A case study of identity formation among pomaks in bulgaria, greece and turkey

 “No Balkan Muslim identity is more contested, more wrapped in multiple intertwining twisted webs of myth and history than the Slavic-speaking Muslims or “Pomaks” of the Southern Balkan range” Mary Neuburger, 2000, p. 68. One of the biggest mysteries of my childhood was the secret language that my mother, aunt and grandmother spoke when they were talking about something that they did not want the children to hear. I remember being curious and impatient and yelling them: “Turkish please, Turkish!” I tried to learn to speak it but it was too difficult to remember the words and it did not have any written form.  The language was Pomak or “Pomakca” as we say in Turkish. My perplexity was not only due to inability of understanding the language but also due to the fact That my grandmother whose mother tongue was Pomak always insisted on being Turkish and when asked about she told that Pomaks was not good people. It was not even easy to understand who Pomaks were. There were Pomaks who came from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania but they were none of these nationalities and perceived them as “others”. Yet, like my grandmothcaer, they talked about Pomaks as “others” as well. Most of them were talking about the places they left when immigrating to Turkey always with a great longing and they would return immediately if only there was not the bad memories of “gavurun zulmu” meaning “the cruelty of infidels”.  Years later, I started to make a research about Pomaks to solve this childhood puzzle but more importantly to understand who really the Pomaks were.  What many online inquires and trips to the library has proved was that this question was confusing for everyone else. Standing at the crossroads of language, ethnicity and religion, the identification of Pomaks as a minority has been highly controversial.  Throughout the Balkans, the case of Pomaks has not only challenged the nationalist versions of the history and assimilation campaigns but also the  established understanding of the notions such as ethnicity, identity, group boundaries, kin vs host-states within the scholarly debate surrounding them.  Despite the intellectual curiosity and perplexity that it creates among the scholars, even the use of the traditional name Pomak triggers a sharp criticism and a derogatory look in general public. They could only be “Muslim Bulgarians” for Bulgaria, “Slavic Speaking Greeks” for Greece and “Slavicized Turkish Brothers” for Turkey. Accepting their Pomakness without any ethnic, religious or linguistic hyphenation seems to be hardest of all for the Pomaks themselves as well as the nation-states surrounding them.  After all, Pomaks has never been a self-proclaimed nation or ethnic group with a solid distinct mass group consciousness.(Neuburger, 2000; Eminov, 1997; Omer, 2004) In the conflict-ridden politics of Balkans where the ethnicities, nationalities or identities seldom match the territories that confine them in nation-states, like any other minority Pomaks has always been treated as the “other within”. Many local discourses of co-existence have been dictated by contesting nationalisms, between which identities were defined and contrasted, primarily from the outside. In other words, official identities ascribed to Pomaks have been tied to seemingly solid classificatory boundaries; yet, these boundaries themselves created questions about Pomakness which itself could not easily be classified. The rigidity of ethnic classifications, initially questioned by Barth and Cohen is tested in this case as well. (Barth, 1969; Cohen, 1974) The manipulation of the ethnic boundaries employed by the nation-states in accordance with political considerations, foreign policy issues, and of course also economic interests as well as corresponding reactions of Pomaks in terms of shifting self-and group-identities demonstrate the porous and dynamic nature of ethnicity and identity. (Brunnbauer, 2001; Demetriou, 2004; Michail, 2003) This paper is an investigation aimed at discovering the political and sociological survival strategies that this minority group has developed under the heavy pressure of the nation-states enclosing them and the underlying the reasons that lead them to choose one comprehensive pattern of de-assimilation: “Turkification” regardless of the host-state that they reside in. The examination of Pomakness as a troubled identity helps to clarify the ways in which power, domination and state policy intersect with and limit the options available for self and group identification. The first section is aimed at briefing the reader about the history, geography and general attributes of the Pomak as a minority. The next section, section three portrays the case of Pomaks in the three states: Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey by examining the political and social developments over the last two centuries. The fourth section an attempt to map out the underlying reasons behind the Turkification by analyzing the relative cases of Pomaks in the previous section. The concluding section is discussion about the future of Pomaks under the newly emerging dynamics of EU membership in the area.
As the introduction reveals, Pomakness is a highly contested identity which leads to very subjective historical, geographical and anthropological documentation biased by the competing nationalist projects.  Nonetheless, a careful meta-analysis of the existing resources and crossreferencing is likely to reveal highly reliable information. What an initial research reveals is that “Pomak” is an external marker of identity that is actually used by non-Pomaks. It is rarely employed as a practical self-identification by the members of the community, at least until the end of 1990s.( Neuburger, 2000; Demetriou, 2004; Eminov, 1997))  Moreover, there never has been a significant mass movement or tendency on the part of Pomaks to express or pursue rights based on their “Pomakness”.( Neuburger, 2000; Omer, 2004; Poulton, 1994) In a very general sense, Pomak is used for describing the Muslim, non-Roma populations who speak a Slavic dialect and, hence, do not precisely fit into the category of Greek, Macedonian, or Albanian, and not to mention Bulgarian or Turk. (Brunnbauer, 1999; Poulton, 1994) Therefore, as Neuburger neatly points, Pomakness describes“inbetweenness”, rather than an affiliation with the classic concepts of nationality in Southeast Europe. (Neuburger, 2000) The etymological debate around the term "Pomak" is as heated as the debate around their identities as well. Bulgarian resources argue that the name is derive either from pomagach (помагач), which means "helper"  in reference to role of Pomaks as the auxiliary units of the Ottoman army. (Poulton, 1997; Ortakovski, 2000; Demetriou, 2004).  Some other Bulgarian sources also relate the word to an alleged forced conversion to Islam by Ottomans and asserts that the term is derived from the word pomăka  (по мъка), which means "by pain". (Todorova, 1998; Georgieva, 2001) On the other hand, Greek sources claim that name Pomak comes from the Greek word pomax, which means “drinker” by referring to the historical claim that Pomaks came from a wine producer tribe in Greece. (Demetriou, 2004; Seypel, 1989;  Ortakovski, 2000)The last but not the least, Turkish scholars also claim that the name comes from word pomagach but argue that it is a word belonging to Kuman Turks of the region who are ancseters of the current Pomaks. (Cavusoglu,1993;  Huseyinoglu,1974;Kucukcan, 1989) Communities cultivate their identities within history and construct them by interpreting their histories. Throughout the centuries, Pomaks has been subject to many different influences and pressures triggered by diverse political, social and cultural and economic changes. They became Muslims, interacted with the communities around them, evicted from their land, tried to be assimilated into the nationalities surrounding them. Thus, they have very complex and challenging history which makes the question of search for an identity harder. It is quite demanding to pinpoint their roots in the area with a historical accuracy.  Fundamentally, the mutual agreement between the scholars is that Pomaks are a religious minority. They are of a minority who speak a dialect belonging to the Eastern South Slavic diasystem as their mother tongue, but whose religion and customs are Islamic. (Poulton, 1997; Brunnbauer, 1999;Neuburger, 2000, Michail, 2004, Mancheva, 2001) Nonetheless, there is no agreement related to their origins. The most frequent assertion is that they are of Slavic origin that had inhabited the lands since the early ages.  (Georgieva, 2001; Tsvetkova 1963; Dimitrov & Stoykov 1963; Demetriou, 2003)), this version is always challenged by the competing thesis that Pomaks have actually immigrated into Southeast Europe in the 11th  century with many other accompanying Turkic tribes from Siberia and Ukraine and have been assimilated into the Slavic majority of the land. (Omer, 2004; Memisoglu, 1991; Cavusoglu, 1993; Kucukcan, 1999)  The Pomaks are originally a mountainous community residing in the mountain ranges of the Balkan Peninsula from the Eastern Rhodope to the Northern Albanian Mountains. Majority of the population is concentrated in the Rhodope, but with important settlements in Eastern lands of Macedonia and around the Danube districts. Currently, they are living under the borders of different Balkan countries including Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Albania and Turkey. The actual numbers of Pomaks are difficult to assess because they are not documented as separate minorities in censuses, besides, many would refuse to declare themselves officially as Pomaks. (Neuburger, 2004, Poulton, 1994, Georgieva, 2001, Mancheva, 2001) The approximate estimates are as follows: There are about 750,000 Pomaks in total : around 100,000 in Albania; around 40,000 to 45,000 in Greece and Macedonia; and between 250,000 and 300,000 in Bulgaria and around 300,000 in Turkey. (Poulton, 1997, Cavusoglu, 1991, Michail, 2004, Manka, 1995) What is even harder to estimate is the number of Pomaks in the past due to lack of reliable sources as well as continuously shifting borders and migrating populations of Balkans. The earliest evidence of settlements appears in the Ottoman tax registers from 1499–1502. What these documents reveal is that inhabitants had a mixture of Bulgarian and Turkish-Islamic names.  The registar includes names such as Ali, son of Vladislav, Elias (Ilyas), son of Ismail, and Bahader, son of Georgi, as the residents of the still-existing Teplen village in the Western Rhodopes (Dimitrov & Stoykov 1963). The number of Slavic speaking Muslims in the Rhodope, recorded by various Ottoman documents, grew steadily after the sixteenth century. An extensive study by Kiel, based on several Ottoman registers dating from 1516 to 1865, traces this gradual increase in population.  Under the Ottoman rule, Pomaks have benefited from a considerable amount of autonomy, with an Agha as a community leader who was in charge of domestic affairs of the community . (Kiel, 1998) Besides what has been found in the Ottoman archives, information about the Pomaks is rather limited. Tsvetkova mentions Paul Lucas, a celebrated French traveler of 18th  century, who describes Slavic speaking Muslims in the Rhodope Mountains in 1706 in his notes. Crossing the mountains from Plovdiv to Drama, he writes about the communities he encounters:
“ And when we had covered a distance of seven miles in those
same mountains and along very arduous paths, we passed through the
village called Pashmakli. It is populated by Turks only, but they do not
speak their language. Their dialect is, rather, distorted Slavonic mixed
with Greek and Bulgarian’’ (Tsvetkova, 1963).
