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[Aromanian Vlachs: The Vanishing Tribes]

[ Vlachophiles: texts, travelogues..] [ More Vlach vignettes ..]


In the Pindus Mountains, in their stone villages and hut
hamlets, one can even today encounter the relics of a
resilient ethnicity: the Aromanian Vlachs: "who speak one Virginia Woolf - Visiting the Wallachians of Euboea
of the most interesting surviving form of late provincial
Latin, mutually comprehensible with Romanian" [1]. If the
Greek establishment, conceals the existence, claims and
culture of the Aromanians [2], hastily ascribing them to the Les Farserots: leur langue et origine
ill-defined if not dubious doctrine of a de rigueur
"Hellenism", then maybe the Aromanians themselves
helped -(sur)rendering generously their identity- validate
Robert Liddell: Vlach Logbook through Boeotia &
this sort of attachment: they, throughout their apocryphal
Metsovo
past, would furtively leave scene, submerge, merge with
other borderland people, become sort of ethereal quasi-
mythical presence, only to re-enter all of a sudden, at later
stages of history, spectacularly, with their archaic- Tim Salmon: A Shepherd's Tale of Samarina on BBC
Romance language, poise and attire unharmed.. Radio4
When the intrepid byzantinists Susan Mountgarret and
Desmond Seward visited the former Byzantine Provinces
delving onto the landscape, scanning the horizon,
diligently in pursuit of unadulterated ethnographic The Wallachian Benefactors of Meteora
paraphernalia, they had to literally "sniff" the air in search
for the seldom prey. And indeed, the patient wait paid off:
the trophy soon loomed up before their eyes. After false
sighting and nearly missed encounters the "piece de An insight into the fragile ethnicities of Istria:
resistance", the "Vlach Shepherd” was finally traced: Vlachs, Morlachs, Istro-Romanians

"We had been fortunate to see our Vlach shepherd outside


Prizren, although they roam all over the Balkans. They are as
common and elusive as wolves. The only other one we saw was Greece: a "Pandora's box of eccentricities"
tending his sheep up by the source of the river Crni Drim -the
"Black Devil"- on the Albanian border, in the back of beyond.
He wore a tall shapeless cap of black felt and a long brown
homespun cloak. It is hard to imagine a more archaic figure, Patrick Fermor: Etonians amid Carpathian shepherds
no doubt a sight well known to Byzantines"[3] Bruce Chatwin: "The nomadic alternative"
Sacheverell Sitwell: "Wallachian land of Cockaigne"
Once arrived in Metzovo (or "Aminciu"), in the heartland
of Vlachdom, Seward and Mountgarret did not hesitate to
point out the peculiar identity and the antiquated
Romanian language of the native Aromani; Edward Lear: Journal of a landscape painter in Greece
"Metsovo was the only place in Greece where we saw a
distinctive folk costume. The men wore homespun and the
women velvet dresses with cuffs flaring from elbow, Braudel, Pouqeville: More Wallachian pot-pourries
embroidered waistcoats and aprons. During lunch at a
pavement cafe we suddenly heard a language which to
Desmond (who had spent part of his childhood in Bucharest)
sounded very like Romanian. We realized it must be Vlach, a
tongue believed to be descendant of the Latin spoken by the
Roman colonists of Dacia in what is now Romania. (According Sir Artur Evans: Roumans, Greeks and the "Eastern
to Edward Lear, in his Journal of a Landscape Painter in question"
Albania, when writing about the Vlachs at Metsovo: Many of Charles Eliot: A British Diplomat en porte and the Vlach
the men emigrate as labourers, artisans etc. to Germany,
millet
Hungary, Russia, etc., and return only in summer to their
families. They retain their language. Metsovo is the Greek
capital of this shepherd race. They were well known to the
Byzantines, who regarded them as an unmitigated nuisance.
After the Empire's temporary collapse in 1204 the Vlachs even Tattoos and Taboos:
set up their own kingdom of Great Wallachia”[4] deciphering the Vlach code of "distinctiveness"

Impersonators, travesty of nationhood, faux belligerents,


who boycotted their history calmly contemplating their From Avdela to Gramaticuva: 1864 - 1952; nine decades
own extinction finally cornered in a cul-de-sac of the of Romanian schools and churches in Macedonia and
history? Or masters of disguise who shrewdly disappear in Epirus
the shadow of the main-stream history, not visible to the
uninitiated, only to later flaunt off, taunt puzzled travellers,
or court naive nation-hosts. It may be this versatility if not
chameleonism, this apparent hide-and-seek game of a Anti-heroes and cult figures: the cases of Saint Kosmas
fickle people, which incorporate paradoxically more and Apostol Margarit
serious an aim: preserving patterns of own distinctiveness
and ultimately staging own strategies of survival.. It may
be this "quality", this buoyancy that attracted so many
‘New kids on the block’: Young Greek historians’ new
intrigued Western scholars and travellers to the Vlach
approach on the Vlach issue
lands.
Old Etonians, sybarites of the obsolete school, cortege of
charmingly upright aesthetes, they all seem to have fallen The ‘Whites’ and the ‘Purples’ of Metsovo. Notes on the
for the errant Vlach tribus. Beyond their anecdotic value, Vlach vestments from a historical perspective
their descriptions have the merit to confirm the very
identity of the Aromanians: the one minted upon their
Romance dialect and specific cultural niche. When he
visited Greece in 1947, Osbert Lancaster ritualistically The Vlachs in the archives of Ragusa
ascended to the same Metsovo. His account, emphasizing
the non-Greekness of the Vlachs comes as no surprise:
Etaireia Blaxikou Politismou Athina: Deltio Typou 2004
"Although Metsovo, with its gigantic plane tree in the middle (in Greek and Aromanian)
of the little square, its stone paved streets and abundant
gardens, is typical of many a village in Epirus, in respect of its
inhabitants it is unique. The Vlachs, to which race this people
belong, are nomads, claiming with some degree of probability From Valona to Polis: Vlachs along Via Egnatia
descent from the Roman colonists of the Danube valley. In
former times they were far more numerous than to-day,
occupying the larger part of Thrace and Macedonia and
establishing in the twelfth century a Bulgaro-Vlach empire in Balkan Borderlands and endless paths
Thessaly which survived in practical independence until the
coming of the Turk.

Although for the most part herdsmen, horse-breeder and


shepherds following their beasts from pasture to pasture and Dobrudja: Tales of exile, exodus and colonization
living in temporary encampments of round wattle huts, the
existence of urban settlements, of which Metsovo is the most
considerable, would seem to afford evidence that, their
nomadism is not natural but acquired. In general they are
fairer in complexion and more industrious in their habits than
the Greeks whom they affect to despise” [5] Claudio Magris' "Kutzo-Vlachs" of Bucharest

Osbert Lancaster is very clear and his remarks deserve


attention. Far from showing the kind of unreservedly Oi Blaxoi tis Elladhas kai i Parexigimeni Istoria tous
devoted subservience to the Greeks that is usually ascribed
to them, the Vlachs of Metsovo appear as a rather aware,
independent-minded and outspoken people, defiantly
politically-incorrect and quite guarding their Traces of Imperial Rome at Metsovo: Octavia's Palace &
distinctiveness even if at the expense of the others. Thus Ottoman Grand Viziers
we might risk and say the unsayable: could it be that the
"Hellenism" of the Vlachs is just a scarily simplistic way
of categorizing a people viewed not by the honest
standards of their own distinctiveness but rather as an Post-Modern nomadism
amorphous appendix of dominant culture? It is usually
used by those unimaginative apparatchik historians as a
panacea and as an spurious replacement for the real
Palaiovlachoi and Stari Vlah: Medieval Balkan Toponymy
cultural and linguistic identity of the Vlachs..The term
"Vlah" is also used in Greece as a "pejorative or highly
generalized term, in an attempt to belittle and confuse the
issue, for the uninitiated, of the existence within Greece of Die unbekannten Europäer: Fotoresise zu der Aromunen,
an important ethnic minority whose native language is Sepharden etc.
Latin and not Greek" [6]. While indefatigably trumpeted
through media -to serve the blurred political agenda of
those right wing nasty -if not crypto Nazi- governments,
from Metaxa and Gen. Papagos to the dotty Colonels of Via Egnatia: La malediction des Balkans (et les valaques
the 1967 coup- the "Hellenism" has maybe less to do than de Bitola)
it is usually assumed with a community who effectively is
part of Greece only from 1913, and who voted with their
feet by emigrated en-masse (to Romania in 1923 and 1926,
and elsewhere after the second world war) [7]. If many Comemorarea lui Apostol Margarit de Academia Romana
honest Greeks still genuinely believe there are no native
ethnic minorities in Greece, maybe they are not to be
blamed after all: they are just casualties of a bizarre and
La question des Macedo-Roumains ou des Koutzo-
still in place ethnocentric-fantasist version of history,
Valaques a Versailles
generously delivered by the state and clergy controlled
educational establishment: from the primary school
benches up to the amphitheatres of universities.
And still, the evidence was there and not scant at all: one
Maverick Vlach habitats: Avdela, Turia, Ameru, Aminciu
only has to have the eyes and good-will to read it...Even
fierce philhellenes, the likes of W.A. Wagram D.D. of the
exclusive Hellenic Travelers Club of London are frank:

"The Vlachs, this very interesting people are not Greek at all "Bλαχόφιλοι" η "ελληνο-εχθροί";
but a race of nomads, who come down from the Balkan lands
in the winter with their flock and pass the cold months in
Greece. They are shepherd by business, and their tribal name
has become a sort of synonym for an ancient profession. Quelle place pour les aroumains d’Albanie?
Generally they are a people as kindly as they are picturesque,
patriarchally hospitable and good sportsmen, as many an
English Consul knows, and by no means ill favoured [8].
The Realm of the Nomads: Coming across the Vlachs of
Frank too is Robert Carver, and his honestly blunt
Greece in the 1950’s
description of his entering Moschopole has slight hints of a
disappointment that cannot be concealed. The grand
expectations are not always matched by the concrete
experience on the ground. The utopian projection into the
mundane of a –with naïveté- expected grandeur often A Kafkaesque Vlach Trial in Athens 2001
collapses in the muddled streets: Moschopole seems to
have become an emaciated conurbation, a shrunken
skeleton of what once was the second largest city after
Objects of desire: Wrangling over the Vlachs in Athens
Constantinople itself.
and Bucharest during the Belle epoque
“I had expected a grand ruin, a sort of dilapidated Antioch or
Salonica. Now, Voskopja was a tiny village. The few people in
the broken street, some as blond as Austrians, gazed at us
with lack of interest. These were Orthodox Vlachs, settled Carte ethnographique de la Macedoine d'apres Dr. Cvijic
shepherds.”[9]

Yet the talk is not always about “pillaged cities, sad


broken stones” and unfulfilled destinies. The joyous Aromanii in imagini pana la jumatatea secolului XX
observation of a people seen as much alive as real as
opposed to some kind of moribund oddity is quite often the
norm. To the -always increasing- list of Brits who
experienced Vlachs, and then wrote about them in alluring From Vlaho-Clisura to London’s Belgravia: A Romanian
terms, should be added Rebecca West, herself an Diplomat’s Vlach roots
iconoclast character (albeit one of Sloane extraction) who,
in 1937 ventured deep into the Macedonian vilayets, and to
whom we owe another Vlach vignette:

"He -writes Rebecca West- showed us also, a superb being,


like a Cosack in a ballet, who went strutting by in a wide-
skirted coat made from the wool of a brown sheep. This, he ***
told us, was a wealthy Tsintsar (or Vlach), a true nomad, who
moved with his herd between summer and winter pastures
and hoarded all his wealth, according to the classic nomadic George Padioti - Cantici Farserotesti: Sample below an
fashion, in the form of necklaces and bracelets worn by his excerpt of a collection of archaic lyrics, texts of the "Rramani" or
women-folk"[9] "Farseroti" Vlachs of Albania and Northern Greece.

