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Vlachs

Vlachs

ETHNONYMS: Aromuni, Cincari, Vlasi


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.


History and Cultural Relations

During the sixth and seventh centuries AD., under the Pressure of the Slavs and other peoples advancing from the north to the Balkan Peninsula, the autochthonous Balkan populations retreated to the southern and western regions. Those who took refuge in inaccessible high mountains of the central and southern Balkans and adopted a nomadic way of life managed to survive and eventually developed into a distinct group. This process probably took place in the region of Pind in Greece, where their core remains today and from which they have dispersed for centuries. In the tenth century a large Vlach group still lived on the mountain of Pind, in Thessaly, Epirus, and Macedonia. Another group spread through the mountains of the Balkan Peninsula, between the Black Sea and the Adriatic, in the Adriatic hinterland and towns of the Adriatic coast. From the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, because of their nomadic way of life, they spread considerably through what was then Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Croatia, moving as far north as the Polish Carpathians. From the fifteenth century, during the time of the Turkish invasion of the Balkans, the Vlachs as nomadic cattle breeders became included in the economic life of the Turkish Empire and were granted certain privileges. During this time they even formed some permanent villages. However, the crises and conflicts that affected the Turkish Empire from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries resulted in the persecution of nomadic Vlachs. Ali Pasha Janjinski (1744-1822) was the most cruel of the Turkish overlords, destroying the Vlachs' native Country in Pind and scattering Vlach families to different parts of the Balkan Peninsula. Some Vlachs remained faithful to a nomadic way of life and sheep breeding, while others traveled to find work in towns and abandoned the traditional occupations. Further development of socioeconomic, historical, and political relationships was not favorable to nomadic cattle raising nor to the Vlachs, so they began to assimilate with the surrounding ethnic groups. Vlachs in northeast Serbia immigrated mostly at the end of the eighteenth and the start of the nineteenth centuries from the territory of present-day Romania.

In their dispersion, individual Vlach groups maintain cultural relations with different Slavic, Albanian, Greek, and Romanian ethnic groups, living with them in peaceful coexistence with frequent contacts and intermixing. Vlachs in northeast Serbia have equal rights and obligations with the predominant Serbian population, although they do not have their own schools or other cultural and social institutions, newspapers, etc.


Settlements

Traditional settlements of nomadic Vlachs are summer dwellings (katuni ), situated on high mountains near springs and good pastures. Tents made of black felt (rolled wool) or log cabins built of reed, brushwood, and branches, covered with a thatch of straw of circular or rectangular shape, are crowded together. Temporary winter settlements are somewhat larger than summer ones, as more family groups gather together. Permanent Vlach villages are usually situated along steep mountain slopes with spacious houses closely set together. Since World War II the Vlachs in northeast Serbia have built large brick houses, comfortably furnished and including small gardens, as a considerable number of their population work abroad in western Europe. However, they still generally prefer their old houses situated nearby.


Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The basic occupation of Vlachs is sheep breeding, including the production of milk and dairy products. The main food on all occasions is "white meat" (cheese, milk, cream, and sour cream) and bread, and only occasionally potatoes and meat. Winter food provisions are meager, except for dairy products and bacon. Their most popular drink is whey, the liquid that remains after cheese is curdled. They exchange sheep products for some agricultural products with farmers. They process wood, leather, and wool and make clothes from home-produced and -worked wool. Clothes are made from felt produced by rolling or beating woolen cloth left in the color of the natural wool or dyed with dark stains. The costume consists of a long tunicshirt, worn next to the skin, a sleeveless coat, a red yarn belt, several layers of woolen stockings and over them sandals (opanci ) of rawhide formed on a last and with woven thongs of sheep guts. Women wear a woolen apron decorated with braids and loops. A large cloak with a hood (kabanica ) and a small brimless cap are typically worn. Vlachs in northeast Serbia, in addition to sheep and cattle breeding, are also engaged in mining, gold panning, and the production of charcoal. In lowlands near the Danube, they are engaged in farming, fruit growing, and viticulture.

Industrial Arts. The Vlach herders are good tailors and wood-carvers. Those who settled in towns are professional artisans, particularly shoemakers, tinsmiths, coppersmiths, goldsmiths, and construction workers. They are also successful bankers and innkeepers.

Trade. Vlachs in towns are known as good tradespeople who own small oriental shops with handicraft products. For herders, exchange of goods is common.

