Statuta Valachorum ("Vlach Statute(s)", Serbo-Croatian: Vlaški statut(i)) was a decree issued by Emperor Ferdinand II of the Habsburg Monarchy on 5 October 1630 that defined the rights of "Vlachs" (a term used for a community of mostly Orthodox refugees, mainly Serbs[a]) in the Military Frontier, in a way that it placed them under direct rule by Vienna, removing the jurisdiction of the Croatian parliament. This was one of three major laws enacted in the early 17th century on the taxation and tenancy rights of the Vlachs, together with the earlier 1608 decree by Emperor Rudolf II and a 1627 decree by Ferdinand.
In the mid-16th century, the Military Frontier was established as a buffer against the Ottoman Empire. Balkan refugees, including Serbs, crossed into Habsburg lands. Military colonists were exempted from some obligations and granted small land tracts, and allowed to elect their own captains (vojvode) and magistrates (knezovi). Slavonia (including the Varaždin Generalate) was continuously settled by Serbs from various regions since the 15th century. A large migration of Serbs (called "people of Rascians or Vlachs") into Croatia and Slavonia from Ottoman territory took place in 1600. Freedom of religion was promised to all Orthodox settlers. The Habsburg Monarchy was effectively divided into separate civil and military parts with Emperor Ferdinand's granting full civil and military authority of the Military Frontier to a general officer in 1553. This displeased the Hungarian Diet and Croatian nobility, stripped of their authority in the Frontier. The Croatians tried to reduce the Frontier's autonomy; the incorporation of the Frontier into Croatia would mean the loss of status and prerogative of the Grenzers (Frontiersmen).
In 1608, Austrian emperor Rudolf II instituted such a law, under which "Vlachs" of the Military Frontier, regardless of their faith, owed one tenth of their income to the Bishop of Zagreb, and 1/9th to the feudal lords whose land they occupied. This law had little practical effect, but it appeased the Croatian nobility at the time. The heraldic emblem used for these "Vlachs" was the Serbian Nemanjić dynasty coat of arms. In the 1610s and 1620s, there were conflicts between the Vlachs (refugees and Frontiersmen) and the Croatian nobility. The Croatians demanded the abolishment of the Frontier and incorporation into Croatia. In 1627, the Varaždin Grenzer told authorities they "rather be hacked into pieces than be separated from their officers and become subjects of the Croatian nobility". In 1627, emperor Ferdinand II granted the "Vlach people inhabiting the regions of Slavonia and Croatia, the right to stay undisturbed in their settlements and estates"; the Frontier Vlachs were allowed land use regardless of the land's ownership, in an effort to make the Grenzers independent of the Croatian nobility, and more willing to wage wars for him. This decision has been interpreted as a feudalization attempt, and in 1628, it was feared that if the Vlachs left the Frontier for Ottoman Slavonia, the military and economical strength of the Habsburg Monarchy would be notably weakened and threatened; at an assembly of ca. 3,400 war-equipped Vlachs (mainly Serbs), it was promised that the Vlachs stay under military organization and be given regulations in form of a statute, thereby regulating their legal status. The next year, the Croatian parliament tried once again to pass a law in which the refugee community be included into the jurisdiction of the Habsburg Kingdom of Croatia, however, without results.
In early 1630, representatives of Croatian nobility and Vlachs (Serbs) met in Vienna. The Croatian nobility pressured the Emperor to enact a decree on 10 May in which the Serbs pay the nobility as much as they paid their captains, however, the unhappy Serbs between the Sava and Drava instead gave colonel Trauttmansdorff their own draft, which would regulate relations to the state, and economical, legal and social relations. The War Council established a commission to study this draft. The Austrian court chancellery issued a statement to the emperor on 30 September, in which it is highlighted that "great military importance of the Vlach population accommodated between the Sava and Drava, whose numbers in the last thirty years increased to such extent that they have become the solid bulwark of the Military Frontier against the Turks".
Based on the Grenzers' petitions and the court statement, Emperor Ferdinand II issued the Statuta Valachorum on 5 October 1630, in effect in the Varaždin generalate, that is, the captaincies of Koprivnica, Križevci and Ivanec. The statute was signed in Regensburg, and was a compromise to the Grenzers' demands. It was given to a delegation of twelve Grenzers, military commanders and clergy. The Orthodox refugee community, called "Vlachs", were mainly Serbs. In its essence, the statute enabled for the Vlachs' election of local authorities, an argument for the consideration of the statute as that of a basis for the population's inner autonomy. The local authorities included knezes and judges, as representatives of executive and legislative powers.
