The Recent History of the Aromanians in Romania*
by Alexandru Gica
EDITOR’S NOTE: Of all the Newsletters we have published in our 24 years, this issue may very well be the most important, because it contains 3 remarkable contemporary documents that show the situation of the Balkan Vlachs today as THEY see it, not as self-styled Vlach leaders in the West see it… (see Editor’s Note)
The request in 2005 by an Aromanian association for the Romanian government to recognize the Aromanians as a national minority took many by surprise and generated a kind of “civil war” among Aromanians. It was especially a surprise to those who thought that the Aromanians were a monolithic structure.
Generally, authors who have written about the Aromanians have noticed a difficulty in distinguishing them from their neighbors. One reason, according to Irina Nicolau, is that they developed a strategy of ethnic dissimulation. A different opinion, not necessary divergent, is suggested by Nicolae Şerban Tanaşoca. He considers Aromanians the Homo balcanicus prototype because of their ties and affinities with all the Balkan populations throughout history, and believes this is why it is difficult to distinguish them from their neighbors. Thede Kahl describes the Aromanians as a “minority that behaves like a majority,” which provides yet another perspective on the challenges of identifying them.
Almost all scholars agree that Aromanians tend to hide their identity. The visibility of the Aromanians in making the afore-mentioned 2005 request is in contrast with their usual hidden way of life.
The aim of this study is to explain the strong connection between the settlement of the Aromanians in Romania in the years after 1925 and the request for recognition made six years ago. We will also analyze how some Aromanians joined the Iron Guard, the Romanian variant of Fascism, but only in connection with the aim of the study. All three events will be revealed through different documents, some of them recently published, with a few conclusions noted at the end of this study.
To discuss the debate about whether the Aromanians from Romania are an ethnic/national minority or not, it is important to note right from the start how one defines ethnicity or nationality. In this respect, the author’s opinion is the same as the great scholar Max Demeter Peyfuss (see Peyfuss M.D., 1994, p. 122): “Besides his own conscience, there is no scientifically proven way to establish someone’s nationality.”
Dreaming of a country of their own:
The genesis of Aromanian colonization in Romania
“It was the returning way to their homeland, from which they were pulled out since immemorial time by a step-motherly fate” (Muşi, V. 1935, 2005, p. 94).
This is the motivation that is usually put forward to explain why Aromanians came to Romania after 1925. In the following, we investigate whether the main reason of the colonization of the Aromanians in Romania was indeed patriotic. We discover that, to the contrary, the main reason for the emigration of Aromanians from Greece, Albania, and other Balkan countries was economic pressure. Even nationalist historians cite the economic motivation, though they contend that the patriotic motivation was stronger.
The war between Greece and Turkey (1919-1922) ended with the Lausanne Conference (January 20th 1923) that agreed to the following population exchange: 380,000 Turks left Greece for Turkey and 1,100,000 Greeks moved from Turkey to Greece. At the same time, another 100,000 Greeks came to Greece from Russia and Bulgaria. Therefore, the population of Greece increased by approximately 820,000 people (Clogg, R., 2006, p.112). These people were mainly settled in the region of Macedonia, where many Aromanians lived. According to Clogg (2006, p.116), the census taken in 1928 in Greece showed that almost half of the population of Macedonia consisted of refugees. The economic pressure on Aromanian shepherds in particular was huge because the pasturelands previously rented to them by Turks for their sheep to graze were not available anymore. Tanaşoca N. Ş., 2001, pp.163-164 describes the process as follows:
“The Turkish-Greek War that ended with the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 entailed the resettlement in Greek Macedonia of over one million Greeks from Asia Minor.
This act was a truly finishing stroke for Macedonian Aromanianism. Aromanian shepherding was destroyed by the parceling of the large pastures so that all the newcomers could receive a piece of land. The latter were protected in the practice of the liberal professions and in trade through a process perceived as a threat by Aromanians who suddenly faced competition.”
In 1923, Aromanians in Greece started to ask permission from the Romanian authorities to emigrate to Romania. An Aromanian Congress was held in Veria, Greece, on November 30th 1924 and the participants came to the conclusion that that pasture-land situation had made it very difficult to live in Greece.
A Committee was created in Bucharest on January 3rd 1925 to lobby the Romanian authorities to allow Aromanians to emigrate into Romania. The Romanian government decided on June 13th 1925 (Journal No. 1698) to colonize the area known as the Quadrilateral. The available land was to be distributed half to Aromanians and half to Romanians, but in the end the Aromanians received approximately one-third and the Romanians two-thirds of the available land.
What did the Aromanians ask for as conditions for their emigration? They asked at least 15 hectares for each family, free transport from their places to Romania, credit on long terms for building houses, and the intervention of the Romanian authorities with the Greek Government to compensate Aromanians for the goods they left in Greece. What did they get? Every family received 10 hectares inside the Quadrilateral and 15 hectares in the regions bordering it.
There is a debate about the number of the Aromanians who came to Romania during this period, which lasted from 1925 to 1943, though many scholars assert that after 1932 only a few Aromanians emigrated to Romania. They probably numbered around 30,000 (approximately 6000 families). Although the emigration process began in Greece, the first group of Aromanian émigrés was from Albania: the Baţu family came on July 20th 1925 and another 70 families came from Pleasa (Albania) in August 1925.
Surprisingly, almost half of the Aromanians who arrived in Romania during that period were from Bulgaria. Romania had gained the Quadrilateral from Bulgaria as a result of World War I, and it had worsened relations between the two countries significantly. Aromanians in Bulgaria came under tremendous pressure, through greatly increased taxes and fees, surcharges for crossing the border – which hit semi-nomadic groups like the Aromanians much harder than others – and the reduction of traditional pastures.
The most important and reliable sources describing the emigration process are HAGIGOGU S. (1927,2005), MUŞI V. (1935, 2005), and NOE C. (1938,2005), all three of whom were involved in these events.
