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Mavrolachians (Morlaks, Mavrolakians)

Last modified: 2013-12-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: yugoslavia | bosnia and herzegovina | croatia | macedonia | slovenia | mavrolachians | morlaks | istria | mavrolakians | dalmatia | mavrovlakhos | wallachians | vlakhs | chopes | torvlaks |
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image by Ivan Sache

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"Mavrolachians (Morlaks) - Istria, Slovenia, Croatia (1917)" - Red field with a wide red diagonal stripe with a white "window" bearing red crescent and star. This design is listed under 37 at the chart: Flags of Aspirant Peoples [eba94].
Ivan Sache, 16 September 1999

I had trouble locating "Mavrolachians (Morlaks). According to Buschan 'Die Vo"lker Europas', c. 1910, the Maurovlachen (Maurovlachians) were 'black Vlachians; they were nomadic shepherds, like the Aromunen and Turkish shepherds; their name was mentioned in the 10th century in the Byzantine empire; in the 11th century in Bulgaria and in later times in the western part of the Balkan peninsula. (Buschan writes here on the wandering shepherds in general.) There were shepherd speaking Slavic and Albanian languages; in the 19th century they spoke Romanian and Aromanian. They wandered into Moravian Wallachia, the islands of Istria and into the environment of Trieste. Most of them settled probably in villages and some of them became the hereditary village shepherds (Transylvania, the great Hungarian plain); in Buschan's time the Aromanians wandered in the meadow-rich parts of the Balkan mountains and the Rhodope, the Pindus, Schardagh, soutwest Serbia and southern Albania. In winter they wander for 30, 40 days in the coastal regions at Arta, the Dardanelles and Valona (Vlone"). They carried their possessions on big horses.
The Morlaks lived in Dalmatia and some of them were shepherds (Buschan speaks about the two as different peoples).
In Kramer's 'Geographisch Woordenboek' (1883) I read about: 'Morlacca (German: Vellebith), region in Austrian Croatia, consisting of the mountainous coastal area with the villages of Carlopago (Karlobeg) and Zeng (Senj). The inhabitants are reckoned to be some of the most uncivilized in the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. The Street of Morlacca (Velibitsky Kanal), 5 km wide, separates the Illyrian and Dalmatian islands Veglia (Krk), Arbe (Rab) and Pago (Pag) from the mainland.
My tentative conclusion would be that the Maurovlachians do not exist anymore as a wandering shepherd-tribe, and that some of them have settled in 'Morlacca' as Morlaks; the flag Ivan describes might be their regional flag.
Jarig Bakker, 15 September 1999

My somewhat bigoted 'Allers Illustrerede Konversations-Leksikon' (Copenhagen 1906-10) says that two thirds are Roman Catholics and one third Greek. And that the Morlaks are some of the best sailors in the Austrian navy.
Ole Andersen, 15 September 1999

Here is what the Yugoslav Encyclopedia have about them (Enciklopedija Leksikografskog Zavoda, Zagreb, 1968, book 4), my translation, [my comments in brackets], spelling of different names kept as in the original: "Morlaki, (Murlaki; from Ital. Morlacco, being shortening of Greek form Mauroblahos - mauros - black, Blahos - Vlah; Maurovlasi or Morovlasi, in Latin sources called Nigri Latini - Black Latins), name used for shepherds of Roman origin or romanized, that kept themselves in Balkan peninsula mountains after Slavene colonization in 6th century, keeping some linguistic and somatic characteristics. Morlaki (Morovlasi) are called those Romanian shepherds that, running from Turks towards west, settled in mountains from Skadar lake [on border of Montenegro and Albania] to Velebit [in northern Croatian coast]. So, a group of them came to island Krk 1450-80 (villages Dubas<nica and Poljica) where some words and roots of Romanian language, intertwined with Slavisms (as the prayer "Our father"), were kept until beginning of 19th century. Some groups of those Romanians came to Trieste [on Italian-Slovenian border], and very long held themselves in some villages in Istria. The Italian form Morlacco is used already in 15th century, and in 16th century that is the name for (any) local people living in mountains from Kotor [in Montenegro] to Kvarner [around city of Rijeka]. Lots of Morlaks was in Velebit mountains, so that region was by Venetians called Morlachia. The Velebit mountain was called Montagne della Morlacca, and sea way under the mountain, closed by the islands, was Morlakian channel (Canale della Morlacca).
Željko Heimer, 17 September 1999

