1st Edition

Ethnic Cleansing During the Cold War The Forgotten 1989 Expulsion of Turks from Communist Bulgaria

By Tomasz Kamusella Copyright 2019
    316 Pages
    by Routledge

    316 Pages
    by Routledge

    In mid-1989, the Bulgarian communist regime seeking to prop up its legitimacy played the ethnonational card by expelling 360,000 Turks and Muslims across the Iron Curtain to neighboring Turkey. It was the single largest ethnic cleansing during the Cold War in Europe after the wrapping up of the postwar expulsions (‘population transfers’) of ethnic Germans from Central Europe in the latter half of the 1940s. Furthermore, this expulsion of Turks and Muslims from Bulgaria was the sole unilateral act of ethnic cleansing that breached the Iron Curtain. The 1989 ethnic cleansing was followed by an unprecedented return of almost half of the expellees, after the collapse of the Bulgarian communist regime. The return, which partially reversed the effects of this ethnic cleansing, was the first-ever of its kind in history. Despite the unprecedented character of this 1989 expulsion and the subsequent return, not a single research article, let alone a monograph, has been devoted to these momentous developments yet. However, the tragic events shape today’s Bulgaria, while the persisting attempts to suppress the remembrance of the 1989 expulsion continue sharply dividing the country’s inhabitants. Without remembering about this ethnic cleansing it is impossible to explain the fall of the communist system in Bulgaria and the origins of ethnic cleansing during the Yugoslav wars. Faltering Yugoslavia’s future ethnic cleansers took a good note that neither Moscow nor Washington intervened in neighboring Bulgaria to stop the 1989 expulsion, which in light of international law was then still the legal instrument of ‘population transfer.’ The as yet unhealed wound of the 1989 ethnic cleansing negatively affects the Bulgaria’s relations with Turkey and the European Union. It seems that the only way out of this debilitating conundrum is establishing a truth and reconciliation commission that at long last would ensure transitional justice for all Bulgarians irrespective of language, religion or ethnicity.

    Contents; List of Figures; Foreword; Preface; List of Acronyms and Abbreviations, and of the Names of Parties and Organizations Mentioned; The Bulgarian Governments During and After the Removal of Todor Zhivkov from Office; The Heads of State of Bulgaria During and After the Removal of Todor Zhivkov from Office; Introduction; 1. On Forgetfulness and Its Perils; 2. The State of Research on the 1989 Expulsion; 3.The 1989 Ethnic Cleansing Through the Lens of the International Press; 4. The Ethnic Cleansing’s Aftermath and the Regime Change; 5. The Official Coming to Terms with  the 1989 Ethnic Cleansing; 6. Between Language and Millet; 7. The Question of Responsibility; Conclusion; Postscriptum; Bibliography; Index


    Tomasz Kamusella is Reader in Modern History at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. His monographs include Silesia and Central European Nationalisms (2007), The Politics of Language and Nationalism in Modern Central Europe (2009), Creating Languages in Central Europe During the Last Millennium (2015) and The Un-Polish Poland, 1989 and the Illusion of Regained Historical Continuity (2017). He also co-edited several volumes, for instance, Creating Nationality in Central Europe, 1880-1950 (2016), The Palgrave Handbook of Slavic Languages, Identities and Borders (2016) and The Social and Political History of Southern Africa's Languages (2017).

    "Kamusella shows the way for a future Bulgaria. The recognition of ethnic cleansing is important not only in terms of historical justice and responsibility but also for the future transformation of Bulgaria into a country attractive for immigrants"
    - Vasil Paraskevov, Konstantin Preslavsky University, Bulgaria, European History Quarterly

    "Kamusella’s monograph invites readers to take a trip back in time and experience the repressions of a minority group’s ethnic, religious, and cultural identity as well as the tragedy of displacement. It also demonstrates the level of public acceptance, or rather non-acceptance, of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria that continues up to this day and, ultimately, questions the nationalist attitudes in the country, which are still hostile to ethnic and religious minorities. In times of rising populism, nationalism, and Islamophobia throughout Europe, the questions addressed by Kamusella are currently of even greater significance than they would be otherwise."
    -Slavka Karakusheva, Comparative Southeast European Studies