Archive for: Transitions Online

No More Hiding From the State

Jun 26th, 2000

No More Hiding From the State

A Bulgarian village makes amends with its ethnic complexities by Matthew Brunwasser BREZNITSA –  From his quiet spot under the willow tree in the village square, between the church and the mosque, 66-year-old Mustafa Cholac has seen plenty of changes. Bulgarian Muslims In 1972, Communist Party officials told Muslim men they would have to report to the community center on the square, and look through a book to choose Christian names for family members. Cholac was one of about 200 who gathered here to protest. They were brutally crushed in a crackdown that left eight dead. After communism fell in 1989, a bus left the square with men headed for the capital Sofia to demand their names back. Today, things are a bit different. In the shadow of the media spotlight swirling around the violent ethnic hatred in the former Yugoslavia 100 miles away, Breznitsans are not trying to avenge the wrongs of the past- instead, they are concentrating on reconciliation. “We have gotten along well with Christians before and after the killings,” says Cholac. “We understood that the decision came from the communists, not from the Christian people. There is no hatred here.” Names had been changed before. The first communist program to “Bulgarianize” the country’s Muslims came in 1963, as Communist leader Todor Zhivkov defended name changes as merely reversing the process the Turks started when they forcibly converted Christians to Islam. The names [...]