|Tra s’dzic tut tsi-am pri suflit, o Pirivole dzînni|
|To say all I have in my heart o Perivoli tell me|
|La cari s’ñi aspun eu dorlu, la tini i la Armâni?|
|To whom shall I tell my pain to you or the Arumans?2|
There is a small hotel in Perivoli, a village of Pindus, ensconced above the national forest that has the name Valia Calda3. Virgil Perdichi, an immigrant to the US spent all his savings to build it. He hoped that the hotel would give some life to the village that had been almost emptied by emigration and wars. When the hotel formally opened around 1973, Virgil arrived in Greece to attend, but the military junta government blocked his exit from the airport. In 1983, aged about 86, he died in Waco, Texas; then I went to his house to help out with the acceptance of inheritance. I thought that I would read easily the correspondence that he had with his brother about the hotel, but to my surprise, the letters were completely unintelligible. The decedent was not a dangerous communist, as one might have expected given the junta’s treatment. The crime was that the Perdichi siblings, like their mother, had attended Romanian-language schools in Pindos when Macedonia was part of the Ottoman Empire.
Years later, a young economist who worked at an international organization told me that her name was Papahagi. Initially I thought that a Romanian priest had gone for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the years that the Christian hajj was common. But all those who have dealt with the ‘koutsovlach issue’4 know that the surname Papahagi belongs to a family of distinguished 20th century philologists from the village Avdela of Pindos. Their works, unknown in Greece, are connected to a road that some people followed towards an Ithaca that bitterly disappointed them.
Few people now know this story in Greece, but some diplomats knowledgeable about Romania say that the issue of the Vlachs who live there is difficult and ‘taboo’. During a trip to Romania in 2002, I understood the reason. When I mentioned to Romanians that a great-grandfather might have been a Vlach, they told me smiling that I was also a distant relative. They explained that the Vlach language is old-style Romanian, about like what the Pontus dialect is for Greeks, and that the Vlachs are diaspora Romanians. They asked me why in Greece they are forced to Hellenize their names and why Greece does not allow the use of the Vlach language in television and radio.
Until that time, my relations with the Vlachs were limited to a vague memory that some relatives and friends descended from them. I decided to find answers to the questions I had heard. I read much of the voluminous material that exists on this issue in books and on the internet and spoke to many Vlachs of diverse political persuasions.5 This article summarizes the issues as were understood by a multilingual Greek educational psychologist.The Paradoxes of Vlachology
The students who enter the Metsovion Polytechnic Institute in Athens would not normally imagine that the benefactors of an engineering school would be Vlachs. This word brings to the mind of many Greeks the image of an uneducated shepherd with a glitsa and tsarouhia on some mountaintop, and of women with long embroidered skirts and kerchiefs carrying buckets of dairy products (e.g. the brand of condensed milk, ‘Gala Vlachas’ and the song ‘in your embroidered apron you Vlach woman’) In the 21st century most Greeks may not remember the Vlachs as anything distinct. By the 12th century the name already had a general meaning of a transhumant or shepherd.6 Many Greeks think that "Vlachika" is the ‘northern dialect’ of Greek, which pronounces e as i, o as u, and s as sh.7 One reason is that nothing sets the Vlachs apart as a race or a distinct minority. They have the same religion, appearance, the same pronunciation in Greek, and about the same names. (Many Vlach surnames are meaningless in Greek but so are Albanian and Turkish surnames.) The only difference is that they or their grandparents knew a language which belongs to the Balkan Latin family.
In Romania it is easier to tell who is a Vlach. Many are recognized by their Greek surnames (e.g. Papadima, Papacostea, Caranika) and first names, which sometimes are still written with the Greek diminutives (e.g Athena, Perikles, Zoitsa, Steliu, Nacu, Lambrache, Tache). The faces that go with the names often look like those that one sees in Greece.
Some Romanians ask why the Vlachs are not recognized as a minority in Greece. However, historically the members of this ‘minority’ have acted as the backbone of Hellenism: fighters against Ottoman occupation, like Rigas Feraios, Giorgakis Olympios, and possibly Theodoros Kolokotronis;8 leaders of leftist resistance against the Germans (EAM), such as Alexandros Svolos and Andreas Tzimas. Distinguished writers like Kostas Krystallis and Christos Zalokostas were Vlach, as were contemporary composers like Apostolos Kaldaras, Kostas Virvos, Babis Bakalis, and Mitropanos. Many became rich Balkan merchants during the 18th and 19th centuries and many Greek national benefactors were Vlachs, such as Nikolaos Stournaris, Georgios Arsakis, Michael and Georgios Tositsas, Georgios Sinas.9 Simon Sinas financed the construction of the Academy of Athens, while Georgios Averoff contributed to the first Olympic games.10 There was at least one Vlach prime minister, Ioannis Kolettis (1773-1847), ministers (like Evangelos Averoff), and countless senators. Without the majority realizing it, the government of Greece was many times under the control of this ‘minority’.
How are the contradictions reconciled? The topic is extremely politicized, and the publications of the last 100 years reflect that. Some authors analyze Byzantine documents and travelogues of foreigners, songs and traditions for differences or similarities. Specific events are generalized, and the historical hiatus is filled and interpreted according to the political ideology of each writer.11 In general, the Greek publications leave no doubt about the Greek origin of the Vlachs, while others leave no doubt about their particular identity and non-Greek origin.
