A brand new carriage in exchange for 30 Gypsy slaves 8
Transylvania: the other side of the coin 10
“Will you ever dare to be among the civilized peoples as long as one
can read in one of your newspapers: Young Gypsy woman for sale?” 11
The Interwar wind of change 12
Antonescu’s policy and its communist follow-up 13
“So many of the Gypsy communities haven’t moved forward at all.
They are exactly where they were whether it’s 10 years ago, 20 years ago.” 16
2. Demographics 17
3. Indicators of social and economic status 22
3.1. Employment 22
3.2. Education 26
3.3. Healthcare 28
3.4. Housing 31
3.5. Conclusions 34
Chapter II: Laws and public policies impacting the Roma in Romania 36
1. International and European laws and public policies 36
2. National laws and public policies 41
3. Public participation of the Roma 50
4. Conclusions and recommendations 54
Chapter III: Stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination against the Roma 59
1. How Romanian language and literature relate to the Roma 59
2. The16 most common stereotypes about the Roma 60
3. National and European surveys and reports on discrimination against the Roma 62
4. The Roma versus the others: A glimpse of the self- and hetero-image
of the Roma and non-Roma groups 68
5. The image of the Roma in Romanian mass media 71
5.1. Media portrayals between 1990 and 2010 71
5.2. An up-to-date analysis of how large circulation newspapers portray the Roma 75
6. Conclusions 83
Chapter IV: Analysis of the four target localities in Romania 85
1. Timişoara 87
2. Sânpetru Mare 89
3. Sântana 92
4. Aleşd 95
5. Conclusions 97
Annex - Statistics concerning the Roma population in the West and
North-West Regions of Romania (Timiş, Arad, Bihor Counties) 108
The present study draws upon a wide range of literary and statistical evidence in order to provide an objective outline of the Roma in Romania, away from both overly romantic and critical nuances.
If briefly reviewing the list of references, one can notice that the paper is almost an inventory of publications which either analyze the Roma directly or provide indirect clues for an accurate and complete profile.
To this end, the study embarks on a four-chapter tour.
The first chapter – An overview of the Roma in Romania – opens the way with a stroll down the history lane. The narrative thread checks off all the ‘hot spots’ from Roma’s arrival in Europe and Romania to contemporary facts and also lays emphasis on the slavery episode largely enigmatic to many Roma and non-Roma alike.
The following sub-chapters turn the history tide to Demographics and Indicators of social and economic status, piling up a notable amount of information for a snapshot of the four fields on whose shoulders the Roma’s precarious condition rests: employment, education, healthcare and housing.
The third chapter makes a thorough review of the international, European and domestic laws and policies displayed in the shape of an open-down parabola whose vertex is represented by the EU accession – the time when the measures taken are said to have reached the highest intensity. The review culminates in describing the participation of the Roma in public life and drawing a set of conclusions and recommendations.
“To traverse the world, men must have maps of the world” Lippmann said in his 1922 masterpiece – Public Opinion. His words pave the way for the fourth chapter – Stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination – which gradually goes through literature and statistics for catching a glimpse of the cognitive, affective and behavioral bias held about the ethnic group in question.
For such purpose, the chapter delves into Romanian words and idioms which relate to the Roma, summarizes national and EU reports on discrimination and also gauges the social distance between the Roma and the non-Roma by blending both the self- and the hetero-image into the analysis.
Given that many of the stories about the Roma are told by journalists in their daily news reports, the chapter dedicates an important slice to the 1990-2010 media portrayals and also looks at the articles in the four largest circulation daily newspapers in the quality press category, between 1 October and 31 November 2011.
The tour ends with an analysis of the four localities chosen as focal points for the research conducted in Romania, within the REDUPRE project – Timişoara, Sânpetru Mare, Sântana, Aleşd. The analysis delves into the main arguments which recommend these as edifying case studies in relation to the overall project goal by summarizing demographic, social, economic data and so forth.
