Sunday, February 11, 2018

OCTOBER 2017: AROMANIANS ARE AN OFFICIAL MINORITY IN ALBANIA

Albania's Parliament passed last October 13, 2017 the "Law on the Protection of National Minorities", which grants the Aromanians in this country the official status of a national minority.

The Law was requested for many years but finally was approved, giving official status of existence in Albania to the Aromanians along with eight other ethnic minorities. So, Albania is the second country -after Macedonia- that recognizes officially the existence of the Aromanians in the Balkans (while Romania considers the Aromanians inside its own borders as "Romanians" and not an ethnic minority).

Romanian map showing the Albania municipalities with higher percentages of Aromanians/Vlachs in the 2011 Albania Census

The deputy of the People's Movement Party, Constantin Codreanu, chairman of the commission for the Romanian communities outside the country, appreciated this decision in the Romanian Parliament as "an historical moment".

Codreanu said that "Previously, the Aromanians, which count about 300,000 people in Albania and call themselves in their neolatin language "Ramańi", that is, Romanians, have only held the status of a linguistic and cultural group, inferior to that of a national minority. Albania is the first Balkan state to recognize the Aromanians as a national minority with their own name, the Aromanians. As a recognized national minority, the Aromanians will be able to benefit both from the support of the Albanian state of residence and from the cultural support of the related state of Romania. The Albanian authorities have now responded to requests from the Aromanian community to officially grant them the status of a national minority. These requests have been repeatedly formulated over the years by the Aromanian leaders in Albania".

The official recognition of the Aromanians as a national minority in Albania reminds once more the need for the Romanian state to exemplify its obligations of cultural solidarity with the Aromanians in identity and cultural-linguistic difficulties, he said.

Deputy Constantin Codreanu also added that: "We must consider, among other things, support for the opening of kindergartens, schools and churches for Aromanians in Albania, to support the appearance of newspapers and magazines in the Aromanian historical dialect and literary romance, to facilitate the emergence of a radio and television station in the area of a maximum concentration of Aromanians, to retransmit broadcasts in the Aromanian dialect of Radio Romania International, to grant more scholarships to young Romanians in Albania, to open a Romanian Cultural Institute in Tirana, with branches in Corcea and Saranda, to set up an editorial in the Aromanian historical dialect at TVR International and so many others. For all this, however, we will have to approve for 2018 an adequate budget for the Romanians' Ministry of Foreign Affairs and for Foreign Affairs".

Data

The Aromanians in Albania represent the second minority, after the Greek, on the territory of this state. The Aromanians (from Albania) are descendants of the Illyrian and Traco-Dacian tribes, as well as Roman (Latin) settlers from the present territory of Albania.

Their number ranges from 9,000 to 300,000 people, according to different statistics. Aromanians were only recognized as a cultural minority under the name of "Vlachs", unlike the Greek, Macedonian and Montenegrin minorities that are recognized in Albania as national minorities (the latter two are less numerous than the Aromanians). Most of the Aromanians in Albania call themselves "Rămâni". They belong to the branch of the Farsariots and are concentrated in the mountainous area of ​​southwest Albania around the city of Corcea or Koriţa. Another part of the Aromanians was sedentarised in the plain area around some small towns reaching up to the Adriatic Sea at Vlora or Avlona.

In some cases, special villages were allocated to them by the Albanian state, such as the settlement called "Anton Poci". The most famous historical Aromanian settlement is "Moscopole" (almost entirely destroyed by Ottoman troops led by Ali Pasha in 1788) in southeastern Albania. They do not have enough schools (except those in Divjaka) to teach their mother tongue, media, cultural institutions, government support to preserve their own ethnic identity.

Actually the municipalities where between 10% and one third of the population is Aromanian - according to the official "2011 Albanian Census" (http://pop-stat.mashke.org/albania-ethnic-comm2011.htm)- are:

1) Odrie (32%), in Aromanian: Andon Poçi; 2) Lenie (25%), in Aromanian: Greãva;3) Selenice (17%), in Aromanian: Selenicë; and 4) Zagori (12%), in Aromanian: Topovë.

