03) Peoples & their stories: The Vlachs

Vlachs (also called Vallachians, Wallachians, Wlachs, Wallachs, Olahs or Ulahs, South Slavic: Власи Vlasi, Greek: Βλάχοι Vláhi, Albanian: Vllehë, Turkish: Ulahlar, Ukrainian: Волохи Volokhy, Polish: Wołosi) is a blanket term covering several modern Latin peoples (linguistic) descending from the Latinised population in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Groups that have historically been called Vlachs include: modern-day Romanians (including Moldovans), Aromanians, Morlachs, Megleno-Romanians and Istro-Romanians. Since the creation of the Romanian state, the term in English has mostly been used for those living outside Romania.
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).
Vlachs descend predominantly from the Romanised Dacians, Thracians and Illyrians, the indigenous populations of the Balkans, and Roman colonists (from various provinces of the Roman Empire).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 (Austria, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and R. Macedonia) have native Vlach minorities.

In the year 1170, Benjamin of Tudela described them thus: "Here are the confines of Wallachia, a country of which the inhabitants are called Vlachi. They are as nimble as deer and descend from their mountains into the plains of Greece comitting robberies and taking booty. Nobody ventures to make war on them, nor can any king bring them to submission." (Short History of Greece: From early times to 1964, edited by W. A. Heurtley / Cambridge University press 1965, page 47)

The word Vlach is ultimately of Germanic origin, from the word Walha, "foreigner", "stranger", a name used by ancient Germanic peoples to refer to Romance-speaking and (Romanized) Celtic neighbours. In turn, Walha may have been derived from the name of a Celtic tribe which was known to the Romans as Volcae in the writings of Julius Caesar and to the Greeks as Ouólkai in texts by Strabo and Ptolemy. As such, the term Vlach shares its history with several European ethnic names, including the Welsh and Walloons.
From the Germanic peoples, the term passed to the Slavs and from these in turn to other peoples, such as the Hungarians ("oláh", referring to Vlachs, more specifically Romanians, "olasz", referring to Italians) and Byzantines ("Βλάχοι", "Vláhi"), and was used for all Latin people of the Balkans. The Polish word for "Italian", Włoch (plural Włosi), has the same origin, as does the Slovenian, vaguely derogatory word "lach", also for Italians. The Italian-speaking region lying south of South Tyrol, now part of Italy with the name "Trentino", was known as Welsch tirol in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

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The Vlach Connection
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