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The Balkan Vlachs - Vladislav Sotirovic

The Balkan Vlachs - Vladislav Sotirovic

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Published by: valer_crushuveanlu on Feb 20, 2011
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THE BALKAN VLACHS – ANEXTINGUISHINGETHNOLINGUISTIC GROUP
Assoc. Prof. VLADISLAV B. SOTIROVIĆ, Ph.D.
(Vilnius University and European Humanities University;vsotirovic@serbiancafe.com;vsotirovic@delijeonline.com) “To talk of the pure origins…of any ethnie populating the BalkanPeninsula is
neither 
 justified
nor 
serious
nor 
scientific” (E.Ivanova, “’The Ethnic’ Conflict”, in
Iztok-Iztok 
, № 2, 1991, p. 64)
Introduction
This article has set itself the tasks to present historical developmentand current economic, cultural and political position in the Balkansocieties of one specific ethnolinguistic group of the Orthodox religion ―the Vlachs
1
― which speaks some form of Romanian language and iscalled by their neighbors by different names
 Koutsovlahs
,
2
 
 Aromanians
,
 Armanians
,
3
 
Grammostens
,
4
 
 Karakachans
,
Cincars
,
5
 
 Arnauts
,
Uruks
,
Macedo-Romanians
,
Chobans
,
6
 
etc. This pastoral ethnolinguistic group isa good example of successful peaceful minority assimilation into themajority ethnic and linguistic groups. Traditionally they were nomadiccattle-breeders who were living in an extended family under a dominantheadman, summering in the mountains and wintering in the plains.However, after 1918 an impact of the new economic forms created asignificant shift from nomadic flocks to the area of farming.This process, nonetheless, became drastically changed after 1945 asa new economic system forbade possession of the big herds of sheep or horses in the post-war Balkan societies. Therefore, many Vlachsabandoned their nomadic style of life and settled themselves in thevillages, or moved to the towns and cities, being gradually assimilated bythe co-dwellers. During the last decades this process escalated by themass migration of the young Vlachs into the growing industrial centers.This ethnolinguistic group is threatened by biological vanishing becauseof the negative birthrate
7
and by assimilation. In some of Balkan statesthey are not recognized as a separate national minority and in the other regional societies the Vlachs willingly chose the national identity of theethnolinguistic majority in order to legally improve their status within thelocal society. Their easier assimilation is due to the fact that this
Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović
The Vlachs of the Balkans
1
 
extinguishing ethnolinguistig minority is dispersed throughout the regionof the South East Europe
8
 –from the Pindus Mt. in the south to theTransylvanian Alps in the north and from the Istrian Peninsula in the westto Dobruja (Dobrodgea) region in the east.
History and Language
The South Eastern Europe is relatively small region, which is populated by many of different peoples in the matter of culture, religionand language and is being in this point the unique part of Europeancontinent. There are members of the main churches of the Christianity,Islamic and Judaic denominations. The communities use differentalphabets as the Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic and Greek.Outstandingly, in every regional state, there are more people who arespeaking some of the European main languages than the language(s) of their neighbor(s).
9
The majority of the regional peoples belong to the migrant tribeswho came from the north between 6
th
century (South Slav migration) and9
th
century (Magyar settlement). From 14
th
century onward there was aninflux of Turks and other Muslim pastoral tribes from Asia (who camewith them) including and Gypsies who followed the Ottoman armies intheir successful military campaigns in Asia Minor and South EasternEurope. In the region, however, there are today three autochthonous(aboriginal) ethnicities who survived all of those invasions and number of migrations, preserving their language, customs and culture: the Vlachs(most probably descendents from the Thracians who have been living inthe time of Antique in the eastern areas of the Balkans–from the MoravaRiver to the Black Sea), the Greeks (who came in two migration waves– around 2000 and 1200 B.C.), and the Albanians (whose progenitors, as itis believed, are the ancient Illyrians who lived in the Western and CentralBalkans). In the current ethnic situation of the Balkans there are threestateless ethnolinguistic groups: the Vlachs, the Gypsies and the Pomaks.Each of them has a longstanding experience of coexistence with themacro-communities. Among three of them, the Vlachs are the mostvanishing one.This traditionally rustic people, who spoke a language, which ismostly closed to the modern Romanian, but not purely understandable bythe speakers of standardized Romanian, are concentrated in mountainousterrains of Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria. The Vlachsundoubtedly belong to the ancient Balkan people who, because of different historical reasons (mostly migrations), are dispersed in theregion creating non-territorially connected diaspora communities. Theanthropological research upon the Vlach matters proves that they are one
Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović
The Vlachs of the Balkans
2
 
of the earliest populations not only in the Balkans but in Europe too. Dueto the lack of historical sources, there are several various theories uponthe Vlach origin. The language of the Vlachs is one of the crucial pointsof the currently leading theory about their ethnolinguistic genesis: theydescend from the cis-Danubian Thracians who have been relatives of thetrans-Danubian Dacians. The same ethnolinguisic ancient community of Daco-Thracians became the progenitor of modern Romanians (on thenorth from Danube) and Vlachs (on the south from Danube) who arespeaking similar languages. However, while the scholars agree that theVlach language belongs to the Romance family of languages, theydisagree upon more precise origin of the Vlachs. Some scholars are kin toconclude that the progenitors of the Vlachs are Roman colonists (soldiers,merchants, craftsman etc.), while the other group of researchers claimthat the Vlachs are descendants of the Romanized autochthonous Balkaninhabitants who by intermarriages mixed with the Roman colonists.The Vlach self-notions in regard to their origin, based on earlier knowledge and folk interpretations of literary versions, are essentiallydifferent. Firstly, some of them think that the Vlachs/Aromanians came tothe Balkans from Italian city of Rome. For this group of communitymembers the Vlach language is Roman which is the same languagespoken in Italy and France (with dialectical differences). However, other Vlachs believe that they belong to the indigenous Balkan population(they are not migrants to the region) and that their language is derivedfrom ancient Illyrian-Thracian language with strong elements of theLatin. Nevertheless, Vlach folk mind preserved the notion that the Vlachsare people who live in diaspora, which started with the fall of the RomanEmpire. According to the first hypothesis, the pivotal outcome of Vlachmigration from Italy is that they adopted a nomadic pastoral style of liveand economic activity of cattle-breeding.
 The new stage of Vlach diaspora started at the beginning of the 19
th
century with the declination of the Ottoman power in the South EasternEurope. There are some scholars who believe that those Vlachs whotoday live on the southern flanks of the Danube (Northern Bulgaria,Eastern Serbia) came there in Ottoman time (particularly in the secondhalf of the 18
th
century and first half of the next century) from theterritories north from the Danube. The reason for their resettlement wasthree-fold: 1) the feudal tyranny and exploitation north from the Danube;2) the conscription introduced in the Principality of Wallachia in 1831;and 3) the policy of Ottoman authorities, which encouraged Vlachsettlement in depopulated agricultural areas after devastating Austrian-Ottoman wars.The Balkan Vlachs have historically been divided into two socio-economic groups. First, majority of them were nomadic (transhumant)
Dr. Vladislav B. Sotirović
The Vlachs of the Balkans
3

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