The people of Galičnik in Macedonia have always been unique in their customs, culture, tradition and genetic code. Galičnik is considered to be one of the oldest villages in the Mijak region, whose specific culture is still the subject of research. Five years ago, a study was made that carried out a genetic analysis of the residents of Galičnik. The research was recently carried out by Dr. Ana Momirovska, a specialist in medical biochemistry, completed a Masters in Pediatrics and Molecular Biology in collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine in Ljubljana (Institute of Pathology, Department of Molecular Biology).
Similar studies have already been carried out at the institute in several villages in Slovenia, the colleagues have experience in carrying out population analyzes in order to obtain information about the origin. We communicated with our colleagues there and agreed to carry out a project to investigate the genetic origins of the residents of the former Galičnik. The idea was accepted primarily with the great commitment of the specialist Andrej Zupan. Under his direction and with some other colleagues from the institute, the idea was realized. The analyzes were carried out with the most modern molecular biological techniques as well as with modern statistical programs – explains Doctor Momirovska.
Galičnik was not chosen by chance. The former population lived in a closed circle, they were isolated from the surrounding population, which is why their genes are very little mixed and it is possible to determine exactly where they came from.
– The villages in which there was not much intermingling of the population are suitable places to investigate the origins of the peoples. When genetic research is carried out in large cities, correct conclusions cannot be drawn; in cities, the population is mixed. For this reason, Galičnik was selected for such a pilot study suitable for research.
Galičnik is known for its cultural heritage, unique cultural customs and the famous traditional Galičnik wedding. So it was a challenge for me to research and see if interesting conclusions can be drawn. The problem was that the village was already deserted, so we looked for the respondents in other places, especially in Skopje – says Momirovska.
Research expanded throughout the study. While scientists talked to people about their families, they often complained about health problems. A group of 25 respondents agreed to carry out additional tests specifically for genetic kidney diseases.
Population analysis was carried out by analyzing Y chromosome markers (male inheritance, in this case men whose fathers are from Galičnik) and mitochondrial DNA inherited only from mothers (in this case swabs were taken from men and women whose mothers originated from Galičnik).
In the group of 25 respondents who were tested for hereditary kidney disease, mutations were found in the collagen genes, which in some cases are the cause of Alport syndrome – hereditary diseases. It belongs to the group of rare diseases. We found four mutations that could be associated with this syndrome (autosomal and X-linked). Of these four mutations, two have not yet been published in the World Alport Syndrome Mutation Database. Three of the mutations found were found in only one family. This is the first such case published in the literature – explains Momirovska.
The population analysis was carried out on 111 people (44 men and 67 women) and showed a very homogeneous genetic structure, especially when analyzing the Y chromosome.
A total of four different haplotypes were detected (genes that do not recombine and have no pair on the other chromosome). The analysis of such haplotypes makes it possible to investigate which population it originates from. The most common haplotype associated with the Y chromosome is P1a-M458, and the second most common is the haplotype P1b-U106. The haplotype R1a-M458 is present with 56.8 percent and the haplotype R1b-U106 with 25 percent.
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The haplotype G2a and only one family haplotype E1b1b was found in a small percentage. These results differ from the previously published results for Macedonia, where there are several haplotypes that are mixed fairly evenly.
A comparative analysis was carried out with the European population groups for which data are available in the literature and it was found to be the most similar to the population in Poland. The first haplotype R1a-M458 is the most common in Poland and is a common haplotype in general for the population of Western Slavs, Slovaks, Czechs, Poles and Slovenes. This correspondence with the population in Poland is confirmed by three different statistical methods. Academic literature suggests that the R1a-M458 haplotype has spread across much of the European continent, with the migration of humans known in archeology as the Kurgan culture. The second most common haplogroup, R1b-U106, indicates a Celtic-Gallic origin (Celtic is a Greek name and Gaul is a Roman name for the same tribes). According to literature, this haplotype is most common east of the Rhine basin, in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France. According to studies based on DNA from ancient specimens (Haak et al.), Both haplotypes R1a and R1b are associated with the arrival of the Yamnaya nomads from the steppes during the late Neolithic – according to Momirovska.
The analysis of female haplotypes is more diverse and shows no difference to other European populations. 13 haplogroups were found and the most common haplotype is haplotype X-11. The inheritance of male genes is more homogeneous, indicating a patriarchal way of localizing the family, which can be explained by the custom that women go into a man’s family after marriage. Therefore, male genes are homogeneous, unmixed, and female genes are more divergent.
We believe that this study confirms the tradition that the Mijaks are a Slavic tribe, as previously written in some historical documents. The finding corresponds to the gene family characteristic of the Western Slavs. On the other hand, the results for haplotypes R1b and G2a are likely a holdover from the indigenous Celtic or Gaul population, which would correspond to data from indigenous nomadic legends who migrated frequently and were known as Vlachs or Kutzo Vlachs. Perhaps the name Galičnik comes from an ancient time and would like to tell us that Gali lived in this area. Regarding the Celtic origin, no archaeological excavations have been carried out in Galičnik, but two works have already been published in which the author is the archaeologist Pasko Kuzman along with another Slovenian – Professor Mitja Gushtin – and they refer to archaeological finds from Ohrid, Gorna Porta.
Celtic helmets and tombs have been discovered at this archaeological site, indicating the burial of dignitaries. Here I would like to quote a thought from the famous Galičnik resident Rista Ognjanovič Lonoski, who says about Galičnik at one point in his books:
There has to be a connection between Galičnik, Galičica, Lagadin and Galikos (river near Thessaloniki).
Many questions for new research and answers – concludes Momirovska.
The study was published in the international journal Genes in November 2020.
This article was published by Macedonian daily newspaper Nova Makedonija (Macedonian) / Кај галичани пронајдени гени од Келтите / 01-04-2021, translated by history.mk