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Morlachs (Croatian and Serbian language: Morlaci, Serbian Cyrillic language: Морлаци ) was the name used for the rural population in the Dalmatian hinterlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, which was primarily composed of Eastern Orthodox Serbs, and to a lesser degree Roman Catholic Croats. There were several notable warriors of this group that served the Republic of Venice and , including Stojan Janković and Vuk Mandušić.

Origin and culture

According to some scholars, the etymology point to a possible Vlach (Aromanian) origin.[citation needed]

The population migrated from the Serbian lands, amid and after the Ottoman Empire's conquering of those lands.[citation needed]

The Croatians historically used the term "Vlach" for anyone who professed the Orthodox faith as opposed to Catholicism. Vlachs, referring to pastoralists, was a common name for Serbs in the Ottoman Empire and later.[a]

Italian Alberto Fortis mentioned the Morlachs in his 1774 work "Put po Dalmaciji";[1] he found that they sang beautiful verses of Serb epic poetry related to the Turkish occupation of Serbian Kosovo (Kosovo cycle).[2] They sang the verses along with the traditional single stringed instrument called gusle.[2] The poetry was collected by the Scottish man-of-letters Lord Bute, who was close to King George III.[2] Contemporary I. Lovrić, said that the Morlachs were Slavs who spoke better Slavic than the Ragusians (owing to the growing Italianization of the Dalmatian coast). He claimed the ethnonym "Morlaci" was derived from the word more (sea) and laci meaning "strong".[1] Lovrić made no distinction between the Vlachs/Morlachs and the Dalmatians and Montenegrins that were also mentioned (peoples of Croatia and Slavonia were not mentioned), he was not at all bothered by the fact that the Morlachs were predominantly Orthodox Christian.[1]

Boško Desnica (1886-1945), after analysing Venetian papers, concluded that they always mentioned the script and language of the Morlachs as "Servian".[3]


"Morlachia" in the 17th century. 1785 map by T. Jefferys.

The term Morlachi is first mentioned in 1352, in the agreement in which Zadar sold salt to the Republic of Venice, in which Zadar retained part of the salt that Morlachi and others exported by land.[4]

In August 1417, Venetian authorities were concerned with the "Morlachs [Vlachs] and other Slavs" from the hinterland, that were a threat to security in Šibenik.[5]

In 1593, Provveditore Generale Cristoforo Valier, mentioned three nations constituting the Uskoks; "natives of Senj, Croatians, and Morlachs from the Turkish parts".[6]

In the 17th-century, Stojan Janković was one of the Morlach leaders in Dalmatia. In the summer of 1685, Cosmi, the Archbishop of Split, wrote that Stojan had brought 300 families with him to Dalmatia, and also that around Trogir and Split there were 5000 refugees from Turkish lands, without food - seen as a serious threat to the defense of Dalmatia.[7] Grain sent by the Pope proved insufficient, and the Serbs were forced to launch expeditions into Turkish territory.[7]

Morlach peasant from the Split region. Théodore Valerio (1819–1879), 1864.

According to the 1991 Croatian census, 22 people declared themselves as Morlachs.[citation needed] There was no data on Morlachs in the 2001 Croatian census.[8]

See also

  • Montenegro


  1. ^ "Vlachs", referring to pastoralists, was a common name for Serbs in the Ottoman Empire and later.[9] Tihomir Đorđević points to the already known fact that the name 'Vlach' didn't only refer to genuine Vlachs or Serbs but also to cattle breeders in general.[9] A letter of Emperor Ferdinand, sent on November 6, 1538, to Croatian ban Petar Keglević, in which he wrote "Captains and dukes of the Rasians, or the Serbs, or the Vlachs, who usually call themselves the Serbs".[9] Serbs that took refuge in the Habsburg Krajina, were called "Vlachs" by Croats.[9] In the work "About the Vlachs" from 1806, Metropolitan Stevan Stratimirović states that Roman Catholics from Croatia and Slavonia scornfully used the name 'Vlach' for "the Slovenians (Slavs) and Serbs, who are of our, Eastern confession (Orthodoxy)", and that "the Turks in Bosnia and Serbia also call every Bosnian or Serbian Christian a Vlach" (T. Đorđević, 1984:110). That the name 'Vlach' was used to signify the Serbs is testified by Vuk Karadžić as well.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Fine 2006, pp. 360-361
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Imagology. p. 235. ISBN 9042023171. 
  3. Fine 2006
  4. Listine o odnošajih Južnoga Slavenstva i Mletačke Republike. III. Zagreb: JAZU. 1872. p. 237. "Prvi se put spominje ime »Morlak« (Morlachi) 1352 godine, 24. lipnja, u pogodbi po kojoj zadarsko vijeće prodaje sol Veneciji, gdje Zadar zadržava dio soli koju Morlaci i drugi izvoze, kopnenim putem." 
  5. Fine 2006, p. 115
  6. Fine 2006, p. 218
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ivan Ninić. Migrations in Balkan history. p. 80. 
  8. Croatian 2001 census, detailed classification by nationality
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 2003. 


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