Although they had been close friends, some disagreements among them are revealed in their writings. After the emigration began, another Congress was held in Veria on December 27th, 1925. The Congress appointed Hagigogu as their representative to the Romanian authorities. Muşi (1935, 2005, p. 114) described this Congress as useless and suggested that devious reasons were behind the meeting, without saying what these reasons were. This attitude arose from the rivalry among those charged with coordinating the colonization process. Concerning the dimension of emigration, for Hagigogu (1927, 2005, p. 19), as he mentioned, it was a disagreement between him on one side and Celea, Muşi and Noe on the other side.
Hagigogu supported the idea of a huge emigration. The other side supported only a restricted colonization. Hagigogu justified his option with economic reasons. The other side argued that the Romanian authorities didn’t support the emigration as expected and didn’t keep their promises concerning the colonization. This disagreement generated a discussion on January 1926 and the Muşi-Noe-Celea side won. A communication was released. It was established that the number of colonized families will be no more than 1500 in two years. This was the most significant disagreement that took place among the members of the Aromanian Committee who worked for colonization.
The Aromanians who had already been living in Romania strongly opposed this emigration. On one side there were the older Aromanians who left Macedonia when they were young. They were saying that the “fight” must go on and that the Romanian State should support the Aromanians in their native Balkan states by the old methods: schools, banks, priests and a bishopric. On the other side were young Aromanians born in Romania who opposed colonization because they thought that Romania would need the Aromanians from the Balkan states for a future enlargement. They believed that Romania could acquire large regions in southern Balkans by virtue of their claim to the Aromanians as countrymen. Still others thought that rather than try to acquire lands in South, Romania should build commercial influence in the same area using the Vlach network.
Further opposition came form Aromanian journals in Romania: for example, the journal Macedonia, published by Naum Nance, raised the idea of a future federalist state named “Macedonia,”  following the example of Switzerland. From this perspective, it was only natural that Nance supported the idea that the Aromanians should remain in their homelands (see Dobrogeanu I., 1994, p. 23 for this information). The following text was written in “Peninsula Balcanică” review.
“Did you realize? Do you know what an emigration is? Do you know what to leave forever your homeland means? Your homeland is the place were your parents were born in, the place you have your own houses in. Going to another land is the same as going into the unknown. Do you know that the land in Romania was given to the peasants and to all those who struggled in war? Do you know that the land is very expensive? There is no more land and no more pastures to be distributed. Did you think well of this decision you are about to make? Do those families have enough money to settle down and live? Are you sure that arriving there, you will not curse the hour when you left?”
The above text comes from an article entitled “Around the emigration’s stream” and signed by Turnus, a penname of the author. Noe said that the author put these words in the mouth of a politician, only to disguise his own ideas. Noe said he believed that “Turnus” was the penname for Apostol Hagigogu, the director of the journal. Sterie Hagigogu and Apostol Hagigogu were first cousins; if Noe’s hypothesis is accurate, we are discovering two cousins with two very different ideas.
The Macedo-Romanian Cultural Society, founded in Romania in 1879, is the oldest Aromanian Society. While at first the Society showed no enthusiasm for the emigration, in 1925 the Society decided to support the colonization process.
The Romanian Representative to Athens as well as some of the teachers in the Romanian schools in the southern Balkans (see Noe C., 1938, 2005, p 43) unexpectedly opposed the colonization.
During the colonization process, Aromanians complained about the behavior of the Romanian authorities, and the Romanian authorities also complained about behavior of Aromanian leaders. We can see this in Drăghicescu A., Petre M., 2004, p. 432, document no. 145 from May 27th 1927. The document is a report of the Minister of Instruction addressed to the Minister of the Foreign Affairs regarding the harsh situation of the Macedo-Romanians of Greece who lost their pastures to Greek refugees from Asia Minor.
In this report we find accusations against unnamed Aromanian leaders saying they had selfish goals as well as second thoughts when describing Romania as “the Promised Land.” The document also describe the case of two Aromanians, Dimitrie Caţara and Costa Gheorghiţă, who came to Romania to observe the conditions being offered. They saw what the real situation was and decided to return to Greece. The Minister of Instruction asked the Minister of the Foreign Affairs to help the afore-mentioned Aromanians return to Greece, since they had already signed a paper, required upon leaving Greece, in which they gave up their Greek citizenship and requested Romanian citizenship.
We found proposals regarding the situation of the Aromanians of Yugoslavia, Greece, and Bulgaria in a document (Drăghicescu A., Petre M., 2004, pp. 454-475, document no. 153) that consists of excerpts of the report of the inspectors I. Max Popovici and Victor Brabeţeanu, written after a trip in 1929 to the aforementioned countries.
In the Popovici-Brabeţeanu report we find accusations against two Aromanian leaders, G. Celea and D. Kehaia, as well as a recommendation to remove unofficial persons like them from the emigration process. At the same page, there is also a quotation from Langa Răşcanu, the Romanian Minister to Athens, who asked for prudence and patience regarding the emigration and colonization. He also warned against pushing Aromanians from Greece to emigrate to Romania.
The Popovici-Brabeţeanu report includes a strange accusation against Kehaia by Brabeţeanu – strange because Brabeţeanu assisted Kehaia in his mission to help Aromanians emigrate from Greece to Romania (see details in Noe C., 1938, 2005, pp. 56-59).
A very interesting remark (p. 459) is that the Aromanians who came to Romania belonged to both sides of the Romanian-Greek nationalist struggle: some felt that the Aromanians were Romanians and some felt that the Aromanians were Greeks. This questions the thesis cited at the beginning of this paper that only “those Aromanians who were still keen on their Romanity decided to emigrate to Romania.” (Tanaşoca Ş. N., 2001, p. 164).
In their concluding chapter, Popovici and Brabeţeanu recommended that Romania take an economic approach to the Aromanian issue and give up the nationalistic approach. They imagined a future commercial expansion of Romania with the Aromanians of the southern Balkans playing a major role. Accordingly, they felt it was desirable that Aromanians who were wealthy or at least in a good situation remain in their native lands.
