REPORT ON THE STATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS OF RUMANIANS AND VLACHS IN SERBIA
- GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION, SIZE AND LANGUAGE
In Serbia there are two populations of Romanic origin. One lives in Vojvodina and is largely concentrated in Banat and the other is in East Serbia, in the valleys of the Danube and the Morava, in the Homolje Mountains and Timok Area. The first group is made of Banat Rumanians and the second is known as Vlachs.
Moreover, there are also a certain number of Arumanians or Tzintzars who are also of Romanic origin but they are very few, having been almost completely assimilated and the population censuses do not mention them. It is, however, a well-known fact that many eminent personalities were of Tzintzar origin and that includes two great Serb comedy writers Jovan Sterija Popovic and Branislav Nusic, the statesman and diplomat Koca Popovic, the well-known lawyer Fila Filota and others.
According to the population census of 1991 there were 42,331 Rumanians in Serbia. Of them, 38,832 lived in Vojvodina and the rest were largely of Belgrade. They accounted for 1.93 per cent of the Vojvodina population. A vast majority (93%) lives in 11 municipalities but they are not a majority population in any one of them. A higher share of the Rumanian population is found in the municipalities of Alibunar, Vrsac, Bela Crkva, Zitiste, Plandiste, Kovacica, Kovin, Secanj, Pancevo, Zrenjanin and Novi Sad. Regionally speaking, an overwhelming majority of the Rumanians lives in Banat.
The censuses taken after the First and the Second World Wars show that the number of the Banat Rumanians and their share in the Vojvodina population have been steadily declining. Their number almost halved between 1921 and 1991. This decline was particularly evident in the wake of the Second World War. According to the population census of 1948 they accounted for 3.53 per cent of the Vojvodina population; 3.37 per cent in 1953; 3.09 per cent in 1961; 2.71 per cent in 1971; 2.32 per cent in 1981 and 1.93 per cent in 1991. The explanation of this should be sought, on the one hand in migrations, which have considerably altered the ethnic structure of Vojvodina, and on the other in the low birth rate among the Rumanians and their gradual assimilation.
The Vojvodina Rumanians speak the Banat variant of the Daco-Romanian dialect.
The Serbian Vlachs have always been a subject of controversies - often with political background. Argument extended even to their origin and ethnic affiliation. According to some, Vlachs are Rumanians and according to others - Serbs, who simply happen to speak the "Walachian". The "Vlach issue" gained political topicality once again when the Movement of Vlachs and Rumanians of Yugoslavia (subsequently the Movement of Rumanians-Vlachs in Yugoslavia) was founded in 1991. In 1993 it submitted a request for the recognition of the national minority status. The authorities turned a deaf ear and the Movement accused them of attempts to assimilate Vlachs just as all the former regimes have been doing it ever since a part of the Vidin Pashalik - where they were the indigenous population - was annexed to Serbia in 1833.
The origin and ethnic affiliation of the Vlachs are mystified for political reasons. Scientists does not dispute that Vlachs are descendants of the indigenous Balkan population Romanised during the rule of the Roman Empire and that the language they speak is Rumanian. Linguists believe that the old Slavonic word "Vlach" (Wloch in Polish) is a derivation of the old Germanic word Walhos and old High German word Walh (Encyclopaedia of Yugoslavia, vol. 8, p. 513 - Jugoslavenski leksikografski zavod, Zagreb, 1971).
Linguistic studies show that the majority of East Serbian Vlachs also speak the Banat variant of the Daco-Romanian dialect, like the Banat Rumanians. In the Vlach variant there are number of loanwords, largely of Slavonic (not only Serb) origin, but it is not known how many as such statistics have not been made for East Serbia. The Vlachs of Timok Krajina speak the Munten variant of the Daco-Romanian dialect, which has been adopted as the Rumanian standard language. Once again, however, it is a modification of the dialect due to the influence of Slavonic and other languages, and its vocabulary much poorer than that of the standard language as in Eastern Serbia there are no schools in Rumanian. The interaction of these two variants in Eastern Serbia produced a transitional speech but it is rather a derivative of the above mentioned two Rumanian variants than a separate 'Vlach language".
