkan as Metaphor: Between Globalization and Fragmentation, ed. Dusan I. Bjelic and Obrad Savic (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2002), 175. Alexander Kiossev is the author and/or editor of the following works: Alexander Kiossev, Opiti vurhu kulturnata istoria na prokhoda / Writing on the Cultural History of the Transition/ in Alexander Kiossev, ed., Post-Theory, Games and Discursive Resistance (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1995); Budgarskiat kanon: Krizata na liternaturnovo nasledstvo /The Bulgarian Canon: The Crisis of the Literary Heritage/, ed. (Sofia, 1998); Homo Scriptor und Homo academicus. Zwei Arten von Literaturgeschichtsschreibung in Die Bulgarische Literatur in alter und neuer Sicht (Harrassovitz Verlag, 1997); The Real City in an Imagined Territory (The Case of Plovdiv), in Sofia Academic Nexus - How to Think About the Balkans: Culture, Religion, Identity, Issue 1 of CAS Working Papers Series (Sofia: Center for Advanced Studies Sofia (CAS), 2007), 3-24; Publications by Alexander Kiossev in Eurozine (a leading European cultural magazine): The Oxymoron of Normality, Eurozine, Published on 4 January 2008, at:; Gaze and Acknowledgement, Eurozine, Published on 12 December 2006, at:; The university between Facts and Norms, Eurozine, Published on 3 November 2003, at:; The Dark Intimacy: Maps, Identities, Acts of Identifications, Eurozine, Published on 19 March 2003, at: Eurozine publications last accessed 30 November 2009. 37

White, 180.


speaking Bosnians as Serbs, the patriotic intelligentsia in Bulgaria, including some Pomaks,

Serbs did not consider themselves to be Serbs. 38 Just as Karadic in Serbia classified the Slavic-

promoted the community of Slavic-speaking Muslims as forcibly Islamized Bulgarians. 39 Unlike the as Bosnians (or Bosniaks), largely following the bloody conflicts of the 1990s, the Pomak identity in Bulgaria continues to be hotly debated.

Slavic-speaking Muslims in former Yugoslavia today, however, who have clearly set themselves apart

proposed herein, including the assertion of identity which distinguished the new Bulgarian nation from its former Turkish oppressor in the strongest terms possible. The language of nationalism, giving expression to this freshly constructed self-image, described everything Christian and

of its enfolding, the pokrastvane displayed all characteristics of the nationalism-of-coercion model

As the Christianization of 1912-1913 is my case study, I shall demonstrate that, in the course

Bulgarian as glorious and liberating, while everything Islamic and Turkish as barbaric and oppressive. The Pomaks, as newly imagined Bulgarians, therefore, could have nothing to do with consolidating a nation-state amidst war. Despite the fervent proclamations of kinship and Islam, so their conversion to Christianity became a pressing concern for the Bulgarian authorities,

brotherhood, though, the ruling elites continued to discriminate against the Pomaks and treat them in such a way that alienated, rather than integrated, them into the Bulgarian nation-state. My Balkan Wars of 1912-1914 as an expression of coercive nationalism. To that end, I enfold the objective henceforth is to reveal the Christianization of the Slavic-speaking Muslims during the historical picture of the pokrastvane based on two primary sources: (1) original documents dating

back to the time of occurrence, and (2) surviving oral history. Much of the first-hand evidence I draw
Ibid., 182.

38 39

Popper: [Because] [c]ommunism has been replaced by this ridiculous nationalism. I say ridiculous, because it sets against each other people who are virtually all Slavs. The Serbs are Slavs, the Croats are Slavs, and the Bosnians are also Slavs, converted to Islam [emphasis added]. (Giancarlo Bosetti, The Lessons of This Century: With Two Talks on Freedom and the Democratic State (London: Routledge, 1997), 53.) 31

Bosetti: Why has this [the Bosnian war] happened?

The parallel is supported by the statement of Karl Popper in an interview with Giancarlo Bosetti (author of The Lessons of This Century: With Two Talks on Freedom and the Democratic State) in 1993:

from the valuable collection of archival records published under the editorship of the Bulgarian scholars Velichko Georgiev and Stayko Trifonov, as well as from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peaces Report on the Balkan Wars of 1914. Organized in chronological order, Georgiev which ecclesiastical and state authorities directly participated. 40 The Carnegie Report, on the other and Trifonovs volume effectively reveals the pokrastvane as a premeditated and hushed affair in

hand, illuminates the broader Balkan conflict. 41 Surviving oral stories, for their part, attest to the bands a fact that is conspicuously absent from the communication exchange and documented War and Pokrastvane (Conversion) in 1912-1913

widespread murder of Pomaks in the (Western) Rhodopes, committed mostly by insurgent Christian

meetings of ecclesiastical authorities, missionaries, and military officials. 42

new Christian state of Bulgaria. As a divergent group, affiliated with the former Ottoman oppressor within the broader context of territorial, political, and cultural consolidation of the country. The

The pokrastvane was one of the hardest moments for the Pomak Muslims as citizens of the

by religion and as a Bulgarian-speaking minority, they were immediately singled out for assimilation Balkan Wars provided an opportune moment, in the words of one church official, for the brutal business of religious conversion, which the state authorities intended to explain, if post-war implicated, as a sad concomitant of war. 43 The multitude of available records from the 1912-1913 (the highest ecclesiastical authority) of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, reports of missionaries,
40 41

Christianization of the Pomaks include protocols from regular and ad-hoc sessions of the Holy Synod
See Velichko Georgiev and Stayko Trifonov, eds., Pokrastvaneto na Bulgarite Mohamedani 1912-1913 /The Christianization of the Bulgarian Mohammedans 1912-1913/ (Sofia: Prof. Marin Drinov Publ., 1995), passim.

42 43

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1914), 49-70. Ibid., Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 13. This phrase is used by Jeromonk Pavel, Protosingel of the Plovdiv Diocese, in a letter to Stoyu Shishkov from 24 November 1912. The excerpt reads: Can we count on a more or less en mass conversion of the Pomaks (in the Rhodopes)? What do you think would be the best time to start proclaiming them in the Christian faith and baptism: right now or after our relations with Turkey have been reestablished? I am afraid that if we wait until the conclusion of the peace treaty, this opportune moment would be irrevocably lost [emphasis added]. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 52, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 818, pages 1-3. 32 See Georgiev and Trifonovs volume.

priest, and teachers who were part of the regular conversion missions, as well as letters and reports combination of written evidence, photographic imagery, and surviving oral histories unequivocally that insurgent bands facilitated the conversion through abuse and killing of Pomak civilians. of private individuals, or religious- and state officials who directly enforced the pokrastvane. 44 The

reveal that not only all levels of state and church authorities implicated in the pokrastvane, but also According to a document, at least 150,000 Pomaks in the Rhodopes alone were affected by

the Christianization. 45 The total number, however, is perhaps more than double, because a sizeable between the fall of 1912 and the fall of 1913. It was precisely at this time when the authorities

Muslim population resided in the Rhodopes, Thrace, and Macedonia--territories which Bulgaria held carried out the pokrastvane. 46 Although the exact number of affected population remains unknown, it church authorities, and civilian bands for the duration of the conversion. Records set the beginning of the campaign around October 1912, which peaked in the first three months of 1913, and gradually subsided by the fall of 1913 when Bulgaria conclusively lost the Second Balkan War. 1. The Balkan Wars In the fall of 1912, shared interests of territorial expansion induced four nascent Balkan is safe to conclude that about 300,000 Slavic-speaking Muslims suffered the abuse of regular troops,

nations - Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece to sign a pact to fight their common enemy,

Turkey the natural successor of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire. On October 4, 1912, the so-

an uneasy one soon paid off, and by the spring of 1913 Turkey was defeated. As a result, most of the
44 45

called Balkan Alliance declared war on Turkey, beginning the First Balkan War. The alliance albeit

According to Stoyu Shishkov, who was directly involved in the conversion and later published a book about them, the Pomaks inhabiting European Turkey on the eve of the Balkan Wars (the early fall of 1912) numbered 400,000 people and were distributed in 500 towns and villages. By regions, the distribution was the following: Edirne (Odrin) - 131,455 people in 207 towns/villages; Thessalonica (Solun) - 98,297 people in 190 towns/villages; Bitolya - 36,669 people in 93 towns/villages; Skopje - 13,114 people in 23 towns/villages. Stoyu Shishkov, Balgaro-mohamedanite (Pomatsite) /The Bulgarian Mohammedans (Pomaks)/ (Plovdiv, 1936), 34.

Ibid., Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 157-71. Confidential report sent to Maxim, Archbishop of Plovdiv, and to several ministers of the Bulgarian government of by a civilian committee from Pazarjik engaged in the conversion of Pomaks in the Chepino valley, 22 February 1913. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67 , Inventory 2, Archival Unit 107, pages 79-85.

Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., passim.


European territories of the former Ottoman Empire passed into the hands of the victorious foursome. Quarrels over territorial distribution, however, soon broke out among Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. Bulgaria harbored ambitions to annex the former Ottoman provinces of Macedonia and Thrace, where significant Bulgarian-speaking population lived. But this did not square well with the

aspirations of the other three countries, particularly Serbia and Greece which sought the same lands. As the territorial disagreement escalated, Bulgaria invaded Thrace, eastern Macedonia, and the Rhodopes, immediately imposing military control over them. 47

territories on the Balkan Peninsula. Unwilling to accept this dominion, on June 16, Serbia,

By the summer of 1913, Bulgarian troops occupied the better part of the former Ottoman

Montenegro, and Greece declared war on Bulgaria, thus, initiating the Second Balkan War. While

Greece attacked from the south, Serbia and Montenegro advanced from the west. Completing the vice that squeezed Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey opened fronts to the north and southeast respectively. few months, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, actively assisted by the army and paramilitary Even though Bulgaria did not hold the provinces of Macedonia and Thrace for more than a

formations, succeeded in launching a massive and violent conversion of the Pomak population within population (Appendix 2.1) who soon found themselves a part of a brand new nation. The Pomak stronghold, the Rhodope Mountains, fell into Bulgarian hands as well. 2. The Pokrastvane All areas with heavily concentrated Pomak population were violent combat zones for the these territories. 48 These provinces (Thrace and Macedonia) were home to a sizeable Pomak

elderly men (the Turkish army had conscripted the younger males), bore not only the brunt of war

duration of the Balkan Wars. The civilian population consisting mainly of women, children, and

and an unusually cold winter, but also suffered the abuse of religious conversion. Between October


R.J. Crampton, Bulgaria (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 190-219. See also, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1914), 49-70. Crampton, 190-219.


1912 and September 1913, the advancing and retreating Bulgarian troops and paramilitary bands plundered and burnt hundreds of Pomak villages, turning thousands of people into destitute refugees. Waves of Muslim civilians pressed southward, following the withdrawing Ottoman army, after having abandoned all their earthly possessions. The constant swap of territories between the warring parties, however, threw the civilian population into utter confusion and rendered it unable

to decide whether to permanently stay or leave. Many of the Rhodopean Pomaks, who had originally fled, returned to their villages only to find themselves homeless and robbed of all food and livestock, in the middle of severe winter. Dispossessed, malnourished, and without basic medication, people soon succumbed to epidemics of typhoid, cholera, and scarlet fever. By January 1913, the new Bulgarian regime had launched a large-scale Christianization in the Rhodopes.

writer and fervent pokrastvane crusader attested to the dismal position of the Pomak population: 49

In a letter to his friend Ivan Shishmanov of January 26, 1913, Stoyu Shishkov a patriotic

It has been a week since I am in this untamed and beautiful Tamrush region [Middle Rhodopes]. I serve in the commission for aid distribution, and while I am witnessing exceptional and glorious historical events [the pokrastvane], I am also faced with unspeakable misery. Semi-clad, famished, and emaciated families of five to ten members live in cramped, half-destroyed shacks, with not even a tin box in sight for water and cooking. But they line before the cross, the gospel, and the holy water en mass, in acceptance of Christ, which should provide them with relief from fear and torment. I took a photographer with me. As missioners, we try to instill peace and comfort in this unfortunate population. 50 In his capacity as a police commandant in the village of Ustovo (Middle Rhodopes), Shishkov

stood at the core of Pomak Christianization in the Smolyan area. While his official function was to

ensure that an orderly assumption of power was taking place in the region, his personal mission was to see to the successful conversion of the local Muslim population. Instead of merely applying brute force to that end, however as it would usually happen - Shishkov was also concerned about the

the complete devastation of the region, after Bulgarian troops and Christian civilians swept through

lasting impact of the conversion. Thus, in a statement of December 2, 1912, he expressed anxiety that
Note: When so indicated (in brackets), the information stems from the volume of original documents edited by Dr. Velichko Georgiev and Dr. Stayko Trifonov and titled Pokrastvaneto na Bulgarite Mohamedani 1912-1913 /The Christianization of the Bulgarian Mohammedans 1912-1913/ (Sofia: Prof. Marin Drinov Publ., 1995), passim.


National Archives-Bulgarian Academy of Science, Fond 11, Inventory 3, Archival Unit 1676, pages 2-3. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 65.) Note: All Bulgarian sources, including archival documents, used in this chapter and throughout the dissertation are translated from Bulgarian by the author. 35

it, would adversely affect the pokrastvane. Hungry and ragged women [refugees] are coming back to their torched villages, he wrote. All food, livestock, and movable property have already been stolen from them. ... Since war and army mobilization prevented harvest, the crops are rotting under the rains. ... The winter in the mountain is harsh, and starvation is present in all its horror, wreaking arbitrary violence against Muslim civilians would obstruct the conversion effort as well as the

sickness and death. Quite apart from starvation, Shishkov worried that the rampant corruption and prospect of effectively administering control over the territory. The whole country [here] is in a

state of complete lawlessness, he lamented in the same report. Banditry and looting have reached

unprecedented levels. The need for troops and administrative authority to intercept the situation is did not have the resources to prevent it. Thus, the purpose of his report just one of many was to

eminent. As police commandant of Ustovo, Shishkov felt responsible for what was happening, yet, he convince the higher authorities of the dire necessity to amend the situation in order to ensure the

lasting effect of the pokrastvane and efficient government in the region. The [Christian] posses and

Pomak villages. [Also,] a doctor is urgently needed to help prevent the outbreak of disease epidemics due to the horrific famine and poverty. 52

vicinity 51 must be thoroughly searched, for even the women there have partaken in the plunder of

and ordered back to their places of residence, he proposed. All Bulgarian [Christian] villages in the

various such thugs roaming the area with the sole purpose to plunder must be disbanded, disarmed,

development on the matter to the higher church authorities, among others. In one of his

As one of the chief local executives of the pokrastvane, Stoyu Shishkov accounted for every

communications with Archbishop Maxim of Plovdiv, dated January 30, 1913, he reported how out of the 33 villages [in the Smolyan region], 3,970 homes have been torched, and how several families are [now] crowding in a single room. Shishkovs biggest concern, however, continued to be that
of Stanimaka, Ah elebi, Dardere, and Skee, and above all Chepelare, Shiroka Laka, Alamidere, Turyan, Arda, Raykovo, and Pashmakl . (Ibid.)

corrupt officials and marauding Christian bands could hamper our holy mission in the Rhodopes:
51 52

Report On the Situation in the Districts of Ah-elebi, Egridere, and Skee after the Bulgarian Troops Passed through the Region from 2 December 1912. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67 , Inventory 2, Archival Unit 121, pages 12-13. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 17-18.) 36

Rhodopes during the Balkan Wars. Orthodox Church clergy, sent to baptize the Pomak population, painted a picture in the same gloomy colors. Priest Dimitar Kutuev, a member of the conversion to Archbishop Maxim of May 9, 1913: mission in the village of Yakoruda, delivered a particularly poignant message of childrens suffering The village of Babek has been burnt by the bands... The population is utterly poor, sick and famished. The epidemics of disease have hit this area harder than any other. Small children are forced to travel to distant villages to beg; they come back to their sick families bringing them a meager something to eat. A number of starving and ragged children surrounded me here, one day, and with tears in their eyes, they begged, Give us some bread, grandpa priest! The picture of small, hungry, and tattered children with prematurely withered faces is horrible to behold. This one child told me, Give me some bread, grandpa priest, because I am hungry from earth to heaven. Since this village was completely destroyed, no livestock and food has been left for this famished population. ... In Babek, as well as in the neighboring hamlets, people die every day. 54

Nor was Stoyu Shishkov alone in his reportage of misery, corruption, and abuse in the

[T]he Pomak population continues to be victimized by various thugs who arrive here from different places, go from village to village, attack the population in their homes and rob them of the last piece of clothing, implement or livestock; many engage in ugly acts of violating peoples dignity and honor. The terrified population takes everything timidly with no courage to complain, and there is no one to complain to anyway. Self-appointed tax collectors have plagued the villages of Beden, Trigrad, and some others, tormenting the population terribly. The very war government in Dvlen, on all levels, has been appallingly violating this population. I fear that after the relief commission leaves, the authorities themselves would rob the people of the little aid theyve received. The state must not only stop these practices, but also must order an investigation into them, and punish those responsible with all the severity of the law. The state needs to appoint as regional administrators persons of moral integrity to take control of the anarchy. Without such measures our holy mission of bringing the Pomak population into the Christian faith is doomed to fail; the national prestige would be irreparably compromised, and the results would be devastating [emphasis added]. 53

in the Rhodopes were largely cut off from access by humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross that Orthodox Church, which channeled the supplies, used the aid provided by humanitarian distributed life-saving food and medical supplies. The Bulgarian authorities and the Bulgarian

Because of the heavy winter, lack of roads, and naturally difficult terrain, the Pomak villages

organizations and foreign embassies in Bulgaria as a method of inducing conversion. Thus, much of

53 54

National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 123, pages 145-9. (Ibid., 88-91.)

National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 116, pages 239-241. (Ibid., 289.) 37

population was given food rations, some cash, and basic clothing in exchange of formal baptism. 55

the initially declared success of the pokrastvane stemmed from the fact that the famished Pomak

Figure 2-1: Map of the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria 56 Whereas the Bulgarian Orthodox Church was formally in charge of the pokrastvane, the

army, paramilitary formations, patriotic civilian organizations, local military governments, and private individuals rendered support to the conversion effort. The church dispatched special
55 56

missions composed of church-appointed clergy and state-appointed educators to all the Pomak areas
Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., passim.

This map was specifically created to illustrate the Rhodope Mountains in southwest Bulgaria in general. For the purpose of this chapter, the Middle Rhodopes lie along the River Vacha and roughly incorporates the towns (from north to south) Krichim, Devin, Dospat, Chepelare, Smolyan, and Madan. The Arda River is unmarked on the map, but it is the blue line that runs between the towns Smolyan and Madan, and the village of Smilyan. (This map was created for the basic purposes of this dissertation, but it is by no means comprehensive.) 38

in the Rhodopes, Thrace, and Macedonia. Their task was twofold: (1) to turn the Pomaks into

Christians and (2) to educate them in patriotism and national loyalty (Appendix 2.2). Whenever and wherever eloquence failed, the crusaders administered brute force to achieve the desired effect. From the volume of documents published under the editorship of Velichko Georgiev and Stayko

Trifonov, it is clear that the Plovdiv Diocese of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, headed by Archbishop Maxim, played a pivotal role in the pokrastvane. This is understandable, since the territories most the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Plovdiv and Archbishop Maxim. 57 densely populated by Pomaks the Rhodope Mountains, Thrace, and part of Macedonia were under Neither did the Bulgarian military authorities delay supporting the holy mission. As soon

the campaign started in the fall 1912 and continued through the summer, it peaked during the

as Thrace, Macedonia, and the Rhodopes came under Bulgarian control, the pokrastvane began. While

harshest winter months of January, February, and March, when the population was most vulnerable. Usually, conversions took place en mass. Soldiers would round up entire village populations and huddle them together in an open space, because there were no buildings sufficiently large to

stand in line before one or more Orthodox priests for baptism. After receiving the sign of the cross the children would be quickly sprinkled only for reasons of efficiency. If their time and resources

accommodate hundreds of people at once. Men, women, and children by family were forced to

from the priest(s), the (male) adults of each family would have their heads immersed in water while allowed, the crusaders would force Pomak converts particularly elderly male heads of family to

bite into a piece of pork as a final act of denouncing Islam, following which the baptizing priest(s) would formally proclaim them Christian. The Pomaks would next be required to make verbal

declaration of rejecting Islam and accepting Christianity, whereafter they received new Bulgarianto surrender their fezzes (headdress) and put on hats with crucifixes affixed to them as a blatant

Christian names (Figures 2-2, 2-3, and 2-4, pp.44-46). To complete the humiliation, men were forced

reminder of their pokrastvane. Women, for their part, had to substitute the yashmak (a type of veil)


Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., passim. 39

for simple headscarves. 58 With the population thus formally converted, each village mosque and

Sunday school respectively. These two institutions, then, indoctrinated the new Christians, from children to adults, in Christian virtues and patriotic loyalty. 59 In large part, the pokrastvane was conducted by Christian civilians from the Rhodopes or

mekteb (Muslim school) provided they had survived the burning would reopen as a church and

surrounding areas. This is abundantly clear from the lengthy confidential report of civilian patriots citizens forthcoming initiative to convert the Chepino Valleys population (Middle Rhodopes, see the pokrastvane was carried out by civilian zealots with the blessing of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the active support of high-ranking military and political officials. Thus, the general Figure 2-1, p. 38). 60 The document is particularly valuable because it sheds a detailed light on how from Pazardjik to the Holy Synod and Archbishop Maxim of Plovdiv, informing the latter of the

pattern of the affair, as gleaned out from the report, appears to be the following: having decided to to organize a Committee for Assistance of the Newly-Converted Christians even before the

Christianize the local Muslim population, Christian civilians from Pazardjik and its vicinity proceeded conversion took place. This committees purpose [wa]s to promulgate the idea about Christianizing the [local] Pomaks. To implement their plan, these Bulgarian patriots organized themselves in document stipulates, the pokrastvane initiative was to be first announced to the Pomaks, then committees for conversion, each assigned to specific Pomak village in the Chepino Valley. As the publicized among the broader Christian population in the region, and finally enforced, village by

[Pomak] village, starting on an appointed date. Thus, on December 29, 1912, conversion activists

marched into [the village of] Ladjene where [they] encountered a convention of local mayors and
In another letter to Ivan Shishmanov from 10 February 1913, Stoyu Shsishkov, writes: It has been a week already since the Pomaks in Chepelare have been converted as well, and they are so enthusiastic as if theyve never been Mohammedans. The men wear hats with crucifixes on them a sign testifying to the fact that they are no longer Mohammeds followers and the women, who have thrown the veil, are lighting candles, kissing the icons, and crossing themselves admirably. National Archives-Bulgarian Academy of Science, Fond 11, Inventory 3, Archival Unit 1676, pages 6-11. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 135-6.)
58 59 60

Ibid. Also, see Figures 2-2, 2-3, and 2-4.

For further reference, a slightly abridged version of the above document is enclosed in Appendix 2.2. 40

Pomak dignitaries from neighboring villages gathered to hear [them]. 61 Henceforth, a succession of patriotic citizens took turns to deliver fiery speeches about the virtues of Christianity and the decadence of Islam, to be only occasionally interrupted by the nervous attempt at dissent of a beleaguered Pomak population. Below is a telling excerpt from the report:

gendarmerie and soldiers stationed in these villages from mobilization time to disarm the

So, the pokrastvane of the Chepino Valley proceeded accordingly. On the appointed day,

... Mumdjiev spoke first. ... [He told the gathered Pomak elders] ... that the Quran obstructs their progress, that their forefathers had been Islamized by force, ... that the faith of Mohammed resembles a tattered coat which cannot warm the soul or soften the heart; that Christianity brings high moral virtues and gives freedom of conscience; that they are a compact mass of about 300,000 who speak the pure Bulgarian language so dear to us; that their folklore is ours, and so on. ... Molla Mustafa Kara-Mehmedov from Rakitovo spoke on behalf of the Pomaks a wealthy, intelligent, sixty-year old person, who had served as a district councilor and who can read Bulgarian excellently. He literally said the following, Gentlemen, what the people from Pazardjik said is just; but what can be done when there are 2,000 behind us (speaking of his village) who are simple and ignorant people and they do not understand how they could change their faith? It all seems to us like impenetrable forest, how can we find our way out of it? Anything is possible, but we ask to be allowed some time? To that, the citizens objected: ...You must convert now. [emphasis added]. 62

Pomaks drove together the entire population of Ladjene and Kamenitsa to facilitate the baptism. In the villages of Rakitovo, especially recruited photographers captured the moments when the

According to the document, more than 1,300 Pomak Muslims were formally converted the same day. converts were sprinkled with water, and when they were kissing the cross and the priests hand. After the formal baptism, [t]he crowd, including the new converts, saluted the general, the local governor, and shouted three times, Long live the King and Great Bulgaria. [emphasis added]. 63Just

like that, the civilian Pazardjik crusaders with the blessing and support of the Bulgarian state and


62 63

Confidential report of the Pazardjik activists on Pomak conversion to the Holy Synod, to Archbishop Maxim of Plovdiv, and to several Ministries, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, The Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of War, and others from 22 February 1913. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67 , Inventory 2, Archival Unit 107, pages 7985. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 157-71.) Ibid. Ibid. 41

church delivered a population of about 150,000 [Pomak] people to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and to the Bulgarian nation, boasted the report. 64 Even euphemistic, the wording of the above document is clearly the language of coercion

(Appendix 2.2). The ultimate goal of the pokrastvane was not to warm the soul or soften the heart of the Pomak population, as phrased in the report, but to deliver to the Bulgarian nation a compact mass of 300,000 people in order to consolidate national sovereignty. The soldiers, the general, and the local governor were there to ensure that full control over the newly acquired territories, a fundamental part of which was the Chepino Valley of the Rhodopes, would be achieved absolutely and definitively via the forced conversion of the local Muslims. The recurring stipulation that the Pomaks speak the pure Bulgarian language was, in effect, a legitimization of Bulgarias claim over the Rhodopes, as well as over all territories settled by Pomaks (Appendix 2.2). The reports authors, however, similar to the communiqus of many other pokrastvane

enforcers, took special care to avoid direct reference to violence. But, as one might conclude from hardly the willing participants in an affair that forced them out in the bitter cold, in the middle of Figures 2-2, 2-3, and 2-4 (pp.44-46), the motley crowd of Pomak men, women, and children were

severe winter, to accept the faith of their wartime enemy. Were the pokrastvane truly voluntary, as

alleged in much of the archival evidence, at least a portion of the Pomaks would have certainly opted to them as Muslims. In fact, the Rhodopean Pomaks were just emerging as Bulgarian subjects during Muslims. Moreover, when the Turkish empire broke down, the Pomaks Islamic religion became the sole anchor of palpable identity for them. Thus, they were even more likely to adhere to their and following the Balkan Wars of 1912-1914, and they still perceived themselves as Ottoman

out of swearing allegiance to symbols the cross and pork meat totally foreign and even repugnant

chaos than ever before. In effect, for the first time, the pokrastvane threatened to annihilate the hostile to them.

Muslimness (Arab-Turkish names, conservative attire, and Muslim traditions) in the midst of political deeply-rooted sense of Muslim self of the Pomaks, while seeking to replace it with customs new and

Ibid. 42

prominent Pomak traditions, which would be consistently suppressed by subsequent Bulgarian Pomak wedding performed in the Christian tradition during the pokrastvane. Instead of the

Ultimately, the Christianization of 1912-1913 emerged as the beginning of an end to many

regimes. Figure 2-4 (p. 46) provides an example of just such suppressed cultural practice. It depicts a

customary (red) veil draped over her face, 65 however, the bride is crowned by a wreath, branching over her head in the form of cross. Noticeable also is the grooms lack of fezz, broadly targeted for replacement with hats during the pokrastvane. Still, the brides and grooms crossed wreaths are remains in typically Pomak style, observable to this day on many elderly women and men in the Rhodopes. The same photo also reveals another, more intimate aspect of the Balkan Wars

the sole observable indicators that this Pomak couple has been baptized since the rest of their attire

pokrastvane. According to the archival description of the photograph, Hristo Karamadjukov (back

row, in the middle) served as the best man of the newlyweds. Considering that he was one of the most notorious campaigners for the second Pomak pokrastvane of 1938-1944, 66 Karamandjukov appears

to have been quite involved in the Christianization of the Rhodopes since the beginning. One can only speculate how he might have appointed himself as the best man in this particular and perhaps other wedding(s) in much the same way in which other crusaders became the loathed document).

godmothers and godfathers to freshly baptized Pomak families (see Appendix 2.2, middle of the



It should be noted, however, that not all Pomak women traditionally wore the veil. The bridal veil as far as it existed has been gradually substituted for a peculiar makeup, covering the brides face like a mask, which is still practiced in the village of Ribnovo (Western Rhodopes, see Figure 2-1, p.38). For details on Pomak wedding traditions, read in Chapter V. See Chapter III, especially the sections concerning Organization Rodina. 43

Figure 2-2: Pokrastvane in the village of Devin, 1912-1913 Priest Iliya Djodjev sprinkles water over the head of an elderly looking Pomak person before proclaiming him Christian. The whole village is gathered in an open area to witness the baptism and endure the humiliation collectively. 67 (Courtesy of National Archives-Plovdiv)

Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 959 k, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 902, page 3. Photography Collection no.15532 (date unspecified). 44


Figure 2-3: Pokrastvane in the village of Banya, 1912-1913 The same priest Iliya Djodjev (left), and another one, Hariton Nikolov, are baptizing the population of Banya. There is a table with kupel (vessel containing water) on it. Each of the Muslims, waiting in the background (left), would pass before the kupel to have his or her head sprinkled with water, thus, being formally baptized and reborn as Christian. The woman in the left (as well as the man with fezz) is readily identifiable as Muslim, because she is trying to cover her face. A Bulgarian gendarme in uniform, likely there to ensure an orderly pokrastvane, is clearly visible in the right, behind one of the priests. The thick blanket of snow in the photograph is a vivid reminder of the severely cold winter that year. The ceremony of baptism in this particular photograph was probably done at the beginning of 1913. 68 (Courtesy of National Archives-Plovdiv)

68 National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 959 k, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 902, page 2. Photography Collection no.15531 (date unspecified).


Figure 2-4: A pokrastvane wedding A snapshot from the wedding of a newly converted Pomak couple in the village of Kestendjik, conducted in the Christian tradition by the same priest Iliya Djodjev, 1912-1913. A witness to this ceremony is Hristo Karamandjukov, a fervent pokrastvane activist (back row, in the middle). 69 The writer and historian Vassil Dechov, who collected the earliest oral history about Salih Aga, is also captured in this photograph (back of the picture, right upper corner, next to an elderly, bearded man). (Courtesy of National Archives-Plovdiv)

National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 959 k, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 902, page 1. Photography Collection no.15530 (date unspecified). 46

2.1. The Killings in Oral History Clearly, the purpose of the pokrastvane was to consolidate state sovereignty by ensuring

national and territorial unity. The Pomaks, closely related ethnically and linguistically to Bulgarias majority, were the most obvious candidate for assimilation. What stood between the dream of building a strong nation-state and reality was the Pomaks problematic religious affiliation with

Islam, the faith of the former Ottoman oppressor. To Bulgarias ruling and religious authorities it was a surmountable obstacle that could be overcome by conversion, both religious and national. Undoubtedly, the authorities intended to implement the pokrastvane as bloodlessly as possible because violence would neither nurture Bulgarian patriotism among the Pomaks nor enhance

violence not only took place, but much blood was spilt as well.

Bulgarias international image after the war. On the unsettling road to nation-making, however, The scores of original documents, though, only hint at the killings that took place in many

Pomak villages during the pokrastvane. This was in consequence of the purposeful misinformation about the countrys image abroad, since much of the current wars outcome depended on the policy applied by state and church authorities alike. 70 The Bulgarian government was concerned

favorable disposition of the Great Powers, which would certainly condemn any atrocities committed against Muslim or other minorities. 71 Similarly, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church did not wish to nature means in making converts. 72 Whereas the torture and killings were not necessarily

attract any criticism in the words of Archbishop Maxim for resort[ing] to uncharacteristic to its

71 The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the other Western Christian Powers were sympathetic to the self-determination cause of the newly emerging Christian nation-states on the Balkan Peninsula after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, as suggested in a document cited in this chapter. However, the Great Powers were also concerned with the humanitarian situation of the Muslim population that remained within these nation-states. For instance, there were special provisions in a number of peace treaties signed between Bulgaria and the Great Powers that guaranteed certain minority rights, including religious freedom (See 3.3. War and Pokrastvane No More). The pokrastvane, a clear breach of these provisions, was unwelcome by the Western Powers. 72

Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., passim.

Words of Maxim, Archbishop of Plovdiv, on the margins of a report sent to him by Sv. V. Iliev from 30 January 1913. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 123, page 39. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 87.) Note: In the document, Maxim wrote: ... , . , . (Ibid.) / Authors translation: He was orally told not to go around with soldiers and gendarmes for that would 47

committed by the Bulgarian ecclesiastical or military authorities, their inability or reluctance to stop the Christian bands pogroms against the Muslims makes both parties complicit in the atrocities. accompanied the pokrastvane of 1912-1913, it is all too easy to dismiss it as conjecture. Clues, Because the surviving Bulgarian sources are at best suggestive of the cases of murder that

however, can still be found and verified with vernacular history, preserving vivid memories of

Greece), Mr. Dobrev, to Bulgarias Prime Minister Ivan E. Geshov of November 26, 1912, reads: The Burning of Valkossel

bloodshed. For instance, a coded telegram of the Bulgarian regional governor in Drama (now in With a posse of fifteen (15) people, [Hristo] Chernopeev departed for the Pomak villages to the northnorth-west of Drama to Christianize the Pomaks. 73 Posses committed the worst atrocities. Under a sycamore tree in the village of Valkossel,

Western Rhodopes, there is a water fountain. A marble plaque dedicates this fountain to our 95 Shehov in the summer of 2007, a learned seventy-six-year-old retiree, on February 22, 1913,

Muslim brothers who gave their lives for their faith. According to the story I heard from Mehmed

Bulgarian troops, accompanied by irregular militiamen, arrived in Valkossel after burning the their regular prayer, to turn over someone by the name of Salyu Mizinev, apparently a

neighboring village of Zhizhevo. At first they wanted the village elders, gathered in the mosque for troublemaker for the Bulgarian authorities. The person in question was hiding under the floor, inside the mosque. Tell Salyu to come out, or all of you will go in frames!, the men were told. mosque and the people in it were going to be burnt because of him, he came out on his own. [Salyu] was a maverick, a rebel of sort, Mehmed told me. [And] [w]hen he heard that the

Thereafter, two gendarmes rounded up Salyu one in front of him and one behind him and led him into a narrow side street, by the mosque. It was winter time and there was a lot of snow on the ground. Salyu, according to my interviewee, had a good pair of shoes on. So while the posses were

taking him way to shoot him, he made a daring bid to escape. Pretending to be tying his shoe strings,
sully our holy mission [of pokrastvane] with accusations that the church resorts to uncharacteristic to its nature means [to convert the Pomaks].

Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 568, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 766, page 4. (Ibid., 14.) 48

he dealt a kick to the face of the hind gendarme and to the head of the front one, and darted downhill, people were standing in the way. They were shooting at Salyu from two sides, Mehmed said, but he made a zigzag run to avoid the bullets. ... Then a small cloud of fog hid him. He never came back, this man. He fled to Turkey. 74

running toward the south. Apparently, the posses could not open fire immediately, because their own

up, and marched them a short distance toward what is today the Vilievs house, While being led away, the men were calling tekbir (prayer). When the tobacco pipe of one of the Muslim man, with group. A nearby Bulgarian gendarme used the moment to whisper in his ear, Run, run while you come to regret his foolhardiness soon enough. A few moments later the men reached the Vilievs

The very same day, the Christian posse drove all village elders out of the mosque, lined them

last name Halachev, fell to the ground, he bent down to pick it up and lagged a little behind from the can! No, I wont! replied Halachev stubbornly, Wherever everybody goes I go. This man would house and the posses began to pierce them with bayonets. Whoever fell was quickly picked up by the hands and legs and thrown inside. According to Mehmed Shehov, there were 106 men who were set it on fire. Ninety-five men perished in the flames, many still alive from the stabbing. Seven or stabbed and pushed into the Vilievs house. The Christians then poured gasoline on the building and eight of the total, however, managed to crawl out of the inferno and lived. Among the survivors was together, Mehmed recounted, he lifted his shirt and showed me seven scars left by the bayonets. How he survived such horrific wounds, I have no idea! Mehmeds own grandfather, Mustafa Shehov, burnt in the fire. He was hodja (hoca) or Mehmeds step-mothers father, Assan Kalvichev. One day, while he and I were tending the sheep

religious teacher who had graduated from the medresse (madrassa, a Muslim school of higher living moments:

learning) in Thessalonica, now in Greece. Mehmed related to me a story about his grandfathers last All men wore fezzes [at the time], and while they were marched toward the Vilievs house, the comitas [civilian posse] knocked their fezzes down and tramped them in the mud. When my grandfathers fezz fell, my grandmother his wife tried to pass her apron on to him so he may cover his head. One comita snatched the apron from my grandmother and hit her.


Mehmed Shehov, interview by author, Valkossel, Bulgaria, June24, 2007. 49

Pushing her aside, they dragged my grandfather, bareheaded, with the rest of the group. Exactly how he died, we dont know. But obviously the same happened to him as to all the others; he was stabbed and pushed into the house, where he died from his wounds, burning or suffocation. 75 proceeded for the next Pomak village, Ablanitsa. After looting Valkossel and killing the village elders, the posses set the village ablaze and

Figure 2-5: A commemorative water fountain in Valkossel A simple water fountain in Valkossel, which dries out in the hottest summer days, is dedicated to the 95 souls who perished on a cold February day in 1913, because they refused to convert to Christianity. A combined force of civilian militias and troops rounded up all Muslim men they found in the mosque for prayer that day, marched them a short distance down to a wooden house, where they butchered them with bayonets before pushing them into the house and torching them. (Photograph by the author, June 2007)


Ibid. 50

Figure 2-6: A commemorative marble plaque next to the fountain It reads: In memory of our 95 Muslim brothers who gave their lives for their faith on 22 February 1913, Valkossel. (Photograph by the author, June 2007) The Killings in Ablanitsa Ibrahim Imam and Senem Konedareva offer a rare glimpse at the events that took place in

surviving testimonies, most transmitted through the descendants of survivors, the authors provide a Struma River valley and crossing the Ali Botush Mountain between the villages Laki and Teshovo, the authors write, the band of Munyo Voyvoda (his real name is unknown ) reached Ilinden[.] villages, he took the road to Ablanitsa reaching the village around 4-5 pm on February 12,

nearby Ablanitsa in their concise history of the village, Ablanitsa through the Centuries. 76 Relying on

detailed description of what happened in mid-February 1912, and again in 1913. Upon cleansing the

[F]illing his band with volunteers from Singartiya (now Handjidimivo) and the nearby [Christian]

Ibrahim Imam and Senem Konedareva, Ablanitsa prez vekovete /Ablanitsa through the Centuries/ (Ablanitsa, 2008). 51

1912[.] 77 Knowing beforehand that the village was Muslim, the band surrounded it. In the eve of February 13, Munyo Voyvodas posse rounded up forty-six of the most prominent residents of Ablanitsa, tied them together, and dragged the men in the direction of Singartiya. Among the captives was Hadjiyata, a wealthy and respected member of the community. On the way out of Ablanitsa, one and bring all valuables he could find in order to ransom his life. 78 After refusing to do so, however, Hadjiyata was crucified on a wild pear tree along the trek to teach the others a lesson. According to the authors, he was the first victim of the Balkan Wars pokrastvane from Ablanitsa. One of the of the chetniks [comitas, the Christian militias] had a mind for spoils and told Hadjiyata to go home

survivors from the same group of captives, Mehmed Konadov, later recounted that Hadjiyata was put their resourcefulness to the task of escaping.

nailed alive to the pear tree, where he died. This terrified the rest of the Muslim men who, thereafter, Imam and Konedareva describe how Mehmed Konadov remembered the pocketknife he

the person tied in front of him, Yusuf Shamov. Thus freed, Yusuf in turn cut Mehmed loose and

usually kept in his woolen waistband, and, under the cover of darkness, he managed to cut the cord of

passed the knife on to the Lapantov brothers, roped before them. Aided by darkness and the thicket

along the trail, several people managed to escape. As they were tied at the rear end of the rope, their absence went unnoticed by the chetniks for a while. The posse men only realized that the number of into Singartiya. As the discovery was made, one of the chetniks proceeded to strike the rearmost other Pomak men broke loose and survived by jumping into the water. After that, the remaining captives had dwindled after checking the line upon getting ready to cross the bridge over Mesta River prisoner, who promptly jumped into the river dragging the posse along. In the ensuing chaos, two prisoners were most carefully guarded. Once in Singartiya, they were locked in a barn near the mill in the open sewer by the mill. Ibrahim Havalyov and Ibrahim Kambin, however, miraculously survived the ordeal to tell the story. Despite the horrific wounds both sustained, they managed to drag
77 78

the outskirts of the village. There, the chetniks butchered them one by one, discarding the bodies into

Ibid., 42.

Ibid., 43. 52

themselves out of the ditch and to crawl near the road in the hope of being discovered and rescued. This was the first attack by Christian bands on the village during the tumultuous Balkan Wars, according to the authors, but it was not going to be the last one. 79

first one. Markovs band was a collection of civilian volunteers from Garmen and the neighboring

The second raid on the village by the chetniks of Mihail Markov took place within days of the

[Christian] villages, Imam and Konedareva claim. These revolutionaries embarked on a deliberate march through the Muslim villages in the area whilst pillaging, burning, and murdering people along Valkossel. Upon entering the village, coming from Valkossel (eastwards), they posted sentinels at all the way. Markovs comitas arrived in Ablanitsa on February 13, 1913, after ravaging Kribul and

entry points to prevent anyone from passing in or out of Ablanitsa. The villagers somewhat navely thought that they would escape the worst if they welcomed the chetniks. They could not be more wrong. By the time people realized their precarious situation, it was too late. No one could exit the dead at the site Proda. Thereafter, the chetniks entered Ablanitsa and, going from house to house,

besieged village any longer. Ibraim Bektash, who first tried to break through the blockade, was shot they rounded up the men and locked them in the village mosque. It was then that Markov made his Do you choose the cross or the cannon? (Do you choose conversion or death?). While the village elders desperately attempted to negotiate some deal with the leader, the chetniks went about plundering the houses and terrorizing the population. After the men refused to accept conversion,

notorious offer, still seared in the collective memory of Ablanitsa and the neighboring communities:

mosque and told them they would be released. Instead, they roped the men together and led them created by landslides. They were all killed and cast off in those pits. 80 away, to Ra[v]no Livade [Flat Meadows], a site outside the village, with large, water-filled pits,

the comitas selected thirty-five of the youngest and strongest Pomaks among those detained in the

mosque, was convoyed to Garmen (a Christian village near Ablanitsa) the next morning. Two of them,
79 80

The remaining group of about fifty mostly elderly and feeble persons, still locked in the

Ibid., 42-44. Ibid., 45.


Yussein Mustafa Hassanov and Mustafa Ibrahim Hassanov, according to Imam and Konedareva, were killed as they marched, because they could not keep up with the rest. Relatives later retrieved the further, butchered in a gully near the old village of Debren (adjacent to Garmen), and abandoned remains in a common grave, naming the site the Ablanitsa gully. 81 2.2. The Killings Documented Oral history is not the sole source of knowledge about the murders that occurred during bodies from a ditch and buried the men on the site. The other men were driven some distance

there. People from the nearby Pomak villages of Debren, Krushevo, and Oreshe later interred the

Bulgarias attempt to convert the Pomaks. Although it is difficult to find direct confirmation of the killings in the surviving Bulgarian records, an important and authoritative foreign source of information does exist. It is the Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in of the warring parties in the Balkan Wars. The investigation was entrusted to several prominent individuals acting as the Balkan Commission of Inquiry (BCI). 82 1914. The Carnegie Report resulted from the Great Powers post-war investigation into the conduct

Balkan people unscathed, including the warring nation-states majority groups. In the mayhem of the Balkan Wars initially the victims of abuse and murder were predominantly Muslim. The allied Christian Greeks, Serbs, Montenegrins, and Bulgarians were slaughtering Muslims and ravaging their allies became enemies and their respective populations turned on each other. Now the Bulgarians were equally violating Muslims, Greeks, and Serbs. The Serbs, on the other hand, were attacking
81 82

The Carnegie Report is very useful in highlighting the complexities of a war which left no

towns and villages almost in common agreement, but when the Second Balkan War began, the former

Bulgarians and Muslims with the same ferocity, and the Greeks were victimizing Muslims as well as
Among the members of the BCI were: Dr. Joseph Redlich, Professor of Public Law in the University of Vienna, (Austria), Baron d'Estournelles de Constant, Senator, and M. Justin Godart, lawyer and Member of the Chamber of Deputies (France), Dr. Walter Schuecking, Professor of Law at the University of Marburg, (Germany), Francis W. Hirst, Esq., Editor of The Economist, Dr. H. N. Brailsford, journalist, (Great Britain), Professor Paul Milioukov, Member of the Douma (Russia), and Dr. Samuel T. Dutton, Professor in Teacher's College, Columbia University (United States). 54 Ibid., 46-47.

operated together against the Turkish-Muslim- and Greek populations, while common interests temporarily united Bulgarians and Muslims against Greeks. Ultimately, however, the Muslims the eyes of all Bulgarian-, Serbian-, Montenegrin-, and Greek Christians. remained the main target of violence due to their affiliation with the former Ottoman oppressor in Attached as Appendices to the Carnegie Report, under heading The Plight of the

Christians of Slavic (Bulgarian) descent. Often Slavic-Christian bands of Bulgarians and Serbs

witnesses, direct participants, and survivors of the atrocities of diverse ethnic and religious former Province of Macedonia under Bulgarian and Serbian occupation:

Macedonian Moslems during the First War, are many testimonies given to the BCI commissioners by background. 83 Thus, Rahni Effendi of Strumnitsa, a Muslim, described what took place within the The Bulgarian army arrived on Monday, November 4, 1912. On entering the town, the Bulgarians disarmed the Moslem inhabitants, but behaved well and did not loot. Next day, a Bulgarian civil authority was established, but the Ser[b]ians had the military control. The Bulgarian army marched on to Doiran; on its departure looting and slaughter began. I saw an old man of eighty lying in the street with his head split open, and the dead body of a boy of thirteen. About thirty Moslems were killed that day in the streets I believe by the Bulgarian bands. On Wednesday evening, an order was issued that no Moslem might leave his house day or night until further notice. A commission was then formed from the Bulgarian notables of the town; the Ser[b]ian military commander presided, and the Bulgarian Civil Governor also sat upon it. A local gendarmerie was appointed and a gendarme and a soldier were told to go round from house to house, summoning the Moslems, one by one, to attend the commission. I was summoned myself with the rest. The procedure was as follows: The Ser[b]ian commandant would inquire, "What kind of a man is this?" The answer was simply either "good" or "bad." if one member of the commission said "bad," that sufficed to condemn the prisoner. Each member of the commission had his own enemies whom he wished to destroy, and therefore did not oppose the wishes of his fellow members. When sentence was pronounced the prisoner was stripped of his outer clothes and bound, and his money was taken by the Ser[b]ian commander. I was pronounced "good," and so perhaps were one-tenth of the prisoners. Those sentenced were bound together by threes, and taken to the slaughter house; their ears and noses were often cut off before they were killed. This slaughter went on for a month; I believe that from three to four thousand Moslems were killed in the town and the neighboring villages. 84

Aga (a Muslim) of Strumnitsa, who described to the commissioners how he lost his own son. That

Rahni Effendis testimony, according to the Carnegie Report, was confirmed by Abdul Kerim

mans son was apparently held hostage by someone called Toma, the chief of the Bulgarian bands,
83 84

Note: For further testimonies see Appendix 2.3.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 278 (Appendix 2.3: Appendix A, No.1). 55

who demanded ransom from Kerim Aga. Toma demanded a hundred pounds; according to the same son. He told Toma that he had not the money ready, but would try to sell a shop if the Bulgarians would wait until evening. Toma refused to wait and his son was shot. 85

report, he [Kerim Aga] had previously paid on two different occasions 50 and []170 to save this

in Greece), they learnt from the refugees that the Bulgarian bands arrived in Yedna-Kuk, a village

As the Carnegie commissioners visited the Muslim refugee camp outside Thessalonica (now

near Strumnitsa, before the regular army. Thereafter, they ordered the whole male population to

selected [e]ighteen of the wealthier villagers, tied them up, and took them to Bossilovo, where they were killed and buried. The commissioners recorded that the villagers could recall the names of nine of the murdered people. 86

assemble in the mosque, had them shut in and robbed of all money (about 300 in total). Then they

Kukush and its vicinity (now in Macedonia). The account reads:

superior of the mission at Kukush, given to a Le Temps correspondent about the gruesome events in A Bulgarian band led by Donchev shut all the men of the place in the mosque, and gathered the women round it, in order to oblige them to witness the spectacle. The comitadjis [comitas, chetniks] then threw three bombs' at the mosque but it was not blown up; they then set fire to it, and all who were shut up in it, to the number of about 700 men, were burnt alive. Those who attempted to flee were shot down by comitadjis posted round the mosque, and Pere Michel found human heads, arms, and legs lying about half burned in the streets. At Planitsa, Donchev's band first drove all the men to the mosque and burnt them alive; it then gathered the women and burnt them in their turn in the public square. At Rayonovo a number of men and women were massacred; the Bulgarians filled a well with their corpses. At Kukush the Moslems were massacred by the Bulgarian population of the town and their mosque destroyed. All the Turkish soldiers who fled without arms and arrived in groups from [The]Salonica were massacred. 87 It was not simply Muslims and occasional foreign observers who testified before the

The Carnegie Commission further registered the report of the Catholic priest Gustave Michel,

commissioners about the atrocities against Muslims during the Balkan Wars. Christian Bulgarians, frequently mortified by what was happening, provided their accounts as well. Vassil Smilev, a
85 86 87

Bulgarian Christian teacher at Uskub, for example, stated before the Carnegie inquirers that upon
Ibid., 278-79 (Appendix 2.3: Appendix A, No.2). Ibid., 279 (Appendix 2.3: Appendix A, No.4).

Ibid., 279-280 (Appendix 2.3: Appendix A, No.6). 56

entering the village, the Serbian army attempted to persuade all the Bulgarian teachers to join the

bands which they were forming in order to pursue the Turkish bands. After going with the band for

twenty or thirty days, however, Smilev left because it was continually engaged in burning, torturing the Bulgarian school of the Tchair quarter of the town. They were killed in the open and their bodies thrown into a well near the brickworks. He was able to name four of the murdered persons. Smilev also testified that it was the Serbian chief of police, Lazar Ilyts, who had been responsible for the

and killing. Thus, he witnessed the slaughter of eighteen Turks [Muslims] who had been collected in

massacre in Uskub and for the pillage of the village Butel. The Bulgarian teacher recounted how near and kissed a young girl among them. Her father killed him on the spot. Thereupon the Ser[b]ian band massacred the whole body of fugitives, men and women, to the number of sixty. After witnessing this massacre, which he subsequently reported to the Russian consulate, Vassil Smilev refused to the other Bulgarian teachers. 88 Butel they met a number of Albanian villagers fleeing from the bands. A Ser[b]ian major unveiled

have anything further to do with the Ser[b]ian bands. He was expelled afterwards from Uskub with That the massacre of Muslims by Bulgarian (as well as Serbian and Greek) troops and

irregulars during the Balkan Wars and pokrastvane occurred is beyond any doubt. But the question why insurgent Christian bands targeted their Muslim neighbors so fanatically is important and not easy to answer. Part of the reason may be attributed to the fact that thirty-five years earlier, in 1876-

1878 (as mentioned in Appendix 2.2), the Bulgarian Christian population rose against the Ottomans in a wave of organized revolts for independence. When the uprising was quashed, however, scores of civilian Christians, including in the Rhodopes, were killed. Many civilian Muslims, among them Pomaks, partook in the violence against Christian rebels ostensibly in defense of the mother

country. Consequently, even as Bulgaria committed equal (and often worse) atrocities against

Muslims, the official historiography proceeded to interpret these events as proof of Bulgarian-

Christian heroism and virtue and of Islamic-Turkish cruelty and barbarism. 89 Undoubtedly, assigning
88 89

See Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria (New York: Routledge, 1997). Conclusions to the same effect may be gleaned from the following works, among others: 57

Ibid., 282 (Appendix 2.3: Appendix A, No. 11).

a collective guilt to all Muslims, the insurgent bands felt justified in punishing them not only for the to use a Bulgarian customary expression as well.

brutal Ottoman suppression of the Bulgarian rebellion, but for the five centuries of Turkish yoke 2.3. Humanity and Survival along the Way The massacre narrative of the pokrastvane, however, would not be complete without the

other half of the story: namely, the testimony to human decency and compassion, not only to cruelty and murder. My informant Mehmed Shehov recounted a celebrated local story about a Bulgarian Kavala (now in northern Greece). He came just in time to stop the bands and perhaps save from officer, Ivan Tikvarev, who was stationed some distance down south from Valkossel, in Seress and certain devastation the remaining Pomak villages in the area (Western Rhodopes). This happened for a reason. Ivan Tikvarev was the husband (or son?) of a Christian woman by the name Maria. When the Bulgarians rebelled against the Ottomans in 1876, the Muslims retaliated by killing a large number of Christians from Batak (see Figure 2-1, p.38) and the surrounding villages. Likely as a

result of these events, three girls Maria, Elena, and an unnamed third were orphaned and living in the woods around Batak. As it happened, a party of Pomak men was passing through the area and stumbled across the children. Eventually, these people took the orphans under their wing. The Barutev family from Ablanitsa adopted Maria, a family from Dryanovo took Elena, and the third

orphan went to a family from Ossina. 90 What happened with the other two girls, Mehmed Shehov

could not tell me, but when Maria became of marriageable age, her foster parents decided it was best to try to reunite her with surviving kin in Batak. Maria was a Christian and the Barutevs believed she

should marry a man of her own faith. One day, her foster-father told Maria: Listen, you are old enough to marry now. I think it is time for you to go back to Batak; to your own people. Do you

Nikolay Haytov, Smolyan: Tri vurha v srednorodopskata istoria /Smolyan: Three Pinnacles in the History of the Middle Rhodopes/ (Sofia: Izdatelstvo na Nacionalnia Suvet na Otechesvenia Front /National Council of the Fatherland Front Publisher/, 1962) and Rodopski Vlastelini /Rhodopean Lords/ (Sofia: Fatherland Front Pbl., 1976); Petar Marinov, Salih Aga, Rodopski voyvoda i deribey: Cherti iz jivota i upravlenieto mu Dramatizatsia po ustni predaniq i legendi v pet deystvia /Salih Aga, Rhodopean Lord and Governor: Features of His Life and Governorship Dramatization Based on Oral History and Legends in Five Acts/ (Collection Rodina, 1940); Salih Bozov, V imeto na imeto / In the Name of the Name/ (Sofia: Fondatsia Liberalna Integratsia, 2005); Ibrahim Imam and Senem Konedareva. Ablanitsa prez vekovete /Ablanitsa through the Centuries/ (Ablanitsa, 2008).

Three nearby villages.


and Maria, herself, onto another, and successfully escorted her back to Batak. In time she (either) my informant Mehmed. Maria told her husband (or son) the story of how she had grown up in

remember where you lived? I do, she said. Then her foster-father loaded her dowry onto a mule,

married a man by the name Ivan Tikvarev (or that was her son). He was a military man, according to Ablanitsa and got a promise from him: If you should happen to pass through Ablanitsa, I have some very dear people there, the Barutevs. Be good to them as they had been to me. When Bulgaria took scores of civilians and torching village after Muslim villages. 91 these lands from Turkey in 1912, bands of Christian chetniks plagued the (Western) Rhodopes killing In Mehmed Shehovs account, Tikvarev was the officer who ordered the withdrawal [from

Valkossel, Ablanitsa, Satovcha and the other neighboring villages] of the baibozuk [civilian militias]. and Valkossel were burning and the population was being murdered, he jumped on his horse, and rode, and rode ... The horse dropped dead with fatigue somewhere near Hadjidimovo [formerly, He was stationed somewhere in what is now northern Greece. And when he heard that Zhizhevo

Singartiya], but he found another one and continued to gallop. Finally, Tikvarev arrived in Ablanitsa. Fully armed, he walked in the mosque, and asked: Who is Ismen Barutev? When people pointed at Ismen, the latter was frightened to death thinking that this Bulgarian, armed to the teeth, was looking for him to no good end. Ultimately, Tikvarev tipped off the population about the approaching bands, so they were able to evacuate the village and avoid the killing for the time being. 92 Ibrahim Imam and Senem Konedareva, however, paint a very different far less heroic

picture of Ivan Tikvarev. While the general storyline remains the same, essential elements of it

diverge significantly from Mehmeds narrative. The two authors account appears to offer a more accurate representation of Tikvarev and the events surrounding him for two reasons. First, the source of Imam and Konedarevas knowledge is more closely based on the eyewitness testimony of immediate descendants than that of Mehmed Shehov. Moreover, as Ablanitsa natives, the authors must have had the opportunity to do a more thorough research of the story by talking to more people
91 92

Mehmed Shehov, interview. Ibid.


over a period of time. In any event, they provide the following narrative of how Mustafa Barutev

found the young girl Maria (apparently called Fatme while in Ablanitsa) and how Tikvarev came to be associated with Ablanitsa, and the Western Rhodopes, during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1914: The person we would like to tell you about is Mustafa Mehmedali Barut[ev] and the story happened in the immediate aftermath of the Batak events [the Batak massacre, above][.] [A]s we explained earlier, Batak stood at a crossroad of a major international trade and transportation artery that connected the plains of the Danube River with the Aegean coastal region, as well as the valley of Thrace and the city of Plovdiv[.] Mustafa Barut[ev] was a youth of about 19-20 years of age at the time. [He] was returning home [to Ablanitsa], through Batak, from Tatarpazardjik [Tatar Pazarcik], where he attended the medresse [madrassa] and studied the Quran to become hodja [hoca.] [T]o stay out of harms way in those tumultuous times, he decided to bypass Batak 93 and skirt through the woods around it[.] [I]n the forest, he stumbled across a little girl of 4-5 years of age who seemed scared, alone and crying, with no adult to be seen around. Mustafa assumed [correctly] that the girl must be from Batak, but he could neither venture into the [Christian] village to look for her parents, nor leave her alone in the forest at the mercy of predatory animals[.] [I]nstead, he decided to take her with him. Thus, Mustafa brought the girl home to Ablanitsa, much to his young wifes delight at the sight of this living gift. The Barut[ev] family [re]named her Fatme and raised her as their own. When she reached young adulthood, Mustafa told Fatme how he had found her and let her

decide whether to remain in Ablanitsa or search for her roots in Batak. She said she wished to find

Batak was a Christian village standing on the main artery that connected the Rhodope Mountains with Plovdiv, a large provincial center. According to Pomak oral history, many Muslims who would pass through the village on their way to the Pomak heartland during the 1870s (and possibly earlier) often disappeared without a trace. These were mostly students attending schools of higher learning in Plovdiv and Tatarpazardjik (now Pazardjik) who traveled regularly alone or in small groups, on foot or horseback through Batak on the way to their native villages in the Western Rhodopes or back. Ahmed Aga of Barutin the person whom Bulgarias history ascribes atrocious acts of massacre in Batak had two sons who studied in Plovdiv. One day, they embarked on a trip to Barutin (Western Rhodopes) from Plovdiv, through Batak, and were never seen again. When his sons failed to return home, Ahmed Aga began an investigation into their disappearance. Eventually, he heard the story of someone who had recently traveled through Batak with a party of two men. What he learnt, according to local lore, was the following: Three young men from Barutin (or the broader area) traveled on foot through Batak, where they decided to stop for the night and continue on the following morning. Some local Christians offered to rent them a room. They agreed and received an accommodation with no windows or other outlets to the outside, except the door. After leading them into the room, the landlords immediately locked the door behind them. The Pomak men soon realized that they had walked into a trap. Believing to be in mortal danger, they started tearing a hole in one of the walls by loosening the mortar and chipping away rocks. Luckily, it was an outside wall to the house. Soon, the opening was wide enough to try to get through it. By the time the first youth squeezed out, the landlords apparently Bulgarian revolutionaries had returned for them. Ultimately, the two young men still inside were murdered, but the third one escaped. He later reported the case to Ahmed Aga, the chief Ottoman official in the region. Thus, Ahmed Aga concluded that his two sons were probably murdered in the same way. When no one in Batak answered his call for information about them, he laid siege on the mutinous village, taking many lives as a result. Moreover, as the local administrator (Aga), he was under orders to quell the 1876 Christian rebellion in the area, especially strong in Batak. Unfortunately, Ahmed Aga mixed duty and personal vendetta in dealing with Batak. Because Batak was a village of a few hundred at the time, the victims could not have been more than that even if everybody was killed in the village, which was not the case. Nonetheless, later Bulgarian historiography inflated the number of killed to thousands, a historically unsustainable count. Moreover, it demonized Ahmed Aga, hence all Muslims, while transforming the Batak massacre into the ultimate symbol of Bulgarian martyrdom and Turkish barbarity. The scores of Muslims who died during and following the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878, on the other hand, were never mentioned. (Mehmed Shehov, interview; Mehmed Myuhtar, interview by author, Valkossel, Bulgaria, June 2007.) 60

her family, but all she remembered from her former life was one name Tikvarev. Respecting

Fatmes wishes, Mustafa Barutev determined to locate her kin. The next morning, he loaded her

belongings onto a mule, and they set off for Batak. Upon arriving, Mustafa inquired about the name

Tikvarev. After a confirmation that such a family indeed existed, he was directed to a house. When an elderly woman answered his call, Mustafa found out that the same family had lost a little girl fifteen years prior, whom they thought long dead. He was happy to tell the woman that he had found the

little girl in the woods, and not knowing what else to do he had taken her with him. With tears of gratitude in her eyes, the woman quickly spread the news to neighbors and relatives. Subsequently, the family invited Mustafa Barutev into their home, where he safely spent the night. In those tense

times of religious antagonism (late nineteenth century), however, the family had to guard the house next morning, they speedily escorted Mustafa out of Batak. The two families the Barutevs of

through the night to prevent hostile Christian neighbors from harming their Muslim guest. Early the Ablanitsa and the Tikvarevs of Batak kept close friendship ties for many years afterwards. 94

plundering the Western Rhodopean villages and decimating their population, a third band headed by Ivan Tikvarev set out for the Pomak villages to the south, from Batak. Driven by bitter vengefulness since the 1876 Batak massacre, 95 according to Imam and Konedareva, Tikvarevs band destroyed the small Muslim village of Yenimale, just above Batak, before moving toward Dospat, Zmeitsa, Lyubcha,
Imam and Konedareva, 34-35.