For the poorest of the Aromanians, however, many of whom sold their goods with the expectation of emigrating, Popovici and Brabeţeanu felt the Romanian Government had a duty to bring them to Romania. They counted 2000 families in Greece, 500 in Bulgaria and 200 in Yugoslavia that were in this situation in 1929. They estimated the process would take 10-15 years and demanded proper plans to implement the colonization.
A very interesting document (Heinen A., 2006, p. 184, note 48) sheds some light on the 1929 travels of Popovici and Brabeţeanu:
“…with this trip, the Romanian Government aims to better organize the emigration of Aromanians (‘Cutso-Vlachs’ in the text) into Romania, untidy until now, but also to slow down this process. […] The experiences of the Romanian Government with the Cutso-Vlachs weren’t good. Generally, they kept their violent Macedonian habits, often wearing weapons and troubling Romanian authorities.”
Similar remarks appear in a memoir written at Silistra (Durostor County) in 1925 and signed by 33 intellectuals. The memoir warns the Romanian authorities about the mistake of bringing the Aromanians to Romania:
“The Macedo-Romanians, born and raised in the Southern Balkans, having Balkan habits, not knowing the Romanian language, with a different character than the Romanians from Romania, are not able to develop any activity here to correspond to Romanian national interests. […] The Aromanians, living so many centuries under the Turks, Greeks and Bulgarians, are nervous, hostile and vengeful.”
There were many quarrels between Aromanians who wanted to emigrate and those who decided to remain in their native places. For example, Drăghicescu A., Petre M., 2006, pp. 227-228, document no. 76, relates an incident that ends with a trial between the Aromanians who wanted to emigrate and those who decided to remain in Doliani (a village near Veria in Greece); the first side “won”.
The author of the document noted that the Aromanians who wanted to emigrate preferred to give their houses to Greek refugees for almost nothing instead of Aromanians who wanted to remain in Doliani. This was a result of their desire to convince the whole community to leave Doliani and go to Romania.
Two attempts by Aromanians who emigrated to Romania to return to their native places are mentioned in these documents. Both incidents took place in 1926, the first one in August when 84 poor families from Durostor County decided to return in Greece. These families were encouraged by I. Ghibănescu, the County President, who promised them free transport for their return. Noe C., 1938, 2005, p. 70, describes the event and its psychological mechanism:
“The disappointed colonizers started to regret the decision to come to Romania. The native places with high mountains, green hills, and clear waters, seem to them like paradise now. It is human nature to forget the troubles from the past and to focus only on the present problems. Therefore, some colonizers started to think about returning home, mainly those who were not involved in the national movement.”
The attempt to return failed when some colonizers who were nationalists organized a meeting and stopped the return. The second attempt in 1926 was on November 8th: 120 Aromanian families left their newfound villages and gathered in Silistra to return to their native lands. This time it was the Romanian Government that stopped them; it tried after that to improve the life of the colonizers.
An unpleasant event (with consequences further on, as we will see) took place in the spring of 1927: 100 Aromanian families waited more than 2 months in Salonika harbor to receive approval to come to Romania. They arrived in Constanţa on July 17th 1927 only after they had signed a paper in which they declared that they didn’t come to Romania as colonizers, but simply as citizens. This meant that they would not receive land or assistance of any kind (see Muşi V., 1935, 2005, p.128).
We will end this chapter with three testimonials. The first is a popular song that describes the emigration to Romania:
“Armâńl’i ditu Vâryârii “Aromanians from Bulgaria
Nchisirâ ti tu-Armânii Set out for Romania
Ta ş-l’ea locu di vâsilii To take land from the kingdom
Ta ş-bâneadzâ isihii.”  And live in peace.”
The song suggests that having and receiving land were the purposes of this emigration. The ambiguous expression “Ta ş-l’ea locu di vâsilii” could also means that, in this way, they will create their own country.
“Our old men are saying that life in Greece was better. They were free; they had 500-1000 sheep…”
This testimony is from 1970 and belongs to an Aromanian from Romania. We feel the regret of this man and the longing for the native place of his parents. This regret may have been caused by the lack of freedom and property in Romania during the communist regime.
“There were some people who said that in Romania the dogs walked with pretzels on their tails. Our people left the mountains; they left everything for a better life. This was lying propaganda. I regret that I came to Romania”.
This testimony is from 2003. It came from an 82 year old man, Vasile Bardu, from M. Kogălniceanu (Constanţa County). Interesting enough, when asked about the identity of the Aromanians he answered “Aromanians? Romanians, this is what they are.”
The Aromanians and the Iron Guard
“Every Aromanian is a legionnaire,” as members of the Iron Guard (the Romanian variant of Fascism) liked to call themselves. This saying became widespread in Romania during the prewar period.
First we will try to outline a short history for the events which led some Aromanians to join the Iron Guard. The second aim is to see the connection between the emigration process and the adhesion of some Aromanians to the Legion. The third goal of this chapter is to question the stereotype that “every Aromanian was a legionnaire.” We will also discuss the violence of some Aromanians involved in the Legionary Movement.
“All those who were raised during the nationalist fights in Macedonia, we had in mind the image of a spotless Great Romania (as you can only see from a distance). Once we arrived in the country, we felt disappointed.”
We find an interesting (and subjective) description of the reasons why many Aromanians joined the Iron Guard in Papanace C., 1999 (especially the “The Macedo-Romanians in the Legionary Movement” chapter, pp. 66-103. This chapter was originally a conference held in 1960 to commemorate 30 years from the date when the first Aromanian joined the Iron Guard). We will sketch only the main events.
