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Arumanians (Vlahs).

The Other Macedonians


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Arumanians (Vlahs). The Other Macedonians

Origin of the Arumanians

The Thracians and the Illyrians were the original inhabitants of


Macedonia. The ancient Macedonians of Alexander the Great are thought
to have been a Thracian or Illyrian tribe. But the ethnographic picture of
Macedonia was to change following the Roman conquest of Macedonia in
146 BC [1]. Naturally Roman soldiers, administrators and colonists settled
in Macedonia. The native Thracian and Illyrian tribes had to learn Latin to
communicate with the Roman functionaries and colonists. In the course of
time, Latin became more and more the language of communication, and
the ancient Thracian and Illyrian languages were forgotten. However the
Thracian and Illyrian languages left their imprint on the language of the
Vlahs. The Rumanian language (including its Arumanian dialects) is a
Romance language like Italian and French, but the structure of Rumanian
is quite different than that of French or Italian. These differences are
thought to be due to Thracian and Illyrian influences. These Romanized
Thracians and Illyrians as well as the Roman colonists and soldiers with
whom they intermarried are the ancestors of the Arumanians (Vlahs) of
Macedonia and Epirus.
Distribution of the ArumaniansArumanian villages are scattered
throughout Western Macedonia, and even in certain spots in Eastern
Macedonia. There are only two areas in Macedonia where there is a large
concentration of Arumanians. The first is a large group of villages high
upon the slopes of the Pindus Mountains, which form the border between
Southwestern Macedonia and Epirus. The Pindus mountain seem to have
been the original home of the Arumanians. Many Arumanian villages
throughout Macedonia are a result of emigration from the Pindus Region.
Historically, the the most important of the Pindus villages in Macedonia
were Samarina and Avdela. The second large concentration of Vlahs is in
Meglen, a hilly district located between Edessa,Greece and Ghevgheli in
Macedonia. The Meglen group consists of 11 villages of which L'umnitsa
(today Skra, Greece) is the largest. These Vlahs differ in many ways from
their brethren in the Pindus region. First of all, the Meglen Vlahs do no
refer to themselves as Arumanians, but use the term "Vlah". Second, the
dialect of the Meglen Vlahs differ from Pindus Arumanian, the Meglen
dialect being in certain respects closer to the Rumanian of Rumania. Of the
other Arumanian settlements in Macedonia, we should mention the
following:

Klissoura is a small town situated in the mountains east of Kastoria,


Greece.
Pissoderi was a thriving settlement situated at the top of mountain pass
west of Florina (Greece).
There are 5 Arumanian villages near Bitola, the most important of which
are Gopesh and Malovishta. In addition, there is a large Arumanian
population in Bitola itself.

The most important northerly settlement of Vlahs is the town of


Kroushevo, which also contains a large Bulgarian population [2].

Early History of the ArumaniansWhen the Slavs migrated en mass into


Macedonia in the 6th and 7th centuries the Latin-speaking native
population fled to the hills. In the safety of the rugged Pindus range, they
lived as shepherds, largely unnoticed for several centuries. The term "Vlah"
is first mentioned in the late 10th century when the Byzantine chronicler
Cedrenus noted that David, brother of King Samuel of Bulgaria was killed
by certain wandering Vlahs in 976 AD between Kastoria and Prespa, at a
spot called Fair Oaks [3].

After the Byzantine conquest of Macedonia 1018 AD. Vlahs were placed
under the care of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid [4]. The
Arumanians were so numerous in the Middle Ages that Thessaly and
southern Macedonia were known as Great Vlahia [5]. The Jewish Rabbi
Benjamin of Tudela, who travelled in the about about 1160 AD has left us
some interesting notes about the Vlahs:

They are as nimble as deer and descend from their mountains into the
plains of Greece committing robberies and making booty...Whenever they
meet an Israelite they rob, but never kill him as they do the Greeks [6]. In
the late 13th and early 14th centuries Great Vlahia managed to become an
independent state for a short while. But in 1308 AD Great Vlahia ceased to
exist as an independent state, and was divided between the Catalans and
the Emperor of Constantinople [7].