The same choreographic –so to speak- quality of the *****


Vlachs is vividly depicted by Robert Curzon 100 years
prior to Rebecca West, while his lordship was being
escorted through the Zigos Pass by a company of
mountaineer klephts on leaving Mezzovo. The year was
1833. Writes Curzon

"I was struck by the original manner in which our mountain


friends progressed through the country; sometimes they kept
with us, but more usually some of them went on one side of the
road and some on the other, like men beating for the game, CANTIC DIT MIZUCHIE
only that they made no noise...They were curious wild
animals, as slim as active as cats: their waists were not much
more than a foot and a half in circumference, and they
appeared to be able to jump over everything. Their white Meru arosu ca sandzile
dress or fustanellas gave them much the appearance of a party Stasa s-baga plandzile
of young ladies who had escaped from a ballet or opera, and -Alea Stasa, Stasanie
were running wild among the rocks. The thin moccasins of Ti-ai tu chept spuni-ni ania?
raw hide which they wore enabled them to run or walk -"Cupile ti beari vin."
without making the slightest noise. In fact they were -Da-mi-li ania sa-t mi'nclin
agreeable, honest enough, and we got on amazingly well
together" [10]
S'fac na cioara sarmandeaua
Sa-ni ti bag pri-un cal cu saua!
‘Colonialist’s fantasy’ of what the natives get up when
allowed to mix freely with those toffs of Albion coming in Sa-ni ti duc pan' Bituli
their way or dignifying account putting the ‘natives’ on an cu saidzati di flituri
equal footing? We incline to believe the case is the latter. Sa-ni ti duc pan samburi
The British travellers and their observation are all Cu saidzati di flamburi
dignifying descriptions empowering the Vlachs with a
renewed –and so much needed- sense of identity. Even if,
there is –now and then- as in Curzon’s case, a hint of
’noble savage’ about those described.

If not rarely -as the critic Hywel Williams once observed-


‘like all such exercises of the colonial mind the object is to
demean and control through flattery’, then one is inclined
to prefer such harmless flattery to other –more aggressive-
means of ‘controlling’ unruly ‘subjects’.

At least, unlike the Greek historian, to whom the words


‘Vlach’ and ‘Greek’ have to be –as a rule- glued one to
another, the British travellers do not bother to churn TANA
through the sieve of such patriotic debris. ‘Vlach’ is not re-
shaped in fraction of seconds in..‘Greek’ as if the narrative Tana, la prunu di-ndzeana
of a minority cannot possibly exist unless it becomes a nu avdz moi Tana
quaint and folksy peripheral province of a dominant ciuprachea 'mbaniana
discourse. fustanea gaitana.
Nu avdz, moi Tana
dipu ca varna-aslana
Candu ieseai nafoara
**** ca una fidana
nu avdz, moi Tana
From Bronte Sisters to the Vlach Brotherhood
..from muleteers' trains to Akropolis Express

I sometimes wonder what made Tom Winnifrith leave the chintzy universe of the Bronte Sisters and commute to the harsh,
tangly and unrewarding Balkan Vlach topic...
For nothing seems more conceivable unrelated than the rough sheepskin waistcoat clad Vlach as against the suave
crinoline of the English shires where professor Winnifrith seemed perennially and so securely stranded. Apart from these
pure "sartorial" incompatibilities, it could be after all, I thought, that post-modern penchant for obscure lost causes (that
haunts some of us) and which determined the English professor to embracing a species facing perilous extinction.
It was the Daunt Books in London's Marylebone where I first spotted Winnifrith's book ambiguously titled "The Vlachs -
History of a Balkan People" [1] and I thought, instantly, at a book dealing with Romanians, since "Vlach" is just another -if
slight obsolete- name for "Romanian" and Balkan Romance (as the last edition of Encyclopedia Britannica to the point
reveals)... Still, it was not the history of the Romanians Winnifrith was focusing upon but that of their close kinsmen, the
Vlach populace of the Balkan Peninsula... Risky as it is to extract it from a larger Romanian context to which it organically
belongs and try to clone and further present it as a distinct development, the history of the scattered Vlachdom is not the
easiest thing to compile. Yet it has to be said from the start that the Warwick based scholar's book has obvious merits not
in the last for his stating of the identity of a people whose very existence is object of a careful camouflage. Winnifrith's
The Vlachs soon was to become a ubiquitously quoted work (though not in Greece) and the author himself was paid an
unctuous reverence, due to his presumed impartiality.

When Winnifrith discovers them in 1975, the Vlachs of Greece were at the end of a traumatizing and torturous process of
identity erasure. Roughly one year before, in 1974, with the Colonels’ Junta still in power in Athens, Vlach speakers still
risked imprisonment for casually chatting in their language. The context was grim not only for vulnerable ethnical
minorities but for any liberal minded person: thousands, including women, were tortured and elementary if frivolous
liberties like wearing long hair or mini-skirt were liable to puritanical punishment [2]. Expressing another identity than the
official Greek one was a quite serious offence. As human rights experts on Greece point out in their report : “The Vlachs -
Current situation of the community and language":

‘The Vlach languages in Greece have never been included in the educational curriculum. On the contrary, their use has been strongly
discouraged at schools and in the army, through physical punishment (!), humiliation, or, in recent years simple incitation of Vlach users.
Such attitudes have led many Vlach parents to discourage their children from learning their mother tongue so to avoid similar
discrimination and suffering’ [3]

If for many outsiders, Vlachs were a jolly novelty if not an exotic commodity; the Vlachs of Greece themselves gradually
became a fatigued and confused community as a result of decades of deprivation of elementary linguistic and cultural
rights. As George Padioti, an Aromanian Vlach author (born and living all his life in Greece) writes, in February of 1952
the last Aromanian churches were being closed by the then Greek government, amongst them the Church of Gramaticuva
(Anno Grammatikon) whose fate was to be sealed off without consulting the parishioners. As to this issue Mr. Padioti
writes unequivocally: "February 1952, the Aromanian Church 'Biserica ramana Santu Dumitru', burned by German
troopers in spring 1944. The priest Costa Bacou officiating the last allowed liturgy in Aromanian language. Afterwards, he
was not permitted anymore because he refused to forcibly officiate the divine service in Greek language" [4]. Such
statements have to be given credit as their author –in this case George Padioti- is a native and a connoisseur, as someone
who as a Vlach, has at first hand knowledge of his own kinsmen.

Not surprisingly, the ban of the vernacular in the churches frequented by Vlachs was not something worth noticing by
those philhellenes addicted to seeing Greece as a kind of Shangri-la, and instantly dismiss any form of criticism of her as
‘blasphemy’ or ‘calumny’ of what -too naively is labelled as the ‘cradle of the civilization’. Not few of these display the
typical syndrome of the false visionary deprived of the own failing dream. No matter how hollow are the dreams of an
ancient Greece miraculously reincarnated –as if embalmed- unscathed in Modern Greece (allegedly still populated by
nymphs and Centauri) the utopian projection of the image of a country (no matter how much this disappoints today) will
always and stubbornly be preferred to the reality on the ground. It is no wonder thus, that it became a custom of many
writers on Vlach (let alone Greek) issues to mention little on such taboo data (which comes into contradiction with the
alleged widespread hellenophilia of the Vlachs), as, for example, the saga of the Romanian schools and churches opened to
serve their Vlach kinsmen (which stretched uninterruptedly for a period of almost 90 years) or view them as a marginal
phenomenon. Winnifrith goes so far that even, describes these fundamental institutions as "unfavoured by Vlachs" as if
trying to justify their closure by the Greek authorities [5]. That this was far from being the case it is clearly shown by
Alexandru Rubin, an author (one of the many) who compiles a most en detail list of these schools, their location, number
of pupils and teacher in his book “Les Roumains de Macedoine”, published in 1913 in the aftermath of the second Balkan
War. Unfortunately, this superbly printed book, available to the reader at the British Library, remains to this day, 90 years
after being published, with its pages uncut.

It is thus no wonder thus that otherwise such competent researchers as Winnifrith (a scholar who deserves full respect)
seem not to be fully aware of the amplitude and most serious character of the Romanian schooling venture and history in
what is today Greece. It is a question the English researcher –quite competent otherwise- does not properly address. At
their peak, just before the Balkan wars, there were 6 secondary school of Lycee type, and 113 primary schools, all of them
teaching exclusively in Romanian. One of the first Romanian schools was active as soon as 1867 in Avdhela of Pindus (as
a result of its staunch pro-Romanian stance, on October 27th 1905 the village was burned and raised to the ground by
andartes marauders) [6]. The teachers of these schools were all local Vlachs (with the odd exception of a Turkish or French
professor) and so were the school inspectors, headed for a while by the Avdela native Apostol Margarit.

Contrary to the general opinion, the schools were well attended by pupils of most diverse social and ethnic backgrounds
(many names of Sephardim Jewish girls of Monastir, whose mother Judeo-Spanish tongue (as a neo-Latin idiom) stood
close to Romanian, were on the lists of pupils) and the curriculum extremely complex. Lately, even Greek researchers such
as Vlassidis, to their merit, came to realize the seriousness of the Romanian presence in what is today Greece (see text
Vlassidis). But it would be superfluous to quote here all the distinguished names who graduated these schools, not few of
them becoming in Romania proper influential politicians and government ministers (the likes of Iuliu Valaori or C.
Papanace) or professors at universities or members of the Academy [7]. As late as 1940's, at Ioanina and Salonica, likes of
Aureliu Ciufecu (a university professor currently the president of the Macedo-Romanian Congress in United States) or Mr.
Padioti himself (today Secretary of the Society for Aromanian-Vlach Language and Culture, Athens) were among the
graduates..One of the most prominent Aromanian writer Nushi Tulliu, described as the "greatest Aromanian writer of lyric
poetry", attended and then headed Romanian schools in pre-war Greece. Should he have not attended classes in mother
tongue, it is unlikely Tulliu would have become a valuable Aromanian writer; most surely he would have become a
converted neo-Greek language speaker parmi les autres..as it happened to generations of young Aromanians in the
monolithic one-language schooling of the post-war decades..Here is a sample of his biography, relevant for not so a distant
past, unexposed to the generations of today, as condensed in a preface of the editor when re-editing his work:

‘N. Tulliu was born in 1872 in Avdhela-Greece and attended the Romanian elementary school in Clisura (Klissoura) - Greece and the
Romanian High school in Bitolia (today in FYR of Macedonia) Upon graduation, he taught for a year at the Romanian secondary school
in Ioannina-Greece. All these towns were, at that time under the Ottoman rule. Wishing to further his education, Nushi Tulliu went to
Romania and in 1899 he secured his degree in letters from the University of Bucharest. Back to his home country, he taught again for
several years at the Romanian schools in Epirus and Thesalia. Not ready to settle yet, he returned to Romania and worked for a while as a
journalist. After spending several years in Germany, he finally settled in Macedonia as a teacher and a school inspector at the local
Romanian schools. He died in 1941, and did not see the closing of the last Romanian schools from Macedonia (some were closed two
decades before) that occurred immediately after the end of the second world war. During all his life, he wrote and published Aromanian
poetry and novels in the literary reviews as 'Ecoul Macedoniei' ’[8]

But the first nucleus of the Romanian schooling in Macedonia and Pindus was to be established in 1860 and its initiators
were a group of Aromanians by then living in Bucharest: D.D. Cozacovici (himself a native of Metsovo), Zisu Sideri,
Iordache Goga (a native of Vlacho-Klissoura) and others.Together they initiated the "Society for Macedo-Romanian
Culture", under the endorsement of the then Romanian ruling class [9]. The first task was to create a corpus of Aromanian
teachers, who were to be recruited amongst the youngsters of Pindus. Simultaneously, a series of Aromanian grammar
books -sponsored by Cozacovici- were being printed to serve the new schools [10]. In fact, the maverick figure of D.D.
Cosacovici -a generous and tireless benefactor- is relevant enough to emphasize the pro-Aromanian dedication of someone
who, born in Metsovo, is rather typical of the -too often ignored- not always necessarily Hellenic habits and inclinations of
the people of Metsovo. To those who have an intimate knowledge of the history of Metsovo, this might not come as a
surprise as John Nandris points out: "Aminciu (Metsovo) was certainly in existence in the 14th century, and was destroyed, twice in
one year, 1854 by both Greeks and Turks" [11]..