Division of Labor. Labor is traditionally divided into male and female activities. Milking, cheese making, weaving, cleaning, washing, cooking, and care of children are exclusively female responsibilities, whereas tending pasture, chopping wood, handicrafts, and trade are men's work.

Land Tenure. Pastures, water, and forests are collective property, and every family of the group has equal rights to them. In addition, each lineage has its own pastures that are inviolable. Frequently, a number of families of the same or different lineages are joined into a larger group (tajfe ), and Together they rent pastures, process milk, and sell dairy Products, so that a community spirit permeates all group activities.

Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The most important kinship group is the patriarchal extended family formed by married brothers and their offspring. Herders usually have many children, from eight to twelve. Several families of a common descent form a lineage (soj or fara ). The surnames of lineages are permanent and the members of seven to fifteen generations are known Genealogically. Descent is agnatic and kinship terminology is highly elaborated. Blood brotherhood (pobratimstvo ) and godfatherhood (kumstvo ) are highly respected and socially important.

Marriage. Exogamous marriage and patrilocal residence are preferred. However, matrilocal residence is possible when there is no male heir in a family, and such an in-marrying male is called a domazet. Marriages are traditionally arranged by parents. Age at marriage is exceptionally low, and early marriages are a common and socially imposed phenomenon. It is generally believed that a girl will grow old if she does not marry immediately after puberty.

Domestic Unit. The extended family is the most frequent domestic unit, which is a unit of production, consumption, and common defense.

Inheritance. Land inheritance, both traditionally and today, is primarily through male lines of descent.

Socialization. Children are taught always to respect their elders and never to oppose them. They are more afraid of their fathers than of their mothers; corporal punishment is common. Small children are carried everywhere in a small cradle slung on their mother's back. In addition to the Parents, father's and mother's brothers and cousins also show considerable care for the children. Male children are generally more protected than female ones, while the borderline Between childhood and adolescence for both sexes is the age of 15, which coincides with sexual and biological maturity.


Sociopolitical Organization

Throughout history, the Vlachs never succeeded in forming their own state. By the end of the eighteenth century in the Albanian town of Moskopolje, a national movement was organized but it never involved all Vlachs. Although they are not numerous, they do live on a comparatively great territory because they are dispersed as ethnic islands among other Peoples. Individual Vlach groupsespecially herders in winter settlementsmaintain frequent mutual contacts. Movements from one regional group to another are rather Common. This behavior contributes to intermixing and to the maintenance of ethnic identity. Although the Vlachs had been relatively homogeneous, following the Balkan Wars (1876-1878 and 1912-1918) the territory in which they live was politically divided so that communication between Vlachs in Albania, Yugoslavia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania became very difficult. They were not allowed to cross state borders with their flocks and herds.

Social Organization. The social position of the Vlachs was determined by the opposition between the sedentary populations and the mobile nomads, clearly distinguished in Old Serbian and Croatian laws. Serbian laws of the Middle Ages, for example, prohibited marriages between sedentary Serbs and Vlach nomads in order to preserve a sedentary economic national character. Mountains and forests in the Middle Ages were treated legally almost as a dead zone, and their inhabitant herders were free from laws that applied to sedentary populations. Consequently, Vlachs have always had their own autonomous internal organization. Patriarchal families were grouped in lineages or groups of lineages (tajfas ) headed by čelnik or ćehaja. This head shepherd was supreme chief with great authority. His word was always obeyed and he governed a group of 20 to 200 families with 10,000 sheep, paying taxes and tributes and taking care of trade and other group activities.

Social Control. Traditional norms regulate the relationship between the individual and the group. The place and the role of the house and family is strictly determined within this structure.

Conflict. Self-managed communities (katuni) were closed in their autonomous world and their members organized their own defense. Conflicts between two neighboring Communities were usually over pasture rights, and every offense gave rise to fierce animosity, plundering, and killings, which sometimes turned into a series of bloody revenges. Isolated in high mountains, the Vlachs represented the main outposts of resistance in fights with the Turks.


Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Generally, Vlachs accepted the same religion as the other populations in the Region in which they lived. Today, the majority of Vlachs belong to the Orthodox church, characteristic for the eastern Balkans; Vlachs in the western Balkans are Catholics; and only a small number are Muslims. Nonetheless, they also persistently preserve their ancient practices and beliefs, which are respected and maintained as ethnic, cultural, and moral traits. This belief system clearly defines the relationship of the individual self with the material and spiritual world. Everything related to human beings and existence usually is attributed to fate. Although they celebrate all the main holidays of the formal church calendar, they rarely attend church for these occasions, celebrating instead among themselves; they do not call the priest for requiem masses and they do not marry in church. Even if they come to church, they disturb prayers by dancing and singing. The Orthodox Vlachs celebrate the important Orthodox holiday slava, feast of the patron saint, but for them it is primarily a cult dedicated to land fertility. Fortune-telling and sorcery are a common part of all aspects of social and religious life.

Arts. Vlachs developed all types of oral folk literature, epic and lyric songs, ballads, proverbs, and riddles. However, their creative work lacks fantastic beings and events. Tattooing as body decoration has been preserved up to the present in some Vlach groups.


Medicine. Traditional ways of healing still play an Important role, particularly with mountain herders who live far from medical institutions. Vlachs cure the majority of illnesses with simple devices, mostly plants and their infusions, by themselves or with the help of a folk practitioner.


Death and Afterlife. Vlachs have a deeply rooted belief in life after death and very elaborate funeral rites. The dead are highly respected and imaginary contact with them is held on many occasions and in different ways, are to ensure the afterlife of the soul. In northeast Serbia, requiem masses are held for both the living and the dead in the same way, in the form of feasts that often develop into real orgies. Twice a day, three times a week for forty days, prayers are held to forty-four dead and forty-four live kin, and everything is accompanied by abundant food, music, and dances for the souls. The custom of disinterment forty days after death is still present there, although prohibited by law.

Bibliography

Cvijić, Jovan (1966). Balkansko poluostrvo i južnoslovenske zemlje (The Balkan Peninsula and the South Slavic lands). 2nd ed. Belgrade: Lavod za Izdavanje Udžbenika.


Drobnjaković, Borivoje (1960). Etnologija naroda Jugoslavije [Ethnology of peoples in Yugoslavia]. Belgrade: Lavod za Izdavanje Udžbenika.


Federal Statistical Office (1982). Statisticki bilten Jugoslavije [Statistical bulletin of Yugoslavia]. Belgrade: Lavod za Izdavanje Udžbenika.


Skok, Petar (1926). Rumunska literatura o balkanskim Vlasima [Romanian literature on Balkanic Vlachs]. Skopje: Glasnik Skopskog Naučnog Društva.

ANITA SUJOLDŽIĆ

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Vlachs

Vlachs: see Walachia.

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Vlachs

Vlachs

LOCATION: Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Serbia, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Hungary
POPULATION: 23.5 million Romanians, 500,000 Aromanians, 20,000 Megleno-Romanians, 1,200 Istro-Romanians
LANGUAGE: Romanian and Romanian dialects (Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian)
RELIGION: Christianity (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic)

INTRODUCTION

The history of the Vlachs is inexorably linked to the history of the Romanians, although some specialists think that they more generally represent the descendants of romanized Dacians, Thracians, and Illyrians. Throughout history, the term Vlachs was used both to describe all people of Romanian origin, and particular groups scattered throughout the Central and Western Balkans. Nowadays it is used mainly to describe people of Romanian origin living outside Romania.

At the start of the 2nd century ad, the Roman emperor Trajan conquered and colonized Dacia (roughly the territory of present day Romania), expanding the Roman Empire territory to its largest size in history. The Roman legions that were sent there mingled with the local population, and by the time the Roman army retreated in 271 ad, the seeds of a new people were laid.

In the 11th century ad, the population living on the territory of present day Romania formed political units, which became principalities in the 13th century—Moldova and Wallachia. People from Wallachia, Moldova, and Transylvania have migrated and settled in different parts of the Balkans throughout the years, bringing their customs and language with them. The main Vlach groups outside Romania are the Aromanians, the Megleno-Romanians, and the Istro-Romanians.

There are only a few remnants of the Vlach populations today (an estimated 500,000), and their numbers are dwindling. The spread of universal education in even the most remote villages and the effects of modern civilization have often blended them together with the surrounding populations. Between the two World Wars, some Vlachs have migrated into Romania and they have been rapidly assimilated. Despite their relatively small numbers, Vlachs have played an important historic role in all of the Balkan states where they were found. Prominent Vlachs include Ioannis Kolettis (prime minister of Greece), Georgios Averoff (Greek magnate), Andrei Şaguna (Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan of Transylvania), and the Ghica family (Romanian prime ministers and voivodes).

