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  • The Vlach issue



    re The Vlachs of Serbia (endonym: Rumâni, Serbian: Власи or Vlasi) are an ethnic minority of Serbia, culturally and linguistically related to Romanians. Vlachs mostly live in eastern Serbia, mainly in Timočka Krajina region (roughly corresponding to Bor and Zaječar District districts), but also in Braničevo and Pomoravlje districts. Also a small Vlach population exists in Smederevo and Velika Plana (Podunavlje District), and in the municipalities of Aleksinac and Kruševac (Rasina District), as well as in the South Banat District in Voivodina.

    Legal status
    The name they identify with Rumâni din Sârbie in fact means Romanians from Serbia. Although they are ethnographically and linguistically related to the Romanians, becouse of the Serbian process of asimilation within the Vlach community there are divergences on whether they belong or not to the Romanian nation and whether their minority should be amalgamated with the Romanian minority in Vojvodina.

    In a Romanian-Yugoslav agreement from the November 4, 2002, the Yugoslav authorities agreed to recognize the Romanian identity of the Vlach population in Central Serbia, but the agreement wasn't applied. In April 2005, 23 deputies from the Council of Europe, representatives from Hungary, Georgia, Lithuania, Romania, Moldova, Estonia, Armenia, Azerbaïdjan, Denmark and Bulgaria protested against Serbia's treatment of this population.

    The Senate of Romania postponed the ratification of Serbia`s membership candidature to the European Union until the legal status and minority right of the Romanian (Vlach) population in Serbia is solved.

    Predrag Balašević, the president of the Vlach party of Serbia accused the government of assimilation by using the national Vlach organization against the interests of this minority in Serbia.

    Since 2010, the Vlach National Council of Serbia is led by members of leading Serbian Parties (Democrat Party and Socialist Party) and most of them are ethnic Serbs, having no relation to the Vlach/Roumanian minority. Radiša Dragojević, the actual president of Vlach National Council of Serbia, who is not a Vlach, but an ethnic Serb stated that none has the right to ask the Vlach minority in Serbia to identify as Romanian or veto anything, firstly because there already is a recognized Romanian minority within Serbia, and because Vlach people in Serbia do not feel discriminated or underprivileged. He also said that Vlachs feel only Serbia as their true homeland.

    As a response to mister Dragojević`s statement cultural organizations Ariadnae Filum, Društvo za kulturu Vlaha - Rumuna Srbije, Društvo Rumuna - Vlaha „Trajan“, Društvo za kulturu, jezik i religiju Vlaha - Rumuna Pomoravlja, Udruženje za tradiciju i kulturu Vlaha „Dunav“, Centar za ruralni razvoj - Vlaška kulturna inicijativa Srbija and the Vlach party of Serbia protested and stated them as false.

    On 1 Mart, 2012, Romania and Serbia signed an agreement about the Vlach population in Serbia. According to the agreement, members of the Vlach community can declare them self as Romanians and those who do can have access to education, media and religion in their language.

    Origins
    Following Roman withdrawal from the province of Dacia at the end of the 3rd century, the name of the Roman region was changed to Dacia Aureliana, and (later Dacia Ripensis) spread over most of what is now called Serbia and Bulgaria, and an undetermined number of Romanized Dacians were settled there. Strong Roman presence in the region persisted through the end of Justinian's reign in the 6th century.

    The region where Romanians (Vlachs) predominantly live later on was part of the Second Bulgarian Empire, whose first rulers, the Asens, are considered Vlach. King Stephen Uroš II Milutin of Serbia had most of Timok after his conquering of rival King Stephen Dragutin's lands. The chroniclers of the crusaders describe meeting Vlachs in the 12th and 13th century in various parts of modern Serbia. Serbian documents from the 13th and 14th century mention Vlachs, including Emperor Dušan the Mighty, in his prohibition of intermarriage between Serbs and Vlachs.

    14th and 15th century Romanian (Wallachian) rulers built churches in NE Serbia. 15th century Turkish tax records (defters) list Vlachs in the region of Branicevo in NE Serbia, near the ancient Roman municipium and colonia of Viminacium.

    Starting in the early 18th century NE Serbia was settled by Romanians (then known by their international exonym as Vlachs) from Banat, parts of Transylvania, and Oltenia (Lesser Walachia). These are the Ungureni (Ungurjani), Munteni (Munćani) and Bufeni (Bufani). Today about three quarters of the Vlach population speak the Ungurean subdialect. In the 19th century other groups of Romanians, originating in Oltenia (Lesser Wallachia), also settled south of the Danube. These are the Ţărani (Carani), who form some 25% of the modern population. The very name Ţărani indicates their origin in Ţara Româneasca, i.e., "The Romanian Land," Wallachia and Oltenia. It should be noted that from the 15th through the 18th centuries large numbers of Serbs also migrated across the Danube, but in the opposite direction, to both Banat and Ţara Româneasca. Significant migration ended with the establishment of the kingdoms of Serbia and Rumania, respectively, in the second half of the 19th century.

    The lack of detailed census records and the linguistic effects of the Ungureni and Ţărani on the entire Vlach population make it difficult to determine what fraction of the present Vlachs can trace their origins directly to the ancient south-of-the-Danube Vlachs. The Vlachs of NE Serbia form a contiguous linguistic, cultural and historic group with the Vlachs in the region of Vidin in Bulgaria, as well as the Romanians of Banat and Oltenia (Lesser Wallachia).