Those seduced by the theories describing Metsovo as resolutely pro-Greek if not a "hotbed of Hellenism" should think
twice and take maybe into account the concrete case histories of such natives of Metsovo as D.D. Cozacovici -officer and
veteran of the Romanian army- fleeing a besieged home in the murky period around 1850's when the place was sacked by
the Greeks. Again, one does not need to delve too far in the recent past in order to realize that the much trumpeted ‘love
affair’ between Greeks and Vlachs was often the more complex sorry story of pillaging, mutual mistrust and backstabbing.
In Greece (as elsewhere in the Balkans) only convenient stretches of history are resurrected and preserved: the only
narratives that get official validation are those that do not come into contradiction with the ‘imagined’ history. Yet for the
average Greek, for ‘man from the street’, the Vlachs cannot possibly be accommodated with ease within the exclusive
boundaries of the ‘Hellenic’ psyche and ethnic domain, which is supossed to contain only the unadulterated Greeks
themselves. For the average Greek they remain an oddity, a fringe people that are regarded with caution at best. Maybe
this explains the complex of certain Vlach who feel the constant urge to ‘prove’ their ‘patriotism’ sometimes even
completely discarding his own language so to pass as the ‘real thing’. When Tim Salmon visited the Vlahuhori the in the
1980’ he was mildly repelled to hear Vassili, a Greek taxi-driver who drove him from Grevena up to the Vlach village of
Samarina, confessing his deep dislike of the Vlachs. The confession is interesting because its spontaneous character lets
the reader find out how the Greeks perceive their Vlach neighbours in reality. Like in London or elsewhere, where the
‘cabbie’ is an accurate scale of the intensity of the political pulse of the place, the Greek taxi driver offers a sample of
popular prejudice which is nevertheless immensely valuable not least because of its sheer sincerity, uncensored bluntness:

‘In the morning we left promptly as arranged. The taxi-driver was in more amenable mood, although I still had to listen to a litany of anti-
Vlach calumnies and townee's scaremongering about how fearsome life in the mountains is: how the Samariniotes are all liars and how in
the war they were traitors, showing the Italian invaders the way, until our boys stopped them at Stavrós -- completely overlooking the fact
that they had served in the army like all other Greek citizens’

And here lies the paradox. The ‘historical truth’ and its accompanying discourse, is in Greece, a split, deeply fractured
concept. At one level, there is the ethnic truth’ or the officially sanctioned version of the history, quite an artificial concept
according to which, apriori, since ‘there are no other native ethnicities in Greece than the Greeks themselves’ Vlachs are
automatically a segment of the Hellenism. Quod era demostrandum! On the other level, the very same ‘historical truth’
becomes something utterly different when freely interpreted by the ‘man from the street’, according to his/her real
experience on the ground and freely collected data. That the two levels of perceiving the Vlachs clash, is quite obvious.
But even within the official ‘state-controlled’ historical truth, fractures can appear and the Vlachs can suddenly become,
from heroes, convenient villains, useful scapegoats. Valuable because, never in short supply, they can be, remorselessly,
hypocritically ditched by the establishment instantly. As David Brewer brilliantly pointed out in an essay published by the
History Today:

‘In his 1961 book The Dilessi Murders Romilly Jenkins told the story of the murder of three English aristocrats and an Italian nobleman
near Athens in 1870, and the international repercussions which followed. A chapter was devoted to the concept of `ethnic truth'.
According to this, wrote Jenkins, `the modern Greek was at once the spiritual heir of all the splendid intellectual endowments of the
classical age, and the political heir of all the vast pretensions, both religious and imperial, of Byzantium'. From the first he derived his
genius and culture, from the second his natural right and fitness to resume empire over all the nations of the eastern Mediterranean; and
`from both his evident superiority, in intellect and capacity, over the members of any other race'. It followed that his conduct was above
reproach, and his country a paragon of order and enlightenment. But, Jenkins went on, this ideal picture bore no relation to the actual
Greece of 1870, a country economically weak and impotent in foreign affairs, its inhabitants doubtfully descended from the ancient
Greeks, its countryside infested with brigands, and its politicians corrupt.In the furore over the Dilessi murders the Greeks denied all
responsibility and argued, when the facts were clearly otherwise, that the travellers had rashly brought the tragedy on themselves and that
the brigands involved were not Greeks but as Vlachs from the north. The `ethnic truth' of the Greeks was completely opposed to the facts
as perceived by the rest of the world. Yet `ethnic truth' won. Of those accused of complicity in the murders, minor figures, mostly Vlachs,
were condemned, while major figures, mostly Greeks, were cleared.’

Most of the policies applied by the Greek state to the Vlachs can be described as typical ‘carrot & stick’ policies.
Encouraged on one side by the establishment to identify themselves with the ‘Hellenism’ (whatever this ersatz ideology
may mean), or in other words to give up their identity and language in exchange for becoming part of what they are told is
a ‘superior’ culture and thus having free access to the ‘carrot’ (though as we saw many Greeks still regards the Vlachs as
undeserving and cunning crypto-Trojan horses, converts ready to revert to their own ways as soon as the winds of the
history blow from other side), they, on the other side, will –if with discretion- be shown the stick as soon as they dare to
claim the slightest linguistic right to be provided for themselves. And since, as Mark Dragoumis recently pointed out -not
without a strong hint of bitter irony- that ‘Greeks can never do evil…they are always heroic and good’ the villain’s vacant
place is fulfilled by those whose Greekness (term which is an adjective in Greece meaning ‘good and brave’) is suspicious
at a closer examination. The Vlachs, we saw, always fitted this dramatic role, though they are, more recently, more and
more replaced as scapegoats by the ‘true’ alien, the Albanian immigrant –never in short supply- and who is the ultimate
scapegoat in Greece –in the eyes of both politicians, media and public for all the imaginable evils that take place.

It is no use of pretending that there is not around a long tradition –deeply rooted both among scholars and populist
politicians alike- of dishing the dirt in the faces of those who are either voiceless, vulnerable or are perceived as an
insignificant entity. Sometimes even history can be rewritten, reinterpreted and accommodated in an elastic way:
accurately telling the truth is of less importance than risking to antagonizing those who are perceived as more prestigious
acquaintances. At a stroke of a pen, even the deeds of the Vlachs back in the obscure Middle Ages, can become a precious
asset –when sufficiently distorted- in order to absolve of guilt the more prestigious Greek. It is amazing that this practice is
still a current one to this very day, but then, this is not an unheard of or an inconvenient way of ‘writing’ biased history. In
his recent book ‘The Fourth Crusaders’ (Pearson Longman London, 2003, p.144), Michael Angold, who is probably the
most prestigious scholar of Byzantine studies alive, does not hesitate to nervously point the finger at the Vlachs whom he
more or less accuses of gruesome murders. It makes no difference that Angold has no proof whatsoever that Vlachs were
actually the authors of these murders: he just insinuates it (using such an ambiguous expression as it may have been). Yet
the word has been spread: once again, the Dilessi-inspired calumny is a stereotype well alive and in still in place in 2004.
To be sure of his result, Angold bestows upon them the appellative ferocious as if wanting to convince the readers that his
presumption is for sure a true one. For what else can you expect from ferocious people but committing gruesome murders!
Writes Angold in conjuction with an episode of Byzantine history dated around 1230 just after the Byzantine Empire was
sacked by the ‘Latin’ Franks Crusaders in 1204:

Modern historians have always portrayed Michael Doukas as a doughty champion of the Greek independence but there are no signs that
Doukas entertained imperial ambitions. He did not attempt to create a Byzantine Empire in exile. It is true that his followers
systematically murdered Latin priests who fell in their hands. This culminated in the crucifixion of Ame Pofey, constable of (Frankish)
‘Romania’ along with his chaplain. The Latins blamed Michael, but it may have been more a question of him being unable to control his
followers which included ferocious Vlach and Albanian tribesmen

It would be unfair and would amount as prejudice to accuse such a prestigious historian as is Michel Angold of simply having a
lazy mind. This is not the case. Yet Angold is inelegantly careless when it comes to Vlachs and falls prey to gross stereotyping.
Sometimes the bored historian has to cut corners himself. It could be that he is simply uninterested in such unfashionable (and
unrewarding) topics as are the Vlachs, and after all who can blame him? And then it is never too advisable to antagonize one's
Greek fellow scholars of the realm of academia just for the sake of being accurate or honest. But happily there is always a
'compensatory effect', so to speak, in the field of academia: for every historian that fails or half-fails there can be found another
one who brilliantly succeeds. In the very years in which Angold came out with the above mentioned book, another British
historian, Robin Harris, published a substantial tome having as subject the history of the Ragusan republic, titled simply
'Dubrovnik'. Having meticulously checked out the notoriously -full of surprises- Ragusan archives, Harris found a series of
extremely important documents and diplomas attesting the very early mediaeval history of the Vlachs of that Adriatic port,
trading outpost and ultimately city-state. These Ragusan diplomas whose inedite content render obsolete the first mentioning of
the Vlach in the year 972 AD are another proof that when it comes to Vlachs, the researcher’s bag will eventually fill up with
delightful surprises if the pursuer is simply bright and keeps his mind open.

Still, the history of these people is immensely complex. The Vlachs and their "Wallachias", though we saw this name is rather
one of inconvenience, were oddly, given early mention by Chaucer in "The Book of the Duchess" in the fourteenth century ("Ne
sende men in-to Walakye / To Prusie and in-to Tartarye / To Alisaundre, ne in-to Turkye..") and in the semi-mythical
Nibelungenslied (The Songs of the Nibelungen). A most detailed description of their early medieval history is compiled by
Capidan’s ‘Aromanii ’ and by the Britannica’s 11th edition, as well as by Matyla Ghika:

The Byzantine chronicler and daughter of the Emperor Ana Comnena mentions at 1200 a Vlach city in Thessaly (Greece of today), as
laying between Kissavon and Trikala, and entered by her father the Emperor while fighting the Normands of Bohemund who were laying
claim to what is today Greece. Another Byzantine historian, Kekaumenos mentions a revolt of Vlachs of Thessaly in 1066, and their ruler
Verivoi..Around 1173, Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, traveling through Thessaly, is mentioning the "nimble as deer" mountaineer Vlachs,
and the way they were plundering those Greeks of the plains [12]. Niketas Honiatis describes a "Great Wallachia" comprising Thesaly, as
opposed to other two "Wallachias" quoted by Frantzes: "Little Wallachia" in Acarnania and Aetolia, and an "Upper Wallachia" in Epirus.
The existence of these free entities is confirmed by the Western chronicles Geoffroy de Villehardouin, Henri de Valenciennes, Robert de
Clary, and by those who wrote about the rebellion of a stem of the Vlachs of the Hemus (Chalhidiki) Peninsula, 1196 A.D. The chronicler
of the Ottoman Sultans, Chalcondilas, is mentioning later the Vlachs in filiations with the North Danubian Wallachians.

The Morlachs (or Mavro-vlachi) of the west are already mentioned as Nigri Latini by the presbyter of Dioclea (c. 1150) in the old
Dalmatian littoral and the mountains of what is now Montenegro, Herzegovina and North Albania. Other colonies extended through a
great part of the old Servian interior, where is a region still called Stara Vlaska or Old Walachia. The great commercial staple of the east
Adriatic shores, the republic of Ragusa, seems in its origin to have been a Ruman settlement, and many Vlach traces survived in its later
dialect. Philippus de Diversis, who described the city as it existed in 1440, says that the various officers of the republic do not make use
either of Slav or Italian, with which they converse with strangers, but a certain other dialect only partially intelligible to us Latins, and
cites words with strong Ruman affinities. In the mountains above Ragusa a number of Vlach tribes are mentioned in the archives of that
city, and the original relationship of the Ragusans and the nomadic Alpine representatives of the Roman provincials, who preserved a
traditional knowledge of the old lines of communication throughout the peninsula, explains the extraordinary development of the Ragusan
commerce

Centuries later, when Europe was at the zenith of the age of baroque, somehow oddly unsynchronized with the rest of the
Continent, a stem of the Vlachs, the "Gramosteni", were moulding patterns of an own urbanite culture. Their original
homeland was mount Gramos, a northern spur of the Pindus chain. Around 1650-1700, Mount Gramos sheltered one of the
largest Vlach urban centres, Gramostea, a town whose inhabitants excelled in trades and handicrafts. Surrounded by
eighteen massifs, as in a truly grandiose baroque setting, Gramostea was entered by Mount Scara, the main gate of this
town carved into the shape of an immense amphitheatre. Today, nothing is left of the once prosperous and burgeoning
centre of 40.000 inhabitants, all of them Vlachs. The few shabby "modern" buildings, the usual standard boxes of concrete
which are landmark of rural Greece can only set a sad contrast background and emphasize the majestic ruins of the once
glittering but remote past. And a puzzling question as to the sad demise of Gramostea and Moschopolis has to be asked.
Why their burghers were not able to defend their very urban homes? A possible answer should not ignore the fact that
these two towns were largely frail post or late-Byzantine structures, as said above, little synchronized with the rest of
Europe despite of Moschopolis' strong commercial ties with the outside world (and especially with Vienna). It shows that
an urban creation -endorsed only by its commercial functions and occasionally by paltry cultural enterprises cannot be
sustainable in time. Moschopolis and Gramostea were a sort of artificial-utopian conurbations devoid of any military or
political strength thus unavoidably prone to disintegration.

