Wallachian settlers in the Baltic Sea region. A humanist tale of migration and colonization, and its implications for the mental maps of early modern Europe

Stefan Donecker

Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg Greifswald, E-Mail: stefan.donecker@eui.eu

Acknowledgments
The article is based on a paper presented at the Second International Conference of the Romanian Association for Baltic and Nordic Studies: Black Sea and Baltic Sea Regions: Confluences, influences and crosscurrents in the modern and contemporary ages, at Târgovişte, May 20-22, 2011. I would like to express my gratitude to the organisers for their kind invitation. Furthermore, I would like to thank the Stiftung Alfried Krupp Kolleg, Greifswald, which generously funded the underlying research on migration narratives in early modern thought, and the Österreichische Forschungsgemeinschaft (project MOEL-415), whose support enabled me to explore the life and writings of Friedrich Menius.

Abstract:
During the 1550s, humanists at the University of Wittenberg in Germany first suggested that Wallachians from present-day Romania had migrated to the Baltic Sea, settled in Livonia and became the ancestors of Estonians and Latvians. This colonization allegedly took place at some time in the 5th or 6th century AD. Although such a theory seems bizarre from a modern point of view, it was considered a perfectly reasonable hypothesis by contemporary scholars. For approximately 150 years, up to the early 18th century, the idea of a Wallachian colonization of Livonia retained its place in the historiography of the region, before it was refuted by the more sober-minded approach of enlightenment historians. The paper provides an overview of the scholarly theories on a kinship between Wallachians, Estonians and Latvians that were formulated between 1550 and 1700. Although these fanciful hypotheses are not supported by any discernible historical facts, they provide important insights on the position of Wallachia and Livonia in the symbolic geography and the mental maps of the early modern res publica litterarum.

Rezumat:
În anii 1550, umaniştii de la Universitatea din Wittenberg, Germania, au sugerat pentru prima dată că valahii din România de azi au migrat spre Marea Baltică, s-au stabilit în Livonia şi au devenit strămoşii estonienilor şi letonilor. Această colonizare se presupune că a avut loc la un moment dat, în secolul al V-lea sau al VI-lea d. Hr. Deşi o astfel de teorie pare bizară din punct de vedere modern, aceasta a fost considerată o ipoteză perfect rezonabilă de către cercetători contemporani. Pentru aproximativ 150 de ani, până la începutul secolului al XVIII-lea, ideea unei colonizări valahe a Livoniei a reţinut locul său în istoriografia regiunii, înainte de a fi respinsă de abordarea mai echilibrată a istoricilor iluminişti. Lucrarea oferă o imagine de ansamblu a teoriilor ştiinţifice privind o înrudire între valahi, estonieni şi letoni, care au fost formulate între anii 1550 şi 1700. Deşi aceste ipoteze fanteziste nu sunt sprijinite de fapte istorice perceptibile, ele oferă perspective importante cu privire la poziţiile Valahiei şi Livoniei în geografia simbolică şi în hărţile mentale de la începutul res publica litterarum moderne.

Keywords: Livonia; Wallachia; migration; genealogy; mental maps; early modern historiography

https://balticnordic.hypotheses.org/files/2018/12/04-Donecker.pdf