WALLACHIANS AND AROUMANIANS

These two communities have frequently been treated by scholars in unity because of: their Roman languages (which most linguists regard as Romanian dialects, although some experts assume the Aroumanian to be a separate language), their confusion in the historical sources and official public statistics and records, and their common institutions (schools and the like) established during different periods in Bulgaria. Whenever statistics refer to a Romanian speaking population without any differentiation, it should be taken into account that Romanian /Wallachian/ is the language spoken by some of the Gypsy people in Bulgaria. Nowadays, again, the two communities are represented by a single organization and publish a newspaper in common.

The theories of the origins of the two communities are numerous and contradictory with advocates of mutually exclusive assumptions being found even among their own ranks. Some scholars think that Aroumanians are descendants of Roman colonists, others that they come from certain native Thracian tribes, still others refer to Romanized Hellenes. Aroumanian colonies are found in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Macedonia. (Recently the Council of Europe approved a document appealing for the preservation of the language and culture of the Aroumanians.) A long existing intra-community division comprises the groups of  "urban Aroumanians", also called Tsintsars, and the nomadic shepherds.

Wallachian (Wallach, Vlach) population is to be found in the Serbian and Bulgarian regions along the Danube. According to one of the theories, this population consists of Romanian peasants who had migrated from the lands on the other side of the Danube in consequence of Ciocoi /big landlords/ oppression. Some other theories assert that Vlachs are the offspring of Bulgarian émigré families having re-emigrated from Romania for the same reason. It could be that the truth is somewhere in between. Both communities are Eastern Orthodox Christians.

At the turn of the 19th century, trade relations between the Austrian-Hungarian and the Ottoman Empire became more intensive. On the other hand, the southern Albanian lands, where the Aroumanians had settled, were caught up in anarchy and Christian Aroumanians were continuously harassed by Muslim Albanians. The Aroumanian residents of the ruined towns - Moskopolje, Linotipi, etc., were scattered around in Austria, Greece, Bulgaria, while Aroumanian shepherds migrated from the areas of the Gramoz Mountain and Pindus range in northern Greece. During the same period, Wallachians were also migrating from Romania - some of them fleeing from oppression by the big landlords (the Ottoman administration encouraged the settlement of the depopulated territories along the Danube), others were escaping from conscription introduced in the Principality of Wallachia. Aroumanian colonies were established in the towns of Peshtera, Plovdiv, Assenovgrad, Doupnitsa, Gorna Dzhumaya (modern Blagoevgrad), Sofia, etc. Wallachians settled along the Timok valley, near the towns of Vidin and Kula. There are records of clashes between ethnic Bulgarian and Aroumanian urban dwellers during the period of the Bulgarian national revival. The reason is that in the times of struggle for an independent Bulgarian Church the Aroumanian urban dwellers, as subjects of Greek schooling, were pro-Greek minded. After the Liberation, however, the number of Aroumanians grew up. Many of them, driven by their Orthodox Christian religion and by some other factors, preferred to live in Bulgaria rather than where they the had lived before, in Macedonia, which remained within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. The migrants of the new wave were no longer of pro-Greek orientation, but rather more closely tied with the Romanian culture. At the same time, they were much more receptive with respect to Bulgarian culture. Meanwhile, with the birth of new states on the Peninsula, many of the Aroumanian shepherds had to adopt a settled mode of living. Wallachians, the majority of whom are to this day characterized by a sense of relatedness to the Bulgarian lands, were actively involved in Bulgaria's political life and in large numbers participated in the wars waged by Bulgaria. The situation changed after 1918. On the one side, at that time Romania began  an active propaganda among the Aroumanians and Vlachs, and, on the other, the successive Bulgarian administrations undertook actions of repression against them, although sporadically or within occasional campaigns. Romanian schools were open in the 1920's - mainly in Gorna Dzhumaya, while the school in Sofia gradually grew into a Romanian Institute and a lyceum. In 1923, a Romanian church was consecrated in Sofia, where Romanian priests conducted the services. (This church, which is under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Romania, is still operative.) Aroumanians in the town of Gorna Dzhumaya have had a church of their own since 1906. Initially, the college and the church were in service of the Aroumanian community alone, but from 1933 on  the lyceum began to admit students from among the Wallachians of the Danubian regions. The school functioned until 1948, when it was closed and the Aroumanian organizations were disbanded. In the 1930's, the Romanian universities would admit students, and provide fellowships to them, from the Wallachian population living by the Danube. There was also propaganda work encouraging migration to Romania. It was more effective among the Aroumanians, while only some 200 Vlach families left to live there. (On the one hand, Vlachs had no economic motivation to emigrate, on the other, we already mentioned their affiliation to the Bulgarian society.) After the coup in 1923, the leaders of the Wallachian movement persecuted by the new Bulgarian government emigrated to Romania, where they, together with Wallachian immigrants from Serbia, founded their associations and published their own newspapers.

