Article Tragic pages in the history of Cyprus: "Bloody Christmas" and Operation Attila we talked about the events on the island of Cyprus that took place in 1963-1974.
They echoed unexpectedly in Bulgaria, frightening the country's leaders and prompting them to launch the infamous Renaissance Process campaign. The Cyprus Syndrome, the Renaissance Process, the Great Excursion of the Bulgarian Turks and the situation of Muslims in modern Bulgaria will be discussed in this and the next article.
"Cyprus Syndrome" in Bulgaria
It was after Operation Attila, carried out by Turkey on the island of Cyprus in 1974, that the Bulgarian authorities began to seriously fear a repetition of the same scenario in their country, where by that time the number of people professing Islam was about 10% of the total population of the country. At the same time, the birth rate in Muslim families was traditionally higher than in Christian ones, and demographers predicted a further increase in the share of Muslims in the country's population.
The leader of socialist Bulgaria expressed these fears in the following words:
They want us to have a powder keg in the state, and the fuse from this barrel will be in Ankara: when they want - they will light it, when they want - they will extinguish it.
Resettlement of Muslims in Bulgaria, map
Bulgarian Muslims from Rhodopes, photo 1932
From the point of view of the leaders of Bulgaria, the situation was especially alarming in the cities of Kardzhali and Razgrad, whose population was already dominated by Muslims.
Ibrahim Pasha Mosque, Razgrad, Bulgaria
Bulgaria, like Cyprus, has been a province of the Ottoman Empire for centuries. The Politburo of the Bulgarian Communist Party believed that in the event of ethnic and religious unrest in the country, Turkey could try to repeat Operation Attila on Bulgarian soil. These fears of the top leaders in Bulgaria have been called the "Cyprus Syndrome".
"The Renaissance Process"
Back in 1982, the Bulgarian authorities started talking about a decisive struggle against "Turkish nationalism and Islamic religious fanaticism."
Todor Zhivkov at the parade in honor of the Day of the Cyrillic Alphabet and Bulgarian Culture, May 24, 1982
Finally, in December 1984, at the initiative of Todor Zhivkov, a large-scale “Christmas” campaign “Renaissance Process” (sometimes called the “United Nation”) was launched to change Turkish and Arabic names to Bulgarian ones. In addition, a ban was imposed on the implementation of Turkish rituals, the performance of Turkish music, the wearing of hijabs and national clothes. The number of mosques was reduced and madrasahs were closed. In some parts of Bulgaria, children in schools were obliged to speak only Bulgarian - both in class and during breaks. In the Varna region, advertisements have appeared in shops, canteens, cafes and restaurants stating that Turkish speakers will not be served. By the way, does this remind you of anything?
Citizens of Turkish origin were confiscated passports, issuing new ones with "Christian" names in return: from December 24, 1984 to January 14, 1985, 310 thousand people managed to change their names; in the first two months, about 800 thousand people received new passports - about 80% of all those living in the country of the Turks. This campaign took place as follows: in settlements with a Muslim population, residents were gathered in the central square and informed about the government's decree. Since the authorities of socialist Bulgaria required their citizens to always have documents with them, old passports were usually immediately replaced with new ones. After that, the festive program of "twinning" began - "fraternization" of Turks and Bulgarians with songs and dances.
In addition to the "carrot", the "stick" was also used: in the Bulgarian media, materials began to appear that Turkey poses a threat to the territorial integrity of Bulgaria, and the Turks who do not want to receive new passports are the "fifth column of the hostile state" and "separatists".
This attempt to "convert Muslims" was, incidentally, not the first: the authorities of the newly independent after the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878 tried to Christianize them. Bulgarian principality. Then it caused a wave of resettlement of Muslims living on its territory in the area subject to the Ottoman Empire.
And in stories in other countries, examples of similar situations can be found. In the same Turkey, under Ataturk, the names of the Kurds were changed. And in Greece in the 1920s. forcibly changed the names of many Macedonians living in the country.
Already in our days the authorities of "democratic" Latvia have changed the names of non-indigenous inhabitants of Latvia (there were about 700 thousand of them): to male names since the beginning of the 90s. XX century, the ending "s" is added, for women - "a" or "e". At the end of 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Latvia had violated the rights of its citizen Leonid Raikhman (former co-chairman of the Latvian Human Rights Committee, among other things), in particular, his rights under Article 17 of the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. The committee demanded to change both the name and surname of Reichman, as well as local legislation. The Latvian authorities ignored this decision.
It should nevertheless be admitted that this attempt in an instant to turn the Turks into Slavs in the face of tough confrontation with the "progressive West" within the framework of the Cold War is striking in its naivety. This could have passed if the American, which means “good son of a bitch” like Duvalier and Batista, or at least a puppet pro-American president like the current Baltic states, was in power in Bulgaria at that time. But Bulgaria was ruled by the communist Todor Zhivkov.
In addition, his decisive actions came as a surprise to Muslims, causing shock at first, and then sharp rejection. Indeed, according to the "Dimitrovskaya" constitution, adopted in 1947, the development of the culture of national minorities and education in their native language were guaranteed. In Bulgaria, national schools were opened for children of Turkish origin, three pedagogical institutes were operating, focused on training teachers of the Turkish language. Three newspapers and one magazine were published in Turkish (and there were also headings in Turkish in other newspapers and magazines). Also, in the places of residence of Muslims, radio broadcasting was carried out in Turkish. The wave of resettlement to Turkey 1949-1951 (about 150 thousand people emigrated) was associated not with a religious or national factor, but with a rejection of the collectivization policy.
