Vlachs of Croatia

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Vlachs of Croatia
Total population
Serbo-Croatian, Istro-Romanian
Orthodox Christianity,
Roman Catholic Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Morlachs, Istro-Romanians

The Vlachs of Croatia (Croatian: Vlasi) are a Vlach national minority recognized as one of the 22 autochthonous ethnic groups of Croatia. The total population of Vlachs as recorded in the 2011 Croatian census was only 29, making them the smallest minority group living in Croatia.

Historically, the term "Vlach" was used for a substantial proportion of the Croatian population that influenced politics and everyday life in the country since Middle Ages until the 19th century, when according the religious confession espoused either a mostly Serb, or Croat ethnicity.


The meaning of the term "Vlach" within the territory of present-day Croatia differed over time and had multiple meanings. In the Middle Ages, initially it was an exonym that referred to distinctive Vlachian pastoralist communities in the mountains, or other Romance speaking people like Italians. It also meant shepherds or transporters and merchants from hinterland. From the 16th century, with Ottoman conquest and mass migrations of Slavic-speaking people, to primarily a socio-cultural and professional segment of population, rather than to an ethnicity.[2]

The Vlachs were distinguished by their nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoral way of life as shepherds involving transhumance.[3] They lived in more extended families organised into local communities, and were bearers of a strongly patriarchal culture associated with the Dinaric Alps.[3] Their ethnographic traits were traditional clothings, use of the gusle musical instrument accompanied with epic singing,[3] Ojkanje singing,[4] and some other specific traits like religious confession or language.[3]

While the Slavic communities managed to make a national identity founding regional provinces and kingdoms, Vlachs didn't manage to make a national identity and were prone to assimilation.[5] However, even if they were prone to national, linguistical and cultural assimilation with Slavs, they did contribute to their respective communities. The problems Vlachs faced with the creation of the national identity didn't differed very much from the other rural communities faced. Rural people compromised the majority of population in the Middle Ages, and the centuries of war, conquest, regional boundaries, migrations, religious conversions, cultural blending and socio-economic problems affected the belonging of a population to a specific South Slavic national group.[6] The regions of Lika (which mostly involved the Croatian Military Frontier) and Dalmatia were the border area between Habsburg, Ottoman and Venetian Empires, a place of mass migrations and mixing of communities.[7]

In the area, the confessional, socio-cultural and regional charateristics had a crucial impact on the creation of an ethnic identity.[8] The equalization between religious confession and ethnicity began in the middle of the 16th century when the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Patriarchate of Peć, which had a significant religious and political influence on Serbs, started since 1557 to identify Orthodoxy with Serbdom.[9] Gradually in the 17th century, as Croatian culture was preserved by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Senj-Modruš in Croatia, and Franciscan Province of Bosna Srebrena in Ottoman Bosnia, Croatian name was identified with Catholicism.[9] The socio-cultural difference was a life-style distiction between the natives (Catholic, peasant, smaller families) and the new migrants (Orthodox, pastoralist, larger families), who referred to themselves as Vlachs in the context of claiming the traditional legal rights and privileges of their class.[2]

Vlach groups[edit]

Romanian Vlachs[edit]

The Vlachs mentioned in the documents from the Middle Age until 16th century, before the Ottoman invasion and migrations, were the progeny of romanized Illyrians and Thraco-Romans, other pre-Slavic Romance-speaking people, and after assimilation also of Slavic people.[10][11] Some groups of them were autochthonous and assimilated with Slavs, some were assimilated but preserved their identity and name, while some other groups migrated from Herzegovina to Dalmatia in very late 14th century.[12] Those groups from Herzegovina are believed to have migrated from Thessaly, Epirus and Macedonia in front of Ottoman invasion in Southern Europe.[12]

