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Baki Ymeri: The Albanian-Romanian phenomenology―a miracle of history

E enjte, 03.09.2009, 05:12 PM

The Albanian-Romanian phenomenology―a miracle of history


The Albanians are the Romanians’ only relatives from the Dacian-Thracian-Illyrian family. We will uncover here a fascinating terrain of interlinkages dating back to the beginning of history and which have not yet been sufficiently explored. Our Roman-ness did not begin with Trajan’s invasion (101–106 AD), nor did it begin with Decebalus or Burebista. It started much earlier, by means of pastoral farming. We will analyze here its linguistic, ethnographic, and ethnological elements. The ethno-spiritual relationships between the Thracian-Romanian and Illyrian-Albanian pastoralism date from the proto-Roman and proto-Latin periods.


By Baki Ymeri


We will attempt to get to know the very interesting―and still rather mysterious―age and scope of the spiritual ties between Romanians and Albanians. The Albanians are the Romanians’ only relatives from the Dacian-Thracian-Illyrian family. We will uncover here a fascinating terrain of interlinkages dating back to the beginning of history and which have not yet been sufficiently explored.

The Albanian-Romanian relationships are so profound and ample that even today the expression Vllahu është vëlla (English translation: “The Vallachian is our brother”) is commonplace in Albania. “The Albanians and the Romanians are blood brothers,”[1] used to say Nicolae Iorga. “I have written about the Albanians before and I am delighted to return to this subject. This is a truth that nobody has written before: That who controls the Albanians and the Macedonian Romanians, he controls the Orient. There are plenty of Romanians in Albania who are no different from Albanians. These two nations are the strongest there. Romanians are getting along better with the Albanians than with others. Odd thing! Albanians’ traditions are identical to those of Romanians from Macedonia, and, stranger still, they are very similar to those of Romanians from the Principates.”[2] There is nothing strange in this supposition if we take into account Romanians’ pastoral life to the North and South of the Danube. Our Roman-ness did not begin with Trajan’s invasion (101–106 AD), nor did it begin with Decebalus or Burebista. It started much earlier, by means of pastoral farming. We will analyze here its linguistic, ethnographic, and ethnological elements. The ethno-spiritual relationships between the Thracian-Romanian and Illyrian-Albanian pastoralism date from the proto-Roman and proto-Latin periods. I have chosen this topic because Albanians share ancient ties with the Romanians through language. These date back to before Christianly through an ethno-geographical link: Albania–Kosova–Timok Valley–Romania. History and religion explain and justify the closeness of these peoples both as ancient neighbors and modern developing nations. Old and deep ties connect the Romanians and the Albanians; only second hand politicians have ever ignored them. While Romanians survived in the arch traced out by the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube, the Albanians survived in an area that the Romans, the Slavs, the Turks did not manage to dominate. These three successive waves did not manage to destroy nor annihilate the Albanian identity and did not alter its features that render it so close to Romanians.

Kostume nacionale rumuno-shqiptare
Kostume nacionale rumuno-shqiptare
Albanians and Romanians have always been neighbors, except during the Slavic dominance. Their close ties reveal themselves in language, folklore, customs, traditions, clothing, and toponymy. In his work titled “Rumanische Toponomastik” (1924), Iorgu Iordan gives names that are direly linked to the Albanian, such as Arbănaşi (in Buzău), Arnăutul (Negru), Fântâna Arnăutului, Movila Arnăutului, Arnaut Bostan-Dere (in Constantza), etc. Some authors believe that arbănaş also means Aromanian. Daco-Romans from Muntenia and
Moldavia often referred to Aromanians as Albanians, because they came from the Albanian provinces, as they did in Bulgaria. It is similarly known that Albanians who settled in Romania in centuries past were known to the locals as arnăuţi and even Turks. The Romanian toponymy has a number of words other than arbănaşi and arnăut which relate to the Albanian toponymy. The Romanian-Albanian ties have remarkable features that relate to time, space, history, social-psychology, religion, culture, and art. These ties are based on a profound sympathy―something that explains their diversity, vitality, and cordiality. In the PhD thesis with the same title, I provided a chronological account of the cultural events which took place between the 16th and the 20th Centuries. Drawing on a mix of unique publications by Romanian and foreign researchers, I have thus tried to show that we have a common heritage in that we share traditions, customs, habits, beliefs, and rituals. While the Romanian-Albanian ties are linked to the very essence and origin of the two peoples, the later relations with their Slavic neighbors are of political circumstance. I have tackled the issue of the Slavic danger in another paper, in which I tried to argue for a truth that is little known here. While the Russians and the Serbs, through their expansionist politics, have endangered both our identity and the existence of certain Romanian or Albanian territories (e.g., Bessarabia, Bukovina, Western Banat, The Timok Valley, Kosova, etc.), our relations with the Albanians have always been cordial and collaborative. This paper does not take a political stance in discussing Kosova - currently under the protection of the international community- as should Bessarabia be, too. I do not focus on the politics because I wish to discuss the issue from the linguistic and historical point of view, whilst bringing in novel elements. When it comes to language, the Albanian language is of key importance in the study of non-Latin elements pertaining to the Romanian language. “The most straightforward Romanian elements inherited from the Thracian-Dacian language are those that have similar or identical counterparts in Albanian.” [3]