Decades later, in early 1913, when the bands of Munyo Voyvoda and Mihail Markov were

94 95

According to the official version of the events, hundreds or thousands of Bulgarian Christians were massacred by Muslims during a wave of rebellion in 1876 known as the April Uprising in and around Batak, including children, women, and men. The main responsibility for the massacre is laid on Ahmed Aga of Barutin, a local Ottoman administrator and supposed leader of the baibozuk (Muslim civilian bands) that largely carried out the murders (details in a footnote above). Today, the skeletal remains of the victims are prominently displayed in the church of Batak, where they reportedly met their end. In the years after Bulgarias independence of 1878 what came to be known as the Batak massacre transpired as the quintessential symbol of Muslim savagery and Bulgarian heroism. There is one serious problem, however. It is not yet clear how many exactly died and whether or not all skeletal remains preserved in the church belong to actual victims. In 2006, the Austrian academic Ulf Brunnbauer and his Bulgarian colleague Martina Baleva made an effort to initiate a public discourse in Bulgaria about the Batak massacre. Their attempt to re-evaluate the scope of this tragedy by stating that it was not as significant at the time of occurrence as it was later portrayed exploded in such a nationalistic frenzy in the Bulgarian public space that the scholars were forced to terminate their project. Moreover, patriotic organizations and media accused them of being paid agents of some external enemy seeking to re-write Bulgarian history. Baleva, an Orthodox Bulgarian, was declared a national traitor. The affair also resulted in the resignations of museum curators and Cultural Ministrys officials who initially collaborated with Brunnbauer and Balevas work. 61

and Brashten. Ravaging these villages, they unleashed a veritable hell in Barutin (Ahmed Agas

Valkossel), where they lined the captured Muslims along a stone wall and offered them to be

the whole village ablaze. After similar fate befell Kochan, the chetniks besieged Zhizhevo (east of

former stronghold, footnote above) looting everything, killing indiscriminately and ultimately setting

Christianized. As the villagers refused to convert, the chetniks demanded gold or whatever valuables they might have in exchange for their lives. When people gave them all the gold they could find, Tikvarevs comitas executed all the men. An eyewitness, Ressim Zhizhevski, who was a small child at the time, reminisced how they spared no one but old women and children and that they torched the village at the end. This account, according to Imam and Konedareva, was further confirmed by an elderly woman from Zhizhevo affectionately known in Ablanitsa as Nene [Grandmother] Zhizhka who witnessed these events as a child and later married into the Mollov family of Ablanitsa. From Zhizhevo, Tikvarevs chetniks passed through Valkossel, partially destroying it before withdrawing they surrounded Ablanitsa. 96

hastily. On February 14, 1913, just two days after Munyo Voyvodas band had despoiled the village, Hereafter, Imam and Konedareva revive the story of Mustafa Barutev, his foster daughter As it turned out, the leader of the band, Ivan Tikvarev, was that girls (Fatmes) son, and when his chetniks came south to cleanse the area of Turks, Pomaks, and fezzes, she had him promise not to harm the Baltachitsa neighborhood of Ablanitsa, where she had grown up in the Barutevs household. Consequently, although most of the population had already fled Ablanitsa after seeing Valkossel in flames, Tikvarevs band did not ravage the village in the usual chetniks fashion. He had instructed his chetniks not to touch any place where his white horse would be stabled. Thus, during the last and final raid on Ablanitsa by the [Christian] bands, Baltachitsa was spared because of the white horse of Tikvarev stabled in the courtyard of the Barutevs house. The rest of Ablanitsa, however, was scoured for valuables by the chetniks, and after finding nothing and no one, save for a few elderly women and children, they torched several houses in the center of the village, including the home of Mehmed Djinaliyata [italics added]. 97

Fatme (Maria), and Tikvarev:

but a chetniks leader who like many others engaged in looting Pomak villages, forcing people into conversion and killing many others in the chaos of the Balkan Wars of 1912-1914. Tikvarev,
Imam and Konedareva, 48-49. Ibid., 49-50. 62

Thus, according to Imam and Konedarevas sources, Tikvarev was not an army officer at all,

96 97

however, spared Mustafa Barutevs descendants from harm on account of his mothers wishes. The his singular act of clemency by choosing to remember him as a hero rather than a villain.

disparity in oral historys accounts about him only demonstrates peoples profound appreciation of While narratives of heroism might largely be the product of faulty or exaggerated memory

today, acts of common human decency were certainly not. The stories of Christians who risked much to help their Muslim friends and neighbors during the dark days of early 1913 abound. When the chetniks of Munyo Voyvoda rounded up the men of Ablanitsa and brought them to Singartiya

(Western Rhodopes) in ropes, the very Christian inhabitants of the village did not venture out of their homes for fear of the bands lawlessness. But not all of them cowered. Imam and Konedareva recount how, upon hearing rumors that Munyo Voyvoda had slaughtered Pomak prisoners somewhere around the mill in the outskirts of Singartiya, the wealthy Christian Tasso Chorbadji went out of his

way to investigate the matter. When he arrived at the mill, he stumbled upon the bloody bodies of the two survivors who had crept out of the sewage and onto the road hoping to be rescued. One of the Subsequently, he took both men to his home and nursed them back to health. As Mehmed had wounded, Tasso Chorbadji recognized his long-time friend from Ablanitsa, Mehmed Havalyov.

sustained more severe injuries, Tasso Chorbadji kept him hidden for nearly a month before sending following day. Later in the Balkan Wars, when Greek forces briefly occupied the valley of Nevrokop (now Gotse Delchev, map above), they killed the notorious Munyo Voyvoda. 98 Another survivor of the Ablanitsa massacres of 1913 was Ibrahim Yusseinov Hassanov,

him back home. The second wounded man, Mehmed Kambin, was smuggled back to Ablanitsa on the

nicknamed Kabadaiyata. The story of his survival, retold by Imam and Konedareva, is a remarkable testimony to the human will to live and resourcefulness. Having survived Munyo Voyvodas raid, Kabadaiyata was weary of Markov and his band, so he did not go out to greet them as most people

did. Moreover, he had already noticed that Markov was positioning his comitas at all entry points to the village. But, Kabadaiyata, a young man at the time, was determined to escape with his life again. Putting a plan to action, he draped a veil over his face, slipped on a fereje, and, chasing after a few

Ibid., 42-47. 63

attention to the drab Muslim shepherdess, apparently on a business of watering her herd. As the girl river. By the time the comita reacted, the supposed shepherdess now racing full speed downhill her. Reluctant to abandon his position in pursuit of a harmless girl, the chetnik let her escape. The By then the bands had withdrawn and his life was saved. 99

sheep, he hurried toward the streams of Studeneka. The chetnik, on guard at Studeneka, paid little

reached the shallow brook, however, she suddenly darted right past it and made a run for the nearby had put a considerable distance between them. Before long, the thicket of the river bank swallowed Kabadayata eventually found shelter in a cavern overlooking the river, where he hid for three days. 2.4. The Pokrastvane of Muslim prisoners of war (POWs) As the bands brutality yielded few results for the pokrastvane effort, the Bulgarian military

and church authorities sought other ways to Christianize the Pomaks. One efficient way of inducing

bloodless conversion was the compulsory baptism of Pomak POWs. During the Balkan Wars, Turkey the Bulgarian army took Muslim prisoners of war by the thousands. The Slavic-speaking Muslims

conscripted most able-bodied Pomak men. But in consequence of the countrys defeat in May of 1913, were immediately separated from their Turkish-speaking comrades, and transported to camps deep inside Bulgaria so they could be converted to Orthodox Christianity and given Bulgarian names. The conversion not only of the POWs, but also their families. When younger Pomak men were drafted in the Ottoman army, many left behind vulnerable wives, children, young siblings and elderly parents. their loved ones. At the same time, the POWs families were told that solely on their conversion In captivity, the Bulgarian military gave these soldiers the choice to accept Christianity or never see depended the life and speedy release of their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. Thus pressured, whole households accepted Christian baptism in exchange for their family members. Before setting indicating the mens new Christian names and religion. 100

capture of Pomak soldiers proved very useful to the pokrastvane, because it allowed for the

Pomak captives free, however, the Bulgarian authorities properly supplied them with identity papers


Ibid., 47-48.

Inferred from the totality of records published in Georgiev and Trifonovs volume. 64

by the hundreds. The Bulgarian government and ecclesiastical authorities insisted on the submission of formal petitions to make the conversions appear voluntary. Below is an example of an individual petition, filed by the POW Eyub Syuliev, and addressed to Archbishop Maxim of Plovdiv of January 25, 1913: Through the Commanding Officer of Second Division of Thrace To His Holiness The Archbishop of Plovdiv

To obtain release, Muslim POWs petitioned the Bulgarian Orthodox Church for conversion

Your Holiness,

PETITION From Eyub Mustafov Syuliev [a POW]

The Town of Pazardjik 25 Jan. 1913

Bearing in mind that only the Gospel can uplift the human spirit and lead it to progress and culture, I obediently beg permission to join the [Bulgarian] Orthodox Church and, by so doing, to set an example for other Muslims to follow. Petitions of such nature were frequently signed by hundreds and even thousands of Muslim With Reverence, Eyub Syuliev 101

prisoners of war. As with the en mass baptism of villages, the collective conversion of Pomak captives individual ones. The highly partisan language of these petitions, however, strongly suggests that they

saved time, effort, and resources. As a result, group petitions among the available records outnumber were neither voluntary nor authored by the POWs themselves. In all likelihood, patriotic officers,

priests, or civilians prepared those in advance and presented them for signatures to the POWs. To be Panagyurishte, Sapundjiev, sent the following telegram to Archbishop Maxim on 30 January 1913, thereby arranging the conversion of hundreds of prisoners:

sure, military staff itself initiated the conversion of Pomak captives. For example, the commandant of

There are 550 prisoners of war in the town [Panagyurishte] and its vicinity. They wish to voluntarily pass into the midst of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, to which their forefathers belonged but were torn from in consequence of the Turkish barbarism. ... Hereby I ask Your Holiness to announce their baptism [emphasis added]. 102

101 National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67 k, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 123, page 32. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 58.) 102

National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 123, page 10. (Ibid., 85-86.) 65

records. In a telegram to the mayor of Kaloffer, Archbishop Maxim instructed, The valley of

how often they used voluntary, the coercive nature of the pokrastvane is plainly visible in the

No matter how carefully the state and church authorities phrased their communiqus, or

Chepelare has been Christianized; the valley of Rupcha - half-way. The Pomak prisoners of war in

Kuklen, Perushtitsa, Brestovo, Bratsigovo, Panagyurishte, and Golyamo Konare, exceeding 1,000 in number, have accepted the faith. It is now time that you, the citizens of Kaloffer, fulfill your sacred

citizens of Kaloffer was nothing short of command to convert the Muslim prisoners in town by any the broader context of pokrastvane. In yet another telegram, Maxim triumphantly announced that and set free to return to their families. 104

duty to faith and fatherland. 103 The sacred duty that Maxim conferred on the government and

means necessary. Although Maxims language is intentionally elusive, the meaning is apparent within another group of [a]round 1,000 prisoners of war within the Plovdiv Diocese have been converted Formal conversion to Christianity not only shielded Muslim prisoners from torture, but in

most cases it was the key to their release and safe return home. Converts were not only treated

differently, but also provided with basic clothing and food. The report of priest Pavel Dimitrov to who had converted or petitioned for conversion. Upon arriving in Pazardjik under convoy,

Archbishop Maxim from February 14, 1913, describes the special attitude towards prisoners of war they are accommodated in a hotel specifically appropriated for that purpose, given bread, and those who need shoes as well. The [pokrastvane] committee provides the new converts with the necessary food rations and, under the protection of the military authorities, they are sent home to their families. 105

a measure of last resort. On January 15, 1913, for instance, one pokrastvane mission informed

But Pomak prisoners and their families only accepted conversion out of desperation, and as

Archbishop Maxim that the populations of Nastan, Breze, Beden, and Dvlen were only inclined to
Telegram of Maxim, Archbishop of Plovdiv, to the mayor of the town of Kaloffer from 3 February 1913. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 123, page 57. (Ibid., 110.) National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 124, pages 137-38. (Ibid., 142.) 66

103 104 105

Telegram of Maxim, Archbishop of Plovdiv, to Yossiff, Bishop of Dardere, from 3 February 1913. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 123, page 62. (Ibid., 111.)

convert if their sons, husbands, fathers, and grandsons would be release from captivity[.] [W]ithout the prisoners release, the missioners pointed to Maxim, their families are reluctant to accept Christianity. Thus, they implore[d] [His] Holiness

to order the release of all prisoners from the district of Dvlen ; [and] to speed up the supply of material aid in the form of food and clothing, for these are the greatest incentives for conversion among this devastated population. 106

2.5. The Tide Is Turning The official Bulgarian position on the forced Christianization of the Slavic-speaking Muslims

was one of complete denial or insistence that the whole affair was voluntary. Indeed, the language of available primary records tends to be euphemistic and defensive, carefully avoiding admissions of wrongdoings, and suspiciously overstating the voluntary nature of the conversion. Bulgarias

government, for one, was not interested in attracting foreign criticism, when a new peace treaty and act of pokrastvane secret, however, news of the violence committed against the Muslims began to Committee addressed the then Bulgarian Prime Minister, Ivan Geshov, on May 1, 1913, in the following manner (originally in English):

another territorial redistribution in the Balkans were about to happen. Despite all efforts to keep the leak out by the spring of 1913 and to raise international concerns. Thus, the London-based Balkan

resistance of Pomaks, lodging complaints of brutality against them to both foreign embassies and

The leaking of rumours about the conversion was due in large part to the growing

We feel it our duty to direct your attention to certain rumours that are being spread in this country as to forcible conversion of Moslem inhabitants in the districts conquered by the Allied armies rumours which, we have reason to know, tend to alienate sympathy from the Balkan cause and peoples, and render more difficult the task of those who, like us, are anxious to assist in healing the grievous wounds which this terrible war has inflicted upon the country. We beg you, Sir, to believe that our sole motive in drawing your attention to this matter is solicitude for the future welfare and happiness of your nation, and we would be glad to receive from you assurances that would enable us to contradict and refute the charges to which we have alluded [emphasis added]. 107

internal government institutions. From Protocol no. 11 of the Holy Synod 108 it emerges that by mid106 107 108

National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 125, pages 22-23. (Ibid., 35.) The Bulgarian Orthodox Churchs highest authority.

Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 586, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 1014, Page 1. (Ibid., 278.) 67

February 1913, the frightened Muslims had begun to recuperate and to fight back. In particular, the pokrastvane missions in Seress and Nevrokop were reporting to the ecclesiastical authorities that Pomak villages in Nevrokop have returned to the Muslim faith, and that instructors were going first three months of 1913, Pomak resistance intensified. Indeed, in the same Protocol no.11, the among the Pomaks to instigate them to rebel. 109 As the conversion violence escalated during the

Bulgarian Orthodox Church expressed fear that the holy mission might fail due to two reasons: (1) of the Muslims. 110 For the first time since the beginning of the pokrastvane, the church went on the

the bitter winter that hampered the missionaries ability to move about; and (2) the growing defiance defensive by denying all allegations of violence and by continuing to insist that the conversion of the Pomaks was voluntary. As the number of complaints grew, however, it became increasingly difficult to dismiss them as rumours. Consequently, Bulgarias political and military regime began to distance itself from the religious authorities. Henceforth, fending for themselves, church officials in gaining converts. 111 proceeded to blame the noxious rumours on Protestant jealousy of the Orthodox Churchs success Meanwhile the Muslim protests against the pokrastvane continued. In a telegram to the Today, the English Consul handed me a memorandum, turning my attention to some alleged abuse against Muslims, and hoping that we would take all measures to stop it and punish the culprits. In response, I said that a month earlier I had talked to General Savov [deputycommander in chief of the Bulgarian army] about the situation and he had authorized an investigation of these crimes and punishment for the perpetrators. 112

Bulgarian Legation in London of January 7, 1913, Prime Minister Geshov complained:

Protocol no.11 of the Holy Synod from the session of 12 February 1913. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 791, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 24, pages 114-121. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 137-40.)
109 110 111

112 Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 568, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 757, page 1. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 28.)

Ibid. Western Protestant missions were also active in the conversion of Muslims in the Balkans, so there was a kind of competition for converts between them and the Eastern Orthodoxy, dominating most Christian nations on the Peninsula.



from January 18, 1913, which clearly points to the states complicity in the pokrastvane. Apparently, been lodging complaints of abuses and forced Christianization not only to foreign consuls, but to the Ministry itself and even King Ferdinand of Bulgaria. His Majestys Chief of Staff informed the King, a quotation goes, that the same delegation [which had complained to the Ministry of Pomaks. 114

Further, a protocol of the Holy Synod refers to a letter of the Ministry of Denominations 113

the letter in question was intended to alert the church officials to the fact that Pomak delegations had

Denominations] appeared in the royal palace to complain of abuses during the Christianization of the As evident from the communication of St. Kostov, secretary of the Holy Synod, to Stoyu

Shishkov, the Muslims were taking action against the pokrastvane as early as December 1912. In the Maxim had been aware of some Pomaks from the Peshtera district complaining of torture and letter, Kostov notified Shishkov, a participant in the conversion missions (above), that Archbishop

mufti himself, these Pomaks even brought their case before the Police Commandant in Plovdiv. The Commandant [, however,] issued them with warning to produce factual evidence before complaining of torture or else they would be prosecuted for slander. 115

forced conversion to the Turkish mufti (the regional Muslim religious leader). Then, joined by the

February 4, 1913, the population of three Rhodopean villages addressed the chairman of the Bulgarian Parliament in the following letter:

Nor did threat and intimidation discourage the Muslims. Voicing their collective protest, on

Mr. Dr. Danev, We are Bulgarian Mohammedans from the villages of Dryanovo, Er-Kpria, and Bogutevo, Stanimaka District[.] [T]he terror, violence, and sword over our heads to become Christians has reached its highest point[.]. [W]e truly believe that our sacred Constitution permits not that we be humiliated and beaten in order to abandon our religion. We are born in it, and we want to remain in it. If you could only bear witness to the sobs and suffering of us, the defenseless, you would know that the conversions are not voluntary, but produced by violence[.] To this speaks the fact known to the whole world that if we wanted to convert,

113 114 115

See Protocol 2 of the Holy Synod from its session on 19 January 1913. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 791, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 24, pages 11-14. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 62.)

The state organ in charge of religious affairs.

The letters is dated 31 December 1912. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 568, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 800, page 16. (Ibid., 21.) 69

02/04/1913 Reverentially, The citizens of Er-Kpria, Dryanovo, and Bogutevo [The letter is anonymous.] 117

we would have done so 35 years ago when Russia came, 116 not now, when we should enjoy freedom in the embrace of Great Bulgaria. We place our faith in you[;] in your ability to put an end to our suffering, so that we, and our whole nation, may see that the hopes we had vested in You, upon electing You to that Titanic office, to work for Bulgarias greatness, have not been betrayed.

instance, the teacher in the village of Oreshets, Mr. Kodjabashov, apparently loathing the whole

Effective Pomak protest was often enabled by sympathetic Christian Bulgarians. For

conversion affair, encouraged the people of Er-Kpr to resist the conversion. Moreover, he admitted a Pomak deputation from Er-Kpr to his home and advised them how to file a complaint. This information was transmitted to the Holy Synod by Archbishop Maxim, who warned this supreme Mohammedans not to accept baptism, advise them how to complain from abuse, submit protest notes, and even write those for them. In conclusion, Maxim asked of the Holy Synod to take the church and the fatherland. 118 body of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church that other teachers and clerks are telling the Bulgarian-

measures against individuals who thus thwarted the holy mission and went against the interests of By the spring of 1913, the Pomak community had been actively engaged in systematic acts of

defiance, both individually and collectively. Entire villages, for instance, refused to attend church or from the realization that, scared by the growing publicity, the Bulgarian government was

further submit to Orthodox Christian baptisms, burials, and weddings. Much of this courage stemmed withdrawing its support for the pokrastvane. Thus, the church stood fending for itself. Also, by the fall 1913, Bulgaria had already been losing the Second Balkan War. With defeat came demoralization, as well as waning of the national zeal to Christianize the Pomaks. The religious missions and their

116 Referring to the Russian-Turkish War of 1876-1878 as a result of which Bulgaria gained its independence. The Russian imperial troops invaded the Ottoman Empire and fought most of the war within modern-day Bulgaria.

117 Protest-letter from the population of Er-Kpr, Dryanovo, and Bogutevo to the Chairperson of the Parliament from 4 February 1913. National Library-Bulgarian Historical Archives. Fond 15, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 1832, page 22. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 113.) 118

Letter of Archbishop Maxim of Plovdiv to the Holy Synod from 5 February 1913. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 123, page 117. (Ibid., 289.) 70

the military, their efforts soon failed. By September 1913, the missionaries were transmitting the village of Dorkovo, included the following news in his report to Maxim:

civilian aides carried out the pokrastvane for a while longer, but without the intimidating presence of

discouraging news to Archbishop Maxim and the Holy Synod. Priest Nikola Stamenov, a missionary in During the last three weeks 15, 22, 29 September everyone, men as well as women, refuse to come to church. On Sundays the men plow their fields and the women do their laundry, while you can rarely see a man plowing or a woman washing any other day. Since September 25 [1913] there is commotion among them; 5-6 new Christians from other villages come here every day under the pretext of visiting relatives, but they gather together for counsel; they put a deliberate person on watch for when I approach; in my presence, they switch to talking about other, insignificant matters. The coffee shops are full of people these days and stay open through the night[.] Ive tried to tell them many times to close the shops and go home, but they dont listen to me[.] I informed the police about all that already. There are seven (7) newborns due for baptizing[.] Ive warned the parents four times already to bring them [to the church] for baptizing, but they refuse[.] I reported it to the municipal authorities, but no cooperation from there so far. Everyone is selling goats, sheep, cattle, houses, whatever property they have, saying theyll be leaving soon for Asia [Turkey], where theyve purchased land already. They dont let me call them by their new names. Boys 15-16 years of age wear fezzes again, telling me theyve worn out their hats already. Women started covering their face a hundred times harder than they did in Ottoman times. 119

there is great excitement among the new converts[.] [T]heir insubordination is growing, too[.]

From Er-Kpr, priest B. Hristov reported nearly the same story, For two weeks already

[T]hey respect nothing related to the church anymore; and no one listens to my counsel. ... Already, will be restored. 120 Such tales of frustration for the missionaries and of emerging hope for the

some of them are openly saying, We are Turks [Muslims], and well remain Turks, because our rights

Muslims were abounding by the fall of 1913. In a report of October 1st, Atanass Zlatkov, priest in

Banya-Chepino, related to Archbishop Maxim that [o]ne of the old Christians, Miko Akev, had said to the new convert Miladin Tumbev, Good evening, Miladine! to which the latter remarked, Dont call me Miladin! I have a name. The same priest also reported how he asked the convert Assen Trenov,

Why arent you coming to church? He said he didnt have any money to light a candle in the church. I

119 120

The report is dated 30 September 1913. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 117, pages 69-70. (Ibid., 415.) Report of B. Hristov, priest in Er-Kpr, to Archbishop Maxim from 14 October 1913. National ArchivesPlovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 117, pages 83-84. (Ibid., 419-20.) 71

told him that if he had money for cigarettes, he should have for candles, too. ... [T]o this he replied he was an European and he does not need to go to church. 121 Archbishop Maxim on December 24, 1913: Another missionary, Toma Belchev, serving in the Pomak village of Chepelare, wrote to

I saw this person from Gzdnitsa wearing fezz: Where are you from?, I asked. From Gzdnitsa. Whats your name? Hassan. Arent you baptized? Yes, you baptized me, but with baptizing alone, you cant take my faith away. You must know that once youve been baptized, you cant wear the fezz anymore? That time is over. It used to be dark, but now its light again, he said to me. 122

the conversion went unpunished. Moreover, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church took steps to reward the For example, in Protocol no. 44 of the Holy Synod from October 24, 1913, one reads:

free to restore their Muslim faith and identity. However, the excesses and killing that accompanied

Indeed, by the end of 1913 the pokrastvane was a dead affair and the Pomak Muslims were

leaders of insurgent bands who carried some of the bloodiest pogroms against the Pomak population. [During this session, the Holy Synod] dealt with the matter of rewarding Tane Nikolov and his comrades for their contribution to our mission of converting the Pomaks from the Gmrcina district. ... Wherever he acted on this holy mission with his 22 comrades, Tane Nikolov had shown great diligence, loyalty, tact, wisdom, and unquestionable selflessness from the moment of his arrival in Gmrcina. Tane Nikolov and his group had been dispatched [there] by the district government, and [had acted] with the consent of the Chief Army Quarters, to assist the church missions [in converting the Pomaks] ... For this, the Holy Synod will plead with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Religious Denominations to award Tane Nikolov and his comrades the amount of 20,000 leva for their selfless- and very valuable to the State, Nation, and Church contribution. ... 123

campaign after having lost the support of the army and state authorities. Accordingly, the sessions

In the course of the same session, the Holy Synod formally aborted the pokrastvane

protocol reads: It has been decided that the missions for conversion of the Pomaks are henceforth
121 122

National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 117, pages 74-78. (Ibid., 416-17.) Ibid., pages 207-8. (Ibid., 456.)

123 Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 791, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 24, pages 579, 581-82, 587-88, 598. (Ibid., 421-22.)


next forced Christianization of Pomak Muslims would not take place until three decades later. 3. War and Pokrastvane No More

revoked and relieved of their duties until further notice when our work could resume ... 124 And the

taking away Macedonia from the south, Turkey was recapturing Thrace from the southeast. That

As early as July 1913, Bulgaria was losing the Second Balkan War. While Greek troops were

fell and King Ferdinand appointed a new cabinet headed by Vassil Radoslavov as Prime Minister.

same month, the coalition government of Stoyan Danev, which carried out part of the pokrastvane,

Bulgarias conclusive defeat in the Second Balkan War forced the Radoslavov government to accept

the terms of the Bucharest Peace Treaty (August 10, 1913), followed by the Treaty of Constantinople a month and a half later. The Treaty of Constantinople allowed Bulgaria to retain control over most of the Rhodope Mountains (the rest remained in Greece), a territory densely populated by Pomaks. However, Bulgaria was also bound to honour a number of provisions related to the protection of Muslim rights and freedoms. Article 7 of the treaty established that all Muslim (and other) persons living on former Ottoman territories, presently annexed to Bulgaria, were to become full-fledged Bulgarian citizens. Those wishing to retain their Ottoman citizenship, however, could immigrate to

Turkey within next four years with all their movable property. Article 8 of the treaty guaranteed to

all Muslims living in Bulgaria the right to equality before the law, freedom of conscience, and freedom to profess and practice their religion. It further mandated that Bulgaria recognized and respected the right of Muslim parishes to own property, as well as to maintain and regulate their own hierarchical structure. Articles 9 and 10 of the Treaty of Constantinople additionally decreed that all rights and

privileges including property rights acquired by persons and/or entities, established under valid Ottoman laws, were to be retained and respected likewise. A separate provision, binding to Bulgaria and Turkey alike, guaranteed that Christian and Muslim burial grounds would be respected. Article


Ibid. 73

16 established the right to free movement of nationals of both countries within the territory of the other. 125 Following the Balkan Wars, Bulgaria embarked on a process of restoring its relationship

with Turkey and improving the treatment of its Muslim minorities. The Cabinet of Vassil Radoslavov played a pivotal role in the post-war healing. On October 16, 1913, for example, the government published a deliberate Manifesto to the Population from the Newly Liberated Territories,

proclaiming its commitment to respect the rights and freedoms of the Bulgarian citizens from the governments reversal of the conversion by voting en mass for Radoslavovs Liberal party, effectively Conclusion The brutal pokrastvane of 1912-1913 was a move towards territorial, political, and cultural new territories. 126 Consequently, the Rhodopean Pomaks expressed their appreciation for the

aiding his re-election on February 23, 1914.

consolidation of the Bulgarian state and nation. Bulgarian authorities, supported by the church,

hoped for a quick and efficient national unification through conversion of a significant segment of the population a step deemed necessary to thwart potential territorial claims by Turkey. Dictated by of coercive assimilation inspired the dominant ethno-religious group to accept and execute the pokrastvane. The spirit and letter of Bulgarian nationalism was one of a nascent nation-state. The national ideals, fashioned by the ruling elites and the intelligentsia and fed to the masses, the politics

sovereign national state. Harboring no respect for individual freedom or cultural difference, the new with one of undisputed domination over all other communities within the claimed territories. The

previously subjugated population, which lacked traditions of self-government, sought to build a

nations goal was to substitute the formerly subjugated status of the prevalent ethno-religious group strategy was to enforce cohesion through coercion rather than through integration of dichotomous
Fatme Myuhtar, The Human Rights of the Muslims in Bulgaria in Law and Politics since 1878, Report of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Sofia: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, November 2003), 16-17.
125 126

Manifesto to the Population from the Newly-Liberated Territories, Official Gazette no. 329 of October 1913. 74

groups; and the more closely affiliated these groups were with the former oppressor, the more likely target of coercion they became. The language typical of Bulgarias nationalism echoes from the letter of a group of patriotic

Rhodopes to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, to Prime Minister Ivan Geshov, and to the Minister of Internal Affairs Al. Lyutskanov, of December 1, 1912: The Bulgarian soldiery fulfilled the trust laid upon them by the King and the People ... The victorious Bulgarian troops gave freedom to our subjugated brothers beyond Rila and the Rhodope [Mountains]. Bulgaria is great, whole and strong. But with this comes big responsibility: in future united Bulgaria, we will have many foreign peoples and faiths. And foreign faiths bring about foreign ideals. ... One people, one society will be easier to rule and better off because unity of creed would enable that society to prevail. Even philanthropists dream of a mankind guided by the same moral principles by one ideal. And what loftier, brighter ideal could mankind have than Christianity? We led a war not of conquest, but of freedom; a war of the Cross the creator of all culture and civilization. This is why, one of our goals must be to spread Christianity among all our future subjects. To enlighten and educate these citizens, we must inculcate Christianity in their minds. ... Only Christianity will elevate his [the Pomak] mind and soften his heart. Only by embracing Christianity, will he be equal to us in the shared love for our country. 127

activists from Pazardzhik who would eventually carry out the conversion of Pomaks in the central

Thus, all typical characteristics of the Romantic nationalism of coercion are identifiable in this

excerpt: Bulgaria moved to affirm sovereignty and control over the new territories by coercing the sought sovereignty as means to change their previous status of a subjugated people. For the ruling forced assimilation.

local Pomak population into religious conversion. The nation-states prevalent majority desperately

elites, the fastest and most efficient way to enforce territorial and cultural sovereignty was through The Pomaks were an obvious target for assimilation from the start because they shared

language with the nations dominant ethno-religious group. Their Islamic religion, however, posed Therefore, Islam constituted a religio-cultural identity against which the new Bulgarian nation

two problems to Bulgarias ruling elite: First, Islam was the faith of the former Ottoman oppressor. sought to define itself by glorifying its Christian heritage and denigrating that of the oppressor.
Letter of a group of patriotic activists from Pazardzhik to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, to Prime Minister Ivan Geshov and to the Minister of Internal Affairs Al. Lyutskanov of 1 December 1912. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 568, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 404, pages 1-3. (Georgiev and Trifonov, eds., 15.)


Thus, according to the formula of the coercive nationalism, the Pomaks could not be Muslim and

Ottoman. They had to be Orthodox Christians and Bulgarians. The 1912-1913 act of pokrastvane Bulgarian nation as might have democratic respect for their difference.

against them applied that formula. The resulting violence, however, failed to win the Pomaks for the This first comprehensive conversion had a lasting impact on Pomak identity and cultural

regimes to embark on brutal assimilations of their own of the Rhodopean Muslims (and Muslims in of the Pomaks was shaken to its core by the label descendants of forcibly converted Bulgarian value of Bulgarian nationalism in respect to the Pomaks and their proper place within the (Christian) nation-state of Bulgaria. ***

heritage. The effect was twofold: First, the pokrastvane set a precedent for subsequent Bulgarian

general). Second, for the first time, the relatively stable until then sense of Ottoman-Muslim identity Christians, imposed on the community by force. Henceforth, this ideology would become the core

to Christianity took place before the communist takeover of 1944 in Bulgaria. While unsuccessful in terms of lasting impact, however, these further pokrastvanes kept alive the spirit of coercive nationalism and the sense of alienation among the Pomaks. When the communist regime

Following the pokrastvane of 1912-1913, a series of patchy attempts to convert the Pomaks

permanently supplanted the Bulgarian monarchy in the mid-1940s, the new atheistic leadership

immediately denounced the latest Christianization of 1938-1944 as fascist and promptly aborted it, much to the Pomak peoples relief. Yet, this gesture of communist magnanimity was solely a political necessity which, once fulfilled, would unleash the most enduring assimilation venture yet the

revival process with lasting implications for Pomak heritage. The next two chapters discuss the persecution, Pomak resistance, and dissenters exile. nature and long-term consequences of the communist name changing, including policy, political


time, it targeted the Turkish-speaking Muslims, too. Because the Turkish revival process of 1984the following two chapters deal exclusively with the Pomak revival process, limiting the Turkss

The revival process was the last forced assimilation of Pomaks in Bulgaria, and, for the first

1985 was much larger in scale, it ultimately obscured the Pomak name changing of 1972-1974. The

assimilation to contextual reference only. Nevertheless, it is my hope that the revivalist campaign

against the Turkish Muslims at least receives an adequate introduction in the next two narratives.

While the nature and methods of both assimilations are identical, there is one significant difference. The first campaign targeted a relatively small and ethnically ambiguous community in comparison against a highly defined and substantially larger minority culture within Bulgaria, with strongly the Pomak Muslims, who share linguistic ties with Bulgarias majority. The second one was directed developed ethnic self-identity the Turkish Muslims. Whereas Chapter III is preoccupied with the

revival process as totalitarian policy, political persecution, and Pomak resistance on a scale of revivalist, political prisoner, and Pomak exile to Turkey.

collective experience, Chapter IV focuses of the life and struggle of Ramadan Runtov, a vocal anti-


CHAPTER III REVIVAL PROCESS: THE FORCED RENAMING OF THE POMAK MUSLIMS IN COMMUNIST BULGARIA (1944-1989) Introduction With the formal renaming of the Turkish minority in 1984-1985, the communist regime in

Bulgaria finally realized its revivalist ideals, conceived as early as the 1956 April Plenum of the communist party. The essential purpose of the revival process was to create a single, culturally

uniform nation under the perpetual leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP). As Ali

Eminova Bulgaria-born scholar of ethnic Turkish descenteffectively sums it, the communist

objective was trifold. First, to claim all Muslims in the country as the descendants of Bulgarians who had been forced to convert to Islam during the Ottoman period. Second, to build their case on the reclaim it by voluntarily and spontaneously replacing their Muslim names with conventional nation-state. 1 premise that, over time, these descendants had become aware of their true identity and sought to Bulgarian ones. Third, to altogether deny the existence of any culturally different group within the Unlike with the Bulgarian-speaking Muslims (Pomaks), however, the communist authorities

were especially apprehensive and justifiably so about reviving the Turkish-speaking minority. the largest (Muslim) sub-group within the nation-state. 2 However, using Turkish rather than

Undoubtedly, it was imperative for them to assimilate the ethnic Turks because the latter constituted

Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, (New York: Routledge, 1997), vii. Ali Eminov is Emeritus Professor at Wayne State College in Nebraska.
1 2

Bulgarian language as their mother tongue clearly set them apart from the national majority. So,
The Turkish minority constitutes about twenty percent of the total population, or as many as 800,000 people (footnote below). 78

this distinctiveness alone was going to make it extremely difficult for the regime to stake a claim to

the Turkss Bulgarianness. Moreover, the authorities feared that the sheer magnitude of an eventual assimilation undertaking against the Turkish-speaking Bulgarian citizens would be liable to attract countrys population, or nearly 800,000 people. 3 Additionally, the communist leaders were unwanted international attention. After all, as a group, they constituted as much as 20 percent of the concerned that Turkey, the mother country, might react aggressively to acts of violence against the enormous and potentially fatal political backlash. Consequently, the leadership would postpone the The regime, however, harbored no such qualms in regard to assimilating the BulgarianTurks in Bulgaria. Ultimately, the regime feared that a large-scale revival process could generate

revival of the ethnic Turks until the mid-1980s; a full decade after the Pomak renaming took place. 4 speaking Muslims. Beginning with sporadic pressure in the 1950s and 1960s, the government

international notice. From that point onward, they would begin to consider a move against the ethnic police, and guns against unarmed civilian population the regime proceeded to rename the TurkishTurks without the initial apprehension. Thus, eleven years later in full villains style with troops,

formally and comprehensively revived the Pomaks in the period 1972-1974 with surprisingly little

speaking citizens of Bulgaria. The assimilation happened in much the same fashion as against the Pomak Muslims, but on a considerably larger scale and against a minority group that had not

previously been targeted in such a way. As the violence escalated, however, Turkey raised the alarm and created an international uproar. Even as international pressure mounted, though, the regime remained stupendously defiant until the year it crumbled in, 1989.

period in Bulgaria (1944-1989). In particular, I provide an overview of the last significant


This chapter explores the impact of the revival process on Pomak life during the communist

According to Bulgarias population censuses from 1992 and 2001, the total number of Muslims (based on religious belonging) was 1,110,295 (out of 8,887,317 total population) in 1992, and 966,978 (out of 7,928,901) in 2001. As the prevalent Muslim minority, the ethnic Turks numbered 800,052 and 746,664 persons in 1992 and 2001 respectively. Although there is no formal statistics for the Pomak Muslims, experts estimate the number at 200,000 people. Thus, while the Turks have comprised between 15 to 20 percent of the total Bulgarias population, the Pomaks have barely accounted for 3 to 5 percent. (See Fatme Myuhtar, The Human Rights of the Muslims in Bulgaria in Law and Politics since 1878, Report of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Sofia: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, November 2003), 3-4; National Statistics Institute, at: Refer to Central National Archives-Sofia documents used below. 79

Bulgarianization of Pomak culture using archival documents as well as first-hand witness accounts. The composite evidence suggests that the revival process was not a sudden and chaotic affair as popularly believed. Rather, it was a meticulously planned and coldly executed strategy that faltered at times upon encountering resistance, but never paused whatever the cost until coming to full fruition in 1985 with the renaming of the Turkish minority.

term revival process is generally associated with the communist campaign against the Turks, the ordeal of the Pomaks is no less significant. In fact, because the violence against them drew surprisingly little international attention in comparison to that against the Turks, studying the

process only discussing the ethnic-Turkish assimilation within the context of the former. Although the

This and the following chapter, as noted earlier, elaborate on the less-known Pomak revival

Pomak revival process seems even more compelling. The interviews I conducted with former victims moderately used in this chapter and extensively in the next 5 serve as powerful, direct testimony to what occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. This chapter has two prominent components,

descriptive and theoretical. Descriptively, I examine (1) the policy and ideology of the revival process, Theoretically, I interpret the revival process through what I term the anger-satisfaction continuum (2) the Pomak identity crisis it created; (3) and the political resurrection of Rodina it caused. 6

model premised on Ernest Gellners concept of nationalism as a shifting and deeply exploitable toward a societal sub-groupultimately determines what identity discourse becomes

national sentiment. My argument is that the national sentimenti.e. the cultural majoritys attitude (un)acceptable in the public domain. In conclusion, I synthesize the most relevant post-revivalism and post-communism developments germane to the present status of Pomak cultural heritage. Policy and Ideology of the Revival Process

5 6

For details, see the next chapter, where interviews are extensively used to tell the story of Ramadan Runtov, a Pomak dissenter.

Rodina was a nationalist organization initially persecuted as fascist and subsequently redubbed patriotic to serve as the regimes propaganda machine. 80

grueling pokrastvane of 1912-1913, 7 the Pomak hopes for a peaceful existence within their new

Pre-communist Bulgaria was a turbulent place for the Rhodopean Muslims. After the

country vanished completely. For a brief while, however, there were no forced conversions. In fact,

during the Agrarian government of Alexander Stamboliyski, the Muslims of Bulgaria, and particularly the Pomaks, came to enjoy a substantial freedom of religion and cultural expression. But this period was short-lived and ended with the overthrow of Stamboliyskis cabinet in June 1923. The situation became especially critical after 1934, when a military junta came to power. Toward the end of the organized and sweeping Christianization of 1912-1913, this one was sporadic, patchy, and more

1930s and until 1944, a new humiliating pokrastvane of the Pomaks was underway. Unlike the tightly propaganda-oriented. As a result, many Muslims were able to avoid the renaming altogether simply

by going into hiding or learning to quickly slip away every time pokrastvane operatives showed up in their villages. A number of Muslims also fled to Turkey to permanently evade the conversion. 8 After the communist takeover in Bulgaria of 1944-1945, the pokrastvane stopped. Moreover, within the first few years of the new regime, the political situation of the Pomaks improved significantly. In the first decade of their rule, the communist authorities were politically and culturally

accommodating to the Muslims. The Party, as the regime came to identify itself, needed all support it could get to consolidate its grip on power. The Pomaks, like most Muslims, were a relatively easy win. Any regime willing to be tolerant of them would have had their backing given the history of that crucial moment. They took care to expressly incorporate provisions for the freedom of

oppression under previous governments. Understandably, the communists seized the opportunity of conscience and religion in the new constitution, adopted by the National Assembly in 1947. It became known as the Dimitrov Constitution, named after the then supreme communist leader Georgi Dimitrov. 9 Ironically, while these constitutional guarantees were reaffirmed in the Law on Religious

Denominations of 1949, all religious schools until then the traditional form of schooling for all
7 8 9

See Chapter III. Eminov, 49. Ibid., 51-52. 81

Muslims were being shut down the very same year. Moreover, the second constitution adopted by the communists in 1971 at the zenith of the Pomak revival process restated the freedom-ofconscience-and-creed guarantees (Article 53). Article 35(2) of this constitution specifically stipulated

that no privileges or limitation of rights based on nationality, origin, creed, sex, education, social and material status is allowed. 10 Simultaneously, the Bulgarian Penal Code criminalized the instigation of hatred on religious grounds. 11 Constitutional guarantees and criminal liability notwithstanding, laws amounted to nothing once the regime had determined to pursue the revival process.

Party had stabilized its grip on power and could comfortably consider a reversal of minority policy, especially in regard to the Muslims. The emerging communist nationalism saw the large number of within what had to be the healthy, ethnically uniform body of the nation. To achieve a

As early as the mid-1950s, the communist politics in Bulgaria began to change. By then, The

people professing Islam (roughly a fifth of about seven million) in the country as a malignant growth homogenous and compliant nation, the regime put forward a suitable ideology, calculated to appeal to the patriotic sentiments of the ethnic majority. As the Bulgarian historian Vera Mutafchieva explains:

This sudden recasting of Muslims as the others also sprang out of a troublingfor the

the Bulgarians began to be brainwashed en mass with fresh arguments about the otherness of Turks and Pomaks. Compared to the internationalism [approach of relative freedom until then], a new conception developed: they were not only the others, they were moreover dangerous for our state because they strove to cut off a part of the national territory and to annex it to Turkey. 12

communiststendency among the Pomaks to identify as ethnic Turks, essentially synonymizing homogenize the nation by reviving all the countrys Muslims as ethnic Bulgarians. Muslim with Turkish. 13 This presented a serious obstacle to the regimes emerging ambitions to

10 11 12 13

Ibid., 52. Ibid. Mutafchieva in Eminov, 6. Eminov, 5-6.


via Muslim assimilation, during a plenum of the central committee (CC) of the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) in April 1956. The same year, the CC came up with a special directive to raise the political and cultural level of the Bulgarians with Mohammedan faith in order to fully develop their

Apparently, the government first entertained the idea of ethnic homogenization, specifically

sense of being inseparable from the Bulgarian nation and to actively engage them in the building of bolster and perpetuate their own rule of the country. The regime, however, did not immediately embark on the assimilation project. It was not until six years later on April 5, 1962 that the

communism. 14 It was the authorities plan to build a unitary and tightly controlled nation in order to

Politburo resolved to follow through with the cultural revolution, as they originally termed the revival process. They were to start with the Pomaksanother Pomak assimilation would not be anything newas well as with the smaller communities of Muslim Tatars and Gypsies who were also prone to cultivate a distasteful ethnic Turkish consciousness. They were to deal with the Turks later, when the time was right for the final and largest stage of the revival process.

following measures to that effect: First, it barred the local peoples councils from allowing Pomaks and Gypsies to move into villages with ethnic Turkish population so as to prevent their cultural forbid instruction in the Turkish language at schools where Pomak (Tatar or Gypsy) children integration. Second, it enabled the Ministry of Education and Culture and the local councils (a) to attended; (b) to refuse appointment of ethnic Turkish teachers to schools with predominantly Pomak (Tatar or Gypsy) students; and (c) to prevent Pomak (and Gypsy) children from sharing living quarters, within the full-board dormitories, with Turkish children. Third, it obligated the Bulgarian

allowed to develop a Turkish self-consciousness. Thus, the 1962 directive promulgated the

intended mostly for the Pomaks. As ethnic Bulgarians, the Pomaks above all others could not be

[Pomaks] Professing the Mohammedan Faith of 1962, seemingly with broader application, were

But the so-called Measures against the Self-Turkification of Gypsies, Tatars, and Bulgarians


Decision of Politburo of the Bulgarian Communist Party to Improve the Work on Cultivating National and Patriotic Awareness among the Bulgarians with Mohammedan Faith of 1973. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 446, page 1. 83

Academy of Science to organize expeditions of historians, ethnographers, [and] philologists 15 to the Rhodopes, traditionally inhabited by Muslims, in search of evidence for the Pomaks Bulgarian study the historical past of the Pomaks. 16 ancestry. Fourth, it created a special entity, an Institute at the Academy of Science, instructed to To ensure the success of the revival enterprise, the authorities indeed relied on academics to

scientifically establish the pure Bulgarian pedigree, initially, of the Pomaks and, later, of the Turks. As Eminov points out, most of those summoned to the task, readily obliged and found the required evidence everywhere they looked. Thus, in the course of the 1960s and 1970s, the communist scholarship effectively proved the Bulgarian origins of the Pomaks by expanding partial truth[s] into sweeping generalizations and by producing volumes of pseudo-scientific literature. Thus, able to rewrite history. 17 with a simple decision of the Party, a select body of compliant and self-gratifying scientists was With the past effectively falsified, the pressure began on Pomak men and women (a) to rid

themselves of the traditional attire in favor of more modern dress style, (b) to substitute their

religious customs. In the course of implementing the cultural revolution in the Rhodopes in the

traditional Turkish-Arab names with Bulgarian-Orthodox ones, and (c) to abandon any and all

early 1960s, many of the local communist apparatchiks (bureaucrats), supported by law enforcement and Christian civilians, engaged in premeditated acts of cruelty and debasement of the population. Subsequently, on many occasions the population resisted and clashed with the authorities. To downplay the rising resistance, the communist regime came up with its third directive about the revival process on May 12, 1964. While acknowledging the violence against civilian Muslims, this directive was more concerned with portraying it as a necessary reaction to thuggish behavior. 18

15 16 17 18

Eminov, 105. Ibid., 105-6. Ibid., 9-10.

This is in accordance with summary information, included in the Politburos Decision to step up with the assimilation of 1973, quoted below. 84

July 17, 1970. This document marked an important shift in the implementation of the revival process. fourth directive no longer sought to conceal the renaming, but to speed it up and transform it into a nationwide campaign. Once in the open with the revival process by the 1970, the regime expressed self-Turkifization among the Bulgarians with Mohammedan faith to become worse. 19 In the impatience with its progress, describing it as slacking lately and causing the negative processes of communist vocabulary, this meant stepping up with the violence. Thus, by the early 1970s, and From a low-key undertaking by then, the assimilation effort was to become openly aggressive. This

The communist leaderships last formal resolution on the Pomak assimilation came out on

especially [a]fter the approval of the 1971 Constitution, the creation of a nation-state with a single

Bulgarian socialist nation officially entered the regimes terminology in live speeches, in the printing press and electronic media. 21 From the start, the underlying rationale for the revival process was of the following nature:

of the Bulgarian Communist Party and once the Pomaks were formally renamed the term unified

language and homogenous culture became an explicit government policy. 20 After the 1974 Plenum

The Muslims Pomaks and Turks within the nation were the culturally opposite other, because they were intimately associated with Bulgarias historical enemy Turkey, the political successor of the former Ottoman oppressor. As such, they presented a danger to the integrity and stability of the

Bulgarian nation. Therefore, they had to understand that they could not express an identity Muslim were not to be allowed to join forces with the Turks. They were not Turks and they were not to be Pomaks were. 22

or Muslim-Turkish that went against the Bulgarian(-Christian) values. The Pomaks, in particular,

allowed to become Turks. They were to be assimilated, no matter what. And forced to assimilate the

20 21 22

Decision of Politburo of the Bulgarian Communist Party to Improve the Work on Cultivating National and Patriotic Awareness among the Bulgarians with Mohammedan Faith of 1973. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 446, page 3. Eminov, 7. Ibid., 8.

Ramadan Runtov, interview by author, Istanbul, Turkey, May 21, 2007. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 85

a national rebirth, initiated with the renaming of the Pomaks and successfully completed with the revival of the ethnic Turks. Recognizing historic[al] truth, he elaborated, a large number of the

In a lengthy speech of 1985, Politburo member Milko Balev proudly called the revival process

descendants of forcibly Islamized Bulgarians reconstituted their Bulgarian names. [And by doing so, they] shed their fanaticism, freed themselves from the influence of conservatism and strengthened their patriotic consciousness. The high official made these statements before the 1985. Adding insult to injury, he declared the affair a striking expression of a new historical

ethnically mixed population of Haskovo, following the vicious conclusion of the Turkish renaming in awareness among the ethnic Turks whojust like the Pomaks a decade earlierhad suddenly

decided to take on Bulgarian names to acknowledge their true identity. As a finale, Balev clearly

nation, her border incorporates no foreign territory, and not a single part of the Bulgarian people belongs to any other people or nation. 23

articulated the fundamental purpose of the revival process: The Peoples Republic of Bulgaria is one

citizenry that the Party expected complete obedience from them, but also to manipulate the

The regime threw this sort of nationalist rhetoric in the public sphere not only to remind the

prevalent national sentiment. To achieve it, the majority population needed to believe the following: First, the assimilation was the will of the Bulgarian people, or at least carried out on behalf of the people that is, the ethno-cultural majority. Second, the targeted communities Pomaks and Turks

not only consented to the assimilation, but also spontaneously denounced their traditional cultural identity to enthusiastically embrace a new one. The reason for it was their sudden realization of clarified, the revival process was a good thing, because: (a) it brought economic development to the pure origins they shared with the Bulgarian nation. Third, in post-factum perspective, Balev

traditionally depressed areas (the Rhodopes was the case in point); (b) it opened a fanaticism-free the Turks). Finally, the revival process fostered the achievement of the foremost national objective. There was now a unitary, strong and indivisible nation-state for the Bulgarian people under the

environment for everyone; and (c) it helped instill patriotic consciousness within the Pomaks (and

Eminov, 13-14, (quoting original document). 86

shrewd leadership of the communist party. As hard as it is to imagine that the regime truly believed in its own absurd ideology of ethnic purity and untainted origins, they certainly had their minds set ethno-cultural majority. The very purpose of invoking nationalist ideology was precisely to manipulate the prevalent national sentiment as a form of political control. on imposing artificial homogeneity. To accomplish this feat, however, they needed the support of the

nation that had been previously dominated by discriminating Muslim rulers. Consequently, the

Manipulate it they did, especially by feeding unsightly propaganda to a largely Christian

previously conventional feelings of national dislike and suspicion toward anything Ottoman, Turkish, or Muslim escalated to hatred and xenophobia during the communist period (1944-1989). However, as the Ottoman Empire had been long gone, the communist propaganda concentrated on attacking the Islamic faith and culture instead as the unpalatable surviving heritage of the former oppressor.

And they did so in a particularly vicious way. Four points became the cornerstone of that ideological (Pomaks being the living testimony to that) by force for centuries. Second, Islam impeded the

assault. First, Islam was a backward, barbaric religion that had been imposed on the Bulgarian people ethno-cultural and scientific renaissance of the Bulgarian people in the five centuries of Ottoman yoke. Third, foreign reactionary forces (notably Turkey and the West) used Islam to slander the Bulgarian socialist state by promoting nationalism and religious fanaticism among its Muslim nation. 24

population. Fourth, Islam was altogether obstructive to the integration of Muslims into the Bulgarian In the spirit of this propaganda, a range of prominent Muslim rites were disparaged,

condemned, and prohibited under penalty of criminal prosecution. Accordingly, the regime outlawed Ramazan (the Muslim month of fasting) because it allegedly lowered ones immunity to disease. force employed largely in agriculture and, thus, lowered its productivity. Even the sacrificial circumcision as a barbaric and pagan rite, a handover from the stone age. Likewise, they forbade

Moreover, it was economically detrimental to the country as it physically weakened the Muslim labor slaughtering of lambs during Kurban Bayram (the Festival of Sacrifice) was banned for allegedly
Eminov, 53. 87


causing gastrointestinal disorders and for depriving the nation of much-needed foreign currency via the meat export. The conservative way in which Muslim women traditionally dressed was also problematic, because it symbolized their oppression by men. Finally, Muslim burial rites were what constituted a socialist burial:

altogether improper simply for being contrary to the socialist practice. Eminov aptly describes Party officials were sent to Muslim funerals to make sure that the proper socialist ritual was carried out and that prayers were said in Bulgarian only. Muslims were not allowed to bury their dead in their own cemeteries [the cemeteries had to be mixed]. Turks and other Muslims were sent letters ordering them to cover with cement the tombstones of their close relatives with any Turkish or Arabic inscriptions or any Islamic symbols on them. 25

overt symbols of the faith such as the cross or the presence of Orthodox priests. But because Marxism and Leninism promoted atheism, the Bulgarian communism had to oblige. Although prayers were traditionally associated it with the pokrastvane. 26 In addition, the conventional fezz-shaped permitted during burials, they were in Bulgarian--a practice particularly offensive to the Pomaks who tombstones (Appendix 3.1) were entirely banned. In particular, the regime prohibited the carving of

The socialist ritual, it turns out, was actually a Bulgarian-Christian one, minus the most

any and all Islamic symbols including inscriptions in the Arabic or Turkish languages or alphabets, the tombstones, instructing further that the existing such be cemented over or disposed of engravings of the crescent moon or six-ray star (better known as the Star of David), and others on

completely. Consequently, old Muslim cemeteries were changed beyond recognition or altogether

wiped out. (See photographs of broken tombstones from the old cemetery in Valkossel no longer village, Appendix 3.1).

existing which, in 2007, I found piled up in a forgotten corner of the current eastern cemetery of the Bringing about Crisis The revival process was a deeply bureaucratic and thorough affair indeed. After 1974, the

conventional Bulgarian-Christian names forced on the Pomaks had to appear on their passports,
25 26

birth certificates, property deeds, savings account papers, court certificates, and every other
Ibid., 60. See Chapter II. 88

conceivable document. Those lacking the proper documentation, indicating Bulgarian identity, could not access their salaries, pensions, and bank accounts. In addition, they could not apply for a change of residence or job. Failure to produce new papers during frequent check-ups resulted in job loss, fines, and imprisonment. In order to acquire these papers, however, people had to attend especially organized public ceremonies during which they were handed the new passports with much pomp and ostentation. According to Eminov, in the Rhodopean town of Rudozem, with largely Pomak

population, the person whose name has been restored would be asked to walk up to a ceremonial rostrum set up in the town square, where the applicant had to hand in his/her old passport and receive a new one. 27

but also their long-departed predecessors received new identities overnight. The revival affair,

Thus, with a simple change of papers, not only the living adults, children, and newborns

brandishing the banner of communist nationalism, imposed the sort of treatment that humiliated, anything else. The events in the village of Lutovo, entirely inhabited by Pomaks, are indicative of what generally took place during the revival process in most Pomak communities:

traumatized, and ultimately alienated the Pomak community from the Bulgarian nation more than

the house of worship, the focus of ceremonies associated with core events in the Pomak Muslim life

the Pomak villages. As Eminov points out, the mosque served several fundamental purposes. It was

The closing of mosques and the prohibition of worship was a traumatic experience across

The mosque was closed, residents were forced to adopt Christian names, and overnight the village originally called Lutovo was re-dubbed Sveta Petka, after the medieval patron saint of the Bulgarian nation. For almost two decades, circumcision was forbidden in Sveta Petka, as was the celebration of Muslim holidays. Soldiers and militiamen patrolled the streets to ensure that prohibitions were enforced, and in neighboring villages protesters were shot. Women were forbidden to wear their traditional dress of loose-fitting pantaloons under skirts or embroidered aprons; those refusing to abandon traditional attire were ejected from rural busses. Many chose to walk 10 or 20 kilometers [six to twelve miles] to and from work or school each day rather than compromise Muslim codes of modest dress. 28

birth, circumcision, marriage and death, and the place where the elders of the community gathered
27 28

Eminov, 107.

Steven Lewis, Muslims in Bulgaria, Aramco World 45 (1994): 26-27. 89

to discuss, counsel, and act on important community affairs. 29 Cutting the populace off from the source of their spiritual guidance, upon which they had historically depended, threw entire communities in turmoil. The revival process seemed like spiritual suicide to many Pomaks (and

Muslims in general), because it demanded the negation of the very sense of self and identity they

and subscribing to creeds that many perceived as belonging to the enemy. In addition, it

cherished. More specifically, it translated into accepting names for oneself and ones community

commanded the acceptance of clothing style which defiled basic precepts of Muslim modesty. Overall, Pomak life, including circumcision, religious holidays, as well as marriage-, birth-, and burial rites Not only was this communist revivalism a traumatic disruption of life as people knew it, but the revival process dictated the abandonment of age-old traditions constituting the very fabric of


also a factor that deepened the identity crisis among the community. Pomak insecurities over Who

we are? began with Bulgarias independence from Ottoman rule in 1878, when their relatively stable identity as Ottoman Muslims was shaken to its core upon very quickly becoming Bulgarian subjects. Orthodox Christianity was almost immediate. Whereas the pokrastvanes of 1912-1913 and 1938communist revival process proceeded to do the same on an atheist note, i.e. with emphasis of however, were the same. The systematic pressure on the community to assimilate not only 1944 attempted to shift their sense of identity from Ottoman-Muslim to Bulgarian-Christian, the Henceforth, the brutal push on the Pomaks to convert to the new dominant religion Eastern

ethnicity rather than religion. The essence and purpose of the pokrastvane and the revival process, destabilized Pomak identity over time, but it also created an enduring state of psychological

uncertainly as to who they were. As Tatjana Seypel effectively puts it, [the] [s]everal historic

interruptions have driven the Pomaks into a state of confusion in respect to their identity. The

question put to them: Who are you?, forces them to all kinds of reactions, to taking this and that

position, to optioning in this and that way, to either resistance or opportunism, depending on the


Eminov, 59. 90

assumed purpose of the question or the questioner. 30 When they are asked as to their identity,

Yulian Konstantinov, Gulbrand Alhaug, and Birgit Igla contend, Pomaks practically always tend to Gypsy or Jew elsewhere. 31

hesitate. Some people prefer to utter the word Pomak only in a subdued manner, just like the word Indeed, the matter of Pomaks own sense of identity has been a complex one. Generally

speaking, the question Who are you? directed at the Pomak community will receive a variety of

answers largely depending on who asks the question, on one side, and who responds to it, on the defiant answer of the sort: I am Muslim/Turkish! or I am Pomak! To a discernibly friendly

other. If a markedly nationalistic Christian Bulgarian inquires, he or she is most likely to receive a interviewer, the answer will likely be more analytical as the respondent will feel more at ease: The Bulgarians [Christians] believe us to be Bulgarians. We are Muslims by faith, but we speak the Bulgarian language. So we are Bulgarian citizens and Muslims. To a trust-inspiring insider I have been perceived as one the answer will be earnestly straightforward: Well, you know that we are or we have always been Muslims? 32 But one thing is certain: We are Pomaks. What might follow Pomaks! I dont know if we descend from Christians who converted to Islam, as the Bulgarians claim, afterwards would likely be some intimate musings over who the Pomaks truly are, contingent upon the respondents personal leanings (pro-Bulgarian, pro-Turkish, or neither). However, whereas this

scenario may apply to the majority of Pomaks who firmly establish themselves as Muslims, there is still a small segment of the community who has either converted to Orthodox Christianity through
30 31 32

Yulian Konstantinov, Gulbrand Alhaug and Birgit Igla, Names of the Bulgarian Pomaks, Nordlyd: Tromso University Working Papers and Language and Linguistics 17 (1991): 46. Also in Eminov, 108.

