(Chapter XII, section 16)

Rumania and the Vlachs

The modern kingdom of Rumania consists of the provinces of Moldavia, Wallachia, Dobruja, Bessarabia, Transylvania, part of the Banat, and the Bukovina. The last four, while the majority of their inhabitants are Rumanians, have been Rumanian territory only since the World War. Moldavia is bounded on the west by the crest of the Carpathians, on the east by the Pruth River; Wallachia is bounded on the north by the Transylvanian Alps, and on the south by the Danube. Dobruja is the plain lying between the northward curve of the Danube and the Black Sea; it includes the important seaport of Constanza.

In Moldavia and Wallachia the great majority of the population is Rumanian; the same is true to a large extent of Bessarabia, but in Transylvania there are large populations of Germans and of Magyars, already discussed in previous sections. In the Banat again there are many Hungarians, and a number of Serbs, while in the Dobruja lives one of the most scrambled populations of Europe. Here Bulgars, Ottoman Turks, Tatars, Gaguz, who claim to be descendants of the Kumans, Armenians, Kurds, Caucasic peoples, and a few of almost all the other peoples of eastern Europe and western Asia are to be found. The Dobruja is as varied as the contents of an ethnological museum, and like a museum, each group clings tenaciously to everything that is its own.135

The inhabitants of Dobruja include, of course, both Gypsies and Jews, and Rumania is one of the greatest concentration points for both in Europe. The Jews form 5 per cent of the population of the pre-war section of the kingdom, and are especially numerous in northern Moldavia and the Bukovina, where their zone of concentration forms an extension of that in Polish Galicia. The Moldavian Jews, who are mainly of Polish or Russian antecedents, speak their own language, wear a separate costume, and mix little if at all with the Rumanian population.

In classical times Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia formed what known as Dacia, and the Dacians were considered to be a branch of the Thracians. The Dacians included an upper class, distinguished by the practice of wearing brimless felt hats, Scythian style, and a peasantry, among whom the men went bare-headed, with their hair long, as do the older and more conservative of the present-day Rumanian peasants. Between 105 and 107 A.D. Trajan conquered Dacia, and made it a Roman province; the warlike inhabitants, who had long resisted the Romans, fled in great numbers, while their villages were being plundered; later, many are said to have returned. The Romans placed many colonists in Dacia, and for its defense established there the permanent headquarters of the thirteenth legion. In 256 A.D. the Goths arrived, and the Romans began a hasty departure; it is likely that many of the inhabitants of the country left with them.

During the century and a half of Roman rule, the language of Dacia became Latin, and modern Rumanian is without doubt a descendant of that colonial speech. During the maximum extension of the empire, Latin and its derivatives were spoken in a wide zone peripheral to Rome, including the Iberian peninsula, Gaul, Switzerland, the Tyrol, and much of the territory lying between the head of the Adriatic and the Black Sea. Albanian, with its strong Latin infusion, must be considered a partial product of this extension; elsewhere Ladin, Romansch, and Rumanian must be considered survivals in the face of the barbarian invasions which converted most of southeastern Europe to Germanic, Slavic, Uralic, and Altaic speech.

Foreigners designate Rumanians and Rumanian speakers by the term Vlach; the Vlachs are the Rumanian speakers to be found throughout southeastern Europe, whether living in Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia, or elsewhere. The word Vlach, which is a derivative from the Gothic, by way of Slavic, means “foreigner”; it is a cognate of our own word “Welsh,” used by the Anglo-Saxons to designate Kymric-speaking Britons, and of “Walloon.” The modern Vlach language, while basically Latin, shares with Albanian certain structural peculiarities which it must derive from Thracian or Illyrian, and at the same time contains a large number of Slavic roots.

The use of a Romance language in Rumania today is not a simple case of a Romanized Dacian survival; the history of Rumania is too complicated to permit this explanation alone. After the departure of the Romans, Dacia was overrun by Goths, by Slavs, by Bulgars, by many kinds of Tatars, and by Ottoman Turks. It is very likely that the Vlach survival in these lands was only partial until the late Middle Ages, when the peasants who had resisted the inroads of these conquerors were joined by their kinsmen returning from Bulgaria and Macedonia, and from beyond the Carpathians. Since then the expansion of the Viachs in what is now Rumania has been constant and, east of the Carpathians, nearly complete.

The Vlachs have always been far wanderers; many of them are shepherds, and the pastoral life has been as important to them, until modern times, as agriculture. In Macedonia and northern Greece, and in Southern Albania, Vlach colonists are nomads living in black tents like those of Arabs, and like those which one may suppose the Scythians used before them. In Dalmatia they were during the Middle Ages an important people. Dubrovnik (Ragusa) was originally a Vlach town. In the peninsula of Istria, now inhabited mostly by Slovenes and Italians, a small group of Vlach speakers, the Čiči, has resisted assimilation to this day. These Istrian Vlachs, early invaders of Illyrian territory, are the remnants of a former link in the continuity of the Roman Empire between the Atlantic and the Black Sea.

