WE ARE: Musicantia(‘Musicians’ in the Romanes language)A Roma Community led group of professional musicians and accredited music teachers in partnership with indigenous Irish and other migrant community development workers. more
Old St.George's School
Office: 01 8414431
Charity Number: CHY 20970
9AM to 5:30PM
The History and Culture of the Rroma Minority
The international emblem of Rroma minority is the spoked wheel, or chakra, adopted in 1971, at the First World Romani Congress. This is similar to Ashok Chakra, the wheel of India’s flag and represents the movement and creation of the world (as well as the link between Rroma minority and India). At the congress, the green and blue flag with the red, sixteen-
The word “rroma” has absolutely nothing to do with “Romanian” or “Romania”, but means “man” in Romani language. It is recommended to not use the word “gypsy” because it is associated with pejorative and negative expressions.
First Rroma Migration (from India)
The history of Rroma people is almost impossible to be determined exactly as Rroma people have not written anything until recently. Almost everything we know about the old history of Rroma people is due to linguistics.
Linguistic and cultural evidences prove clearly that Rroma people are of Indian origin, probably from the Northern region Punjab. It is estimated that their emigration from India took place at least 1,000 years ago. Some researchers believe there were several waves of migration from India. Nowadays, there are still nomadic and semi-
Romani language has important Persian and Armenian influences, which proves that Rroma people passed through these countries. It seems that from Armenia (probably due to the Turkish invasion), Rroma people split into three groups, moving towards the Northern Black Sea, towards South (by Egypt) and towards the Byzantine Empire in West.
The Rroma people who moved towards the Byzantine Empire are the ones who then spread all over Europe. The abundance of words from the Greek language suggest a relatively long presence of Rroma people in the Byzantine Empire. Moreover, the “gypsy” naming comes from the Greek “atsiganos”, the name of an heretical sect that has no connection with Rroma people, but with which they have been associated due to their foreign appearance. Probably because of the Turkish invasion (again), Rroma people entered the Balkans in the 14th century, and after the Balkans were conquered by the Ottoman forces, some of them came into Western Europe.
Second Migration (in Europe)
In Europe, the Rroma people were held in slavery in Balkans (especially in Moldavia and the Romanian Land) or they continued to travel, spreading all over Europe, from Spain (1425) to Finland (1597). In order to obtain crossing permits through the western countries, some Rroma people claimed to be Christians from Egypt coming in pilgrimage (and later, when they could not get them, they falsified the documents). Because of this and their foreign appearance, they were called “gypsy” in English and “gitano” in Spanish. Only in the second half of the 18th century, Europeans realised that Romani language is very similar to Hindi, thereby establishing the Indian origin of Rroma people.
Generally, Roma people kept long their nomadic or semi-
In East, Roma people had an important economic role as craftsmen, which explains the bigger number of Roma people living today in Eastern Europe compared to the Western Europe.
After the abolition of slavery in the Romanian Provinces in 1856, another big migration took place, from Romania towards West. A big number of the Roma people living today in Western Europe and the majority of those from America speak a dialect with Roman influences. After the abolition of the slavery, no measures were taken to support the economic and social rehabilitation of Roma people, so they continued to form a group at the edge of poverty, discriminated and excluded from the society.
The Modern Era
In the interwar period, Rroma people formed a heterogeneous group, speaking different native languages such as Romani, Romanian or Hungarian and being included in different social and economic levels. Generally, as a group, Roma people were rather marginalised or at best tolerated as a minority. Before the Modern Era, the social ascension of some Roma people was usually meaning the lost of their ethnic identity. During this period, Roma intellectuals formed organisations aiming to “emancipate and reawaken the Roma nation” and published newspapers such as “Roma People’s Voice” (1934-
At present, Romania still faces discrimination and racism at all levels of society. The average income of a Roma person is far below that of the general society and the life expectancy is over 10 years lower. However, Roma community takes important steps towards becoming an ethnic minority in the modern sense, as members of the society and not only as a tolerated group. But integration entails the danger of assimilation, which means the loss of their ethnic and cultural identity. As several organizations representing Roma people are aware of this aspect, the programs which promote the Romania language and culture are the same important as those which aim to improve the social and economic conditions.
Unfortunately, the history of Roma people is little known in Romania. The schoolbooks do not even mention the Roma people or their history. Through knowing the history of Roma people, we get to understand more of the issues that this community needs to face at present.