This process is going on in the linguistic, cultural, historical , etc.. areas in the last decades, when the European Community should have defended this shrinking minority. Only in Macedonia and Albania something seems to have changed in favor of the local "Vlachs", mainly with the official recognition of their language. If interested, additional information can be read at my https://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2019/09/the-aromanian-national-rebirth.html). It is noteworthy to pinpoint that this appropriation is very similar to the one denounced by Istrians and Dalmatian Italians in this essay: https://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2014/01/croatia-is-erasing-falsificating-and.html.
Here it is an interesting article -written by a university professor- about this "shameful" appropriation:
CULTURAL APPROPRIATION OF THE VLACHS' HERITAGE IN BALKANS
by Octavian Ciobanu, University of Bucharest (2019)
Cultural appropriation is when members of a dominant culture of a country appropriate elements of intellectual property, cultural expressions, folklore, artifacts and history from a disadvantaged minority culture. The worst cases of cultural appropriation involve the exploiting of the culture of minorities and hiding or denying the authorship of minorities. Some of the most known cases of cultural appropriation have occurred in the spaces dwelled by the Vlach minority in Balkans, where cultural exchange was intense. The approached cases of cultural appropriation cover the appropriation of Vlachs’ history in Bulgaria and the appropriation of Vlachs’ tangible and intangible heritage in other Balkan countries.
There are countries where the Vlach culture, history and language is not protected, like Bulgaria, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia. In these countries Vlachs have no schools in maternal language despite the articles of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the educational and cultural problems of minority languages and dialects in Europe, and the recommendation on history and the learning of history in Europe.
|Wikicommons map showing the actual distribution of "neolatin" people (called usually "Vlachs" and "Romanians") in the XX century Balkans|
Shortly, the Vlachs are the Romance-speaking heirs of the Eastern Roman Empire in Balkans. The Avars, from their base in the Northern Danubian area, had controlled Slavic tribes with whom they attacked in a decisive move the Roman Empire territory in the 7th century.
The Latinophons of the Eastern Roman Empire found refuge in the forests and mountains, by cause of the ferocity of the Slavs, while nomads swirled around them1. The Latinophons were called Vlachs by the Slavic nomads. All Vlachs whom Weigand consulted around 1890 indicated that they lived pretty much in their ancestral country. Vlach is an exonym, as the Vlachs used various words derived from “romanus” to refer to themselves: români, rumâni, rumâri, aromâni, arumâni, armâni etc.
All Balkan dwellers (Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Bosniaks, Kosovars, Albanians, Croats, Slovenians and Turks) were influenced by the Vlachs from the early medieval times. However Vlachs do not have a country of their own and a lot of Balkan countries do not protect the Vlachs’ heritage and did not adhere to the "The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages".
Ewa Kocoj wrote about Vlachs’ heritage: “Today, we already know that the cultural heritage of national, ethnic and religious minorities as well as stateless communities in the 20th century in Europe was doomed in many countries to assimilation, persecution and even oblivion. Such minorities are often faced with the situation in which their heritage is rapidly vanishing, which is caused by a lack of general care. The heritage of minorities, including the one of the Vlachs, is not infrequently passed over in silence in official national discourse.”
Several articles concerning European minorities were published by the Council of Europe (Recommendation 1333/1997) and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Recommendations 928/1981 and 1283/1996. But the situation of the Balkan Vlachs was not improved due to a number of issues: vague national legislation of some Balkan countries and unclear mechanisms that apply the EU legislation.
Vlachs of Bulgaria and the cultural appropriation of their medieval history.
Vlachs in Bulgaria may be shortly classified in Romanians and Aromanians (read for further information, my https://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2018/04/aromanians-in-bulgaria.html). The presence of Romanians in Bulgaria has been manifested in a space stretching between Danube and a line from Naissus, zone of former Dacia Mediterranea and Dacia Ripensis to Varna, area where the Vlach revolt started in Medieval times. South of this line, there were and there are islands of Aromanians, in South West of Bulgaria, in Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Serbia.
