Greek War of Independence 1821 in Art 

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Camp of Vlachs 1877

Vlachs (also called Wallachians, Wlachs, Wallachs, Olahs or Ulahs) is a blanket term covering several modern Latin peoples descending from the Latinised population in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Groups that have historically been called Vlachs include modern-day Romanians, Aromanians, Morlachs, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians, but since the creation of the Romanian state, the term in English has mostly been used for those living south of the Danube river.

The Vlach languages have a common origin from the Proto-Romanian language, and the Vlachs themselves originally descend from Roman colonists (from various provinces of the Roman Empire) and Romanised indigenous populations (Dacians, Thracians, and/or Illyrians). Whether the Vlachs formed north or south of the Danube is disputed (see Origin of Romanians for more about the dispute about the origin), but a southern limit is set by the Jireček Line. Over the centuries, the Vlachs split into various Vlach groups and mixed with neighbouring populations: Slavs, Greeks, Albanians, Cumans, and others.

Through history, the term "Vlach" was often used for groups which were not ethnically Vlachs, often pejoratively - for example for any shepherding community, or for Christians by Muslims. In Greece, the word Βλάχος is often used as a slur against any supposedly uncouth or uncultured person, equivalent to the American hillbilly. However, in recent years there has been a concerted effort by Greek Vlachs to reclaim the term from its negative connotations and to proclaim openly and proudly their Vlach identity.

Etymology

Main article: History of the term Vlach

The word Vlach is of Germanic origin, sharing this origin with the words "Welsh" and "Walloons" in other parts of Europe. Slavic people initially used the name Vlachs when referring to Romanic people in general. Later on, the meaning got narrower or just different. For example Italy is called Włochy in Polish, and Olaszország ("Olas' country") in Hungarian. The term was originally an exonym, as the Vlachs used various words derived from romanus to refer to themselves (români, rumâni, rumâri, aromâni, arumâni etc). The Istro-Romanians have adopted the names Vlaşi, rumâni and rumâri to refer to themselves, and the Megleno-Romanians have adopted only the term Vlaşi to describe themselves.

Wallachia

Many Vlachs were shepherds and they always looked for better pastures. This explains the pockets of Vlachs that could be found all over the Balkans and as far north as Poland and as far west the Czech Republic, and Croatia. These regions inhabited by Vlachs were called "Wallachia" or "Vlashka" by the Slavs.

  • Ungro-Wallachia, Wallachia Transalpina and later Wallachia ("Ţara Românească") - between the Southern Carpathians and the Danube
    • Vlaşca - part of southern Wallachia
    • Lower Wallachia ("Oltenia") - west of the Olt river
  • Moldo-Wallachia ("Moldavia") - between the Carpathians and the Dnister
  • Upper Wallachia - in Epirus
    • Moscopole
  • Great Wallachia ("Megale Vlachia") - in Thessaly
  • Small Wallachia - in Etolia, Acarnania, Dorida, Locrida
  • Old Wallachia ("Stara Vlaška") - in Bosnia
  • White Wallachia - in Moesia
  • Black Wallachia ("Morlachia") - in Dalmatia
  • Sirmium Wallachia - on the Sava river
  • Moravian Wallachia ("Valašsko") - in the Beskydy Mountains of the Czech Republic

People

  • Daco-Romanians known by that name due to their location in the territory of ancient Dacia. They are divided into:
    • Romanians (speaking the Romanian language), who live in:
    • Romania - 20.5 millions
    • Ukraine - 500,000; in southern Bessarabia and northern Bukovina
    • Hungary - 70,000 (0.7% of the total population)
    • Serbia and Montenegro - 34,000 (mainly in Vojvodina) see: Romanians of Serbia
    • Slovakia - 9,000
    • Bulgaria - 1,088 according to the last census
  • Moldovans (speaking Romanian/Moldovan language), who live in:
    • Moldova - 2.8 millions
  • Vlachs of Serbia and Bulgaria (speaking the Vlach language, which is virtually identical to Romanian), who live in:
    • Serbia and Montenegro - 40,000
    • Bulgaria - 10,500
  • Aromanians (speaking the Aromanian language), live in:
    • Greece, mainly in the Pindus Mountains - 65,000 (The Greek government does not recognise any ethnic divisions, so there are no exact statistics. See Demographics of Greece)
    • Romania - about 50,000, mainly in Dobruja
    • Albania - between 10,000 and 40,000
    • Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - 9,695 (0.5% of the total population)
  • Megleno-Romanians (speaking the Megleno-Romanian language), living in northern Greece - 20,000.
  • Istro-Romanians (speaking the Istro-Romanian language) living in Croatia, with a population of 1,200.

Culture

Many Vlachs were shepherds in the medieval times, driving their sheep through the mountains of Southeastern Europe. The Vlachs shepherds reached as far as Southern Poland and Moravia in the north (by following the Carpathian range), Dinaric Alps in West and the Pindus mountains in South.

In many of those areas, although with time their descendants lost the language, but their legacy can still be found today in the cultural influences: in the customs, folklore and the way of living of the mountain people, as well as in the placenames of Romanian or Aromanian origins that are spread all across the region.

Another part of the Vlachs, especially those in the northern parts, in Romania and Moldova, were traditional farmers growing cereals. Linguists believe that the large vocabulary of Latin words related to agriculture shows that there has always been a farming Vlach population, unlike the Albanians, who have many of these words borrowed from Slavic.

Just like the language, the cultural links between the Northern Vlachs (Romanians) and Southern Vlachs (Aromanians) were broken by the 10th century, and since then, there were different cultural influences:

Romanian culture remained virtually uninfluenced by occupating people such as Hungarians and Slavs and developed itself to what it is today. The 19th century saw an important opening toward Western Europe and cultural ties with France.

Aromanian culture developed initially as a pastoral culture, later to be greatly influenced by the Byzantine and Greek culture.

Religion

The religion of the Vlachs is predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but there are some regions where they are Catholics and Protestants (mainly in Transylvania) and a few are even Muslims (former converts from Greece, living in Turkey since the 1923 exchange of populations).

History

The first record of a Balkan Romanic presence in the Byzantine period can be found in the writings of Procopius, in the 5th Century. The writings mention forts with names such as Skeptekasas (Seven Houses), Burgulatu (Broad City), Loupofantana (Wolf's Well) and Gemellomountes (Twin Mountains). A Byzantine chronicle of 586 about an incursion against the Avars in the eastern Balkans may contain one of the earliest references to Vlachs. The account states that when the baggage carried by a mule slipped, the muleteer shouted, "Torna, torna, fratre!" ("Return, return, brother!"). However the account might just be a recording of one of the last appearances of Latin (Vulgar Latin).

Blachernae, the suburb of Constantinople, was named after a Scythian named Duke Blachernos. His name may be linked with the name "Blachs" (Vlachs).

In the 10th Century, the Hungarians arrived in the Pannonian plain, and, according to the Gesta Hungarorum written by an anonymous chancellor of King Bela III of Hungary, the plain was inhabited by Slavs, Bulgars, Vlachs and pastores Romanurum (Roman shepherds). However, the chronicle was written around 1146.

In 1185, a leading Vlach noble named Peter Asen led a Bulgarian revolt against Byzantine Greek rule and declared himself Tsar Peter II (also known as Theodore Peter). The following year, the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgaria's independence. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgars, Greeks, and Vlachs" (see Vlach-Bulgar Rebellion).

History of Aromanians

History of Romanians

See also

Further reading

Koukoudis, Asterios I. - The Vlachs: Metropolis and Diaspora, 2003, ISBN 9607760867

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