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Turks Get Their First Newspaper Since Zhivkov Crackdown

February 13, 1991

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ Ethnic Turks have published a newspaper in their native language for the first time since a mid-1980s persecution campaign under ousted Communist leader Todor Zhivkov.

The first edition of the weekly paper Rights and Freedoms was distributed Tuesday in the capital of Sofia and other cities, said its editor, Zlatko Angelov.

″It may seem like a small victory,″ said Angelov. ″But this has been fought for very hard by the country’s Muslim people. We want to make it a national newspaper that focuses on Bulgaria’s ethnic problems.″

Most of the nation’s 1.5 million ethnic Turks are Orthodox Christian. There is estimated to be about 500,000 Muslims in the nation of about 9 million people.

The new newspaper is being published with the consent of the Bulgarian coalition government, led by independent Premier Dimitar Popov.

Zhivkov’s persecution of the ethnic Turks peaked in the years 1984-85 when they were forced to adopt Bulgarian names.

There were several clashes as a result of the ″Bulgarization campaign,″ particularly in 1989. It is not known how many people were killed in the unrest.

About 320,000 ethnic Turks left after Zhivkov lifted emigration restrictions in mid-1989. Some of them were forced to sell their homes to local authorities.

Zhivkov’s 35-year rule ended in November following widespread protests favoring political and economic reform.

In Bulgaria’s 1990 elections, the first free ballot since the Communist takeover in 1946, the mainly Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms gained 23 seats in the 400-member Parliament, which later adopted legislation restoring the ethnic Turks’ names.

Still, there is resentment toward Turks in Bulgaria, where some blame the country’s problems on 500 years of Ottoman rule.

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