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GREEKS, ALBANIANS, ROMANIANS AND VLACHS:
ANTAGONISM AND SYMBIOSIS
IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
► Albanian identity
► Literature and internet sources
The intention of this paper is to make a first step towards a comparison of the different ways – and more important still: degrees – in which Hroch’s phase A (rising national consciousness on an intellectual plane) developed among the Albanians and the Vlachs during the 19th century. Mutual Vlach-Albanian interaction, and the interaction of both groups with Greeks and Romanians, ranges from symbiosis to conflict.
A stimulus for doing so was a two-part article by Sava Iancovici which appeared in 1971. First, it offers us a detailed story of the Albanian-Romanian contacts and the development of the Albanian press in Romania after 1860. Second, it presents a number of interesting remarks and footnotes on the newspapers and periodicals of the Vlach communities in Romania. For the Romanian public they were a valuable source of information on both Vlachs and Albanians in present-day Macedonia, Northern Greece, and Albania.
Romanian-Albanian contacts were recorded as early as 1595, when Albanian refugees settled down on the banks of the Danube and asked Mihai Viteazul for permission to enter Walachia. Albanians have been a constant factor in Romanian society ever since. An important period of Albanian-Romanian contact is marked by the activities of Naum Veqilharxhi, from about 1821 to 1846. After 1860, a new generation of active Albanians made its appearance, which also led to a renewal of Albanian activity in Romania. In the last decades of the nineteenth century the developing Albanian press in this country produced a number of – mostly multi-lingual – Albanian papers and periodicals, and of books – notably in Bucharest and Brăila.
As concerns the Vlachs, it is an intriguing question if there was any trend towards the development of Vlach identity or national consciousness during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and if so, on the basis of what criteria. The existing literature suggests some alternative or simultaneous developments:
1. Assimilation with the Greeks or with any other nation-state which emerged in the region where the Vlachs have been dwelling for centuries;
2. Rapprochement with the Romanian state and Romanian identity, and
3. A certain degree of genuine Vlach identity.
An important question is, what common and different factors in Vlach and Albanian history have to be taken into account to explain the different way in which both peoples (or groups) did or did not enter the various phases as described by Hroch.
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There exist different opinions concerning the temporal and spatial starting-point of Albanian national consciousness and the beginning of the Albanian Renaissance (in Albanian: Rilindja Shqipëtare), also named National Renaissance (Rilindja Kombëtare).
During the period before the final Turkish conquest, Albanian society was dominated by a number of important clans. The Albanian lands were firmly defended, and Gjergj Kastrioti or Skënderbeu (1404 or 1405-1468) became a legendary hero. As the Turks tightened their grip on Albania, many Albanians (including a large proportion of noblemen) left the country for Southern Italy (especially Calabria and Sicily), and some of then were given large parcels of land, e.g. by King Alphonso I of Naples. It was notably in these communities – sometimes referred to as Greek ones, as is suggested by geographical names like Piano dei Greci ‘the Plain of the Greeks’ near Palermo that a certain continuity of Albanian written literature was preserved. In Northern Albania (where Roman Catholicism remained the prevailing religion), the town of Shkodër retained its important position.
Among the Arbërësh the memories of the past, including that of Skënderbeu, were kept alive. The Arbërësh community, with intellectuals like Girolamo (in Albanian: Jeronim) De Rada (1814-1903) and Francesco Antonio Santori (1819-1894) is generally viewed as the cradle of Albanian national consciousness. Jeronim de Rada studied law in Naples and took part in the political life of that time, which was largely determined inspired by the Italian Risorgimento. He also had contacts with leading figures of the Rilindja movement in Albania itself.