Traditionally, Pomaks pursued a very isolated way of life. The specific features of the Rhodope region were rocky and infertile terrain and a lack of substantial transportation systems, which curtailed the economic and cultural communication with the rest of the country. The geography limits their farming opportunities into potato growing, rearing livestock and timber production. (Georgieva, 2001; Poulton, 1997, Kucukcan, 1999) After the First World War, the areas have also been introduced to cultivation of silkworm and tobacco which has became predominant form of agricultural production over the years.( Mancheva, 2001) Some of the male adult population also works in mines in which wages are low and work conditions are very poor. The villages are generally dispersed in the mountains and far away from the centers of trade and commerce. There is only a limited Pomak cohesion in terms of shared territory, with the largest concentration being in the Central Rhodope, nonetheless, in general, the geographic distribution of Pomaks is rather scattered due to both instability of borders in the last two centuries and the isolating effect of the mountain terrain.  All that really unites Pomaks is their adherence to Islam and their use of South Slavic dialects which may vary slightly based on region as well. (Neuburger, 2000) Hence, their lifestyle was shaped by Islamic belief and common law as well as their reliance on the village community and kinship solidarity.(Poulton, 1997, Cavusoglu, 1993; Georgieva, 2001, Brunnbauer 1999, ). This disconnection between the different settlements can also be accounted as an explanation of lack of cohesive identity. Especially in Bulgaria and Greece, even during intense political and social change; Pomaks were able to keep their specific social features. The main reason for this was that they did not take part in the migratory movements into towns and new industrial centers, but tried to remain in their villages. Pomaks were rather reluctant to work in urban centers, and to disperse in the cities, but rather lived at a certain distance from the majority society. (Mancheva, 2001, Brunnbauer, 1999, Omer, 2004). In Greece, it was the deliberate policy of the government to keep Pomaks to their traditional economic activities, to their old settlements, and their traditional lifestyles by confining to a restricted zone. However, in the last three decades Pomak communities have been opening more towards the outside world, as infrastructure development and emigration into towns began to have an impact. Brunnbauer,1999) Aftermath of the Ottoman retreat from Balkans has proved to be much more chaotic, conflict-ridden than the rest of the Pomak history. Pomaks, all of a sudden, were caught in the middle of the conflict about borders between competing nationalisms. They were the most complicated part of the question about how land and people should be demarcated into nations and states. Not surprisingly, all of the emerging nation-states claimed Pomaks as their own and at the same time accused them of being a traitor, man of the Other. Therefore, during the Balkan wars, they have been both persecuted and welcomed in different periods and under different governments. The fluctuation of borders only added to their misery by the loss of much needed farming lands or forestation areas, leading to even starvation. (Ortavski, 2000; Todorova, 1996) The later emergence of the nation states at the end of the First World War by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire has led to many different versions of the Pomak history under each nation-state. Pomaks had converted to Islam under Ottoman duress (according to Bulgarians, Macedonians, Greeks), or lost their original language due to (admittedly voluntary) linguistic assimilation (according to Turks, Albanians), or both their language and religion through these processes (the Greeks). (Apostolov, 1996) For all these nations, the inclination to claim the Pomaks had less to do with any real sympathy for Pomaks as a kindred population and more to do with their strategic value in ethnographic battles over the disputed territories. (Neuburger, 2004) This biased, nationalist approach to local history of Pomaks dominated Balkan writings. All those aspects of Pomaks’ culture that coincided with majority customs were embraced as “native” proofs of ethnic/national religious brotherhood, while disparities were ascribed to “foreign” influences that had been imposed under different occupation periods. The policies geared towards handling the Pomaks, in general, oscillated between two extremes: either complete assimilation or complete ignorance and isolation between different states as well as between different regimes in the same state. (Koksal, 2004)As much as there has been similar policies and reactions, local realities of Pomak history has been shaped by many different dynamics exclusive to their own experiences. Hence, I believe, it is still an obligation for us to closely examine Pomak experience under each nationstate to identify the unifying patterns which have led to Turkification among Pomaks.
The paradox of the Pomak fate lies in their in-betweenness which has made them both the object of desire and source of a security threat. They were both claimed as co-nationals or potential traitors by this multitude of Balkan nations. (Neuburger, 2004)  Pomaks had converted to Islam under Ottoman duress (according to Bulgarians, Macedonians, Greeks), or lost their original language due to linguistic assimilation (according to Turks, Albanians, Greeks), or both their language and religion through these processes (the Greeks).  As Neuburger indicates, Pomaks “were perceived as a gray zone, ripe to be painted white or black by the pretenders to their national wills.” (Neuburger, 2000)  The traditional Balkan nationalist discourse of the last century tried to claim the Pomaks as the part of “the Self” based on a common thread such as language or religion. Any discrepancies were easily discarded and attributed to cultural change throughout the history. The underlying motivation for these nationality claims were their strategic value in ethnographic battles over the disputed territories of Thrace and Macedonia rather than a sincere quest for identity. (Michail, 2001; Warhola, 2003) The fate of the Pomaks in each of the nation-states has been shaped by the perceived degree of the Pomaks as insiders or outsiders. The more the nation –states perceived them to be a part of their nationality, more they have tried to assimilate them as it has been in the case of Bulgaria, Turkey and Macedonia. On the other hand, the more they have been perceived as a outsider with close ties to the surrounding states around them the tendency has been to isolate them and ignore their differences as it has been the case in Greece. (Michail, 2001; Seypel, 1989; Hidiroglu, 1989)  An analysis of the historical development of Pomak communities and their interaction with other minorities and the majority reveals the insight into the question of why there has been a pattern of Turkification among the Pomaks and explain the reasons for this common pattern despite differences in their experiences.