With the arrival of Slavs, Vlachs began to assimilate with them, and being exposed to the Slavic language they gradually began to adopt as their own.[10] In documents from Lika (1433), Cetina (1436), Zrmanja (1486-87), a century after their first mention in those lands, Vlachs had mostly unchristian, traditional South Slavic names and surnames.[13] They as other Vlachs in Croatia were called "good Vlachs" (dobri Vlasi), good men from katuns (dobri muži katunari), or royal Vlachs (Olahi domini nostri regis, Wolachi banatus regni Croatie).[14] However, despite this cross-pollination of language, some Vlachs remained distinct from the Slavs. In the 1436 document from Cetina, Catholic Vlachs of the county of Cetina (around the town of Sinj) were represented as distinct from both the Serbs and the Croats inhabiting the county.[14] In a book by Dubrovnik historian Ludovik Crijević (1459-1527), Writings on the Present Age, Vlachs were distinguished from other people, and were mentioned as "Nomadic Illyrians who in the national language are called Vlachs" and "at the same time Cossuli (Kožul/lj, nowadays a surname), originated from the Illyrians who considered themselves Romans".[15]

During the 14th century, Vlach settlements existed throughout much of today's Croatia,[16] but centres of population were focused around the Velebit and Dinara mountains and along the Krka and Cetina rivers. The Vlachs represented a significant part of population of Lika and Šibenik-Knin County,[17] a significant Vlach population lived on the territory of the Nelipić family in Dalmatian Zagora,[18] and between 1400 and 1600 many Vlach families settled Istria and island of Krk.[19] The Venice colonization of Istria occurred not later then early 1520s,[19] and there were several cases when they returned to Dalmatia.[20]

Drawing of a Ćić, an Istrian Vlach from 1891. They and other Vlachs in northern Istria were called as Ćići. The mountain Ćićarija consequently got named after its inhabitants.

The Vlach people distinctively lived a nomadic life as shepherds and as traveling merchants on trading routes.[21] They lived in villages, and hamlets called cătuns (Katun), smaller village-like places in the mountains and lower areas where dwell during the transhumance period.

By the end of the 14th and 15th century, they lost their Romance language, or were at least bilingual.[22] The so-called Istro-Romanians, called by themselves Rumeri or Vlachs,[23][24] continued to speak their language on the island of Krk and villages around the Čepić lake in Istria,[22] while other communities in the mountains (Ćićarija) above the lake preserved the Shtokavian-Chakavian dialect of ikavian accent from the southern Velebit and area of Zadar.[25][26] The evidence of their Romance language are toponims throught Dinaric Alps, and many anthroponyms (surnames) with specific Romanian or Slavic word roots, and Romanian ending suffixes found among South Slavic people.[27][28][29] Until today was also preserved the "Vlachian" or "Romanian" traditonal system of counting sheep in pairs do (two), pato (four), šasto (six), šopći (eight), zeći (ten).[30][31]

Slavic Vlachs[edit]

The people referred to as Vlachs from the middle of the 16th century were the emigrants from Ottoman-held territories (former Croatian Kingdom territory), to the Habsburg Empire (Croatian Kingdom) and Republic of Venice (Dalmatia). They descended from mostly Orthodox and Catholic refugees from the Ottoman Empire. They were characterised by mobility and dispersion. They spoke the Neo-Shtokavian dialect of Serbo-Croatian, with Ijekavian and Ikavian accent.[32] They were also called on some occasions as Rasciani sive Serviani, which was an exonym for the Serbs or Orthodox Christians.[2][33] They spoke the Eastern Herzegovinian subdialect of Neo-Shtokavian.[34] A prominent Catholic Vlach group were the Bunjevci,[35] who spoke the Western Herzegovinian subdialect of Neo-Shtokavian.[36] Although in some documents from 16th and 17th century the Habsburg Imperial Court used the terms Vlachs, Rascians and Serbs as synonyms, the socio-cultural and ethnological evidence on the ground doesn't support such a simplified interpretation of the ethnic identity of Orthodox Vlachs.[37]

At the time of Morean War (1684-89), in Dalmatia from the regions of Lika and Krbava were temporarly settled the biggest number of Vlachs.[38] They migrated from Ottoman-held territories, and comprised at least 1,700 families in Dalmatia, and 530 families in Karlovac Generalate. Since 1690, they, and some Vlach families from Dalmatia and Bosnia, began to return to their original provinces in Lika and Krbava. With them in 1694 came Orthodox metropolitan Atanasije Ljubojević who established Serbian Orthodox Ličko-Krbavska and Zrinopoljska Eparchy.[38]