The decree laid out the rights and obligations of the settlers that stabilized their status for years after. These rights assumed free land given to the settlers, their civil administration based on the settlers' traditional law. All the rights were given in return for the settlers' military service to the Austrian Emperor. All males over sixteen were obliged to serve militarly. Ferdinand II did not include matters[clarification needed] of land ownership in the statute, so that he wouldn't upset Croatian nobility. The goal of Statuta Valachorum was to bring the "Vlachs" under supervision of the imperial court, giving them an appearance of autonomy, despite the fact that the level of self-government they had prior had actually decreased. The Statute created a separate region at the expense of the Croatia-Slavonia province. The statute also included the first delineation of the Varaždin generalate (Slavonian Military Frontier).
Aftermath and legacy
The Statuta, applied only to Vlachs in the area of the Varaždin Generalate (between Drava and Sava), later[when?] came to be used by all Vlachs. A rebellion broke out in the generalate in 1632, when the Frontiersmen rose up against local Austrian governors; the rebellion was suppressed, and knez (count) Marko Bogdanović and harambaša Smiljan Vujica (or Smoljan Vujić) were executed. When Ferdinand III came to power (1637), the ownership of the Croatian Military Frontier was transferred to the Imperial court. A rebellion broke out in the generalate in 1665–66 when Frontiersmen under Stefan Osmokruhović rose up against the Austrian officers, after the rights of the Frontiersmen had been compromised. On 14 April 1667 the Statute was revised. In the 18th century, the nobility[who?] was finally formally deprived of all Frontier land when it was declared an Imperial fief.
The importance of the statute is seen in it being the first public law document regarding rights of citizens within the Military Frontier. These grants to Serbs made them valuable allies of the Habsburg government against the Catholic Croatian nobility. The warrior-tradition of the Serbs of Croatia, which includes the service to the Habsburg Monarchy and the Statuta Valachorum, is an important part of the identity of the community still today.
- ^ The term "Vlachs" was also used for Slavs who shared lifestyle (as shepherds) with Romance peoples (Vlachs); it was used for the Serbs who settled the Military Frontier. Croatian nationalist historiography (including Ustashe propaganda) claim that the settlers were not Serbs, but Vlachs; that Serbs of Croatia are not Serbs. All South Slavic ethnic groups had some Romance ingredient, although there is no evidence that all or most Serbs in Croatia were of Vlach origin. "Rascians" was another term used for the Serbs.
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In 1630 the Habsburg Emperor signed the Statuta Valachorum, or Vlach Statutes (Serbs and other Balkan Orthodox peoples were often called Vlachs). They recognized formally the growing practice of awarding such refugee families a free grant of crown land to farm communally as their zad- ruga. In return all male members over sixteen were obliged to do military service. The further guarantees of religious freedom and of no feudal obligations made the Orthodox Serbs valuable allies for the monarchy in its seventeenth-century struggle ...
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a iduće su godine ne samo optuženi, nego i pogubljeni knez Marko Bogdanović i zastavnik Smoljan Vujić.
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... but in fact the name was also applied to Slavs who shared the same pastoral, nomadic life as the Romanian shepherds. The Orthodox refugees who settled on the border (krajina) between Habsburg and Ottoman territory, and who are in part the ancestors of the Krajina Serbs who lived in Croatia until driven out recently, were also described officially as Vlachs and given privileged military status under that name (the Habsburg ruler Ferdinand II issued a 'Statute of the Vlachs' for them in 1630). To apply the term Vlach to someone, therefore, was to say that they were either nomads or free peasant-soldiers. It did not imply a definitive conclusion about their ethnic group.
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After Ferdinand II issued the Statuta Vlachorum on October 5, 1630,51 the first broad privileges for Vlachs (Serbs) in the Varazdin region, the Vienna Court tried to remove the Military Frontier from civil jurisdiction. The Statuta defined the rights and obligations of frontiersmen and provided the first formal administrative organization for the Military Frontier, which was now detached from Croatia. ... The term Vlach was often used interchangeably with Serb because the latter, too, were mostly a pastoral people.
- Trbovich 2008, p. 190
This also explains why extremist Croat nationalism is both reflected and rooted in the attempted revision of history. The Croats have always resented the rights granted to Serbs in Croatia, and most especially Krayina's historic separate existence. Croat historians have claimed that Krayina's settlers were not Serbs but “Vlachs,”81 [footnote:] While all Orthodox settlers were indeed called Vlachs by the Habsburg authorities, and some truly were Vlachs and different from the Serbs, the majority were Serbian and even the Vlachs assimilated into Serbs by the nineteenth century. As Nicholas Miller explains, “the term Vlach became a weapon in the war to devalue Serbian claims to territory and history in Croatia.”
- Aleksa Djilas (1991). The Contested Country: Yugoslav Unity and Communist Revolution, 1919-1953. Harvard University Press. p. 210. ISBN 978-0-674-16698-1.
While no South Slav group was without some Vlach ingredient, there is no evidence that all or most Serbs in Croatia were of Vlach origin. The thesis that Croatian Serbs were "Vlasi" occurred regularly in Ustasha propaganda — without any serious evidence to support it.
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