You are on page 1of 8


V'l:aehs; 'Vlasi:; Volokhs,; Arumun] ,Aromunians:; Koutsovlacihs,;Koutzo-Vlachs; Torvlaks;, Mavro ... Vlachs; Tsintsars

POPULATION: Appmomatdy (2002e) 511)0,000 AtOml:aniiliTIS in. the souehem Balkan S~ties of Alb.3!wlaJ. GIte~e, Macedo:l:lla, Hudga.[la, Romaaia, and ¥ugoslavjra. Other esdmaees p!itt the tota~ Ammanian population between [50,000 and 1.5minioIli. The vast ,dls:cre,amdes between offici~l numbers and estimates and d:ile pOP1!l·hltiolil6gm:!1e~ put fQrwar1(). by Qatii,ooaJUSl$: and. Un,guists aEep.aJlttly due eo the respective methods of eaurnerasionaad p;!!rdy a I1es;l!dt of tme rncttha,tl:dlle Amlluni.ans: have traditionally assindhnoo .in ordeeto sutvive.BesJdes those in. dle :Ba~kal1ls. there are, sIzable: .ruomani;1inpop~ ulations in western Em-ope" Caml.dlllj:lJnd, iId'l!e United States. The Arom::n:uamj, include: two smaller re1!l!led. popul!l!tiQus-m.e Meg[(:!!]j!j in l1!!o:rilie..m Groeece~ 3!bQ:u1t 20~:OOO~ and tb,e Istt'QRomanmansm, Cro:a:l:ia:. SOIIle 2,000.

THE ARIOMANlAN UOJ'WELAND; The Aarol1~9nian homeland lies in the soueheen Ba~~ kan Peninsula, souith and "\iVl(lst (Jlfl:he. D:an.uibe Ri.Vler, with pockets ofAromaniaes lccaeed In Greeee, Alb3lr!lia., Macedonia! Yugoslavia, B,um~ ,gari:3l,. and Rmnruil.ia. Greece has we IDatgest Annuarnal'll co:ttultmlh:y and is the on~f cOR!1lnttywhe,re 1\romamalJls, hevea compact geographic dismbuti:Olll~in [hie Pindus MOlwtains, jm lJIorm'~'estem G~ee(le, whicb ~s eensidered the eore area. of the Balkan Aromlliniams. The capital and major euleural center ofthe i\,mmaoians in Greece ,is the town of Metwvo,. caned Ammciu by the Aromanians; (2002e) 5,,000, the self-proclaimed "c:rupita~ 'of the Aromamans." The other i!llFOmntcl,iIlm!fal e:emter in Greoce is Tdkal~! caned Trieala by the MOnl'3!nian:!l, (.2002e) '4-8,000, wh,ooe popu1:ati~)<n is, swollen in wmnter byth~ aUIJlllal IilIigT"d.tiiOIII o,f Aooil.Jliattiill,11 herd:sme:n &0[1] the ililOmitams. The' ctdwra] center of the l\:r1)l!llJI.X!iiaJl"IS 10, RQ.m.lI!ni~. is Cow.stanra, called C\!stantra in ArQ:m3Jt~i;'!n. The oenter of the MilI.coo.orri:.tll. ruomamiafls is thetown o,f Krushevo, CrushoV<li 00 the A1·(~m-.Jni:ltls. Tile

culmral center of the Bulgarian Aromanians is tlfledty of Sliven, where an annual Aromanian summer fair is held.

FLAG: The Ammanian national flag. used by most communities, is a vertical bicolor of n:JiVY blue over white .. The nationalist flag of the nineteenth centuryj,which W:,lS carried at t1:11e Paris Peace Conference in 1919, has five horizontal stripes ·of red, yellow.pale bh;I!!~, yellow. and bIIH.-k.