There also are long debates about the name of the Vlachs. In Vlach they call themselves Armân or Arumân.12 "Hii Armân?" Are you a Vlach?13 As with the Greek word ‘Romios’, it derives from Romanus and denotes a citizen of the Roman or Byzantine empire, which was called Romania. In the Byzantine literature usually the term ‘Vlach’ is used. Similar to this word are the ancient German ‘Valah’ (Volcae in Latin), which refers to a Latinized Celtic tribe that settled in the Roman Empire. The Germans called some Latin-speaking people Valah or Wallach.14 The term Vlach may be German or Slavic, but is used as Blachi in medieval Latin as well. The word is related to others that refer to Latin or Celtic speakers, like the Walloons of Belgium, Welsh in English, Wloch in Polish, Olasz in Hungarian, Volokh in Russian.15 This article uses the word "Vlachs."Distinct Figures in the High Mountains
|Nu-ñi ti arâde feată ñica sh-nu γinu la noi|
|Don’t deceive yourself, young girl, and don’t come to us|
|La noi are munts-analtsi sh-nu va s-potsî sa tretsî|
|We have high mountains and you will not be able to pass16|
|Pitruniclle va-ñi mi facu sh-eu la voi va γinu|
|I will become a quail and I will come to you|
|La noi are balta mare sh-nu va s-potsî sa tretsî|
|We have a large river and you will not be able to pass|
|Pescu mare va-ñi mi facu sh-eu la voi va γinu|
|I will become a big fish and I will come to you|
|La noi are soacră arauă sh-nu va s-potsî sa tretsî|
|We have a bad mother-in-law and you will not be able to pass|
|Soacră arauă nveastă bună duaăle va tritsemu|
|Bad mother-in-law, good daughter in law, both of us will pass|
|Si eu la voi va γinu17|
|And I will come to you.|
Traditionally, Vlachs lived in the southern Balkans. Areas with considerable Vlach population exist in central and southern Albania (e.g. the destroyed Moschopolis) and the area that was earlier called Pelagonia and is now in FYROM, with cities such as Krusovo and Monastir (Vitolia). However, most Vlach habitations appear to be in Greece . The mountain villages form a line from Rome to Instanbul. At the sides of Pindus, from Grammosta to Pertouli there are about 80 mountain villages, despite the extensive demographic changes of the 20th century. Traditional groups in the plains still exist from Xanthi to Corfu and from the mouth of the river Acheloos to the mouth of Sperchios,18 and also in Evoia.
At the end of the 19th century, there were about 150,000 Vlachs in the southern Balkans,19 and about half the Greek population of Thessaloniki in fact consisted of Vlachs.20 After 1912-13 about 100,000 (2/3 of them) became Greek citizens.21 Since then, they have been much reduced due to emigration and assimilation. The 1951 census, the last time that minorities were counted in Greece, recorded 39,385 Vlachs. Around 2003, there may be 20,000 people in Greece who consider themselves Vlach.22
Traditionally, there was a broad spectrum of living conditions and thought among Vlachs. They ranged from isolated and illiterate mountain dwellers of Albania to cosmopolitan merchants and directors of Greek schools. However, the groups that attracted the most attention were the transhumant shepherds. Many foreign visitors were impressed by the picturesque nomads and semi-nomads they saw in Macedonia, with their dresses, occupations, languages, and ability to manage in difficult conditions.23
Most interesting were three shepherd groups: The Arvanito-Vlachs (Farsarotes), Vlachs, and Sarakatsani. Despite the unclear meaning of their name,24 the Sarakatsani spoke Greek in the 19th century, so their Greekness was not disputed. The Arvanito-Vlachs, whose women often wore long hats, had Albanian names that indicated long cohabitation with Albanians.25 Travelers also wrote a lot about the ‘generic’ Vlachs. The northern type was considered light colored and with features different from neighboring groups, while the southern types were shorter and darker.26 (Geographically, however, northern and southern dialects are mixed.27) They lived free on the mountaintops, were considered hard-working and smart, and many chelniks (goat-herding chiefs) had considerable flocks and wealth. The women who set up households in different places every day when the flocks moved, had more social freedoms than Greek women. These mountaineers were something different and enviable as is shown in the song ‘Nu-ñi ti arâde feată ñica’, where a girl wants to marry a mountain Vlach.
The plains Vlachs may have been more numerous than the shepherds. Among them were the Meglenites around the Pangaio mountain, who were farmers, spoke a separate language, and had extensive relations with Bulgarians. Others settled in urban or rural areas and had occupations similar to those of non-Vlachs.