The above quotation is from Papanace and suggests that the disappointment felt by many Aromanians was the first step in their future commitment to the Iron Guard. It was rooted in the difference between what the students from the Romanian schools in Macedonia learned about Romania and what they found when they arrived in the “Promised Land.” Papanace arrived in Romania in 1925 at age of 21. He and his colleagues started to attend Romanian universities and were involved in supporting the Aromanian colonizers who arrived in Romania beginning with the summer of 1925. At first they refused to join any political party.
In the spring of 1927, a delegation of students visited the Quadrilateral for ten days to show support for Aromanians who had settled in the area over the previous two years. The delegation was led by Tudose Popescu (a close friend of Corneliu Codreanu, founder of the Iron Guard, and one of the leaders of the student movement from 1922), Constantin Papanace (at that time Vice-President of the “Association of Macedo-Romanian Students”), and Iancu Caranica (secretary of the aforementioned association). A protest against I. Ghibănescu, the County-President of Durostor, was organized in Silistra. Another anti-Ghibănescu protest organized by students was held in Bucharest. As a result, Popescu and Papanace were jailed in the Jilava prison for two weeks (see Papanace C., 1997, pp. 191-203) in June 1927.
The first Aromanian group to join the Legionary Movement did so in the summer of 1930 and it did so as a direct result of the problems of the Aromanian colonizers in Quadrilateral. The most common way to hold property during the Ottoman regime was the mirie, as a property of the state that was rented to people. The question of land ownership had not been settled during the period when the Quadrilateral was under Bulgarian rule (1878-1913).
On April 1st 1914, the Romanian government had passed a “Law for Organizing the New Dobrogea (the Quadrilateral).” Some changes to the law were made on April 22nd 1924, the main change being that a person with a mirie property could become the owner of an absolute property only by giving one-third of the land to the state (and remaining an absolute owner of the other two thirds) or by paying the value of one-third of the maximal value of the land to the Romanian state. This is how Romania acquired land for the colonization.
On June 30th 1930, the Romanian Parliament – now under the control of the National Peasant Party (PNŢ) – voted to change the law again. The National Peasant Party had a strategy to acquire the support of the Bulgarians from Quadrilateral. To do so, they passed a law allowing that the Bulgarians could get back the third of the land that had been given to the state as a result of the previous law.
This change was perceived by the Aromanians as a violation of their rights. They felt they were in danger of losing their land – and this feeling was strengthened by the fact that the PNŢ Deputy who proposed this change in the law, Constantin Angelescu, was also the Deputy for Caliacra County (part of the area being colonized) as well as a State-Secretary in the Ministry for Internal Affairs.
On July 21th 1930, the half-Aromanian student George Beza made an attempt on the life of C. Angelescu. The attempt failed – Angelescu was only wounded. Beza had Legionary Movement leaflets with him. As a consequence, the Police put Corneliu Codreanu in prison, considering him the moral author of the attempt. He denied any connection with Beza’s attempt and was released. But when articles appeared in the press the next day saying that Codreanu rejected Beza’s attempt, Codreanu asserted that he would support Beza and defend him in court. Codreanu was again put in jail.
At the same time, a group of seven Aromanians signed a leaflet asserting that the attempt on Angelescu’s life was justified. They were put in prison, too. On July 24th 1930, on the way to Văcăreşti jail, they met Codreanu. They ended up spending 40 days together in prison. The Aromanian group consisted of Constantin Papanace, Iancu Caranica, Grigore Pihu, Anton Ciumetti, Gheorghe Ghiţea, Stere Ficăta, and one Mamali. They soon joined the Iron Guard. According to Papanace C., 1997, p. 177, Codreanu was impressed by the behavior of those 7 Aromanians in jail and said:
“Your moral health is from the source. In the mountains you kept all the treasures of your race. Once, my people were like you. Nowadays they are adulterated in many parts. I would like to heal our people, to have legionnaires like you.”
In his book (“Pentru legionari”, Editura Gordian, Timişoara, 1994, p. 438), Codreanu speaks about the adhesion of many Aromanians to his movement:
“The Macedonians approach us by brave, healthy youngsters who are clean like tears, nevertheless, we think that it is not a good thing that the mass of Macedonians from Quadrilateral join the Legion, since we do not want to expose them to too much oppression. But all the [Aromanian] students joined us”.
We have to mention here three conclusions:
1) Disappointment with the poor management of the colonization process by Romanian authorities was part of the mental process which ended with the adhesion of some Aromanians to the Legionary Movement.
2) Many Aromanians thought that their ethical sense was similar to the ethical sense promoted by the Legion. Many leaders of the Legion thought also that the Aromanians could be a prototype for the “new man” they were looking for.
3) The adhesion was most important among Aromanian students.
Next, we will discuss the problem of Aromanian violence. Let us remember that, for some people, the image of the Aromanians was that they were “nervous, hostile and vengeful.” The same idea was expressed by Emil Cioran in 1972:
“The Guards of the Dead were mainly uprooted Macedonians; generally, in this Movement the periphery was well represented.”
Let us now analyze the violence of the Aromanians who joined the Iron Guard. We mentioned above Beza’s unsuccessful attempt on Angelescu’s life. Beza was put in jail for one year and released in July 1931. George Beza (1907-1996) joined the Iron Guard. He acquired the title of “commander” of the Legion, but soon became alienated from the organization (see Heinen A., 2006, p. 254). He cooperated for a while with Mihail Stelescu (excluded from the Iron Guard on September 25th 1934) in editing the journal “Cruciada Românismului,” in which they criticized the Legion. In April 1936 he and Stelescu were placed on the Guard’s list of those who were to be punished for their betrayal (Heinen A., 2006, p. 278).
Beza joined PNŢ and had an important role during the Second World War (a monument was built in Jerusalem to honor Beza). His wife, Vasilichia Beza, wrote a book about their life (Beza V., 1993), in which she spoke about her husband’s career without mentioning his legionnaire past.
