Image (2/4) by Mattia Marzorati

 Mattia Marzorati

Context of the project: On 17th November 1989 the Head of State Todor Zivkov got expelled from the Bulgarian Communist Party. Bulgaria was thus on its way to the first democratic elections after almost half a century of Stalinist regime.

Thirty years later the country is facing an unprecedented demographic crisis that is reshaping a more ethnically and culturally heterogeneous population. The massive emigration of young people to Western Europe is the first cause of depopulation, a phenomenon that will cause a 30% decrease in population within the next thirty years in Bulgaria (world record). Ethnic and cultural minorities – inherited from the Ottoman rule and the migrations of past centuries like the Pomaks or the ROMA community– will play an increasing role in social and political dynamics.

Image Title: Flowers

The image portraits a young girl in Ribnovo, a small Pomak village, dressed by the mother in their home, before going to the quranic school.

How do you think the image relates to these 3 keywords: Identity, Dialogues and Europe.

Identity: Over the centuries the Pomaks population has gone through periods of great uncertainty due to a hybrid nature, culturally divided between Turkey and Bulgaria. In 1876 they found themselves on the front line, alongside the Turkish forces, in the bloody repression of the Bulgarian uprisings against the Ottoman Empire, especially in the massacres of Batak, Peruštica and Bracigovo. Subsequently, these clashes led to the decline of the Empire and to the independence of Bulgaria: declared on 3 March 1878, this caused a strong emigration of the Pomaks towards Anatolia.

The surviving generations in Bulgaria suffered a strong identity attack under the communist regime. Todor Zhivkov, head of the government in the 1980s, perpetuated a process of forced assimilation of Bulgarian Muslim minorities by forcing every person who had a name of Arab or Turkish origin to change it for a Slavic one. Opponents of this policy were persecuted and imprisoned and many clashes occurred between 1984 and 1985.

Dialogues: In a scenario of great demographic changings, dialogue with minorities becomes fundamental in order to know each others and living together.

Europe: The most probable hypothesis about the origins of the Pomaks is that it is a community born during the long period of Ottoman domination, converted for economic or social interests, which then maintained marked traits of the culture of origin. Pomaks embody part of a European history that is often forgotten or even ignored.

About Mattia Marzorati:

Born in Cantù, Italy, in 1992. After several experiences in the international cooperation and development I’ve started studying photography in Spain in 2016. Since 2017 I work as a freelance photojournalist.

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