Between politics and objectivity: the non-remembrance of the 1989 ethnic cleansing of Turks in communist Bulgaria

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Cold War Europe’s largest and most intensive act of ethnic cleansing, namely, the 1989 expulsion of Turks from communist Bulgaria, remains a neglected subject three decades on after the event. When it took place, the term “ethnic cleansing” had not been invented yet, so in light of international law this expulsion was a “population transfer.” Population transfers (even unilateral) were deemed legal until the mid-1990s. Subsequently, under the influence of the atrocities committed during the wars of Yugoslav succession, population transfers were criminalized and relabelled as “ethnic cleansings.” For a variety of reasons, the 1989 Ethnic Cleansing has been also neglected by scholars and politicians in both, Bulgaria and Turkey. The neglect continues to this day, despite the Bulgarian Parliament’s momentous 2012 Declaration, which officially recognized the expulsion as an act of ethnic cleansing. This Declaration – which could become a basis for successful Turkish-Bulgarian reconciliation – largely remains unknown in both countries, while the propagandistic terminology employed for referring to the 1989 Ethnic Cleansing deepens the oblivion and obfuscates the nature of this tragic event. Both, in Turkish and Bulgarian, official and scholarly terminology employed suggests – incorrectly – that it was a “kind of emigration.”
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Genocide Research
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date14 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2020


  • 1989 Ethnic cleanisng
  • Bulgaria
  • Bulgarian Turks
  • Bulgarian Muslims
  • Expulsion
  • Terminology
  • Turkey


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