Aromanians in Greece: Minority or Vlach-speaking Greeks?
by Thede Kahl*
At the latest
since the existence of the so-called "Aromanian question" are the Aromanians
split into different factions concerning their identity, i.e. those who consider
themselves as being Romanian, those who consider themselves as being Greek and
those who consider themselves as being "purely" Aromanian. Due to increasing
contacts to the Greek language as an important commercial language and by the
influence of Greek culture, a growing number of Aromanians identify themselves
as Greek. While activities for a specifically Aromanian identity and language
can be observed mainly in the Aromanian diaspora, Aromanians in Greece refuse
the classification as a minority and do not use their language in schools and
the media. In Greece the national identification of most Aromanians takes place
through modern Hellenism. But to belong to the Hellenes does not automatically
mean being Greek. The article discusses the different meanings of the pairs of
terms "Vlach/Aromanian", "Minority/Vlach-speaking Greek", "Hellene/Greek". It
tries to describe the aspects which hindered the evolution of an Aromanian
nationhood and analyses the contemporary situation of a minority that behaves
like a majority.
* First published in
Minorities in Greece - historical issues and new
perspectives. Jahrbücher für Geschichte und Kultur Südosteuropas (History
and Culture of South Eastern Europe), Vol. 5. (2003). Publ. by
Slavica Verlag, Dr. Anton Kovac, München
(Munich) 2004, pp. 205-219. Our thanks to Thede Kahl and Dr. Kovac for
permission to republish.
"Vlachs" and "Aromanians"
Even experts on Greek issues or Southeastern Europe
have often never even heard of Vlachs or Aromanians because they
appear as Greeks, Romanians, Albanians, Serbs etc.
But if somebody begins to study them and to trace their footprints, he will
quickly observe that there is hardly any part of the Balkan peninsula where they
have not played a role.
The non-uniform use of the terms
Vlachs and Aromanians requires a short definition.
The term Vlachs is not only the more widely used of the two, but it can
refer to varied groups like the so called Meglenoromanians, the
Istroromanians, the Timok Vlachs, the ancestors of the Romanians or
the Vlach Roma. In Greece there can be found Aromanians (known also as
Aroumanians, Aromunians, Cincars, Kutsovlachs, Macedoromanians), a small number
of Meglenoromanians (known also as Meglenite Vlachs) and small groups of Vlach
Roma – all of them called Vlachoi in Greek popular speech. Further, in
all over Greece Vlach may simply mean shepherd. So we can find regions
where even the Greek-speaking Sarakatsans are called Vlachs. In
central Greece, south of the Agrinio-Karpenisi-Lamia line one may find so called
Vlachs, who do not speak Aromanian but who call their regional Greek dialect
Vlach. Most inhabitants of Athens associate the term Vlachos with
rural, lesser civilised and uncouth people. For others, they are nothing more
than good cheese-makers or lamb-producers. In other regions, Vlacha,
Vlachos or Vlachikos is the name of a dance,
so on many Aegean islands (esp. Naxos, Samos, Rhodes, Carpathos) and in Cyprus.
is the ethnonym used by the surrounding societies, while Aromanians define
themselves - depending on which dialect group they belong to - as Armâńi
or Rrămăńi, the self-characterisation, which was the base for
the scientific term Aromanian.
Speakers of Aromanian define themselves as belonging to the "fara armāneascā" (Aromanian
tribe), or, more rarely, to the "populu armānescu" (Aromanian people). In
Aromanian there is no modern word for nation or ethnic (and, of
course, neither for minority), but when trying to describe this term in
their own language, they have quite a lot of possibilities, adopting similar
words from other languages like "miletea armāneascā" (from Turkish millet),
"laou armānescu" (from Greek laos, i.e. people), "ginsā armāneascā" (from
Turkish cins, i.e. genus or "ghimtā armāneascā" (from Albanian gjint,
Only a few Aromanians use the neologism "naţie" (nation).
Most Aromanians live in northern
Greece, further important settlement areas can be found in southern Albania, the
Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the Rhodope Mountains and the Dobrudja. The
geographical concentration of Aromanians in Greece is in the Pindos mountains,
its ridges and the surrounding plains in Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia, the
Vermion mountains and Mount Olympus.
From first Aromanian Movement to the "Ullah millet"
The emergence of a
consciousness which can be characterised as national probably did not
occur among the Aromanians before the beginning of national movements of the
peoples of Southeastern Europe at the beginning of the 19th century.
In the Byzantine and Ottoman period, orthodox Christians defined themselves,
regardless of language and culture, as Romans: in Greek Romaioi,
later Romioi, in Latin Romani, later Români and Armâńi.
Before Aromanians began to develop their own consciousness or to orient
themselves in respect to other peoples and their national movements, the most
important aspect of self-identification was mainly as belonging to a millet
(orthodox Christians) and secondarily to a professional group (shepherds,
craftsmen, merchants etc.). Due to traditional work as nomadic herders and due
to persecution (especially by Turkish-Albanian troops), Aromanians are dispersed
all over the Balkans. When at the beginning of the 19th century an
Aromanian movement could be observed especially in the Aromanian diaspora in
Buda and Vienna, large numbers of Aromanians were already assimilated into the
societies of many regions or were in the state of being assimilated. Thus we
have to distinguish between the "national Aromanian movement" as such on the one
hand, and their participation in other national movements on the other hand.
Most common streams of national orientation among
Aromanians were and are pro-Greek and pro-Romanian.
The Greek-Romanian conflict on the so called "Aromanian question" split the Aromanians into different factions, i.e. those who consider themselves as being
Romanian, those who consider themselves as being Greek and those who consider
themselves as being Aromanian. Since the Aromanians belonged to the Greek
Patriarchate and their cultural and economic activities were bound to the Greek
especially the wealthy urbanised Aromanians have been active promoters of the
Greek language and Greek culture for a long time. Greek was already in the 17th
and 18th century a lingua franca
in large parts of Southeastern Europe. The knowledge of Greek was the key to
education and to a higher social status and in this process it did not play any
role if Greek was spoken as a mother or as a foreign language.
