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Gorani (ethnic group)

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Gorani (ethnic group)

The Gorani or Goranci (Cyrillic: Горани or Горанци, meaning Highlanders, pronounced [ɡɔ̌rani] or [ɡɔrǎːntsi]) are a Slavic Muslim population inhabiting the Gora region - the triangle between Albania, Kosovo and Republic of Macedonia. They speak a South Slavic dialect, part of the transitional Torlakian dialects, called Našinski.[1][2]


The ethnonym Gorani, meaning "highlanders", is derived from the Slavic toponym gora, which means "hill, mountain". Another autonym of this people is Našinci,[3] which literally means "our people, our ones".

They have been claimed by Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Macedonians and Serbs but the general view is that they should be treated as a distinct minority group, which is their own view of themselves.[4][5] By the last censuses at the end of 20th century in Yugoslavia they have declared themselves to be Muslims by nationality.[6] In Republic of Macedonia their identity is also based mainly on their religion.[7]

In the mid 1980s, the Macedonian press labeled them Torbeši (Macedonian Muslims).[8]

In Albania, they are known by the Albanians with several exonyms, such as Bulgareci ("Bulgarians"),[9] Torbeshë ("bag carriers"), and Poturë ("turkified", from po-tur, literally not Turk but, "turkified", used for Islamized Slavs).[10]


The Gorani population numbers some 33,000 people in the Gora. Most Gorani state that the unstable situation and the economic issue drives them to leave Kosovo. There is also some mention of threats and discrimination by the ethnic Albanians.[11] The UN administration in Kosovo, UNMIK, has redrawn internal boundaries in the province in such a way that a Gorani-majority municipality no longer exists. The Gora was combined with the neighboring Albanian-populated region of Opolje (some 20,000 people) into a new subdivision named Dragaš, which again has an Albanian majority.

The following villages in the Šar Mountains are traditionally Gorani:[12] In Kosovo: Baćka, Brod, Dikance, Donja Rapča, Donji Krstac, Dragash


Gora in the Middle Ages

After the split of the Roman Empire, the Balkans remained under the Eastern Roman Empire. The mountainous region of Gora was populated by Sklavenoi in the 6th and 7th centuries. The area was annexed by Bulgarian Empire in the 9th. century. The Byzantine Empire subsequently regained the region. By 1018, Basil II had established the Bulgarian Archibishopric of Ohrid, which included an eparchy in Brod, which held the whole Prizren region.[13] In the 1090s, Serbian Grand Prince Vukan (r. 1091–1112) raided Kosovo and along the Vardar,[14] including this region. In 1204, the region is briefly occupied by the Bulgarian Empire.[13] In 1215, Prizren and the neighbouring župas (counties) are under the rule of Stephen Nemanjić the First-Crowned (r. 1196–1228).[13] In the beginning of the 14th century, during the Serbian Kingdom, a sevastokrator Pavle was the lord in Gora.[13] Serbian Emperor Stephen Dušan the Mighty (r. 1331-1355) grants (metochion) the settlement of Gora, along with seven other villages that are presently inhabited by Gorani, to the Saint Archangels Monastery in Prizren, in an edict dated to 1348. Jovan and Constantine Dragaš of the Dejanović family held the region prior to the first Ottoman conquests of Serbia, during the fall of the Serbian Empire.[13] Vuk Branković adds Prizren, Gora and the other northern Šar župas to his district,[13] between 1371 (after the Battle of Maritsa) and 1378 (the death of Đurađ Balšić).[15]