Tatjana Seyppel, The Pomaks of Northeastern Greece: an endangered Balkan population, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 10 (January 1989): 43. Also in Eminov, 108. Many amateur Pomak historians as well as some scholars, including Mehmed Dorsunski and Salih Bozov, argue largely on the basis of old Muslim tombstones inscribed in Arabic that the Pomak population of the Rhodopes had professed the Islamic faith prior to the Ottoman conquest in the Balkans during the late fourteenth century (which argument defies the official Bulgarian historiographys claim about the Pomak forced Islamization by the Ottoman Turks). Although claims of old Muslim tombstones have independently been made across the Rhodopes - most of them reportedly destroyed by the communist regime or hidden away for safekeeping - I have encountered no clear evidence of such to date. (See Mehmed Dorsunski, interview by author, Madan, Bulgaria, June15, 2007; Salih Bozov, V imeto na imeto /In the Name of the Name/ (Sofia: Liberal Integration Foundation, 2005), passim; Ibrahim Imam and Senem Konedareva, Ablanitsa prez vekovete /Ablanitsa through the Centuries/ (Ablanitsa, 2008), passim). 91

for the forcibly Islamized-Christians theory of Pomak origins, because it justifies their own Christian majority. Pomak converts to Christianity, for their part, would directly reject the

the years or altogether avoids any Muslim self-reference. This latter group may demonstrate affinity

conversion to Christianity and/or it commands an instant approval and acceptance by the national designation Pomak and fully identify as ethnic Bulgarians of the Orthodox Christian faith.

come up with a two-level identity structure predicated on religious and ethnic affiliation in an attempt to shed light on the Pomak complex sense of self: 33 TWO-LEVEL IDENTITY STRUCTURE AMONG MUSLIMS Pomak Turk Bulgarian

In the light of such ambiguity, Yulian Konstantinov, Gulbrand Alhaug and Birgit Igla have

First (Islamic) level Pomak = Muslim Second (ethnic) level

Pomak = not-pure Turk

Turk = Muslim Turk


Bulgarian = non-Muslim

Thus, according to Konstantinov, Alhaug, and Igla, the Pomaks have two major levels of identity

sense, Pomaks with firmly established Muslim identity could identify equally well as Pomaks or

notions Pomak and Turk equal Muslim, while Bulgarian means non-Muslim (i.e. Christian). In this

affiliation: religious-Muslim and ethnic-Turkish/Bulgarian. On the level of Muslim identification, the

Turks, but not as Bulgarians, because to identify as Bulgarians would mean identifying as Christians, too. The root-cause of this bitter sentiment can be traced directly back to the pokrastvane and the revival process, whereupon Eastern Orthodox Christianity, as well as Bulgarian Christian names and On the level of ethnic identification, according to the authors, Pomak connotes impure Turk,

traditions were forced upon the Muslim Pomaks while their own culture was violently suppressed.

while Turk and Bulgarian remain pure concepts. However, even when the name Pomak equals impure Turk, the ethnic self-identification Pomak remains more prevalent than the Bulgarian(-Christian)

Konstantinov, Alhaug and Igla, 27. Also in Eminov, 109. 92

one. In other words, more members of the Pomak community are likely to identify as Pomaks, even if the appellation connoted impurity, than as ethnic Bulgarians even if it guaranteed clean origins. Ultimately, Konstantinov, Alhaug, and Igla stipulate and rightly so that in a formal context, the

a sincere discussion of a more nuanced ethnic identity that is neither entirely pro-Turkish, nor entirely anti-Bulgarian. As the authors put it:

Pomaks insist on being Muslims i.e. identify on religious level while in an in-group setting, there is

In a formal, out-group context such as an official discussion of identity problems at a meeting , when reading and discussing what the papers write about the issue, or in conversation with Bulgarians [Christians] the religious level seems to be activated. Consequently Pomaks find it difficult to believe that they are Bulgarians since that will mean that they are non-Mohammedans [Muslims]. An ethnic interpretation of the identity issue is only possible therefore in an in-group context of discussion, but even then, it has to be borne in mind, a popular description such as impure Turk does not automatically lead to identifying with the Bulgarian majority. 34 In his book Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, Eminov seems to capture the

general state of the complex Pomak self-identification: In the Western Rhodopes, where Bulgarian where they are surrounded by ethnic Turks, they stress their identity as Bulgarians. 35 However,

Muslims live among Christian Bulgarians, they refer to themselves as Turks; in the Eastern Rhodopes, there is one extra nuance in the whole picture: one that lies between the pro-Turkish and proBulgarian affiliations the sense of being Pomak. As Konstantinov at al. say, [c]aught in [the]

traditional nationalistic conflict between Bulgarians and Turks, the Pomaks find it difficult to say who they are in any consistent terms beyond the label Pomak. 36 Lately, a growing number of

Rhodopean Muslims find it increasingly acceptableindeed, desirableto identify as Pomaks, i.e. Turkish identity. Being and feeling fully neither, the community has been gradually carving an identity of its own out of the crisis generated by the pokrastvane and the revival process. A Gellnerian Model of National Sentiment

Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, occupying the border-zone between the ethnic Bulgarian and the ethnic

34 35 36

Konstantinov, Alhaug and Igla, 46. Also in Eminov, 108-9. Lewis, 27. Konstantinov, Alhaug and Igla, 26. Also in Eminov, 109. 93

especially one deemed problematicone has to analyze the prevalent national sentiment towards

To understand how an identity niche may be carved out in any national(ist) bedrock

that identity or the people who claim it. It is the intensity of the national majoritys attitude toward a minority group or its heritage that ultimately defines that groups claim to a cultural identity within definitions of cultural identity to personal choice, but to create them as a matter of state policy, the public domain. In Bulgaria, it has become customary, as Ali Eminov suggests, not to leave

territory, and language. Consequently, it has enabled the belief that [b]ecause the territory is

definition of nationalism espoused in the country has tended to equate the concepts of nation, state,

historically played an important role in determining cultural identities in Bulgaria. The particular

contingent upon the changing notions of what constitutes the state. 37 Aggressive nationalism has

Bulgarian, the people who inhabit it are [italics added] Bulgarian. Because they are Bulgarians, they nationalism, aided by a predominantly negative national sentiment, was fully applied in reviving above all cultural minorities were expected to act and feel Bulgarian, i.e. in conformity with the the Pomak Muslims during the communism period. As Bulgarian-speaking people, the Pomaks must speak Bulgarian language and should be in a single nation-state. 38 This narrow definition of

cultural (ethno-religious) majority. In Bulgaria, as well as in the Balkans at large, the national failure to distinguish between what constitutes people and nation. Indeed, in the South-Slavic

sentiment has always engendered egoistic or chauvinistic nationalism, 39 precisely because of the languages of Bulgarian, Macedonians, Serbo-Croat and Slovene, the word narod means both people and nation. 40 These stipulations are very much in line with Ernest Gellners definition of nationalism. In

where [m]odern man is not loyal to a monarch or a land or faith, whatever he may say, but to a
37 38 39 40

his acclaimed work Nations and Nationalism, the author observes that ours is the age of nationalism,

Bette Denich, Unmaking Multi-Ethnicity in Yugoslavia: Metamorphosis Observed, The Antropology of East Europe Review 11 (1993): 45-47. Horace Lunt, On Macedonian Nationality, Slavic Review 45 (1986): 729. Eminov, 2. Denich, ibid. 94

which alone the members of the society can breathe and survive and produce. For a given society, it Culture then defines nationalism in such vital ways that it brings about the very nation-state as its own political roof 43 to thrive and endure. Consequently, as people increasingly develop a high culture, i.e. a culture they identify with as a defined group, the nation-state solidifies its position as by treating it as the only norm: the God-ordained law. Thus, nationalism has transpired as an the prevalent national sentiment.

become the necessary shared medium, the life-blood the minimal shared atmosphere, within

culture. 41 That is why culture matters immensely. In fact, it matters so much that culture has

must be one in which they can all breathe and speak and produce; so it must be the same culture. 42

the normative form of government worldwide. And because it is the norm, many carry it to extremes ideology, across nation-states including in (communist) Bulgaria, defined exclusively in terms of Gellner offers a masterful definition of nationalism and the national sentiment that resonate

fittingly with the nature of the revival process. He argues that nationalism is a theory of political legitimacy, which requires that ethnic boundaries should not cut across political ones, and, in the rest. 44 Put differently, nationalism is (1) a political principle calling for congruence or

particular, that ethnic boundaries within a given state should not separate the power-holders from overlapping of the political and national unit for any given nation-state. Furthermore, it is (2) a

sentiment or the feeling of anger aroused by the violation of the principle [of congruence], or the

feeling of satisfaction aroused by its fulfillment. 45 Nationalism as ideology thereby holds that the

political-territorial boundary of a nation-state should coincide with the ethnic-territorial boundary of the ruling national majority. In an ideal situation, the nation-state should be comprised of (1) a single ethno-cultural people; (2) all people belonging to the same ethno-cultural group should be included
Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 36. Ibid., 37-38. Ibid., 43-44. Ibid., 1. Ibid.

41 42 43 44 45

in the same nation-state; (3) no alien cultural groups should be allowed in the same nation-state; (4)


but if such minority groups already exist within the physical borders of the given nation-state, they the boundary-congruence principle, would be that any given nation-state is to be ruled by the

must be willing to assimilate in the dominant culture. The minimum requirement, in accordance with

culturally dominant majority and, under no circumstances, is it to be controlled or even

condition(s) is, thus, likely to violate what I shall refer to as Gellners congruence principle of nationalism, henceforth, causing the anger level of the national sentiment to escalate. As Gellner effectively sums it:

significantly influenced by a culturally diverging minority. Any outcome contrary to the above

of the national territory in a larger empire and, a second time, by the local domination of an alien

An outstandingly intolerable breech can occur two ways: once, through the incorporation

if the rulers of the political unit belong to a nation other than that of the majority of the ruled; this, for nationalists, constitutes a quite outstandingly intolerable breech of political propriety. 46

two scenarios where the national sentiment becomes anger and not satisfaction: Namely, to (1) the

group. 47 Thus, by implication, Gellner may effectively be limiting his definition of nationalism to only

or the Soviet Union. In former Yugoslavia, the more or less defined and culturally differing nations of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia were involuntarily brought together in a highly centralized federation under the communist leadership of Josip Broz

In the first scenario, examples of such involuntary imperial incorporation could be former Yugoslavia

incorporated-into-an-empire (federation) nation-state and (2) to the minority-governed nation-state.

Europe by the early 1990s, however, the artificial entity of Yugoslavia disintegrated. Whereas the was not so for Serbia. Naturally, these republics resented the complete political and cultural

Tito and under the ethnic-cultural domination of Serbia. Once communism was no more in Eastern

preference of autonomous government was self-evident for most of the former Yugoslav republics, it

hegemony of Serbia and wished to break away from it. Serbia, on the other hand, was accustomed to having control over territories and peoples that went beyond the traditional boundaries of its
46 47

Ibid. Ibid. 96

political and national unit. During the communist period, Serbia had perceived itself as Yugoslavia and viewed the extended territory and resources of the former federation as its own. The disintegration of the federal state and the assumption of control by Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and

Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro over their own respective territories was a blow to Serbias sense of entitlement. Serbias nationalistic sentiment, therefore, aroused out of the feeling of anger with the loss of congruence of what they perceived as their political and national unit namely, that of former Yugoslavia. Consequently, Serbia vented its anger into the devastating 1990s Yugoslav and people perceived as rightfully theirs. Ultimately, Serbia not only failed to regain its former wars fought mainly between Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina for what its leadership

dominant position, but also faced NATO bombardment and lasting loss of international prestige. The disintegration of the Soviet Union followed a somewhat similar pattern. But the sheer territorial and effectively secede with virtually no punitive consequence. At the same time, those in close region have not been able to achieve full sovereignty from Moscow to this day. enormity of the Soviet empire enabled most of the geographically remote former republics to quietly proximity to Russia, or with strategic significance to it such as Ukraine, Georgia, and the Caucasus In the second scenario, where Gellner speaks of anger as the dominant national sentiment, a

culturally, ethnically and/or religiously differing minority group effectively controls the nation-state. This is a particularly intolerable form of government for any national majority, as Gellner notes, and which minority groups have effectively ruled a country were South Africa under the Apartheid and Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Both regimes are now defunct, but they are both examples of extreme circumstances, where small racial and religious minorities respectively managed to successfully subjugate and control the prevalent majority groups, including by denying them equal rights (the (the Shia Muslims in Iraq). so it rarely survives beyond a limited period of time. Among the few cases of modern nation-states in

blacks in South Africa and the Shia Muslims in Iraq) and even by targeting them for extermination Neither of the above conditions, however, is a particularly frequent form of political and

emotion in the national sentiment prevails in the nation-state as I shall argue. If the nation-state has

cultural existence of a country nowadays. Yet, (a form of) the anger--rather than the satisfaction--

been the most replicated and successful form of government, as many authorities on nationalism

Considering Gellners argument that the existence of nationalism is contingent upon the existence of that the nation-state is even more deeply linked to nationalism. Moreover, the nation-state is the the state as an organized entity with specialized order-enforcing agencies 49 it is quite obvious

suggest, then it must be true that the nation-state is the dominant form of statehood worldwide. 48

chief determinant of how the national sentiment moves on the anger-satisfaction continuum (below). given nation-state is violated, it arouses the anger aspect of the national sentiment. If, on the other

According to Gellners definition of nationalism as a sentiment, if the principle of congruence within a hand, the principle of congruence is preserved at least in its minimum stipulation of a majority rule the satisfaction aspect is likely to dominate the national sentiment; at least in theory. However, as anger, especially in times of socio-economic and political upheaval, the concept of nationalism is Thus, individuals or groups of them thereof acting upon the sentiment of anger when the basic the ideology driving their actions as nationalism. satisfaction in the national sentiment is infinitely more difficult to attain as a lasting condition than more readily associated with negative emotions such as displeasure, anger, hatred, and violence.

national principle of majority rule over the nation-state is violated can be defined as nationalists and By building upon Gellners premise of nationalism as a sentiment defined by anger and/or

satisfaction depending on the failure and/or fulfillment of the congruence principle, I devise the

stable condition of the national sentiment, comfortably positioned between Gellners positive and

anger-satisfaction continuum concept (Figure 3-1 and 3-2) to help promote the idea of a third, more

negative emotional extremes. This is the condition of mildly (covertly) negative or politically correct

national sentiment in a democratic, relatively prosperous and stable nation-state of a Western type,

as we know it. I argue that the politically correct or mildly (covertly) negative attitude of the national enduring, condition in our modern nation-state society. In other words, a state of permanent,
48 49

majority toward one or more significant national minorities is possibly the most common and, hence,

See the introductory part of Chapter II for sources and theory of nationalism. Gellner, 4.


concealed, negative attitude of the dominant majority toward minorities (racial, religious, or ethnic) conditions. Generally, this form of--what I argue to be the--conventional national sentiment sits is always present in the democratic nation-state even under ideal socio-economic and political

closer to anger on the anger-satisfaction continuum, but may periodically turn into satisfaction, or empire, nor a minority-ruled entity. Rather, it reflects the likely most classical definition of the

escalate to violence under certain circumstances. In this model, the nation-state is neither a part of an

national state as a body of people, within a defined territory, who share a system of ideas and signs and associations and ways of behaving and communicating and recognize each other as belonging to the same nation. 50 Figure 3-1: National Sentiment Continuum (1) Prominent (influential) minority (2) Obscure (compliant) minority

Prominent (ruling) majority Anger Negative Covertly Negative 0 A. Prosperous economy: Conventional mode B. Economic crisis: Negative to aggressive mode



Positive-1? No; Aggressive-1? Likely. Positive-2? Likely; Indifferent-2? Yes.

Positive mode toward 1? No Positive mode toward 2? Very likely.

Figure 3-2: National Sentiment Continuum in regard to the Pomaks in Bulgaria

Prominent (dominant) majority

Obscure (compliant) minority

Anger Negative Covertly Negative 0

Negative mode when: Turks + Pomaks = Muslims Pomaks = Muslims Pomaks = Turks



Ibid., 7.

Positive mode when: Pomaks = ethnic Bulgarians Pomaks = non-Muslim Pomaks = non-Turks


aggression amidst the prevalent majority. Prominent in this case means at least three things: (1) culturally (ethnically and/or religiously) opposite to the dominant majority; (3) Prominent as

conspicuous) to the point where their position at least sporadically displeases, angers or provokes Prominent as influential due to the large membership of the minority group(s), (2) Prominent as

nation-state, but there is one or more cultural minorities alongside that are very prominent (or

The model above presupposes that the ethno-cultural majority is the ruling group within the

nation-state conceals its negative attitude toward a prominent minority out of political propriety in times of prosperity and may potentially express anger and/or violence in times of crisis. Through both prosperity and crisis, I argue, the majoritys negative, but concealed (politically correct) attitude toward a prominent group remains a constant. In the case of obscure or compliant minorities, on the prosperity respectively, especially when measured against the demands for cultural accommodation by prominent minorities. Figure 3-2 refers to the specific case of the Pomak Muslims of Bulgaria as a minority group within a nation-state of the conventional, Western type. The Pomaks, as a cultural minority, have generally been of the compliant type. In any event, other hand, the majoritys sentiment may be indifferent and even rise to satisfaction during crisis and

generalization of the national-sentiment condition where the ruling majority in any democratic

politically empowered due to both numerical size and cultural distinctiveness. Figure 3-1 presents a

they are not prominent in the above sense of the word. Rather, they are prominent by association. terms of religion and language) minority group in respect to the national majority, the Pomaks become prominent within the context of religious association with the former. As far as shared religion Islam furnishes grounds for affiliation between the Pomak and Turkish Muslims of

Whereas the ethnic Turks in Bulgaria are prominent both as an influential and culturally opposite (in

conjunction with the Turks. 51 However, on their own, the Pomaks 52 are neither large enough as a
51 52

other words, the Pomaks are only prominent or conspicuous on the anger-satisfaction continuum in

Bulgaria, the Pomaks are both culturally opposite and influential in respect to the national majority. In

The Turks comprise more than 15 percent of the total Bulgarias population, (Ibid., footnote 3). The Pomaks constitute only 3 to 5 percent of the total countrys population, (Ibid.). 100

group, nor sufficiently different as a cultural community from the national majority to qualify as a prominent minority. Thus, the anger-satisfaction continuum may register the following fluctuations of the

national sentiment in respect to the Pomaks: As pointed out above, the national sentiment is, by no minority. This attitude varies according to two types of identifiable circumstance: On one side, the

means, a fixed phenomenon. It can fluctuate widely when measured as an attitude toward a national social-economic and political conditions of the nation-state and, on the other, the cultural otherness

of the minority group in respect to the national majority. The influence of these circumstances on the national sentiment can be analyzed on their own or in combination with the other group. Within their own group, these factors may account for a strongly negative national sentiment, whereas in the assumption is that the most stable attitude measured on the anger-satisfaction continuum in

conjunction with the other group, they may intensify the formers negativity. In this model, however, respect to a prominent and culturally opposite minority under the most optimal of circumstances is always mildly negative, i.e. partial attitude curtailed by the rules of political propriety. This is so, because even under the best of socio-economic and political circumstances in a stable democratic

and/or religiously) opposite minorities for various accommodations. That is, those who dictate the social rules maintain a hegemony that resists changing them on behalf of a diverging minority culture. Thus, depending on social circumstances in the nation-state and on potential cultural

society, dominant cultural groups express irritation at the demands of culturally (racially, ethnically,

demands or lack of such by a cultural minority, the national sentiment may swing from

satisfaction, through toleration and irritation, to overt aggression. The more receptive a minority to the majority values, the greater the national sentiments leaning toward the satisfaction end of the

continuum. The less compliant and more demanding a minority is, the closer the national sentiment anger sentiment, often to the point of violence. In this sense, the more the Pomaks associate

gets to anger. Cultural discrepancy and economic and/or political upheaval would only intensify the themselves with the ethnic Turks, the more expressly negative the national sentiment toward them

national majority toward them. The more receptive of the majoritys claim they are of being ethnic

is. Likewise, the more they insist on their distinct Pomak identity, the greater the anger of the

Bulgarians, the more positive the national sentiment is toward the Pomaks. The less they emphasize sentiment is to the satisfaction axis. In other words, the more the Pomaks consent to the majoritys minority group--always and under all circumstances--accepts someone elses will over ones own, given the choice, the assumption is that no national sentiment is ever fully tipped toward the satisfaction axis or points to that end continuously. Moreover, it seems that even under the most

their Muslimness, the less conspicuous the Pomaks are as a minority group and the closer the national prescriptions of them, the deeper the satisfaction of the national sentiment becomes. However, as no

optimal of conditions, there are always areas of disagreement between the majority and minority community.

groups, which generally causes displeasure, if not outright anger, among the dominant ethno-cultural In any stable and relatively well-to-do democratic nation-state (inclusive of Bulgaria), there

is a dominant majority and a host of cultural minorities. The dominant group, more or less, has a sense of hegemony and entitlement over the national heritage. So they are often disinterested in

accommodating vernacular (minority) demands. When subcultures insist on the accommodation

they feel is rightfully owed to them, the national sentiment grows negative toward them (inclusive of the Pomaks). Accordingly, as a completely neutral attitude is virtually unattainable, my argument is that the most conventional mode of the national sentiment on the anger-satisfaction continuum is

mildly negative even under the best minoritys behavior. As the Pomaks are a traditionally compliant group, they are less targeted by anger and/or aggression as compared to the ethnic Turks. When driven into crisis by such policies as the revival process, however, the Rhodopean Muslims become

Ultimately, aggressive nationalistic policies such as the revival process engender attitudes ranging

Henceforth, the prominence of the anger axis of the anger-satisfaction continuum intensifies.

distinguishes them from the majority, essentially, in defiance to what unites them with the majority.

less accepting of the majoritys prescriptions of them and more determined to stand on what

from alienation to active resistance by the targeted group(s). Such resistance, albeit often justified,

only pushes the national sentiment closer to the anger axis of the continuum, because the majoritys dislike for the non-complying minority grows stronger. As culturally dominant majorities perceive entitlement to order the affairs of the nation-

measure presumed to strengthen the majoritys position of dominance. In this sense, the revival was of the communist regime. In fact, it was the civilian organization Rodina forcing majority values on the Pomaks that carried out both the 1938-1944 pokrastvane and the communist

state to the extent the national government acts on their behalf they would likely endorse any

process against the Bulgarian Muslims was no less the doing of the ethno-religious majority than it

regimes counted on manipulating the national sentiment in favor of their policies to justify the supportive of both the pokrastvane and revival process; at least to the extent to which people

cultural revolution (the early phase of the revival process). Both communist and pre-communist

Pomak assimilation. Evidently, they succeeded since the cultural majority was overwhelmingly accepted that the forced assimilation of Muslims served the national interest. 53

state is ruled with the approval of the dominant ethno-cultural majority; in other words, the violence stems from the fickle and exploitable nature of the national sentiment. Under no circumstances should the national majority be absolved of responsibility when minority groups are being politically and culturally repressed. Why? Because even the worst of regimes would not endure without the consequences for the ruling elites, because it was explained in terms of national security and patriotic responsibility, to which the majority acquiesced. After all, a successful national tacit endorsement of the dominant cultural group. In fact, the revival process took place without

Ultimately, the problem of coercion lies not in nationalism per se, but in the way a nation-

government from, for, and by the peoplewould have to cater, first and foremost, to the prevalent majority, and far less to the cultural minorities if it is to survive. To do otherwise would be to work towards its own undoing. No regime can prosper, much less a democratic one--as the model above presupposes--

which depends on the mandate of the people, without appealing to the sensibilities of the culturally

Read Chapter II about the pokrastvane; read the current chapter about the revival process. 103

minded people (at least in their majority) within the context of shared ethnic, linguistic and/or

dominant group. And the nation-state is a nation-state precisely because it is composed of like-

religious identity. Indeed, as a paraphrased (by Gellner) Emanuel Kant observes, partiality or the from which all others flows; and it infects [the] national sentiment as it does all else. 54 Each

tendency to make exceptions on ones own behalf or ones own case, is the central human weakness governments first order of business is to cater to the interests of the nation-state, and in a

democratic society of western type, these interests usually coincide with the majoritys ones. Otherwise, there is likely to be a brand new government after the next elections. This self-centered tendency of the nation-state is naturally amplified by the states acting as

the agency within society which possesses the monopoly of legitimate violence. 55 The idea behind this [definition], Gellner elaborates, is simple and seductive: in well-ordered societies, such as most of us live in or aspire to live in, private or sectional violence is illegitimate. Conflict as such is not illegitimate, but it cannot rightfully be resolved by private or sectional violence. Violence may be applied only by the central political authority, and those to whom it delegates this right. Among the various sanctions of the maintenance of order, the ultimate one force may be applied only by one special, clearly identified, and well organized, disciplined agency within society. That agency or group of agencies is the state. 56 In Gellners view, any democratic and relatively prosperous state, as we know it, legitimizes

the violence exerted by the central political authority, and those to whom it delegates this right, private or sectional violence as illegitimate and, hence, punishable by law. According to Gellner, The use of force and punishment is, thus, legitimate against illegal private or sectional violence. justifying it with the necessity to maintain public order. At the same time, the state deems any

when private or sectional violence in society occurs, it is quelled through force and punishment. Private and sectional violence, on the other hand, is illegitimate because its occurrence disrupts the to punish and preserve the social order. While in a democratic society, the agencies of state are
54 55 56

established social order. The state, hereby, emerges as the supreme authority within the nation-state

Gellner, 2. Gellner, 3.

Gellner referencing Max Weber, 3.


required by law to look after the interests of every member of society, the general tendency even then is that the prevalent majority has a greater say in making the rules applicable to all. Consequently, the dominant cultural group benefits the most from them. Alternatively, the state

tends to be applied with least severity toward the members of the majority groups. In the very least, the assumption is that the rules of conduct are more advantageous to the national majority than to any national minority within the context of the existing social norms, ultimately replicating the values of the dominant culture.

legitimization of violence, although principally directed at all perpetrators, often but not always

a body of people who shared that culture and occupied a defined (claimed) territory. High culture, in already highly defined and deeply cultivated in Western Europe by the nineteenth century that the original liberal nationalism of the late eighteen century developed. However, as nationalist ideas oppressive variety of nationalism emerged out of the original liberal ideology (with Western spread eastward into the Balkans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a new, more nationalism itself becoming more egocentric by the twentieth century as well). 58 For the purpose of

of education to the broader population that ultimately strengthened the national sentiment amidst

nation-state. 57 It was the emergence of high culture in the industrial age built upon the accessibility

national sentiment is predicated on high culture i.e. the culture of the powerful majority within a

Because culture is the shared medium of existence within society, according to Gellner, the

a way, is the modus operandi of nationalism in Gellners view. It is precisely on high-culture grounds

this analysis, one of the most useful typologies of nationalism that Gellner offers (he could name as Eastern type, contingent upon the part of Europe it occurred. To explain this typology, the author heavily relies on John Plamenatz who had originally made the distinction. From Gellner

many types of nationalism as there are high cultures) is the division of nationalism into Western and

interpretation of Plamenatz, it appears that the Western nationalism, which shared deep links to

liberal ideas was relatively benign and nice, while its Eastern counterpart was nasty, and doomed
57 58

Ibid., 88-107.

Read Chapter II about the emergence and spread of nationalism. 105

to nastiness by the conditions which gave rise to it. While Plamenatz based his perceptions of the Western nationalism on the enlightened cultures of Western Europe, he saw the Eastern one Gellner describes Plamentanzs dual concept of nationalism in the following terms: exemplified by the kind of nationalism he knew to exist in his [Plamenatzs] native Balkans. 59 [Whereas] [t]he relatively benign Western nationalisms were acting on behalf of welldeveloped high cultures, normatively centralized and endowed with a fairly well-defined folk clientele, Eastern nationalism did not operate on behalf of an existing, well-defined and codified high culture, which had [developed] since the early Renaissance or since the Reformation This [Eastern] nationalism was active on behalf of a high culture, as yet not properly crystallized, a merely aspirant or in-the-making high culture. It presided, or strove to preside, in ferocious rivalry of similar competitors, over a chaotic ethnographic map of many dialects, with ambiguous historical or ethno-linguistic allegiances, and containing populations which had only just begun to identify with these emergent national high cultures. Objective conditions of the modern world were bound, in due course, to oblige them to identify with one of them. But till this occurred, they lacked the clearly defined cultural basis enjoyed by their German and [or] Italian counterparts. 60 Gellners interpretation of Plamenatz clearly predicates the diverging forms of nationalism

and advanced culture in countries like Italy and Germany. These developments shaped during and

which occurred in Western and Eastern Europe on the pre-existence of an autonomous, recognizable,

after the Italian Renaissance and the German Reformation respectively which had taken place in the print literature, arts and science for more than two centuries. Moreover, this liberal ideology was already shared by highly defined groups of people that knew to be Italians and/or Germans and

sixteenth century. By the late nineteenth century, these cultures had been promoting liberal ideas in

actively partook in promulgating, benefiting from or otherwise affecting this ideology. In short, by the time ideas of nationalism reached Eastern Europe, the Balkans in particular, most Western cultures cultures identified with the nation-state. By contrast, the Eastern-European nationalism not only had history. Italian, German, British, and French cultures were already high cultures by the 1800s, i.e.

circumstances. By the late nineteenth- and the early twentieth century, the Balkan nations were still struggling for independence from Hapsburg and Ottoman rule. In Bulgaria, most of the Bulgarian59 60

took shape much later, but it also happened at an accelerated rate and under more extreme

speaking Christian population, whose culture became the fundament of the Bulgarian nation-state,
Gellner, 99. Gellner interpreting Plamenatz, 100. 106

was overwhelmingly peasant. There was not a great deal of cultural development prior to the

national independence of 1878. The Bulgarian nation as well as most others in the region had to be forged overnight out of the existing vernacular culture of the most populous group that spoke Bulgarian language and professed Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Bulgarian culture at the turn of the over a chaotic ethnographic map of many dialects, with ambiguous historical or ethno-linguistic allegiances, 61 managed to take the upper hand as the shared medium of the prevalent ethnolast century truly was a culture in-the-making which, in ferocious rivalry of similar competitors,

religious group. Henceforth, it gradually established itself as the dominant high culture of the new nation-state of Bulgaria. Through Gellner, Plamenatz explains it:

These populations of [South]eastern Europe, were still locked into the complex multiple loyalties of kinship, territory and religion. To make them conform to the nationalist imperative was bound to take more than a few battles and some diplomacy. It was bound to take a great deal of very forceful cultural engineering. In many cases, it was also bound to involve population exchange or expulsion, more or less forcible assimilation, and sometimes liquidation, in order to attain that close relation between state and culture which is the essence of nationalism. And all these consequences flowed, not from some unusual brutality of the nationalists who in the end employed these measures (they were probably no worse and no better than anyone else), but from the inescapable logic of the situation [emphasis added]. 62 implemented in what Plamenatz designated as the Eastern conditionnotably the Balkans, coercive means, including forced assimilation, became a matter of necessity. As Gellner fairly points out, the nasty nature of the Eastern nationalism was not due to some unusual brutality of the nationalists who implemented it the way they did: by forcing diverging populations like to Pomaks into religious and cultural conversion. A number of factors defined the aggressive character of the Eastern including Bulgarian nationalism. Among these were the lack of stable and developed high culture; Indeed, if the nationalist imperative of congruence between state and culture was to be

of those communities from formerly subjugated minorities within an empire (Ottoman and
61 62

history of previous oppression of the new ethno-cultural majorities; and the need for rapid transition

Habsburg) to ruling majorities within a nation-state of their own. Thus, the pokrastvane and the
Gellner, 100. Gellner interpreting Plamenatz, 100-1. 107

revival process against the Pomaks (and Turks) in Bulgaria did not stem from some inherent evil

inclinations of the national majority, but rather from an unfortunate combination of circumstances.

of an established high culture, sought to ensure its own existence by fortifying its own political roof that had just come into being. Perceiving the Muslims as threatening the vital prospect of security because of their cultural affiliation with the former Ottoman master and the proximity of Turkey as assimilation. To achieve a feat so momentous, however, the regimes needed the support of the

Consequently, the young and previously subjugated nation-state of Bulgaria, lacking the self-respect

its natural successor successive Bulgarian regimes sought to forge a uniform nation via involuntary cultural majority. To that end, they manipulated the majoritys sentiment into approval for the

coercive practices against the cultural others, thereby legitimizing the use of force with political necessity. In this sense, appropriate nationalist ideology and adept exploitation of the national sentiment helped the communist regime to Bulgarianize the Pomaks and Turks in the country i.e.

forced them to conform to the dominant values. But the Party went a step further in manipulating

the national sentiment. It used civilian agentslargely members of the dominant majorityto carry

out the revival process. Civilian crusaders, Pomaks prominently featuring among them, comprised the membership of the ultra-nationalist Organization Rodina, which had been effectively initiated during the 1938-1944 Pomak pokrastvane. From Pokrastvane to Revival Process 1. The Rebirth of Organization Rodina That the pokrastvane and the revival process were one and the same policy pursued by

different national regimes is evident from the fact that it was executed by the same agent, the

Organization Rodina a most hated entity among the Pomaks. Rodina emerged on March 3, 1937, in Pomak zealots who preached the idea of conversion among the Rhodopean Muslims. Actively Smolyan (Eastern Rhodopes) as a mixed organization of Bulgarian-Christian patriots and some

literally carried out the pre-communist pokrastvane of the Pomaks in 1938-1944. The communist

supported by the Axis-allied monarchic regime of Bulgaria during the Second World War, they


partys stance about Organization Rodina, 63 as (one of) the chief pokrastvane perpetrator, upon

taking power in 1944 was one of condemnation. That attitude remained unchanged for the next

decade or so largely because it served the regimes interest in holding on to Pomak (and Muslim) to routinely initiate to address Pomak issues on January 5, 1961, the scholar Kiril Vassilev unequivocally described Rodina as fascist:

loyalty. At a propaganda conference in Gotse Delchev one of the many which the regime had begun

The intimidation of the Bulgarian Mohammedans during the Second World War was extremely violent. The fascist regime created the Bulgarian-Mohammedan organization Rodina in the Rhodopes which they used to oppress that population. They willfully tore the ferejes of the women and mistreated the population. The most appalling abuse over this peoples conscience took place under the banner For culture. The bourgeoisie was not in the least concerned about the well-being of the Bulgarian Mohammedans. They were only interested in completing a new pokrastvane [emphasis added]. [A newspaper clipping from Pirinsko Delo, Issue 3, 11 January 1961]. 64 In the late 1950s and early 1960s, however, the communist authorities began a slow,

the communist party had secretly decided to launch its own pokrastvane of the Pomaks as well as membership to provide legitimacy for the move. The party leadership decided that the best way to of all Bulgarian Muslims in due course and it needed a Rodina-type agency with Pomak

cautious, and painstaking process of restoring Rodinas reputation. During the April Plenum of 1956,

pursue this goal was to resurrect Rodina by gradually revamping its tainted image and by recasting Hristo Karamandjukov, Petar Marinov, and Svetoslav Duhovnikov (the renamed Pomak Mehmed fight against the religious fanaticism and for the cultural growth of the Bulgarians of Mohammedan faith. 65

its former activities as patriotic rather than fascist. Thereafter, former leaders of the organization like Dervishev), previously denounced as fascists, were urged to praise Rodinas former mandate as a

See Report on Verifying the Activities of the Former Bulgarian-Mohammedan Organization Rodina of August 1, 1960. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 475, page 9.
63 64 Included in the Expose of Alexander Karamandjukov, former member of Organization Rodina, against the claims of Kiril Vassilev Rodina of January 25, 1961. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 476, page 2. (Translated by the author.) 65

Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 476, page 5. 109

following proclamation:

activists of Rodina and former mufti (Muslim religious leader) of the Smolyan Region issued the We, the Bulgarian Mohammedans who have been burning with the fire of our /the Bulgarian Mohamedans/ revival approve and completely support this campaign. We are happy, because we see in it the ideal we had fought so hard to achieve [in the past] through the work of the Bulgarian Mohammedan cultural-educational and charitable organization Rodina[.] [A]nd we are convinced that it [the revival process] will contribute to the resolution of the Bulgarian-Mohammedan question in the Rhodopes once and for all [italics added]. 66

During the Gotse Delchev conference, Svetoslav Duhovnikov one of the chief Pomak

agent Rodina, previously condemned as fascist. The ideology and rogue methods used by the

needed to carry out the planned assimilation through the same means coercion and via the same

Rhetoric of this kind, uttered by Pomaks, was all the justification the Bulgarian communists

Christian members of Rodina and their Pomak recruits in pursuing conversion had become such a constant in the lives of the Rhodopean Muslims during the 1940s that they learnt to cope with the precarious circumstance and even laugh at it. In an archival document of 1960, when Rodina was routine pokrastvane assault in the following way: slowly coming back, Petar Marinov one of the chief ideologists of the organization describes a ... [W]hen Rodina activists would start jumping out from various directions [onto the unsuspecting population to tear ferejes and fezzes], people would begin shouting: Run, run! The Culture is coming! Hide! Quickly! The damn Culture will get you ...[italics added] 67

Christianizing them. However, the Rodina tactics of instilling culture resembled a medieval ambush more than any sensible effort at the cultural advancement of the population. Nor did the Pomaks believe any part of the cultural growth propaganda. Rodinas actions defied any such believing. An

objective to work for the cultural growth of the Bulgarian Mohammedans quite frankly by

By culture, the Rhodopean Muslims sarcastically referred to the Rodinas proclaimed

entry of Marinovs diary from June 1, 1940, provides the following account of the Rodinas brigand style of pokrastvane, which, moreover, acted on government instructions:

67 Report on Verifying the Activities of the Former Bulgarian-Mohammedan Organization Rodina of August 1, 1960. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 475, page 14. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.)

Expose of Svetoslav Duhovnikov of February 13, 196. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 476, page 8. (Translated by the author.)


In another entry, Marinov continues:

Last night we organized groups with the mission to rip ferejes[.] [T]hat action will start tomorrow. Husko [most likely a Rodina member] hosted our meeting. The members present were divided into three groups: the first was assigned to go around the Chokovska mahala [neighborhood], the second to the Chilingirska mahala and Sredok, the third to the Gorna mahala. Yurdan, the plain-clothed secret agent from Smolyan, was there to provide [government] instructions. We are planning an action for tomorrow. Around ten people would block the crossroads to tear ferejes and veils [italics added]. 68

Yesterday, the members of Rodina ripped 3-4 fezzes and theyve decided to continue doing that tomorrow. Theyve each got their assigned neighborhoods and hamlets to go to and remove fezzes [italics added]. 69 involvement in the pokrastvane. Interesting news is coming from Zlatograd [Eastern Rhodopes,

As Marinovs diary continues, an entry of May 4, 1940, clearly shows the governments direct

formerly Dardere], Marinov wrote, The military authorities and the police there had undertaken an action to remove the ferejes which work is nearing completion. Every gendarme and soldier, armed cover garment]. Because of the flagrantly Muslim female garment, the Rodina crusaders were with scissors, has been going around town cutting ferejes. and pulling down yashmaks [female

especially concerned with Pomak women. They have finally started to put on dresses, Marinov

continued, but underneath those they still wear shalvars [broad trousers]. So the soldiers began to their dresses. The same is being done in the villages around Zlatograd. As some of the local Muslim dignitaries tried to complain above [to the government], Marinov explained, they were told that added] 70 whatever the local authorities decided went. So they had to obey and nothing else [italics stop [the] women and cut out their [shalvars] leggings, or anything else hanging down from under

1940s and a prominent agent of the Axis-allied monarchic regime of Bulgaria. He was among those

Alexander Karamandjukov was one of the staunchest crusaders of the pokrastvane in the

69 Report on Verifying the Activities of the Former Bulgarian-Mohammedan Organization Rodina of August 1, 1960. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 475, page 14. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 70

Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 39, Archival Unit 40, page 18. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.)

Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 39, Archival Unit 40, pages 17-18. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) Also, Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 488, page 17. 111

whom the communist authorities immediately branded fascist and treated as the peoples enemy of the most reactionary kind upon takeover in 1944. In the early 1960s, however, Karamandjukov, along with other former Rodina activists, reemerged in the limelight as patriot. Ironically, it was this former communist enemy turned comrade who most appropriately verbalized the common nature of the pokrastvane and what was to be the revival process:

activities of Rodina would have been extremely dangerous for anyone venturing to make such a

Prior to the 1960s, to compare the communist politics regarding the Pomaks to the former

Were we to juxtapose the objectives and activities of the Organization Rodina with the fundamental line of the [Communist] Party and state politics in the Rhodopes, we will see that they coincide. 71

statement. By the year 1960, however, former members of Rodina were not only coming back into favor of the new regime already, but they were also encouraged to praise Rodina publicly. In the because the Muslim support for the regime rested exclusively on its condemnation of the contemplating the resurrection of Rodina. The organization and its members seasoned euphemistically termed the revival process. initial decade of communist rule, a political approval of Rodina would have been unthinkable, largely organization and reversal of the pokrastvane. But only a decade later, the communist party was assimilationists were going to be instrumental in the latest pokrastvane of the Pomaks, Although, it is generally assumed that the Pomak revival happened in the period 1972-1974,

the actual assimilation had begun at least a decade earlier and it was formally concluded in 1974. A

plethora of archival documentation attests to the early start of the affair (including those discussing of the largely Bulgarian-Mohammedan municipality of Ladja sent their superiors in Smolyan the

plans to bring back Rodina). For example, as early as November 1962, the municipal party committee following statistics: (1) Of a population totaling over 4,000, [m]ore than 99% of the men wear hats

. put the new attire /dresses/. Almost no fereje could be seen in our area. No more than 2% of the
71 Report on Verifying the Activities of the Former Bulgarian-Mohammedan Organization Rodina of August 1, 1960. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 475, page 19. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.)

or go bear-head, and just under one percent wearing to the fezz; (2) Around 75-80% of the women


women /mostly old ones/ still stick to the fereje. The remaining 98% of the women in the

authorities were also targeting the Pomak names. The same archival document reports that 170 individuals from our area [the Ladja municipality] have already restored their Slavic [Bulgarian Christian] names [as of 1962]. 72 In summary, as evident from the report, the primary targets of this early cultural

municipality no longer wear the fereje. In addition to censoring male and female garment, the

region-wide statistics of Smolyan as of November 15, 1962, shows the number of Rhodopean Muslims with censored attire and changed names by villages and towns:

Ottoman-style fezz; and (c) the conventional Arab-Turkish names of the Pomaks. Thus, an important

revolution were: (a) the womens clothing, particularly the over-garment, fereje; (b) the mens

Table 3-1 Number of Pomaks with censored attire and changed names by villages and towns Population Men 3,978 2,875 Number of people without the old attire 3,760 920 700 1,480 1,366 40% [handwritten] 480 ... [illegible] 1,500 25% [handwritten] 98% [handwritten] 1,660 487 ... [illegible] 200 890 540 60% [handwritten] 180 1,050 1,800 Number of people with new names 122 186 170 557 829 61 58 24 [handwritten] 450 82 170 639 579 457 75 806 174 233 55 810 50

Village/Town Smolyan Madan Rudozem Zlatograd Devin Varbina Davidkovo Dospat Zagrajden Zmeitsa Ladja Laki Mihalkovo Mogilitsa Mugla Nedelino Smilyan Slaveynovo Trigrad Hvoyna Chepelare

women* 3,832 1.400 3,085 1,700 400 2,535 610 -

72 A report of the municipal committee of the communist party in Ladja to the regional party committee in Smolyan of 13 November 1962. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 38, Archival Unit 20, page 7. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.)


*Note: The statistics concerning women refer to those under 40-years of age. 73 Albeit incomplete and likely inflated for propaganda purposes, this statistics nevertheless

scale. Whereas the early emphasis of the assimilation was apparently on garment, with a success rate consistently over 50 percent, the more difficult renaming was taking place as well. In Pomak villages like Devin, Nedelino, and Hvoyna, the share of people with restored names in 1962 ranged from a is a significant percentage considering the early stage of the revival process and the staunch Pomak fourth to a third of the total population, according to rough estimates based on the above chart. This opposition to the total renaming a decade later. From the very beginning, however, the communist party tried to portray the revivalism as en-mass, spontaneous, and voluntary movement of the

clearly establish that the revival process was taking place as early as 1962 and on a considerable

Pomak population toward reclaiming their Bulgarianness. In spite of personal risks, though, people were protesting the assimilation before the highest communist authorities. There are examples of individual and group complaints filed with the communist party leadership by parents whose Bantov of Rakitovo, Pazardjik Region, for example, petitioned the Presidium of the Peoples

newborns were registered with Bulgarian-Christian names without their consent. Alish Husseinov

Parliament of Bulgaria to have his newborn son registered with a Muslim name. I am a Muslim, he midwife [in the hospital] refused to respect my wishes. The same midwife registered my child with

wrote, and my wish was that my son [born on December 23, 1961] bore a Muslim name, too. But the the local [peoples] council on her own accord, including by signing the certificate of live birth in my stead, while completely neglecting to consider the name I had chosen for my son. When a few days later, Alish inquired about the birth certificate in the peoples council in Rakitovo, he was informed document. When I refused to do so, Alish goes on, the comrades from the council threatened to [hereby] decisively protest against the willful act of the comrades from the council [to name my child pick a name [for my child] themselves. [They told me] they could do that without my consent. I that he would have to register his son with a Bulgarian-Christian name in order to receive the

73 Information about Those Emancipated from the Old Bulgarian-Mohammedan Attire and Those Reviving Their Bulgarian Names in the Smolyan Region as of 15.IX.1962. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 38, Archival Unit 20, page 16.


for me]. I believe that every citizen is equal before the law and that coercion of the above kind cannot be exerted against anyone. I also believe that changing ones name is a matter of personal choice, not of intimidation. 74 In another instance, Emin Ahmedov Kutsosmanov and Azmina Mehmedova Kutsosmanova,

husband and wife from the village of Djurkovo, Smolyan Region, write to the Presidium of the Peoples Parliament:

Comrade Chairman, On July 13th, 1962, a child of male gender was born to us /we are spouses/ in the hospital in the village of Laki, Smolyan Region. We both wish that our son bears the name Shaban. However, in the course of 40 days now, the peoples municipal council in Laki prevents us from registering the child with the above name by refusing to issue a birth certificate for him[.] I have been working in an underground mine for 8 years and the council prevents me from collecting my benefits under the family incentive plan by not issuing a birth certificate for my child. I hereby implore you to order that a certificate of live birth be issued for my son with the name we desire for him, [Shaban]. August 21st, 1962. V.[illage of] Laki Please, let us know of any development on the matter of our request. 1/ [Husbands signature] 2/ [Wifes signature] 75

Parents: Respectfully:

at all when parents refused to accept the imposed names, addressed their petitions directly to the top communist leadership. Apparently, this early in the revival process, many still believed that the willful abuse of their basic civil rights were solely the act of partial local bureaucrats. Once the central authorities received these complaints, however, they forwarded them back to the same peoples

Ordinary people, whose newborns were registered with Bulgarian names or not registered

councils of which the parents were complaining. The returned petitions were usually accompanied the instructional letters are fairly standard and of the kind below:

by brief instructions for the latter on how to proceed with the complaints. The format and content of To the Regional Committee of BCP

74 75

A letter of 21 August 1962. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 28, Archival Unit 29, page 2. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) Ibid., 18. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.)


Comrades, We are sending you the complaints of Musa Yuseinov Utev, Alish Yuseinov Bantsov, Kezim Yuseinov Drikov, Ahmed Mustafov Tronov and Shefket Abdula Serbezov, all from the village of Rakitovo[.] [T]hese people complain that their newborns have been registered with [Bulgarian-Christian] names to which they did not consent. It is necessary that the Regional Committee investigates those cases and takes measures to prevent such acts from happening. [At the same time, they must] continue the masspolitical and ideological work on raising the national awareness and the communist nurturing of those Bulgarians professing the Mohammedan faith [emphasis added]. Head of Propaganda and Persuasion department of central committee of BCP: /V. Ivanov/ 76 they are revealing of the communist leaderships care to produce evidence to be used to absolve them from responsibility should the revival process escalate into violence. In other words, by seemingly instructing the local councils to investigate the complaints, the top bureaucrats were Seemingly harmless, these instructional letters are important for two basic reasons. First,

[The Bulgarian Communist Party] Pazardjik

simply making sure that they would be able to wash their hands of a potentially bloody affair and secrecy, in which the revival process was supposed to take place, at least initially. The Party

squarely blame it on their regional puppets. Second, these instructional letters highlight the reality of formally directed the lower bureaucrats to prevent excesses simply to be able to say, if need be, that same letters, the communist leaders were simultaneously instructing their local agents to carry on instructing letters was to cover up the leaderships direct involvement in the affair.

they took peoples complaints to heart, and that the abuse was unbeknown to them. Thus, in the very with the assimilation by means of propaganda and persuasion. In a sense, the only purpose of these In his report to the Politburo of the Communist Party, Angel Spasov a local Smolyan

revivalist plainly speaks of the regimes intentions to assimilate the Bulgarian Mohamedans. The document specifies that the decision to revive the Pomaks (as well as all Turks) was taken during had several clear objectives: the April Plenum of the communist party in 1956. Quite obviously, even at this early date, The Party to enhance their [the Pomaks] national consciousness;


Ibid., 5. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 116

to persuade the Pomaks of an ancestry rooted in forced Islamization claims; to organize sewing and cooking classes for women as assimilation incentives; to restore the Bulgarian-Christian names of the Pomak Muslims. 77 The same report explains why the regime regarded the revitalization of Rodina of critical to remove the womens ferejes and mens fezzes;

importance to the revival process against the Pomaks. First, for the communist party, the organization had already proven its efficiency by having converted more than 80,000 Bulgarian Mohamedans in pokrastvane machine for several crucial reasons: (a) it had Muslim clerics in its ranks, including the period 1938-1944. Second, in its pre-communist existence, Rodina had functioned as a well-oiled Mehmed Dervishev, aka Svetoslav Duhovnikov, once the chief mufti of the Smolyan Region; (b) it had

an well-established propaganda apparatus; (c) it had a print medium of its own, Collection Rodina; (d) it was served by seasoned ideological activists, including the writer Petar Marinov; (e) it had efficiently disseminated propaganda before, including via such initiatives as luncheons, books recruiting Pomak members. 78

reading activities, and formal conferences; (f) above all, however, Rodina had proven successful in Thus, the efforts of bringing Rodina back to life began in earnest early in the 1960s. The regime,

which formerly persecuted the organization as fascist and anti-communist was now chanting:

Bring back Rodina history will judge us less severely if we rehabilitate a progressive organization like Rodina. [W]e will remove the insult we dealt to the Rodina members by calling them fascist. We will win them over and help them and with renewed self-confidence, they will be able to January 1963 makes a somber evaluation of the long history of Pomak assimilation:

resume their mission. 79 And there was no doubt what Rodinas mission was. An official expose of Bulgarianizing the names [of the Pomaks] will be very difficult now, because in the course of 50 years, the same people were made to change their names four times. In 1912 their names

Expose on Raising the National Awareness of Bulgarian Mohammedans and on the Organization Rodina of January 5, 1963, by Angel Spasov of Smolyan, Raykovo Neighborhood. The Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 478, pages 1-17.
77 78 79

Ibid. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) Ibid., 16.


Indeed, surviving evidence leaves no doubt that the communist government planed the resurrection of Rodina after having purposely destroyed it just a decade earlier precisely to carry out the fifth forced assimilation of the Pomaks since 1912. 2. Mission: Revival Soon after the regimes dramatic change of heart regarding Rodina, reports of intimidation

were forcedly replaced with Bulgarian ones[.] [I]n 1914, [Vassil] Radoslavov [then Bulgarias prime minister] restored their Turkish names[.] [I]n 1940-1944, Rodina Bulgarianized their names for a second time, and after September 9, 1944 [the official date of communist takeover], we restored their Turkish names yet again. Now we want to change their names for the fifth time. 80

and violence against the Pomak population began pouring into the Partys headquarters in Sofia. An extensive report--labeled classified--of the regional party committee secretary in Smolyan, N. Palagachev of October 1963, details the ill-treatment that occurred in Dospat, Kasaka, Trigrad, and villages, as reported in the above and related documents, which were designed to force people to renounce their traditional names and attire:

Nedelino. 81 What follows is a summary of the coercive acts against the Pomak population of those

or shalvars (traditional broad trousers) were prohibited from entering stores to buy basic groceries unless they put on hats and dresses. In Dospat (Western Rhodopes), the action of barring people from work and two others were dismissed as members of the communist party for servicing the population in violation of the prohibition. from access to goods went on for nearly two weeks. During this time two shop clerks were sacked

First, men with fezzes (Ottoman-style headdress) and women in fereje (light outer-garment)

where communist apparatchiks methodically pressured them to replace the shalvars with dresses. Those refusing to comply were fined, further harassed, and/or had essential family property confiscated, including beds, mattresses, covers, and clothes. Furthermore, the authorities staged
80 81

Second, women were constantly harassed by orders to report to the local peoples councils,

Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 39, Archival Unit 40, pages 128-145. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 118


mock court trials to frighten the women into submission. For example, in the village of Kasaka, the store, outfitted with a changing room. While the intimidation of women happened in the first

revivalists turned a classroom into a makeshift courtroom, while an adjacent room became a clothing classroom, where mock judges ordered them to change their clothing, the actual transformation took place in the second classroom. After being sentenced, each Pomak woman was directed into the clothing store next door, where two female school teachers (possibly Christian?) would sell her a

dress, make sure she put it on and carefully record the price of the dress into accounting ledger. The thus revived woman would finally sign the account, thereby agreeing to pay for the dress. The cost of the new attire, which the woman neither wanted nor could afford, would be automatically

withheld from her paycheck at the local agricultural cooperative. This way, the cooperative which

had itself provided the clothes for the makeshift store would retain a portion of the womans future days. Meanwhile, machine guns were fired on purpose during the intervening night (most probably with blanks or in the air?) to scare the most stubborn of the women. 82

earnings. As the same archival document specifies, the dress-reviving action in Kasaka lasted for two

and all sorts of salaried individuals, including school teachersfor the purpose of making surprise visits to Pomak neighborhoods and households to further harass the population. These headscarves, or anything they deemed un-Bulgarian. commissioners had the discretionary powers to use force and remove ferejes, shalvars, black Fourth, members of the communist party in some position of authority were under

Third, the regime formed special commissions of revivalistsusually local party bureaucrats

obligation to inspect the homes of their subordinates to make sure that the latters wives were properly clad in dresses. If they were not, the culprits were to be promptly fired from work. Fifth, all salaried members of the communist party--including those employed in agriculture-

-whose wives did not wear dresses either lost their jobs or were altogether dismissed from the party. who performed the lowest menial labor in the local agricultural cooperatives.

Sixth, women not wearing the dress could not go to work and receive pay, including those

Ibid., 129. 119

confiscated or destroyed. The following is reported from the village of Bukovo (Western Rhodopes) to that effect: The most stubborn women like Fatma Shukrieva, Safie Zaleva and Fatma Kassapchieva had their clothes taken away. This act of the commissioners had offended the women, who began to call them [the commissioners] criminals, thieves, and so on. The commissioners have also been threatened by the said womens husbands. Zaim Kassapchiev, for example, had threatened that when his son came back from Madan, he would kill the commissioners and then go to prison[.] Karim Zalev [further threatened] that the commissioners heads would fly off by his sons hand. 83 To eliminate the danger, those two [Zaim Kassapchiev and Karim Zalev], as well as two others, Softov and Djaferov, will have to be filtrated. 84*

Seventh, those of the women who refused to change to the dress had their basic clothing

names or clothing were routinely ill-treated, physically and psychologically. As one available record puts it, a typical example of commonplace abuse against Pomaks constituted the conduct of the deputy chairman of the Rakitovo municipal council, who was also in charge of [the revival process in

Eight, people who refused to conform to the communist policy regarding the change of

the village of] Kostandovo. Two years ago, the document reports in 1963, he was removed from name. Within six months, however, he had been reinstated and had immediately exacted revenge

his office, because he struck the local teacher a Bulgarian-Mohammedan for refusing to change his against the said teacher by refusing to sign the college application form of that teachers nephew. I [Prof. Georgi Galabov who reports the case to the authorities] advised the aggrieved party to file a complaint with the [partys] central committee, which he did, only to be threatened with worse punishment should he complain any further. 85


Note: People made such threats out of utter frustration, not because they really ever considered acting upon such promises. Were there such occurrences, they would have been broadly reported in the archival documents, but I found no evidence to that effect.

Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 39, Archival Unit 40, page 134. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) *The word filtrated (in Bulgarian ) is used in quotation marks in the original document. Taking into consideration the totalitarian character of the regime and the seriousness of the revival process, the word may be interpreted to mean any action on the part of the regime against these individuals ranging from mistreatment, through labor camp and imprisonment, to death. It is not recorded what happened to the people in question.


Report of Prof. Georgi Galabov, chairing the committee in charge of implementing the revival process to the Propaganda and Persuasion department of the central committee of the communist party, circa 1963. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 12, page 4. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 120

those who willingly accepted Bulgarian names were appointed to various salaried positions.

Ninth, whereas Pomaks who resisted the revival process became political and social outcasts, Tenth, the communist regime discriminated against Pomak youths by overwhelmingly

assigning them to labor units in the armed forces. Thus, Muslim conscripts spent the three-year following quote from the above report testifies to that policy:

mandatory military service not as soldiers, but as construction workers and common laborers. The The greater part of them [young Pomaks] is not admitted to the regular armed forces, but in labor units. This automatically places them in that category of young people who are not trusted [by the party]. 86

Ramadan Runtov, whom I interviewed in May of 2007, confirms this information. Between 1951 and 1954, he was in a labor unit of the armed forces himself. Ramadan went through intensive had some telling recollections: construction training in the army and rose to the rank of sergeant, who led a construction brigade. He In 1951, I went to do my military service in the labor forces. They never took any of us [Muslims] in the regular army; we all served in the labor forces. We constructed buildings, tunnels ... I started construction training classes. I was in the army for three years and I worked in construction all that time. Then one day, they brought to me 36 boys, all [ethnic] Turks. ... One major brought them. Sergeant, he said [to me], these are Turks. Five hundred years theyd oppressed us. Now, youve got to bleed them dry with work. That night, I introduced myself to the guys. My name is Ramadan. Fear not. [W]ell cope with everything together. They looked at me in disbelief at first, but then went all at once: Hey, brother, theyve wasted us with work already. Weve been cutting paving stones in a quarry day and night. By night, they made us build fires to keep working. [W]e started working on a building in Sofia. It was 180 meters long and the boys worked with much enthusiasm, because they were going to become certified stonemasons. In a short time we completed the project and we were commended for it. A general from the headquarters came down to talk to us on that occasion. He said to me: How did you make these guys work!? They had been transferred here for refusing to work on orders. You know, youve done a miracle with them! 87

to schools in larger towns or villages, where they were accommodated in special full-board

Eleventh, Pomak parents from remote villages were under obligation to send their children

dormitories. The objective was to separate the youngsters from their families so as to indoctrinate them in revivalist ideology along with teaching them science. There is almost no village in the
86 87

Rhodopes without a school now, one document reads, and almost no central settlement without a
Ibid., 8. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) Ramadan Runtov, interview (Ibid).


boarding school for the children from remote villages and hamlets. More than 5,000 pupils live in the than 7,000 pupils. 88 The Ministry of Education, the report continues, has issued special

total of 70 boarding houses. Moreover, after-school activities with free lunches are provided for more instructions to teachers of history, literature and Bulgarian language in these [Pomak] areas to change the curriculum according to the goals of the Cultural Revolution [i.e. revival process]. 89 Twelfth, to further the assimilation of Pomak youth already graduating from boarding

schools, the communist regime instituted a preferential-treatment policy for their admission to

technical schools and colleges. According to the above report, the college graduates of Pomak origin in Smolyan region alone, as of (circa) 1963-1964, were 380 compared to almost none previously. 90 with mandatory attendance for all party members, state employees, and the general Pomak population to instruct the public about the origins, culture, and past of the Bulgarian Mohammedans, claimed to be the descendants of forcibly Islamized Bulgarians. 91 Thirteenth, the authorities routinely organized public meetings, lectures, and conferences

1971, the secretary of the municipal party committee in Oreshets, Georgi Staykov, recaps the

the early 1970s. In a speech published in Rodopski Ustrem (a Smolyan-based newspaper) in January

With these policies in place throughout the 1960s, the revival process was well underway by

year, the Turkish-Arab names [of the Mostovo population] had been replaced by beautiful Bulgarian names. How joyous everybody was, especially the young people, [who] already knew from school what savage Turkish Islamization had taken place in the Rhodope. In the ostentatious language of communist propaganda, Staykov proceeds to elaborate on what transpired in Mostovo during the prolonged revival process. The picture is reflective of the politics that swept across the Rhodopes by

overnight transformation of the Pomak village of Mostovo, with a population of 1,300. In less than a

88 Report on the Work among the Bulgarian Mohammedans, circa 1963. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 12, page 13. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 89 90 91

1974, when the assimilation of Pomaks formally ended. For over a decade prior to 1974, in Mostovo,
Ibid., 15-16. Ibid., 13-14. Ibid., 14.


and in most Pomak villages, the communist regime had been slowly carrying out the following revert back to it:

revivalist strategies, designed to convince the population of their Bulgarian heritage and the need to The authorities recruited scholars to research the names of local sites and the genealogy of local family names; prove their purely Bulgarian character; and present a detailed report of their findings ... before the entire village. Bulgarian (Christian) population They organized exhibits showcasing the barbarity of the Turkish enslavers against the There were country-fair reenactments of the way barbaric Turks burnt Christian villages and kidnapped local girls to satisfy their lust. delivered on a regular basis. Lectures containing incendiary propaganda about the reactionary nature of Islam were The regime constantly evoked improving economic conditions in the traditionally impoverished Rhodopes to validate the revival process as progressive: We have now created a local intelligentsia. There are 48 high-school- and college graduates in Mostovo. Of the total of 15

school teachers, 9 are from the village [i.e. Pomaks]. Also local are the nurse and the veterinary technician. In addition, a comfortable road now connects the village with the outside world. people. ... There are stores and a school in the village, as well as electricity and sewage. Trucks are used to haul cargo in and out of the village, and comfortable busses to transport The leadership was always mindful of placing the revival process in the context of womens

emancipation in order to project it as liberating rather than oppressive policy: The women,

routinely ignored in the past because of Qurans prescriptions, are now equal-rights citizens

taking jobs in the administrative, agricultural and political life [of the area]. For instance, Sofka member of the municipal party committee, and Violeta Badeva is a secretary of the youths husbands at party meetings, at banquets, and as initiators of things new and progressive.