Of course, the Aromanian associations like "The Aromanians of Albania" pinpoint that these percentages are wrong and in reality should be at least double. Lenie for example was originally called "Gramostea" (a city near the destroyed "Moscopole") and had a big emigration toward other countries, but even now Lenie has a huge community of Aromanians (and partially Aromanians) scattered in the surrounding area.

Historical background

During the 1930’s, historian Van Wijk published a famous article where he explained the differences in the Balkans between the grammatical structure of Serbian on the one hand, and that of Bulgarian and Macedonian on the other, by the presence of a non-Slavic – Romance-speaking – population which separated both South Slavic language territories (Please for further information read: http://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2013/12/neolatin-presence-in-serbia-and.html). Afterwards most of these neolatin people (often called "Vlachs") should have moved northward to Walachia and Transylvania, leaving a gap which was filled by Slavs from Serbia and Macedonia. The southern portion of this gap was in the central & southern Albania mountains, around the ancient Roman "Via Egnatia" (that went from Rome to Costantinopolis, passing inside Albania from Durrachium/Durres to the lake Prespa).

Indeed because of their geographical distribution in a Balkan belt from Rome to Byzantium, the Vlachs (another name of the Aromanians) are also mentioned in connection with this Via Egnatia. Along this important military road a relatively dense Latin-speaking population settled in the last centuries of the Roman Empire, while indigenous people was fully Romanized. (As an administrative language of the Byzantine Empire, Latin was still in use during the reign of Iustinianus (527-565), afterwards it was entirely replaced by Greek in the next century under Heraclius)

The presence of Aromanians (or Vlachs) in the Albania region is documented in several sources. Abadzi presents the following information: Wandering Vlachs were mentioned by the Byzantine Geórgios Kerdinós as the assassins of Tsar Samuil’s brother in 976 AD between Prespa and Kastoria. Veniamín Tountélis describes in 1173 AD how the Vlachs came down the hills in Pindus & Thessaly, committed robberies and ‘knew no word of honour’. In 1183 AD the Vlachs of Pindus mountains stood up against the Byzantine Empire, and formed the "βλαχοβοθλγαρικό κράτος των Ασανιδών", i.e. the Vlacho-Bulgarian (i.e. the Second Bulgarian) Empire under the dynasty of the Asenovci. The Vlach/Aromanian Ivan Asen appointed himself – in Latin – 'Imperator omnium Bulgarorum et Vlachorum'.

Aromanian culture is often associated with pastoral life and transhumance. Their favourite permanent dwelling-places were situated in inclinations on the top of remote hills. The Aromanians/Vlachs were also known as skilful tradesmen. A centre of Vlach urban culture flourished in Gramostea between 1650 and 1700, and in Moschopolis. The latter Albanian town, which harboured a printing shop and an Academy, was pillaged several times from 1769 and 1789, and lost almost all of its importance afterwards. Evidently, these urban societies which were based upon trade, craftsmanship, the worshipping of some specific Saints, and a local, multilingual culture (shared with Greeks, Albanians and even Turks) lacked the military strength to defend itself and were doomed to disappear. In the opinion of Peyfuss, Moschopolis’ fate may be explained by the tendency to strengthen or restore the power of the central Turkish (governmental) and Greek (spiritual) authorities. The destruction of this important centre of the Aromanians in Albania should be placed into one context with the abolition of the archbishoprics of Peć (1766) and Ochrid (1767).

This city's destruction was followed by an exodus of educated Aromanians toward actual Macedonia, northern Greece and Europe, while since then only a few poor sheperds remained in this Albanian region.

This absence of 'intellectual elite' was one of the main reasons of why in the XIX century was not created an Aromanian state in this area: only during WW1 was tentatively established the "Republic of Korcea" with the participation of the few Aromanians (like Alcibiades Diamandis, who in 1941 created the Aromanian "Principality of Pindus") of this Balkan area, but this presence lasted a few months only! Greeks and Albanians in the XIX and XX centuries took control of all the region that was for many centuries before mainly populated by the historical Vlachs with their "capital" in Moschopolis.