It was not only in Italy that Albanians found refuge. Shortly after the Turkish conquest many Albanians made their appearance in Ţara Românească – the Romanian Lands. I further quote:
The first documented Albanian emigration occurred in 1595 when the Romanian Waivoda Mihai Viteazu permitted a sizeable group of Albanians to settle their families in Romanian territory north of the Danube. This document furnishes the first evidence that a large and unified Albanian group settled in hospitable Romanian territory. The report was written by Giovanni de Marini Poli, an agent of the Imperial Councillor Pezzen who stated that "...the Albanians of Cernavoda and other neighboring villages having sent a petition to the Waivoda of Walachia that they wanted to come with their families and live in Walachia and abandon their home in Turkish lands. The Waivoda immediately agreed and shortly [after] 15,000 Albanians, with their belongings and beasts, crossed the Danube and came to live in Walachia..."
The Albanian exodus to Italy and Romania can to some extent be compared with the velika seoba – the Great Migration – in 1690, when many Serbs took to the Habsburg territories, where they developed new centres of Serbian spiritual and cultural life which were to play a key role in the rise of Serbian national consciousness during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Albania became a country of three different religious communities. Roman Catholicism remained the dominant religion in the coastal areas in the Northwest. Orthodox Catholics live in the Southern areas, bordering on present-day Greece. The seventeenth century was a period of a massive conversion to Islam, which became dominant in a large portion of Albania and Kosovo, as it did in many regions of Bosnia and Hercegovina.
Among Orthodox Albanians, texts were written in either Greek or Old Church Slavonic. Islamic literature manifested itself in the writings of the beytexhinj and the Bektashi of which Naim bey Frashëri (1846-1900). was the most outstanding exponent.
Many Albanians (and Vlachs) in the South were gradually Hellenized. Illustrative are works like Theodoros Kavalliotis’ Πρωτοπειρία (Venice 1770), and Εισαγωγική διδασκαλία (Venice 1802) by the Vlach Daniil from Moschopolis (Μοσχόπολις, named Moscopole in Aromunian and Voskopoja in Albanian). Daniil stated that Albanians, Vlachs and Slavs should abandon their native tongues and learn the beautiful Greek language in order to adopt the superior culture of the Greeks.
On the Balkan Peninsula, a first sign of Albanian national consciousness manifested itself about 1820. In 1808, the family of Naum Panajot Veqilharxhi (1797-1846, in Romanian: Vecilargi) had left Vithkuq to find a new residence in Chişinău (Kišinëv). During the insurrection of 1821 hundreds of ‘arnaouts’ (Albanians) joined the ranks of Alexandros Ypsilantis and Tudor Vladimirescu. Among them was Veqilharxhi, who afterwards settled as a lawyer and Albanian activist in Brăila. He devoted a large portion of his lifetime to develop an Albanian alphabet.
Among Romanian intellectuals in both the Principalities (of Walachia and Moldavia) and Transylvania, there was much interest for the Albanian cause. In 1847 I. Bilciurescu translated a book on Skënderbeu. In 1846 Ion Heliade Rădulescu declared himself a champion of Veqilharxhi’s work in Walachia. He made an appeal to all Albanians in Walachia to realize of what tremendous importance Veqilharxhi’s activities were. Rădulescu also referred to the endeavours of the Romanians themselves to create an alphabet of their own. He further pointed to Veqilharxhi’s endeavour for making the Islamic and Christian parts of Albania fraternize (his struggle for Albanian education and unity was intolerable for the Greek clergy in Constantinople, which was sufficient reason to have him poisoned in 1846).
Gheorghe Bariţ from Transylvania also encouraged Albanian cultural development, and in 1842 he published a Romanian-German dictionary with fragments of an Albanian-Greek-Italian lexicon. He described the Albanians as a valiant and freedom-loving people, which, however, possessed no alphabet and was therefore condemned to live in darkness… Bariţ and Rădulescu advised the Albanians to work on a literature of their own and to translate the liturgical texts that were required to hold church services in their native language.
The Romanians were relatively well-informed on the Albanians and the current events in their homeland. After the Turkish-Russian war of 1828-1829 an administrative system was set up, and there was an increasing need of information on what happened in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire. In this context, Iancovici refers to the newspapers Curierul românesc, Albina Românească and Gazeta de Transilvania. People read about shocking events like the massacre of 1830 near Bitola/Manastir, and about the revolt in 1839 against the regulations of the Ottoman Tanzimat reforms. In 1843 there appeared a ‘feuilleton’ in Albina Românească. According to Kristo Frashëri the roots of the later national movements should be sought in the more or less spontaneous uprisings of the Albanians during the 19th century.