According to the 1712/14 census done in Lika and Krbava,[39] the majority of nobility in Lika consisted of Catholic Croats, while the vast majority of population were Orthodox Vlachs.[40] The Orthodox formed the 71%, while Catholics 29% of population.[41] The statistical categories were minimal to socio-religious and military and economic aspects of the population,[42] but including a list of 713 surnames it is a important source for onomastics, and to comprehend the ethnic identity of the population.[43] The future studies have found that at the beginning of the 20th century only 60-64% of the surnames were preserved, and mostly vanished surnames of the Carniolian origin.[44]

By origin, the surnames can be divided into Turkish, Carniolian, Croatian, and Vlachian.[45] The Turkish surnames indicate a Islamic-oriental influence, and mostly are muslim-patronymic.[46] The Carniolian surnames indicate a Kajkavian cultural and regional sphere. This surnames characteristically are mostly professional by origin, many linguistically Germanic, some permeate with other dialects, and have the smallest share of the ending suffix "-ić".[47] The Croatian show an arhaic age, many are mentioned in the Middle Age and the 15th and 16th centuries, before the Council of Trent, while some are from the second-half of 16th and 17th centuries of Dinaric origin.[48]

The Vlachian surnames show almost the same share of surnames between Orthodox Vlachs and Catholic Bunjevci. The religious confession wasn't a crucial influence of the identity of this groups as the patronymic surnames of Catholic or Othodox origin were also found in the opposite confessional group.[48] That there was a significant Ottoman cultural influence.[49] That many were derived from word roots "-vuk", "-rad", "-mil", and unusually many matronymic and from nickname origin.[4] Remarkably, a significant number of surnames (20%) are of Old-Balkan origin. By word roots, and suffixes like "-ul", "-as", "-an", "-ar", "-at", "-ta", "-er", "-et", "-man" and "-ina", they mostly indicate a Romance language heritage and cultural life of original Vlach shepherds, then Thraco-Illyrian language heritage, and some with "-aj" and "-eza" suffixes the Arbanasi heritage.[49]


Middle Ages[edit]

Reference to the existence of Vlachs or Romance-speaking people in Medieval Croatia dates from the early Middle Age; One of the first mention of Vlachs is the 1071 charter by the Croatian King Krešimir IV about the Rab diocese, when on the island of Pag was mentioned the village Wlasici (today village Vlašići),[27][50] but is considered a forgery from late 12th and early 13th century.[51] In the Libellus Policorion, church cartular dated in mid 14th century that includes transriptions of older collected documents about estates of now extinct Benedictine Abbey of St John the Evangelist in Biograd and Saints Cosmas and Damian on the island of Pašman, is mentioned one Kutun (Katun) district.[52] Vlachs can be traced by personal names and peculiarly by ending suffix "-ul" in Dalmatian cities documents.[27][53]

The first collective reference of Vlachs, or Morlachs in some Latin and mostly Italian documents, dates from the early 1320s; in 1321, a local priest from Dobrinj on the island of Krk granted land to the church ("to the lands of Kneže, which are called Vlachian"),[54] while in 1322 they and people of Poljica were allied to Ban of Croatia, Mladen Šubić, who fought against Croatian pretenders at the Battle of Bliska in the hinterland of Trogir.[54] In 1344 are mentioned Morolacorum in lands around Knin and Krbava, within the conflict of counts from Kurjaković and Nelipić families, and that they can shelter their livestock on islands of Rab, Hvar, and Brač.[55] In 1352, in the agreement in which Zadar sold salt to the Republic of Venice, in which Zadar retained part of the salt that Morlachi and others exported by land.[56][57] In the 1357 charter of Šibenik was imposed a provision that Vlachs mustn't use without authority the city lands for pasture.[57] In 1362, the Morlachorum, unauthorized, settled on lands of Trogir but were allowed to use it for pasture for a few months.[58]

Morlach region in the 17th century.

