"Wallach" and "Oláh" redirect here. For other uses, see Wallach (disambiguation) and Oláh (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Vlaams.
Multicoloured map of the Balkans
Map of the Balkans, with significant populations of Vlachs (or Romanians) highlighted

Vlachs (English pronunciation: /ˈvlɑːk/ or /ˈvlæk/) is a historical term used for Eastern Romance-speaking peoples in the Balkans and Eastern Europe; Exonym for several modern peoples from the population in present-day Romania and Moldova, the southern Balkan Peninsula and south and west of the Danube.[1] They were identified during the 11th century (when they were described by George Kedrenos), and their prehistory during the Migration Period is a matter of scholarly speculation.[2] According to one origin theory, the Vlachs originated from Latinized Dacians.[3] According to some linguists and scholars, the Eastern Romance languages prove the survival of the Thraco-Romans in the lower Danube basin during the Migration Period[4] and western Balkan populations known as "Vlachs" also have had Romanized Illyrian origins.[5] Nearly all central- and southeastern European nations (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Bulgaria) have native Vlach (or Romanian) minorities; in other countries, like Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Vlachs have assimilated to the Slavic population. The term was also commonly used for shepherds, like in mountains of Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, the Eastern Romance-speaking communities number 24,187,810 people.[6][7][8]


Further information: Walhaz

The word "Vlach" is of Germanic origin, an early loanword into Proto-Slavic from Germanic *Walhaz ("foreigner" or "stranger") and used by ancient Germanic peoples for their Romance-speaking and (Romanized) Celtic neighbours. *Walhaz was evidently borrowed from the name of a Celtic tribe, known to the Romans as Volcae in the writings of Julius Caesar and to the Greeks as Ouólkai in texts by Strabo and Ptolemy.[9] Vlach is thus of the same origin as European ethnic names including the Welsh and Walloons.[10]

The word passed to the Slavs and from them to other peoples, such as the Hungarians (oláh referring to the Romanians and olasz referring to the Italians) and Byzantines (Βλάχοι, Vláhi"), and was used for all Latin people from the Balkans.[11][12] The Polish word for "Italian" (Włoch, plural Włosi) has the same origin, as does the Slovenian, vaguely-derogatory lach. The Italian-speaking region south of the South Tyrol, now Trentino in Italy, was known as Welschtirol in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. "Vlah" is also a derogatory term used in Croatia when referring to inhabitants of Dalmatian hinterland and the Dinarides area, especially Serbs ("Vlaji"), and in Bosnia referring to Serbs ("Vlasi").

However, some scholars consider that the word "Vlach" appeared for the first time in the Eastern Roman Empire and was spread to the Germanic and Slavic world through the Vikings, who were in contact with the Eastern Roman Empire.[13][14]


Map of southeastern Europe, delineating Roman and Greek influence
The Jireček Line between Latin- and Greek-language Roman inscriptions
Old manuscript
Writ issued on 14 October 1465 by Wallachian voivode Radu cel Frumos from his residence in Bucharest

The first record of a medieval Romance language in the Balkans dates to the early Byzantine period, with Procopius (500–565) mentioning forts with names such as Skeptekasas (Seven Houses), Burgulatu (Broad City), Loupofantana (Wolf's Well) and Gemellomountes (Twin Mountains).[15][16] A 586 Byzantine chronicle of an incursion against the Avars in the eastern Balkans may have one of the earliest references to Vlachs. In the account, when baggage carried by a mule slipped the muleteer shouted: "Torna, torna, fratre!" ("Return, return, brother!").[17][18][19] Byzantine historians used the Germanic Vlachs for Latin speakers, particularly Romanians.[20][21][22]

The name Blökumenn is mentioned in a Nordic saga with respect to events in 1018 or 1019 believed by some to be related to the Vlachs.[23][24] Traveler Benjamin of Tudela (1130–1173) of the Kingdom of Navarre was one of the first writers to use the word Vlachs for a Romance-speaking population.[25] According to 10th century Arab chronicler Mutahhar al-Maqdisi, "They say that in the Turkic neighbourhood there are the Khazars, Russians, Slavs, Waladj, Alans, Greeks and many other peoples."[26] Byzantine writer Kekaumenos, author of the Strategikon (1078), described a 1066 Roman (Vlach) revolt in northern Greece.[27]

During the late ninth century the Hungarians invaded the Pannonian basin, where the province of Pannonia was inhabited—according to the Gesta Hungarorum, written around 1200 by the anonymous chancellor of King Bela III of Hungary—by the "Slavs [Sclavi], Bulgarians [Bulgarii] and Vlachs [Blachii], and the shepherds of the Romans [pastores Romanorum]" (sclauij, Bulgarij et Blachij, ac pastores romanorum in the original).[28] Between the 12th and 14th centuries they were ruled by the Kingdom of Hungary, the Byzantine Empire and the Golden Horde.[29]

