Between Two Motherlands
Nationality and Emigration among the Greeks of Bulgaria, 1900–1949
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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Maps and Figures
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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 study-ing history and archaeology in Greece. This experience informed my personal transition from the intensely optimistic early years of post-socialism to the unsettling realization that change after communism would be slow and ambiguous. I still remembered the disturbing images of the Turks in Bulgaria forcefully fleeing the country in early 1989 because of ...
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Note on Terminologyand Chronology
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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 rendi-tion, I use that name (Istanbul, Salonica, Edirne, and Smyrna, for example). Otherwise I provide both the Bulgarian and Greek names and add the cur-rent name in parenthesis at first mention in each chapter. In some cases a locality had only a Turkish name until it acquired a Bulgarian or a Greek ...
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Writing in 1932, the international law expert Stephen Ladas re-counted 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 he had a “Greek consciousness.” Bulgarian officials, however, disputed his claim and refused to certify his declaration, as “he was attached to the ...
•1The Mixing and Unmixingof Bulgarians and Greeks
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In his 1762 book, The Slavic-Bulgarian History of the Bulgarian People, Kings, and Saints, Father Paisiı˘ of Hilendar commented on the perils of Greek influence among his contemporary Bulgarians: “There are those who do not care to know about their own Bulgarian people [rod] and turn to foreign ways [chuzhda politika] and a foreign tongue; they . . . learn to read and speak Greek and are ashamed to call themselves Bulgarians.” Reprimanding those who considered it “better to become part of the Greeks ...
•2Between the Bulgarian Stateand the Greek Nation, 1900–1911
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In January 1907 a Greek originally from Anhialo/Anchialos in Bulgaria, but now residing as a refugee in Athens, wrote to a Bulgarian newspa-per 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 the reality of life did not match the official Greek propaganda that had lured him to emigrate. Seemingly annoyed, he belittled the ancient Greek heritage, ...
•3Nationality and ShiftingBorders, 1912–1918
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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 Mission in Bulgaria, the officers inquired about the local church and school, and asked if the villagers had any complaints regarding the Bulgarian gov-...
•4An Exercise in PopulationManagement, 1919–1925
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The Black Sea town of Mesemvria was in turmoil in the summer of 1925. Following the arrival of Bulgarian refugees, many Greeks re-ceived 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 oth-ers sold their properties and prepared to leave their native town for good. In a matter of months, almost the entire Greek population departed for ...
•5Everyday Life afterEmigration, 1925–1931
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In the late 1920s, shortly after the mass emigration of Greeks from Bulgaria, the attorney Dimitris Vogazlis, now a resident of Greece, vis-ited 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 of 1924, with repeated clashes between local Greeks and Bulgarian refu-gees that had compelled the Greeks to emigrate en masse. When Vogazlis ...
•6People on the Margins, 1931–1941
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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 [rail-way] station, workers’ storage facilities, coffeehouses, pubs, hotels, motels, factories, and on the streets.” Disseminating the decree through messengers and posting it on public buildings, the chief argued that speaking foreign ...
•7Narratives and Memories of the Past
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Kosmas Mirtilos Apostolidis was a prolific Greek historian from Bulgaria who wrote extensively about the Bulgarian Greeks and their commu-nities. Despite the national mission of the writer, his life demonstrates the conflict between public manifestations of national loyalty and private uncertainties regarding one’s allegiances. Born in Plovdiv/Philippoupolis in 1870, Apostolidis worked as a teacher of the Greek language and his-tory in his native town, traveled to Egypt, Thrace, and Greece, received his ...
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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 1942.1 Three months later Apostolos Doxiadis, the wartime fugitive from Bulgaria, interwar refu-gee settlement official and public health activist, and active member of the ...
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011