According to the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia, east Serbian Vlachs live in 328 villages and 20 towns along the Danube valley (from Veliko Gradiste to the mouth of the Timok River, in the Morava valley (principally east of the Velika Morava, but some also in a few places on its west bank), in Homolje (over a large area) and Timok Krajina. These localities are in the municipalities of Bor, Boljevac, Golubac, Despotovac, Zajecar, Zagubica, Zabari, Kladovo, Kucevo, Majdanpek, Malo Crnice, Negotin, Petrovac, Paracin, Cuprija, Svilajnac, Pozarevac and Veliko Gradiste. They are often the majority population in villages whilst their share in the urban population is much smaller.
According to the 1991 census, there were 17,807 Vlachs in Serbia. The Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia affirms, however, that this is not true and assesses that in Eastern Serbia their number ranges between 200,000 and 300,000. It refers to the research conducted by Dr Dragoljub Petrovic, professor of modern Serbian history, who affirms that there are about 220,000 Vlachs in that region. The tremendous discrepancy between the figures yielded by the population census and the historical and linguistic assessments means - claims the Movement - that the census did not record the actual number of the Vlachs.
The reservations voiced by the Movement with regard to the official data are supported by enormous and evidently unnatural fluctuations of their numbers from one population census to the other. In 1948, the census showed 102,953 Vlachs and shortly afterwards - in 1953 - only 28,074. In 1961 their number dropped to improbable 1,368. At the time of the next census - in 1971 - the number of Vlachs increased to 14,724 and in 1981 to 25,596. The last census, taken in 1991, again showed a drop to 17,807.
These "appearances" and "disappearances" of Vlachs find no credible demographic explanation, especially if one bears in mind that there were no major migrations in that part of Serbia over the period under consideration. On the other hand, the claims of the Movement that forceful pressure was frequently brought upon the Vlachs to declare themselves as Serbs and that they often resorted to ethnic mimicry fearful of problems they might have if they said they belonged to a people which "is not recognised here", sound rather credible. That the whole matter has to do with politics, one can also infer from the manner in which censuses were conducted. In 1953, for instance, the census form (Form PS - 1), item 11 "Ethnic origin", offered the following options: "Serb, Croat, Slovene, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Hungarian, Sqiptar, German, Italian, Czech, Slovak, Turk, Gypsy etc." Vlachs were not mentioned. They were put on record as Vlachs only if they insisted on it. Evidently, such insistence was not desirable, for how else can one explain that the 1953 census in Timok District recorded one and only one Vlach? (Population census 1953, Vol. XI, p. 445; Age, Literacy and Ethnicity, Municipal Records Based on the Administrative Subdivision in 1953, Federal Statistics Administration 1960). It is also curious that big "disappearances" of Vlachs coincided in time with particular periods in the history of the second and present Yugoslavia: after the Cominform Resolution of 1948 when the Soviet tanks were deployed along the Rumanian border and after the so-called anti-bureaucratic revolution of 1988, which inaugurated the concept of national "homogenisation" and creation of a unitary, centralised national state.
II. THE LEGAL STATUS
The Vojvodina Rumanians enjoy the status of a national minority. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, the Statute of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and accompanying legal acts guarantee accordingly a broad range of human and civil rights. However, their enjoyment is not always in harmony with the officially proclaimed principles.
In Eastern Serbia Vlachs enjoy the status of an ethnic group. At present they are requesting from the federal and republican authorities to grant them the national minority status. It is important as it would provide them with a legal basis for the exercise of a number of rights they do not enjoy at present, notably the right to education and information in their mother tongue, the official use of their language and alphabet and the right to cultivate their national culture.