In chapter XIV of the Alexiad, Anna Komnene identifies Vlachs from the Balkans with the Dacians, describing their region around Haemus Mons: "On either side of its slopes dwell many very wealthy tribes, the Dacians and the Thracians on the northern side, and on the southern, more Thracians and the Macedonians". Byzantine historian John Kinnamos described Leon Vatatzes' military expedition along the northern Danube, where Vatatzes mentioned the participation of Vlachs in battles with the Magyars (Hungarians) in 1166.[30][31] The Asen family in the XIIth century was of Vlach origin and was the promoters of the Vlach-Bulgarian kingdom.

In 1213 an army of Romans (Vlachs), Saxons and Pechenegs, led by Ioachim of Sibiu, attacked the Bulgars and Cumans from Vidin. After this, all Hungarian battles in the Carpathian region were supported by Romance-speaking soldiers from Transylvania.[32] At the end of the 13th century, during the reign of Ladislaus the Cuman, Simon de Kéza wrote about the Blacki people and placed them in Pannonia with the Huns.[33][34]

Archaeological discoveries indicate that Transylvania was gradually settled by the Magyars, and the last region defended by the Vlachs and Pechenegs (until 1200) was between the Olt River and the Carpathians.[35][36] Shortly after the fall of the Olt region, a church was built at the Cârța Monastery and Catholic Saxons began to settle in the Orthodox region.[37] In the Diploma Andreanum issued by Andrew II of Hungary in 1224, "silva blacorum et bissenorum" was given to the settlers.[38] The Orthodox Vlachs spread along the Carpathians to Poland, Slovakia and Moravia and were granted autonomy under Ius Vlachonicum (Walachian law).[39]

In 1285 Ladislaus the Cuman fought the Tatars and Cumans, arriving with his troops at the Moldova River. A town, Baia (near the river), was documented in 1300 as settled by Saxons.[40][41] In 1290 Ladislaus the Cuman was assassinated; the new Hungarian king allegedly drove voivode Radu Negru and his people across the Carpathians, where they formed Wallachia.[42]

Eastern Romance peoples

Map of southeastern Europe, with coloured arrows indicating the Vlach dispersion
Vlach (Romanian) branches and their territories

The Eastern Romance peoples refers to the Eastern Romance-speaking peoples, primarily the nations of Romanians and Moldovans, who are both Daco-Romance-speaking (descending from Vulgar Latin, adopted in Dacia by a process of Romanization during early centuries AD[43]). These two peoples had before Soviet rule been regarded part of one and the same, Romanian people.[44] During the Migration Period, the etymon romanus (romăn, rumăn) crystallized as the Eastern Romance peoples were surrounded by foreign, pagan, peoples, the term having long meant "Christians".[45] Soviet historiography maintains that the Moldovans received an ethnic individuality in the late Middle Ages through contacts with Slavs.[46] Other Eastern Romance-speaking communities, which are not Daco-Romance-speaking, traditionally exist in Greece, Albania and Macedonia (the Aromanians and Megleno-Romanians), and Croatia (the Istro-Romanians).


Speakers of these languages are, by country:


The territories of the Bolohoveni
Bolohoveni territory, according to V. A. Boldur

In addition to groups of Aromanians and Megleno-Romanians during the Migration Period, Vlachs could be found throughout the Balkans, as far north as Poland, as far west as Moravia and in present-day Croatia (where the Morlachs gradually disappeared the Catholic and Orthodox Vlachs assumed Croat and Serb identities.[56] In search of better pasture, they were called Vlasi or Valaši by the Slavs.

States mentioned in medieval chronicles were:

Regions and places are:

Shepherd culture

Due to the association of Vlachs and sheep-herding, since the Middle Ages their ethnonym has come to mean "shepherd" in many Balkan and Central European languages. During the Middle Ages, many Vlachs were shepherds who drove their flocks through the mountains of southeastern Europe. Vlach shepherds reached as far north as southern Poland (Podhale) and the eastern Czech Republic (Moravia) by following the Carpathians, the Dinaric Alps in the west, the Pindus Mountains in the south and the Caucasus Mountains in the east.[63] Vlachs have been called "the perfect Balkan citizens" because they are "able to preserve their culture without resorting to war or politics, violence or dishonesty."[64]

