Vlachs in medieval Bosnia and Herzegovina

Vlachs in Bosnia and Herzegovina are a Balkan population who descend from Romanized Illyrians and Thraco-Romans, and other pre-Slavic Romance-speaking peoples.[1][2][3] They were semi-nomadic herdsmen, shepherds and farmers. They lived in tents or huts and traded livestock products. Vlach cheese was reputable because of its fat content and fetched high prices. With their caravans, Vlach carried out much of the traffic between inland and coastal cities such as Dubrovnik. Marko Vego argued that Vlach autochthony with Vlach settlements named after Vlach tribes, Vojnići and Hardomilje, are found near Roman forts and monuments. Bogumil Hrabak supported Vego's assertion that the Vlachs preceded both Turks and Bosnian Slavs in Zachlumia.[4] Dominik Mandić argued that some Vlachs from Herzegovina migrated there from Thessaly, Epirus and Macedonia before the Ottoman invasion into Southern Europe.[5] It is argued that some also arrived from the East during the Ottoman wars.[6]


Vlachs are first mentioned in Bosnian documents in c. 1234 by ban Matej Ninoslav. Sources from 1361, 1385, 1399, 1406, 1407, 1408 and 1417 among others mention them in relation to Bosnian bans and kings.[4] The relationship of Vlachian katuns and feudal holdings can be traced from the 14th century.[7] By 1382 they were under the jurisdiction of the Bosnian ruler, to later be assigned to large landowners.[8] The Vlachs and lords relationships indicate that medieval Bosnia was not compact – some Vlach vassals (Gleđević) of the rulers were far from royal lands. Some Vlach vassals (Nenko Krajsalić, Radoslav Borojević) became vassals fairly late although Kosača ruled certain lands near Eastern banks of Neretva river for fifteen years. Some Vlach vassals (Maleš) were partly Pavlović and partly Kosača vassals although working on Kosača holdings.[9]

In 1382, Vukoslav Piščić was named as knez of all Vlachs by King Tvrtko I of Bosnia. As the earliest noble landowners, in Herzegovina they were assigned to the Sanković noble family, with katun Tomić.[10] In 1409, when Tvrtko I conquered parts of Rascia and Zeta they were located around 100 katuns. They were mentioned as "Vlachorum congregationes et cetus".[1] In the area around Stolac and Zabljak were so many Vlachs that at the end of the 15th century the territory was as Donji Vlasi (Lower Vlachs).[6] The Gornji Vlasi (Upper Vlachs) were only mentioned by Mavro Orbini.[1]

The 1376 and 1454 documents by Republic of Ragusa about trade with Bosnian lands mention Vlachi et Bosgnani.[11] In the 1418 document by Grgur Nikolić, Vlachs, Serbs and Ragusians are clearly distinguished.[12] In the 14th century documents, they are treated as shepherds from mountains that separate Croatia and Bosnia.[13] It is argued that some group of Vlachs in the 14th century migrated to Zagora and Cetina county in Croatia, followed by the sudden appearance of stećaks in the territory they lived.[14][15] At a time of social unrest, the Vlachs often fled to the area of Ragusa or Kotor, served in the military of Ragusa during the Ottoman threat, and when most of Herzegovina was occupied by the Ottomans by 1472, once again fled to Ragusan territory.[16]

Ottomans in Bosnia and Herzegovina, following the example of katuns, organized filurîci eflakan (Vlachian filurîci) according to "Vlach model" in Smederevo, Vidin and Braničevo.[6] From them was collected tax baduhava eflakan,[17] or rusum eflak,[18] mostly in the form of sheep or goats, as well gold currency.[19] In the defters of the 1470s and 1480s in Central and North-Central Bosnia, around Visoko and Maglaj, roughly 800 Vlachs arrived accompanied by two Orthodox priests. With war and plagues, and as Catholics fled, the repopulation of Bosnia from Herzegovina and Serbia was of high interest for the Ottomans for their military activities. Benedikt Kuripečič in the 16th century noted that Bosnia is inhabited by three peoples; (Muslim) Turks, (Catholic) Bosnians and (Orthodox) Serbs "who call themselves Vlachs... They came from Smederevo and Belgrade".[18] Since Vlachs weren't paid for military activity by the Ottomans they were permitted to plunder enemy territory, and became known as martolos or voynuk. Their military activity earned them special tax privileges. In the late 15th century at least 35,000 Vlachs lived in Herzegovina, while in the 16th century 82,692 Vlach households lived in the Smederevo region in Serbia.[18]

Living on the border of Habsburg Empire they relocated if the social situation was better on the other part of the border. There they received also a special social-militarh system. In 1527 Ferdinand I freed them from feudal obligations, shared booty with them, gave them their own captains (vojvodas) and magistrates (knezes), and freed them to practice Orthodox Christianity. It eventually led to the organisation of the Military Frontier, and the decree Statuta Valachorum by Ferdinand II. It resulted in a situation almost looking like Vlachs fighting against Vlachs.[18]

