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0 Arumanians (Vlahs). The Other Macedonians

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Arumanians (Vlahs). The Other Macedonians

Origin of the Arumanians

The Thracians and the Illyrians were the original inhabitants of Macedonia. The ancient Macedonians of Alexander the Great are thought to have been a Thracian or Illyrian tribe. But the ethnographic picture of Macedonia was to change following the Roman conquest of Macedonia in 146 BC [1]. Naturally Roman soldiers, administrators and colonists settled in Macedonia. The native Thracian and Illyrian tribes had to learn Latin to communicate with the Roman functionaries and colonists. In the course of time, Latin became more and more the language of communication, and the ancient Thracian and Illyrian languages were forgotten. However the Thracian and Illyrian languages left their imprint on the language of the Vlahs. The Rumanian language (including its Arumanian dialects) is a Romance language like Italian and French, but the structure of Rumanian is quite different than that of French or Italian. These differences are thought to be due to Thracian and Illyrian influences. These Romanized Thracians and Illyrians as well as the Roman colonists and soldiers with whom they intermarried are the ancestors of the Arumanians (Vlahs) of Macedonia and Epirus.

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Distribution of the ArumaniansArumanian villages are scattered throughout Western Macedonia, and even in certain spots in Eastern Macedonia. There are only two areas in Macedonia where there is a large concentration of Arumanians. The first is a large group of villages high upon the slopes of the Pindus Mountains, which form the border between Southwestern Macedonia and Epirus. The Pindus mountain seem to have been the original home of the Arumanians. Many Arumanian villages throughout Macedonia are a result of emigration from the Pindus Region. Historically, the the most important of the Pindus villages in Macedonia were Samarina and Avdela. The second large concentration of Vlahs is in Meglen, a hilly district located between Edessa,Greece and Ghevgheli in Macedonia. The Meglen group consists of 11 villages of which L'umnitsa (today Skra, Greece) is the largest. These Vlahs differ in many ways from their brethren in the Pindus region. First of all, the Meglen Vlahs do no refer to themselves as Arumanians, but use the term "Vlah". Second, the dialect of the Meglen Vlahs differ from Pindus Arumanian, the Meglen dialect being in certain respects closer to the Rumanian of Rumania. Of the other Arumanian settlements in Macedonia, we should mention the following:

Klissoura is a small town situated in the mountains east of Kastoria, Greece.
Pissoderi was a thriving settlement situated at the top of mountain pass west of Florina (Greece).
There are 5 Arumanian villages near Bitola, the most important of which are Gopesh and Malovishta. In addition, there is a large Arumanian population in Bitola itself.

The most important northerly settlement of Vlahs is the town of Kroushevo, which also contains a large Bulgarian population [2].

Early History of the ArumaniansWhen the Slavs migrated en mass into Macedonia in the 6th and 7th centuries the Latin-speaking native population fled to the hills. In the safety of the rugged Pindus range, they lived as shepherds, largely unnoticed for several centuries. The term "Vlah" is first mentioned in the late 10th century when the Byzantine chronicler Cedrenus noted that David, brother of King Samuel of Bulgaria was killed by certain wandering Vlahs in 976 AD between Kastoria and Prespa, at a spot called Fair Oaks [3].

After the Byzantine conquest of Macedonia 1018 AD. Vlahs were placed under the care of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid [4]. The Arumanians were so numerous in the Middle Ages that Thessaly and southern Macedonia were known as Great Vlahia [5]. The Jewish Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, who travelled in the about about 1160 AD has left us some interesting notes about the Vlahs:

They are as nimble as deer and descend from their mountains into the plains of Greece committing robberies and making booty...Whenever they meet an Israelite they rob, but never kill him as they do the Greeks [6]. In the late 13th and early 14th centuries Great Vlahia managed to become an independent state for a short while. But in 1308 AD Great Vlahia ceased to exist as an independent state, and was divided between the Catalans and the Emperor of Constantinople [7].

After a short period of Serbian rule, the Pindus region of Macedonia fell under Turkish rule in the late 14th century. Like the other Orthodox Christians of the Balkans, the Arumanians were made second class citizens by the Turks and many suffered and were even martyred for their Orthodox faith. One such Arumanian martyr is Dimitry of Samarina, whose martyrdom the church marks of August 17 (August 30 new style). In the 18th centuries, three prosperous Arumanian settlements flourished: Linotopi in Macedonia and Nikolitsa and Maskopole in Albania. In the 18th century, however, the three towns were sacked by Albanian marauders and their inhabitants fled to all corners of Macedonia where they founded new Arumanian settlements such as Magarevo and Turnovo near Bitola, and the town of Kroushevo [8].

The Arumanian AwakeningLike the Bulgarians of the Balkans, the Arumanians were also subjected to a policy of Grecianization by the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople. And indeed, the Greek clergy had some success among the Arumanians. But other Arumanians wanted to preserve their language, customs and culture, and as might be expected there was a strong reaction against this policy of Hellenization. The greatest figure during the Arumanian awakening was Apostol Margarit, a native of the village of Avdela, on the slopes of the Pindus mountains. As early as 1862, Apostol Margarit introduced the vernacular in the school of the large prosperous Arumanian town Klissoura, in the Kastoria region. Nicepheros, the Greek bishop of Kastoria tried for many years to close down the school, but without success [9].