See also


  1. "Vlach".
  2. Schramm 1997, pp. 336-337.
  3. Fine 1991, p. ?: "Traditionally scholars have seen the Dacians as ancestors of the modern Rumanians and Vlachs."
  4. According to Cornelia Bodea, Ştefan Pascu, Liviu Constantinescu: "România: Atlas Istorico-geografic", Academia Română 1996, ISBN 973-27-0500-0, chap. II, "Historical landmarks", p. 50 (English text), the survival of the Thraco-Romans in the Lower Danube basin during the Migration period is an obvious fact: Thraco-Romans haven't vanished in the soil & Vlachs haven't appeared after 1000 years by spontaneous generation.
  5. Badlands-Borderland: A History of Southern Albania/Northern Epirus [ILLUSTRATED] (Hardcover) by T.J. Winnifruth, ISBN 0-7156-3201-9, 2003, page 44: "Romanized Illyrians, the ancestors of the modern Vlachs".
  6. 1 2 "Ethnologue report for language code: ron". Ethnologue.com. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  7. 1 2 "Council of Europe Parliamentary Recommendation 1333 (1997)". Assembly.coe.int. 1997-06-24. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  8. 1 2 "Ethnologue Estimate in Greece and all countries". Ethnologue.org. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  9. Ringe, Don. "Inheritance versus lexical borrowing: a case with decisive sound-change evidence." Language Log, January 2009.
  10. "The name 'Vlach' or 'Wallach' applied to them by their neighbours is identical with the English Wealh or Welsh and means "stranger", but the Vlachs call themselves Aromani, or "Romans" (H.C. Darby, "The face of Europe on the eve of the great discoveries', in The New Cambridge Modern History, vol. 1, 1957:34).
  11. Kelley L. Ross (2003). "Decadence, Rome and Romania, the Emperors Who Weren't, and Other Reflections on Roman History". The Proceedings of the Friesian School. Retrieved 2008-01-13. Note: The Vlach Connection External link in |journal= (help)
  12. Entangled Histories of the Balkans: Volume One: National Ideologies and Language Policies. BRILL. 13 June 2013. pp. 42–. ISBN 978-90-04-25076-5.
  13. Ilie Gherghel, Câteva considerațiuni la cuprinsul noțiunii cuvântului "Vlach", București: Convorbiri Literare, 1920, p. 4-8.
  14. G. Popa Lisseanu, Continuitatea românilor în Dacia, Editura Vestala, Bucuresti, 2014, p.78
  15. http://www.fact-index.com/h/hi/history_of_vlachs.html
  16. http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rbph_0035-0818_1924_num_3_1_6272
  17. M. Manea, A. Pascu, B. Teodorescu, Istoria românilor din cele mai vechi timpuri până la revoluția din 1821, Ed. Didactică și Pedagogică, București, 1997
  18. Gheorghe I. Brătianu, Marea Neagră de la origini până la cucerirea otomană, ediția a II-a rev., Ed. Polirom, Iași, 1999, p. 182, 193
  19. https://web.archive.org/web/20081003021421/http://www.ear.ro/3brevist/rv8/art14.pdf
  21. http://www.farsarotul.org/nl26_1.htm
  22. http://www.friesian.com/decdenc2.htm
  23. Egils saga einhenda ok Ásmundar berserkjabana, in Drei lygisogur, ed. Å. Lagerholm (Halle/Saale, 1927), p. 29
  24. V. Spinei, The Romanians and the Turkic Nomads North of the Danube Delta from the Tenth to the Mid-Thirteenth Century, Brill, 2009, p. 106, ISBN 9789047428800
  25. http://users.clas.ufl.edu/fcurta/tudela.html
  26. A. Decei, V. Ciocîltan, “La mention des Roumains (Walah) chez Al-Maqdisi,”in Romano-arabica I, Bucharest, 1974, pp. 49–54
  27. G. Murnu, Când si unde se ivesc românii întâia dată în istorie, în „Convorbiri Literare”, XXX, pp. 97-112
  28. Mircea Muşat, Ion Ardeleanu-From ancient Dacia to modern Romania, p. 114
  29. A. Decei, op. cit., p. 25.
  30. V. Spinei, The Romanians and the Turkic Nomads North of the Danube Delta From the Tenth to the Mid-Thirteenth Century, Brill, 2009, p.132, ISBN 9789004175365
  31. Ş. Papacostea, Românii în secolul al XIII-lea între cruciată şi imperiul mongol, Bucureşti, 1993, 36; A. Lukács, Ţara Făgăraşului, 156; T. Sălăgean, Transilvania în a doua jumătate a secolului al XIII-lea. Afirmarea regimului congregaţional, Cluj-Napoca, 2003, 26-27
  32. Simon de Kéza, Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum, IV,
  33. G. Popa-Lisseanu, Izvoarele istoriei Românilor, IV, Bucuresti, 1935, p. .32