The Latinophons were called Vlachs by the Slavic nomads in Bulgaria and lived toghether with Bulgars, Slavs and Greeks in Medieval times. It is very difficult to asses the number of Vlachs in that times but their number was so high that they finally started the Vlach uprising in Bulgaria in the end of the 12th century. The medieval contemporary chronicles wrote about the Vlach origin of the Asen (or Asan) family who initiated the Vlach revolt in the 12th century and started a dinasty of Vlach-Bulgarian state.
Choniates wrote about Vlachs: "… at first, the Vlachs were reluctant and turned away from the revolt urged upon them by Peter and Asan, looking askance at the magnitude of theundertaking. To overcome the timidity of their compatriots, the brothers built a house of prayer in the name of the Good Martyr Demetrios…" and "…provoking the barbarians who lived in the vicinity of Mount Haimos, formerly called Mysians and now named Vlachs, to declare war against him and the Romans.”
Chronicler Geoffrey de Villehardouin wrote about the battle of Adrianople, of Vlachs, Bulgarians and Cumans led by Vlach king Johannizza against Latin Emperor Baldwin (1205): " ...And they found Adrianople very well defended, and saw the flags of Johannizza, King of Wallachia, on the walls and towers; and the city was very strong and very rich, and very full of people...Johannizza, King of Wallachia, was coming to succour Adrianople with a very great host; for he brought with him Wallachians and Bulgarians, and full fourteen thousand Comans who had never been baptised…”
Despite the evidences of Vlach origin of the Asen family, Bulgarian media practiced an intense Cultural appropriation and even denied the existence of Vlachs in their history.
Today, Romanians and Aromanians have no schools in maternal language in the spaces they live in Bulgaria. Bulgaria did not adhere to the "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages".
Aromanians of Greece and the cultural appropriation of their heritage
The greatest community of Vlachs or Aromanians of all Balkans lives in Greece. But Aromanians have no schools in their maternal language.
Their language is very close to Romanian language. Vlachs in Greece call themselves Aromanians (and other variants), Megleno-Romanians and Sarakatsani (Sărăcăceani). They are called Βλαχοι (vlahoi) by Greeks. Aromanians of Greece speak (besides Greek) Aromanian (Farşerot, Pindean and Gramoştean dialects).
The Megleno-Romanians speak the MeglenoRomanian dialect. The Sarakatsani are totally assimilated and they speak only Greek.
Aromanians’ Pantheon has many personalities who have acted as the backbone of "Hellenism": Evanghelie Zappa (Evangelos Zappas), promotor of Olimpic games; Ianaki and Milton Manakia, photography and cinema pioneers of the Balkans; Ioannis Vlachos, also known as Daskalogiannis, hero of Crete; Georgios Sinas and his son, Simon Sinas, financed the construction of the Academy of Athens and other cultural buildings; Ioannis Kolettis (1773-1847) was prime minister of Greece; George Averoff was the author of a lot of infrastructure projects for the Greek communities; Rigas Feraios, a pioneer of the Greek War of Independence; Michael Tossizza and Apostol Arsaki offered money for schools after the creation of Modern Greek statehood; Aristotle Valaoritis, a kind of national poet of Modern Greece; Spyridon Trikoupis, statesman and historian, and Charilaos (1832–1896), his son, prime minister of Greece.
This list is only a part of the list of the Aromanian personalities. More details of the history and the culture of the Aromanians are presented in http://www.farsarotul.org/newslett.htm
In Metsovo (Aromanian: Aminciu) there are the oldest monasteries: St. Nicholas (15th century), the church of St. Paraskeva (16th century), the monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God and two other Orthodox churches: St. Nicholas and St. Demetrius, founded in the 18th centuryIn Syrrako, there are three Orthodox churches: St. Nicolas (18th century), Dormition of the Mother of God (Panagia, 18th century) and St. George (18th century.).