After a short period of Serbian rule, the Pindus region of Macedonia fell
under Turkish rule in the late 14th century. Like the other Orthodox
Christians of the Balkans, the Arumanians were made second class citizens
by the Turks and many suffered and were even martyred for their
Orthodox faith. One such Arumanian martyr is Dimitry of Samarina,
whose martyrdom the church marks of August 17 (August 30 new style). In
the 18th centuries, three prosperous Arumanian settlements flourished:
Linotopi in Macedonia and Nikolitsa and Maskopole in Albania. In the
18th century, however, the three towns were sacked by Albanian
marauders and their inhabitants fled to all corners of Macedonia where
they founded new Arumanian settlements such as Magarevo and Turnovo
near Bitola, and the town of Kroushevo [8].

The Arumanian AwakeningLike the Bulgarians of the Balkans, the


Arumanians were also subjected to a policy of Grecianization by the Greek
Patriarchate of Constantinople. And indeed, the Greek clergy had some
success among the Arumanians. But other Arumanians wanted to preserve
their language, customs and culture, and as might be expected there was a
strong reaction against this policy of Hellenization. The greatest figure
during the Arumanian awakening was Apostol Margarit, a native of the
village of Avdela, on the slopes of the Pindus mountains. As early as 1862,
Apostol Margarit introduced the vernacular in the school of the large
prosperous Arumanian town Klissoura, in the Kastoria region. Nicepheros,
the Greek bishop of Kastoria tried for many years to close down the school,
but without success [9].

By 1874, 7 Arumanian schools existed in Macedonia--at Klissoura,


Kroushevo, at Nizhopole and Gopesh near Bitola, at Ohrid, at old Avdela in
the Pindus mountains and new Avdela near Ber [10]. Soon other schools
were founded and a Rumanian high school was established in Bitola in the
1880's. The Greeks were naturally alarmed by the awakening Rumanian
consciousness of the Vlahs. In December, 1879, the first unsuccessful
attempt on the life of Apostol Margarit took place. Margarit was wounded
during a second attempt on his life during December of 1890. In 1880 a
Greek terrorist band attacked the villages of Malovishta and Gopesh near
Bitola because the village priests had committed the unpardonable sin of
using Rumanian in the church services. In the same year the Greek bishop
of Kastoria had the schoolmaster in Klissoura arrested because he taught in
the Vlahs'native language [11].

The Arumanians of Macedonia continued to endure such obstructions


perpetuated by the Greeks throughout the 1890's and early 1900's. Because
there were no Rumanian bishops in Macedonia, many Vlahs placed
themselves under the jurisdiction of the Bulgarian Exarch, who allowed
them to use Rumanian in the church services. Contrary to the laws of
Orthodoxy, the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a circular
letter in March of 1904, in which he forbad the use of Rumanian in church
services [12].

A momentous date in the history of the Rumanians of Macedonia was May


23, 1905, when the Sultan issued a decree officially recognizing the Vlahs
and affirming their rights to maintain their schools and churches.
Following the proclamation of the decree, the Greek bishops, and the
terrorist bands they supported, unleashed a campaign of terror on the
Arumanians to discourage the Vlahs from taking advantage of their rights.
On October 27, 1905, a Greek terrorist attacked the village of Avdela,
birthplace of Apostol Margarit, and razed it to the ground. In 1905, the
Vlah abbot of the Holy Archangel monastery in the Meglen region was
murdered by a Greek band. In the summer of 1905 the villages of Magarevo
and Turnovo near Bitola were attacked [13]. In 1906, in the town of Ber,
the priest Papanace was murdered as he was on his way to church to serve
the Divine Liturgy [14]. The list of atrocities perpetrated against the Vlahs
goes on and on, but the worst was yet to come. When Macedonia was
conquered and divided in 1913, all the Rumanian schools were closed.
Today, the Vlahs do not even have the right to have church services in their
native language, and like their Bulgarian neighbours, are subject to a
vigorous policy of assimilation.

