Class, Politics, and Community
When I attended the premier press conference of the first Rom (Gypsy) 1 political party in Macedonia in August 1990, I was struck with the historic significance of the event on many levels -- political, cultural, and emotional. With live surla and tapan2 music and participatory dancing announcing the opening, and with a collection box proclaiming that tips were to go to the party, it was clear that Rom politics had entered the level of public consciousness.
This article situates the politicization of the Macedonian Roma in the 1980's and 1990's in economic and cultural terms. In May 1993, Hugh Poulton posed the question of whether the Roma in Macedonia were "A Balkan Success Story?" ( Poulton 1993a). I investigate this question through an ethnographic case study of Shuto Orizari (known locally as Shutka), a neighborhood on the outskirts of Skopje, the capitol of Macedonia, with a population of approximately 40,000 Roma, where I lived for five months in 1990. First, I place the contemporary social and political position of Balkan Roma in historical perspective, second, I discuss the economic situation in Shutka and third, I trace the emergence of a political identity by chronicling the events leading to the formation of the first Macedonian Rom party.
At the outset, it must be pointed out that there is no ubiquitous Rom or even Balkan Rom identity nor any two Rom communities exactly alike. Rather, there are a myriad of Rom groups and sub-groups ( Liégeois 1986), many of whom live intermixed with other Roma and who differ from each other by dialect, occupations, class, and custom. Nevertheless, Rom intellectuals are successfully forging a pan-European human rights movement based on common historical and