The Vlach request to be recognised the national minority status dates some time back. The Movement of the Vlachs and Rumanians of Yugoslavia (now the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia) first turned to the former president of Yugoslavia Dobrica Cosic (12 July 1992) asking for a meeting. Cosic received the President of the Movement Dimitrije Kracunovic who informed him of the requests set forth in the Movement's Programme and Statute and addressed to the federal and republican authorities. At the time these documents did not mention the recognition of the national minority status to the Vlachs, but did ask that this people be allowed primary education and information in the mother tongue and representation in the local, republican and federal agencies of power. It was pointed out that, contrary to some media claims, the Movement did not advocate the autonomy of the region inhabited by Vlachs. As the meeting with Mr Cosic bore no fruit, on 18 May 1993 the Movement submitted to the Federal Ministry for Human Rights and National Minorities the Request for the Recognition of the National Minority Status to Vlachs-Rumanians in the Danube Valley, the Morava Valley, Homolje and Timok Region. The request specified that the Movement sought the "recognition of the status of the Rumanian national minority" for the Vlachs. The request was substantiated by the claim that Vlachs were in point of fact Rumanians and that the Banat Rumanians enjoyed the national minority status.
"We have traditional relations with the Banat Rumanians, speak the same language, belong to the same creed and it is a true wonder how they - the Rumanians in Banat - enjoy all the rights and we the Rumanians south of the Danube (so-called Vlachs) who are much more numerous than they and are separated only by the Danube have no national rights at present," the text of the Request says.
The Federal Government did not respond and the Movement applied to it once again on 29 January 1996. This time the Movement's requests were specified:
- Recognition of the national minority status for the protection and promotion of our ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity;
- Opportunity to use our mother (Rumanian) language in private and in public, in verbal and written communication;
- Opportunity to be educated in our mother (Rumanian) language in elementary schools - to learn both Serbian and Rumanian languages (bilingual instruction) - in all places where members of our population live in larger numbers. We request in particular that the instruction encompasses education in our history and culture;
- Opportunity to receive information in our language in written and audio-visual media;
- Opportunity to have religious services in Rumanian in places inhabited by members of our people."
Once again, the Federal Government failed to respond. Meanwhile, the Movement has undertaken other steps in pursuit of its goals. The "Vlach question" has been internationalised. On 3 May 1997 the Prime Minister of Rumania Victor Ciorbea received the delegations of Vlachs from Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Ukraine. The Yugoslav delegation was headed by Dimitrije Kracunovic, the President of the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs in Yugoslavia and Vikentije Idvoreanu, chairman of the Novi Sad branch of the Community of Rumanians in Yugoslavia. D. Kracunovic asked Mr Ciorbea to uphold the rights of the East Serbian Vlachs and the latter promised to notify the Council of Europe and try to help them in upgrading their status, notably mother tongue education. Two weeks later (May 16) Adrian Severin, Rumanian Foreign Minister, met in Vrsac with the Yugoslav Foreign Affairs Minister Milan Milutinovic and on the same occasion received Kracunovic and Jon Cizmas, President of the Community of Rumanians in Yugoslavia. Severin promised to take steps to upgrade the Vlach status in Yugoslavia.
On 3 November 1997, in the course of the Balkan summit on Crete, Yugoslavia's President Slobodan Milosevic met with the Rumanian Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea. The Rumanian Premier raised the question of the Yugoslav Vlachs and inquired about the possibility to provide them with education in the mother tongue. The "Vlach question" was thus raised to the highest Yugoslav-Rumanian level.
Ivan Sedlak, minister without portfolio in the Serbian Cabinet received on 10 February 1998 the delegation of the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs in Yugoslavia headed by Mr Kracunovic. On that occasion he was informed about the Movement's request to have the Vlachs granted the national minority status. Meanwhile the Movement sent letters to the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Rumania, inviting them to organise a joint round table about Vlachs.