Much has been written about the educated urban elites of Moschopolis and Pelagonia, who were often Vlach traders traveling as far as Hungary, Romania, and India.28 At least as far back as the 17th century, urban Vlachs cultivated the Greek language and literature during the darkest periods of the Ottoman empire with translations and printing presses.29 Records show that they considered themselves Greek, usually had Greek names,30 and several became national benefactors. Evidence includes 24 letters of Moschopolis merchants, the printing press of Moschopolis, and the records of commercial fraternities of Transylvania.31 Examples of Greek scholars were Rigas Velestinlis (Feraios) and Konstantinos Mertzios. The latter was a rich merchant of the 18th century, who discovered and rescued the Greek archive of Venice and later became a Greek Academy member.32 The archive of the Greek high school in Monastir during the 19th and 20th century shows that almost all the students and teachers were Vlachs, often from poor families.33 Several people maintained the Greek conscience in modern FYROM, despite the passage of 90 years since Pelagonia became Serbian.34 These families maintained a simultaneous use of Greek and Vlach languages for centuries.
Apparently, during the 18th century a large number of Ottoman subjects spoke Vlach at home, but its use gradually diminished. Linguist Gustaf Weigand who studied the Vlachs extensively around 1980 mentions that "a large number of the ‘pure Greeks’ of Thebes, Serres, and Thessaloniki’ are pure Vlachs.35 There were Vlach speakers from the south of Karditsa to the west, Agrafa mountains and Eurytania province who lost their language in the 19th and 20th centuries.36 In Peloponese, where Vlachs had emigrated from northern points, the Vlachs also were assimilated in the local population. (Sometimes Vlach place names remind us of the earlier language.)37 Some Meglenites were converted to Islam in the 18th century and went to Turkey, while others identified with Bulgarians and went to Bulgaria. The people who still spoke Vlach in the 20th century were mainly isolated mountaineers who married among themselves.Historical Data About the Vlachs
The defenders of various positions base their arguments on some historical data. Below are the basics.
The Balkan Latin languages developed from a Latin (or a proto-Balkan version) that was a lingua franca (language of communication for different peoples) during the Roman empire. (Similarly in the west, Latin evolved into Italian, Spanish, French, etc.) The Balkan Latin languages share many grammatical and lexical features but differ enough among them to be considered separate languages. In the beginning of the 21st century there are four: Aromanian of the south Balkans, Megleno-aromanian, that are spoken only by 2000-3000 people around Gevgeli, Daco-Romanian of Romania, and Istro-Romanian. The latter is spoken by only about 500 people at the Croatian part of the Istria peninsula.38 Further south in Croatia and along the Dalmatian coast the Morlachs or Black Vlachs also spoke Balkan Latin, but their language disappeared around 1890.39 The languages have local dialects.
Ancient Greece was conquered by the Romans in 146 BC and became a Roman province.40 In the 3rd century AD, the capital of the eastern Roman empire was moved to Constantinople. During the German invasions of the 4th century, Rome was sacked, and the Roman empire continued as "Romania", known later as Byzantine empire. It is unknown who spoke Latin at various times. Many nationalities lived in the Byzantine Empire (e.g. Armenians and Goths) and at least some Byzantines spoke a Latin-derived language during the 6th century AD.41 Ioannis Lydos, a contemporary of the Latin-speaking emperor Justinian (527-565 AD) mentions that Latin was used extensively among Greek-speaking people, particularly for official reasons.42 Ultimately, Greek predominated and became the official language of the empire about 618 AD. From the 6th to the 10th century, the Byzantine Empire lost control of its western provinces to Slavs and other invaders, and the knowledge of Latin was reduced.
The name ‘Vlachs’ is mentioned for the first time by the Byzantine Georgios Kedrinos, who wrote that the brother of the subsequently Bulgarian emperor Samuel was killed in 976 by ‘odites Vlachous’ between Kastoria and Prespa lakes.43 Documents from Athos show that there were Vlachs in Chalikidi peninsula around 1000.44 The Armenian historian Kekavmenos, who wrote a treatise called ‘Stratigikon’ described warlike Vlachs around Trikala and Larissa, who in his opinion were "Dacias and Vesi" who had had been expelled from the regions around the Savos and Danube rivers because they were bandits.45 Anna Komnini, historian and daughter of the Byzantine emperor Alexios Komninos, repeatedly mentions the Vlachs of Thessaly, whose chief named Pudilos rushed during the night to notify Alexios Komninos that the Koumani had crossed the Danube.46 Beniamin of Tudela, a 12th century Jewish rabbi, visited in Thessaly in 1173 and mentioned that the Vlachs descended from the mountains like deer, committed robberies, were invincible, and did not keep their word.47
In 1183, the Vlachs of Thessaly rebelled against the heavy taxation imposed by the emperor Isaakios Angelos for the wedding of his daughter and created the Bulgarian-Vlach empire of the Asenids.48 Ioannis Asan declared himself "Imperator omnium Bulgarorum et Blacorum’. (Emperor of all Bulgarians and Vlachs). When Frederico Barbarosa passed by that place, Ioannis Asan was mentioned as ‘Emperor of Vlachs and most Bulgarians’, ‘Emperor of Vlachs and Koumani’, or ‘Emperor of Vlachs and Greeks.’49 Military expeditions against the Asenids were mostly unsuccessful. Byzantine armies were defeated in Veroia and Serres around 1190-1195. Finally around 1318, this empire was divided between the Byzantine Empire and the Catalonian duchy of Athens.50
After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the Ottomans considered the Greeks and Vlachs one nation (milet) until 1905, although some early references differentiate among them. The villages of Pindus date from the 17th century51 and were possibly founded for safety from persecutions. From that time there is some evidence regarding the relations between Greeks52 and Vlachs. During the 18th century, Greeks and Vlachs coexisted abroad; documents and references of associations in Hungary, Vienna, or Romania do not differentiate between the two. But there were disputes in 1790-1810 in Hungary regarding the language in church. The negative reaction to the request that the mass be chanted in Vlach as well as in Greek split the community of Pesti (Hungary) in 1809.53 In 1905, when disputes in Macedonia increased, the Ottoman Empire declared the Vlachs a separate nation, partly to divide the Christians.54
Older writings in the Vlach language are very few. The earliest texts date only from the 18th century and are brief verses: on an icon of Virgin Mary, above a church doorway, and on a jug. (See pictures.) A Greek-Vlach gospel was printed in 1822 and a sanctification ceremony in 1816.55 Secular texts were meant to teach Greek to Vlachs, like grammars and dictionaries.56 The voice of the Vlachs is only heard through tales and folk songs.Where Could they have Come From?
