Bulgaria condemns communist Turkish assimilation
SOFIA - Agence France-Presse
Men dressed as soldiers parade in front of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral during celebrations marking the 134th anniversary of Sofia's liberation from Ottoman rule in the centre of the Bulgarian capital January 4, 2012. REUTERS/Stoyan NenovBulgaria's parliament adopted on Wednesday a special declaration condemning the forcible assimilation of the country's sizeable Turkish minority under communism.
The declaration specifically centred on the so-called "revival process" in the mid-1980s when Bulgaria's ethnic Turks were forced to change their Muslim names to Bulgarian ones.
Those who refused to do so were jailed and many killed, sparking several deadly attacks in public places and straining relations between Bulgaria and Turkey.
Shortly before communism fell in 1989, the authorities opened the borders to those Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin who wanted to emigrate to Turkey. Around 360,000 people left, 170,000 of whom later returned.
Their exodus, dubbed with some irony in Bulgaria the "Big Excursion," was condemned on Wednesday by MPs as "a form of ethnic cleansing performed by the totalitarian regime." The declaration called for those responsible for the "revival process" to be brought to justice and punished.
"The attempt to cover it up with a statute of limitations transfers the guilt from the concrete culprits to the whole Bulgarian people," it added.
About 13 percent of Bulgaria's current population of 7.3 million are Muslims, with most belonging to the ethnic Turkish minority.
A recent study found they were increasingly becoming less religious even if practising traditional rituals enthusiastically.