Friday, April 6, 2018


The presence of neolatin populations in actual Bulgaria can be divided in two areas of study: one northern linked to the Romanian language/ethnicity and another southern linked to the Aromanians. Of course both of them are interconnected and very similar, but their historical development is clearly different.

Historically the Jirecek line -that separated Bulgaria in the middle trough the Rhodope & Balkan mountains- was the southern limit of the presence of Romanized population in ancient Bulgaria (in Roman times called "Tracia"). Since the fall of the Roman empire the neolatin language started to develop in the Bulgarian plains south of the Danube river: actually the Vidin area has the remaining population who speak a Romanian dialect, while in many other places of these plains the neolatin language has disappeared and has been substituted by slav & turk languages.

However in the southern part of actual Bulgaria (that is located south of the Rhodope/Balkan mountains) the Romanization was very weak and soon disappeared in the centuries of the Bizantine empire, where Greek was the main language. Only after the Ottoman invasions there was -mainly in the mountain of southwestern Bulgaria- the arrival of the Aromanians.

During the Roman times Latin penetrated the inland hills of southern Balkans more than Greek as the Romans opened up roads and trade routes across these areas. The "Via Egnatia" was the military and trade land route from the Adriatic to the Aegean and probably helped the continuation of a Latin presence: the surviving Vlach/Aromanian villages are in the vicinity of this route. Hence, even if by the 2nd century AD most inscriptions are in Greek this only indicates the official language of towns. The native peoples and the interior may have been Latin speaking.

South of the Danube the neolatins were once more numerous and occupied a much greater area than now. The region between the Serbians and Bulgarians has place names with continued Latin origins, whereas those further into Serbia area have no Latin base. This area of modern east Serbia was mostly associated with the Bulgarians until the expansion of Serbia just before the Ottoman times. The neolatins provided a separation of the southern Slavs which may have lead to the separate Bulgarian and Serbo-Croat languages.

Map showing the small Aromanian populated areas in south-western Bulgaria before WW1. The majority of these Aromanians moved to Romania's Dobrugia in the 1930s. Actually (2017) remain in Bulgaria only less than 3000 Aromanians, mostly concentrated in the capital Sofia and in the Blagoevgrad/Pirin Province around Sandanski
The "Second Bulgarian Empire" was mostly Slavic, because the original Bulgars had been assimilated by the more numerous Slavs. However, it is almost certain that there were significant numbers of Vlachs (the historical name of the Aromanians) in the territories that now are Bulgaria. The Vlachs were a minority and probably were continually being assimilated into to the Bulgarians as is still happening today: the Asen brother who founded the dynasty and this second Empire (John I Asen 1186-1196, to John III Asen in 1279) were Vlachs: in 1204, the Pope recognised Kalojan (1197-1207) as "King of the Bulgarians and the Vlachs."

South of the Rhodope/Balkan mountains the neolatin presence seems to have disappeared before the year 1400 AD, when the Turks appeared in the region. It is noteworthy to pinpoint that some Romanian & Turk historians (read for example wrote that the Turks forced the migrations of Vlachs from what used to be the Roman Moesia south of the Danube: they moved north and reached what is now Moldova, where they settled a region that was never reached by the ancient Romans. This fact explain the "anomaly" of the presence of a neolatin population in an area (the republic of Moldova) never conquered/colonized by the Romans

However a few centuries ago came the modern Vlachs called Aromanians to the actual southern Bulgaria, a region that the Ottomans called "Rumelia" for historical reasons. Indeed these Aromanians came to southwest Bulgaria mainly during the 19th century from Gramoste (now in Greece) to the Rhodope Mountains and from Crushovo, Republic of Macedonia. At the beginning of the 20th century another wave came mainly from what is now FYROM and settled mainly in South-West Bulgaria, including Sofia.

The first waves of settlers after the Ottoman overthrow of Moscopolis - gramophones and moscowans - reached Bulgaria in the early 19th century. The first colonies appeared in the towns of Melnik, Gorna Dzhumaya, Dupnitsa, Tatar Pazardzhik, Plovdiv, Stanikaka, Peshtera, Stara Zagora. They are predominantly urban residents. By the middle of the 19th century, a second wave of migrants came from Albania and Macedonia, settling in Nevrokop, Razlog, Sofia, Samokov.

Along with them, some gramophone pastors also penetrated from the Gramos mountains and from various places in Macedonia. They are located in Maleshevo and Belasitsa, along the streams of Struma and Mesta, occupying the mountain pastures of Pirin, Rila and the Western Rhodopes. Some reach Sredna Gora and Stara Planina. They perceive the mountains as a "promised space".