Towards the end of the 1840’s a new generation made its appearance in the Albanian lands and in the Albanian communities of Sofia, Istanbul, Egypt and Romania. I mention Konstantin Kristoforidhi (1826-1895), Zef Jubani (1818 – 1880), Haasan Tahsini (1811–1881), Pashko Vasa (1825-1892) and the famous Frashëri brothers: Abdyl Frashëri (1839-1892), Naim Frashëri (1846–1900), and Sami Frashëri (1850-1904). They were intellectuals with a Greek, Italian or Turkish education and orientation, who also devoted themselves to the enlightenment and social and economic progress of the Albanian people. The Frashëri brothers are sometimes depicted in traditional dress with white fustanellas, but their best-known portraits and photographs present them dressed alafranga – in ‘Frankish’ i.e. Western clothing. Among the works of these intellectuals are dictionaries, grammars and collections of folksongs, and almost all of them made an attempt at creating a new Albanian alphabet.
During the Congress of Berlin, which was held in order to conclude the Great Eastern Crisis of 1875-1878, some problems were ‘solved’. Many others remained or became even more acute than they had ever been. Glenny concisely describes the problems for the Montenegrins, and for the Albanians, Slavic Macedonians, Vlachs, Greeks and remaining Turks in the four Albanian and five Macedonian vilayets after 1878. This period is characterized by the increasing importance of militias like the Slavic četas and the Greek andarte groups. From 1881 onwards, the Albanians, who lacked a traditional military structure and any other paraphernalia of a nation-state, had to struggle by conspiracy and guerrilla warfare.
Nevertheless, coordinated Albanian political and cultural activity had already started. In 1877, a secret society, headed by Abdyl Frashëri and named Komiteti Qëndror për mbrojtjen e të drejtave të kombësisë Sqiptare – The Central Committee for the defence of the rights of the Albanian people –, had been founded in Istanbul, and on June, 10, 1978 – three days before the Congress of Berlin commenced – the Lague of Prizren was founded. It is this event which is often considered the real beginning of the Albanian National Renaissance. Among the great names of this period are the brothers Naim, Abdyl and Sami Frashëri, further Thimi Mithoja, and Jani Vreto. Appeals to the Congress to take Albanian interests into account, remained without result.
In 1879 the Shoqëria e të Shtypünit (or Shtypurit) shkronja shqip – the Committee for the printing of Albanian characters / texts was founded in Istanbul. The alphabet of this committee – named the Istanbul Alphabet – became essential for the development of the modern Albanian alphabet.
In the same year, a Romanian-Albanian congress was held at Jannina 1879. During the last decades of the 19th century there appeared about ten different Albanian newspapers in Romania, most of them intermittently or for a shorter period. One of the best-known papers is Shqipëtari-Albanezul, which appeared from August, 7, 1888. Like most other Albanian papers, it was bi- or trilingual. The first issues were in Albanian and Romanian, the later ones in Albanian, Romanian and French. It was published ’by a committee’, but was evidently directed by Nikolla Naço of the society ‘Drita’. It was relatively pro-Ottoman and markedly anti-Greek. This paper also contained contributions by poets, like Lono-Logori and Aleks Stavri (= Asdreni), one of the most renowned poets of the Albanian Renaissance. This newspaper was also read in Bulgaria, and praised by personalities like Jan Jarník in Prague or Gustav Weigand in Leipzig.
The facts presented here suggests that in the Albanian case Hrochs phases A and B partly coincided, and that nearly all intellectual and scientific activity in Albania and among Albanians abroad was connected with the development and propagation of national consciousness, and served goals like education in the Albanian language, or religious autonomy within different political frameworks. Phase B also expressed itself in the rise of various secret societies. Phase C appears rudimentarily during the revolt of 1821 in Romania, it manifests itself in various local revolts and military activity on a larger and smaller scale in Albania, and in political-cultural events like the foundation of the League of Prizren (1878) and the congress of Manastir (1908), where the modern Albanian alphabet – largely based on that of the Istanbul Society – was adopted. The developments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries culminated in the creation of independent Albania after the Second Balkan War.