The loss of Gramostea was decidedly a traumatic moment in the erratic history of the Vlachs... Dwarfed and divided (but
were they ever united and homogenous?) they suffered a process, which could be described as "re-pastoralization" and
returned to pastoral pursuits founding new villages (Livadz - Veria, or Beala di Supra on the shores of the lake Ohrid).
Others, having already a taste for commerce, banking and intellectual pursuits (being in Sir Charles Eliot's own words
"men of substance") and accustomed to an urban life of Gramostea by no means unsophisticated, moved up north –via
Serbia- in the Hapsburg Empire, especially in capital cities as Vienna and -what what still known as- Buda-Pesth.
Thousands of Aromanians took the way up north to Mittel-European towns. It is a most important shift of attitudes. The
former nation of shepherds was coaching by then its own intelligentsia.
Their arrival up north in Austria and Hungary coincided with the post-French revolution resuscitated fashion for nationhood, equality,
mother tongues and “human rights”, so, once on the unambiguously European Habsburg territory, they will spectacularly connect
themselves to the already burgeoning and latinophile Romanian intelligentsia of Transylvania. A new breed of Vlach professional-mecenas,
such as Gheorghe Roja (a Vlach born in Bitola, Macedonia and joining as a child his uncle in Timisoara, today in Romania) are relevant for
this trend. Rosa, who will later become a doctor of the Pesth University's Hospital, is the author of a book written in German
"Untersuchungen uber die Romanier oder sogenannten Wlachen, welche jenseits der Donau wohnen" ("Researches upon the Romanians or
the so-called Vlachs who live beyond the Danube") - Pesth, 1808 followed by the classical "Maiestria ghiovasirii romanesti cu litere latinesti,
care sant literele Romanilor ceale vechi" - Buda, 1809 - which is an attempt to forge a literary language for those described as ‘Macedo-
Romanians’. It is written with Latin letters and Rosa himself uses the Latinised nomme de plume of of "Valachus Moscopolitanus". Another
Vlach émigré, Mihail G. Boiagi published in 1813 in Vienna "Gramatica romana sau macedo-romana" (Romanian or Macedo-Romanian
grammar)

This is the vibrant, reactionary but prolific post-Napoleonic Vienna of a Franz Schubert (who himself had a Greek
mistress), a cosmopolitan city that contained a sizeable “Greek” colony, which, at closer inspection showed clear
differentiations. Many of these “Greeks” would reveal –at a closer inspection- at least another shadow identity which, as in
the case of the above mentioned Boiagi, was a Vlach one. That Boiagi’s Vlach identity by far won over his Greekness is
showed by his own words of the foreword to his Macedo-Romanian Grammar”: "Even if the Vlachs would claim, say
Hotenton origin –writes Boiagi- even in that case they ought to have the right and duty to cultivate themselves in their
mother tongue, as the most appropriate way to fulfill their creed". The quite radical ideas of Boiagi, at a time when the idea
of using one's mother tongue (other than Greek) or writing in own language was assaulted –back in the Balkans- by an
overactive legion of Greek monks, missionaries or plain nationalistic priests- sometimes blackmailing the unruly with the
excommunication- are of an acute -if sad- actuality. The offensive of the clergy against the use of Aromanian is another
chapter, and itself ought to be the dealt with extensively. Their proselytizing was by no means limited to religious issues
but was a tool devised in order to convince the vernacular speakers to abandon what they regarded as a "worthless" idiom
and adopt the superior neo-Greek speech..One of these influential -if malignant- figures disguised in teacher was a
Phanariote, Neofit Douka, who in an appeal addressed to the Vlachs of Metsovo, was echoing the already in place racialist
trend of a retarded linguistic intolerance. A sample of Neofit Douka at the best of his spite speaks for itself: "There we are
Metsovian brothers, together with those who are fooling themselves with this sordid and vile Aromanain language, forgive
me for calling it a language". Douka's incitement had little effect though since one and a half century later Vlach language
was still alive and well in Metsovo. According to another teaching of Douka, the Vlach "was not the heir of another
speech" (i.e. Latin), but a "repulsive speech with a disgusting diction" [13]. It is no surprise that with such a rich history of
complexes of superiority, the Aromanian is prohibited even today from official use in Greece 2003.

‘Throughout the nineteenth century’ -as John Nandris points out in a study- ‘North of Janina and west of Metsovo, strenuous efforts
involving social victimization were made (with a great deal of success) to force Romance-speaking Vlachs to become ashamed of their
language and convert them to speak neo-Greek..One of the most strenuous advocates of this racialism has since been sanctified as Saint
Kosmas of Aetolia’

Ironically, it was a priest, Andrei Saguna, later becoming a Bishop of the Orthodox Romanians of Transylvania and a
Baron of the Austria-Hungary, who played an essential role in the efforts of forging a Romanian combative identity...What
makes the figure of Saguna appealing is his Vlach origin, perfectly compatible, after all, with that of the Romanians of
Transylvania, whose first political manifesto, signed a century before (1794) and presented to the Habsburg Emperor was
titled "Supplex libellus Valachorum"(14)..
Throughout the 19th century the Balkan Peninsula (as much of the rest of Europe) entered the uncharted waters of the
various murky nationalisms. The Vlachs, those whose ways of life sophisticatedly combined sedentarism (and the taste for
solid villages and massive stone cottages) with the horizon-widening transhumance (later diversified to transport of goods
and business travels) were to fall themselves prey to the temptation of nation-building. Most of the times a justified
enterprise, nation-building can occasionally become a racialist and excluding phenomenon. It often contained (as in the
case of the newly created Kingdom of the Hellenes) too high a dose of re-invention: a farcical claim of racial superiority
with the occasional cruel twist and the afferent emptily pompous rhetoric [15]. Many of the non-Greek peoples who
willingly participated to this nation-building struggle were Arvanites and Vlachs. As Robert Liddell pointed out in his
book about Morea, some of the Arvanite heroes of the Greek Revolution, such as the Admiral Koundouriotis, did not even
speak passable Greek, and weren't bother to learn it throughout their lives
The first prime-minister of Greece, Ioannis Colletis was a "Vlach of Sirakou", who on meeting the Romanian Foreign
Secretary in Paris admitted that his parents back in Sirakou "speak at home only Vlach" [16]
It is interesting to see, in this context, what wrote in 1905 the Director of the British School at Athens, the Oxford scholar
D.G. Hogarth with reference to the Vlach endowments to Greece: ".

Ere the blighting Ottoman rule was firmly established in Macedonia and Albania, the Vlachs of Moschopolis, controlling the great Zygos
road, prosecuted a most lucrative commerce; and they have given to both Turkish and Greek armies their most reliable fighters and to
liberated Hellas its best element of stability and progress.

But the time of writing the book, in 1905, the assessment of the Vlach populace was rather confused and their depiction is
contradictory: Writes Hogarth again:

‘The mountaineers of Grammos and Pindus, ranging from near Goritza even to Agrapha district of Aetolia and the lateral chin of Oeta,
distinguish themselves in common as Vlachs or Wallachs from the Toskhs, with whom, however, they admit at least a cousinship
(...)Though racially solid and of similar type and character, the Vlachs of the north are distinguished from the Vlachs of the south by their
particular designation, their speech, and to some extent their political sympathies. The Massaret or Ruman Vlachs of Grammos speak a
Latin idiom, and have always tendencies towards pan-Latinism; the "Lame" (Koutzo) Vlachs of Pindus are now at any rate, all Orthodox
and Hellenist. The truth is, that the two sections are of one stock, but have different histories. The one appeared in the hills some time
before the eleventh century; the other was still spread over the Thessalian plain, part of which was known as Anovlachia, as late, at any
rate, as the middle of the twelfth century, when Benjamin de Tudela found even Lamia as a Vlach town. There can be no doubt that both
section of the mountain Vlachs represent whilom dwellers of the plain, the one set pressed up from Macedonia, where a remnant still
survives west of Beroea, the other at a later period from Thessaly, by the influx of Slav and Turk..’[17]

Hogarth called the Vlachs of Pindus "at any rate, now Orthodox and Hellenist" but this description has to be handled
carefully. Orthodoxy was -and is- not a religious creed originating or confined only to Greece or Greeks, while its
boundaries are stretching far beyond that country. Any attempt to mix, confuse or identify Orthodoxy with Hellenism is as
simplifying a cover up as one can assume. While the Hellenism was meant to revive, after a pause of almost two millennia
the glory and the fortunes of the Ancient Hellenes (who far from being Orthodox were a polytheist lot) and project them on
the Modern Christian Greeks, hence lavished by association with all the glory of their presumptive forefathers, it also
served as a sort of trivial umbrella for gathering resources, channelling energies in order to create a homogenous country
out of an existing hybrid and multi-ethnic one: the Kingdom of Hellenes: paradoxically ruled initially not by Greek
themselves but by a Bavarian Royal junta to be followed after several decades by a Danish dynasty.
Much of the 19th century Athens (a small town on the slopes sheltering the ruins of Parthenon bordered by Arvanite
villages, which suddenly became capital city) was a Bavarian-Vlach joint creation. The Bavarian King Otto summoned
German architects in order to adorn his new capital with the adequate buildings while many of the Vlachs supporters of the
new state were to provide the financial backing for these works. As Osbert Lancaster points out, the German architects
such as Schinkel or Von Gartner (hocharchitekt to King Ludwig) were: "one of the busiest of the German imports who
firmly established themselves in Athens where half of the 19th century public building comprise a monument to their
laborious talent"
But it was "with benefactions from rich Vlachs that marble monuments and buildings in Athens were endowed, notably the
luxurious National Archeological Museum and the Academy, both in classical style, the Metsovion Poytechnic, the
Military Academy, and Panathinaic Stadium for the Olympic Games of 1896" [18].
When few years ago, the well known British art historian Brian Sewell described the Vlachs, in an article published by the
London Evening Standard as "possibly the oldest people in the Balkans" [19], his remarks caused an avalanche of responses
and outraged complaints from those readers who vociferously complained that others were actually the "oldest people" in
the town, and the so-called Vlachs were (so the story goes) in fact, Greeks. This ridiculous contest in order to grab the
oldest of the credentials might seem meaningless but one should not ignore that down in the volatile Balkan, these matters
are taken painfully serious. Roughly during the same time, the President of Greece, Costas Stephanopoluos, officially
touring Vlach villages in Pindus (known in the national hagiography as "the backbone of Greece") felt obliged to repeat to
a local Vlach audience the obsolete clichés about "the Vlachs this inseparable patriotic segment of the Hellenism". Yet
somehow surprisingly, the President also urged the villagers to "let their children speak the local dialect", the "vlachika"
[20]. This unexpected magnanimity coming from the President himself was instantly taken seriously by Vlach language
activists of Greece (such as the more assertive Vlach Syllogon of Veria) who now quote at every occasion this casual
endorsement coming from such a high official (in the same manner as they were once invoking the firmans of the Sultan of
Constantinople who once bestowed upon Vlachs various special statuses). This last encouraging signs have yet to get the
blessing of the legislators who are not in a hurry to debate such taboo issues as language of the minorities. There is a huge
gap between the occasional hiccups of the casual political discourse and the seriousness of passing a legislation desperately
needed in order to make Vlach language accepted and locally taught -even if as a non-compulsory discipline- in schools.
This is not an easy task given the general inhibitions in Greece, a country where cultural issues are often confused with the
political and even military ones. As Panayote Elias Dimitras (one of the most subtle analyst of the Greek issues) wrote a
while ago:

