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Map of Istro-Romanian-speaking villages, made by Puşcariu in 1926.
Note that the Istro-Romanian speaking area was under Italian rule at that time.

Istro-Romanians (ethnonym: Vlaşi, also proper: Rumâri and Rumêri; called Ćiribiri / Ćići by the local Slavic population and Istrian Vlachs by linguists) are an ethnic group living in northeastern Istriamarker, Croatiamarker with an ethnic population of 1,200 , but with 170 acknowledged speakers of the Istro-Romanian language in 1998, including 27 children.


Some linguists believe that the Istro-Romanians migrated to their present location about 600 years ago from Transylvania, after the Black Death depopulated Istriamarker. Some loan words also suggest that before reaching Istria, Istro-Romanians lived for a longer period of time in Dalmatia near the Cetina river. Another theory - by no means the only other theory - is that they came from Serbiamarker. However, it is unquestionable that Istro-Romanian split from Daco-Romanian later than the other Eastern Romance languages (Aromanian and Megleno-Romanian), and thus the Serbian theory loses some credibility. This of course would hinge on definitions of such terms as "Serbia", since there are many Daco-Romanian speakers in modern Serbia (see Romanians of Serbia).

The Transylvanian connection is emphasized by linguists, but more importantly, is alive in the memory of some of the Rumeri themselves who break themselves into two distinct groups - the cici or cicci surrounding the Mune and Žejane area and the vlahi of the southern Šušnjevica region. Interestingly enough, Iosif Popovici entitled his book Dialectele române din Istria (Halle, 1909) - that is, "The Dialects..." not "The Dialect..." - indirectly suggesting there were several types of Istro-Romanian dialects in Istria.

Regions inhabited by vlachs.
Istroromanians in yellow.

Insofar as Romanian linguists themselves are concerned, opinions are divided: Prof. Dr. Iosif Popovici (1876-1928), who had travelled extensively in Istria, endorsed the theory the Istro-Romanians were natives of Ţara Moţilor (Western Transylvania) who "descended" sometimes during the Middle Ages into Istria. ("Dialectele române din Istria", I, Halle a.d.S., 1914, p. 122 and following). This opinion was shared by Ovid Densusianu (1873-1938) (a Romanian folklorist, philologist, and poet who introduced trends of European modernism into Romanian literature, and therefore not a recognized linguistic authority) stated that Istro-Romanians were not native to Istria (Histoire de la langue roumaine, I, p. 337): "Un premier fait que nous devons mettre en evidence, c'est que l'istro-roumain n'a pu se développer à l'origine là où nous le trouvons aujourd'hui".

The first historical record of Romanians in Istria (not necessarily the "Cici", and possibly the "Morlacchi") dates back to 1329, when Serbian chronicles mention that a Vlach population was living in the area, although there was an earlier mention from the 12th century of a leader in Istria called Radul which may have been a Romanian name.

The dialectologist and phonologist Pavle Ivić cited the hypothesis that at the beginning of the Middle Ages a sizeable Roman population inhabited all the Balkans, from west to east, across the former Yugoslavia.

In the 15th century, a very similar population of these Rumeri from the near mainland was settled by Frangipani princes (noted in their chronicles) in northernmost Krkmarker island, villages Poljica and Dubašnica at actual Makarska. In the mid-19th century they were gradually assimilated, and only some of their toponyms and plant names persist; also their Paternoster (Cace nostru) (prononciation: cheeachey')was noted there.

After World War II, many Istro-Romanians left their lands due to the situation around the incoming Tito regime, as did many other Istrian refugees throughout the peninsula, some remaining in Italy while others emigrated to other countries of Europe and throughout the world. Those who stayed under Yugoslav rule underwent forced assimilation just as they had under Italy's rule. The Italian writer and historian Giuseppe Lazzarini singularly believes that there are more than 5000 Istro-Romanian descendants in Istriamarker, but most of them identify themselves (1991 Census: 811 Istro-Romanians) with other ethnic groups. Lazzarini believes that the Istro-Romanians are the descendants of the Roman legionaries (brought in by Augustus to eastern Istriamarker to colonize the borders of Italymarker) and Aromanian shepherds, who escaped the Ottoman invasions and moved to a plague depopulated Istriamarker in the 15th century. Linguists and other historians, however, do not concur with this theory in as much as the Aromanian and Istro-Romanian languages are historically distinguishable from each other.

Also, unlike most of other Romanian speakers, who are Eastern Orthodox, the Istro-Romanians were and are Roman Catholic, likewise pointing to a different migratory evolution.[386185] Recently a detailed monograph on Istro-Romanians, their population, culture, glossary, grammar, texts, and exhaustive bibliography was published by A. Kovačec in 1998 (see references below).

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See also


  • Feresini, Nerina: Il Comune istro-romeno di Valdarsa. Edizioni Italo Svevo. Trieste: 1996
  • Kovačec, August: Istrorumunjsko-hrvatski rječnik s gramatikom i tekstovima (Glosar Istroroman-Croat cu gramatica si texte). Verba moritura vol. I, 378 p. Mediteran, Pula 1998
  • Tekavčić, Pavao: Due voci romene in un dialetto serbo-croato dell'Isola di Veglia (Krk). Studia Romanica 7: 35-38, Zagreb 1959

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