The fact that hundreds of Albanians like Naum Veqilharxhi fought in the uprising of 1821, and that Veqilharxhi’s himself undertook most of his intellectual activities afterwards, suggests that, in fact, phase C covers the same period of time as the phases A and B, but that it took nearly ninety years for phase C to become the dominant one.
Iancovici’s article presents us a general picture of Albanian-Greek antagonism and symbiosis, in which Russian diplomacy sometimes played a markedly pro-Greek role. Notwithstanding all Greek resistance the Albanians had to face in their struggle for national and religious autonomy, the Greek language (and in the last decades of the 19th century also French) served as an indispensable means for the publication of works, and as a carrier of Albanian thought and ideals in such a way that they became accessible to a broader public. Authors like Jani Vreto, Panajot Kupitori and Konstantin Kristoforidhi published largely in Greek, and Anastas Kullurioti (1822-1887) started on 29 September a weekly newspaper named Η φωνή της Αλβανίας - The Voice of Albania.
Iancovici mentions several Vlach or Aromunian newspapers which appeared in Romania and informed the public on events in the largely common Albanian (notably Tosk) and Aromunian homeland. Among these newspapers are: Albina Pindului (The Pindus Bee), Românul din Pind, Gazeta Macedoniei, and Ecoul Macedoniei.
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The term Vlachs generally stands for the Aromunian (or Armân) communities in Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria and – as a group of émigrés – in Romania. Two related, smaller language communities are the Megleno-Romanians in Macedonia and Greece, and the Istro-Romanians (about 2.000 people today) in Slovenia and Croatia.
Bulgarians sometimes use Vlach, Vlaški for ‘Romanian’ or ‘Bulgarian with a Romanian element’. In Serbian, vlah also refers to Serbs who left for Romania in the 17th century, and their descendants who returned to Serbia, taking with them many elements of Romanian culture.
The Vlachs are firmly incorporated in the Balkan Sprachbund. According to Sandfeld, this Sprachbund was first mentioned in 1829 by Jernej Kopitar, who speaks of a single ‘Sprachform, aber mit dreyerlei Sprachmaterie’ i.e. Romanian-Slavic-Albanian (Greek was not mentioned).
There exist different theories concerning the exact relationship between a) the Vlach languages and Daco-Romanian, b) the original geographical distribution of Balkan Latin, and c) questions like the origin of Albanian-Romanian linguistic interaction, and they all have their own political implications. During the 1930’s, Van Wijk published an article where he explains the differences between the grammatical structure of Serbian on the one hand, and that of Bulgarian and Macedonian on the other, by the presence of a non-Slavic – Romance-speaking – population which separated both South Slavic language territories. Afterwards they should have moved northward to Walachia and Transylvania, leaving a gap which was filled by Slavs from Serbia and Macedonia. A summary of various opinions concerning the original geographical distribution of Balkan Latin (proto-Romanian) is found in Kaluskaja 1977, p. 173 ff..
Literature offers different etymologies for Vlach and Romanian words, and so it does for tribal and geographical names. Rom. and Arom. mare ‘big, large’ is viewed as a loan from Greek: μεγάλος, which contraction and rhotacism l > r (Ampatzi), or supposed to be related to Alb. i madh, with the same meaning (Kaluskaja 1977: 135). The first element of the name Kutsovlachs contains either the Turkish adjective küçük ‘small’ (for inhabitants of ‘Little Wallachia’ as opposed to those of ‘Greater Wallachia’ = (the Principalities), or the Greek adjective κουτσός ‘lame’.
The town [of Metsovo] is the great centre of the Kutzovlachs or Rumanian-speaking Vlachs; the prefix (which means 'halting') is sometimes explained as a reference to their speech and sometimes to the fact that, as a tribe, they are imperfectly nomadic.