Herzegovinian VlachsEdit

In Southeastern Herzegovina between 1393–1437 many Vlachian katuns emerged.[6][20] The primary lords of the Herzegovinian Vlachs were the Kosača, Pavlović, and Nikolić noble families.[8] The Vlachs from Herzegovina sometime plundered lands of Republic of Ragusa in the 14th and 15th century and grew rich by trade of goods between Ragusa and the mines of Bosnia.[18]

Vlachs were surnamed Pliščić, Gleđević, Ugarac, Boban, Mirilović, Vragović, Kresojević, Nenković, Bančić, Pilatovac, Pocrnja, Drobnjak and Riđani. Some of the Banjani and Maleševci (Stanković) were Kosača vassals.[8]

Vlachs surnamed Vlahović, Žurović, and Predojević, those belonging to the Pribač Nikolić pasture encampment, and some of the Banjan and Maleševac Vlachs (surnamed Hrebeljanović, Milićiević and Milošević) were Pavlovlić vassals.[8]

The Kutlovići were vassals of the Nikolići. The Primilovići belonged to a larger group of Vlachs, for whom no data on lords were found.[8]

Other katun Vlachs were Boljuni, Bukvići, Burmazi, Goduni, Hardomilići, Horojevići, Hrabreni, Jurjevići, Kersojevići, Kićurići, Kujavići, Milobradačići, Perventinići, Pribinovići, Rudinjani, Veseličići, Vitkovići, Vojnovići, Vragovići, Zotovići.[21]

Vlachs often don't bear "tribe-katun" name as a surname, instead using patronymics, for example katunar Dragić Dobrilović from Boban katun or katunars Klapac Stanković and Radosav Milićević from Maleševac katun.[22]

The Ottoman occupation conquered Vlachian territories which caused migrations; Ragusan documents in 1386 recorded that some Vlachians with their animals found shelter in Ston and Pelješac (...quod recipiantur in Stagno familie, pastores, animalia et carnesia Vlacorum et circum vicinorum propter eorum saluamentum terrore Teucrurum partes discurrentium),[23] in 1466 Korita, Banjani and Riđani east of Trebinje fell.[24] In 1448 Ragusa again accepted in Ston and Pelješac "peasants and Vlachs of duke Stjepan, Radoje Nikolić and Vukašin Grgurević with families and herds, with leaders and shepherds",[25] as well in 1463 (Vlachs and people from Popovo).[26] During the 15th century they continuously found shelter in the territory of Ragusan Republic, as well Venetian Dalmatia and Bay of Kotor.[26] In 1475–1477 in the nahija Počitelj eleven deserted villages (Gojanovići, Ričica, Kukrica, Opličiča, Plešivac, Svitava, Šanica, Kozica, Gornja Ljubinica, Skočim, Dretelj) were recorded, which were held by the Vlachs.[27] At the time many Vlachs (generally, and from Banjani, Maleševci, Bobani, Zubci) collaborated with Ottomans as slave agents.[28]


Vlach funerary monuments in Radimlja

They lived in small villages called katun whose chieftain were titled katunar. Around them they placed guards: guard stations were called varde/vardišta.[29] They were semi-nomadic herdsmen and shepherds, and who became agricultural when settled permanently. They lived in tents or primitive huts. They exported livestock products; animal skin, wool, cheese, butter and dried meat. Other exports included honey and wood. The Vlach cheese was reputable because of fat, and in 1325 sold one libra for 10 folars compared to other cheese that sold for 8 folars. In 1420 Vlach cheese was sold for 15 folars.[16] With their caravans, led by kramar,[16] mostly composed of horses numbering between 10–100, they conducted a large part of the trade between inland and coastal cities.[1][6][18] Their military tradition and mobile lifestyle was used by the Bosnian lords and later by the Ottomans.[18] These traits changed very little over the centuries.[18]

The emergence of the stećaks and their symbolism in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the scholars is often related to Vlachian communities.[18][30][31]


Vlachs probably were bilingual (speaking Romance and Slavic languages).[18] Many personal names in the records, of which many are preserved, indicate their bilingualism.[18] Initially Vlachs used an Ikavian accent and later I/jekavian accent (speading it further), of Neo-Shtokavian dialect of Serbo-Croatian. Those who migrated to the West during Ottoman invasion spoke what are now labeled Eastern Herzegovinian and Bosnian–Dalmatian subdialects.[32][18] LZMK linguist Nataša Bašić argued that the Vlachs were creators of New-Shtokavian dialect with reduced number of cases in declination, with New-Shtokavian accent, with the loss of the phoneme /H/, with diphthongization old jat and other modifications characteristic for foreigners, especially for Romans.[33] Ćiro Truhelka argued that the evasion of the writing and spelling letter /H/ in Serbian language until Karadžić's reform is due to Vlachs influence as it is a Romance language characteristic.[29]