The Vlachs themselves have no traditions that they came from some other part of the world, and no songs or tales have survived regarding some Roman general or the green pastures of a distant country that they lost during the Slavic invasions. All Macedonian Vlachs whom Weigand consulted around 1890 indicated that they lived pretty much in their ancestral country.57 Populations had moved but over relatively short distances.
However, the Vlachs speak a language that has no close relation to the area languages, so many people assumed that they must have come from somewhere else.58 There are many Greek words in Vlach,59 but they are mainly modern Greek.60 Finally, Vlachs share some traditions with Greeks (e.g. the Kalikantzaroi spirits) but not others, such as the prohibition of unmarried women from going to church.61 Briefly, theories about their origin have been:
Roman legions. Greeks and foreign travelers of the 18-20th centuries62 expressed the opinion that the Vlachs are descendants of Roman legions who stayed on to guard the narrow mountain passes and eventually became shepherds. The various versions of the theory do not take much account of the women’s nationality, though women were needed to father children.
Thracians - Diaspora Romanians. Romanian historians hypothesized that between the 6th and 10th centuries, the Vlachs left their country north of the Danube and descended in the southern Balkans, possibly where the grasslands were better. Pro-Romanian authors (e.g. Tache Papahagi) considered the Vlachs relatives of the Romanians, parts of Pelasgian and Thracian tribes that were Latinized. According to this view, the Thracians inhabited the area from Romania to Macedonia, but the Slavic invasions that started in the 6th century fragmented it.63 (See picture.) Today this theory makes little sense. The Pelasgians were a historical anachronism,64 and ancient Macedonians have been rather conclusively shown to be a Greek tribe.65
Partly Slavs. The Slavs moved to the Balkans during the 7th century, influenced the Vlach-speaking populations, and maybe displaced some.66 Although there was no specific effort to prove that the Vlachs were Slavs, this argument was used to prove that the Vlachs were not Greek.67
Jews. Benjamin of Tudela, a 12th century Sephardic rabbi suspected that at least the Vlach bandits of Thessaly had Jewish origin because although they robbed Jews, they called them brethren and did not killed them as they did others.68
A distinct local ethnicity. More recent Romanian historians consider that the Vlachs are a specific nation possibly descending from Pelasgians, Illyrians, Thracians, Macedonians (they consider the latter non-Greek) and other groups that were Latinized. This position is explained in the ‘Dodecalog of the Vlachs’ that has an almost religious fervor.69 The adherents of this theory get support from the observations of foreign travelers who perceived the mountain Vlachs as different from Greeks.70 The tendency of many Vlachs to identify with Greeks is attributed to religion,71 adoption of Greek names that implied a higher social status,72 and a tendency of becoming easily assimilated in local populations.73 Some people call themselves Macedono-Vlachs and focus on the Vlach presence in the greater Macedonia of Ottoman times.74
Latinized local inhabitants. Some contemporary Greek historians think that the Vlachs are main Latinized Greek populations.75 According to this theory, the Vlachs of the Greek peninsula and cities in the north where Greek communities also lived are originally Greek. By the same theory, Vlachs who lived beyond the borders of Greek communities are probably not Greek. Indeed, many Vlachs of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Albania do not consider themselves Greek and have traditionally lived north of the Greek borders.76
Emigrants from the northern Balkans. The Vlachs’ place of origin may have been the northern or northwestern Balkans,77 from where the Byzantine emperor Justinian also hailed. (His ancestral home was Prima, possibly Caricin Grad in south Serbia.)78 The Roman presence was strongest near the two large roadways of the antiquity, the navigable Danube river and Via Egnatia (towards Constantinople). The Balkan Latin languages must have developed round these two axes that cut transversely across the Balkans: Daco-Romanian and Istro-Romanian around the Danube, Aromanian and Megleno-Aromanian around Via Egnatia.79 The separation becomes clearer in contemporary Albania and south Serbia, where ancient inscriptions in Latin are more numerous than those in Greek. The dividing line (Jirečec line) constitutes a border between the western (Latin speaking) and eastern (Greek speaking) Roman empire. Some ancient burials in Albania indicate that the inhabitants were Christians with Latin names. Today the Jirečec line is further to the north than most Vlach habitations, but the inhabitants may have been pushed south in the 7-10th century by the invading Slavs.80 The use of the definite article at the end rather than the beginning of the word, a feature of Balkan Latin as well as Albanian and Bulgarian, lends some linguistic support to this theory.
