The ‘insignificant’ other : Bulgarian ethnonationalism in past and present policies towards the Roma
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A lot has been written about Bulgaria’s Roma since the state opened itself to the scrutiny of the international institutions in the 1990s. The focal points then were “tolerance and integration”; in the 2000s, they were replaced by “acceptance and inclusion.” Whatever the trend in the politically correct discourse, the facts remain the same: lowest educational levels, highest mortality rates, poorest living conditions in all of Europe. With all international and domestic legal instruments in place, one has to wonder: why is nothing changing? Various human rights institutions and civil society organisations have identified pervasive discrimination, caused by extreme negative stereotyping as primal cause for Roma’s impoverishment. This research takes a step further. The thesis argues that the reason for Roma’s continuous marginalization lies within the very essence of Bulgarian national identity: its ethnic nationalism. Conceived in the era of National Liberation Movements, it was programmed to protect and liberate our own, and to distrust and exclude all others. In support of this argument, the thesis unravels the specificities of Bulgarian nationalism, and follows its manifestations in state policies towards the Roma from the first years of the New Bulgarian State until present day. The inevitable conclusion is that Roma inclusion will not be possible until the nation “re-imagines” itself and transitions from its exclusive ethnic concept to an inclusive civic interpretation. The demographic surveys attest that this is no longer a matter of choice, but one of survival.