On December 29th 1933, the Prime Minister of Romania, I. G. Duca, was assassinated by three legionnaires. Two of them were Aromanians: Doru Belimace and Iancu Caranica. In actual fact, Nicolae Constantinescu, the third member of the group, was the one who killed Duca, but all three assumed responsibility for the murder. On the night of December 29/30th 1933, the Aromanian Sterie Ciumetti, cashier of the Legion, was killed by the Police (for not telling where Codreanu was, according to the legionnaires). Belimace, Caranica, and Constantinescu were sentenced to life in prison. (They were killed on November 30th 1938, together with Codreanu.)
We mentioned the case of the 100 Aromanian families who spent more than two months in Salonika harbor waiting for permission to emigrate to Romania in 1927. Iancu Caranica and Constantin Papanace requested an audience with I. G. Duca, then the Minister for Internal Affairs, in an attempt to solve the problem. Duca sent them to a subaltern; instead, they paid a visit to the Prime Minister, I. Brătianu, who, according to Papanace (see Papanace C., 1999, pp. 119-124), immediately solved the problem. We should note Muși, in contrast, contends the problem was solved by his own intervention (see Muşi V., 1935, 2005, p.128). Papanace suggested that the events in Salonika in 1927 and Duca’s opposition to the colonization of the Aromanians (1925) played an important role in the tragedy which took place in December 1933.
On July 16th 1936, Mihail Stelescu was killed by ten of his former colleagues. An Aromanian named Ion Caratănase was the leader of the group. According to Bordeiu P. D., p.20, note 18, Caratănase was born in 1909 (Hârşova, Constanţa County) and received the grade of Legionary Commander on July 4th 1934. He, too, was killed on November 30th 1938.
On September 21th 1939, Prime Minister Armand Călinescu was assassinated by a group of nine Iron Guard members. One of them, Ovidiu Isaia, was Aromanian. All nine were killed on the same day.
Although 64 people were killed by legionnaires in November 1940, not one of the murderers was Aromanian. Quite the opposite: five of the victims were Aromanians: Cola Bileca, Mita Bileca, Marius Baţu, Costa Culeţu, and Spiru Dumitrescu.
If we count the number of Aromanians involved in these Iron Guard crimes – four: Belimace, Caranica, Caratănase and Isaia – it is very difficult to assert that Aromanians were the killers of the Legionary Movement. At the same time, we cannot deny the potential violence among Aromanians.
In my opinion, the image of violent Aromanians emerges not from those Aromanians involved in the Iron Guard but rather from the violence in the Quadrilateral, in which Aromanian colonists where continually forced to organize themselves to fight the bands organized by the Bulgarian Internal Dobrujan Revolutionary Organization, which attacked Romanian outposts and Aromanian colonists in Southern Dobruja.
We should mention in passing that many Aromanian legionnaires were involved in the anticommunist resistance – see documents in Cojoc M., 2004; we can find very interesting oral histories in Conovici M., Iliescu S., Silivestru O., 2008 and in Mişa-Caragheorghe S. Many were imprisoned during the communist regime. The most important figures of the resistance were Nicolae and Dumitru Fudulea, Nicolae Ciolacu, and Gogu Puiu. Some Aromanian legionnaires succeeded in escaping from Romania and were involved in the so-called “third Aromanian rebirth.”
We are now questioning the assertion that “every Aromanian was a legionnaire.” We first have to look at the census of 1938, which recorded 108,404 Romanians in Quadrilateral, about 29% of the population (let us mention that in 1912 there were 6,602 Romanians in the Quadrilateral, meaning 2.3 % of the population). If we consider that there were at most 30,000 Aromanians in Quadrilateral in 1938 (since only 30,000 Vlachs came to Romania after 1925), we reach the conclusion that the Aromanians were at most 8% of the population of the Quadrilateral in 1938.
In the election of December 1937, the party representing the Iron Guard, “Totul pentru Ţară (All for the Country),” obtained 15.58% of the votes in all of Romania (see Bordeiu P.D., 2003, pp. 351-352 and Heinen A., 2006, pp. 466-467). In Caliacra they obtained 9.86% of the votes and in Durostor 8.80%. This means that, in the Quadrilateral, the legionnaires obtained only half of the total percentage of votes they received elsewhere.
If we suppose that all Aromanians were legionnaires, the only possibility was that the “Totul pentru Ţară” party didn’t get a single vote from any of the more than 78,000 Romanians of the region.
In fact there were many Aromanians who were liberals. There were two reasons for that: first, many Aromanians were merchants and traders and it was natural for them to support a liberal party, and second, the liberal party (PNL) led by Ionel Brătianu had supported the settlement of Aromanians in Quadrilateral.
I am very indebted to the historian researcher Raluca Tomi, who showed me an informative note from February 17th 1935 (CNSAS, the operative Archives, Gheorghe Brătianu file, file No. 10176, volume no. 2, leaf 14):
“The PNL-Gh.Brătianu leaders, V.Papacostea and C. Giurescu, presented to Gheorghe Brătianu an action plan for gathering the Macedonian colonizers in the party. This plan has the following points:
1) To make a “Macedonian section” inside the youth organization of the party, having as a duty only to make propaganda in Dobrogea.
2) To edit a paper in the Aromanian dialect in Bazargic, to acquire influence over the “Macedo-Romanian Cultural Society”.
3) To have the Research Department of the party analyze the problems of the Macedo-Romanians.
4) To adopt a policy for the emigration of Macedo-Romanians to Romania.” 
Let us note that (Bordeiu P.D., 2003, pp. 351-352 and Heinen A., 2006, pp. 466-467) the PNL-Gh.Brătianu obtained 3.89% of the national vote in 1938. In Caliacra County they obtained 1.55% and in Durostor County they obtained 8.68%. The percentage obtained in Durostor was amazing. It was 2.23 times greater than the national score.
Approximately 3500 Aromanian families were settled in Durostor County and 2500 in Caliacra County (their population density was also greater in Durostor than in Caliacra). We can safely conclude that the Iron Guard had more sympathy among Aromanians in Caliacra County and that PNL-Gh.Brătianu had more support among Aromanians in Durostor County.
