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Title: Istro-Romanians  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Istro-Romanian language, Istro-Romanian, Istro-Romanians, Ethnic groups in Croatia, Istro-Romanian grammar
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Vlaşi or Rumâri
Total population
76 [1]
also Croatian, Italian
Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Aromanians, Romanians, Morlachs

Istro-Romanians / Istrorumeni (ethnonym: Rumeni and occasionally also Rumâri and Rumêri; are called Ćići and "Vlahi" (Istrian Vlachs) by the local Croatian and Slovenian population, Istro-Romanians by linguists) are a small ethnic group living in northeastern Istria, currently spanning over a small area of Croatia mostly in a region called Ćićarija (Croatian) or Čičarija (Slovene) (historical name: Ciceria) and in a region west of Mt. Učka (Monte Maggiore). The 2011 Croatian census listed 49 Romanians and 6 Vlachs [2]. 70 people identified the Romanian language as their first language spoken and 6 people declared Vlach as their first language spoken [3]. The 2001 Croatian census lists only 48 Romanian language speakers remaining in Istria county.[1] In 2010, the Croatian Constitution granted Romanians ("Rumunji") status as one of 22 national minorities.

There are no recorded speakers of Istro-Romanian language in Slovenian part of Ćićarija (Croatian) or Čičarija (Slovene) even though migrations of its speakers after World War II include Slovenia and the nearby Trieste region of Italy. The inhabitants of villages and hamlets speak the Čakavian dialect - not Chakavian-ikavian dialect that is sometimes mistaken for it by non-native speakers - which it is believed originated in Dalmatia. However, there is no known record to show that the Istro-Romanians came from Dalmatia. That there are traces of Istro-Romanian words in the Cakavian Istrian vocabulary and vice versa indicate only that over the centuries the two neighboring linguistically different groups assimilated through daily social contact and intermarriages, as happens with other peoples and their languages throughout the world.


The first historical record of Romanians in the Istrian region purportedly dates back to 940 A.D. when scholarly Roman Emperor Constantine VII recorded in De Administrando Imperio" that there were Latin-language speakers in this area who called themselves Romans but who did not come from Rome. A later historical record of Romanians in Istria (not necessarily the "Cici", and possibly the "Morlacchi") dates back to 1329, when Serbian chronicles mention that a Vlach population was living in the area, although there was an earlier mention from the 12th century of a leader in Istria called Radul which may have been a Romanian name.

In his monumental book, Historia antica, e moderna sacra, e profana, della città di Trieste, published in his native town of Trieste in 1698, Fra Ireneo della Croce (1625–1713) wrote:

He mentions a people who, "beside the Slavic idiom common for all the Karst area, speak also their own and particular language, which is similar to Wallachian and contains many different Latin words." He was referring to the language of the Chichi - Cici (Istro-Romanians) who, in his own time, were known to inhabit an extensive part of Istria up to Trieste and surrounding regions.

Some linguists believe that the Istro-Romanians migrated to their present location about 600 years ago from Transylvania, after the Black Death depopulated Istria, as was told to generations of Istro-Romanians who handed down this story from parent to child by word of mouth. Some loan words also suggest that before reaching Istria, the Istro-Romanians lived for a period of time in Dalmatia near the Cetina river, but this is mere speculation as the loan words could easily have come from other Slavic peoples who likewise emigrated to Istria. Such loan words also exist in Daco-Romanian, the official language of Romania. Moreover, in modern Serbia, there are some Daco-Romanian speakers (see Romanians of Serbia), but the majority of the large population of Romanians there speak Aromunian (a.k.a. Macedo-Romanian), both being distinctly different languages from Istro-Romanian.

More importantly, the Transylvanian connection that is emphasized by linguists is alive in the memory of some of the Istrorumeni themselves who today distinguish themselves into two distinct groups - the cici or cicci surrounding the Mune and Žejane area and the vlahi of the southern Šušnjevica region, this despite the fact that their language is identical except for a few local distinctions. Interestingly enough, Iosif Popovici entitled his book Dialectele române din Istria (Halle, 1909) - that is, "The Dialects..." not "The Dialect..." - indirectly suggesting there were several types of Istro-Romanian dialects in Istria.

Regions inhabited by vlachs. Istroromanians in yellow.

Romanian linguists are divided in their opinions: Prof. Dr. Iosif Popovici (1876–1928), who had travelled extensively in Istria, endorsed the theory that the Istro-Romanians were natives of Ţara Moţilor (Western Transylvania) who had migrated into Istria sometimes during the Middle Ages. ("Dialectele române din Istria", I, Halle a.d.S., 1914, p. 122 and following). This opinion was shared by Ovid Densusianu (1873–1938) (a Romanian folklorist, philologist, and poet who introduced trends of European modernism into Romanian literature - thus not a linguistics authority - who stated that Istro-Romanians were not native to Istria (Histoire de la langue roumaine, I, p. 337): "Un premier fait que nous devons mettre en evidence, c'est que l'istro-roumain n'a pu se développer à l'origine là où nous le trouvons aujourd'hui".