As an additional note, it should be borne in mind that the word “Gypsy” appears only in quotations due to thus being employed by the authors and in the history chapter as an equivalent of the noun “ţigan” which used to flag the low rung to which the Roma were relegated during the slavery years.
In a nutshell, the paramount argument which recommends this study for lecture is the significant amount of sources reviewed for building a broad and objective portrait of the Roma and also the order in which the information unfolds. In other words, the study doesn’t jump to conclusions about the main issues the Roma are confronted with, but tries to draw a natural flow of data establishing a cause-effect relationship between history and modern-day challenges.
Chapter I: An overview of the Roma in Romania 1. History at a glance
"’Who are these people?’ asks the man behind the counter in the photo store in Southall, an area also known as London's Little India.
He is handing over my order: a hefty pile of colour photographs, of which a picture of two Roma women and their children (above) is the first.
"They look just like the Banjara in Rajasthan - that's where I come from," he says.
He points to a beautiful print on the wall, showing a glamorous group of female Banjara dancers.” (BBC News July 8, 2009)
1.1. The Roma make it to Europe
The question that the man behind the counter asks in the BBC series is the same question that scholars have asked for many years in their attempt to trace back the Roma’s origin. It took them a great deal of perseverance and hard work to make way through the stories and documents left behind by an ethnic group whose “collective memory has retained more of the legendary than of certainties” (Liégeois 1994). Actually, it was not until the 18th century that the certainties began to come to light due to H.M.G. Grellmann, the author of the first modern scientific paper having the Roma as centerpiece. The paper was published in 1783 and established that the not-so-new kid in town had Indian origins due to a comparative philology study which linked the language they spoke to Sanskrit (Achim 1998). The conclusion was that their language came from the North-West of the sub-continent and that the influx from India to Europe occurred between the 9th and 14th centuries in several waves (Liégeois 1994).
Gradually, the Roma arrived in the Byzantine Empire where they were named athingani. The collective name tag derived from the Greek word athinganos or athinganoy meaning pagan, untouchable, impure which pointed to a heretical sect whose adherents were known as soothsayers and magicians (Dumitrescu, Căpiţă and Manea 2008).
In his book – The Gypsies - Angus Fraser (1992) states that “the earliest reference to the presence of Gypsies in Constantinople comes, most probably, from a Georgian hagiographical text, The Life of Saint George the Athonite, composed at the monastery of Iberon on Mount Athos around 1068”. The text mentions Emperor Constantine Monomachus who asked for the help of the athingani, “descendants of Simon the Magician, notorious for soothsaying and sorcery” who were supposed to kill the wild animals in Philopation Park considered guilty of his disease.
The name athingani spread in a number of countries, resulting in the French Tsigans, German Zigeuner, Norwegian Sigöyner, Italian Zingari, Romanian Ţigani etc. (Liégeois 1994)
However, a recent study shows that the oldest and most certain reference to the Roma was found in a letter of Gregorios II Kyprios (the Patriarch of Constantinople, 1283-1289). Such theory implies that the word athingani in the earlier mentioned text pointed to the original heretical sect whose name was to stick later with the Roma people (Achim 1998).
Despite the two theories sharing the earliest reference spectrum, most works and authors embrace the first mentioned.
1.2. Romania: Roma’s next stop for the 14th century
The ground zero reference concerning the Roma in Romania is a deed from 1385 in which the Prince of Wallachia donates the possessions of Vodiţa Monastery to Tismana Monastery. Among these, 40 Gypsy families (sălaşe) are mentioned (Achim 1998).
In 1388, again in Wallachia, Mircea the Elder (Mircea cel Bătrân) donates 300 families to Cozia Monastery; in Moldavia, the Roma are first mentioned in 1428 when Alexander the Good (Alexandru cel Bun) donates 31 families to Bistriţa Monastery; in Transylvania, the earliest reference is a document (dated approximately between 1390 and 1406) stating that boyar Costea owns several villages as well as 17 ‘tent Gypsies’ (Ciganus tentoriatos) (Achim 1998).
