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"Srblin" and "Vlah"

Written 27.11.2009. 12:13
Research on ethno-social development of Bosnia runs into difficulties even during the translation of Bosnian Cyrillic documents from the 13th Century, especially in three documents attributed to Ban Matej Ninoslav. In these, Matej Ninoslav uses the term "Srblin" (Serb) for inhabitants of Bosnia and juxtaposes it with "Vlah" (Vlach) for the inhabitants of Dubrovnik.50 These designations have been subject to many interpretations, ranging from complete rejection to absolute acceptance.51 In order to explain this historical enigma, it is necessary to analyze Cyrillic documents from the 12th and 13th Centuries.

The analysis of these documents shows that the designation in question ("Srblin" vs "Vlah") did not originate in medieval Bosnia, but rather in Serbia. The first instance of these names being used was in the document of the Great Duke of Raska (a predecessor to Serbia), Stefan, to Dubrovnik written around 1215.52 Today, we recognize that particular document was written by a Dubrovnik notary, Paskal, which becomes even more crucial when we note that two out of three of Matej Ninoslav's documents were also written by this particular notary in 1240 and 1249.53 First of Matej Ninoslav's documents was written before 1235 by notary Desoje, but this doesn't affect the conclusion that the juxtaposition of the national designation "Srblin" vs "Vlah" found its way into Bosnian documents from Raska, through the complicity of the Dubrovnik public office. Another fact that supports the conclusion that names used in Ninoslav's documents did not reflect the national composition of Bosnia in the first half of the 13th Century, is the fact that Ban Kulin's document sent to Dubrovnik in 1189 does not recognise the name "Srblin". As a document older than Ninoslav's, it would be expected that it would contain this designation, if it indeed was actually used in Bosnia. Furthermore, it doesn't even use the term "Vlah"54 when referring to the inhabitants of Dubrovnik. The term "Vlah" when referring to an inhabitant of Dubrovnik, is thus, definitely not of Bosnian origin, likewise with the term "Srblin" for inhabitants of Bosnia.

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