This presentation draws a rich and nuanced picture of the links between Balkan immigrants and anticommunism in Cold War Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims migrated from the communist-ruled Balkan countries to Turkey after World War II. Political authorities and mainstream media welcomed them as these immigrants were seen to be the victims of communist perfidy. Anticommunist public discourse benefited from their first-hand accounts and photos to demonstrate to the Turkish public that communism was an ideology that persecuted people and oppressed religious freedom. The immigrants continued to be appropriated in official narratives in the struggle against the USSR and socialist states in the Balkans well into the 1990s. At the same time, state officials continued to cast suspicion upon the immigrants, especially working-class ones, since they believed immigrants’ experience in a communist country made communist ideology more attractive to these people and made them more likely to foment revolution to topple the established order. This suspicion shaped the politics of organized labor across the country and adversely affected immigrants who were wary of being labeled communists. This suspicion of immigrants affected their social and political integration into the society. Accordingly, immigrants became victims of not only communist regimes in the Balkans but also anticommunist hysteria in Turkey.
This presentation utilizes a variety of primary and secondary accounts to develop a more complete picture of how Balkan immigrants functioned in popular culture as both anticommunist symbols and potential communist sympathizers. As archival documents provide insights into the concern of state officials and business owners, memoirs and oral history accounts unpack the daily encounters of Balkan immigrants, including children and women, with anticommunism. By adopting a micro-level analysis, this presentation moves beyond the intellectual and political surveys of anticommunism. Through its focus on the social and economic aspects, it illustrates that anticommunism needs to be understood as a plural concept whose influence transcends the world of politics in modern Turkey.