The Balkan Vlachs (II)

Part I

The Vlachs in Albania

Albania’s Vlach community is living in the southern part of the country, which has its historical name – North Epirus.[1] They are dispersed from the city of Gjirokastër in the south to the city of Elbasan in Central Albania. However, the largest Vlach concentration is in the areas of the cities of Gjirokastër, Korçë, and Përmet in the southernmost part of Albania where they live together with the Orthodox Greeks, Albanians and Macedonians.[2] The number of Albanian Vlachs is estimated from 35,000 to 100,000, but some researchers raise this figure to almost 200,000 (that is around 1–2,5% of the total Albania’s population).[3] However, the real figure of any minority in Albania is quite difficult to realize for the matter of unreliable census records and a very little information on the ethnic minorities in this country. Additional difficulty in this matter is produced by the Greek officials who claimed that all Albania’s Orthodox Christians (approximately 400,000) are ethnic Greeks (this number includes all of those who identify themselves as Albanians, Macedonians, Vlachs, Greeks, etc., but they are of the Christian Orthodox religion).[4]

The territory of Albania, from the geographical point of view, was extremely proper for economic activities of the Vlachs in historical perspective and accurate for preservation of their culture, language and identity. As the pastoral people, who traditionally have been dealing exclusively with the cattle-breeding, the Vlachs from the early Middle Ages found the land of Albania, which is the totally mountainous, as one of the most profitable in the Balkans for their professional prosperity. Furthermore, the political and economic isolation of Albania from the rest of the world, which started in 1961 (with Albania’s breaking off relations with the Soviet Union) and ended in 1985 (with the death of Enver Hoxha), also greatly participated in protecting of the Vlach ethnolinguistic and cultural identity.

Vlachs in Albania
A map showing the Albania municipalities with higher percentages of Aromanians/Vlachs in the 2011

The Albanian communist government of Enver Hoxha,[5] contrary to the Greek policy towards the ethnolinguistic minorities in Greece, did not pursue such harsh measures of national homogenization. However, there were examples that the Albanian authorities pressed the local minorities to accept the Albanian forms of names and surnames in the 1960s and the 1970s.[6] The provisions of Albanian Constitution of 1976 and the Criminal Code of 1977 directly affected the Vlach community (like many others) as any kind of private or public religious activity and propaganda have been strictly forbidden.[7] This anti-religious campaign weakened the Vlach ethnic identity because the Orthodoxy was, alongside with the language, the main national identity of this minority community especially in such environment (as Albania) where the majority of the local population have been the Muslims (i.e. not Christian Orthodox).[8] Practically, it became forbidden to have either foreign or religious names. Albania’s authorities in 1975 carried out intensive campaign of name-changes for all citizens who did not have the “appropriate” personal names/surnames (from ideological, political and moral standpoints and instead of them had the names with the religious connotation), offering to them an official list of the “proper” names, which they had to choose.[9] Nevertheless, many Vlach parents registered their children with the Albanian names, but at home, they used the Vlach names. Furthermore, the government relocated an unknown number of persons and even families to different regions of the country. Transferred Vlachs and Greeks from the southern Albanian districts were sent to the northern parts of Albania, while the ethnic Albanians, mainly the Muslims, have been resettled in the southern districts.

The politics of state persecution of religious celebrations weakened after the Hohxa’s death in 1985 and finally, the Albanian parliament and government announced in May 1990 that expression of religion is free.[10] It was followed in the next year by the internal liberalization of the country, a total opening of the state’s borders (this policy started from 1987),[11] an introduction of the multi-party system and the better treatment of ethnolinguistic minorities. The end of Albania’s isolation fostered the emigration from the country of the thousands of Albania’s citizens among them there were only in the late 1990 and early 1991 approximately 10,000 those who emigrated to Greece.[12] This number includes not only ethnic Greeks but certainly and Hellenized ethnic Vlachs.