The Vlachs enjoy the support of eminent intellectuals among the Banat Rumanians with regard to the mother language and culture and the national minority status. However, this support is not always quite overt. Ion Marcovician, a Novi Sad writer and the honorary president of the Assembly of the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia, believes that the support of Banat Rumanian institutions and media would be stronger if the latter were not afraid that their own positions might be threatened in consequence.
III - SCHOOLING AND EDUCATION
National minorities in Serbia may receive instruction in their mother tongue from the elementary to secondary to high and higher institutions of learning. The Law on Elementary Education and the Law on Secondary Education regulate the right to elementary and secondary education in national minority languages. The Law on High Education and the University Law regulate higher and high education in national minority languages.
The primary education in national minority languages is provided when not less than fifteen pupils enroll the first grade. However, subject upon the consent of the minister of education, a school may open a class even if the number of applicants is below that threshold.
In 1996/97 of 2,859 pupils of Rumanian origin in Vojvodina elementary schools, 1,628 attended instruction in Rumanian. The primary education in Rumanian was provided for them in 18 elementary schools and 14 detached classes in nine municipalities; 1,231 pupils of Rumanian origin, i.e. 43.06 per cent of the total, attended instruction in Serbian. As against the previous school year the number of Rumanians pupils dropped by 45.
In 1996/97 655 pupils of Rumanian origin attended regular secondary education in Vojvodina. Of them, 183, i.e. 27.94 per cent received instruction in their mother tongue and 472, i.e. 72.06 per cent in Serbian. Instruction in Rumanian is provided in two secondary schools - the General Secondary School in Vrsac and the Economic School in Alibunar.
During the school year 1996/97 37 Rumanians attended high schools. Of them, 23 studied in Rumanian at the High Teachers' School in Vrsac. As regards the higher education, there are 48 Rumanians studying at the Novi Sad University. Nineteen Rumanians are studying at the Department for the Rumanian language and Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad.
At its session of 27 February 1998 the Executive Council of Vojvodina proposed to the Government of Serbia to open detached classes of teachers' schools in Hungarian, Slovak and Rumanian. A detached class of the Teachers' Faculty in Belgrade should open in Vrsac for the instruction of teachers in Rumanian.
The Vlachs do not have schools in their mother tongue. The organ of the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia Vorba noastra (Our Word) began to carry, as of its issue No. 7 of October 1995, various contributions, acquainting the readers with their mother tongue. On 1 September 1996 the Movement launched courses in Rumanian at its headquarters in Zajecar. The attendants are by and large young people who have completed their secondary education and intend to enroll universities in Rumania, and the teachers are experts in Rumanian language from Novi Sad and Belgrade. Last year, 32 persons attended the course. Thirty-five Vlachs benefit from grants and accommodation in boarding schools, which allows them to study in Rumania.
Earlier attempts to provide alternative education in the mother tongue met with the fierce resistance of the authorities. In a letter to Helsinki committee for Human Rights in Serbia (14 August 1996) the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia says that the "police prevents the import of school books in Rumanian". The letter says, "in August 1993 in the village of Slatina near Bor, a Bor police patrol seized 515 children's primary readers intended for our members. It was a gift from a humanitarian organisation in Rumania; the books were burnt."
IV - OFFICIAL USE OF THE LANGUAGE AND ALPHABET
The official use of the language and alphabet is regulated by the Constitution of FR Yugoslavia, Constitution of the Republic of Serbia, the Law on the Official Use of the Language and Alphabet, statutes of autonomous provinces and municipal statutes. All these documents specify that the languages and alphabets of the national minorities shall be in use in the areas inhabited by national minorities, as prescribed by law.
The Statute of AP Vojvodina lays down that in addition to the Serbian language, there shall be ensured simultaneous use of the Hungarian, Slovak, Rumanian and Ruthenian language and alphabet as well as languages and alphabets of other national minorities as prescribed by law. The Law on the Official Use of the Language and Alphabet (Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, No. 45/91) prescribes that the municipalities with national minority populations shall specify when the languages of national minorities shall be used in their territories.