However the few Aromanians still within the Albanian territories of the Ottoman empire were granted in 1878, the right to open schools in their native language and in 1888 to set up their own churches. The weak movement of 'Aromanian national awakening' culminated in 1905 when Aromanians were recognized by Istanbul as a separate nation ("Ullah millet") in areas of Albania and northern Greece and soon after, in 1908 when the first Aromanians were admitted as full members in the Turkish Parliament.

According to the 1913 statistics of Destani, which did not differentiate subjects by faith but only language, in the Albanian area of Korcea -called 'Corceaua' in Aromanian- there were 89,829 Albanian speakers, 3,190 Vlach speakers, 3,985 Bulgarian speakers, no Greek speakers and 527 "others" (Psomas, Lambros (2008). The Religious and Ethnographic Synthesis of the Population of Southern Albania (Northern Epirus) in the Beginning of the 20th Century. Statistics of Destani discussed on pages 256-260).

Historian G. Motta wrote in his research "THE FIGHT FOR BALKAN LATINITY. THE AROMANIANS UNTIL WORLD WAR I. în „MEDITERRANEAN JOURNAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES,” VOL. 2(3), SEPTEMBER, 2011, ROME" the following excerpts:

In 1917, when Italian troops advanced into Albania they were welcomed in all Aromenian villages, for example in Ciamuria and Samarina. A National council for Pindus was created and it took a very pro-Italian attitude. They founded, with the help of some local representative as Alkiviadis Diamantis, the „Principate of Pindos” in the area of Aromanian settlement. Italy undertook attempts to convert the pro-Romanian Aromanians into pro-Italian one, taking advantage of the historical and language relations these communities had with Italian latinity. In this particular context, Italian military forces felt the need to improve the ethnic and political conditions of the Aromanians, and sketched some documents on their history and customs. Their villages could be distinguished for the solidity and a certain elegance and were often placed in positions of military interest, next to the mountains and road junctions. The Aromanians were described as calm, wealthy, occupied in trade or sheep-breeding, resistant to any persecution or massacre, even though the denaturalization policies pursued by the Greeks „con ogni arte e con ogni mezzo (with everything available)” as reported by colonel Casoldi on 29th May 1917 in his account Note circa la questione valacca. The Aromenian presence was particularly evident in two districts, Grammos - especially in the city and around Koritza - and Pindus, where 36 villages were clearly detachable. Even if they were not as populous as the old Moscopole, these settlements mantained their ethnic identity. The language, instead, was in some case abandoned, also as a consequence of the Greek propaganda, pressures and abuses. Aromanians even arrived at creating national armed bands against those sent by Greeks to terrorize the region and this resistance was considered almost incredible by Italians, due to the peaceful and calm traditions of the Vlachs. It was also noted that many Vlachs enlisted in the Romanian army staying in Moldova asked to be sent back to the Balkans to fight for the security of their lands. Italians were sure that all Aromanians believed their origin was different from the one of the surrounding populations. Moreover, a particular feature to take into consideration was the particular economic situation of those shepherds who periodically migrate and had thus become matter of study because they kept high the economy of sheep-grazing, dairy, weaving and tanning. Trying to conquer the sympathies of those communities, the Italians thought that the strategy to follow was that of sponsoring the birth and increase of local authorities in order to prepare for the peace negotiations a fertile ground for the establishments of cantons or political and administrative autonomy. These hopes were alimented also by the demands of Aromenian communities, who after the years of the Greek-Romanian dispute and the troubles of war searched in Italy a stronger protector. On 25th July 1917 a first phonogram was addressed to Colonel Delli Ponti, who was called brave Duce ('Duce valoroso'), and his new legions.On 27th July 1917 the Italian commander in Valona, General Giacinto Ferrero, received a telegram coming from the mayors (sindaci) of many Aromenian villages who met in Metzovo, representing the Pindus-Zagori people. „Figli non degeneri di Roma sempre memori della madre nostra antica e tenaci custodi della lingua e delle tradizioni dei nostri padri dopo lunghi secoli di lotta sanguinosa contro la straniero che tentava tutti i modi di cancellare nostro carattere nazionale latino respiriamo finalmente le pure aure della libertà che le nuove legioni di roma vittoriose agli ordini vostri hanno apportato ai loro fratelli di sangue dispersi lontani sul Pindo e Zagori (Non degenerate sons of Rome, always mindful of our ancient mother and tenacious guardians of the language and traditions of our fathers after long centuries of bloody struggle against the foreigner who tried all the ways to cancel our Latin national character, finally breathe the pure auras of freedom that the new legions of Rome victorious to your orders have made their blood brothers dispersed far away on the Pindus and Zagori).” Besides the enthusiastic recalling of ancient Roman roots, in this appeal the Aromanians underlined the security given to them by the Italian troops; their leaving would mean falling easily prey of the enemies who looked forward to the extermination of Aromanians. The latter invoked Italy and her powerful and careful protection, the only means of defense against the superiority of the enemies, „il numero soverchiante di avversari (the overwhelming number of enemies).” Finally, the signatories selfappointed themselves the sons of Rome, who throughout millenary events had kept intact and preserved the remembrance of the Roman civilization in the valleys and the mountains of Pindus. Even if in a shorter form, the same declarations were included in the communication sent the same day to the President of the United states, to the President of the Provisory Russian Government, to the Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister, to the French, English and Russian Consuls in Yanina, to General Ricciotti Garibaldi in Rome and to the Mayor of Rome