Each of these theories leaves some aspects about the Vlachs and their language unexplained. Given the generic use of the word to imply shepherd or nomad, it is unclear whom the Byzantine writers called Vlachs and what languages those spoke. Did the Vlachs come from Romania or some remote place? Certainly populations fled due to Slavic invasions, and some probably moved away from the Jirečec line. But the obviously large number of now assimilated Vlach speakers and presence in many parts of the Ottoman Empire suggests that thousands must have come from the north, and there is no historical record suggesting such a move.
The Vlachs could indeed descend from Roman soldiers, but they are not the only ones. Roman legions (including Greek and other recruits) were stationed in Macedonia for centuries, and they must have left descendants, whose genes 20 centuries later are scattered widely. Endogamy was established at some point among Balkan Latin speakers, but it is unknown when. It is conceivable that a caste would be established of Roman soldier descendants intermarrying among them early on, particularly among those guarding the mountain passes, but there is no evidence of such a caste.81 Geographic isolation clearly played a part in language retention, and Balkan Latin has been for centuries connected to transhumant shepherds, even in the Istria peninsula which is close to Italy. But if the ancestors of the Vlachs lived only around mountain passes, their descendants might have been relatively few.
The biggest problem with the theories of separate ethnicity is that they attribute national origin to speakers of a lingua franca. National origin and language often coincide,82 but many times in history a lingua franca evolved into a mother tongue.83 During the Roman empire, probably very different people spoke Latin. When soldiers had children where they were stationed, most would have probably spoken the local language, since the language of the women often prevails in children. Latin may have survived outside the areas where it was spoken customarily because it was a high-status language84 and was cultivated for some centuries (as English is cultivated in contemporary India.) Nevertheless, the Balkan population conquered by the Romans was predominantly Greek and reverted to that language once the Byzantine government established its use. Standard Latin eventually died out. Unfortunately, no written record survives to show the development of Latin into proto-Balkan and subsequent languages and who continued to speak it.85 Historians mention only two words dated from 586 (torna torna fratre).86 Thus, it is unclear how the Vlachs of the 10th century are related to the Latin speakers of the 6th century. It is hard to prove the origin of Vlachs just through language.
Perhaps a single theory cannot account for the origin of all Vlachs, and different scenarios may have happened to different groups. At least some sixth-century Byzantines spoke the ‘voice of the Italians,’ so they could communicate and intermarry with people fleeing the Slavs from the north (particularly the ‘akrites’ guarding the borders). The language may have thus been strengthened, forming new dialects. It may have also been strengthened during the two centuries of Asenid reign, so some Aromanian speakers of the 20th century may have been speaking since the 12th rather than the 6th century. Groups, such as many Arvanito-Vlachs who did not move southward may indeed be continuing the Roman language depicted in the inscriptions of the Jirečec line. The existence of ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ Vlach dialects and physical appearance suggests that there may be a genetic and historical variability.
The origin of Vlachs could be clarified through comparisons of DNA samples (deoxyribonucleic acid) of various populations. The various Vlach groups could be compared among themselves and with Greeks, Romanians, and Albanians. However, no genetic studies have been done on the Vlachs. The existing DNA studies on Greeks (which include some Vlachs as part of the general population) show that Greeks are quite homogeneous87 and that the populations of Macedonia and Epirus are more closely related.88 Greeks are different from Turks and Bulgarians but quite similar to other Europeans,89 particularly to Italians.90 So, even if the Vlachs are descendants of (male) Romans, they are a genetically related population. Hopefully, more research will take place later on, though political repercussions may raise obstacles. Without it there is simply not sufficient evidence regarding the origin of various Vlach groups.
Nations get created, and one could argue that the language made Vlachs into a nation regardless of origin. Discussions with contemporary Romanians show that the Vlach language received much attention in the 19th century. Some people were moved by this idiom that was so far and so near and wanted to protect it and to preserve it. In the conflicts that followed, the Greek authorities and writers emphasized the Romanian political motives and seemed to consider Aromanian as a negligible peasant language. They did not understand its emotional appeal to the Romanians, similar to the appeal that the Pontus dialect has on Greeks. And the forgotten Vlachs finally found someone to pay attention to them and were flattered that some people valued their language. The lack of understanding for the feelings towards a mother tongue had disastrous consequences for many Greeks and Vlachs.National Identity Decisions The majority wants to be considered Greeks, not Aromanian.91 ..Greeks are mainly the ones who share our education rather than our common nature.92
As the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire approached, the Vlachs became the focal point of political intrigue. Their nationality would determine the land demands by various countries after the death of the ‘great ill man’. Without the Vlachs, the Greeks constituted fewer than 50% in Macedonia. For the Bulgarians it was important not only to make some Vlachs Bulgarian but also to avoid identification with the Greeks. So the Vlach identity became an important issue.