Roynova serves as secretary of the secondary party organization [in Mostovo]. Nina Roynova is a municipal committee. ... Women are everywhere. They stand shoulder to shoulder with their

The regime systematically targeted religion and religious practices: For more than eight years The mosque had been leased to the local agricultural cooperative for storage facility. The mevlid [ceremonial prayer accompanied by communal meal] has been abandoned, too.

now, Staykov boasts, there has not been a hodja [hoca] in Mostovo and people do not want one.

religious holidays of the past Kurban Bayram and Ramazan Bayram are prohibited. The To break Muslim conventions completely, communist bureaucrats even forced people, though the agricultural cooperatives, to raise pigs and encouraged them to eat pork: When, six years by the elders for eating pork. Now everybody in the village eats pork. ago, Iliya Sandanski first raised a pig in the village, it was a scandal. He was particularly ridiculed Mandatory school attendance was strictly enforced in regard to Pomak children: From day one their offspring graduate from primary and secondary school, as well as from high school and even college.

of each school year, every child of school age goes to school. It is all parents objective now to see

Forcing women to abandon the conservative Muslim garment was common practice: Women The regime also introduced mandatory civil marriages and formal name-giving (christening) newborns are widely practiced [in Mostovo]. have discarded the fereje and now they all wear modern new dress.

ceremonies for newborns: The newly instituted civil marriages and name-giving ceremonies of Finally, by 1974, the complete and total renaming of the Pomak population had taken place: Everybody, regardless of age, has new identification papers now. The population is deeply convinced of their purely Bulgarian origin. 92 Turmoil in the (Western) Rhodopes Despite all propaganda, not everyonethe Pomaks least of allsubscribed to the

communist claims of voluntary assimilation. In fact, Pomak communities across the Rhodopes

were in turmoil, and they did not take the abuse meekly. As Ali Eminov remarks, the Pomaks offered

Georgi Staykov, Patriotichnoto vazpitanie postoyanna zadacha /Raising the Patriotic Awareness [of the Pomaks] a Constant Objective/, Rodopski Ustrem of 7 January 1971, Issue 2. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 124

a fierce resistance to the revival process. Unrest broke in a number of villages in the Western

Rhodopes, among others, most notably in Kornitsa, Ribnovo, Lajnitsa and Breznitsa. Scores were of incarceration and hard labor. 93

killed [in the Rhodopes], Eminov sums up, and hundreds were arrested and sentenced to long years Indeed, my interviewees Ramadan Ahmedov Runtov (Kurucu) and Ismail Bekirov Byalkov

experienced the full blow of the revival process not only as direct participants, but also as long-term exiles and political prisoners. I met them during a research trip to Turkey in the summer of 2007. of communist persecution and suffering, they left Bulgaria in the late 1980s and early 1990s suburb of Gneli, where I interviewed them independently. Ramadan and Ismail sixteen years apart in age were born and grew up in Kornitsa, but after years respectively to permanently settle in Turkey. Currently, they are both residents of the Istanbul Ramadan, born in 1929, became a member of the communist party while serving in the army

between 1951 and 1954. As soon at the intimidation started several years later, however, he

renounced his membership and became one of the most outspoken opponents of the regime. He was subsequently arrested, imprisoned, tortured while incarcerated, exiled from the Rhodopes, and finally expelled from Bulgaria in May 1989. He reminisced about what happened in the close-by

Lajnitsa, Kornitsa, and Breznitsa during the late 1950s, when the authorities first attempted to force tried to sneak into Lajnitsa, disguised as medics and, going from house to house, to presumably the women into dresses in those villages. It was 1957/58, he recalls, when a group of revivalists

spray for fleas[.] They actually wanted to catch the women without ferejes and headscarves to get Pomak neighbors]. Well, they managed to get into a house or two like that, but then some women

them used to not having them on [women wore no ferejes in their homes or in the presence of their realized what was going on. These women then came together and beat them up. After that, they [the miserably failed the reconnaissance mission to Lajnitsa, were already fueling the passions of their

revivalists] ran from Lajnitsa and into Kornitsa. Later the same day, the unlucky apparatchiks, having Christian audience in Kornitsa. They were telling the crowd how they had been attacked in Lajnitsa,

Eminov, 106. 125

narrowly escap[ing] with our lives. In reaction to the alleged revolt in Lajnitsa, a posse of about mild man known to Ramadan Runtov and nicknamed Upana, joined the group, but only (as it would beaten by women, there was an element of amusement in the overall bleakness of the episode. As Ramadan reports, he jokingly asked Upana: Ramadan: Bay Georgi, wherere you going? Upana: Theres been a mutiny in Lajnitsa. Some of our folks [Christians] got beaten there. So we are going that way. Ramadan: Listen, behave yourself there. You wouldnt want to end up being kicked by them, women, would you! Upana: Yeah, yeah! I know! The group returned two-three hours later, and Upana with it. Ramadan was there, when 15-16 individuals got ready to depart for the mutinous village to exact revenge. A forest guard, a

transpire) as a curious spectator. Because the original group of revivalistsall menhad been

they showed up on the public square in Kornitsa. He approached Upana and half-jokingly, halfanxiously inquired:

Ramadan: What happened [in Lajnitsa], bay Georgi? Upana: You know, I didnt get beaten. But everybody else did. Ramadan: How come? Upana: Well, them, women, apparently knew were coming, so theyre waiting for us already. Before we knew it, they were all round us. Somehow, though, I stayed out of trouble. Then, these women started throwing rocks at us, and everyone darted to the mosque for hiding. At this point I had to ask for clarification. So, the women of Lajnitsa beat the militsioners,

the police lieutenant Shopov was with them, too. So, most of the revivalists were Christian civilians the group ran for the mosquethe closest shelter they could locate, and barricaded themselves in. would be safe in there, Ramadan narrates, but rocks the women kept hurling at the intruders in the mosque much longer, they flung the door open and bolted out. But two of the women,

right? The communist police, that is! Well, most in the group were civilians, but they had guns. And with some militsioners in the mix, armed. Ironically, to escape the barrage of rocks pelted their way, Meanwhile, Upana, who had stayed out of the mess, was watching from away. They thought they smashed right through the windows. When the beleaguered posse men realized they could not hide according to the (now) popular story, already stood guard before the door with bludgeons. So they

managed to thrash the notorious police lieutenant Shopov so badly that he had to be carried back to

Kornitsa on an impromptu stretcher made out of a blanket. Thus, in 1957/58 the cultural revolution in Lajnitsa ended before it had begun. Kornitsas turn was yet to come. As Ramadan recalls, one day he and other local party members were told to prepare to meet

arrived from Gotse Delchev, the nearby town. Meanwhile Kornitsas Pomak majority, fully aware of

a group of regional communist dignitaries in Kornitsa. The same evening, seven or eight of them

resist if provoked, as in Lajnitsa. To avoid escalation of potential conflict, the village men decided to stay out of sight, assuming that no one would attack defenseless women and children. The boards

the revivalist intent of the visit, had prepared wooden boards, properly reinforced with iron nails, to

with spiky nails, however, were kept close at hand if need for defense did arise. Having been warned

of the general village mood by snitches, the delegation of revivalists arrived in Kornitsa, but remained safely behind locked doors in the mayors office. Only after Kornitsas women gathered on the public square and taunted them with shouts: Dogs! Get out! What do you want from us? did Shopov, the

lieutenant, and Nanchev, the mayor, venture out. In a spur of bravado, Shopov drew his pistol out and fired into the air to disperse the crowd, but only managed to enrage the women. When a teenage girl took her board out and began walking toward the pair, the women collectively pressed forward causing Nanchev to jump over the railing in a frantic, beeline flight homewards. Meanwhile Shopov

disappeared back into the building. Ramadan, who had taken cover behind the stairwell of a nearby It was not until three-four oclock in the morning when the population finally dispersed that the

house to monitor the situation, witnessed everything as it unfolded. No one came out again that day. revivalists could leave the village. Thus, it was quickly over in Kornitsa, too. The subsequent attempt to force Breznitsas women into the dress also failed. This time, a formidable female force not only prevented the militsioners from entering the village, but also wrestled the young village hodja (hoca) out of their grip. The militsia (communist police) had arrested him earlier with the intent to use him in proselytizing women to accept the dress. The ruse not only failed to produce results, but also forged a collective womens resistance that quickly aborted the assimilation move on Breznitsa. 94


Ramadan Runtov, interview. (Ibid.) 127

crumbled having met resistance, the renewed revival pressure in the 1960s and onwards became

Whereas the faltering attempts to re-attire Pomak women in the late 1950s promptly

more determined and violent. Ismal Byalkov, a young man at the time, was able to shed light on what happened in Kornitsa in 1964, and especially during the final throes of the revival process in 1973. I

was born in Kornitsa in 1945. Ismail begins, My occupation was agricultural crop growing, names. [P]eople fled to the woods. It was March. Very cold! There was nothing and no one in the

shepherding. I have no specific profession. [I was 19] when in 1964, they first came to change our woods that early in season. Neither grass was growing, nor could any food be gathered in the forest.

The name changing in 1964 continued for four days. Most people who had fled into the woods to

avoid it couldnt make it beyond the second or third day in the open. It was raining all the time. People were cold and starving. If they happened on a shepherd, out with his herd, theyd take his bread and let him go. But those in the woods were so overwhelmed with hunger that many came

back to their houses and had their names changed. To everybodys surprise, however, the renaming abruptly stopped four days after it had begun. What we heard subsequently was that Turkey spoke on our behalf and thats why the name changing halted, Ismail reminisces. Then those who had signed paperwork agreeing to change their names wanted it back. The regime, however, stalled. As the population converged on the public square in Kornitsa to demand annulment of the renaming,

the authorities returned the declarations, containing individuals signatures, which people then tore up. Four persons were exiled from the village as a result [of the events in 1964],Ismail says, Among them was my father, Bekir Bekirov Byalkov. 95

Pomaks. In Kornitsa, the population was astir once more. [B]ecause of the extreme conditions [in

Then came 1973, and with it, the final and most brutal stage of the revival process against the

1964], Ismail continues, people decided not to flee to the woods again in 1973, but to gather on the of bureaucrats, troops, militsia (police), fire fighters, and armed civilians arrived in Kornitsa. The

public square. So on January 23, [1973], were all assembled on the village square. A revivalist force entire population, [having] congregated on the public square, held tight and determined to let

Ismail Byalkov, interview by author, Istanbul, Turkey, May 20, 2007. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) Also, for more on Ramadan Runtov and the revival process, see the next chapter. 128

stayed there day and night, in snow and rain, small children and adults. We were building big fires to keep warm. We slept in shifts: some would go to their houses to get some sleep while the rest kept was surrounded 96 vigil. We rotated like that. It went on like that until March 28. On the morning of March 28 the village To my inquiry whether or not it was the military or police who descended on the village,

nobody rename us. This tense state of affairs continued from January 23 to March 28 of 1973. We

he explains, At least I did not see any uniformed soldiers. There was a small horseback force and the rest were plainclothes. They were all dressed in plain clothes: fire fighters everyone. Now, whether they were civilians from the neighboring [Christian] villages or troops, I couldnt tell. There were very few individuals in military uniforms, and those in uniforms were on horses. But the ones

Ismail explained that most of the revivalists were dressed in civilian clothes. There were no troops,

that did the beating wore plain clothes. [And] there were loads of them. The whole village was

blocked. On March 28, 1973, after more than two months of nerve-racking suspense on both sides, the regime started shooting at the multitude gathered on the Kornitsas public square. The whole square was smeared in blood that day, Ismail concludes. Among the numerous wounded and

severely beaten people, five lay dead. Ismail Byalkov was arrested, among many others, for having long resistance vigil of Kortnitsa. Ismail would spend the next decade in prison, where he

participated in the supply of firewood and for maintaining the fires on the public square during the encountered Ramadan Runtov. The latter had been exiled from Kornitsa in the early 1960s. By the

time Ismail encountered him in prison, Ramadan had been systematically starved and in and out of solitary confinement for months. 97 Women in the Revival Process In spite of the bloodshed, the revival process was not implemented solely by brutality. What

won many Pomaks to the communist cause was economic opportunity. The conditions of utter
96 97

poverty typical of the Rhodopes in pre-communist times, as well as during the first two decades of
Ibid. Ibid. Also, for a detailed account of Ramadans life and anti-revivalism, read Chapter IV. 129

communist government, began to slowly improve by the early 1970s. The literacy rate among the

Pomak population also rose as a result of the mandatory school attendance for children. Many young primary and secondary school into high school, technical school, and college. The population as a encouraged the building of roads, sewage and water-supply systems, as well as initiating the electrification of traditionally Pomak areas. 98

people were given the opportunity through affirmative action to continue their education beyond whole experienced a general improvement of the infrastructure and living standards. The regime

picture of the Zagrajden Municipality in late 1971a situation generally representative of much of

A collection of data, compiled by the regime, reveals the following revival process-generated

Bulgarian-speaking Muslims (Appendix 3.3.1). Of the 2,807 Pomaks, 1,099 were already revived as of October 1971 largely by having their traditional names replaced with Bulgarian ones (Appendix percent of them (80 newborns) were registered with Bulgarian names (Appendix 3.3.2B). Ninety3.3.2A). Through the years 1969-1971, 127 infants were born to Pomak parents and more than 60 three Pomaks were forcibly removed from the municipality and resettled elsewhere in the country

the Rhodopes. An overwhelmingly Pomak municipality, 79 percent of Zagrajdens inhabitants were

usually in central or northern Bulgaria, among Christians (Appendix 3.3.3). The most common reason for exiling people from the Rhodopes during communism was their staunch opposition to the revival process. As a rule, the regime relocated those perceived as troublemakers, because they refused to change their names and/or influenced others to resist. 99 While the data reveals that the Pomaks

remained overwhelmingly agrarian, their children were being prepared for other occupational statistics report that from none to negligibly small, the average number of Pomak students

opportunities as well, including in the education and health-care sectors (Appendix 3.3.4). Further

graduating from secondary school, high school, technical school, college, and university respectively largest share of those completed secondary- and technical-school education (Appendix 3.3.5).
98 99

rose to 82.6 percent during the academic years of 1969-1970, 1970-1971, and 1971-1972. The

See section From Pokrastvane to Revival Process in this chapter. Ramadan Runtov, interview; Ismail Byalkov, interview. (Ibid.) 130

However, the majority of Pomak studentsespecially thoseenrolled in technical school and college were able to do so because of affirmative action. Surviving documents highlight that the affirmative action policy was designed with the view to accelerate the revival process and possibly encourage revivalists from within the Pomak community. The so-created local intelligentsia was henceforth expected to take part in all revivalist activities, including destroying old tombstones and minarets,

interfering with traditional burial rites and holidays, ripping ferejes and shalvars, changing names, process brought about relative economic prosperity as well. To that effect, further statistics illustrate that by the early 1970s a growing number of Pomak households in the Zagrajden Municipality (and elsewhere in the Rhodopes) began purchasing items previously inaccessible such as television and radio sets, refrigerators, cassette players, electrical and gas stoves, motorcycles, mopeds, cars, furniture, and homes (Appendix 3.3.6). and sacking incompliant employees from work. Nevertheless, along with frustration, the revival

population who mixed concrete and poured in into molds to make electric poles, dug holes to plant in place, the Myuhtar family was able to purchase their first television set in 1970, and they were asphalt-coated between 1967 and 1976, when the major traffic arteries connecting the villages Ablanitsa, Valkossel, Slashten, and Satovcha were completed. Thereafter, regular public bus

Rhodopes were electrified in 1964 with the help of conscripted local labor. Thus, it was the village

As Mehmed Myuhtar, among others, attests, the village of Valkossel and most of the Western

those in the ground, and pulled electric wire for most of 1961, 1962, and 1963. With electric outlets only the third household in Valkossel to do so. Further, most of the existing dirt or gravel roads were

transportation developed, linking the villages with each other, with the nearest town Gotse Delchev, several local persons completed vocational training. 100

and from therewith the rest of the country. A public bakery in Valkossel also opened in 1966 when Thus, economic opportunity and assimilation in the Rhodopes went hand in hand. By mid-

1972, more than 50 percent of the Muslims in the entire Smolyan Region had received Bulgarian

names with Christian significance, and carried new identification papers (Appendix 3.3.7). Although

Mehmed Myuhtar, telephone-interview by author, January 12, 2010. 131

the revival process was--by and large--forced on the Pomaks, many voluntarily adopted the new names and attire. Especially enthusiastic were some women, whose situation was particularly difficult due to the strongly patriarchal culture in the Rhodopes. A letter of complaint by a Pomak woman to the local authorities in this respect is noteworthy. The letter reveals intimidation of a different kind: one exerted by Pomaks against other Pomaks, particularly of women against women, the letter also points to the type of reaction the communist regime encouragedindeed, actively

largely to dissuade them from accepting Bulgarian names by way of mockery and rejection. However, pursued, particularly among womento validate the revival process as voluntary. Thus, evidence like the example below would have been carefully copied and broadly distributed for propaganda

purposes. The preserved archival copy is a typewriter-produced replica of an original handwritten treated as authentic:

letter, which could have been fabricated. With no direct evidence to that effect, however, it shall be May 1972

Dear Comrade Chairman of the R[egional Party] Committee Smolyan, I have a request and I hope that you could help me. We already restored our Bulgarian names and, having thrown our Arab [Muslim] names, we [women] are happy. But there is something else: Do we need to wear the headscarves[?] I am a young woman and I do not want to wear the headscarf, but we have many gossipers here. Let me tell you about this case: I went on vacation at the Narechen spa resort and, while there, I did not wear the headscarf[.] [B]ut when other women from my village saw me like that, they told my husband about it. Because he [my husband] is religious, they [these women] caused such problems for me that I was going to commit a suicide. So my opinion [i.e. question] to you, comrade chairman is this[:] Are we building communism here [in this country] or fascism[?] I want a reply to this question[:] [A]re these headscarves going to be removed from our heads so that I could enjoy my life? Because, when they [other women] say that rejecting the headscarf is sinful, I get mad and I have problems afterwards. If you could make my family life scarf-free, the treat will be on me. There is more: The women in our villages wear shalvars or pants to cover their legs since they believe that it is sinful to expose them[.] So they laugh at me and say to me: Where do you think youll be going with these naked legs after you die? I tell them: You mind your own business! Thats my opinion [i.e. complaint] to you and I ask you to consider it. My address is: V[illage of] Treve, Smolyan Region Svetla Silkova Surova Im looking forward to your reply. 101


Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 38, Archival Unit 6, page 125. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 132

have been unusually courageous or foolhardy to challenge a staunchly patriarchal society that way.

If the letter is authentic, it posits an interesting scenario. The woman who authored it must

Because she speaks of herself in the first person singular, one ought to assume that she was the sole who openly ridiculed her. Because it is difficult to imagine that any woman would willingly place

female rebel in the village, facing not only a conservative husband and society, but also fellow women herself in a position of isolation, vulnerability, and mockery within her community, it is possible that the letter may be a fake. According to evidence furnished by Ramadan Runtov, there were regularly scheduled propaganda conferences organized for Pomaks after 1956, when the regime first moved to forward, before the audience and theatrically discard the veil declaring: I desire this black veil no symbolically delivering her from the black veil, i.e. male oppression. Among the largely Pomak re-attire Pomak women. During these conferences veiled womensupposedly Pomakwould come

more. As she would throw down the headscarf, other women would help her to put a dress on, thus, audience, however, who were forced to attend these events, there was a great deal of suppressed some were paid actresses, Christian women posing as Muslim ones, or even female relations of previously converted and/or voluntarily revived Pomaks. These events, however, based on forgery. 102

mockery and doubt as to the true identity of these women. It is very likely, as Ramadan suggests, that

Ramadans information, were frequently organized, followed the same basic format, and smacked of Reluctantly or not, the revival process against the Rhodopean Muslims formally concluded in

1974. Nevertheless, a number of Pomaks managed to evade renaming even after that date. Indeed, in March 1977, a government report estimated that 6,718 individuals had remained un-revived (Appendix 3.3.8). 103 The majority of those escaped the revival process by taking refuge in areas with

significant Turkish-speaking population and feigning Turkish identity. This subterfuge worked
Ramadan Runtov, interview. (Ibid.)

Assessment on the Implementation of the Decision of the Secretariat of the Bulgarian Communist Partys central committee from July 17, 1970, concerning the Pomak revival process. The document is dated May 8, 1978, and numbered 005805, pages 60-80. Central National Archives-Sofia. (There is no archival reference on the document).



because Bulgaria, fearing an international incident with Turkey, excluded the Turkish minority from forced assimilation during the 1970s. No matter how successful the renaming, as soon as the communist regime eased up the

to submit to the new identity stemmed from the abusive and debasing nature of the assimilation. The Pomak population, which had overwhelmingly supported the regimes initial ascent to power, felt betrayed, beaten down, and humiliated by the revival process. Just as the earlier pokrastvane, the revival process was committed in the name of nationalism. It was purposed to perpetuate the communist control over a unitary nation-state without regard to the dignity of the Muslim

and the use of their Turkish-Arab appellations, albeit privately. 104 Much of the Muslim unwillingness

pressure on the Pomak community, the majority resumed the practice of their religious traditions

communities. While working towards its goal, the regime skillfully manipulated the national Conclusion 1. External Pressure, Internal Turmoil and the Big Excursion

majoritys sentiment by synonymizing the revival process with advancing the national interest.

1972-1974 remained largely unnoticed by the international community, the campaign against the

regime revived all Muslims in Bulgaria by the beginning of 1987. Whereas the final Pomak revival of

With the national sentiment firmly swayed in favor of the assimilation, the communist

A government assessment of the implementation of the Pomak revival process reads: After the mass revival of their names, the individual work with the [Pomak] people started slacking[.] [A]s a result, in some regions there are still hundreds of Bulgarians [Pomaks] bearing Turkish-Arab names and there is a general tendency of reverting back to old-fashion Turkish style of dressing [among the Pomaks]. A considerable part of the descendants [of Islamized Bulgarians] accepted the new, Bulgarian names only nominally. They continue to use their Turkish-Arab names among themselves and in the privacy of their homes. Although, all newborns are registered with Bulgarian names, in many parts of the country the parents privately give them Turkish-Arab names and use those at home. Most of the children in the towns and villages of the Kardjali, Blagoevgrad and Pazardjik Regions unofficially bear [Turkish-]Arab names. Some reactionary elements are instilling the belief in people that their [Muslim] names will be restored soon since the same had happened many times before. In many [Pomak] areas, the women and girls still wear shalvars, yashmaks [cover garment] and ferejes. Despite the prohibition, many boys are still being circumcised... [italics added]. (Assessment on the Implementation of the Decision of the Secretariat of the Bulgarian Communist Partys central committee from July 17, 1970, concerning the Pomak revival process. The document is dated May 8, 1978, and numbered 005805, pages 60-80. Central National Archives-Sofia, pages 71-73. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 134

ethnic Turks of 1984-1985 created an international uproar due in greatest part to Turkeys forceful protests. Nervous and apprehensive about a broader international condemnation, the communist regime in Bulgaria closely monitored every move of the Turkish government. Between the revival process. An intelligence report observes the following, among other things: process;

June 27 and July 3, 1987, alone, the regime registered a number of developments in Turkey regarding The radio station, The Voice of Turkey, was steadily transmitting news about the revival

The Voice of Turkey spoke directly to the Muslims of Bulgaria, because of which, measures At a protest rally in Istanbul on June 27, 1987, the united organization of the Bulgarian were put in place to jam the transmissions of The Voice of Turkey.

immigrants in Turkey voiced the opinion that the Turkish government should pressure response, the communist regime vowed to [c]ontinue the smear campaign against the leaders of the anti-Bulgarian-movement in Turkey in order to inflict discord in it. 105 of repression against and assimilation of the Turkish ethnic minority [in Bulgaria];

Bulgaria into signing an agreement allowing the Muslims of Bulgaria to leave the country. In

On 21-24 June 1987, the Istanbul Lawyers Association held a symposium about the politics

Belene The Death Camp. The regime cautioned in this regard: It is possible that this and other such films would attempt to be smuggled into our country on videotapes to keep high the hopes for immigration to the mother-country, Turkey of the Bulgarian citizens with revived names.

The production of a new anti-Bulgarian documentary was being planned in Turkey, titled

Turkeys President Kenan Evren met with Jordans King Hussein, during the latters official visit to the country, where Kenan expressed concern over the revival process in Bulgaria. According to the information, Kenan said: Our nation will be grateful if the Islamic

countries use their influence with Bulgaria to help us on the matter King Hussein replied: We believe that a just solution will be found regarding the human rights and cultural

Ibid., 2. 135

identity of the Muslim minority in Bulgaria. We will attempt to persuade Bulgaria to respond Spearheaded by Turkey, international indignation at the treatment of Muslim in Bulgaria positively to such just demands. 106

steadily grew after 1985. Pomaks and Turks, for their part, reacted with massive demonstrations

against the regime and its revivalist policies by early 1989. What became known as The May Events of 1989 resulted in the expulsion of scores of native Turkish [and Pomak] intellectuals, leaders and potential leaders of the anti-revivalist movement, 107 and Ramadan Runtov was among them. 108 As

foreign pressure on Bulgaria mounted, the Chairperson of the State Council of the Peoples Republic of Bulgaria, Todor Zhivkov, delivered a dramatic speech on May 28, 1989. It was broadcasted on all electronic media in Bulgaria and disseminated through the printed press. In this speech, Zhivkov permanent basis. As Eminov describes it, [a] week after the start of [the] demonstrations, the

called on Turkey to open its borders for all those who wished to leave Bulgaria temporarily or on a government announced on national television that those Bulgarians who wished to visit Turkey

would be issued passports on demand. The response to this announcement was unanticipated and immediately after the announcement. Passports were issued rapidly and the Turks [but not the Pomaks] were told to put their affairs in order quickly and leave Thus, the epic expulsion of

overwhelming. The passport offices were besieged by hundreds of thousands of Turks [and Pomaks]

Muslims by the communist government of Bulgaria began. To save face, the regime deliberately called it the Big Excursion. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims left Bulgaria during this forced excursion, most of them never to return. 109

107 108 109

Information about Turkeys Activities against the Revival Process for the period 27 June 3 July 1987. The document is dated July 3, 1987 and signed by then Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen. Lieutenant St. Savov, pages 1-6. (There is no archival reference on the document). Eminov, 97. Eminov, 97. Read about Ramadan Runtov in the next chapter.

Between June and August, Eminov continues, when Turkey closed its borders with Bulgaria to emigrants without proper visas, over 350,000 Turks [and Pomaks] left the country. The mass exodus of Turks [and Pomaks] from Bulgaria over such short period of time caused severe economic and social dislocations in the country which contributed to the downfall of the Z[h]ivkov regime on 10 November 1989. Eventually, especially 136

applications for passports to emigrate as well. As Eminov accurately points out, whereas Bulgarias Turks received passports by the tens of thousands, Pomak applications were denied. Local party officials explained that Z[h]ivkovs announcement did not cover the Muslims living in the Sofia and

When Zhivkov promised to let all Muslims go, hundreds of Pomaks from the Rhodopes filed

Plovdiv provinces [i.e. Pomaks] because they were another category of people, presumably meaning Bulgarians. Accordingly, regional bureaucrats in charge of issuing immigration papers categorically stated that they would not allow anyone to immigrate to Turkey and threatened anyone who persisted in their demands with arrest, imprisonment, and even death. 110 According to official leave the country (Appendix 3.2A). Of those, only about 125,000 were issued the necessary

statistics, as of July 6, 1989, in excess of 370,000 Pomaks submitted applications for passports to documents to travel abroad (Appendix 3.2B). They were mostly political undesirables like Ramadan by July 6, 1989 (Appendix 3.2C).

Runtov. Despite the difficulties, however, an estimated 111,336 Pomaks had already left the country 2. The End Is Near or Is It? By late 1989, the political and economic situation in Bulgaria was so unstable that the regime

finally awakened to reality. As the Soviet Unions leader Mikhail Gorbachev spoke of communist

communist regimes throughout the Eastern European bloc diminished politically. Reacting to this

perestroika (reformation), the peoples of Eastern Europe marched for democracy. Consequently, the

pervasive agitation, the Bulgarian Muslims rallied for freedom and demanded reversal of the revival process. Although nervous, the communist Caesars of Bulgaria remained arrogant and remorseless. Believing the status quo to be retainable, they hatched a plan to expel all ethnic Turks from the

country, thus, resolving the national problem once and for all. In a matter of months in 1989, more than 350,000 Muslimsoverwhelmingly Turks but many Pomaks as wellwere deported from

after the ouster of Z[h]ivkov from power, over 150,000 Turks [and Pomaks] returned to Bulgaria, but more than 200,000 chose to remain in Turkey permanently. (Eminov, 97.)

Eminov referencing Ashley, 106-7.


Bulgaria. This was the single largest mass exodus of refugees in Europe since the Second World War. 111 Because the Muslims were the major workforce of the countrys agrarian sector and because

they were driven out in the middle of the summer, Bulgaria experienced a severe labor shortage for the fall harvest of 1989. The national agricultural economy accordingly collapsed. In a desperate move to survive, on November 10, 1989, the regime ousted from power the main Ceasar Todor party renamed itself to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and continued to rule the country.

Zhivkov, and blamed the total political and economic disaster on him. Meanwhile, the communist However, it was already making amends with the Muslims by revising the disastrous revival process. On December 29, 1989, the reformed regime reversed the revival process and proclaimed it an elected the first democratic Parliament, which undertook to abolish the assimilation policy and ensure a democratic rule of government. anomaly of the Zhivkov era. In June 1990, during the first multi-party elections in decades, Bulgaria

Citizens, which denounced the revival process and condemned the violation of the basic constitutional guarantee for equality before the law of all citizens (Article 35 of the 1971 Constitution). Article 17 of the law stipulated: Threat, coercion, violence, fraud, abuse of power or other illicit actions in choosing, keeping, changing or restoring a name is punished under the Penal Code. It also ensured that all Bulgarian citizens whose names have been forcibly changed may, of their own free will, regain their conventional names of Turkish-Arab origin. restore their former names. 112 Within two years, most Pomak and Turkish Muslims were able to Further, the democratic Constitution of 1991 incorporated provisions to the same effect. Article

Accordingly, on May 6, 1990, the Parliament passed the Law on the Names of the Bulgarian

13 (1), for example, stipulated that The practicing of any religion shall be free. Article 37 provided

for freedom of conscience, thought, and religion, as well as charged the state with ensuring tolerance

111 112

Eminov, 97. Ibid., 20.


the Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the traditional religion of the Republic of Bulgaria. 114 This renewed identification of the political regime with the Orthodox Church, and hence with the Christian values of the dominant ethno-religious majority, aroused fresh fears among the

and respect for the religious beliefs of others. 113 Simultaneously, however, Article 13(3) established

understandably distrustful Muslims. The Pomaks were especially concerned about being able to hold on to their newly acquired freedom of self-expression given the history of forced assimilation. 115 proven justified since the initial freedom surge following the collapse of the communist regime. The Pomak apprehension about displaying Muslim (i.e. un-Bulgarian) identity has largely

Taking advantage of the dire economic straits of the Rhodopes in the early 1990s, as Eminov points and their success in converting [them] to Christianity is widely reported in the mass media. In addition, "representatives of mainstream Protestant denominations, Evangelicals, Catholics,

out, Orthodox priests have been extremely active among the Bulgarian-speaking Muslims since 1989

Mormons, Church of Scientology and various cults are competing with one another to save Muslim unthinkable. 116

souls. At the same time, however, Muslim missionary activity among the Orthodox population is Eminov registered the ongoing conversion activities among the Pomaks prior to 1997, when

he published his book Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities. Since then Bulgaria has joined NATO (2004) and the European Union (2007). Regardless of these most stimulating developments, however, the Pomak cultural expression remains restricted. Moreover, the post 9/11 reality, hostile attitudes toward the Muslims in Bulgaria. Especially galling to the prevalent national sentiment has become the Pomak claim to Muslimness. Now, as in the past, the Pomaksas

inflaming anti-Muslim sentiments worldwide, has frighteningly normalized the negative and even

Bulgarian-Mohamedanshave to strictly follow prescribed norms of cultural behavior, i.e. act

Ibid., 62. Ibid., 65. Ibid. Ibid. 139

113 114 115 116

Bulgarian by maintaining adherence to dominant ideas of nationalism. Thus, the post-totalitarian status quo has been painfully reminiscent of the revival process for many Pomaks who remember it. 117 In the course of over thirty years of democratic government in Bulgaria, the appeal of a

nationalism of the nasty type is growing rather than subduing. The harsh economic reality further 1997, when Ali Eminov described it, much of the news production in Bulgaria remains in the hands enables the openly biased media to fan the flames of a tangibly hostile national sentiment. 118 As in

journalists who often manufacture evidence, expand rumors into major stories, or create rumors themselves. These stories are then given wide play in both print and broadcast media. When

these journalists get pressed for concrete evidence to back up their allegations, they usually furnish none. 119 Referencing Bulgarian scholarship, Eminov quotes actual news headlines, the likes of which still appear in the Bulgarian press (and other media): The sinister wave of Turkish separatism is swelling; The declaration of a Turkish Republic in the Rhodopes is in preparation; Turks want to redraw the ethnic map of Bulgaria Turkey is secretly training Janissaries* for the Bulgarian army; Bulgarian Muslims are subjected to forced Turkization; Islamic fundamentalists are crisscrossing Bulgaria; Emissaries from the Middle East are scuttling through the Rhodopes.

* The Ottoman policy of recruiting Christian youth into the military by converting them to Islam is popularly labeled blood tax in Bulgarian folklore to suggest forced removal of these boys from their families. Scholars, on the other hand, agree that Christian families volunteered their boys into the army, because the Ottoman system otherwise prohibited non-Muslims (mostly Christians and Jews) from serving in the military. 120

to reoccupy its former territories, including Bulgaria and reenslave the Christian population.

roster. First, Turkey as the Ottoman Empires heirremains the enemy that is always scheming

Several themes, smacking of populist nationalism, immediately manifest themselves in this

Second, in preparation for reclaiming its empire, Turkey (as well as the Arab Middle East) is secretly
117 118 119 120

Ramadan Runtov, interview; Ismail Byalkov, interview; Mehmed Shehov, interview; Mehmed Myuhtar, interview; and others. See subtitle, A Gellnerian Model of National Sentiment, above. Eminov, 21. See Chapter II as well as Foreword for details. 140

training Janissaries and sending in Islamic fundamentalists to Turkicize/Islamize the population. of the Pomaks and to alienate them from the Bulgarian nation. Fourth, sinister Islamic forces are plotting to redraw the ethnic map of Bulgaria to the destruction of our nation-state. Taking a

Third, these Islamic emissaries are scuttling through the Rhodopes to pervert the consciousness

conspiratorial approach to expressions of Muslim identity, some journalists diligently keep track used to hatch diabolical plots to destroy the Bulgarian state and nation. Most worrisome of all, however, is the lack of political will to hold people who spread unfounded and incendiary propaganda accountable. 121 3. Implications for Pomak Heritage This conspiratorial frenzy in the public space is inevitably coloring the prevalent national

of the number of new mosques built and under construction, and quite seriously claim that those are

the popular mood and respond accordingly. Indeed, the disappointing economic and political

sentiment. On the flip side, it may also be that the press and media simply pick up on some anger in

developments in recent years have not been conducive to a positive national sentiment. Already majority voted the openly nationalist GERB party to power. The political prowess of GERB is

disillusioned by several governments and hardened by economic instability, in July 2009, Bulgarias singularly vested in the personal charisma of its leader, Boyko Borissov, who has openly expressed former bodyguard of the long-term communist leader Todor Zhivkov. According to his own

strong nationalistic views. Along with being the current Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Borissov is also a admission, Borissov took part in the Turkish revival process of 1984-1985 as lieutenant of a firewith Turkish population] to protect the grain crops, so that they [the Turks] dont set them on

fighting battalion. As fire-fighters, he explained in an interview, we were sent there [to the areas fire. 122 Protecting the crops from insurgents, however, was the least of the Partys concerns. In fact, it is now common knowledge that the communist regime threw all available forces police,
121 122

Boyko Borrisov odobryava tselite na vazroditelniya protses /(Boyko Borisov approves of the objectives of the revival process/, Mediapool, October 31, 2008, at: 141

Eminov., 21-22.

troops, fire brigades, and salaried functioners against a civilian population to intimidate and force it into revivalist submission, including by a way of beating and murder. 123 In a highly controversial statement of October 31, 2008, the future Prime Minister Borissov quite seriously explained that while he approved of the objectives of the revival process, he disagreed with the methods of its

implementation. In response to a reporters comment that imposing names on people was perverted, of Turkey Turks, of Serbia Serbs[.] [T]hats why, there are states and there are borders. If one is are Bulgarian citizens, and that is to be the guiding principle for every [national] cause. 124

Borissov retorted: It must be understood once and for all that the citizens of Bulgaria are Bulgarians, Bulgarian, one needs to feel that way[.] [I]f one feels Turk, let him go to Turkey. In Bulgaria, there Thus, the authorities in Bulgaria effectively reduce the essence of nationalism to narod,

than integration of vernacular heritages into the public narrative. As a result, most efforts to tell the Pomak version of history as dissent and oppression in the official domein are consistently met with hostility and censorship.

nation-state with the sentiments of the dominant ethno-cultural majority promotes exclusion rather

meaning that nation and people are one and the same thing. 125 This constraining equalization of the

the revival process should be remembered not to create antagonism, but to foster acceptance and

Yet, as painful as they may be, narratives of coercion and suffering like the pokrastvane and

reconciliation. Only by facing the past can a people move forward as a nation, and only by recognizing historical wrongs can a nation hold those in charge of government accountable to the benefit of all in whole segment of Bulgarias population with historically Turkish-Arab names. These privileged few, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, or language. In that sense, the revival process was a crime not however, victimized society at large during the nearly five decades of totalitarian rule (1944-1989), society. In its essence, the revival process was the doing of a tiny ruling communist minority against a

against Muslims alone, but against all those who valued dignity and free conscience in the nation.

123 Eminov, passim. See also, Vera Grozeva, Karvyashta Nostralgia (Zhar-Zhanet Argirova, 2000), passim; Salih Bozov, V Imeto na Imeto (Sofia, 2005), passim. 124 125

Mediapool, (ibid.).

See section A Gellnerian Model of National Sentiment above. 142

Potentially, peoples realization of their shared vulnerability to a government without check would engender acceptance and lay the foundations for common heritage in the Rhodopes, among other places. Thus, amid the many reasons I explore the life story of Ramadan Runtov in the next chapter is prisoner and exile as a result of the revival process.

that of his potent forgiveness and positive outlook regardless of the trauma he sustained as a political


CHAPTER IV THE REVIVAL PROCESS: A POMAK LIFE OF DISSENT AMIDST CULTURAL OPPRESSION IN COMMUNIST BULGARIA Synopsis Revival process was the euphemistic term for the comprehensive policy of the communist

Muslims (Pomaks) with appellations of Orthodox Christian significance during the 1960s and 1970s. This wholesale assimilation generated a profound disturbance in the Pomak community. Within two decades, a people with markedly Muslim identity were forced to rethink their way of life to comply that as descendants of Christian Bulgarians, the Pomaks could not profess Islam and still be true

regime in Bulgaria (1944-1989) to involuntarily replace the Arab-Turkish names of the Bulgarian

with the regimes demands for a culturally uniform nation. The underlying assimilation rationale was Bulgarians. The regime imposed a radical transformation of Pomak identity which, in turn, provoked equally intense opposition. People struggled to come to terms with the new communist reality by either adjusting to it or by suffering the consequences of dissent via mistreatment, imprisonment,

often death, and constant harassment. The revival process is a defining moment in Pomak history that calls for scholarly attention and remembering. This chapter builds an abstract portrait of the Pomak multitude that suffered the turmoil, survived it and made their choice of identity based on that because his life of a dissenter, political prisoner and forced migr constitutes the ultimate experience. Ramadan Runtovs story, acquired through interviews, is the focal point of the analysis expression of personal dissent and the collective Pomak struggle for self-preservation. The overlapping accounts of other interviewees, obtained independently, and relevant archival documentation, lend indispensable support to the storyline. Meeting Ramadan

on the Pomak Muslims of Bulgaria. Even though I knew that Pomak exiles lived in Turkey, I did not the local universities, who also came from my home town of Valkossel in southwestern Bulgaria. the way they coped with life in a foreign country. When I turned up in Istanbul, however, life

I met Ramadan in May 2007 while in Turkey conducting dissertation research that focuses

expect to meet so many of them in Istanbul. My guide in the city was Fikrie, a Pomak student at one of Because of Fikries status as a student, I largely anticipated to be speaking with other students about unraveled for me in fulfilling twists and turns. One of those was Fikries connection to the village of

Figure 4-1: On the University of Marmaras campus, Istanbul (Turkey) One of the first things I did when I arrived in Istanbul in the summer of 2007 was to visit Fikries campus. In this photograph, I am (in the middle) on the University of Marmaras campus hanging out with Fikrie (right) and her friends (one of them in the picture, the rest having a good laugh while taking it). Kornitsa (her mother was from there), near Valkossel, where my informant Ramadan was born.

Because of the forced assimilation of the Muslims during the communist period, many Pomaks were regime collapsed in 1989. Their primary destination was Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country.

either expelled from Bulgaria for opposing the revival process or voluntarily left the country once the

As a result, many Pomaks live throughout western Turkey today, notably in Istanbul and along the

coast of Asia Minor. Indeed, I discovered a whole Pomak community in Istanbul, all coming from the

Rhodopes Mountains of southwest Bulgaria, the Pomak stronghold in the country. Numbering in the

hundreds, they all live within city blocks from each other in the suburb of Gneli, on the Asiatic side wife, three sons and their sons families, dwelling within walking distance of one another. When who the best people to approach were. From the lone nerve-racking venture I had expected, my

of Istanbul. Ramadan was the seventy-seven-year-old patriarch of the Runtovs clan comprised of his

Fikrie introduced me to her relatives from Bulgaria, they sat down with me to collectively discuss research project was becoming a communal enterprise. Everybody agreed that I should be

introduced to Ramadan Runtov. The next day, my hostess for the day, Ava, and I headed toward his tall, and somewhat stern-looking man: Ramadan Runtov himself. Being invited in, we sat on sofas over from the ancestral home in Bulgaria. With the mandatory black Turkish coffee before us, Ramadan and I settled down for a quiet interview.

home. After a short meandering walk, we rang the doorbell of a house to be admitted by an elderly, covered with familiar woolen bedspread, likely hand-crafted by Ramadans own wife and brought

appear intrusive, ignorant, or otherwise unprepared. Starting with an explanation that I was

I was slightly apprehensive about how to begin the conversation, because I did not want to

conducting a dissertation research on the Pomak community, a topic severely lacking in scholarly attention, I said to my host: I heard that you went through a lot during the revival process. Would you care to answer a few questions while I record? Go right ahead! instantly came the cordial answer. Ask! Record! Whatever you want! Its all right with me. I want this to be known; young

recounted the struggles of his life. I did not have to say much until the very end, three hours later.

people should know their heritage. 1 From this point onward, Ramadan embarked on a narrative that

When he finished, the coffee was cold in my cup, and I was sitting there pondering the richness and

Ramadan Runtov, interview by author, Istanbul, Turkey, May 21, 2007. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all the quotes are from the interview with Ramadan Runtov.


anguish of one mans life. He stood before me quietly smiling and apparently untroubled by bitterness and resentment. The Revival-Process Ordeal The revival process was only the last of a series of forced assimilations of Slavic-speaking

Muslims in Bulgaria, better known as Bulgarian Muslims or Pomaks. Because they speak Bulgarian language as their mother tongue, unlike the Turkish Muslims of Bulgaria, the ruling elites have Islamized by the Ottoman Turks. It is this claim that justified the assimilation efforts. Indeed, always promoted the Pomaks as ethnic Bulgarians whose Christian forefathers were once forcibly restoring the Pomaks to their rightful faith, even against their will, became a patriotic obligation to the Bulgarian nation. The historically strained Christian-Muslim relations in Bulgaria are a direct concomitant of the countrys past as the heartland of the Islamic Ottoman Empire. The Turks conquered the Balkans in the late 1300s and held most of the peninsula well into the nineteenth

century. Under Ottoman rule, the Orthodox Christian population, along with other religious groups, categorized as rayah, non-Muslims. Under the public law of Islam, Sharia, non-Muslims were not

(including the Bulgarians) was organized in millets self-governing religious communities, generally

equal to Muslims and the former were largely barred from upward administrative, political, and military mobility. After Bulgarias independence of 1878, the now prevailing Christian majority sought to suppress the formerly dominant Muslims. In a bid to consolidate the nation-state,

politically as well as territorially, the authorities embarked on converting the Muslim population. They especially targeted the Pomaks who shared language and Slavic origins with the national majority. 2

For a detailed account of the Pomak assimilation, see Chapters II and III. 147

Figure 4-2: Ramadan Runtov Ramadan Runtov, also known as Ramadan Kurucu, is holding a book that had recently publicized many painful revival-process memories, including Ramadans own. Istanbul Turkey, 21 May 2007. (Photograph by the author)

Bulgarian regimes at various stages of government, which were repeatedly aborted and resumed

The forced Pomak assimilation has been an evolutionary process, pursued by different

pokrastvanehappened in 1912-1913. In the midst of an ongoing war, 3 thousands of Pomaks were


depending on political circumstances. The first comprehensive Christianization better known as

The Balkan Wars were initially fought by Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro against their former occupier Ottoman Turkey, and subsequently by Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro against Bulgaria, which had taken most of the Ottoman territories the formerly allied foursome sought to acquire (see Chapter II as well as Foreword). 148

forced to formally renounce their Islamic faith and to convert to Orthodox Christianity. The affair was short-lived, however, and abruptly ended when Pomak protests drew the attention of the international community. Subsequent Bulgarian governments, in conjunction with the Orthodox

Church, made similar moves against the Pomaks in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s by means of both Pomaks to accept the true faith of their forefathers and permanently rejoin the ethnic Bulgarian

violence and persuasion. Government-employed teachers and Christian missionaries called on the

body. When persuasion proved futile, however, Bulgarian gendarmerie and Christian posses stepped attempt to convert the Pomaks in the period 1938-1944. in to brutalize the population. 4 The Nazi-allied monarchic regime of Bulgaria launched its successive

1938, when they began to bully us again, he reminisces.

excesses of the last pre-communist conversion of the Pomak population. I was eight-year old in

In the eve of the Second World War, Ramadan Runtov was a young boy who experienced the

relatively small group of Marxist and Leninist adherents, who subsequently formed the puppet

In 1944, in the heat of the war, the Soviet army occupied Bulgaria and installed in power a

They forbade us to wear fezzes [the traditional Ottoman male headdress in those days]. I attended school back then and I would go to school with a fezz ... And there was this man, Boriss Baldevski, from the [Bulgarian] gendarmerie. On two occasions he took my fezz and cut it to pieces with his knife. Then, in the freezing cold, I would wrap a scarf around my head to be able to go to school. But they would snatch my scarf, too, and tramp it in the mud.

communist government of Bulgaria. Fierce persecution of opposition activists and supporters of the were labeled fascist and put to their death by a specially created extra-judicial body, dubbed the

previous dynastic regime began immediately. Thousands of inconvenient persons and organizations peoples court. The political witch-hunt was a matter of survival for the fledgling communist

government as it grappled to establish control of the country. 5 As Bulgaria had a sizeable Muslim population, the new regime embarked on gaining their support. It won the Pomaks simply by aborting the conversion and reinstating their traditional names.

For more information, see Chapter II. Also, read the compilation of original documents on the Christianization of 1912-1913 published under the editorship of Drs. Velichko Georgiev and Stayko Trifonov, eds. Pokrastvaneto na Bulgarite Mohamedani 1912-1913 /The Christianization of the Bulgarian Mohammedans 1912-1913/ (Sofia: Prof. Marin Drinov Publ., 1995). (In Bulgarian).

Georgi Markov, Zadochni reportaji ot Balgaria /In-Absentia Reports of Bulgaria/ (Sofia: Profizdat, 1990). 149

developments. They not only expanded their support base among the Pomaks, but also conveniently them fascist. Among the latter group were prominent politicians, publicists, and members of the suppressed formidable political opponents by linking them to the pokrastvane and, thus, branding

Acting as Muslim benefactors allowed the communists to jumpstart two critical

Organization Rodina an entity that practically carried out the 1938-1944 Christianization. 6 Only a decade later, however, the regime would not only rehabilitate prominent Rodina activists, but also eulogize their former fascist activities as patriotic. By that the time, the communist leadership was planning its own crusade against the Muslims. 7

consider reversing their policy toward the Pomak minority. The emerging communist nationalism people, as a malignant cancer within what ought to have been a culturally uniform nation.

By the mid-1950s, the communists had stabilized their grip on power and could comfortably

saw the large number of Muslims in the country, comprising about one-fifth of roughly seven million Thereafter, the pressure began on Pomak men and women to rid themselves of the traditional attire Orthodox ones, and to abandon any and all religious practices. 8 Especially affected by the

in favor of more modern clothing, to substitute their traditional Turkish-Arab names with Bulgarianassimilation politics were young Pomak army conscripts. 9

Bulgaria, all Muslim youths were assigned to labor units, with limited access to weapons and military Nevertheless, it was a time of optimism for Ramadan who believed that better days were ahead after
6 7

From 1951 to 1953, young Ramadan Runtov was serving his mandatory military service. In

training. Instead, they did construction, mining, and other strenuous and hazardous activities. 10
For details on the pokrastvane, see Chapters II and III.

8 Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, (New York: Routledge, 1997), 99-111; Ali Eminov, Social Construction of Identities: Pomaks in Bulgaria, JEMIE 6 (2007) 2. 9 10

Based on original documents produced and circulated by various agencies of the communist party of Bulgaria, including Politburo, which took part in the revival process. Specifically, Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventories 39-40, Archival Units, passim. (Courtesy of Central National Archives-Sofia.)

Report of Prof. Georgi Galabov, chairing the committee in charge of implementing the revival process to the Propaganda and Persuasion department of the central committee of the communist party, circa 1963. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 40, Archival Unit 12, page 4. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 150

Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventories 39-40, Archival Units, passim; Ramadan Runtov, interview.

a construction supervisor in the army, he seized the opportunity. The communist regime, on the

having witnessed the pre-communist conversion. When he was offered the rare chance to advance as

other hand, needed young enthusiasts like Ramadan to win over the disillusioned Pomak population. he also received his first taste of what was coming. One day, a group of ethnic Turkish soldiers were brought to his army unit. One major brought the boys, Ramadan said, but he never knew I was a Muslim myself. In 1953, Ramadan officially became a member of the communist party. While in the army, however,

Sergeant, he said, these are Turks. Five hundred years they oppressed us. Now, youve got to bleed them dry with work. That night, I introduced myself to the guys. My name is Ramadan. Fear not. From now on well cope with everything together. They looked at me in disbelief at first, but then went all at once: Hey, brother, theyve wasted us with work already. Weve been cutting paving stones in a quarry day and night. By night, they make us build fires to keep working. 11 By 1958, the communist harassment of Pomak Muslims in the Rhodopes commenced.

Thereafter, Ramadans ordeal as a junior party member began, too. The first order of business for the regime was to force Pomak women to adopt a more revealing dress style instead of the conservative broad trousers and light headscarves. Pomak communists like Ramadan had to serve as personal example by obligating their wives first to wear dresses or skirt-and-shirt combinations. As most

affairs. Ramadan not only refused to serve as a personal example, but also dissuaded others from succumbing to pressure. In the early 1960s, the revival process took a nasty turn. Coercion was and Lajnitsa. 12

people defined their identity in terms of religion, however, they resisted participation in the revival

especially disturbing in the three adjacent villages of the Western Rhodopes Kornitsa, Breznitsa, Trouble in Kornitsa Communist bureaucrats, assisted by police (hereafter militsia) and civilian volunteers,

routinely harassed Pomak villages in the Rhodopes, southwest Bulgaria. Because these early revival

11 12

Ramadan Runtov, interview.

Ibid. Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventories 39-40, Archival Units, passim. 151

One day, a group of communist apparatchiks, escorted by militsia, arrived in Kornitsa (Ramadans

efforts targeted first and foremost women, 13 it was also women who offered the first open resistance.

village). Hoping to prevent bloodshed, Ramadan advised the village men to take cover in attics and with sharp nails spiking out. These were to serve as the first line of defense before the men could come to their aid, if need be. Having learnt from an informer what awaited them in Kornitsa, 14 however, the revivalists walked straight into the mayors office upon arrival and remained there.

cellars while the women and children stayed out. The women armed themselves with wooden boards

attire in the neighboring village of Breznitsa days after the Kornitsa affair also failed. However,

It was, thus, quickly over in Kornitsa in 1960 (?). 15 The attempt to force women into new

Everybody in the village waited. Gradually, the women started gathering in front of the council. I could see everything from behind a stairwell. The women above roared: Dogs! Get out! What do you want from us! For a while, nobody came out. Then Shopov, the lieutenant, and Nanchev, the mayor, showed up. The lieutenant pulled his pistol out and shot in the air once or twice. At that moment, ago Bayrams daughter, Amideyka, took her board out and walked toward the lieutenant: Shoot here, dog, [pointing at her chests]! Shoot here! He slowly backed up and disappeared behind the door. No one came out again that day.

before they dispatched revivalists to the village, the authorities detained the young hodja (hoca,

religious teacher) of Breznitsa, hoping that by forcing him first to renounce name and religion, others they would not release him. When the women of Breznitsa heard of the arrest, they started

would follow suit. According to Ramadan, they threatened him that unless his wife adopted the dress, convening at the lower extremity of the village. As a jeep-load of revivalists headed toward Breznitsa,

these self-styled amazons surrounded the revivalists, and Ava Darvova shattered the windshield with a bludgeon. The women then collectively pulled the hodja out of the jeep and safely escorted him home. The militsia just stood there stupefied and did nothing, Ramadan reports.

with the hodja, they stumbled upon an access road blocked by women. Forcing the vehicle to a stop,

Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventories 39-40, Archival Units, passim (see Chapter III). Also, Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, 99-111; Eminov, Social Construction of Identities: Pomaks in Bulgaria, passim. Even though Ramadan did not recall the exact year, it must have been 1960, because it is the year registered in the collective local memory as the time of forced resettlement, when the communist regime evicted many Pomak families from their ancestral homes in the Rhodopes, scattering them throughout Bulgaria. Also, by 1964-- the time of another assimilation attempt, Ramadan had already been exiled from Kornitsa.
15 14

Ramadan Runtov, interview.


revival efforts. Having repeatedly failed to comply with their instructions, however, the authorities

As a member of the communist party, the regime expected Ramadan to cooperate with their

began to harass him. They systematically summoned Ramadan to the local police station, where the

regimes efforts to secure his cooperation progressed from verbal to physical abuse. On one occasion, it on the chair, shut off the window blinds, locked the door, and proceeded to strike Ramadan, who you out of the window or my name is not Ramadan. Ill throw you out of that window and youll burst like a pumpkin down there. They may cut me to pieces afterwards, but you wont be sound either.

he reported to the office of the local agent of State Security, who immediately took his coat off, threw was still standing by the door. If you hit me one more time, he gasped in exasperation, I will throw

you on the spot.

As Ramadan took a step toward his abuser, the latter pulled his pistol out, Stop or Ill shoot Shoot if you dare, you, son of a bitch! Is this what youve learnt from Communism!? In fifteen years of peoples government, youve learnt to be murderers! Yours is no Communism. Youve completely distorted Lenins directives. What did Lenin say, huh? Everyone has the right to be Communist regardless of religion or language. But what are you doing!?

Then lowering his gun, the agent snapped, Why are you agitating the people!? 16

his membership in the communist party and began to speak out against the revival process.

As the pressure on Pomak Muslims to change their names intensified, Ramadan renounced

Moreover, his determination to encourage people to resist grew stronger. In 1961/62, his family,

along with many others labeled troublemakers, was exiled hundreds of kilometers away from the ancestral home and community, from southwest to central Bulgaria. But even in exile, there was no respite for Ramadan. As the communist regime moved to change Muslim names in 1964, equipped

with his ancestors identification papers, Ramadan went from one state institution to another trying to prove that they had historically borne Muslim names, not the Christian ones the government was forcing on the Pomaks. He even initiated a civil litigation challenging the constitutionality of the

revival process only to be curtly informed by the judge that there was nothing he could do to stop it. 17
16 17

Ramadan Runtov, interview. Ibid. 153

Figure 4-3: Ramadan with his family, circa 1959-1960 Ramadan with his wife (left) and two infant sons (the third had not been born yet), and his two sisters (right and back) in Kornitsa, the Rhodopes, before being exiled to Dolno Izvorovo, central Bulgaria. (Courtesy of Ramadan Runtov.) Kornitsa and the adjacent Pomak communities were surrounded by a revivalist force of local In October 1964, Ramadan received visitors from his home village with the news that

bureaucrats, militsia (police), and civilian (Christian) zealots. Scores of people fled into the woods as a result, and were now unsheltered, starving, and ailing for days under the relentless, cold autumnal


rain. 18 It was a group of these refugees who travelled hundreds of kilometers to Ramadans new

consulate in Sofia. As he delivered the news, the consul exclaimed: Hows that possible? Here are

home in central Bulgaria to seek counsel and help. The same day, Ramadan took them to the Turkish

your witnesses. Ask them. Eighty people are hiding in the woods. They havent eaten in three days.

They have nothing. These people will starve to death or die of cold. The consul picked up the phone, and Ramadan heard him reporting the news to Ankara. Shortly afterwards, a fax came through, and the consul encouraged the group to go home with the reassurance that the renaming would stop.

happening in the nearby village of Ribnovo, where the communist authorities made quite dramatic appearance both to appease as well as intimidate the population. According to a widely circulated story, the regime flew a helicopter into Ribnovo. As it landed on the fields just outside the village, however, the whole population came together resolved to let no revivalist in the village.

same declarations they had signed earlier, ostensibly requesting to take new names. The same was

The whole revival affair had already been aborted, and people were vigorously tearing off the very

By the time the men reached Kornitsa on foot a few days later, the blockade had been lifted.

Pomak community. As oral and documentary evidence suggests, the combined factors of external as 1964 temporarily halted the revival process. 20

home! 19 Indeed, for the time being this was the end of the forced assimilation against the wider

Whatever you have to say to us, say it here? the people insisted. We wont do anything to you. Go

pressure from Turkey and the regimes own qualms about the stability of their government as early However, the ordeal was just beginning for Ramadan Runtov. As he collected petitions

against the forced assimilation and submitted them to the Turkish consulate in Bulgaria, hence, We had put together an organization of sort, Ramadan explained to me, We (Muslims) were

making the affair known to the outside world, Bulgarias communist regime grew nervously irate. coming together from everywhere, doing prayers, discussing [the revival process] and collecting

18 19

Ismail Byalkov, interview by author, Istanbul, Turkey, May 20, 2007. Also, Ramadan Runtov, interview. Ibid.

20 Ibid.; Ramadan Runtov, interview; Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventories 38-40, Archival Units, passim.


petitions, which I then took to the Turkish consulate in Sofia or Plovdiv. I was delivering petitions to On one occasion I took a petition to the consulate with 3,800 signatures collected from across the

the consulate every Friday; Friday was a day for rest and prayers, and I was delivering petitions, too. [Muslim] villages. [W]e were protesting. We wanted to let everybody know what was happening [in Bulgaria] and that it was against our will. So we took our petitions to the Turkish consulate. 21 For Ramadan and the wider Pomak community, most of the 1960s passed in protesting,

anxious waiting, and toiling on the land for economic survival. Whereas Ramadan made a living for families in the Rhodopes grew tobacco as a cash crop. Then came the 1970s. It was May 11, 1972. village. He was a communist, a member of the local party committee. We had a good relationship, are conspiring to arrest you and change your name. Thus began the most harrowing chapter of

his wife, three sons and himself as a construction worker and farmer in central Bulgaria, most Pomak This I vividly remember. Ramadan reminisces. I was working for this Bulgarian [Christian] in one though, he and I. One day he bluntly warned me: Ramadan, dont show up for work tomorrow. They Ramadans and most Pomaks life in communist Bulgaria: the final and complete revivalization. This After Joseph Stalins death in 1953, the new Soviet Unions leader Nikita Khrushchev

bold move occurred in response to fundamental political changes within the larger communist bloc. denounced Stalin and eliminated his cult of personality, thus, ushering in a gradual process of easing of dictatorial rule across Eastern Europe. As a result, by the late 1960s, such reform-minded economic democratization of the country. The liberalization and decentralization of the communist leaders as Czechoslovakias head of state Alexander Dubek embarked on political and administrative authority in Czechoslovakia, however, did not sit well with the Soviet Union, which saw in it a dangerous precedent for the rest of the communist bloc and a direct threat to its total dominance over the communist states. Thus, in the spring of 1968, the Soviet army occupied the this tragic event as the Prague Spring.) The Soviet brutality sent shockwaves across the region.

country, viciously crushing the budding Czechoslovakian democracy. (History poetically recorded


Ramadan Runtov, interview. 156

Whereas most ordinary people, especially dissidents, trembled in fear and desperation, the loyal

communist rulers of Eastern Europe, especially in Bulgaria, relished the sense of all-empowerment. 22 launched the revival process. Moreover, the regime was determined to complete the renaming of the Pomaks once and for all. In his place of political exile in the village of Dolno Izvorovo, Kazanluk Region (central Bulgaria), Ramadan resumed his anti-revivalism out of necessity. As Pomak villages By 1972, with firm confidence in their absolute authority, the Bulgarian communist party re-

were once more besieged by heavily armed troops, militsia, and patriotic civilianson a much larger and more aggressive scaleRamadan and his co-villagers organized the defense of Dolno Izvorovo. Pomak dissenters prepared to resist. As the menace of forced assimilation loomed larger, the cocktails to defend themselves. However, just as the regime was determined to successfully conclude the name changing, so were the villagers armed themselves with farm implements, wooden boards, extra gasoline, and even Molotov In 1972, Ramadans anti-revivalism was taking place on two fronts, hundreds of kilometers

apart: in his native village of Kornitsa, southwest Bulgaria, and in his place of exile, Dolno Izvorovo, and the wider Western Rhodopes through a network of relatives, friends, and co-villagers who

central Bulgaria. Similar to many exiled Pomaks, Ramadan and his family kept in touch with Kornitsa travelled back and forth from southwest to central Bulgaria to visit with family members. As the

danger of revivalism reemerged in the early 1970s, these visiting patterns acquired a new meaning. They effectively transformed into a network of reconnaissance and communication, where people accordingly. A vocal opponent of the revival process and a respected member of the community, exchanged information about what was taking place on the other end and coordinated their actions Ramadan soon transpired as one of the leaders of the Pomak organized resistance not only in his place of exileDolno Izvorovo, but also at home, in Kornitsa. Trouble in Exile In May 1972 trouble in Dolno Izvorovo began for the Pomak families that had been forcibly


resettled from the Rhodopes in the early 1960s. In a determined effort to prevent the name changing,
Markov, passim.


the whole village populace got together to keep the revivalists at bay. In Dolno Izvorovo (Lower

Izvorovo), just like in the Rhodopes, the Pomaks made a living by farming collectivized land to grow crops for little cash and personal consumption, as well as to graze a few heads of sheep and cattle. the local textile factories. There was a factory in the nearby village of Gorno Izvorovo (Upper Most men supplemented their family income by doing construction work, while women worked in Izvorovo), where most of the women from Ramadans village worked. And they were home from work by 10 oclock every day. This particular day in May 1972, however, they were not. Already suspecting new assimilation moves, Ramadan immediately dispatched a youngster, in possession of a precious motorbike, on a reconnaissance mission: Shaban, ride your bike to the factory and see whats going on with the women! Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Shaban returned

promptly to report that the women were being held in the factory against their will. Ramadan and

the rest of the village men hastily convened for a council. The first order of business was to barricade the main artery connecting the string of villages to the main provincial city of Kazanlak in order to ensure that the women would not be transported into town. In Kazanluk, with large militsia and

army units, the anti-revivalist group would have no leverage at all to rescue their wives, daughters, or soldiers were out on a drill that daydeliberately, according to Ramadanto scare the population, and nip potential resistance in its bud. So we stood there guarding the road, armed with wooden boards which had nails sticking

mothers. Adjacent to the mens blockade position was a military base that housed a tank division. The

out. Ramadan explains. And we stopped every vehicle to make sure that none of our women were inside. Then we let them go. Whoever refused to comply, the men stopped by placing the boards along the width of the road so the vehicles tires would blow out. They stopped military cars as well. to stop military personnel? We have every right. Ramadan replied for all of them, and the men

On one occasion, they forced the vehicle of a captain to a halt, who objected: What right do you have proceeded with their business. Then, we saw a jeep heading straight for the fields to avoid us... But even before that, a young woman by the name Fatme, overlooked in the bathrooms, had managed to sneak out of the factory and had rushed to inform the men: Ago Ramadan, all women are being held

in the factory and they are getting ready to change their names. So, Fatme was there when the jeep cut straight through the fields in an apparent attempt to escape the roadblock. In the vehicle, besides the driver, there were two men occupying the back seats. As Ramadan

and his collaborators tried to question the driver over the maneuver, Fatme recognized the two passengers: These two detained the women? They were prominent local apparatchiks. While

pondering over what to do with the two apparent revivalists, Ramadans group received the news

that seven of their co-villagersforest workershad been arrested in the nearby village of Enina.