Pomaks of Bulgaria  live in closed and traditional communities in the Rhope mountains in Southern Bulgaria from Mesta River valley in the west to the Haskova-Kurdzali line in the east and a small number of them live around the Lovec on the northern slopes of the Balkan mountains. (Eminov, 1997) While there is no substantial controversy surrounding the roots of the Turks or the Romas, the irreconcilable debate in respect to the origins and true identity of Pomaks is never ending due to conflicting security and national interests of Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece.  In Bulgaria, the Pomak population is referred to as both “Bulgarian Mohammedans”, “Bulgarian Speaking Muslims” or “Pomaks” yet, the last term is generally used in derogatory meaning. The name Bulgarian Mohammedans is used in the official and legal terminology. This name is meant to reflect the Bulgarian historical thesis that the Pomaks used to be Slavic Christians that were subject to forced Islamization in the past. (Todorova, 1998) Bulgarian policies towards the Muslim community on the whole can best be described with the word inconsistency. After the independence of Bulgaria, the minority rights were guaranteed by unilateral and multilateral treaties. Nonetheless, especially between 1878 and 1945, the determining factor was the changing governments and political conditions. In this period, the experience of Pomaks changed from enjoying the rights and privileges of an autonomous religious group to suffering periods of forced conversion and immigration in accordance with the change in government policies and security concerns. Thus, the Pomaks, similar to the rest of the Muslim community, was exposed to inconsistent and controversial treatment which left the confused about their social status and future. (Apostolov, 1998; Brunnbauer, 1999, Georgieva, 2001) The modern Bulgaria, which appeared on the political map as a result of the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War was established on the principle of ‘one nation, one state’ like many other nationstates of the time. The Bulgarian nationality was constructed along linguistic as well as religious lines, hence to be Bulgarian meant to speak Bulgarian and belong to the Bulgarian Orthodox church. This concept tacitly estranged the Muslims as well as other religious communities like Catholics and Jews. (Poulton, 1997; Todorova, 1996) This principle, however, proved to be in contradiction with the reality of Ottoman legacy which has left Bulgaria with a heterogeneous population in terms of both ethnicity and religion. Under these the circumstances, unification of the nation and the state became the main objective and diversity of the population was perceived as a threat to this unification (Georgieva,2001; Todorova, 1996) Yet, the state policy to deal with the minorities was also underlined by legacy of the past. Minority policies were characterized by dealing with Muslims as a homogenous group regardless of ethnic or linguistic differences, much like the Ottoman Millet system. The term Muslim was virtually equated with Turks, whether they were ethnic Turks or Slav Muslims, Muslim Roma, Tatars or Cirkassians. In the case of Pomaks, even though Bulgarian intellectuals were very well aware of their distinctiveness, the first decades of its independence, Pomaks were treated as a part of the Turkish community. Pomaks were, for example, listed under the rubric ‘Turks’ in the first Bulgarian national censuses. (Georgieva,2001; Todorova, 1996; Mancheva, 2001) In the period 1878 - 1944 there were three main conversion campaigns against the Pomaks, which were carried out as an official state policy, backed up by the Orthodox Church. The first conversion campaign took place immediately after the Russian–Ottoman War of 1877/78, different from successors, it was only limited to a specific region. (Georgieva,2001; Mancheva, 2001) However, it had already displayed the features of future attempts of forced assimilation of Pomaks in Bulgaria.  Pomaks argued to be true Bulgarians, and that their Muslim faith was result of forced conversion. Assimilatory measures were directed against all visible cultural features of Pomak life, which separated them from the majority. Since distinctive Pomak habits were either determined by religion or expressed in form of religious rituals, eradicating all signs of Islamic culture was the foremost aim of assimilation. Turkish–Arabic names, Muslim prayers and holidays, religious rituals, and traditional dresses of women as well as men banned and replaced by Bulgarian/Orthodox ones. (Gradeva, 1998; Eminov, 1997, Poulton, 1997) The assimilation during 1912-1913 Balkan Wars was seen as an opportunity before any peace treaty was signed that would draw the borders along ethnic lines. To all speculations on the “voluntary character” of  conversion, a  multitude  of  archive  documents, reveal  the  forced  nature of conversion (Konstantinov, 1995; Eminov, 1997) Until 1942, the Bulgarian policy has oscillated between religious tolerance and cultural assimilation. By the late 1920s and into 1930s the government, quite irritated by the increasing number of reports indicating that the turkification of Pomaks, placed a ban on the use of “Pomak” as a name of reference. They have deprived the Pomaks of their right to marry Muslim of a different ethnicity. This prohibition was unmistakably related to marriages between Pomak and Turkish Muslims. Pomak Muslim students were banned from attending Turkish minority religious schools, where they have received religious education traditionally. As a result all Muslims schools in areas with compact Pomak population were transformed into public schools with Bulgarian Christian teaching staff. (Eminov, 1997; Ortavski, 2000, Mancheva, 2001)  In addition to that in 1937, government founded an organization called Rodina (meaning Motherland) that included Muslim and Christina intellectuals set out to reclaim the Bulgarian consciousness of Pomaks. It aimed to replace the use of Muslim names and rituals with Bulgarian ones.  Nonetheless, all these culturally charged policies were abandoned during the Second World War and another major forced conversion campaign was carried out by the government with the help of the Orthodox church during 1942-1943. (Neuburger, 2000) The communist regime, unfortunately, failed to break the cycle of continuous change of polices and controversy. In the first years of the new regime, the ethnic and religious rights of Pomaks were restored. The names changes were reversed and religious rituals could be performed openly. The Rodina was declared a fascist organization and reprisals were carried out against its members. The change in policies, however, was short-lived after the affiliation between Pomaks and other ethnic groups in the region proved to be continuous security concern. In 1948, thousands of Pomaks were evicted them from the Bulgarian-Greek border area of the Rhodopes and resettled to Northern Bulgaria. Pomaks were also deprived of their right to self-identification. In 1951, the Communist regime invalidated the data from the 1946 census; since it was found that a considerable amount of Pomaks indicated “Turkish” as their nationality. Throughout  the rest of the 1960s, Politburo engaged in devising measures for preventing Tatars, Gypsies, and Bulgarians, professing Islam, from identifying themselves as Turks. (Todorova,
1998; Zhelyazkova, 1997) The most comprehensive forced assimilation campaign against the Pomaks took place in 1972-1974. The Pomaks were chosen as an example for ‘Rebirth Process’, which was eventually extended to the Turks.  In fact, after this assimilation campaign not a single Pomak Muslim with non-Bulgarian name was left in the country. Similar to earlier attempts, the only external signs of their identity differentiating them from majority, meaning their Islamic names and rituals were erased. Despite the fact that all of their rights to identity, the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, were completely taken away; Pomaks continued to use their Muslim names, and practise Islamic rituals at home and among kinship. Therefore, the response of Pomaks were to isolate themselves and solidify their community (Zhelyazkova 1997, Demetriou, 2004) In the aftermath of Communism, while the Turkish minority was gaining their rights rapidly, due to pressure from Turkey in international arena, Pomaks could not benefit legally and affectively from this emancipation. At this point the Pomak minority sought to collaborate with the rising Turkish minority groups who were politically mobilized. A very strong actor has been a political party called Movement for Rights and Freedoms. The MRF is a secular organization which demanded legal protection in conformity with international law, political rights, an opportunity to participate at all levels of administration as well as a protection for their cultural and linguistic identity. While insisting on collective rights for minorities and fighting for cultural autonomy, the MRF has portrayed itself as loyal to Bulgarian sovereignty to solidify its position.  Yet, the MRF remained to be an overwhelmingly Turkish organization; which has contributed to turkification of Pomaks by means of ethnic-political mobilization( Manka, 1995; Zhelyazkova, 121997, Demetriou, 2004) Pomaks were merged into the Turkish movement in order to attain their religious rights and minority. Only by the end of 1990s and early 2000, the Pomaks started to shows signs of reforming their ethnic consciousness. This was mainly due to Bulgarian efforts to reallocate sources accessible to Pomaks with the hopes of EU membership. Cultural and social investments to Pomak lands and population started slowly the emergence of more pronounced Pomak identity.( Koksal, 2004)
The historically Pomaks of Greece are inhabitants of Xanthi, Rhodope and with some later settlements of Evros region. There is not much historical data relating to origins of the Pomaks in this region beyond the historical thesis of the Greece which argues that Pomaks are a decedent of Thracian tribes. Most of the existing sources point to the 12th  century for Islamization of this group when there were mass conversions. Yet, unlike Bulgaria, majority of the Greek sources point to voluntary nature of the conversions. By the end of the 19th century, Pomaks had considerable portion in this Southeast part of the Balkan Peninsula reaching up to 25 percent of the overall population. Historically, there is not much of a claim to an autonomous national or cultural identity. Nevertheless, in 1878, in the region of Drama, 21 villages of Pomaks formed an autonomous Republic of short duration. Yet, this short lived moment of ethnic consciousness died down with the increasing interaction with the Turkish population
