It was very encouraging for us to read that Petar Mladenov, the new leader of Bulgaria, promised free elections in that country as early as May, 1990 (Part A, Dec. 12).
There were about 1.5 million Turks (10% of the total population) living in Bulgaria in early 1984. These were people whose ancestors have lived on that land for the last 500 years. Since late 1984, however, over 300,000 Bulgarian Turks fled Bulgaria escaping persecution. That was the time when the government of Todor Zhivkov (now deposed leader of that nation) had banned the Turkish language, closed Turkish schools and started a vicious campaign of Bulgarization against the Turkish minority. Turks were forced to change their names into Slavic ones, families were broken up and scattered all over Bulgaria; those who resisted were killed or jailed. Over 300,000 Turks fled to Turkey.
Now, it appears that the current democratization movements in Eastern Europe are also affecting Bulgaria. Is the Turkish minority going to benefit from this change? Will the Turks be given back their rights? Will those who fled be allowed to return to their lands and reclaim their possessions? So far, the leaders of the Bulgarian democratization movement have avoided addressing these issues. They should, however, realize that they cannot establish a regime based on democracy and freedom in a country where 10% of the population is discriminated against.
Western Region, Assembly
of Turkish American Assns.