At first glance, Asterios Koukoudis’s Studies on the Vlachs is a huge index of all the Vlach villages in the southern Balkans, an index that includes a historical review of the ancestral Vlach villages and a lengthier account of the history of the Vlach villages in Central Macedonia. In order to amass this vast quantity of material, Mr Koukoudis worked not only in libraries and archives, but with the Vlachs themselves. The sheer volume of material alone makes this work commendable; but its contribution to the history of the Vlachs is much greater.

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As he recounts and records the history of the dense Vlach diaspora, from its ancestral villages along the spine of the Pindos Mountains to the furthermost reaches of the southern Balkans, and even beyond, Mr Koukoudis reveals how much the Vlachs have contributed to the development of the Greek urban class in this region. And this means that the Vlachs should not be regarded as a Hellenised group or as a group divided among the various forms of early twentieth-century national propaganda, but as a genuine branch of Romiosyni.

Mr Koukoudis asserts that questions relating to the Vlachs’ origins and their genuine or falsified identity are superfluous. This is because, both in central and northern Greece and in the neighbouring Balkan countries, whatever the Greeks have to be proud of in the spheres of educational, economic, and revolutionary activity, from at least the end of the eighteenth century to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, was achieved to a very great extent with the fundamental assistance of the Vlachs.

I do not say this to flatter the Vlachs. It is a historical fact. For various historical reasons, from the middle of the Ottoman period onwards, capital and authority in central and northern Greece were concentrated in the Pindos Mountains and their wider area, which was where the remnants of the Roman and Byzantine Latin-speakers survived. Thus, the Vlachs emerged onto the stage of modern history as a class of prosperous stockbreeders and traders, but also as klefts and armatoles. From their ranks came many of the nation’s teachers and fighters in Thessaly, Epiros, and Macedonia, as also large numbers of merchants and craftsmen, who were pillars of the Greek Orthodox communities in urban centres all over the Balkans.

All this, together with what Mr Koukoudis has to say, makes it clear that the Vlachs cannot be regarded either as a picturesque remnant of the vanished pastoral life of the mountains, a kind of museum piece, or as a minority easily manipulated by shrewd patrons. The Vlachs are not a minority, nor are they just fustanella-clad Vlach-speakers; they are primarily city-dwellers spread over almost the entire Greek mainland, and have made an enormous contribution to building this Greek homeland of ours. The evidence is there, from the impressive neoclassical buildings in Athens to the schools in the Macedonian market towns; from the first prime minister of Greece, Ioannis Kolettis, and the illustrious national benefactors to the forever unsung heroes from the Vlach villages who were slain during the Macedonian Struggle and the Axis Occupation.

Konstandinos Stefanopoulos
President of Hellenic Republic

 

 

The Life of the Vlachs at 1900

The Life of the Vlachs at 1900

 

Photographic collection
Asteriou Koukoudi

Photographic collection Asteriou Koukoudi

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