Ethnic Turks Adopt Bulgarian Names in Shumen
Several cases of ethnic Turks requesting to adopt Bulgarian Christian names have drawn public attention in the northeastern city of Shumen.
Persons bearing Turkish names such as Hyusein, Sinan, or Bulent, requested to change them to Valentin, Neven, or Sevdalin.
The some dozen of requests or so have caused a public reaction of surprise as the bear reminiscence to the notorious "Revival Process" (or "Regeneration Process"), the 1980s campaign of the Bulgarian Communist Party to assimilate both ethnic Bulgarian Muslims (also known as Pomaks) and ethnic Turks by forcing them to adopt Slavic-sounding names.
Historians and researchers believe the main motivation of communist dictator Todor Zhivkov for that was to invent an enemy in the face of the Turkish minority in order to channel social discontent as the regime ran increasingly stagnant economically and politically by the late 1980s.
The result of the "Revival Process" was that some 200-300 000 Bulgarian Turks emigrated to Turkey, with about half of them returning to Bulgaria shortly after the regime collapsed in 1989.
The requests by the Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin coming from the region of Shumen have baffled everybody. Their explanations for their requests have been that all of their friends know them by their "Bulgarian" names as they were children in the 1980s, and that they spoke Bulgarian at home.
Some have suggested that when traveling in the EU with their Bulgarian passports and IDs, they have been viewed negatively because of their Turkish/Muslim names.
The several requests were made independently by people who are not related and come from different towns and villages in the region. Some have shared that they were in fact getting back their "old" names, i.e. the ones they grew up with in 1980s, and that it was their fathers who changed their names to Muslim ones back in 1990 without even asking them.
Shumen judge Kalin Koleshanski, who had to hear the name-changing requests, and to decide whether to approve them under the Citizen Registration Act, according to the Trud Daily, has refused to comment on the motives of the people but has said that several more such hearings were forthcoming.
Observers have suggested that in some similar cases Bulgarian citizens with criminal records change their names in order to be able to travel and live unnoticed elsewhere in the EU but the cases in Shumen do not appear to have anything to do with this practice.
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