Today, the Aromanians, who have remained in Bulgaria and called it their homeland, are integrated into the bulgarian society. They set up their cultural organizations in Sofia, Velingrad, Dupnitsa, Dorkovo, Peshtera.

All Aromanians in Bulgaria call themselves "Armãnj". In 1912 according to the official population census there were 4,220 Aromanians only in Sofia and totally in Bulgaria 3,000 families. Between the two wars many emigrated to Romania. Now (2010) in Sofia there are less then 50 Aromanian speakers, and totally in Bulgaria - between 2500 - 3000.


Actually the Aromanians and their language are in an "endangered" situation in Bulgaria (if interested for further information, please read this Italian article: ):

• Identity - almost no tendency to pretend that Aromanians are part of the Romanian or of the Greek people.

• Legal status - Bulgaria has not signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. According the Constitution of Bulgaria there is not allowed to create political parties on an ethnical basis. Minorities are not recognised. Nevertheless organisations of ethnic groups are officially registered. A "National Council for Collaboration on Ethnic and Demographic Problems" exists to the Council of Ministers, in which almost all ethnic groups are presented (incl. Aromanians).

• Language - as a result of emigration and mixed marriages the number of Aromanian speakers declines rapidly.

• Schools - between the two wars Aromanians could visit a secondary school in Gorna Giumaia (now Blagoevgrad) and a high school (lyceum) in Sofia, but the education was in Romanian rather than in Aromanian. An attempt was made to reopen this school in the 90-s, but without the expected success (one class in Romanian language with possibility of choosing Aromanian as an additional language, which remained as an unused option). In 2003 - 2013 language private courses in Aromanian were organised in 3 towns – Velingrad, Dupnitsa and Peshtera, with a total number of students about 50 (about 100 teaching hours). Main difficulties - different language knowledge of the participants, lack of professional teachers, lack of school books. The introduction of Aromanian as mother tongue is very difficult - no enough participants, no official school programmes, no teachers, Aromanian is not taught at Bulgarian Universities.

• Church - in the beginning of the 20th century Aromanians mainly from Sofia bought a place in the center of the town for the construction of a church. It was given to the support by the Aromanians the church was built and now it still works with worship in Romanian (belongs to the Patriarchate of Bucharest).

• "Mass" media - no TV and radio in Aromanian; newspaper "Armãnlu" (4 pages, in Aromanian and Bulgarian, 5-6 times a year); magazine "Noi Armãnjli" (We the Aromanians) - 2-3 times a year, collects materials of the meetings of Aromanians from the Balkan states in Bulgaria and other materials, in Aromanian, Bulgarian, English, French and other languages; participation in the Journal “Etnodialogue” in Bulgarian together with 7 other minorities.

• Other activities – meeting in Dupnitsa; annual meeting (conference and/or folklore festival, with participation of Aromanians from other Balkan countries: Albania, Greece, FYROM, Romania, Serbia); folklore groups (Velingrad, Sofia, Rakitovo, Dorkovo, Peshtera);CD-s with music, sung in Aromanian (not only folklore); publishing activities – translations, books, manuals (grammar, dictionaries).

• Main needs – language courses, support of media, introduction of Aromanian in church. No possibilities to prepare regular TV or radio transmissions in Aromanian. Introduction of Aromanian as a facultative course in University (preparing of teachers).


The two communities of Romanians (often called "Wallachians" or "Vlachs") and Aromanians have frequently been treated by scholars in unity because of: 1) their Romance languages (which most linguists regard as Romanian dialects, although some experts assume the Aromanian to be a separate language), 2) their confusion in the historical sources and official public statistics and records, and 3) their common institutions (schools and the like) established during different periods in Bulgaria.

Whenever statistics refer to a Romanian speaking population without any differentiation, it should be taken into account that Romanian/Wallachian is the language spoken by some of the Gypsy people in Bulgaria. Nowadays, again, the two communities are represented by a single organization and publish a newspaper in common.

The theories of the origins of the two communities are numerous and contradictory with advocates of mutually exclusive assumptions being found even among their own ranks. Some scholars think that Aroumanians are descendants of Roman colonists, others that they come from certain native Thracian tribes, still others refer to Romanized Hellenes. Aroumanian colonies are found in Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Macedonia. (Recently the Council of Europe approved a document appealing for the preservation of the language and culture of the Aroumanians.) A long existing intra-community division comprises the groups of "urban Aroumanians", also called Tsintsars, and the nomadic shepherds.

