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Roma Report (Assessment)


Even after centuries of identification and marginalization, there is ignorance surrounding the Roma, their origins, and their unique culture. Now distributed around the globe, but concentrated in Central Europe 1and in the countries of the former USSR2, they often maintain a strong sense of their own identity, even though they are living within many different nations.

However, they have not, in most cases, benefited from what these nations have to offer, a situation that Plainer describes as, “exclusion and limited access to resources”3,4,5,6. They are perhaps the largest ethnic group in such poverty7.

Their odd circumstances of visible poverty and disconnection from services and opportunities have led them to be termed an, “European nation without its own state”8. Their plight is reminiscent of Native Americans/First Nations peoples, Australian Aborigines, the Kurds, and even the mentally ill homeless, and requires as complex a response.

There is strong agreement between many sources that the original source of the Roma population group, now numbering roughly 4 million strong, is India. Linguistic evidence from as early as the 18th century pinpoints their origins in Malabar, in southwest coastal Kerala, home of a Dravidian language unrelated to Indo-European roots9.

More recent research points to an ancestral in-migration to India at roughly 2000 BCE. There was an out-migration from India in the 9th and 10th centuries CE in reaction to (hostile) Muslim incursions into that area.

They were once again on the move in the 14th and 15th centuries as a response to Turkish expansion into the Balkans, arriving in Hungary at that point10,11.

They were given help in the form of food donations and safe passage, as a result of carrying a purported letter of safe-conduct from Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund (also King of Hungary and Bohemia). This letter may have been fraudulent12, a circumstance possibly contributing to the Roma’s persistent reputation for double-dealing.

The names by which the Roma have been known have varied as they moved. In Greek, they were associated with heretical religious practice, and termed “atsinganos”, transmuted into the Latin “cingarus”, the German, “Ziganeru”, and the Hungarian “cigany”.

The commonly known term “gypsy” was a corruption of “Egypt”, because of a mistaken impression that these people were Egyptian pilgrims13. The Roma’s appellations for themselves may be derived from their ancestors’ caste denominations back in India.

They are usually called something else, usually derogatory, by their neighbours. A current example is the term “pikey”, which is short for “turnpike traveller”, and still causing offense in the UK14.

Governments with large populations of Roma have made recent efforts to understand and address the problems of education, unemployment, discrimination15, housing and health through culture-sensitive research and programs16.

For example, the role of Roma women is quite distinct. Women have extraordinary power within their community but may be discouraged from seeking outside employment by their husbands17.

Such governmental efforts to support the self-determination and constructive development of the Roma should be continued and expanded to preserve their culture while encouraging them to be as full participants as possible in the prosperity around them.

Bibliography

BUDAPEST, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. “GYPSIES/ROMA IN HUNGARY.” 2012. Fact Sheet on Hungary. MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS BUDAPEST. Web.

Foszto, L. and M-V Anastaoie. ; the Roma of Central and Eastern Europe. Ed. Will Guy. Hertfordshire: Unversity of Hertfordshire Press, 2001. Web.

Geoghegan, Tom. “.” 2008. BBC. Web.

Hajioff, Steve and Martin McKee. “The health of the Roma people: a review of the published literature.” J Epidemiol Community Health 54.11 (2000): 864-869. Web.

Hughes, Dominic. “.” 2009. BBC Radio. Web. 2012.

Kemény, István and Béla Janky. “HISTORY OF ROMA IN HUNGARY.” Social Science Monographs. Ed. István Kemény. Boulder: Columbia University Press, 2012. Web.

Kertesi, Gábor and Gábor Kézdi. “Roma Employment in Hungary after the Post-Communist Transtion.” 2009. Web.

Plainer, Zsuzsa. “.” Studia Universitatis Babeş‐Bolyai, Studia Europaea (2009): 157-183. Web.

Republic, Slovak. “Medium-term Concept of the Development of the Roma National Minority in the Slovak Republic.” 2012. Web.

Ringold, Dena, Mitchell Alexander Orenstein and Erika Wilkens. Roma in an Expanding Europe: Breaking the Poverty Cycle. World Bank Publications, 2006. Web.

ROMBASE. “Roma – Sub-Ethnic Groups.” 2012. ROMBASE. Web.

Footnotes

1 Kemény, István, and Béla Janky. “HISTORY OF ROMA IN HUNGARY.” In Social Science Monographs, edited by István Kemény. Boulder, Colorado: Columbia University Press, 2012.

3 Plainer, Zsuzsa. “THREE ROMA GROUPS FROM IRIS – A FRAGMENTED ETHNOGRAPHY.” STUDIA UNIVERSITATIS BABEŞ‐BOLYAI, STUDIA EUROPAEA, 4 2009: 157-183.

4 BUDAPEST, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. “GYPSIES/ROMA IN HUNGARY.” Fact Sheet on Hungary. MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS BUDAPEST. 201.

5 Hughes, Dominic. “Growing marginalisation of Hungary’s Roma.” BBC Radio. 2009.

6 Hajioff, Steve, and Martin McKee. “The health of the Roma people: a review of the published literature.” J Epidemiol Community Health 54, no. 11 (2000): 864-869.

7 Kertesi, Gábor and Gábor Kézdi. “Roma Employment in Hungary after the Post-Communist Transtion.” 2009.

9 ROMBASE. “Roma – Sub-Ethnic Groups.” 2012. ROMBASE.

11 Kemény, István, and Béla Janky. “HISTORY OF ROMA IN HUNGARY.” In Social Science Monographs, edited by István Kemény. Boulder, Colorado: Columbia University Press, 2012.

14 Geoghegan, Tom. “How offensive is the word ‘pikey’?.” 11 June 2008. BBC.

15 Foszto, L., and M-V Anastaoie. Between past and future; the Roma of Central and Eastern Europe. Edited by Will Guy. Hertfordshire: Unversity of Hertfordshire Press, 2001.

16 Ringold, Dena, Mitchell Alexander Orenstein and Erika Wilkens. Roma in an Expanding Europe: Breaking the Poverty Cycle. World Bank Publications, 2006.

17 Republic, Slovak. “Medium-term Concept of the Development of the Roma National Minority in the Slovak Republic.”

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Roma." April 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/roma/.

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