In 1383, Vlachs around Šibenik, which partially belonged to the Queen Elizabeth and noble Ivan III Nelipić, were causing problems, and citizens wrote to the Queen asking for help. The Queen warned the Ban of Croatia, Emerik, and ordered him to send Vlachs away from the city lands and take fines from them, from which a part to be given to the citizens.[59] In 1387, when nobles from the family Budislavić from Krbava confirmed with a charter the privileges of the citizens of city Pag, was determined that Vlachs musn't use the city lands for pasture.[59] In the Statute of Senj dating to 1388, the Frankopans mentioned Morowlachi and defined the amount of time they had for pasture when they descended from the mountains.[60]

In the 1376 and 1454 documents by Republic of Dubrovnik about trade with Bosnian lands are distinguished Vlachi et Bosgnani.[61] In Bosnian documents are first mentioned in the 13th century, and from 1361 to 1417 were mentioned Royal Vlachs.[62]

On 13 April 1411, Bosnian Duke Sandalj Hranić sold the Croatian town Ostrovica, which was a gift from King Ladislaus of Naples to the Republic of Venice. A year later on 10 April 1412, the Murlachos (probably in service of King Sigismund) captured the Ostrovica Fortress from Venice.[59] In August 1417, Venetian authorities were concerned with the "Morlachs and other Slavs" from the hinterland, that were a threat to security in Šibenik.[63]

During the 15th century, the Vlach population in Croatia expanded so significantly they were sometimes mentioned as a distinct entity along the Croatians. In 1412, when the King Sigismund bestowed the muncipality of Sinj and its and Travnik fortress to the Ivan III Nelipić, mentioned he may dispose with cum universis Croatis et Vlahis.[16] On 6 August 1432, the Ragusians reported to King Sigismund that the Turks had invaded into the Croatian lands, and captured many Croats and Vlachs.[16] In 1432, by the order of King Sigismund, Morlachs had to do military service and gather at Ban's camp where were joined "whole Croatian Kingdoms and coexisting Vlachs forces".[14]

The sale of Dalmatia on 7 April 1433 by King Sigismund to the Republic of Venice earned him the enmity of Ivan Frankopan. Frankopan convinced the Vlachs to side with him by promising them the resurrection of old "Vlach Laws" on 18 March 1436. These laws dated from the middle of the 14th century and included many personal rights for the Vlachs.[64] According to the "Vlach Laws", Vlachs that chose to follow Frankopan received various privileges, such as serving under Vlach instead of Croatian commanders, crimes committed in the town of Sinj would be judged by a Vlach magistrate rather than a Croatian one,[65] the Croatian prince of Cetina would not be permitted to appoint a voivode (prince) over them [65] and Croats were restricted to having only one Vlach as their shepherd. Encouraged by these promises, the Vlachs attacked nearby littoral towns under Venetian control, but on 2 July 1436 the Ban of Croatia, Matko Talovac, informed the Vlachs of a peace treaty that had been signed that forbade further attacks on Venetian towns. This brought the Talovac and Frankopan families into conflict.[64]

The Vlachs of Lika, who were predominantly Catholic,[66] were ruled by Croatian princes and bishops, while Vlachs who lived along the Cetina river were more autonomous and were governed by Vlach princes, dukes and judges. They also paid more favorable taxes and were free from paying for pasture for their cattle. However, they were not completely free citizens and faced restrictions such as prohibitions on becoming court witnesses, jurors and officers. Their rights were contained in the "Vlach Paper" from 1476, which itself is an extension of the "Vlach Laws" from 1436. Both of these were written in Cyrillic and kept in the Franciscan monastery in Trsat.[67] Also, during this period, large numbers of Vlachs were traded or used as gifts between Croatian nobles, and local churches.[68]

In 1463, in the župa of Vrlika were mentioned Vlachs from the de genere Thwlich (Tulić), gifted by the King Matthias Corvinus to the local Croatian nobel Ivan Čubretić.[69] In 1481, by the king some Vlachs were settled in Lika.[70] In 1486-87 were mentioned at the Zrmanja river region, around the Kegalj-grad, because of land disputes with nobles Keglević.[71] In the 1504 document about war tributes, besides from Vrlika, were also mentioned Vlachs from Knin (Tinninienses), Obrovac (Obrowacz) and Nutjak.[72]

