Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Vlachs. Nomads, Shepherds, Roma Roots

Vlach shepherd, Romania

Vlach culture here is ancient, and nomadic. They often are shepherds. So far, we have seen them in Romania and Greece. See Romania Road Ways; and Greece Road Ways.
Many, however are now settled, urbanized. For extensive coverage on details of life of Vlachs and their history, see this site on Hungarian Vlachs, Everyculture, at http://www.everyculture.com/Europe/Vlach-Gypsies-of-Hungary-Religion-and-Expressive-Culture.html

They were once a kingdom, in the middle ages. See cepes.ro/publications/pdf/politics_culture.pdf at page 115. That is a UNESCO site, Studies on Science and Culture, Politics and Culture in Southeastern Europe 2001. Vlachs are also said to be a branch of Gypsies, see the Magyar connection at ://www.everyculture.com/Europe/Vlach-Gypsies-of-Hungary.html/ and reference to the origins of some groups in Romania in slavery, in Wallachia and Moldavia. The Magyars appear to be different, however, at another section of that site, at ://www.everyculture.com/Europe/Vlach-Gypsies-of-Hungary-Settlements.html

Vlachs from Czechoslovakia settled in Texas and here is a site explaining a view of their overall background: www.angelfire.com/tx5/texasczech/Valachs/Who%20are%20the%20Valachs. Another broad history: experts.about.com/e/h/hi/History_of_Vlachs.

We saw only this one shepherd maneuvering this huge flock through a village, under the wheels of cars and trucks, and out the other side. Drivers and passers-by all checked carefully for lambs huddled by axles, and only proceeded when an all-clear was very clear. Start up, rev slightly, then check again. There was an 18-wheeler up to the right.


Vlachs are usually Eastern Orthodox Christians in the Eastern Balkans, and Roman Catholic in the Western Balkans. There are few Muslims. See overview at ://www.everyculture.com/Europe/Vlachs-Religion-and-Expressive-Culture.html/ Their traditional religious, social and cultural life is interspersed with practices including conjuring, fortune-telling, and exuberance, preferring to implement or celebrate important events of life within their communities, not in the church. There are traditions of tattooing, but little "fantastic" imagining in oral tradition, story-telling, riddles, ballads. Sounds very practical, and fitting for a non-luxurious lifestyle. Healthcare: traditional herbs, infusions largely. See the Everyculture site at ://www.everyculture.com/Europe/Vlach-Gypsies-of-Hungary-Religion-and-Expressive-Culture.html/ They believe intensely in life after death, and celebrate life-death simultaneously in some circumstances.

They are not workers of the land - that is for "peasants" - and the Rom engage instead in buying and selling, trading, other occupations, see ://www.everyculture.com/Europe/Vlach-Gypsies-of-Hungary-Economy.html/ Is the Hungarian site applicable elsewhere? That takes an expert. Family customs: ://www.everyculture.com/Europe/Vlach-Gypsies-of-Hungary-Marriage-and-Family.html

Read their history. See reference to India and mogul invasion era at ://www.everyculture.com/Europe/Vlach-Gypsies-of-Hungary-History-and-Cultural-Affiliations.html/ and later Greek roots, at this site,://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Soc/soc.culture.romanian/2009-04/msg00754.html/ They are also called Koutsovlach. The newsgroups site notes the efforts of the Romanian government to identify Vlachs as Romanian, through education, and the Roman and Orthodox Churches competed in trying to attract them. Eventually, apparently, the Romanian Vlachs lost the right to claim Greek citizenship, so could not return even though many had wanted to. This was in the early 20th Century. Then, a Vlach homeland area, Dobrogea, went from Romania to Bulgaria, and the Vlachs became virtually homeless.

A section of that culture.romanian site is entitled, Assimilation and Oblivion.

After WWI, the government needed places for refugees, and took Vlach lands that had been used for grazing and wintering over. Use of the language declined, became low status. Greek-Romanian political rivalries proved a disaster. In 1997, however, there was increased interest in preserving minority languages, and "Aromanean" began to be taught in Greece. Then stopped, for lack of interest, and is being taught now, apparently, in Germany.

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