Romanians & Vlachs

Romanians & Vlachs

Few subjects in history are more controversial than the origins of the Romanian people. What is clear is that their origins are linked to the people known as Vlachs, so let’s start with them.

Vlach is a blanket term covering several modern Latin peoples descending from the Latinized population in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. The word Vlach is ultimately of Germanic origin, from the word Walha, “foreigner”, “stranger”. Ancient Germanic peoples referred to Latin and Celtic neighbours as Walha.

As Slavic tribes met Germanic peoples on their way to South-Central Europe, they picked up the term, evolving it to Vlach. A similar process happened when Germanic peoples migrated to Great Britain – Walha became wylisc became Welsh (Wallace in Scotland).

Although people have inhabited what is now Romania for over 400,000 years, the first written records we have is of Greeks who wrote in 440B.C.E.of tribes of Thracians, (Dacians). After Roman conquest in 100AD, Dacians began to speak Latin, until it became their mother tongue. Romans only held on to Dacia for 160 years, when they abandoned it to invasions by Goths, Huns, Gepids, Avars, Slavs, Magyars, Pechenigs, Cumans and Tatars.

Little is known of this area for another 1000 years. Around 1310 a prince Bessarab founded a territory called Wallachia (Land of Vlachs), and in 1352 prince Dragos founded Moldavia, both Romanian (Latin)-speaking. By this time, all of Romania’s neighbours were either Slavic or Hungarian speaking, and they have remained so ever since.

Transylvania has been the area of most heated debate, with Hungarians and Romanians both claiming they got there first, or have the best claim to the territory. Hungarians ruled it for most of the past 900 years, until it was ceded to Romania in 1918.

Vlachs, or ancient peoples speaking Latin-based languages, reside all over the Balkans. Dances containing the words Vlasko, Vlaha, Vlainja, Vlakha, Vlachi, Vlashi, Valach, Vllah, Woloch (Polish), and Olah (Hungarian) all refer to Vlachs

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