A Greek was above all a peddler or merchant,
so that men of wealth (also of Albanian, Vlach, Macedo-Slav and Bulgarian
origin) in the 18th century normally identified themselves as such.
The first written documents in Aromanian were written with the Greek
alphabet and did not have the intention to teach Aromanian, but to spread the
Greek language. The success of the Greek language among the Aromanians was not
only caused by a few individuals promoting Greek culture, but mostly by
increasing contacts with Greek neighbours and the Greek language as the most
important commercial language. A lot of settlements in central Greece became
hellenised without the influence of political or church activists.
The development of a
specifically Aromanian identity can be observed in the early Aromanian diaspora.
Especially Aromanian grammars and language booklets document a clear
consciousness of latinity/romanity;
in 1815 the Aromanians of Buda and Pest asked to have their language used for
emphasises that "this Aromanian movement cannot be reduced to activity of
Romanian propaganda in Turkey", but has characteristics of a "typical national
movement for the 19th century". In the 1860s, soon after the
establishment of independent Romania, the Romanian national movement and its
extensive educational policy in Macedonia, Thessaly and Epirus began to
influence Aromanian activities. Since then, Aromanian activities were
automatically bound to Romania.
After the establishment of a Macedoromanian committee in 1860 in Bucharest,
Romania began to train teachers for Macedonia and in 1864 the first Romanian ("Aromanian")
school was established in Macedonia by Dimitrie Atanasescu in the village of
Trnovo. Soon other Romanian schools followed, and at the beginning of the 20th
century there already existed 100 Romanian churches, 106 Romanian schools with
more than 4 000 pupils and 300 teachers in the regions of Macedonia and Epirus.
At these schools only initial instruction was given in Aromanian, more advance
lessons were in Romanian. Aromanian patriots such as Apostol Mărgărit,
originally a Greek teacher from Avdella, and Constantin Belemace from Malovište
show us that most active participants of the Romanian movement were not
Romanians, but Aromanians.
I suggest characterising this movement as
It culminated in the recognition of the Aromanians by decree (irade) as Ullah
millet (in Greek vlachiko mileti, often interpreted as Aromanian
nation). With the support of the Great Powers
May 1905 they
Sultan Abdul Hamid
all the rights of a millet with the
exception of a religious head.
"millet" to "nation"
The range of different forms of identity and the
resulting dilemma of the division of fundamental alignments within the Aromanian
communities was conditioned on the one hand by their cultural and mental
proximity to the Greeks and on the other hand by the proximity of their language
to the Romanian. The recognition of the "Ullah millet", the influence of
different national movements, especially those of Greece and Romania, and the
influence of foreign powers in the southern Balkans, led to further division and
clashes. The Greek-Romanian conflict achieved its climax in the last and most
violent phases of the Macedonian Struggle (1903-1908), when most Aromanian
groups fought on the pro-patriarchate side, while others took sides with the
pro-Bulgarian exarchists. Confrontation between differently oriented Aromanians
led to bloodshed.
The increased tension between the different groups in
1906 led to the breaking-off of diplomatic relations between Romania and Greece.
Since then, the "Ullah millet" has been called a "Romanian minority" and the Aromanians were no longer divided into pro-Greeks and pro-Romanians, but into
Greeks (Neo-Hellenes) and Romanians.
A different orientation began in
1917, when Italian troops advanced via Albania into Epirus
and founded, with the help of Alkiviadis Diamantis, the "Principate of Pindos"
in the area of Aromanian settlement. Italy undertook attempts to convert the
pro-Romanian Aromanians into pro-Italian, which succeeded to a small degree.
Similar attempts were undertaken during the Second World War, when the Aromanian
members of the "Roman Legion" fought on the side of the Italian troops.
On the other hand, a large number of Aromanian villages were destroyed by
Italian and German troops. In May 1941, Diamantis demanded a Vlach state with
the support of the Italians and suggested putting the Romanian schools under
Italian authority. With the sympathy for the Italians grew the number of
philocatholics among the Aromanians, but the traditional identification with the
Orthodox Church kept the majority of the Aromanians closer to modern Hellenism.
The Romanian education policy
ceased to be in most Balkan countries before the Second World War, whereas most
Romanian schools in Greece continued to exist until the late 1940s.
Can "chameleons" build their own nationhood?
In the case of the
Aromanians there has been a significant discrepancy within their communities in
terms of education and wealth. The traditionalism and backwardness of rural
groups and the greater progressiveness of their urban counterparts, completely
different settlement forms and ways of life were elements that divided the
community. The Aromanians live, for historical and socio-economic reasons, on
the community perimeters of peoples of other ethnic origin and thus merge with
these, leading to either a form of double identity or complete assimilation.
Usually Aromanians who had economic success as tradesmen or caravan leaders
assimilated very fast to other nations, whereas the many semi-nomadic Aromanian
peasants, perceived as a lower class, have not developed a national elite. The
most powerful Aromanian elites, those who had the means to be a crucial element
in the promotion and dissemination of a national consciousness preferred to
engage in the projects of various other national movements, and thus the elites
of Aromanian culture tended to play key roles in the national formation of
ethnic groups other than the Aromanian.
which founded an administratively coherent Ullah millet, encouraged Vlach
national identity in the Ottoman Empire of the early 20th century but
it did not result in the creation of a widespread national Aromanian
consciousness or the development of an Aromanian nationality. The assimilation
of the upper class and their involvement in other national movements was already
too advanced. Not even the support from their linguistic relatives in Romania
helped in their unification since few Aromanians looked to Romania as a patron.
characteristics of Aromanian identity are probably behind Nicolau
calling the Aromanians "les caméléons des Balkans", which in turn led Balamaci
to say that the Aromanians were "born to assimilate" and Gavrilović
that their identity is "able to melt with Greek, Serbian, Bulgarian,
Christian-Albanian or Romanian identity". Exactly this shifting of
identities, this "chameleonic" flexibility, made the Aromanians not only one of
the most polyglot groups in Southeastern Europe but also an economically and
politically very strong one. Thus, when asking for the characteristics that have
hindered the formation of Aromanian nationhood, we have to observe their
participation in the nation-building of their neighbouring peoples first.