The changed policy towards the ethnolinguistic and religious minorities in Albania after 1990 gave significant benefits to the Vlach community, which became constitutionally recognized as a separate national minority. However, this minority is still publicly considered primarily as a member of the vast Orthodox minority of the non-Albanian language in the country, but not as a separate ethnolinguistic minority. Legally, Albania’s Vlachs obtained the right to education in their own mother tongue, but because of several political reasons, this provision is hard to be realized in the practice. Two crucial political issues postponed the legal obligation of Albania’s authorities to introduce the Vlach (Aromanian) language instruction in the schools.[13] Firstly, Albanian society was in 1997/1998 preoccupied with the issue of the inner social and political revolt that paralyzed any minority policy by the state. Secondly, from February 1998 to June 1999 Albania focused her attention mainly to the Kosovo crisis and the problem of Kosovo’s refuges inspired by Kosovo Albanian separatist and terror policy sponsored by the USA administration. The first problem was solved due to the intervention of the UN peacekeeping troops who were located in certain parts of Albania in order to reintroduce the political, legal and social order. The Romanian government conditioned the participation of her military troops in the international operation of the peacekeeping order in Albania with their deployment only in the southern districts of the country where mostly concentrated Vlach minority lives.

Vlach woman dress Vërtop Albania
Vlach woman dress, Vërtop, Albania

These two events surely delayed the implementation of the current legislation in Albania in the 1990s what concerns the protection of minority languages and ethnolinguistic minority identity. Nevertheless, the Council of Europe and the OSCE were pressing Albania’s government to implement this language legislation as one of the crucial preconditions for international financial support of Albania’s reforms and Albania’s path to the European integration.[14]

The Vlachs in Bulgaria

Bulgarian case in regard to the problem of finding proper information about the real number of the Vlachs and position of the Vlach society in this country is very similar to that of Albania. Bulgarian sources, either official or not, usually do not make any significant difference between the minority of standardized Romanian language (i.e. Romanians), who lives in North Bulgaria bordered with Romania, and those who are speaking the Vlach (Aromanian) language and live in the Southern Bulgaria which is on the border with Greece and in the northern portions of the country alongside the Danube: both of these different minority groups are in Bulgaria put to the same category of (the Vlach) neo-Latin speaking ethnolinguistic community.[15]

A great number of the Vlachs of Bulgaria came to this country in two migration waves from Macedonia, Albania, and Greece; firstly, in the late 18th century and in the early 19th century, and secondly, in the mid-19th century. In Bulgaria they became both urban settlers (in Sofia, Samokov, Sliven, Razlog, Nevrokop, Stara Zagora, Peshtera, Plovdiv, etc.) and nomadic shepherds (settled in Maleshevo, Belasica, Struma river, Mesta river, Pirin Mts., Rila Mts., Rhodopes Mts., Sredna Gora Mts., the Balkan Range, etc.). Urban residents of the Vlach self-identity dealt with the trade, crafts and inn-keeping.

A real number of the Vlach community in Bulgaria varied in the 20th century mainly due to the practice of minority exchange between Bulgaria and her neighbors. The main population exchange occurred after the Second Balkan War (in 1913), the First World War (1919–1920) and the Second World War (1945–1946) when Bulgarian minorities of a neo-Latin language (the Vlachs and the Romanians) and of the Greek language have been exchanged with the Bulgarian language speakers in at that time the Romanian (Southern) Dobruja and the Greek (Western) Thrace.[16] However, as well as an unknown number of ethnic Vlachs have been replaced across the border under the name of either Romanians or Greeks who left Bulgaria and settled themselves in Romania, Greece respectively.

First Bulgaria’s census (in 1881) recorded circa 50,000 of those who declared themselves as the Vlachs (what was 2,5% out 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 of those who have been of the 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 the summertime.[17] 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,[18] out of 83,747 Romanian native speakers. According to the census of 1992, there were 5,159 citizens of the Vlach minority group, but also 6,715 of those whose mother tongue was Vlach/Aromanian out of 8,487,317 Bulgaria’s citizens.[19] The difference in a number of the Vlach spoken language and the Vlach ethnicity is 1,556; i.e. there were 1,556 citizens in Bulgaria who declared in 1992 that their mother tongue was the Vlach, but their official national feeling was different that of the Vlach one. In addition, it is believed that in the main Bulgarian mountain range (Balkan Mts.) there are several thousands of the Vlachs who are not counted in the census.