In Kalarities, there are the Church of St. Nicolas (15th century) and the Church of theTrinity, (19th century), surrounded by cemeteries with the tombstones of the Aromanians. In Samarina there are the Orthodox church of the Transfiguration, built in 1813, the Orthodox Church of St. Athanasius (1849), the Orthodox Church of St. Elijah (1795), the Orthodox Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God, also called the Great Panagia (1819), the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, called the Little Panagia and and the Orthodox Church of St. Kosmas (1890).
Vlachs/Aromanians are not recognised as a minority in Greece. All heritage of Aromanians is considered to be Greek.
Vlachs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and the cultural appropriation of their heritage
The Vlachs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro were Slavicized around 10th -11th century and became bilingually. Finally, they lost their maternal language in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia but they managed to influence the local folklore. They spoke a language close to Romanian.
The most important material heritage of the Vlachs of Western Balkans are the medieval necropolises with petroglyphs, called „Stecci” by the Slavs. Most known are in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Radimlja, Boljuni, Blidinje, Ljubinje, Bileca, Vlahovici, Kruševo, etc. Some are in Montenegro: near Žabljak and Plužine. Some are in Serbia: near Perućac, Bajina Bašta, Rastište and Prijepolje.
The Vlach tombstones with petroglyphs appeared in the 11th or 12th century mainly in Herzegovina and partially in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the apparition of funerary monuments ceased during the Ottoman occupation in the 16th century when many Vlachs were Islamized.
Turks called Vlachs “Karavlachs”. Some necropolises joined UNESCO's World Heritage List but without any mention of Vlachs contribution. Majority of Slavic educational media (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro) presents the medieval necropolises with petroglyphs as the art of the “Bogomils” or of the „Bosnian” church, appropriating the heritage of the Vlachs.
There are no Vlach organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to defend their heritage. Marian Wenzel, a scholar who studied the necropolises for a long time, showed that the tombstones with petroglyphs „were initially erected by feudal aristocracy, and that the custom was later adopted and the decoration much elaborated by certain groups known as Vlachs who were organized on a “cătun” (small village in Romanian and Albanian) basis.”.
The same idea was initially published by Marian Wenzel in a scientific journal. Many other scholars wrote about the Vlach origin of the tombstones: I. Mužić, E. Kurtovic, O. Ciobanu, etc.
Ilona Czamańska wrote about a known theory about the origin of the dwellers of Bosnia and Herzegovina: „The majority of Serbs from the Republika Srpska of modern Bosnia is of Vlach origin, as well as the majority of the population from Bosnia and Herzegovina in general.” This theory is supported by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, a Serbian philologist and linguist, by Croat historian Nenad Moacanin and other scholars.
Historian Silviu Dragomir wrote a lot of books about the Vlachs of the Balkans. He described numerous documents about the presence of Vlachs in Montenegro starting with the XIIth century. Also he commented several toponyms and data connected to Vlachs: mounts like Durmitor and Visitor, churches like Vlaška Crkva in Donji Kraj and the ballad of Radule Vlah and other stories.
The heritage of Vlachs in Montenegro is rapidly vanishing, caused by a lack of general care. Supporting the Vlach presence in Western Balkans, Karl Kaser published a map of medieval extended Vlach families of Herzegovina and Dalmatia.
The great number of Vlachs made the Serbian ruler Dušan to add them in his title: „Imperator Raxie et Romanie, dispotus Larte et Blahie comes”
Serbia has a large Romanian/Vlach minority in Voivodina, Banat and Timoc. But in Timoc, there are no schools in maternal language. In the case of Vlachs/Romanians, Serbia uses a separation between Vlachs and Romanians for political reasons and even a new alpahabet with cyrilic letters was invented for local dwellers in order to make Vlachs different from Romanians.
Serbia also has an Aromanian minority ("Cinciari" in Serbian) in Southern areas, who has no schools in maternal language.
Recently, a lot of Serbian personalities recognised the paramount importance of Vlach substrate in all Slavic countries [https://portalanalitika.me/clanak/242602/cosovic-na-balkanudominantna-etnicka-vlasko-morlacka-komponenta (accessed July, 2019)].
Vlachs of Croatia and the cultural appropriation of their heritage
Vlachs of Croatia are called Morlachs. They were an autochtonous population of Croatia.
