The Name as a symbol of religious, cultural and national identity

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


The impact of historical events on personal and collective identity often remains concealed beneath layers of societal narratives. This study delves into the covert repercussions of forced name changes inflicted upon Bulgarian Muslims from 1912 to 1989, a period marked by political upheaval and ideological shifts. Drawing from personal narratives, archival research, and artistic exploration, this project illuminates a neglected facet of Bulgarian history—the deliberate erasure of Arabic/Turkish names in favour of Slavic/Bulgarian ones.

Growing up unaware of my ancestral religious heritage, through the project “With the Name of a Flower” I embarked on a journey of self-discovery, uncovering the silent struggles endured by my grandparents and countless others under the shadow of communism. Through interdisciplinary art forms including photography, performance, sound, and video installations, the project transcends conventional historiography to engage with the visceral experiences of those affected by state-sanctioned repression.

By contextualizing the forced name changes within broader historical frameworks—the Ottoman Rule, Balkan wars, and the "Revival Process"—the study interrogates the multifaceted dimensions of cultural assimilation and resistance. It probes the lasting ramifications on individual psyches, familial narratives, and communal memory, while critically examining the intricate interplay between state propaganda and personal identity formation.

Through this holistic inquiry, the research underscores the enduring relevance of historical trauma in shaping contemporary discourses surrounding migration, cultural identity, and national consciousness. By amplifying marginalized voices and reclaiming obscured histories, "With the Name of a Flower" endeavours to foster dialogue, empathy, and a deeper understanding of the intricate tapestry of Bulgarian Muslim identity.
Date of AwardOct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth


  • photography
  • identity
  • culture
  • religion
  • name
  • renaming
  • Bulgaria

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