Bulgaria commemorates communist-era repressions

SOFIA - Hundreds of Turks and Bulgarians have commemorated the 25th anniversary of a Turkish revolt against Bulgaria's communist assimilation policy in the Bulgarian village of Pristoe.

The ceremony on Tuesday marked the event in 1989 when people in the village in the northeastern city of Kaolinovo rose up against the former communist regime's policy, which was implemented to forcibly assimilate the entire Turkish minority with the aim of making Bulgaria a “unified socialist nation.”

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev said in speech at the ceremony: "Pristoe people held protests in order to defend their names and religions, which were the last things they had in those times. We need to respect this. The most cruel state mechanism is weak against people defending their rights."

Security forces surrounded Turkish villages in 1989 and forced the inhabitants to convert their names from Turkish-Islamic ones to those deemed more “Bulgarian”.

- Concentration camps

Speaking Turkish was banned, many mosques were shut down and people who followed Islamic practices like the circumcision of male children were subjected to prison sentences. 

Nearly one million ethnic Turks were subjected to enforced “Bulgarisation” and up to 900 ethnic Turks were sent to prisons or concentration camps without due process, according to a report released by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2010.

Plevneliev said that the demonstrations in 1989, which grew until they stretched across the whole country, were "right and taught many things to the new generation."

"We shouldn't forget the events which happened 25 years ago," he said. 

322 thousand Turks migrated into Turkey from Bulgaria in 1989 as a result of then*Bulgarian government's assimilation campaign. 150 thousands of these numbers returned back to Bulgaria in 1990.

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