’Greek society and the vast majority of Greek intellectuals have yet to come to terms with the fact that Greece is not a homogenous
society; that one can be a Greek citizen but have a non-Greek ethnonational identity..(..)For almost all Greeks, Greek citizens can freely
enjoy their cultural diversity as long as they have strong Greek ethnonational identity and seek no minority status. This is how hundred of
thousands of Albanian-speaking Arvanites and Aromanian-speaking Vlachs have been "successfully" incorporated in (i.e. assimilated by)
modern Greek national culture: they have been showing a strong, even extreme, degree of attachment to Greek nationalism, in exchange
for which they have been allowed to keep their oral but never written or taught, ethnolinguistic "sensitivities". It requires a very sustained
effort for the few "multiculturalist of Greece, which include even some government ministers, to dispel this ugly image of Greek
"national" policy that can be summarized in a choice between assimilation or discrimination’ [21]

There is no longer a coherent ‘strategy of survival’ -if there was any- or a precise definition as to what it means to be a
Vlach in Greece in the 21st century. Some commentators even suggested that the term 'post-Vlach' would capture more
accurately what has become the distorted identity of an already fading peripheral ethnolinguistic minority, and should be
used instead. The Grecized Vlachs of today -they argue- simply mutants hit by a self-inflicted amnesia, hosted by a Greek
nation-state intolerant to the core, should really not be entitled at all to call themselves 'Vlachs'. At least not at this stage of
their assimilation anymore. In Greece today, Vlach survives as harmless folklore, as ethno-kitsch, as bucolic escapism. Or
as cans of condensed milk –ubiquitously named Gala Blaxas- to be found on the shelves of the supermarkets. Who said we
ignore our Vlach milkmaids and their culture? Some Greeks of the today, especially the young ones, suddenly 'remember'
or are finally being told in half-secrecy by their elderly kin of their true origins and instantly develop an interest in the
Vlach identity which they then freely interpret in order to suit their twisted new identity. In many cases it is too late
to learn the extremely elaborate Vlach language, the ultimate protective tag: that would take an effort too much, a
task impossible to fulfil by now. What they’ve since retrieved are only shards: histories adapted, ingredients half
remembered. The great banquet that stretched from infancy to dotage across seasons, centuries, wide open spaces, back to
the Roman legionnaires, was broken up for good.

It is neither the first nor will it be the last case of such type of ethno linguistic extinction known in the history. Where are
today the Alans, the Cumans, the Livonians, the Normans or the Visigoths all but in the history textbooks or as a pile of
bones scattered in a vault, dust whirling up in the desert? At best such extinct people 'survive' as an assimilated overflow:
the aristocracy or the upper-classes of Britain or Sicily who claim Norman descent, that of Spain, still bearing the hallmark
of the fair Visigoth from whom the Moors wrestled away the Visigothic Iberia. What really is sad to the extreme is the
cynical grin with which the Greek establishment carefully presides upon this ongoing drama not bothering to lift a finger
or to invest a single drachma (or more recently euro) to help slow down the haemorrhage if not stop it altogether. Instead,
tricky formulas are coined on the spot, deliberately confusing and ultimately hailing the ugly assimilation as a fait
accomplit, as something that has to be patriotically applauded.

'All of us are Vlach' exclaims now and then in his or her enthusiasm another Vlach aficionado, another new-born Greek
Vlach. This is meant to flatter the Vlachs, but should really be translated by the suffocating 'all Vlachs are Greek'. Eat-as-
much-as-you like: indeed, Vlach caters for all. Buy one, get one free: there's always apparently plenty on the menu
yet populist slogans or yet another session of popular dances-cum-Greek flag waving do not fill the belly of a dying breed
who needs real stuff not fancy words when it comes to fight for survival. The Vlachs’ 'beef-tea', the ultimate
dripping, would be media, books and classes in their language, something that the Greek state will never, despite the
almost desperate call for it of the Vlach themselves, ever allow. That would amount to dismantling the fictitious idea, upon
which are built the foundations of Modern Greece, that Greeks are a homogenous nation and the only autochthonous of
that country. In order to reinforce time and again this folly, all the non-Greek native idioms have to be ignored, sacrificed,
erased. The 'arvanitika' all but disappeared while 'vlachika' calmly expects its turn. Jolly good then, we told you, there're
only Greeks in Hellas anyway, can you hear something else? Oh, those recently arrived immigrants, but we can kick them
out at a whim, their permits of residence are anyway, never in order. As about 'native minorities' excuse me? there never
was such a thing, how dare you?

Yet a time comes when the old routes change direction: the Vlachs' mule-trains are now Express trains piercing nervously
the same Balkan passes. The human-cargoes loading the trains are the same too: the passengers, though now a passive
constituency cannot conceal scraps of their former self. The old patterns of restless behaviour are still there. Languages
might be lost and new one acquired but the tribal identity emerges as uncontrollable as a spring stream when the snows are
melting. It was said above that Vlachs are masters of mimicry, champions of thespian dissimulation. This may not be true
after all. They, like any petrified clan, are not capable of being anything but what they are: just out there to perpetuate the
rigid ways of their ancestors. In fact, nothing had changed. We too, as anyone else, can just peep through the hole and
watch the spectacle. When in 1981 Philip Glazerbrook was jumping aboard a train to Athens in Belgrade Railway Station,
he fortunately recorded the scene, a timeless vignette that for ever defies the modernity:

’At last the Akropolis Express rumbled in under the dirty roofarch, and I sprang aboard (..)The train wasn't at all like yesterdays. Though
crowded, it was a crowd in a different way. For interest, I walked its full way (..) In a succession of coaches Greek peasants were stacked
in layers on their shelves in the darkness, or were crouched over food and cooking over stoves on the floor, tatters of clothes screening
babies, a gabble of Greek spilling out on the corridor.
Glimpses into their compartment were like glimpses you might have got from horseback into the tents of their ancestors migrating with
the flocks from summer parties. And indeed I suppose it was from summer work in Germany that these poor families were returning
home.’ [22]

Notes

(1) Tom Winnifrith - The Vlachs - Duckworth Press, London; 1992. Prior to his Vlach research, Winnifrith was known as an assiduous
biographer of The Bronte Family: "The Brontes and their background: romance and real (1975)" and "Charlotte and Emily Bronte:
Literary Lives (1989)".."The Vlachs" was researched and written sometime in the mid 1980's when the Cold War was at its height and
Greece still the darling of the West not to be criticized. Thus, perhaps wisely, Winifrith refrained from politicising the Vlach issue. His
second book "Shattered Eagles. Balkan Fragments", was published by the time when Cold War was already over, so Winnifrith is here
less timid: he even attempts to criticize the non-recognition (except as a "patriotic segment of the Hellenism") of the Vlachs and their
language by the Greek establishment. He unfortunately relapses to a –what some would consider a pro-Greek stance in a text about the
Vlach village of Kefalovrissi (Megidei or Midzidei), written for the Buletin of the Farserotul Society in 1999, where he alludes critically
to the Vlach nationalists. At that time, the trial of the architect Sotir Bletsas, president of the Vlach Society of Athens was in full swing
but many scholars on Vlach issues had no ears or eyes for such trivial issues. Bletsas was later to be convicted to imprisonment by the
Greek judges for carrying a map where Vlach speaking areas were shown. Still, it is the Vlach "nationalists" (benign victims of the
excesses of a penal system that has little changed since the time of Metaxa) who are targets of the ironical hint of Winnifrith. If one
believes that philhellenism -through its powerful associations- is a long extinct 19th century romantic addiction one should not ignore the
fact that even today, this obsolete doctrine which claims Greeks are en masse, superior (culturally or otherwise) to other nations and thus
ought to be given a special treatment still mesmerizes and haunts many otherwise honest scholars hence handicapping from the start their
research. Usually, the greatest fear of such scholars is not to offend a peevish Greece (which usually results in them being banned from
entering that country - as it was the case of Richard Campbell). So they avoid sensitive subjects and, as a measure of precaution, will, not
rarely associate themselves to the Greek nationalistic rhetoric, even at the expense of their object of research. Bashing Vlach "nationalists"
(by whom they mean anyone who mention the existence of the Vlach language and distinctive identity) became an at-hand favourite
mantra of such scholars. Yet Winnifrith himself never found himself in the easiest of the postures and our criticism of him should really
end here. Researching such sensitive subject as the Vlach issue, far from rendering him immune from overall criticism, made him
uncomfortably vulnerable. A more rigid segment of the Vlach of diaspora –quite of naturally anti-Greek disposition- would snub what
they perceived as some of Winnifrith’s pro-Greek views. On the other side the Greek establishment itself was always wary and rather not
at ease at all with the Warwick scholar’s incessant interest on sensitive issue of Greek “national” interest. It is not a coincidence that his
books on Vlachs are not to this day translated into Greek which is a loss for the reader given the author’s truly valuable track-record. One
would have expected from a former Eton headmaster to be an armchair scholar per excellence. Yet it has to be said that Winnifrith is
impeccably researching his books on the ground by trekking even into the remotest Vlach village of Albania, country not noted for the
securest of the environments. As Robert Carver’s portrait of Winnifrith (disguised under the delightful nomme de guerre of Dr. Cider)
reveals: “Dr. Cider was a noted expert on the Vlachs and their language, one of the few Englishmen who had detailed practical
knowledge of Southern Albania through which he often walked on foot during the summer months from Vlach village to Vlach village in
search of errant or simply changing phonemes like some scholar gypsy of yore”. And if Dr. Cider became today a cult figure both among
the humble Vlach shepherds of Pindus and among the scholars of high repute, he is a figure whose charisma and expertise cannot for sure
be willingly ignored.
(2) see "Le Monde" Tuesday, 29th of June 1999, pag.29: Article signed by Didier Kuntz: "Georges Papadopoulos - La regne de la torture"
- Obituary of Colonel Papadopoulos, masterminder of the mentioned policies.
Kuntz writes about the hundreds of authors prohibited in Greece between 1967 - 1974: "Balzac, Dostoiewsky, Mark Twain, Tolstoi,
Soljenitsyne, Sartre, Camus"..and about "more than six thousands Greeks deported on the rat infested island of Yaros".. Papadopoulos was
urging the "defense" of the "Greek-Christian ideal of the pure race". Astonishingly, the ugly legacy of the Colonels is alive and well in
Greece 1998..As recently as 17th of August 1998, the Speaker of the Greek Parliament, Mr. Kaklamanis was openly urging the
"homogenisation of the ethnical minorities"(see Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group, 24/12/1998, AIM Athens). With the
exception of a few open-minded liberal Greek human rights activists, Kaklamanis received the entire endorsement and praise of the media
and public opinion for his statement...

