Georgi Simidchiev - Mass Exodus 1989

 

Georgi Simidchiev is a Bulgarian scientist. In the summer of 1989 he was working in the capital Sofia when he found himself caught up in momentous events, away from his desk. He witnessed first hand the largest exodus in Europe since the Second World War, as 300,000 Bulgarian Turks left for Turkey in the space of a few weeks. They'd been victimised by the Communist authorities for years - forced to change their Islamic names, banned from wearing traditional clothes, their mosques closed and destroyed. They were banned too from speaking Turkish in public.

By the spring of 1989 they had had enough - some went on hunger strike, and the resistance spread. The authorities moved in and civilians were killed. Facing an allout rebellion, the Communist leader Zhivkov decided he had to act, and sent them over the border to Turkey.

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London, Sofia, Sarajevo, Moscow

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