offensive to the Vlachs, but sometimes excessively laudatory. I experienceda certain disillusionment, and my questions remained unanswered. Nevertheless, my interest coincided in time with the revival of a moregeneral interest in the Vlachs; I was not the only person to be troubled bythese questions. Thus, at the beginning of the 1990’s, in a desire to uncoverthe truth, I found myself working more systematically, conducting researchin libraries and official archives. I began to travel, seeking out the Vlachsthemselves, both in city apartment blocks and in their remote villages. Itravelled throughout Greece and the Balkans, conducting dozens of interviews and amassing a vast collection of material. And it was thismaterial which led me to my final target: what I wanted now was to presenta contemporary response to the question ‘who are the Vlachs?’. I hadrealised that the question ‘what are the Vlachs?’, in other words the matterof their racial origin, had no real meaning, apart from its purely academicinterest, since whatever their provenance was it would not necessarilyendow them with a contemporary, collective identity. I wished to presentthe Vlachs without reference to the age-old prejudices and dogmatismwhich had led to long years of polarisation. Thus I found myself navigatingbetween two reefs. On the one hand there was the view that the Vlachs werea group of uncivilised, uncouth nomadic livestock breeders, a groupbeneath notice, and on the other there was the view that the Vlachs were anunknown, neglected and oppressed, stereotypical Balkan minority, in needof protection. It was without doubt a challenge, one requiring no littlecourage, to set oneself up in opposition to these two contradictory andpowerfully established opinions. I hope I have managed to remain objectiveand impartial, and that you will have the opportunity to read my work andenjoy a Balkan journey in search of the historical reality of the Vlachs,from the first references in the mediaeval era up until the time of theSecond World War. But let us now turn our attention to the image presented by the Vlachstoday, especially those living in Greece. In what activities are they engaged?How do they feel about what I describe, perhaps impulsively, as the‘contemporary Vlach identity’? What are their concerns and anxieties andhow do they confront them?