Another group or Vlachian term besides Morlachs was Ćići (ger. Tschitsche). In the early 15th century was mentioned as a surname in Istria, while in 1463 by priest Fraščić as a group who under Ivan Frankopan plunder Istrian territory beneath mountain Učka.[73] In 1499, the Carinthian parish priest Jakob Urnest mentioned a territory Czyschnlandt between Croatian and Bosnian kingdoms, which some consider to be the Cetina river region in southern Croatia.[74] In penal records of Trieste from the year 1500 contain an inscription of an accused who, when asked of his home country, replied Ciccio da Segna (Senj), while another man declared himself as Ciccio da S. Michele di Leme (Lim valley in Istria).[75][76] In 1523 and 1527, in the estate of Lupoglav were settled Tschizen aus Krabatten.[77] In 1528, Tschitschen were mentioned in regard of possible settling in Modruš and other lands as a resistance against Martolosi.[78] In 1530, they were prohibited to purchase grain in Novo Mesto and Metlika in Lower Carniola.[78] In 1539, royal commissioner Erasmo von Thurn submitted a request by Ćići to King Ferdinand if they could be given some deserted land on karst and Istria.[78] Also, previously in 1530 general commander Nikola Jurišić mentioned Vlachs who are commonly called Ćići (Valachi, quos vulgo Zytschn vocant),[73] while Slovenian diplomat Benedikt Kuripešič in his travel through Bosnia mentioned his use of Zitzen and Zigen as exonym, along Vlach and Martolosi, for the Serbs and Orthodox immigrants in Bosnia.[73][79][80]

Ottoman conquest and Austrian Empire[edit]

Vlach migrations to the Austrian Empire from the Ottoman Empire, and vice versa, were generally caused by the loss of financial status or privileges of Vlach Laws,[81] rather than from any form of ethnic or religious persecution.[82] Usually the migrations are caused or are performed in periods after turbulent events, like Battle of Mohács (1526), conquest of Dalmatia (1522), Lika and Krbava (1527-1528), and subsequent battles.[83] Many Vlachs served in Ottoman armies during their conquests.[82] As part of the military, they often served either as light cavalry or infantrymen, or irregular soldiers Martolosi.[84] However, since the movements of large Ottoman armies towards Inner Austria were rarely routed through the Croatia-Slavonia, and military actions were focused on the vicinity of Jajce and Bihać, the role of the Uskok-Vlachs spying on the Ottomans was particularly important.[85]

The Vlach colonization of Žumberak started between 1530 and 1538,[81] when at the same time in Ottoman-conquerd lands were canceled Vlachs laws until 1550, partially or altogether causing migration because of social and financial status.[86] In June 1531, around 1000 Vlachs, advised by Ivan Katzianer, settled in Kostel and Polajna, along the Kupa River near Žumberak, of which 700 were fit for military service.[87] The King Ferdinand I in September of 1538 responded to general commander Nikola Jurišić, who informed him about some Servian or Rascian captains and dukes who are willing to come with their people to serve in military service, that they were given privileges.[81] In October of the same year Jurišić informed the King that the Ban Petar Keglević and other nobles came from Ottoman-conquered territory with many Sirfen (Serbs). In the same letter, Jurišić informed the king about the Vlachs who "in our (Croatian) parts" are called as Old Romans (alt Römer genennt),[81] and that came with others from Turkish parts, to be given the same promises and privileges which were given to the Serbs.[81] In November, Ferdinand wrote to Keglević about "captains and dukes of the Rasians, or the Serbs, or the Vlachs, who are commonly called the Serbs" (capitanei et wayuode Rasciani sive Serviani atque Valachi, quos vulgo zrbschy vocant).[88]

Although there are evidence of existence and participation of Serbian nobles and Serbs in migration, mostly in Slavonia, Srijem and eastern Bosnia from northern Serbia, the hesitant use of the terms in western Croatia, and the fact that the most of those Vlachs came from the same territory previously belonging to Croatian Kingdom or border with Bosnian Kingdom guided by financial status, and that they almost never call themselves as Serbs, the exact ethnogenesis of Vlach immigrants remains unknown and disputable.[89][90]

In 1530, Vlachs from Lika and Srb, Unac and Glamoč came under Turks rule.[91] Vlachs in Prilišće and Rosopajnik settled in 1538, while in 1544 came under the protection of Nikola Šubić Zrinski. They were Catholic.[92] Around 1530, in lands of Stjepan Frankopan from Ozalj, in Otok and Hreljin, were settled some Vlachs who in 1540 were mentioned for rewarding by King Ferdinand because of succesful spying on Turks.[92] With the growing number of the Ottoman Vlachs passing over the Christian side, the Vlach leader from Glamoč, Ladislav Stipković, traveled to Ljubljana to offer his service, and those of his forces, to the Austrians. In a later battle, the combined forces of the army from Bihać and the Vlachs defeated an Ottoman army at Bihać.[93]

