Short History of Romanian Gypsies

Oct 8, 13 • ExcerptNo CommentsRead More »

On the Bed of Procust: Throughout the centuries, Romania’s faces and society have shaped the Gypsies.

 In the Middle Ages, although enslaved, most Gypsies remained nomads after their arrival in Romanian territory, scouring the country in hoards – on established routes – to win their keep with their crafts. They would spend the winters on their masters’ estate and pay an annual tribute.

The progressive boyars who freed them through the emancipation laws of the mid 19th century wanted to settle them, turning them into tax-paying peasants. After the 1864 agrarian reforms, Gypsies became small land-owners. Yet many refused the land, taking instead advantage of their newly-acquired freedom to resume to nomadic lifestyles.

Between 1942 and 1943, Marshal Ion Antonescu, convinced that he was ridding the country of parasites, deported to Transnistria 25,000 nomadic and sedentary Gypsies with no means of support, or who had been charged with various offences. Only 10,000 survivors returned to Romania in the spring of 1944.

The communists wanted – and succeeded for the most part – to turn the Gypsies into laborers, integrating them, sometimes forcefully, into modern lifestyles. Officially, Gypsies were no longer considered a separate ethnicity; they were sent to school, and were guaranteed jobs and houses. The turmoil following 1989 was a crossroad for the Roma population who went in two opposite directions: while some took advantage from the old regime’s burial, most of the others slid down a slope of inescapable poverty.

Short History of the Romanian Gypsies

Romanian Gypsies

Romanian Gypsies

  • 1385 – The first documented recording of Gypsies on Romanian territory. Dan the First, ruler of Wallachia, gives to the Tismana monastery, among other gifts, 40 homes for the Gypsies.
  • 1855–1856 – The abolition of Gypsy slavery, both in Moldova and Wallachia.
  • 1855–1880 – A few decades after the emancipation, the seasonal variations of traditional nomadic lifestyle turn into chaotic vagabondage. The second great Gypsy migration towards the West begins.
  • 1900–1940 – Traditional Gypsy professions begin to decline, facing competition from advancing industries. A Gypsy intellectual elite emerges, calling for the “emancipation and reawakening of the Roma people.”
  • 1942 – 1944 – 25,000 Romanian Gypsies are deported to Transnistria.
  • 1977 – 1983 – The last 65,000 nomadic and semi-nomadic Roma are forcibly settled due to a PCR (Romanian Communist Party) program. Local authorities are ordered to secure them with housing and jobs.
  • 1980 –1990 – After the economic crisis, a part of the Roma population returns to the traditional way of life, but with a modern twist. These Romanian Gypsies become specialists of the black market.
  • After 1990 – Ion Cioaba, Octavian Stoica and Nicolae Bobu are the first three Gypsies to be elected to Parliament.

This was an excerpt from  Romanian Gypsies: 9 True Stories about What it’s Like To Be a Gypsy in Romania.Tiganii 1000x1600 px vs6

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