surrounding them. (Michail, 2003, Seypel, 1989, Ortavski, 2000) After taking control of Western Thrace in 1919, Greece acquired a considerable Pomak population. However, an important amount of the Pomaks have left Greece and migrated to Turkey with the population exchange after the treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Only around 40,000 Pomaks continued to reside in the Greece, mainly north of the towns of Komotini and Xanthi. As a feature of  dominant Balkan nationalism,  being a Greek and citizen were deeply connected with membership in the Greek Orthodox Church and ethnicity. Being Muslim and Slavophone, Pomaks was not able to qualify as Greeks and perceived as the “others”. Their existence in Greece was tolerated as a result of international agreements, which also forced them to grant minority status to Pomaks between the Nestos and Evros rivers. In 1920s, similar to the Bulgarian case, the official policy towards the Muslim minority was a continuum the Ottoman millet system. The definition of minority was equated with the religious differences and all the Muslim minority despite the ethnic differences were treated as 13the same. The dominant group within the Muslims was Turks, therefore all the policies were geared towards the Turks and Pomaks were officially assumed to be Turks. (Ortavski, 2000;Brunnbauer, 2001; Demetriou, 2004) During the inter-war period, Greece continued to regard Pomaks as Turks. Pomaks did not enjoy any specific rights, aside the Muslim population in general. If attending school at all,Pomak children would attend either Turkish minority schools or Greek schools. (Brunnbauer, 2001; Michail, 2003) Islamic religious institutions were also controlled by Turks. The Greek government developed no interest in the Pomaks, leaving that Muslim population open to assimilation of larger Turkish community. Attitudes of the Greek government towards the Pomaks only changed after the Second World War, when Bulgarian troops had occupied Western Thrace and started an assimilation campaign. As a reaction to this, the government directed its attention towards the Pomaks. The measure, adopted at the time of General Metaxas fascist regime and maintained during the Communist regime, was creating a special military zone around the Pomak settlements with checkpoints at of all roads leading to the area.  Special identity cards were issued for the inhabitants and special short time permissions for visitors, and the area was closed to as access after dawn, till dusk. The Pomaks living in these regions were banned from traveling more than 30 km, forced to return to their region by the sunset and denied any right to buy or sell land, as well as attaining a passport and even a drivers license. (Michail, 2003; Brunnbauer, 2001, Demetriou,  2004, Koutroubas, 2001 ) As these examples shows, Greek policy towards Pomaks was mainly a reaction to foreign affairs and internal dynamics. As soon as Bulgaria posed a threat to Greece, Pomaks who shared linguistic and racial features with Bulgarians, became potential traitors who could be manipulated. However, this change in political attitudes led to the complete denial of the Pomak identity to prevent political alliances with the Pomaks in Bulgaria. To minimize their Slavness, the official discourse described the minority as Turkish. (Brunnbauer, 2001; Demetriou, 2004) What is more, educational agreements of 1951 concerning Western Thrace minority schools gave Turkish a de facto status of vernacular language amongst the muslim minority. The negligence of Greeks in promoting other minority languages such as Pomak and Romani or in organizing a higher education attractive to minorities has contributed to the dominance of the Turkish  as well. Combined with use of media by the Turkish minority and Turkey, the 14predominance of the Turkish language and culture had been cultivated more and led to emergence of a Turkish-Muslim identity. (Koutroubas,2001; Baltsiotis, 1997) This tolerance towards the Turkish element was strengthened with Greece’s partnership with Turkey in NATO since 1952. Turkey was at least a NATO partner and Pomaks as ‘Turks’ were a lesser threat than Pomaks as communist Bulgarians. In 1954, the government even ordered the replacement of the terms ‘Muslim’ with ‘Turk’ or ‘Turkish’in legal documents. Pomaks were obliged to learn Turkish and they had to call themselves ‘Turks’. But during the
1950s, other views of the Pomaks had also been expressed. K. G. Andreades, for instance, wrote in 1956 that not all of Muslims are Turks and especially the Pomaks are probably descendants of the old Thracians. (Andreades, 1956; Bruunbauer, 1999) However, it needed a shift in Greek foreign policy for official endorsement of such theories. This did happen after the worsening of relations between Greece and Turkey as a consequence of the crisis over Cyprus. In 1968 the ruling colonels lifted the decree of 1954, which declared all Muslims in Greece to be Turks.  (Brunnbauer, 1999) Now, it was the time when the ‘other’ needed to be made the ‘self’ in Greece, too. With this policy change, Pomaks virtually became regarded as Greeks. The aim was to cut all ties between Pomaks and Turks and Turkey, and to prevent any identification of the Pomaks with Bulgarians on the other. The democratic governments continued this policy after the fall of the colonels in 1974. The most consistent efforts to prove the Greek character of the Pomaks by academic means date from the 1980s. Government was aimed at developing policies for separating Pomaks from Turks and conducting a campaign of enlightenment in order to inform Pomaks about their true origin. (Demetriou, 2004; Ortavski, 2000) Along these lines, Brunnbauer points to Nikolaou Xirotiri’s physical-anthropological race studies on Pomaks where origins of  ‘Achrjans”, as he calls them, has been reconstructed by means of metric measurements, dermatology, and serology, measuring their skulls and determining the colors of their hair, skin, and eyes fingerprints.  The goal of these studies was to prove that Achrjans are more closely linked to the majority Greek population than to Bulgarians. (Brunnbauer, 2001) During the 1970s and 1980s, Greek-speaking kindergartens and schools were established in Pomak areas in order to diminish Turkish influence. Similar to Bulgarian counterparts, these secular  schools did not attract much Pomak students due to fear of losing Islamic identities. In 1990, as a result of the efforts for reduction of the Turkish influence, Greek government sponsored a community of Greek historians, ethnographers, and anthropologists who tried to produce evidence that Pomaks had descended from ancient, classical Thracian tribes who have been respectively Romanised, Slavised, Christianised, and finally Islamised.  This theory had linguistic and racial evidences such as Greek etymology of Pomak words and similarity of distribution of blood groups between Pomaks and Greeks compared to Turks or Bulgarians. (Demetriou, 2004,  Koutroubas,2001; Baltsiotis, 1997)After the demise of the communist regime in Bulgaria, the Greek government had to respond to a new set of security concerns. In addition, Greeks had to reconcile with the failure of their assimilative policies.  Instead of gradually integrating into Greek majority, Pomaks had either adopted a Turkish identity or had retained multiple identities. Similarly to Bulgaria, as a result, the Greek government had pursued a policy of forced assimilation mainly in the realm of symbolical manifestations of ethnicity, without economic or social incentives that would have made a change to Greek identity attractive for Pomaks. (Krasteva-Blagoeva, 2001) During the last few years, the Greek government seems to have somewhat changed its attitudes towards the Pomaks, tacitly confessing the failure of forced assimilation. In 1995, Greece abolished the restricted military zone. In 1998, the article of the Greek citizenship code of 1955 providing for the deprivation of the Greek nationality from persons of non-Greek origin was abandoned. This article also adopted during the communist regime has been used to deprive many members of the minority of their Greek nationality, whilst its racial foundation had been a permanent cause of severe critics towards Greece in international politics. (Koutroubas, 2001) Nevertheless, attempts to minimize the Bulgarian and Turkish influence in ethnic discourse are continuing. In recent years, the spread of the Turkish language amongst Western Thracian Pomak and the general emergence of a Turkish identity in a large part of the minority produced a number of projects for teaching Pomak in the community schools. A primary school reading book, a grammar book, two dictionaries and children books have been published in Pomak language. The allegedly Thracian origins of Pomaks, which would bring them ethnically closer to Greeks is still emphasized in this literature targeted to Pomaks. In contrast, the introduction of Pomak in minority schools is interpreted by the Pomak people as an attempt to divide the community and severe their ties with Turks and Turkey which is deeply rooted in the region. It has also been criticized by Bulgaria who fears a potential Pomak revival and claims of 16autonomy and even independence that may find its way among Bulgarian Pomaks. (Koutroubas,  2001; Krasteva-Blagoeva, 2001)
Historically, the Pomaks have been living only in the Eastern Thrace part of modern Turkey as a continuum of the Pomak people in the Western Thrace.  The rest of the Pomak population living in Anatolian part is a result of the different migration waves since the Balkan Wars. Today, the native Pomaks of Eastern Thrace is mostly mixed with emigrants from the Western Thrace and Turks living in the region.  In Anatolia, the major Pomak populations are concentrated mostly around the cities such as Eskisehir, Bursa, Izmit where they have been originally resettled upon their arrival. They primary language is Turkish with some homes speaking also Bulgarian and Greek. Nonetheless, they prefer to talk to their close relatives and family members in Pomak. (Eminov, 1997; Cavusoglu, 1993) The Pomak population tends to live in compact settlements as an attempt to recreate their original settlements in western Thrace. Pomaks who left either Bulgaria or Greece often resettled in villages inhabited by their kin and friends. In some examples they have even named the new area after the old one like Kircali after Kurdzali in Bulgaria. This attempt to recreate their villages in Anatolia also enabled them to keep their connection to their original lands and people. Especially, as Poulton points in Pomak areas in Eastern Thrace, there are direct bus lines between these new and old villages and towns. (Poulton, 1997) The Pomak history and identity has also been subject to a nationalist reinterpretation in Turkey similar to the cases in Bulgaria and Greece.  The widely popular identity assigned to Pomaks is Mountain Turks. According to the Turkish historical thesis, these people are the descendants of the Turkic tribes who have migrated to region from Central Asia. The argument is that Pomaks are direct descendants of the Kuman Tribe who came along the Pecenek Turks into the Balkan Peninsula in 11th century. After the defeat against Byzantium, Peceneks have been scattered and assimilated and disappeared. Yet, some of the Kuman Turks were left in the area and converted to Islam by missionaries from Middle East and West Africa in 12th  century. Thus, Pomaks had established a Muslim existence in the Southern Balkans before the latter’s conquest by the Ottomans. So, Pomaks are the oldest Turkish population in Europe. (Seyppel, 1989: Hidiroglou, 1991, Memisoglu, 1991). The word Pomak, in this version, comes from Turkish ‘Pomagach’ whih means helper as a reference to the help that these Muslim groups have given to Turco-Ottoman tribes settling in the region in 13th and 14th centuries. As for the language, the  Turkish sources claim that Pomak language is very close to Anatolian vernacular dialects. Most of the words up to 65% are asserted to be Turkish and only a small percentage of the words are tied to Slavic origins. Regarding their conversion, Turkish sources argue that it was gradual and voluntary extended over a long time span. (Kucukcan, 1999, Poulton, 1997)The first major immigration from Bulgaria and Greece has been during the Balkan Wars. The chaotic environment of the war, the oppression towards the Muslims in the area, the forced conversion attempts of the Bulgarians have led the Pomaks as well as the other Muslim minorities of the region to migrate to inner lands of Ottoman Empire.  In this first wave most of the immigrants were from the Bulgarian territory. The second wave of immigration was a result of the population exchange between the Turks and Greeks after Lausanne treaty in 1924. Except the Pomaks in the Xanhti and Komotini region, most of the Pomaks along have settled in Turkey. These groups have been mostly settled in Anatolian region. They have been given land equal to the amount of they had possessed in Greece. Hence, this wave was mostly a rural resettlement in which Pomaks from same villages and towns recreated their original social settings. The pattern of emigration which occurred was a simple geographical transfer from home village to an analogous village in Turkey. Social structure that enables reconstruction of the Pomak identity was kept intact. Hence, these groups have been the most successful in still retaining their language and distinctive identity.The third wave was in 1950-51. These groups were mostly  resettled in urban areas of Anatolia with predominantly Turkish population to enable a faster assimilation of the immigrants.  