Vlach (play /ˈvlɑːk/ or /ˈvlæk/) is a blanket term covering several modern Latin peoples descending from the Latinised population in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. English variations on the name include: Walla, Wlachs, Wallachs, Vlahs, Olahs or Ulahs. Groups that have historically been called Vlachs include: modern-day Romanians or Daco-Romanians, Aromanians or Macedo-Romanians, Morlachs, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians. Since the creation of the Romanian state, the term in English has mostly been used for those living outside Romania.

Branches of Vlachs/Romanians and their territories

The Vlachs, which would develop into the modern Romanian ethnicity, do not become tangible before the High Middle Ages in Kedrenos (11th century), and their prehistory during the Migration period is a matter of scholarly speculation[1] but according to the linguists and to many scholars, the existence of the present Eastern Romance languages prove the survival of the Thraco-Romans in the low-Danube basin during the Migration period[2] and the Vlachs are all being well considered descendants of Romanised peoples of the area (incl. Thracians, Dacians and Illyrians).[3]

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"[citation needed]; The Istro-Romanians also have adopted the names Vlaşi, but still use Rumâni and Rumâri to refer to themselves).

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: South Slavs, Greeks, Albanians, Bulgars, and others.

Almost all modern nations in Central and Southeastern Europe have native Vlach minorities: Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Bulgaria. In other countries, the native Vlach population have been completely assimilated by the Slavic population and therefore ceased to exist: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia and Montenegro. Only in Romania and the Republic of Moldova does the Vlach (Dacoromanian or Romanian proper) population comprise an ethnic majority today.



The word Vlach is ultimately of Germanic origin, from the word Walha, "foreigner", "stranger", a name used by ancient Germanic peoples to refer to Romance-speaking and Celtic neighbours. As such, it shares its history with several ethnic names all across Europe, including the Welsh and Walloons.[4] 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 (the word "oláh" also exists in Hungarian, but describes only peoples from historical Moldova and Wallacha). The term Vlach can also be found in certain placenames where Roman descendants continued to live after the migrations of Germans and Slavs into new territories, for example Laško in Slovenia. In the Old English poem Widsith, the Romans are referred to as Romwalas.

Throughout history, the term "Vlach" has often been used for groups which were not ethnically Vlachs, and often pejoratively. For example, it might have been used for any shepherding community or as a reference to Christians by Muslims (Karadjaovalides). 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, and is often intended to be pejorative, as in "barbarians who come from the mountains." In Greece, the word Βλάχος (Vláhos) is often used as a slur against any supposedly uncouth or uncultured person, but literally it means nothing more than countryperson and is often used as a synonym for Χωριάτης (Choriátis) which simply means villager. Maniots, for example, used the word to refer to lowland-dwelling Greeks, and the Maniots of Cargèse used it to refer to native Corsicans.

Territories with Vlach population

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 regions of Moravia (part of the modern Czech Republic), and the present-day Croatia where the Morlachs gradually disappeared, while the Catholic and Orthodox Vlachs took Croat and Serb national identity.[5] They reached these regions in search of better pastures, and were called "Wallachians" ("Vlasi; Valaši") by the Slavic peoples.

Statal Entities mentioned in Middle Ages chronicles :

  • Wallachia – between the Southern Carpathians and the Danube ("Ţara Românească" in Romanian Language ; "Bassarab-Wallachia": "Bassarab's Wallachia" and "Ungro-Wallachia" or "Wallachia Transalpina" in administrative sources ; "Istro-Vlachia": "Danubian Wallachia" in Byzantine sources ; "Velacia secunda" in Spanish maps) ;
  • Moldavia – between the Carpathians and the Nistru river ("Bogdano-Wallachia" - Bogdan's Wallachia, "Moldo-Wallachia", "Maurovlachia", Black Wallachia", "Moldovlachia" or "Rousso-Vlachia" in Byzantine sources, "Bogdan Iflak" or even "Wallachia" in Polish sources, "L`otra Wallachia" – the "other Wallachia" – in genovese sources and "Velacia tertia" in Spanish maps) ;
  • Transylvania (or "Ardeal", "Transylvanian vlachs"[6] – between the Carpathians and the Hungarian plain, also "Wallachia interior" in administrative sources and "Velacia prima" in Spanish maps) ;
  • Bulgarian-Wallachian Empire – between the Carpathians and the Balkan mountains ("Regnum Blachorum et Bulgarorum" in the documents and letters of Pope Innocent III).