By 1874, 7 Arumanian schools existed in Macedonia--at Klissoura, Kroushevo, at Nizhopole and Gopesh near Bitola, at Ohrid, at old Avdela in the Pindus mountains and new Avdela near Ber [10]. Soon other schools were founded and a Rumanian high school was established in Bitola in the 1880's. The Greeks were naturally alarmed by the awakening Rumanian consciousness of the Vlahs. In December, 1879, the first unsuccessful attempt on the life of Apostol Margarit took place. Margarit was wounded during a second attempt on his life during December of 1890. In 1880 a Greek terrorist band attacked the villages of Malovishta and Gopesh near Bitola because the village priests had committed the unpardonable sin of using Rumanian in the church services. In the same year the Greek bishop of Kastoria had the schoolmaster in Klissoura arrested because he taught in the Vlahs'native language [11].

The Arumanians of Macedonia continued to endure such obstructions perpetuated by the Greeks throughout the 1890's and early 1900's. Because there were no Rumanian bishops in Macedonia, many Vlahs placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the Bulgarian Exarch, who allowed them to use Rumanian in the church services. Contrary to the laws of Orthodoxy, the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople issued a circular letter in March of 1904, in which he forbad the use of Rumanian in church services [12].

A momentous date in the history of the Rumanians of Macedonia was May 23, 1905, when the Sultan issued a decree officially recognizing the Vlahs and affirming their rights to maintain their schools and churches. Following the proclamation of the decree, the Greek bishops, and the terrorist bands they supported, unleashed a campaign of terror on the Arumanians to discourage the Vlahs from taking advantage of their rights. On October 27, 1905, a Greek terrorist attacked the village of Avdela, birthplace of Apostol Margarit, and razed it to the ground. In 1905, the Vlah abbot of the Holy Archangel monastery in the Meglen region was murdered by a Greek band. In the summer of 1905 the villages of Magarevo and Turnovo near Bitola were attacked [13]. In 1906, in the town of Ber, the priest Papanace was murdered as he was on his way to church to serve the Divine Liturgy [14]. The list of atrocities perpetrated against the Vlahs goes on and on, but the worst was yet to come. When Macedonia was conquered and divided in 1913, all the Rumanian schools were closed. Today, the Vlahs do not even have the right to have church services in their native language, and like their Bulgarian neighbours, are subject to a vigorous policy of assimilation.

Arumanian Contribution to the Macedonian Liberation MovementIn 1893 a revolutionary organization was formed in Salonika, whose avowed purpose was the autonomy of Macedonia and Thrace. This organization, which later came to be known as the Internal Macedono-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) tried to involve all ethnic groups in Macedonia. After the Bulgarians, it was the Arumanians of Macedonia who contributed the most to the liberation movement. There were not only fine fighting men, but several of IMRO's most illustrious commanders (voyvodi) were Arumanians. The legendary voyvoda Mitre Vlaho particularly distinguished himself in the Kastoria region during the Ilinden Insurrection of 1903. After the Ilinden Uprising was crushed Mitre refused to abandon Macedonia, and continued to fight until his tragic death in 1907. The celebrated Pito Gouli was commander of the revolutionary groups in the Kroushevo region. When the Arumanian towns of Klissoura, Neveska (today Nimfeo, Greece) and Kroushevo were freed during Ilinden, the Vlahs welcomes the freedom fighters with spontaneous unrestrained cheers. When the Kroushevo Republic was proclaimed, its first president, Vangel Dinou, was an Arumanian. The Arumanians continued their valuable aid even after the Ilinden Insurrection was crushed. The people of Klissoura sheltered nearly 2,000 refugees from the surrounding Bulgarian villages which had been burned [15].

After Macedonia was conquered and divided in 1912-1913, Arumanians continued to take part in the struggle to free their homeland. For example, the son of Pito Gouli, Nikola, joined IMRO after it was reorganized by Todor Alexandrov following World War I. Nikola fought bravely in the Veles region, until he was caught by the Serbian police. Nikola Gouli died in the dungeons of Belgrade [16]. One of the greatest heroines evern born in Macedonia was Mencha Karnicheva of Kroushevo. It was Mencha who executed the infamous traitor and murderer of B. Sarafov and I. Garvanov, Todor Panitsa on May 9, 1925 [17].

The Arumanians or Vlahs are an ancient ethnic group that can trace its orgin back to the Roman Empire. They have made their home in Macedonia for 2,000 years. How can these people, who have inhabited Macedonia for 2 millenia, be denied the right to feel Macedonian?


1. C. Anastasoff, The Bulgarians, Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, 1977, p. 17
2. A.Wace and M. Thompson, The Nomads of the Balkans, London: Methuen & Co., 1914, (reissued 1972). p. 172-225
3. Wace and Thompson, p. 257
4. Y. Ivanov. Bulgarski Starini iz Makedoniya, Sofia: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1931, p. 560-562
5. Wace and Thompson, p. 257
6. Ibid, p. 258
7. Ibid, p. 264
8. Ibid, p. 218
9. K. Irechek, Istoriya na Bulgarite, Sofia: Bulgarskata Akademiya na Naukite, 1939, p. 587
10. Ibid, p. 605
11. Kiril, Patriarch Bulgarski, Bulgarskata Ekzarchia v Odrinsko I Makedoniy Sled Osvoboditelnata Voyna 1877-1878, Sofia: Sinod. Izd., 1969, Vol.I, Book I, p. 381-393
12. "The Greek Church at the Head of Greek Chauvinism", Macedonia, May, 1955, p. 2
13. Ibid, p. 2
14. Constantin Papance, "A Petition to the United Nations in Favour of the Macedonian Rumanians", Macedonia, May, 1955, p. 2
15. L. Koroloff, "Participation of the Non-Bulgarian Macedonians in Iliinden. Sho Stava, Vol II,
16. Issue II, August, 1978, p. 22-24.
17. I. Mihailov, "The Macedonian Rumanians", Balkania, Vol. I, No. 4, October, 1967, p. 13
18. C. Anastasoff, The Tragic Peninsula. St. Louis, Mo: Blackwell Wielandy co., 1938, p. 318-319

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