However, ethnic identity had little meaning in earlier centuries. The empires that appeared after the fall of the Greek city-states were multiethnic: Rome, Byzantium, Ottoman empire. Homogeneous countries based on nationality appeared in the southern Balkans only after the end of the Ottoman empire, and people suddenly had to decide irrevocably where they belonged. Groups often have had to make such decisions, but language was only one of many criteria. Other factors were religion, security, economic interests, geographic roots, kinships, and personal interests of leaders. These factors also determined which language the next generation would speak, as in the case of islamization and identification with the Turks.
It is unknown what the various tribes of the Balkans considered themselves to be, if anything, during various times in history. But Vlach and Greek speakers coexisted at least since the 12th century. According to Anna Komnini, there were Vlachs in the Byzantine army during her father’s reign.93 In principle, Greek learning and education was available to Vlachs at least since the Byzantine times. But even less educated and more isolated populations had contact with the language through the ancient Greek they heard in church.94 Extensive knowledge of Greek may have been the reason why literate Vlachs did not often write in their language.95
Whether due to old kinships or to available education, many or maybe most 18th century Vlachs considered themselves Greek.96 This may also have been due to the fact that Vlachs in each place were few. (Moschopolis in southern Albania that could have been the nucleus of a Vlach civilization, was destroyed by Albanian Moslems in 1769 and 1778, and its inhabitants were scattered.) Because there were no marriage obstacles with other orthodox people, Vlachs could and did intermarry with Greeks, particularly in urban areas.
The Jirečec line theory implies that some Vlachs were compatriots of the renowned emperor Justinian. Whatever his national origin, the emperor was a Roman citizen in a multiethnic empire. Modern Greece has narrower borders. But perhaps due to the multiethnic background of southern Balkans since the ancient years, it is language rather than national origin or ethnic purity determines who is Greek (See citation of the famous Isokratis text in Paniygrikos.) None of us knows who our ancestors were during the 6th, 11th, or 15th century and what languages they spoke.97 If the Vlachs who were described in the 10th century as savage bandit shepherds spoke Greek in the 19th century (like the Sarakatsani bandits) no identity issue would arise. Also, no one questions the identity of assimilated and partial Vlachs. Therefore, the Vlach speakers of contemporary Greece are as Greek as everyone else.
How did the people reconcile the Greek and Vlach identities? Clearly, the urban educated Vlachs had no problems with a dual identity. This was made easier by the disappearance of the term Hellenes until about 1827. Even less educated Vlachs expressed the view that the Greeks and Vlachs together constituted the Hellenes.98 "The Greeks are not any more Hellenic than we are. We may be Vlachs and they may be Greek, but together we make up the Hellenes". 99
However, the Latin-derived language and unclear origin made the Vlachs a convenient target for various special interests: Catholics, Romanians, Italians. Those interested competed for the loyalty of anyone they could convince.Romanian Propaganda
The Roumanians are not so quite inured to blood as the Greeks and Bulgarians, and they have always conducted their propaganda by the clean and benevolent method of bribery.100No brother, I am not a Romanian nor do I have Romanian interests, as many fanatical Greeks maintain; nor have I separated myself from Greeks in anything…Why do all now call us Vlach and Koutsovlach, go away from here, we don’t want you at our church, we don’t send priests to your house, and many other things against us. Are we not, today’s Vlachs those Greeks who suffered so many horrors for this poor country and religion?101 Romania was under a strong influence of Fanariote Greeks when the "koutsovlach issue" started. Possibly to tempt the west to fight against the Turks, a group of Macedonian Vlachs, supported by Anastasios Panou, regent of Moldavia, sent in 1836 a letter to Napoleon the Third asking for the formation of a Latin country in the Balkans that would be supported internally by Vlachs and externally by France.102 France then sent a Catholic priest to convert them to Catholicism.103 Balkan traders traveled or lived in Moldo-Vlachia for centuries and surely understood the similarities between Romanian and Vlach. People from Epirus lived and traveled there. But national tradition in Romania says that Averkios from Avdela of Pindos, a monk in the Iviron Monastery of Athos, went to newly independent Romania in 1860, heard people speak, and said «shi γio hiu Armân» (I am also a Vlach). With the support of the local church authorities he sent a group of children from Pindos around 1865 to study there.104 Another inhabitant of Abdela, the teacher Apostolos Margaritis, took the initiative to open Romanian schools for the Vlachs. The first school opened in Vitolia (Monastir) around 1876, supported by Greek-led churches in Romania.105 Quickly Romanian-language schools opened in many Pindos villages and Macedonian cities. Around 1900, at the apex of the movement, there were around 106 such schools in the Balkans as well as a post-secondary commercial school of Thessaloniki.106 These schools were not for the general population, like French or English schools. Essentially only Vlachs attended. Surely some Romanians took a humanitarian interest in the Vlachs and offered them opportunities that raised their standard of living. Graduates of Romanian schools usually got scholarships for studies in Romania, so some sons of shepherds became engineers or even Romanian Academy members. To study in Romania at that time was equivalent to studying in the US in later years.107 But along with humanitarian effort, the Romanian government tried to convince the Vlachs that they were diaspora Romanians. Romania was too far from Macedonia to