(Trans)forming group identities among the Rhodopes’ Pomaks in the first decades of the 20th century : a historical perspective

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Panagiotis G. Papadimitriou


In this study it is argued that the construction of the ethnic identity of the
Rhodopes’ Pomaks during the first three decades of the 20th century was a
reaction to the dominance of the three national states in the region: Bulgaria,
Greece and Post-Ottoman Turkey. Based on an interactive viewpoint of group
identities, the analysis focuses on three historical paradigms from the period
1912-1930, which exemplify the impact the state policies had on the construction of the identity of this non-dominant group. The first instance of the
state policies vis-à-vis the Rhodopes’ Pomaks is their forceful conversion to
Christianity during the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) by the Bulgarians. The analysis proceeds with Greek ideological identity constructions and government
policies from the end of the First World War up to the 1930’s. It ends with a
comparative analysis of the Muslim minority rights postulated by the Bulgarian-Turkish Peace Treaty of Istanbul in 1913 and the Greek-Turkish Peace
Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. These historical cases provide examples of recurrent patterns of identity constructions throughout the 20th century through policies which reflect political agendas, external policy considerations and the
antagonisms among the three National States.

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