Ottoman era

In 1455, the southern territories of the Serbian Despotate were annexed by the Ottomans, and organized into the beylerbeylik of Rumelia. Gora became a nahiyah of the Sanjak of Prizren.[13] The Ottoman conquest resulted in the old trade routes that linked the Adriatic to the Aegean and Black sea lost their importance because of the insecurity on the roads, and the towns and villages along the roads stopped growing.[13] Gora initially successfully resisted Islamization.[13] The Ottoman defter from 1591 registers Gora as inhabited exclusively by Serbs, while Opolje to the north is Albanian populated.[16] The Habsburgs under General Piccolomini marched into Prizren and its surroundings in October 1689.[13] Gora supported the Habsburgs, in order to rid the Ottomans.[13] After the death of Piccolomini and abortion of the Habsburg campaign, the region was recaptured by the Ottomans, and punitive atrocities were made against the Serbian population, including Gora.[13] In the 18th century, a wave of Islamization began in Gora.[13] The Ottoman abolishment of the Archibishoprics of Ohrid and Pech in 1766/1767 is thought to have prompted the Islamization of Gora as was the trend of many Balkan communities.[17] The settling of Albanians in the Prizren region began in 1815.[13] The last Christian Gorani, Božana, died in the 19th century - she has received a cult, signifying the Gorani's Christian heritage, collected by Russian consuls Anastasiev and Yastrebov in the second half of the 19th century.[13]


In the Kingdom of Serbia, the Gorani were exempted from taxes by royal decree due to their position and importance.[13] In the First Balkan War in 1912 the Serbian Army seized Gora. A minor part of the Gorani population migrated to Turkey as a result. In the 1916–1918 First World War the Gora was conquered by the Central Powers and assigned to the Bulgarian (until May 1916)[18] and to the Austro-Hungarian (until October 1918) zone. After 1918 they were integrated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The troubles during First World War, as well as the difficult period between 1919-20 were characterized by drought, causing famine and much poverty for the Gorani., This paradigm also incited migrations to Kosovo's larger city, Prizren and Tetovo in Republic of Macedonia. Disease and hunger in the post-communist era in Albania have caused a general downfall of the Gorani population, mostly due to in-migration out of villages for urban centers like Shkodra and Tirana.

In 1925, the final border between Serbia and Albania was demarcated by the decision of the League of Nations, on the demand of Fascist Italy. Over 15,000 Gorani now lived within Albania, in the villages of Borje, Cernalevë, Kosharisht, Novosoj, Orqiklje, Orgjost, Oreshkë, Pakisht, Shishtavec, Zapod, despite their desire to remain undivided with their kin.

In the 1939 census of Yugoslavia, the Gora Gorani were in the category of "non-Slavs" shared by Albanians and Turks, probably due to their religion.[8] In 1949, ethnic Albanian officials in the Yugoslav government, headed by Fadil Hoxha, launched a forced assimilation plan for the Gorani,[13] and they managed to Albanianize the personal names of the Gorani (e.g. Hasanović - Hasani).[8][13]

In the 1971 and 1981 censuses, the majority of Gorani declared themselves as "Muslims by nationality".[8]

In 1999 after the NATO bombing campaign on Yugoslavia, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) took over international administration of the Serbian province of Kosovo. Their own municipality was redrawn and Dragash established, in which now Albanians are in majority. In 1999 and over the years altogether, between 5,000[19] and 10,000[20] Gorani have fled to Serbia proper and other countries along with many Serb and Romani refugees. In 2007 the Kosovar provisional institutions opened a school in Gora to teach the Bosnian language, which sparked minor consternation amongst the Gorani population, added by the fact that the Principal declares as an Albanian. Many Gorani refuse to send their children to school for threats of assimilation and self-initially founded home schools for their young.



The Slavs of Gora were Christianized in 870 following the Byzantine Empire's baptism of the Serbs and Bulgarians. The Ottomans conquered the region in the 14th century, which started the process of Islamization of the Gorani and neighbouring Albanians. However, the Gorani still tangentially observe some Orthodox Christian traditions, such as Slavas and Saint George's Day (Djurdjevdan).