In 1551, general Ivan Lenković reported to Ferdinand how Turks settled thousands of Morlachs and Vlachs around Srb, and Kosovo field near the town of Knin.[94] In 1560, the towns of Lišnica and Novigrad along with large parts of the Una valley, Bušević and the Krupa river, were captuered, and settled with newcomers from Bosnia.[94] In 1560, some Vlachs were settled around Ivanić-Grad, Križevci and Koprivnica.[95]

Orthodox Vlachs were also directed to settle in Lika when Arnaud Memi-Bey became commander of Lika Sanjak.[96] The Beylerbey of Bosnia, Hasan-Pasha Predojević, himself an islamized Vlach from Bosnia,[97] received the support of these Orthodox Vlachs and many served in his armies. At Predojević's order, Vlachs, as well as some Turkish nobility, settled near the towns Brekovica, Ripča, Ostrvice and Vrla Draga near Sokolac in such numbers that they formed a significant population of this region.[96] In 1579, Vlachs in Turkish service wanted to transfer the towns of Cazin and Ostrožac to Christian, that is Croatian, ownership.[96] In 1599, many Vlachs emigrated from Korenica and Bihać area to Gomirje.[96]

Morlachian man and woman from Spalato, Théodore Valerio, 1864.

In 1585, the general from Karlovac, Josip Turn, proposed Vlach settlement in Moravice, and later in 1597 general Lenković led Vlachs from Lika to Gorski Kotar and lands owned by Frankopan family.[98] In Frankopan estate arrived yet again in 1609, and 1632.[98] In 1605, General Vid Kisel brought Vlachs from Ostrožac to Ogulin and Bosiljevac, and some time later, Vlachs from Uzorac and Turje settled in Karlovac.[96] In 1609, two burgs Brlog and Gusić-Grad were given by Senj captain and Croatian noble Sigismund Gusić for military service of accommodating newly arrived Vlachs.[99] In 1639, Nikola Frankopan Tržac accused Senj captain Albrecht Herberstein of settling without his permission Catholic Vlachs, Bunjevci, at his deserted estates in Jablanac, Starigrad, and Orthodox Vlachs in Brinje and Brlog.[99] Same happened with Zrinski in Ledenice.[99]

After the Turks were defeated in Vienna in 1683, the Vlachs scattered throughout the Croatian Military Frontier. Concerned about this, Turks decided to settle them on the south side of the Una river, but were unable to execute this plan.[96] During this period, Turks were vulnerable to Vlach raids from Banija and Karlovac. Vlachs, under the protection of the Ban of Croatia Miklós Erdődy and General Ivan Josip Herberstein, also settled around Petrinja, Glina, Skradin, Vojnić, Krstinje and Budačko.[100] After the conspiracy in 1670, execution and confiscation of Frankopan and Zrinski families estate, the Vlachs settled under permission of Frontier generals.[101] In 1666, at the abandoned village in Plaški, in 1705 thirty individuals from Plaški to Jasenice, in 1686 120 families under Budački fortress, in 1686 around 200 houses between Skrad, Slunj, Veljun, and Blagaj.[102] In the vicinity of them, in 1711 another 158 families.[102] With liberation of Lika and Krbava in 1689, in those parts returned, besides other ethnic groups, Vlachs from Kupres, Grahovo and Plavno near Knin.[103] In 1791, after the Treaty of Sistova, happened the last migration of Orthodox Vlachs who settled in new territory from Maljevac to Srb and triangle border of Lika regiment.[103]

In Ban's Croatia Vlachs mostly settled in 17th century.[104] In 1680 around 120 families. In 1688 in Bović, Kirin, and Gradišće.[105] In 1718, noblewoman Marija Magdalena Drašković settled some Vlachs on her estate between stream Tršca and village Utinja.[106] In 1750, Orthodox priest and witnesses confirmed Vlachs didn't exist before around Kupa, Steničnjak, Petrova Gora and Slavsko Polje, but only around Hrvatska Kostajnica.[107] They numbered around 4000 people.[108]

