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Gornai People: Unknown Highlanders of the Balkans, Europe

By Nikolin Svetlana    : –

The Gorani people or Highlanders are very small Slavic Muslim ethnic group inhabiting the Gora region – the triangle between Kosovo, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia. Their number is around 60.000 in total today. Gorans speak a transitional South Slavic dialect called ‘Nashinski’ (simply meaning ‘ours’).

Gorani people


During history they have been claimed by Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Macedonians and Serbs but many of them consider themselves as a distinct minority group. Traditionally Goranis are well known as migrant workers all over the Balkans and are famous as superb confectioners and bakers.

Gorani dance

On the slopes of huge ridge of Shar mountain, there are 21 villages inhabited with this neglected and lesser known group. In Kosovo, there are 19, in Albania 9 and in the Republic of Macedonia 3 Gorani villages. Their traditional celebrations as a mixture of old Slavs, pagan and Muslim customs are very picturesque, specially their weddings, St. George celebration and wrestlers (‘Pelivan’) competitions which is popular traditional sport of Gorani.

Gorani (Slavic Muslim) wedding in Kosovo
Gorani (Slavic Muslim) wedding in Kosovo


(Nikolin Svetlana is prominent journalist and writer based in Belgrade. She is a graduate from the Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade, is a freelance journalist and independent researcher. She is a specialist on the subject of inter – cultural dialogue and minorities (specially small, hidden ethnic groups and dying languages). She is author of 3 books about Aromanians from the Balkans’ and editor in chief of a literary, non profit magazine ” XXI Century”. She has also written a travel book, ‘ Aegean Sea’ published in 2004 in Serbian language. She is an NGO activist for years and author of many NGO projects. She is also a member of UNS (Journalist Association of Serbia).)

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