The Aromanians during WW1 saw in Italy their natural protector (because of the same old Roman heritage) against their surrounding enemies, especially the Greeks.

Furthermore, Motta wrote that Italy was the natural benchmark of the Vlahs and her prestige deriving from the victory of the war increased her power and attraction towards the Vlahs, who kept on invoking Italian protection for the safeguard of their Latin culture. At Delvino, on 28th December 1918 and 10th January 1919, a special Assembly was convoked. The meeting defined a precise political project: the autonomy of Pindus and Zagori united with Albania and under the protection of Italy and pointed out a strategy to avoid any other undesired solution.....The end of the war and the postwar diplomacy could not condition the life of Balkan Aromanians, nor Italy could. The Vlah question, anyway, was managed both by Romanian and Italian diplomacy to consolidate their positions and their interests in the Balkan regions. Vlahs were reminded in all the documents presented by Romania to the peace talks and became the subject of a special policy of colonization started by Bucharest in the Twenties. Italian intervention, on the contrary, arrived once again during the second war, when a short-lived Aromanian State was created in Pindus region. After many centuries of isolation, only war could rejoin the Aromenians to the homeland of latinity.

As written by G. Motta (please -if interested in the full version- read http://www.proiectavdhela.ro/pdf/giuseppe_motta_the_fight_for_balkan_latinity.pdf) the arrival of Italian troops in the region of Pindus and in southern Albania during the first & second world wars was welcomed by the Aromanians who wanted help from the Italian army and appealed to the common Latin inheritance for the defense of their national specificity and traditions. But the defeat of Italy in WW2 created a terrible situation for the Aromanians in the region, who lost all their previous achievements.

The few remaining Aromanians of communist Albania (that did not recognize the Aromanians' existence as a minority) in the second half of the XX century were dispersed from the city of Gjirokastër in the south to the city of Elbasan in the Central Albania. However, their largest concentration was in the areas of the cities of Gjirokastër, Korçë and Përmet in the most south part of Albania. The number of Albanian Aromanians was estimated by the communist government from 35,000 to 120,000, but some researchers raised this figure to more than 200,000 (that was nearly 3% of the total Albania’s population)

Map created by Atanasiu in 1919, requesting an Aromanian political entity (circled by the small black crosses) at the Paris Peace Conference after WW1. Note the brown territories inhabitated by a majority of Aromanians in Albania
The following are excerpts from an Alexandru Gica's research on Aromanians in Albania:

“In Albania, the Aromanian group sets its hopes largely on the economic advantages of being able to go abroad. Romanians and Greeks use the opportunity to win the Aromanians in the poorest country of Europe for their own cause.”

Brief history

Before the Albanian state was established in 1914, local Aromanians had already experimented with emigration to the USA. After World War I many Aromanians emigrated to Romania. The Albanian communist regime was particularly harsh; collectivization was forced in May 1947 through a special law, and the nomadic Farsherots were immobilized.