The present-day Bulgarian (Southern) Dobruja is one of the Vlach populated regions in the country. The Vlachs came to live in this province during Romanian administration over the region (1913–1940) from different parts of the Balkan Peninsula, but primarily from Bulgaria and Macedonia. After the Bulgarian-Romanian Treaty of Craiova of September 7th, 1940, when South Dobruja was returned back to Bulgaria from Romania, a significant number of the Vlachs from this region migrated to Romania.[20] The Vlachs in present-day Bulgarian part of Dobruja number a few hundred of people. The littoral of Varna area on the Black Sea is another one historically important part of North Bulgaria with the Vlach inhabitants.

Aromanians in Pirin mountain Bulgaria 1930
Aromanians (Vlachs) in Pirin mountain, Bulgaria, 1930

In the time of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria the Vlachs did not have the basic minority rights in the fields of politics and culture mainly due to Todor Zhivkov’s policy of assimilation of the ethnolinguistic minorities, which reached its climax from 1984 to 1989 with forced assimilation of ethnic Turks and especially in summer of 1989 when 300,000 of Bulgaria’s Turks and other Muslims emigrated to Turkey (majority of them later returned back to Bulgaria).[21] This policy of forced assimilation (which includes name changes and conversion)[22] was primarily focused on Bulgaria’s ethnic Turks and to the lesser extent on the Pomaks (the ethnolinguistic Bulgarians of Islamic faith), but certainly, it affected and the official “Vlach” minority group (both the Romanians and the Aromanians). Certainly, the Vlachs, as other Bulgaria’s minorities (except the Jews and the Armenians), were under the pressure of assimilation through the bulgarization. At that time, it seemed that the Vlach language would die out. It was true and about the language of Karakachans (Sarakatsans in Greece) who are like the Vlachs transhumant nomadic shepherds living in the mountainous areas of Bulgaria. However, for the reason that the Karakachans have many common customs and traditions with the Vlachs these two in essence different ethnolinguistic groups are usually wrongly treated as one (i.e., as the Vlach group).[23]

In the post-communist Bulgaria discrimination in access to education for all citizens, including and minorities, is legally prohibited,[24] but in practice “successful application of these and related laws is extremely rare”.[25] However, Bulgaria, as an EU member state from 2007, is obliged to practically apply all of those instruments that Bulgarian authorities signed and ratified which anticipate the ethnolinguistic protection of the local minorities including and those of the Vlach origin: for example, Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (signed on October 9th, 1997; ratified on May 7th, 1999); European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (signed on November 9th, 2000); European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (signed on May 7th, 1992; ratified on September 7th, 1992); etc.

As a result of a new (democratic) orientation of Bulgarian minority policy after 1989, two neo-Latin speaking groups (the Aromanians and the Romanians), who composed one legal minority group in Bulgaria (the Vlachs), became more active in establishing their own cultural (but still not political) organizations. The border between Bulgaria and Romania became more open what resulted in a quite regular traveling to Romania of Bulgaria’s Vlachs. It is important to notice that the Vlachs who live in the Northern Bulgaria (closer to Romania)[26] are in a better position, in regard to the preservation of their linguistic and cultural features, in comparison with those who live either in the Balkan Mt. (in the Central Bulgaria) or in the southern portions of the country (in the Struma valley area) for the very reason that the Vlachs from the areas of the River of Danube can receive a regular signal transmitted from Romanian national TV and listen to Romanian radio broadcasting. However, the main demand of Bulgaria’s Aromanian and Romanian minority groups is to obtain legal and practical rights to use their own language(s) when they have to communicate with the local authorities. Finally, Bulgaria’s Vlachs are traditionally trying to preserve their ethnic features by a self-created notion that they “are more devout Orthodox Christians than the Bulgarians.”[27]

One of the main obstacles for the preservation of the minority identities in Bulgaria was Bulgarian constitutional reality which did not support (allowed) the foundation and existence of any political party based (by name or program) on either ethnic, racial or religious ground.[28] Certainly, such constitutional provision imposed significant constraints for protection of specific rights of minorities. On the other hand, this judicial argumentation is based on avoiding inter-ethnic conflicts and guaranteeing the participation of all citizens in political life.[29] Consequently, there was no Vlach political party in Bulgaria, but only cultural-educational Association of the Vlachs in Bulgaria (registered in 1992) with the main task to slow down Vlach assimilation by a promotion of the Vlach ethnocultural characteristics. For that purpose, the association required after 1989 that four-year Romanian-language school (with the courses offered in the Vlach/Aromanian as well) will be opened in Bulgaria’s capital. The association prints a newspaper – Timpul. One of the main achievements of the association was publishing the Aromano-Bulgarian Dictionary, the Aromanian textbooks and a history of the Aromanians in Bulgaria.

