The Vlachs of Serbia

The Vlachs of Serbia (endonym: Rumâni, Serbian: Vlasi) are an ethnic minority of Serbia, culturally and linguistically related to Romanians. Vlachs mostly live in eastern Serbia, mainly in Timočka Krajina region (roughly corresponding to Bor and Zaječar districts), but also in Braničevo and Pomoravlje districts. Also a small Vlach population exists in Smederevo and Velika Plana (Podunavlje District), and in the municipalities of Aleksinac and Kruševac (Rasina District), as well as in the South Banat District in Vojvodina.

As Romance-speakers the Vlachs can relate to the Roman ruins (forts, roads, palaces, graves, baths, aqueducts, mines, half-buried cities, etc.) that are scattered in NE Serbia, as indeed they are throughout the entire Balkan Peninsula. Following Roman withdrawal from Dacia in the third century, much of what is now Serbia and Bulgaria was renamed Dacia Aureliana (later Dacia Ripensis), and an undetermined number of Romanized Dacians was settled there. Strong Roman presence in the region persisted through the end of Justinian's reign in the 6th century. The Vlach region of NE Serbia was part of the 12th-13th century Bulgaro-Vlach empire of the Assens, who were themselves Vlach. The chroniclers of the Crusaders describe meeting with Vlachs in the 12th and 13th century in various parts of what is now Serbia. Serbian documents from the 13th and 14th century mention Vlachs, including Tsar Dushan's famous prohibition of intermarriage between Serbs and Vlachs. Fourteenth and fifteenth century Romanian (Valachian) rulers built churches in NE Serbia. Fifteenth century Turkish tax records (defters) list Vlachs in the region of Branicevo in NE Serbia, near the ancient Roman municipium and colonia of Viminacium. The 16th-17th century warlord Baba Novac (Starina Novak), who served as Michael the Brave's general, was born in NE Serbia. Thus the modern descendants of all these people can be held to originate south of the Danube. Starting in the early 18th century NE Serbia was settled by Romanians (then known by their international exonym as Vlachs) from Banat, parts of Transylvania, and Oltenia (Lesser Walachia).

The Vlach language spoken by the Vlachs is made out of dialects similar to the Romanian dialects from the adjunct regions of Romania: one major group of Vlachs speaks the Oltenian dialect, while that of the other major group speaks a dialect similar to the Romanian dialect of Banat. Vlachs are divided into many groups, each speaking their own variant:
* the Ţărani (Serbian: Carani)
* the Ungureni or Ungureani (Serbian: Ungurjani)
* Ungureni Munteni (Serbian: Ungurjani-Munćani), meaning: "the Ungureni from the mountains"
* Bufani - immigrants from Lesser Walachia (Oltenia)

In the 2002 census 40,054 people in Serbia declared themselves ethnic Vlachs, and 54,818 people declared themselves speakers of the Vlach language. The Vlachs of Serbia are recognized as a minority, like the Romanians of Serbia, which number 34,576 according to the 2002 census. Despite their recognition as a separate ethnic group by the Serbian government, Vlachs are cognate to Romanians in the cultural and linguistic sense. Some Romanians, as well as international linguists and anthropologists, consider Serbia's Vlachs to be a subgroup of Romanians.