The Gypsies of Eastern Europe

The Gypsies of Eastern Europe

The Gypsies of Eastern Europe

The Gypsies of Eastern Europe

Synopsis

In recent news coverage of the dramatic political events in Eastern Europe, Gypsies have been a favourite sidebar topic. Some of the stories have been truly horrifying, others are written condescendingly and to amuse; but what has become clear is how little we really know about this people. In a concerted effort to uncover the modern history of the Rom in Eastern Europe, the authors examine the Gypsy experience in Albania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia, with special attention to the Nazi Holocaust as well as to the record of the forced settlement and education programmes instituted by communist regimes.

Excerpt

Gypsies have lived among the Albanians for over 600 years. Their arrival from Asia coincided with that of the Ottoman Turks, a larger Asiatic group that by the middle of the fifteenth century had changed the face of southeastern Europe. And, in the case of the Albanians several generations later, their faith. a people once predominately Roman Catholic now split into four distinct religious communities. By the middle of the nineteenth century, over half the Albanians in the Balkans had converted to the Sunni branch of Islam. One-quarter of the population had joined Shiite Bektashi brotherhoods, or communities of "Crypto-Christians," which did not share the fanaticism of their Greek Orthodox or Sunni Moslem neighbors. Approximately 15 percent had come under the jurisdiction of the Greek patriarch in Istanbul, and fewer than 10 percent stubbornly held on to their Roman Catholic parishes in the north Albanian highlands and the plains below them that stretched toward Kosovo.

Background

By the nineteenth century, the four Ottoman vilayets, or provinces in European Turkey that were administered for the most part by Albanian Moslems, had become a refuge of sorts for Gypsy families . . .

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