The Megleno-Romanians

The Megleno-Romanians or Meglen Vlachs or Moglenite Vlachs (Megleno-Romanian: Vlashi; Greek: Vlachomoglenítes; Romanian: Meglenoromâni, Megleniţi, or Vlaşi) are a small Eastern Romance people, currently inhabiting seven villages in the Moglena region spanning the Pella and Kilkis prefectures of Central Macedonia, Greece, and one village, Huma, across the border in the Republic of Macedonia. This people live in an area of approximately 300 sq. km in size. They speak a Romance language most often called by linguists Megleno-Romanian or Meglenitic in English, and Vlachomoglenítika or simply Moglenítika in Greek. The people themselves call their language Vlaheshte, but the Megleno-Romanian diaspora in Romania also uses the term Megleno-Română. Unlike the Aromanian Vlachs, the other Romance speaking population in the same historic region, the Meglen Vlachs are traditionally sedentary agriculturalists, and not traditionally transhumants.

Historians Ovid Densusianu and C. Jirecek considered that Megleno-Romanians descend from a mixture of Romanians with Pecenegs, settled in Moglen by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos in 1091. They argued this based in part on the Asian-like facial appearance (more prominent cheek bones) of Meglen Vlachs. By contrast, Gustav Weigand and George Murnu believed that Megleno-Romanians are descendants of the Romanian-Bulgarian Empire that retreated to Moglen. Pericle Papahagi argued another version, that Megleno-Romanians are descendants of a group of Romanians who were incorrectly called Vlachs. Theodor Capidan, studying the resemblance of the Megleno-Romanian language with Romanian and other languages, concluded that Megleno-Romanians must have spent some time in the Rhodope Mountains before moving on to Moglen (due to similar elements with the language of the Bulgarians in the Rhodopes).

From the medieval and modern periods, it is known that Moglen Vlachs had an administration of their own. Each village was led by a captain. Their economic and social center was the town of Nânta. After the incursions of the Pomaks of Moglen against the Ottomans, the latter started a persecution campaign against villages in the area, including those of the Moglen Vlachs. Most of the villages were put under the administration of an Ottoman bei, who exploited them to the extreme in exchange for their security. The village of Osani, however, resisted much longer before being subdued by the Ottomans, because its captain was more skilled militarily.

Most Meglen Vlachs are Orthodox Christians, but the population of the village of Nânti (Nótia), which in 1900 had a population of 3,660, of which 3,500 Megleno-Romanians, in the Upper Karadjova Plain converted to Islam in the 17th or 18th century. It is the only case among Eastern Romance populations with an entire community converting to Islam. The entire population of this village was forcefully expelled to Turkey in 1923, as part of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, where they mostly settled in Kırklareli and Şarköy, and became known as Karadjovalides after the Turkish name of Moglen.

In 1926, about 450 families of Megleno-Romanians of Greece moved to Romania, and settled in Southern Dobruja (Cadrilater), a region which became Romanian in 1913. They originated from the villages of Osani, Liumnita, Cupa, Lundzini, Birislav, Livezi, and were settled in villages around the city of Durostor such as Cocina, Cazimir, Capaclia, Bazarghian, Aidodu, Tatar Admagea, Uzungi Ozman, Strebarna Viskioi, Cadichioi, Haschioi. After Bulgaria re-acquired Southern Dobruja from Romania in 1940, the Megleno-Romanians moved to other regions of Romania, many of them to the village of Cerna in Tulcea County, in northern Dobruja. 270 families of Megleno-Romanians and 158 families of Aromanians settled in this village in 1940. Between 1940 and 1948, the Aromanian families moved to other localities of Dobruja. Another wave of Megleno-Romanians emigrated to Romania and to other countries during World War II and the Greek Civil War, due to the heavy fighting carried out in the Moglená region. As of 1996, in all Romania there were about 820 families that claimed Megleno-Romanian origin.

However, their small overall number led to the fact that after 1950 mixed marriages with Romanians were more often, unlike the Aromanians who by the nature of their traditional occupations have developed a special psychology, gaining weight in the Romanian society and preserving their people (very few mixed marriages with Romanians occuring). However, due to the hardships this small community has passed through, Megleno-Romanians in Romania remain very united, with a very sharp national sentiment. During their weddings, they use the Romanian tricolor as a furgliţa (wedding flag), and very rarely the traditional white-red colors. This illustrates the fact that despite their distinct (albeit also East Romanic) language, identity-wise, Megleno-Romanians in Romania identify themselves as Romanians. According to one observer, they consider themselves "more Romanian than the Romanians". (From Wikipedia)