Traditional Gorani folk music includes a two-beat dance called "Kolo" ('circle'), which is a circle dance focused on the foot movements: it always starts on the right foot and moves in an anti-clockwise direction. The Kolo is usually accompanied by instruments such as curlje, kaval, cifteli or tapan, and singing is used less frequently in the dances than in those of the Albanians and Serbs.

The "national" sport of oil wrestling called "Pelivan" is popular amongst Gorani with regular tournaments being held in the outdoors to the accompaniment of Curlje and Tapan with associated rituals, with origins in the Middle East through the Ottoman Empire's conquest of Balkans.

The "national" drink of the Gorani is Rakija which is commonly distilled at home by elderly people. Another popular drink is Turkish Coffee which is drunk in small cups accompanied by a glass of water. Future divination is popular amongst all Gorani using the residue of Turkish Coffee.


The Gorani people speak South Slavic, a local dialect known as "Našinski" or "Goranski", which is part of a wider Torlakian dialect, spoken in Western Bulgaria, Southern Serbia and part of Macedonia. The Torlakian dialect is a transitional dialect of Bulgarian and Serbian whilst also sharing features with Macedonian. The Gorani speech is classified as an Old štokavian dialect of Serbian (Old Serbian), the Prizren-Timok dialect. Bulgarian linguists classify the Gorani dialect as part of a Bulgarian dialectal area.[21] It has numerous loan words, being greatly influenced by Turkish, Albanian and Arabic due to the influence of Islam. It is similar to the Bosnian language because of the numerous Turkish loanwords. Gorani speak Serbo-Croatian in school.[8]

According to the last 1991 Yugoslav census, 54.8% of the inhabitants of the Gora municipality said that they spoke the Gorani language, while the remainder had called it Serbian.[22] Some Gorani scholars define their language as Bulgarian, similar to the Bulgarian dialects spoken in the north wester region of the Republic of Macedonia.[23] Some linguists, including Vidoeski, Brozovic and Ivic, identify the Slavic-dialect of the Gora region as Macedonian.[24] There are assertions that Macedonian is spoken in 50 to 75 villages in the Gora region (Albania and Kosovo).[25] According to some unverified sources in 2003 the Kosovo government acquired Macedonian language and grammar books for Gorani school.[26]

Albanian-Gorani scholar Nazif Dokle compiled the first Gorani–Albanian dictionary (with 43,000 words and phrases) in 2007, sponsored and printed by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.[23] In 2008 the first issue of a Macedonian language newspaper, Гороцвет (Gorocvet) was published.[27]

Gorani diaspora

Migrations from Gora during the Ottoman era resulted in two significant waves: the first towards Prizren and Sirinić, and the other towards Tetovo. The latter populated the Macedonian settlements of Dolno Palčište and Tearce. Their descendants still populate that part of the Republic of Macedonia. Gorani colonists have migrated and populated the colonies of Urvič and Jelovjane on the eastern side of the Šar Mountains.

The Gora is an underdeveloped region and for almost two centuries, its male inhabitants would go off to more distant regions in order to find work. Due to this, a true Gorani diaspora has come to life with many living in parts of Central Serbia (particularly Belgrade: 3,340), Vojvodina (606), Albania (primarily in Durres), the Republic of Macedonia (particularly the Western parts); Bosnia and Herzegovina,Croatia, Italy, Greece, Turkey; and following escape from communist Albania and socialist Yugoslavia in the late-1940s, the United States of America (particularly New York and Los Angeles) and the United Kingdom (particularly Haringey, London).


See also




  • Нексхат Ибрахими, Първи контакти на исляма с Балканските нации
  • Хюсеин Мехмед. Помаците и торбешите в Мизия, Тракия и Македония., С., 2007.
    • Академик Драгослав Антонијевић, Етнички идентитет Горанаца, pp. 23-29
    • Орхан Драгаш, О Горанцима, pp. 71-73

External links

  • Shishtavec
  • The Economist, 2 November 2006
  • [3]
  • [4]
  • [5]

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