    Language
    The language spoken by the Vlachs consists of two distinct Romanian subdialects of Romanian dialects spoken in the neighboring regions of Romania: one major group of Vlachs speaks the subdialect spoken in the Mehedinţi County in western Oltenia, while that of the other major group speaks a subdialect similar to the Romanian subdialect spoken in the neighboring region of Banat.

    The Romanian language is not in use in local administration, not even in places where more the members of the minority represent more than 15% of the population. (according to Serbian law, the use of the language in local administration is allowed in places where the minority has a percentage higher than 15%).

    Religion
    Romanian Orthodox Church, Malajnica, built in 2004, is the first Romanian church in eastern Serbia in 170 years, during which time Romanians in Timoc had not been allowed to hear liturgy services in their native language. Most Vlachs of Eastern Serbia are Orthodox Christians and they used to belong the Serbian Orthodox Church since the 19th century until 24 March 2009 when Serbia recognized the authority of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Timoc Valley and the confessional rights of the Vlachs.

    Previously, the 2006 Serbian law on religious organizations didn't recognize the Romanian Orthodox Church as a traditional church, as it received permission from the Serbian Church to operate only within Vojvodina, but not in Timočka Krajina. At Malajnica, a "Vlach" priest belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church met deliberately raised administrative barriers in his attempt to build a church. Other Romanian Orthodox churches are planned or under construction in Jasikovo, Cuprija, Bigrenica and Samarinovac.

    Additionally, a Romanian Orthodox monastery is under construction in Malajnica. The Romanian Orthodox churches in Eastern Central Serbia are subordinated to the Protopresbyteriat Dacia Ripensis with its seat in Negotin. The protopresbyteriat is subordinated to the Romanian Orthodox diocese Dacia Felix with its seat in Vršac.

    The relative isolation of the Vlachs has permitted the survival of various pre-Christian religious customs and beliefs that are frowned upon by the Orthodox Church. Vlach magic rituals are well known across the nowadays Serbia. The Vlachs celebrate the Ospăț (hospitium, in Latin), called in Serbian praznic or slava, though its meaning is chtonic (related to the house and farmland) rather than familial. Other Balkan peoples, notably the Serbs adopted the Christian traditions of the Vlachs. The customs of the Vlachs are very similar to those from Southern Romania (Walachia).

    Identity
    The term "Vlach" is the English transcription of the Serbian term used to describe this group (Vlasi), while "Roumanians" or "Romanians" is the English transcription of its Romanian counterpart (român/rumân).

    Despite their recognition as a separate ethnic group by the Serbian government, Vlachs are cognate to Romanians in the cultural and linguistic sense. Some Romanians, as well as international linguists and anthropologists, consider Serbia's Vlachs to be a subgroup of Romanians. Additionally, the Movement of Romanians-Vlachs in Serbia, which represents some Vlachs, has called for the recognition of the Vlachs as a Romanian national minority, giving them similar rights to the Romanians of Vojvodina. However, on the last census results most Vlachs of Eastern Serbia opted rather for the Serbian exonym vlasi (=Vlachs) than rumuni (=Romanians). As a result of serbianization, most Vlachs declare themselves as "Serbs" on the census during Communist Yugoslavia, though the number of those who preferred to declare Vlachs or Romanians strongly increased from 1991 (16,539 declared vlasi and 42 declared rumuni) to 2001 (39,953 declared vlasi and 4,157 declared rumuni).

    Romania has given modest financial support to the Vlachs for the preservation of their culture and language, since at present the Vlachs' language is not recognized officially in any localities where they form a majority, there is no education in their mother tongue and there is no media or education funded by the Serbian state. Also there are no church services in Vlach. Until very recently in the regions populated by Vlachs the official policy of the Serbian Orthodox church opposed the giving of non-Serbian baptismal names.

    Family names of Vlachs either are or sound Serbian because from the late 19th century up to the 1918 there was an edict that all citizens of Serbia should have last names ending in -ić, the base of the name usually coming from the then father's name: Nikolić, Marković, Radulović. There are a few notable exceptions where the Romanian origin is evident, as in Jepurović (from iepure, meaning rabbit), Florić (from floare, meaning flower) or Stangačilović (from stângaci, meaning left-handed).

    On the other hand, some Vlachs consider themselves to be simply Serbs that speak the Vlach language.

    Vlach is commonly used as a historical umbrella term for all Latin peoples in Southeastern Europe (Romanians proper or Daco-Romanians, Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians, Istro-Romanians). After the foundation of the Romanian state in the 19th century, the Romanians living in the Romanian Old Kingdom and in Austria-Hungary have only seldom been called "Vlachs" by the foreigners, while the use of the exonym "Romanians" was encouraged even by officials and the Romanian population ceased to use the exonym "Vlach" for their own designation. Only in the Serbian and Bulgarian Kingdom, where the officials didn't encourage the population to use the modern exonym "Romanian", the old designation "Vlach" was kept, but the term "Romanian" was used in statistical reports (but only up to the Interwar period, when they changed even here the designation "Romanian" into "Vlach"). From this reason, the Romanians of Vojvodina (hence those who lived in Austria-Hungary), prefer to use today the modern exonym "Romanian", while those of Central Serbia still use the ancient exonym "Vlach". However, both groups use the endonym "Romanians", calling their language "Romanian" (română or rumână).

    In some notes of the government of Serbia, officials recognise that "certainly members of this population have similar characteristics with Romanians, and the language and folklore ride to their Romanian origin". The representatives of the Vlach minority sustain their Romanian origin.

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    28.03.2012. 20:32

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