In short (scurt in Romanian, shkurtimisht in Albanian), Albanians and Romanians have developed commonalities in terms of spirituality, language, history, and ethnography over our multi-century civilization. Folk dances, national costumes, and behavior are all proof of their brotherhood; we may call Albanians our co-nationals who say fort bukur for foarte frumos (English translation: very beautiful). Even if this statement may seem too daring, we feel it holds true for reasons that go beyond history or language. By this I mean that there are sentimental arguments, the passion for a common trait―which in fact could weight more than the historical argument––and which shortly will be evident in the European attitude of the two peoples.


Hypotheses and theories concerning the Romanian-Albanian brotherhood


Kur Shqipëria përkufizohej me Rumaninë
Kur Shqipëria përkufizohej me Rumaninë
“According to some scientists, Romanians and Aromanians are known as the true indigenous inhabitants of the lands to the North and South of the
Danube, as descendants of the Thracian-Illyrians.” [4] Born from the Thracian-Illyrian subfamily, the Albanians appeared in the 2nd Century, only to vanish from history for many subsequent centuries. Indeed, the 2nd Century witnessed the first mention of a population inhabiting the current territory of Albania that went by the name of Albanoi and centered on the city Albanopolis. “After this brief endorsement, there was silence until the 11th Century, when a revolt is mentioned ― one that took place in Albania and was set out by Albanians. This enormous gap suggests that the historical beginnings of the Albanians are quite similar to those of Romanians.” [5] According to historiography, from ancient times to today, the South-Danube, Balkan region between the Black, the Adriatic, and the Aegean Seas ― a very friendly area for human settlements ― has been vividly disputed by several nations. At the sunrise of ancient history, there were two related, yet distinct nations which developed here: the Thracians and the Illyrians―the grand-grand-fathers of today’s Romanians and Albanians. According to Nicolae Iorga, “the Romanians’ and the Albanians’ foundation are the Illyrian-Thracian-Dacian tribes which inhabited the Balkan Peninsula and later crossed the Danube, took the name of Getae and Dacians, and later spread all over Transylvania.”[6] In a paper discussing Romanian-Albanian links, the editor-in-chief of a Bucharest magazine wrote, using the pseudonym Boirevista, that “There is no element in present day Romania towards which we have more affection than is the Albanian element, for it is more than twenty centuries old.” [7]

Within the Balkan language family, Albanian and Romanian are closely related. “This relatedness manifests itself in phonetics, morphology, syntax construction, phraseology, the formation of words, vocabulary.” [8] In a paper about the origin of common linguistic elements, independent trajectories, and distinct Thracian-Dacian or Thracian-Illyrian inheritances, Professor Grigore Brâncuş underlined that “the Romanian and Albanian languages are related through a sublayer which is the source of common innovations.”[9] Romanian-Albanian and Thracian-Illyrian relations are ancient; for this reason, there are many similarities, parallels, interlinkages in terms of spiritual and cultural life. In writing about these relations, the distinguished Albanian linguist Eqrem Cabej stated that “The closeness is so apparent that the linguist often feels he is faced with a single language presented in two different forms.” He also wrote that “based on this affinity one can state with quite some certainty that over the passage of time, Albanians and Romanians have been neighbors and may have even lived in symbiosis.” [10] The Italian philologist Giuliano Bonfante asserted that “the Albanians and the Romanians were at a certain time the same people and later were subject to the same Latin wave in the 2nd or 3rd Centuries AD.”[11] The idea of the ancient ethnic and linguistic brotherhood between Romanians and Albanians dates back to the 18th Century. The pioneer of historical and linguistic research on South-East Europe, Johann Erih Thunmann, was convinced that there was a link between the two languages based on close proximity: Albanians are the descendants of ancient Illyrians, while their Vallachian brothers, whom I will discuss further below, are the sons of Thracians. Interestingly, Thunmann thought it necessary to explain the focus of his research: “To us, those who live in the Eastern parts of this continent, there are no people that are less well-known from a historical and language point of view as are the Albanians and the Vallachians. And these are not commonplace, but distinguished people, people that any historian should like to get to know, and whose history is likely to fill a gap in the older and younger history of Europe. Nowadays, these nations no longer play an important role: they are stripped of freedom, rights, and opportunity. And historians are often as unjust as any other people: they despise the less fortunate.” [12]

