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Flag of the National Council of Vlach minority in Serbia
|Regions with significant populations|
|Eastern Central Serbia|
|Vlach and Serbian|
|Predominantly Eastern Orthodox|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Romanians of Serbia|
The Vlachs (endonym: Rumînji or Rumâni, Serbian: / Vlasi) are an ethnic minority in eastern Serbia, culturally and linguistically related to Romanians. They mostly live in the Timo?ka Krajina region (roughly corresponding to the districts of Bor and Zaje?ar), but also in Brani?evo and Pomoravlje districts. A small Vlach population also exists in Smederevo and Velika Plana (Podunavlje District), and in the municipalities of Aleksinac and Kru?evac (Rasina District).
Vlach is an exonym for the eastern Romance speaking community in the Balkans, which resulted from the occupation and colonisation of the region during the Roman Empire. Northeastern Serbia is home to several Vlach/Romanian communities who speak dialects similar to ones in parts of western Romania: in Banat, Transylvania, and Oltenia (Lesser Wallachia). These are the Ungureni (Ungurjani, ), Munteni (Mun?ani, ?) and Bufeni (Bufani, ). Today, about three quarters of the Vlach population speak the Ungurean subdialect which is similar to the Romanian spoken in Banat. In the 19th century other groups of Romanians originating in Oltenia (Lesser Wallachia) also settled south of the Danube. These are the rani (Carani, ), who form some 25% of the modern population and speak a variety of Oltenian dialect. From the 15th through the 18th centuries large numbers of Serbs also migrated across the Danube, but in the opposite direction, to both Banat and ?ara Româneasca. Significant migration ended by the establishment of the kingdoms of Serbia and Romania in the second half of the 19th century. The Vlachs of northeastern Serbia share close linguistic and cultural ties with the Vlachs in the region of Vidin in Bulgaria as well as the Romanians of Banat and Oltenia (Lesser Wallachia). Some authors[who?] consider that the majority of Vlachs/Romanians in Timo?ka Krajina are descendants of Romanians that migrated from Hungary in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The language spoken by the Vlachs consists of two distinct Romanian subdialects spoken in regions neighboring Romania: one major group of Vlachs speaks the dialect spoken in Mehedin?i County in western Oltenia, while the other major group speaks a dialect similar to the one spoken in the neighboring region of Banat.
The Romanian language is not in use in local administration, not even in localities where members of the minority represent more than 15% of the population, where it would be allowed according to Serbian law.
The Romanian Orthodox Church in Malajnica, built in 2004, is the first Romanian church in eastern Serbia in 170 years. Before its construction, Romanians in Timo? were not allowed to hear liturgical services in their native language. Most Vlachs of Eastern Serbia are Orthodox Christians who had belonged to the Serbian Orthodox Church since the 19th century. This changed on 24 March 2009, when Serbia recognized the authority of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Valea Timocului and the confessional rights of the Vlachs.
The 2006 Serbian law on religious organizations did not recognize the Romanian Orthodox Church as a traditional church, as it had received permission from the Serbian Church to operate only within Vojvodina, but not in Timo?ka Krajina. At Malajnica, a Vlach priest belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church encountered deliberately-raised administrative barriers when he attempted to build a church. Other Romanian Orthodox churches are planned or under construction in Jasikovo, ?uprija, Bigrenica and Samarinovac. Additionally, a Romanian Orthodox monastery is under construction in Malajnica. The Romanian Orthodox churches in Eastern Central Serbia are subordinated to the Protopresbyteriat Dacia Ripensis with its seat in Negotin. The protopresbyteriat is subordinated to the Romanian Orthodox diocese Dacia Felix with its seat in Vr?ac.
The relative isolation of the Vlachs has permitted the survival of various pre-Christian religious customs and beliefs that are frowned upon by the Orthodox Church. Vlach magic rituals are well known across modern Serbia. The Vlachs celebrate the osp (hospitium, in Latin), called in Serbian praznik or slava. The customs of the Vlachs are very similar to those from Southern Romania (Walachia).
The Vlach community is divided into several groups, each speaking their own dialectal variant:
In the 2002 census 40,054 people in Serbia declared themselves ethnic Vlachs, and 54,818 people declared themselves speakers of the Vlach language. The Vlachs of Serbia are recognized as a minority, like the Romanians of Serbia, who number 34,576 according to the 2002 census. On the census, the Vlachs declared themselves either as Serbs, Vlachs or Romanians. Therefore, the "real" number of people of Vlach origin could be much greater than the number of recorded Vlachs, both due to mixed marriages with Serbs and also Serbian national feeling among some Vlachs.
In the 2011 census 35,330 people in Serbia declared themselves ethnic Vlachs, and 43,095 people declared themselves speakers of the Vlach language. The Vlachs of Serbia are recognized as a minority. Therefore, the number of people of Vlach origin could be bigger than the number of recorded Vlachs, both due to mixed marriages with Serbs and also Serbian national feeling among some Vlachs.
The following numbers from census data suggest the possible number of Vlachs:
The Vlach (Romanian) population of Central Serbia is concentrated mostly in the region bordered by the Morava River (west), Danube River (north) and Timok River (south-east). See also: List of settlements in Serbia inhabited by Vlachs.
