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Istro-Romanian Cultural Heritage : the relevance of the Study of Endangered Cultures

Istro-Romanian Cultural Heritage : the relevance of the Study of Endangered Cultures

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Istro-Romanian Cultural Heritage:The Relevance of the Study of Endangered Cultures
MARGHESCU GEORGETADepartment of Social-Human Sciences
University “Politehnica” of Bucharest
 Spl. Independentei 313, Bucharest 6ROMANIAmarion@comm.pub.ro 
Abstract: -
The Istro-Romanian culture is on the brink of extinction. We are talking about the culture of 
one of Europe‟s smallest ethno
-linguistic groups living in the Istria peninsula, at the confluence of Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. The number of the group members is rapidly diminishing. The urgency of the research concerning Istro-Romanians culture is, therefore, obvious. So far the Istro-Romanianswere researched especially from historical and linguistic points of views and a systematic study of their culture was never made. This paper comes as a possible answer to both the urgency of theresearch of this culture and, respectively, the need to create a basis for strategies to maintain theidentity of the Istro-Romanians
Key-Words: -
Identity, Istro-Romanians, Environment, Way of life, Tradition and Modern.
1 Introduction
the Istro-RomanianCulture
Research Urgency
NOWADAYS one hears a lot of discussions aboutendangered species and we are made conscious thatwe should find strategies to save them. But there areendangered cultures too and it is the duty of culturalanthropologists and of researchers of culture ingeneral to caution and explain the significance andconsequences of the diminishing of the culturaldiversity, just like ecologists warn us of the risks of the diminishing of the biological diversity.The two aspects are interdependent and it comesas no surprise the establishing, at the borderbetween human ecology and cultural anthropology,of a discipline whose names are the proof of itsborder character:
ecological anthropology
culture and environment 
. Whatever thename, such discipline make possible the study of theperspective of joint culture and environmentdynamic.This paper proposes an approach of a seriouslyendangered culture
the Istro-Romanian culture.We realize this approach from the above mentionedperspective.The Istro-Romanians are
one of Europe‟s
smallest ethno-linguistic groups living in the Istriapeninsula, at the confluence of Croatia, Sloveniaand Italy
see Fig. 1. They were studied by Italianresearchers
Ascoli, Mateo Bartoli Vasilici, PetruKandler, Nerina Feresini
Croatian researchers
 Goran Filipi, August Kovacec
iu Densuşian, Alexandru Rosetti,
Ion Coteanu, Sextil Puscariu, Silviu Dragomir, IoanMaiorescu, Lecca Morariu, Traian Cantemir, PetruIroaie, Radu Flora, Richard Sarbu. These researcheswere mainly historical-linguistic researches, culturalresearches playing a secondary role. Among thesecultural researches, interesting is the research on theSusnievita village, realized by Nerina Feresini.Figure 1 - Istria and the Istro-Romanians:- Geographical areas with Istro-RomanianvillagesStudies concerning the Istro-Romanians had inmind mainly the historic and linguistic perspective
WSEAS TRANSACTIONS on ENVIRONMENT and DEVELOPMENT Marghescu GeorgetaISSN: 1790-5079 587 Issue 9, Volume 5, September 2009
and only seldom the cultural perspective. It isimperative to gain knowledge of this culture now,having in mind that the Istro-Romanian cultureknows a process of accelerating extinction.Consequently, for most scientists the urgency of the research concerning Istro-Romanian culture isobvious. The Istro-Romanian dialect
one of thefour Romanians dialects
is present in theUNESCO Red book for endangered languages. It isestimated that, if no change occurs, in about 30years, there will be no more Istro-Romanianspeakers.Thus, having in mind its rapid disappearance, itis imperative to gain knowledge of this culturenow, while Istro-Romanians still exist.The project that is mentioned in this paper aimsto be an answer to the urgency of Istro-Romanian
culture‟s research and both to the development of 
strategies concerning the stabilization of Istro-Romanians communities, maintaining theirlanguage and, by doing so, of maintaining theircultural identity.The first objective of the project concernedcontributions at fundamental research in the fieldsof cultural anthropology and cultural ecology:observing and understanding the Istro-Romanianculture in view of investigating the complex relationbetween the cultural identity dynamic and theenvironmental (natural, economical, social,technological) dynamic.Starting from the hypothesis that the process of construction
and deconstruction
of culturalidentity takes place in close relation withenvironmental particularities and dynamic, thisproject will try to explain how and how muchchange at the level of the environment affectsignificant changes at the cultural identity level.With the view to touch this purpose theresearch is based on the study of memorial material:folkloric narration type, life stories, culturalpractices (the old tradition of the
, forexample, worldwide known for their dances),commemoration and memory writings, the familymemory patrimony and its integration in the publicdimension.The analyses and interpretation of the dataobtained from all these sources allowed us toidentify the value orientations of the Istro-Romanianculture. These have been completed with the explicitresearch of fundamental value orientations using aquestionnaire based on research methods elaboratedby Fl. Kluckhohn, Strodbeck, Salzmann in concretescholar inquiries in the value orientation sphere of interest.The assertion of the fundamental valueorientation of the Istro-Romanian culture
