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The Vlachs or Aromanians in the Balkans: S.O.S



Exposed to denationalization and strong assimilatory pressure over decades, today's Vlachs want to enjoy the same rights as other national minorities so as to safeguard their national identity.Given the fact that the Balkans are ethnically an extremely complex region, exercise of Vlach's rights is fundamental one in the first place - such as the right to mother tongue in schooling, mass media or religious rites.

But Who are Vlachs or Aromanians?

Aromanians are the romanized Macedonians/Greeks/Thracian/Illyrian people from the Balkans.Latin assimilated a part of these autochtonous languages.They speak a romanian dialect.Their place of origin is hard to be determined as they can be found all over the Balkan peninsula including Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania.Their occupation were mostly shepherding, trading and craftsmanship.Aromanians are living in Northern Greece mainly in the Pindus mountains.It is hard to find out their number.The greek governement does not recognize any ethnic divisions, so there are no exact statistics.The religion of the Vlachs is predominantly orthodox.Mother Teresa was aromanian. She was born in Albania and her name was Boianxu, which means the one who dies the wool.

Present Day's Vlachs

Since the 1980's an interesting vlach revival has been noticed. An annual festival, with an increasing participation of Vlach cultural associations is regularly taking place in Northern Greece. Records and cassettes with Vlach songs are now available, and books about them are being published.There is a hostility of Greek State to such revivals among vlachs which is indicated by police disruption of festivals, harassment of musicians who play and sing songs in minority languages.Moreover, in the summer 1995 reunion, one Vlach activist, Sotiris Bletsas, who distributed the EBLUL's map (European Bureau for lesser used languages) with the EU's lesser spoken languages (including the Vlach language) was harassed by bystanders, including the deputy of New Democracy (ND) Eugene Hatidis, who even had the local police officers take the activist into custody in order to bring charges against him: only when forced to state that he would reject any accuracies of the map was the activist allowed to walk free.The vlach language has never been included in the educational curricula of the modern Greek state. On the contrary, its use has been strongly discouraged at schools through physical punishment, humiliation. Such attitudes have led many Vlach parents to discourage their children from learning their mother tongue so as to avoid similar discrimination and suffering. All Vlach speakers are fluent in Greek, in fact, the use of Vlach is being subordinated to the use of Greek especially among younger generations.In fact young people discourage sometimes their parents from speaking the language (especially in public).One could say that, at least in Vlach villages, in the 1990s, most people over 50 are fluent speakers, but most people under 50 and especially under 25 are at best terminal or passive speakers, with limited knowledge of vocabulary and grammar.So, young people today, when they know the language, they use it strict family context usually in conversations with the elderly people.

Experts, therefore, agree that Aromanian in Greece is threatened with extinction, perhaps more than in other Balkan countries which, after the collapse of communism, have tended to grant official recognition to Vlachs.

There are few ties with Romania today, as this country carefully avoids raising any claims on Vlachs in the 1990's.There used to be romanian schools in the Balkans till 1945 teaching kids romanian, but not aromanian!!!So I find it absolutely necessary they teach aromanian now in schools and religious rites and not romanian!

Stela Gima

ROMANIA



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