PEOPLE AND CUL TVRE: Their Slav neighbors call them Vlach or Vlassi, but they call themselves Aromani or Aromuni, meaning Roman. Vlach Of Vlah is now often 'Used as a pejorative or generalized term, although the Meglens continue to call themselves Vlach. Traditionally the Aromanians were herdsmen, horse breeders, and shepherds, following their herds frorn pasmre to pasture. Only about 20% continue to Jive the traditional seminomadic life; but only the Meglens adopted farming. The Aromanians are now mainly merebanes, traders, and artisans. Like oeher national groups, the Aromanians have long [inked their consciousness and primary io~l{)' to their villages, clans, valleys, or regi(!IlS. The Aeomanians, even in urban areas, tend to .Iive apart, rarely intermarrying with Slavs, upholding an ancient tradition of superiority to the newer nationalities In the Balkans, They consider the Romanians as a separate but closely related nation, Untilthe beginning of the twentiethcentury, the Aromanians spent the period between Gl1erghiovdeIl CSt. George's Day. 23 April), and Krastovden (Day of the Cross, 14 September) in the Balkan.Rila, Pirin, Pindus, and Raodope Mountains, before setting off with the vast migrations of the herds to the lowla!l!ds. The small nation has dose ties to the Meg:lens, the Meg]enn-Ron.1anialls of Gr~t'cealld Macedonia, and the ffistro-Romanians, also called Morlakhs, in Croatia ..

LANGUAGE AND RELlG/ON: The Ammanian language, called Arminesti or Aromaneashri, is a distinct Romance language. belonging to the southern or Balkan Romance group of the eastern Romance. language family. It is structurally distinct from Roul.ania.n, and mutual intelligibility with standar-d Romanian is very low. The language is derived from late provincial Latin; it split from Romanian between A.D. 500 and WOO. Some linguists consi der Ammanian, Megl.eJ1w-Romaniau,. and Istro-Romsnian as dj<lJle'ClrS of Romanian, but the majority consider them separate languages .. Aromanian shares ma.ny common features with Bulgarian, Gr,eek, and Albanian, but the lexical composition, though rich in Greek, Slavic, and Turkish borrowings, remains basi.caUy of the Romance type. The other important diaJect, Meg1en or Megleno·-Romanitml, spoken in Greece and. Macedonia. is considered anintennediare d]a]ect~ between. Aromanian and Romanisn. There are numerous dialecdc<l!I differences among the widely scattered populations. In the 19805 <l. separate alphabet, based all the Latin alphabet, was devised for the language, The number of Aromanians in the Balkans is estimated to number up to 1.5 million, but speakers of the


Aromanian language are estimated to have dropped from 500,000 in ]900 to around 2.50)000 in 2000.

The Ato(J,man.ial1s are overwhelmingly Orthodox Clrristian, most belongin,g to the Greek Orthodox Chllfcn. Some Arornaaians, particularly outside Greece, have suggested the creation of an autonomous Aroma.nlian Orthodox Church to serve the needs of the widely scattered Aromaniandisspora.

NATIONAL HISTORY: The Aromanians claim descent from the ancient Romans who conquered Macedonia in the second century a.c. Some scholars believe they are descended from the aboriginal Tbracians, Greeks;, Illyrians, and others who amalgamated with the Laeincolonises, Following the RomH[J evacuation of the region in A.D. 271, the ~1J[e~ was subject to :[1 series of barbarian invasions, The Roma.m.ized population survived. probably by taking refuge in the mountains, where they remained as shepherds and primitive farmers, They are thought to have returned to the plains when conditions improvedin the SI.Xdl centurv, when the first mention of their distinct language was recorded. Anorher theory claims that they are descendants of Romanized Dacians who moved south of the Danube after the Rommn evacuation.

The Slavs colonized the Balkans, between the fourth and seventh centuries, They foun.d 1;\'\rO large and related tribal groups already established in t~e region-the Dacians north of the Danube River, and the Thracians south of the river. Both. groups had adopted the Latin culture and spoke a Latin patois. North of the river, the Daeians absorbed. the inv<lJding Slavs, but in the south ehe Tbracianswere either absorbed or pushed into the lessaccessible mountains, The Aromanian mountaineers were well known to the Byzantine military, who regarded rhe independent people asan utlmlltlgated nuisance.

The were instrumental in the formation of the Second Bulgarian Empire, also known 'as the Empire of the Vlachs and Bulgars, in ll 84. In 1 ill 86, they rebelledagainst a tax mcrease imposed by the Byzantine emperor. In 12 04, after the temp{)['ary cQllap5e (If .Byzantine power, the Aromsnians created their own kingdom, called Great Wallaehia, in Thessaly and pans of Macedonia. They later established another stare, Little Wallachia, in present northwestern Greece ..