A more detailed survey of the most important theories will be presented on another occasion.
It seems that the Vlachs, unlike the Albanians, did not inherit – or (re)invent – any memory of a glorious past or a national hero. Nor do they long for a mythical ‘heartland’ with green forests, meadows and pastures from where they were driven away long ago.
Because of their geographical distribution in a belt from Rome to Byzantium, the Vlachs are also mentioned in connection with the Via Egnatia. Along this important military road a relatively dense Latin-speaking population should have settled, while indigenous people was Romanized. (As an administrative language of the Byzantine Empire, Latin was still in use during the reign of Iustinianus (527-565), afterwards it was entirely replaced by Greek.)
The presence of Vlachs on the Balkan Peninsula is documented in several sources. Abadzi presents the following information: Wandering Vlachs were mentioned by the Byzantine Geórgios Kerdinós as the assassins of Tsar Samuil’s brother in 976 between Prespa and Kastoria. Veniamín Tountélis describes in 1173 how the Vlachs came down the hills in Thessaly, committed robberies and ‘knew no word of honour’. In 1183 the Vlachs of Thessaly stood up against the Byzantine Empire, and formed the βλαχοβοθλγαρικό κράτος των Ασανιδών, i.e. the Vlacho-Bulgarian (i.e. the Second Bulgarian) Empire under the dynasty of the Asenovci. Ιωάννης Ασάν / Ivan Asen appointed himself – in Latin – Imperator omnium Bulgarorum et Blachorum.
Vlach culture is often associated with pastoral life and transhumance. Their favourite permanent dwelling-places were situated in inclinations on the top of remote hills. The Vlachs were also known as skilful tradesmen. A centre of Vlach urban culture flourished in Gramostea between 1650 and 1700, and in Moschopolis.
The latter town, which harboured a printing shop and an Academy, was pillaged several times from 1769 and 1789, and lost almost all of its importance afterwards.
Evidently, these urban societies which were based upon trade, craftsmanship, the worshipping of some specific Saints, and a local, multilingual culture (shared with Greeks, Albanians and even Turks) lacked the military strength to defend itself and were doomed to disappear. In the opinion of Peyfuss, Moschopolis’ fate may be explained by the tendency to strengthen or restore the power of the central Turkish (governmental) and Greek (spiritual) authorities. It should be placed into one context with the abolition of the archbishoprics of Peć (1766) and Ochrid (1767).
Peyfuss stresses the contrast between central authority and local solidarity: as the ‘mportziledes’ (a kind of Mafioso outlaws or irregulars) attacked Moschopolis, the Ottoman büyükbaşı of Korça sent two hundred men to help the inhabitants of the endangered town.
A third town of importance was Metsovo, in Aromunian: Aminciu. According to Nandris, the town existed already in the 14th century. In 1854, it was destroyed twice, by both Greeks and Turks.
Literature speaks of a certain ‘re-pastoralization’ of the Vlachs after the loss of their principal urban centres. A number of Vlachs – many of them belonging to what should be considered the Vlach intelligentsia – moved northward, to Serbia or the Habsburg Empire, notably Vienna and Pest. One of those migrants was Gheorghe Roja (or Rosa) from Bitola, who settled in Timişoara. He is the author of a book entitled Untersuchungen über die Romanier oder sogenannten Vlachen, welche jenseits der Donau wohnen, Pest, 1908. Peyfuss gives a Greek title: Εξετάσεις. It was followed by Maiestria ghiovasirii romanesrti cu litere latinesti, care sânt literele romanilor ceale vechi, 1809, published by Roja (Rosa, Roza) under the pseudonym Valachus Moscopolitanus. Another outstanding figure was Mihail G. Boiagi or Μιχαήλ Μποιατζής who published in Vienna his Grammatica română sau macedo-română (mentioned by Peyfuss as Γραμματική ρουμανική ήτοι μακεδονοβλαχική reprinted in 1990 as Grammatica română ică macedonovlahă).