In the 15th century, almost all monasteries and boyars had Roma slaves. Their number grew at a rapid pace thus making Dimitrie Cantemir state, at the beginning of the 18th century, that in Moldavia “…Gypsies were spread all over the country” and “There was almost no boyar who did not own several Gypsy families.” (Achim 1998, p.26).
Most researchers explain the arrival of the Roma by invoking two migration waves: one dating back to 1026 and heading for Damask, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Spain, France and another occurring in 1192 and heading for Dnieper, Don, Caucasus. The Gypsies from the second wave came across the Tatars and became their slaves. This encounter is believed to have set the ground for the arrival of the Gypsies in Romania (Dumitrescu, Căpiţă and Manea 2008).
In his book, Gypsies in Romanian history, Viorel Achim (1998) also argues in favor of the South-Danubian route, emphasizing as main strands in his argument: the use of the Greek word aţigani, which later became ţigani, the high number of Greek and Southern Slavic words in the Romany language as well as their Orthodox religion which was quite a paradox in Transylvania where Catholics and Protestants accounted for a significant slice of the religious makeup.
Even though the number of information sources concerning the Roma’s arrival is higher in Moldavia and Wallachia than in Transylvania, the last mentioned makes up for its lack of data at the end of the 15th century. Thus, in 1493, a group of Gypsies headed by Voivode Rajko is referred to in Cladova, Arad County, while the Gypsies in Timişoara are brought up by archival sources as cannon casters (1500) and torturers of György Dózsa (1514) (Achim 1998).
1.3. A brand new carriage in exchange for 30 Gypsy slaves
When the Roma entered Romania as Tatar slaves, slavery was already a fact. Later on, Tatars melted away and the only people on whose shoulders this social status continued to rest until the mid-19th century were the Roma. Given that the old Romanian language didn’t have a word to point to this status, the term ţigan was used as a synonym for slave. Afterwards, the nouns rob and sclav (slave) took the place of the word labeling one of the lowest steps of the social ladder (Dumitrescu, Căpiţă and Manea 2008).
According to Dumitrescu, Căpiţă and Manea (2008), “Ţigan didn’t belong to the social structure or to the human species; he was defined as an exchange object and asset somebody owned.”
In order to set a background for the stories reflective of the Roma’s social condition in the Middle Ages, one has to take a closer look at the main categories of Roma slaves.
Depending on the owner, these fell into three categories: slaves owned by the Prince, by monasteries and by boyars. The first mentioned outnumbered the other two categories and encompassed both the Roma who worked at the princely court and the Roma who wandered the country and earned money from their crafts (Achim 1998).
Neagu Djuvara (2007) takes the above categorization even further and identifies, inside each group, two sub-groups: vătraşii (the settled) and lăieşii (the nomads) – the word derives from the Polish and Ukrainian noun laja meaning pack of dogs.
Vătraşii were used on the estates (in the kitchen, at the stables, in the fields etc.) while lăieşii wandered in small covered wagons, set their tents on the edge of the villages and made money crafting (they were blacksmiths, coppersmiths, woodworkers, bear tamers etc.).
Besides the two categories above, Djuvara also brings into the spotlight netoţii, i.e. small groups of Gypsies who were very poor, lived in the woods and had a savage look and behavior. Their name stands for incomplete and originates in the locals calling them people with incomplete minds.
Having a full table and a few chairs is an expression which describes in a nutshell the difference between the ‘welcome treat’ applied to the Roma in Romania and the one applied to those in Central and Western Europe. Namely, in Romania, the Roma managed to fill a gap through their crafts which addressed a specific market niche left uncovered mainly because of the agrarian profile Romania displayed at that time. Generally speaking, blacksmithing was not only the Roma’s favorite craft, but also a craft in high demand (Achim 1998).