Regions and places :


Map of Balkans with regions currently inhabited by Vlachs/Romanians highlighted
The evolution of the Eastern Romance languages through the ages.
The Jireček line between Latin- and Greek-language Roman inscriptions

The Eastern Romance languages, sometimes known as the Vlach languages, are a group of Romance languages that developed in Southeastern Europe from the local eastern variant of Vulgar Latin. There is no official data from Balkan countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia. The reasons for this also are not known.

  • Aromanians (speaking the Aromanian language) up to 2,000,000, live in:
    • Greece – up to 700,000,[13] mainly in the Pindus Mountains (Greece, like France, does not recognise any ethnic divisions, so there are no statistics kept and the Aromanians of Greece self-identify as Greeks and are accepted as such by the other Greeks. See Demographics of Greece)
  • Morlachs – in the 1991 Croatian census 22 people declared themselves Morlachs.


In 2006, Bosch et al. attempted to analyze whether Vlachs are the descendents of Latinized Dacians, Illyrians, Thracians, Greeks, or a combination of the above. No hypothesis could be proven due to the high degree of underlying genetic similarity possessed by all the tested Balkan groups. The linguistic and cultural differences among various Balkan groups were thus deemed to have not been strong enough to prevent significant gene flow among the above groups.[15]


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 and Moravia 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.[16]

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. 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 Slavs and later on Hungarians, 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 Greek culture.


The religion of the Vlachs is predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but there are some regions where they are Catholics and Protestants (mainly in Transylvania) and a few are even Muslims (around 500 Megleno-Romanians from Greece who converted to Islam and have been living in Turkey since the 1923 exchange of populations). The Istro-Romanians are entirely Roman Catholics.


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 Vulgar Latin. The Emperor Justinian I, during whose reign Procopius was writing, was a native Latin speaker and lamented the loss of Latin speech to Greek in his realm. He tried to reestablish the position of the Latin language with the legal compendia he ordered compiled; soon he was frustrated because they proved linguistically inaccessible to judges and lawyers alike, and grudgingly had his Novellae reissued in Greek.

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 late 9th century, the Hungarians arrived in the Carpathian basin, where, according to the Gesta Hungarorum written around 1146 by the anonymous chancellor of King Bela III of Hungary, the province of Pannonia was inhabited by Slavs, Bulgars, Vlachs, and pastores Romanorum (shepherds of the Romans) (in original: sclauij, Bulgarij et Blachij, ac pastores romanorum). In the 12–14th century they came under the Kingdom of Hungary, the Byzantine Empire and the Golden Horde.[17]

In 1185, two noble brothers from Tarnovo named Peter and Asen (their ethnicity is still disputed, some historians claim they were Vlachs, while others put forward different origins) led a Bulgarian and Vlach rebellion 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 and the Second Bulgarian Empire was established. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgarians, Greeks, and Vlachs" (see Vlach-Bulgar Rebellion), though the reference to Vlachs in the style fell out by the early 13th century.