Based on earlier research, our linguists have come to the conclusion that comparative studies have predominantly analyzed the Albanian language, whose initial connectedness with the Romanian sublayer is widely recognized. Our mysterious brotherhood with the Albanians is at the core of the closeness between the two peoples’ souls and certain warmth in our interactions. These come from a communion of civilization that began many centuries ago. As stated by Grigore Brâncuş, “On the occasion of a trip to Albania in 1957, Alexandru Rosetti was surprised to learn that Albanians have the same phrasal rhythm. According to Rosetti, Albanian is a Centum language due to its commonality with the Illyrian, and a Satem language due to its links with the Thracian.” The elements that are common to the two languages are, with few exceptions, of Thracian origin. Hence Rosetti brings to this argument some vocabulary elements, the phonetic correspondences between the two languages, and common expressions―all of which underpin the common layer of two or more Balkan languages. In “The History of the Romanian Language,” Rosetti lends support to the Albanians’ autochthony in the North of today’s territory, close to the Vallachians; the numerous language analogies could not have developed without close contact between the two. Similarly, Theodor Capidan believes that the Albanians formed on the territory of today’s Northern Albania, in a place where contact with medieval Romanian populations from the South of the Danube was possible.[13] These arguments lead us to agree to the presence of an Albanian-Romanian symbiosis.

Some Romanian linguists asserted that, one thousand years ago, the Timok Romanian population was spread all the way to the Niş-Vranje cities, where it met with the ethnic Albanian population which inhabited the land to the Adriatic Sea. By admitting this link alone―a link that has been broken in the modern era―we can understand the cultural and linguistic relations between Albanians and Romanians. An interesting viewpoint, also presented elsewhere, is that the Aromanian language has fewer Albanian elements than the Romanian language; it is additional proof that Albanians have been in closer vicinity with the Romanians than they have with the Aromanians, probably in the regions of Kosova and further to the North-West, in the Timok Valley. Although officially termed Kosovo, Kosova cannot be Kosovo just like Moldavia, Craiova, Orşova, Cruşova cannot be Moldavio, Craiovo, Orşovo, Cruşovo. Other Albanian researchers have written about the closeness of the two nations. For example, in the case of the Kosovar Albanians who lived in close proximity with the Timok Romanians, the Serbs forced more than 300,000 ethnic Albanians to leave the region during 1877–78. Only the Vallachians were left in the area (on the Toplitza River). These are the traces of the Albanian-Romanian symbiosis!

The same opinion concerning the Romanian-Albanian brotherhood is shared by several Romanian linguists, according to whom Greek and Albanian are the only indigenous languages which have been preserved in the Balkans. The elements shared by these languages underpin the evolving belief that Albanian is a continuation of that language which constitutes the sublayer of the Romanian language.