In connection with the third point of the Liberal Party document above, we should note that in 1935 Vasile Muşi was a member of PNL-Gh.Brătianu party (after he had been a member of PNŢ). The very important study by Muşi, Un deceniu de colonizare în Dobrogea-Nouă 1925-1935, could be seen as a part of this plan.
We notice that in Muşi V., 1935, 2005, Gheorghe Brătianu appears in two places: at page 129 we find the description of the visit of Gheorghe Brătianu to Quadrilateral on August 1927. There are two quotations from Gheorghe Brătianu in which he praised the qualities of the Aromanians and promised support for them.
The second place where Brătianu appears is in the very end of the book, page 171. The book ends with a quotation from Gheorghe Brătianu. Brătianu praised once again the skill of the Aromanians for trade and felt that Aromanians should be brought to Romania to become the country’s economic elite.
The great quarrel: What is the status of the Aromanians in Romania?
It is generally accepted that the reopening of the Aromanian issue was a result of the activity of some Aromanians who had left Romania during the communist regime. For example, Tanaşoca N. Ş., 2001, p.164, expresses the following opinion on the subject:
“The reopening of the Aromanian issue was recently initiated by certain groups of extremely active Aromanian émigrés in Western Europe. For the time being, it is too early to venture an opinion as to these attempts. However, it is noticeable that the goal of these efforts is different from earlier efforts. These partisans insist upon the separateness of Aromanians in regard to the Romanian state and its citizens. To them, Aromanians are ethnically different from Romanians, and they view the Aromanian dialect as a separate language.
“These points of view, however, are not innovations derived from accurate study. Rather, they are dictated by political opportunism. In major national issues, such distractions can only be detrimental. At any rate, they are out of place.”
We will try first to provide an outline of the evolution of the third Aromanian rebirth. The idea of the segregation of the Aromanians from the Romanians appeared much earlier from very unexpected quarters: “[The great Romanian historian] Alexandru D. Xenopol… adopted an extreme point of view whereby he questioned – with certain contradiction and second thoughts – the whole hypothesis concerning the Romanian identity of the Vlach people and their language. He was tempted to identify them as an ethnic group and their language as Romanic, not Romanian.” (see Tanaşoca N. Ş., 2001, p.102). The second thoughts mentioned by Tanaşoca probably refer to Xenopol’s strategy to counteract those who questioned the idea that Romanians were autochthones north of Danube (especially Rősler); see Boia L., 2005, pp. 192-194, for this question. In Xenopol A.D., 1998, p.173 we find this opinion:
“Daco-Romanians and Macedo-Romanians are two different people by their origin. They resemble very much since they are a mix of the same elements.”
Even if we put aside the opinion of Xenopol, we will find that it was not “groups of extremely active Aromanian émigrés in Western Europe” that gave birth to the idea of segregation between Aromanians and Romanians.
Consider Taşcu Ionescu, an Aromanian born in Gopeş (now in the Republic of Macedonia) who subsequently moved to Sofia, Bulgaria. We will use documents no. 27, no. 188 and no. 311 from Drăghicescu A., and Petre M., 2006. Document no. 188 is a “report of the Romanian Embassy in Sofia, to the minister of Foreign Affairs, Grigore Gafencu, containing comments on a memorandum of Taşcu Ionescu […] who requested that the Aromanians should be acknowledged as a distinct nation, and the Aromanian dialect should be implemented in the schools financed by the Romanian state in the Balkan Peninsula.” In this document (pp.384-385) we find the following:
“M. Ionescu, the one who disputes the ethnic identity between the Romanians and Aromanians, criticizes the policy of the Romanian state regarding the Aromanian issue and the policy of the Macedo-Romanian Cultural Society. He also criticizes ‘forcing’ the Aromanians to learn in the ‘Romanian dialect’ and encouraging their settlement in Romania.”
In the same document, dated March 28th 1940, we find that Taşcu Ionescu supported the old idea of a future federalist autonomous state “Macedonia” under Italian protection (or, if not possible, an Aromanian canton).
Document no. 311 (pp. 601-605) is a “Memorandum drawn up by Taşcu Ionescu […] regarding the situation of the Aromanians in the Balkan Peninsula. He proposed the creation of a Macedo-Romania (Aromania) with a church head subordinated to the Romanian Patriarchy, placed under the protection of the League of Nations.” This Memorandum (dated August 26th 1945) is addressed to the leaders of the Great Britain, USA, USSR, France, Italy, and Romania. He asked the same thing as he asked in 1940 but, for obvious reasons, he proposed that the future state Aromania be under the protection of the League of Nations. He also requested that the Aromanians should participate in the Peace Conference and Salonika should be a porto franco (free port).
Document no. 27 (pp. 160-161), is an earlier one, from January 20th, 1926 , and it is a “report of the Romanian Legation in Sofia to the Minster of Foreign Affairs, I. G. Duca, regarding the conflict between a part of the Aromanian community and the priest Stelian Iliescu of the Romanian church in Sofia. Some members of the community requested the sermon be conducted in the dialect, a Macedonian priest, compliance with the old calendar, the obtaining of profits from the use of church land.” Taşcu Ionescu is mentioned as a member of the group that was fighting against the Romanian priest. He even started to collect signatures for a complaint to be sent to the Romanian Government against the priest.
After Taşcu Ionescu, it was Constantin Papanace (1904-1985) who suggested another approach for the Aromanian Issue. Although he was a Romanian nationalist and thought that the Aromanians were Romanians, he was a political realist. After the Second World War, he went to live to Italy. He realized two things: first, that the communist regime in Romania would give up supporting the Aromanians, and second, that the plan for a future united Europe (imagined in 1949 in Western Europe) would be the best solution to obtain rights for the Aromanians, especially those from Greece. Greece hosted the largest Aromanian group in the Balkans and it had the advantage of being the only Balkan state not under a communist regime.