Truhelka noted many preserved non-Slavic family surnames in Bosnia and Herzegovina of Vlachian origin, which are often Slavicized by suffixes , ović and ević, with most notable being; Banjan, Balac, Bilbija, Boban, Bokan, Banduka, Bencun, Belen, Bender, Besara, Bovan, Čokorilo, Darda, Doman, Drečo, Đerman, Gac, Gala, Jarakula, Kalin, Kešelj, Keser, Kočo, Kalaba, Kokoruš, Kosor, Lopar, Macura, Mataruga, Pađen, Palavestra, Punja, Riđan, Šola, Šolaja, Šabat, Šurla, Šatra, Škipina, Špira, Tubin, Taor, Tintor, as well Kecman, Šikman, Toroman, Šuman, Karan, Šurlan, Servan.[34]


Pope Gregory XI in 1372 letter for Franciscans in Bosnia ordered them to convert Vlachs who live in tents and pastures (Wlachorum... quorum nonnulli in pascuis et tentoriis habitant).[1] Their religion depended upon social and political events.[35] During Ottoman occupation the Orthodox Church was more politically favored than Roman Catholic.[36] The first Orthodox churches in Bosnia and Herzegovina were built in the 13th century. With time the Slavicized Vlachs who were of Orthodox faith were Serbianized, while those of Roman Catholic faith were Croatized.[37]


Ilona Czamańska clame that "Majority of Serbs from the Republika Srpska of modern Bosnia is of Vlach origin, as well as the majority of the population from Bosnia and Herzegovina in general"[38]Serbian Orthodox Church have a decisive role in the process of national identification of Vlachs in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina who became Serbs while Catholic Vlachs became Croats. Today only a small part of former Vlachs declares with this name.[39]

Notable VlachEdit

  • Hasan Pasha Predojević[40] (c. 1530 – 22 June 1593) – the Predojević Vlachs are first mentioned 1372, while since 1468 were included in the Ottoman hierarchy.[41]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Vego 1957, p. 128.
  2. ^ Mužić (Radoslav Lopašić) 2010, p. 19.
  3. ^ Mužić (Ćiro Truhelka) 2010, p. 120–121.
  4. ^ a b Mužić 2009, p. 319.
  5. ^ Mužić (Bogumil Hrabak) 2010, p. 202, 204.
  6. ^ a b c d e Mužić (Ćiro Truhelka) 2010, p. 122.
  7. ^ Kurtović 2011, p. 648.
  8. ^ a b c d e Kurtović 2011, p. 694.
  9. ^ Kurtović 2011, p. 694–695.
  10. ^ Kurtović 2011, p. 649–650.
  11. ^ Mužić 2010, p. 230.
  12. ^ Vego 1957, p. 128–129.
  13. ^ Mužić 2009, p. 318.
  14. ^ Mužić 2009, p. 318–319.
  15. ^ Mužić (Bogumil Hrabak) 2010, p. 219.
  16. ^ a b c Vego 1957, p. 129.
  17. ^ Mužić (Ćiro Truhelka) 2010, p. 125.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Malcolm 1994.
  19. ^ Matkovki, Aleksandar (1990). "Stočarski danak filurija" [Stockmen tribute filurîci]. Arhivski vjesnik (in Serbo-Croatian). Zagreb: Croatian State Archives (34): 71–77.
  20. ^ Ciobanu 2018, p. 5-10.
  21. ^ Vego 1957, p. 127–132.
  22. ^ Kurtović 2011, p. 655, 666.
  23. ^ Krešić 2010, p. 114.
  24. ^ Krešić 2010, p. 111.
  25. ^ Krešić 2010, p. 115.
  26. ^ a b Krešić 2010, p. 116.
  27. ^ Krešić 2010, p. 120.
  28. ^ Krešić 2010, p. 117–118.
  29. ^ a b Mužić (Ćiro Truhelka) 2010, p. 121.
  30. ^ Kurtović, Esad (2013). "Vlasi i stećci" [Vlachs and stećaks]. Radovi (in Bosnian). Sarajevo: Filozofski fakultet (16): 79–88.
  31. ^ Fine 1994, p. 19.
  32. ^ Šarić 2009, p. 346–350.
  33. ^ Mirdita 2004, p. 333.
  34. ^ Mužić (Ćiro Truhelka) 2010, p. 129.
  35. ^ Mužić (Ćiro Truhelka) 2010, p. 126.
  36. ^ sfn & Mužić (Ćiro Truhelka).
  37. ^ Mužić (Ćiro Truhelka) 2010, p. 121, 128.
  38. ^ Ilona Czamańska (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań) DOI: 10.17951/rh.2016.41.1.11 Vlachs and Slavs in the Middle Ages and Modern Era, http://dlibra.umcs.lublin.pl/dlibra/doccontent?id=26230 #page=19
  39. ^ Ladislav Heka, 2019, The Vlach law and its comparison to the privileges of Hungarian brigands, https://hrcak.srce.hr/index.php?show=clanak&id_clanak_jezik=325892 #page=32
  40. ^ Kurtović 2011, p. 243.
  41. ^ Kurtović 2011, p. 675–677.


Further readingEdit