The Rumanian language is in official use in 10 out of 11 Vojvodina municipalities with a significant Rumanian population. The only exception is Novi Sad. The Rumanian language is an official language in Alibunar, Vrsac, Zitiste, Zrenjanin, Kovacica, Bela Crkva, Kovin, Pancevo, Plandiste and Secanj.
The official use of the language and alphabet means the use of the language and alphabet in the verbal and written communication between state agencies and organisations and citizens, and in the proceedings conducted for the exercise of civil rights and duties. Particularly important is the right of every citizen to be acquainted in his/her mother tongue with the facts in court proceedings. With regard to the Rumanian language, this rights is not ensured in the municipalities of Zrenjanin and Secanj and for the municipality of Plandiste the official statistics of the Executive Council of Vojvodina provide no information. According to the same source, the law is not applied in the above mentioned municipalities because of the "shortage of professional cadres".
Personal documents and other documents related to the enjoyment of civil rights are issued in Rumanian in all 10 municipalities where this language is in official use. Place names are in Rumanian in Plandiste, Kovacica, Kovin, Zitiste and Bela Crkva. Names of streets and squares are in Rumanian in Alibunar, Plandiste, Kovacica, Secanj, Bela Crkva, Zitiste and Kovin. The plaques with the names of institutions and agencies are in Rumanian in Kovin, Bela Crkva, Alibunar and Plandiste. Traffic and road signs appear in Rumanian in Alibunar, Bela Crkva, Plandiste, Kovacica, Secanj and Zitiste. Names of companies are in Rumanian in Alibunar, Kovacica, Plandiste, Bela Crkva, Zrenjanin, Zitiste and Kovin.
The Rumanian language is not in official use in any East Serbian municipality with Vlach population.
V - POLITICAL LIFE
Vojvodina Rumanians do not a have an ethnic-based political party.
The Vlachs began to organise on an ethnic basis in post-Titoist Yugoslavia and in particular after the so-called anti-bureaucratic revolution in Serbia in 1988 when the national homogenisation of the majority population entailed the national homogenisation of minority peoples. The attempt to politically organise the Vlachs met with the resistance of the authorities. On 19 May 1988 the Municipal Court in Zajecar sentenced the retired colonel and President of the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia Dimitrije Kracunovic to one year and three months and Persida Krstic to three months of imprisonment. Both were charged with the "dissemination of falsehoods". This was how the court qualified the "presentation of false facts about the allegedly inferior status of the Vlachs" and "comparison of the Timok Region with Kosovo". The District Court in Zajecar confirmed the sentence on 10 November.
The introduction of the multiparty system provided the legal basis for the political organisation of Vlachs. On 13 September 1991 representatives of the Banat Rumanians and Vlachs from the Timok Region met in Zajecar and formed the Action Committee for the Establishment of a Political Party of Vlachs (Rumanians) in Eastern Serbia. The members of the Action Committee could not agree about the name and the programme of the future party and two parties emerged in consequence: the Movement of the Vlachs and Rumanians of Yugoslavia with its seat in Zajecar (subsequently renamed as the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia) and the National Autonomous Party of Vlachs with the seat in Kladovo.
The Movement of the Vlachs and Rumanians of Yugoslavia was founded on 10 December 1991 in the village of Dusanovac (its old Vlach name is Djanova). Under the new name - the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia - it was registered with the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia on 1 July 1996 as a political organisation with headquarters in Zajecar. The change of the name was motivated by the desire to stress the Vlach affiliation with the body of ethnic Rumanians.
Its president is retired JNA colonel Dimitrije Kracunovic from Zajecar. Its honorary president for life is a Rumanian from Banat, writer Jon Marcovician. This is another symbolic association between Vlachs and Banat Rumanians.
