is a blanket term covering several modern Latin peoples
descending from the Latinised population in Central
and Southeastern Europe
. English variations on the name include: Vallachians, Wallachians, Wlachs, Wallachs, Vlahs, Olahs
; in other languages they are (Vllenjë,Vllehë; Valahi; Valaši; Valasi; Βλάχοι Vláhi
; Wołosi; Serbian
: Власи, Vlasi
; Ulahlar; Волохи Volokhy
). Groups that have historically been called Vlachs include: modern-day Romanians
. Since the creation of the Romanian
state, the term in English has mostly been used for those living outside Romania.
The term Vlach is originally an exonym. All the Vlach groups used various words derived from Romanus to refer to themselves: Români, Rumâni, Rumâri, Aromâni, Arumâni etc. (note: the Megleno-Romanians nowadays call themselves "Vlaşi", but historically called themselves "Rămâni"; The Istro-Romanians also have adopted the names Vlaşi, but still use Rumâni and Rumâri to refer to themselves).
Vlachs descend predominantly from the Romanised Dacians, Thracians and Illyrians, the indigenous populations of the Balkans, and Roman colonists (from various provinces of the Roman Empire).
The Vlach languages, also called the Eastern Romance languages, have a common origin from the Proto-Romanian language. Over the centuries, the Vlachs split into various Vlach groups (see Romania in the Dark Ages) and mixed with neighbouring populations: Slavs, Greeks, Albanians, Cumans, and others.
Almost all modern nations in Central and Southeastern Europe (Austria, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Bulgaria.) have native Vlach minorities.
The word Vlach is ultimately of Germanic origin, from the word Walha, a name used by ancient Germanic peoples to refer to (mainly) Romance-speaking neighbours. As such, it shares its history with several ethnic names all across Europe , including the Welsh and Walloons. Slavic people initially used the name Vlachs when referring to Romanic people in general. Later on, the meaning became narrower or just different. For example Italy is called Włochy in Polish, and Olaszország ("Olasz country") in Hungarian.
Through history, the term "Vlach" was often used for groups which were not ethnically Vlachs, often pejoratively - for example for any shepherding community, for Serbs, or for Christians by Muslims. In the Croatian region of Dalmatia, Vlaj/Vlah (sing.) and Vlaji/Vlasi (plural) are the terms used by the inhabitants of coastal towns for the people who live inland or pejoratively: barbarians who came from the mountain. In Greece, the word Βλάχος (Vláhos) is often used as a slur against any supposedly uncouth or uncultured person.
Besides the separation of some groups (Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians) during the Age of Migration
, many other vlachs could be found all over the Balkans
, as far north as Poland
and as far west as the territory Moravia
(part of modern Czech Republic
), and as far south as the present-day Croatia
. They reached these regions in search of better pastures, and were called "Wallachians
" ("Vlasi; Valaši
") by the slavic peoples.
- Vlaşca - part of southern Wallachia
- Greater Wallachia (Muntenia) - east of the Olt river
- Lower Wallachia (Oltenia) - west of the Olt river
- Walachia Cissalpina/Walachia citeriore (also called Vulaska, Vlaska, Valachia, Vlaskozemski, Parvan Vallachiam, etc.) - Banat
- Upper Wallachia ("Άνω Βλαχία", Áno Vlahía) - in southern Macedonia and Epirus
- Small Wallachia ("Μικρή Βλαχία", Mikrí Vlahía) - in Aetolia, Acarnania, Dorida (Doris), Locrida (Locris)
- Old Wallachia (Stara Vlaška) - in Bosnia
- Stari Vlah (the Old Vlach) - in Western Serbia
- White Wallachia - in Moesia
- Black Wallachia (Morlachia) - in Dalmatia
- Sirmium Wallachia - on the Sava river
- Moravian Wallachia (Valašsko) - in the Beskid Mountains of the Czech Republic
- Daco-Romanians (Romanians proper) , speaking the Romanian language (Daco-Romanian), known by that name due to their location in the territory of ancient Dacia, who live in:
- Aromanians (speaking the Aromanian language), live in:
- Megleno-Romanians (speaking the Megleno-Romanian language), living in the region of Macedonia, specifically Greece and the Republic of Macedonia - 20,000.
- Istro-Romanians (speaking the Istro-Romanian language) living in Croatia, with a population of 1,200, but with fewer than 200 acknowledged native speakers.
Many Vlachs were shepherds in the medieval times, driving their sheep through the mountains of Southeastern Europe. The Vlach shepherds reached as far as Southern Poland
in the North (by following the Carpathian range), Dinaric Alps
in West, the Pindus
mountains in South, and as far as the Caucasus Mountains
in the east .
In many of these areas, the descendants of the Vlachs have lost their language, but their legacy still lives today in cultural influences: customs, folklore and the way of life of the mountain people, as well as in the place names of Romanian or Aromanian origin 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 they have always been a farming Vlach population, unlike the Albanians, who have borrowed many of these words 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 was influenced by neighbouring 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, and profoundly shaped by the neigbouring Slavic cultures such as Serbian, Bulgarian etc.
The religion of the Vlachs is predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christianity
, but there are some regions where they are Catholics
(mainly in Transylvania
) and a few are even Muslims
from Greece who converted
and have been living in Turkey
since the 1923 exchange of populations
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 certain Duke from Scythia named "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 Romanorum (shepherds of the Romans) (in original: sclauij, Bulgarij et Blachij, ac pastores romanorum). However, the chronicle was written around 1146.
In 1185, two noble brothers from Tarnovo named Peter and Asen led a Bulgarian revolt against Byzantine Greek rule and declared Tsar Peter II (also known as Theodore Peter) as king of the reborn state. The following year, the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgaria's independence. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgars, Greeks, and Vlachs" as did most subsequent rulers of the Second Bulgarian Empire (see Vlach-Bulgar Rebellion).
- Theodor Capidan, Aromânii, dialectul aromân. Studiul lingvistic ("Aromanians, Aromanian dialect, Linguistic Study"), Bucharest, 1932
- Victor A. Friedman, "The Vlah Minority in Macedonia: Language, Identity, Dialectology, and Standardization" in Selected Papers in Slavic, Balkan, and Balkan Studies, ed. Juhani Nuoluoto, et al. Slavica Helsingiensa:21, Helsinki: University of Helsinki. 2001. 26-50. full text Though focussed on the Vlachs of Macedonia, has in-depth discussion of many topics, including the origins of the Vlachs, their status as a minority in various countries, their political use in various contexts, and so on.
- Asterios I. Koukoudis, The Vlachs: Metropolis and Diaspora, 2003, ISBN 960-7760-86-7
- George Murnu, Istoria românilor din Pind, Vlahia Mare 980-1259 ("History of the Romanians of the Pindus, Greater Vlachia, 980-1259"), Bucharest, 1913