References:

[1] South Epirus is part of Greece. Epirus was divided between Albania and Greece after the Second Balkan War in 1913 when the independent state of Albania became recognized by the great European powers (Albania’s independence was proclaimed in the city of Vlorë on November 28th, 1912).

[2] See the map on page 194 in [Poulton H., The Balkans. Minorities and States in Conflict, London: Minority Rights Group, 1994]. The number of the Slav Macedonians in Albania ranges from 4,000, according to the Albanian sources, to 100,000, according to the Macedonian sources. Most probably, the real figure is 15,000.

[3] Albania has an area of 28,748 sq. km. and, according to the census from 1981, it had a population of 2,752,300 with the highest population growth rate in Europe together with Kosovo. The figure of 35,000 Vlach community in Albania is claimed in [Horak S. M., “National Minorities in Albania, 1919–1980”, Horak S. M. (ed.), East European National Minorities: 1919–1980, Colorado, 1985]. The other two figures are put by independent researchers and the international institutions and organizations for the protection of human and minority rights. There are even some authors who unjustifiably claim that majority of Albania’s Orthodox believers are originally ethnic Vlachs. This claim is surely not supported by historical sources.

[4] This Greek claim is based on the fact that before the Second World War there were 400,000 Orthodox believers in Albania who have been registered as the members of the Independent Orthodox Church in Albania, which used exclusively the Greek language in service. Majority of Albania’s Orthodox population attended the Greek language schools. After the Second World War, the Albanian society was divided according to the religious affiliation into the Roman Catholics (10%), Orthodox (20%) and Muslims (70%). The Orthodox population, according to the ethnic belonging, was composed by the Greeks, the Vlachs, the Montenegrins and the Macedonians (i.e., the Macedonian Slavs). The Serbs officially do not live in Albania, while the Montenegrins are separated from the Serbs. Nevertheless, after 1967, when Albania officially proclaimed to be the first world atheist state, there are no available records on the religious affiliation of Albania’s citizens [for the issue of political imprisonment of the ethnic minorities members see: Amnesty International, Albania: Political Imprisonment and the Law, AI EUR, 11. April 1984, p. 13]. For sure, the biggest part of Albania’s Orthodox inhabitants is of the Greek origin (according to the 1955 census, they represented 2,5% of total Albania’s population. According to the 1961 census, there were 95% of the total population who declared themselves to be the ethnic Albanians. The 5% belonged to the ethnolinguistic minorities). After 1967 there were more than 600 Orthodox churches destroyed and other 600 converted to other purposes like the grain store-houses, theatres, coffee shops, stables, etc. [Human Rights in Albania: Hearing Before the Sub-Committee on Human Rights and International Organizations of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, statement by Nikolaos A. Stavrou on January 25th, 1984].

[5] He was born in 1908 in Gjirokastër, exactly in the southern part of Albania where the most Vlach concentration has been and died in 1985 in Tiranë. E.  Hoxha ruled Albania from 1946 to 1954 as the prime minister and from 1954 to 1985 as the first secretary of the Communist Party of Albania [D. Crystal (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 543].

[6] Together with the Vlach minority all Albania’s minority as well suffered from such policy. For instance, many Christian Orthodox geographical and settlement names adopted the Albanian ones (for example, the ethnic Greek village of Agios Nikolaos, that is St. Nicolas, became renamed into Albanian Drita, what means the light). However, Muslim personal names and surnames have not been changed. It can be explained with the fact that traditionally the Islam was one of the crucial components of the Albanian national identity within the Ottoman Empire (Albanians have been surrounded with hostile non-Muslim neighbors of the Christian Orthodox creed: the Greeks and the Slavs from Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro).

[7] This anti-religious campaign was a part of Albania’s cultural and ideological revolution, which followed the example of the People’s Republic of China.