In view of the complex ethnic history of Rumania, the living Rumanians may be expected to show evidence of a multiplicity of racial origin. To native Dacian elements, which must have included a blend of indigenous Neolithic peoples with Satem-speaking Nordics, have been added whatever population the Romans brought and which did not run away, and a multitude of early Slavs whom the Vlachs absorbed. Other elements, Ugric, Tatar, and Gothic, were probably of lesser importance.

The Rumanians, as a whole, in the early part of the present century, had a mean stature of roughly 167 cm., which is probably nearly representative today.136 There is little regional variation; what there is indicates that the mountaineers of the northern Rumanian Carpathians may be taller than the rest, since the villagers of Fundul Moldovii, studied by Rainer, have a mean of nearly 170 cm.; those living on the Bessarabian plain amongst the Ukrainians seem to be the shortest, with a mean as low as 165 cm. A greater variation is found in the cephalic index; on the plains of Moldavia and Wallachia, and in the Dobruja, the Rumanians are as a rule mesocephals or sub-brachycephals, with means of 80 to 81; they are are nearly as long-headed as the Bulgarians. In the mountains, however, they are fully Dinaric or Alpine in their brachycephaly, with a an of 85.4 in Fundul Moldovii in the Bukovinian highlands, and of 86 in Bukovina in general, where they equal the brachycephaly of the Huzuls. Within the curve of the Carpathians, they are also completely brachycephalic; means from Rumanians in Transylvania and in the Banat lie between 84 and 85, although in the village of Drağuş, an old and completely Rumanian settlement lying just inside the bend in the mountain crest where the Transylvanian Alps become the eastern Carpathians, and not far from the Saxon city of Kronstadt, the mean is 86.6.

We are dealing, therefore, with two kinds of Rumanians; the mesocephalic ones of the eastern plains, and the brachycephalic ones of the Carpathians and the lands to the west. The Carpathians form a sharp boundary delimiting the eastward and northeastward extension of Alpine brachycephaly in Europe. This boundary shows little regard for language or for ethnic tradition.

The Rumanians of the plains show a general metrical similarity to the Neo-Danubians of the Slavic countries to the north, and at the same time a relationship to the longer-headed Bulgarians. The village of Nerejul Mare, some eighty miles north of Bucharest on the southeastern slope of the Carpathians, will serve as an example of the plains population, although the mean cephalic index of its inhabitants, 81.5, is higher than in some districts. The mean stature is 166.8 cm., the relative sitting height 52.7. Eighty-eight per cent of the men have black or dark brown to brown hair, the rest light brown or blond. Pure dark eyes are found among 54 per cent, light eyes among 11 per cent, with the rest mixed, mostly dark-mixed. Thus the population is prevailingly brunet, as well as moderately tall, intermediate in body build, and sub-brachycephalic.

The mean head length of 186 mm., and breadth of 151 mm. show a moderately small head size; the auricular height of 125 mm. is relatively high. The face is of moderate size, with a height of 121 mm., and breadths of 102 mm. for the minimum frontal, 140 mm. for the bizygomatic, and 106 mm. for the bigonial. The nose is small, with a height of 53.2 mm. and a breadth of 34.2 mm. The face is mesoprosopic, with a facial index of 86, and leptorrhine, with a nasal index of 65. While these cranial and facial indices place the inhabitants of Nerejul Mare definitely in the same class with the peasantry of most of Russia, the intensity of hair and eye pigmentation, and the narrowness of the forehead and nose, as contrasted to the breadth of the jaw, suggest the brunet long-headed element in Bulgaria and Greece. Rainer finds these moderately tall Mediterraneans among his villagers, as well as individuals of Neo-Danubian, Slavic-looking type; Alpines and Dinarics are partly responsible for the elevation of the cephalic index, and Norics are present as a Nordic by-product. In Moldavia as a whole, however, the Neo-Danubian and Black Sea Mediterranean forms are the two elements of greatest importance, and the same is true of Wallachia.

The mountaineers of Fundul Moldovii, in the Bukovina, are taller than the villagers just studied, with a mean stature, quoted above, of 169.5 cm.; their cephalic index mean is 85.4, while their nasal index reaches the low mean of 60. They are somewhat lighter eyed than the plainsmen, and darker haired. Their heads are broader, with a mean width of 157 mm., rather than shorter, and hence larger. Their faces are longer (124 mm.) and broader (144 mm.), while both foreheads and jaws also exceed those of the Moldavian villagers in breadth, and their nasal lengths (56.4 mm.) are considerably greater. Fifteen per cent have flattened occiputs Although only 20 per cent have convex nasal profiles, in the great majority the forward jut of the nose, accompanied by a straight or wavy profile, is great.