Economically and politically, Aromanians had the possibility to develop their
own nation, but the high level of geographical dispersion and ethnic intermixing
were hindering and made these national aspirations quite difficult. I suggest
that their economic superiority even prevented them from developing their own
nationality and accelerated their national absorption. Improving their economic
and educational wealth, they adopted the languages of the majorities (especially
the Greek one) and renounced their own language. Not even their religion could
hinder this absorption (as in the case of the Jews) since they were Orthodox
like their neighbours.
the absorption of the Aromanians by other nations was strengthened additionally
by the fact that important members of their intelligentsia and elites had
emigrated; predominantly the economically weaker groups remained in the
homeland. Thus, since the 18th century the Aromanian diaspora outside
of the Balkans has played a decisive role in the development of Aromanian
identity. Even today, attempts to improve the standing of Aromanian identity,
language and culture is mainly undertaken by those of the diaspora in Germany,
France, the United States and Australia.
"Vlachness" and other national orientations in the Balkans
The Aromanians have
been able to reconcile the peculiarities of their ethnicity with the national
identities of the states in which they live, and as a result, have not forgotten
their separate Aromanian/Vlach co-national consciousness. In general, it
is possible to say that pro-Greek orientations have been the most strongly
represented among Aromanians; Weigand reported, already in 1897, that most
Aromanians were not only "indifferent but even showed hostility to their
While the Aromanian tradesmen and craftsmen were incorporated into Greek culture
on the basis of their urban way of life and their constant contact with Greeks,
we find that those Aromanians whose forefathers worked in agriculture had above
all a tendency towards assimilation by agrarian Slavs (or agrarian Greeks or
agrarian Albanians). Those Aromanians who until today belong to pastoral
communities, represent the most closed Aromanian societies and have retained
their specific Aromanian identity and the best knowledge of their language and
survived predominantly in south Slavic surroundings, i.e.
in the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria. A large community in Albania consider
themselves to be a coherent people. In Romania, the groups that immigrated in
1940 preserved their Aromanian identity while those that immigrated earlier were
for the most part assimilated. Aromanians who stress their separate Aromanian
identity usually dissociate themselves from any affiliation to any other nation.
In Greece, most of these groups inhabit the regions of Veria, Grevena and
Athens; in Albania, they live in the southwestern part of the country; and in
the Republic of Macedonia, east of the Vardar River especially. In some cases an
Aromanian identity survives even if no Aromanian is spoken, as among the Cincars
of Serbia. In present-day Greece most Aromanians have Greek identity and
identify themselves with the Greek culture and nation. Outside Greece many
Aromanians in south Albania have Greek identity as well, shaped in the last
decade by the hope of economic advantage based on this relationship with Greece.
Additionally, pro-Greek-oriented families and individuals can be found in
various municipalities all over Southeastern Europe. Most Greek-oriented
individuals emphasised their distance from Romanian culture. The strongest
Romanian identity and orientation towards the Romanian culture and nation
can be found among the Aromanians in Romania but also in communities outside
Romania, above all where Romanian schools had been built. Most Romanian-oriented
Aromanians dissociate themselves from Greek culture and consider themselves to
be a part of the Romanian people speaking a Romanian dialect.
Aromanians and Modern Hellenism
The image of Aromanians as a wild, pastoral people,
which still prevails in Greek society as well as in neighbouring countries, is
also supported by the media.
Phrases such as "Oh, this Vlach" (re ton
Vlacho), "Vlach behave" (vlachika
fersimata) or "Even a civilised Vlach smells
vlachness" (o Vlachos ki an politevtei pali Vlachia myrizei) can
still often be heard in Greece. Their identification with Hellenism as an
ancient culture makes it easy for the Aromanians to ignore this image. Two
totally different self-images survive due to the described discrepancy in
education and wealth within Aromanian society: the "uncouth bumpkins" and the
"national heroes and maecenas".
The Aromanians’ role in the
history of Greece, represented in their numerous patrons, national heroes,
politicians, intellectuals and clergy,
is of great importance for their identity as a part of the modern Greek people.
Especially their numbers among Greek benefactors is often emphasised by
and historians. Indeed, the list of examples of Aromanians in Greek history is
quite impressive: Aromanians are to be found among the independence fighters,
(1757-1798, forerunner of the Greek independence movement), Georgakis Olympios
(1772-1821, member of "Filiki Etaireia", fought in the revolution of 1821), Theodoros and Alexis Grivas (1797-1862 and 1799-1855 respectively, leaders of
armed bands of revolutionaries); they were some of the best known maecenas,
Baron Georgios Sinas (1783-1856, hereditary baron and senior officer of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire, founder of the Academy of Athens), Simon Sinas
(1810-1876, banker, railway magnate, baron of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, first
Greek ambassador in Vienna), Nikolaos Stournaris (1806-1853, founder of the
Metsovio Polytechnic School in Athens), Georgios Stavrou (1785-1869, co-founder
and first governor of the National Bank of Greece); and were also among the
important politicians Ioannis Kolettis (1773-1847, Minister and later
Prime Minister 1844-47), Stergios Doumbas (1794-1870, banker in Vienna),
Konstantinos Zappas (1814-1892, endowed the Zappeion Hall and the surrounding
gardens), Georgios Averof (1818-1899, founder of the Military Academy, restorer
of the Panathenian Stadium), Nikolaos Doumbas 1830-1900 (banker), Spyridon
Lambros (1851-1919, historian and politician), Athinagoras I. (1886-1972,
Patriarch from 1948 to 1972), Evangelos Averof Tositsas (1910-1990, Minister of
Foreign Affairs 1958-1963, Minister of National Defence 1974-1981).
