Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Overlooked: Roma

This is the first part in a running series of stateless nations which have been frequently overlooked and have been struggling for identity. Feel free to comment on other groups you wish to be covered.

Montage of Roma people. Photos from [1][2]

When one hears the word "gypsy" there are several things which can come to mind. Some may be untrustworthy, nomads, people in touch with magic and nature. These stereotypes are based on centuries old stories concerning the Rom people. One needs only to do a Google search to see that these stereotypes are still alive.

There up to ten million Roma in the world. The majority of them are found in a belt from Poland, down the old Eastern Europe, and into Turkey (map).


Up to a thousand years ago what would become the Roma (the preferred term over "gypsy") lived in Inida. No one knows why the Roma were forced to leave but quickly a massive migration began to Europe. Within 500 years they had spread all over Europe and Turkey while settling mostly in the Balkans.

Europe proved no safe haven however. Romania enslaved the Roma until the nineteenth-century and else where they were not allowed to settle. The Roma were forced into a nomadic life of going town to town doing odd jobs, bartering, and when necessary resorting to begging and theft.

The twentieth-century was especially rough. The Nazis engaged in a holocaust against them known as the Porajmos. Nazi death squads searched out and slaughtered Roma on site. For those brought to camps, the Germans used eastern European guards who were particularly cruel to the Roma. During the era of Communism Soviet-backed governments sought cultural annihilation with tactics like taking children away from their parents and even demanding people make their names less Roma.

Roma are making great progress in acceptance. It is a generalization but it is safe to say that a balance has been struck into accepting and work with the dominate culture while still retaining identity. The European Union authorized International Roma Day and recognized the current struggle of Roma people. Roma are too small a minority and too dispersed to have their own state but are gaining acceptance in their countries of residence.

There are problems however. Along with other emigrants, those moving from Eastern to Western Europe are discovering success is not guaranteed. There has been an increase in vagrants who engage in prostitution and crime. Tourists in Western Europe are especially warned not to engage with Roma.

The long night of the twentieth-century is over and with increased economic and political opportunities in Eastern Europe the future appears bright for the Roma.

Additional Resources

Roma in the Czech Republic - a website with plenty of information on Roma and the Roma's impact on the Czech Republic

Amalipen - a sort of Roma Myspace with a free web radio station which broadcasts Roma music

Rroma - a website devoted to Roma culture, organizations, and history

Dzeno Association
- news and issues relating to the Roma


torgo jr. said...

I like!

Rachel said...

This is amazing! Especially for a wanna be- geo-phile like myself, I appreciate the clarity of the people and geo-political profiles you outline.

Thank you for making it so accessible!

Natalie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Gypsies are the lowest form of filthy subhuman scum.

Catholicgauze said...

No, Roma are not. But you are a bigot.