The last wave came in the 1989 from Bulgaria. Compared to the Turkish minority emigrating from Bulgaria, their numbers were relatively small. This was mainly due to the travel restrictions imposed by the Bulgarian government at the time such as denial of passports and identification cards to Pomaks who expressed to leave the country.  In this wave, Pomaks who have managed to come to Turkey had either with false documentations about their Turkishness or bribed their way into Turkey by paying to border protection officials. These groups opted to move among the already settled Pomak populations who have come during the early waves of immigration in search for security and stability. (Seyppel, 1989:42; Hidiroglou, 1991; Ortavski, 2000, Memisoglu, 1991) With its founding treaty, namely the Treaty of Lausanne (July 1923), Turkey accepted all its non-Muslim citizens as minorities. In the constitution which was enacted in 1924, citizenship was defined as Turkish and claimed to be a constitutional supranational identity for the inhabitants of Turkey. The people of Turkey, regardless of religion and race, were accepted as Turks regarding their citizenship. The ethnic origin was not a precondition to Turkishness and being a Turkish constructed to mean allegiance to a political unity. However, this did not erase all the ethnic connotations of being Turkish. In other words, ethnic Turks proved to be the dominant population with strongest claim to citizenship and nationality.  (Seker, 2005) Therefore, nationalism of 1920s and 1930s remained both inclusive and exclusive in ethnic terms. It was inclusive because it was not based entirely on ethnicity or racial origin and formally, anyone could become Turk. It was exclusive because it was covertly defined the “Turk” in ethnic, cultural, linguistic and moral values of the Turks in Central Asia.  Hence, culturally and linguistically assimilative policies aimed at to install these ethnic, cultural, linguistic and moral values were firmly established through a one-party regime. During the nation-building process, speaking the Turkish language was perceived as the most important precondition of qualification into Turkish nationality. In conformity with this perception, the public usage of other languages was banned and campaign for the usage of Turkish were instated with provocative banner such as “Citizen, speak Turkish”, in 1928 and maintained throughout 1930s with the support of media. Although the targeted populations in these campaigns were the Jews and Armenians, Muslim minorities such as Kurds, Arabs and Pomaks also felt the impact of the campaign. (Seker, 2005) Turkification policy in the early Turkish Republic covered the legal, linguistic, cultural and economic spheres. At this point, it has to be underlined that Islamic identity is considered as proto-Turkish identity since Muslim was usually identified with Turkish in the continuum of Turkish-Ottoman legacy. Hence Pomaks were not excluded from majority like Jews or Armenians, therefore the means of assimilation were not perceived as direct threat to their existence. Similar to Bulgarian counterparts, Turkish nationalism of 1920-1930s was assimilative but with a difference. It aimed entirely to socialize non-Turks as “Turks” through changing their cultural and linguistic traits without allowing them to maintain their distinct identities. It did not only aim at replacing the external markings of minority identities with 19Turkish ones but also provided a comprehensive social and economic scheme to socialize new generations into Turkishness.(Koksal, 2004)
Pomaks are a minority group at the crossroads of border not only in their geographical location but also in their ethnographic location. They are standing in place where fundamental markers of identity cross into each other: religion, language, and ethnicity. Their existence as a distinct group stands against the monolithic nationalism of Balkan states which try recklessly to impose a uniform identity in their quest to unify the nation and the state. In this political environment in which both the borders and identities imposed on them shift continually, it shall be understood that they would need to construct a multiple layered, context-bound identity that would ensure their survival as a group. Even only during the last century, their names have been changed four times into Bulgarian- Christian names and then four times restored back to Turkic-Muslim ones in Bulgaria; they have been officially categorized as Muslims, then Turkish, then Greek, then Pomak in Greece; and have been welcomed as members of a new republic which created Turkishness as a new identity for all of its population without leaving space for sub-nationalities. (Eminov, 1997) After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Balkan states were left with disputed borders and multitude of ethnic groups. They indeed had a Greek, Bulgarian or Turkish states but their populations were not at all Greek, Bulgarian or Turkish.  Yet, the nationalisms they have subscribed to were promoting the idea of one-nation one state which did not concur with the reality that ruling elite has to face. Under these circumstances, and the heavy pressure of being surrounded by other states that did have a historical claim to either their lands or populations, their choice had been to ascribe a preset identity to their entire population to make the administrative border concur with the ethnic frontier to achieve an integrity that a new state required.  As it has been well-observed, nation-states coming out of multiethnic empires tend to convey previous administrative practices into their new administrative structures. This reveals a path-dependent model, in which imperial administrative practices tend to influence the course for the government policies of new nation states (Tilly 1997; Skocpol 1984). Even though flourishing nation–states had assertions of all sorts about new beginnings free from imperial rule; most of their domestic and international policies have been influenced by the imperial legacy of The Ottoman Empire. All of the nation states mentioned have opted for defining their lines of inclusion or exclusion for their nations along the lines of the millet system in Ottoman Empire. In millet system the society was divided along religious lines. Muslims formed one millet and the non-Muslims formed three distinct millets: Orthodox Christians, Jews and Armenians. These millets had a legally protected status with internal autonomy in cultural and judicial affairs. Poulton, 1997; Oran, 1992)  Based fundamentally on this existing social and administrative structure, each nation has defined what it means to be minority according to their religious status. As a result, the Orthodox Christians in Greece and Bulgaria have been easily included in the nation whereas Muslims were declared to be the minorities. On the other hand, the Muslims in Turkey were easily accepted as Turks, where as the non-Muslims were recognized as the minorities apart from the core of nationality. Those definitions have also been solidified by the international treaties that have established these states and bilateral agreements with each other such as Treaty of Istanbul in 1913, Treaty of Neuilly in 1919, and Lausanne Treaty in 1924. (Koksal, 2004, Poulton, 1997) In midst of it all, Pomaks were caught up in this vortex about how Balkans should be reconstructed; meaning how territory and people should be divided. Pomaks were left at  a“grey zone” in this black and white vision of nationality and minority status. They were not quite fitting into neatly defined categories of nationhood ascribed upon them. (Neuburger, 2000)In Bulgaria, they had racial features of Slavs, speaking Slavic but somehow they were not Slavs because they were Muslim. In Greece, they were known to be native people of the land, yet they were talking a Slavic language and on top of that they were Muslim. In Turkey, they were the Muslim brothers yet not quite so Turk with a Slavic mother tongue and different understanding of Islam. (Seker, 2005) As the previous section indicates, none of these nation-states were willing to recognize them as a distinct group. They could either be defined as part of the Muslim minority in Greece and Bulgaria without a distinctive identity or their Greekness or Bulgarianness has to be discovered and resuscitated. Hence, they were either “Others” or “Self”. In this manner, the policy choices of these states have oscillated between oppression, assimilation, tolerance and ignorance depending on the domestic and international factors. (Poulton, 1997, Koksal, 2004)  The oppression towards the Muslim ‘Other’ was politically expressed in discrimination and/or forced emigration. Perceiving Muslims as the ‘Self’ and denying their ‘Otherness’, usually led to assimilation policies ranging from attempts at cultural assimilation via education to forced conversions and name changing campaigns. (Brunnbauer, 2001) What had made the question of identity more complicated for the Pomaks was the lack of consistency. The frequent regime changes coupled together with constantly reformulation of foreign policy in the turbulent atmosphere of the Balkans led to ever-shifting inclusion/ exclusion lines. Pomaks were totally ignored and isolated as the “Other” for a period of time and then they had to be reclaimed as the “Self” as national security measure.  The nation states via their academic apparatus including universities, academies, and councils of history have employed their virtual monopoly over science and objectiveness to control the ethnic discourse about Pomaks and their identity.  (Konstantinov, 1997; Mancheva, 2001)This attempt to authoritatively define the “correct and natural”  identity can clearly been seen in the efforts of Greece and Bulgaria to prove the Selfness of Pomak by resorting to blood tests, racial examinations, linguistic studies, ethnographic researches. (Neuberger, 2001) The Otherness of Pomaks was so evident in their external markers of identity with their Islamic outfits, Muslim names, religious rites and rituals, yet it could have been easily changed. Therefore all of the assimilation campaigns, especially in Bulgaria as mentioned in the previous section, has been aimed at erasing these markers by changing names, altering official records, making people declare their conversions publicly, banning Islamic code of dress and abolishing any religious activity. Yet, when the security threats have been redefined, ideologies or governments had been replaced and national priorities in international affairs have been changed, all of these discourses and campaigns have been reversed. Nonetheless, even at the times that they were accepted as a part of the nation, they could never attain equality with the rest of the nation.  (Mancheva, 2001)As a minority who could at the same time are claimed as Islamicized, Slavized, Hellenized brothers of other nations; Pomaks were also potential traitors that could facilitate foreign interventions and invasions. (Neuburger, 2001; Ivanov, 2007) Thus even if they have been accepted as a part of the nation, they could have never left out of control and should always be surrounded by the restrictions even if it meant isolating them in a military zone as it has been the case in Greece until mid-1990s. As Seypel indicates the ever-shifting lines of inclusion and exclusion, inconsistency driven Pomaks into confusion about their identity. (Seypel, 1989) Pomaks even did not know who they were. In a field study conducted by Donna Michail, a male informant living in Xanthi region belonging to the community of Thermes indicates this confusion as follows:
In our relation to our identity, they confused us. Some say
that we are Bulgarians, then the others come and say ‘You are
Turks’, then the Greeks would come and say ‘You are Greeks’…
We do not know what all of you (Greeks, Turks, Bulgarians) who
came to our area later on, say. We are only sure about one thing.