The words Vlach and Romanian have been used interchangeably throughout history, and the principality of Wallachia was also known as Ţara Româneascã (The Romanian Country). In Greek, the word Blachos means shepherd. More commonly, it is assumed that the word Vlach is derived, via the Slavic medium, from the Germanic. A similar root is used in Welsh and Walloon and it is used to denominate a stranger.

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

Vlachs are for the most part found in the Balkans, although small groups can be found further north, in countries like Austria, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.

Romanians and Moldovans constitute the largest Vlach populations, and they are concentrated in their respective countries. Aromanians and Megleno-Romanians can be found in Romania, Macedonia, northern Greece, Albania, Serbia, and Bulgaria. Istro-Romanians constitute a particular and fairly small group (around 1,200 people), concentrated in the northwestern part of Croatia.

In 1941, when Greece was under Nazi occupation, a group of Aromanian nationalists established, for a short time, an autonomous Vlach state under the control of Fascist Italy—The Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia.

LANGUAGE

What distinguishes Vlachs living outside Romania today is not as much their culture, religion, or their consciousness of a separate identity. Their defining feature is the language they speak. One of the reasons why the Vlach language has survived this long is the remoteness of the areas where it is spoken, and the fact that it was often in competition with more than one language. All the Vlach languages are Latin-based, and could be considered as being Romanian dialects. The most distinct dialect (different in morphology and phonology from all other Romanian dialects) is spoken by the Megleno-Romanians.

Aromanians have a representative in the European Bureau for Lesser Spoken Languages, in Greece.

FOLKLORE

Many Vlachs that are now encountered through the Central and Western Balkans are the descendants of shepherds that migrated there in medieval times. As such, the folklores of all these disparate groups share pastoral influences. One of the most important folklore creations in Romania is the ballad Mioriţa (The Little Ewe). The ballad tells the story of three shepherds (one from Moldova, one from Wallachia, and one from Transylvania) that meet while attending to their flocks. The Moldovan shepherd finds from an enchanted ewe that the other two shepherds have connived to kill him and steal his flock. The shepherd accepts his fate, and tells the ewe that should he be slain, it should ask his killers to bury his body by the sheep's pen. Furthermore, the ewe is to tell the flock and his mother that he married a princess, and that the moment was marked by the falling of a star.

RELIGION

Many Vlachs are adherents of the Eastern Orthodox religion, usually the dominant religion in the area (e.g. Greek Orthodox). Istro-Romanians are Roman Catholic. Religious practices and customs are similar to those found among the dominant populations in the area.

A very small percentage of Vlachs are Muslims. They represent the Megleno-Romanians from Greece that have been living in Turkey since the exchange of populations in 1923.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

Most Vlachs follow the major holidays of the country and region where they are located. Of significant importance are the religious holidays—especially Christmas and Easter. For a short time, at the start of the 20th century, the Aromanians were recognized as a separate nation (millet) by the Ottoman Empire. The day when the so-called Aromania Iradeo (or Turkish Irade) was signed, 23 May 1905, is celebrated by Aromanians all over the world as their National Day. In Macedonia, it is considered an official holiday.

RITES OF PASSAGE

Major life events, like birth, marriage, and death, are marked and celebrated within the Christian tradition—Eastern Orthodox for most Vlachs, Roman Catholic for the Istro-Romanians. Children are taught from a young age to attend church, and they participate in the social life of the parish. Social events organized by individual, or groups of villages are often the preferred medium for young people to meet, date, and potentially marry. Marriage represents an important moment in a Vlach's life, and the union between two young people is usually done after receiving the parent's blessings. If a husband dies, the wife will wear black for a full year. Often widows wear black for the rest of their lives.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

Since Vlachs have been for the most part migratory people, they have often been treated with resentment and distrust. In Greece, the term Koutzovlachs is used in a derogatory way to refer to people of a lower class. Vlachs however, are good-natured people, and in their respective countries they are nowadays respected as ardent patriots and supporters of national ideals. A traveler through Greece after the end of the Second World War describes Vlachs as being kind and "patriarchally hospitable."