After brief deliberation, Ramadan turned to the jeeps occupants and made his proposition: Listen,

reunited with us within the next hour and a half, this entire multitude--you see right here, in front of youwill be heading your way, to Enina. We will burn the councils building down no matter how were safely back in Dolno Izvorovo, as well as the women. much militsia you have to protect you. Indeed, before the deadline had expired, the seven foresters From May 11 to September 25 of 1972, the villagers stuck together awaiting the worst. For

Well, seven of our people have been arrested in Enina. We will let you go now, but if they are not

you see all these people here children, women, and men? You see how many of us there are, right?

nearly five months, no man, woman, or child ventured out of the village. No one was able to work in the fields either. All summer long we spent each night sticking together in someones house. The women slept indoors, and we--the men--napped outside while taking turns to patrol the village. We

had to be alert at all times to make sure no intruders came in. However, while Ramadans village was arming with farm implements, kitchen utensils, and Molotov cocktails, a couple of snitches among us had been informing the authorities of all we did, Ramadan tells me. Meanwhile the crops, planted anxious about the empty granary, they spoke to the local bureaucrats of the urgency to harvest the crops and the need to postpone the revival process. The authorities apparently relented and took in the spring, were rotting in the fields without being harvested. As the agricultural cooperative grew

farm work. Thus, on September 25, 1972, the women began harvesting the crops, while the men

steps to convince the wretched population that no renaming would take place if they resumed their

went back to construction. Life continued more or less peacefully in Dolno Izvorovo until February

seemingly reconciled, most Pomaks accepted identity papers with new names, but continued to use their traditional names among each other. 24 The ordeal for those like Ramadan, however, who refused to take Bulgarian names, was just beginning. Bloody Revival in the Rhodopes If the Pomak renaming in Dolno Izvorovo, and elsewhere, went without major incidents, it

12, 1973, when the harassment resumed and the name changing was formally finalized. 23 While

was not the case in Kornitsa. As the regime stepped up with the revival process, guns were fired and blood was spilt in the Pomak stronghold of the Rhodopes. Drawing from the experience of Dolno Izvorovo of 1972 and using the visiting/reconnaissance network, Ramadan Runtov encouraged the population of Kornitsa to resist by sticking together and by letting no revivalist force in the village. Ramadan was able to send instructions, along with anti-revivalist literature, to Kornitsa through Although the regime restricted his movement to the village of Dolno Izvorovo and its vicinity only, various visiting family members.

with clubs, knives, and domestic implements, as Dolno Izvorovo had done nearly a year earlier. They barricaded the village and did not let anybody in. For six days, a 1996 news clipping attests, the population managed to ward off the revivalists and to keep the renaming at bay. The reason for the 1973 revolt of the Pomaks, the article confirms, was the name changing. It made the Hassans into Ivans, the Ahmeds into Assens and so on. And Kornitsa did not like that. On the night of March 28, about 2,000 horse police were thrown against us! But people of the neighboring villages Lajnitsa and Breznitsa came to our aid, the then mayor of Kornitsa, Bayram Zul, is quoted as saying. Five

Thus, facing guns yet again in 1973, the people of Kornitsa met the fully armed intruders

people were killed during these events. According to the official version, cited by the news clipping,

they had fallen victims to ricocheting bullets or were stampeded by the crowd. But eyewitnesses had
23 24

Assessment on the Implementation of the Decision of the Secretariat of the Bulgarian Communist Partys central committee from July 17, 1970, concerning the Pomak revival process. The document is dated May 8, 1978, and numbered 005805, pages 60-80. Central National Archives-Sofia, pages 71-73. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) 160

Ramadan Runtov, interview.

a different story to tell. They killed Ismail a few days later, recounts a relative of the late Ismail,

[after he refused to sign a declaration to change his name]. They killed my father without reason, says the 28-year-old Shazie They buried the bodies somewhere along the [Greek] border. These people never received proper burial. 25

Figure 4-4: A commemorative monument in the village of Kornitsa A monument in the center of Kornitsa today commemorates the death of 69-year-old Moharem Bargan, 45-year-old Hussein Karaalil, 35-year-old Salih Amidein, 22-year-old Tefik Hadji of Breznitsa and 50-year-old Ismail Kalyor. 26 The inscription reads: Always alive in our hearts. In memory of those killed as a result of the assimilatory politics of the communist regime, March 1973. Hussein Karaalil, Moharem Bargan, Salih Amidein, Tefik Hadji, Ismail Kalyuor. 27 (Courtesy of Mustafa Bayalk)
25 26

Pavlina Trifonova, Kornitsa pak izpravi na nokti Bulgaria /Kornitsa Made Bulgaria Nervous Again./ Sega Newspaper, Issue 13 of 4-10 April 1996, pp. 22-23. (Also, ibid.)


bloodshed in Kornitsa and attests to Ramadans involvement in orchestrating the resistance. These most dramatic and tragic events in Kornitsa happened only because Ramadan Runtov had and to insist that they were Turks [Muslims]. He was distributing brochures that made allegations of killing and rape of Muslims in our country. 28 established an illegal organization there. He was persuading the villagers not to change their name

Another news clipping, clearly reflecting the communist version of the story, confirms the

Figure 4-5: Ismail Kalyuor of Breznitsa died as a result of the events of March 1973 (Courtesy of Mehmed Byukli)

cooperatives were summoned to Gotse Delchev, the regional administrative center, supposedly on work-related matters. Upon returning to Kornitsa, however, these people claimed to have been
27 28

rioting began in Kornitsa. In January 1973, Pomak employees of the local agriculture and forestry

Among other things, the author of the article Boncho Assenov effectively reveals how the

Boncho Assenov, Kakvo stana prez 1973 godina?/ What happened in 1973?/ Sega Newspaper, Issue 13 of 4-10 April 1996, p. 23. 162

Translated from Bulgarian by the author.

beaten into signing declaration to change their names. Thereafter, remembering the turbulent 1964, Kornitsa immediately went on the defensive. Everything began on January 23, 1973, as Assenov accurately notes, when a (Christian) militsioner (communist policeman) allegedly travelled to

Kornitsa to see a friend. The more likely explanation for this ill-timed journey, however, appears to Kornitsa. Then, allegedly without any reason, the entire Pomak populace of Kornitsa suddenly have been spying. But true intents aside, the villagers clearly suspicious did not let him into

refused to work in the fields, stopped their children from attending school, and completely shut

themselves in. Moreover, they started congregating on the public square in organized round-the-

clock vigils, apparently armed with pocket knives, kitchen knives, axes, clubs, and even two pistols, as Assenov explains referencing the items confiscated after the renaming. They had also set up signals of communications with the neighboring villages of Lajnitsa and Breznitsa, which, according to the author, had promised to come to their aid. Aid against what and whom, the question arises, if solves the problem by charging Ramadan Runtov with establishing an illegal organization in

indeed the regime did not plan to carry out the revival process, as Assenov maintains. Ultimately he Kornitsa from hundreds of kilometers away, in exile, and taking control of the village for two months practically setting a pro-Turkish government with almost military regime. Thus, Assenovsimilar to many other patriots in Bulgariablames the brutal renaming in Kortnitsa of 1973 on peoples opposition, not on the heavily armed troops, militsia, and civilians enforcing the revival process. 29 Having organized the supply of firewood during the two-month-long vigil on Kornitsas

public square, Ismail Byalkov (a former political prisoner) relates an altogether different version. I aware of my research or me until the moment I knocked on their doors. I interviewed them

interviewed Ismail just hours before I met with Ramadan Runtov in May 2007, and neither had been independently, and received the same general storyline of the events in Kornitsa: Ismail as he witnessed them, and Ramadan as he learnt about them from deliberate envoys, keeping the connection between Dolno Izvorovo and the Rhodopes. Thus, on January 23, 1973, as Ismail

recounts, the village population was assembled on the public square. When the authorities first

Ibid. 163

arrived in Kornitsa, they tried to pressure all local party members and salaried individuals to take names, so did the authorities. If they had left [Kornitsa], Ismail says, the people would have

part in the renaming. As the people remained on the square frightened but reluctant to change their dispersed and that might have been the end of it. But it was not to be. Awaiting the worst, the whole Pomak population of Kornitsa clung to each other for support inside the village, while an assortment of troops, militsia, fire brigades, and armed civilians were laying siege on them from the outside.

Figure 4-6: At Ismails Once Fikrie (the student from my hometown who met me in Istanbul) introduced me to the Pomak community in the suburb of Gneli, my dissertation research in Istanbul became a communal enterprise. In the photo (from left to right): Ibrahim Byalkov, his father Ismail Byalkov (my informant), Ibrahims wife, and my Gneli hostess Ava Cesur (right) with her teenage daughter, as well as a neighbor and good friend of Avas with her little girl who tagged along (unfortunately, their names escape me)all originally from Bulgaria. (Photograph by the author) had gathered on the public square and remained there throughout that time. We stayed put day and night, in snow and rain, all of us: children and adults. We were building big fires to keep warm. We

This tense state of affairs continued from January 23 to March 28, 1973. The whole village

slept in shifts: while some slept, the rest kept vigil! recalls Ismail. He and a few other men were

responsible for collecting firewood to maintain the fires. Then, on the morning of March 28, 1973, the Ismail explains, [t]hey were all dressed in civilian clothes: fire brigades everyone. Now, whether they were civilians from the neighboring [Christian] villages or militsia, I couldnt tell. Very few of them wore [military] uniforms; they were on horses. But those that did the beating wore plain clothes. [T]here were loads of them. The whole village was surrounded. 31 village was surrounded by a combined force of horseback police, fire brigades, and plainclothes. 30 As

blood, Ismail tells me. After terrifying the population to numbness, wounding scores, and leaving stuffed in a building used at the time as a sports club in Kornitsa. When they were brought in, the occupied the center of the sports clubs interior and a pond of blood had already formed in the

As bullets began to rain on the multitude on March 28, the whole square was smeared in

five dead, the regime began the arrests. Everyone spotted on the public square was rounded up and people were lined up along the wall, facing inwards. According to Ismails testimony, a wrestling ring middle of it blood from the beatings. There was so much blood there that you could scoop it with waste up, each wielding a club, just waiting for someone to move or shift position to strike. Ismail village), because his cheek was slashed open and a piece of the flesh was dangling about. As the

a bucket. I saw this with my own eyes: When they took me in, I saw two individuals, naked from the immediately noticed the person standing near the doorUruch Bachev of Breznitsa (a neighboring regional militsia chief, Stoychev, walked in, the wounded man addressed him: Comrade Stoychev, I gave blood yesterday and I lost more today Can I sit down? When given leave to do so, another person asked: May I sit down? but immediately received a blow to the head. Ismail just saw the

man collapsing to the floor. From where he stood, he could not recognize who he was. The man

survived that day. Whereas Ismail avoided a beating in the sports club, he was nevertheless arrested and endured six years of harsh treatment as a political prisoner. Thats what happened [ in 1973 in
30 31

Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, passim; Trifonova, passim; National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventories 38-40, Archival Units, passim; Ramadan Runtov, interview. Ismail Byalkov, interview.

Kornitsa], Fatme! my informant concludes. And all this was video-taped. The authorities


documented everything, but it will probably never see the light of day. They had brought a big video camera with them and filmed everything. I saw that personally. 32 Thus, in spite of the bloodshed and probably because of it, the regime finalized the revival

to appear on all identification papers, including passports, birth certificates, and savings accounts. Those without proper documentation not only could not access their salaries, pensions, or bank accounts, but also they faced unemployment, fines, and even imprisonment. 33 Prison Tribulations 1. Arrest, Detention, and Trial Singled out as particularly dangerous, the communist regime lost no time in detaining

process. By 1974, the Pomaks had acquired new identities. Their Bulgarian-Christian names now had

Ramadan, along with his closest collaborators. His arrest was most carefully organized. In 1973,

Ramadan and his crew were working on a construction site, when an army jeep with two or three

individuals approached him. Ramadan, youll have to come with us to take measurements for a new construction site in Sheynovo, so we can go ahead with digging out the foundation. When Ramadan picked up his instruments and got into one of the jeeps back seats, he noticed that the vehicles interior was blackened out. As they drove off, Ramadan heard one of the men, who had come to

collect him, transmitting on the radio that they had left the site with him. They indeed took Ramadan Sheynovo and into the deserted fields, a traffic police stopped them. Everyone out! they ordered.

to Sheynovo, where he put the foundation markers for a new building. But when the jeep drove out of We need to inspect the vehicle. As soon as Ramadan scrambled out of the dark interior of the jeep

twisting them backwards. In his initial fright, he managed to extricate himself from the captors grip to be instantly overpowered by others. At that moment, I felt a stinging pain in my [lower] leg a scar there. Squatting down to protect myself, I felt blood streaming down my leg. Thenwhat
Ibid. Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, 107. 166

and into the blinding daylight, two of the militsioners (policemen) immediately restrained his arms

Ramadan explains. They must have struck me with a piece of metal or something. To this day I have
32 33

God!in their eyes it looked as if theyd caught this Big Enemy! After restraining him, Ramadans

seemed to me likea whole crowd civilians, militsia, and two dogs ganged on me. AndMy

abductors blindfolded him, pushed him at the back of the jeep, covered his head with a blanket, and took him to the police station in Stara Zagora. When we arrived in Stara Zagora, there was a crowd of journalists waiting to photograph me. Yeah! They had caught The Big Enemy! Ramadan laughs.

importance as a political dissenter, he was totally taken aback by the publicity given to his arrest and even more puzzled by the great lengths to which the regime went to detain him. They could have taken me any time and place they wanted. He struggles to find explanation, for example, as to why as employers/traffic police. In Ramadans own estimation, he constituted a nobody back in the

What transpired that day was rather bizarre to Ramadan. Perceiving himself of no particular

the militsioners did not just arrest him on the job site, but chose instead to abduct him while posing 1970s. He had nowhere to hide. Nor had he influential protectors to look after him. He saw himself as a person among many otherswho disagreed with the regime and stood his own grounds, but who feared the potentially dangerous consequences for himself and his family. The authorities,

Ramadan thought, accorded him far greater significance than he deserved, once, by painstakingly

organizing his abduction and, then, by making a spectacle of his arrest. Perhaps, as the celebrated whatever and whenever in order to distract the nation from the economic hardship and

Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov suspected, the regime felt the need to overstate the danger deepening political oppression, as well as to convey the warning that no dissent would be tolerated. 34

Bulgaria, as elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc. Thus, one may speculate that by dramatizing Ramadans

By the mid-1970s, as Markovs case brilliantly illustrates, 35 political dissent was on the rise in

case, the regime was hoping not only to channel the popular sentiment against subversive Muslim

35 Markov, a well-known dissident writer, defected from Bulgaria in 1969. Relocating to Great Britain, he offered rigorous criticism of the Bulgarian communist regime as a broadcaster and journalist for the BBC World Service, the US-funded Radio Free Europe, and Germany's Deutsche Welle. It is believed that as a result of these activities, the Bulgarian government disposed of him, with the help of KGB. He was killed in London in 1978 by someone, who stabbed his leg with umbrella, thus, injecting the hard-to-detect-poison ricin in his body.


Markov, passim.


(pro-Turkish) elements, but alsoand more importantlyto cut short the nascent Pomak resistance. 36 After he was arrested, Ramadan spent the next several months in pre-trial detention.

Awaiting trial, he was moved from facility to facility, starved, abused, and kept in an information blackout. While in the State Security headquarters in Sofia, the authorities held him in an underground cell. They had a network of tunnels underground. They kept me in these tunnels at

night. And there was a plaque in every cell saying: If your arms are tied up at the waist, prepare for a long journey That referred to the detainees [like me]. If your arms are bound in front, you will be hanged. If your arms are bound at the back, you will be shot. One day, they bound Ramadans arms

seemingly for execution by shooting. Plain-clothed personnel with machine guns took him out of the Dont turn back, or you will be shot. He stood there and waited in suspense for hours. Finally,

cell and led him about twenty meters into the tunnels. The light was on. The order came: Stand still. someone came down for him, and Ramadan heard a voice saying: Bring him upstairs. Its not going to be tonight. The intent was not to dispose of Ramadan, however, but to extract confession from the charade of treasonous conspiracy in order to stifle dissent while banking on xenophobic sentiment. 37 him for conspiring to overthrow the government. It was vital for the communist regime to maintain

moved to a prison in Burgass, a city in southeast Bulgaria. There for the first time, he was allowed to

After months of pretrial interrogation in State Securitys headquarters in Sofia, Ramadan was

write a letter to his family and receive visitation. This was also a ploy. As his wife and two of his sons

came to see him in prison, they were instructed to persuade him to change his name. It did not work. in detention and disinformation. From Burgass, Ramadan was moved to a facility for political

Despite the continuing harassment, however, Ramadan was also happy to see his family after months



Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, passim. Also, Information about Turkeys Activities against the Revival Process for the period 27 June 3 July 1987. The document is dated July 3, 1987, and signed by then Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen. Lieutenant St. Savov, pages 1-6. (There is no archival reference on the document). For details, refer to Chapter III (Conclusion). Ibid.


his trial finally began. 38

prisoners in Stara Zagora (a city in central Bulgaria) near his village of exileDolno Izvorovo, where Ramadan and his companions, as Krum Karakachanov--the defense attorney--recalled in an

interview from the year 2000, were prosecuted for treason; for organizing a rebellion to overthrow the peoples government. When I heard the charge, he said, I thought to myself: My God! That is an Article 70 crime, the most serious crime under the [then] Penal Code! 39 Whereas Ramadan was

officially tried for treason, his sentence was relatively mild, because with no evidence to prove it and received eight years in prison instead of twenty or the death penalty, as the law (Article 70 of the discrepancy between charge and penalty stemmed from the regimes recognition that neither

no confession, the authorities could not pursue a lengthily prison sentence or capital punishment. He Penal Code) required, while the rest got between three and eight years. Ultimately, the reason for the Ramadan, nor any of his co-activists truly intended or had the capacity to overthrow the communist government. To downplay the revival process, as well as to discourage dissent among the people, treason, they effectively played on peoples fears to inspire support for the revival process. In his early forties when first arrested, Ramadan spent more than a decade behind bars as a political prisoner. 2. Tortured Prisoner After his sentencing, the prison authorities kept Ramadan on a regimen of constant however, the authorities put on a good performance for the masses. Peppering it with accusations of

harassment, starvation, and sleep deprivation. At one point he spent forty-five straight days in

solitary confinement, in extremely cold temperatures, deliberately flooded cell floor to keep him

standing, and a single layer of ragged clothes. Although I was exhausted from sleeplessness, he told me, I determined not to fall asleep by endlessly walking around the cell and singing to myself in

38 39

Petar Marchev, ed., Buntat na pomatsite, obvineni e izmqna i predatelsvo. / The rebellion of the Pomaks, charged with treason and betrayal/, Iskra Newspaper, Issue 19 of 10 March 2000. 169

Ramadan Runtov, interview.

to communicate with them occasionally. Thus, he discovered that people from Kornitsa had been arrested as well, among which was Ismail Byalkov, my other key informant from Istanbul. Ismail

Turkish. 40 Under the pretense of singing, Ramadan got to know some of his prison mates, as well as

independently confirmed Ramadans grueling account of isolation, abuse, and chronic starvation in prison. Branded as one of the masterminds of Pomak organized resistance, Ramadan was deemed Muslim political prisoners simply as troublemakers, Ramadan was in an entirely different particularly dangerous and kept in a heavy security ward. Whereas the regime viewed the majority of category. 41 He was not allowed to work in the prison woodshop, farm, or construction projects like most prisoners. Giving a job to Ramadan, already used to hard work, in addition to letting him socialize with other inmates, was tantamount to rewarding him. Thereby, they kept him alone and that without the help of working inmates he could have starved to death. Ismail often shared his

barely fed. His basic prison diet consisted of bread and water. Bread, at that, was in such short supply

meager rations with Ramadan out of profound respect for him. As Ramadan explains, most often

Ismail, or another inmate, would save a piece of bread and hide it in the bathrooms trashcans. This

was the only place to safely hide food intended for a dangerous prisoner without too much risk for ones own wellbeing. The rest of the time, Ramadan would forage the garbage containers for scraps of food that other prisoners had discarded. Whatever he found, he shared with another inmate,

Fikret, a Turkish national convicted of spying for Turkey, and kept in similar conditions as Ramadan.

food poisoning one time. But hunger was unbearable. One day, it was his turn to scavenge the trash

Feeding from the garbage was a dangerous affair, Ramadan found out, for he almost died of

We were in the same predicament, Fikret and I. So wed go to the toilets and scavenge for foodany food. The prison population was tossing all their filth there, but sometimes they would throw excess food they werent permitted to keep. Whichever one of us found any bread, we shared it. It worked like this: Whenever theyd let him out for a walk, hed scavenge the trash containers for scraps of bread. If he found any, he would eat half of it and leave the rest behind for me. When back in his cell, hed knock on my wall to let me know if there was any bread or not. A double knock meant there was bread for the other. I did the same for him when out. Thats how we survived.


Ramadan Runtov, interview. Note: This information was independently confirmed by Ismail Byalkov who spent time in solitary confinement under the same conditions and in the same facility as Ramadan. (Ismail Byalkov, interview.) Ismail Byalkov, interview.


containers. They had not found anything for days. As Ramadan turned the container upside down in desperation, at the very bottom of it, he found a piece of bread, all black and such tossed there a long time ago. But I took it took half of it. The other half, I buried back in. I tried to wash the bread with water somewhat. It softened up a little bit. I had no place to hide it. If the guards were to catch half immediately. It was just a tiny little piece. He got his own half as well. No more than thirty me with it, Id be beaten. So, as soon as I was back in my cell, I knocked twice to Fikret and ate my minutes later, I felt violently sick at my stomach. Mother, Im dying! I thought. I could neither

keep still, nor lay in any comfortable position. I was cramping so badly that I almost lost my wits. As Ramadan was pacing back and forth in the cell, it occurred to him to drink wateras much as he could swallowto induce vomiting. He swallowed until he started throwing up. The more I drank a breath of relief. Then, he heard frantic striding and stomping on Fikrets side of his cell.

the more I threw up. The pain was excruciating. Gradually, it subdued and Ramadan was able to take Fikret, whats going on? Im dying. Did you eat that beard? I did. Then drink! Drink as much water as you can and try to vomit. Thats your only salvation. Drink water and vomit! Drink and vomit! We never slept that night, but we were still alive in the morning.

constant slapping, punching, and kicking were daily existence, beating to unconsciousness occurred up upon regaining his senses some time later, blood gushed out of his mouth.

Chronic starvation was not the biggest of Ramadans problem. The abuse was worse. If

with terrifying frequency. One evening three wardens beat him to unconsciousness. As he tried to sit I reached for the bucket and pretty much bled over it for most of the night. At that moment I truly believed I was a broken man. By the morning, I couldnt open my mouth. It was livid and swollen. They had been kicking me in the face apparently In the morning, they brought me some tea. I had never been given tea before. One cup of tea and some bread! Well, I was very hungry, but I couldnt eat.

visibly nervous, opened his mouth with some difficulty and pretty much pulled out several of

As the days progressed and Ramadan ate nothing, they called a medic to see him. The medic,

Ramadans teeth with his bare fingers. I can only apply this medicine now, he told me, and I hope

that the rest of your teeth will stay intact. He smeared me with some green medication that caused a

tightening sensation in my mouth. Within a month and a half, though, Ramadan lost all his teeth. They simply fell out, he tells me. Ramadan spent a total of two months and eight days in solitary confinement under extreme

and restrictive conditions. Whereas the cell was plenty tall, it was not wide enough for a person to sit rattling with the every gust of winter wind, was located high beyond the eyes reach near the ceiling. The isolation cells were flooded with water that turned into ice and kept the prisoners feet protected only by rubber galoshes and torn sockscold at all times. In solitary confinement, the or lie down in any comfortable position. A small aperture, with a single broken piece of glass on it,

prison authorities stripped the inmates of their warmer regular attire and gave them worn-out took away one of the blankets, too. 42

clothes instead, complemented by two thin blankets to keep them alive at night. During the day, they To keep himself from freezing to death, Ramadan had to stay awake. He followed a regiment:

When they would let him out to the bathroom in the morning, he would sprinkle the upper part of his body with (cold) water. Then, back in his cell, he would wrap himself in all the clothes and blankets he had. Shivering, he would gradually warm up a little and catch an hour or so of slumber. This was impossible at night. Ramadan shares. Those who succumbed to it at night were pretty much

the only way he could sleep for a brief while; roughly one hour out of every twenty four. Sleep was doomed. One morning, he heard the guards dragging away an inmate who apparently had fallen his limbs in the daylight: My nails are falling off! My nails are falling off! he screamed, as the

asleep and frozen badly. He screamed with pain and frightI guesswhen he saw the livid nails of

isolation was part of the deliberate strategy to make them sign papers declaring willingness to

wardens told him: Dont worry! Youll grow new ones. Placing Muslim prisoners in freezing

change their names. Because Ramadan persistently refused to so, thus instigating others to resist, the authorities were particularly brutal with him. One of Ramadans fellow prisoners, a young man from his native village, Kadri, could not make it past the third night in isolation. Ramadan just heard him


Ramadan Runtov, interview; Ismail Byalkov, interview. 172

him out and changed his name. Ramadan carried on.

calling: Get me out! Get me out here! Ill sign! Ill sign anything you want me to! Indeed, they took Even though the prison authorities had already changed his name to Radan, they continued

to press him to submit a written consent. Such extorted evidence was important for the regime for one and only reason: to serve as solid proof that the name changing was voluntary. From its inception in the yearly 1960s, the revival process was carried out clandestinely, and when

information of the excesses against Muslims leaked into the public space, they were presented as

legitimate battle against extremist and traitors. In case this rationale failed to convince the Bulgarian able to furnish signed declaration as hard evidence of consent to name changing. 43 Ramadan, change his name both in prison and outside. 3. Release and re- imprisonment

people or the international community, should the revival affair become known, the regime would be however, remained adamant in his determination not to yield to pressure and sign a document to

prison. By that time his sons had grown to young adulthood. While still in confinement, however, my interviewee learnt that his eldest son had fled Bulgaria and made his way to Turkey. So after his release, Ramadan, his wife and two remaining sons, one of whom was doing military service, settled into a life of hardship in Dolno Izvorovo. Even though he was a master stonemason and there was dire shortage of skilled laborers like him, Ramadan was not allowed to work. In a reality, where

In his early forties when first arrested, Ramadan was almost fifty when first discharged from

menial of jobs. Instead, he became the villages cattle herder, where people collected money among themselves to pay his meager wage. But Ramadan was happy to be back with his family and even again. Barely two or three years out of prison, Ramadan was arrested once more after his two happier to know that his eldest son was building a life for himself in Istanbul. Then trouble struck remaining sons, two nieces, and other young people attempted to escape from Bulgaria, but were

everything was state-owned and controlled by the communist party, he was denied even the most


Ramadan Runtov, interview; Ismail Byalkov, interview. This can also be inferred from archival documents at the National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventories 38-40, Archival Units, passim (for details, refer to Chapter III). 173

captured. Believing Ramadan to be the instigator of this venture, the regime detained him

immediately. Unable to prove his involvement, the authorities plea-bargained: You take the blame

on yourself and well release the two girls and your younger son? Taking pity on the girls, who had never been separated from their families before, as well as considering his underage son, Ramadan accepted. I agreed and they kept their promise. Ramadan says, They let the girls and my youngest

son free without trial. The rest were sentenced to prison terms. Ramandans son, who had deserted years, and all the rest were handed between a year and two months to two years of incarceration. Ramadan, now over fifty years old, spent two years and two months in the Sofia prison. He was immediately put in the seventh ward. It was a high security ward, with no work privileges. beating there.

the army, intending to cross the border, received a year and eight months. Ramadan was given three

Everybody else could work, but me. Ramadan reminisces. I lived through two and a half months of They were beating me with a club. Every morning, when Id go to the bathroom to wash myself and get some water, the guard at my door would hit me with a truncheon. As Id walk in the bathroom, another one would strike me there. After returning to the cell, Id be beaten one more time. This was every day. While most prisoners shared cells with five or six other inmates, I was locked alone. My cell was adjacent to these of death-row inmates. I was kept with the death-row inmates. And no matter how hard I tried to avoid the wardens clubs, I could not escape them. Morning, evening thrashing! This lasted for two and a half months.

second imprisonment with the same stoicism. He was released in 1982, after serving two years and two months of his original three-year prison sentence. In or out of prison, however, his life was a

Having survived almost a decade of extreme prison abuse already, Ramadan weathered this

veritable inferno. While behind bars he endured beating on a daily basis, outside he had to report to the local police station day after day, wherein they locked him up for hours on end. This constant harassment was due to the fact that Ramadan persistently refused to accept a passport with a new already been changed in prison, he refused to accept a passport with the name Radan, which was appear as harmless as possible, the communist regime often opted for those Bulgarian names

Bulgarian name. Thus, he had no identity papers, and he could not work. Even though his name had strikingly similar to Ramadan. This was no coincidence. In their attempt to make the name changing sounding closest to peoples original names, perceived with somewhat neutral meaning. That was little consolation to most Pomak Muslims, however, especially the likes of Ramadan who vividly

remembered the last forced conversion and to whom a name was either Muslim or Christian, never was tantamount to betrayal of faith and identity for Ramadan. 44

in between; never neutral. Therefore, to accept a passport with Bulgarian name any forced name Because his name was changed in prison, Ramadans passport picture was also taken there.

When he was first imprisoned, the primary purpose of his solitary confinement, sleep deprivation,

drastically reduced food rations, and routine torture was to induce a name changing with consent. As Ramadan refused to do so, verbally or in writing, the prison authorities simply proceeded to chose a name for him and issue new identification papers. For his new passport, however, they needed his photograph. One day, prison wardens came to his cell: Come with us. Why? The bosses need you. They took me to a room, where a photographer was getting ready to take my picture passport picture. Sit down. I sat down. When he tried to take my picture, I jerked my head sideways. Two individuals immediately restrained my arms on each side. Raise you head. I did it. But as soon as the photographer prepared to snap the picture, I dropped it again. We cant photograph him like this. They were angry but hesitant to beat me in front of the photographer, an outside civilian. Ultimately, one of the guards grabbed Ramadans hair and pulling his head back, he

instructed the photographer: Shoot like this. The person did so and Ramadan was returned to his cell. I had barely sat down, recalls my informant, when they came back. Get up. Out again. The photograph is faulty. Im not coming out of here. Get out. No. You can get me of here only dead.

At length, they brought down the deputy prison chief, a bureaucrat by the name Zhelekov, to deal with Ramadan. Why dont you comply with the orders? I dont want to comply with such orders. Get out. No. Only dead will you get me out of here. Then, he gave up: Let him be. Dont bother with him for now. And I remained in my cell.


Ramadan Runtov, interview; Ismail Byalkov, interview.


Take the Passport or Die Ramadan was set free in 1982 after serving two separate terms of eight and three years

respectively. His lot in life, however, was not about to get any better. Once Ramadan was out of

summoned him to the police station trying to force him to take the passport, and every time he threw it to the ground for which he would spend the day in jail. Then, one day, a major from the militsia, for whom my informant had done masonry work in the past and who was very sympathetic to him, pleaded with Ramadan in desperation: Please, take the damn passport and burn it, if you will,

prison, the harassment to accept the new passport resumed immediately. Every day the authorities

afterwards. Just take it and get out of here. They are planning to beat you to death tonight, if you

refuse again, and dump your body somewhere. Youll die for nothing. You must take it. Take it now

and do whatever you want with it later. Having no reasons to distrust the officer, Ramadan realized out of the police station that day, he opened the new passport and realized for the first time why the photograph was faulty. It clearly indicated how a disembodied hand was forcing Ramadans head up while pulling back his hair

that the regime had had it with him and would no longer waste time to silence him. When he walked

head of state and supreme leader of the communist party. In it, he poured the harrowing story of his life in prison: solitary confinement, torture, hunger, broken health, everything. Enclosing his new passport with the faulty photo as what he believed to bethe indubitable testament to his ordeal,

The very next morning Ramadan wrote a long letter to Todor Zhivkov, Bulgarias long-term

Ramadan concluded the letter with the following appeal: Take a look at my passport picture and see the way it is taken! I plead with you to stop your subordinates from violating our honor for we are human beings, too. Then, Ramadan placed the letter in an envelope and sent his son with it to Gabrovo, a neighboring town, to mail it from there. In Kazanlak, he was already a well-known

subversive element, because of which, Ramadan was afraid, the postal officials would refuse to mail his letter. From Garbrovo, however, they did. A week later, he received a reply from the Council of Thereafter, Ramadan continued his anti-revivalism. Ministers reading simply: Your complaint has been received and will be considered. Nothing more!

Conclusion The last decade of communist rule in Bulgaria was a turbulent one. Having revived all Pomak

Muslims by the mid-1970s with remarkably few consequences, the regime abandoned all caution and moved against the ethnic Turks of Bulgaria a decade later. Unlike the Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, however, who had been recurrently targeted in the past based on nationalistic claims to their Bulgarianness, the Turkish-speaking Muslims were quite culturally distinct and numerous in

comparison. Since the Turkish revival process is beyond the scope of this research and an event that has been well-documented already, it suffices to say here that it was imperative for the regime to

assimilate the Turkish Muslims precisely because they were the largest (Muslim) minority within the prevalently Christian nation-state of Bulgaria (encompassing as many as 10 percent of an eightmillion-strong population). 45 Thus, the regime proceeded to change the names of the ethnic Turks in

full villains stylewith troops, militiamen and guns against unarmed civilian population, in much

the same fashion as against the Pomaks, but on a mammoth scale. As news of violence and bloodshed erupted, Turkeythe mother countryraised the alarm, generating an international uproar. Four years later, in November 1989, the communist regime in Bulgaria collapsed and the revival process was gradually reversed. 46 Whereas the end of totalitarianism in the country came about in the context of the larger

process and other atrocities taking place in Bulgaria. Ramadan met Iliya Minev, Petar Boyadjiev, and Priest Blagoy Topusliev, three of the most eminent Bulgarian dissenters from the 1980s, in prison and befriended them. After Petar Boyadjiev fled to France in the 1980s, Ramadan, his sons and a

Europe, dissenters like Ramadan and their human network ultimately spread the news of the revival

Soviet perestroika (political and economic reformation) and economic collapse across Eastern

multitude of like-minded Bulgarians, both Muslim and Christian, set up lines of communication and

46 For details on the revival process against the ethnic Turks, see Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, passim. Also, refer to Chapter III of this dissertation.


See footnote 3 of Chapter III.


secretly transmitted news about the revival process to Boyadjiev in Marseille, France, who subsequently alerted western media 47 and journalists. 48

Figure 4-7: The happy, post-communist days Ramadan Runtov with his son Ibrahim and granddaughter (Ibrahims daughter) 49 By the spring of 1989, Bulgariaas most of Eastern Europewas rocked by massive

demonstrations. People demanded freedom and the right to dignified existence. The nations Muslim community likewise protested though hunger strikes, petitions, and mass rallying to demand religious freedom and reversal of the revival process. As Ramadan and his sons continued to transmit news to Western Europe, they were detected and promptly arrested. Clinging to the last remnants of power and unable to do more, the regime rounded up the family, put them on a Vienna-bound train,

48 Petar Dobrev, Balgasrkata 1989-a: Ivan ot Sliven i golemiat protest sreshtu komunuzma /The Bulgarian 1989: Ivan of Sliven and the Big Struggle against Communism/,, 26 November 2009; Elisaveta Kovacheva, Bivshi polit-emigranti osporvat zaslugite na lidera na DPS /Former political Immigrants dispute the role of the MRF [Movement for Rights and Freedoms] leader [Ahmed Dogan], Kontinent Newspaper of 10 August 1992; Ramadan Runtov, interview. 49

Among the media transmitting on the revival process were BBC World Service, America-funded Radio Free Europe, and Deutsche Welle in Germany.

and forced them out of the country with just fifty USD in cash. Ramadan and his family joined the first Last accessed June 8, 2010.


group of 170 people collectively deported from Bulgaria on May 21, 1989. Three hundred fifty thousand Turkish and Pomak Muslims would follow suit within the next few months. 50 May 21, 2007, when I interviewed Ramadan Runtov at his home in Istanbul, was the day of

the eighteenth anniversary of his coming to Turkey. I did not think of it at the time, but after re-

listening the interview, it struck me that neither had my informant shown awareness of it. This openhearted man was more concerned with living a good life in the present than dwelling on the past in bitterness. Because it was his experiences that made him who he washonorable, compassionate, engaging narrative of dissent, but also an essential component of Pomak heritage. Being a direct concomitant of one of the pivotal episodes in the communitys existencethe revival process, permanently living abroad. Ramadans experience reflects a life pattern common to thousands of Pomak expatriates, still Even having achieved comfortable living for themselves in Istanbul (and elsewhere in

and forgivingRamadan had nothing to regret. The life stories of exiles like Ramadan are not only an

Rhodopes. They periodically return many every year not only to visit with friends and family, but also to attend the funerals and marriages of loved ones. Most of the Pomak immigrants in Gneli come from Kornitsa, Breznitsa, and Ribnovo, the three adjoining villages which put the strongest

Turkey), these Pomak migrs maintain a strong connection with their home communities in the

resistance to the revival process in 1973. Consequently, people from these villages left Bulgaria in the greatest numbers during and after 1989, the final year of communist rule. Those who remained in the Rhodopes, however, resolved to keep the Pomak heritage alive by reviving suppressed customs wedding, whose most recognizable manifestation today is the colorful mask of the bride.

and making local traditions more visible than ever before. One such tradition is the stunning Ribnovo


Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, passim. Of the 350,000 Muslim refugees who left Bulgaria in 1989, about 150,000 returned by 1991 while 250,000 permanently settled abroad, mostly in Turkey (ibid., Eminov, 97). Subsequently, economically motivated exodus of Bulgarian citizens with Muslim religious affiliation continued to pour into Turkey well into 1994. Thousands of Pomaks, whom the regime had prohibited from leaving the country prior to November of 1989 when it collapsed, left Bulgaria for Turkey (and elsewhere) as well (see Chapter III for details). 179

CHAPTER V THE RIBNOVO WEDDING: A POMAK TRADITION Introduction When I happened upon Eudora Weltys novel, Delta Wedding, 1 the title intrigued me. First, it

was set in the Mississippi Delta of the American South where I currently reside. Second, I was about southwest Bulgaria, as part of my dissertation project on Pomak heritage. Before I read the novel, I

to begin writing a chapter on the elaborate wedding rituals in Ribnovo, a Pomak village in my native had thought that it would be a good idea to draw some parallels between the wedding ceremonies in the Delta and in Ribnovo. In all honesty, I did not consider that an easy or even possible task. But I realized that there is much in common. In fact, I could not help thinking that were I to transplant as soon as I began to read Delta Wedding set in the early twentieth-century Mississippi-Yazoo Delta the act of wedding preparation Eudora Welty enfolds from the Delta to Ribnovo (or anywhere in the fit it with the new environment. Topographically, the Rhodopes, sheltering the village of Ribnovo, is there the vast cotton fields and imposing rivers like Mississippi, nor fiercely biting mosquitoes and

Rhodopes for that matter), I should not have to change much in terms of social mores and behavior to not the flat landscape so characteristic of the Delta, but mountains much like the Ozarks. Neither are all-pervading humidity. Instead, there are picturesque undulating hills sporadically covered with ageold trees, thick shrubs, tobacco and corn fields, or grassy patches that move in waves with every gust of the wind. For most of the year, the climate is pleasant ranging from moderately cold in the winter to occasionally hot in the summer.

century is a land of expansive cotton plantations with predominantly black labor force, white

The people and their places, however, are agrarian. The Delta of the first half of the twentieth

overseers, and (mostly) Anglo-Saxon owners. The local planters aristocracy lives in mansions built
Eudora Welty, Delta Wedding (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1946). 180

on the farm, served largely by blacks, amidst a community of extended family and fellow landowners. The Rhodopes of today, on the other hand, harbor communities who still work the land for living: largely small-scale tobacco farming for cash, and fruit and vegetable growing for private

consumption. Ribnovo is one of those agricultural communities. From early spring to late fall, from simultaneously cultivating potatoes, corn, various fruits and vegetables on small patches of arable an opportunity for public merrymaking whereby everyone in the community partakes either by

sunrise to sunset, the villagers are busy planting, chopping, picking and processing the tobacco while land. But come winter, there is time for respite and weddings. The Ribnovo wedding is, first of all, being intimately associated with the family-and-friends circle or simply by dancing, observing and

gossiping as a member of the general village population. Only second to being a public celebration is the Ribnovo wedding an elaborate ritual, a unique and vibrant tradition, saturated with colors and excitement. Almost invariably, the wedding festivities take place in the fall or winter, just after the farm work is completed. The Ribnovo wedding is a unique and remarkable Pomak ritual surviving only in Ribnovo

today as a living testimony to the richness of bygone traditions. The process of the wedding is an

including in dress, in the purpose and way of celebration, as well as in the usefulness of the dowry Pomak customs, is the result of an intensive interaction among three sets of elements: religious, ethnic Turks with whom they shared the status of Ottoman Umma 2 in the not-so-distant past of

intricate historical blending of what is purely local understanding of life necessities and aesthetics

on one side, and the Islam-influenced belief system, on the other. Thus, the Ribnovo wedding, as most linguistic, and ethno-cultural. As a Muslim community, the Pomaks are inextricably linked to the Bulgaria as an Ottoman domain. As a Bulgarian-speaking people, the Pomaks are connected to the

Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Christian majority, which caused them to be singled out for religious and cultural assimilation on more than one occasion since Bulgarias independence of 1878. 3 However, the relatedness to both Turks and Bulgarians via religion and language complicates the Pomak status
The totality of Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire.

2 3

Detailed accounts of the assimilation of Pomaks in Bulgaria are provided in Chapters II, III and IV. 181

as an ethno-cultural minority. Although religion unites them, their different mother tongue also sets the Pomaks apart from the Turkish-speaking Muslims of Bulgaria. On the other hand, even though they share language with the Bulgarian majority, the Pomaks profess a religion that has been historically construed as the enemys faith by the predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christian that simultaneously connects and distances them from the two dominant contenders for their

Bulgarians. Thus, the Rhodopean Muslims have been placed in precarious ethno-cultural position identity within Bulgaria: the ethnic Turks and the ethnic Bulgarians. The lack of clear sense among most Pomaks as to just what ethnic group they belong, deepens the identity quagmire they are group. 4 Yet, those shaky grounds have been conducive to the development of a heritage that is pushed into by various external forces assigning them identities not necessarily accepted by the uniquely Pomak Rhodopean; local; typical of the Rhodope Muslims. The Ribnovo wedding is one of

many exquisite expressions of Pomak culture that needs preservation. In this chapter, I set out to make my own modest contribution to documenting and preserving it. More specifically, the purpose of this chapter about the wedding tradition in Ribnovo is

culture, which is by no means unknown. 5 This section of the chapter includes two parts: an

multifold. First, I provide a step-by-step analysis of one truly remarkable ritual, as part of the Pomak

introduction of Ribnovo as a place and community the way I saw it during visits in 2004 and 2009 and a descriptive narrative of the traditional wedding rituals with special emphasis on the brides decoration and dowry (cheiz). Second, adopting a comparative approach, I examine similarities

Because of the uniqueness of the bridal make-up, not only (Bulgarian) national-and international media have broadcasted the Ribnovo wedding, but also journalists, local interest groups and individuals have broadly used Internet to publicized it via photographs, videos, or films. Among these media are bTV, a leading Bulgarian television, the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR), Reuters, as well as Internet sites such as,, and others. Some of the photos and video materials produced by or publicized via those entities are used in this chapter. 182

Although I discuss this matter elsewhere in the dissertation study, I will briefly mention that the main contestants in the dispute over Pomak identity are Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. While Bulgaria forwards linguistic arguments about the Bulgarian ethnicity of the Pomaks, Turkey points to shared religion as the main indicator of cultural identity. At the same time, because of the strategic location of the Rhodopes between northern Greece and southern Bulgaria, Greece insists that the Pomaks belong to the Greek ethnicity since they descend from ancient Thracian tribes that had been once Hellenized, subsequently Romanized, Slavicized, then Ottomanized, and finally Bulgarianized. In addition, both Bulgaria and Greece point to physical appearance the predominance of fair skin and blue eyes among the Pomaks as proof of the Pomaks Bulgarian and/or Greek origin. (Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, (New York: Routledge, 1997), 102 & passim.)

South in the 1920s, as described in Weltys novel. Most significantly, in both communities the

between the wedding traditions of Ribnovo today and the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta of the American

wedding tradition has importance as a family affair, a public celebration, and a stage for enacting social norms. Third, employing an approach advanced by the early twentieth-century Belgian anthropologist Arnold van Gennep, I analyze the wedding tradition as a major rite of passage. 6 In

accordance with van Genneps concept, as updated by Robert Ingpen and Philip Wilkinson, 7 I analyze the Ribnovo wedding as a major turning point not only in the lives of the individuals who marry, but also of their families and community. Through marriage, two people simultaneously undergo experience reincorporation (get reintroduced) into the village society as a family unit. 8 separation from the life of single individuals, make transition into the world of spousehood and This chapter also examines a truly unique wedding tradition that has all but disappeared

outside of Ribnovo. What makes it even more special is that the wedding, in its full ritualistic

splendor, occurs only rarely. Many young couples conduct their nuptials simply: without the intricate bridal dcor so appealing to outsiders; without the live music that accounts for most of the public entertainment; and without the processions, dowry display, or other trappings typical of the colorful Ribnovo wedding. When a marriage takes place in all its ritualistic manifestations, the splendor is complete. Ironically, the typical backdrop of all the flow of colors and excitement accompanying the however, only enhances the vibrancy and appeal of the colorful Ribnovo wedding. festivities is the gray-autumn- or white-winter landscape. The drabness of the cold-season setting,

preserving significant and interesting aspects of Pomak culture. First, because the wedding ritual, as practiced in Ribnovo, is unique, beautiful, and forgotten elsewhere in the Rhodopes, it naturally stands out as an important heritage attribute. Second, I can safely claim the Ribnovo wedding to be Pomak tradition, because the community itself identifies as Pomak. Moreover, there is evidence,
6Arnold 7 8

Ultimately, this chapter examines the Ribnovo wedding in the context of documenting and

Read in section, Marriage: A Major Turning-Point in Life, of this chapter. Van Gennep, passim.

van Gennep, Rites of Passage (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1960), 10-11.


surviving in oral testimonies and family photographs, that similar wedding rites have been widely 1970s. The Ribnovo wedding appears to be neither a new cultural invention, nor a borrowed

practiced among the Pomaks of the Western Rhodopes as early as the 1940s and all the way until the tradition. Surviving evidence suggests that the phenomenon, as seen in Ribnovo today, is a remnant Muslims of the Western (and possibly of the whole of) Rhodopes. As the ritual went extinct after once being the cultural norm among the Rhodopean Muslims, this chapter describes and analyses the traditions. Ribnovo wedding with a view to its literary preservation as a unique manifestation of fading Pomak of a long-standing cultural custom once typical of and widely practiced by the Slavic-speaking

Ribnovo: Place and People Ribnovo, in the Western Rhodopes, is the last bastion of the traditional Pomak wedding, the

most distinctive feature of which nowadays is the exquisite facial decoration of the bride. While in most other villages in the area, the tradition was swept away by the revival process 9 and has since

disappeared, in Ribnovo it undergoes unusual revival and popularity. In fact, one can only discover

genuine Pomak traditions and images in a remote village like Ribnovo, which has remained relatively unaffected by modernity, at least, in terms of social mores and dress style. Ribnovo, as it is, standing isolated at the bottom of a mountainous country road in the Bulgarian hinterlands in the deep by global uniformity than most other places in the region (Figure 5-1 10). reaches of the Rhodope Mountains harbors patriarchal values and traditions perhaps less affected I first visited Ribnovo in the fall of 2004 on a business-related trip, while I was still living and

working in Bulgaria. I returned in March of 2009 to conduct dissertation research. Although I have been to Ribnovo only twice, I know much about the way of life the social and economic environment, the people and general traditions since I was born and grew up in the Western

10 Photograph last accessed on May 20, 2009. is a locally maintained website that publishes photographs from Ribnovo, very often by anonymous authors. 184

For a detailed account of the revival process, see Chapters III and IV.

Rhodopes, barely an hour away from Ribnovo. In addition, I have worked and still actively invaluable assistance to the present research.

communicate with many local people, including from Ribnovo, who have continuously rendered The closest city to Ribnovo is Gotse Delchev, about 25-30 kilometers away (approximately

twenty miles). In order to get to Ribnovo from Gotse Delchev, in 2004, I had to take an old, beat-up, travel uphill along a one-lane, rugged asphalt road, perforated with potholes like a Swiss cheese.

uncomfortable socialist-style bus, so different from the comfortable private buses in use today, and After an hour of wobbling, shaking, meandering, crawling, and pausing in villages to deposit and

accept a few passengers, the bus finally left me on a dirt road in the middle of a small settlement.

Figure 5-1: Ribnovo (Courtesy of This was Ribnovo. From where I stood, it looked like a cluster of houses seemingly sitting atop each other, because of the ascending, picturesque summits snuggling the village on all sides.The surrounding scenery of rolling hills covered with conifers and rocks was breathtaking. It was truly beautiful! In the crisp-clean morning air I breathed lightly and smiled for no apparent reason.

but rather as large and solid edifices providing homes for the inhabitants. The faces of the people first time in Ribnovo, but I was not nervous. I knew that the moment I spoke in one of the native

me, lined on both sides by rows of stone-and-brick houses. The houses did not strike me as luxurious,

The dirt road where I stood a sort of main street zigzagged in opposite directions from

emanated warmth, friendliness and curiosity all at once upon meeting my bemused glance. It was my Rhodopean dialects, any ice would break completely, on the spot. But non-natives are not strangers here, either. The villagers frequently encounter journalists, as well as all sorts of professional and amateur photo-researchers flocking to Ribnovo to catch a glimpse of the communitys unique welcome as one from the area such as me. So, the locals are not the least surprised when an request to take a few pictures. Moreover, a timid visitor the people if he or she appears lost in some would most likely be aided by

lifestyle. All in all, lacking clear indication of malicious intent, any stranger would receive the same unfamiliar face shows up in Ribnovo and approaches them with questions, followed by the inevitable

hotels or rooms for rent in Ribnovo. Those seeking

predicament. There are no

overnight accommodations would board in someones Figure 5-2: Ribnovos public square: horo dancing (Courtesy of

house either by preliminary

arrangements or simply as serendipitously invited guests, free of charge. According to traditional

all know each other and they can immediately tell a native from a guest. During my first visit in 2004, I stayed with a good friend of mine in the neighboring village of Ossikovo.

strong hospitality, no one should be refused shelter and meal, especially non-residents, for the locals


The Swiss-cheese road had been repaved, albeit still a one-lane affair. Although the village looked

I returned to Ribnovo in early 2009, accompanied by my brother in his old Opel Frontera.

familiar, the houses gave an impression of more vibrancy and affluence. Most were now splashed in light colors and boasted marble railing and ornamentation on the outside. The two of us parked on the same public square, where the bus had left me almost five years earlier. This place marks the main venue for public dancing broadest part of Ribnovos main street and, in conjunction with the local schoolyard, serves as the horo 11 during weddings (Figure 5Feim Foxi Osmanov, a

2 12).

South-Western University in

twenty-three-year-old student of the

Blagoevgrad (Bulgaria) at the time,

was supposed to meet me there. I did yet but that is how one conducts

not know Foxi in person at least not ones business in the Rhodopes. When need calls, one trusts people one has never met in person, almost never Figure 5-3: Kadrie and Feim Hatip from Ribnovo as bride and groom in February 2005 being disappointed. The evening

all moved away or were otherwise unable to help. But as it always happens in the Rhodopes completely coincidentally that Friday evening some relatives of ours were socializing at my

know I was going. At that point, I had no one to rely on, for the people I knew as it turned out had

before I went to Ribnovo, I still did not


This is a type of dance where people hold hands to form a link that often curls up into double or triple rings depending on the availability of room. The musicians often play their instruments standing inside the ring(s) of dancers, while the crowds of spectators occupy the outer space. Photograph last accessed on May 20, 2009. 187

ancestral home (in Valkossel) whereupon I expressed the concern that my original plans to visit Ribnovo had failed. A second cousin of mine, Dzepa, was among the visitors that night. While mentioning she had a classmate from Ribnovo, Dzepa pulled her cell phone out and dialed someone. The very next moment she handed me the phone and a short while later my trip to Ribnovo was arranged. On the next Saturday morning, a brown-haired young man of average build met me on the

public square in Ribnovo. That was Foxi. He took my brother and me to his home, where I proceeded to conduct a four-hour group interview with Foxi, his mother and sister while watching a video of a traditional Ribnovo wedding. My original idea was to attend an actual event, based on the erroneous belief that all

weddings in Ribnovo were the typical colorful affair. But as it turned out, there were plenty of point, I need to explain that, albeit all weddings take place in a time-honored tradition most

weddings to be had during my time-frame in Bulgaria, but none was conducted in full ritual. At this notably, not in the proverbial white gown of the bride, but in the colorful local attire (Figure 5.3 13 and

Figure 5.4), not all elements of the complex ritual such as the bridal mask, live music, procession, and I was unable to witness the full traditional wedding personally, the Osmanov family of Ribnovo and the Gotse Delchev-based Safet Studio for moving images, as well as a bTV documentary walked me step-by-step through the Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo. 15 Many other people have also become a valuable source of information both verbal and visual for this project. Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo 16 others are always included. Some weddings are greatly simplified to curtail expenses. 14 Even though

13 I took these snapshots from video materials including a wedding video of Kadrie and Feims wedding kindly provided by Safet Studio, Gotse Delchev (Bulgaria). Note: All snapshots from Kadrie and Feim Hatips wedding herein are from the same material. 14

15 16

A wedding cost can absorb from 80 to 100 percent of an average familys annual income. Very often, the overall expenses may be compensated or even exceeded by the amount received as wedding gifts, but that is not generally the case. The cost of the brides cheiz (dowry) and the building of a new house for the newlyweds can be really steep for the couples families. Sharena prikazka Ribnovo / Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo / was first broadcasted on April 6, 2008, in the series bTV Reporterite /The bTV Reporters/. bTV kindly gave me permission to use parts of the documentary for the purposes of this chapter. 188 A bTV documentary. bTV is a leading television media in Bulgaria (below).

of a Ribnovo wedding, they named the film Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo. Indeed, colorful is perhaps the adjective that best

When bTV, a leading television media in Bulgaria, broadcasted a thirty-minute documentary

describes the full-blown Ribnovo traditional wedding. Most everyone and everything through her

from the bride, make-up and to young Figure 5-4: A happy bride The bride Kadrie as she appeared during one of the days of her wedding. She is posing for the shoot in front of her dowry

cheiz (dowry),

Ribnovo women emerge in bright, sparkling, astonishing dazzle of colors and sequins for two full days (photos). On the other hand, fairytale is the noun that most truthfully captures the spirit of the

wedding season for two fundamental reasons: First, it marks the time of respite from hard work in

Note: This section is also based on the following sources: 1. The Osmanov Family (Feim, Fatme and their mother), interview by author, Ribnovo, Bulgaria, March 7, 2009. 2. Wedding of Kadrie Gyulyova and Feim Hatip of 12 February 2005. Video by Safet Studio, Gotse Delchev (Bulgaria). Snapshots taken by author. 3. Unspecified wedding from Ribnovo. Raw video material by Safet Studio, Gotse Delchev (Bulgaria). 4. Daniel Lekov, Lovets na migove: Ribnovo, Bulgaria, 359 Magazine 2 (2007): 64-77. 5. Anastasia Pashova et al., Semeystvo, Religiya, Vsekindevie na Myusyulmanite v Zapadnite Rodopi /Family, Religion, Lifestyle of the Muslims of the Western Rhodopes/ (Sofia: IK Sema RSH, 2002). 6. Photographs by unspecified local authors. is a local website devoted to popularizing Pomak cultural traditions and providing forum for their discussion. 7. Mehmed and Havva Cesurs family album, Istanbul (Turkey), May 2007. Wedding photographs of Fatme Agouleva Sadouleva, Kornitsa, 1967. 8. Mehmed and Sanie Myuhtars family album. A photograph from their wedding, Valkossel, February 1972. 189

the fields usually going on for most of the calendar year. Second, it presents the best opportunity for

entertainment that the populace can get. A fairytale life for the community would, thus, be the time of weddings when the worries of the harvest season are left behind and everyone is making merry greater significance, because the community itself, in the person of one female interviewee, puts it forward before the bTV reporters: dressed in their finest. The description of the Ribnovo wedding as a colorful fairytale acquires even

an easy one. While only plowing and partial hauling of the produce (tobacco, vegetables, and other) is done by tractors and other motorized machinery, almost everything else is manually handled. Apparently, factors like the relatively small size of the average farm (about twenty acres) and the

Life on the semi-mechanized farms in Ribnovo, and throughout the Western Rhodopes, is not

You havent seen anything as colorful as this and youre fascinated! Its like from another world to you. Its like a fairytale really: it comes and goes. The wedding comes and goes, then, life continues as usual [italics added]. 17

difficult terrain of the Rhodope Mountains, allowing only for small and disconnected parcels of land and/or early spring, the intensive work continues all through the spring, summer, and fall to be cultivated, limit the cost-effectiveness of mechanization. Once plowing takes place in the fall

whereupon crops are planted, grown, picked, processed, and readied for sale. Cultivating the tobacco the standard cash crop of the Western Rhodopes usually occupies the time from February-March to October-November when the process starts with germinating the tobacco seeds. After that, the tobacco gets transplanted, repeatedly chopped and picked in stages, sun-dried and arranged in

rectangular bales ready to be sold. Baling begins with the autumn rain which softens the desiccated tobacco leaves and makes them amenable to manipulation. This work often continues well into the winter, but it is not as time and labor-consuming as the rest of tobacco farming is. The cold season,

albeit still demanding, remains more relaxed compared to the rest of the year and, thus, conducive to entertainment. 18 This is the time of the Ribnovo wedding. On a chilly morning, when the village awakens to the languid sound of woodwinds and

drums, the wedding has begun. Usually, the typical colorful event lasts two days. This is very much in
17 18

bTV documentary.

For sources, see footnote 16. 190

keeping with age-old traditions where wedding festivities went on for days. Nowadays, the cheiz, or everything that the bride will bring to her husbands house, is exhibited during the first day of the henna, making delicate garnet coloration in various patterns. wedding, normally a Saturday. In the evening on the same day, the brides hands are decorated with The Ribnovo wedding is largely a public event. Apart from the few private aspects of it,

including the bridal decoration and the dowry arrangement, the entire village participates in the exist.

wedding one way or another. One very important occurrence is that no formal wedding invitations

Figure 5-5: Young women hold gifts at Kadrie and Feims wedding


Figure 5-6: The wedding begins The Ribnovo wedding begins ... with the grooms (Feim) brother leading the musicians to Feims house Members of the community simply decide to attend the reception as relatives, friends, age-mates,

neighbors, or in whatever other capacity. Weddings across the Western Rhodopes are open to the

community at large, thus, being planned for a sizeable number of people. The Ribnovo community, dancing horo on the public square or another venue in the village suitable for large congregations. Ribnovo. For the former, it largely means an opportunity to find a potential spouse, while for the latter to get some entertainment before the farm work resumes. The first day of the Ribnovo

particularly the womenfolk, partakes in the first-day festivities mostly by scrutinizing the cheiz and

The wedding is a special invitation to merrymaking for both unmarried and married people in

wedding is also a day when only the groom feasts with his family, relatives, and friends. The brides bride and groom for their own guests respectively. The wedding guests, on their part, bring gifts in

side of the family does the feasting on the next day. The expenses are incurred by the parents of both

the form of food, money, and various household items. The young couple must be present during both receptions to formally accept gifts and congratulations. On the second day of the wedding, normally a Sunday, the grooms side of the family

prepares the so-called bayraks (photos). Typically, these are T-shaped wooden constructions of

various sizes, suspended from which are all the gifts the groom has prepared for his future wife and

in-laws. Usually, the gifts include articles of clothing and paper currency. The grooms relatives carry

Figure 5-7: Live music Accompanied by musicians, the grooms family brings the gifts prepared for the bride and her relatives to her parents house on the second day of the wedding and the groom takes his bride home. Behind them are two other bayraks with fabrics and clothes respectively. All these gifts will go to the bride and her family. the bayraks, as well as other gifts, to the brides house accompanied by live music and a throng of

participants or mere curious spectators. At the head of the procession is a close relative (a brother or cousin) of the groom who carries a blue flag symbol of hospitality topped with a bouquet of evergreens and money. When the slow-moving procession finally arrives at the gates of the brides

home, they will have to face a small party of young men brides relative blocking the entrance. As tradition requires, the grooms family literally buys their way in by handing the youngsters some cash in return for being let in. Gaining access to the bride has a vital symbolic significance at this

point since the groom has essentially arrived to take his bride home. Once the grooms procession is brides familys turn to pay for accessing the gifts. A male relative normally the father or older past the gate barrier, they pass the bayraks on to the parents of the bride. This time around, it is the

possession of the gift.

brother of the bride hands out small monetary bills to each bayrak-bearer, thereafter, taking

exchange, along with pausing for photographs, it is time for the brides parents to bid

After the cash-bayrak

farewell to their daughter and

ritualistically surrender her to family will take the bride to time. She now wears the her new home for the first

the in-laws. The groom and his

Figure 5-8: Kardies father lifts the bayrak with one hand and drops a bill to the bearer with the other

her from opening her eyes and lips. The bride walks out of her parents home silently and blindly, gently assisted by her mother and father or other family members along the way (Figure 5-10).

elaborate mask which prevents


shut and carries a mirror

make-up, she keeps her eyes

While wearing the

before her. Tradition requires that she does not look back she can only look in the mirror, if at all at her

girlhood home, because it is stability of her future life as

considered a bad omen for the wife and mother. On a more

Figure 5-9: Kadries mother and father carefully assist her out on the way to her new life as a wife

mundane level, the purpose of the mirror is a very practical one: to help the bride navigate her way as well.

forward since her gaze is inevitably obstructed by the heavy sequin make-up applied on her eyelids

Figure 5-10: Kadrie wearing full bridal make-up


decorating the bride with sequins and tinsel started. But a clue to the masks possible purpose may be found in a comment by Dr. Margarita Karamihova,

It is not clear how the tradition of

ethnographer at the Bulgarian Academy of Science:

All we know about this proverbial colorful bride as you put it is that it is some type of decoration that replaces the brides veil, which also signifies a clear transition in status [of the bride, from girlhood to matrimony]. This means that you change your appearance: disappear in the dark, covered one way or another, including by veil or garment. Then, when the [wedding] ritual is over, you reemerge in a new status [of a married woman], including by change in appearance.* As yet, however, none of us [scholars] can tell when and how this tradition came about. 19 Figure 5-11: A Ribnovo bride fully arraigned in the traditional way (Courtesy of Kimile Ulanova).

*[For instance, married women in Ribnovo are usually less adorned and wear more mundane clothing than girls.] Regarding bridal veiling, Arnold van Gennep makes an interesting reference to the ancient Greek philosopher Plutarch who once rhetorically

remarked, Why do people veil their heads when do that] to separate themselves from the profane [secular] and to live in the sacred [religious] world. 20 In similar line of reasoning, one might
19 20

worshiping the gods? The answer is simple: [they Figure 5-12: Bride Kadrie Kadieva (Courtesy of Kadrie and Inrahim Kadiev).