All these names are often used
by Greek politicians and historians to demonstrate the Greek consciousness of
the "Vlach-speaking Greeks".
Unfortunately, when speaking about their much-admired Greekness, Greek
Aromanians and Greeks often forget that such examples of well-known Vlach
personalities can be found in the other Southeastern European countries too.
In Greece, the national identity
of most Aromanians takes place without a doubt through modern Hellenism. From
the perspective of the Greek Aromanians all monolingual populations which only
speak Greek belong to the Greeks (Greţ),
while the Vlach-, Slav- and Albanian-speaking people can also belong to the
Hellenes (Elini, in Greek Ellines). Thus, the two terms Greek and
Hellenic cause problems. While almost every Aromanian considers himself to
be Hellene (Ellinas, fem. Ellinida, pl. Ellines) when speaking Greek, he
would not consider himself Greek (Grecu,
fem. Greacā, pl. Greţ)
when speaking Aromanian. To demonstrate this fact, let me quote Maria K. from
Kleisoura. "Of course I am proud to be Vlach, but I am much prouder to be
were her first comments when speaking about the Vlachs in Greece. Only a few
minutes later, when we switched over to Aromanian, she told me about her
daughter "You can´t imagine my shock when our daughter wanted to marry a
Greek! Who wants to marry their own children to the Greeks?".
To be a Hellene does not mean automatically to be Greek. Further problems are
provoked if a language is used that does not differentiate between Greek
and Hellene. Obviously, most Aromanians in Greece will more willingly
call themselves Greek when speaking English than Grecu
when speaking Aromanian.
Things are quite different in
the case of pro-Romanian Aromanians and those who consider themselves to be a
separate people. They do not only identify themselves as Vlachs by culture and
language, their Aromanian identity does not allow the parallel existence of
another national identity. These tendencies can still be found in Greece,
especially in those villages in which strong Romanian communities were accepted
by the Greek authorities, above all in Avdella, Perivoli, Samarina, Vovousa,
Krania, Edessa, Veroia and the surrounding areas, as well as in a few
settlements in the districts of Kastoria and Ioannina. On the whole they
represent a minute and dwindling number of Aromanians.
The idea of "Hellenism" unites
most Aromanians in Greece
much more than their "Vlachness"
so that the following comment by the mayor of a large Vlach village probably
represents the opinion of most Greek Aromanians: "How is it possible that
someone calls us minority? We made the Greek state!"
Greece today: Save your folklore, forget your language!
Intimidation and repression of Aromanians by local Greek
politicians, teachers, priests as well as the nationalist press in the period
between the civil war and the military dictatorship has led to a tabooing of
minority topics in Greece. I have heard about Aromanian children who were
punished for speaking Aromanian at school well into the 1970s and 1980s.
Aromanians with such experiences usually maintain a strong antipathy towards the
Greek policy and preserve, until today (especially in the Balkans and the
diaspora), feelings of belonging to an Aromanian minority.
In the last few years optimistic
activities for the preservation of Aromanian culture in Greece as well as
serious indications for insufficient tolerance in Greece have increased.
situation of the Vlach population in Greece as "the worst when compared with
other countries", but it is not clear which situation she means (obviously not
the economical) and whether the Vlachs in Greece are of the same opinion. Claims
that "the Vlach community wants to have education and church services in Vlach"
and "Greece refuses to give the Vlachs any cultural rights",
do not necessarily represent cultural demands made by the Aromanians of Greece.
Especially politicians of Aromanian descent in Greece emphasise that they do not
even want to be recognised as a minority and are not at all interested in
Aromanian language education.
Aromanian is still learned today in the villages,
but only within the families, never in associations or schools. This continued
survival of the language might show that identification with Aromanians "continues to confer advantages in diverse contexts".
But the consciousness of belonging to the Vlachs does not depend only on being
able to speak the Aromanian language. The most impressing examples of this fact
are the many activists in Vlach associations who do not speak any Aromanian at
all! Even without speaking Aromanian, belonging to the Vlachs may have
advantages. Approbation and disapprobation of Vlachness strongly depends on
image: in surroundings where Vlach means "uncouth bumpkin", Hellene is
emphasised, when speaking about maecenas and heroes, Vlachness becomes
more important. Many Aromanians in Greece even seem to feel disturbed by their
language, because it hinders them in identification with Hellenism. Many
Aromanians in Greece thus do not even regret the loss of their language and
would prefer to themselves rid of their "mixed idiom". Most of them are
convinced that it is absolutely impossible to write Aromanian. In the Balkans
and the diaspora there are about ten Aromanian magazines,
and radio stations
using Aromanian, but none of them in Greece. A large part of the Aromanian
community living in Greece is not interested in any initiative aimed at the
preservation of the Aromanian language apart from its use in the family.
Initiatives taken to protect the Aromanian culture are looked upon with mistrust
(i.e. Minority Groups Research Centre, KEMO).
In Greece there is no newspaper using the Aromanian language. Contemporary
Aromanian periodicals can be divided into those that deal with Aromanian topics
and occasionally print texts written in Aromanian
and those local newspapers that hardly write about Aromanian subjects and are
only published in Greek.
None of the more than 200
in Greece has an Aromanian name and the majority do not even have the word
"Vlach" in their names; none of them have declared their support for the
preservation of the Aromanian language as an important goal. Local associations
recently founded Aromanian cultural museums in Veria, Serres and Naousa.