In Dalmatia the Vlachs were known as Morlachs, and they were immigrants who settled in the Venetian-Ottoman border, in the hinterlands of coastal cities, and entered Venetian military service, in the late 16th and early 17th century. In 1593, provveditore generale Cristoforo Valier mentioned three nations constituting the Uskoks, the "natives of Senj, Croatians, and Morlachs from the Turkish parts".[109] At the time of the Cretan War (1645–69) and Morean War (1684-99), a large number of Morlachs settled inland of the Dalmatian towns, and Ravni Kotari of Zadar. In Venice censuses from 1761, of 220,287, Orthodox Christians were 31,211, from 1771, of 223,765 Orthodox were 38,652, and in 1781, of 236,997 Orthodox were 51,996 people.[110]

The settlement of the Vlachs in Croatia was beneficial to the Austrian empire as the Emperor was reluctant to return the Military Frontier to Croatia.[111] Further settlement of Vlachs was encouraged by the Austrian Government,[112] but this antagonised the Sabor (the Croatian Parliament) and resulted in the passing of various laws, on 21 February 1629, guaranteeing certain privileges to the Vlachs. For example, any Vlach willingly becoming a subject of the Kingdom of Croatia was exempt from being becoming a serf, rendering Vlachs almost equal with native Croatians. The laws enacted by the Emperor of the Austrian Empire and Sabor are collectively know as Statuta Valachorum. The exemption of the Vlachs from serfdom can be compared to the same exemption for native Croats, which was not applied until 1848 during the rule of Josip Jelačić.[113] To ensure cooperation from the Vlachs, Austrian generals conducted a propaganda campaign focusing on Vlach serfdom under Croatian rule. This activity prevented the Croatian envoy to the Austrian court, Benedikt Vinković, who was there to consult on the "Vlach question", from pursuing a union of the Vlach settled Military Frontier with Croatia.[111]


"Vlachs", referring to pastoralists, since the 16th century was a common name for Serbs in the Ottoman Empire and later.[88] Tihomir Đorđević points to the already known fact that the name Vlach didn't only refer to genuine Vlachs or Serbs but also to cattle breeders in general.[88] Bogumil Hrabak emphasizes that not all cattle breeders and shepherds at the Balkan were called Vlachs, exampled by Arbanasi.[114] Serbian documents from the 12th to 14th century mention Vlachs separately from Serbs,[115] for example the prohibition of intermarriage between Serbs and Vlachs by Emperor Dušan the Mighty.[115][116][117] In the work About the Vlachs from 1806, Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirović states that Roman Catholics from Croatia and Slavonia scornfully used the name Vlach for "the Slovenians (Slavs) and Serbs, who are of our, Eastern confession (Orthodoxy)", and that "the Turks in Bosnia and Serbia also call every Bosnian or Serbian Christian a Vlach" (T. Đorđević, 1984:110) However, the immigrants, irrelevant of religion and modern South Slavic nationality which didn't exist until the 19th century, who took refuge in the Military Frontier and inland of coastal cities, were called "Vlachs" or "Morlachs".[88]

The Catholic Vlachs were integrated into the Croatian nationality.[5] Orthodox Vlach groups whose migrations were not accompanied by an ecclesiastical infrastructure were Catholicised and assimilated. The Serbian ethnic identity was consolidated among the Orthodox Vlachs after the establishment of the Serbian Orthodox eparchies of Zrinopolje and Lika-Krbava in 1695, which would be later unified into the Eparchy of upper Karlovac.[118]

The dispersion of Orthodox Slavs (Vlachs and Serbs) in present-day territory of Croatia, who mostly inhabited the historical borderland Military Frontier (Krajina) and eastern Srijem and Baranja, were a cultural, linguistical, and political factor used by extreme ideologies from both Serbia and Croatia.[5] The modern South Slavic national revival and historiography since 19th century tried to see and interpret its own national history through present day situation, like an "ethnocentric mirror that shows the present" (Šarić, 2009).[119] Extreme Croatian historiography tried to neglect Serbian component, contribution or origin of Vlachs.[5] The extreme Serbian historiography proclamed all typical Vlachian elements from Dinaric/Shtokavian culture Serbian, proved Croatian Frontier lost it's own Croatian and got ethnically new prevalent Serbian population, and exaggerated the importance of Serbs in Frontier history.[5]

