The Baltic States and Bulgaria, Questionnaire Example
The Baltic States are the only three former Soviet Republics that were accepted into the EU and NATO. The Soviet past puts them aside from other Eastern European members of the EU and NATO. The textbook mentions the Soviet campaigns to suppress nationalism in its Baltic Republics in order to incorporate them into the general Soviet culture. the Homo Sovieticus is the ‘model’ of the perfect Soviet citizen. Even though the term had never been used officially, it does reflect the USSR’s ultimate goal to create the perfect citizen. Use your imagination and describe Homo Sovieticus – what qualities do you think Homo Sovieticus possess? Can you come up with the Western Homo- type? What qualities would you give to the Western Homo- and how would you name it?
The suppression of the national feeling in Baltic States and the promotion of the ideology of a “Big Empire” called the Soviet Union has had several impacts on the recent history of the countries. The new identity of “Homo Sovieticus” and the priority of the citizenship over nationality has changed people’s attitude towards NATO, the EU and the Western civilization. The Soviet system did mold the personal and ideological state of humans in the area. Therefore, the “Homo Sovieticus” does not have a national identity, is told what to think, believe in and looks at the state as a “big brother” that looks out for everyone and looks after all citizens. While these ideas were communicated through the Soviet propaganda, the level of its acceptance did differ from one person to another. The party-state did restrict people’s rights to think and say what they want to. The “Homo Sovietcus” is the communism’s (as a product) customer. This group of people was aware of the limitations set by the state: low availability of food, consumer goods, while looked at the “West” as the capitalist enemy. Demonstrations were forbidden, and Homo Sovieticus had two options: to accept this limitation or find ways to “escape”. Older generations still remembered independence.
As a contrast, the Western homo-type during the Cold War looked at the countries behind the Iron Curtain, especially the USSR as the major threat for the achievements of the Western civilization. For them, the “East and Central Europe was stagnating while the West moved towards democracy and technological, ideological development. They were the race of “Homo Capitalisticus”.
As many Eastern European states, Bulgaria is not homogenous – while approximately 85% of Bulgarians identify as Slavic Bulgarians, it has three large minorities: Turks, Romas, and Pomaks.
According to our textbook, in attempt to enforce assimilation, Turkish last names were ‘Bulgarized’ by adding Slavic suffix. For example, Turkish last name Giray with addition of the Slavic suffix will transform into Giraev. The policy of assimilation aimed at decreasing ethnic tensions and promote national unity. Do you think ‘Bulgarization’ of names is a good strategy in achieving national unity?
“Bulgarization” or the artificial homogenization of the different ethnic groups living in Bulgaria by changing names did not work, and this is because people’s national identity cannot be erased by the change of the names. Romas, Slavic Bulgarians, Turks and Pomaks have their own national history, religion, customs, food and language.(Wolchik & Curry, 2011, p. 257) People would never regard civil identity as a higher priority than national identity. While the symbolism of the name change is understandable, the past national conflicts did create a barrier for the homogenization of the society. The reaction of the minority groups was resistance, immigration and protestation after 1989. After the collapse of the “Eastern Bloc”, the national identity of these minorities was reborn and traditions were allowed to be followed. Suppressed minorities were allowed to use their own language again, and returned to embracing their national identity. Therefore, as a conclusion: the suppression of minority groups’ national identity was not successful in Bulgaria.
Wolchik, S. L. & Curry, J. L. (2011) Central & East European Politics: From Communism to Democracy, 2nd Ed. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc
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