That our fathers and grandfathers were from here, we are only
native people
” (Michail, 2003, p.6)
This could also be taken as an point which many of the scholars share about Pomaks; that Pomak did not have a  positive self-proclaimed identity, they usually tended to describe themselves by referring to their locality and define the borders of inclusion for their groups based on shared history, customs, language and religion, but not a shared identity of Pomakness. (Neuburger, 2001; Eminov, 1997;) This observation would also concur with the fact that most of the time, Pomaks of different region and sometimes even different villges do not tend to associate with each other. For Pomaks, local ties and kinship is the key to their group identity. As Elchinova asserts
There is a strong feeling of local affiliation, shared by the
members of Pomak communities. This feeling can even override
the importance of ethnic and religious affiliation
.” (Elchinova,
2001, p. 63)
Yet, beyond this strength of a local affiliation, another result of these inconsistent ascribed identities seems to be an insecurity related to their identities. (Michail, 2003)Pomaks are continuously shuttled between being included and excluded. Even if they are included, in each nation-state, they always face the negativity as a weaker member, a traitor even. This easily leads to feelings of vulnerability among them and need to prove themselves as equals. But it is not only the imposed negative image that generates this insecurity; it is also their inability to formulate their own identity in categories presented to them. Hence, Pomaks faces a crisis of identity. As long as their identities kept being hyphenated as Slavized-Islamized-Hellenized, it is quite rational for Pomaks to feel threatened and insecure about identity. (Eminov, 1997; Elchinova, 2001) Konstantinov observes this phenomenon as follows:
They, themselves, the Pomaks are indeed quite sensible as
to their own psychic insecurities and their social belonging or
disbelonging. When they are asked as to their identity, Pomaks
practically always tend to hesitate. Some people o utter the word
‘Pomak’ only in a subdued manner just like the word Gypsy or Jew
” (Konstantinov, 1991, p.43)
Therefore, as remarked earlier, The Pomaks are generally only comfortable in asserting their local affiliation which is a real community for them in contrast with the many other imagined communities they have trouble in associating with. (Michail, 2003)What should be taken into account is that identity formation in the sense of creating patterns of inclusion and exclusion is fundamental to the survival of a group.  In essence, ethnic
group members can exist only insofar as they create and maintain boundaries between their own ethnic group and other ethnic groups. On the other hand, identity formation is a dual and interactive and dynamic process. Not only the members of the group define themselves from inside and communicate his definition throughout an informal ethnic discourse also the Others, non-members define and communicate their own definition of a particular group. These two different definitions are in a continuous interaction and withtheir reaction to each other both groups shape the way these group identifications are constructed. Finally, the identity formation is also dynamic and allows the group to adapt to changing social, economic and political circumstances in order to survive. (Elchinova, 2001, Bruunbauer, 2001) Pomak identity has not been an exception to these general remarks about identity formation. All of the regional instability, political turmoil, and shifting nature of ethnic policies have led Pomaks to form a fluid, multi-level identity that is adaptable to different circumstances. Regional rivalry of nationalisms has influenced the identity patterns of Pomaks and has led them to fluctuate between different ethno-national affiliations in different contexts. First there is a private or informal level of their identity which is based on the members’ self-perception, linked to their own culture and referring to interactions within the group. For Pomaks, this identity is constructed upon their local affiliation, usually defined in terms of kinship, membership of same village or township. In this level, they are aware of their Pomakness though they do not express it but there is a shared tacit understanding and acceptance. They are comfortable in using the Pomak language, engaging in Pomak rituals, rites and verbalizing their beliefs. All of these activities are also used as a mean to recreate their identity and transfer it to new generations. Secondly, there is the public or formal identity which refers to the identity used by them in interactions with outsiders. In most of the cases throughout Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey this public identity tends to be Turkish. (Eminov, 1997; Michail, 2003, Papanikolau, 2002)
 A male informant in the filed study conducted by Papanikolau in 2002 pronounces this double layered
identity in his own words as follows:
I am a Pomak but this does not imply any division in the
entity of my minority which is Turkish minority. I am a Pomak of
the Turkish minority
.” (Papanikolau, 2002,p. 17)
In most of the cases, Pomaks are very cautious in expressing their ethnic affiliations or identity in the presence of people not belonging to their community. They prefer to assert their Turkishness in the presence of strangers and only resort to their private level identity of Pomakness among their close friends, relatives or fellow villagers. In an interesting way, even though there is a discrepancy between these two levels of identity; Pomaks strongly defend their co-existence. (Elchinova, 2001) The linguistic aspect of their private identity clashes with their assumed Turkishness in the public level. Yet, Pomaks tends to rationalize these discrepancies by resorting to vernacular versions of official myths about their origins . When a Pomak who does not speak Turkish but claims to be Turkish asserts that Pomak have lost their original language yet preserved their religion or claim that language differences are not important as long as they are fellow Muslims. (Georgieva, 2001) Generally, the repressions and assimilative policies endured in Greece and Bulgaria are cited in proof of their divergence from particulars of  Turkish identity. The following declaration of a male informant in Western Rodopi region of Bulgaria, in town of Madan are clearly demonstrates this tendency.
The Bulgarians forbade us to speak Turkish, they beat us,
and we have forgotten the language
.”  (Georgieva, 2001, p.309)
They do not speak Turkish either, but this fact does not concern the informants. Their Turkish identity is not substantiated but declared as a fact—without conviction but with determination. Another observant in the Western Rodopi region of Bulgaria asserts that
Talking about themselves, the Bulgarian Mohammedans
(Pomaks) call themselves ‘Turks’. If you tell them that they are not
Turks, but Bulgarians of Mohammedan belief, they will look at
you with big eyes, as if they have been threatened by a great
.” (Brunnbauer , 2001, p. 45)
These examples, in my perspective, offer an explanation about how Pomak identity is shaped both by internal dynamics of the group as well as by its interaction with the majority. The private level identity which is based on the locality and face-to face relations with other Pomaks is result of their geographical dispersion over a mountainous region. Lack of an overall connection with the rest of the population, compact settlements organized around the traditional, agrarian social structure that prioritizes primordial ties are the internal dynamics that shape a locally defined private identity. The political instability and ever changing nature of inclusion and exclusion policies of the nation-states are the external dynamics that define the private identity as a local affiliation because any ethnic, national, or imagined identity larger than their real, daily community has been subject to a continuous change. The local affiliations, however, stood up consistently in contrast to the constant shift of affiliations to larger groups. The local affiliation has the sort of consistency that a group would require to draw its lines of inclusion and exclusion within this chaotic region.  In addition, an identity based on local affiliations and experiences was easier to recreate in daily life and to transmit to next generations due to lack of strong ties with larger communities resulting from geographical, economical and political restrictions. (Michail, 2003, Demetriou, 2004; Elchinova; 2001) In a similar sense, the outer level of identity, namely the Turkish identity is also shaped by both internal and external dynamics. The existing pattern of social structure is centered around the religious figure which almost all the time Turkish and sponsored by Turkish government. Hence, the way religious rituals, rites and daily activities that are influenced by religion, which are ways of recreating an identity, are shaped around the Turkish understanding and interpretation of the religion, namely Islam. So it’s expectable that Islamic notions are blurred and mixed with Turkish culture. On an external level, what promote a Turkish formal identity is generally the policies of the Greek and Bulgarian states which treated all Muslim minority as Turks. In addition, as Ali Eminow has suggested that the extreme anti Turkish policies of Bulgarian government has the effect of strengthening the Turkish identity.  Many people became more militantly attached to Turkish identity than they had been previously. (Eminov, 1997Warhola, 2003 ) In cases where there is a rigid and repressive ideology that the continually propagates a certain ideology may lead to a strong reaction. This reaction may be in the form of active rejection of the imposed ideas and may also facilitate a tendency to subscribe to opposite ideologies. (Oran, 1992) This the negative function of ideology imposition can well be observed in Pomaks in Western Thrace. An informant in Xanthi region of Greece verbalizes this affect as follows:
The more they deny my ethnic identity, the more Turkish I
”. (Michail, 2001, p.27)
Yet, the sources suggest that dynamics that played into the emergence of a Turkish identification among the Pomak communities are more complicated than it has been briefly touched upon here. Hence, I believe, it would be best to investigate this phenomenon of deassimilation meaning the assimilation of one minority into another minority instead of majority within a larger context that covers historical, international and domestic, social and economical aspects of the Pomak experience.