demand a portion, but it wanted population and if possible control of a small principate in Pindos. Archives in the Romanian ministry of external affairs document the government efforts to win the Vlachs’ allegiance.108 Around 1890 a serious propaganda started in towns and villages where many were pressured to receive Romanian teachers.109 The families received subsidies to send their children to Romanian schools, where also food was served.110 Many people’s huts were replaced with stone houses.111 But the propaganda had limited success because Vlachs considered themselves Greek and preferred Greek schools. It failed completely in eastern Macedonia and around Olympus, where the inhabitants did not feel different from other Greeks.112 It had more success in the north, at the villages of Pindos. There, Greek schools were non-existent or of low quality, and Romanian education was a good solution.113 Romanization included church mass in Romanian and efforts to ordain pro-Romanian priests and bishops.114 The Greek patriarchate reacted negatively, did not allow mass in Romanian and did not recognize the ordained priests.115 But Vlachs were not just pressured by the Orthodox Church. Uniate Catholics (who merely expected allegiance to the Pope) also tried to convert them,116 and French Lazarist monks opened a high school in Monastir in 1880.117 At the end of the 19th century, the Bulgarians also pressured them to become members of the Bulgarian church through threats and assassinations.118 Some Vlachs of Ochrida in 1870 did so, because the latter allowed mass in Vlach. Some pro-Romanian Vlachs collaborated with the Bulgarians in the battles that preceded the dissolution of Turkey.119 An important factor in people’s nationality decisions was the behavior of the people who represented them and the consequences of the choice. Unfortunately, the Greek authorities and the Patriarchate showed little sensitivity to Vlach issues. The bishops pressured them to pay church taxes, while the Bulgarians relieved them.120 Sometimes the Greeks were as violent as the Bulgarians.121 For example, they killed in 1904 12 pro-Romanian Vlachs from Houma, near Gevgeli.122 Kapetan Akritas, a local Greek leader, demanded in 1905 that the communities close the Romanian schools and burn the books, oblivious to children’s education needs. Such conflicts are described in detail in Romanian books and probably incited some people to take the side of Romania.123 The conflicts were considered persecutions and created the impression that the Vlachs of Greece should be saved from oppression. For years later, some Vlachs pressured the Romanian government to take measures for the protection of their compatriots.124 After the liberation of Macedonia from the Turks, the Romanian schools continued to function through the 1913 treaty of Bucharest. Perhaps the government of Eleftherios Venizelos did not want to put at risk the schools of the large Greek communities in Romania. Agreement on the Romanian schools also paved the way with better relations between Greece and Romania; the latter notified Bulgaria that if it would send its armies to Sofia if Bulgaria did not withdraw its occupation army from Thessaloniki.125 The cooperation policy with the Romanian government benefited Greece, but not necessarily the Vlachs. The relatively few schools went on for about 50 years until 1945, and in some villages like Perivoli three generations of people attended. The Romanian high schools perhaps had a more modern curriculum than Greek schools because they taught French, which was useful for commerce. The Commercial School of Thessaloniki was considered very good.126 However, primary schools taught no Greek, and secondary schools very little (e.g. two hours a week).127 Thus, graduates did not learn the literate language or spelling and were not prepared to work in higher-level jobs or even submit applications for various services. The diplomas of the Romanian schools were not recognized in Greece, and graduates could continue their studies only abroad. Many immigrated to Romania, USA, and Australia. Of those who stayed, some were stigmatized as communists or reactionaries and had a hard life, unable to find a good job.128 In an effort to convince Vlachs that they were diaspora Romanians, the curricula taught that Vlachs descended from Pelasgians, Thracians, and ancient Macedonians who were not Greek.129 These beliefs sometimes created personal problems, and some people spent their lives obsessed with the Vlach language or not feeling anywhere at home.130 Given the traditional belief that Greek is the one who partakes of Greek education, ironically the Romanian schools succeeded in taking many Vlachs out of Hellenism. The Dream that Became a Nightmare Romania’s effort to claim the Vlach population finally bore fruit. In December 1918, the government acquired southern Dobrogea, a square part of northeastern Bulgaria with four prefectures that the Romanians called Cadrilatér. Romanians constituted only 2.3% of its population,131 so the government called on the Vlachs of Greece and neighboring countries to move there and thus increase the Romanian-speaking population. The government promised 50,000 and 100 stremmata of land to those willing to go. The Greek government had no objection; to the contrary, it encouraged the immigration of Vlachs. The condition was that those moving to Romania had to abandon their Greek citizenship. Through an agreement with Romania, the emigrants were declared non-Greeks and their descendants lost the rights to Greek citizenship. In general, those who agreed to go were the poorer transhumant shepherds of central Macedonia, not the urban populations or those living around Olympus and southern Greece. In some places like Veroia, the Romanian adherents exploited the economic competition of Greeks and Vlachs,132 and 30-35% of the Veroia Vlachs left, around 500 families. The immigration was encouraged by people who organized the journeys and benefited from the sale of estates.133 The immigrants had to pay a ticket of 1500 drachmas and another 1000 for travel expenses.134 In 1925-36, about 2000-2500 families (total of 10,000-18,000 people) sold their belongings and left