The largest Aromanian organisation in Greece - and thus world-wide - is the
Pan-Hellenic Federation of Cultural Associations of Vlachs (Panellinia Enosi
Politistikon Syllogon Vlachon Ellados) which apart from Salonika has branches in
Drama, Grevena, Metsovo, Athens and Agrinio. It currently (2003) has about 80
member associations. Apart from these associations, there is a small
organisation for the Aromanian/Vlach Culture (Etaireia Aromanikou/Vlachikou
Politismou) in Athens, which is the only one active in the effort to protect and
promote the Aromanian language and distributes books with Aromanian songs as
well as small information pamphlets in Greek. In the last years Vlach Students
in Salonika initiated activities and events on Aromanian subjects and founded
the "League of Vlach Students". In Salonika there exists further an
of Helleno-Vlach Albanians (Syllogos Ellinovlachon
Albanias stin Ellada), whose members are Albanian-Aromanians who have recently
immigrated to the country. Between 1994 and 1999 beginner and advanced
linguistic courses for "Koutsovlach" have been offered at the Aristotelis
University of Salonika. Finally, documentary films about Aromanians are very
rare on Greek television; their language is never heard.
In contrast to the language, the
maintenance of Vlach folklore in Greece is excellent. In Metsovo and other
Aromanian villages, festivals have been taking place over the last 20 years and
are, with over 40 000 participants, the largest Aromanian happenings of their
kind in the world. Recently, people of neighbouring countries and of the
diaspora have begun to attend this event with growing interest. Even if some
publications carried the occasional opinion that might have been seen by the
governments of the states in which Aromanians live as politically dangerous,
none of the Aromanian organisations desire to achieve any form of independence
for Aromanians. Because of their extremely loyal Neo-Hellenic consciousness, the
Aromanians of Greece do not represent any "danger" for Greek national concerns
and are thus used to demonstrate Greek progress in handling its linguistic
the "Recommendation on the Aromanian culture"
June 15th 1999 the Council of Europe adopted recommendation 1333
on Aromanian culture and language. According to the recommendation, Balkan
states with Aromanians populations are encouraged to ratify the European Charter
of Regional or Minority Languages and to support the Aromanians in terms of
providing education, religious services in the churches, newspapers, magazines,
radio and television programmes in Aromanian and support for their cultural
associations. The decision met with extreme criticism from the largest Aromanian
organisation in Greece,
whereby the Council of Europe repeated its decision in 1998.
Positive attitudes were only expressed by NGOs such as Greek Helsinki Monitor
and Minority Rights Group
In 2001, no fewer than 31 Vlach-speaking mayors and
heads of village signed a protest resolution against the US State Department
Report on the human rights situation in Greece. They complained "against the
direct or indirect characterisation of the Vlach-speaking Greeks as an ethnic,
linguistic or other minority, stating that the Vlach-speaking Greeks never
requested to be recognised by the Greek state as a minority, stressing that
historically and culturally they were and still are an integral part of
Hellenism, they would be bilingual and Aromanian would be secondary".
On 2nd February 2001,
the trial of the Aromanian activist Sotiris Bletsas in Athens revived again the
discussion about the Aromanians’ rights in Greece. Bletsas was accused of
distributing maps printed by the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages
which showed the minority languages in Greece, at a Vlach festival in 1995. The
witnesses for the prosecution against Bletsas included an Aromanian mayor.
On 18th December 2001 he was acquitted as innocent. Bletsas’
acquittal paved the way for the EBLUL meeting on 26th January 2002 in
Salonika, which was arranged for representatives of the linguistic minorities of
Greece. The 1st International Conference of the EBLUL has been held
in Salonika on 15th November 2002.
During the conference more than 100 persons demonstrated against the intentions
of the conference.
On 28th May 2002, an
incident occurred at the Book Exhibition of Salonika involving around 100
right-wing militants who stormed the stands where publications from Balkan
countries were being displayed. They exercised their own variety of censorship
by removing and burning books from those Balkan countries, the content of which
was considered by some persons to be insulting. A large number of these books
were Vlach literature from the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Another example of insufficient tolerance is the publishing (or non-publishing)
of books with Aromanian subjects. It is typical that most classical scientific
literature on the Aromanians has yet to be translated into the Greek, whereas
there are translations in nearly every other Balkan language. The Greek edition
of M. D. Peyfuss’ thesis "Die Aromunische Frage" has to date not been possible
although the translation has been finished for time. My own Greek translation of
Gustav Weigand’s "Die Aromunen" has been edited and commented on in the most
by the right-wing secretary of the "Information Center of Ethnic Problems," Achille Lazarou.
Most recently, on 18th
August 2003, the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Cultural Associations of Vlachs
issued again a strong protest
on the occasion of the direct or indirect characterisation of the Vlach-speaking
Greeks as an ethnic, linguistic or other type of minority, a position expressed
in the latest report issued by the American organisation "Freedom House".
