May 24

Nikola Minov : Why don’t all Aromanians celebrate May 23 as their national day?

Catégorie : Isturii,MinduiriEditeur @ 3:57 pm

My answer:

This is a question that can be answered only by those Aromanians who do not want to accept this day as their national day. Ultimately it is their decision and they have their reasons for it. As a historian, though, I will try to get to the core of this particular problem and share my opinion why do some Aromanians, and more particularly the Aromanians in Greece, reject May 23rd as their national day.

Iana Mihailova with Nikola Minov on the National Macedonian TV (Vlashka Redaktsia)

There is a village on the Greek side of the Greek-North Macedonian border, now called Skra, formerly known as Lumnitsa. Back in 1905, most inhabitants of this village celebrated when the Ottoman Sultan signed the famous Irade with which they gained various rights. Further west, there is a city on the Macedonian side of the same border, called Bitola, formerly known as Monastir. Back in May 1905, the majority of the numerous Aromanian population in Bitola was strongly against the Irade and refused to accept it. Even more, those Aromanians in Bitola, among many others, signed petitions in which they claimed to be Greek and refused to accept the Irade.

Now, in the 21st century, the descendants of the Meglen-Vlachs who still live in Lumnitsa do not celebrate May 23rd as the National day of the Aromanians. The descendants of the Aromanians in Bitola, celebrate it as their national day. As paradoxical as it sounds.

What was the reason for their attitude in 1905 and what is it that has changed in the meantime?


In the last decades of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, Romania and Greece were rivals in the attempt to secure patronage over the Aromanians in the Ottoman Empire. For centuries the Aromanians lived in spiritual unity with the Greeks in the Ottoman Empire, they took part in the Greek revolution, and they were educated in Greek schools. But once the Romanian state financed the opening of many Romanian schools in Ottoman Macedonia, part of the Aromanian population switched sides. This was also a political problem for the Greek state because many of the so called “Greek strongholds” in various parts of Macedonia were inhabited by Aromanians, not Greeks, and if these Aromanians stopped attending Greek schools and stopped having Greek sentiments, or even worse, if they started feeling Romanian, not only the Aromanians, but also parts of Ottoman Macedonia could have been lost for the planned future enlargement of the Greek state. For 3-4 decades there was strong tension between Greece and Romania regarding the Aromanians, but most of the time the “war” was fought on educational or religious field. In 1905 the situation drastically changed.


On May 9/22 1905 Sultan Abdul Hammid II signed the Irade and the next day it was publicly announced. It is a fact that this success was achieved on Romanian initiative. Of course, nothing would have been achieved without the blessing and pressure of some Great Powers, especially Germany, but it was Romania who pushed the question. After all, the date when the Irade was signed and published was no accident either, because it was timed to coincide with the Romanian independence day and the King’s day. Once the Irade was signed, the Romanian diplomats, as well as the Romanian newspapers, rushed to proclaim how the Sultan recognized the Romanian nation in the Ottoman Empire – not Aromanian or Vlach. but Romanian -. This was presented as a great Romanian victory. Of course, these news were not well received in Greece. This was in fact a huge diplomatic defeat for Greece, as well as for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. For weeks and months the Greek diplomats and the church authorities tried to revise the decision, complained how there were no Romanians, but only Koutzovlachs who belong to the Greek stock and feel Greek. Tens of petitions were sent from the Aromanian communities, where the locals refused to consider themselves Romanian, or even Vlachs, and they claimed to be Greek. Here I have to say that the majority of the Aromanians back in 1905 still felt more close to Greece than Romania. 

HERE I PAUSE AND YOU CAN TRANSLATE and I go with the last part.

            The situation escalated quickly. The Greek armed bands of andartes, who were supposed to fight the bands of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, started attacking Aromanian villages, especially the strongholds of – how they called them – Roumanized Vlachs. This was the main reason why Greece and Romania cut diplomatic relations in 1906. Then the other Aromanian side formed bands to fight the Greek bands, and most of the time the victims were Aromanian civilians, who took the Greek or the Romanian side. Too much blood was spell in 1906 and 1907 and too much bad blood was left for decades. 

            To summarize, the Irade of 1905 was a huge diplomatic defeat for Greece. It was a defeat for the Greek state overall. May 23rd symbolizes this defeat. Now, do we expect the Aromanians who now live in Greece to celebrate a day which symbolizes a defeat of their motherland? These people are indeed Aromanian, but they were born and raised in Greece, they work in Greece, they married Greeks. They love their country, just like Aromanians living elsewhere love their own country. And nobody wants to celebrate a defeat. Perhaps this is not the most accurate analogy, but it’s like Aromanians from Romania celebrating the day when Romania loses a football World Cup match against Greece. 

            Also, it was the Turkish Sultan who signed the Irade. Having in mind the complicated and not very amicable relations between Greece and Turkey, one can understand why a sultan’s word is not considered a gospel truth in Greece. 

This should explain why the Vlachs in Lumnitsa that I mentioned at the beginning of this discussion do not celebrate the day. As for the Aromanians in Bitola – in 1905 most of them felt strong connections with Greece, with the pro-Greek Ecumenical Orthodox church and with Greek culture, and they saw the Irade as a national shame. But in the meantime, once the borders were drawn after the wars, Bitola became part of Serbia, then Yugoslavia, Republic of Macedonia and now North Macedonia, and in their last homeland they are recognized as a minority and their country officially recognizes 23rd of May as the “National day of the Vlachs”. The Irade was no defeat for their homeland and they can freely celebrate it. They even feel proud about it.

This is only the answer from a historical point of view. There are many other contemporary issues which do not allow the celebration of this day in Greece. It would open Pandora’s box in a country that does not recognize many of its minorities. 

Post scriptum Nikola Minov is the author of the book Vlashkoto Prashanie i Romanskata Propaganda vo Makedonia (1860-1903), Skopje : édition Lamia, 2013. Cf.

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