Vlachs - Orientation

Identification. The name "Vlachs" refers to the old Balkan ethnic group whose members are descendants of romanized and grecized Paleo-Balkan and Indo-European populations: Illyrians and Thracians. Also, the Vlachs are a recent ethnic substratum in northeast Serbia formed by Romanians and Romanized Slav immigrants from Romania.

Location. Small groups of Vlachs have survived a diaspora, mostly in the central Balkan mountain regions, in northern Greece (Thessaly, Epirus), Bulgaria, Romania, and Yugoslavia. In the former Yugoslavia Vlachs are found in eastern Istria (Croatia) between the towns of Trieste and Rijeka, in Macedonia near Kruševo and Bitola, and in Serbia near Pirot and on the mountain of Kopaonik. Vlachs in northeast Serbia live in the region delimited by the rivers of Velika Morava to the west, Timok to the east, and Danube to the north, and by the mountain of Rtanj to the south.

Demography. As there is no generally accepted criteria for determining who should be considered a Vlach, and because their assimilation with Slavs and other populations is rather intense, it is difficult to determine their exact number. Historical data show that at the beginning of the nineteenth Century about 400,000 to 500,000 Vlachs lived on the Balkan Peninsula. However, it is assumed that today there are about 50,000 to 60,000 Vlachs, of which 20 percent live in the former Yugoslavia. The population of Yugoslavia in 1981 was 22,425,000, while 32,071 individuals or 0.1 percent listed themselves as Vlachs. They are most numerous in Serbia (25,596) and Macedonia (6,392).

Linguistic Affiliation. The Vlach language developed from vernacular Latin. It is similar to Romanian, with which it shares many common forms both in grammar and phonetics. However, the differences between the two languages are so great, particularly in Vlach vocabulary, which abounds with Slavic, Albanian, and Greek elements, that the average Romanian cannot understand the Vlach language. Because of frequent migrations, isolated mountain life, and the separate development of individual Vlach groups, several dialects have been formed. Generally, Vlachs are bilingual, speaking both the language of the population living in their immediate proximity and the Vlach language, which they use for internal local communication. In the southeast regions of the Balkan Peninsula they also accepted Greek as a more prestigious Language, whereas in the western parts of the Balkans the Vlach language completely disappeared (except in Istria), although it left clear traces in both toponymy and anthroponymy.

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