LIVING CONDITIONS

Living conditions vary depending on where the Vlach communities are located. In Romania, most of the Aromanians live in urban centers. As such, they enjoy the benefits and challenges of post-communist cities. Outside Romania, Vlachs live for the most part in rural communities. Traditionally, Aromanians and Megleno-Romanians respected a pastoral seasonal cycle (transhumance)—tending to their sheep herds in mountain villages in the summer, and leaving for the milder climates of the plains in the winter. As more and more young Vlachs get lured by the mirage of large cities, many small mountain villages are left to be tended to by older people, or are used solely for vacation purposes.

In Greece, the largest Vlach community, and the unofficial Vlach capital, is Metsovo—a town of around 4,500 located in northern Greece, in the mountains of Pindus. It is an important tourist destination and a popular ski resort.

FAMILY LIFE

Vlachs are family-oriented and the patriarchal system defines the family unit. Elderly are respected, and advice is sought from them in communal matters. Village life is more tranquil and sheltered from many of the ills that city life presupposes. The social life in the village revolves around major religious holidays, and families mark major moments (such as birth, marriage, and death) with complex ceremonies. In many ways, these moments have a deeper and more profound meaning than they do in cities.

CLOTHING

Traditionally, the clothing of Vlach shepherds was simple and comfortable. Clothing was designed to endure long migratory walks. The trousers and the shirt were for the most part white. Thick leather belts adorned the waist, and in the winter men would wear heavy sheepskin jackets. The garb worn by women was much more intricate and elaborate. Skirts and shirts were embroidered with lively patterns, and young women would wear complexly designed headgear. Older women usually wore simpler gear, and they covered their heads with a plain black scarf.

The Vlachs living in urban centers adopt urban attire, which is usually of Western influence. Even in remote villages, traditional clothing is rarely worn anymore. Shepherds continue to fabricate clothing out of sheep's skin, but they are more likely to be encountered wearing jeans and rubber boots, rather than white trousers and leather moccasins.

FOOD

Being for the most part shepherds, Vlachs rarely engaged in farming. They would trade wool, cheese, and leather for agricultural produce, but they would not grow them themselves. As such, the Vlach diet is fairly basic. Cheese and meat dishes are the staple in most Vlach villages. The liquid that is left over after producing cheese (zăr) is used to turn a Romanian staple—mămăligă (cornmeal mush), into a shepherd's delicacy—balmoş. Metsovo (Greece), the unofficial Vlach capital, is known for its cheeses and wines.

The art of cooking in Vlach villages was passed down from generation to generation, by word of mouth and by example. Nowadays, cooking in Vlach villages borrows a lot from the culinary art in their respective area.

EDUCATION

Vlach schools that taught in pupils in Aromanians were established through Albania and Macedonia as early as 1860, with the help of the Aromanian diaspora in Romania. In Greece, the attempts of Vlachs to upkeep their culture were viewed with distrust and were often met with resentment and anger. Even in modern times, Greece refused to recognize Vlachs as a distinct minority.

When Aromanians were recognized as a millet of the Ottoman Empire, in 1905, they were affirmed the rights to maintain their own schools and perform liturgies in the Aromanian language. Before schools were institutionalized, education took place in churches, which also maintained local culture and identity.

Following the fall of communism, there have been attempts made by the Romanian government to support Vlach communities throughout the Balkans. Thus, in the town of Divjaka, Albania, education in Romanian and Aromanian is offered at the kindergarten, primary, and secondary level. Financial help was also offered to the only Aromanian language church— Schimbarea la faţă' of Korçë. In Macedonia, pupils can study in Aromanian at the primary level, and several educational and cultural Vlach institutions are supported by the Romanian government.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

With the fall of communism throughout the Balkans, Aromanians grouped together and formed cultural and political societies, sparking the beginning of a national re-awakening. In Macedonia, Aromanians are recognized as an ethnic minority and are represented in the parliament. They enjoy the right to education in their own language, as well as ethnic, cultural, and religious rights. The Romanian government offers financial support to the Macedonian Vlach community, and it conditioned the recognition of Macedonia's independence on its granting of minority rights to the Vlachs. Several cultural societies and associations are present in Macedonia. Some of these include: the Union for Aromanian Culture from Macedonia, the Aromanian League of Macedonia, the International League of Aromanians, the Aromanian Community Manachia Brothers in Bitola, the Party of the Aromanians from Macedonia, and the Democratic Union of the Aromanians from Macedonia. The Macedonian government provides generous support for Aromanian cultural enterprises, such as the publication of magazines and books. Thus it is hoped that Aroma-nian culture, language, and history will be preserved.