The party programme says: "The Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs is basically a cultural organisation, although it is also registered as a political organisation. It brings together people of Rumanian or so-called Vlach ethnic origin in Eastern Serbia and Banat, pursuing their national identity in the State of the Republic of Serbia". It specifies that its main objective is the "national minority status for all Rumanians (Vlachs) in the Republic of Serbia and FR Yugoslavia" so that they could enjoy the same rights as "other national minorities in the Republic of Serbia and FR Yugoslavia". The programme emphasizes that its request for the recognition of the Vlach national minority status is not motivated by any aspiration to then proceed to request the autonomy for the region inhabited by Vlachs. The document points out that the Movement is "not behind any autonomy and is against any separatism".
The Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia has its District Committee for Banat with headquarters in Kovacica. Its chairman is Jovo Mihailovic. The Movement cooperates with the Community of Rumanians of Yugoslavia (cultural organisation in Vrsac), the Forum of Vlachs in Bor (another cultural organisation), Rumanian cultural associations Astra Romana (Temisoara) and Ginta Latina (Iasi), Association of Vlachs in Croatia and Association of Vlachs in Bulgaria. Particularly important is the cooperation with Astra Romana in Temisoara, which organises annual symposia for Rumanians outside Rumania. In 1996 the symposium addressed the Status of Rumanians outside Rumania with a Special Reference to the Status of Rumanians (so-called) Vlachs in Eastern Serbia and Northern Part of Bulgaria.
The National Autonomous Party of Vlachs with headquarters in Kladovo is of local and marginal nature. It lays the emphasis on the national autochthony of Vlachs. Its president is Cedomir Pasatovic from Kladovo.
VI - CULTURAL LIFE
In accordance with their national minority status Banat Rumanians enjoy the right to cultivate national culture. The most important organisation in this regard is the Community of Rumanians of Yugoslavia based in Vrsac and with a number of subsidiaries in other places. It was founded on 20 November 1990. The president is Jon Cizmas. It has its commissions for science, culture, education, arts and information and cooperates with schools with instruction in Rumanian and the University in Novi Sad. The Community also cooperates with the Movement of Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia, Cultural Forum of Vlachs in Bor, Matica Slovacka, the Federation of the Ruthenians and Ukrainians and the Association of Romany in Nis.
The Society for the Rumanian Language in Vojvodina was founded in Vrsac in 1962. It focuses on the preservation, study and cultivation of the Rumanian language and literature. The Society organises conventions and conferences of educators-members of the Society, literary colonies of Rumanian writers, international gatherings Writers on the Border and activities of Radu Flora Literary Circle. It cooperates with the Community of Rumanians of Yugoslavia, similar associations in Yugoslavia and Rumania and various other institutions interested in the Rumanian language. The Society enjoys the financial support of the Assembly of Vojvodina.
Lumina (Light), the magazine for literature, culture and arts was launched in 1947. Its first editor was poet Vasko Popa. Its present editor is writer Ioan Baba. In Vasko Popa's time, the contributors were Mihaj Avramescu, Radu Flora, Ion Balaban, Aurel Gavrilov, and they were succeeded by Jon Marcovician, Aurel Pasul, Florika Stefan, Traian Doban and others. In addition to encouraging literature in Rumanian Lumina also encourages translations from other languages into Rumanian. There is hardly a Serb writer of note who has not been translated and published in Lumina. So far it has published close to 30,000 pages and 15 books in the Collection of the Lumina Magazine.
Libertatea (Freedom) is a newspaper publisher issuing on the average six books per year in some 500 copies each.
Theatre Days of the Rumanians in Vojvodina are already 24 years old. The event is a review of amateur theatres in Alibunar. Four theatres participating in the review are accorded the status of Stage, which is earned or lost depending on the artistic merits demonstrated during the event. Last year the Stage status was accorded to the amateur theatres from Uzdin, Nikolinci, Lokve and Straza. These theatres enjoy the financial support of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia and the Assembly of Vojvodina.