“In any situation that you will be in, you have to find your way guided by the Aromanian perspective.”
Papanace sent two memoranda to the United Nations: one in 1951 and the other in 1952 (the second one can be found in Brezeanu S., Zbuchea G., pp. 357-359, document no. 167). He asked for a UN inquiry into the situation of the Aromanian minority in the Balkans. He asked that the Aromanian people be given the right to have their own schools and churches and to have administrative autonomy in the regions where they were a majority.
On May 10th 1954, he attended the fourth Congress of the Federal Union of European Nationalities in Rome, where he gave a talk about the Aromanian issue. He recounted his demands in the memoranda he had submitted in 1951 and 1952 to UN.
In 1975 the Helsinki Treaty was signed by the member states of CSCE (OSCE today, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). The Treaty included, among other things, a commitment that Human Rights would be respected in those states that signed the document. This was the starting point of the third Aromanian rebirth.
In 1978, Vasile Barba (1918-2007) wrote an article in the “Noi Tracii” revue (no. 2, 1978), published by the controversial Iosif Constantin Drăgan in Italy. At that time Barba, who was born in Greece, lived in Romania. The paper was titled “The Aromanians: A forgotten national minority which claims its rights.” In this paper, Barba demanded recognition for the Aromanians as a distinct national minority in the states where they lived. He also demanded rights for the Aromanians to be educated in their mother tongue, to hold religious services in Aromanian in their churches, to support their cultural associations, and to have newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs in Aromanian. This was the plan which was followed by Barba during his life.
In 1981 he was at UN headquarters in New York with a group of Aromanians from all the parts of the world. He submitted a memorandum with the above demands.
In Romania, in 1982, Barba published many Aromanian texts with German translation (Barba C., Barba. V, 1982). Strangely enough, one of the texts (pp. 82-83), which is a sort of letter sent from an old man to his nephew, is not translated into German. All the political demands mentioned above appeared in this text, written only in Aromanian. In the same book there is a picture of the Aromanian group in front of UN headquarters in 1981.
It is strange that all these activities took place while Barba lived in communist Romania. When he retired in 1983, he left Romania for West Germany. What was the attitude of the communist authorities? We cannot answer. We can only say that they allowed Barba’s activities, which contradicted official communist policy not to interfere with the internal affairs of another state. Did the authorities agree with his demands? It is possible that the communist authorities allowed Barba to go to West Germany so his actions concerning the Aromanians could continue without implicating the Romanian state.
On October 1980, AFA (the Association of Aromanians from France), sent a memorandum to the CSCE Conference in Madrid entitled, “Une nation européene sans droits nationaux.” The President of AFA, Iancu Perifan, included a text very similar to Barba’s paper of 1978.
On January 1st 1981, after Greece joined the European Economic Community, the first Aromanian associations appeared in Greece.
After he left Romania, Barba created in West Germany the UALC (Union for Aromanian Language and Culture). This society organized five Aromanian Congresses in 1985, 1988,1993,1996, and 1999. The first one was held in Mannheim and the others in Freiburg.
Starting in 1984, he published the Aromanian review “Zborlu a Nostru” (“Our Word”). He made some changes in the Romanian-based alphabet long used by pro-Romanian Vlachs, distancing himself from them intentionally or unintentionally. This began a long quarrel, “the alphabet quarrel,” which saw his alphabet named “the barbarian alphabet,” a mockery of his name. The some impolite mockery was used against Tiberiu Cunia, the prolific Aromanian publisher who used virtually the same alphabet – his version was called “cuneiform”.
Barba was tenacious in following his plan. Through his efforts, on May 30th 1994, a proposal concerning the Aromanians was presented to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The proposal was presented by a group led by the Italian M.Ferrarini (see Brezeanu S., Zbuchea G., document no. 176, pp. 368-369 for this text). In addition to the demands Barba had made in his 1978 paper, the group asked for a report concerning the Aromanian issue. The Committee on Culture and Education appointed Luis Maria de Puig as rapporteur. A preliminary form of the report can be found in Brezeanu S., Zbuchea G., document no. 181, pp. 374-376.
On June 24th 1997, the report (Document 7728) was presented to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for debate (18th Sitting). In the same day, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted Recommendation 1333 (1997) on Aromanian culture and language, the most important achievement for the Aromanians ever, which included the following language:
“The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
i) encourage Balkan states which comprise Aromanian communities to sign, ratify and implement the European Charter of regional or Minority languages and invite them to support the Aromanians, particularly in the following fields:
a) education in their mother tongue;
b) religious services in Aromanian in their churches;
c) newspapers, magazines and radio and television programmes in Aromanian;
d) support for their cultural associations;
ii) invite the other member states to support the Aromanian language, for instance by creating university professorships in the subject and disseminating the most interesting products of Aromanian culture throughout Europe by means of translations, anthologies, courses, exhibitions and theatrical productions.”
It is noteworthy that the above document did not request recognition of the Aromanians as a distinct national minority. L.M. de Puig assumed this fact and said that he wanted to avoid all the political implications, in order to put his report in a cultural perspective.
A violent debate followed in Romania, on two issues: (A) whether the Recommendation applied to Romania or not, and (B) the concession made by de Puig and Barba in leaving the minority issue out of the recommendation.
A very good analysis of the Aromanians in Romania after 1989 can be found in Trifon N., 2007. We will try to outline the process which reached its climax on April 16th 2005, when the Aromanian Community in Romania (CAR) asked for recognition as a national minority.
The first person who spoke openly in Romania about recognition of the Aromanians in Romania as a national minority was Dumitru Piceava (born in 1941 in Romania), director of the Aromanian review “Bana Armânească” (Aromanian Life). The review, which first appeared in 1996, is written entirely in Aromanian.