I. St. Raicewich (cited in Achim 1998), a fine observer of the social and economic context in the two Romanian Principalities helps us gain a better understanding of the role that the Roma played: “All the mechanical crafts are in the hands of the Gypsies or of foreigners from neighbor countries”.
Moreover, a research carried out at the beginning of the 20th century showed that “…in the former Principalities there was not a single peasant farmstead that did not own pieces of ironwork produced by Gypsies”. In other words, Gypsy almost became a synonym for blacksmith in the Romanian villages (Achim 1998).
At the opposite pole, the Roma in Central and Western Europe didn’t have what gap to fill as craftsmen were already organized into guilds and the production was rather monopolistic. Additionally, unlike Romania which could cope with nomadism due to the sparseness of its population, this part of Europe didn’t have room for “the unsettled”. Hence, the Roma hit the wall of a pre-existent social and economic structure sound and rigid enough to reject the interference of the newcomers whose crafts and products were seen as rather rudimentary (Achim 1998)..
However, despite the “full table” of demand for Gypsy crafts and the few chairs around it filled by the Romanian craftsmen, the Roma were seen as “something that belonged to the owners who could use and re-use them without any fear” (Djuvara 2007).
A relevant example, in this regard, is a document from 1832 according to which Anica Manu got a brand new carriage from Vienna in exchange for 30 Gypsy nomads she had inherited. Also, in 1799, Emanoil Grădişteanu gave two young Gypsies as a fee for medical services (Djuvara 2007).
Mixed marriages were extremely rare given the peasants’ distrust of the nomads. Still, when such marriages took place, the woman who married a slave would embrace her husband’s status together with the offspring who were to come (Djuvara 2007).
When marriages between slaves owned by different boyars occurred, a compensatory exchange would take place. The receiving boyar either paid a price for the Roma who was to move to his land or gave his counterpart a slave which was worth the same value. If owners didn’t reach an agreement, they could break up the couple and even share their kids between them (Achim 1998).
To conclude with, the Roma slaves in the Romanian Principalities were at the very bottom of the social hierarchy. They were considered outcasts responsible for a consistent share of the country’s thefts. Seen from the outside, such treatment looked outrageous. An English traveler wrote at the end of the 19th century that: “Although the Gypsies form such an integral part of the community, they are regarded with the greatest disdain by the rest whose behavior towards them is scarcely better than towards animals; a man could more easily bear being called ‘thief’ or something similar than ‘Gypsy’”(Achim 1998, p.55).
The Austrian authorities in Chernovtsy (Bukovina region) joined the collective voice of those pointing a finger to the ill-treatment of the Roma and forbade the beating of the slaves in the street, a customary practice among the boyars from Moldavia. The owners were disturbed by the Austrian interference and fought to get an exemption from the general rule. Their efforts were not in vain as beating was allowed in the backyard of their houses (Djuvara 2007).
1.4. Transylvania: the other side of the coin
In Transylvania (the Romanian province which belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary and went under Habsburg rule in the 17th century), the Roma had a different faith.
First of all, the number of slaves was much lower as most of them were rather “royal serfs”. The latter status implied that they were directly subordinated to the King and their only duties came down to the taxes paid and works done for the state (Achim 1998).
Starting from 1688 and 1718, the Habsburg Empire engulfed Transylvania and Banat, respectively. This was the beginning of a new era for the Roma who became subject to the first coordinated effort aimed at coercing them into a sedentary life-style (Achim 1998).
In this respect, the two major cornerstones were the reigns of Maria Theresa (1740-1780) and Emperor Joseph II (1780-1790) who particularly tackled and touched upon the Gypsy problem. Maria Theresa issued four decrees which, briefly put, tied the Gypsies to a land, changed their name into Neubauer (new peasants) or újmagyarok (new Hungarians), abolished the jurisdiction of the Gypsy voivode and forbade the marriages between Gypsies. Emperor Joseph II extended the measures taken by his predecessor to Transylvania (Achim 1998).