The community is known as Vlasi ("Vlachs") in Serbian, while their endonym is Rumînji, virtually the same as the Romanian endonym români pronounced [ro'm?n?]. The Vlach community is highly assimilated into Serbian society, bilingual in the Serbian and Vlach languages, and adhering to the Eastern Orthodo Church.
Despite their recognition as a separate ethnic group by the Serbian government, Vlachs are cognate to Romanians in the cultural and linguistic sense. Some Romanians, as well as international linguists and anthropologists, consider Serbia's Vlachs to be a subgroup of Romanians. Additionally, the Movement of Romanians-Vlachs in Serbia, which represents some Vlachs, has called for the recognition of the Vlachs as a Romanian national minority, giving them rights similar to those of the Romanians of Vojvodina. However, the results of the last census showed that most Vlachs of Eastern Serbia opted for the Serbian exonym vlasi (= Vlachs) rather than rumuni (= Romanians). As a result of serbianization, most Vlachs declared themselves to be "Serbs" on censusus taken by Communist Yugoslavia, but the number of those who preferred to declare themselves as Vlachs or Romanians significantly increased from 1991 (16,539 declared vlasi and 42 declared rumuni) to 2001 (39,953 declared vlasi and 4,157 declared rumuni).
Romania has given modest financial support to the Vlachs in Serbia for the preservation of their culture and language, since at present the Vlachs' language is not recognized officially in any localities where they form a majority, there is no education in their mother tongue, and there is no Vlach media or education funded by the Serbian state. There are also no church services in Vlach. Until very recently in the regions populated by Vlachs the official policy of the Serbian Orthodox church opposed the giving of non-Serbian baptismal names.
Vlach is commonly used as a historical umbrella term for all Latin peoples in Southeastern Europe (Romanians proper or Daco-Romanians, Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians, Istro-Romanians). After the foundation of the Romanian state in the 19th century, Romanians living in the Romanian Old Kingdom and in Austria-Hungary were only seldom called "Vlachs" by foreigners, the use of the exonym "Romanians" was encouraged even by officials, and the Romanian population ceased to use the exonym "Vlach" for their own designation. Only in the Serbian and Bulgarian Kingdom, where the officials did not encourage the population to use the modern exonym "Romanian", was the old designation "Vlach" retained, but the term "Romanian" was used in statistical reports (but only up to the Interwar period, when the designation "Romanian" was changed into "Vlach"). For this reason, the Romanians of Vojvodina (hence those who lived in Austria-Hungary) today prefer to use the modern exonym "Romanian", while those of Central Serbia still use the ancient exonym "Vlach". However, both groups use the endonym "Romanians", calling their language "Romanian" (român? or rumân?).
In some notes of the government of Serbia, officials recognise that "certainly members of this population have similar characteristics with Romanians, and the language and folklore ride to their Romanian origin". The representatives of the Vlach minority sustain their Romanian origin.
The ethnonym is Rumâni and the community Rumâni din Sârbie, translated into English as "Romanians from Serbia". They are also known in Romanian as Valahii din Serbia or Românii din Timoc. Although ethnographically and linguistically related to the Romanians, within the Vlach community there are divergences on whether or not they belong to the Romanian nation and whether or not their minority should be amalgamated with the Romanian minority in Vojvodina.
In a Romanian-Yugoslav agreement of November 4, 2002, the Yugoslav authorities agreed to recognize the Romanian identity of the Vlach population in Central Serbia,[dubious ] but the agreement was not implemented. In April 2005, 23 deputies from the Council of Europe, representatives from Hungary, Georgia, Lithuania, Romania, Moldova, Estonia, Armenia, Azerbaïdjan, Denmark and Bulgaria protested against Serbia's treatment of this population.
The Senate of Romania postponed the ratification of Serbia`s candidature for membership in the European Union until the legal status and minority right of the Romanian (Vlach) population in Serbia is clarified.
Predrag Bala?evi?, president of the Vlach party of Serbia, accused the government of assimilation by using the national Vlach organization against the interests of this minority in Serbia.
Since 2010, the Vlach National Council of Serbia has been led by members of leading Serbian parties (Democrat Party and Socialist Party), most of whom are ethnic Serbs having no relation to the Vlach/Romanian minority. Radi?a Dragojevi?, the current president of Vlach National Council of Serbia, who is not a Vlach, but an ethnic Serb, stated that no one has the right to ask the Vlach minority in Serbia to identify themselves as Romanian or veto anything. As a response to mister Dragojevi?`s statement, the cultural organizations Ariadnae Filum, Dru?tvo za kulturu Vlaha - Rumuna Srbije, Dru?tvo Rumuna - Vlaha ,,Trajan", Dru?tvo za kulturu, jezik i religiju Vlaha - Rumuna Pomoravlja, Udru?enje za tradiciju i kulturu Vlaha ,,Dunav", Centar za ruralni razvoj - Vla?ka kulturna inicijativa Srbija and the Vlach Party of Serbia protested and stated that it was false.
According to a 2012 agreement between Romania and Serbia, members of the Vlach community that choose to declare as Romanians will have access to education, media and religion in the Romanian language.
Apoi, Valahii din Serbia, sunt harnici, muncitori, economi ?i de mare dârzenie în privin?a portului ?i a limbei.