The Serbian dialectologist and phonologist Pavle Ivić (1924–99), respected for his work toward the standardization of the Serbian language, speculated that at the beginning of the Middle Ages a sizable Roman population inhabited all of the Balkans, but his interests focused on the areas contained within the former Yugoslavia, whereas history shows that the Latin language influence reached considerably beyond that region. Besides, the Roman population to which he referred may not relate solely to the Istro-Romanians who migrated to Istria, but also the Istriot (Istro-Romance) speakers of Istria, as well as the Vegliot language (now extinguished) that was spoken in the nearby island of Krk (Veglia). Both of these languages evolved separately from Istro-Romanian.

Regarding the Vegliot speakers, in the 15th century, a purportedly similar population of Rumeri from the near mainland, as noted by Frankopan (Frangipani) princes in their chronicles, settled in northernmost Krk (Veglia) island, villages Poljica and Dubašnica at actual Malinska. In the mid-19th century they were gradually assimilated, and only some of their toponyms and plant names persist; also their Paternoster (Cace nostru) was noted there.

When Istria was part of the Austrian Empire, the Istro-Rumanians were the majority of a small "comune" (Eng. community, county) near the Arsa River and mainly within the Arsa valley, as shown in the 1910 Austrian census.[2] In 1922, after the union of Istria to Italy, the Italian government designated the existing town of Susnieviza (changing its name to Valdarsa; today called Šušnjevica) for the Istro-Romanian community, and appointed Andrea Glavina, an Istro-Romanian professor who had studied in Romania, as their leader. They obtained a school in the Istro-Romanian language in the town of Valdarsa and reached a population of 3,000 in 1942. The population of modern Šušnjevica is now reduced to around 200 inhabitants.

After World War II, most Istro-Romanians left their ancestral homes, as did the majority of inhabitants throughout the Istrian peninsula due to discrimination, violence and threats by the incoming Communist regime and those who supported Tito's brutal ways and means. A small number remained in Istria while others emigrated to various countries of Europe, most notably Italy, the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, and other countries throughout the world. Those who stayed under Yugoslav rule underwent forced assimilation as much as, if not more than, they had under the prior brief Italian rule of Fascist Italy. The Italian writer and historian Giuseppe Lazzarini believes that there are more than 5,000 Istro-Romanian descendants in Istria, even though the 1991 Census lists only 811 Istro-Romanians. As happened with past and recent changeovers in regimes which have disfavored this minority, most of them identify themselves with other ethnic groups instead of as Istro-Romanian. Lazzarini believes that the Istro-Romanians are the descendants of the Roman legionnaires (brought in by Augustus to eastern Istria to colonize the borders of Roman Empire) and Aromanian shepherds, who escaped the Ottoman invasions and moved to a plague depopulated Istria in the 15th century. Other historians and linguists, however, disagree with this theory inasmuch as the Aromanian and Istro-Romanian languages are very different and entirely distinguishable from each other.

Also significant is that unlike most other Romanian speakers, who are Eastern Orthodox, the Istro-Romanians were in the past and are today Roman Catholic, another characteristic of these people which suggests a different migratory pattern and historical evolution.[4]. In 1998, August Kovačec, a Croatian linguist, (see references below) published a detailed monograph on Istro-Romanians, their population, culture, glossary, grammar which was reflective only of the acknowledged speakers in Istria during the years in which the language was politically discouraged, not of the majority of native speakers who left Istria after World War II). This monomgram and his other texts, while exhaustive, are not the primary or authoritative source. Before and since his writings, Romanian, Italian and even Dalmatian linguists have published their own atlases, dictionaries and vocabularies on this nearly extinguished, but obsolete, language.

Existent (remaining) settlements

  • Area north of Mount Ćićarija
  • Area west of Mount Učka (historical name: Monte Maggiore) and near Lake Čepić / Arsa
    • Šušnjevica (Şuşńieviţe, Susńieviţa, Istro-Romanian: Suseni)
    • Nova Vas (Noselo, Istro-Romanian: Sat Nou meaning "New Village")
    • Jasenovik (Istro-Romanian: Sucodru, meaning "under woods")
    • Kostrčani (Istro-Romanian: Costârceân)
    • Letaj (Istro-Romanian: Letai)
    • Brdo (Berdo / Birdo, Istro-Romanian: Bârdo)

See also


  1. ^ Croatian 2001 census, detailed classification by nationality
  2. ^ Ethnic map of Istria in 1910 (Istrorumanian area indicated in a small "pointed" area)
  • della Croce, Ireneo: Historia antica, e moderna sacra, e profana, della città di Trieste, (Trieste, 1698)
  • Feresini, Nerina: Il Comune istro-romeno di Valdarsa. Edizioni Italo Svevo. Trieste: 1996
  • Kovačec, August: Istrorumunjsko-hrvatski rječnik s gramatikom i tekstovima (Glosar Istroroman-Croat cu gramatica si texte). Verba moritura vol. I, 378 p. Mediteran, Pula 1998
  • Podbersič, Renato: Čičke prekvanitce z Goca (Folklorni obrazci z Golca v Slovenski Čičariji). LIBRIS. Koper: 2007
  • Tekavčić, Pavao: Due voci romene in un dialetto serbo-croato dell'Isola di Veglia (Krk). Studia Romanica 7: 35-38, Zagreb 1959

External links

  • Istro-Romanians in Croatia
  • Difficult cultural situation of the Istro-Romanian minority particularly threatened
  • La situation culturelle difficile de la minorité istro-roumaine particulièrement menacée
  • Istro-Romanian Community Worldwide
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