This had the unintended consequence of bringing new Aromanian settlements into existence, as annual migrations ceased and communities were forced to settle. One of the most interesting settlements is the village of Andon Poçi, 16 kilometers from Gjirokaster. The village was established between 1957 and 1960 on the site of an abandoned "Vlach" village named Tavan. Nowadays it has approximately 130 houses and 800 inhabitants. Andon Poçi was a local Aromanian hero who fought and died in the resistance against Nazi occupation.

This prosperous community has a strong vocal tradition and had given two brilliant poets of Aromanian contemporary literature, the brothers Spiru and Dimitri Fuchi (born in 1964 and 1967). After the fall of communism, two parallel initiatives (from the Aromanian towns of Seleniţa and Corcea) led to the foundation of the cultural association “The Aromanians of Albania,” officially registered on October 24th 1991, as the communist regime was beginning to crumble.

Its first national conference was held on April 5th 1992; the Romanian Embassy was involved in organizing the conference through Ambassador Gheorghe Micu and Councilor Filip Teodorescu. Representatives of Aromanian communities from Romania, Greece, the Republic of Macedonia and the diaspora were present. Romania also sent a Member of Parliament Adrian Moţiu and a Bishop Calinic. The participants adopted a resolution demanding Aromanian recognition as an ethnic community. The association’s magazine, “Brotherhood,” was published on November 27th 1992 in Albanian and Aromanian. The first issue featured an article by the president of the association, Iancu Balamaci, entitled “A voice calling us to fraternity” that presented the magazine’s message. That initial unity was soon lost.

The main opposition was between the group from Seleniţa-Vlora, which was pro-Greek, and the one from Corcea, which was pro-Romanian. “Brotherhood” magazine ceased publication after five issues, resumed publication monthly in 1996 and since 2002 (when the Romanian government decided to get involved in the Aromanian question again) it has been supported financially by the Romanian government through the Department for Romanians Everywhere.

The Conference of 1992 also decided to train a priest who was to hold services in Aromanian. The sculptor Dumitrache Veriga was elected. He attended the Romanian Faculty of Theology in Piteşti and was ordained.He is presently the priest of the Aromanian church from Corcea. Its construction began in 1995 on the site of the old Aromanian cemetery in Corcea. There is a second Aromanian church today in Pogradeţ. There is also an Aromanian school as well a kindergarten (private, but free) in Diviaca. Both were established by Koci Janko. The school was opened on December 8th 1998. Initially, it was supported by 'The Aromanians of Albania' association as well as other donations. Since 2002, it has had the help of the same Department for Romanians Everywhere within the Romanian government.

Numbers

'At least 100,000 Aromanians live nowadays in Albania', has recently written the historian Kohl. A more precise estimate of 139,065 Aromanians living in Albania was provided by the "Geographical Studies Centre of the Albanian Science Academy", which performed its research with a German institute between 2000-2002. This makes the Aromanians the second-largest population group in Albania, after the Albanians.

Due to the relatively primitive way of life in Albania before World War II, earlier estimates tended to vary widely, from 40,000 in 1931 (Vasile Stoica) to 150,000 in 1926.

Schools and churches

Unlike Serbia, Albania allowed Romanian schools and churches for the Aromanians to continue after World War I. The number of schools diminished from 18 in 1916 to 5 in 1923. On April 25th 1933 all private schools in Albania were nationalized, including the Romanian ones. A 1934 memorandum from the Romanian Delegation in Tirana to Minister of Foreign Affairs Nicolae Titulescu sought to explain the lack of reaction by the Aromanians to the nationalization: “I feel that the Romanian minority from Albania will never address the League of Nations, following the Greeks’ example. The Romanians from Albania feel Romanian, speak Romanian, but they have their own interests in Albania and they won’t do anything that could create difficulties with the Albanian government.”

After further hesitation between state schools with a special program and minority schools, Romanian authorities chose the former. Thus, in July 1937, 7 government schools offering classes in the Romanian language began operating in Albania. In 1930 there were 8 Romanian churches in Albania, of which the one in Corcea (consecrated in 1925, destroyed by earthquake in 1931) was most important. In November 1942, only 6 churches remained.

