History of Aromanians (Vlachs) in the Balkans and their life with Slavs

AdinaVoicu (CC0), Pixabay

The Aromanians are an ethnic group native to the southern Balkans, traditionally living in northern and central Greece, central and southern Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, and south-western Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia.


There are many theories regarding their origins. The main theories describe them as: descendants of the Romanized Thracians or Roman colonists and soldiers, who would receive agricultural lands as payments for their services.

The Aromanians or Vlachs first appear in medieval Byzantine sources in the 11th century, in the Strategikon of Kekaumenos and Anna Komnene’s Alexiad, in the area of Thessal.

The term Aromanian derives directly from the Latin Romanus, meaning Roman citizen. Aromanian, also known as Macedo-Romanian or Vlach, is an Eastern Romance language spoken in Southeastern Europe.

A distinct Aromanian consciousness was influenced by the rise of other national movements in the Balkans. The establishment of a national consciousness, however, was hampered by the tendency of the Aromanian upper classes to be absorbed in the dominant surrounding ethnicities, and espouse their respective national causes as their own. They often identified with the host nations so much that Balkan national historiographies portray the Aromanians as the “best Albanians”, “best Greeks” and “best Bulgarians”, leading to researchers calling them the “chameleons of the Balkans”.

Many Aromanians played a prominent role in the modern history of the Balkan nations: Pitu Guli, also known as “Peter the Vlach” (Macedonian revolutionary), Ioannis Kolettis (Prime minister of Greece), Georgios Averoff (Greek magnate), Evangelos Averoff (Defence Minister of Greece), Nikola Pašić (Prime minister of Serbia), Vladan Đorđević (Prime minister of Serbia), Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople, Andrei Şaguna, (Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan of Transylvania and Romanian patriot), the Ghica family (Wallachian and Moldavian voivodes and Romanian Prime Ministers), etc.

In modern times, Aromanians generally have adopted the dominant national culture, often with a dual identity as both Aromanian and Greek/Albanian/Bulgarian/Macedonian/Serbian etc.

The term “Vlach” is sometimes used interchangeably with other groups in some regions in the Balkans, not necessarily referring to Aromanians.

There are also many Aromanians who identify themselves as solely Aromanian, even, as in the case of the “Cincars”, when they no longer speak the language.

In Albania

There is a large Aromanian community in Albania, which is also called Vlach Community, specifically in the southern and central regions of the country. Various scholars placed the number of Albanian Aromanians at up to 200,000.

In Macedonia

There are 9,695 Aromanians or Vlachs, as they are officially called in the Republic of Macedonia. According to the census of 1994 there were 8,467 Aromanians in Macedonia. Aromanians are recognized as an ethnic minority, and are hence represented in Parliament and enjoy ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious rights and the right to education in their language.

In Romania

There are currently between 50,000 and 100,000 Aromanians in Romania, most of which are concentrated in Dobruja. According to the Union for Aromanian Language and Culture there are some 100,000 Aromanians in Romania, and they are often called Makidon.

In Bulgaria

Most Aromanians in Bulgaria originate from Gramos Mountains, with some from Macedonia, Pindus Mountains and Moscopole. According to the 2011 official census, there are 3,684 Aromanians in Bulgaria.

In Serbia

The Aromanians, known as Cincari, migrated to Serbia in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The majority of Serbian people of Aromanian descent do not speak Aromanian and espouse a Serb identity. According to the 2011 census, there were 243 Serbian citizens that identified as Cincari.

In addition to Cincari, other Vlach subgroups are:

  • Ungureni
  • Bufani
  • Carani

In Croatia

The first mention of the term Morlachs is simultaneous with the appearance of Vlachs in the documents of Croatia in the early 14th century; in 1321, a local priest on the island of Krk granted land to the church (“to the lands of Kneže, which are called Vlach”), while in 1322 Vlachs were allied with Mladen Šubić at the battle in the hinterland of Trogir. Morlachs lived on the Island of Krk from where they migrated to Istria, where they still live today and are known as Istro-Romanians (also called Ćiribirci, Ćići, and Vlahi by the local population).

There are many Vlach subgroups in the Balkans:

Cincari (Tsintsars)
Faršerioti (Arbanitovlasi)
Karaguns (Karagunides)
Karakačani (Sarakatsani)
Kucovlasi – a subgroup of Karaguns
Meglenites (Moglenite Vlachs)
Morlachs (Morovlasi, Mavrovlasi)
–subgroup: Ćići, Istro-Romanians
– Vlachs (Serbia) – Bufani

Here are some notable Aromanians:

1.Toše Proeski

Toše Proeski, one of the most notable Balkan singers and celebrities was an Aromanian, more specifically, a Tsintsar. The ancestors of the late Macedonian singer were originally named Proja, but the family name was changed to a more Macedonian-sounding Proeski.

2. Kaliopi Bukle

Kaliopi is a Macedonian singer-songwriter born to an Aromanian father. She is an established vocalist and composer working across former Yugoslavia. She represented Macedonia twice in the Eurovision Song Contest, first in 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan with “Crno i belo” and a second time in 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden with the song “Dona”.

3. Elena Gheorghe

Elena Gheorghe is a Romanian singer born into an Aromanian family. Past member of the group Mandinga, she represented Romania in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 with the song “The Balkan Girls”.

4. Simona Halep

Simona is a very successful Romanian professional tennis player born to an Aromanian family. Halep has been the most clicked player on for two consecutive years (2014–2015), when she was awarded the WTA Most Popular Player of the Year prize.

5. Yanaki and Milton Manaki

The Manaki brothers were photography and cinema pioneers who brought the first film camera and creating the first motion pictures on the Balkan Peninsula and in the Ottoman Empire. The National Archive of the Republic of Macedonia preserves more than 17,000 photos and over 2000 meters of movie film frоm the brothers Manaki. In their honor, the Manaki Brothers Film Festival is held every year.

6. Jovan Karamata

Jovan Karamata was one of the greatest Serbian mathematicians of the 20th century. He is remembered for contributions to analysis, in particular, the Tauberian theory and the theory of slowly varying functions. Karamata was one of the founders of the Mathematical Institute of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1946.


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