Author Topic: Reconnecting Cultures in the Balkans  (Read 3055 times)

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Reconnecting Cultures in the Balkans
« on: November 21, 2013, 10:36 »

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In the villages that nestle amid southern Bulgaria’s remote, scenically spectacular, economically underdeveloped Pirin and Rhodope Mountains, Pomaks—Bulgarian Muslims—are reclaiming their name. Marginalized under 45 years of communism, they saw Pomak become “a word you had to feel guilty about,” says Mehmed Boyukli, a leading Pomak analyst. Now, he says, “with the Internet, the term has become acceptable. It has become a symbol of all the cultural heritage we have preserved.” And although they are the largest of the several Balkan Muslim communities, Pomaks are not the only ones using open borders and, more recently, social media to rediscover common cultures in the Balkan nations that were carved out of the Ottoman Empire following World War i.

With the opening of borders in the late 1980’s and the advent of social media, young people like Saleika Groshar of Breznitsa, Bulgaria—who is 22 and has never known communist rule—are forging newly pan-Balkan Muslim identities. She adores traditional folk music, and she administers the Facebook group “Pomaks, Torbeshi and Gorani: Three Names, One People.” She has made friends among Gorani—a Muslim ethnic group living in southern Kosovo and northern Albania—with whom she chats and exchanges audio files of local folk music. “They are learning Bulgarian and I’m learning Gorani,” she says.

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