Understanding the Construction of National and Regional Identity: Perceptions of One Another along the Bulgarian-Macedonian Border
Lintz, Cynthia Ann
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The identities of people residing in the vicinity of national borders are complex and affected by many factors, especially by narratives imposed by national governments through the national education system. The European Union, as a supranational organization, also provides narratives that expose individuals to globalized, versus national, ideals. This ethnographic case study asks how individuals living along the Macedonian-Bulgarian border, sharing strong ethnic and cultural ties, view their regional, national and European identities. The study finds that individuals have developed a strong attachment to their national identity. Many Bulgarians hold a strong vision based on historic claims to the Bulgarian Kingdom. Many Bulgarians see Macedonian as having been carved out of the ancient territory and therefore refer to the people as Bulgarians, thus denying their right to self-identify. Macedonians, on the other hand, choose not to refer to the 'other' as part of their own population, but rather as neighbors. They view their national identity is based on the idea of the country being 'attacked' by its neighbors and having to struggle for recognition in the world. The E.U. does not currently offer an alternative, as individuals have little attachment to their European identity related to E.U. membership.