(Translation: Camelia Minoiu)


Baki Ymeri (MACEDONIA & ROMANIA) is a poet, a translator, an essayist and a publicist, too. He was born in Sipkovita (Macedonia) to an Albanian father and a Romanian mother. Baki Ymeri graduated from The Faculty of Philosophy (Albanian Language and Literature) at the University of Kosovo, Prishtina, and then he specialized in Romanian language at the Universities in Bucharest and Vienna. He is a member of the Romanian Union of Writers, editor in chief of the Albanezul/Shqiptari magazine, an author of many articles about the Romanians in Valea Timocului (Serbia) and the Albanians in Kosovo. He also published poetry: Kaltrina (a Romania-Albanian edition, Bucharest, 1994); Dardania (a Romania-Albanian edition, Bucharest, 1999); Zjarr i Shenjtë/ Foc Sacru (Tetova, R. Macedonia, 2001); Lumina Dardaniei (Bucharest, 2004); Drumul iadului spre Rai (Bucharest, 2005).For his rich cultural activity, Baki Ymeri was nominated as the Man of 2001 by the ABI (American Biographic Institute). He also translated thousands verses from books by over 50 Romanian writers and historians into Albanian, Macedonian and Slovenian, as well as volumes by Nichita Stanescu, Ekspozitë e të palindurve/ Expoziţia celor nenăscuţi (Prishtina, 1986); Anghel Dumbrăveanu: Kënga e mullibardhës/Cântecul sturzului (Scopje, 1986); Slavco Almăjan: Xhuxhmaxhuxhët harruan të rriten/Piticii au uitat să crească (Prishtina, 1989); Marin Sorescu: Eja të ta them një fjalë/Vino să-ţi spun un cuvânt (Prishtina, 1990), etc.


[1] Nicolae Iorga, 1934, excerpt from lecture presented at the conference titled “Albania: Yesterday and Today,” December 7. Kuvendi Kombetar (National Convention), No. 40, Bucharest, pp. 3.        

[2] Dimitrie Bolintineanu, 1968, Călătorii la românii din Macedonia (“Travels to the Romanians in Macedonia”), pp. 84–85 (Bucharest: The Publishing House for Literature).

[3] Grigore Brâncuş, 1987, Bashkeperkimet e lashta rumuno-shqiptare - nje mrekulli e historise (Romanian: “Vechile concordanţe româno-albaneze - un miracol al istoriei;” English: “Old Romanian-Albanian harmony”), Interview taken by this article’s author – B.Y. in Fjala (Romanian: “Cuvântul”; English: “The Word”), No 5, pp. 3, Prishtina.

[4] Constantin Papanace, 1995, Geneza şi evoluţia conştiinţei naţionale la macedo-români (English: “The origin and evolution of Macedonian Romanians’ national consciousness”), pp. 33, Bucharest.

[5] Theodor Capidan, 1943, “Simbioza albano-română şi continuitatea romanilor în Dacia” (English: “The Albanian-Romanian symbiosis and the continuity of Romans in Dacia”), Revista Fundaţiilor Regale, No. 5, pp. 244, Bucharest.

[6] Nicolae Iorga, 1934, excerpt from lecture presented at the conference titled “Albania: Yesterday and Today,” December 7.

[7] Boirevista, 1916, “Înrudirea limbei române cu cea albaneză” (English: “The relationship between the Romanian and the Albanian languages”), Tribuna Albano-Română, No. 1–2, pp. 15, Bucharest.

[8] Luan Topciu, 1999, Sentimentul dorului la Asdren, Poradeci şi Kuteli, Bucharest, p.ll. Eqrem Cabej, Introducere în istoria limbii albaneze, pp. 10 (Bucharest: The University Publishing House).

[9] Grigore Brâncuş, 1995, “Cercetări asupra fondului traco-dac al limbii române” (English: “On the Thracian-Dacian foundations of the Romanian language”), mimeograph, The Romanian Thracology Institute, pp. 8–9, Bucharest.

[10] Eqrem Cabej, 1971, Hyrje ne historine e gjuhes shqipe (Romanian: “Introducere in istoria limbii albaneze;” English: “Introduction to the history of the Albanian language”), Tirana, pp. 171.

[11] Giuliano Bonfante, 1973, Studi romeni, pp. 68, Rome.

[12] Johann Tunmann, 1774, “Untersuchungen ueber die Geschichte oestlichen europaeischen Voelker,” reprinted from Max Demeter Peyfuss’ “Chestiunea Aromaneasca” (English: “The Aromanian question”), 1994, pp. 7 (Bucharest: The Encyclopedic Publishing House).

[13] Theodor Capidan, 1943, “Simbioza albano-română şi continuitatea romanilor în Dacia” (English: “Albanian-Romanian symbiosis and the continuity of Romans in Dacia”), Revista Fundaţiilor Regale, No. 5, Bucharest.

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