In Romania, before 1996, only one voice was heard: the voice of those who asserted the traditional thesis that the Aromanians were Romanians. This “voice” spoke also about the other thesis, that the Aromanians were a distinct group, and warned of the danger of “segregation.”
In his Ph.D. thesis, Thede Kahl (Kahl T., 1999, pp. 128-132), published the results of his research during the years 1996-1998 concerning the Aromanians. For the Aromanians from Romania, the results were: 41% of them considered themselves as an ethnic minority and 59% thought the opposite; 66% of them considered themselves as a linguistically minority and 34% thought the opposite; 5% of them felt discriminated against, 85% said that they were not discriminated against, and 10% didn’t answer this question; 29% of them considered Aromanian a separate language, 69% considered Aromanian as a dialect of Romanian, and 2% considered Aromanian a mixed idiom. Since the number of those interviewed was small, we cannot say much about this data beyond the fact that the results are quite interesting.
On April 16th 2005, the Aromanian Community in Romania (CAR) asked for recognition of the Aromanians as a national minority. This decision was taken by vote. There were 524 people at this meeting. With one exception (an abstention), all the people present voted for recognition.
CAR was created in 1991 and reactivated in 2003-2004. The President of CAR was Costică Canacheu (born in 1958), a very well-known politician in Romania, followed by Steriu Samar, the current President. The Association has some 7,000 members (in 2003, CAR had 3,300 members). The position that the Aromanians should be recognized as national minority is shared by LAR (the League of Aromanians from Romania). The Macedo-Romanian Cultural Society supports the traditional view that the Aromanians are Romanians with some distinct features that must be preserved. The same position is shared by the “Picurarlu de la Pind” (Shepherd of the Pindus) society. In a press release on June 6th 2005, the Romanian Academy strongly criticized the request of CAR:
“We have in front of us a diversion which springs from the mercantile interests of some groups inside and outside the country, a diversion which ignores the true history of this branch of Eastern Romanity and of the Aromanian dialect… […] The Aromanians from Romania came to this country by their own will, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries, since they considered themselves Romanians. They came to have a country of their own, to no longer be the subject of injustices in the place were they were born and where they were autochthones. […] Admitting an Aromanian minority in Romania will be the greatest absurdity in the contemporary history of the Aromanians.”
The other side didn’t resist accusing their opponents in return. The accusations were almost the same: the “others” have interests, the “others” want to keep their good positions in Romanian society, the “others” broke their links with the community and, therefore, they are traitors. Neither side showed restraint in its approach. It is quite likely that an outside observer would think the Aromanians are indeed violent.
There were many theories to explain the reasons for this unexpected and violent division among the Aromanians in Romania. Some said it was a rift between old and young generations, others that it was between elite and ordinary Aromanians, still others that it was between fărşeroţi and grămustean (Aromanian sub-groups: Farsharotsi hail from southern Albania, while Gramushteani come from the area of Mt. Grammos). While there may be an element of truth in these facile stereotypes, we should be cautious about taking this type of approach too seriously.
Following are some conclusions which I believe explain the great quarrel that has taken place in the last decade and a half:
Most Aromanians who decided to settle in Romania did so because of powerful economic motivations.
A heterogeneous and mixed Aromanian population came to Romania. Some of them considered themselves Romanians; others considered themselves different from the Romanians. Generally, today, most Aromanians continue the self-identification tradition of their families.
Nevertheless, settlement in Romania did lead to some changes. For example, those who suffered in World War II or in prisons along with their families drew closer to a Romanian identity. On the other side were Aromanians who felt that their settlement in Romania was poorly managed by the Romanian authorities, or who felt that their ancestors made the wrong decision when they came to Romania – especially those whose ancestors came from Greece, which ended up a free, prosperous country as opposed to the totalitarian, poor Romanian state under communism.
An unexpected result of the settlement in Romania was the creation of a super-regional Aromanian identity. The idea that colonization would provide a Romanian answer to the Aromanian question may have been an illusion. But the Romanian state gave different Aromanian groups who settled in the Quadrilateral the opportunity to live together in a small region, which strengthened their Aromanian identity. For this reason, Aromanians on both sides of this argument should be grateful to the Romanian state.
In a way, this “quarrel” is a continuation of the typically strong competition that exists among Aromanians, which is well described by an Aromanian proverb: “two Aromanians, two chiefs.” I prefer to see it as a competition between two teams, each team working to find the best solution for Aromanian survival. In this view, their goals are the same, they simply differ on the best way to achieve those goals.
This in turn offers the possibility that there is more than one answer to the Aromanians’ identity issue: indeed, a plural model of self-identification may not only be possible but also necessary for Aromanian survival.
* Alexandru Gica was born on 3 February 1969 in Bucharest, Romania. His grandparents (Taki Gica, Marenca Piceava, Hristu Geaca, Vanghea Stamu) were Aromanians born in Megala Livadia – Paiko, Greece. His parents (Gheorghe Gica, Despa Geaca) were born in the Quadrilateral.
He is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Bucharest, where he teaches in the Department of Mathematics. Gica gained his PhD in 2001 and his research interest is Number Theory.
Alexandru also served as a New Europe College Fellow in 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 with a research project concerning the recent history of the Aromanians. He is a member of SCA (The Aromanian Cultural Society in Bucharest). This paper and the one following it were written for the New Europe College (NEC) Yearbooks of 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 and are reprinted here with the kind permission of the NEC and the author.
BARBA, C, BARBA, V, Das Süddonau-latein heute, Piatra Neamţ, 1982.
we quote Muşi V., 1935, 2005, p.94 we mean that we quote from the republished
version HAGIGOGU, S, MUŞI, V, NOE, C, 2005. The same will be true for Noe C.,
1938, 2005 and Hagigogu S., 1927, 2005.
O “secţiune macedoneană” în
sânul organizaţiei tineretului georgist, însărcinată exclusiv cu propaganda în
See Papanace C., Fără Căpitan,
Editura Elisavaros, Bucureşti, 1997, p. 150.