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The Problem of the Origin of the Šokci and Its Reflection in Historiography

Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Publication Date
  • Šokci
  • Vlasi
  • Sasi
  • Albanci
  • Romanski
  • Albanski
  • Šokci
  • Vlachs
  • Saxons
  • Albanians
  • Romanian Language
  • Albanian Language
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Political Science


Taking as its starting point the fact that historiography up to the present day has not offered any satisfactory scholarly answer on the origin of the ethnonym Šokac and the Croatian ethnic sub-group bearing the same name, in this article all the works of historiography, but also of ethnology and linguistics, on the topic so far are analysed, taking a strict critical approach. Hence an acceptable version of the course of events and a chronological and geographical framework of the origin of the ethnonym are given. Since the scholarly disciplines of the research are connected to various geopolitical areas, there are currently several theories on the origin of the term – the Albanian theory, the Hungarian theory, the Saxon theory, the Romanian theory and the anthroponomical theory. Consequently the approach to the analysis has to be multidisciplinary on more than one level. In the historical context, the article offers an overview of historical facts on the origin and assimilation-migration processes of ethnical groups important for the emergence of the ethnonym; in the linguistic context, it explores several possible origins, in terms of language, of the ethnonym; finally, in the ethnological context, ethnographic, onomastic and historical notions are considered as means of providing a wider explanation of the problematic. The main idea is to posit an acceptable scholarly hypothesis concerning the origin of the ethnonym with the interpretation of the process of its formation. It is most probable that the original use of the term occurred in the area to the east of present-day Bosnia or in its eastern areas around the upper and middle section of the flow of the River Drina. It was in this area that the ethnonym Šokac as an appellation in the shape and meaning that we know today was used for Catholics for the first time. According to the best of our knowledge, this appellation started first to be used in the Albanian ethnic area for Catholic Albanians. The word afterwards entered the language of the Vlacho-Albanian ethnic substratum: in other words, it was transferred from Albanian into the Vlach language (Romanian). With the Orthodox Vlachs, the term started its journey through further changes of shape, meaning and dissemination. Romanised Albanian terms gradually became Slavicised between the thirteenth and the fifteenth century and became a constitutive part of the Orthodox Slavic linguistic corpus. The appearance of German Catholic Saxon miners in the areas of eastern Bosnia, Stari Vlah, Montenegro and Kosovo is an important stage in the development of the ethnonym Šokac. The Orthodox Vlacho-Albano-Slavic ethnic substratum (Vlachs), who performed tasks of caravan trade from the Adriatic to southern Hungary, mostly via the region of Podrinje (the area along the flow of the River Drina), came into contact with Saxons and Slavic Catholics living in towns and settlements of miners from the second half of the thirteenth century onwards. The Saxons mostly moved out of these places, or became assimilated into the Slavic population if they stayed there, at the end of the fourteenth century, and so in them there remained only a Slavic Catholic and Krstjan (Manichaean) population (in Višegrad, Srebrenica, Zvornik and so on), which differed from the Vlachs with regard to confession, language and way of life. The term, originally used in the areas of eastern Bosnia, Stari Vlah, Montenegro and Kosovo, was then transferred to the urban Catholic and Krstjan population, first in Podrinje, and then by further Vlach migrations, especially after the Ottoman conquest, also to the remaining aboriginal population of Bosnia. Soon after the fall of Bosnia under Ottoman rule, the ethnonym Šokac remained in use only for Bosnian Catholics. The Vlachs transported goods to southern Hungary and beyond, and thus through them this word might also have entered the Romanian language, in which it retained its original meaning, denoting Germans living in urban settlements, whereas in the south – in its source area – that original meaning developed into the term denoting a confession, while it lost its ethnic connotation of Germans (Saxons).

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