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Vlachs or Walachians ( or ) is a blanket term covering several modern Latin peoples descending from the Latinised population in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. English variations on the name include: Vallachians, Wallachians, Wlachs, Wallachs, Vlahs, Olahs or Ulahs; Groups that have historically been called Vlachs include: modern-day Romanians or Daco-Romanians, Aromanians, Morlachs, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians. Since the creation of the Romanianmarker state, the term in English has mostly been used for those living outside Romania.
Branches of Vlachs/Romanians and their territories
The term Vlach is originally an exonym. All the Vlach groups used various words derived from romanus to refer to themselves: Români, Rumâni, Rumâri, Aromâni, Arumâni etc. (note: the Megleno-Romanians nowadays call themselves "Vlaşi", but historically called themselves "Rămâni"; The Istro-Romanians also have adopted the names Vlaşi, but still use Rumâni and Rumâri to refer to themselves).

The Vlachs are generally considered descendants of Romanised indigenous ancient(Paleo-Balkanic) peoples such as the Thracians (incl. Dacians) and Illyrians, as well as other populations of the Balkans such as Greeks (Hellenes and Greco-Romans).

The Vlach languages, also called the Eastern Romance languages, have a common origin from the Proto-Romanian language. Over the centuries, the Vlachs split into various Vlach groups (see Romania in the Dark Ages) and mixed with neighbouring populations: Slavs, Greeks, Albanians, Cumans, and others.

Almost all modern nations in Central and Southeastern Europe have native Vlach minorities: Hungarymarker, Ukrainemarker, Serbiamarker, Croatiamarker, Macedoniamarker, Albaniamarker, Bosniamarker, Greecemarker and Bulgariamarker. In other countries, the native Vlach population have been completely assimilated by the Slavic population and therefore ceased to exist: Polandmarker, Czech Republicmarker, Slovakiamarker and Montenegromarker. Only in Romaniamarker and the Republic of Eastern Moldovamarker, the Vlach (Dacoromanian or Romanian proper) population consist an ethnic majority today.


The word Vlach is ultimately of Germanic origin, from the word Walha, a name used by ancient Germanic peoples to refer to (mainly) Romance-speaking neighbours. As such, it shares its history with several ethnic names all across Europe, including the Welsh and Walloons. Slavic people initially used the name Vlachs when referring to Romanic people in general. Later on, the meaning became narrower or just different. For example Italymarker is called Włochy in Polish, and Olaszország ("Olasz country") in Hungarian. In the Old English poem Widsith, the Romans are referred to as Romwalas.

Through history, the term "Vlach" was often used for groups which were not ethnically Vlachs, often pejoratively - for example for any shepherding community, or for Christians by Muslims (Karadjaovalides). In the Croatian region of Dalmatia, Vlaj/Vlah (sing.) and Vlaji/Vlasi (plural) are the terms used by the inhabitants of coastal towns for the people who live inland or pejoratively: barbarians who came from the mountain. In Greecemarker, the word Βλάχος (Vláhos) is often used as a slur against any supposedly uncouth or uncultured person, but literally it simply means countryperson and is often used as a synonym for Χωριάτης (Choriátis) which means villager.

Territories with Vlach population

Besides the separation of some groups (Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians) during the Age of Migration, many other vlachs could be found all over the Balkans, as far north as Polandmarker and as far west as the regions of Moravia (part of the modern Czech Republicmarker), and the present-day Croatiamarker where the Morlachs gradually disappeared, while the Catholic and Orthodox Vlachs took Croat and Serb national identity. They reached these regions in search of better pastures, and were called "Wallachians" ("Vlasi; Valaši") by the Slavic peoples.

Statal Entities:



Map of Balkans with regions inhabited by Vlachs/Romanians highlighted


Vlachs have a similar genetic structure compared to other southeastern Europeans. Population genetics analyses have demonstrated significant molecular variance among different Vlach groups, suggesting that they do not constitute a homogeneous group. Instead, most of the tested Vlach groups were genetically similar to their Greek and Slavic-speaking neighbours.

Bosch et al. attempted to analyze whether Vlachs are the descendents of Latinized Dacians, Illyrians, Thracians, Greeks, or a combination of the above. No hypothesis could be proven due to the high degree of underlying genetic similarity possessed by all the tested Balkan groups. The linguistic and cultural differences among various Balkan groups were thus deemed to be have not been strong enough to prevent significant gene flow among the above groups. Bosch et al. did, however, conclude that there was no significant external genetic input from Italy.


Many Vlachs were shepherds in the medieval times, driving their sheep through the mountains of Southeastern Europe. The Vlach shepherds reached as far as Southern Polandmarker and Moravia in the North (by following the Carpathian range), Dinaric Alps in West, the Pindusmarker mountains in South, and as far as the Caucasus Mountainsmarker in the east .

