Last modified: 2004-07-03 by rob raeside
Keywords: chopes | romania: chopes | torvlaks | aromanian | vlach |
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by Ivan Sache
From Franciae Vexilla #8/54, January 1998, notes by M. Corbic:
In the middle of the XIXth century, along with the revival of Serbian and Bulgarian, appears the idea of a Balkanic Federation. In Bucharest, the Prime Minister Mihail Kogalniceanu, supported by Prince Ion Cuza, designed in 1863 the flag of Romanian-speaking peoples of Southern Danube, a.k.a. Chopes or Torvlaks.
The flag has five horizontal stripes, red-yellow-blue- yellow-black (R/Y+/B-/Y+/N). Red stands for national freedom and culture gained by the Romanians of the North Danube, yellow for the Danubian plain, light blue for Danube which both separates and unifies the same people, and black for the darkness in which the Valach-Romanians of the South-Danube still live.
The flag was used in 1867 by the South-Danube nationalists, in 1877-1878 by the Chop volunteers during the Ottoman wars, and in 1919 for the revindication of the rights of Romanian-speaking peoples of South-Danube during the Paris conference. Later on, its use was clandestine because of Serbian and Bulgarian repression.
[The definition of the Chop people seems to be difficult and controversial and the article is not very clear. It seems that these
people are spread over western Bulgaria and eastern Yugoslavia, and have lost the
Moravo-Romanian language spoken by their ancestors, and were not recognized as a nationality by the Yugoslav and Bulgarian regimes. However, more objective data are needed, knowing the virulent anti-communism of Franciae Vexilla.]
Ivan Sache, 09 October 1999
Chopes seems to be derived from 'Tchobani', the Albanian word for 'shepherds'; 'Vlakh' was the name Germans and Slavs used for Latin speaking people, in Italy, Switzerland, but also in Wallachia. Torvlak (I suppose) points at the Vlakhs near the Iron Gate in the Danube, but I might be wrong. In the very heavy L'Europe et ses Populations, by A & Y Miroglio, 1978, these tribes in the Balkans are collectively called 'Macedo-Roumains', to wit: Aroumains, Vlaques, Tsintsari, Coutzo-Vlaques, Farcherots (in French); Armani, Vlahi, Ta^ntari, Cuto-Vlahi, Pa^rseroti (in Romanian). So the Chopes may be related to the Morlaks, etc.
Jarig Bakker, 10 October 1999
I do not know much about this, but comparing the names of these people with some names given in the article from Yugoslav Encyclopedia I translated and posted not so long ago, it could be concluded that these are the same or at least very much realted people as several "Morovalachian" (I put this in quotes as there are so many names for them, and I do not remember if this one is appropriate) groups in Macedonia.
I was not aware that they were ever so numerous (and "progressive" in a sense of developed national feeling) as to make a political movement..
It is well known that in Bulgaria it was particularly strong tendency of (official) national assimilation after WWII, that it is not
surprising that there are some things that were hidden for us
Zeljko Heimer, 10 October 1999
In Geschiedenis der Europeesche Volken, J. G. Kohl, 1874 (translated from German) I read this on p. 108:
'In the nationality-wars, which broke out in 1849 on the borders of the Danube the Wallachians gave the Western European watchers the magnificent spectacle of armies led by "Centurions" and "Decurions" and on their banners and flags the classical letters S. P. Q. R. (Senatus Populusque Romanus)' He quotes books of Countess Dora d'Istria, a daughter of the Wallachian
Prince Ghika. She sympathized especially with the Italian freedom fighters, whom she called brothers of the Wallachians.
Jarig Bakker, 10 October 1999
It is suggested above that the name "Chopes" may be derived from the Albanian
"tchobani", supposedly the Albanian word for shepherd. While I am in no position
to attest to this, I do attest that in the Romanian language the translation for
shepherd is "cioban" (the first syllable is pronounced as in "chalk"). Of course
it is highly likely that the Albanian word and the Romanian word for shepherd to
be the same or have the same origin and therefore bear resemblance. As a child I
have heard about the "žānžari" (tzintzari, in case you language setting cannot
read UTF), also named "aromāni", in the southern fields of Romania. I have never
heard of them called by any name resembling the word "chope".
George Barbarosie, 27 October 2003
The flag reported here is not an ethnic flag, but a regional flag, for the
region Tribalia. Tribalia was populated by Wallachians and was in the Southern
Danubian area from the Morava River in Serbia to the Yantra River in Bulgaria.
Prince Cuza, his prime minister Mihail Cogalniceanu and the Wallachian Vasile
Cancea (exiled in Vidin) designed the flag for use of the people in the region.
The flag was baptised in 1863 in a church on Vidin and in 1864 was used by the
Bulgarian Legion of Cancea, formed in Beograd. Cancea was executed by the
Ottomans in 1873, and became a national hero
Source is Emblčmes et Pavillons.
Jaume Ollé, 12 February 2004
See our page on the Vlakhs (Greece) for discussion on this ethnic group.
The Aromanians, aka Vlakhs, are "a Latin-speaking people - they speak a form
of Romanian - living south of the Danube in Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia
(predominantly in Serbia and Vardar Macedonia) and, primarily, in Greece". "Vlach"
in English would be "Wallachian. Wallachia is the southern part of Romania.
Depending on context Vlach could refer either to a Romanian, or to the related
group living outside of Romania.
Ned Smith, 10 February 2004
I got this news from Eurominority. This source is not known to be always correct, but maybe this are some interesting news?
What is the traditional flag of Aromanians? Darko Gavrovski, our Secretary
[Michel Bolloré (Eurominority), 1/24/2004 English]
After many years of researching, Darko Gavrovski, Secretary of Eurominority found finally the Aromanian flag in one old Aromanian Family in Macedonia, who have kept it from generation to generation. This flag was presented on TV stations and it was declared as a unique artefact, knowing that many books say that the flag of this ethnic group does not exist. Darko Gavrovski, specialist on Balkan minorities presents it. He searched it a long time before he found it.