Arumanian Contribution to the Macedonian Liberation MovementIn 1893


a revolutionary organization was formed in Salonika, whose avowed
purpose was the autonomy of Macedonia and Thrace. This organization,
which later came to be known as the Internal Macedono-Adrianople
Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) tried to involve all ethnic groups in
Macedonia. After the Bulgarians, it was the Arumanians of Macedonia who
contributed the most to the liberation movement. There were not only fine
fighting men, but several of IMRO's most illustrious commanders
(voyvodi) were Arumanians. The legendary voyvoda Mitre Vlaho
particularly distinguished himself in the Kastoria region during the Ilinden
Insurrection of 1903. After the Ilinden Uprising was crushed Mitre refused
to abandon Macedonia, and continued to fight until his tragic death in
1907. The celebrated Pito Gouli was commander of the revolutionary
groups in the Kroushevo region. When the Arumanian towns of Klissoura,
Neveska (today Nimfeo, Greece) and Kroushevo were freed during Ilinden,
the Vlahs welcomes the freedom fighters with spontaneous unrestrained
cheers. When the Kroushevo Republic was proclaimed, its first president,
Vangel Dinou, was an Arumanian. The Arumanians continued their
valuable aid even after the Ilinden Insurrection was crushed. The people of
Klissoura sheltered nearly 2,000 refugees from the surrounding Bulgarian
villages which had been burned [15].

After Macedonia was conquered and divided in 1912-1913, Arumanians


continued to take part in the struggle to free their homeland. For example,
the son of Pito Gouli, Nikola, joined IMRO after it was reorganized by
Todor Alexandrov following World War I. Nikola fought bravely in the
Veles region, until he was caught by the Serbian police. Nikola Gouli died
in the dungeons of Belgrade [16]. One of the greatest heroines evern born
in Macedonia was Mencha Karnicheva of Kroushevo. It was Mencha who
executed the infamous traitor and murderer of B. Sarafov and I. Garvanov,
Todor Panitsa on May 9, 1925 [17].

The Arumanians or Vlahs are an ancient ethnic group that can trace its
orgin back to the Roman Empire. They have made their home in
Macedonia for 2,000 years. How can these people, who have inhabited
Macedonia for 2 millenia, be denied the right to feel Macedonian?

Notes

1. C. Anastasoff, The Bulgarians, Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, 1977, p.


17
2. A.Wace and M. Thompson, The Nomads of the Balkans, London:
Methuen & Co., 1914, (reissued 1972). p. 172-225
3. Wace and Thompson, p. 257
4. Y. Ivanov. Bulgarski Starini iz Makedoniya, Sofia: Bulgarian Academy
of Sciences, 1931, p. 560-562
5. Wace and Thompson, p. 257
6. Ibid, p. 258
7. Ibid, p. 264
8. Ibid, p. 218
9. K. Irechek, Istoriya na Bulgarite, Sofia: Bulgarskata Akademiya na
Naukite, 1939, p. 587
10. Ibid, p. 605
11. Kiril, Patriarch Bulgarski, Bulgarskata Ekzarchia v Odrinsko I
Makedoniy Sled Osvoboditelnata Voyna 1877-1878, Sofia: Sinod. Izd.,
1969, Vol.I, Book I, p. 381-393
12. "The Greek Church at the Head of Greek Chauvinism", Macedonia,
May, 1955, p. 2
13. Ibid, p. 2
14. Constantin Papance, "A Petition to the United Nations in Favour of the
Macedonian Rumanians", Macedonia, May, 1955, p. 2
15. L. Koroloff, "Participation of the Non-Bulgarian Macedonians in
Iliinden. Sho Stava, Vol II,
16. Issue II, August, 1978, p. 22-24.
17. I. Mihailov, "The Macedonian Rumanians", Balkania, Vol. I, No. 4,
October, 1967, p. 13
18. C. Anastasoff, The Tragic Peninsula. St. Louis, Mo: Blackwell Wielandy
co., 1938, p. 318-319