In recent decades, the extent in which Orthodox Slavs (Vlachs and Serbs) lived in previous centuries (Frontier, Srijem, Baranja etc.) by Serb separatists was seen as a borderline between Croatia and self-proclamed autonomous regions within Croatian territory, the SAO Krajina, SAO Western Slavonia and SAO Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia, and eventual Republic of Serbian Krajina (1991-1995), during the Croatian international recognition and War of Independence which lasted from 1991 until 1995.[120][121]

Drago Roksandić in 1991, before the war escalated, concluded that until today Vlaško pitanje (Vlachian question) caused and causess many disagreements between experts and non-experts in ex-Yugoslavian countries, as well in all Balkan countries with Vlachian communities.[122]

Number of Vlachs in modern Croatia[edit]

Official name of Croatia Year Number of Vlachs
- 1931 -
 PR Croatia 1948 1
1953 2
1961 34
 SR Croatia 1971 13
1981 16
 Republic of Croatia 1991 22
2001 12
2011 29
(Croatian Bureau of Statistics)[1][123]


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  7. ^ Šarić 2009, p. 332: The historical term "Triplex Confinium" was conceived by historian Drago Roksandić, and in 1997 was founded as a research project. It was founded because of lack of studies, and Croatian and Serbian historiographies had nationalistic connotations, albeit the fact this area was a borderline of communities and cultures, religious conffesion and civilizations which together intermixed and created a specific ethno-cultural community.
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  54. ^ a b Mužić (Vjekoslav Klaić) 2010, p. 10: i pašišća… do zemlje Kneže, ke se zovu vlaške
  55. ^ Mužić (Vjekoslav Klaić) 2010, p. 10, 11: Et insuper mittemus specialem nuntium…. Gregorio condam Curiaci Corbavie,…. pro bono et conservatione dicte domine (Vedislave) et comitis Johannis,….; nec non pro restitutione Morolacorum, qui sibi dicuntur detineri per comitem Gregorium…; Exponat quoque idem noster nuncius Gregorio comiti predicto quod intelleximus, quod contra voluntatem ipsius comitis Johannis nepotis sui detinet catunos duos Morolacorum…. Quare dilectionem suam… reget, quatenus si quos Morolacos ipsius habet, placeat illos sibi plenarie restitui facere...; Si opus fuerit, ordinabimus rectoribus nostris, ut homines et animalia dicti comitis (Johannis) recipiantur in insulis nostris Sclavonie, sicut sunt insule Arbi, Farre et Braze, in quibus quidem insulis ipsi homines et animalia comodius reduci poterunt et salvari...
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  57. ^ a b Mužić (Vjekoslav Klaić) 2010, p. 11: Detractis modiis XII. milie salis predicti quolibet anno que remaneant in Jadra pro usu Jadre et districtu, et pro exportatione solita fi eri per Morlachos et alios per terram tantum…
  58. ^ Mužić (Vjekoslav Klaić) 2010, p. 12: quedam particula gentis Morlachorum ipsius domini nostri regis... tentoria (tents), animalia seu pecudes (sheep)... ut ipsam particulam gentis Morlachorum de ipsorum territorio repellere… dignaremur (to be repelled from city territory)... quamplures Morlachos... usque ad festum S. Georgii martiris (was allowed to stay until April 24, 1362).
  59. ^ a b c Mužić (Vjekoslav Klaić) 2010, p. 13: noveritis nos percepisse, qualiter Olahi tam nostri, quam Joannis fi lii Ivan Nyelpecy de Zetina, multa dampna, nocumenta, homicidia ac spolia in districtu civitatis antedicte fecissent et continue facere non cessarent, in eo videlicet, quod dicti Olahi venientes ad territorium et districtum dicte nostre civitatis pascua ipsius civitatis occupando, offen siones, interemtiones, ac alia facta nephanda perpetrarent potentialiter.
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    After the fall of Bihać in 1592 the Bosnian Beylerbey Hasan Pasha Predojević settled Orthodox Vlachs from Eastern Herzegovina, especially those of his own Predojević clan, in the central part of Pounje around Brekovica, Ripač, Ostrovica and Vrla Draga up to Sokolovac.

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  121. ^ Drago Roksandić (2011). Srbi u Hrvatskoj (1989-1991): Između lojalnosti, neposlušnosti i pobune (in -Serbo-Croatian). Edition Rizom, book 6. Beograd: Neposlušnost (book); Narodna biblioteka Srbije (publisher). pp. 87–120. 
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