“Vlachs” is a collective name for several smaller related ethnic groups from Southeast Europe who were descendants of Roman colonists and Romanized local ancient peoples such as Illyrians and Thracians. They inhabited the territories of southeastern Romania, eastern Serbia, parts of Macedonia, northern Greece, northeastern Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. In a large part of the former ethnic area, the Vlachs completely assimilated over the centuries among the Serbs, Croats and other Balkan ethnic groups. The term “Vlachs” or “Vlaji” in Dalmatia and Istria eventually became the name for Croats living in rural areas in the hinterland further from the sea (and in which there used to be Vlachs who eventually assimilated with Croats).
Vlachs were also called Arumunji, Aromani and similar, which at that time meant “Roman”. In their languages, the word for their peoples is usually a variation of the word “Romanus”. Today, the Vlachs are mostly Orthodox or, in some parts of Croatia (Žumberak), Greek Catholics.
They were characterized by autarky, the retention of pagan beliefs and customs to the present day, as well as the practice of certain magical rituals. They lived a semi-nomadic life and were mainly engaged in animal husbandry.
With the Ottoman conquests, the Vlachs moved north and west and settled a large part of the Croatian historical territory around the later Croatian Military Border. In this area, they initially acted for the Turkish interests of guarding the border. They also often participated together with the Ottomans in military campaigns against Croatia. Over time, the situation began to change. The Habsburgs offered them large amounts of money to go over to their side and guard the Croatian Military Border on their side. That’s how they moved to the Christian side, because as nomads and semi-nomads, they were not tied to the land, and they took their livestock with them. In order to settle them firmly on their side, the Habsburgs granted them numerous privileges called “Statuta Valachorum” (“Vlachian Statutes”) in 1630, to the detriment of the Croatian nobility. At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, the Serbian Orthodox Church began to send priests among the Orthodox Vlachs in Croatia and Northern Bosnia in order to bring them closer and attract them to Serbian interests by promoting the then Serbian political national “agenda”. Thus begins the process of Serbization of the Vlachs in this area. Most of them later, as the population censuses were introduced, began to declare themselves as Serbs…
Today, there are almost no Croatian citizens who identify as Vlachs. According to the 2001 census, there were 12, and in 2011, 29.