Romanian (called also Wallachian, Wallach, Vlach) population is to be found in the Serbian and Bulgarian regions along the Danube. According to one of the theories, this population consists of Romanian peasants who had migrated from the lands on the other side of the Danube in consequence of big landlords oppression. Other theories pinpoint that the Romanized Tracians of the area always remained there and later mixed with the new arrivals from north of the Danube. Some other theories assert that Vlachs are the offspring of Bulgarian émigré families having re-emigrated from Romania for the same reason. It could be that the truth is somewhere in between. Both communities are Eastern Orthodox Christians.

At the turn of the 19th century, trade relations between the Austrian-Hungarian and the Ottoman Empire became more intensive. On the other hand, the southern Albanian lands, where the Aroumanians had settled, were caught up in anarchy and Christian Aroumanians were continuously harassed by Muslim Albanians.

The Aromanian residents of the ruined towns - Moskopolje, Linotipi, etc., were scattered around in Austria, Greece, Bulgaria, while Aromanian shepherds migrated from the areas of the Gramoz Mountain and Pindus range in northern Greece. During the same period, Wallachians were also migrating from Romania - some of them fleeing from oppression by the big landlords (the Ottoman administration encouraged the settlement of the depopulated territories along the Danube), others were escaping from conscription introduced in the "Principality of Wallachia" (the precursor state of actual Romania).

Aroumanian colonies were established in the towns of Peshtera, Plovdiv, Assenovgrad, Doupnitsa, Gorna Dzhumaya (modern Blagoevgrad), Sofia, etc.while Wallachians/Romanians settled along the Timok valley, near the towns of Vidin and Kula.

Indeed a quite remarkable group of Aromanians called "Grammoustian" made hut settlements that sprang up in the more easterly parts of Macedonia, on the slopes of Orvilos or Pirin, and more specifically at Lopovo, Bazdovo, Satrovo, and Popovi Livadi in what is now Bulgaria, and Laïlias in Greece. Another group of settlements was established in the Rodopi, where, after the borders were drawn in 1878, some remained in Ottoman territory and others found themselves in Eastern Rumelia. Pizdica, Kartal al Yanku, Cakmak, Krva Reka, Zalti Kamen, the hut settlement near Kostandovo, and the largest of the settlements, Bakica or Kurtovo, were in "Eastern Rumelia". The Grammoustians in this group came to be known as ‘Kutruviani’, after the name of their largest settlement. Shortly before 1907 these settlements had about 305 huts altogether and a population possibly in excess of 2,000. On Ottoman territory, Grammoustian hut settlements were established at Karamandra and Sufandere, and also alongside the settlements of Belica, Goldovo, Dobarsko, Draglica, Jakoruda, and Bacevo, and near the market town of Razlog. This group of Grammoustians came to be known as ‘Razlukiani’. According to statistics collected by the Greek consular authorities in around 1906, it was about 2,000 strong.

Another group of Aromanians "Grammoustian" came into being on Mount Rila, both on Ottoman and on Bulgarian territory. Some of the Grammoustians on Bulgarian territory had apparently passed through the Orvilos area first. The settlements there became permanent after Bulgarian autonomy was recognised in 1878. Ravna Buka, Besbunar, and Kostenec Banja were on Bulgarian territory; the summer hut settlements at Dobropole, Risovo or Hrisovo, Argacic, Bistrica, and Bakir Tepe, and the winter settlements at Blagoevgrad (Gorna Dzumaja), Strumski Ciftlik, Gramada, and Krupnik were on Ottoman territory. A few smaller Aromanians "Falkaria" also set up summer hut settlements on the western slopes of the Balkan Mountains, such as Ladzene near Anton in the area of Pirdop. The group on Rila was 1,500–2,000 strong. The Grammoustians who had their summer settlements in the mountains in Ottoman territory every winter inundated the plains along the Strymon, the Drama plain, and the low coastal areas between Ierissos and Porto Lagos in search of grazing grounds; while those in Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia sought their winter pastures towards the Danube and along the Maritsa/Evros valley as far as Adrianople and the grasslands of Eastern Thrace.

There are records of clashes between ethnic Bulgarian and Aroumanian urban dwellers during the period of the Bulgarian national revival in the early XX century . The reason is that in the times of struggle for an independent Bulgarian Church the Aroumanian urban dwellers, as subjects of Greek schooling, were pro-Greek minded. After the "liberation" from Muslim Ottomans, however, the number of Aroumanians grew up. Many of them, driven by their Orthodox Christian religion and by some other factors, preferred to live in Bulgaria rather than where they the had lived before, in Macedonia, which remained within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. The migrants of the new wave were no longer of pro-Greek orientation, but rather more closely tied with the Romanian culture. At the same time, they were much more receptive with respect to Bulgarian culture. Meanwhile, with the birth of new states on the Peninsula, many of the Aroumanian shepherds had to adopt a settled mode of living. Wallachians, the majority of whom are to this day characterized by a sense of relatedness to the Bulgarian lands, were actively involved in Bulgaria's political life and in large numbers participated in the wars waged by Bulgaria.