In many of these areas, the descendants of the Vlachs have lost their language, but their legacy still lives today in cultural influences: customs, folklore and the way of life of the mountain people, as well as in the place names of Romanian or Aromanian origin that are spread all across the region.

Another part of the Vlachs, especially those in the northern parts, in Romania and Moldova, were traditional farmers growing cereals. Linguists believe that the large vocabulary of Latin words related to agriculture shows that they have always been a farming Vlach population.Just like the language, the cultural links between the Northern Vlachs (Romanians) and Southern Vlachs (Aromanians) were broken by the 10th century, and since then, there were different cultural influences:

  • Romanian culture was influenced by neighbouring people such as Slavs and later on Hungarians, and developed itself to what it is today. The 19th century saw an important opening toward Western Europe and cultural ties with France.

  • Aromanian culture developed initially as a pastoral culture, later to be greatly influenced by the Byzantine and Greek culture.


The religion of the Vlachs is predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but there are some regions where they are Catholics and Protestants (mainly in Transylvania) and a few are even Muslims (around 500 Megleno-Romanians from Greece who converted to Islam and have been living in Turkeymarker since the 1923 exchange of populations).


The first record of a Balkan Romanic presence in the Byzantine period can be found in the writings of Procopius, in the 5th century. The writings mention forts with names such as Skeptekasas (Seven Houses), Burgulatu (Broad City), Loupofantana (Wolf's Well) and Gemellomountes (Twin Mountains). A Byzantine chronicle of 586 about an incursion against the Avars in the eastern Balkans may contain one of the earliest references to Vlachs. The account states that when the baggage carried by a mule slipped, the muleteer shouted, "Torna, torna, fratre!" ("Return, return, brother!"). However the account might just be a recording of one of the last appearances of Latin (Vulgar Latin).

Blachernaemarker, the suburb of Constantinoplemarker, was named after a certain Duke from Scythia named "Blachernos". His name may be linked with the name "Blachs" (Vlachs).

In the 10th century, the Hungarians arrived in the Pannonian plain, and, according to the Gesta Hungarorum written by an anonymous chancellor of King Bela III of Hungary, the plain was inhabited by Slavs, Bulgars, Vlachs or pastores Romanorum (shepherds of the Romans) (in original: sclauij, Bulgarij et Blachij, ac pastores romanorum). However, the chronicle was written around 1146. In the 12-14th century they came under the Kingdom of Hungary, the Byzantine Empire and the Golden Horde.

In 1185, two noble brothers from Tarnovomarker named Peter and Asen led a Bulgarian revolt against Byzantine Greek rule and declared Tsar Peter II (also known as Theodore Peter) as king of the reborn state. The following year, the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgariamarker's independence and the Second Bulgarian Empire was established. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgarians, Greeks, and Vlachs" (see Vlach-Bulgar Rebellion), though the reference to Vlachs in the style fell out by the early 13th century.

See also

Further reading

  • Theodor Capidan, Aromânii, dialectul aromân. Studiul lingvistic ("Aromanians, Aromanian dialect, Linguistic Study"), Bucharest, 1932
  • Victor A. Friedman, "The Vlah Minority in Macedonia: Language, Identity, Dialectology, and Standardization" in Selected Papers in Slavic, Balkan, and Balkan Studies, ed. Juhani Nuoluoto, et al. Slavica Helsingiensa:21, Helsinki: University of Helsinki. 2001. 26-50. full text Though focussed on the Vlachs of Macedonia, has in-depth discussion of many topics, including the origins of the Vlachs, their status as a minority in various countries, their political use in various contexts, and so on.
  • Asterios I. Koukoudis, The Vlachs: Metropolis and Diaspora, 2003, ISBN 960-7760-86-7
  • George Murnu, Istoria românilor din Pind, Vlahia Mare 980-1259 ("History of the Romanians of the Pindus, Greater Vlachia, 980-1259"), Bucharest, 1913

External links


  1. Badlands-Borderland: A History of Southern Albania/Northern Epirus [ILLUSTRATED] (Hardcover) by T.J. Winnifruth,ISBN 0715632019,2003,page 44,"Romanized Illyrians, the ancestors of the modern Vlachs"
  2. E Bosch et al. Paternal and maternal lineages in the Balkans show a homogeneous landscape over linguistic barriers, except for the isolated Aromuns. Annals of Human Genetics, Volume 70, Issue 4 (p 459-487)
  3. Silviu Dragomir: "Vlahii din nordul peninsulei Balcanice în evul mediu"; 1959, p. 172;
  4. Mircea Muşat, Ion Ardeleanu-From ancient Dacia to modern Romania, p.114

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