Aromanians (also called: Macedo-Romanians or Vlachs, in Aromanian they call themselves arumâni, armâni or aromâni) are a population living as a minority in Northern Greece, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria; their number is estimated to about one or two million.
Vlach shepherd in traditional clothes, photo from the early 1900s
They speak a Romance language called Aromanian which is a similar language to Romanian. Due to the common language foundation, historians believe that the language link with Romania was interrupted between the 7th and 9th century, after the most important features of the language were formed.
The name Aromanian, just as Romanian derives directly from Latin "Romanus", through regular sound changes. The initial "a" is a feature of Aromanian language, of adding "a" in front of certain words.
Vlachs was a term used in the Medieval Balkans, as an exonym (http://wiktionary.org/w/wiki.phtml?title=Exonym) for all the Romanic people, but nowadays, it is commonly used only for the Aromanians, the Romanians being named Vlachs only in historical context.
Aromanians in Greece
In Greece, they are not recognised as a minority, being considered to be Latin-speaking Greeks, although their culture and language have much in common with Romanians, rather than Greeks, which suggests a link with Romanians (one hypothesis is that Aromanians came to Northern Greece from the Danube region, another that they descent from Romanized local population __ however it is clear that until the 9th century, Romanians and Aromanians spoke the same language). Despite these facts many Aromanians considered themeselves as Greeks and played important role in Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire and generally in Greek society, like Ioannis Kolettis, first prime minister of Greece, Evangelos Averof, minister of Defence during the Balkan Wars and Konstantinos Krystallis, famous poet.
The pressure put on them to abandon their language and traditions is not something new, since it can traced back to the 18th century, when assimilation efforts were encouraged by the Greek missionary Kosmas Aitolos(1714_1779) who taught that Aromanians should speak Greek because as he said it's the language of our Church and established over 100 Greek schools in Northern and Western Greece.
The Aromanians, mostly herdsmen living in high mountains (especially in the Pindus area) in Northern Greece never had complete education in their language; although Romania subsidized schools until 1948, the communist regime ended all links, and there is currently almost no education for the Aromanian children in their mother tongue. It seems to be just a matter of time until they will be completely assimilated into the Greek society.
The European Parliamentary Assembly examined a report on the issue of the Aromanians in June 24, 1997, and adopted a recommendation that the Greek government should do whatever is necessary to respect their culture and facilitate education in Aromanian and its use in schools, churches and media.Also in 1998 Greek President of Democracy Kostís Stephanópoulos stated in Metsovo, Epirus that Greek Aromanians should speak and teach their language, but little has been done since then.
Aromanians in Albania
The second largest Aromanian community is the one in Albania, counting between 100,000 and 200,000 people. The Albanian economy is still under a shock after the economic crisis and the Kosovo war, so there is currently no education in their native language, but unlike in Greece, the Vlachs are a recognised national minority in the Albanian constitution, despite the claim of the Greek government of all 400,000 Albanian Orthodox as Greeks.
Aromanians in the Republic of Macedonia
Although not very numerous (about 20,000) in the Republic of Macedonia, the government tried to undermine even more that figure, as official data lowers their number to 8,467. The Aromanians have a much better situation than in other countries, being representated in the Macedonian Parliament and having the right to preserve their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity and the right of education in their language.
They also received support from the Romanian government since it conditioned the recognition of the independence of Macedonia with the rights of the Aromanians in this country.
- aromanian.net: Aromanians (Vlachs) in the Balkans (http://www.aromanian.net)
- vlachophiles.net: Aromanian - The Vanishing Tribes (http://www.vlachophiles.net)
- farsarotul.org: The Society Farsarotul (http://www.farsarotul.org)
- Studies on the Vlachs (http://web.otenet.gr/vlachs)
- The Vlachs of Greece and their Misunderstood History (http://www.farsarotul.org/nl26_1.htm), by Helen Abadzi