See also

Further reading

  • 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
  • Nikola Trifon, Les Aroumains, un peuple qui s'en va (Paris, 2005) ; Cincari, narod koji nestaje (Beograd, 2010)[1]

External links


  1. ^ Schramm 1997, pp. 336-337.
  2. ^ According to Cornelia Bodea, Ştefan Pascu, Liviu Constantinescu : "România : Atlas Istorico-geografic", Academia Română 1996, ISBN 973-27-0500-0, chap. II, "Historical landmarks", p. 50 (english text), the survival of the Thraco-Romans in the low-Danube basin during the Migration period is an obvious fact : Thraco-Romans aren't vanished in the soil & Vlachs aren't appeared after 1000 years by spontaneous generation.
  3. ^ Badlands-Borderland : A History of Southern Albania/Northern Epirus [ILLUSTRATED] (Hardcover) by T.J. Winnifruth, ISBN 0715632019, 2003, page 44 : "Romanized Illyrians, the ancestors of the modern Vlachs".
  4. ^ "The name 'Vlach' or 'Wallach' applied to them by their neighbours, is identical with the English 'Wealh' or 'Welsh' and means 'stranger', but the Vlachs call themselves 'Aromani', i.e. Romans" (H.C. Darby, "The face of Europe on the eve of the great discoveries', in The New Cambridge Modern Hiostory, vol. 1, 1957:34).
  5. ^ Hammel, E. A. and Kenneth W. Wachter. "The Slavonian Census of 1698. Part I: Structure and Meaning, European Journal of Population". University of California. http://www.demog.berkeley.edu/~gene/hammel_1-fmt.html. 
  6. ^ Peoples of Europe. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2002 ISBN 0761473785, 9780761473787. http://books.google.ro/books?id=gwqL95lflz4C&pg=PA408&dq=vlachs+maramures&as_brr=3#PPA391,M1. 
  7. ^ a b c Since Theophanes Confessor and Kedrenos, in : A.D. Xenopol, Istoria Românilor din Dacia Traiană, Nicolae Iorga, Teodor Capidan, C. Giurescu : Istoria Românilor, Petre Ș. Năsturel Studii și Materiale de Istorie Medie, vol. XVI, 1998
  8. ^ Since Theophanes Confessor and Kedrenos, in : A.D. Xenopol, Istoria Românilor din Dacia Traiană, Nicolae Iorga, Teodor Capidan, C. Giurescu : Istoria Românilor, Petre Ș. Năsturel Studii și Materiale de Istorie Medie, vol. XVI, 1998
  9. ^ Map of Yugoslavia, file East, sq. C-E/f, Istituto Geografico de Agostini, Novara, in : Le Million, encyclopédie de tous les pays du monde, vol.IV, ed. Kister, Geneve, Switzerland, 1970, pp. 290-291, and some other old atlases - these names disappear after 1980.
  10. ^ Map of Yugoslavia, file East, sq. B/f, Istituto Geografico de Agostini, Novara, in : Le Million, encyclopédie de tous les pays du monde, vol.IV, ed. Kister, Geneve, Switzerland, 1970, pp. 290-291, and many other maps & old atlases - these names disappear after 1980.
  11. ^ http://www.presidency.ro/?_RID=det&tb=date&id=7048&_PRID=
  12. ^ Bulgaria 2001 census
  13. ^ a b http://www.ethnologue.org/show_language.asp?code=rup
  14. ^ Vickers, Miranda. The Greek Minority in Albania – Current Tensions. In Balkan Series, January 2010 http://kms1.isn.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/111787/ipublicationdocument_singledocument/4c536356-fe1d-4409-b352-0b01de1447b3/en/2010_01_$Balkan+Series+0110+WEB.pdf
  15. ^ E Bosch et al. Paternal and maternal lineages in the Balkans show a homogeneous landscape over linguistic barriers, except for the isolated Aromuns. Annals of Human Genetics, Volume 70, Issue 4 (p 459-487)
  16. ^ Silviu Dragomir: "Vlahii din nordul peninsulei Balcanice în evul mediu"; 1959, p. 172;
  17. ^ Mircea Muşat, Ion Ardeleanu-From ancient Dacia to modern Romania, p.114

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