socialand natural environment are comprehended here
 could represent an important contribution to theexisting knowledge on the particularities of Istro-Romanian culture, its dynamic, as well as itscongruence with value orientation of Aromanian,Megleno-Romanian and Romanian cultures.The second objective consisted in the creation of a data base including oral histories, oral testimoniesarchive, historical sources (memorial, literary,images - including a documentary movie)concerning the Istro-Romanian culture and itsenvironment.This objective comes as an answer to twoimperatives:
the need to record and conserve dataconcerning a seriously endangered culture;
the necessity of a data basis in view of conceiving cultural identity strategies as wellcultural and economical politics and projects(cultural tourism for example) which willconcur to preserve and, respectively, helpregain the cultural identity of the Istro-Romanians.Consequently, the Istro-Romanian culture is atthe brink of extinction and there are at least tworeasons why it should be researched: gainingfundamental knowledge and, respectively,identifying strategies to support its survival, tomaintain the conscience of linguistic identity of Istro-Romanians and to help them to regain thecultural identity conscience.
2 The Istro-Romanians in Question
The scientists agreed about the enigmatic feature of Istro-Romanians. They represent the westernexception among a south-eastern majority of Romanians (Megleno-Romanians Aromanians,Daco-Romanians)
Figure 2 - and the Catholicexception among an Orthodox majority. They are,also, the only Romanians without specificinstitutions.However, their language and their cultureresisted in the middle of a mass of Slaves, Italians,Germans, until nowadays.
Who are the Istro-Romanians?
It is a question which inevitably arisesand concerns their name, history and culture.
WSEAS TRANSACTIONS on ENVIRONMENT and DEVELOPMENT Marghescu GeorgetaISSN: 1790-5079 588 Issue 9, Volume 5, September 2009
 Figure 2 - A map of the regions inhabited byRomanians/Vlachs [13]
2.1 The Name
Unfortunately, there is precarious documentaryinformation about the Istro-Romanians. Amongthese, we must mention one from the 10
century:Constantine the Porphyrogenitus, the ByzantineEmperor, mentioned in his
De administrandoimperio
the Romanized population on the Adriaticshores, that he named
since the Greek speaker Byzantines were named
Constantin VII recorded that
calledthemselves Romans.
Another document, from the 12
, mention aleader in Istria which name
could be aRomanian one.According to some historians, there are all thereasons to believe that those were the futureWestern Romanians appeared in the medievalhistorical sources; they would afterwards appearunder the name of 
on the same zonesbeginning even with the 11
century [24].There are relevant documents according towhich, without any doubt, the
had Romaniannationality. The first clear attestation dates back to1321: in the Serbian chronicles, there is a mentionof a country of the
in the region inhabitedtoday by Istro-Romanians.
also named
were regarded by the 16
Croatian writers like Simon Koziçiç, Ivan Pergosiç,
Iacob Nikaglia - as being the same ethnical groupwith the Romanians from the
Trajanic Dacia
andregarded Dacia as
Morovlasca Zemlja
[7].They are known by the local inhabitants as
and, in Old Italian documents, theyappeared as
. There is a legend that talks of how the Ciribiri got their name: transformed fromthe phrase
cire bire
- which means
hold it well
thestory is that Istro-Romanians hauling coal over theUcka Mountain to bring to littoral cities would bethreatened by the strong winds called the
 blowing from mountain. The winds were so strongthey could upturn carts of coal of firewood and criesof 
cire bire
could be heard.The Istro-Romanians have called themselves
, according to Ireneo della Croce, a historianfrom Trieste. In his
Historia antica e moderna,sacra e profana della citta di Trieste
published in1698, mentioned people who, beside the Slavicidiom common for all the Karst area, speak alsotheir own and particular language, which is similarto
and contains many different Latinwords. He was referring to Istro-Romanians and he
précised the term used by them in view to call
(derivated from
 through a phenomenon present in Istro-Romaniandialect and known as
: an intervocalic
 becomes an
).Today, the Istro-Romanians have lost from theirvocabulary the self identification of 
orsome derivation of it and they called themselves
and their language
po naşu
 po jeianschi.
 Finally, we must emphasize that the name
have been given by the scientists. Thisname reflects both the linguistic affiliation at thelarger body of the Romanian language and thegeographical distribution of the population in theIstrian Peninsula.Thus, Istro-Romanians called themselves byendonyme
 called by exonym
by Croats,Slovenians, Italians, and had been named
by linguists.
2.2 The Language
Istro-Romanian is a dialect of the Romanianlanguage. Among all the Romanian dialects
Daco-Romanian, Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, Istro-Romanian
this last is the closest linguistically tothe Daco-Romanian. It seems that Istro-Romaniansplit from the widely spoken Daco-Romanian laterthan the other Romanian dialects did.Mainly, three are the problems that linguists referusually to: Istro-Romanian is a dialect of alanguage? Which are its particularitiescomparatively with others Romanian dialects? And,finally, there is an only dialect or there are moreIstro-Romanians dialects?
WSEAS TRANSACTIONS on ENVIRONMENT and DEVELOPMENT Marghescu GeorgetaISSN: 1790-5079 589 Issue 9, Volume 5, September 2009

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