Vlachs - History and Cultural Relations

During the sixth and seventh centuries AD., under the Pressure of the Slavs and other peoples advancing from the north to the Balkan Peninsula, the autochthonous Balkan populations retreated to the southern and western regions. Those who took refuge in inaccessible high mountains of the central and southern Balkans and adopted a nomadic way of life managed to survive and eventually developed into a distinct group. This process probably took place in the region of Pind in Greece, where their core remains today and from which they have dispersed for centuries. In the tenth century a large Vlach group still lived on the mountain of Pind, in Thessaly, Epirus, and Macedonia. Another group spread through the mountains of the Balkan Peninsula, between the Black Sea and the Adriatic, in the Adriatic hinterland and towns of the Adriatic coast. From the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, because of their nomadic way of life, they spread considerably through what was then Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Croatia, moving as far north as the Polish Carpathians. From the fifteenth century, during the time of the Turkish invasion of the Balkans, the Vlachs as nomadic cattle breeders became included in the economic life of the Turkish Empire and were granted certain privileges. During this time they even formed some permanent villages. However, the crises and conflicts that affected the Turkish Empire from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries resulted in the persecution of nomadic Vlachs. Ali Pasha Janjinski (1744-1822) was the most cruel of the Turkish overlords, destroying the Vlachs' native Country in Pind and scattering Vlach families to different parts of the Balkan Peninsula. Some Vlachs remained faithful to a nomadic way of life and sheep breeding, while others traveled to find work in towns and abandoned the traditional occupations. Further development of socioeconomic, historical, and political relationships was not favorable to nomadic cattle raising nor to the Vlachs, so they began to assimilate with the surrounding ethnic groups. Vlachs in northeast Serbia immigrated mostly at the end of the eighteenth and the start of the nineteenth centuries from the territory of present-day Romania.

In their dispersion, individual Vlach groups maintain cultural relations with different Slavic, Albanian, Greek, and Romanian ethnic groups, living with them in peaceful coexistence with frequent contacts and intermixing. Vlachs in northeast Serbia have equal rights and obligations with the predominant Serbian population, although they do not have their own schools or other cultural and social institutions, newspapers, etc.

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