The classification as belonging to a minority may for some people be a
compliment or a privilege, for others it is disturbing and suspicious. As the
term minority in Greece is officially used only when speaking about
Muslims in Western Thrace, this expression has a negative undertone for
Christian groups. Furthermore, Greece’s minority policy often interpreted the
linguistic and cultural otherness of Aromanians, Arvanites and Slavomacedonians
as not-Greek, anti-Greek or disloyal towards the Greek state. Most Aromanians in
Greece will for these reasons continue to refuse being called a minority. If one
describes them as a minority in Greece, regardless of their protests against
this classification, one has to call them a minority in the Balkans too; if one
calls them Greek one has to call them at least partially Albanian, Serb,
Romanian etc. in other countries. And everybody who uses the term Vlach-speaking
Greeks should realise that they became Greek-speaking Vlachs some
 Due to this fact, to the lack of
older data and to different census methods, estimating the Aromanian population
is nearly impossible. The last Greek national census that differentiated between
different orthodox groups, showed 26 750 Vlachs living in Greece in 1940 and 22
736 in 1951. The Lausanne convention of 1923 mentioned between 150 000 – 200 000
Vlachs in Greece. Today’s estimates are as high as 600 000 Aromanians living in
Greece. If one takes into account all potential speakers who consider themselves
belonging to the Vlach/Aromanian nation, we should perhaps speak of a maximum of
300 000 Aromanians in Greece and a number of fluent Aromanian speakers as not
above 100 000. For further estimates see: Bogdan Banu, The Aromanians in the
Balkans, at: www.aromanian.net; Sevold Braga, Die Rechtslage der romanischen
Minderheit in Griechenland, Noul Album Macedo-Român 2, (1965), S. 37-136; Birgül
Demirtaş-Coşkun,: The Vlachs. A Forgotten Minority in the Balkans. London,
Portland 2001; Thede Kahl, Ethnizität und räumliche Verteilung der Aromunen in
Südosteuropa. Münstersche Geographische Arbeiten 43. Münster 1999; Tache
Papahagi, Aromînii. Grai, Folklor, Etnografie. Cu o introducere istorică [The
Aromanians. Language, Folklore, Ethnography. With a historical introduction].
Bucureşti 1932, 79-81; Gustav Weigand, Die Aromunen.
Ethnographisch-philologisch-historische Untersuchungen über das Volk der
sogenannten Makedo-Romanen oder Zinzaren, Bd. 1, Land und Leute. Leipzig 1895,
281-283; Tom Winnifrith, The Vlachs of the Balkans: A Rural Minority Which Never
Achieved Ethnic Identity. In: Roots of Rural Ethnic Mobilisation: Comparative
Studies on Governments and Non-Dominant Ethnic Groups in Europe 1850-1940. Vol.
7. Ed. David Howell. New York, Dartmouth 1992.
 Unfortunately some authors use
these terms as synonyms, e.g. Demirtaş-Coşkun [fn. 1]; Tom Winnifrith, The
Vlachs: The History of a Balkan People. London 1987.
 Alkis Raftis, Εγκυκλοπαίδεια του
ελληνικού χορού [Encyclopedia of the Greek Dance]. Athens 1995, 92-95.
 The immense diversity in
defining the word "Vlach" can be seen in the following excerpts from my
"Everybody who has animals is a Vlach."
"Vlachs are the persons we go to at Easter to bye some lamb."
"There are no Vlachs anymore. They have gone."
"My parents were Vlachs."
"They are Romanians. But we have Vlachs here too."
"A Vlach is a bad major."
"They are the purest Greeks, the proudest race!"
"We do not have any Vlachs here. We are pure Greeks."
 Αll examples in Tache Papahagi,
Dicţionarul dialectului aromân. General şi etimologic [Dictionary of the
Aromanian dialect. General and etymologic]. Bucharest 1974.
 For details on distribution see
Vasilis Gounaris, Asterios Koukoudis: Από την Πίνδο ως τη Ροδόπη: αναζητώντας
τις εγκαταστάσεις και την ταυτότητα των Βλάχων (From Pindos to Rhodopes:
searching for the settlements and the identity of the Vlachs],). Ίστωρ 10(1997),
S. 91-137; Kahl [fn. 1]; Johannes Kramer, De Aromoenen in Griekenland. Tetradio
- Tijdschrift van het Griekenlandcentrum 11, Universiteit Gent 2002, 55-72;
Rudolf Windisch, Die lateinisch-romanischen Aromunen auf dem Balkan. In:
Europäische Regionalkulturen im Vergleich. Eds. Eva Leitzke-Ungerer, Andrea
Pagni. Frankfurt a.M. 2002, 123-141.
 Because of their pejorative
meaning I would like to avoid terms like "graecoman" and "romanising" used in
Southeastern European languages.
 Max D. Peyfuss, Rom oder Byzanz?
Das Erwachen des aromunischen Nationalbewußtseins, Österreichische Osthefte 12/6
1970, 337-351, here 338.
 Angeliki Konstantakopoulou, Η
ελληνική γλώσσα στα Βαλκάνια 1750-1850. Το τετράγλωσσο λεξικό του Δανιήλ
Μοσχοπολίτη [The Greek language in the Balkans 1750-1850. The dictionary in four
languages of Daniel Moschopolite]. Ioannina 1988, 11.
 Ioannis Zelepos, Die
Ethnizisierung griechischer Identität 1870-1912. Südosteuropäische Arbeiten 113.
München 2002, 56, 267.
 Ulf Brunnbauer (ed.):
Umstrittene Identitäten. Ethnizität und Nationalität in Südosteuropa. Frankfurt
a.M. 2002, (Einleitung, 11-29, here 19).
 For some Greek scholars this
identification with the Greeks is enough to draw the conclusion that they are of
Greek origin, see Christos Zafeiris, Βαλκάνιος πραματευτής. Οδοιπορία μνήμης σε
ελληνικές κοινότητες και παροικίες [The Balkan merchant. Tracing the Greek
communities and colonies], Athens 1998, 25, 139-141.
 E.g. Konstantinos Oukoutas,
Νέα παιδαγωγία ήτι αλφαβητάριον εύκολον του μάθειν τα ρωμανο-βλάχικα γράμματα
εις κοινήν χρήσιν των Ρωμανο-Βλάχων [New easy fible for learning the Romano-Vlach
writing for the common use of the Romano-Vlachs]. Vienna 1797; Gheorghe
Constantin Rosa, Untersuchungen über die Romanier oder sogenannten Wlachen,
welche jenseits der Donau wohnen. Pest 1808; Mihail G. Boiagi: Romanische oder
Macedonowlachische Sprachlehre / Γραμματική ρωμανική ήτοι μακεδονοβλάχικη.