In his book, The Rites of Passage, Arnold van Gennep places a great importance on the distinction he makes between the concepts of the sacred and the profane while analyzing the rites of passage. In a nutshell, unlike other cultural scholars of his time, Gennep does not see religion as the underlying force of all ceremonies in a 196

Ibid., bTV documentary. Translated from Bulgarian by the author.

interpret the elaborate veiling of the Ribnovo bride as a symbol of her separation from the world of adolescence and girlhood and permanent incorporation into the world of wifehood and potential parenthood. The physical act of bridal veiling may be a temporaryrather than permanent one that leads to the next stage of the brides life: the world of family responsibilities. 21

condition, van Gennep says, but when the veil falls, it permanently shuts one door and opens another Despite the uncertainty as to origins, however, the tradition of bridal decoration is not a new

invention. Oral and photographic evidence suggests that the ritual was thriving in the (Western)

Rhodopes during the early twentieth century, but completely disappeared by the mid-1970s, when

the revival process uprooted it. Indeed, Margarita Karamihovas submission that the bridal mask is a a (Bulgarian Christian) school teacher in the village of Debren, Western Rhodopes (near Ribnovo) during the 1930s and 1940s, the following was typical of Pomak weddings:

sort of veil replacement appears to be correct. According to the oral testimony of Vassilka Alimanska,

integral part of Muslim womens attire in Ottoman times (roughly 1400 to 1900) was still worn by at least some Pomak women until the 1940s. Veiling certainly appears to have been a part of the bridal attire. However, Bulgarias persistent attempts to assimilate the Pomaks, including by

disappearance, first, of the bridal veiling, and, then, of the decorative mask. Apparently, the veil an

This testimony very precisely points at the reason and timeframe of change and

Weddings in those days went on for weeks. The bride used to be covered with red veil. Thats the way the brides were done until 1944 [the year of communist takeover]. On the forehead, in the form of wreath, multicolored sequins were arranged. I loved to go to weddings and look at the brides for hours. The brides adornment existed until 1975 [the year the revival process among the Pomaks was finalized], but without the veil: dressed in purple shalvars [broad trousers], sequined aprons, and embroidered tyulbens [headscarves of sheer fabric]. During wedding, the women of the family and the neighborhood would make pastries and go to see the bride. 22

given societies. Instead, he holds that the sacred is not an absolute value, but one that is relative to the situation. However, since this distinction does not have a major bearing on this chapter, I have altogether excluded it from discussion. (Van Gennep, 168).
21 22

A. Pashova et al., Semeystvo, Religiya, Vsekindevie na Myusyulmanite v Zapadnite Rodopi /Family, Religion, Lifestyle of the Muslims of the Western Rhodopes/ (Sofia: IK Sema RSH, 2002), 79-80. Memories of Vassilka Alimanska, school teacher in the village of Debren, Western Rhodopes, from the 1930s and 1940s. Translated from Bulgarian by the author. 197

Van Gennep, 168.

suppressing traditional attire, resulted in the disappearance of veiling by the 1940s. 23 By 1975, when the renaming of all Pomaks happened, the last remnants of a range of cultural traditions peculiar to the community notably, the bridal decoration died out as well. Another testimony from the village of Breznitsa (Western Rhodopes) not only provides

further details about the tradition of decorating the bride earlier in the twentieth century, but also alludes to its common practice throughout the Western Rhodopes: The most interesting was the decoration of the [brides] face and head. A specially commissioned woman would come to decorate the bride: the face would be thickly covered with belilo [literally, whitener, i.e. cosmetic crme], the eyebrows would be blackened, and two circles would be drawn on the cheeks with lipstick. Then, the sequins and especially made, rhomboid shapes cut out of colored foil would be arranged on the face. A small cap would be placed on the head, the visible side of which was decorated with various bead strings and small gold coins suspended from the caps top. A white veil would then be placed over the cap, on top of which came [sheer] red or blue veil floating freely on both side of the face. Her [the brides] hands were painted with henna. The bride would then place her hands on the belly with one palm resting atop the other. Henna covered her hands because she did not wear apron [to hide them under]. Then she would be shown out from the balcony givya-ing, [i.e.] not looking or talking at all to a crowd of onlookers that had come especially to see her. The quote continues:

Photographic evidence, on the other hand, also testifies that similar rituals of bridal masking and

When the bride walked out of her parental home, her eldest brother would cover her with the fereje [outer garment], because from then on she was a married woman and the fereje would become part of her attire. Her mother placed three kernels of corn wrapped in kerchief under her right arm so that she could bring the nafaka [good fortune] into her new home. Her face and head were covered with red fabric called duvak. While she was coming down the stairs, her father would sprinkle her with oat grains and small candy pieces, sifted through a colander which he would be turning to the exit door. Once in the grooms house, [] he [the groom] would come down and uncover her face. Here, she would sit down on the bed to givey [sit motionless and speechless] again till sundown. In the evening, the hodja [Muslim religious teacher] would arrive to marry the couple. 24

(tinsel) veiling existed throughout the Western Rhodopes all the way to the mid-1970s, when most


24 Pashova et al., 80-81. The authors quote the book Breznitsa Minalo, pesni i traditsii /Breznitsa: Past, Songs, and Traditions/ (Blagoevgrad, 2002). (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.)

The first comprehensive pokrastvane happened during the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars (see Chapter II), followed by partial attempts at Pomak Christianization in the 1930s and 1940s. After the communists takeover in 1945, the assimilation culminated in the 1972-1974 revival process, which put an end to all remnants of the bridal masking tradition in the (Western) Rhodopes. The eradication of veiling and fezzing as the ultimate symbols of Muslim dress was an objective already achieved in pre-communist Bulgaria.


Pomak traditions were altogether discouraged as part of the communist regimes sustained effort to assimilate the community. 25

Figure 5-13: Sanie and Mehmed Myuhtar As bride and groom in 1972, Valkossel, Western Rhodopes (the authors parents). The bride is decorated with colored sequins arranged in floral patterns, but without the cakey belilo on the face. Instead, an egg white is used to secure the sequins in place. (The Myuhtar Family album. Wedding photograph of the authors parents, Valkossel, January 1972.)


For sources, see footnote 16, as well as footnotes accompanying the photographs captions. 199

Figure 5-14: Wedding of Fatme Aguleva of Kornitsa, Western Rhodopes, 1967 While the bride is certainly decorated, it cannot be established to what degree, mainly because of the tinsel veiling over her face. (The Cesur (Mehmed and Havva) Family album)

Figure 5-15: Wedding photograph Atie Hadjieva of Valkossel, 1971 The bride Atie is decorated in a slightly different fashion than the typical belilo-based, lipstick-circle centered bridal make-up (below). With no crme foundation, the facial adornment forms branches and leaves rather than flower petals emanating from a red midpoint. (The Hadjiev Family album)


Figure 5-16: Wedding Figure of 5-0-1 Atidje and Mustafa Chavdarov of Valkossel, 1972 (The Chavdarov Family album)

Figure 5-17: Wedding of Atidje and Mustafa Chavdarov of Valkossel, 1972 The bride Atidje, with husband Mustafa and relatives, decorated in the - more or less - traditional style: sequins arranged around two large red cores on both cheeks, as well as two spread-out floral patterns on the chin and forehead respectively. The bride has no belilo foundation. Most probably, the sequins were applied onto the brides face via egg white or another natural glue substance.

Figure 5-18: Wedding of Gyula and Mustafa Chavdarov of Valkossel, early 1970s


Figure 5-19: Wedding of Fatma and Mehmed Chavdarov of Valkossel, late 1960s

Figure 5-20: Ayshe and Mustafa Drelev of Valkossel, early 1970s

Figure 5-21: Wedding of Sadbera and Izir Chavdarov of Vakossel, 1968

Figure 5-22: Wedding of Nadjibe and Natak Dermendjiev of Valkossel, early 1970s


As the above oral and photographic evidence indicates, the process of decorating the bride in Ribnovo today appears to be uniform with the

past. The belilo, or Figure 5-23: The bride is about to be decorated This is the first stage of the adornment process, where the brides face is covered with belilo foundation. thick cosmetic crme, remains the primary foundation for the

elaborate mask, albeit the decorative pieces are now conveniently replaced by industrially manufactured sequins, Rhine

stones, beading, and tinsel. The modern Ribnovo bride is

always prepared by women who have a great deal of knowadornment. The

how regarding bridal

decoration involves

the following process:

Figure 5-24: Ribnovo women demonstrate a decoration (Courtesy of K. Ulanova)


The brides face is

thickly covered with usually red, the

belilo. Using a lipstick, decorator marks

several red spots on

strategic points of the larger spots on each

brides face, usually two side and two smaller Figure 5-25: Fully decorate Kadrie is about to be dressed (Courtesy of Kadrie and Ibrahim Kadiev) ones on the forehead

sequins are then arranged around the red cores directly over the belilo to form various floral

and chin. Shiny, colorful

patterns. When the floral arrangement is complete, the decorator colors the brides lips and darkens the brides face is essentially a mask that she has to preserve intact for up to several hours. She does that by keeping an expressionless face. Once the facial adornment is done, the bride arranges her attire with the help of other women. She already wears basic bridal clothing when the facial adornment is in process. Afterwards, she is dressed in warmer top garments and veiled. her eyebrows. After some finishing touches and last-minute corrections, the make-up is ready. Now

The outer layer of the garment consists of (1) a highly ornate bodice that clasps at the waist line

below the chests, (2) an apron, hand-woven of bright treads, and (3) a light black cloak-like garment, 6). Veiling the bride is a fundamental and complex part of the dressing process. It occurs on three levels: Veiling the Bride:

fereje, customarily worn by married women in the community (Figures 5-26, 5-27, and 5-28, pp.205-


Figure 5-26: Veiling the bride - Step 1 The brides hair is tucked behind a triangular under-veil, two ends of which are then tied together at her neck (Courtesy of Kimile Ulanova).

Figure 5-27: Veiling the bride - Step 2 A second, rectangular white veil covers the first one, but it rests freely on the brides shoulders. Silk flowers are then inserted under the veil, contouring the brides hairline.

family circle. Although it remains a largely intimate ritual, those especially interested, including

In the past, the decoration of the bride took place in strict privacy, only in a very narrow

is applied, the bride can no longer talk or hold her eyes opened. As a result, it has become traditional for the bride to keep silent lips and closed eyes to preserve the intricate mask which must remain intact from midday to nightfall on the second day of the wedding. Dr. Karamihova (above) become a wife: contemplates the importance of being silent for the bride on the day she parts with girlhood to

journalists and researchers, may negotiate access to it with the family. Once the heavy facial make-up

The bride is the center of attention that day without touting her presence. She is quiet. This is her biggest day. After that, the whole world would fall on her shoulders: the world of children; of life without a husband, for he would probably be far away abroad earning a living. Perhaps this solitude is good for her. She has the day to herself to think about all she is giving up [as a single woman] and receiving in return. Thats why, perhaps, this

decoration like a mask is beautiful! Because it hides her emotions! It helps her keep them to herself. 26 When the bride walks out of her parental home, she pauses to present her in-laws with gifts, prepared in advance as part of her dowry. To

hands. When the gelina [bride] comes out, says the nearest [grooms] relatives with gifts. And now, after she has done that, we will take her home. We will collect her dowry and bring her the bTV brides sister-in-law, she presents us

father-in-law as her new family, she kisses their

show respect and acceptance of her mother- and

with us. There, the groom will remove her makeFigure 5-28: Veiling the bride - Step 3 Finally, a glittering red veil is placed on top and decorated with tinsel garlands that flow up and thats it. 27

the end of the second day. That means that the bride and the groom will be intimate for the first time that night. In fact, in Ribnovo, only a girl that goes chaste to her husbands house can become a bride religious ritual. While most young people marry with their parents consent, sometimes eloping

into the couples becoming a husband and wife at

The two day-wedding ritual culminates

or gelina. If a girl elopes before being married in the traditional way, she cannot be a bride within the occurs where the girl- or boys parents disapprove of their son- or daughters choice of partner. Once

the young couple has eloped, however, the parents have to accept the situation. The girl joins her to celebrate the occasion. 28
26 27 28

husbands household only after a mundane civil marriage. But there is no traditional wedding ritual The Cheiz:

bTV documentary (above). (Translated from Bulgarian by the author.) Ibid. Ibid.


wedding. Tradition requires that the grooms family provides a dwelling for the newlyweds, while furnishing the new home is the responsibility of the brides parents. Thus, the cheiz includes

Like the mask and bridal attire, the dowry is an important attribute of the vibrant Ribnovo

everything that is deemed necessary for establishing a new household. While the volume, variety and value vary from bride to bride depending on her familys means, common dowry items include articles of clothing and fabrics, rugs, bedspreads, pillows, towels, furniture and kitchen appliances. Referencing the Safer Studio video material, Kadries dowry contains bedding, bedroom furniture, electronics (Figures 5-29, 5-30, 5-31, and 5-32, pp.208-9). carpets, curtains, appliances, dishware, glassware, living-room furniture, a television and other

placed along the street in front of the brides parental house so that everyone could see it. Although

It is a tradition in Ribnovo to display the brides dowry on special lumber constructions

the colors are rich and the composition seemingly chaotic, the overall arrangement pleases the eyes. This should come as no surprise since the women of the brides household execute the arrangement with a great deal of fuss and attention to details. They are painfully aware that their work will be day of the wedding, the brides family works busily. The men erect timber frames and help with moving the heavier items, while the women arrange the cheiz according to their own rules of scrutinized by the entire female community of Ribnovo and beyond. That is why, early on the first

harmony and proportion. The most obvious practical rule is to move from the largest to the smallest article in the process of arrangement. Thus, the women place the largest rugs, carpets and covers on the frames first. Onto those they affix the smaller table-cloths, fabrics, pillow cases, and suchlike, with the tiniest and most decorative units resting atop everything else. The furniture and kitchen utensils are displayed separately. Overall, the more colorful the ensemble, the more beautiful it is perceived comments. Below are photographs of Kardies cheiz which is perhaps more opulent compared to most brides dowry:

to be. Once the cheiz is exhibited, crowds of spectators mostly women gather to observe and trade


Figure 5-29: Cheiz I Rugs, covers, curtains, pillows and knits are exhibited for public scrutiny

Figure 5-30: Cheiz II Television set, stereo, coffee machine, and storage cabinets on this picture

Figure 5-31: Cheiz III Refrigerator, washing machine, microwave oven, vacuum cleaner.

Figure 5-32: Cheiz IV Living-room set, decorative pillows and a coffee table. An assortment of containers for various household uses arranged in front


From Ribnovo to the Delta I started this chapter with a reference to Eudora Weltys book, Delta Wedding, commenting

how marriage traditions, originating in the opposite ends of the world at different times, connect. But just what are these similarities? The wedding enfolded in Weltys novel takes place in the fall (September) of 1923 29 while it is still hot and humid in Mississippi and the fields are white with

cotton. Battle Fairchild, his wife Ellen, their many children and the extended family of numerous

aunts, uncles and cousins, are preparing for a wedding. Battles daughter Dabney is marrying their resemblance with life in Ribnovo! The novel revolves around the Fairchilds preparations for intimate, communal, hectic, vivacious, exhausting, exciting, disappointing, gloomy, hopeful, conciliatory, bountiful and gossipy. It is in this web of complex emotions, reflective of the between the Delta and Ribnovo and, to an extent, the Rhodopes begin.

plantations overseer Troy Flavin, somewhere from the hills of Tennessee. Thus far, there is not much Dabneys wedding during the week before the event. Life in the course of that time is simultaneously

conservative-patriarchal social and cultural environment of the community that the similarities The institution and ritual of marriage matter to the Delta and Ribnovo people to the same

degree as they invest equal effort and care in preparation for it. However, while the wealth of the

American Delta planters class in the early twentieth century allowed them to spend lavishly on the their spending abilities. That does not stop many Ribnovo parents, though, from going above and

marriages of their offspring, the relatively modest means of the Ribnovo people, in comparison, limits beyond their resources to procure what they perceive to be the best for their sons or daughters,

especially in terms of dowry. In particular, among the principal similarities between the 1920s Delta wedding, as described by Welty, and the modern Ribnovo tradition are the following: The wedding is primarily a family affair: It is the family of the bride, the groom, or both

together that organize the event, bear the cost of it, actively participate in it and altogether make the wedding possible. Moreover, marriage brings people together not only during the preparation and celebration of the tradition, but also for life by creating ties between families and communities.

Welty, 1.


Fairchilds provide a sumptuous feast not only for the extended family, but also for neighbors and the plantations workforce. Likewise, in Ribnovo, each of the newlyweds families invites their relatives and friends to a banquet to celebrate their son or daughters marriage. Interestingly enough, however, the families feast separately. The grooms side gathers for an afternoon meal, gift-giving occasion. The brides side does the same on the following day, or vice versa. Overall, it is more

Communal feasting is a vital component of the wedding: At Dabney and Troys wedding, the

and dancing on the first day of the festivities at a local restaurant or eatery especially booked for the traditional in the Western Rhodopes for the grooms family to bear all reception expenses, while the important (see footnote 14). The solution to a financial predicament in Ribnovo is ingenious: detached feasting and half the cost per family.

brides parents provide the dowry. However, since a wedding can be very costly, sharing expenses is

not only the extended family, but also the entire community of neighbors turns out at the wedding passage:

The wedding is a grand community celebration: In Delta Wedding, just like in Ribnovo,

festivities for socializing and good cheer. Eudora Welty best expresses the extent of it in the following Everybody for miles around came to the reception. Troy said he did not know there could be so many people in the whole Delta [emphasis added]; it looked like it was cotton all the way. The mayor of Fairchilds and his wife were driven up with the lights on inside their car, and they could be seen lighted up inside reading the Memphis paper ; in the bud vases on the little walls beside them were real red roses, vibrating, and the chauffeurs silk cap filled with air like a balloon when they drove over the cattle guard. Shelleys heart pounded as she smiled; indeed, this was a grand occasion for everybody, their wedding was really eventful [emphasis added]. 30

Not only is the fully traditional Ribnovo wedding a grand occasion for everybody to be entertained, but it is often the only occasion, particularly for women. There are no bar clubs or discothques in Ribnovo. Although there are plenty of cafs to congregate in and chat with friends, these are

exclusively the domain of men. In this extremely conservative social environment, eligible bachelors and bachelorettes meet on the street, before everybodys eyes. Young people in Ribnovo date while
Ibid., 218. 211

partaking in the so-called dvijenie (literally, movement) during which girls in groups of two, three,

meet and talk with them. The dvijenie usually continues until dusk. It is particularly dynamic during the wedding season, when farm work is at a standstill. The wedding is an arena for enacting socio-cultural norms: The author of Delta Wedding

or more walk back and forth along the main street of the village so that (potential) boyfriends could

unequivocally establishes the social norms existing in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta in the 1920s through her characters. The brides mother Ellen is extremely upset about Dabneys marrying beneath her status as a planters daughter to a mere plantation overseer. Awareness of her

powerlessness to prevent this bad match drives Ellen to find consolation in the thought that her

however, with the news that Georges wife, Robbie Reid, has left him, thus, becoming the object of angry and indignant discussion among the Fairchild clan. They now look at Dabneys marriage as store, ventures to come to the wedding, the Fairchilds are angry at her, but also relieved that Georges honor has been saved from scandal with the flighty wifes return.

brother-in-law George also married beneath him, for love, and he was happy. Her solace collapses,

almost tolerable in comparison. When Robbie Reid, a mere daughter of a worker in the plantations

will tolerate Robbie Reid and Troy Flavin as long as they conduct themselves in accordance with the Fairchilds expectations: be meek and subservient, as behooves their station, not defiant. What fuels their emotions are the social norms of the patriarchal Delta society that literally stipulates the following: First, a match between a planters daughter and an overseer is bad. Second, a match

Apparently, all Georges brothers and sisters who belong to the refined Southern society

between a gentleman and a working woman is intolerable. Third, the act of an angry wife especially one of humble status like Robbie Reid leaving her husband is foolish, reckless, and shameful. In the impunity, unlike women. In Ribnovo, although both men and women are expected to live up to rigid indiscretion is far less likely to break a marriage than a wifes one. It would be a matter of personal honor for a man to divorce an unfaithful wife and one of social survival for a woman to stay in a door unless the groom bears the guilt of it all. The type of class-related antagonism, markedly

patriarchal Southern society, as in Ribnovo, men make the rules and break them with virtual

social norms of moral integrity and connubial truthfulness norms influenced by Islam a husbands

disloyal union. Likewise, if a bride is not a virgin on her wedding night, she would likely be shown the

observable in Delta Wedding, however, is less pronounced in Ribnovo since most people share the same status of small tobacco farmers. Similar to the Delta, it is paramount for the young people of Ribnovo to marry within their

village community where they feel most comfortable. This is especially true for women who rarely marry outside Ribnovo. To wed someone from the village is more prestigious than marrying an outsider. Those who choose a non-Ribnovo husband, after all, do it either for love or because they

expresses the importance of community and the continuity of tradition. On several occasions, one or another character of the novel utters words indicative of how vital it is in the patriarchal society of the Delta not only to marry their daughters and sons well, but to marry them in the Delta. This is to i.e. things arent going to be any different after marriage. 32 All too often in the novel the course reflected in the following passage:

cannot find a suitable match in their home community. 31 In Delta Wedding, Eudora Welty strongly

ensure that life in the community, so intimate and dear to those who live it, would not be disrupted; conversation among the Fairchilds about Dabneys wedding and Robbie Reids fleeing follows the And we cant let poor Tempe knowshe just could not cope with this [Robbie Reids running away], said Battle in a soft voice. Hard enough on Tempe to have Dabney marrying the way she is, and after Mary Denis married a Northern man and moved so far off. Cant tell Jim Allen and Primerose* and hurt them [emphasis added]. 33 * Tempe, Jim Allen and Primerose are Dabneys aunts, as well as Battle and Georges sisters, while Mary Denis is Tempes daughter. Ultimately, what is important to the people in both Ribnovo and the Delta is not merely

keeping with rigid social norms, but preserving the world they know the way they know it through life beyond peoples reach is foreign, frightful and unwanted. The Fairchilds would die, everybody said, writes Welty, if this [wedding] happened. But now everybody seemed to be just too busy

observing the norms. Life in a familiar and controlled environment is secure and predictable, while

31 32 33

The Osmanov Family (Feim, Fatme and their mother), interview by author, Ribnovo, Bulgaria, March 7, 2009. Words of Jim Allen, Dabneys aunt, to Dabney just before her wedding (Welty, 48). Welty, 52.


[preparing for it] to die or not. 34 Indeed, the Fairchilds may be unhappy about Dabney and Troys marriage, but they have come to terms with it. What is more, they make the wedding possible by organizing it and actively participating in it. Similarly, in Ribnovo, not only will parents suffer the

undesired partner of choice of their offspring, but much in the Fairchilds way they will take steps community is ensured and life goes on as usual, every union even an initially deplored one will

to prepare for the wedding, usually by incurring all cost of it. As long as the integrity of the family and

come to be accepted and even celebrated via the wedding ritual. Thus, the custom of marriage

emerges as a vital act of and even quest for preserving the status quo in the community both: (1) by ensuring smooth transition from singlehood to marriage for two young individuals and (2) by averting a crisis that may arise out of opposition to a bad union. In other words, the wedding ritual not so, all for the purpose of averting crisis and keeping family affairs going.

rises as a flag of celebration when a marriage is desired and as a white banner of surrender when it is Marriage: The Key Turning Point in Adult Life 35 According to Arnold van Gennep, 36 responsible for first systematizing the rites of passage in

the social sciences, marriage is one of the major rites of passage in human existence together with Philip Wilkinson write:

child birth, coming of age and death. 37 Expanding on van Genneps proposition, Robert Ingpen and Birth, coming of age, marriage, death. Whoever we are and wherever we live, we cannot avoid these great climaxes and crises of life. People need to ease these changes in a number of ways. And a change of status needs to be made known to the community. Rituals to signal and mark these key life changes rites of passage, as they are called occur in all human societies and they seem to fulfill a basic human need. 38

34 35 36 37 38

Robert Ingpen and Philip Wilkinson, A Celebration of Customs and Rituals of the World (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1996), 77-78. Van Gennep, passim.

Ibid., 31.

Van Gennep is a Belgian anthropologist and folklorist who became influential with his concept of the rites of passage in cultural theory at the turn of the twentieth century. Wilkinson and Ingpen, 43. 214

the birth of a child, puberty, marriage, or the death of loved ones. Once those changes take place, the person(s) affected re-enter society in a new role, status, or position as mothers or fathers, husbands or wives, widows or widowers, and so on. People feel the need to go through these life changes as performs rituals to help smooth the transition of any given members from their old to their new

The authors contend that all humans experience major life changes crises of life during

close to their normal routine as possible under the circumstances of crisis. As a result, the community status, as well as to announce the change to society at large. Thus, principal rituals such as weddings are designed not only to mark a major change in the lives of two people, but also to facilitate their into society as a family unit. transition from the world of singlehood to matrimony and to ensure their successful reintroduction In 1908, when van Genneps Les Rites de Passage first appeared, no classification of rites

the concept of schema (meaning pattern, process, structure, and/or dynamics) have become

With the release of an English edition in the 1960s, van Genneps rites-of-passage classification and recognized contributions to anthropology and social theory in general. In a nutshell, van Gennep

existed. 39 Published initially in French, his theories languished in semi-obscurity for over fifty years.

defines the customs and rituals that mark major disruptions in the life of an individual or group as

rites of passage. The basic schma of these rites of passage incorporates three stages: a) separation the schma, van Gennep says:

(sparation), b) transition (marge), and c) incorporation (agrgation). 40 Clarifying on the concept of Rites of separation are prominent in funeral ceremonies, rites of incorporation at marriages. Transition rites may play an important part, for instance, in pregnancy, betrothal, and adoption, in the delivery of a second child, in remarriage, or in the passage from the second to the third age group. 41

transition and reincorporation that apply to all major rites of passage. Separation occurs not only at death, but generally when a person parts with his or her present social role to accept a new one.
In the introduction to The Rites of Passage (above) by Solon S. Kimbali (van Gennep, xxv). Kimbali, in van Gennep, vii. Van Gennep, 11.
39 40 41

Based on van Genneps overall notion of schema, one can generalize definitions of separation,


Thus, the rites of marriage and (first) childbirth can also be interpreted as rites of separation since, in the first instance, two people part with singlehood to re-emerge as family and, in the second instance, they separate from the status of non-parenthood to join that of parenthood. Transition is the period of adjustment to a new role, status, or position a person has acquired in society. As Wilkinson and Ingpen indicate, transition often manifests itself by physical and social transformations 42 such as

those accompanying a womans motherhood or an individuals puberty when some exterior features change and social responsibilities grow. Reincorporation happens when an individual is successfully reintegrated into society in his or her new status. At puberty, for instance, a former child would be successfully reintroduced into society as a young adult if he or she becomes a productive and lawabiding member of it. In marriage, two former single persons would have successfully re-entered

society as a unit after establishing a solid family and potentially raising healthy children. The customs and rituals are there to help ease the stress on people as they undergo life crises and re-establish themselves as productive members of society. In A Celebration of Customs and Rituals of the World, Ingpen and Wilkinson describe the By relieving the stress within a community that can surround change, they [rituals] help to prevent social disruption. By bringing people together, they foster cooperation. By providing clear instructions to individuals, they help people to live up to societys expectations. 43

intended purpose of rituals in any given cultural community in the following quote:

Customs and rituals, they contend, are important in society for three essential reasons: without disrupting societys life;

They help smooth the transition from one crucial stage of human existence into another They bring people together and create a sense of community among them; responsibilities in society. 44

They provide important guidance to the young generation as to the values, norms and

42 43 44

Ingpen and Wilkinson, 43. Ibid. Ibid. 216

life, for instance entails a major change not only in that persons social condition, but also in the social condition of his or her family group and potentially of the whole community. Because experience. As van Gennep aptly puts it:

Indeed, the passage from one stage of a persons life into another from single to married

difficulties accompany these changes, rituals play a pivotal role in alleviating the stress that people Such changes of condition do not occur without disturbing the life of society and the individual, and it is the function of the rites of passage to reduce their harmful effects. That such passages are regarded as real and important is demonstrated by the recurrence of rites among widely differing peoples [and societies] [emphasis added]. 45

to another and from one occupation to another. [] [P]rogression from one group to the next is

The life of an individual in any society, van Gennep continues, is a series of passages from one age

accompanied by special acts, like those which make apprenticeship in our trades. 46 Those acts that accompany major changes in human existence are enveloped in ceremonies to ease the transition so that society as a whole will suffer no discomfort or injury. Overall,

occurring at key points in every person or groups being, customs and rituals are indispensable for In fact, van Gennep defines marriage as the most important of the transitions from one social

Because people design and enact them with a view to alleviating social disturbances

Transition from group to group and from one social situation to the next are looked on as implicit in the very fact of existence, so that a mans life comes to be made up of a secession of stages with similar ends and beginnings: births, social puberty [different from physical one], marriage, fatherhood, advancement to a higher class, occupational specialization, and death. For every one of these events there are ceremonies whose essential purpose is to enable the individual to pass from one defined position to another which is equally well defined [emphasis added]. 47

the proper functioning of any given society. Marriage, therefore, is one of those fundamental rituals. category to another, because for at least one of the spouses it involves a change of family, clan, village, or tribe, and sometimes, the newly married couple even establishes residence in a new house. In other words, marriage constitutes a major disturbance in the life of two individuals, two families, and their community, so the wedding ceremony is intended to facilitate the process of adjustment from
45 46 47

Van Gennep, 13. Ibid., 2-3. Ibid.


single to married life of the couple, as well as to jumpstart their successful reintegration into society as a family. Thus, theoretically, the longer and more elaborate the process, the smoother the period of transition in marriage is betrothal. In van Genneps terms, adjustment. Or so the conclusion seems, according to van Genneps concept of transition. This crucial A betrothal forms a liminal period between adolescence and marriage, but the passage from adolescence to betrothal involves a special series of rites of separation, a transition, and an incorporation into the betrothed condition; and the passage from the transitional period, which is betrothal, to marriage itself, is made through a series of rites of separation from the former, followed by rites consisting of transition, and rites of incorporation into marriage. 48

Put differently, although it is essentially a rite of transition, betrothal itself can go through its own is prolonged (i.e. goes on for months or years). Thus, where a couple goes through a lengthily

micro-stages of separation, transition, and (re)incorporation, especially in the case where betrothal betrothal, and where the bride-to-be joins her husbands family, she goes through a sort of rehearsal stages of separation from her kin and incorporation into the family of in-laws. This entire process the new permanent stage of reincorporation into society of two previously single individuals as a family unit. constitutes the larger rite of transition into marriage. Once marriage takes place, however, it becomes

new environment for both spouses and families. However, more than just the couple and their

Marriage, van Gennep states, is essentially a social act of permanent reincorporation into a

families are involved in the act of matrimony. The anthropologist identifies at least five groups that

participate in and receive long-term effects from the rite of marriage. Those are: (1) the two gender groups at the wedding, especially represented by the bridesmaids and ushers; (2) the patrilineal or mates, co-workers, friends, hobby peers and church circles, and so on; and (5) the local community such as the neighborhood, village, and/or town. 49 As so many people take part in the initiation of a new family, they have a stake in the matrilineal descent groups; (3) the families of each spouse; (4) particular defined groups such as age-

marriage and certain share of that stake is economic. Thus, the economic aspect is inherent in the
48 49

Ibid., 11.

Ibid., 118-19. 218

wedding rite. This is clearly indicated in the gift exchange between two families, the brides dowry, the brides price (where applicable), and the overall wedding expenses. Often, the parties involved have a pronounced vested interest in the economic component of the marriage, but none of them more so than the couple and their immediate families who usually incur the bulk of the wedding future success of the marriage. The effort and expense the latter put into organizing the ritual

expenses. On a more abstract level, the extended families-, friends- and communitys stake lies in the

transpires as important investment into the proper functioning of society. As van Gennep puts it, the bonds of marriage have joined not only two individuals, but above all the collectivities to which the maintenance of cohesion is important. 50 In the authors terms, moreover,

In the case of Ribnovo, the bride is the one who leaves her family to join her husbands kin. As a

[t]o marry is to pass from the group of children or adolescents into the adult group, from a given clan to another, from one family to another, and often from one village to another. An individuals separation from these groups weakens them but strengthens those he [or she] joins. 51

result, it is the brides family that gets weakened. To postpone the weakening as much as possible, the members of the brides clan symbolically place obstacles before the groom on his way to the bride. Such obstacles can be barring the gate before the seekers who have come to uproot the bride from the security of her parental home to plant her into an alien environment, the grooms place. 52 so that the marriage ceremony can proceed to its expected culmination, the formation of a new family. The groom and his family have to pay their way into the brides house in order to gain access to her

case of Ribnovo. He points out that every marriage poses a social disturbance in any given communitys equilibrium. 53 But while that
50 51 52 53

Further in the analysis, van Gennep makes another important observation applicable to the

Ibid., 120. Ibid., 124. See section Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo of this chapter. Van Gennep, 139. 219

phenomenon is scarcely noticed in [the] big cities, it is more apparent in remote corners of our countrysides where weddings are occasions for a stoppage of production, an expenditure of savings, and an awakening from the usual apathy. The impact of a marriage on a groups daily life seems to me to explain why marriages are held in spring, winter, and autumni.e., at the time of little activity and not at the moment when there is work in the fields. It is often said, on the other hand, that this is chosen because the agricultural work is completed, the granaries and treasures are full, and there is a good opportunity for bachelors to establish a home for themselves for the winter. 54 Ribnovo as a small rural community. First, unlike in the big city where people pretty much remain In this passage, the author makes several fundamental inferences that are very relevant to

anonymous to one another, in Ribnovo everyone knows everybody else. Second, as an agricultural

society, weddings occur in the cold season when most of the farm work is done and there is plenty of time for merrymaking. Third, by the winter, crops have been harvested and either stored for private Ribnovo, money comes from two main sources: (1) the sale of tobacco and mushrooms, grown and harvested throughout the year and/or (2) family members (mainly fathers) who, having worked abroad, return home in the fall to spend the hard-earned cash on home improvements, as well as on supplying a house for the newlyweds, while the brides kin assembles a dowry to furnish the place. Asserting Identity through Custom All the flow of money into costly wedding ceremonies, when money is often hard to come by, consumption or sold for cash. Resources, therefore, are now available to pay for weddings. In

the education and marriages of their children. In marriages, the grooms family resources go toward

may seem unreasonable, but it is essential to the Ribnovo community. A groups culture is nothing short of that groups sense of identity which is periodically reasserted and reinvigorated through customs and rituals. The wedding tradition is among the strongest expressions of identity for the (read above). Through the medium of wedding ritual, the community not only projects a positive

people of Ribnovo. Moreover, it has made them interesting, likeable and known to the outside world image of themselves, but also proclaims an identity of their own making.


Ibid. 220

about the unique wedding rituals of Ribnovo, they bring questions of Pomak identity to the fore. It is in the bTV documentary, Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo, and I have heard and seen it numerous times on with Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, including from Ribnovo: When asked about their identity, people television, in newspapers, on internet, and in the multiple formal and informal interviews I have had insist on being Muslim. Not Turkish; not Bulgarian; but Muslim; and Muslim not so much to express are increasingly prone to differentiate themselves from both the ethnic Turks and Bulgarian

As documentary producers, journalists, researchers and scholars are increasingly curious

strong attachment to religion, but rather to indicate cultural rootedness. This means that the Pomaks Christians to essentially resist outside prescriptions as to who they are. This effectively reflects the

emergence of a more confident sense of self among the community in recent years whereby the identification Pomak is increasingly being used by members of the group to define themselves.

familiar to the community. As Stoyu Shishkov a (Christian) Bulgarian author observes, the term

so. This is not to say, though, that they do not accept Pomak as self-appellation. The name is old and

substitute it for simply Muslim, especially when talking to outsiders. It feels somewhat safer to do

because non-Pomaks have used it in a derogatory fashion. As a result, many Pomaks continue to

The appellation Pomak, however, has not always been a comfortable one to bear, mainly

has been historically used in reference not only to the Rhodopean Muslims of Bulgaria, but also to the Slavic-speaking Muslims in Turkey, Greece and Macedonia. 55 In the time of the Ottoman Empire, part apart from the Bulgarian rayah (the local Christians or non-Muslims in general). But since Bulgarias Christian Bulgarians and Bulgarian Turks to connote traitors of the Eastern Orthodox Christian predecessors were once Christians who converted to Islam, although that claim has never been of the Rhodope population was designated as Pomaks to distinguish them as local Muslims who stood independence from Ottoman rule in 1878, the name Pomak has been indiscriminately used by both

faith or impure Turk respectively. The Bulgarian label is based on the assumption that the Pomaks established beyond any doubt. The Turkish connotation of the name in more recent times, on the

Stoyu Shishkov, Balgaro-mohamedanite (pomaysi) /Bulgarian-mohamedans (Pomaks)/ (Sofia: Sibia, 1997), 15 & passim. The book was originally published in 1936. 221

other hand, rests on the incorrect partly unwitting synonymization of Turkish and Ottoman in

respect to the Pomak status in the Ottoman Empire as Ottoman subjects of non-Turkish (Slavic?) descent. 56 Following this historical pejorativization of the word, many have stopped short of declaring themselves Pomak. Moreover, after a series of compulsory assimilations in Bulgaria, many members of the group have felt it risky to declare any such affiliation. In the last twenty years,

however, the Rhodopean Muslims are not only becoming comfortable with the name, but also find Muslims; the identity of Pomaks. new meaning in it. The meaning is one of identity of their own: the identity of Bulgarian-speaking

for ones own sense of self. That is why, in Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo, the people of Ribnovo while conceding to be Bulgarians, also emphasize the difference of religion and identify as Pomaks. Dr. for this dual cultural self-identification:

To be Pomak for the community not only means knowing who they are, but also standing up

Margarita Karamihova, ethnographer at the Bulgarian Academy of Science, ponders on the reasons The traumatic memory from the different periods when the Bulgarian Muslims had their names changed is still very painful [to them]. The first generation, free of such memories, still matures. They are still young. Very painfully, very slowly, with great difficulty, people reminisce [when interviewed] of what happened to them. The harsh assimilatory politics of the past drives people into looking for another form of identification [than simply that of Bulgarians]; into finding another name for themselves [- Pomaks]. Islam [i.e. identifying as Muslim] seems to provide the most acceptable one to them. 57 What Karamihova perceptively observes is the root cause of it all: the feelings of hurt and

humiliation that the people in Ribnovo and across the Rhodopes still carry as a direct result of the

and 1970s, when there were violent clashes between the police and Christian civilians enabling the revival process, on one hand, and the inhabitants of several villages in the Western Rhodopes, including Ribnovo, on the other. The Ribnovo villagers put a strong resistance and defiantly but

revival process and the earlier pokrastvane. 58 The phrase Ribnovo republic dates back to the 1960s

largely symbolically proclaimed their place a republic, the dream land of self-determination and
56 57 58

Shishkov, passim; Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, (New York: Routledge, 1997), passim. bTV documentary, Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo (ibid.). For detailed accounts of the revival process and the pokrastvane, see Chapters II and III. 222

freedom. Of course, there never was or could be any actual Ribnovo republic, but the term has

become a catchphrase ever since to mockingly denote Ribnovo as a backward society. 59 Historically, the people of Ribnovo defended their sense of identity even when guns were turned against them. Essentially, all they wanted was their names unchanged and their religious traditions intact. They needed the community the way they knew it, not the way others thought it should have been. In tradition matters so much that any threat of change only makes people cling more faithfully to tradition. 60

Ribnovo, more than in any other Pomak community of the Rhodopes today, rootedness in cultural

distinct cultural heritage is problematic. That is why, the Muslim community of the Rhodopes, and in

Pomak as a cultural identity in Bulgaria is highly politicized to this day. Any reference to a

Ribnovo in particular, still avoid promoting their customs and rituals as Pomak culture. Instead, they aware of the Pomak nature of these traditions that are practiced neither by their Christian nor by has its past precedents in the Pomak villages across the Western Rhodopes. Despite the

safely present them as the celebration and honoring of age-old local traditions. But people are acutely their Turkish-speaking neighbors. Thus, the Ribnovo wedding, although unique to the village today, preponderance of western-style garments and secular traditions in modern-day Rhodopean

weddings, certain fundaments of tradition are characteristic to all Pomak nuptials even today. The foremost commonality is that the wedding is always a family affair, whereby the two connecting families and notably the grooms one organize, most actively participate in and pay for the

wedding. Another shared trait is the assumption that the bride provides the dowry, while the groom

60 This information is based on archival documents from the Central National Archives-Sofia and the authors interviews with Ramadan Runtov and Ismail Byalkov. Both groups of sources are comprehensively used in Chapters II, III and IV respectively.

My interviewees Ramadan Runtov-Kurucu and Ismail Byalkov, both from Kornitsa currently residents of Istanbul (Turkey) were taken as political prisoners during the final stage of the revival process in 1973. Ago Ramadan recounted how the four villages of Kornitsa, Lajnitsa, Ribnovo and Breznitsa were surrounded by armed militia in the early 1960s, while the population within prevented the revivalists from entering the villages by blocking the main arteries coming in. The villagers were armed with clubs and farm implements against armed contingents of police, communist apparatchiks, and Christian civilians. This tense situation went on for three months until, finally, the authorities revoked the campaign, for fear of international scandal. Ultimately, in 1973, the villages rebelled again, but this time the resistance was crashed and five people died as a result. This issue is extensively discussed in Chapters III and IV.

the house. A third uniting feature is the way receptions are held. They are typically open to the


community at large, with no formal invitations; expenses are generally born by the grooms family. A fourth albeit decreasing in relevance similarity is the expectation that the bride should marry a virgin, or, alternately, have had no other boyfriend than her husband-to-be. Yet a fifth, and by no the duration of the wedding. means final, commonality is the live music accompanying the newlyweds every step of the way for This roster of shared characteristics in the wedding customs of most Pomak communities is

far from complete. But in combination with existing past similarities of marriage traditions across the grounds to claim that the colorful Ribnovo wedding is indeed a unique and meaningful expression of Pomak heritage. Due to the fact that Pomak culture remains largely unexplored, or compulsorily explained in terms of belonging to the mainstream Bulgarian culture, many valuable cultural (Western) Rhodopes and the lack of such thereof with other cultural groups, it provides sufficient

traditions including weddings are rapidly fading away without ever being documented. I chose to describe, interpret and analyze the colorful Ribnovo wedding in an attempt to preserve an exciting Pomak tradition, which has sadly gone extinct outside of Ribnovo.

sense of continuity, rootedness and, ultimately, with sense of self. But what is the nature of tradition records a communitys entire knowledge and experience. Thus, preservation of tradition through other human societies, therefore, have the natural urge to protect and preserve the status quo.

The wedding custom indeed matters to the people of Ribnovo, because it provides them with

after all? If culture and, by extension, tradition is our entire way of life in society, 61 then culture

customs and rituals is by definition an indispensable human drive. The people of Ribnovo, like all

re-enactment in the present. Furthermore, a summary of important reasons strewn throughout following directions: Ingpen and Wilkinsons book, A Celebration of Customs and Rituals of the World, points to the

Customs and rituals ensure continuity of tradition from the past into the future through their cyclic

Ribnovo the basic human need fulfilled by the ritual of marriage is pretty straightforward: the

The (re-)enactment of customs and rituals fulfills basic human needs. For the people of

Ingpen and Wilkinson, 6. 224

wedding provides them with an opportunity to get together, as a community, to make merry and

celebrate a new union. Thus, the ritual of marriage not only ensures the advancement of society, but Customs and rituals are tools for passing on knowledge to future generations, thus, linking

also secures a much needed respite and entertainment to the people after a long season of hard work. the past with the future through the present: If human culture is the totality of habits and skills that people learn from each other 62 then it is vital to preserve that knowledge by the formula of rituals community as a result of which people adhere to it ever more steadfastly. and their re-enactment. The unique colorful wedding of Ribnovo is an extinct tradition outside of the Performed collectively, traditions (customs and rituals) assist in achieving a sense of

fellowship, friendship and kinship between family members, and between individuals, families and societies. 63 This is particularly true for Ribnovo. The principal component of the wedding ritual is the communal celebration. There would be no proper Ribnovo wedding if there were no community to organize and celebrate it. Traditions (customs and rituals) help transcend everyday life, especially in marriage

rituals, were activities such as singing, dancing, communal feasting, special costumes and/or masks, collective merrymaking and processions raise the emotions of the participants beyond the normal range and create a sense of elevation. 64 Customs and rituals further matter, because they: imbue human life with spirituality; help preserve the past;

foster unity on all levels, family, community, nation, region, human civilization; help manage ones own sense of identity; provide a sense of tradition and order;

and nurture a feeling of rootedness and continuity within a place and society.

62 63 64

Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., 9. 225

the ritual of marriage as having dual functionality: (1) in making everyone happy and (2) in following:

Drawing on a large variety of examples from around the world, Wilkinson and Ingpen define

reinforcing social continuity. 65 More specifically, the wedding, including in Ribnovo, does all of the brings two people together

brings two families together;

brings the community together;

provides an avenue for communal entertainment via music, dancing and feasting; helps the couple to prepare for a major change in their lives; creates a new family unit in society; opens the potential for bringing more children into society; instructs two people on how to behave as a family in society; families supplying dowry and gifts to help set a new family;

serves as an arena for negotiation economic contracts between two persons and their allays the stress that accompanies change by making the transition enjoyable not only to and proclaims the new social status of two people as a husband and wife. 66 the couple, but to their families and the community at large;

Ultimately, as van Gennep says, marriage establishes the girl and boy into the category of the socially adult women and men, and nothing can take this from them. 67 The passage into matrimony, as any other established ritual, is a curious phenomenon,

indeed. It begins as fulfilling the basic human urge to establish family, continues as a public

entertainment, and ends with bringing a new family unit into society. Various communities celebrate about the desire of the people for tradition, rootedness, and continuity as everywhere else. The

it differently depending on beliefs, resources and needs. In Ribnovo, the wedding tradition is as much traditional Ribnovo wedding has survived despite and perhaps because of its disappearance

elsewhere in the Western Rhodopes. Having established itself at the end of a solitary mountain road, the community has preserved Pomak heritage more than any other community in the vast Rhodope
65 66 67

Ibid., 88.

Ibid., 79-80.

Van Gennep, 144. 226

Mountains. What the people of Ribnovo know is what they love most, and what they love is what they cannot let go. Clinging to tradition has become a second nature to the villagers, because to them it means identity, stability and future. Recently, as the community has fared better economically,

weddings are only getting bigger and more elaborate. Most parents just compete to provide richer

spectacles during their sons or daughters wedding through the lavishness of the dowry, gifts, music seems, will endure as tradition, as identity anchor and as Pomak heritage. ***

and bridal ornamentation. Fortunately, at this point in time, the unique, colorful Ribnovo wedding, it

ritual, there are stories that clearly pertain to history as well. Indeed, it must be acknowledged that heritage is more than custom or culture. In fact, heritage has a strong historical component, which leads to the pertinent question: Is there an identifiable Pomak history? Naturally, there is a history associated with the Pomak people, as with all human

only one. Whereas this chapter effectively establishes the Ribnovo wedding as a highly visible Pomak

Cultural tradition is an important element of identity and heritage, but it is by no means the

communities. Regrettably, the most visible aspect of that history has been the religious, political and Chapter II) and culminating in the revival process of 1972-1974 (see Chapter III). While this is valid cultural oppression of the Pomaks in Bulgaria, beginning with the pokrastvane of 1912-1913 (see

history, which inevitably influences the preservation and projection into the future of any Pomak and incorporation into the collective Pomak narrative. The next chapter advances one such local heritage.

heritage, there are also positive aspects to Pomak history that await identification, contextualization, opportunity to reclaim a potentially uniting historical component of a renewed Pomak, Rhodopean,



the small Ottoman province of Ah elebi from the first half of the nineteenth century. Relying largely on oral history documentation, I reconstruct the life story of this remarkable lord registering in local memory as tough indeed, often ruthless but relentlessly evenhanded enforcer of justice who

This chapter deals with the legacy of Salih Aga of Pamakl, the forgotten Pomak governor of

normative law of the Ottoman Empire. One major problem that prevents the construction of

elevated the status of Christians to that of Muslims despite the discrimination inherent in Sharia, the

standard narrative histories of Pomak heritage, particularly in the case of Salih Aga, is the lack of subsumed into, initially, Ottoman and, subsequently, Bulgarian historiography. In other words,

direct historical evidence. That is, within the larger framework, Pomak history has been traditionally

Pomak history does not explicitly exist in written documentation, but must be gleaned out of it, often with the help of oral history. Specifically, there are two main information obstacles to applying a governor, Salih is largely absent from the annals of Ottoman history. Second, whatever archive strictly historical interpretation to Salih Agas case. First, as a highly local and fairly minor Ottoman existed from his time as administrator of Ah elebi was destroyed in the Balkan War of 1912 and it in 1931 (details in the chapter). While the construction of Pomak histories may be difficult,

subsequently, when Bulgarian forces looted his konak (palace) and Bulgarian authorities demolished

however, it is far from impossible. But it will likely require scholars to embrace methodologies that I use to study and recount the life of Salih Aga.

employ nonstandard sources of information. One such opportunity is the microhistory approach that Heritage as Microhistory


Question of Who, The Return of Martin Guerre, Masquerade, and The Sea Captains Wife by the Italian and English authors Carlo Ginzburg and Jonathan D. Spence, and by the American scholars Natalie Zemon Davis, Alfred F. Young, and Martha Hodes respectively is the fact that they belong to a

The fundamental unifying characteristic of the books The Cheese and the Worms, The

relatively recent brand of history microhistory, that has been developing in both the United States history-making to generally anonymous or forgotten individuals and events that have been dug out and Europe since the last decades of the twentieth century. 1 Microhistory assigns the function of

of oblivion, often through sheer serendipity, by dedicated academics researching in archives as well

as using local memory. Authors of microhistory not only have taken keen interest in the fate of their stories in scientific terms, filling the gaps of what remains unknown with qualified speculations.

discovered heroes, but they also have invested precious time and resources into describing their life Presented this way, however, the definition of microhistory may simplistically suggest that it

is up to the historian to shoot some obscure historical figure into academic stardom solely by virtue surviving records or oral history to create an authentic and engaging narrative of the past. It takes

of his or her masterful research and prose. In fact, it takes more than an accomplished historian and extraordinary persons like Domenico Scandella Menocchio, 2 John Hu, 3 Arnaud du Tilh (posing as

Martin Guerre), 4 Deborah Sampson Gannett, 5 and Eunice Stone Connolly 6 to capture the attention of

Menocchio was a late sixteenth-century miller who acquired a profoundly humanistic understanding of the universe at an inopportune time that caused him to be burnt at the stake by the Italian Catholic Inquisition. See Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 1992), passim.

Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 1992); Jonathan D. Spence, The Question of Hu (New York, NY: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., 1989); Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983); Alfred F. Young, Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier (New York, NY: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., 2004); and Martha Hodes, The Sea Captains Wife (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006).

John Hu was a Chinese convert to Catholicism whose eventful eighteenth-century journey to Europe, driven by his desire to see the Pope, provides a curious theme even for the most bare-bone of descriptions. See Jonathan D. Spence, The Question of Hu (New York, NY: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., 1989), passim.

The story of Martin Guerre enfolds in sixteen-century France, surpassing even the most imaginative Hollywood plots in sensationalism and excitability: a wayward husband, brother, and nephews place is claimed by another for more than three years before being found out upon the return of the actual Martin Guerre. See Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), passim. 229

committed storytellers who by virtue of their narratives would forever transform them from murky matters even more than the aptitude of the scholar to construct a good historical narrative of local microhistory.

figures of the past into makers of history; at least on micro-(local-)history level. In other words, what significance is the compelling (to say the least) presence of the story and/or person that inspire(s) Thus, the process of (micro)history-making implies reciprocity. While the historian lends his

or her skills and time to history, history provides exciting plots for a narrative in the form of

of them have been preserved in dusty papers or in vernacular memory. All these individuals have a fascinating presence. Placed in their time and space, they would certainly stand out as individuals amidst a multitude of pedestrian compatriots either because of personal merits or because of some

countless nameless or forgotten Menocchios 7 whose captivating life tales or interesting fragments

life predicament that drove them into unconventional conduct. These individuals, who lived in flesh and Hodes to write captivating pieces of microhistory which read as novels without the benefit of to the making of microhistory. 8

and blood at different times and locations in history, inspired Ginzburg, Spence, Zemon Davis, Young, fictional garnishments. Thus, one may say that the discovery of a good story contributes immensely In this sense, microhistory can be an extremely effective tool of presenting local heritage. It

may particularly be the case when the heritage in question is little known, largely unexplored, and

somewhat contested. Such is the heritage of the Rhodopean Muslims of Bulgaria (Pomaks), who are
Young Deborah Gannett was an indentured servant and weaver before enlisting in the army during the American Revolutionary War disguised as a man driven by her vulnerable status of a single woman in a patriarchal society. See Alfred F. Young, Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier (New York, NY: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., 2004), passim.
5 6

7 8

Eunice Connolly, a nineteenth-century Anglo-Saxon New Englander, spent the better part of her life as an impoverished wage earner, carpenters wife, widow and mother of two young children, when she took the path of marrying a black man of means in spite of a society that was intensely race-biased and unforgiving of such transgressions. See Martha Hodes, The Sea Captains Wife (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), passim. Jill Lepore discusses the definition of microhistory in an article called Historian Who Love Too Much: Reflections on Microhistory and Biography, The Journal of American History 88, no. 1 (June 2001): 129-44. 230 I will adopt the name Menocchio as a general term of reference for qualifying subjects of microhistory.

contribution to resurrecting and preserving an interesting episode of the local Pomak heritage, using microhistory methodology, explores the life and personality of Salih Aga of Pamakl, a Pomak governor of the Ottoman kaaza of Ah elebi from 1798 to 1838. 10

just awakening to the process of shaping, (re-)claiming, and affirming their cultural identity. 9 My

least in the sense that they recount episodic stories about Salih rather than provide any

legends about Salih and his time. Because of the incompleteness of the existing sources, however at

I develop the story on the basis of surviving archival evidence, abundant oral history, and

comprehensive account of his life my goal is not to attempt a biography of the governor, but to reveal him the way he has survived in local memory by piecing together the existing snippets of information. Because Salih lived and ruled in turbulent times, his in many ways conventional Finding My Own Good Story I have definitely found a worthy subject of microhistory in the person of Salih Aga. 11

achievements stand out as staggering feats of moral integrity, a sense of justice, and pursuit of order.

Moreover, reviving the memory of an admirable person like Salih, who has been written out of

history, merits any and all frustration involved in my efforts to reconstruct his personality and

what is left of hislife story. Although the governor is not the typical anonymous figure from the

years, he has been completely forgotten. Moreover, albeit a small feudal ruler in the context of the continues to be a name integral to the history of the city of Smolyan (formerly Pamakl) and its

past like Menocchio, Martin Guerre, or John Hu since he was a regional mover-and-shaker for forty

vast Ottoman Empire, Salih was a powerful force in the Middle Rhodopes (see Figure 2-1, p.38), and vicinity. The governor particularly matters within the context of Pomak heritage today, because as


The Ottoman state had a tripartite level of administrative government based on territorial districts: (1) the largest district, called vilayet (province), could be the size of a small country and was ruled by the highest ranking-governor (Pasha); (2) the districts within the vilayet were called sancak (sanjak, sub-provinces); and (3) the administrative units within the latter were known as kaaza, both ruled by lesser governors (Aga). The size of these administrative districts could vary significantly. The Ah elebi Kaaza was part of the Gmrcina Sancak within the Vilayet of Edirne, the Province of Rumelia. Aga or Bey is a title by which feudal nobility was addressed in the Ottoman Empire. Aga is often used as synonymous to governor. In modern Turkish, bey remains in use as a polite address to men, corresponding with the English sir. 231

For Pomak identity, refer to Chapters II and III.

my informant Ivan Terziev once said his positive legacy of equitable treatment of Muslims and Christians during his lordship over Ah elebi could prove a potent unifying factor of the Rhodopean communities of both faiths. The combination of Salihs fascinating presence in the indigenous folklore and the relatively limited surviving records about him make this obscure Ottoman governor an extremely desirable, but equally challenging candidate for microhistory. ruled, I had never heard about him before the summer of 2007 when I delved into the regions

Although I was born in the Western Rhodopes not far from the place where Salih lived and

the country gained independence from Ottoman rule, Bulgarias national historiography associated

history. Salih Aga became the forgotten governor of Ah elebi for two correlated reasons: (1) After

Salih until his legacy fell to obscurity. The Rhodopean community today remembers little beyond the name Salih, which is frequently mentioned in vernacular references to prominent local sites such as The Gorge of Salih Aga (presently, the Waterfall of Smolyan) and The Konak of Salih Aga. The place I happened upon Salih Aga is Smolyan, a city of about forty thousand inhabitants,

him with the former Turkish oppressors, and, consequently, (2) the official memory chose to ignore

formerly known as Pamakl. For almost a hundred years, Pamakl was the capital township from naturally enclosed by picturesque mountain ridges, running along the Arda River in the Middle

which Salih and his family ruled the Ah elebi Kaaza. The former Ottoman kaaza occupied an area

were still overgrown by thick pine forests here completely covering gently sloping hills, there the base from which sharp, rocky peaks jutted skyward. The place is rich in history and legend. One legend has it that the Rhodopes were the home of the mythical singer Orpheus who roamed the woods, hiked the hilltops, and drank from the clear streams that Salih Aga presided over three

Rhodopes, southwest Bulgaria (see Figure 2-1, p.38). During Salihs time, the Rhodope Mountains

thousand years later; perhaps barely changed. For millennia, the naturally protected and largely mountains were also a hideout for dangerous outlaws and vile bandits who would pillage and plunder the fertile valleys of Thrace and then withdraw to safety, heavy with spoils. inaccessible Rhodopes provided home to peaceful sheep- and goat-herding population. But the

in the summer of 2007 wishing to learn more about the history and culture of the predominant

Smolyan lies in the heart of this magnificent and ancient mountain range. I visited the town

Muslim population of the Rhodopes, the Pomaks. Ivan Terziev, a local Bulgarian Christian whom I have known for many years, gracefully agreed to be my guide in Smolyan. From our preliminary phone conversation, Ivan knew that I was interested in conducting oral history research in the area, is interested in a community like the Pomaks, one has to pay particular attention to oral history, because it is the principal source of emic (insiders) historical knowledge. While the majority of

and that I wanted to talk to some local folks about their traditions and historical memory. When one

ethnic Bulgarians profess Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Pomaks are Muslims. Since Bulgarias independence from Ottoman rule, there have been numerous attempts to assimilate the Pomaks, Slavic-Bulgarian ones, but subsequent reversals of policy have helped preserve their identity as Bulgarian Muslims to this day. According to my host Ivans estimates, the ratio of Muslims to Christians in the city of Smolyan today is 40-to-60 percent, but the surrounding villages are largely including forcibly converting them to Christianity and replacing their Turkish-Arab names with

Muslim. Nowadays, Bulgarians of both faiths co-exist well as neighbors and friends in the Rhodopes.

Figure 6-1: The konak of Deli-Ali Bey in Smolyan


Presently, the building is state-owned and operated as a hotel with no indication whatsoever about its past history (A simple plaque would have been a nice thing!). (Photograph by the author, June 2007.)

Figure 6-2: Melike Belinska Melike gives me a tour of the konak of Deli Bey her great-grandfather and the nephew of Salihs father Sleyman Bey in Smolyan. (Photograph by the author, June 2007) show me or tell me about interesting places or people from the regions past. Anticipating my When I first arrived in Smolyan, Ivan and I sat for a chat in a local eatery. I asked him to

interest, he had already arranged for me to meet with Mrs. Melike Belinska, a descendant of Deli Bey,

another feudal lord from the Ottoman past and blood relative of Salih Aga, so that she could show me from her parents and grandparents. Unlike the konak of Salih Aga, which was about three times the

around the konak (the rulers headquarters) of Deli Bey and tell me stories that she might have heard


Ali Bey, survives (pictures above). Nationalized by the communist regime in the 1960s, the municipal government operates it as a hotel. Visibly excited, I asked Ivan when the meeting was supposed to take place. He answered that we should leave as soon as I finished my meal. I quickly swallowed the two minutes. We were to meet Melike in the konak itself located in downtown Smolyan. On our way there, Ivan mentioned that the man I ought to hear about was Salih Aga. He told me that the spot in

size of this one and destroyed in 1931, 12 the beautiful edifice of Deli Bey, finished by one of his sons

cheese sandwich, collected my recording equipment from the table, and was ready to go in less than

did not survive, a number of roads, arched bridges, and aqueducts remain as silent testimony to but also for inviting Christian population to settle and take roots in his domain. The governor privileged Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire. 13 Ivans reference to his just treatment of

town where his residence once stood is still known as the konak of Salih Aga. And although the konak

Salihs legacy. Salih Aga had a vital impact on the area not only for building extensive infrastructure, protected the Christians from harassment and allowed them to prosper on equal footing with the Christians was the first time when I heard the name Salih Aga. With such positive clue in mind, I was looking forward to meet Ab(l)a 14 Melike so that I could learn more about this elusive governor. Unfortunately, she could not satisfy my curiosity either, because like most other people she had no definite knowledge about him. She did, however, share some fascinating stories about her own branch of the Mehmed Kr Hocas (Hodjas) family. Salih Aga and His Time

13 Vassil Dechov, Minaloto na Chepelare /The Past of Chepelare/, Volume I (Sofia: Fatherland Front Pbl, 1928), 72-96; Nikolay Haytov, Smolyan: Tri vurha v srednorodopskata istoria /Smolyan: Three Pinnacles in the History of the Middle Rhodopes/ (Sofia: National Council of the Fatherland Front Pbl, 1962), 18-31; Vassil Dechov, Tetradka na V. Dechov, 1924: Istoricheski belejki za roda (?) na Kr Hoca [Hodja] i Salih aga Pashmakliyski /Diary of V. Dechov: Historical Notes about the Family of Kr Hoca [Hodja] and Salih Aga of Pamakl/ (National Archives-Smolyan), passim. 14

12 Matey Mateev, Srednorodopski konatsi /Konaks of the Middle Rhodopes/ (Plovdiv: Natsionalna Akademiya na Arhitekturata /National Academy of Architecture/, 2005). The quote is from the section about the konak of Salih Aga, published separately as: Matey Mateev, Konakut na Salih Aga Pashmakliisky /The Konak of Salih Aga of Pashmakli/ (Plovdiv: Natsionalna Akademiya na Arhitekturata /National Academy of Architecture/, 2005), 15.

Aba or abla is respectful title given to an older woman used in the (Western) Rhodopes. 235

Smolyan in Bulgaria (see Figure 2-1, p.38) served as his administrative center, where Salih chose to peaceful co-existence, as well as economic and political equilibrium in spite of an Islamic public law, build his konak. During his long reign, the residents of Ah elebi and the adjacent areas enjoyed

Salih Aga governed the Ottoman kaaza of Ah elebi for forty years. Pamakl modern-day

communitys oral history, the name Salih Aga is still synonymous with iron law, an image enhanced by the political volatility plaguing the Ottoman Empire at the time. 15 The governor was in charge of a strategically important region of the Ottoman realm, sitting

Sharia, which relegated non-Muslim to the status of rayah, lesser subjects. Thus, in the local

on what is today the border of Bulgaria and northern Greece. He inherited the governorship from his father, Sleyman Aga, and his grandfather, Mehmed Kr Hoca (Hodja). Popularly endorsed by both Muslims and Christians, Mehmed Kr Hoca became the first native governor of the kaaza in the year 1751. He set the beginning of a dynasty that would rule the Middle Rhodopes for the next one for bringing much-needed political and economic security to the area for both Muslims and hundred years. Salih Agas reign constituted the apex of that familys rule. 16 He is best remembered Christians in times of growing instability and rampant banditry in much of the imperial Ottoman

a leading Bulgarian historian, defines the period of his governorship as a pinnacle in the history of conjunction with his favorable disposition toward the Christians, would ultimately provoke the distrust of an already paranoid central government 18 and create serious problems for him.
15 16 17

state. In fact, Salih was so successful in instituting order and justice in the kaaza that Nikolay Haytov,

the Middle Rhodopes. 17 Salihs handling of the province as his private feudal realm, however, in

Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 72-96; Haytov, Smolyan, 18-31. Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 72-96; Haytov, Smolyan, 18-31. Haytov, 18-31.