The Aromanian heart I. and in Thessa]y was laterabsorbed by the Greek Despotate of Epims, overrun by Serbs, and, with the corning of the Turks in 1393, incorporated into the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Aromanian caravans, made up of hundreds of packhorses, traveled freely across the Oteoman-ruledpeninsula, :lind Ammanian traders estabhsbed prosperous mercantile houses in the larger [Owns and as far alway as Budapestand Vienna, By the end Off theeighreenth century, the Aromanians all but controlled trade in the Ottomans' European territories,

Around 1700 an urban Ammanian culture formed in the Pindus Mounrains.centered 011 the city of Gramosten. which boasted. all Ammanian



population of some 40,000. In. the middle of the eigh1Ceenth century the Aromanians of Turkish Epirns, inpresent Albania, established a large urban population at M05copole (Voskopoje) south of Lake Ohrid, Arirs height the \\';lJIfted dry had up to 60,000 inhabitants, irs own printing house, and a famousacademy of learning, The city became the c-enter of the Aromanisn national and cultural revival and didactic literature. Thefirst known inscription in Aromanian is dated 1731; it was found .In. the region in 1'952. The destruction of the city by .Albanian mercenaries in the pay (If beys in. 1769 and again in 1788 dispersed its inhahitants as refugees and emigrants across the Balkans,

In the early nineteenth cenrury, as nationalist ideas began to form illil Europe, a small, educated minority began to see the Aromanians asa separate narieu-e-nor Greek, Romanian, Slav, or Albanian. A national movernent began among wealthy Aromanian merchants in Vienna arid Budapest, but the new Romanian stste soon co-opted Ammanian nationalism, claiming the small south Balkan nation as long-lost kin and investing large sums in schools and churches that perpetuated Romanian but not Arornanian culture.

The Greek St'.;II::e, which became independent from the Ottoman Turks in 1821., opposed the Romanian movement, and the Arornanians were soon divided into pro-Greek and pro-Romanian fa.ctions. The developmenr ·or a purely Aromanian national consciousness was hindered by the fact that Aromanians lacked a written language and had been taught to 11.5e the alphabets=-Oreek, Roman"or Cyr.iIHc-o( the countries in which they lived.

~ll themid-eineteenth century, with the support of theRomanian government, the Aromanians of the Balkans began to define their national identity, The first cultural organizatinn, the Maeedo-Romaman Conrmittee, based in the Romanian. capital, Bucharest, from 1860,. W'dS able to open the first Aromanian school in Greece in 1867. with almost Ion schools operating in Greece, Macedonia, and Albania by the turn of the century, The Aromsnians, with no written language and no national myth, were slow to develop a national eonsciousness in the late nineteenth century,

The cession of Thessaly by the Ottoman Turks to Gfieeoe in 1881, however, fueled Aroman1an sentiment. A large number [oined to petition the Ottoman sultan in protest, citing their fears of Greek assimilationist policy and the fact: that- the new border wouldcnt across the traditional migration routes of the Aromanian herds. In 1905 the Ottoman Turkish gov,emment finally reeognized the Aromanisns as a separate: community and allowed the-m to establish their own Orthodox church, but the church established by the nationalist Apostol Margarit was not successful. asmost Aromanians had already adopted Gr:eek identity,

The scattered Arornanians suffered dreadfully during the Balkan Wars fwrnl.911 to ]9] 3, when. they and their herds were massacred by armed



bands: of Bulgarians, Greeks, and Serbs, Fcllewing' the wars, in which the last Onoman territories in Europe were ~OSt, the Aromanians found themselves living in four different SUites-Albania" Serbia, Gre-ece"and Bulgaria. Their centuries-old migration and trade routes were severed by the bordees and customhouses of the- new Balkan countries,

The increasingly hestile policies ofthe Greek state, whichhad to aecommodate millions of displaced Greeks from Asia Minor, led to the: disloearion of m.:lJ1lY Arornanian communities. Thousands of Gr,eek Aromanians emigrated to Romania or abroad between 1923 and 1926. In 1925, riot long akei' the Dobrudia was incorporated Into Romania, the government gave land! to immigranc Aromanians in which 1'0 settle .. They have survived as a distinct eomrmmitythere despite their close cultural and lrunguistic ties eo the neighboring Romanians,