An alternative flag of Aromanians exists. This flag was was used by Aromanian Nationalists (Chiopps, Torvlahs) since 1867, but invented by the Romanian State which considers itself as "Father" State of All Balkan Aromanians. So, it is not originally and traditionally Aromanian. However many Aromanians have fought for their rights under this flag in this last 150 years.
J. Patrick Fischer, 9 February 2004
I find it somewhat oawkward that Aromanians themselves are not aware of their
own flag!? Therefore it is a bit unusual to clam that this item is the flag of
Aromanians. Unless they are really conspiratorial, one would expect the people
to know their flag, or at least, of their flag... So how could it be standing
for the Aromanians? The flag is surely an interesting find, but it is
questionable what was its real purpose. Probably it may be claimed that it is "a
Aromanian flag", but I am not sure if it is correct to be called "the Aromanian
The Aromanian communities are scattered throughout the Balkans and apparently unconnected, and surely until quite recently without common contact and common identity. The number of names surely supports that. I am not aware if there is today any organization that would be representative for at least a larger part of the nation. The Aromanians are remnants of Roman speaking peoples who retreated (and were forced) to the high mountains with the coming of Slavic and other peoples into Balkan area in, say, around 7th century, and since they remained isolated communities of herdsmen - surely without the need for a (common) flag.
Without knowing much about the flag in question, and aware of possibility missing the point entirely, I would dare to speculate that such a flag might have been produced for a special occasion, say a wedding or something of the sort when the majority of the family gathered, or some such - and that the flag was used more ornamentally and not intended to symbolize the entire nation.
Zeljko Heimer, 10 February 2004
I have the honour of replying to your interest about THE Aromanian flag which
is part of the Eurominority webpage. First, briefly I will explain the way it
was found. As a citizen of multiethnic Macedonia, in many contacts with
Aromanians, living in their neighbourhood, I was interested to find their
opinion about their national flag, because the only data from the Internet and
books was that they don't have one. But that appeared wrong. Every one of them
was explaining to me that THERE IS an Aromanian flag, which by their fathers and
grandfathers was described as a combination of White and Blue Colour Flag. Every
Aromanian that you can find here
will tell you that their flag is 'Something' with White and Blue. They know these combinations of colors for fact (!) but they did not know the design. Apparently lots of them have not seen it with their eyes. This is understandable knowing that they are a stateless nation, and strongly assimilated by other Balkan nations. Many of them (especially youth) don't know to speak Aromanian, so how can you expect to know the flag. But this doesn't mean that they don't have their own national feelings.
This was enough for me to start searching for the example of this flag and, on one occasion, one old family took out and showed me, what they said was the 'Traditional Aromanian Flag'. The same flag like this one was later 'found' in a museum, but they thought it was an 'Aromanian Garment', it was from the 18th century, and it was in this museum for 50 years and they didn't realized that that the 1 x 2 m cloth is the flag. This was presented on a TV station (on which Aromanians have their broadcast) and by many interviewed Aromanians it was discussed and accepted as 'The Flag' for which everybody knows the colors but not the way it looks. This flag is accepted by historians and more then anything by Aromanians in Macedonia. This is the flag that I have sent to Eurominority with assurances. This was discovered with research on field work, and not seating and theorizing on the Internet!
Now I will address your concerns. Your main fact is that other Aromanians don't know this Flag, which is awkward. First, is it more awkward that the fact that many of them (especially youngsters) don't know even their ancestors language! Many things seem awkward for one who is researching on his computer's internet,
not knowing real field research. Maybe from your Western vexillological point of view most important is for them to have A or THE Flag but here in Nationalistic Balkan states Aromanians are fighting for their most basic national existence.
Second, they are one of biggest stateless people dispersed all over the Balkans. As you are saying they just now started to organize themselves on a higher Balkan level.
Now make one comparison: I will tell you a story of the (or a) Macedonian flag. Macedonians had their own state in 1944 as part of ex-Yugoslavia. For 50 years their flag was the yellow 5-pointed communist star on a red base. But communism failed and Macedonia become independent. The star should have been replaced but with what? So, after 50 years historians started to look on churches floors, old mosaics and it was said that the Macedonian symbol is the Sun. The 16-pointed sun from Philip II of Macedon's tomb was pouted. From 1992-95 this was the official flag. Then because of dispute with Greeks it was changed to an 8-pointed sun, which is present flag.
Is this traditional or not? Is this A Flag or THE Flag ? Is it awkward that Macedonians with their state, historians, schools, universities, government, etc., did not know which is their flag? Can you see what has to be done to make one flag to be official? If you asked one Macedonian 15 years ago which is their traditional flag
they would just say: maybe something with the Sun and in red and yellow colors. So, for a fact the Aromanian flag which is in Eurominority (used for many generations) is more traditional and older then the any new Macedonian official flag.
Darko Gavrovski, OEM-Eurominority Secretary, 12 February 2004
You say the Aromanians know their flag colours and they know that there is a flag, but are generally unaware of the exact design. I would like to know since when? Maybe none asked this question to them before, so maybe we shall never know, but isn't it a bit odd that no one recorded anything on the issue before. Surely it would be interesting to find out if anything of the sort is mentioned in any previous account of the Aromanian culture. I am aware that such works would be scarce, but it would surely strengthen the claim much - even more so as it seems that all previous works claim that there is no flag.
The finding of the second flag does make the claim much more sound. Would you please let us know which museum you are talking about (and, by the way, where the family in question lives) - this may be relevant information.
Zeljko Heimer, 12 February 2004