18 This was a difficult time for the central government of the Ottoman Empire, vested in the Istanbul-based Sultanate, for three reasons: First, local feudal nobility resisted the governments efforts to centralize the Empire and therefore limit their powers, so they often challenged Constantinople with their own private armies. Second, the ambitions of the Russian Empire to gain access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean posed a serious and constant threat to the territorial integrity of the Ottoman state. In fact, at the time before Salihs death (1838), the Ottomans had just concluded another war against the Russians (1828-1829), which enabled Greeces independence. Third, the Christian populations in the Balkans were prone to rebellions in the nineteenth century, largely inspired by the success of the Greek Revolution of 1821-1829.


governors failure to strictly enforce Sharia and differentiate between his Muslim and Christian

Whereas his rather independent rule of Ah elebi was slow to attract imperial attention, the

subjects was readily apparent. Being a Rhodopean native and not an appointed administrator from outside, as was the standard practice, Salih Aga spoke the same Slavic language as everyone else in the Rhodopes; be they Muslims or Christians. This evident linguistic kinship underwrote Salihs policy of equitable treatment of people in his realm. But just what accounted for this linguistic

homogeneity and religious dichotomy? When the medieval Christian kingdom of Bulgaria fell under centuries. During this time, many people converted to Islam to attain higher socio-political status were barred from pursuing lucrative military and political careers. In addition, they had to pay since Muslims were more privileged under Sharia than non-Muslims. For instance, non-Muslims

Ottoman rule in the late fourteenth century, it remained so until the late nineteenth century full five

special taxes, not required of Muslims, such as ispene (landowning tax), hara (in-kind land tax),

cizya (per-capita tax), and others. 19 When and under what circumstances exactly the population of The fact of the matter today is that the Pomaks are a Bulgarian-speaking community who profess Islam in a largely Christian nation. But, in Salihs time, the Ottoman Empire was undisputedly Muslim-dominated.

the Rhodopes became Muslim, however, has not been authoritatively and unanimously established.

(Slavic-)Christian populations (Bulgarians, Serbs, Croats, and Greeks) of the empire started a wave of rebellions to establish sovereign national states of their own. 21 In Bulgaria, the bloody quelling of the pro-independence April Uprising of 1876 by the Ottoman forces only two years before the creation

Throughout the nineteenth century, inspired by the rising ideology of nationalism, 20 the

A letter signed by Salih Aga testifies to the fact that one non-Muslim (his name is not mentioned) paid his ispene dues in the year 1810. National Archives-Smolyan, Fond 415k, Inventory 23, Archival Unit 52.
19 20 21

For more details on the Ottoman Empire, read Donald Quataert, The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922: New Approaches to European History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

of the Bulgarian Principality and the subsequent retaliatory violence of Bulgarian Christians against

Hans Kohn, Nationalism: Its Meaning and History (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1955), passim. 237

For the emergence of nationalism after the French Revolution of 1789 and its spread throughout Europe and the Balkans during the nineteen and early twentieth century, read Chapter II.

Muslims following the Russian-Turkish War (1877-1878) 22 gave rise to mutual hostility and distrust. Due to residual resentment, many positive elements of Bulgarias Ottoman past have either been misrepresented or entirely left out of the official historiography. Consequently, the modern cultural discourse in Bulgaria has largely ignored the Ottoman governor of Pomak parentage, Salih Aga. 23 Amazingly, however, he survives in the local memory of Smolyan, where informed individuals of both faiths relate the name Salih Aga to law and justice in Ah elebi during an era of violence and political turmoil. Salihs achievements were momentous not only because of overcoming the equality

limitations of Sharia, but also because he ruled in trying times for the Ottoman Empire. The end of

the eighteenth- and the beginning of the nineteenth century was a period of rocky transition for the empire from a highly decentralized feudal social order to a more consolidated central government. As a result, feudal lords, accustomed to autonomy and absolute control over their realms, felt threatened by the effort of the Ottoman Sultanate in Istanbul to strengthen its authority and limit local power. Understandably, those who were confident in their potency rose against the central the Rhodopeans hayti bands of outlaws serving under a warlord who willfully plundered government. Most of the forces supporting the rebellious feudal lords consisted of kardjalii, called by prosperous settlements for personal enrichment. 24 The kurdjalii posed a very serious challenge to

the political stability of the empire during Salihs time. They practically controlled whole provinces of the Ottoman state. Some of their leaders were powerful provincial or sub-provincial governors such as Osman Pazvantoglu of Vidin, who turned his kurdjalii on Constantinople itself in an attempt to overturn Sultan Selim III (1761-1808). 25 In steady, organized attacks, the hayti turned whole towns
This war was just one of a series of wars between the Ottoman and Russian Empires beginning in the seventeenth until the late nineteenth centuries for domination over the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. The Russian-Turkish War of 1876-1878 is also known as the War of Liberation in Bulgaria, because it resulted in the creation of the independent Principality of Bulgaria following half a millennium of Ottoman rule.
22 23

24 25

Thus, Salih Aga is mentioned in the book of architect Matey Mateev (discussed below), who has published a comprehensive study of the Middle Rhodopean architecture and discusses the governor in the context of his remarkable konak (palace) (read further in the chapter for details). Nikolay Haytov, Rodopski Vlastelini /Rhodopeian Lords/ (Sofia: Fatherland Front, 1976), 71-146. Ibid. 238

into ashes, took property, women and livestock, thus, causing immeasurable suffering and loss to the peaceful civilian population. The heavy woods and rugged terrain of the Rhodopes provided many after them. Nikolay Haytov describes the situation at the turn of the eighteenth century: bands with a quick escape from justice, when imperial troops or locally operating military units went [T]he whole Ottoman Kingdom was in turmoil; the kurdjalii leaders Mehmed Sinap, Mehmed Dertli, Emin Aga, Karamanaff Ibrahim and others were burning the towns and villages of [modern-day] Bulgaria, and, come winter, they withdrew in their fortresses [within the Rhodopes] with abundant spoils. 26

Official fermans (royal decrees) authorized regional rulers like Salih Aga to arm every able-bodied

man Muslim or Christian within their entrusted province in order to resist the bandit plague. 27 to crops, livestock, or to any usual activity.

When the hayti raged, all daily business would halt as the frightened population was unable to tend In the midst of this prevailing chaos, Ah elebi stood secure. Its people went about their life

a determined ruler, frequently prone to ruthlessness when it came to enforcing the law. He

unobstructed as Salih saw to the safety of the kaaza and of those who dwelled within it. Salih Aga was

maintained order in Ah elebi by reciprocating the brutality of the hayti, but only when he deemed it absolutely necessary. Particularly vulnerable to willful aggression, the Christian population especially appreciated Salih Agas swift rendition of justice. Historical memory among Rhodopeans of both faiths celebrates him as a ruler who punished Muslim and Christian malefactors on an equitable basis. Haytov describes the essence and impact of his archaic, but extremely efficient Solomonian law:

His [Salihs] Penal Code consisted of four paragraphs: For banditry shot. For pillaging and insubordination hung ... For minor offences cursed; and for moral transgressions against girls and women threw the perpetrators from the notorious Gorge of Salih Aga. Finally, for trespassing livestock shot the offending animal, and administered fifty to a hundred lashes to the owner. The laws of Salih Aga applied with equal force to both Christians and Mohammedans [(Muslims)]; they were enforced mercilessly and absolutely, and the good results were immediate: Agricultural life in the Ah elebi kaaza did not stop as it did in the adjacent regions ravished by the bandits. The roads were safe, the nights peaceful, and the brigands

27 Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 127-41. The fermans are cited in full, in Bulgarian translation, within the respective pages.


Ibid., 218.


were forced to steer clear of Ah elebi. [Consequently,] Smolyan became the only place, where refugees from Dimotika, Haskovo, and Ardino, who had escaped the kurdjalii pestilence, found a safe heaven. It was during that time when [Bulgarian Christian] families like the Tomovs, Stanchovs, Kiryanovs, Uzunovs, Nachovs, and Takovs settled there. 28 immoral advances toward women and girls, he would have a mans hands and legs bound before the perpetrator was thrown from the top of the Smolyan Waterfall, known to this day as The Gorge of Salih Aga (Figure 6-3, p.241). Thus, a victim would often suffer a slow and painful death of broken Salih Aga frequently imposed stern punishments by modern sensibilities. For instance, for

bones, blood loss, and/or drowning. As brutal as this form of punishment may seem, it was crucial in as a particularly strict moralist, Salih became downright sadistic when adjudicating on sexual offences. 29

deterring rape or general abuse of women, crimes all too common at the time to be neglected. Known

formerly close associates, Petko Tsarvulan Kehaya of Dereky, a wealthy Christian livestock owner who later supported the baseless accusations of treason against the governor. Tsarvulan Kehayas son, a young unmarried man, pursued a girl from Ustovo (now a neighborhood of Smolyan) in an

By rendering just such a punishment in one case, Salih made a mortal enemy of one of his

offensive and indecent manner. The young woman complained to her father who, in turn, reported had to consistently appear firm, impartial, and fair in his administration of justice. So, friendship notwithstanding, Tsarvulans son was duly arrested, tried, and thrown down the waterfall demise to the detriment of all in Ah elebi. 30

the case to Salih Aga. Because of the strong need to contain lawlessness and keep order, the governor

whereupon he died. Eventually, Tsarvulan Kehaya would play a role in bringing about the governors


See also Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 78.

29 30

Haytov, Smolyan, 22-23.

Haytov, Smolyan, 18-31; Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 72-96.

Dechov, Historical Diary, 22-23; Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 87. 240

Figure 6-3: The Smolyan Waterfall, also known as The Gorge of Salih Aga, postcard, c. 1960 In Salihs system of justice, males found guilty of molesting a woman, were thrown into this rocky ravine with tied hands and legs. The few fortunate ones who survived the ordeal were allowed to live as their miraculous survival was interpreted as Gods mercy. After such a narrow escape from death, however, miscreants were undoubtedly forever deterred from approaching a woman for indecent purposes. The height from which the water falls is about a hundred feet onto a rocky bottom. During Salihs time the water flowing through the gorge was probably fuller. (Courtesy of National Archives-Plovdiv). 31 Who Wrote about Salih Aga Salih Aga is a powerful figure in the oral tradition of the Middle Rhodopes. Despite his

folklore pervasiveness, however, Salih is absent from the officially endorsed historiography. Only

National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959k, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 225. 241

three authors, with strong connections to the Rhodopes, provide partial accounts of his life. The most trustworthy among them is Vassil Dechov, a local Bulgarian Christian historian and ethnographer, turn the twentieth century. Dechov published a two-volume history of the Cheperale in 1928. The first volume, incorporating oral history research which the author conducted over a span of few who also served as mayor of the Middle-Rhodopean town of Chepelare (see Figure 2-1, p.38) at the

decades, has a section on Salih Agas family history. 32 The section in question is based on an earlier Aga. The journal dates back to 1924. For convenience, I refer to it as the Historical Diary. 33 In the

handwritten journal, in which Dechov had recorded stories specifically and solely dedicated to Salih

document, Dechov identifies Mehmedali Tahirbey, the grandson of Salih Aga and the son of Tahir Bey (the oldest of Salihs son, see Figure 6-7, p.253), as one of his sources of information about the governor. 34 In Dechovs own words, Tahir Beys son and Salihs grandson Mehmedali Tahirbeya, who He is now about 65-year old [emphasis added]. 35 Additionally, at the end of Volume I of The Past of Mehmed Tahirbeev of Pamakl (the 90th informant from the top). Even though this informants Chepelare, the author attaches a list of more than 160 informants, 36 among which is the name gave me a detailed account of his grandfather, is a gentle, quiet, and extremely good-natured person.

relationship to Salih remains undetermined, it is likely that Mehmedali, son of Tahir Bey, grandson of Salih Aga, is either the same Mehmed Tahirbeev or a Mehmeds descendant. Regardless of these Dechovs informants, including Salihs very own grandson. 37 At the time of the interview, as the minor uncertainties, it is abundantly clear that Salih Agas own family was among the most valuable

possible that Mehmedali was old enough to have more than fleeting memories of his grandfather
32 33 34 35 36 37

author indicates in the Diary (quote above), Mehmedali was a sixty-five-year old man. It is quite

Salih if Dechov interviewed him during the early years of his four-decade long research effort, i.e. as
Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 72-96. Historical Diary, passim. Ibid., 42 (or 22).

Ibid., 15 & 42 (or pages 7 & 34 of the typed version of the Diary). Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 279-83. Dechov, Historical Diary, 15 and 42.


early as the 1890s. Unfortunately, I have no way of ascertaining when the interview(s) took place. However, I can safely conclude that Mehmedali (and/or Mehmed) transmitted intimate family knowledge about their legendary predecessor. Salihs grandson Mehmedali appears to the source of at least two crucial pieces of information: first, exactly how Salih died and, second, what occurred in the konak after news of his death reached Pamakl. 38 The second author who wrote about Salih Aga is Nikolay Haytov, a prominent Bulgarian

writer and historian, who published a paper Smolyan: Three Pinnacles in the History of the Middle concerning the governor or about events and individuals related to him. 41 The third author is Petar Marinov, another Bulgarian author, who in the late 1930s published the play Salih Aga. The play Vassil Dechov. 42

Rhodopes, in 1962 39 and a book, Rhodopean Lords, in 1976. 40 Both works contain narratives directly

incorporates well-known stories about the ruler of Ah elebi, which had originally been reported by The central source of all these works appears to be the oral tradition of the local community.

Vassil Dechovs volume contains, among other things, the earliest and most comprehensive written account on the family of Salih Aga, starting from his grandfather, Mehmed Kr Hoca (Hodja). Kr Hoca was originally from the township of Chepelare, where Dechov lived and, therefore, had unfettered access both to archival material and rich oral history. Nikolay Haytov, for his part,

conducted research on Salih Aga and his governorship while serving as a forest guard in the Smolyan region during the 1960s and 1970s. Although Haytov propagandistically portrays Salih Aga as

Ibid. The list further includes as informants Adji Agas grandchildren, Salihs grand-nephews and offspring of his brother Adji Agas sons, Salihs bitter enemy. The list most probably contains the names of other close descendants, but I cannot be certain of it since Dechov does not specify his informants kinship ties (except a few only) to the family.
39 40 41 42

Haytov, Smolyan, 18-31. Ibid.

Haytov, Rhodopean Lords, 197-234.

Petar Marinov, Salih Aga, Rodopski voyvoda i deribey: Cherti iz jivota i upravlenieto mu Dramatizatsia po ustni predaniq i legendi v pet deystvia /Salih Aga, Rhodopean Lord and Governor: Features of His Life and Governorship Dramatization Based on Oral History and Legends in Five Acts/ (Collection Rodina, 1940). National Archives Plovdiv, Fond 959, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 52. 243

Bulgarian patriot largely to comply with the ideology of the communist regime, his account is an invaluable contribution to reviving Salihs legacy in Bulgaria as late as 1976. Petar Marinov, on the other hand, writes with agenda. In the 1930s and 1940s, he was a

founding member of the Organization Rodina, which played a major role in the Pomak pokrastvane of 1938-1944. 43 His play, Salih Aga, quite purposely recasts the Ottoman governor Salih Aga as a Bulgarian nationalist a century and half before the Bulgarian nation-state was even founded.

Understandably, Marinov wrote the play to inspire the kind of patriotic consciousness Rodina sought

to instill in the Pomaks when carrying out the pokrastvane. 44 To that end, as evident from the archival series of live performances of Salih Aga in the Rhodopes between 1938 and 1944 as part of the inventory of the Petar Marinov Collection (housed in National Archives-Plovdiv), Rodina sponsored a

only (unintended) effect of Marinovs play was reinstating Salih Aga to his rightful place in Bulgarias has one undisputed quality: Salihs personality comes remarkably alive from the pages, due in large part to the authentic Rhodopean dialect Marinov uses to render his characters compelling. Beyond these limited accounts, little has been published or said about the Pomak governor historical discourse at least for a short while albeit for all the wrong reasons. The play, however,

sustained assimilation campaign (see Fugures 6-10, 6-11, 6-12, and 6-13, pp.262-5). Ironically, the

the prevalent mode of presenting the Muslim-Ottoman heritage is either negative or dismissive. 46

of Ah elebi. 45 Indeed, a cursory examination of the modern Bulgarian historiography reveals that

43 Rodina, a nationalist organization with a mixed Bulgarian Christian and Pomak membership, was set up with the help of the Bulgarian authorities in 1937 to facilitate the conversion of the Pomaks in the period 1938-1944. For details, see Chapter III.

This was particularly the case in the period from the 1950s to the 1980s when the communist regime in Bulgaria completely banished all things akin to foreign (un-Bulgarian) heritage. The combined effect of religious suppression and ethnic assimilation during the communism era (1945-1989) resulted in a detrimental forgetting of the past, particularly among the Pomaks who were among the primary targets of the assimilation.
45 46


See Chapters II and III for more details on the pokrastvane.

In 2006, for instance, the Austrian academic Ulf Brunnbauer and his Bulgarian colleague Martina Baleva made an attempt at lanching a new scholarly perspective about the proverbial Batak Massacre. According to the official version of the events, thousands of Bulgarian Christians were massacred by Muslims during a wave of rebellions in 1876, including children, women, and men. Their skeletal remains are prominently displayed in the church of Batak to this day. Brunnbauer and Baleva were immediately accused of serving foreign interests that wished to re-write Bulgarian history, and they were forced to terminate their work in Bulgaria. In fact, all Martina Baleva ever said was in the spirit of the following quote from an article she published in the weekly Kultura: 244

The works of Dechov, Haytov, and Marinov, however, portray Salih as righteous and likeable ruler, who often exerted a form of harsh justice for the greater good of law and order. It is worth noting that Dechov, Marinov, and Haytov three Bulgarian-Christian scholars speak very highly of the

a part in Marinovs profuse exaltation of the governor. Likewise, Haytovs obvious reverence for Salih tarnished neither by suspicions of ulterior motives, nor is he known to have been a pokrastvane may be partially explained with his alleged Pomak parentage. 47 Dechovs work, on the other hand, is

Ottoman governor of Pomak lineage Salih Aga. To be sure, the pursuit of a pokrastvane agenda played

crusader. Dechov wrote as a historian who was passionate about preserving local history and as a

person who largely stayed away from political propaganda. Overall, his reads as a straightforward They were fascinated by Salihs personality and their admiration of the governor seems quite genuine.

and unembellished account of Salig Aga. All three chroniclers, however, share one unmistakable trait:

integrity in the local collective memory could prevent the destruction of his heritage in Smolyan. The

But neither these authors positive depiction of Salih nor the governors reputation for

governors exclusive palace complex (konak), for example, endured systematic neglect and vandalism completely demolished in 1931 (Figures 6-4, 6-5, and 6-6, pp.246-8). Attesting to the uniqueness of after 1912-1913, when much of the Rhodopes permanently became a part of Bulgaria. The konak was

the edifice, the Bulgarian architect Matey Mateev who published an excellent work on the

Less known perhaps are the following facts [about the Batak Massacre]: Even before the ensuing Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) and the creation of the Bulgarian national state, the dreadful events in Batak were almost as quickly forgotten as they were revived 16 years later to become the central focus of public attention in Bulgarian society. Between 1876 and 1892, the only evidence about the bloody past of Batak are two well-known pictures by the Plovdiv-based photographer of Greek origin, Dimitar Kavra, depicting survivors of the massacre and the Batak church containing the skeletal remains [of the massacred], both from 1878 [i.e. two years ofter the fact], as well as Stambolovs translation from 1880.* All of a sudden, in 1892, an enormous amount of literature and imagery on Batak appeared, which continues to this day. *Baleva is referring to the report of J. A. MacGahan, an American journalist of Irish descent married to a Russian aristocrat, published in the Daily News. This report and the two pictures, produced two years after the massacre, constituted the whole evidence about it. Balevas comment about J. A. MacGahan is that the author does not try to conceal his pro-Russian sympathies ... and his exceptionally negative attitude toward the Ottoman state and Islamic religion. (Kultura, Issue 17 (2412) of 3 May 2006).

Nikolay Haytov is a renowned Bulgarian writer and historian, as well as a great promoter of thesis about the Bulgarian-Christian heritage of the Pomaks. His fathers name is Shandyo, a conventional Pomak name that derives from the Muslim name Rushan, widespread among Rhodopean Pomaks. It is common knowledge in the Rhodopes that Haytov was of Pomak parentage, although he never addressed the issue publicly. 245

architectural heritage of the Middle Rhodopes in 2005 defines Salihs palace as the most significant Empire. 48 He goes on to describe the sustained destruction of the konak as utterly reckless and unlawful attitude of the then [Bulgarian] authorities toward the cultural heritage [of Bulgarias Ottoman past]. The konaks site was subsequently filled by an army compound which, according to Mateev, could not even begin to compare with its precursor in terms of magnitude, architectural local memory, but it has actually acquired a measure of reverence in the public discourse via the quality, and style. 49 Quite amazingly, the name of Salih Aga not only remains largely untarnished in praise of such committed promoters of Bulgarian nationalism as Petar Marinov and Nikolay Haytov. building complex [of its kind] in the entire Asia-Minor- and Balkan expanses of the Ottoman

Figure 6-4: The konak of Salih Aga in Pamakl, 1920 (copy of original photograph) The palace complex, described as a unique architectural ensemble and the largest of its type on the Balkan- and Asia Minors territories of the Ottoman Empire by architect Matey Mateev in his masterpiece Middle Rhodopean Konaks, 50 was thoroughly destroyed in 1931. Today, its
48 49 50

Mateev, The Konak of Salih Aga of Pashmakli, 9. Ibid., 15. Ibid., 9.


site is occupied by the old army compound; parts of the konak had been incorporated into the building, but nothing to give an idea of how the original structure looked like. Fortunately, enough pictures have survived to testify to the konaks splendor. (Courtesy of National ArchivesPlovdiv). 51

Figure 6-5: The konak of Salih Aga in Pamakl, undated (Courtesy of National Archives-Smolyan). 52

52 Copy of the same picture is preserved in National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959k, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 225.


National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959k, Inventory 1, Archival Unit 903, page 1.


Figure 6-6: The konak of Salih Aga in Pamakl, 1921, gift from Todor Georgiev to Petar Marinov (Courtesy of National Archives-Plovdiv). 53


National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959k, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 207. 248

Salihs Family Tree Salih Aga was the grandson of Mehmed Kr Hoca (Hodja), the first native governor of the Ah

elebi Kaaza who ruled from 1751 to his death in 1779. Between the sixteenth and eighteenth century, the Middle Rhodopes had been in the hands of outside, absentee landlords. The area

Middle Rhodopes as an estate grant from the Emperor. The name survived until 1912, thereafter

acquired its name from the Sultan Selim Is personal doctor, Ah elebi, who in 1519 received the

losing its significance within the newly independent Kingdom of Bulgaria. The imperial doctor did

not keep the land for himself, but dedicated it instead to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. 54 The

vast vakf (donated property) remained under the custodianship of Ah elebis descendants until the

among several prominent local families, which destabilized the whole region. As the population grew tired of the chaos, they petitioned the Ottoman government to appoint a permanent governor in the kaaza to institute order and stability. Mehmed Kr Hoca was among the most suitable candidates. He was a local and highly

early 1700s. After that, the political power-vacuum in the Middle Rhodopes resulted in violent rivalry

educated man, modest, relatively wealthy, and with a reputation for exceptional moral integrity. He two conditions to accepting the governorship: (1) the office was to become hereditary, and (2) his appointment of Mehmed Kr Hoca as governor of the Ah elebi Kaaza, with Pamakl as his administrative center. According to Dechov, the population that came out to greet their new things: governor as he was moving his household into Pamakl (from Chepelare) observed two unusual a) whereas his children and servants were all clad lavishly, the new governor was dressed modestly, in very simple attire; b) the women of the household were not covered as Mohamedan [Muslim] women usually were, but bore open faces with only white scarves over their hair; 55 capital township was to be Pamakl. In 1751, a ferman from Constantinople formalized the

also enjoyed the support of the majority Muslims and Christians in the area. Kr Hoca, however, put



Dedicating a property is an Islamic tradition where private persons or entities donate property (normally land) to a religious body (e.g. mosque) which draws income from it by either renting it out or selling the produce from it to support itself. Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, 75. 249

was more or less institutionalized in the days of Salih Aga. His eldest son and heir, Sleyman Aga (1779-1798) continued this non-discriminatory practice. Although a benevolent ruler, however, Aga. 56

was Kr Hoca who initiated the tradition of equitable treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims, which

(1751-1779) brought a measure of stability in the region to both Muslims and Christians. In fact, it

Rhodopes for nearly a century. According to both Dechov and Haytov, Kr Hocas governorship

Thus, the Kr Hoca (Hodja) family established themselves as the ruling dynasty of the Middle

Sleyman lacked the charisma and determination of his father, Mehmed Kr Hoca, and heir, Salih Sleyman Aga had deeply personal reasons to extend benign treatment to the Christian

somewhat unusual demeanor for an Ottoman feudal lord. Indeed, their standard portrayal in

whom he patiently courted for several months before she responded to his feelings. 57 This was a

population, too. According to Haytov, he married a Christian woman by the name Stana (or Maria),

Bulgarian folklore is one of willful and violent characters who took by force what they fancied,

including women. The reported behavior of Sleyman, however, defied this popular depiction. Not to polygamy, a tradition allowed by Islam. Sleyman had one wife at a time. After he was widowed married Stana renamed Ayshe who mothered Brahom Bey, Sleymans fourth son. Although author describes his marital situation:

only did he wait for Stana to obtain her parents permission to marry him, but the governor was loath from his first wife, mother of three of his sons Salih, Mustafa (Adji), and Liman-Shishman, Sleyman Haytov appears to be mistaken about Stanas being the mother of all four of Sleymans sons, the Even before becoming governor, Sleyman was widowed and married a second time to a [Christian] woman from Raykovo Stana, whom he met and fell in love with during harvest time at a place known as Rumin Preslop. Soon after the wedding, the family moved from



Haytov, Smolyan, 18-31; Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 72-96. According to Dechovs Historical Diary, Kr Hoca (Hodja) died in 1779 and was buried in the old Turkish cemetery next to the mosque and near the Imamovs homestead in Raykovo (now a neighborhood of Smolyan). In 1924, when Dechov was compiling his Diary, the headstone marking the grave was still there. The inscription on it simply read, Mehmed bin Isein 1779. Dechov, Historical Diary, 6-7. (Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 75.) No titles, no pompous self-appellations. Kr Hoca (Hodja) wished to be remembered as he lived, modestly. In Smolyan Haytov talks about a woman named Maria, and in Rhodopean Lords, he mentions Stana. 250

Raykovo [now a Smolyans suburb] to Smolyan, where his [Sleymans] four sons were born: Salih, Liman Shishman, Brahom, and Mustafa later named Adji Aga. 58 good care-taker, but for the demands of the time not a good ruler. 59 During his reign of nineteen Sleyman, like his father, Dechov notes, was educated, quiet, pious, kind-hearted, and a

years, the internal strife for political dominance in the realm continued. When Sleyman died in

as his capital town. Along with the leadership, however, Salih inherited the difficult task to put an end to the chaos that had been tearing the district apart. Ultimately, he would do just that. 60 Like his father Sleyman, Salih had one wife. In fact, he was married to the same woman

1798, his eldest son Salih Aga succeeded him as governor of the Ah elebi Kaaza, retaining Pamakl

throughout his life, which history remembers simply as Salihagovitsa (The Wife of Salih Aga).

Together, they had two sons Tahir Bey and Emin Bey and at least four daughters. Salihs sons jointly ruled the kaaza for a brief period between 1842 and 1850. But none of the preceding or following governors of Ah elebi would match the legendary Salih Aga in popularity or accomplishments. Salih died in Gmrcina in the fall (the exact date is disputable, but Dechov points to September) of 1838, at the age of eighty. 61

Haytov, Rhodopean Lords, 201. Based on Dechovs note about Brahom Beys being from a different mother, as well as the National-ArchivesPlovdivs description of the photo (above) that Stana was the mother of one of Sleymans sons, I am inclined to think that Haytov is in the wrong.
58 59 60


Dechov, Historical Diary, 7. Sleyman died in Pamakl, and his headstone (Dechov does not clarify where he was buried, but probably in the same cemetery as his father) was destroyed in 1912-1913 when Bulgaria took control of the Rhodopes and launched a violent, but short-lived Christianization of the Muslim population. Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 72-96; Dechov, Historical Diary, passim. 251

Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 76.

Mehmed Kr Hoca (Hodja) (1751-1779)


Sleyman Aga (1779-1798)


Pir Aga

Cafer Dervia

Isen Aga

SALIH AGA (1798-1838)

Mustafa Adji Aga

Liman Shishman Aga

Brahom Bey

Deli Bey

Tahir Bey (circa18421850)

Ali Bey

Mehmedali Tahirbeev


Emin Bey (circa1842 -1850)

Rukie (daughter)

Daughters (four?)

Melike Belinska

Figure 6-7: Family Tree Partial Family Tree of Salih Aga according to governorship of the Ah elebi Kaaza, as well as according to family connection of one of his indirect descendants and my informant, Melike Belinska. 62

Dechov, Historical Diary, 1-10. Vassil Dechov incorporates most of his Historical Diary in Volume I of the book, The Past of Chepelare, 72-96; Mateev, The Konak of Salih Aga of Pamakl, 20.


Figure 6-8: Inscribed metal dish A (metal) dish with inscription (Figure 6-9) indicating that it belonged to a Christian family from Raykovo, Stanas parents. After marrying Sleyman Aga, Stana converted to Islam and took the name Ayshe. Consequently, she became the mother of one of Salihs three brothers. 63 According to Dechovs Historical Diary, Brahom Bey was the one from a different mother (Dechov, 7). Stana being Sleymans second wife and Brahom appearing to be the youngest of Salihs brothers both suggest that Stana was Brahoms mother (Courtesy of the National Archives-Plovdiv).
I am particularly grateful to Ivan Terziev for helping me entangle Dechovs handwritten family tree. Of the extensive family tree of the entire Kr Hadja family, I only reconstruct the part related to Salih, as well as Abla Melike whom I met in person.

National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959k, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 212. 253

Figure 6-9: Inscribed metal dish, close view

Salih, the Family Man 1. Mustafa, Adji Aga Salih Agas greatest supporter and enemy were within his family. As a family man he was

blessed and cursed at the same time. He was blessed with a wife who, contrary to the traditions of his time and society, was his partner rather than just the woman who obediently served him and shared on her independent initiative, took in orphaned girls and destitute women as part of the household. Salihagovitsa rarely interfered with the governors political decisions, but when she did, he always his bed. Salihagovitsa was her husbands most trusted advisor in matters of marriage and family who,

heeded her opinion. Thus, Salih was often heard saying, All people in Ah elebi obey my command,

but in the konak only my wifes orders count. 64 The governor, however, was also cursed with a

wealthy Mehmed Kehaya of Raykovo (now within Smolyans city limits) or Smilyan (a nearby village). 65

disposition. Salih and Mustafa were also brothers-in-law. Both were married to the daughters of the

mortal enemy, his own brother Mustafa, dubbed Adji, (bitter, bad-tempered) because of his obnoxious

Pure [as engraved on the governors seal, Appendix 6.2], 66

In outer appearance, Haytov writes, these two brothers Mustafa the Bitter and Salih the they looked very much alike: both were short in stature, very energetic, bearded, and both loved power. But in everything else, they were the total opposite. Adji Aga was irascible and hot-tempered, and would kill a person for no reason. [While] Salih Aga was sensible, calm and with good judgment; he had an affinity for order, so he condemned his brothers hayti for the crimes they committed and prosecuted them relentlessly... 67 Indeed, Adji Aga was hayta. In fact, he was so reviled by the local population for his

licentiousness that Salih himself turned against his brother and ultimately killed him. Between 1798 some of the most prosperous settlements in and around the Rhodopes, ravaging towns and villages and leaving destitute populations behind. Initially, Adji Aga was very careful to conceal his odious 1799, the Bitter and his cohorts plundered two of the wealthiest towns in the region, Gmrcina exploits from the governor, but as he accumulated wealth, his arrogance increased. Around 1798(now in northern Greece) and Stanimaka (modern-day Assenovgrad in Bulgaria). The public outcry

and 1806, Mustafa led his henchmen an assortment of Muslim and Christian mercenaries against

was so great that the imperial government in Constantinople responded with a ferman for the

capture and execution of Adji Aga. Thereafter, Mustafa was on the run as a wanted criminal. Whereas they could comfortably hide in the impregnable Rhodopean forests for most of the year, life as fugitives became intolerable for Adji and his companions in the harshness of the winter. Without the
Dechov, Historical Diary, 19.

64 65 66


The word Salih translates as pure. A document (Appendix 6.2) about a paid ispene tax is signed by Salih in the following way, May my deeds be as honorable as the name Salih is /pure one/. (National Archives-Smolyan, Fond 415k, Inventory 23, Archival Unit 52.) Haytov, Rhodopean Lords, 221.

Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 77.


promise of pillaging and riches, most of the hayti gradually abandoned Mustafa Adji Aga. Finally, Adji anticipated to be quickly forgiven and spared the execution. 68

alone and beaten, he clandestinely surrendered to the governor. Banking on Salihs brotherly love, Relying on oral history, Haytov envisions the scene of the surrender in the following terms: - Come brother! Where have you been starving, cold and eaten by lice? - Salih received Adji Aga with audible excitement in his voice. Adji approached weeping. With eyes turned down, he answered:

- Brother, if I deserve to be shot, you shoot me. If I deserve to be hanged, you hang me. If I deserve to be beaten to death, you do it. If I deserve to be pardoned, you pardon me. But do not hand me over to my enemies. - Come, come brother! Dont be afraid! - Salih Aga uttered, deeply moved by his brothers despondent appearance. 69

floor was strewn with thick carpets and soft pillows. A servant-woman, Sofa, was assigned to take

Indeed, the governor hid his fugitive brother in a secret chamber of the konak, where the

care of his every need (and/or Salihs own daughter Fatme did that, in another version of the story). he had brought in from the woods. Reportedly, only Salih, Salihagovitsa, Sofa (or Salihs daughter

According to Haytov, Adji was changed and bathed several times a day to rid him of the lice and filth Fatme, in another version), and the governors trusted secretary Abdullah Effendi knew of Mustafas true whereabouts. Under good care and abundant food, Adji Aga was able to recover quickly. With strength and confidence regained, however, his lust for power and plunder returned. In the passing

days, Salih agonized over what to do with his brother, the outlaw. He could not pardon the hayta. To who would inevitably became victims of Adjis inherent greed and brutality. So, Salih did the only

set him free would compromise Salihs own position as governor and bring further suffering to many thing he could do at that moment to bide his time and wait. His sense of honor certainly prevented the governor from betraying or killing his own brother. But Salihs uneasy dilemma soon resolved itself. 70

68 Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 72-96; Dechov, Historical Diary, passim; Haytov, Rhodopean Lords, 197-234; Haytov, Smolyan, 18-31. 69 70

Haytov, Rhodopean Lords, 226-27. Ibid., 226-31.


room she discovered a pistol under his pillow. But how had Mustafa acquired a weapon? she

One day, Sofa, who took care of Adji Aga, informed Salihagovitsa that while cleaning Adjis

pondered And what did he need it for on the first place? Was he distrustful of his own brother or however according to popular knowledge promptly dismissed the warning as Womens

was he planning something sinister? Salihagovitsa shared her misgivings with Salih Aga. The latter, drivel! 71, and went about his usual business. Several days later, the governor was returning home

from an inspection of his nearby fields. As he rode through the gates on his horse and into the inner courtyard of the konak, someone shot at him but missed. Frantic commotion ensued in the konak immediately. While women and children were screaming, soldiers were running about the premises and taking defensive positions. With no more shots to be heard, however, a sort of tense normality slowly returned to the konak and investigation began: Who shot at the governor? Where did the

shooting come from? Why? Soon it was clear that the gunfire came from the direction of Adji Agas secret chamber. Salih suddenly recalled his wifes warning of a pistol. Finally, he realized that Adji Aga his own brother had just attempted to kill him. 72

hayta. Initially, he ordered that all articles of comfort be removed from his room. Leaving Adji

Instead of succumbing to a momentary rage, however, Salih took his time to deal with the

without food and drink for eight days, the governor aimlessly walked from room to room, pulling hairs out of his beard, weeping, and muttering in disbelief how blindly he had kept a snake in his bosom. In his frustration, Salih repeatedly called on the guards to kill the dog dishonoring my

house. However, none of the soldiers dared to execute the order. When, after a time, Salih inquired why they had ignored his pleas, Strahin (according to Petar Marinov), his lieutenant, answered: Today he may have been your enemy, but tomorrow you could have remembered he was your

brother, and blamed his death on us. 73 Thus, Salih had to deal with his family problem on his own.
Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 127. Haytov, Rhodopean Lords, 226-31.

71 72

73 Ibid., 227-28. The same answer, worded differently, is reported by Vassil Dechov and Petar Marinov as well.


hated the Bitter and advised Salih Aga to get rid of him, even though one of her own flesh and blood advice to Salih Aga, at a juncture where neither Salihs trusted Secretary Abdullah Effendi nor his beloved wife had or rather dared not offer any to him:

same mother. Their mother-in-law, however, did not share the same fondness for both brothers. She

Salih and Mustafa were more than full-blood brothers. They had wed the daughters of the

had born at least four sons to Adji Aga. According to Petar Marinov, she spoke the following words of

Aga! That dog will finish you. The dog has gone mad. One of you will die while he lives. That mustnt be you! Your children are mostly female [Salih had two sons and four (?) daughters] and they will need their protector. He should die! His children are male. They can make it on their own. This much I can tell you. 74 As the days went by following the assassination attempt, Salihs frustration subdued but his

anger augmented. Not only did he offer compassion and protection to his deviant brother, who had only done harm, but the criminal had raised a gun against his own brother and benefactor. Salih

finally determined that Adji should die. And since no one else would kill him, the governor had to do children. Neither would the central government or the local populace be pleased to have him freed. So, one day, Salih resolutely walked in Mustafas confinement chamber and shot him dead. My children wont be orphans on your account, but yours will! - he reportedly said before walking out

it himself. Salih was now fully aware that while Adji lived, no one was safe, least of all himself and his

pale and shaking. 75

a ferman on which he, as governor, was obligated to act Salih did not take Adji Agas death lightly. should follow him, stormed out of the konak towards the nearby river. Because it was spring time, and obviously unaware of his surroundings, the governor rode his horse straight into the raging Deeply affected by the murder, Salih mounted his favorite horse, and giving a warning that no one

Despite the fully justified execution of his brother already officially condemned to death by

the snowy mountain caps were melting and causing the river to overflow its banks. Lost in distress water. When the frightened animal stood up on his back hoofs refusing to step in, mindless of his

74 75

actions, Salih took out his gun and shot his beloved horse in the head. The very next moment, both
Marinov, 22. Haytov, Rhodopean Lords, 228. 258

his life. Finally back to his senses, the man who just had killed his brother managed to pull himself was he weeping for? Perhaps for his horse? His false brother? For the people whose good he put

horse and rider collapsed into the river the horse already dead and Salih very much struggling for

out of the water. On the river bank, the distraught Salih sat on a rock and wept like a child. 76 What

before his personal well-being but who were never satisfied? For the fact that he needed to protect his life from his own family? Thus, it came to pass that in 1806, Mustafa, the hayta, died from the hand of his brother Salih. According to Dechov, Adji was outlived by five sons Sleyman, Emin, Brahom, Hassan, and Isein who vowed to revenge their fathers death. Ultimately, they, among 2. Salihagovitsa (The Wife of Salih Aga) In a short segment titled Historical Note and attached to the play Salih Aga, Petar Marinov Salih Aga was strict, energetic, often hotheaded, but perfectly fair, kind-hearted, insightful, and generous person. The population saw in him an uncompromising arbiter of justice with nothing escaping his attention. He was particularly concerned with family values, unforgiving toward polygamy, infidelity and lewdness. Further, not only did he tolerate other faiths [other than Islam], but also treated Muslims and Christians on a completely equitable basis. It was during his time that the overwhelming majority of churches were built in the region [Ah elebi]. The only thing that the population was unhappy about during his rule was that he frequently conscripted peoples free labor in the construction of roads, arched bridges, buildings, water fountains and aqueducts, as well as for work on his private estate. 78 They also did not like the governors intrusion in their private lives, often coercing people into reluctant marriages [example of this below]. 79 Salihs greatest supporter, most valued advisor, and the architect of many of his moral

others, would take an active part in bringing about Salihs downfall more than thirty years later. 77

describes the governor in terms remarkably in sync with Dechov and Haytovs depiction of him:

intrusion[s] was his wife. As strong as her presence beside her husband is, history never recorded her own name. She is simply known as Salihagovitsa, The Wife of Salih Aga. This should come as no surprise considering the Islamic tradition of addressing women as their sons mothers or their
76 77 78 79


Marinov makes sure to explain that Salih provided abundant food, drink, and respite to his workers. He was often heard saying that nothing could be achieved on empty stomach and tired limbs (Marinov, 87). Marinov, 87 (Historical Note).

Dechov, Historical Diary, 1.


husbands wives, and not by their personal name. According to the oral testimonies collected by

pious. She was devoted to Salih Aga and respectful his will as a ruler, but she ran her household as a helped the poor ... especially to girls and orphaned children, without regard to their faith. However, When Dechov describes Salihagovitsa as particularly good to Christian women and

Dechov, Salihagovitsa was a good woman ....lively, tidy, with very strict moral values, merciful and

full-fledged mistress. Salih never interfered in her household business. ... [She] was very charitable ...

she was particularly good to Christian women. 80

generally women in vulnerable position he speaks with two things in mind. First, Salihagovitsas

own mother the same who advised Salih to kill Adji Aga was a Christian convert to Islam following her marriage to Mehmed Kehaya. Second, the author refers to a specific event, when Salihagovitsas involvement proved crucial in saving several enslaved women. When the Greek rebellion broke on uprising. The governor dispatched his lieutenant Agush Aga to what is today northern Greece plunder a few townships and to enslave several Greek Christian girls, whom he smuggled into the Halkidiki (Medenkyleri) Peninsula in 1821, Salih was ordered to send troops to help quell the with a small force to assist the imperial forces. Agush not only fought the rebels, but also managed to Pamakl. 81 Enraged by his lieutenant s actions, but above all urged by his wife, Salih denounced Agush for his lawlessness, appointed Strahin in his stead, and sent his new deputy to retrieve the enslaved women; by force if necessary. Agush surrendered his bounty, but from that day on he

household, these girls, Dechov writes in his Diary, were encouraged to practice their Christian faith freely, and Salih [and his wife] married all of them to Christian men from the area. All wedding expenses, gifts, and dowry were incurred by Salih Aga and his wife (the grandmother of Priest

became Salihs sworn enemy. Salihagovitsa took the women under her protection. 82 Upon joining the

80 81 82

Dechov, Historical Diary, 23-27.

Under Sharia, the public law of the Ottoman Empire, slavery was a legitimate institution.

Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 86-87; Dechov, Historical Diary, 23-27; Haytov, Smolyan, 26-27. 260

Atanass P. Raychev from Pamakl was one of these slave girls). ... Salihagovitsa took under her protection all vulnerable Christian girls she came across... They treated her as their mother. 83 In a scene of the play, Salih Aga, Petar Marinov wonderfully recreates the atmosphere of

Salih and Salihagovitsas marriage arrangement of one of their foster-daughters, Kalina, to Manol: 84

Salih Aga: Whose son are you? Manol: Niko Gulumehovskis son from Peshtera 85 ... Sali Aga: What brings you here? Manol: I left my fiance and came to inform you of it. ... Salih Aga: You left her?! What does that mean? Dont you know that I disapprove of such frivolities in my realm!? Do you wish to be thrown down the Gorge? Manol: Well ... the Gorge. I know all about the Gorge. Thats why I came to tell you. Do with me as you will. Salih Aga: I do not like such things. Whats going to happen to that girl now? Have you thought about that? Why did you leave her in the first place? Manol: I caught her with another man. Thats why I left her. Salih Aga: Well, well, well! What am I supposed to do with you in that case?! Salihagovitsa to Salih privately: It will be a pity, Salih Aga, for this young man to die. He is so young and handsome. Also, he came here to tell you about it on his own. That proves he doesnt lie ... Salih Aga: Thats exactly why I worry. If I let him go without punishment, everyone will say, Salih Aga has grown soft... Everybody knows I do business with his father ... I dont want to be accused of favoritism. What should I do? Salihagovitsa: No one will judge you. Let him live. Here is what I think. Salih Aga: What? Salihagovitsa: Since he has no fiance, lets marry him to our Kalina. This will put an end to any talk. She is a good and hard-working girl. They are both young ... What do you say? Salih Aga: Sounds good to me. Salihagovitsa: Her dowry is ready and its time to let her go. ... Salih Aga to Manol: Since you left your fiance, wont you take our Kalina? All will be good that way. She is a servant of ours, but my wife keeps her as one of our own daughters. She has a good dowry ... What do you say? Manol: If I like her, I may ... Salih Aga: Allah, Allah! Do you think Id purposely tie you to someone bad? ... Salihagovitsa to Manol: Come, come with me [takes him to meet Kalina]. 86

83 84

85 86

In another footnote, Marinov adds that Manol was the grandfather of Manol the Painter from Peshtera, father of Nikola and Petar Manolov, both priests (Dechov, 19). Marinov, 19-22.

In a footnote Dechov explains that Kalina and her sister Rakshina are real women, who belonged to the family of Hasamovi from Dereky now the village of Sokolovtsi both of them raised and married by Salih Agas wife in the towns of Peshtera and Smolyan respectively. Kalina is the great grandmother of Priest Nikola Manolov from the village of Chokmanovo, whom Marinov probably knew in person (Dechov, 6).

Dechov, Historical Diary, 23-27.


liked each other enough to marry. In due time, Kalina gave birth to her first child, a boy. In another

This story has a happy ending, both in the play and in real life. Apparently, Kalina and Manol

scene of the play, Kalina visits Salihagovitsa in the konak accompanied by her newborn son. Marinov of a dutiful daughter coming to her parents home to share the joys of parenthood with loved ones. 87 puts the two women in an intimate mother-daughter setting, wherein Kalina behaves in the manner

Figure 6-10: Scene I Scene from the play Salih Aga by Petar Marinov, where the photographer Krum Savov and his wife take the roles of Salih Aga (sitting) and his wife (standing), 1938: Salih Aga and Salihagovitsa dynamically discussing some issue of importance. Oral history portrays Salihs wife as his most important advisor, particularly in family matters (Courtesy of National Archives-Plovdiv). 88

88 National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959k, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 243 (Photocollection).


Ibid., 31.


Figure 6-11: Scene II Scene from the play Salih Aga by Petar Marinov, with Krum Savov and his wife in the roles of Salih Aga and his wife (sitting), 1938: Salih Aga adjudicates on Manols case, with Salihagovitsa naturally sitting beside him, in the role of advisor. (The Inventory of The Petar Marinov Collection, in possession of the National Archives-Plovdiv, annotates many pieces of correspondence where people request to see the play in their home towns or villages.) (Courtesy of National Archives-Plovdiv). 89

89 National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959k, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 243 (Photocollection).


Figure 6-12: Scene III Scene from the play Salih Aga by Petar Marinov, 1938: Truthful to the oral history description of Salih Aga, Krum Savov - in the role of the governor also seems to be a relatively small man. Unfortunately, we have no way of ascertaining how the real Salih looked like since no known portrait of him exists. Also, he died before the age of photography, and, therefore, he could not have had his picture taken either (Courtesy of National ArchivesPlovdiv). 90

90 National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959k, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 243 (Photocollection).


Figure 6-13: Scene IV Krum Savovs wife in the role of Salih Agas wife, 1938: There is no surviving image of Salihagovitsa either. What is known about her is that she was a pious and devoted wife, who ruled her household independently and used her good fortune to help orphaned girls and poor women, particularly Christian ones (Courtesy of National Archives-Plovdiv). 91 Salih, the Public Man As Petar Marinov remarks, Salih built many roads, arched bridges, buildings, water

fountains and aqueducts during his governorship. Most importantly, however, [i]t was during his

[Salihs] time that the overwhelming majority of [Christian] churches were built in ... [Ah elebi]. 92 As far as Dechov is concerned, all churches in the region were constructed at Salihs bidding. 93 To that effect, the historian writes:

91 National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959k, Inventory 2, Archival Unit 243 (Photocollection). 92 93

The first church was built in [the village of] Chokmanovo [...]. To gain a permit to erect the church, several dignitaries from Chokmanovo, led by Stoyan Kehaya, appeared before Salih Aga. They asked Salih to help them obtain ferman [royal permit] for the construction of the

Marinov, 87 (Historical Note).

Dechov, Historical Diary, 7 (10). 265

Obviously, the stratagem suggested by Salih worked. The Christians of Chokmanovo had their church consecrated in the year 1835. 96 But not only churches had a desired purpose. The availability of good roads and bridges in

church. Salih Aga agreed to help them, but said: Do not build the church too big or on too conspicuous a site, for it would attract a lot of unwanted attention and ... [unread words]. The dignitaries agreed to select an unobtrusive location for the church, but asked if they may build it larger so it could accommodate the growing [Christian] population. [...] Salih advised them to apply for a ferman indicating smaller arshins 94 for the church, but when building it to make it wider and taller to meet their needs. 95

the difficult terrain of the Rhodopes was vitally important for facilitating transportation, business, and defense. Thus, it was Salih who commissioned the construction of key transportation arteries

connecting Pamakl to other important townships in the Rhodopes and beyond. Among those were

remain major connecting lines to this day. 97 What the population did not like, however, was that they had to provide their free labor for the making of these roads, and for most projects of public significance. In keeping with the traditions of his time, Salih simply conscripted peoples labor when the construction of aqueducts, bridges, and roads were deemed necessary for public use. However, immaculate in most ways, Salih was prone to despotism when it came to what he saw as the governor made sure to provide ample food, drink, and rest for the laborers. 98 While nearly

the roads Pamak-Chepelare, Pamak-Shiroka Laka, and Pamakl-Tozborun-Cheresha-Arda which

advancing the public good. Ultimately, he forced his will on the population when building public infrastructure for much the same reasons as he administered severe punishment or arranged marriages: Because he believed that it was his responsibility as governor to cater to the common

not the individual or self interest in Ah elebi. The words which Marinov ascribes to him in a candid conversation with his wife most truthfully capture Salihs philosophy of government:

94 95 96 97 98

An old measuring unit, which most internet sites calculate at approximately 28 inches. Dechov, Historical Diary, 7 (10-11). Ibid., (10). Ibid., (10-11).

Well! Its not easy to look after the welfare of the people for forty years and keep everybody happy. ... How am I supposed to treat them [the people]!? My whole life I have tried to do

Marinov, 87 (Historical Note). 266

them good. ... Listen, all! While my human strength permits, I will enforce order. I will not let things slip out of control. I am the Vizier here. I am the King [emphasis added]. 99

Figure 6-14: The Sycamore in Smolyan This tree is the center-point of a small square that was the site of many public events such as dances, meetings, and various other occasions calling for large congregations of people during Salihs time. In his Diary, Dechov writes: He [Salih] placed an order with a peddler a Vlah from Yanina to bring and plant in Pamakl a sycamore tree Chinar. The sycamore was brought by Sharya Shaban and planted next to the water fountain and the mosque of Pamakl. The sycamore 90100 year-old [in 1924?] exists to this day. This magnificent tree ... [unread words] ... along with the water fountain, is the towns most beautiful decoration. 100 (Picture by the author, June 2007).



Ibid., 59.

Dechov, Historical Diary, 8 (12-13). 267

Figure 6-15: An arched bridge in Smolyan I crossed this bridge just before I walked into the small square where the Sycamore stands. Most probably this bridge was built during the time of Salih Aga. In any event, according to Dechov, Salih sponsored the construction of many bridges like this one; possibly this very same one as well since the Sycamore was brought and planted nearby on the governors bidding. (Picture by the author, June 2007).


Figure 6-16: An arched bridge leading to Salihs konak The bridge in this photograph, leading to Salihs konak, was most definitely built in the governors lifetime. The photograph is not dated, but it was probably taken in the early 1920s, because it is very similar to another photograph from 1921 (following the section Who Wrote about Salih Aga in this chapter) (Courtesy of National Archives-Smolyan). 101


The photograph is cropped from the top. 269

The Death of Salih Aga The Ah elebi Kaaza was in close proximity to Greece, which declared its sovereignty from

the Ottoman Empire in 1828 following a turbulent decade of rebellion. Because Salih displayed an unusual autonomy in his government of Ah elebi and was sympathetic with the plight of the Bulgarian Christians, it was not difficult for his enemies to incriminate him in disloyalty to the

imperial government. Because of Greeces independence, the already paranoid Istanbul authorities Agas arrest and execution for treason. Aware of Salihs popularity and his ability to muster speedily dispatched a ferman to the superior governor of Gmrcina, Emin Bey, authorizing Salih

resistance if forewarned, however, Emin Bey resorted to deception. Instead of openly detaining Salih Aga, he concocted a plan to invite the aging governor to Gmrcina to purportedly hand him royal ruler of Ah elebi, however, distrusted Emin Bey, and with good reason. 102 tokens of recognition for a long and exemplary service to the empire. The eighty-year-old seasoned Emin Bey was cunning and, more importantly, hated Salih Aga for the latters persistent

failure to bow to his authority as a higher imperial administrator. When the ferman for Salihs execution was received in Gmrcina, Emin knew that he could not simply arrest the popular

Rhodopean lord. He was determined, however, to carry out the order one way or another. Both

Dechov and Haytov recount the story of Emin Beys dishonest scheming to that effect. He sent not Gmrcina in order to receive the honorary distinctions of the Great Divan (the Ottoman government). 103 Emin Bey sent the following letter to the governor of Ah elebi: To the Great Lord and Governor of Ah elebi KARAHOCOLU SALIH AGA SON OF SLEYMAN Of Pamakl Our Glorious and Just Lord,

soldiers, but standard horse couriers to deliver a letter to Salih, urging him to immediately depart for

102 103

A scarlet garment and necklace, according to the remarkable ballad the people of Ah elebi later composed about Salih, (Appendix 6.1). 270

Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 72-96; Haytov, Smolyan, 18-31.

The news has arrived from the Great Divan [Divan Kebir], the source of all goodness, that our magnificent King Abdul Medjid Khan has bestowed gifts and honors upon you for so many years of immaculate service in governing the people of Ah elebi. Your tokens of honor and gifts have been sent to my domain in Gmrcina. This is why I appeal to you, Great Lord, to leave immediately, travel swiftly day and night, and appear personally before me to receive them. I look forward to seeing you soon and embracing you as my brother. EMIN BEY Governor of Gmrcina 104 Despite the flattery, Salih had misgivings about this invitation. In fact, Vassil Dechov

attributes the following words to the governor who confided into his loyal secretary Ismail (rather, and whatever has to come, will come. 105 Salih Aga had no choice, but to go. If he opted not to, his

Abdullah Effendi) before leaving for Gmrcina: I am old and life is no longer so dear to me. I will go, demeanor would have been interpreted as insurrection and the repercussions for his family and the people of Ah elebi could have been tragic. From the way Dechov narrates the governors final disastrous consequences for the kaaza prompted by suspicions of rebellion. 106 hours, it will be safe to conclude that Salih Aga consciously put his life on the line to avert potentially Emin Bay provided a royal welcome to Salih Aga in Gmrcina. 107 Aware of Gmrcinas

proximity to Salihs stronghold Ah elebi and Istanbuls remoteness, Emin still feared Salihs ability to rally popular support in his defense. Were Salih to ignite uprising in an already combustible environment, Emin could lose both his governorship and his head. The lavish welcome had the

purpose to deceive, and it succeeded. Salih gradually relaxed and, feeling safe enough, he sent his security escort back to Ah elebi with the exception of five to ten personal guards. With that, the opportune moment came for Emin to strike. Salih Aga occupied a bedroom at the upper levels of
104 105 106 107

A Bulgarian-translated facsimile of the original letter, preserved in National Archives-Plovdiv, The Petar Marinov Collection, Fond 959(k?), Inventory 1, Archival Unit 1039. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author). Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 88. Ibid., 72-96. Ibid., 88.


Emin Beys konak, while his bodyguards, including his lieutenant Stahin, were deliberately

accommodated on the ground floor, away from the governor. Thus separated from his only friends in and strangled the sleeping man with a piece of leather cord. According to a different version, Salih

Gmrcina, the elderly Salih became an easy target. One evening, two assassins snuck in his bedroom

was strangled not during the night, but in broad daylight after walking out of a conference with Emin Bey in the latters private chamber. 108 Whereas it is difficult to ascertain which the correct version of events is, both story lines seem plausible. With his typical attention to details, though, Dechov records that Salih Aga was buried in the Turkish cemetery by the Polipoli (or Poshposh) River, west of Gmrcina. Later on, his sons Emin Bey 109 and Tahir Bey marked their fathers grave with a headstone, on which they inscribed the leather cord that cut his life short. When, in 1924, Dechov that he actually saw the stone for himself, then it is at least certain that Salih was strangled by a leather cord. Whatever the actual circumstances of his demise, Salih never returned to his beloved

was writing his Historical Diary, he remarks that the headstone was still there. 110 If the author means

execution as in satisfaction of his personal resentment for the lord of Ah elebi. 111 As Dechov own grandson Mehmedali Tahirbeev (above).

Bey. The governor of Gmrcina murdered Salih Aga as much in compliance with the order for his

Rhodopes. His days ended in Gmrcina sometime in the fall of 1838 because of the cunning of Emin

specifies, though, the story of Salihs murder was reported to him, among others, by the governors Salihs remaining guards fled Gmrcina after the governors strangulation and carried the

news of his tragic end to Pamakl. Deep was the despair and frustration of all who depended on Salih Aga for protection of life, property, and welfare. Not only was Salihs family now vulnerable to confiscation of property and general willful abuse, but so were his servicemen, and above all the
108 109 110 111

Dechov, Historical Diary, 13-15 (23-27).

In addition to title (governor), Bey was also the accepted form to address the feudal Ottoman nobility. Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 88; Dechov, Historical Diary, 24-25. Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 87.


poor Christian and Muslim peasantry, shielded from violent arbitrariness solely by Salihs personal integrity and political power. Dechov describes the general mood following his death: The news about the killing of Salih Aga produced a shocking effect on the entire MiddleRhodopean population. Some were scared, because they did not know what to expect next, others rejoiced, yet third genuinely mourned their governor. But most of all mourned the people of Chepelare and Smolyan, because they lost their best protector and benefactor. 112 After Salihs assassination, Emin Bey dispatched bureaucrats and troops to Ah elebi in

order to contain potential turmoil and to take control of everything that the governors family

hide in their clothes. The more valuable possessions were hastily hidden away in various places.

children of the household, including servants, to leave the konak each taking out whatever they could

possessed. By the time they arrived, however, Salihs older son Emin Bey ordered all the women and

all rooms and inventorying every item. All that belonged to Salih Aga was duly confiscated, his honor soiled, and his offspring barred from public office. One of Salihs kinsmen and bitter enemies, Agush, who brought about the accusation of

When the Gmrcina bureaucrats arrived, they claimed the konak and what was left in it, sealing off

treason, managed to secure the appointment of his own sons as joint rulers of Ah elebi, with

himself as their political advisor. This state of affairs continued only until 1842, a little over three years. By then, Salihs sons, Emin Bey and Tahir Bey tirelessly petitioning every friendly ear in Edirne 113 and Istanbul and evoking Salihs immaculate reputation had restored their fathers good

sovereign reign of the Kr Hoca (Hodja) dynasty would not be the same again. Emin Bey did succeed his father Salih as governor of Ah elebi, but the Ottoman authorities also appointed an administrative judge an ethnic Turk from Constantinople alongside, whom they gave the

name, reclaiming possession of their property and reestablishing their familys authority. 114 But the

authority to countermand Emins decisions. In effect, this was a measure of preventing Salihs heirs

from reestablishing their fathers absolute control of the kaaza. Scared by Greeces successful bid for
112 113 114

Ibid., 88.

The Ah elebi Kaaza was part of the Edirne Vilayet (large province) of the Ottoman Empire. Dechov, 95.


independence just a decade before, the Ottoman state was determined not to permit a regional ruler to grow strong; no matter how small hierarchically he was. The population of Ah elebi, however, took immediate and irrevocable dislike to the

Turkish kadi (judge), because he was arrogant, corrupt, and most importantly could not speak

anonymous individual to sneak in the kadis sleeping quarters one night and set his bed on fire. The kadi burnt along with his house. The authorities blamed the murder on Emin Bey, Salih Agas successor, who was forced to resign from the office of governor by 1850.

Ahren language [the local Slavic language]. 115 Popular determination to get rid of him provoked an

Salihs lieutenant Strahin received the imperial appointment as the new chief administrator of Ah elebi. Wary of allowing the power back into the hands of another local person, however, the authorities in Constantinople and Gmrcina implicated Isein Bey in the kadis murder plot as well.

The distinguished and widely liked Isein Zhurnal native of Pamakl and a kinsman of

In the course of few years following his appointment, in 1856, the Ottoman government tried,

permanently took control of most the Rhodopes, Ah elebi was governed by deliberately appointed outside administrators titled kaymakam. 116 The Kr Hoca (Hodja) dynasty ruled Ah elebi for over one hundred years and Salih Agas

convicted, and effectively imprisoned Isein Bey. From then on and until 1912-1913, when Bulgaria

reign was the golden age in the Ottoman history of the Middle Rhodopes. The archives of Salih Aga, which would have been an invaluable source of Rhodopean history, survived until 1912 when the

invading Bulgarian troops plundered the konak, taking away or obliterating most of what was left in

his gubernatorial affairs orally rather than in writing, accounts for the sad fact that very few records bearing Salihs authentic mark survive today.

it, including written documents. 117 This destruction, in conjunction with Salihs preference to conduct

115 116 117


Ibid., 95-96.

Dechov, Historical Diary, 15 (26-27). 274

developed a liking for alcohol and gradually sank into poverty and insignificance. But all the way until 1913, most of these descendants of an illustrious dynasty had preserved the physical and psychological characteristics of noble, intelligent, kindly, and virtuous lords. 118 Conclusion: Salih Agas Heritage

After the death of Salih Aga, Dechov concludes the familys saga, the Kr Hoca offspring

times for the Ottoman Empire, but also established a social order of a new type one that permitted equality between Muslims and Christians despite Sharia. As Nikolay Haytov sums it, the governors most remarkable legacy lies in the fact that he elevated the status of the Christians to that of the amass wealth surpassing the latter in all respect. From servants and bondsmen of the Yuruks [(a Muslims in both civil and political aspect ... [which] provided the former with the opportunity ... to community of stockbreeders)], they [the Christians] became owners of vast herds of sheep, pastures, local public history of Bulgaria to this day.