In Greece, d1!.rdng the Ioannis Meraxas dictatorship (If ~936-4L, the Aromanians were forced to attend Greek-language night schools. and the &:0- manianlanguage was banned fmm public use. Outing World Wa.( nand the civilwar that followed in Greece, Aroruanian territory was fought over by several armies and guerrilla groups. Dl!lF'i~g the war, Italian forces in Thessaly fanned pro-fascist Arornanians into a "Roman Legion" and snpportedthe creation of a separateAromanian state, The autonomous "Principaliry of the Pindus.f' Ied by an extremist, Alcibiades Diamandi, faded with the withdrawal of the Italian fascists,

The Romanian communist government after due warllad. less interest in [he Aromanians <lind ended its support. III 195 1 the; Greek census counted only 39;855 Aromanians, later they were left om of official starisdes enrlrely, In 1952 the Greek government closed the last Ammanian churches and schools, centers of community life and culture. Aromanian assimilation was extensive and usually "voluntary,' and .it seemed that the Aromanians' disappearance as a distinct nationalgroup was imminent, The new communist governments of Bulgaria and Yugoslavia often branded the Aroroanians "vagrants" and forced themto settle in towns and villages,

Under the rule of the GJ:'Iee.k "colonels" in the 1960s and. 1970s, Aromanians rislcedanpriscnrnent fol:' speaking their language even casually. The overthrow ofthe military regime in 1974 somewhat eased conditions, although they are today still not recognized as a national minority. The G])ee~ ~government does not acknowledge the existence of national minorities within its borders, only religious minorities. The simple mention of Aromanian nationality is forbidden in i1CQllHt!)' tl\:]It prorootes a self-im .. ge ~s an ethnically pure and unique "Hellenic" state, As recendyas August 1998, the speaker of the Greek parliament openly urged the homogenization of Greece's ethnic minorities.

The Romaniangovernment's newinterest in the Aromanians and N[eg~ lens in Greece recal Is the. controversy of the end of the nineteenth centIJJry.


Any intervention by onrsiders jn favorof the preservation of the Ammanian cultural and linguisric identity is viewed with great suspicion in Greece.

The situation of the Ammanian population in tile other Balkan countries is a]5Q serious. In .tUbania the Arom.anians sre not counted as a separate ethnic grol!l~) hut ere jnclnded in the Gree:k Orthodoxminority, The Aremanians of the Timok Valley in Serbi a are not recognized! as an. ethnic community but are regarded as Romaniced Slavs, The 1991 MacedoniatiIJ canstitmien effieially recognized the Vlachs as a national minorjty, but the Macedonianlanguage must be used in contacts wirh the government. Further, the government has refused to register rhe Arornanian Orthodox Church, on the grounds that there is already one Orthodox Chllrdl. In the country. In. 1995 the Aromanians were granted permission to teach optional courses in their language in;t1l, areas of M~cedollh\. In J31J1~ gada they enjoy fewpolitical Otcuitlllr:a.1 rights, the legacyof the former communist government. which actively promoted the of national min ori ties .. Although Romania is .110t one of the original areas inhabited by Arornanians, it now has an important veomrnunity. The](lUS in Romania. are mostly descendants from emigres of the first ha~f of the tweneierh century .. They are considered by the Romanian state as coastieueing a linguisticand cultural community rather than an official minority. Romania, since the fu.1l (}f communistgovernmenas in the Balkans, has reassumed 1:<) some extentthe role of protector of the Aromanlams.

In the early 19805 the Aromanians were dmought to be on the verge of extinction, but: d~]ri[1g the internarloaal ethnic revival of the late ill 980s their situation begsn to change, Emigre communiries 11'1 Weseern Europe and North America cook 3. new interest in their culture and language and encouraged their compatricts in the Balkans to do the same, Communities ia the Balkans, along with. grmllps iii!! France, Gem1l~ny. North America, and Greece, for the first time began toclaim Ammanian identity. As renewed interest grew, the Iron Curtain collapsed, and m.any forgotten. ethtlic groups resurfaced, The Greek claim thar all Aromanians in the Balkans are ethnic Greeks was set back by the. emergence of large Ammanian popularions in. A~hanla and M;)Jee,donJ.a speakinglietle or no Greek Many Aromartians learned of their heritage only 3Jfter the collapse of communism in

the r,eglon. .

