Vlach

Vlachs (also called Vallachians, Wallachians, Wlachs, Wallachs, Olahs or Ulahs, South Slavic: Власи Vlasi, Greek: Βλάχοι Vláhi, Albanian: Vllehë, Turkish: Ulahlar, Ukrainian: Волохи Volokhy, Polish: Wołosi) is a blanket term covering several modern Latin peoples (linguistic) descending from the Latinised population in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Groups that have historically been called Vlachs include: modern-day Romanians (including Moldovans), Aromanians, Morlachs, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians. Since the creation of the Romanian state, the term in English has mostly been used for those living outside Romania.

The term "Vlach" is originally an exonym. All the Vlach groups used various words derived from to refer to themselves: Români, Rumâni, Rumâri, Aromâni, Arumâni etc. (note: the Megleno-Romanians nowadays call themselves "Vlaşi", but historically called themselves "Rămâni"; The Istro-Romanians also have adopted the names Vlaşi, but still use Rumâni and Rumâri to refer to themselves).

Vlachs descend predominantly from the Romanised Dacians, Thracians and Illyrians, the indigenous populations of the Balkans, and Roman colonists (from various provinces of the Roman Empire).

The Vlach languages, also called the Eastern Romance languages, have a common origin from the Proto-Romanian language. Over the centuries, the Vlachs split into various Vlach groups (see Romania in the Dark Ages) and mixed with neighbouring populations: Slavs, Greeks, Albanians, Cumans, and others.

Almost all modern nations in Central and Southeastern Europe (Austria, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and R. Macedonia) have native Vlach minorities.

Etymology



The word Valach is allegedly of Germanic origin (although it may be related to Pelasgian), and was taken by Slavic people as Vlach and sharing this origin with the words "Welsh" and "Walloons" in other parts of Europe. Slavic people initially used the name Vlachs when referring to Romanic people in general. Later on, the meaning became narrower or just different. For example Italy is called Włochy in Polish, and Olaszország ("Olasz country") in Hungarian. This is possibly because the Poles and Hungarians converted to the Western (Roman Catholic) Church and had more dealings with the Italians, who were now their co-religionists, and therefore applied the term Vlach (i.e. "Romans") to them rather than to the Eastern Orthodox Romanians.

Through history, the term "Vlach" was often used for groups which were not ethnically Vlachs, often pejoratively - for example for any shepherding community, for Serbs, or for Christians by Muslims. In Croatian region of Dalmatia, Vlaj/Vlah (sing.) and Vlaji/Vlasi (plural) are the terms used by the inhabitants of coastal towns for the people who live inland or pejoratively: barbarians who came from the mountain. In Greece, the word Βλάχος (Vláhos) is often used as a slur against any supposedly uncouth or uncultured person. However, in recent years there has been a concerted effort by Greek Vlachs to reclaim the term from its negative connotations and to proclaim openly and proudly their Vlach identity.

Wallachia

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White = Romanians
Green = Istro-Romanians
Yellow = Aromanians
Orange = Megleno-Romanians
Besides the separation of some groups (Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians) during the Age of Migration, many other Vlachs could be found all over the Balkans, as far north as Poland and as far west as the territory Moravia (part of modern Czechia), and as far south as the present-day Croatia. They reached these regions in search of better pastures, and were called "Wallachia" ("Vlashka") by the Slavic peoples.

Statal Entities:
  • Wallachia ("Ungro-Wallachia" or"Wallachia Transalpina" in administrative sorces; "Ţara Românească" in Romanian Language) - between the Southern Carpathians and the Danube
  • Moldo-Wallachia ("Moldavia", Maurovlachia - "Black Wallachia" or Moldovlachia in Byzantine sources, Bogdan Iflak - "Bogdan's Wallachia", or even "Wallachia" in Polish sources, and "L`otra Wallachia" -the other Wallachia- in native sources) - between the Carpathians and the Dnister
  • Wallachia and Bulgaria - between the Danube and the Balkan Mountains
  • Great Wallachia ("Μεγάλη Βλαχία", Megáli Vlahía) - in Thessaly.
Regions:

People

Map of Balkans with regions inhabited by Vlachs/Romanians highlighted

Culture

Many Vlachs were shepherds in the medieval times, driving their sheep through the mountains of Southeastern Europe. The Vlach shepherds reached as far as Southern Poland and Moravia in the North (by following the Carpathian range), Dinaric Alps in West, the Pindus mountains in South, and as far as the Caucasus Mountains in the east [1].