Vlachs also have contributed greatly to the culture of the countries where they lived. Some of the most prominent writers in the Balkans are of Vlach origin. Constantin Noica is one of Romania's most prominent philosophers, and his works have been distributed worldwide. George Zalokostas is an important Greek writer. Mitrush Kuteli and Lasgush Poradeci are two Albanian poets. Jovan Sterija Popovic is a well-known Serbian novelist.

WORK

The term Vlach ( Blachos or Koutzovlachs ) is often used in a derogatory way in Greece, to refer to lower class people (shepherds in particular). As a consequence, most Vlach groups don't use this word when they refer to themselves. However, apart from shepherding, Vlachs have also established themselves as industrious craftsmen and merchants. Many of them have risen to positions of wealth and rank in their respective countries. George Averoff, Apostolos Arsakis, and George Stavrou are well-known 19th century Greek benefactors of Vlach origin. Gigi Becali is one of the most prominent business-men in Romania. Sotirios Bulgaris founded the Bulgari jewelry house. The Darvari and Dumba families are famous philanthropists and Austrian Imperial bankers.

SPORTS

Vlachs are not particularly known to be sports-minded people, even though numerous Vlachs have risen to prominence in several sports activities. Thus, Romania's best football player of all times, Gheorghe Hagi, is an Aromanian (or Machedon). Gigi Becali is a well known entrepreneur in Romania, and the owner of one of the largest Romanian football clubs—FC Steaua Bucharest. Before the Romanian revolution of 1989, he used to be a shepherd. His cousins, Victor and Ioan Becali, are prominent and prosperous football impresarios.

Joshko Milenkovski is a Macedonian volleyball champion and the manager of the Macedonian Volleyball team. Dominique Moceanu (born in Tampa, Florida) is a famous US gymnast, and a Macedonian Vlach by origin.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

In rural areas, entertainment and recreation find an outlet in folk dances, amateur theatrical groups, music ensembles, and social gatherings. There are a number of Vlachs that have made a name for themselves in the entertainment business. Herbert von Karajan is a world famous conductor, and a Vlach from Kozani, Greece. Apostolos Kaldaras is a well-know Greek composer. Kaliopi Bukle is a popular singer in the Republic of Macedonia. In Romania, there is a large number of gifted and prominent Aromanian actors (Toma Caragiu, Alexandru Arşinel, Ion Caramitru, Sebastian Papaiani) and film makers (Dan Piţa, Sergiu Nicolaescu).

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

Traditional folk art and crafts were for Vlachs both a method of survival and a way of adorning their household. Before modern civilization reached their villages, they used to make their own household articles (e.g. plates, spoons, furnaces, tables, and chairs) and weave their own clothes and wall decorations. Wood and other materials they happened to have at hand would be used for crafting decorative objects. Very few manufactured commodities were purchased directly. Their colorful and intricate designs were also used to lavish the interiors and exteriors of their churches, cemeteries, and social gathering spots.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

In an area where regional and national pride and patriotism are very strong (often leading to state fragmentations along ethnic lines), the Vlachs have been content with their position in the countries where they were located. Except for a short period during the First World War (when Romania pressed for a separate Vlach church), there have been no separatist movements pursued by the Vlach populations. A Vlach specialist considers them to be the perfect Balkan citizens, as they have never resorted to war, politics, violence, or dishonesty to preserve their culture.

GENDER ISSUES

Gender issues among the Vlach populations are congruent with the issues faced by the general population in the countries where they are located. The Vlachs living in remote villages across the Balkans still have a traditionalist view of gender relations, and homosexuality is usually scorned.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Capidan, Theodor. Aromânii, dialectal aromân: Studiu lingvistic, Bucharest: Academia Română, 1932.

Friedman, Victor A. "The Vlach Minority in Macedonia: Language, Identity, Dialectology, and Standardization." In Selected Papers in Slavic, Balkan, and Balkan Countries, ed. Juhani Nuoluoto et. al, Helsinki: University of Helsinki, 2001.

Hupchick, Dennis P. The Balkans: From Constantinople to Communists, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Koukoudis, Asterios I. The Vlachs: Metropolis and Diaspora, Athens: Zitros Publications, 2003.

Wigram, W.A. Hellenic Travel, London: Faber and Faber, 1947.

Winnifrith, Tom J. The Vlachs: The History of a Balkan People, London: Duckworth, 1987.

—M. Ionescu-Heroiu

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