The article shows the repressive policy of the communist Bulgaria under Todor Zhivkov towards the large Turkish and Muslim minority, whose presence in the Balkans was the heritage of the centuries-long rule of the Ottoman Empire in this part of Europe. The policy pursued by the Bulgarian authorities towards the minority in question is depicted against the backdrop of the political relations between Turkey and Bulgaria - states belonging to two opposing geo-political blocs and, more broadly, within the context of the international situation and the Cold War confrontation. During the 45 years of communist rule, the Bulgarian policy towards the minorities evolved becoming increasingly aggressive, repressive and inclined towards violating human rights. In the first years following the Second World War the Turkish and Moslem minority in Bulgaria enjoyed relative liberties. Already at the end of the 1950s, however, the Pomak and Tartar communities became the target of an assimilation campaign which in the 1970s affected also the Turks, thus causing a mass-scale emigration to Turkey. Paradoxically, it was precisely in the 1960s and 1970s that the Turkish-Bulgarian relations improved. The article pays considerable attention to the notorious events of the 1980s when the Bulgarian leader initiated a compulsory assimilation of the Bulgarian Turks known as the rebirth process that met with critical reactions in Ankara and of international public opinion.
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