Serfs ( and the Vlachs)

Rаја [raya] the serfs, the folk, was the 18th century general term for disenfranchised Christians in the Ottoman Empire. The folk lived a hard life. Not only the folk, the serfs, had to pay the tithe to the spahi, the warriors, the feudal landlords, and the poll tax or haraç paid by the non-Muslims to the sultan, but they also had to pay many other dues and were imposed the forced labour, the kulluk for the spahi or the army. Somewhat less hard was the life of the Vlachs – people in animal husbandry trade, those who lived along the border regions, who paid less taxes but were bound to go to wars. As the Turkish border moved north, the Serbian population was gradually losing their Vlach status, becoming the common serfs. Whereas the inland Serbs remained the serfs, the name Vlach was identified with those living along the frontiers lines, where it even had a belittling connotation. Besides the name Vlach (or Vlајi), the Black Vlachs or Моrlаk (with the same meaning) were in use.


The Turkish word. rајеtin [ra-yetin] means a subject, denoting the subjects of the Ottoman Empire who are in a feudal subordination, regardless their faith. In today’s Bosnian colloquial speech, the word rаја denotes a company or even a good person, while Vlach today refers to a member of the Romanian ethnic minority in eastern Serbia.


The Folk (Rаја), a poem by Đura Јаkšić