  34. K. HOREDT, Contribuţii la istoria Transilvaniei în secolele IV-XIII, Bucureşti, 1958, p.109-131. IDEM, Siebenburgen im Fruhmittelalter, Bonn, 1986, p.111 sqq.
  36. A. IONIŢĂ, Date noi privind colonizarea germană în Ţara Bârsei şi graniţa de est a regatului maghiar în cea de a doua jumătate a secolului al XII-lea, în RI, 5, 1994, 3-4.
  37. J. DEER, Der Weg zur Goldenen Bulle Andreas II. Von 1222, în Schweizer Beitrage zur Allgemeinen Geschichte, 10, 1952, pp. 104-138
  38. Stefan Pascu: A History of Transylvania, Wayne State Univ Pr, 1983, p. 57
  39. Pavel Parasca, Cine a fost "Laslău craiul unguresc" din tradiţia medievală despre întemeierea Ţării Moldovei [=Who was "Laslău, Hungarian king" of the medieval tradition on the foundation of Moldavia]. In: Revista de istorie şi politică, An IV, Nr. 1.; ULIM;2011 ISSN 1857-4076
  40. O. Pecican, Dragoș-vodă - originea ciclului legendar despre întemeierea Moldovei. În „Anuarul Institutului de Istorie și Arheologie Cluj”. T. XXXIII. Cluj-Napoca, 1994, pp. 221-232
  41. D. CĂPRĂROIU, ON THE BEGINNINGS OF THE TOWN OF CÂMPULUNG, ″Historia Urbana″, t. XVI, nr. 1-2/2008, pp. 37-64
  42. Giurescu, Constantin C. (1972). The Making of the Romanian People and Language. Bucharest: Meridiane Publishing House. pp. 43, 98–101, 141.
  43. Charles King (1 September 2013). The Moldovans: Romania, Russia, and the Politics of Culture. Hoover Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8179-9793-9.
  44. Ilie Ceaușescu (1989). Transylvania: an ancient Romanian land. Military Publishing House. p. 41. ISBN 978-973-32-0046-8.
  45. The Current Digest of the Soviet Press. 34. American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. 1982. pp. 101–102.
  46. http://media.popis2011.stat.rs/2011/prvi_rezultati.pdf Serbian Preliminary 2011 Census Results
  47. http://www.ksh.hu/nepszamlalas/teruleti_adatok
  48. WebDesign Ltd. www.webdesign-bg.eu. "2011 Census Results". nsi.bg. Retrieved 2014-09-14.
  49. "Ethnologue report for language code: rup". Ethnologue.org. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
  50. According to INTEREG - quoted by Eurominority: Aromanians in Albania, Albania's Aromanians; Reemerging into History
  51. Arno Tanner. The forgotten minorities of Eastern Europe: the history and today of selected ethnic groups in five countries. East-West Books, 2004 ISBN 978-952-91-6808-8, p. 218: "In Albania, Vlachs are estimated to number as many as 200,000"
  52. "Aromânii vor statut minoritar", in Cotidianul, 9 December 2006
  53. Macedonian census 2002
  54. http://www.ethnologue.com/language/ruo
  55. Hammel, E. A. and Kenneth W. Wachter. "The Slavonian Census of 1698. Part I: Structure and Meaning, European Journal of Population". University of California.
  56. A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, Editura Victor Frunza, Bucuresti 1992, pp 98-106
  57. A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, Editura Victor Frunza, Bucuresti 1992
  58. 1 2 3 Since Theophanes Confessor and Kedrenos, in : A.D. Xenopol, Istoria Românilor din Dacia Traiană, Nicolae Iorga, Teodor Capidan, C. Giurescu : Istoria Românilor, Petre Ș. Năsturel Studii și Materiale de Istorie Medie, vol. XVI, 1998
  59. Map of Yugoslavia, file East, sq. B/f, Istituto Geografico de Agostini, Novara, in : Le Million, encyclopédie de tous les pays du monde, vol. IV, ed. Kister, Geneve, Switzerland, 1970, pp. 290-291, and many other maps & old atlases - these names disappear after 1980.
  60. Mircea Mușat; Ion Ardeleanu (1985). From Ancient Dacia to Modern Romania. Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică. that in 1550 a foreign writer, the Italian Gromo, called the Banat "Valachia citeriore" (the Wallachia which stands on this side).
  61. Z. Konecny, F. Mainus, Stopami Minulosti: Kapitol z Dejin Moravy a Slezka/Traces of the Past: Chapters from the History of Moravia and Silesia, Brno:Blok,1979
  62. Silviu Dragomir: "Vlahii din nordul peninsulei Balcanice în evul mediu"; 1959, p. 172;
  63. Winnifrith, Tom. "Vlachs". Retrieved 2014-01-13.


Further reading

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