In a report dated August 10th 1941, Nicolae Ţimiraş blamed the failure of Romanian schools and churches on opportunistic behavior by the Aromanian elites: “Trade interests have suppressed national interests.” In Tirana, community leaders, especially state officials “fearful of losing jobs, undertake no action to acquire minority rights for their fellow countrymen. On the contrary, in order to please the Italian-Albanian fascist government, these state officials, led by the Minister of National Economy, allowed circulation, against their convictions, of the famous official thesis which says that the Romanian population wouldn’t even consider it in its interest to claim educational and religious rights.”

During the communist regime, the Romanian schools and churches ceased all activity.

Self-identifications. Tensions

We will follow the excellent work of Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers (1999) to identify the policies of the Aromanians in Albania. The pro-Romanian militants are politically close to the Democratic Party of Sali Berisha (mutual visits by the Romanian and Albanian presidents reinforced the link). Supporters of this group claim that the Aromanians of Albania are Romanized Illyrians and, consequently, are close to the Albanians. The “Aromanians of Albania” association manages the assignment of scholarships for Romania to young Aromanians (about 1,000 Aromanian youngsters would be scholars of the Romanian government at the moment). The association issues a certificate attesting to the Aromanian identity of the scholarship applicant.

Pro-Greek militants are politically close to the Human Rights Party, a successor to the Omonia Party, which was banned under suspicion of being connected to Greek ultra-nationalists). Supporters of this group claim that the Aromanians of Albania are Romanized Hellenes. These Aromanians advertise and reprint the writings of Achilleas Lazarou. One of them (Lazarou A., 1994) is a history written in Albanian of the Aromanians of Albania. The Association of Helleno-Vlachs of Albania manages the visa and work permits issued for Greece. The Association issues certificates attesting to the Aromanian (Vlach) identity of the applicant.

Schwandner-Sievers mentions that the key position held by these two associations “entails enormous social power.” The fact that “leading figures of both Aromanian Association factions accuse each other of abusing their position by taking money from the candidates” can be seen as a result of the “latent struggle for prestige going on among different groups in current Albania.” Schwandner-Sievers appreciates that the boundaries between the two groups are not necessarily ideological. Examining the lists of members of both associations, she points out “the transfer of loyalty” of some members. “By moving from one association to another, these Aromanians chose to switch from a pro-Romanian to a pro-Greek faction and vice versa. When some of them were interviewed, former power struggles over positions in the associations were exposed.” Schwandner-Sievers also mentions cases in which “one family is split into two identity orientations: a son and his family might be migrant workers in Greece and the daughter might have a scholarship at a Romanian university.”

Schwandner-Sievers also reviews the position of the elites in Albania: “Apparently, Albanian Aromanians of high social status in modern Albanian society, and this includes many well-known scholars, politicians and artists, tend not to engage in Aromanian ethnic politics. Under no circumstances at all would some admit to their Aromanian family background. As some interviewees explained, to emphasize a distinct identity might harm their image and status, even though they do not necessarily believe in the available dominant discourses.” Schwandner-Sievers concludes that, these days, the Aromanians “utilize identity politics for social position, reputation, psychological compensation of an inferiority complex, economic advantage, and, most importantly, to secure future opportunities for their children.” Further, she writes that, “In conclusion, the evidence strongly suggests that Albanian Aromanians’ globalizing identity confers an advantage to them over non-Aromanian Albanians. [...] Besides creating a sense of exclusivity, they are able to shift identities: they can choose between different modes of identification, or they can attribute distinct significance to different identities in various situations, referring to their pre-communist situation if opportune. This flexibility is an efficient and profitable strategy of adjustment to different circumstances.”