Other earlier printed works are the ακολουθία του μικρού αγιασμού (1816), and a Greek-Vlach evangelic – Ελληνοβλαχικό ευαγγέλιο (1822).
Abadzi states that Greeks and Vlachs peacefully lived together in the various émigré communities and societies in Vienna and Pest. Sometimes, however, there were tensions. In 1809 this resulted in a schism between the Greeks and Vlachs in Pest on the language which should be used for church services.
On the question of Vlach identity there exist different opinions. Ampadzi quotes a statement that Weigand made on the Vlachs: ‘Most of them don’t want to be considered Aromunians, but Greeks’.
Many Vlachs, indeed, tended to assimilate and a number of them played a major role in Greek history. Among them are Rhigas Velestinlis and the first Geek Prime Minister, Ioannis Kolettis:
The first prime-minister of Greece, Ioannis Colletis was a "Vlach of Sirakou", who on meeting the Romanian Foreign Secretary in Paris admitted that his parents back in Sirakou "speak at home only Vlach".
Many Albanians, too, dedicated themselves to the Greek cause, without giving up their language:
As Robert Liddell pointed out in his book about Morea, some of the Arvanite heroes of the Greek Revolution, such as the Admiral Koundouriotis, did not even speak passable Greek, and weren't bother to learn it throughout their lives.
Influential and nationalist Greeks sometimes had little – if any – respect for the Vlach language. One of them was Neophytos Doukás:
One of these influential – if malignant – figures disguised in teacher was a Phanariote, Neofit Douka, who in an appeal addressed to the Vlachs of Metsovo, was echoing the already in place racialist trend of a retarded linguistic intolerance. A sample of Neofit Douka at the best of his spite speaks for itself: "There we are Metsovian brothers, together with those who are fooling themselves with this sordid and vile Aromanain language, forgive me for calling it a... language".
After 1829, however, a number of Vlachs in present-day Macedonia and Thessaly presented a petition in which they asked Ottoman rule to be restored, as this guaranteed them maximal rights. And in 1906 they were granted a millet of their own.
During the colonels’ regime of 1967 – 1974, the Vlach language was forbidden in the Greek public sphere. Recently, Kostas Stefanopoulos addressed himself to the Vlachs which a speech which encouraged them too use their language freely and without constraint. Today, George Padioti, a native of Metsovo/Aminciu is the Secretary of the Society for Aromanian language and culture in Athens.
The Greek identity of the Vlachs is questioned by others. Brailsford writes:
They are not all organized in villages, as the other peoples of Macedonia. Each of the Bulgarian villages round Castoria, for example, has its four or five houses of Vlachs. They live apart, rarely intermarrying with Slavs, upheld by some tradition of an ancient superiority which teaches them to despise the newer races. If they are timid people they are also singularly tenacious. A family may be scattered between Romania and Thessaly, but they never cease to be Vlachs; and the women move about their Bulgarian neighbors, never abandoning their neat costumes of navy-blue, more suggestive of Norway than of Balkan. They are the inn-keepers and the carriers of Macedonia.
A similar opinion is displayed by Sir Arthur Evans:
The truth is that a large number of those described as Greeks are really Roumans. Till within recent years Hellenism found a fertile field for propaganda among the representatives of the gifted Romance speaking race of the Pindus region. Today Janina has quite forgotten its Rouman origin, and has become a center of Hellenism. Athens, the nearest civilized centre, offered natural attraction to the quick-witted mercantile element in the towns. But, for good or evil, the tide has turned. A counter-propaganda, of which Bukarest is the center, has made itself felt, and the Rouman civic element east of Pindus is probably lost to Hellenism, notwithstanding the fact that much money is expended by Greek committees in the endeavor to gain recruits for Greek nationality. Parents are actually paid to send their children to Greek schools. In 1859, the Principalities of Walachia and Moldavia were united under Alexandru Cuza. He was demised in 1866, the year that Carol von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen ascended to the new Romanian throne. The Romanian State soon showed a keen interest in the Vlachs. It is difficult to decide whether we are dealing here with sincere interest for the Vlach cause, or with a kind of ‘Pan-Romanism’ in the spirit of the emerging expansionist Pan-Slavist aspirations of Russia. At any rate, it resulted in the foundation of schools in the Vlach areas of present-day Albania, former Yugoslav Macedonia, and Northern Greece, including Thessaloniki. Just before the outbreak of the Balkan wars, there were 113 primary schools and 6 Lycées.