Salih Aga was a remarkable person who not only brought stability to Ah elebi in trying

forests, and land. 119 Nevertheless, the heritage of Salih Aga remains obscure and unrecognized in the Even Haytov, a writer well-known for promoting restrictive Bulgarian nationalism, finds this

neglect detrimental to the national cultural narrative, albeit within the jingoistic discourse of bad Muslimness and good Bulgarianness. In his paper, Smolyan: Three Pinnacles in the History of the Middle Rhodopes, he concludes the section on Salih Aga with the following monologue that best illustrates the complexity of the problem:

Celebrated? Can we define him [Salih Aga] as such? While some [Bulgarian academics] quiescently accept this, others are silent, and a third group straightforwardly rejects it. Was Salih Aga not the overlord, the feudal, and the appointed tyrant of the Sultan? Did he not wear the fezz, and was he not the one who condemned and hanged? Should we let him in the upper echelons of Bulgarian history in his tyrants armor? No! Let him stay in the basement, in the dusty corner, where is the proper place for all reactionary feudal trash. But how can we let that happen, when it is a matter of fact that Salih Aga equalized Christians with Muslims, expurgating the very concept of rayah 120 during his reign, and, by

118 119 120

Dechov, The Past of Chepelare, Volume I, 96. Haytov, Smolyan, 27. Derogatory term for non-Muslims, meaning second-class people. 275

doing so, broke away from the practice of all preceding and following rulers, for which he ultimately paid with his life! [...] Why cant we see that Salih Aga obstructed Muslimness in all its forms polygamy, Turkization, and depravity, preserving the traditional Bulgarian morality? Why should we deny that his archaic justice brought peace and order in society a hundred times more effectively than any formal justice system, as well as nurtured agricultural development and economic prosperity? Why? Because he is a feudal tyrant, an Ottoman governor! Is it possible to demand of him a product of his time to outgrow his age and become lets say a partisan of the Bulgarian [independence] cause? As a ruler of Ah elebi, he has done more for the preservation of Bulgarianness in Smolyan than a hundred [of our] patriots. Facts! Does it not suffice to mention that during the April Uprising not a single shot was fired against a Bulgarian [Christian] in Smolyan? If there were a Salih Aga in Devin or Chepino to curb the Muslim fanaticism, there would have been no burning of Perushtitsa, and no massacre in Batak. The reign of Salih Aga opened the way for the [Bulgarian] Renaissance in the Middle Rhodopes [...]. But Salih Aga ended with a loop around his neck! And if this last, bloody evidence is not enough [to give him due respect], then all further words will be in vain [emphasis added]. 121 momentum in the rising discourse of Pomak heritage in Bulgaria. Because of the contentious nature Yet, Salih Aga the Pomak governor of the Ottoman kaaza of Ah elebi is gaining

of Pomak identity in the national discourse, the Muslim Rhodopean community has been stranded on a precarious crossroad with no real sense of self that is reflective of the peoples own understanding of past and present. Since the time of their first comprehensive pokrastvane of 1912-1913, the Pomaks have been consistently told to think of themselves as descendants of forcibly Islamized

Bulgarians, whose primary patriotic duty is to return to their true identity. Even today, if they stray but a little from the prescribed identity and claim, for instance, a distinct Pomak heritage, this will unleash an avalanche of resentment and indignation by patriotic citizens and institutions. 122 Challenges to any aspect of what has become the established history of the Bulgarian nation is likely to be met with overt hostility and aggression. Finding a way out of negative emotions and devising common grounds for the discussion of sensitive heritage issues, therefore, is paramount to a constructive public discourse. Salih Aga, the man who cared equally for the wellbeing of Muslim and Christian communities within his realm more than 170 years ago, may be able to offer just such
121 122

shared platform. As Ivan Terziev, my (Christian) friend and host in Smolyan, said to me in the context
Haytov, Smolyan, 30.

Read the example with Baleva and Brunnbauers attempt to offer an alternative reading of the Batak massacre in footnote 46 of the present chapter. 276

of furthering the Rhodopean cultural tourism, Salihs legacy could be a potent factor in uniting the

cultural interpretation of Rhodopean heritage to the benefit of all: Christians, Muslims, and tourists. While the formal acknowledgement and celebration of Salihs legacy in Smolyan would immensely please the local Pomak community, it will also open the discussion of currently sensitive issues pertaining to the Ottoman past, including Pomak identity, thereby enriching local history and

attracting cultural tourists to the region. Salih Aga may be revived in many ways to benefit tourism heritage site, and/or formally attaching his name to such places like The Waterfall of Smolyan (The local Pomak heritage through him is this narrative of his life as reflected in oral history and Gorge of Salih Aga) to turn it into a tourist hotspot. My own modest tribute to Salih Aga and the

and the public discourse, including via academic and fictional writing, reconstructing his konak a as

recorded by Vassil Dechov, Nikolay Haytov, and Petar Marinov. Albeit neglected by orthodox history, Salih of Pamakl is very much alive in vernacular memory and available to inspire the common grounds for a new, shared Rhodopean heritage.

also and mostly to point to the fact that Pomak history merits academic exploration. Not only is it littered with fascinating individuals (and events) like Salih Aga, but it could also be a veritable boon for a diverse body of scholars, including ethnographers, cultural geographers, local historians, folklorists, cultural anthropologists, and scholars of nationalism. Because of the long history of

Ultimately, I brought Salihs story to light not only because he is the forgotten local hero, but

cultural suppression, however, much of the Pomak past has been obliterated with vital consequences for the availability of standard historical evidence. Thus, future scholastic devotees of Pomak culture will have to be willing to embrace new and cross-disciplinary approaches as they delve into challenging, but ultimately rewarding research.


CHAPTER VII CONCLUSION Making Sense of the Past I grew up in the Western Rhodopes during the 1980s, the last decade of communist rule in

Bulgaria. One of my fondest memories from these years is my fathers telling stories by the flickering candlelight and the gentle crackling of the fire in the woodstove of my childhood home. His storytelling usually took place in the fall and winter, when the busy tobacco-harvesting season had ended and before the new planting season began. In those days, I remember, power outages were necessary relief measure for the ailing communist economy. As often as I turn back to these common occurrence either caused by severe weather or purposely scheduled to save on electricity, a cherished memories, however, one realization strikes me all over again. As much as I loved listening to these tales from the local past, they also confused me a great deal. On a number of occasions, my father would talk about the burning of the village and the fleeing of the people, phrases that whom? Why the burning? When did it happen? terrified my young mind. What burning? I would ask What fleeing? Who was fleeing from Even though I was just a child, my father would carefully point out that what he recounted

were not mere stories, but the memories of persons who had been long gone by the time I was ten years old or so. While listening to my fathers narratives, I vividly remember thinking, But if neighboring communities, how come I never heard anything about it in school, from books, something so frightening as burning and fleeing happened right there in my home town and the

television, radio, or newspapers! Why nobody talks about it, except, perhaps, my father? My fathers inquisitive mind as a young boy drove him to pose questions about the past to his grandfather, to

elderly neighbors and relatives, and to anybody who would care to tell him a story. During the 1960s,

when young Mehmed was conducting his impromptu oral history research, elderly people were still the foremost repository of knowledge about the local past. On one occasion, he heard an anecdote home town) was burning, people fled south toward Greece, from where they were passing into about the corrupted hodja 1 (whose name I cannot recall) that went as follows: When Valkossel (my Turkey. As they were abandoning the village in large numbers, the local hodja began to cajole them, Hear me out, people! The cornfields are heavy with bread. Arent you going to harvest it? Are you leaving everything behind? With heavy hearts, these refugees looked back. They saw their ripened

crops, cast a glance at their empty homes, and faltered. Consequently, many returned to Valkossel as the will to leave abandoned them. Now, my father would add, the hodja was a collaborator and he people would listen to him. was directed by the authorities to stop the people. They knew that he was hodja in the village and

authorities? Why was the population fleeing? When did it all happen? My questions required

This was the story in a nutshell. Plain enough! But it was perplexing to me. Who were these

answers. I needed additional information to make sense of the puzzle. The people whom I asked know. After all, I was just a child supposed to occupy her time playing with other kids, not ask

provided it to the best of their knowledge, obviously not quite comprehending my burning desire to impossible questions. The kaurs [Christians] burnt the village. People fled from them. The year was experience to fit the pieces together, but not for me a child, growing up in the 1980s, amidst the however, was not my own inability to make sense of the bits and pieces, but that the adults 1912th. These answers might have been sufficient for someone with contextual knowledge or

information blackout of the Turkish revival process. 2 What frustrated me above all in those days, including my father could not make them comprehensible to me. It was somewhat distressing to

think that the collectivity of grown-ups either did not care to know or genuinely lacked the essential
1 2

The forced name changing against the ethnic Turks was just taking place in 1984-1985 and it was accompanied by an active disinformation campaign, not only censoring literature, but also re-writing history to deny the existence of an ethnic Turkish minority in Bulgaria. For more information, see Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria, (New York: Routledge, 1997), passim. See also Chapters III and IV of this dissertation. 279

Muslim religious teacher who, in those days, commanded much respect in the community.

foundation of historical context to have a coherent picture of the past. Sadly, it was both. What many timeline or factual certainty that the whole situation gave an impression of relatively recent events folktale.

people kept, though, were transmitted oral memories. But, to me, these were so removed from a clear (as I would find out) not as dependable, tangible, accurate history, but as distant, fantastical, obscure Only years later, when immersing in a dissertation research, was I able to get the full picture

of the stories my father had recounted. The one about the corrupted hodja in particular stuck in my mind, partly because the image of the ripened cornfields, which had broken peoples resolve to depart following the collapse of Ottoman rule in the area, was so vivid in my imagination. The story

The Christianization of the Pomaks began in late September 1912, precisely when the populations of Valkossel, and the neighboring villages, were trying to escape from the marauding Christian bands that roamed across the Rhodope Mountains to pillage and slaughter at will. 3 Fearing that the fleeing

dates back to the pokrastvane of 1912-1913, which Chapter II of this dissertation describes in detail.

of Muslims would leave a depopulated border region behind, 4 the new Bulgarian authorities tried to Pomak individuals such as the corrupted hodja. While it is unclear whether the hodja was bribed,

contain the lawlessness of the civilian bands and to curtail the exodus by enlisting the cooperation of threatened, or both to collaborate, he certainly knew how to manipulate peoples deepest emotions

in order to make them stay. Those who had originally fled the advancing Bulgarian forces, leaving all hearts wavered at the sight of the gently rolling hills around them. Truly, what madness possessed

their earthly possessions behind, were persuaded to look back at the abandoned cornfields and their them to flee? Where were they going anyway? Could they find another place so beautiful and dear? villages across the Rhodopes) to suffer the religious conversion of 1912-1913, and to witness the

Thus overwhelmed by emotions, the majority of refugees made their way back to Valkossel (and to killing of the village elders who refused to renounce their religion. 5
3 4 5

The border between Bulgaria and Greece cuts across the lengths of the Rhodopes, with the larger portion of the mountain being on the Bulgarian side of the line. See Chapter II. 280

See Chapter II for details.

assimilation, and surviving as scattered oral narratives into the present. More importantly, however, these experiences form an integral part of a body of historical memory and cultural tradition, preserved and practiced by the Muslim community of the Rhodopes, which constitutes Pomak

originating in the pakrastvane of 1912-1913, fragmented by decades of relentless cultural

killing of people in Valkossel were not some made-up tales. They were remembered experiences,

Indeed, as my father had said, the burning of the village, the corrupted hodja, and the

heritage. In the sense that Pomakness, as distinct heritage, has been fractured beyond cohesiveness, there is an enormous need at present to study and preserve the surviving remnants. Moreover, heritage scholars like myself a cultural insider at that have the professional and moral

responsibility to piece the fragments together and create a more complete conception of Pomak from the beginning, has been to promote and preserve vital aspects of Pomak heritage. As

cultural identity. Indeed, in addition to making sense of my past, the very purpose of this dissertation, practitioner, however, I ought to be aware of what my responsibilities are when interpreting

heritage. Insofar as I argue in support of pluralistic heritage presentation in the public sphere, this rather than creators of exclusionary master narratives.

dissertation ends on a note about the responsibility of cultural interpreters to be educators in society The Role of the Heritage Broker In the introduction to this dissertation I made a statement about the necessity of pluralistic

interpretation of heritage in the collective national domain. But just what does pluralistic

interpretation mean and what ways are there to achieve it? Whereas I advance the inclusion

argument in the context of Pomak heritage, it is only fitting to conclude this dissertation with

suggestions about what qualifies for pluralistic interpretation and how to go about achieving it. usefulness. I have come to view history, he writes, as the construction of useful narrative 6 to

In A Place to Remember, Robert Archibald effectively connects the notion of pluralism to

everybody in the community. Since heritage interpretation is the domain of professionals, it is also

Robert R. Archibald, A Place to Remember: Using History to Build Community (Walnut Creek: AtlaMira Press, 1999), 29. 281

their responsibility to create useful narrative. To fulfill that duty, heritage scholars, as the formal following: On one hand, it (1) accounts for the existence of a plurality of narratives (vernacular community storytellers, should strive to create an all-inclusive narrative that is sensitive to the

memories), and (2) acknowledges the right of that plurality to exist. On the other hand, it (3) abstains from aggression or disrespect towards one or many of the existing vernacular (minority) narratives, (4) while having no obligation to agree with all of them (as similar goal is realistically unattainable). a shared identity.

This narrative then, by virtue of its all-inclusiveness, (5) constitutes the common ground for building However, although scholars often create this historical narrative, it is not and should not be

their absolute prerogative. Archibald believes that everybodys experience qualifies for a good

history and rightly so. But it is heritage professionals who ultimately write the story while having the moral obligation to consider and seek the input of the community whose heritage they narrate. Thus, the construction of a useful narrative implies inclusion and participation of members of the community, because having a stake engages peoples responsibility and reinforces national identity. heritage conservationists ought to consider history inherently problematic as that would enable them heritage would make them more sensitive to integrating vernacular (minorities) cultures into the mainstream heritage. Heritage, Mondale concludes, is politically charged, first, because of the In the essay Conserving a Problematic Past, Clarence Mondale further suggests that

to be more critical of the way they interpret and preserve heritage. 7 Awareness of the fickle nature of

frequent opposition of vernacular (minority) to official (majority) heritage, and, second, because the funding for conservation is controlled by the elites who generally support the dominant culture. It is the cultural conservationists responsibility, therefore, to insist on the construction of useful past vernacular and mainstream cultures, the author recommends, is through commoditization of

past based on cultural interpretation that unites rather than divides society. One avenue to reconcile historical heritage, i.e. developing heritage for tourists. Mondales rationale is that heritage for

tourism stresses on the inclusion of a variety of cultures, including and often mostly vernacular ones,
Clarence Mondale, Conserving a Problematic Past, in Conserving Culture: A New Discourse on Heritage, ed. Mary Hufford (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 15-23. 282

because their exoticism is more likely to attract outside visitors. Thus, in Bulgaria, the legacy of Salih Aga could be revived in many ways to benefit tourism and the public discourse, including through his name to such places as The Waterfall of Smolyan (The Gorge of Salih Aga) to transform it into a tourist hotspot (Chapter VI). academic and fictional writing, reconstructing his konak a as heritage site, and/or formally attaching

justly insist the members of an ethnic or other community [should be able to] tell about themselves in their own terms. 9 Downer at al., in other words, proposes an approach to heritage interpreted in claim, is not an objective chronicle of bygone events, but the historians reconstruction of the past on the basis of known events, surviving historical texts, and scientific findings. As all history advances an interpretation, state-sponsored conservation policies ought to consider vernacular emic terms, i.e. from the point of view of the cultural insiders, not vice versa. The official history, they

The authors 8 of Traditional History and Alternative Conceptions of the Past, for their part,

history an authentic source of heritage as well, which merits preservation on an equal footing with communities as a useful tool for identifying places of significance to them, which could then be official (dominant) memory. The authors specifically propose ethnographic consultation with local

furnishing a personal example of successfully conducted ethnographic consultation with the Navajo places were sacred to the Navajo, so they could be conserved under special, federally funded projects for preserving Navajo culture. 11 In Cultural Conservation of Place, Setha Low, for her part, suggests several useful Indians. Probing the communitys sentiments, the ethnographer-authors helped determine which

considered for conservation. 10 Downer, Roberts, Francis and Kelly cement their argument with

techniques for overcoming challenges of pluralistic interpretation and achieving a cultural mosaic in (American) public heritage: First, cultural conservationists need to conduct ethnographic
8 9

10 11

Allan S. Downer at al., Traditional History and Alternative Conceptions of the Past, in Conserving Culture: A New Discourse on Heritage, ed. Mary Hufford (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 42. For instance, inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Downer at al., 39-55.

Allan S. Downer, Jr., Alexandra Roberts, Harris Francis, and Clara B. Kelly.


consultations with local people in order to find out what matters most to them. Second, they may

consider constituency analysis, i.e. probing the communitys interests and values so as to incorporate ethnicity- and class-related symbols of a place so as to include themso far as possibleinto the

the prevalent ones into the interpretation of given place. Third, conservationists should be mindful of landscapes interpretation. 12 Ultimately, Low argues that pluralistic interpretation of heritage is not

only necessary, but also possible. It only takes the willingness and creativity of the heritage professional to achieve it. 13

that of facilitators of the public narrative rather than of its creators. In other words, they should

In Sense of History, David Glassberg suggests that the role of heritage practitioners should be

strive to facilitate public discussion of the past rather than dominate it by promoting a particular

version of history, not necessarily shared by other groups in society. In short, the professionals role a world where elites control spending on heritage preservation and show disinterest in vernacular memory, heritage professionals face ever-shrinking resources to practice pluralistic (inclusive)

is to broker the cultural dialogue in society rather than create it. 14 Mike Wallace further claims that in

interpretation. 15 Therefore, to obtain funding, interpreters will often need to act agreeably to donors. to society is that of educators. As Wallace puts it, the heritage managers most fundamental mission [is] to assist people to become historically-informed makers of history. 16 Their responsibility, thus, rather than force the conclusions on the consumers. 17 The bare minimum heritage interpreters can
12 13 14 15 16

After all, there is no preservation without money. However, the professionals first and foremost duty

is to offer knowledge upon which heritage consumers should be able to make their own conclusions

Setha Low, Cultural Conservation of Place, in Conserving Culture: A New Discourse on Heritage, ed. Mary Hufford (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 66-77. Mike Wallace, Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996). Ibid., 27. David Glassberg, A Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001).

E.g. a Chinese dragon head over a telephone pole.

17 For instance, if a heritage interpreter presents the American Civil War, but omits the issue of slavery from the narrative (with no intention to be hurtful), it may induce an African American to think that he/she is neglected,


Ideally, they should know the mass consumers (the average multicultural citizenry) and cater to their needs first, before considering donors. In Conclusion In this dissertation I argued that the heritage discipline is an applied science of

do in a politically charged reality is to offer information in an expertly and non-derogatory manner.

multidisciplinary character, preoccupied with studying heritage in all its tangible and symbolic Heritage, however, depends on the prevalent social norms of the day, which (1) if marked by

aspects. Heritage is socially constructed to serve the need of its creator for an acceptable identity. intolerance, support the heritage of the dominant group, and (2) if promoting inclusion, keep the governing elites in check. It is the responsibility of the heritage professional to work towards rather than separation, of all members of society. brokering pluralistic collective heritage in the public domain that provides grounds for integration, Whereas, theoretically, it is easy to argue in favor of pluralism, reality presents many,

seemingly insurmountable obstacles to a holistic heritage interpretation. Vicious nationalism and nations or young democracies can be particularly crippling to inclusiveness. In Bulgaria, as in other nation-states, the definition of nationalism is effectively reduced to narod, meaning that nation and people are one and the same thing. This entails the restrictive equalization of the nation-state with stubborn determination to keep a single master narrative in place among previously subjugated

the values and sentiments of the dominating ethno-cultural majority in blatant disregard to the needs of diverging groups. This sort of ideology, which has historically been a powerful tool to assimilate the Pomaks, is very much alive and working in Bulgaria. As a result, efforts to promote a Pomak

heritage one that is separate from the ethnic Bulgarian (Christian) narrative in the official public domain have consistently turned into frustration for interested professionals as well as amateur enthusiasts.

and, moreover, excluded from the narrative. An imbalanced interpretation would, thus, automatically alienate part of the public sector. The same would hold true for American Southerners if an interpreter decides to present the Civil War fundamentally as a war against slavery. 285

and sense of rootedness to achieve fulfilling existence. The Pomaksas well as other similar

As culture is the lifeblood of every identifiable human group, however, people need identity

communitiesfeel the need to establish a heritage that will provide them with a stable sense of self. Having been consistently denied access into the official domain, they have sought other outlets to express themselves. A curious phenomenon is happening lately. The inability to freely promote the growing number of people to use the World Wide Web to voice their opinion and express their culture as Pomak via publications, museum exhibits, cultural sites, and narratives has prompted a

creativity. Passionate heritage amateurs have created websites, opened forums, published

photographs and stories, and formed interest groups to keep in touch and exchange information nation- and region-wide regarding Pomak identity and culture. Considering the continuing and unfortunate censorship of Pomak identity in Bulgaria, it seems almost miraculous to me to simply see a myriad photographs of exquisitely decorated Ribnovo brides, including on informally established Pomak heritage websites.

Google Pomak, Ribnovo and suchlike terms to be able to read stories about the revival process or

culture has much to offer in the way of enrichment and nothing in the way of harm, I made it a Whereas the lack of reliable literature on the subject matter inevitably cost me much initial

My own contribution to this surging heritage activism is this dissertation. Because Pomak

personal mission to work for its survival and promotion, starting with a dissertation research. frustration, it ultimately proved a blessing. As early as my preliminary research, I encountered so

many good stories in the form of fascinating personalities, traditions, and events that it would have

even as I expand from the legendary Salih Aga of the Ottoman past to the colorful Ribnovo wedding surface of what is yet to be defined as Pomak heritage. Doubtlessly, historians, ethnographers, and folklorists will find Pomak culture to be an endless source of fascination and enjoyment once they has a deeply personal dimension, too. today and from the 1912 pokrastvane to the communist revival process, I have barely scratched the

been extremely disheartening had I been forced to concentrate on one instead of five narratives. But

have won the hearts of their target communities. For me, however, the issue of exploring Pomakness


childhood memories as well as of my own perception of self and belonging. Growing up and into not from some shameful past or unclean identity of the collectivity of Pomak people. Rather, it

Beyond fulfilling academic obligations, this research has enabled me to make sense of

young adulthood, I remember being utterly uneasy to declare myself a Pomak. The discomfort came originated in Bulgarian nationalism and the brutal propaganda that accompanied the nation-states

struggle for self-determination following the countrys independence from Ottoman rule in 1878. In state just emerging from the chaos of the disintegrating Ottoman realm. Forced into a savage the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century, my native Bulgaria was still a fledgling national

competition for land and resources with other newly forming Balkan states, Bulgaria had to quickly banner of anti-Muslimness to distinguish itself from its former Islamic Ottoman oppressor and to

forge a national identity to survive. Since Bulgaria defined itself as a Christian nation, 18 it waved the stake its own claim to dignified existence. One speedy and effective way to that end was the

assimilation of the Pomaks, who spoke the Bulgarian language, compactly inhabited the disputed realm of the Rhodope Mountains, but problematically professed the Islamic faith. The leaning to policy almost immediately. Accordingly, state ideology duly labeled the Pomaks pure-blood convert the Rhodopean Muslims to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, therefore, became a determined Bulgarians to justify the conversion, as if identity ran in the DNA and not in historical circumstances. Thus, from Ottoman Muslims until the Balkan Wars of 1912-1914, the Pomaks became Bulgarians overnight, and they were hard pressed to switch religious affiliation in order to fit their new label. Whereas the Balkan Wars pokrastvane was the first sustained religious conversion of

Pomaks in Bulgaria, it was only the beginning of a long and grueling process of cultural assimilation. The legacy of religious suppression and forced name changing made a derogatory term of the appellation Pomak, explaining it to mean pomachen, i.e. tortured into becoming Muslim. 19

Thus, from a name describing the collectivity of Slavic (Bulgarian)-speaking people of the Islamic
18 19

It is a widely known thesis; freely floating within Bulgarias public domain, and still vigorously defended in the official historiography despite the lack of evidence to suggest that the Pomaks were ever forced to convert to Islam (see Chapter II for details). 287

Not unlike its neighbors Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, and Romania.

faith in the Rhodopes, Pomak came to be associated with descendants of Bulgarian Christians who with the later revival process, Pomak not only became synonymous with tortured, but also

had been forcedly Islamized by the Turks, as if Bulgarian was some pre-existing identity. Moreover, developed the damning connotation of traitorous. That is, because of their stubborn resistance to the forced assimilation, the Pomaks were gradually assigned a kind of collective guilt for the presumed failure of their forefathers to die for the Christian faith instead of succumbing to Islam. uneasiness to call themselves Pomak. I used to feel rather, I was made to feel, as so many still are a These two words, therefore - tortured and traitorous - held the key to my (and other peoples)

profound sense of shame for belonging to a people who had turned themselves into historical

outcasts because of spinelessness and blatant inability to stand up for their cultural heritage. But easily, how is it that they have not reconciled to Bulgarianization (to be understood forced

even believing so, I was struggling with a dilemma: If the Pomaks could succumb to Islamization so

nationalism puts into the term. Rather, Rhodopean accepted conversion for various reasons. In later years, albeit belatedly, Bulgarian historians have begun to concede that conversions to Islam across the Ottoman Balkans were voluntary rather than forced. Ottoman subjects of various cultural and religious backgrounds adopted Islam for prestige and socio-political opportunity prior to the nineteenth century, because contrary to the Romantic nationalisms propaganda they lacked a

assimilation) yet? As this dissertation points out, they did not succumb in the sense, which Bulgarian

sense of national belonging. Thus, Greek, Bulgarian, or Serbian national identity was only cultivated in the nineteenth century when the ideology of nationalism penetrated the Balkans and imbued the subjugated Christian populations of the Ottoman Empire with aspirations for independent statehood. 20

Empire only developed a collective self-consciousness in the later nineteenth century, could the

Considering that the community of Bulgarian-speaking Christians within the Ottoman

possible to talk about Bulgarianness at all before such national identity even existed? Can one be

Pomaks feel Bulgarian in the seventeenth century, when their purported Islamization occurred? Is it

See the relevant sections of Chapters II and III. 288

traitorous to a national identity or culture even before one has one? Quite simply, the whole

contemporary debate about Pomak identity is a modern predicament generated in the age of

however, lies not in the need or even innate right of the nation-state to survive, but in its inability established. In the modern world of democracy and plurality, it no longer makes sense to practice

nationalism and driven by the nascent nation-states need to affirm sovereignty. The problem,

to give up its coercive practices long after the need has been met and stable national society has been counterproductive coercion. Yet, the exclusion of Pomak identity from the public domain in Bulgaria their Bulgarian origins, the concept Pomak is simply unacceptable outside the official discourse of Bulgarian heritage. Ironically, this stance stems not from a legitimate concern for fragmentation of irrational fear of losing control if plurality gains acceptance. Such fragile state of national selfthe national identity for nothing is more contributive to it than forced assimilation but from the confidence, however, is consistent with the nation-states history of subjugation, authoritarian Above fulfilling academic, professional, or moral requirements, this dissertation has given

remains remarkably aggressive. Because it is narrowly defined to mean the communitys rejection of

(communist) government, and lack of democratic traditions.

me the courage to explore my cultural roots without cringing at the thought of what I might find out there or how my conclusions would be received in an environment of still fervent nationalism. The put across the message that everyones heritage counts; that everyone should be able to explore, or retribution. Insofar as I believe that fashioning ones outlook is first and foremost ones own prerogative, I also claim that a groups identity should be the groups own domain before it is not be told what to think of themselves. goal of this study throughout has not been to maliciously antagonize peoples and narratives, but to maintain, and preserve their identity in a dignified and constructive way without fear of censorship

someone elses. In other words, the Pomaks or any community anywhere, for that matter need


APPENDICES Appendix 2.1: Pomak population in the Provinces Thrace and Macedonia during the Balkan Wars Province of Thrace District Number of towns, villages, and hamlets Number of people

Ah elebi Dvlen Egridere Dardere Gmrcina Xanti Koukavak Soflu(?) Baba Eski Hayrobolu znkpr Total

32 30 24 26 34 6 13 7 5 7 11 195

Province of Macedonia

35,000 26,810 20,000 16,990 10,625 4,500 3,757 3,570 3,385 3,205 1,200 129,042 1

Nevrokop Drama Kavala Razlog Petri Melnik Eski Cumaya Doyran Total


74 31 6 7 3 3 6 2 132

Number of towns, villages, and hamlets

26,962 11,179 2,710 8,870 865 700 3,900 1,270 56,456 2

Number of people

1 Stoyu Shishkov, Balgaro-mohamedanite (Pomatsite) /The Bulgarian Mohammedans (Pomaks)/ (Plovdiv, 1936), 32-34. 2

Ibid., 30-31.


Appendix 2.2: Report of Pazardjik activists for Pomak conversion to Archbishop Maxim It was not easy to make compromise with our consciousness in order to decide that we have to persuade the ignorant Pomaks that through the faith we hope to achieve their Bulgarianization. This courageous idea was born in the mind of one of our activists, Todor Iv. Mumdjiev. From the very beginning of the mobilization (October 10, 1912), he wrote a long letter to His Excellency the Archbishop of Plovdiv, Maxim, signed by ten people, his co-ideologists, among which the towns mayor Iv. Koprivshki, Iv. Voyvodov, and others. ... [As a result of our initiative], a population of about 150,000 people was delivered to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and to the Bulgarian nation. ... Several days after the above [Mumdjievs] letter was sent, there was a convention of citizens [in Pazardjik], inclusive of those who signed the letter [a total of 22 people signed it, among which were 6 teachers, 4 merchants, 4 lawyers, 2 soldiers, one engineer, one student, one retiree, one banker, one mayor, an one person with unspecified profession], where they decided to organize the Committee for Assistance of the Newly-Converted Christians; the Committees purpose is to popularize and spread the idea for Christianizing the Pomaks. ... The committee decided to start the realization of this goal by converting of the Pomaks in Chepino first. ... [L]ed by priest Konstantin Koev, our co-ideologists embarked on a mission trip through the Chepino region to propagate the idea of pokrastvane. Just because they were asked to consider whether it would not be in their best interest to convert to Christianity voluntarily, some fanatics (about 10-20 households) along with their families fled to Peshtera; some even traveled to Sofia and Plovdiv to complain to the authorities and foreign consuls. ... Meanwhile, however, in each village our co-ideologists managed to organize themselves in the so-called local committees for conversion. On the appointed day [29 December 1912], we marched into [the village of] Ladjene where we encountered a convention of local mayors and other leading Pomaks from neighboring villages gathered to hear us. ... Mumdjiev spoke first . ... [He told them] ... that the Quran obstructs their progress, that their forefathers had been Islamized by force, ... that the faith of Mohammed resembles a tattered coat which cannot warm the soul and soften the heart; that Christianity brings high moral values and gives freedom of conscious; that they are a compact mass of about 300,000 who speak the pure Bulgarian language so dear to us; that their folklore is ours, and so on. ... Molla Mustafa Kara-Mehmedov from Rakitovo spoke on behalf of the Pomaks a wealthy, intelligent, sixty-years old person, who had served as a district councilor and who can read Bulgarian excellently. He literally said the following, Gentlemen, what the people from Pazardjik said is just; but what can be done when there are 2,000 behind us (speaking of his village) who are simple and ignorant people and they do not understand how they could change their faith. This seems to us like impenetrable forest, how can we found our way out of it? Anything is possible, but we ask to be allowed some time? To that, the people, the audience objected: We have been waiting for you 35 years to become Bulgarians and you have not; if the Turks were to invade us now, you would rise to massacre us, as you did in Batak. ... You must convert now. ... It was decided that the conversion would be done en mass, not village by village, or family by family; the Pomaks themselves wished it that way... On the day of baptism, the entire population of Ladjene and Kamenitsa was gathered together in order to facilitate the job of the conversion activists, as well as to stimulate the Pomaks to select their godfathers and godmothers [from among the Christians]. By 3 pm that day all petitions for conversion addressed to the Archbishop [of Plovdiv, Maxim] were signed, and many [Pomaks] already had their religious advisors selected. When all were announced for conversion, the men and their families were urged to go to the river for baptism and prayer. ... The soldiers, who helped collect the population, had been stationed in these villages from mobilization time when they had disarmed the Pomaks in order to prevent them from doing damage to the Bulgarian troops. These soldiers performed their task admirably. More than 1,300 people [Muslims] were present for the baptism. ...

...We had brought several trunks full of hats for the men and boys, and brand new headscarves for the women. Priest Koev preached about Christianity, Mumdjiev talked about the social-political benefits of accepting Christianity, and Ushev told the story of how the Pomak were forced to Islamize. ... But none [of the Pomaks] ventured to come first; then their godfathers and godmothers came forward and in a few minutes only all fezzes were replaced by hats, and all yashmaks by headscarves. ... The ceremony of baptism concluded with kissing the cross, kissing the priests hand, and sprinkling them with water. Personal congratulations followed, then every family went home; the Bulgarians left for their villages, too. Some of the women teachers were tireless in spreading the new ideas among the women ... Committees of 15-20 individuals consisting of men and intelligent misses began house-to-house visits on the following day asking the new Christians to select their new names. To assist the committees in their name-replacing campaign, the godfathers and godmothers of the new converts accompanied them. ... The former mosques were converted into churches, chapels, or Sunday schools. Photographs were made of the baptizing in Rakitovo, Banya, and Ladjene ... In Rakitovo, the photographs captured the moments when the converts were sprinkled with water, and when they were kissing the cross and the priests hand; the Bulgarian women were helping the Pomak women to take off their yashmaks and put on the headscarves, all the while teaching them how to do it; the children competed with one another for a better hat. The crowd, including the new converts, saluted the general, the local governor, and shouted three times, Long live the King and Great Bulgaria. ... The ceremony of baptism went in the following way: the whole family approached the kupel [vessel with holy water]; they denounced the Mohammedan faith; the priest then poured holy water over the father and mothers heads, and sprinkle some in their childrens faces. Then a prayer was said, followed by announcement of the converts new names, at which moment the priest performed the sign of the cross on them by placing the crucifix on the foreheads, chests, and two arms of the converts. ... ...The ceremony of baptism took place in the temples ... or in the premises of former mosques that had been converted to chapels. ... Both good and bad reactions came as a result of our initiative. But our conscience is at peace, because we did not admit casualties or violence to take place. Up to date, 32 weddings in the village of Banya and 20 in Rakitovo have happened among the new Christians and they have been performed in the Christian tradition. ... [A]n association Brotherly Love was founded in the village of Ladjene for the purpose of the moral, religious, cultural, and material uplifting of the new Christians in Chepino. 3

Confidential report of the Pazardjik activists on Pomak conversion to the Holy Synod, to Archbishop Maxim of Plovdiv, and to several Ministries, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, The Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of War, and others from 22 February 1913. National Archives-Plovdiv, Fond 67 , Inventory 2, Archival Unit 107, pages 7985. (Velichko Georgiev and Stayko Trifonov, eds., Pokrastvaneto na Bulgarite Mohamedani 1912-1913 /The Christianization of the Bulgarian Mohammedans 1912-1913/ (Sofia: Prof. Marin Drinov Publ., 1995), 157-71.) 292

Appendix 2.3: Excerpts from the Carnegie Report on the Balkan Wars, 1914 1) Appendix A, No.7, Testimony of Ali Riza Effendi from the Kukush: ... [He] states that the Bulgarian bands entered Kukush on October 30 [1913], after the Turks had left. Toma of Istip, their leader, installed himself as governor, and told the people to have no fear. Both Ser[b]ian and Bulgarian detachments passed through the town, but only a very few soldiers were left there while the main army went on to Salonica. After the occupation of Salonica, disarmed Turkish [Muslim] soldiers in groups of two to three hundred at a time marched through Kukush on their way to their homes. They were captured by the Bulgarian bands and slaughtered, to the number of perhaps 2,000. A commission of thirty to forty Christians was established, which drew up lists of all the Moslem inhabitants throughout the district. Everyone was summoned to the mosque and there informed that he had been rated to pay a certain sum. Whole villages were made responsible for the total amount; most of the men were imprisoned and were obliged to sell everything they possessed, including their wives' ornaments, in order to pay the ransom. They were often killed in spite of the payment of the money in full; he, himself, actually saw a Bulgarian comitadji cut off two fingers of a man's hand and force him to drink his own blood mixed with raki [alcoholic beverage]. From the whole county (Caza) of Kukush 1,500 were taken. The chief of bands, Donchev, arrived and matters were still worse. He burnt three Turkish [Muslim] villages in one day, Raianovo, Planitsa and Kukurtovo 345 houses in all. He shut up the men in the mosques and burnt them alive; the women were shut up in barns and ill used; children were actually flung against the walls and killed. This the witness did not see, but heard from his Christian neighbors. Only twenty-two Moslem families out of 300 remained in Kukush; the rest fled to Salonica. Twelve small Moslem villages were wiped out in the first war, the men killed and the women taken away. He was in Kukush when the Greeks entered it. The Bulgarians in leaving the town burnt nothing but the bakers' ovens. The Greeks systematically and deliberately plundered and burnt the town. He believes that many aged Bulgarian inhabitants were burnt alive in their houses. He himself found refuge in the Catholic orphanage. 4 2) Appendix A, No.8, Report Signed by Youssouf Effendi, President of the Moslem Community of Serres, and sealed with its seal, ... On November 6, 1912, the inhabitants of Serres, sent a deputation to meet the Bulgarian army and surrender the town. Next day Zancov, a Bulgarian Chief of bands, appeared in the town with sixteen men, and began to disarm the population. A day later the Bulgarian army entered Serres and received a warm welcome. That evening the Bulgarian soldiers, on the pretext that arms were still hidden in the houses of the Moslems, entered them and began to steal money and other valuables. Next day the Moslem refugees from the district north of Serres were invited to appear at the prefecture; they obeyed the summons; but on their arrival a trumpet sounded and the Bulgarian soldiers seized their arms and began to massacre these inoffensive people; the massacre lasted three hours and resulted in the death of 600 Moslems. The number of the victims would have been incalculable had it not been for the energetic intervention of the Greek bishop, and of the director of the Orient bank. The Moslems of the town were then arrested in the cafes, houses and streets, and imprisoned, some at the prefecture and others in the mosques; many of the former were slaughtered with bayonets. Bulgarian soldiers in the meantime entered Turkish houses, violated the women and girls and stole everything they could lay their hands on. The Moslems imprisoned in the overcrowded mosques were left without food for two days and nights and then released. For six days rifle shots

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1914), 280. 293

were heard on all sides; the Moslems were afraid to leave their houses; and of this the Bulgarian soldiers took advantage to pillage their shops. Moslem corpses lay about in the streets and were buried only when they began to putrefy. ... In a word, during the Bulgarian occupation the Moslems were robbed and maltreated both in the streets and at the prefecture, unless they had happened to give board and lodging to some Bulgarian officer. The Bulgarian officers and gendarmes before leaving Serres took everything that was left in the shops of Moslems, Jews and Greeks, and pitilessly burnt a large number of houses, shops, cafes, and mills. September 5, 1913. 5

Ibid., 280-81. 294

Appendix 3.1: Broken Tombstones Muslim tombstones in the village of Valkossel (Western Rhodopes), broken down in the 1970s and 1980s and stashed in the corner of a cemetery. The stone inscriptions are in Ottoman Turkish expressed through the Arabic alphabet, which was the standard script of the Ottoman Empire. Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4


Appendix 3.2A: Applications for emigration submitted by Pomaks

Year 1989

NUMBER OF APPLICATION TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY SUBMITTED BY BULGARIANMOHAMEDANS 6 Total number for the country Varna Region Razgrad Region 50,608 Burgass Region 20,592 Haskovo Region 27,983 3,603 4,069

As of June 15th On June 15th On June 16th On June 17th On June 18th On June 19th On June 20th On June 21st On June 22nd On June 23rd On June 24th On June 25th On June 26th On June 27th On June 28th On June 29th On June 30th On July 1st On July 2nd On July 3rd On July 4th On July 5th Total as of July 6th, 1989

8,980 10,577 10,727 13,110 9,259 3,034 - [no data] 10, 482 9,899 10,285 13,083 9,645 176 - [no data] 6,324 5,402 3,768 370,291


- [no data] 76 - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] 97 - [no data] - [no data] 89,321

8,631 8,252 5,400 3.396 3,235 5,301 4,217 4,349 3,881 2,976 - [no data] 1,763 3,438 3,447 4,816 3,655 80 - [no data] 2,890 2,436 1,772 124,543

3,470 2,444 - [no data] - [no data] 1,842 1,260 2,412 3,927 196 - [no data] - [no data] 318 299 155 134 132 60 123 87

Sofia City and Region 84 52 26 - [no data] - [no data] 62 57 35 56 25 - [no data] - [no data] 43 8 16 19 17 - [no data] - [no data] 11 19 8 539

[Notice: There are no statistics available for the period prior to June 18th, 1987, countrywide, and prior to June 22nd, 1987, for Varna Region.]


10,594 3,414 3,508 3,115 4,627 4,148 - [no data] - [no data] 7,702 5,422 6,129 7,771 5,449 - [no data] - [no data] 2,994 2,643 1,414 97,194

Statistical information of Bulgarias Ministry of Internal Affairs, No. I 3839 of July 7th 1989, prepared for Lyubomir Shopov, a member of the central committee of the communist party. Central National Archives-Sofia. (There is no archival reference on the document.) 297

Appendix 3.2B: Number of passports issued to Pomaks

Year 1989

NUMBER OF PASSPORTS TO TRAVEL ABROAD ISSUED TO BULGARIAN-MOHAMEDANS 7 Total number for the country 113,851 4,850 73 - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] 23 695 1,795 299 - [no data] 1,009 1,612 1,230 125,441 Varna Region Razgra d Region Burgass Region 6,900 - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] 6,900 Haskovo Region 11,768 - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] 11,768

As of June 15th On June 15th On June 16th On June 17th On June 18th On June 19th On June 20th On June 21st On June 22nd On June 23rd On June 24th On June 25th On June 26th On June 27th On June 28th On June 29th On June 30th On July 1st On July 2nd On July 3rd On July 4th On July 5th Total as of July 6th, 1989

60,352 - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] 60,352

31, 298 4,798

Sofia City and Region 174 13 28 - [no data] 215 52 51 28 4 4 - [no data] - [no data] 61 7 2 8 1 - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] - [no data] 27 460

Ibid. 298

Appendix 3.2C: Statistics on Pomak Immigration

Year 1989

NUMBER OF BULGARIAN-MOHAMEDANS THAT HAVE LEFT THE COUNTRY 8 Total number for the country 23,192 4,516 4,258 3,405 4,125 3,280 4,050 4,772 4,943 4,694 4,479 4,331 4087 4,313 4,420 4,707 5,038 3,570 2,980 3,666 3,363 5,155 Varna Region Razgrad Region Burgass Region Haskovo Region

As of June 15th On June 15th On June 16th On June 17th On June 18th On June 19th On June 20th On June 21st On June 22nd On June 23rd On June 24th On June 25th On June 26th On June 27th On June 28th On June 29th On June 30th On July 1st On July 2nd On July 3rd On July 4th On July 5th Total as of July 6th, 1989

Sofia City and Region 13






1,512 1,894 2,027 2,051 2,059 1,863 1,914 1,236 743 747 461 335 920 447 1,350


1,264 1,281 1,205 1,444 1,360 1,115 1,170 1,622 1,467 1,499 1,412 1,036 1,615 789 1,102


760 529 211 385 77 26 60 399 768 555 662 308 513 478 816


959 867 687 495 615 903 838 1,017 1,381 1,960 940 1,074 558 1,441 1,644


4 4 16 9 4 13 6 8 2 0 0 5 0 11 4 99

Ibid. 299

Appendix 3.3: Statistics on Zagrajden Municipality The following charted statistics, collected by the regime, for the municipality of Zagrajden, Smolyan Region, provides an interesting insight into the reality of the years 1969, 1970 and 1971. In particular, the charts include statistics on population size, number of people with changed names, typical industries of Pomak employment, household appliances acquired by Pomak families, education, as well as number of exiled individuals from the region: Chart 3.3.1 9 Permanent population of Zagrajden Municipality as of 31 October 1971 Villages and hamlets Zagrajden Valchan Dol Glogino Ribin Dol Hambar Dve Topoli Malko Krushevo Total: Total Total number of people 1,056 413 499 606 348 408 207 3,537 Included in the total are: Men Women 518 538 181 232 212 287 296 310 164 184 211 197 111 96 1,693 1,844 Chart 3.3.2a 10 Number of People (children under one year of age excluded) with Revived Names Villages and hamlets Zagrajden Valchan Dol Glogino Ribin Dol Hambar Dve Mogili and M. Krushevo Total:

Included in the total are: Pomaks Men Women 516 534 181 231 211 287 231 259 164 184 2 6 1 1,305 1,502 2,807

Turks 6 1 1 116 400 206 730

1969 Total number people 1,051 428 495 498 347 9

- of them with revived names 341 34 86 34 20 -

1970 Total number people 1,054 423 503 495 350 9

- of them with revived names 233 46 48 77 28 -

As of Oct. 31, 1971 Total - of them number of with people revived names 1,050 412 498 490 348 9 282 206 203 185 222 1








Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 38, Archival Unit 11, page 130. Ibid., 131-32.


Chart 3.3.2b 11 Number of Newborns Registered with Bulgarian (Christian) Names Villages and hamlets Zagrajden Valchan Dol Glogino Ribin Dol Hambar Total: 1969 Total number of Pomak newborns 17 4 7 7 11 46 - of them with Bulgarian names 8 2 1 1 12 1970 Total number of Pomak newborns 13 12 10 7 7 49 - of them with Bulgarian names 11 9 7 5 4 36 (As of Oct. 31) 1971 Total - of them number of with Pomak Bulgarian newborns names 8 3 8 7 6 32 8 3 8 7 6 32

Chart 3.3.3 12 Number of People Exiled from the Region Year Number of People 1969 45 1970 29 1971 19

Chart 3.3.4 13

Employment of the Pomaks Employment Sectors 1969 Men 112 37 15 50 1970 Men 107 37 15 48 As of Oct. 31, 1971 Men 119 27 36 16 46 244 297

Industry Agriculture and Forestry Construction Retail Transportation Other non-production sectors [teachers, medical professionals, etc.] Total: Total number of unemployed people:*

Women 197 8 25

Women 201 8 24

Women 298 8 28

214 299

230 337

207 303

233 341

334 341

11 12 13

Ibid., 130-31. Ibid., 138. Ibid., 133. 301

[*Note: The statistics is for people who did not have salaried jobs, but otherwise worked the land given them by the state for private use, largely to grow tobacco.] Chart 3.3.5 14 A. Education of the Pomaks as Oct.31, 1971 Villages and hamlets Zagrajden Valchan Dol Glogino Ribin Dol Hambar Total: High school Total - of number them of employ people -ed locally 27 24 4 3 3 5 5 44 3 4 4 38 Technical school Total - of them numb- employed er of locally people 38 7 31 5 College Total number of people 2 2 - of them employed locally 2 2 University Total - of them numb- employed er of locally people 2 1 2 1

6 3 7 61

6 2 7 51

1 2 7

1 2 7

1 4

1 4

A. Number of People Graduating by Academic Year Level of Education 8th grade High School Technical School College University Total: 1969/1970 School Year 47 12 16 3 2 80 1970/1971 School Year 43 11 18 5 2 79 1971/1972 School Year 45 13 19 9 3 89

Chart 3.3.6 15 Household Appliance Purchased by Pomaks Appliances Total Number of Appliances 132 442 37 102 123 93 53 2 1969 58 52 7 15 3 15 7 1 1970 29 47 11 35 72 16 5 1 As of Oct. 31, 1971 32 42 17 19 6 8 2 -

14 15

TVs Radios Cassette players Refrigerators Electrical stoves Gas stoves Motorcycles Cars
Ibid., 135. Ibid., 134.


Mopeds Houses Furniture Radio transmitters

5 427 431 92

Chart 3.3.7 16

2 4 70 78

3 6 127 5

8 21 9

Pomaks with New Names and IDs in the Smolyan Region as of 15 August 1972 Municipality Devin Zlatograd Laki Madan Rudozem Smolyan Chepelare Arda Barutin Breze Bukovo Varbina Davidkovo Dospat Elhovets Zagrajden Zmeitsa Zabardo Ladja Lyaskovo Mihalkovo Mugla Mogilitsa Nedelino Petkovo Slaveino Sredets Smilyan Startsevo Selcha Trigrad Taran Chepintsi Yagodina Total number of people ELIGIBLE for IDs 3,356 5,260 1,751 3,118 2,216 4,280 1,053 1,080 1,256 605 1,217 2,920 1,799 1,502 1,840 1,659 863 591 2,530 805 415 1,128 1,421 3,660 1,172 1,136 1,149 1,806 1,300 740 842 1,274 1,143 981 - of them supplied WITH new IDs 1,907 3,270 1,500 1,650 920 3,339 980 730 572 445 518 1,020 1,235 540 704 666 478 533 1,671 605 235 683 614 2,019 784 650 316 1,618 700 433 636 440 454 578 People NOT supplied with new IDs yet 1,449 1,990 251 1,468 1.296 941 73 350 684 160 699 1,900 564 962 1,136 993 385 58 859 200 180 445 807 1,641 386 486 833 188 600 307 206 834 689 403 Percentage (%) of those already WITH new IDs 56.82% 62.16% 85.66% 52.91% 41.51% 78.01% 93.06% 67.59% 67.59% 73.55% 42.56% 34.93% 68.64% 35.95% 38.26% 40.14% 55.38% 90.18% 66.04% 75.15% 56.62% 60.31% 43.21% 55.16% 66.89% 57.22% 27.50% 89.59% 53.85% 58.51% 75.53% 34.54% 39.72% 59%


Central National Archives-Sofia, Fond 1, Inventory 38, Archival Unit 16, pages 1?5-1?6 (? indicates unreadable number).




33,433 Chart 3.3.8 17



STATISTICS On the Descendants of Mohamedanized in the Past Bulgarians with Still Un-revived Bulgarian Names as of March 30th, 1977 18 [Area] * [Number of people]

1. Blagoevgrad 150 2. Burgass 32 3. Varna 5 4. Veliko Tarnovo 32 5. Vidin 17 6. Kardjali 281 7. Lovetch 230 8. Pernik 16 9. Plovdiv 1,705 10. Razgrad 43 11. Ruse 6 12. Silistra 16 13. Sliven 6 14. Sofia City 4,034 15. Sofia Region 2 16. Stara Zagora 21 17. Tolbuhin [Dobritch] 23 18. Targovishte 58 19. Haskovo 11 20. Shumen 20 Total 6,718 Notice: The statistics is prepared by the Executive Peoples Committees Commission at the Council of Ministers [of the Bulgarian Communist Party] *[Although it is not clear whether the statistics refers to the cities alone or to their respective municipal and/or regional areas, my assumption is that the data refer to the cities.]

Assessment on the Implementation of the Decision of the Secretariat of the Bulgarian Communist Partys central committee from July 17th, 1970, concerning the Pomak revival process. The document is dated May 8, 1978, and numbered 005805, pages 60-80. Central National Archives-Sofia. (There is no archival reference on the document).
17 18

Ibid., page 78.


Appendix 6.1: Ballad about the killing of Salih Aga 1 Such a summer arduous arduous and desperate never has been remembered never has been known. nothing Ive yet suffered, but something is coming upon me. Drifted I into a heavy slumber and saw I in my dream that I was clad in scarlet that I rode a dappled stallion that I roamed about roads but nowhere water I found.

Summons after summons come from Stambol* the great city news after news arrive from the Gmrcina** town from the governor of Gmrcina from the kadi*** of Geliboli.

Salih Aga**** they instruct to do whatever he must to Gmrcina he is to depart to Stanbol he is to go before the King***** he is bow before the King and the Great Vizier.

Im asking you, brother Limane, Is it for good or not? Its for good, Ago, for good; dont you be troubled.

Laid Aga down and dozed off drifted into a deep sleep on the summer day of St. George. And saw he in a dream that clad he was in scarlet garments that he rode a dappled stallion in Pamakl****** he searched for water but a drop he never found his scorched lips to moisten his thirst to quench. Frightened Aga woke up and called for Strahina: Strahine, my lieutenant, laid I here and dozed off, into a heavy sleep I drifted, but shortly I woke up. Go, Srahine, and bring me my brother Shishmana.

And still they talked together till news was to Aga delivered: that Tatar ridersve been dispatched from Gmrcina town: Last night they were in Palass tonight theyd be in Pamakl. Drooped Aga his forehead and to Shishman he said: Limane, my brother, Shishmane, you and I have quarreled let us, my brother, reconcile let us forgive each other.

And more words Aga uttered, more he Limana entreated, whilst Tatar horses trotted up stone-paved pathways, their hooves were puddles leaving and fire sparks were sending out.

Hastily Shishman arrived and his brother he asked: What has, Ago, happened? What have you, Ago, suffered?

Tatars on the gates hammered off their horses they leapt boot-clad they walked in to the Aga they delivered a letter. When the messenger read the letter this was the Aga commanded:

Limane, my brother, Shishmane, nothing has yet happened


Recorded by Vassil Dechov, The Past of Chepelare (Sofia: Fatherland Front Pbl., 1928), 88-91. (Translated from Bulgarian by the author).

Hurry up, Aga, be gone to the Gmrcina city, the King has favored you and the Kings name you must praise, for the King has sent to you, fine scarlet wool garment, a white tinsel waste-band and gold necklace, as tokens of favor.

Bowed Aga his forehead and to his sons he bespoke: I know, my sons, I realize what are those gifts they give me what is that garment they send me what are those favors bestow on me. Get ready, my sons, be gone to the Gmrcina city I hope, my sons, you settle with the governor of Gmrcina with the kadi of Geliboli and with the Great Vizier. Ask they fine scarlet wool of you, you give them silk and tinsel. Ask they silver of you, you give them gold pieces. We went, Father, we implored, but empty-handed we return. Once was when money worked; this time it could not. Its you, Father, they want; its you that must go to Gmrcina town, to Stambol, the great city, before the King you must kneel, before the King and his Vizier. Set out, Aga, to go to Gmrcina town with his faithful guardians and with many gold coins went he never to return... .

wept young shepherds up in the Mountains; mourned faithful guardians in the konak******** of Salih Aga; Imams for Salyo********* called from the tall minarets. Birds were flying and crying sorrowful songs of Salih Aga: Slain lays, Salih Aga in Gmrcina town in the governors palace on these high balconies.

* Istanbul ** Modern city of Xanti in Greece. *** From Turkish, judge. **** A term conferring the title of governor (local, regional, or provincial) in the Ottoman Empire. ***** The Ottoman Sultan. ****** Modern city of Smolyan in Bulgaria. ******* The Rhodopes. ******** From Turkish, palace. ********* The chief Friday Prayer in Islam.

Birds he entrusted with these words: Farewell you pass on from me to all up there, in the Mountain:******* farewell to my children, to my children and my people; Farewell to my shepherds, shepherds, also servicemen; farewell to my companions, companions and guardians. I am going far away and I wont soon return.

Tidings of Aga reached Pamakl, the great township screamed fair women on high balconies cried little children in their cradles;


Appendix 6.2 1: Salih Agas Seal

Ah elebi Kaaza From the landowner, non-Muslim, is collected the tax ispene /tax for landowning levied from non-Muslims/ Lord Salih 1226 /Year 1810/

Salih, Lord of Ah elebi /Seal on the back of the document/ May my deeds be as honorable as the name Salih is /Pure one/ Translated by: [Signature here] /Svetoslav Duhovnikov/ Note [by the translator]: This has been written by the hand of Salih Aga, Lord and Governor of Ah elebi, because of which I translated it.

The document is translated from Ottoman Turkish by Svetoslav Duhovnikov. Duhovnikovs translation is enclosed under the actual text of the document, as well as under Salihs seal on the back of it. National ArchivesSmolyan, Fond 415k, Inventory 23, Archival Unit 52. 307

BIBLIOGRAPHY Books: Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso, 1991. Archibald, Robert R. A Place to Remember: Using History to Build Community. Walnut Creek, CA: AtlaMira Press, 1999. Bozov, Salih. V imeto na imeto /In the Name of the Name/. Sofia: Liberal Integration Foundation, 2005.

Brundage, W. Fitzhugh, ed. Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Bulgarska Akademiya na Naoukite (BAN) /Bulgarian Academy of Science/. Iz minaloto na balgaritemohamedani v Rodopite /On the Past of the Bulgarian Mohammedans in the Rhodopes/. Sofia: BAN, 1958. Crampton, R.J. Bulgaria. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Cviic, Christopher. Remaking the Balkans. New York: Council of Foreign Relations Press, 1991.

Davis, Natalie Zemon. The Return of Martin Guerre. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Eminov, Ali. Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities in Bulgaria. New York: Routledge, 1997. Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983.

Downer, Jr., Allan, Alexandra Roberts, Harris Francis, and Clara B. Kelly. Traditional History and Alternative Conceptions of the Past. In Conserving Culture: A New Discourse on Heritage, edited by Mary Hufford, 39-55. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Dechov, Vassil. Minaloto na Chepelare /The Past of Chepelare/, Volume I. Sofia: Fatherland Front Pbl, 1928.

Georgiev, Velichko and Stayko Trifonov, eds. Pokrastvaneto na Bulgarite Mohamedani 1912-1913 /The Christianization of the Bulgarian Mohammedans 1912-1913/. Sofia: Prof. Marin Drinov Publ., 1995.

Ginzburg, Carlo. The Cheese and the Warms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1992. Glassberg, David. A Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001. Greenfeld, Liah. Nationalism: Five Road to Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992. Hall, Richard C. The Balkan Wars, 1912-1913: Prelude to the First World War. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Hayes, Carlton J. H. The Historical Evolution of Modern Nationalism. New York: Richard R. Smith, Inc., 1931. Haytov, Nikolay. Smolyan: Tri vurha v srednorodopskata istoria. /Smolyan: Three Pinnacles in the History of the Middle Rhodopes/. Sofia: Izdatelstvo na Nacionalnia Suvet na Otechestvenia Front /National Council of the Fatherland Front Publisher/, 1962. Hodes, Martha. The Sea Captains Wife. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. ------. Rodopski Vlastelini /Rhodopean Lords/. Sofia: Fatherland Front Pbl, 1976.

Ingpen, Robert and Philip Wilkinson. A Celebration of Customs and Rituals of the World. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1996.

Imam, Ibrahim and Senem Konedareva. Ablanitsa prez vekovete /Ablanitsa through the Centuries/. Ablanitsa, 2008.

Howard, Peter. Heritage: Management, Interpretation, Identity. London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003.

Kiossev, Alexander. The Dark Intimacy: Maps, Identities, Acts of Identification. In Balkan as Metaphor: Between Globalization and Fragmentation, edited by Dusan I. Bjelic and Obrad Savic, 16590. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2002. Kohn, Hans. Nationalism: Its Meaning and History. Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1955. Low, Setha. Cultural Conservation of Place. In Conserving Culture: A New Discourse on Heritage, edited by Mary Hufford, 66-77 . Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Lowenthal, David. The Heritage Crusade and Its Contradictions. In Giving Preservation a History: Histories if Historic Preservation in the United States, edited by Max Page and Randall Mason, 19-44. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Marinov, Petar. Salih Aga, Rodopski voyvoda i deribey: Cherti iz jivota i upravlenieto mu Dramatizatsia po ustni predaniq i legendi v pet deystvia /Salih Aga, Rhodopean Lord and Governor: Features of His Life and Governorship Dramatization Based on Oral History and Legends in Five Acts/. Collection Rodina, 1940. Marx, Anthony W. Faith in Nation: Exclusionary Origins of Nationalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Markov, Georgi. Zadochni reportaji ot Balgaria /In-Absentia Reports of Bulgaria/. Sofia: Profizdat, 1990.

------. Konakut na Salih Aga Pashmakliisky /The Konak of Salih Aga of Pashmakli/. Plovdiv: Natsionalna Akademiya na Arhitekturata /National Academy of Architecture/, 2005. Minkov, Anton. Conversion to Islam in the Balkans: Kisve Bahas Petitions and Ottoman Social Life, 1670-1730. Boston: Brill, 2004.

Mateev, Matey. Srednorodopski konatsi /Konaks of the Middle Rhodopes/. Plovdiv: Natsionalna Akademiya na Arhitekturata /National Academy of Architecture/, 2005.

Mondale, Clarence. Conserving a Problematic Past. In Conserving Culture: A New Discourse on Heritage, edited by Mary Hufford, 15-23. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Schrift, Melissa. Melungeons and the Politics of Heritage. In Southern Heritage on Display: Public Rituals and Ethnic Diversity with Southern Regionalism, edited by Celeste Ray, 106-129. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003. Shishkov, Stoyu. Balgaro-mohamedanite (Pomatsite) /The Bulgarian Mohammedans (Pomaks)/. Plovdiv, 1936. ------. Balgaro-mohamedanite (pomatsi) /Bulgarian-mohamedans (Pomaks)/. Sofia: Sibia, 1997.

Pashova, Anastasia, Kristina Popova, Petar Vodenicharov, Nurie Muratova, Milena Angelova, and Fetie Sharanska. Semeystvo, Religiya, Vsekindevie na Myusyulmanite v Zapadnite Rodopi /Family, Religion, Lifestyle of the Muslims of the Western Rhodopes/. Sofia: IK Sema RSH, 2002.

Spence, Jonathan D. The Question of Hu. New York: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., 1989. Todorova, Maria, ed. Balkan Identities: Nation and Memory. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

Trevor-Roper, Hugh. The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland. In The Invention of Tradition, edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, 15-41. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983. Van Gennep, Arnold. Rites of Passage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960. VanSpanckeren, Kathryn. The Mardi Gras Indian Song Cycle: A Heroic Tradition. In Southern Heritage on Display: Public Rituals and Ethnic Diversity with Southern Regionalism, edited by Celeste Ray, 57-78. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003. Wallace, Mike. Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996. Welty, Eudora. Delta Wedding. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1946.

White, George W. Nationalism and Territory: Constructing Group Identities in Southeastern Europe. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000.

Young, Alfred F. Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier. New York: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., 2004. Zhelyazkova, Antonina, ed. Relations of Compatibility and Incompatibility between Christians and Muslims in Bulgaria, Sofia: International Centre for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations Foundation, 1994. Journal Articles: Eminov, Ali. Social Construction of Identities: Pomaks in Bulgaria. JEMIE 6 (2007): 1-25.

Konstantinov, Yulian, Gulbrand Ahaug and Birgit Igla, Names of the Bulgarian Pomaks. Nordlyd: Tromso University Working Papers and Language and Linguistics 17 (1991): 8-117.

Lekov, Daniel. Lovets na migove: Ribnovo, Bulgaria. 359 Magazine 2 (2007): 64-77.

Wilson, William A. Herder, Folklore, and Romantic Nationalism. Journal of Popular Culture 6 (1973): 819-35. Public Documents: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1914.

Seyppel, Tatjana. The Pomaks of Northeastern Greece: an endangered Balkan population. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 10 (January 1989): 41-49.

Lepore, Jill. Historian Who Love Too Much: Reflections on Microhistory and Biography. The Journal of American History 88, no. 1, (June 2001): 129-44.

Myuhtar, Fatme. The Human Rights of the Muslims in Bulgaria in Law and Politics since 1878, Report of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. Sofia: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, November 2003. Interviews: Belinska, Melike. Interview by author. Smolyan, Bulgaria. June 16, 2007. Byalkov, Ismail. Interview by author. Istanbul, Turkey. May 20, 2007. Dorsunski, Mehmed. Interview by author. Madan, Bulgaria. June 15, 2007. Myuhtar, Mehmed. Telephone-interview by author. January 12, 2010. Runtov, Ramadan. Interview by author. Istanbul, Turkey. May 21, 2007. Terziev, Ivan. Interview by author. Smolya, Bulgaria. June 16, 2007.

Shehov, Mehmed. Interview by author. Valkossel, Bulgaria. June 24, 2007. Osmanov Family (Feim, Fatme and their mother). Interview by author. Ribnovo, Bulgaria. March 7, 2009. Archival Materials: Central State (National) Archives-Sofia. Bulgarian Communist Party Collection.

State (National) Archives-Smolyan. The Ivan Peykov Collection. Video Materials:

State (National) Archives-Plovdiv. The Petar Marinov Collection.

Safet Studio. Kadrie and Feim Hatips wedding of 12 February 2005 and of a second, unspecified wedding. Snapshots by the author.

Sharena prikazka Ribnovo / Colorful Fairytale Ribnovo /. The bTV Reporters documentary. First broadcasted April 6, 2008. Websites: Photographs: The Cesur Family album.

The Chavdarov Family album. The Dermendjiev Family album. The Drevel Family album. The Hadjiev Family album.

The Myuhtar Family album.

The Runtov/Kurucu Family album.