(3) Greek Monitor of Human and Minority Rights vol I. No 3 December 1995

(4) George Ap. Padioti - Cantitii Farserotesti - Tragoudia Farsarioton Arvanitovlahon - Published by Etairas Aromanikou (Vlahikou)
Politizmou, Athens: Genaris 1991 pag. 71. Padioti's foreword (in fact a clear statement of intentions) to the above mentioned collection of
Vlach song lyrics, is quite important given the author's unambiguous rejection of the 'Greeknes' of the Vlachs. Padioti views his own
people as scions of the conquering Roman legions stationed in Pindus who intermingled with the non-Greek indigenous population of the
Balkan Peninsula highlands. This is, in fact, how today leading scholars in medieval history, such as John V.A Fine Jr. view the Vlachs
too. Yet such a complex issue as the ethno-genesis of an ethnic group should be handled with care. It is an undeniable fact that the Vlachs
were endogamous and cultivated with jealously -if not outright tribalism- a certain autarchy which 'preserved' them so to speak. On the
other side, they, like anyone else, were exposed to outside influences: they absorbed others and, in their turn, had been absorbed. When
trying to decipher the origins Vlachs, it is important to have in mind, as Kathleen Wilson recently reminded us (when quoted by David A.
Bell) that 'national identities are always multiple, contested, contradictory and mutable, not to mention radicalised and gendered'. In this
respect Helen Abadzi is very much right when she speaks about Vlachs being 'different things at different phases of their history'. This
'proteic' nature can be detected at the level of the choice of names Vlachs made use of along the time. In the early Middle Ages, Vlachs
are mentioned under such names as Berivoi, Taron, Tato, Assan etc. In the 18th and early 19th centuries they will give themselves such
forenames of choice (with a Judaic hint of Old Testament in the Byzantine tradition) as Ioachim, Moise, Emanuil, Samuil, Iacov, Isaac,
Rafila, Elisaveta, Zacharia (a certain Zacharia 'a Vlach priest of Chimara' is encountered by Edward Lear in 1848), Samson etc. This was
followed by the dubious fashion of replicating names of Ancient Greek deities (or 'wise men') such as Pericles, Aphroditi, Telemachus,
Achileas etc. This coexisted with the more rational option for Latinate names such as Aurelius, Tiberius, Valerius, Cezar, Iulius, Elvira,
Tacit, Aurelia some of them such as Tulliu surviving as surname to this in places as Avdela. Finally, today, most of the Vlachs will go for
the safe option of bland Greek names, as undifferentiated as possible (Niko, Yorgo, Vasili, Iani etc.) in order, perhaps, to avoid being
instantly traced as conspicuous Vlachs. Obviously, one can endlessly speculate on such concepts as a ‘conspicuous’ ethnicity, one that is
openly displaying its specificity, or, on the contrary, an ‘invisible’ ethnicity, one which is discretely locking itself in . To quote the
Serbian art-historian Jelena Vesic: ‘In the Balkans’ history, the Vlach people have become 'invisible' in the academic and public discourse
due to their politically non-aggressive position, their ability to quietly exist beside other, more dominant, ethnic groups, and their tradition
of economic migration for much of the year. In this way, they have developed specific methods of preserving their cultural identity,
including absorbing elements from their host cultures’. The Serbian art-critic uses the term of Vlach ‘garden’ as a metaphor (though the
gardens themselves exist as a concrete enclosures), for the ultimatr survival. ‘These gardens –writes Desic- have significant meaning in
the cultural identity of the Vlach. They are a visual pastiche of imagery seen in other, ‘Western,’ societies, but translated into the Vlachs’
own cultural codes. The gardens exist around largely uninhabited mansions, since their owners are away during most of the year. These
gardens can be seen as a culture written in space, testimonials that their absent inhabitants are still present. In addition, for an ethnic group
with no written language, this visual representation has become the dominant model to ‘speak,’ not only to their own people, but also to
their broader cultural surroundings’

(5) Tom Winnifrith - The Vlachs of Greece - Buletin of Farserotul Society


And here we can mention another Englishman, the veteran philhellene Tim Salmon, who blames the Romanians (the eternal culprit!) for
"stirring up trouble among the Vlachs" ("The Mountains of Greece, Cicerone Press, Cumbria 1993 pag. 70). One might be tempted to
dismiss Salmon's unfortunate remark as pure dottiness or careful unctuosity so to please the Greek reader and match the often
romanophobic expectation horizon of the general public of that country. Still, Tim Salmon is the author of an enchanting book (Unwritten
Places - Lycabettus Press, Athens 1994), accurately portraying Vlachs as a result of his accompanying of a shepherd -one Tsiogas of
Samarina and his clan- along their dour nomadic enterprise.. Sadly, despite of his good understanding of the Vlach issues a well-rooted
prejudice proves always eventually to be too much a handicap. To claim that the Romanians, (who set up an extensive network of schools
and churches on the behalf of their brethren, in the vernacular language as in it literary version) "stirred trouble among Vlachs", is a crude
remark in sharp contrast with the accepted human and minority rights standards. To find out who really "stirred trouble among Vlachs"
Salmon should check, though we are sure he is aware, the above quoted Greek Human and Minorities Right Report, where the authorities
of that country are exposed as "physically punishing" the Vlach language speakers..Yet it has to be said that Tim Salmon becomes lately
the sensitive and intelligent author of a series of articles and texts published in the British media, such as a text on Vlachs which he wrote
for the London Review of Books in the summer of 2001 or his Home Truths confessions on his tortuous relation with the Vlachs of
Samarina which was heard on BBC Radio 4, which followed an interview accompanied by Vlach songs of Samarina that he gave on the
Christmas Day of 2000 for BBC Radio 3

(6) For the number of the Romanian schools see Th. Capidan - op.cit. pp.41-45. For the ground raising of Avdhela by irregular ruffians
crossing the border from Greece, trying thus to punish the village for its pro-Romanian stance see Constantin Papanace - A Memorandum
to the United Nations in favour of the Macedo-Romanians, 1955. The destruction of Avdela was recorded in the collective memory of the
Vlachs with the saying: "Andartsali arsira Avdela tu 1905"

The sacking of Avdhlea prompted anti-Greek demonstrations in Bucharest in the autumn of 1905. As the entry for Greece of the 1911
edition of Britannica points out:

‘In May 1901 a meeting took place at Abbazia, (Istria) under the auspices of the Austro-Hungarian government, between King George (of
Greece) and King Charles of Rumania with a view to the conclusion of a Graeco-Rumanian understanding directed against the growth of
Slavonic, and especially Bulgarian, influence in Macedonia.’ .but ‘in the autumn of 1905 anti-Greek demonstrations in Rumania led to a
rupture of relations with that country’

(7) Elie Carafoli, an astrophysicist becomes a prominent member of the Romanian Academy. So does Athanase Joja, a logician and
philosopher. Both were graduates of the Romanian schools of Macedonia. The Vlachs excelled not only in sciences but also in
humanities: history, ethnography, philology..Challenging in this context is the debate initiated by N. Balamaci: "Can the Vlachs write their
own history? "..There are two answer to this question: to pretend that this is a complicated issue and all parts have a claim to telling their
story or, a second, more attractive -in our opinion- no-nonsense "yes" answer according to which the Vlachs, obviously they can write
their own history, or, to put it more bluntly to say that actually they had written it already..Thousands of pages of Vlach history and
ethnology had been written by Vlach authors, all of them born in Macedonia, Epirus or Albania: historians, philologists, anthropologists
alike: George Murnu (born in Veria, Macedonia), Th. Capidan (born near Bitola), Tache Papahagi (born in Avdhela), Constantin
Papanace (born in Veria), Marcu Beza (born in Clisura, Greece and later Romanian diplomat in London), I. Dalametra (born near Veria),
Matilda Caragiu-Marioteanu(born in Hrupistea - Greece) etc.
Messr. Balamaci and Winnifrith display a curious mental block regarding the extensive work of these authors. Not that we question their
goodwill, yet to ignore these Magnum Opuses (not rarely the result of the life-time work of these Aromanian researchers), to pretend they
do not exist or dismiss them as irrelevant is professionally disqualifying. Here is a brief and selected reminder of titles written by native
Vlachs about Vlach issues: ..George Murnu - "The History of Romanians of Pindus - Great Wallachia" (1913, re-edited in 1984 by N.
Serban-Tanasoca).., A. Baldaci - "The Romanians of Albania"(1924), Ioan Caragiani - "Historical studies about the Romanians of the
Balkan Peninsula" (1891, re-edited in 1941), Apostol Margarit - "Etudes historiques sur les Valaques du Pinde" - Constantinople (1880)
and "Les Grecs, Les Valaques, et les Albanais de l'Empire Ottoman" - Bruxelles (1886), V. Papacostea - "Aromanian Documents" (1860 -
1870), Epaminonda Balamace - "How were established the first Romanian schools of Albania" (1922), George Zuca - "Study on the
economy of the Aromanians of Pindus" (1906), P. Papahagi - "Aromanian Speeches" (1905) and "The popular literature of the
Aromanians " - (1900) - Vol. I & II), Tache Papahagi - "The Lexicon of the Aromanian Dialect" (1963, revised in 1974), "Images
d'ethnographie roumaine et aroumaine" (3 vols.) - Bucharest 1928-1934), Valeriu Papahagi - "The Aromanians of Moschopole" (1935),
Th. Capidan - "The Farseroti - Linguistical study on the Romanians of Albania" (1935), "The Nomadic Romanians" Cluj (1926), "The
Megleno-Romanians - Their history and speech" (vol. I) and "Their popular literature" (vol. II) - Bucharest 1925 - 1928), G. Papacostea-
Goga - "Macedo-Romanian awakening" (1924), N. Zdrulla - "The movements of the Aromanians of Pindus" (1922), V. Diamandi-
Aminceanu (a native of Metsovo/Aminciu)- "The Romanians of the Balkan peninsula" - Bucharest 1938, D. Caracosta - "Miorita la
Aromani/Pastoral Ballades of the Aromanians - 1927, Matilda Caragiu-Marioteanu - "Glota und Ethos der Aromunen" (1971), A. N.
Haciu - "The Aromanians - Comerce, Arts, Expansion, Civilization" - Putna (1936), C. Noe - "Les Roumains Koutzo-Valaques" -
Bucharest (1913), N. Saramandu - "Le parler Aromun" - Bucharest (1979), P. N. Vaidomir - "Contributii la istoria Romanilor sud
Dunareni" - Medias (1943), N. Batzaria - "Istoricul fundarii orasului Crusova" - (1904), Marcu Beza - "Paper on Rumanian People"
(London - 1920). This latter work, available only in English, contains an extensive chapter about Aromanians, H. Candroveanu -
"Caleidoscop Aroman" (1999) ..All these authors -as their names show- were Aromanians..To this list should be added the works of C.
Burileanu - "Visiting the Romanians of Albania" (the Aromanians of Albania are calling themselves "Ramini" or "Romani"). Burileanu's
book was translated in Italian..: ("I Romeni di Albania" Bologna 1912). Also Ioan Arginteanu - "The History of the Macedo-Romanians"
(1904), N. Densusianu et F. Dame - "Les Roumains du Sud. Macedoine.Epirus.Thessaly" - Paris (1877), E.M. Picot - "Les roumains de la
Macedoine" - Paris (1875), O. Randi -"Il fenomeno degli Aromuni" - Zara (1939), A. Rubin - "Les Roumains de Macedoine" (1913), B.
Stuart - "The Vlakhs of Mount Pindus" - London (1868), R. Suster - "I Romeni del Pindo" - Roma (1930), A. Xenopol - "Une enigme
historique: Les Roumains au Moyen Age" Paris 1885 (focusing largely upon Aromanians), Tereza Stratilesco - "From Carpathian to
Pindus" - Boston (1907, re-printed 1981), etc... Prof. Winnifrith fails - in his "The Vlachs" and "Balkan Fragments"- to mention a single
word about the arguably most exhaustive study on Aromanians: Capidan's 600 pages extensive opus "Aromanii - Dialectul Aroman"
(1932), based on the author's field work in Macedonia, Epirus and Albania.. While we acknowledge the right of any author to select own
reference-sources, one can not refrain from raising an eyebrow and casting doubts upon the validity of a research which deliberately or not
eschews basic references.. Imagine a historian attempting to write the history of the Tory Party without even mentioning, say, Margaret
Thatcher !..

(8) Tache Papahagi - "Aromanian Anthology", 1926 and N. Tulliu - Poems/Puizii - Edited by Tiberius Cunia,Syracuse, N.Y. 1989.

(9) "Societatea Culturala Macedo-Romana" ("The Macedo-Romanian Cultural Society"), had as its members (together with its Aromanian
founding core represented by D.D. Cozacovici, Sideri, Goga, Grandea etc.) also the acting Prime and Foreign Ministers, as well as the
Head of the Romanian Orthodox Church: Kogalniceanu, Ghica, Rosetti, the elite of the Romanian political class..The interest of the newly
formed Romanian state towards the distant and scattered Vlach brethren was a purely idealistic and nostalgic one..There was not -at that
time at least- hidden political agenda.. One could easily justify the fascination of the yet raw Romanian intelligentsia with their
Aromanian "alter ego" counterparts.. Yet, time and again, like a recurrent obsession, many a Greek historian, feel obliged anytime when
mentioning the Vlachs to violently reprimand what they call roumaniki propaganta, the Romanian "propaganda" by which they mean the
above mentioned (and lasting for almost one century sponsoring of churches and schools for the Vlachs of Macedonia, Epirus and parts of
Albania). Sometimes, in order to curry favor with hard-line nationalist Greek politicians or see their books pass through the maze of
censorship, otherwise honest authors (see Asterios Koukoudis' book), would dedicate chapters of their studies to explain what they think
was the rejection of the Vlachs of the Romanian schools in favour of the Greek ones. Indeed, many Grecized Vlachs, aka Katsaoni or
Grekomani would send the their children to Greek schools thus opting for giving up for good their Vlach identity.
The Romanian "propaganda" it seems, worries lately the Greek media too, which is incitingly thundering against it as often as any
opportunity occurs (see article of Ellinikes Grammes)
More gravely, on a more sinister note, it has to be mentioned the burning of the Vlach books displayed at the May 2002 Salonica Book
Fair. An enraged Greek mob entered the premises of the Book Fair, burned and torn Vlach and other books from Romania, FYR of
Macedonia and Bulgaria, while the authorities remained passive if not openly condoning these acts of vandalism: see text. Useless to say
that the Greek press, TV and Radio did not mention a word about this incident, and no official apologized although the Book Fair was
opened by the Greek Minister of Culture E. Venizelos himself. It seems that Ray Bradbury's dark premonitions of the fictitious
"Fahrenheit 451" are real life business in Greece 2002.