Contrary to the general opinion, the schools were well attended by pupils of most diverse social and ethnic backgrounds (many names of Sephardim Jewish girls of Monastir, whose mother Judeo-Spanish tongue (as a neo-Latin idiom) stood close to Romanian, were on the lists of pupils) and the curriculum extremely complex. Lately, even Greek researchers such as Vlassidis, to their merit, came to realize the seriousness of the Romanian presence in what is today Greece.
The majority of the teachers in these schools were Romanian-educated local Vlachs. Some others came from France or Turkey. A number of them and their pupils came to play a role in post-war Romanian social and political life. In Bucharest, a Macedo-Romanian Cultural Society was founded:
[The] Societatea Culturală Macedo-Română" ("The Macedo-Romanian Cultural Society"), had as its members (together with its Aromanian founding core represented by D.D. Cozacovici, Sideri, Goga, Grandea etc.) also the acting Prime and Foreign Ministers, as well as the Head of the Romanian Orthodox Church: Kogalniceanu, Ghica, Rosetti, the elite of the Romanian political class. The interest of the newly formed Romanian state towards the distant and scattered Vlach brethren was a purely idealistic and nostalgic one. There was not -at that time at least- hidden political agenda.. One could easily justify the fascination of the yet raw Romanian intelligentsia with their Aromanian "alter ego" counterparts...
Later on, Romania’s goals evidently were not so noble. In 1918, Romania got hold of the Southern Dobrogea (Dobruda in Bulgarian), in Romanian known as the Cadrilater ‘the Quadrangle’, with four small districts. In a way which remembers – unsuccessful – Turkish policy of the early 1920’s in the Kirkuk-Mosul area (where Turkmens were settled to prevent Iraq claiming the region), Romania invited Vlachs to settle in the Dobrogea. This had to add to the Romanian element at the expense of the Bulgarians. The Vlachs had been promised 50.000 drachmas and a piece of land. After arrival, however, they did not receive a penny, and they had to toil day and night to earn their living. What made matters still more complicated for them, was that Greece had agreed with their exodus on the condition that they would give up their Greek citizenship – a condition which was not imposed upon the émigrés to any other country.
The eagerness of the Greeks to let the Vlachs go and the administrative barriers put up in order to make their return as difficult as possible can be explained by the waves of Greek refugees (in 1923 and 1926) after the Great Catastrophe of 1922, who had to be housed on Greek soil.
After the conclusion of the Pact of Craiova and in accordance with the Vienna Dictate of 30 August, 1940, Romania had to return the Cadrilater to Bulgaria. Suddenly the Vlachs lost almost everything. They were forced to give up their Romanian nationality and conform to Bulgarian standards, or to leave the country – and so did many of them: to Romania. After 1947, the year of the Communist takeover, the Vlach newcomers, no more needed, even ran the risk of being imprisoned or locked up in concentration camps. If they wanted to leave, they had to leave some their relatives behind as hostages, and those who returned to Greece, were obliged to beg their relatives to pay the trip back. Abadzi’s sad conclusion is: ‘In 1930 their relatives in Greece considered them the lucky ones, but the last sixty years they only feel sad for them’.
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The material available suggests that during the historical past the Vlachs knew some periods of cultural, economic and political prosperity. An early onset of Hroch’s phase A can be observed in the Vlach and Vlach/Greek communities in Transylvania, Vienna and Pest in the early 19th century. This happened in an environment which was dominated by Central European and Greek culture. To a certain degree it also continued the ‘abortive’ developments which started in towns like Moschopolis and Gramostea. With the exception of some agitation, which continues until the present day, we may conclude that the scattered Vlach communities often tended to be Hellenized or – from the late 19th century – to be the object of Romanian aspirations. In present-day Greece, the Aromunian language is granted a certain status of its own. In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and in Albania, its status is marginal.