The case of identity formation among the Pomaks in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey reveals a complicated nature of an transformative process of interaction among various factors including a multitude of minority policies ranging from repression to ignorance, internal group dynamics as well as interaction with external agents and groups, legacies of historical social and legal structures. An identity shift or multiple identities in communities that are in borderlands of different nationalism is not a phenomenon unique to Pomaks population. The individual and group identities tend to be porous, fluid and flexible especially in problematic areas such as Balkans to accommodate the ever-changing political and social structure. Yet , what makes the case of Pomaks intriguing is the outcome of this identity construction. (Elchinova, 2001; Demetriou, 2004; Brunnbauer, 2001) Pomaks, as it has been remarked earlier, have adapted to their unstable socio-political environment by constructing a double-layered identity that enables them to survive as a group. Pomaks publicly identify themselves as Turks and tend to officially communicate under this identity. On the other hand, privately they identify themselves as Pomaks, yet they only assert this identity within group communications and activities. This phenomenon of turkification is not also a temporary of short term pattern of Pomak identity. Since the end of the 19th century following the Turkish-Russian War of 1877-78 well into the end of the 20th century, many sources cite examples of Turkification across Bulgaria, Greece and expectedly Turkey. In 1920s the alarming reports of Turkish consciousness among Pomaks in Bulgaria led the government to implant a new educational system for Pomaks. In 1930s when the dimension of Turkification was believed to be beyond education, Bulgarian government installed a para-state agency called Rodina to cultivate a distinct Pomak identity closer to Bulgarian identity. ( Mancheva, 2001) The reports of Politburo from 1950s and 1960s indicate the necessity of taking measures against the rising Turkish consciousness and advise a 5 step plan to solve this problem. (Eminov, 1997) Through the end of 1960s and into the 1970s, the Colonels government in Greece, who was disturbed by the established turkification promoted by earlier governments, was trying to separate the connections between Turks and Pomaks and reconstruct the Pomak history as an extension of Greek nation. In Bulgaria and Greece, Pomaks were placed under travel restrictions to severe their social and economic ties to Turkey. (Neuburger, 2000; Seypel, 1989) What is more, rare filed studies conducted upon Pomaks in 1990s unanimously note the tendency of Pomaks to identify themselves as Turks and exemplify these tendencies with interviews. Therefore, it would not be wrong to argue that turkification is an established pattern of identity formation among Pomaks which seems to be consistent over time and space. (Georgieva, 2001; Oran, 1992) In the case of Pomaks that reside in Turkey, this phenomenon could be easily explained by the Gellner model. According to Gellner, the minorities within a nation-state who share the religion of the dominant group tend to be easily assimilated into the majority. (Gellner, 1983) Thus, the Pomaks who have arrived in Turkey through different migration waves have been easily accepted into Turkishness and came to be self-declared Turks, because they have been sharing the same faith with the dominant nation, meaning Sunni Islam.  This model also explains how different Orthodox groups have been assimilated into the majority in Bulgaria and Greece while Pomaks were excluded on the basis of their faith. (Eminov, 1997; Poulton 1997, Elchinova, 2001; Georgieva, 2001) Nonetheless, this model does not account for the de-assimilation of Pomaks in Greece and Bulgaria. To understand this phenomenon, the interactions of three Balkan states and their domestic dynamics has to be examined in a historical context. The most of the studies over the Balkan nations and nationalism is acknowledges the fact that imperial legacies of the Ottoman Empire has shaped the way that Balkan nation-states drew their borders and defined their nations. The biggest legacy of the Ottoman Empire affecting the Pomak identity formation has been the millet system. As mentioned earlier, millet system were based on the religious demarcation of the society in which each religious group had its own social, legal and religious sphere of action. The rights and responsibilities of the groups were also defined by these religious groupings. In this system, the Muslim population was one millet
and also the most important one as the ruling elite has belonged to this group. (Eminov, 1997; Seker, 2005) The Ottoman state treated the millets like corporate bodies. It encouraged the perpetuation of their own internal structures and hierarchies by dealing exclusively with their leaders as opposed to the individual members. These structures included educational systems specific to each religious community. The millet became established as the prime focus of identity outside of family and locality. The millet was the imagined community within this context. Even after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the millet system has been existing social and administrative structure among the Balkan nations. Not only their nationalities were created by prioritizing religious affiliation but also the definitions of minorities were legally established via international treaties based on this legacy. Thus, the ethnicity and religion has been intertwined into each other in nation formation in the region.  (Anagnostou, 1999b;Brunnbauer, 2001; Koksal, 2004) This legacy has been influential in Turkification of the Pomaks in various ways. First of all, the organization of the society centered around the religion has gave Turkey an upper hand, because Turkey has been appointed as the guardian of the Muslim minorities and their rights and privileges, without distinguishing any specific groups by the international treaties such as Lausenne Treaty. Thus, Turkey has become responsible in providing religious staff and education, mosques etc. the most important figures of the society, imams, and the center of local activities, mosques, was provided and managed by people appointed by Turkey. Thus, it was quite evident that impact of Turkish culture and identity would be most influential. (Kucukcan, 291999; Michail, 2003.) In another level, since being Muslim has been associated with being Turkish at all levels from administrative discourse to neighborhood meetings, being Muslim meant being Turkish well until the second half of the last century. Since Muslim population under the millet system had compact and unified identity, the leading, dominant group of this population, Turks, became the ethnic equivalent of the Muslim in ethnic discourse. Turk meant Muslim and Muslim meant Turk in the region. This equation is the deep roots of Pomak Turkification. There has already been a subconscious internalization of being Turkish as fellow Muslims in the region. This subconscious assertion could be well observed in the interviews with the local Pomaks in Greece and Bulgaria who asserts that being Muslim is a sufficient condition to claim to be Turkish even though they do not even speak Turkish properly. (Michail, 2003; Neuburger, 2001; Eminov, 1997) In addition to the imperial legacy of the Ottoman Empire, another influential factor in emergence of Turkification of Pomaks has been the lack of proper and consistent minority policies that would allow Pomaks to develop their own identity. As remarked earlier, the Pomaks were not accepted as a distinct minority by Greece or Bulgaria. They were labeled under the Muslim minority as the other especially in the earlier years of state formation. Thus, their existence was basically ignored and cultural demands were left unfulfilled. Different historical researches and field studies make note of various officials denying the existence of Pomak identity and equating them with Turks. (Eminov, 1997; Michail, 2003; Neuburger, 2001)All the minority schools were religious schools which were teaching in Turkish and Arabic. The Pomaks did not had access to secular Bulgarian or Greek schools. When the Muslim schools were closed, they were forced to go to Bulgarian or Greek schools yet the attendance was relatively low since Pomaks were afraid to lose their religiosity if their children attended a Christian school.  The minority education was mostly controlled by Turkey or Turkish organizations. The restrictive socio-economic policies of Greek and Bulgarian states left Pomaks marginalized and frustrated. (Michail, 2003)  In Greece, they could buy or sell land, obtain licenses, and had no freedom of labor within the country. They were confined to a geographically and economically disadvantaged section of the country where they were in gross disadvantage. Pomaks were excluded from channels of economic and political participation. Frustrated and marginalized, the Pomaks invested in Turkey, received secondary and higher education there, and tried to exercise influence through transnational channels. They have become strongly tied to Turkey in economic, social and educational arenas. As the minority became more marginalized and isolated, they have transformed into ‘ethnic minority’ that developed a strong Turkish consciousness (Anagnostou 1999) The frustration with the state could b easily observed in declaration of a male informant in Xanthi region in Greece, who argues that ‘Greece has sold them to Turkey’ with their lack of policies to facilitate a robust socio-economic life in the region. (Michail, 2003, p.4) Another factor that made Turkishness attractive and viable for Pomak population has been the ethnic image and status of Turkish minority in the region compared to their inferior  and negative image. In all of these three nation states, Pomak as a word has negative connotations, and it is used pejoratively. It usually means socially backward, poor, ignorant and savagery. Selim, an informant on field study conducted by Demetriou in 2004, when asked about his Pomak identity, his reply exemplified the feeling of inferiority that Pomaks shared.