The situation changed after 1918. On the one side, at that time Romania began an active propaganda among the Aroumanians and Vlachs, and, on the other, the successive Bulgarian administrations undertook actions of repression against them, although sporadically or within occasional campaigns. Romanian schools were open in the 1920's - mainly in Gorna Dzhumaya, while the school in Sofia gradually grew into a Romanian Institute and a lyceum.

In 1923, a Romanian church was consecrated in Sofia, where Romanian priests conducted the services. (This church, which is under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Romania, is still operative.) Aroumanians in the town of Gorna Dzhumaya have had a church of their own since 1906. Initially, the college and the church were in service of the Aroumanian community alone, but from 1933 on the lyceum began to admit students from among the Wallachians of the Danubian regions. The school functioned until 1948, when it was closed and the Aroumanian organizations were disbanded. In the 1930's, the Romanian universities would admit students, and provide fellowships to them, from the Wallachian population living by the Danube. There was also propaganda work encouraging migration to Romania. It was more effective among the Aroumanians, while only some 200 Vlach families left to live there. (On the one hand, Vlachs had no economic motivation to emigrate, on the other, we already mentioned their affiliation to the Bulgarian society.) After the coup in 1923, the leaders of the Wallachian movement persecuted by the new Bulgarian government emigrated to Romania, where they, together with Wallachian immigrants from Serbia, founded their associations and published their own newspapers.

Under the Communist regime, except for the overall policy of assimilation, there is no written evidence of some special measures aimed at the two ethnic communities or of some specific ban on the use of their language. This was due perhaps to the circumstance that Romania was also under Communist rule, as well as to the fact that a numerous Bulgarian ethnic minority lived there.

In 1991, an Association of Vlachs in Bulgaria was founded. Its membership includes both Vlachs and Aroumanians, the two communities maintaining the autonomy of their associations. They publish in Vidin one common newspaper Timpul /Time/ and the Aroumanian society issues a Bulletin, Armani, in Sofia. The Association sends to Romania young people to study at the universities there. (Similarly, through the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science, and with the help of the Bulgarian ethnic organizations in Romania, ethnic Bulgarians from Romania are admitted to the institutions of higher education in Bulgaria.) The association is a member of international minority organizations. It organizes folk festivals, maintains regular contacts with the Bulgarian and Romanian authorities, with non-governmental organizations, as well as with the organizations of the ethnic Bulgarians in Romania. Since several years, steps have been made to re-open the Romanian school in Sofia.


Statistical data are quite contradictory (read ). According to the 1910 Bulgarian census, 1843 individuals have identified themselves using the ethnic names by which Aroumanians were referred to at that time, Tsintsars and Kutzovlachs. The same census, however, reports 80 000 Romanians and a total of 96 502 people whose mother tongue was Romanian. In 1920, when Bulgarian territories, populated among other people by Vlachs, were ceded to Romania and Serbia, a "Romanian" identity was reported by 57 312 persons, and the people whose mother tongue was Romanian numbered 75 065 of whom 10 648 Aroumanians. In 1926 the number of "Romanians" living in Bulgaria was 69 080, while the total number of individuals whose mother tongue was Romanian ran up to 83 746. The Aroumanins belonging to this group were divided, according to their self-descriptions, into three subgroups: 5000 Aroumanians, 4000 Kutzovlachs and 1500 Tsintsars.

In the next census, which was conducted in the years after the 1934 coup, the number of all minority groups was deliberately reduced for political reasons. Numbers varied not only as a result of immigration, internal migratory movements and natural growth, but also as a result of varying self-identification of the same persons in the different censuses. Nevertheless, in 1992 as many as 5195 people declared themselves to be Vlachs and 2 491 Romanians, or 7 650 people in all. It should be added that these figures might include Roma people too. It is also likely for Vlachs and Aroumanians to have been placed under the title "others" because of their differing self-reported identity. The discrepancy with pre-war numbers is due mainly to the fact that most of the Wallachs, although they have kept their language and folk customs, prefer to identify themselves as Bulgarians.

In 2011 it was done the last Bulgarian census and it showed that there were only 3,684 Aromanians and 891 Romanians A huge reduction in one century, if compared to the 1920s: according to the 1926 official census, there were 69,080 Romanians, 5,324 Aromanians, 3,777 Cutzovlachs, and 1,551 Tsintsars.