History of the Vlachs

Romanians (Vlachs) from the village of Zdrelo in 1868

The Vlachs are an ethnic minority in eastern Serbia that considers themselves different from Romanians. They mostly live in the Eastern Serbia region (roughly corresponding to Zaječar and Bor) and in Pomoravlje and Braničevo districts. A small Vlach population also exists in Velika Plana (Podunavlje District) and Smederevo, and in the municipalities of Kruševac (Rasina District) and Aleksinac.

History of the Vlachs

Vlach could be an exonym for the Romance-speaking eastern community in the Balkans that was deemed foreigners in the medieval era, which resulted from the colonization and occupation of the territory during the Roman Empire. Besides, the term Vlach is later used to represent a member of the population and some occupations like guardians, frontier troop or soldiers, and cattleman as they were jobs expected by the medieval state in those days. So Vlach term was effectively in one medieval time period under the influence of countries to express some population, not ethnicity. Workers could be from various national groups that often lived together over time and later created their own identity under such states’ authority.

Early documents show Vlach people lived in many parts of today’s western Bosnia and coastal Montenegro, including the Republic of Ragusa – today Dalmatia and Dubrovnik because they moved or were colonized to that region. During the 13th century, the Serbia kingdom started settling different Vlach groups on ecclesiastical and royal estates on the eastern section of the Mideast Adriatic shore. While in 13–14th centuries, they served only 1/20 part of that area’s population toward 15 century, the Vlach population saw a large boost towards 1/3 of the total population. That increase was from 3 factors: migrations of Vlach from Old Serbia, fertility, and converting other nationalities into Vlach because Ottomans conquered their attitude, especially towards conquered Serb populations that often resisted the occupation.

During the Ottoman rule, to isolate Serbia from Kosovo to Smederevo, the Ottomans settled many Vlachs.

Today, about 75% of the Vlach population speak the Ungurean dialect, which is related to the Romanian spoken in Banat, while Vlachs themselves strongly consider that they have their own extensive language. In the 19th century, other Romanians arising in Oltenia (Lesser Wallachia) also settled in Danube’s South. These include the Țărani (Carani, Царани), who form some 20% of the modern population and speak a mixture of Oltenian dialect. From the 15th through the 17th centuries, large numbers of Serbs also moved across the Danube, but in the opposite direction, to both Țara Româneasca and Banat. Significant migration ended with the establishment of the kingdoms of Romania and Serbia in the second half of the 19th century. The Vlachs of northeastern Serbia share close cultural and linguistic ties with the Vlachs in the province of Vidin in Bulgaria and the Romanians of Oltenia (Lesser Wallachia) and Banat. According to some Romanian sources, northeastern Serbia houses numerous Vlach communities who speak dialects similar to those in western Romania: in Transylvania Banat and Oltenia (Lesser Wallachia). These are the Muntenia (Munćani, Мунћани), the Ungureni (Ungurjani, Унгурјани) and Bufeni (Bufani, Буфани).


Since medieval times, most Vlachs of Eastern Serbia are Orthodox Christians who had belonged to the same Serbian Orthodox Church. The Vlachs celebrate the ospăț (called in Serbian praznik or slava) as a family’s annual ceremony and worship their patron saint, a common tradition with Orthodox Serbs. Some Vlach governmental organizations also have slava. Stefan Nemanja is a revered patron among Vlach because he mentioned Vlach people in the Hilandar monastery constitution, including 170 Vlach who directly helped a monastery. Serbian orthodox church in Cetinje is called Vlach church – Vlaška crkva – as a reward on Vlachs who helped to built church. According to history, Vlach Ivan Borojev – established the original Vlach church in Cetnije after arriving from Old Vlach country that was in the region around mountain Zlatibor.

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