Pomak is not really something that people use to describe
themselves. If anything, they would feel insulted to be called that
(Demetriou, 2004, 101)
He also asserted that his Turkish friends often teased him about his Pomak identity, making comments about his intellectual capacities. Indeed, all these comments often went hand-in-hand with comments about their ‘bad Turkish’ and their loose morals. These negative images have led Pomaks to develop a social inferiority complex which can easily be seen when Pomaks talk about different Pomaks. (Georgieva, 2001)   Since they are always projected as a group that have gave into assimilation campaigns of other nations and became Islamized, Hellenized or slavized by betraying their origins, Pomaks feel historically and socially inferior to groups that have managed to keep their integrities. They are presented as the Others inside who traitors of the nation, the Self.  They reflect these negative images to other Pomaks while denying their own Pomakness. (Neuburger, 2000) On the other hand, being Turkish has higher status. First of all, Turkish identity is much more clearly defined and do save the Pomaks from their identity crisis. Secondly, as the ruling elite of the Ottoman Empire, Turks enjoy a historical dominance over the other Muslim groups in the region. Turks have been present in all of the high cadres and has been quite influential in the society. Finally, in most of the villages, most educated, enlightened and authoritative persona is the Turkish imam or the teacher that has been appointed by Turkish government.  As the most educated elite, Turkish imams or teachers were also exercising a form of political power along with their religious and educational duties. The control of knowledge and information offered them the ability to negotiate with the authorities and bureaucratic agencies which most of the villages would refrain from doing so. Hence, ethnic image of Turks benefit from this central and elevated position within the society. When all of these factors are combined Turkishness becomes a desirable identity that would relieve Pomak from their perceived inferiority. (Michail, 2003; Eminov,1997, Oran, 1992) Besides all these factors, the political entrepreneurship of Turkish people in western Thrace and Rhodope regions could also be seen as an influential factor in consolidation of Turkish consciousness in the region. As we have mentioned earlier, neither Greeks nor Bulgarians have opened up channels of socio-political participation for Pomaks as an independent group. They were treated under the rubric of Muslim minorities and their exclusive problems have not been addressed by authorities. The failure of mainstream parties to challenge the official state policy that restricted minority rights in the name of the Turkish threat led Pomaks to lose their associations with the party system and they sought other means of meaningful participation to political system (Nikolakopoulos, 2002). On this crossroads, new forming Turkish minority groups like MFR in Bulgaria or independent Turkish candidates in Greece were able to benefit from this vacuum of power. With their access to economic-political channels of representation and backing of Turkey as a custodian, these parties and candidates were able to build a large-scale political organization, dominating the electoral process in the regions where there is a Turkish majority, and curtailed the chances for an internal competition among the Muslim minorities. Consequently, the political mobilization of Pomaks by the Turkish political agents have created a form of  ethnic mobilization in which groups organize around some feature of ethnic identity in pursuit of collective ends. (Michail 2003; Kucukcan, 1999 Tilly, 69) The political participation of Pomaks under the Turkish parties and groups has bolstered their identification as Turks since they have unified as a group with Turks within this arena. They have adopted a Turkish identity in the process of public and formal interaction with the state and the majority. Accordingly, their formal or official identification has become Turkish to gain a political representation and participation and negotiate their issues with the government. In this process, the Turkish political entrepreneurs increased their political leverage by solidifying the support of whole Muslim community and gained more power, which in turn reinforced their image as the only way to engage in political debates and make their voices heard
32and problems solved. The more they have benefitted from this system the more Pomaks have embraced this ethnic-political mobilization process. (Oran, 1992) Another thing that Pomaks have realized within this ethnic-political mobilization process was their new found power as Turks to negotiate with the administration. As Michail asserts, Pomaks started to negotiate their identity as a way to improve their socio-economic conditions. Threatened by the Turkification of Pomaks, administration started to pay more attention to the Pomak lands to ensure that their loyalty. Government agencies started to invest in cultural, social-economic life in the hopes of reversing the trend of Turkification. Eventually, Pomaks have realized that they could manipulate the government agencies by using their Turkification as a tool of bargaining to attract more sources to the area. Hence, the public identification of Pomaks became a political leverage which they could negotiate to fulfill the needs of the community. An observant exemplifies this process by talking about how the Pomaks got the roof of their gymnasium repaired by playing the Turkish card and threatening to ask for help from their motherland Turkey. (Michail, 2001, 2003) The final factor reinforcing the Turkification of the Pomaks has been the international policies of Turkey regarding the Muslim minorities in the Balkans as a kin-state. Turkey embraced the Muslim population as their co-nationals and legally and politically protected them as a kin state. With time, the marginizalition of the Pomak minority in Thrace led it to strengthen its ties and dependencies across the border; it therefore enhanced Turkey’s influence as a custodian power. Especially, in times of repression Turkish state acted as an agency to protect their Turkish brothers across the border. Pomaks who have suffered the same oppressive policies and did not have a kin Pomak state were attracted to the protection of Turkey. This notion could be observed as the different emigration waves of Pomaks to Turkey in the last century. Being Turkish or basing their claims as a group in their Turkishness gave them a safe exit in times of forced assimilation or conversion. (Poulton, 1997; Eminov, 1997, Oran 1992, Todorova, 1998) Turkey also contributed to Turkification by monopolizing the education of minorities in Greece and Bulgaria. The textbooks used for the Turkish language part of the curriculum are printed in Turkey and sent to minority schools. Generous compensations are given to Turkish teachers who are sent to minority schools in Pomak villages as well. Turkey has always offered attractive grants for students from Thrace for higher education in Turkey. It is much easier for a Western Thrace student to enter a good university in Turkey compared to a Turkish student. All of these educational policies help to create a new generation of educated population with a Turkish consciousness. (Oran, 1992; Michail, 2003, Kucukcan, 1999) Turkey also keeps close political ties with the various minority organizations in the region. The Turkish embassy in Komotini facilitates a platform for Muslim minorities to mobilize and gain access to political participation channels. It brings together minority leaders (mayors of communes, members of the Prefecture Council, members of organizations, etc.) in the unofficial advisory committee.  By unifying the political activities of minority groups under its own umbrella, Turkey aims to install a sense of unity embodied in Turkishness. (Micahil, 2003; Brunnbauer, 2001, Todorova, 1998)
Pomaks is one of the minority groups that have been cramped between nationalist discourses of Balkan states. As their experience which walks us through periods of oppression, isolation, denial and ignorance, assimilation and tolerance in various Balkan states, we get closer to understand the interplay between states, minorities, majorities, international forces, transnational actors and historical legacies in the process of identity formation. The relatively short but conflict-ridden history of Pomak identity provide challenges for the not only the members of the group who are in constant search for a stable, well defined identity but also for the scholars who closely observes the process. The dynamic nature of identity formation which constantly adapts to the social, economic and political circumstances makes it harder to make statements that would not be questioned by time. In the case of Pomaks and their quest for identity, the shifting political atmosphere due to European Union integration within the region is already upsetting the balances. The conscientiously built relations between the localities and center, minority and majority; and between the state and the populations are being challenged as an overarching European identity provides a new and important option. As the article suggests the dual layered and shifting Pomak identity has been a result of extensive interaction and intensive negotiations between the minority and majority with the added complication of host and kin nations. Pomaks, who have been confused and threatened by the constantly shifting borders, ethnicities and policies had reconciled over a dual layered identity: Pomakness as a private identity and Turkishness as a public identity.  While private Pomak identity enabled them to enjoy their local affiliation and sustain an inclusion and exclusion system, the Turkish identity enabled them to negotiate their survival through the inconsistent and threatening minority policies. Nonetheless, the availability of a supra-national European identity now offers them a new way to assert their distinctive identities without being subject to any nationalist harassment. Being European is easier and less dangerous than being an ethnically contested minority. Most of the recent literature and ongoing research concerning Pomaks point to this new development.  The Pomaks are slowly, yet easily adapting to being European citizens. The increase of resources available to minorities and projects for their socio-economic and cultural development are important incentives for Pomaks to internalize their new identity. Thus, there is a new dynamic in the identity formation of Pomaks that need serious consideration. Even though, it is quite early to make any conclusive remarks for communities like Bulgarian or Turkish Pomaks, the case of Greek Pomaks who have been benefiting from the membership within the recent years after the clearing of restrictions upon their minority rights could be examined to understand how majority, minority and state as well as the supranational agencies interact and negotiate with each other and how these negotiations influence the Pomak identity.
Deniz Bulut
Boston University
Department of Political Science
232 Bay State Road, Room 210
Boston, MA 02215
**All the references can be find in the original paper