(10) An Orthodox clergyman, Friar Avrechie of Avdela, former resident of Athos Mountain was dispatched in the Pindus with the explicit
mission to recruit promising Aromanian youngsters who were offered scholarships in Bucharest and teaching facilities were created at
"Sfintii Apostoli" Monastery in Bucharest..Avrechie brought initially with him ten young Aromanians of Pindus, who were to be followed
next years by others. Most of these students returned after graduation to teach at the Romanian schools in Macedonia while others settled
in Romania..It was this sort of action that prompted D.G. Hogarth to write in 1906 about the "Vlachs of Veria to whom Latinism was
preached "..Strangely, Greece became in the second half of the 19th century a playground of the clash between "Latinism" and
"Hellenism" as if the clocks were suddenly turned back to the late antiquity. Symbolically, in the 1990's, when a revival af the Aromanian
issue was conspicuous, the "Sfintii Apostoli" site was choosen to host yearly seminars and meetings on Aromanian topic, better known as
"Colocviile de la Sfintii Apostoli"..

The Metsovo born D.D. Cozacovici paid for the printing costs of the 1862 edition of the "Macedo-Romanian Grammar" written by I.C.
Massimu. Three years later he sponsors another grammar book, whose long title mentions his financial support: "Gramatica Romaneasca
tra Romanilii dit drepta Dunarelei lucrata de D. Athanasescu, si typarita cu spesele D.D. Cosacovici, Roman din Metsova, spre a inaugura
prima scoala Romana din Macedonia, Bucuresti 1865" ("Romanian Grammar to serve the South of the Danube Romanians worked by
Dimitrie Athanasescu and printed from the donations of D.D. Cozacovici, Romanian of Metsovo in order to inaugurate the first Romanian
school of Macedonia" 1865). Eventually, he becomes an author himself, and writes together with V.A. Urechia a history book for the
same newly opened schools.

(11) John Nandris - "The Aromani" (in Ethnoarchaeology - World Archaeology Volume 17 No.2 Oct.1985, pp. 260-1). The author adds:
"By the 18th century the Aromani of the Epirus and Albania had created a nucleus of substantial urbanisation at Moschopolje to the south
of Lake Ohrid, but this was destroyed twice by Ali Pasha, and never recovered. The highland sites of the Aromani are highly organized,
stone-built and architecturally among the most accomplished settlements in Greece
The dialectolog Petru Neiescu visited Moscopole in the 1950's and describes it as .." The town of 60.000 inhabitants (allegedly at that time
the second largest of the Ottoman Empire following Constantinople) had its own printing houses and academies, current water and
sewerage network. Destroyed in 1777 it never recovered, sharing the future fate of Gopesh. Amid ruins and scattered masonry - relics of
its destruction- there still were at the time when I visited the place, 16 houses inhabited by as many Aromanian families..The church Sf.
Atanasie is still preserved, but no priest is around" - (P. Neiescu - "Mic atlas al dialectului aroman din Albania si Fosta Republica
Iugoslava a Macedoniei" - Editura Academiei Romane - Bucuresti 1997,p.25)..An English scholar, James Petiffer, finds when visiting
Moscopole in the 1990's the same dilapidated state..On entering one of the churches he bumped into farming tools..The former church was
used as a storage and a stable..On a lighter note, Petiffer mentions the Vlach plum-brandy locally distilled, that can be sampled in
Moscople. (J. Petiffer - "Albania & Kossovo- Blue Guide" - London 2001)
(12) This is authenticated by Benjamin of Tudela, a Jew who visited Thessaly in 1173, during the course of his travel from Spain to
Jerusalem. Travelling in Greece, he defines the land of the Vlachs as beginning at Lamia, and describes them as living in the mountains
like the chamoisses and coming down from them to attack the Greeks. He visited Constantinople, during the reign of Manuel Comnenus
(1143-1180 AD), and writes of the Emperor's special sympathy for the Vlachs because of his origins from that people (Noul Album
Macedo-Roman, vol. II, 339)<BR
(13)The samples of Neofit's racialist speech are quotes of his "Logos peri khatastaseos skholeion"
On Cosmas of Aetolia see: J. Nandris - "The Aromani: Approaches to the Evidence" p.39, Hamburg (1987). See also John Koliopopoulos
and Thanasis Veremis' excellent volume - "Greece: The Modern Sequel" (Hurst - London 2001)
Among the latest studies on Vlachs we should note Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers' (who returns after a few years' absence into the fold of
the Vlach research) "Narratives of pain and bliss - Identities and interpretation of the Vlach-Aromanian pasts in Albania". Another
polyglot author, whose eclectic interests include the Vlachs is Helen Abadzi , whom she scrutinizes in a challenging essay titled I
Parexigimeni Istoria ton Vlachon just published in "Thessalonikeon Polis" (May/2003), a monthly appearing in in the -otherwise
notoriously nationalistic prosfiyi capital of Salonica (see Auto dafe au salon du livre de Thessalonique)

(14) One of the oldest and most dazzling church of Transylvania (at Densus) -built of blocks of stones still bearing Roman epigraphs and
bizarre petrified lions on the roof- is called in an 18th century Austrian document as "Templum Valachicum Antiquum" (Click here to see
the image)

(15) See Philip Mansel's massive - "Constantinople - City of the World Desire", Murray, London 1995, p. 299. Mansel examines the
complex phenomenon of the Modern Greek nationalism, giving a sample of mid 19th century Greek complex of superiority. We read:
"..In Athens Georges Mavrocordato, future minister of foreign affairs wrote verging on megalomania: 'The conquering race is on the road
to ruin; the Greek race is superior to all others.." (p.299). This attitude was to subside throughout the most of the 19th and 20th centuries
and is further examined by John Reed -not without a strong hint of sarcasm- in his "The Last Balkan War" when the Greek newspapers of
the time were bluntly naming such neighbours as Bulgaria, Turkey and even Austria-Hungary as "barbarians" as opposed to the Greek
themselves who were supposed to be the "civilisers of Europe". This dangerously simplistic view is somehow -if in disguise- surviving to
this day. A synopsis of the mainstream Greek press for 1999 reveals the degree of the flirting with vilifying the neighbouring countries:
Albania and Albanians are demonised to such an extent that it barely deserves to be mentioned: it became a casual phenomenon; Bulgaria
is for the Greek press a third world country whose roads are pot-holed on which stolen Mercedeses roll, while Romania is famous in
Greece -according to the Greek large circulation Eleftheros Typos- for its "Romanian burglar"(see "The image of the neighbour in the
Greek Press"). It is -sadly- this sort of highly inaccurate and disrespectful viewing of her neighbours that is used by the Greek press, on a
systematic basis in order, perhaps, to boost the country's ego and overcome her status of European Union's laggard, lingering at the bottom
of the EU statistics by comparing itself favourably to its infinitely less EU funded neighbours. A recent “Letter from Romania” –a blunt
collection of sneering to everything Romanian, wrapped into the malign package of what is intended to be “ironically condescending
journalism” (in reality a sad sample of retarded Greek way of observing different types of realities than their own) and written by the
peevish Kathimerini columnist and part-time film critic Spyros Payiatakis is no exception to the never ending Greek media’s addiction to
misportraying countries which it views as “inferior”. Of course, there is not really dearth of similar texts about Greece that can instantly
cure Mr. Payatakis’ parochial complex of superiority . We are convinced that after having a look at Paul Theroux’s views on Greece and
the Greeks (see Paul Theroux’s - Pillars of Hercules) Mr. Payiatakis will have a sudden revelation of the state of the nation in his own
backyard and find useful to concentrate rather on more stringent Greek domestic issues. A “Letter from Athens” (with its stray-dogs,
salepi vendors pushing carts, squalid makeshift streets and peddlers selling combs directly on the pavement in the city centre) will conjure
up a reality quite similar to that of Bucharest. After all, both cities share the same heritage, though Bucharest itself, it must be said, was
never ruled for centuries –unlike Athens and the Greece of the tsifliks- by Pashas, nor had the Ottoman Crescent had really been ever
hoisted up in Wallachia’s capital.

But the depiction of Romania in the Greek press as an irremediably doomed and unattractive country is -not surprisingly- linked to the
fact that to this day, a segment of the native Vlach inhabitants of Greece still have strong pro-Romanian feelings and identify themselves -
ethnically- with that country. This appears to be the case of the more remote villages of Pindus, where, sheltered somehow from contact
with the dominant Greek culture, the older generation of the Vlachs remain faithful to the old ways. As Dr. Thede Kahl points out in a
well balanced study just published in the Ethnologica Balkanica ("The Ethnicity of Aromanians after 1990: the Identity of a Minority that
Behaves like a Majority" 6/2002, p.154): .."There are still pro-Romanian Aromanians in Greece, especially in villages in which strong
Romanian communities were once accepted by the Greek authorities, above all in Avdhela, Perivoli, Samarina, Vovusa, Krania, Edessa,
Veria and surrounding areas, as well in a few villages in the district of Kastoria and Ioannina. On a whole, they are a minute and
dwindling number of Aromanians.."
Dwindling they may be indeed, but it is remarkable nevertheless that these Vlachs exist at all, today, more than 50 years after the closure
of the Romanian schools and churches in Greece.
It shows the resilience of a segment of the Vlach population who resent being converted to the ethnocentric dogma of the Greek state not
even after enduring decades of survival as a non-recognized, non-existent entity. It is -on the other side- interesting to see how many of
these Vlach will, after Romania's entering EU in 2007, openly this time and with less and less inhibition expose their Romanian identity as
opposed to the official "Hellenic" one.
It is bizarre how the Greek nationalism (legitimised by being re-branded "patriotism") is often condoned and considered politically correct
by those too keen too often to pointing the finger at the Vlach "nationalism". There is hardly today such a thing as "Vlach nationalism":
there are only discreet attempts of certain Vlach individuals to save in extremis their mother tongue from complete extinction.
Nevertheless, feeling a certain affinity for a country so closely -ethnically and linguistically- related to the Vlachs (as Romania is) should
not be perceived by the Greek establishment as a threat to its very fundaments. Greek nationalism was born in the late 18th and early 19th
century as an "underdog type" of resentment towards the overpowering Ottoman rule. This type of offensive -if legitimate- doctrine is no
rarely born out of frustration and jealousy. Its existence is justified as long as its targets are fulfilled; the "alien" or "cruel oppressors"
removed. But the Greek nationalism survived the departure (or in some cases the expelling) of the Ottomans, becoming in time itself
obsolete and harmful: it started to existing for its very own sake, feeding newly, as some sort of unstoppable mutant, on artificially created
prejudices, against imaginary threats and invented enemies falsely thought to forever exist within and outside its boundaries. Not
surprisingly, the usefulness and raison d'etre of such nationalism, especially now in the 21st century is more and more contested by the
more sophisticated commentator. As A.C. Grayling recently pointed out, "nationalism is often the product of the resentment felt by those
smaller in number and lesser in status. It endangers the good which flowed from non-ethnically based, transcultural, socially and
religiously pluralistic empires from the Roman to the British. Such strengths might be lost unless alternative, non-nationalistic ventures -is
European Union one such? - can be found to sustain them"