by boat from Thessaloniki to Constanza. In Cadrilatér, the colonists did not find things as promised. They did not get 50,000 drachmas, just land that often did not have water. The transformation from shepherds to farmers in marshlands was painful. Besides malaria, they suffered from deadly tuberculosis.135 And they had to deal with Bulgarian guerillas, who tried to take back Cadrilatér.136 Some realized that Romania wanted them to ‘pull the snake out of the hole’. (See insert.) Some tried to return to Greece, but they had lost their citizenships and their estates had changed hands. Despite the difficulties, they did what they could in their new country, building schools and houses. But peace did not last long for them. In 1940, at the insistence of Germany and through the treaty of Craiova, Romania returned southern Dobrogea to Bulgaria. Suddenly one day the Vlachs lost everything and became homeless. There was a population exchange, and they ended up as refugees in Constanza and other parts of Romania. After the loss of Cadrilatér, Romania did not need them, and the Vlachs became a problem. They adhered to royalist or right-wing politics and (as discussed below) created political problems in the country. The communist government that came in power in 1947 closed many in concentration camps. For the next 45 years, these people suffered many deprivations. They suffered from poverty and hunger when Ceausescu sold the food of the country and from forced childbearing. To visit Greece, six months of paperwork and waiting were necessary; they could go only after their relatives invited them and offered to pay all expenses. They could not even request political asylum because they had to leave family members behind. Several became academics and scientists and did well, but most of their descendants live in modest conditions. In 1930, their relatives in Greece considered them fortunate, but since 1947 they felt sorry for them. When the Vlachs immigrated to Cadrilatér, some women had a different opinion. One person related to me that his mother did not want to acquire Romanian citizenship, even though she had given up the Greek one. She remained stateless for many years and finally acquired the citizenship only because the government refused to admit him in school without that change. Another woman was coerced into going by being told that she would never again see her teenage son, who had already been taken there. Yet another refused to board the ship to Cadrilatér and had to be brought on by force. And she was sick for days afterwards… From Roman Legions to Fascism The duty calls on us, as descendants of the ancient Roman Legions and our free brothers beyond the Danube to fight on the side of Italy and Germany. »137 The Roman legions had been dissolved centuries earlier, but the name continued to haunt the Vlachs. In the 1930s, legionnaires (legionari) were the fascists of Europe. Many Vlachs in Cadrilatér became members of right-wing nationalistic organizations, like the Iron Guard and some participated in political upheavals and pogroms in Romania. Ion Duca, the prime-minister of Romania and leader of the National Liberation Party declared the organization illegal and arrested some of its members. On December 21, 1933, Ion Caranica, Doru Belimace, and Nicolae Constantinescu (the first two being Vlachs) assassinated him as he descended from a train. The desire of various countries to exploit the Vlachs’ language did not end with Cadrilatér. The next suitor was Italy, who in 1917 took over Epirus for a while and declare the ‘Principate of Pindos’, hailing the Vlachs as ‘lost brothers’. This act was repeated in 1942. Alkiviadis Diamantis, who was from Samarina and lived in Romania, appeared as the ‘prince of Pindos’. Accompanied by Italian soldiers, he declared at a time of famine during the World War II, that Romania was sending a shipment of a million okades of wheat for distribution only to Vlachs. Although the wheat did not arrive, the police confiscated flour that people bought for their homes, creating strong remonstrance and accusations that Greece was trying to kill off the Vlachs.138 Violent conflicts erupted, some Vlachs were sent to remote islands and others were mistreated. General George Tsolakoglou, who served as a prime minister during the German occupation, gave a secret order to local authorities to treat Vlachs better. The Vlach community in Romania was also worried about the persecutions and new tribulations of the Vlachs and pressured the government again to intervene.139 In 1942, Diamantis founded the Roman Legion of Larissa, which admitted even some communist party members. He tried to win the allegiance of educated Vlachs in Larissa. The ‘Legionnaires’ mainly turned against the Vlachs who resisted their goals and tortured them, imprisoned them, sent them to concentration camps in Italy, or robbed those who organized the national resistance against the Germans.140 After the end of the war, several ‘legionnaires’ were convicted as criminals and collaborators. Some escaped to Romania, where the communists arrested them. The borders of Romania closed, and many never appeared again in Greece. The Romanian schools and churches of Greece that aided the occupation forces were also closed in 1944-45. The majority of the Vlachs who stood by Greece did not have much better fate. Countless were killed in 1940-41, fighting against the Germans and Italians, and many Vlach women help in the battles of Pindos. Subsequently many were leaders in the resistance.141 For this reason, most Vlach villages of Pindos were burned down by the Germans in 1943-44, and the inhabitants were executed en masse. Assimilation and Oblivion
|Fudzi haraua di la Armân||Gone is the happiness of the Vlachs|
|O gione o xinite||o young man o immigrant|
|s-pri fatsa cură fântâni||on the face like a faucet run|
|di lacriñi upărite||hot tears|
|ca si au maratsîl i –n cheptlu –alor||because the poor peope have in their chest|
|un dοr té treaca nu are||a pain that does not go away|
|s-kirire asteapta un popor||and loss awaits a people|
|când dulţea-i limbă keare||when they lose their sweet language142|
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