ROMA HISTORY

250 BCE - 1400 CE

PRE-EUROPEAN HISTORY: FIRST MIGRATION FROM CENTRAL INDIA TO BYZANTIUM

The indian origin and the “road to europe” via Persia, armenia and asia minor as part of the Byzantine empire is undisputed, primarily because of linguistic evidence. Due to the lack of documents and “hard facts” and the importance of origin in any emancipation process, this is a field of discussions ranging from scientifically based theories to weird speculations.

FROM INDIA TO EUROPE

According to the findings of linguistics, cultural anthropology, science of history and, in more recent years, population genetics, the Roma’s Indian origin is considered a fact. How their ancestors came from India to Europe, and when this migration took place, its reasons and who exactly these people were is, however, open to assumptions.For want of direct evidence, the pre-European history of the Roma is a matter of reconstruction. more info...

1200 - 1700

EARLY EUROPEAN HISTORY

This second period in Roma history covers the time from the “arrival in europe” in the 15th century and the situation of the Roma in various european regions in the 16th and 17th centuries: their situation in the ottoman empire and central europe, bondage and slavery in Wallachia and moldavia, marginalisation and persecution in Western europe.

ARRIVAL IN EUROPE

The Roma had probably already been living in the Byzantine Empire, in the area of today’s Greece, before 1200. Thanks to a rising number of accounts about Roma by the settled population from 1400 onwards, their routes within Europe can today be traced quite precisely. In 1450, the Roma had travelled almost the whole of Europe. In Central Europe, the first deportations and expulsions were already taking place at that time. Soon this would lead to organised persecution. more info...

OTTOMAN EMPIRE

The Roma in the Balkans did not live isolated from their cultural and historical surroundings; on the contrary, they were an integral part of it and consequently were greatly influenced by the various Balkan peoples. Significant numbers of Roma have remained in the Balkans for centuries, others migrated from there throughout the world in past and modern times, taking with them inherited Balkan cultural models and traditions. The Ottoman Empire dominated the Balkans for over five centuries and made a distinct impression on the culture and history of the region. Thus the role of the Ottoman Empire is a key factor in the process of the formation and development of the Roma people. more info...

WALLACHIA AND MOLDAVIA

Unlike in any other European region, the Roma in former Wallachia and Moldavia (today‘s Romania), have lived in slavery for five hundred years. In the mid-19th century, when slavery was officially abolished, a large number of Roma left the country and migrated to Central and Western Europe as well as to America. more info...

CENTRAL EUROPE

The fate of the Roma in Central Europe between their arrival and the 18th century is strongly determined by the countless wars and political changes that affected the region, in particular the constant conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire. Up to the end of the 17th century, when the rapid retreat of the Turks began with the battle of Vienna in 1683, the Roma in the Hungarian lands faced two different policies. Under Ottoman rule, the Roma’s craft and  musicianship was largely appreciated. In the Habsburg-controlled areas, they were hardly tolerated. However, in some regions, especially the Western Hungarian counties bordering the Habsburg crown lands, these two approaches existed in parallel, thus exposing the “Gypsies” to ever changing conditions. more info...

WESTERN EUROPE

The period during which the Roma had letters of safe conduct, issued by the rulers at their disposal and were supplied with alms and lodging in the Central and Western European countries lasted only for a short time. From the beginning of the 16th century onwards, more and more radical laws led to their expulsion, deportation and open persecution, culminating in the organised killing of Roma. Often, as in Spain or the Holy Roman Empire, the cruelty of persecution reached its climax only in the 18th century. more info...

1700 - 1850

STATE POLICIES: INTEGRATION, FORCED ASSIMILATION, DEPORTATION

In the 18th century, the “age of enlightenment” in european history, Roma were exposed to “new methods” of discrimination: : internment in spain and forced assimilation laws in the austro-Hungarian empire; methods which are opposed by the treatment as – in principal – equal subjects with the respective full civil rights in the Russian empire.

AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE

Already at an early stage, people had tried to stop the Roma from living their way of life and culture. On a larger scale, however, policies of assimilation to the majority population were only pushed ahead by rulers in the Age of Enlightened Absolutism. Empress Maria Theresia and her son Joseph II in particular pursued programs which aimed at the Roma’s settlement and assimilation. Instead of physical violence a new form of cruelty was used in order to transform the uncontrollable and, to the state, unproductive “Gypsies” into settled, profitable subjects: the Roma were given land, they were no longer allowed to speak Romani and marry among each other, they were registered, and finally their children were taken away. However, these measures succeeded only in Western Hungary, today’s Austrian Burgenland and adjacent areas. In the other territories of the Empire, as well as in Spain and Germany, where the pressure for assimilation was likewise increased, the rulers’ policy of assimilation failed. more info...

RUSSIAN EMPIRE

The Russian Empire has exerted its influence over many peoples. Contrary to other countries in Europe the state policy of the Russian Empire towards the Roma initially and in the long term treated them as equal subjects of the Empire with the respective full civil rights. The administrative efforts of the state aimed to make the Roma meet their obligations as citizens. This policy was above all a “mainstream” policy; “Gypsies” were seen as an inseparable part of society, and in this way were subject to general legislation. In cases where there was a “special” policy directed at them, the aim was to overcome separation from society, without exercising pressure towards their assimilation. more info... 

