Academic journal article Romani Studies

Roma and Romani in Austria

Academic journal article Romani Studies

Roma and Romani in Austria

Article excerpt

The Austrian Roma and 'Austrian Romani' can be seen as a paradigmatic representation of the social and linguistic situation of Roma in the so-called Western affluent society. Just like in many Central and Western European countries, the Austrian Roma population comprises several groups. These differ both in their socio-political status and in their socio-cultural background, which results in dialectal and sociolinguistic variation. Social heterogeneity and linguistic variation connected with the self-organisation in the course of international developments concerning ethnic minorities have effects on the functionality and the status of Romani; the results of these processes are outlined in exemplary function for the Austrian situation.

Keywords: Austria, sociology, demography, sociolinguistics, language attitude, Burgenland-Roma, Sinti, Lovara, Kalderas, Arlije

1. The Austrian Roma

The Austrian Roma, which were officially recognised as Austria's sixth ethnic group in December 1993, can be compared to other ethnic groups only to a certain extent. Contrary to Croatians, Slovenes, Hungarians, Czechs, and Slovakians, the Roma do not have, among others, a nation-state which-like a mother country-could support their cause and could thus contribute to the preservation of culture and identity. Furthermore, the Austrian Roma do not really have a closed area of settlement-one of the criteria for ethnic groups in Austria. Besides, the Roma cannot be regarded as a homogenous group. The individual subgroups within the Austrian Roma differ, among others, in their socio-cultural background and socio-political status.

According to reliable estimates, at least 25,000 Roma live in Austria and can be differentiated into at least five bigger groups. In order of their length of residence in Austria, these five are as follows: Burgenland-Roma, Sinti, Lovara, Vlax-Roma (Kalderas, Gurbet, etc.), and Muslim Roma (Arlije, Bugurdzi, etc.) from the former Yugoslavia.

1.1 Demographic parameters

The above-mentioned list does not include those Roma who have come to Austria from the Balkans and ex-communist states in eastern and southeastern Europe since the late 1980s. Some of them, who had existing social contacts, joined the groups of migrant workers who came from the Balkans from the 1960s onwards. There are no demographic statistics on this particular subgroup yet, nor are there statistics on those Roma who came to Austria from other countries, such as Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. These are included under the caption 'Others' in Table 1, which shows the demographic parameters of the individual groups.

1.1.1. Country of emigration and time of immigration

The first immigrants into the German-speaking Central-European culture area were the Sinti, whose presence has been documented since the fifteenth century. A certain continuity in settlement on what is today Austrian territory can, however, be proven only from the second half of the eighteenth century onwards. The fact that in northern Italy and Russia Sinti groups are nowadays called Estrexarja (Austrians) attests to a high mobility of the first immigrants. It is highly probable that the majority of Sinti who live in Austria today settled here only in the course of the twentieth century.

The Burgenland-Roma are the group which has been living on Austrian territory longest: they have been immigrating since the late fifteenth century from central Hungary and have not left the western Hungarian area (from 1921 Burgenland) since.

The immigration of Lovara in the late nineteenth century and of the Sinti around 1900 can also be called an internal migration: both the Lovara and the majority of Sinti had come from areas of what was at the time the Austrian-Hungarian Empire; the first from Hungary and Slovakia, the second from Bohemia and Moravia, today's Czech Republic. A few Sinti families also came from southern Germany. Additionally, some Lovara fled to Austria in 1956 in the wake of the so-called 'Hungarian Uprising'. …

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