Under the Communist regime, except for the overall policy of assimilation, there is no written evidence of some special measures aimed at the two ethnic communities or of some specific ban on the use of their language. This was due perhaps to the circumstance that Romania was also under Communist rule, as well as to the fact that a numerous Bulgarian ethnic minority lived there.

In 1991, an Association of Vlachs in Bulgaria was founded. Its membership includes both Vlachs and Aroumanians, the two communities maintaining the autonomy of their associations. They publish in Vidin one common newspaper Timpul /Time/ and the Aroumanian society issues a Bulletin, Armani, in Sofia. The Association sends to Romania young people to study at the universities there. (Similarly, through the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science, and with the help of the Bulgarian ethnic organizations in Romania, ethnic Bulgarians from Romania are admitted to the institutions of higher education in Bulgaria.) The association is a member of international minority organizations. It organizes folk festivals, maintains regular contacts with the Bulgarian and Romanian authorities, with non-governmental organizations, as well as with the organizations  of the ethnic Bulgarians in Romania. Since several years, steps have been made to re-open the Romanian school in Sofia.

It is no chance that no figures have been mentioned so far. The reason is that statistical data are quite contradictory. According to the 1910 census, 1843 individuals have identified themselves using the ethnic names by which Aroumanians were referred to at that time, Tsintsars and Kutzovlachs. The same census, however, reports 80 000 Romanians and a total of 96 502 people whose mother tongue was Romanian. In 1920, when Bulgarian territories,  populated among other people by Vlachs, were ceded to Romania and Serbia, a "Romanian" identity was reported by 57 312 persons, and the people whose mother tongue was Romanian numbered 75 065 of whom 10 648 Aroumanians. In 1926 the number of "Romanians" living in Bulgaria was 69 080, while the total number of individuals whose mother tongue was Romanian ran up to 83 746. The Aroumanins belonging to this group were divided, according to their self-descriptions, into three subgroups: 5000 Aroumanians, 4000 Kutzovlachs and 1500 Tsintsars. In the next census, which was conducted in the years after the 1934 coup, the number of all minority groups was deliberately reduced for political reasons. Numbers varied  not only as a result of immigration, internal migratory movements and natural growth, but also as a result of varying self-identification of the same persons in the different censuses. Nevertheless, in 1992 as many as 5195 people declared themselves to be Vlachs and 2 491 Romanians, or 7 650 people in all. It should be added that these figures might include Roma people too. It is also likely for Vlachs and Aroumanians to have been placed under the title "others" because of their differing self-reported identity. The discrepancy with pre-war numbers is due mainly to the fact that most of the Wallachs, although they have kept their language and folk customs, prefer to identify themselves as Bulgarians.

This is what Encyclopaedia Britannica says about this ethnic group:

The Vlachs.
In central and southern Thessaly, the Vlachs played an important role. They have generally been identified with the indigenous, pre-Slav populations of Dacian and Thracian origin, many of whom migrated into the less-accessible mountainous areas of Greece and the northern Balkan region because of the Germanic and Avar-Slav invasions and immigration of the 5th-7th centuries. The Vlachs maintained a transhumant, pastoral economy in those areas. Their language belongs to the so-called Macedo-Romanian group and is closely related to that known from the 13th century on as Romanian (Daco-Romanian); it is essentially rooted in the late Latin, heavily influenced by the Slavic dialects with which the Daco-Thracian populations were in regular contact. By the 11th century the Vlachs are described as communities of shepherds who moved with their flocks between their winter pastures in Thessaly and summer pastures of the Gramoz Mountain and Pindus range; they are found in Byzantine armies and are mentioned in many documents dealing with landholdings in northern Greece, where--as is often the case in relations between settled and nomadic populations- - they were regarded as troublemakers and thieves. Byzantines were often imprecise in their use of ethnic names; the Vlachs seem frequently to have been confused with the Bulgarians, through whose territory they also wandered on their seasonal routes and pasturage. A major modern debate about the role of the Vlachs in the establishment of the Second Bulgarian empire after 1185 continues, strongly marked by nationalist sentiment.


Note: You can also read OMDA's other reference on Wallachians, Kutzovlachs, and Karakachans


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