[8] Amnesty International, Albania: Political Imprisonment and the Law, AI EUR, April 11th, 1984. The Greek national identity as minority group in the Southern Albania (and other Balkan states as well), where the Greeks live mixed with the Vlachs, is closely connected with the adherence to the Christian Orthodox Church, the use of the Greek language and the use of the Greek forms of personal names, surnames, geographical names and names for the settlements (i.e. villages).

[9] Prifti P., Socialist Albania since 1944: Domestic and Foreign Developments, Cambridge, Mass, London, 1978, p. 164.

[10] Ens D., “Growing religious freedom in Albania”, News Network International, May 17th, 1990.

[11] Cowell, “A Hint of Change in the Albanian Air”, New York Times, June 220th, 1988.

[12] BBC, Summary of World Broadcasts, Eastern Europe/0983 I, January 30th, 1991.

[13] About the minority rights, including and those on the education in the mother tongue, see in [Kymlicka W., The Rights of Minority Cultures, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000; Fishman J., Language and Ethnicity in Minority Sociolinguistic Perspectives, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd., 1989].

[14] By now there are no specific European Union’s standards in regard to the protection of minority rights, but general European standards in the field may be found in several Europe-wide instruments which can provide the basic guidelines for minority protection of each European country like Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (accessed on April 26th, 2001); European Charter for regional or Minority Languages (accessed on April 26th, 2001); European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (accessed on April 27th, 2001).

[15] In Bulgaria there is a great and even politically colored debate on the name of the Vlach minority group: should they be designated by the accepted scientific term Aromanians or to be called as the Armanians that is the ethnonym used by the Vlachs themselves.

[16] Romania required the north-western Bulgarian province of South Dobruja (North Dobruja was already included into Romania according to the Berlin Congress’ decision in 1878) in 1913 as a compensation for giving up the Vlachs (Wallachians) in Macedonia, who have been considered by Romania’s authorities and intelligentsia as a Balkan minority of Romanian ethnolinguistic origin. The geographic-historical territory of Macedonia was divided in 1913 between Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece. Serbia received the “Vardar” Macedonia, Greece got the “Aegean” Macedonia and Bulgaria included the “Pirin” Macedonia. Romania did not participate in the division of Macedonia. The Southern Dobruja was returned back to Bulgaria in 1940 while the Northern Dobruja remained within Romania. The region of Thrace was divided in 1913 between the Ottoman Empire (the Eastern Thrace) and Bulgaria (the Western Thrace). However, in 1919 the biggest portion of Bulgarian Thrace became included into Greece. Bulgaria temporally occupied both portions of Dobruja in 1916 and the Western Thrace in 1915 and 1941. The minority groups’ exchanges followed all of these territorial exchanges. For instance, after the First World War there were 250,000 Bulgarians who left the Southern Dobruja, the “Vardar” Macedonia, the “Aegean” Macedonia, the Eastern and the Western Thrace and migrated to the territory of “Neuilly” Bulgaria; 360,000 Turks and Muslims left Macedonia and the Western Thrace, 100,000 left Bulgaria and 25,000 left Crete to Turkey; 650,000 Greeks from Smyrna region in Asia Minor, 260,000 from Trabzon area, 50,000 from the South East Asia Minor and 260,000 from the Eastern Thrace emigrated from Turkey to Greece after the Greek-Turkish War of 1919–1923 and additional 50,000 of the Greeks left Bulgaria to Greece after 1919 [Westermann Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte, Braunschweig, 1985, p. 153, map № V; Kanev K., “Law and Politics on Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Bulgaria”, Krasteva A. (ed.), Communities and Identities in Bulgaria, Ravenna: Longo Editore Ravenna, 1998, pp. 66–68; Genov G., The Legal Status of Minorities, Sofia, 1929, p. 125; Ladas S., The Exchange of Minorities: Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, New York: Macmillan, 1932, pp. 122–123]. According to the Greek historiography, in 1923 there were 1,100,000 Greeks who moved from Turkey to Greece, while some 380,000 Muslims were transferred from Greece to Turkey [R. Clogg, A Concise History of Greece, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, p. 101]. The Greek-Turkish population exchange in 1923 was in accordance to the Convention on a Compulsory Exchange of Population Between Greece and Turkey, signed in January 1923. The war was over in July 1923 by the Treaty of Lausanne.

