The Roma in Romanian History

The Roma in Romanian History

The Roma in Romanian History

The Roma in Romanian History

Synopsis

"One of the greatest challenges during the process of European Union enlargement towards the east is how the issue of the Roma or Gypsies is tackled. This enormous social and political problem cannot be solved without proper historical studies like this book. Achim presents and interprets the long history of the Gypsies, including slavery, the process of integration and assimilation into the majority population, as well as the historical roots of the marginalization of the Gypsies. The deportation of Gypsies to Transnistria during the Antonescu regime, between 1942 and 1944, is reconstructed in a separate chapter. The closing chapters elaborate on the policy toward the Gypsies in the decades after the Second World War, and its bearing on the situation of the Roma population in today's Romania."

Excerpt

In traditional approaches, the history of Romania could be written without reference to the Gypsies.* For a long time, history was regarded as being about those who were in the centre of historical events. The Gypsies, however, have never been a part of “History with a capital H”. For centuries, on Romanian territories they were kept in a state of collective slavery. Emancipation from slavery in the mid-nineteenth century did not secure their complete integration into modern Romanian society, due to the nature of the conditions in which it took place. They have continued to occupy, even until the present day, a marginal social position. Even when writers of Romanian social history came to regard the masses as being in the vanguard of history, they paid but little attention to those on the margins of society, where the Gypsies were largely to be found. Similarly, not even the study of ethnic minorities and inter-ethnic relations has paid attention to the Gypsies. As a result of historical conditions, the Gypsies have almost never expressed themselves in the public domain as an ethnic group, and have consequently failed to awaken any particular interest in their past. The chapter about the Gypsies in the ethnic history of Romania is yet to be written.

Nonetheless, the Gypsies have been a permanent presence in Romanian history. From the second half of the fourteenth century onwards, this population of Indian origin has been present in the social and ethnic landscape of the Romanian lands. For four and a half centuries the Gypsies were kept in a state of slavery on Romanian territory. They were consequently a marginal element in society and had no impact on social developments, in which they were not included. Their status as slaves marked their destiny. The legal emancipation of the mid-nineteenth century was not accompanied by social emancipation. The authorities' failed attempts to tie them to the soil and to an agricultural occupation only succeeded in perpetuating their

* The terms “Gypsy” and “Roma” are both used throughout the book in com
pliance with the historical reality. “Gypsy” is mostly applied for the past, referring
to how those placed in this category have been treated within Romanian society.
The term “Roma” represents the new emerging ethnic identity of this population.

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