 Radu C. Miron, Kirchliche
Unabhängigkeitsbestrebungen der Aromunen. Dacoromania. Jahrbuch für östliche
Latinität 4 (1977/78), 135-145, 136.
 Max D. Peyfuss: Die
Aromunische Frage. Ihre Entwicklung von den Ursprüngen bis zum Frieden von
Bukarest (1913) und die Haltung Österreich-Ungarns. Wiener Archiv für Geschichte
des Slawentums und Osteuropas, Vienna 1974, 21.
 Exact data varies; for
details see the map in Marius Z. Ţigoiu, Şcoli şi biserici româneşti în
Macedonia [Romanian Schools and Churches in Macedonia]. Bucureşti 1938, and the
following sources: Teodor T. Burada, Cercetări despre şcoalele românesci în
Turcia [Survey on the Romanian School in Turkey]. Bucuresci 1890; Lena Divani,
The Vlachs of Greece and the Italo-Rumanian Propaganda. Thetis. Mannheimer
Beiträge zur Klassischen Archäologie und Geschichte Griechenlands 3, Mannheim
1996, S. 195-206; Mitu Dona, Cum s'au înfiinţat întâile şcoli naţionale în
Albania [How there were the first national schools in Albania made], Graiul
Românesc 2/9, Bucureşti 1928, S. 156-162; I. Goschin, Şcolile româneşti din
Peninsula Balcanică [The Romanian schools in the Balkan Peninsula], Graiul
Românesc 5/1, Bucureşti 1931, S. 3-10; Ion Ordeanu: Şcoli româneşti în peninsula
Balcanică [The Romanian schools in the Balkan Peninsula], Graiul Românesc 2/6,
Bucureşti 1928, S. 101-105; Peyfuss [fn. 15], 106; Gustav Weigand: Die Aromunen.
Ethnographisch-philologisch-historische Untersuchungen über das Volk der
sogenannten Makedo-Romanen oder Zinzaren, Bd. 1, Land und Leute. Leipzig 1895,
 On Mărgărit see Theodor
Capidan, Macedoromânii. Etnografie, istorie, limbă [The Macedoromanians.
Ethnography, history, language]. Bucureşti 1942, 232-234; on his intentions see
Evangelos Averof-Tositsas, Η πολιτική πλευρά του κουτσοβλαχικού ζητήματος [The
political aspects of the Aromanian question]. Reprint Trikala 1992 (1st edition
Athens 1948) and Peyfuss [fn. 15]; on Belemace see the autobiography by
Constantin Belemace: Dimândarea pârinteascâ [Dimand of the parents]. New York
 Or Vlach-Romanian as does
Fikret Adanir, Die Makedonische Frage. Ihre Entstehung und Entwicklung bis 1908.
Wiesbaden 1979, 220.
 R. V. Bossy, Un succes
diplomatic românesc: "Iradeaua" din 1905 [A Romanian diplomatic success: the
irade of 1905], Noul Album Macedo-Român 1 (1959), S. 167-169.
 On discrimination,
persecution and other conflicts between pro-Greek and pro-Romanian Aromanians
see Adanir [fn. 18], 217-222; C. A.
 Bratter, Die kutzowlachische
Frage. Hamburg 1907, 61, 65-76, 111-120; Demirtaş-Coşkun [fn. 1], 17-22, Divani
[fn. 16], 200; Constantin Papanace, La persecution des minorités aromounes (valaques)
dans les pays balcaniques. Le probleme macedonien. Biblioteca verde 3. Bucureşti
1951; Peyfuss [fn. 15], 90.
Bratter [fn. 20].
 Nicolae Zdrulla, Mişcarea
aromânilor din Pind în 1917 [The movement of the Aromanians in Pindos in 1917],
Revista Aromânească 1/2, Bucureşti 1929, S. 162.
 See Divani [fn. 16], 196,
 Stauros A. Papagiannis: Τα
παιδιά της λύκαινας. Οι ‘επίγονοι’ της 5ης Ρωμαϊκής Λεγεώνας κατά την διάρκεια
της Κατοχής 1941-1944 [Wolf children. The ‘descendants’ of the 5th Roman Legion
during the occupation 1941-1944]. Athens 1998, 21-31.
 Details: Thede Kahl, The
Ethnicity of Aromanians after 1990: the Identity of a Minority that Behaves like
a Majority, Ethnologia Balkanica 6 (2002), 145-169.
 Irina Nicolau, Les caméléons
des Balkans. Civilisations En Quete d'identité XLII/2 (Université Libre de
Bruxelles), 1993, 175-178.
 Nicholas Balamaci, The Balkan
Vlachs: Born to Assimilate?, Cultural Survival Quarterly, Summer 1995 (also at
 Ljiljana Gavrilović,
Kir-Janja - Stvarnost ili stereotip [Kir-Janja - Reality or stereotype].
Belgrade 1998 (unpublished), 2.
 Gustav Weigand: Die nationale
Bewegung unter den Aromunen (Rumänen der Türkei). Globus 71/4, Braunschweig
1897, S. 53-55.
 Ilias G. Kostopoulos, Η
Εθνική συνείδηση των Βλάχων και ο ρόλος τους στη συγκρότηση του Νέου Ελληνισμού
[The national consciousness of the Vlachs and their role in the unity of Modern
Hellenism], Trikalina 8 (1989), 207-240, here 205.
 See Giannis Papathanasiou,
Ιστορία των Βλάχων [The history of the Vachs]. Salonika 19942.
 For example Salonika’s mayor,
Vasilis Papageorgopoulos, emphasised in 2000 that "almost all the great
benefactors of modern Greece [...] were Vlachs"; see Community of Nymfaion
(ed.), Armani - Distinguished Greeks Vlachs. Catalogue of the Nymphaion Museum
of Gold and Silverkraft exhibition. Nymfaion 2000, 11-12.