Map of 1890 showing the areas (in reddish-brown color) with a majority of Aromanians. In my opinion it is the most accurate map about the "real" populated areas by Aromanians. Please note the big differences with the above Atanasiu map, that was excessively pro-Aromanians (or the differences with Greek/Albanian/Slav maps where sometimes the Aromanian presence is shamefully "forgotten")
Recent developments. Explanations

The tensions between the two Aromanian groups in Albania sharpened at the end of 2009 by means of dueling conferences. The “Aromanians of Albania” association organized a Congress for “Aromanians from the European Union” on November 17th-18th 2009. On November 18th the Congress voted a resolution signed by the presidents of some Aromanian associations: Vangjel Shundi (Aromanians of Albania), Ion Caramitru (Macedo-Romanian Cultural Society, Romania), Stoica Lascu (Picurarlu de la Pind Society, Romania), Zvetlana Nikolin (representative of the organization “In Medias Res” from Serbia), Aureliu Ciufecu (president of the “Macedo-Romanian Cultural Congress” from USA), Aurel Papari (“Andrei Şaguna,” Romania), Gheorghe Zamani (“Veria”, Romania), Elena Wisoşenschi (“Muşata Armână”, Romania). The main points of the resolution were to reaffirm the bond between Aromanian and Romanian identity, to request that the Romanian government assume responsibility for the Romanians of the Balkans, to criticize the claims of some Aromanian associations from Albania and Romania to represent Aromanians, to reject the thesis that the Aromanians are not Romanians, to support non-recognition of the Aromanians in Romania as a minority, and to found an “International Aromanian Forum” made up of Aromanian legal and representative organizations all over the world. The Romanian government was asked for support as a kindred state, including taking the necessary steps to implement Recommendation 1333/1997 for the Aromanians.

The Council of Aromanians (an Aromanian international organization founded in 2005) organized a conference in Corcea on December 12th 2009. There were various opinions. The front page of “Fărshărotu” magazine, no. 31 from February 2010, notes the opinion that ancient Macedonia is “the Aromanians’ home country”. In this home country – nowadays covering Greece, The Republic of Macedonia and Albania – the Aromanians are not a minority (on the contrary, the other faction requests recognition of the Aromanians in Albania as a minority). They can be a minority outside these countries (on the contrary, the other faction believes that the Aromanians cannot be a minority in Romania).

Another difference between the two groups has to do with the origins of the Aromanians. Just as the Congress of Tirana stressed the Roman roots of the Aromanians, the Conference of Corcea focused on their autochthonism in ancient Macedonia. The President and Vice-President of the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Vlach Cultural Associations of Greece (Kostas Adam and Yoanis Kokonis) attended this conference. The Council also had planned to organize a Congress in Albania in the spring of 2010. The aim of the conference was to gather the opinions of member associations on some of the issues and to find a message of unity. The Congress never took place; instead, the Council of Aromanians organized a large meeting in the well-known Vlach town of Moschopolis on August 15th, 2010, that was attended by several thousand Aromanians from around the world. A resolution was read in which the Council asked for recognition of the Aromanians as a regional people. That resolution was published on August 20th 2010; on August 22nd, the Vlach Association of Veria, which had attended the meeting in Moschopolis, released a brief note signed by its President Giorgios Prapas and its Secretary Antonis Toussikos expressing disagreement with the resolution announced in Moschopolis.

The situation of the Aromanians in Albania is special because it is the only place where a competition between pro-Romanian and pro-Greek factions is taking place, resuming in a certain way the controversies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Romanian influence can be explained through the memory of past support (schools and churches operating until the start of the communist regime in Albania), through current support given to the “Aromanians of Albania” association, and through many families’ hope to send their children to study in Romania. The Greek influence can be explained through the opportunities connected to visas, work permits, and even pension.

Schwandner-Sievers believes that “it is exactly the revitalization of the conflict between followers of a pro-Greek and a pro-Romanian identification that serves to broaden the scope of options for potential exploitation.” If we follow this suggestion, which seems paradoxical at first, we soon notice that the more fragmentation there is in terms of identity options for Aromanians, the more positions of power are created for members of Aromanian communities. It remains questionable whether the descriptions “pro-Romanian” and “pro-Greek” are appropriate for the two orientations. Both factions cultivate Aromanian identity – each of them in its own way.

1 comment:

  1. Now two nations recognize officially the Aromanians/Vlachs with their language. When will happen the third recognition? May be Montenegro will do it? I am afraid the Greeks with their excessive nationalism will never do anything toward the official recognition of the Pindus Aromanians. B.

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