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Gypsies in Romania and Europe

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Trimis de Aurel
din 26 Februarie 2009

The Gypsy peoples originate from Sind region now in Pakistan. Their Rom language is close to the older forms of Indian languages. The three tribes of Rom, Sinti, and Kale probably left India after a succession of campaigns in Sind through the C11, initially spending time in Armenia and Persia, then moving into the Byzantine Empire after the Seljuk Turk attacks on Armenia. Within the Byzantine Empire they dispersed into the Balkans reaching Wallachia (1385) (now Romania) ahead of this area falling to the Ottoman Turks. Other groups also moved through India to Gujarat and south of Delhi. Gypsy populations can still be found along all these migration routes.

When entering west Europe they initially had letters of protection from the King of Hungary. This privileged situation did not last long as amazement at their way of life commonly led to hostilities. The Gypsy way of life still leads to hostilities from the people of their host nations. Europeans regard "private property" as sacrosanct, whereas gypsies do not have a word for "possess", which gives rise to two incompatible ways of life and a continual problem of gypsies being regarded as "thieves" from the European's view.

In each host nation gypsies appear to take on the religion, names and language of their hosts, but within the Rom they maintain their Rom language, names, music, customs and Indian looks. This tight community has meant that after some six hundred years there is still a large population of gypsies not integrated or assimilated with Romanians.

From the time of their arrival in Romania Gypsies were the slaves of the landowners, only to be emancipated in 1851. While in Romania some of the Gypsies took to speaking a version of Romanian called Bayesh which can be heard in some of the songs of Gypsy groups recorded in Hungary. Nowadays about 40% of the Gypsies still speak Romany and many can still be seen travelling in lines of carts along the roads of Romania. The majority live in the towns and villages, some fully integrated into villages, some in large ornate houses standing out from the Romanians, but others in small buildings on scraps of lands on the villages edges.

The Rom tribes from Romania distinguish themselves by the names of their trades:

* Lautari = musicians and dancers

* Caldarari (Kalderash) = Tin and coppersmiths

* Argintari = Jewellers

* Fierari = Blacksmiths

* Zlateri = gold panners

* Ghurara = sieve makers

* Lovar = horse dealers

The Roma/Gypsies form a group of approximately 8-10 million people in Europe. They are to be found in almost all Council of Europe member states and indeed, in some central and east European countries, they represent over 5% of the population.

Yet, although they have been in Europe since the 14th century, very often they are not recognised by the majority society as a fully-fledged European people and they have suffered throughout their history in Europe from rejection and persecution, culminating in the Naziís attempt to exterminate them. As a result of centuries of rejection many Roma/Gypsy communities today live in very difficult conditions, often on the fringe of the societies in the countries where they live, and their participation in public life is very limited. It is also very difficult for them to ensure that their contribution to European culture is fully acknowledged.

Since 1993, the Roma/Gypsy issue has been at the heart of three of the Councilís top priorities: protection of minorities, the fight against racism and intolerance and the fight against social exclusion. Indeed, the difficult situation facing numerous Roma/Gypsy communities ultimately represents a threat to social cohesion in member states. Moreover, increasingly active Roma/Gypsy associations repeatedly appealed to the Council of Europe to ensure that this minorityís fundamental rights were upheld in member states.

When thinking of the Gypsies of Europe, one may envision a dark-skinned group of people, traveling in a band of wagons and playing music - seemingly unaffected by their surroundings. If one has traveled in Eastern Europe he may think of the barefoot children walking the streets and singing in the Metro stations for money. One may also remember the typical warning by others to "Beware of the Gypsies, they will try to steal from you!"

In fact, the Rroma (Gypsies) are a diverse group of people, differing in occupation, standard-of-living, historical experience of their home country, education and levels of "integration." Contrary to the typical stereotype, it has been estimated that only 5% of the entire Rroma population in Europe (estimated between 7 - 8.5 million) lead an itinerant mode of life. Though there are subtleties of different dialects, the Rroma share a common language based on old Sanskrit.

In the Rromani language, self-identification involves the word "Rrom." When encountering other Rroma, "Are you ...

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