When the communist regimes imploded and the Yugoslavian Federation fell apart the demands formulated by the Aromanians were most surprising. They wanted to be recognized as a full-fledged component of the countries in which they lived, namely Albania, Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Romania. If they were not given administrative status, schools and consequential access to the mass media, they claimed, their language (of Latin origin) and culture (marked by transhumant nomadism in particular) was doomed to disappear.
Conservative (which enabled them to survive) but also mobile and enterprising (which further scattered group members), this people was credited with an inglorious exploit for the region : that is, with having made no attempt to impose themselves as a nation, and having occupied “other people’s” nation with no qualms, and sometimes enthusiastically, while continuing to cultivate what set them apart. Worse still : if we go by the centrifugal forces at work in the Aromanian world and the recurrent conflicts wracking it in modern times, one wonders whether its own members were not intent on preventing the advent of a nation of their own.
The majority groups and their States had no intention of giving them national status and the ensuing rights. But were they themselves ready to assume it ? Some were staunchly determined, but most did not seem in any hurry to “clarify” their national identity. Both came up against a discouraging evidence. Belonging to a nation, however feigned, conditionally and reservedly, leaves marks… So the first thing to do is to detach yourself, take your distances. And it was precisely because they were faced with that perspective that the concerns of the Aromanians met up with those of some of their fellow citizens—compatriots or not—who were aware of the dead ends to which belonging to a nation leads, and of how destructive it is. Like it or not, there is hope for a Nation-State in the Balkans, as elsewhere, and the Aromanians may be some steps ahead in doing their mourning for it. But to put an effective end to that mourning the people involved would have to give themselves the means to preserve and vivify their unique cultures, memories and visions of the world, ruled and often ravaged by the different nations.
Moreover, if we were to take into consideration the history and present situation of those “chameleons” of the Balkans, vectors of a “transnational ethnicity” (as two theses in circulation about the Aromanians would have it), we might question a good many certainties, namely, the idea that traditional communities “naturally” want to dissolve in a nation, and too, that the nation is a compulsory steppingstone toward modernity, or again, that belonging to a nation is irreversible . . .
[469 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm ; 33 euros L’Essart, 86310 La Buissière : Acratie]
What the media have to say : The author has been invited to several French radio programs devoted to the book, and especially, “Peuples oubliés” (Forgotten peoples) by Marc Menant on the Europe 1 radio station (June 26, 2005) and “Tire ta langue” (Pull your tongue) by Antoine Perraud on the France Culture radio station (November 18, 2005).
Some excerpts from articles in French periodicals : “Nicolas Trifon has collected most of what is known about the origins and history of the Aromanians, up to the cultural revival of recent years. He sets his remarks at the crux of debates on the nation, and shows the singular place of this “people in excess” with respect to the criteria prevailing since the 19th century.” (Jean-Arnault Dérens, le Monde diplomatique, December 2005).
“A most important book uncovering an often hidden but essential piece of the Balkan mosaic.” (Courrier des Balkans, August 14, 2005)
“If the Aromanians didn’t exist, linguists and Umberto Eco would have invented them. Nicolas Trifon proves this, as he tracks them from Byzantium to the present. He knows the ins and outs of the chronicles, the feats, the misdeeds, the ruses, the intelligence and the panache of what is both a “prenational and postnational” culture, perhaps better equipped than identitary traditions to face globalization.” (Jean-Maurice de Montremy, Livres Hebdo, October 21, 2005)
Acratie, 2005 – followed by Aromanian as it is spoken in Metsovo, by Stamatis Beis and Nomadism in the Aromanians by Thede Kahl