The Fundul Moldovii people are in great majority Dinarics; a few appear Alpine, and a few others Noric. By and large, if the inhabitants of this village were transported to northern Albania and given a change of costume, few anthropologists would be able to tell the difference between the newcomers and the native tribesmen. The inhabitants of Drağuş, farther south and on the Transylvanian side, and no farther from Bucharest than Nerejul Mare, are just as Dinaric metrically as the Bukovinian villagers; their heads are, in fact, shorter, with a mean length of 182 mm., as are their faces; they resemble to a certain extent the Dinaric form common among Serbs.

Leaving the political boundaries of Rumania, we find two groups of Vlachs who have been the subjects of special study; those of Macedonia137 and of Istria.138 The Vlachs of Macedonia are the tallest of the many varied ethnic groups which compose that region, with a mean stature of 168 cm., and have the greatest absolute head length (188 mm.). They are low brachycephals, with a mean cephalic index of 83, are predominantly dark-haired and dark-eyed, and straight-nosed. They show some Dinaric influences, as do all the peoples of Macedonia; on the whole, however, their closest affiliation is with the brunet mesocephals and dolichocephals of the eastern Balkan area. There are, nevertheless, a few blonds among them, and these are usually Nordic.

The Istrian Vlachs, on the other hand, are complete Dinarics with a mean stature of 169 cm., a cephalic index of 86, and head and facial dimensions which cannot be distinguished from those of most Dinarics. In their high brachycephaly, however, and in their facial and nasal lengths, as well as in a predominant brunet tendency, they are much closer to the Tyrolese, and especially to the Ladin-speakers, than to the Slovenes among whom they live. They are also very similar to their distant linguistic relatives in the Carpathians.

The Vlachs, a widespread and numerous people in southeastern Europe, are the descendants of Romanized aborigines, and of other peoples whom these latter have absorbed. They have no racial homogeneity, but vary regionally according to the races long seated in the regions where they live. In the northeast, where the Moldavian plain forms a continuation of the Black Earth region of southern Russia, the Neo-Danubian type of the Black Earth region is predominant; in the southeast, where a local Atlanto-Mediterranean type is concentrated, the Vlachs tend to assume that form; west of the Carpathians, and near the crest of that range, they are Dinarics of the first rank, comparable to that other group of mountain-dwelling speakers of Neo-Latin, the Ladiner.

In studying the racial composition of southern Russia, there was evidence of a moderately tall, long-headed, brunet Mediterranean form, which is concentrated along the northern shore of the Black Sea, but which also appears sporadically in the entire Russian population. To western Europeans and Americans, it is better known than its frequency would warrant, for it is exemplified by several world famous ballerinas and opera singers. This is the Mediterranean racial division which the Russian anthropologists call Pontic139 and which the Poles recognize as a very minor element in their own population. It is with little doubt of Neolithic date in southern Russia, Rumania, Bulgaria, and the Hellespont region, and probably in Greece and the Aegean. In most of Thrace it seems more basic than the Danubian, or at least more common. What its relationship may be to the introduction of the Neolithic economy into Europe by land or by sea, cannot be determined without more data.



135 Pittard, E., Les Peuples des Balkans, is the authority on the Dobruja.

136 Besides Pittard’s book, sources on the Rumanians are:

Biasutti, R., APA, vol. 51, 1921, pp. 154—184.
Bielskij, P. A., RAJ, vol. 7, 1907, pp. 146—164.
Himmel, H., MAGW, vol. 18, 1888, pp. 83—84.
Lebzelter, V., Auth, vol. 45, 1935, pp. 65—69.
Papilian, V., RDAP, vol. 33, 1923, pp. 337—341
Pittard, E., and Doniči, A., BMSA, ser. 7, vol. 8, 1927, pp. 38—50; BSGA, vOl. 3, 1927, pp. 13—14; vol. 4, 1928, pp. 29—30.
Pittard, E., and Sergent, E., RDAP, vol. 29, 1919, pp. 57—76.
Rainer, F. I., Enquêtes anthropologiques dans trois Villages Roumains des Carpathes.

137 Hasluck, M., and Morant, G. M., Biometrika, vol. 21, 1929, pp. 322—336.

138 Schück, A., MAGW, vol. 43, 1914, pp. 210—234.

139 Bunak, V., ZFMA, vol. 30, 1932, pp. 441—503.