 The following names are given
in their Greek form; outside of Greece some of them are better known by their
Vlach forms: "Dumba" instead of "Doumbas".
 For example the deputy mayor
of Larisa, Panos Sapkas, emphasised in 2000: "When modern Greece came into
being, Vlach benefactors filled Athens with buildings, enduring evidence that
their hearts and minds were wholly Greek"; see Community of Nymfaion [fn. 33],
 " Βέβαια είμαι περίφανη που
είμαι Βλάχα, αλλά πιο περίφανη είμαι που είμαι Ελληνίδα, καυχιέμαι!"
 "Lele, cātā γinati āń γinea
cāndu feata noastrā ş-aflā un grecu! Cari di noi va s-da cilimeańĺi la greţ? "
 "Πώς τολμούν κάποιοι να μας
βγάλουν μειονότητα στην Ελλάδα αφού εμείς κάναμε την Ελλάδα! "
 Demirtaş-Coşkun: [fn. 1], 29.
 ibid., 53.
 ibid., 54.
 Muriel D. Schein, When is an
Ethnic Group? Ecology and Class Structure in Northern Greece, Ethnology 14
(1975) Pittsburgh, 83-97, here 93.
 Some of them can be read
online, i.e. Bana Armãneascã at http://www.geocities.com/armaneasca/, Farsarotul
at http://www.farsarotul.org, Zborlu a nostru at http://www.geocities.com/zborlu/
 Broadcasting from Bucharest
(see http://www.rri.ro), from Skopje
(see http://www.maccinema.com/makedonija.asp) and Kruševo
 Pan-Hellenic Federation of
Cultural Associations of Vlachs (Panellinia Enosi Politistikon Syllogon Vlachon
Ellados): Ύποπτα αλλά κερδοφόρα σεμινάρια για Βλάχους [Suspect but Lucrative
Seminars on the Vlachs]. Apogevmatini tis Kyriakis, 9th August 1998, Athens.
 Such as Armanika Chronika,
Pigi Kefalobrysou, Mnimes, Amerou - Miliotika Nea, Niagousti.
 Such as Avdela, I oraia
Samarina, I Nymfi, Gardiki, To Greveniti, Kallarytes, Kleisoura, Metsovo,
Flambourioika Nea, Laistina Nea, Livadiotika Nea, Pindos, Palmoi tis Kranias, Το
Syrrako, Pisoderitika, Vovousiotika, Zagoriaka, Koutsoufliani.
 When speaking about Aromanian
"organisations" in this section, one has to consider that a lot of them are not
officially registered; none of the mentioned Aromanian "newspapers" has an
official ISSN number.
 For Naousa see http://www.museumsofmacedonia.gr/Folklore/Laografiko_Blaxvn.html,
for Veroia http://www.vlahoi.gr/index.asp, for Serres http://users.otenet.gr/~vlah-ser/olymp.htm,
for Almyro http://www.geocities.com/lsvea2001/, for Livadi http://www.dynamiki.gr/livadi/lao_mousio.htm,
for Nymfaio http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/Museums/Folklore/Mouseio_Nymfaioy.html,
for Kefolovryso http://www.geocities.com/mentis2s/, for Metsovo http://www.epcon.gr/metsovo/,
for Samarina http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/C3.8.html.
 Divani [fn. 16], S. 198.
 Council of Europe,
Parliamentary Assembly AACR 18.97, 1403-24/6/97-1-E and AS (1997) CR18 Doc. 7728
provisional edition, ordinary session report, eighteenth sitting, 24 June,
appendix: Recommendation 1333 (1997) on the Aromanian culture and language (see
www.coe.fr/cm/dec/1999/674/71.htm and http://fargo.itp.tsoa.nyu.edu/~mihai/aromanians1333.html.
 Pan-Hellenic Federation of
Cultural Associations of Vlachs (Panellinia Enosi Politistikon Syllogon Vlachon
Ellados): Letter from 5th March 1998 for the Council of Europe Concerning the
Resolution 1333 about Aroumanian Language and Culture, Drama (copy in the
possession of the author).
 Council of Europe: Draft
Opinion of the Steering Committee of Human Rights (CDDH) on Parliamentary
Assembly Recommendation 1333 (1997) on the Aromanian Culture and Language. 1st
meeting 17-20 March 1998, Human Rights Building, Strasbourg 1998.
 See respectively http://www.greekhelsinki.gr
 Resolution of protest by 31
Vlach-speaking mayors and heads of village at http://www.mpa.gr/article.html?doc_id=174455;
cf. US Department of State at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eur/769.htm
 See http://www.eblul.org/gp/resolution-en.zip.
 See details in Minderheiten
in Griechenland. Pogrom - Zeitschrift für bedrohte Völker 31/209 2001; also at
 Details at http://www.mhrmc.ca/news/02/eblul3.html
 See http://www.mpa.gr/article.html?doc_id=306693
 Greek Helsinki Monitor 2002,
"Serious Allegations about Burning of Books at the Book Exhibition of Thessaloniki by Extreme Right-Wingers Following Incitation by a Television
Program, see press release from 30 May 2002" at http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/special_issues/aromanians.html.
 Thede Kahl, Gustav Weigand in
Griechenland von den Schwierigkeiten einer Rezeption. Südostforschungen 61/2002,
1-13; Thede Kahl: Οι Βλάχοι και η ιστορία τους. Η έκδοση ενός βιβλίου και
μερικές απορίες από τον μεταφραστή του [The Aromanians and their History. The
Edition of a Book and some Remarks by its Translator]. Eleftherotypia, 5th
August 2002, 35.
 See http://www.mpa.gr/article.html?doc_id=366995
or in Greek 366991.
 See http://www.freedomhouse.org/.