The Balkan region – Besides the standard Balkan nationalities you’ve probably heard of (Croatian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Bulgarian and so on), there are a lot of ethnic minorities in the Balkans with diverse culture and most unusual customs.
1. Gorani people
The Goranci (meaning “highlanders”) or Gorani are a Slavic Muslim ethnic group inhabiting the Gora region – the triangle between Kosovo, Albania, and the Republic of Macedonia. They speak a transitional South Slavic dialect, called Našinski (simply meaning ‘ours’).They have been claimed by Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Macedonians and Serbs but the general view is that they should be treated as a distinct minority group, which is their own view of themselves.
Pomaks is a term used for Slavic Muslims inhabiting Bulgaria, northeastern Greece and northwestern Turkey, and Macedonia. Pomaks are today usually considered descendants of native Bulgarians who converted to Islam during the Ottoman rule of the Balkans.
Population: 1 million
The Janjevci declare themselves as ethnic Croats. It is believed that the community descends from migrating merchants from the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik and its hinterland), western Bosnia and Herzegovina, who settled the area in the 14th century, when modern-day Kosovo was part of medieval Serbia. They speak the Prizren-South Morava sub-dialect of the Shtokavian dialect.
Mijaks are an ethnographic group of ethnic Macedonians who live in the Mijačija area along the Radika river, in western Macedonia. The Mijaks practise predominantly animal husbandry, and are known for their ecclesiastical architecture, woodworking, icon painting, and other rich traditions, as well as their characteristic Galičnik dialect of the Macedonian language.
5. Pannonian Rusyns
Rusyns in Pannonia, or simply Rusyns or Ruthenians are a Slavic minority in Serbia and Croatia. They are officially considered a separate nationality in Serbia and Croatia. They are also considered to be a part of the northern Rusyns (Ruthenians) who live mostly in Ukraine and in Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, and Hungary. Pannonian Rusyns consider their version of Rusyn to be a distinct language.
6. Bosnian Poles
Poles are one of 17 constitutionally recognized ethnic minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They arrived during the Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina and settled mostly in the north of Bosnia proper, bringing new technology and skilled manpower. Bosnian Poles who emigrated to Poland and their descendants have held onto certain aspects of Bosnian culture, such as certain songs, recipes and language. While the population in 1930’s was recorded to be 30,000 and around 15,000 at the end of World War II, today it is less than a 1000.
Šokci are an ethnographic group of South Slavs mainly identified as Croats. The Šokci speak an old-Shtokavian Slavonian sub-dialect that is almost exclusively spoken by Šokci and closely related to Bunjevac dialect. They live in Croatia, Serbia and Hungary. Unlike Bunjevci, the other Catholic Slavic group from the same area, in the modern days, Šokci mostly declare themselves as Croats rather than a separate group, so their correct number is unknown.
Bunjevci are an ethnic group living mostly in the Bačka region of Serbia (province of Vojvodina) and southern Hungary (Bács-Kiskun county, particularly in the Baja region). They presumably originate from western Herzegovina, from where they migrated to Dalmatia, and from there to Lika and Bačka in the 16th and 17th century. Bunjevac nationality was officially recognized as a minority group in Serbia in 1990. Bunjevci in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, as well as those in Croatia most often declare themselves as Croats.
Population: 18,000 (Serbia and Hungary)
Torbeshi are a minority religious group within the community of ethnic Macedonians who are Muslims. They have been culturally distinct from the majority Orthodox Christian Macedonian community for centuries. Torbeshi are well known as fresco-painters, wood carvers and mosaic-makers.