Whatever the efforts made for assimilating the Roma, the Habsburg policy eventually failed. The main reasons were the relatively short period during which the measures were applied and the stage society underwent at that time. According to Achim (1998), another explanation for the debacle refers to the Roma’s distaste for discipline and agriculture, the new field they were supposed to embrace.
Yet, greater success of the sedentarization policy was attained in Banat. In 1784, the total number of Roma families in Timişoara amounted to 50 of which 30 were labeled as German. The only ones who were allowed to stick to their nomadic life-style to a certain degree were the gold washers. However, the beginning of the 19th century curtailed their wandering as this group also settled in the mountain villages in the South-East of the province (Achim 1998).
Therefore, one can conclude that the measures taken by the Habsburg Empire in the second half of the 18th century turned the page and carried the ‘unsettled’ Gypsies from Transylvania and Banat into a new chapter of their history for which ‘settled’ was the key word.
1.5. “Will you ever dare to be among the civilized peoples as long as one can read in one of your newspapers: Young Gypsy woman for sale?”
Fortunately, the answer to Kohly de Guggsberg’s question (cited in Achim 1998) was a categorical yes. The unequivocal answer came from the Romanian intellectuals who had studied abroad and returned home fascinated by the Western world and its new beliefs and ideals. Yet, their fascination hit against the contemporary certainties of their country which still preserved and took pride in its Gypsy slaves. Slavery soon turned into the “the country’s greatest shame, the darkest stain in the eyes of the foreigners” (Guggsberg cited in Achim 1998). This conclusion was reached in the context of the news avalanche concerning the abolition campaigns in the USA and the French and English colonies.
As a clue to the high sensitiveness Romanian society reached at that time, it should be borne in mind that the first American novel translated into Romanian was Harriet Beecker-Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Achim 1998).
Such sensitiveness was not only the result of the overly romantic views of the new intellectual wave, as many may think, but also of the accurate picture figures painted. Namely, between 1830 and 1860, the total number of Roma in Moldavia and Wallachia increased from roughly 200,000 to 250,000. According to most estimates, these accounted for almost one third of the total number of Roma in Europe (Achim 1998). Consequently, their social status wasn’t quite the ‘Guinness world record’ that intellectuals wished for in view of adhering to Western ideals.
Such conclusion led to the abolition of slavery which took the shape of a two-decade process. Its milestones, at a glance, were: the laws which set free the Gypsies belonging to the Metropolitanate, bishoprics and monasteries (1844 in Moldavia, 1843 in Wallachia) and the laws which set free the state-owned Gypsies (1844 Moldavia, 1847 Wallachia).
The final step towards complete abolition was taken in 1855 in Moldavia and 1856 in Wallachia when the privately owned slaves (the only ones remained) were liberated (Achim 1998).
The catapult responsible for launching the abolition process into its final stage is an apparently petty incident that took place in Moldavia. The incident represents one of the spiciest episodes in Djuvara’s book Between East and West (2007) and tells the story of a half-Gypsy boy on the Cantacuzino estate in Moldavia.
The boy is the illegitimate son of boyar Dimitrie Cantacuzino-Paşcani who had a love affair with a Gypsy servant. When the boyar passes away, his legitimate wife, Profira Cantacuzino, leaves to Paris together with little Dincă, the love child.
Dincă becomes an excellent cook due to the lessons taught by a renowned French chef paid by Mrs. Cantacuzino. However, because of a considerable decrease in her financial sources, the lady decides to return to Romania together with Dincă and Clémentine, the French chambermaid madly in love with the boy.