Here the translation from the Yugoslav Encyclopedia of the text on Wallacians (Vlasi) [certainly of the same origin as the name for the region and historical state in Romania, but not directly related]: "Vlasi, originally a general term that South Slavs used after they settled in Balkan region to designate older peoples: colonized Romans, romanized Illyrians and Tracians,  and so on; latter the name gained more meanings. The name Vlah have origins from a name of a Celtic tribe that Romans called Volcae, and Germans used Walhos. Latter the name Walhos (middle-high-German Walch, adv. wa:lhisch, welsch) became a generic German name for Celts, and then (after the celtic Galia was romanized) for Romans: French, Italians, Rethoroman groups, Romanians, and so on. The Slavs took the name directly from Germans, and partly from Byzant (Greek Balahos). In our [South Slavic] middle age documents the name Vlah was used sometimes for Italians. Some sources call by that name folk from Dubrovnik (Ragusa) and from other coastal cities that at that time still had partially romanized population. But, the far most often use of that name was for smaller groups of Roman (Riomanian) language for people that mostly live nomadic life in our mountains from Macedonia to Kvarner [Istria]. Except by the generic name Vlah, they are also known as Rumunji (Rumuni, Aromuni), Cincari, C/iC/i (Istrian Vlasi), Morovlasi (Morlaci), Karavlasi, Karaguni, Karavunci, Karakac<ani, Meglenski Vlasi, and so on.Historical documents mention Vlasi populations on Krk island, in Istria, all over mainland Dalmatia, in Herzegovina, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia and Macedonia. The inhabitants of the coast, which at first called by that name only highland nomadic romanized population, at some time started to use it for a generic term for  the continental rural population (both Roman and Slavic), which is used still today - with some pejorative tone - for a village from the "hills behind" (on the other hand, they use the same pejorative tone by calling sea-folk Bodul). Quite similar, former romanized citizens of coastal cities, and afterwards Italians too, used in the same broader sense a name for continental villages - Morlak (Ital. Morlacco, from Maurovlachus, black Vlah). In the time of Turkish wars, when the Croatian regions were populated by mobilized both Vlasi population and Serbs - of orthodox church, the name Vlah was in somewhat pejorative sense being used for an orthodox Christian or a Serb person in general (in coastal regions a word of the same meaning "ris<c/anin" was used, but without pejorative tone). On the other hand, Turks use the name Vlah for all christians in
countries under their rule in Balkans. Vlasi, in narrower sense, live today only in Istria (in region called C/icIarija, 8 villages preserved Romanian language) and in Macedonia. Macedonian Vlasi - Cincari call themselves Arm'nj (from Latin Romanus - roman). A part of Cincari live permanently in towns: Krus<evac, Bitola and others, being merchants, craftsmen or working abroad. Others are nomadic herdsmen known by various names (Karavunci, Karaguni, Karakac<ani, Kucivlasi); but in latter time they more often begin to live in agricultural settled way. Meglenski Vlasi, settled under mountain of Koz<uv are mainly agricultural, and are differentiated from Cincari by bodily characteristics, language, clothes and customs.
Željko Heimer, 18 September 1999

The Mavrolakian movement is, more than an ethnic flag, and political flag. Mavrolakian movement was sponsored by Turkish, that used some minorities without rights and Muslim people in the Italian territories in Dalmatia during WWI After war the movement collapsed and, difference from others peoples, no Morlak National Council is quoted. Ratio was 8:14
Jaume Olle, 21 September 1999

The correct spelling is Mavrovlakhos . That name translates to Black Vlakhs or Dark Vlakhs, who're a people of southeast Europe
Robert Lloyd Wheelock, 24 September 1999

On 9 Oct 1999 Ivan Sache wrote:

"From Franciae Vexilla #8/54, January 1998, notes by M. Corbic

"In the middle of the XIXth century, along with the revival of Serbian and Bulgarian, appears the idea of a Balkan Federation. In Bucarest, the Prime Minister Mihail Kogalniceanu, supported by Prince Ion Cuza, designed in 1863 the flag of Romanian-speaking peoples of Southern Danube, a.k.a. Chopes or Torvlaks."

[The definition of the Chop people seems to be difficult and controversial and the article is not very clear. It seems that these people are spread over western Bulgaria and eastern Yugoslavia, and have lost the Moravo-Romanian language spoken by their ancestors, and were not recognized as a nationality by the Yugoslav and Bulgarian regimes.]

I do not know much about this, but comparing the names of these people with some names given in the article from Yugoslav Encyclopedia it could be concluded that these are the same or at least very much related people as several "Morovalachian" (I put this in quotes as there are many names for them), groups in Macedonia.
I was not aware that they were ever so numerous (and "progressive" in a sense of developed national feeling) as to make a political movement, but, as I said, I know too little to claim anything.
Željko Heimer, 10 October 1999