The Rumanian Ethnographic and Folklore Society (Foundation) in Vojvodina was founded in 1995. It engages in permanent surveys of the folk culture of the Vojvodina Rumanians (polls cover all places with the Rumanian population in Vojvodina), organisation of scientific gatherings and festivals. The Society publishes a quarterly magazine called Traditia (Tradition).
The Festival of Rumanian Music and Folklore is organised since 1957. Its participants are often societies cultivating Serb music and the folklore of other national minorities as well as companies from Rumania, Moldova and Bulgaria and Vlachs from East Serbia. Within the framework of this festival the Rumanian Ethnographic and Folklore Society organises the Children's Festival of Vojvodina Rumanian Music and Folklore.
The programme of the Movement of Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia stresses that the Movement is "basically a cultural organisation". And indeed it sponsors programmes aimed at promoting the mother tongue and culture. However, its financial resources are very limited. The most important activity in this area is the cultivation of the mother tongue and culture through the newspaper Vorba noastra and organisation of Rumanian proficiency courses.
The Forum of Vlachs in Bor, headed by Dr Milivoje Stangacilovic, focuses primarily on Vlach Ethnographic and Folklore.
Cultural and artistic societies are specific institutions geared to preserving and promoting Vlach cultural heritage. They participate in various local music and folklore reviews and events such as Slatinski Sabor, Homoljski Motivi and the annual contest of the Bor municipality villages called From May to May. There they compete in singing, dancing, national dress and handiwork, knowledge of customs and oral literature. In addition to music and dances, particularly interesting are verbal contests in toasts, patter and incantations. Cultural-artistic societies from Eastern Serbia participate in Rumanian music and folklore festivals in Vojvodina.
The Movement of Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia warns, however, that many societies are constantly under the eye and pressure of the regime and their members confirm this. One of the founding members of the Cultural-Artistic Society Slatina, Dragi Dimitrijevic-Krcoaba said for Vorba noastra (No. 7 of October 1995) that they were not allowed even to announce their programmes in Rumanian let alone perform in that language although their audience is principally Vlach.
VII - MASS MEDIA
Like all the other national minorities, the Banat Rumanians have an institutionalised system of public information in their mother tongue funded from public sources (state budget). There are also private papers.
- Radio and television
Radio Novi Sad has broadcast radio programmes in Rumanian for almost 50 years. The Rumanian desk airs an average of 6.6 hours daily. About one third of the programmes in Rumanian is devoted to music, followed by news and feature programmes and programmes addressing culture and science. Special attention is accorded to traditional cultural events of the Banat Rumanians and the activity of the Community of the Rumanians of Yugoslavia, the Rumanian Ethnographic and Folklore Society and the Society for the Rumanian Language in Vojvodina. There are also local radio stations broadcasting in national minority languages. Four radio stations - VAP (Vrsac, Alibunar and Plandiste), Radio Zrenjanin, Radio Kovin and Radio Kovacica - have programmes in Serbian, Rumanian and other minority languages. They are all publicly owned.
The Rumanian desk of the Novi Sad Television broadcasts about 15 minutes of programmes in Rumanian daily. An overwhelming part of these programmes (ca 80%) are news, followed by entertainment (11 per cent) and scientific and cultural programmes.
- Written press
The Assembly of Vojvodina is the founder of five political papers "of provincial relevance", including Libertatea (Freedom) in Rumanian. It was launched in May 1945 and comes out once a week. The average number of copies is 4,000. The Assembly of Vojvodina is also the founder of a Tineretea (Youth), a youth monthly in Rumanian and Bucuria copilor (Children's Joy), a children's monthly.
The Community of the Rumanians of Yugoslavia publishes its organ Cuvantul romanesc (The Rumanian Word) and five local papers in Uzdin, Banatsko Novo Selo, Lokve, Nikolinci, Novi Sad.
Tibiscus (Latin name of the Tamis River) is the name of the Society for Literature and Arts in Uzdin, which publishes its paper with six supplements for the neighbourhood organisations of the Society. It comes out once a month and has a circulation of about 1,000 copies. As its editor Vasiliu Barbu says, it "promotes love, peace and multi-ethnicity".