In many of these areas, the descendants of the Vlachs have lost their language, but their legacy still lives today in cultural influences: customs, folklore and the way of life of the mountain people, as well as in the place names of Romanian or Aromanian origin that are spread all across the region.

Another part of the Vlachs, especially those in the northern parts, in Romania and Moldova, were traditional farmers growing cereals. Linguists believe that the large vocabulary of Latin words related to agriculture shows that they have always been a farming Vlach population, unlike the Albanians, who have borrowed many of these words from Slavic.

Just like the language, the cultural links between the Northern Vlachs (Romanians) and Southern Vlachs (Aromanians) were broken by the 10th century, and since then, there were different cultural influences:
  • Romanian culture was influenced by neighbouring people such as Hungarians and Slavs and developed itself to what it is today. The 19th century saw an important opening toward Western Europe and cultural ties with France.
  • Aromanian culture developed initially as a pastoral culture, later to be greatly influenced by the Byzantine and Greek culture.

Religion

The religion of the Vlachs is predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but there are some regions where they are Catholics and Protestants (mainly in Transylvania) and a few are even Muslims (Megleno-Romanians from Greece who converted to Islam and have been living in Turkey since the 1923 exchange of populations).

History

The first record of a Balkan Romanic presence in the Byzantine period can be found in the writings of Procopius, in the 5th Century. The writings mention forts with names such as Skeptekasas (Seven Houses), Burgulatu (Broad City), Loupofantana (Wolf's Well) and Gemellomountes (Twin Mountains). A Byzantine chronicle of 586 about an incursion against the Avars in the eastern Balkans may contain one of the earliest references to Vlachs. The account states that when the baggage carried by a mule slipped, the muleteer shouted, "Torna, torna, fratre!" ("Return, return, brother!"). However the account might just be a recording of one of the last appearances of Latin (Vulgar Latin).

Blachernae, the suburb of Constantinople, was named after a certain Duke from Scythia named "Blachernos". His name may be linked with the name "Blachs" (Vlachs).

In the 10th Century, the Hungarians arrived in the Pannonian plain, and, according to the Gesta Hungarorum written by an anonymous chancellor of King Bela III of Hungary, the plain was inhabited by Slavs, Bulgars, Vlachs and pastores Romanorum (shepherds of the Romans) (in original: sclauij, Bulgarij et Blachij, ac pastores romanorum). However, the chronicle was written around 1146.

In 1185, two noble brothers from Tarnovo named Peter and Asen led a Bulgarian revolt against Byzantine Greek rule and declared Tsar Peter II (also known as Theodore Peter) as king of the reborn state. The following year, the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgaria's independence. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgars, Greeks, and Vlachs" as did most subsequent rulers of the Second Bulgarian Empire (see Vlach-Bulgar Rebellion).

See also

Further reading

  • Theodor Capidan, Aromânii, dialectul aromân. Studiul lingvistic ("Aromanians, Aromanian dialect, Linguistic Study"), Bucharest, 1932
  • Victor A. Friedman, "The Vlah Minority in Macedonia: Language, Identity, Dialectology, and Standardization" in Selected Papers in Slavic, Balkan, and Balkan Studies, ed. Juhani Nuoluoto, et al. Slavica Helsingiensa:21, Helsinki: University of Helsinki. 2001. 26-50. full text Though focussed on the Vlachs of Macedonia, has in-depth discussion of many topics, including the origins of the Vlachs, their status as a minority in various countries, their political use in various contexts, and so on.
  • Asterios I. Koukoudis, The Vlachs: Metropolis and Diaspora, 2003, ISBN 960-7760-86-7
  • George Murnu, Istoria românilor din Pind, Vlahia Mare 980-1259 ("History of the Romanians of the Pindus, Greater Vlachia, 980-1259"), Bucharest, 1913

External links

Footnotes

1. ^ Silviu Dragomir: "Vlahii din nordul peninsulei Balcanice în evul mediu"; 1959, p. 172;
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