[17] The German linguist, G. Weigand, put the number of 86,000 of the neo-Latin speakers in Bulgaria around the year of 1900 [Weigand G., Rumanen und Arumunen in Bulgarien, Leipzig, 1907, p. 104].

[18] A leader of the Aromanian community in inter-war Bulgaria, I. N. Ghiulamila, claimed that in 1928 there were 4,000 sedentary and 9,000 nomadic Aromanians in Bulgaria [Ghiulamila N. I., “Romanii macedoneni din Bulgaria”, Graiul romanesc, № 2, 1928, pp. 31–33].

[19] National Institute of Statistics, Results from the Population Census: Demographic Characteristics, vol. I (original in Bulgarian), Sofia, 1994, pp. 194, 222. It is estimated that today there are circa 3,000 people in Bulgaria with the Aromanian self-identity.

[20] According to J. B. Schechtman’s book, European Population Transfers (1939–1945), Oxford University Press, New York, 1946, pp. 406–409, under this treaty it was exchanged circa 61,000 Bulgarians and about 100,000 Romanians (the latter number includes and ethnic Vlachs).

[21] Before this exodus of 1989 it happened twice in the communist-Bulgaria that “Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin” migrated to Turkey: in 1950–1951 (154,000 persons) and between 1969 and 1978 (130,000 persons).

[22] In the recent Bulgarian history, it occurred twice between 1878 and 1945 that Bulgarian government persuaded campaigns of forced conversion and name changes among the minority groups for the sake of bulgarization (during the wars of 1912–1913 and in 1942–1944).

[23] The Karakachans and the Vlachs have a common feature in the point of livelihood and denomination, but these two minority groups differ from one another in the terms of language: the Vlach language is a neo-Latin, while the Karakachan language is a neo-Hellenic (it belongs to the northern dialect of the modern Greek language). The Karakachans are either 1) descendants of the ancient Balkan peoples (the Thracians, the Illyrians) who have been living in pre-classical and classical times in the mountainous areas of the southern parts of the peninsula but became Hellenized; or 2) they are descendants from sedentary Greek peasants who left their settlements in the late Middle Ages and became the nomadic shepherds. The Karakachans themselves believe that Pindus Mts. in Greece is their original home place. Today they are living in Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia. At any case, the majority of present-day Vlachs and Karakachans is bilingual especially the males.

[24] Article № 36 of the Constitution of 1991 recognizes the rights of the ethnic, religious and linguistic minority members in Bulgaria to self-protect and develop their culture and self-identity by using the mother tongue, along with the compulsory study of Bulgarian language.

[25] Monitoring the EU Accession Process: Minority Protection 2001, Open Society Institute, Budapest, 2001.

[26] Undoubtedly, the claim by some experts in the Vlach studies that in North Bulgaria it can be found about 400,000 Vlachs is an overwhelming exaggeration of the truth [European Parliament Working Document, 2–119/1985].

[27] Krasteva A., “Ethnicity”, Krasteva A. (ed.), Communities and Identities in Bulgaria, Ravenna: Longo Editore Ravenna, 1998, p. 19.

[28] “Constitutional Court Judgement № 4 of April 21st, 1992”, Official Gazette, № 35, Sofia, 1992. The legal provisions, which banned the establishment of political parties on ethnic basis have been included in the agreement upon creation of the Union of Democratic Forces (in 1990) in the Political Parties Act (in 1990) and in the post-communist Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria (adopted on July 12th, 1991).

[29] Notably, the Bulgarian constitutional and legal provisions from the time of liberation in 1878 onward guaranteed the equality of all Bulgaria’s citizens regardless of their ethnic, religious or linguistic origin. It included the rights to exercise minority ethnocultural features, to practice their religion and to speak the mother tongue. However, in practice, non-Bulgarians have been often under political pressure. The first Vlach cultural association in Bulgaria was established in 1895 and the first Romanian-language school in Bulgaria was opened in 1896. Both of them have been registered with the purpose to develop Vlach education and culture [Hristu V., “Aromanii din Bulgaria”, Graiul romanesc, № 6–7, 1931, p. 86].

To be continued

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