Vlachs were known as Morlachs in Croatia and especially in Dalmatia. They were Slavicized around the 10th-11th centuries and became bilingual. The word Morlach derived from Italian Morlacco, being connected to Greek Μαυροβλάχοι, a translation of Turkish Karavlach. Kara (black) means North in Turkish geography. Morlachs means Northern Vlachs.
During Middle Ages, the Vlachs in Croatia were about 50% of all dwellers.
The most important material heritage of the Vlachs in Croatia are the medieval necropolises with petroglyphs, emerged especially in the spaces of Dalmatia and in former territories occupied by Turks. Most known are near Cista Velika, Dubravka and Konavle. Many Croat scholars wrote about the Vlach origin of the necropolises.
Another cultural heritage of the Vlachs in Croatia is the folklore that was strongly appropriated by Croats.
Alberto Fortis, an Italian naturalist and cartographer travelled in Dalmatia and wrote "Viaggio in Dalmazia" (Travel into Dalmatia), published in 1774. The book depicted "Morlachia", the rural Dalmatia and the Morlachs. It contains a famous Morlach ballad called "The Mourning Song of the Noble Wife of the Hasan Aga".
Many Morlachs were Islamized under Turkish occupation and worn Islamic names. Also many adhered to Catholicism. Fortis wrote that the Morlachs preserved their old customs and clothes and call themselves Vlachs. He also published several specimens of Morlach songs. Viaggio in Dalmazia played an important role in bringing the Morlachian folklore to the attention of Europe during the rise of Romantic notions about folklore. The ballad was subsequently translated into German, by Goethe in 1775, into English by Walter Scott under the title "Lamentation of the Faithful Wife of Asan Aga",into Russian by Pushkin in 1835, and into French by Prosper Mérimée in 1827.
Fortis treated the Morlachs life and customs in exotic and stereotypical terms (noble savages in the middle of Europe), but with empathy for them, initiating the "Morlacchism", a literary current in the 19th century.
Giovanni Lovrich wrote about the neolatin origin of Morlachs making connections with Valacchia (Romanians). However, despite numerous data about Morlachs, Slavic media in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia presents the Morlach ballad discovered by Fortis and their folklore as a Slavic creation neglecting the Morlachs.
Even the memory of Vlach scientist Nikola Tesla was appropriated by Croats and Serbs.
“Ojkanje” is a tradition of polyphonic folk singing in Croatia, characteristic for the regions of the Dalmatian hinterland, Velebit and Lika and can be found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia. Some narrative songs are accompanied with the gusle, a single-stringed musical instrument known as "lahuta" in Albanian and "lăuta" in Romanian. Giovanni Lovrich mentions “ojkanje” as part of Morlach culture.
Today, the Croatian census mentioned only 20 vlachs/morlachs living in Croatia.
Several researchers have become interested in the Vlach culture and people and they are investigating their language, culture and also their place and heritage in the contemporary world.
The history of Vlachs/Romanians in Bulgarian media is distorted and appropriated. Despite the evidences of Vlach origin of the Asan/Asen family, and of the main contribution of Vlachs/Romanians to the Bulgarian kingdom in the 12th13th centuries, Bulgarian historiography and mass media in Bulgaria practiced an intense cultural appropriation and even in some cases the existence of Vlachs in the history of Bulgaria was denied.
All heritage of Aromanians in Greece is in danger to disappear since they are not recognised as a minority in Greece.
Worst situations are in Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina where tangible and intangible heritage of Vlachs is already appropriated.
Despite the Recommendation 1333/1997 of the Council of Europe who granted Vlachs/Aromanians legal recognition, their situation was not improved. Vlachs faced with the situation in which their heritage is rapidly vanishing, which is caused by a lack of general care in Balkan countries.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted several texts, the Recommendation 928/1981 on the educational and cultural problems of minority languages and dialects in Europe, and the Recommendation 1283/1996 on history and the learning of history in Europe. However, nothing seems to have changed in connection with the cultural appropriation of Vlachs’ heritage in some countries of Balkans.