The Romanian minority in Bulgaria (Români or Rumâni in Romanian; Vlasi or Rumuni in Bulgarian) is concentrated in the northwestern part of the country, in Vidin Province, Vratsa Province and Pleven Province. They speak the Oltenian variety of the Romanian language. The Romanians from the Vidin Province are separated into 2 main groups: the "Dunăreni" (who live around the Danube river) and the "Pădureni" (who lived in the higher placed regions with many woods). In southwestern Bulgaria lives also a very small Aromanian population, such as in the village Peshtera (English: The Cave). The territory where the Romanians from Bulgaria live never belonged to Romania and most of them declare themselves Vlasi (= Vlachs) when asked in Bulgarian (e.g. on the census), though they use the self-designation "Rumân" (= Rumanians) in their language. The Romanians in Bulgaria are not recognized as a national minority, but as en ethnic group and they don't enjoy ethnic rights in schools and churches since the Interwar period. The 2001 census shows 10,566 Vlachs. Most of the Vlachs (Romanians) are Romanian-speakers, but the figure includes some Aromanian-speakers as well.
It has been suggested that south of the Danube the Vlachs were once more numerous and occupied a much greater area than now. The region between the Serbians and Bulgarians has place names with continued Latin origins, whereas those further into Serbia area have no Latin base. This area of modern east Serbia was mostly associated with the Bulgarians until the expansion of Serbia just before the Ottoman times. The Vlachs provided a separation of the southern Slavs which may have lead to the separate Bulgarian and Serbo-Croat languages.
The first record of a Balkan Romanic presence in the Byzantine period can be found in the writings of Procopius, in the 5th century. The writings mention forts with names such as Skeptekasas (Seven Houses), Burgulatu (Broad City), Loupofantana (Wolf's Well) and Gemellomountes (Twin Mountains). A Byzantine chronicle of 586 about an incursion against the Avars in the eastern Balkans may contain one of the earliest references to Vlachs. The account states that when the baggage carried by a mule slipped, the muleteer shouted, "Torna, torna, fratre!" ("Return, return, brother!"). However the account might just be a recording of one of the last appearances of Latin (Vulgar Latin). Blachernae, the suburb of Constantinople, was named after a certain Duke from Scythia named "Blachernos". His name may be linked with the name "Blachs" (Vlachs).
In 1185, two Vlach noble brothers from Tarnovo named Peter and Asen led a Bulgarian revolt against Byzantine Greek rule and declared Tsar Peter II (also known as Theodore Peter) as king of the reborn state. The following year, the Byzantines were forced to recognize Bulgaria's independence and the Second Bulgarian Empire was established. Peter styled himself "Tsar of the Bulgarians, Greeks, and Vlachs", though the reference to Vlachs in the style fell out by the early 13th century.
The first Bulgaria’s census (in 1881) recorded circa 50,000 of those who declared themselves as Vlachs (what was 2,5% of total Bulgaria’s population). Half of them lived in the district of Vidin. According to Bulgaria’s census of 1891 there were 2,300 those who have been of Aromanian identity. However, it is believed by the scholars that at that time have been circa 5000 of them, while in the first decade of the next century Bulgaria had around 7000 Aromanians including and those who came to Bulgaria in summer time. The census of 1910 showed 96,502 native Romanian speakers of whom there were 80,000 Romanians. The number of Aromanians/Vlachs among them is not known. It is estimated that after 1913 there were 16,000 Aromanians in Bulgaria. Census of 1926 recorded only 1,550 Vlachs and 10,648 Aromanians, out of 83,747 Romanian native speakers. According to the census of 1992, there were 5,159 citizens of Vlach minority group, but also 6,715 those whose mother tongue was Vlach/Aromanian out of 8,487,317 Bulgaria’s citizens.
As a result of democratic orientation of Bulgarian minority policy after 1989, two neo-Latin speaking groups (Aromanians and Romanians) who composed one legal minority group in Bulgaria (the Vlachs) became more active in establishing their own cultural (but still not political) organizations. Consequently, today there is no Vlach political party in Bulgaria, but only cultural-educational Association of Vlachs in Bulgaria (registered in 1992) with the main task to slow down Vlach assimilation by promotion of Vlach ethno-cultural characteristics.
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