PARADOXES AND (NON)PARADOXES: THE COMMUNITY OF THE BULGARIAN SLOVAKS
Since recently, Bulgarian ethnology has been dominated by three major problems: community, ethnicity and identity. What is peculiar in this context is not the very study of the ethnic and religious communities as such but the methods applied to examine them. On the one hand, a nearly mass interest has been focused on the Turkish and Roma ethnic communities; on the other hand, to the Muslim religious groups have been given a great attention as well. The attempts to study other communities settled in the Bulgarian ethnic territory, whether in the past or only recently, are rather sporadic. This study deals with the specific aspects of identity of a small but unique community living in this territory. In this case, the very interest in the Slovak community is not an anti-thesis but an example of a different attitude to the issue. The Slovak ethnic group in Bulgaria consisted of approximately 1,300 -2,000 people. Their life changed entirely between 1945 and 1949, when an overwhelming majority of Slovaks returned from Bulgaria back to their motherland. They left either on their own will or followed an appeal issued by the Czechoslovak Republic calling all emigrants to return back home. At the end of the 1940s, when the re-emigration process was ended up, the Slovak ethnic diaspora in the Bulgarian territory practically ceased to exist. Verbal art, songs, music and dances, rituals, beliefs, and all other elements of folk tradition serving as pillars supporting ethnic awareness in the 'Bulgarian' Slovaks were weakened. Although Slovak was the language of communication in the domestic sphere, it gradually incorporated the elements of Bulgarian into its structures. However, it has always retained its function, is still alive and used in everyday interactions. Moreover, several of its unique features have been preserved by the re-emigrants. In the past, the important role was also played by the schools, sports clubs, theatre groups and other societies. Nowadays, the Slovak ethnic community in Bulgaria can be referred to as the dispersed diaspora.
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