The. ethnic pride of the 19S0s; however, gave way to ethnic cleansing In the Balkans in the earjy 1. 990s. The Cf'i.5IS belJ.;veen Greece and the Cortner Yugoslav Rep1!1 blic of Macedonia fueledaaeionalisr sentiment on both sides. In G.reece the Macedonian problem made, the assertion of a non-Greek identity almost impossible .. Both the Greeks andthe Macedonians made claims to the Aramanianstlcyalry. A second blow to the new Aromanian identity came when relations between Greece and Albania deteriorated sharply in 1'994 over the state of the Greek Epirotes" in southern

Albania .. The Greeks set themselves up as protectors of the entire Orthodox population of the regionvpiteing the Christian population, Greek or not, ag:a]l]st the Muslim Albanian maJority.

However, thrnoghouc history the Arornanians, .li~e chameleona.have disappeared only to veeppeae Jatee with their language, culture, and traditions intact. A key element in their survival has been their ahiHty 1:0 adopt social and cultural patterns of ether national groups when their own survival has been ehreatened, The straregy of revealing Aromanian identity only when verifiably sa£e to do ensured the Aromanians' remarkable survival of the turbulent twentieth centllry in tile Balkans, but it makes it extremely difficult to estimate the population of the Aromanian nation in the region. Traditionally, by melting into their host nations, the Aromanians became the'~best Greeks,'; the "best Macedonians,' and the "best Albatilhns." Until the ] 980s, even many Aremanian leaders were doing their best: 1l'O conviace the memhers of tile small nation. that they were either Greek or Romanian, but now most acknowledge that they are a unique nati on of their own.

Since the collapse of totalitarian regimes ill the !Balkans in the early 19905. and the establishment of more democratic regimes across the region, the situation of me. Aromanleus has impruved considerably, except in Greece, Renewed ties to the diaspora has helped fuel a cultural and linguistic revival, especially among ym:mge~r Aeomanlans. The Macedonian government hasgone the farthest in supporting the preservation of the language and culture, bot other regional governments ~ave also beguu to accede to Aromaaian demands for protection of their unique culture and history, The national movement remains divided into rival grolD.PS, proGreek and pro-Romanian, while 3. growing number wish only to be Ammanian and to, be recognized asa separate Balkan .. narional group.

In 1991 the Albaaian government recognized the Aromanians as a "culrural group," the secondlargest in rhe country after the Albanians, but refused (hem national-minority status, The first congr,ess of the Ammanian nation was heidi soonafter in Albania, with participants from [he Balkan coantries and the Aromanian diaspore .. Thecongress is seen as marking the rebirth of the Aromanian national movement, Tbe figure of 200,.000 Aromanians in Albania seems to fill the bugegap between the figures ccncerning the Greek minority in Albania). given by the Albanian government as: about 60,000., and Greek official ststistics of "Greeks" in Albania at 300,.000-400,000..

In the Balkans, to claim [0 be Arom:3!ni:JJI1 and nothing else-neither Gr,eek, Romanian, Bulgarian, Albanian, or Yugoslav'----ismnramouD:r ro bomb throwing .. Hut for many younger Aromanians, bomb throwing is a step up from the indifference of their parents, who were considered safely assimilated. In Macedonia ther-e was pressure even in the 1995 census eo declare oneself as Macedonian for reasons of pclitical correctness, How-



ever, Aromanian activists in 1997 succeededin convincing the parliamentary Assembly 'Of the; Council of Europe, without Greek participation. to recommend protection of the Aromanian culture and language in all. their host countries;


M\.!rvar, Vatro. The Bnlktm VuU'h.r: A Tyj)ologiall St:U(~'Y. 19'78. Poulton, H. The Bu/ktm,: Slav, lInd Mhw1"ities in Conflict. 1994. W~:])11I ~ fH tb, 'Tom. The Vlrl~:hs: T"be H iSID1y"f« B,llktl1f Pearle. 1987. ---. ,,')hmteral JirlgleslBnlkall fhrgmli;lt.r. 1995.