If we look at the Albanian intellectuals of the 19th century, we see that some of them sincerely worked for several national causes simultaneously, depending on religion, education and formal citizenship. I once more mention the Albanians who participated in the revolt of 1821 in Romania, and the Admiral Koundouriotis who took part in the Greek Revolution. And in the second half of the 19th century a figure like Sami Frashëri was active within both the Ottoman and Albanian contexts. He worked on educational reforms in the Ottoman Empire, published a great deal of his works in Ottoman and became known as Sami bey or Şemseddin Sami. As we have seen, however, such cases of ‘double solidarity’ did not prevent the development of Albanian national consciousness to take full swing: intellectually, politically and, if necessary: militarily.
The Vlachs often committed themselves to the causes of other peoples. Some of them played a role in the Greek struggle for freedom and in Greek political life. After 1860 Romania became interested in the Vlachs and tried to introduce a Romanian-oriented feeling of identity. There appeared Romania-based Vlach newspapers, and Romanian schools were set up in present-day Greece and Albania. One could speak of a Vlach stage B, induced by Romanian policy.
When the two Balkan wars and the First World War were over and the new frontiers between Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania and Bulgaria had been drawn, Romanian education on foreign soil was gradually put to an and. And the Vlachs were never permitted to enter stage C or to build a country of their own. They were to remain a scattered people, partly adapting to the nation-state the live in, partly remaining or becoming conscious of a Vlach identity.
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Literature and Internet sources
Abadzi, Eleni – Αμπατζή, Ελένη – Οι Βλάχοι της Ελλάδας και η Παρεξηγημένη Ιστορία τους. Internet – at www.vlachophiles.net.
Brailsford, Henry Noel Macedonia : its races and their future, London 1906.
Capidan: Aromanii - Dialectul Aroman, 1932.
Elsie, Robert History of Albanian Literature vol. I, Social Science Monographs, Boulder – Columbia University Press, New York 1995, p. 156 ff. and 170-171.
Evans, Sir Arthur Open letter to The Times, October 1st, 1903.
Glenny, Misha The Balkans 1804-1999. Nationalism, war and the Great Powers, London 1999.
Iancovici. Relations roumano-albanaises à l’époque de la renaissance et de l‘émancipation du peuple albanais, I en II. Révue des études sud-est européennes, IX, 2, p. 5-48 and 225-248, Bucharest 1971.
Haebler, Claus : Der Weg des Albanischen zur Nationalsprache, in : Sprachen und Nationen im Balkanraum, p. 77-100. Wenen 1987.
Iorga, N. Albania şi România, Vălenii de Munte, 1915.
Kaluskaja, N.A. Problema avtoxtonnzyx elementov rumynskogo jazyka in: Slavjanskoe i balkanskoe jazykoznanie – Antičnaja i sravnitel’naja grammatika, Moscow 1977, 130-145.
Liddell, Robert Mainland Greece.
Liddell, Robert The Morea, London, 1958
Maksutovici, Cristia – Albanians in Romania, A Brief History, excerpted from the Albanian Catholic Bulletin by the Internet site Frosina.
Nandris, John The Aromani in: Ethnoarchaeology – World Archaeology vol. 17, 2, October 1985.
M. Nicolae De la Aidemir la Almalau, on www.vlachophiles.net /aidemir.htm - 7k
Peyfuss, Max Demeter, The printing shop of Moschopolis, in: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Moschopolis, Thessaloniki October 31 – November 1 1996, p. 199-206.
Norwich, John Julius A hort history of Byzantium, London, 1998.
Weigand, Gustav Die Aromunen: Ethnographische, Philologische, Historische Untersuchungen. Leipzig: Johann Ambrosius Barth, 1895.
Winnifrith, Tom The Vlachs - Duckworth Press, London, 1992.
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