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There were no anti-Jewish pogroms in Bulgaria but anti-Greek

08 June 2015 / 19:06:52  GRReporter
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As to whether they could have been bribed, this is a ridiculous question. We consider things from the viewpoint at the beginning of the 21st century. The participants in the Carnegie survey were professionals, well positioned in the professional circles and nobody even thought of bribing them. Definitely, they were not bribed. They were not that kind of people.

It is another issue that when the Carnegie survey was released the Bulgarian government tried to obtain as many copies of the book as possible to use them as a propaganda weapon but to no avail because World War I began and the world was no longer interested in the previous conflict but in the new one. Either way, their personal honesty cannot be questioned.

What exactly happened on the island of Trikeri? Who were the people interned there, what were the charges against them and what was their fate?

Trikeri island has a lamentable reputation in Bulgaria, because soldiers during the Second Balkan War and Bulgarians from Aegean Macedonia, who were active until the wars or in the church or the national liberation movement, were taken and captured there.

The island was actually a concentration camp without wire fences, it did not need them because it is a small island with no natural sources of water. It is not clear how many people died there but probably hundreds of the several thousand Bulgarians who were taken there. They died primarily from diseases caused by the climate to which they were unaccustomed, mainly from malaria, and from the diet, which was not favourable to them. I have not heard anything about deliberate murders, I do not think it has been proven that prisoners had been shot. Rather, the conditions were so bad that many of the people interned there died.

What measures did Bulgaria take against the Greek populations in the coastal cities? Was there internment of people similar to that committed against the Bulgarians in Greece?

I have already mentioned the Greek populations in the coastal cities. There were no interned people. There are no such conditions in Bulgaria, for interning people in places such as the island of Trikeri. There were people who were declared persona non grata, who had to leave Bulgaria, but no people were interned.

We have recently witnessed a new rise of extreme nationalism that is threatening the stability in various regions of the Balkans. What are the lessons that the modern residents of the Balkan countries should learn from this period?

A thinker says that nationalism is as a fireplace covered with ash - when someone stirs up the ashes, the coals show from below. Unfortunately, in many cases, the representatives of the dominant race of a particular Balkan country are hardly aware of the attitudes of the minorities, finding it difficult to understand them.

Furthermore, the Balkans, I do not know how many of your readers realize this, are the region of Europe with the greatest diversity of cultures, religions and languages. No other region in Europe with an area of ​​about 500,000 square kilometres is inhabited by at least eight nations with over 1 million people, including Romanians, Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, Albanians, Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats. There are at least five more nations of between half and one million people. On these 500,000 square kilometres, we have followers of the two denominations of Islam, namely Sunni and Shia, we have Christians too - Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants as well as Judaists. The people on this territory write in three alphabets, namely in Greek, Cyrillic and Latin. On this territory, there were three separate calendars until the early 20th century.

It is extremely difficult to find an ethnically pure territory in the Balkans. Where there are ethnically pure territories, they typically are the result of ethnic cleansing, be it for a shorter or longer period. There are pure areas at the heart of today's Serbia but it was the home to many Turks until the 1920s who were expelled from the church. There are pure areas in some regions of Greece but many Albanians lived there before. Not to mention Bulgaria - there are virtually no clean territories from an ethnic point of view, there have always been minorities in it. So, unfortunately, nationalism in the Balkans has many dry trees that can ignite a conflict.

I do not know if people realize that sometimes a very small conflict could escalate into confrontation in which tens of thousands may lose their lives. Do not forget that the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina began with a conflict at a wedding. Therefore, when the situation is tense we must be very careful.

I am not entirely sure that the Balkan nations have learnt lessons from what has happened. Some incidents in recent years make me think that they have not at all learnt these lessons. New attitudes are rising, new radical groups are rising, a new radical thinking of disregarding the other is rising. By the way, in all the Balkan countries and in Western Europe, this  finds expression in the so-called soccer fans who are present in the Balkans as well and who turn out to be one of the ‘reservoirs’ of the armed conflict in Yugoslavia, Macedonia, etc.

Therefore, I am moderately optimistic about the future of the Balkans. I believe that the accession to the European Union has helped the countries that are in it, namely Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, as willing or not, these countries have to observe certain rules that have not been established in the Balkans but that have proven to make sense in Western Europe.

Tags: HistoryAnti-Greek pogromsBulgarian populations in GreeceTrikeri campNationalism in the BalkansProf. Ivan IlchevRector of Sofia University
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