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Between Two Motherlands

Nationality and Emigration among the Greeks of Bulgaria, 1900–1949

Theodora Dragostinova

Publication Year: 2011

In 1900, some 100,000 people living in Bulgaria-2 percent of the country's population-could be described as Greek, whether by nationality, language, or religion. The complex identities of the population-proud heirs of ancient Hellenic colonists, loyal citizens of their Bulgarian homeland, members of a wider Greek diasporic community, devout followers of the Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul, and reluctant supporters of the Greek government in Athens-became entangled in the growing national tensions between Bulgaria and Greece during the first half of the twentieth century.

In Between Two Motherlands, Theodora Dragostinova explores the shifting allegiances of this Greek minority in Bulgaria. Diverse social groups contested the meaning of the nation, shaping and reshaping what it meant to be Greek and Bulgarian during the slow and painful transition from empire to nation-states in the Balkans. In these decades, the region was racked by a series of upheavals (the Balkan Wars, World War I, interwar population exchanges, World War II, and Communist revolutions). The Bulgarian Greeks were caught between the competing agendas of two states increasingly bent on establishing national homogeneity.

Based on extensive research in the archives of Bulgaria and Greece, as well as fieldwork in the two countries, Dragostinova shows that the Greek population did not blindly follow Greek nationalist leaders but was torn between identification with the land of their birth and loyalty to the Greek cause. Many emigrated to Greece in response to nationalist pressures; others sought to maintain their Greek identity and traditions within Bulgaria; some even switched sides when it suited their personal interests. National loyalties remained fluid despite state efforts to fix ethnic and political borders by such means as population movements, minority treaties, and stringent citizenship rules. The lessons of a case such as this continue to reverberate wherever and whenever states try to adjust national borders in regions long inhabited by mixed populations.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

Maps and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

...This book, I now realize, has been the product of my own life between two motherlands. A native of Bulgaria, in 1992 I found myself studying history and archaeology in Greece. This experience informed my personal transition from the intensely optimistic early years of postsocialism to the unsettling realization that change after communism would...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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Note on Terminology and Chronology

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pp. xv-xx

...Similar to other eastern European cases, many localities discussed in this book had multiple names in different languages: Bulgarian, Greek, and/or Turkish. If a locality has a common English-language rendition, I use that name (Istanbul, Salonica, Edirne, and Smyrna, for example). Otherwise I provide both the Bulgarian and Greek names and add the current...

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pp. 1-16

...Writing in 1932, the international law expert Stephen Ladas recounted the story of Todor Nikolov from Haskovo in Bulgaria as an example of the difficulties in determining who was a member of a national minority in Bulgaria and Greece. The Bulgarian citizen declared, in the early 1920s, that he wanted to emigrate and settle in Greece because...

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1. The Mixing and Unmixing of Bulgarians and Greeks

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pp. 17-34

...In the rest of his narrative, Father Paisiı˘ presented the history of the Bulgarian people from biblical times to the fall of the medieval Bulgarian kingdoms under the Ottoman Turks in the fourteenth century. Describing the “greatest glory” of the Bulgarians throughout the centuries and singling out language as the main factor differentiating Bulgarians and Greeks...

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2. Between the Bulgarian State and the Greek Nation, 1900–1911

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pp. 35-76

...In January 1907 a Greek originally from Anhialo/Anchialos in Bulgaria, but now residing as a refugee in Athens, wrote to a Bulgarian newspaper that he had started realizing “how different we are from the people here in our faith, language, and upbringing.” Depicting a situation of “false promises” and “financial and moral corruption” in Greece, he noted that...

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3. Nationality and Shifting Borders, 1912–1918

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pp. 77-116

...In November 1918 an unusual scene unfolded in the village of Dzhaferliı˘ (today Kichevo) north of Varna. Greek officers arrived in an automobile decorated with a Greek flag and convened a meeting with village elders. Headed by a confident colonel named Konstantinos Mazarakis-Ainian, a former Greek fighter in Macedonia and current head of the Greek Military...

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4. An Exercise in Population Management, 1919–1925

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pp. 117-156

...The Black Sea town of Mesemvria was in turmoil in the summer of 1925. Following the arrival of Bulgarian refugees, many Greeks received threatening letters, became victims of extortion, or saw on their homes black crosses or inscriptions that read “you shall be killed if you stay.” Some moved in temporarily with relatives in nearby cities, and others...

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5. Everyday Life after Emigration, 1925–1931

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pp. 157-192

...In the late 1920s, shortly after the mass emigration of Greeks from Bulgaria, the attorney Dimitris Vogazlis, now a resident of Greece, visited his native Plovdiv/Philippoupolis and, together with his wife, wished to pay tribute to the Mother of God Church (Panagia) in nearby Voden/ Vodena. The village had seen some of the worst violence in the summer...

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6. People on the Margins, 1931–1941

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pp. 193-216

...In 1934 a scandal erupted in Anhialo/Anchialos, soon to be renamed Pomorie, in connection with a directive issued by the county police chief prohibiting the use of “foreign languages, especially Greek and Turkish, in all state, county, and public offices,” as well as “at the port, the [railway] station, workers’ storage facilities, coffeehouses, pubs, hotels, motels...

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7. Narratives and Memories of the Past

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pp. 217-248

...Kosmas Mirtilos Apostolidis was a prolific Greek historian from Bulgaria who wrote extensively about the Bulgarian Greeks and their communities. Despite the national mission of the writer, his life demonstrates the conflict between public manifestations of national loyalty and private...

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pp. 249-268

...The decade of the 1940s once again upset the dynamics of Bulgarian- Greek relations, all to the detriment of the Bulgarian Greeks. Shortly after World War II engulfed the region, the historian and recent deportee from Bulgaria Mirtilos Apostolidis, worn out by loneliness and deprivation, quietly passed away in Athens in April 1942...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 269-280


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pp. 281-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780801460685
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801449451

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1