When the girl finds out that Dincă is a slave, she drops the initial marriage plan. Her husband-to-be asks for the help of Prince Grigore Ghica. The latter fails to persuade Mrs. Cantacuzino to set the boy free but promises Dincă he will do something about it. Dincă refuses to wait any longer and commits suicide after shooting his fiancée first. It is said that this tragedy made Prince Ghica order his ministers to stay in the Council Room all night long and draw up a project law for solving the issue. The law was promulgated a few days later and the Moldavian example was replicated by Wallachia, a little bit ashamed because its close neighbor was one step ahead.
The abolition of slavery in the Romanian Principalities gave rise to a transition period at the end of which the Roma were either peasants (mainly because of the 1864 land reform) or craftsmen still loyal to their traditional crafts. However, this episode is believed to have pushed the Roma to the edge of the Romanian society which entered the modern times with this “history relic” attached (Achim 1998).
Unlike in Moldavia and Wallachia, in Transylvania most Roma were already settled in the 19th century. According to the 1893 census, most nomads were in Caraş-Severin, Hunedoara and Timiş counties. Still, because of the sedentarization the Habsburg Empire began in the 18th century, the number of nomads became increasingly lower. Thus, the end of the 19th century witnessed the rise of a community integrated in the fabric of the majority after losing much of its cultural identity (Achim 1998).
1.6. The Interwar wind of change
The Interbellum set a completely different frame for the Roma in Romania. This time Romania didn’t refer to Moldavia and Wallachia only, but to Greater Romania also encompassing Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania (with Banat, Crişana and Maramureş regions included). The new background also changed the ethnic make-up and the Roma’s position. More precisely, the latter were the sixth largest minority group after Hungarians, Germans, Jews, Ukrainians and Russians representing 1.5% of the total population (over 260,000 Roma). According to the same census from 1930, 15.5% Roma lived in the cities while a staggering 84.5% lived in the countryside (Achim 1998).
If one were to flag the landmarks in the history of the Roma during the Interbellum, he or she would definitely stress the major shift in the occupational structure and the emerging Roma elite.
Indeed, the 1918-1920 land reforms turned an important page. These transformed many of the Roma into land owners and alleviated their plight to a certain degree. Many families managed to have better houses and to climb the social ladder. Yet, there also existed an opposite pole represented by those who had to give up their traditional crafts and take up new jobs (Achim 1998).
On the other hand, as Crowe (1996) emphasizes: “The 1920s saw something of a Gypsy renaissance take root in Eastern Europe and Russia as some intellectuals struggled to carve out a niche for the Gypsies in the new nations.” In 1933, the “renaissance” took one step further and two Roma organizations were established – the General Association of the Gypsies in Romania and the General Union of the Roma in Romania. The latter was the most important organization by far due to its nationwide coverage (Achim 1998).
If taking a closer look at the crème de la crème of the interwar Roma, names as Zavaidoc, Grigoraş Dinicu or Fănică Luca cannot go unnoticed.
The first mentioned was one of the most famous fiddlers of his time because of his passionate and flawless performance. During WWII, he joined George Enescu in his attempt to lift the spirits of the Romanian troops through music and even sang to General Antonescu who ordered the deportation of the Gypsies to Transdniestria (Sandu 2005).
Grigoraş Dinicu was a prominent musician whose talent determined the Daily Chronicle in London to surname him “the king of the Gypsies” in 1928. It was the same ‘king’ who was invited to play at the reception held in honor of Sarah Roosevelt (the US president’s mother) at the International Exhibition from Paris in 1937 (Sandu 2005).
Fănică Luca was considered the greatest panpipe player in the world, during the interwar period and even after. He even played on the National Day of France and signed contracts with famous theaters like Chatellets and Paladium. (Sandu 2005).
This brief review of some of the interwar Roma emblems aims to highlight the great potential this ethnic community had and the emancipation path it started in 1918. Unfortunately, it remained a mere beginning as the road to emancipation was curtailed by WWII and the deportation episode which produced irreversible harm.
1.7. Antonescu’s policy and its communist follow-up