(16) Robert Liddell - "The Morea" - Johnatan Cape, London, 1958

(17) D.J. Hogarth - "The Nearer East", Henry Frowne, Edinburgh & London 1911. Hogarth was the Director of the British School in
Athens, a man of influence who nevertheless saw himself mired-not rarely into the uncomfortable position of having not to offend his
Greek hosts. He was also supposed to convincingly play the partial role of philhellene, often in contradiction to his neutral stance as a
geographer, anthropologist and ultimately man of science. Just before the Balkan Wars, the Vlach were a sensitive issue for Athens so
Hogarth had to be careful when assessing them. That is why he wrongly splits the Vlachs of what is today Greece into two divergent
camps modelled on a ‘north versus south’ axis : those of ‘Gramos’ and Veria and those of ‘Pindus’, each camp supposedly having
different allegiances: one camp is ‘pan-Latinist’ while the other one ‘Hellenist’. Of course the reality on the ground at that time was more
complex: as it is to this very day. Simplifying or just labelling might be a convenient method to teach history –with a veneer of patriotism
indeed- at the primary school, but not when it comes to deciphering more complex patterns of identity and allegiance of an ethnic group. It
is a fact to this day that most of the Greeks, having been taught already at the primary school that ‘Vlach are Greeks’, find it difficult later
in life to accommodate themselves to different stances, to different viewing of the Vlachs, all which come into contradiction to what they
honestly believe is an ultimate and eternal ‘ethnic truth’. This is mostly the case of those Greeks who live outside Greece, and who thus
are more fortunate and exposed to written material and sources that spring from competently neutral sources. Not rarely, accessing this
sources come to them complete with the shock to realize that the so-called Greek ‘ethnic truth’, of whose supremacy they were so
convinced, is not after all eternal. Symptomatic in this respect is the reaction of Dr.Christos D. Katsetos, an American Greek (see his text
‘The political side of the Kutzo-Vlach affair revisited’) who recently realized with horror that the prestigious Library of Congress in
Washington D.C. considers the Vlach of Greece as a ‘Romanian minority’. Obviously there is nothing wrong with that (after all, the
doyen of Greek studies, Emeritus Oxford Professor Richard Clogg thinks Vlachs ‘speak a form of Romanian’ too) unless you don’t come
from Greece where such statements amount to sheer anathema. Those who cling to the delusion that the ‘Vlach are Greeks’ hail -as a rule-
from within the boundaries of the Greek state and were exposed, during the essential stages of their education to sources controlled and
made available by the Greek establishment exclusively. There is little else that is offered to them other than what the Greek establishment
wants them to know. Strangely, even when books written by impartial foreign authors are translated in Greek (though these are rare
instances), the translated text is ‘backed’ (on the very page on which the translated text is reproduced) by ‘critical’ footnotes written by
‘trusted’ Greek scholars who often ‘demolish’ the original thesis of the very authors they present to the Greek reader. Thus, when the
Greek edition of Wace and Thomson’s ‘The Nomads of the Balkans’ was finally published by an obscure publishing house in Trikala,
half of the book consisted of a succession of critical, vituperative footnotes rejecting Wace and Thomson’s ideas and findings. Again,
when Thede Kahl translated G. Weigand’s Die Aromunen into Greek, under the auspices of a Salonica based publishing house, the editors
entrusted (without the prior knowledge of Kahl) the senior Greek scholar Achileas Lazarou to write a ‘critical’ foreword. The foreword
proved to be in fact a harsh rebuttal of Weigand’s own findings and a plea for a distorted pro-Greek viewing of the Vlachs, something that
was alien to Weigand in the first place. A polemic between Kahl and Lazarou ensued in the pages of the Elopia monthly, publication
which, for obvious reason distanced itself from Kahl while embracing Lazarou as the ‘beholder of the truth’ to be trusted by the reader.

(18) Osbert Lancaster – ‘Classical Landscape with Figures’, London 1947 (reprinted 1975), p.43

On the Vlach endowments see John Nandris' study on Vlachs - "The Thracian Inheritance" (Journal of Archaeology 7/1981). John
Nandris is one of the researchers who successfully applied the methods of ethnoarchaeology when observing the Vlachs. A refined -if
discreet- author, Nandris still owes us readers a real book about Vlachs which -in what we are concerned- is eagerly awaited.
If Nandris is the experienced senior researcher, then one of the most promising newcomers in the fold of the Vlach research is the German
scholar Dr. Thede Kahl. Quite repeatedly hailed as the "new Weigand", Kahl commands great respect amongst the mainly Bulgarian
Vlach circles grouped around the Bucharest based periodical Bana Armaneasca (which more recently try to forge a new literary Vlach
language unfortunately in excess adorned with Slavicized loan-words and orthography; at the expense maybe, of the less tainted versions
of the Pindus or Farserot Vlach variant).
Kahl gained notoriety by being the author of a thesis with Vlach topic which secured him a Ph.D. titled Ethnizitat und Raumliche
Verteilung der Aromunen im Sudosteuropa (Munster 1999), and which contains what it is claimed, the most exhaustive maps of the Vlach
settlements ever compiled. On an initial assessment, the maps accompanying Kahl's work, seem to be a paragon of pedant probity, a
meticulous attempt to finally draw the ultimate map of the Vlach settlements in Greece and the Balkans with the vigilant German rigor of
the author riding high up in the background. Yet at a closer inspection, the cartographic work is riddled with lapses and there is marked
feeling of superficiality about the whole enterprise. Whole areas which still within the present memory were/are inhabited by Vlachs (such
as the Vlach belt of villages stretching from the south of Karditsa towards west to the Agrapha range and Evrytania) are ignored and do
not appear at all on Kahl's map. Take for example the village of Agios Akakios (formerly known as Golitsa), an important settlement
which according to the local historians "is said to be founded in the 14th century by Vlach and Serbian nobles.." to which Kahl does not
give mention not even as a -marked by a blank circle- former Vlach settlement. Other villages of the same region such as Achladia
(Amurlar), Leontari (Aslanar), Anthohori (also known by the blatant Vlach name Floresi) etc. where the Vlach presence -even more
spectacularly- is attested up to this day are also utterly neglected as if they do not exist at all, making this region of Greece look like some
unmarked patch of pre-Livingstone or pre-Stanley African hinterland.
Another area of Greece where Vlachs still linger and which again is outside Kahl's reach -if not interest- is Euboea. A long and lanky
island which almost touches the mainland at Chalkis, Euboea, known in mediaeval times as Negroponte is described by the last edition of
Encyclopaedia Britannica (15th edition, 1995, vol. 4, pag. 587) as having a Vlach element: "the population of the island is varied (..) there
is a Vlach element in the hill country".
Euboea's still active Vlach settlements include the village of Vlachia (Blaxia) on the slopes of Mount Pyli. Recent ethnographic work on
Euboea mentions Vlachia as a 19th century exclusive Vlach pastoral settlement where the few clans of an endogamous community still
bear such Vlach surnames as Tzoumaras or Koutroumanis and the knowledge of the Vlach language is still prevalent among the elderly,
though more and more relegated to the status of secret idiom.
In what the Vlach settlements of Romania are concerned, Kahl is chasing them even in obscure Moldavian towns such as Moinesti or
Comanesti, which appear on his list, and where their presence as seasonal oil-workers is irrelevant if exotic.
Yet he fails to mention an interesting -and by far more relevant- phenomenon: that of the close connections and quasi-fraternal
congregation between the Vlach (Gramusteni and Farseroti) shepherds and the Transylvanian Mocani ones which took place immediately
after the arrival of the Vlachs from Greece, Bulgaria and Albania in Romania in 1923 and 1926. Tache Papahagi, the author of the
"Images ethnographiques roumains et aroumains", climbed in the 1926 and 1927 the slopes of the mountains which border Transylvania
and Wallachia (Parang, Surianu, Sebes, Valcan, Cindrel, Lotru, Capatanei etc.) and found on the high altitudes pastures native Mocani and
newcomer Vlach shepherds with their flocks and sheepfolds, dressed in their homespun traditional garb, forming families together (see
photos Papahagi). It is usually assumed that the Vlachs arriving in Romania were settled exclusively in Dobrudja and Cadrilater. In fact,
not few of them, following ancient routes, arrived as shepherds with their flocks and joined the local Romanian shepherds who accepted
them instantly as close brethren. It would have been really immensely valuable as a scientific work if Kahl would had at least tried, to
trace the scions of these Vlach shepherds apparently still lingering in such villages as Novaci, Runcu or Jidostina in the Carpathian
highlands. Unfortunately, the geographer, in order to be accurate, has to be imaginative and curious, and motivated by a spirit of search
and discovery, and these are traits as vital as they are scarcely found among the too circumspect armchair or white-collar scholars.

[19] The London Evening Standard, 14 Nov 1998

[20] Costa Stephanopoulos' original quote in Greek is "mathete sta paidia sas ti vlahiki dialekto"(in H EREYNA - "I Ereyna Trikalon"
Trikala; November 8th 1998)..Yet the Greek state did not invest a single drachma over the decades in Vlach language classes, manuals let
alone printed media or radio broadcasts..On the contrary, the Nea Demokratia, (party to which Stephanopoulos belonged) endorsed its MP
for Serres, Mr.Haitidis, in his prosecution and indictment of the Aroumanian architect Sotiris Bletsas..So Greece's centre-right wing
Presdident's endorsement of the Vlach "dialect" has to be regarded, to say the least, with a dose of circumspection if not outright
scepticism.
If Greece's President is correct -at least from a geographical perspective- when he describes the Pindus Mountains as the "backbone of
Greece", at the other side of the spectrum, the same type of exclusivist -if not nationalist- discourse, conjures up a different, an almost
conflicting, view. When in the autumn of 2001, the journalist Elena and Oani Cola, toured (together with other Vlachs of Bucharest part
of a team lead by Thede Kahl) the Vlach villages of Pindus, they nonchalantly wrote in the aftermath of their journey: "Lomu prandzul
Calambaca deapoaia fudzimu catra Aminciu. Intramu tu muntsalii Pindu iu 90% di banatori suntu Armani"/"We had lunch in Kalabaka
then headed towards Metsovo. We are entering the Pindus Mountains, where 90% of the inhabitants are Vlachs" (see Lena and Oani Cola
- "Excursii-expeditsii pritu horli armaneshtsa ditu Gratsii"/"Excursions-expeditions through Greece's Vlach villages" in Bana
Armaneasaca, Bucharest - Nr.4 (26), 2001 p.6 )
So, on a mental map, each side, Greek respectively Vlach of Romania, would project idealized versions of their own emotionally charged
view of the place. The Pindus Mountains have thus the dubious honour to being a sort of mythical area claimed as "theirs" by both sides.
In the Greek view it's a "backbone": an axis without which the balance of the whole Greek national edifice would be put in jeopardy. In
the Romania's Vlach view, the Pindus are finally a locus, a sort of Magic Mountain where the Vlachs -in minority elsewhere- are
dominant: hence the -in normal circumstances unattainable- feeling of being at last "at home".

[22] Philip Glazerbrook - "Journey to Kars": Viking, London 1985

Ramani Farseroti of Albania circa 1910. The wives of the celnici had elaborated headdresses, like some sort of Renaissance
princesses of Ruritania, which were worn deliberately in an oblique (non-straight) fashion, as a distinctive sign of their ‘upper
caste’ status…………………………………………………………………..
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Other links::

Rumansch and Raeto-Romanisch authors

Novaci - a shepherds' village in the Wallachian Highlands

Ionel Zeana: In Memoriam Zahu Pana

Pastoral traditions of the Jiu Valley


In Memoriam Hristu Zdru of Candrova (Veria)

Mona Hatoum: The Entire World as a Foreign Land:

Dora D'Istria: a sample of her biography

Aidemir - A Mocani shepherds' village in Cadrilater

Dubrovnik: The city which went to sleep

A recollection of the Romanian churches and schools in Greece, as reflected in the biography of Sterie Mihadas

Matyla Ghika's Blachs or Wallachs of the Balkans

Lena Constante: confessions of her life and Macedo-Aromanian roots

Romania and the Balkans: from geocultural bovarism to ethnic ontology

Ein besuch durch das Land die Gugulanen

Aromanian: language or dialect?


Interview with Ion Caramitru, actor and Government minister, confessing on his Aromanian origins..
Marian Papahagi: his last interview

Greeks and Macedo-Roumans in 18th and 19th century Transylvania

Georges Mathieu: Mon Ami Stephane Lupasco

Gertrude Bell's Diary in Levant