There are also local papers such as Familia (Family) in Vladimirovci, Gazeta de Seleus (Seleus Paper) in Seleus and some other places.
The Vlachs do not have a state-funded institutionalised system of public information in their mother tongue. The paper Vorba noastra (Our Word) and Rumanian programmes on Radio Zajecar, both launched in the wake of World War II, were abolished in 1948.
The Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia has its monthly, Vorba noastra, financed by the Movement members and domestic and foreign sponsors. It comes out on 20 A-4 pages and the average number of copies is 1,000.
The Movement has repeatedly asked Radio Television Serbia and the authorities in Belgrade to help the publication of Vorba noastra, introduce Rumanian programmes on Radio Zajecar and other local stations in areas with Vlach population and ensure in them the reception of Novi Sad television prgorammes in Rumanian. In answer, the regime-controlled media launched attacks against the movement accusing it of nationalism and separatism.
VIII - RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
In Vojvodina the Banat Rumanians attend religious services in Rumanian in places where there are significant numbers of them. The Vlachs in Eastern Serbia, who belong to Eastern Orthodoxy, do not have that possibility. They have repeatedly approached the Serb Orthodox Church and Patriarch Pavle in person, asking to be allowed to have religious services in their mother tongue. All these attempts have gone unheeded so far.
IX - ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL SITUATION
According to a poll conducted by the Novi Sad branch of the Radio Television Serbia's Public Opinion Survey Centre (National Minority Members on Their Status and Ethnic Relations in Vojvodina, Novi Sad 1994), 34 per cent of the Rumanian respondents are farmers, 10 per cent are workers, five per cent civil servants, three per cent executives, professionals and artists; 31 per cent are housewives and the rest are pensioners, students etc. The survey showed that 13 per cent of the Romanians did not complete elementary education; 41 per cent had elementary education; 35 per cent completed secondary education, and 11 per cent were high and higher school graduates.
There has been no survey of this kind among the Vlach population. The Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia claims that the Vlachs are the poorest segment of the East Serbian population, due in part to economic discrimination against them. The same source affirms that in state-owned companies they are invariably hired for low-paid jobs only.
X - RECOMMENDATIONS
It is evident that the two population groups of Romanic origin, which speak the same language - Banat Rumanians in Vojvodina and Vlachs in Eastern Serbia - do not enjoy the same rights. The first are recognised the national minority status and the latter are denied it. In consequence, the former enjoy the constitutional and legal rights to be educated in their mother tongue, officially use their language and alphabet, be informed in their language, cultivate their national culture and the like. The latter are denied all these rights. They cannot even practise their religion in their own language but this is the question to be solved by the Church rather than the State.
The initiative of the Movement of the Rumanians-Vlachs of Yugoslavia to grant them status of the national minority ought not to be rejected a priori. It would be purposeful to consider it in earnest and also hear the opinion of experts. The Movement's suggestion that the Serbian and the Rumanian academies of sciences and arts give their opinion on the origin of the Vlachs and the language they speak is quite judicious.
The Vlachs should not be hampered in their efforts to cultivate their language and culture. The help their receive from Rumanian and international humanitarian organisations and cultural associations should not be treated as "hostile activity".
The Movement's requests to allow the Vlachs to be informed in their mother tongue should not be rejected right away either, all the more so as some segments of it could be provided relatively easily. It should not be difficult, for instance, to expand the coverage of the Television Novi Sad Rumanian programmes to Eastern Serbia. Technically it is quite feasible. Local radio stations in Zajecar, Bor and some other places could also include some Rumanian programmes, all the more so as many of their listeners persistently ask for it.
Suspiciousness towards the Vlachs lacks any ground. The same holds true of their Movement which is a lawful political organisation and whose statute and programme emphasize their loyalty to Serbia and Yugoslavia.