The new constitution of Bulgaria, adopted in 1971, did not contain articles guaranteeing the rights of national minorities. In 1974, Turkish lessons became an optional subject, but there were no other restrictions on the Turkish population, and therefore the situation remained calm. The campaigns to change the names of the Pomaks and the Roma who converted to Islam in 1964 and 1970-1974, who were trying to "return to their historical national roots," did not affect the ethnic Turks.
The Turks themselves took centuries to Islamize the Albanians, Bosnians, torbeshes and the same Pomaks. In two months it was possible to give the Turks new names, but not to change their consciousness. That is why the Revival Process campaign was far from being held peacefully: there were large-scale rallies, protests, attempts to “march” the residents of Muslim villages into cities (the total number of protesters in late 1984 - early 1985 is currently estimated at 11 thousand people) ... Most of the protests were recorded in the Kardzhali and Sliven regions.
Kurdzhali and Sliven regions on the map of Bulgaria
The authorities responded with arrests, the police met the columns of "walkers" with jets of cold water from fire hoses, and in some places - with automatic fire. weapons... Turkish newspapers wrote about thousands of victims (there were even reports of hundreds of corpses floating on the Danube and Maritsa), which, of course, does not correspond to reality, exceeding the true figures by two orders of magnitude. Tabloid readers wanted "horror films" that were readily produced. One of the most enduring myths of that time even became an episode of the Turkish-Bulgarian film "Stolen Eyes", which received the "Tolerance" prize at the Palich International Film Festival (Serbia).
We are talking about the death of the 17-month-old Turkian Feyzulakh Hasan, who was allegedly crushed either by an armored personnel carrier, or even during the suppression of an anti-government protest in the village of Mogilyan. a tank... In the Turkish city of Edirne, a park is named after Turkan, in which this monument is installed:
In fact, the child who was dropped by his mother was crushed by a crowd (about two thousand people), which at that time was smashing the local party committee, the village council, and at the same time, for some reason, the pharmacy (according to another version, this happened when the rioters were already running away from soldiers arrived in the village). But the legend has already been formed, and no one is interested in the boring truth now.
The exact number of those killed during the suppression of the resistance of the "Renaissance Process" campaign is still unknown, the minimum of the cited figures is 8 people, other sources increase the number of those killed to several dozen. Against this background, the radicalization of the protests was noted. There were real facts of sabotage and damage to equipment, arson of administrative buildings and forests, terrorist acts. On March 9, 1985, at the Bunovo railway station, a Burgas-Sofia train car was blown up, in which only women and children were found: 7 people died (including 2 children), 8 were injured.
Monument to the victims of the terrorist attack in Bunovo
On the same day, as a result of the explosion of a hotel in the city of Sliven, 23 people were injured.
On July 7, 1987, the Turks who had already received new names, Nikola Nikolov, his son Orlin and Neven Assenov, took two children - 12 and 15 years old - hostage to cross the Bulgarian-Turkish border. The next day, July 8, in order to prove the seriousness of their intentions, at the Golden Sands resort near the International Hotel, they detonated three grenades, wounding three people (tourists from the USSR and Germany and a local resident).
On July 9, during a special operation, their car collided with an armored police car. After that, the terrorists detonated (either by accident or intentionally) three more grenades - two of them were killed, the hostages were injured. Since the death penalty for kidnapping was not provided for in the Bulgarian legislation, the court sentenced the surviving terrorist to death for the murder of ... his accomplices! The fact is that it was he, according to the investigators, who detonated a grenade that killed his accomplices.
On July 31, 1986, by a happy coincidence, a terrorist act broke out on the beach of the Druzhba resort complex (now Saints Constantine and Helena). There was left a bag with a 5-liter milk can filled with explosives - 2,5 kilograms of ammonium nitrate and 6 pieces of ammonite, 60 grams each. The explosion did not occur due to accidental damage to the alarm clock that stopped.
In total, in 1985-1987, the Bulgarian security agencies identified 42 underground groups of Turks and Islamists. Among them were quite a few employees of the Bulgarian special services - both former and current, some turned out to be double agents working for Turkey.
Another exacerbation of the situation occurred in May 1989, when the protesters no longer hesitated to take knives with them to "peaceful demonstrations", which were often used. The militiamen, whose comrades were injured, acted more and more harshly.
Turkish-Bulgarian relations at that time were in a state close to the beginning of the war.
Political correctness aside, it should be admitted that the Bulgarian authorities did not come close to the level of cruelty that the Turks demonstrated for centuries in this Ottoman province. But in those distant times there was still no radio, television, OSCE, Council of Europe, UNESCO and numerous human rights organizations. Now the Turkish government has addressed the issue of the violation of the rights of national minorities in Bulgaria to all possible instances, as well as to the NATO allies. But here, too, opinions were divided. Britain and the United States sided with Turkey, Germany, France and Italy insisted on the mediation of the OSCE. They openly supported Bulgaria in all organizations of the USSR and Greece, which had its own scores with Turkey. Since both Greece and Turkey were NATO members, this caused a scandal and hysterical statements by the Turks about the violation of the principles of "Atlantic Solidarity".
In this situation, Todor Zhivkov demanded that the Turkish authorities open the borders for the Bulgarian Turks wishing to leave Bulgaria. For the Turkish authorities, who were not ready to receive a large number of immigrants and did not expect such actions from the Bulgarian leadership, this was a very unpleasant surprise. Nevertheless, the border was open, and in 80 days more than 300 thousand Bulgarian Turks crossed it. Since they were all issued a tourist visa for a period of three months, and more than half of those who left then returned to their homeland, in Bulgaria these events received the ironic name "Great excursion".
In the next article we will continue our story: we will talk about the “Great Excursion” of the Bulgarian Turks, the fall of Todor Zhivkov and the situation of Muslims in modern Bulgaria.