THE GREAT "GYPSY" ROUND-UP IN SPAIN

The Age of Enlightened Absolutism provided the authorities with increasing opportunities to apply their measures on all the citizens in their range of power. In Spain, this resulted in the most painful episode in the history of the country’s “Gypsy” community: the general round-up carried out during the reign of Ferdinand VI, on July 30, 1749. The operation, which was as thorough as it was indiscriminate, led to the internment of ten to twelve thousand people, men and women, young and old, “simply because they were Gypsies.” The co-ordination of the different public authorities involved, the co-operation of the Church, which remained passive in the face of such injustice, the excesses committed by all those who made the operation possible, and the collaboration of the prisoners’ fellow citizens and neighbours made “Black Wednesday”, as the round-up is also called, an unchallenged event in the long history of European anti-“Gypsyism”. more info...

1850 - 1930s

SECOND MIGRATION AND INTENSIFIED DISCRIMINATION

In the second half of the 19th century, a second migratory movement took place: Roma groups from central and south-eastern of the century (19/20) also affected the Roma. These changes are exemplified by the intensified discrimination in a former europe moved to all other regions of europe, some of them even overseas. Political processes and changes around the brink austro-Hungarian region and the treatment of Roma as seperate people but integral part of society in the early soviet union.

SECOND MIGRATION 

In the mid-19th century, a second migratory movement took place, which changed the Roma population worldwide. Kalderaš, Lovara and other Roma groups from Central and South-Eastern Europe moved east- and westward and even reached America and Australia. This second migration, so-called after the first wave of Roma migration in Europe around 1400, was caused by far-reaching social changes, particularly the abolition of slavery in Wallachia and Moldavia, and emerging industrialisation. more info... 

More and more regulations within the monarchy restricted the Roma’s opportunities to earn a living. Bans on travelling were followed by settling by force, large-scale registration and bans on certain professions. Economic difficulties and National Socialist propaganda aggravated the situation, and finally “forced labour, deportation and sterilisation” were to solve the “Gypsy question” with a “National Socialist solution”. more info... 

SOVIET UNION BEFORE WORLD WORLD WAR II

The creation of the Soviet Union has frequently been called “a great historical experiment” which determined the fate of a considerable part of the world and many peoples. The policies towards Roma in the Soviet Union fall into two clearly separate periods, based on two radically different principles: From the creation of the Soviet Union up to 1938 the leading principle was the treatment of Roma as a separate people, who should develop as a constituent element of Soviet society; after 1938 the model changed, the “special” approach giving way to a “mainstream approach” and Roma were considered above all, an integral part of Soviet society. more info... 

1938 - 1945

PERSECUTION, INTERNMENT, GENOCIDE - HOLOCAUST

The Nazi genocide stands as caesura in recent Roma history.It has been the negative climax of centuries of discrimantion, stigmatisation and persecution.Many groups have not overcome the Holocaust until today. 
The Holocaust cant't be treated as past, it is still an integral part of today's Roma life and therefore non-Roma have to be made aware of this phase of roma history as well. Maybe this chapter shows best the preliminary and open character of the factsheets. Although this heading subsumes the largest number of individual factsheets so far, there still remains a lot to be written.

HOLOCAUST

The persecution of “Gypsies” which had lasted for centuries culminated in genocide under the NS regime. Defined as a “problem”, “asocials” and “racially inferior”, the Roma were arrested and murdered in the German Reich and in the German-occupied territories. more info...

CONCENTRATION CAMPS

Following a comparatively short period of increasingly tightening measures directed towards them, from 1938 on the Roma in the German Reich, German-occupied territories and associated countries suffered deportation, detention and murder. By 1945 roughly one out of four Roma living in pre-war Europe had fallen victim to Nazi persecution. more info 

THE NAZI PERIOD IN ITALY

In Italy the victims of the fascist dictatorship also included the Roma. Today, whilst historical investigation of the subject is only just beginning and has to contend with over half a century of more or less deliberate neglect and “memory lapses”, we can say with certainty that the Roma were tracked down, put on file and imprisoned by the fascist government of the time. Those interned endured cold, hunger and disease which in some cases resulted in their deaths. more info...

INTERNMENT IN FRANCE

In France there were two different but parallel approaches to the so-called “Gypsy question”. The French approach of using internment as a way of bringing the “Tsiganes” (“Gypsies”) into the mainstream of society prevailed over the German approach of internment as the first step to mass murder. Thus France’s Roma, unlike those living in other countries under German occupation, were not exterminated in the camp at Auschwitz. However, they did not escape persecution: whole families were interned in special camps throughout the country, both during and after the occupation. more info...

THE NAZI PERIOD IN THE BALTIC STATES

In the Baltic States the killing of Roma started immediately after the German attack in 1941. SS and German military murdered the Roma who fell into their hands. Later on, when the mobile forces were transformed into stationary units and augmented by police units, they proceeded with support from civil occupation authorities. In Estonia only 5 to 10 percent of the pre-war Roma population survived the German occupation. more info...

DEPORTATION FROM ROMANIA

The fate of the Roma did not receive attention by the Romanian state for almost a hundred years after slavery had been abolished in 1856. Then, after they had come to power in 1940, it took but two years for the fascist Iron Guard to start with mass deportations of Roma. Like many Jews, the Roma were brought across the river Dniester, to South-Western Ukraine, then so-called Transnistria. They were deported there without even their most vital belongings and had to endure two years of hunger, illness and death. Only about half of the Roma deported managed to survive until March 1944, when Romania began to evacuate all its citizens from Transnistria. more info...

1945 - today

PROLONGED DISCRIMINATION AND STRUGGLE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

After WW II Roma concentration camp survivors were refused help and compensation and for many of them the
recognition as victims came too late. Stigmatisation and discrimination did not come to an end after the Holocaust. Roma always have been and still are marginalised in European society. this situation finally led to self-organisation for emancipation and the struggle for human rights at an international level.

THE SITUATION OF CONCENTRATION CAMP SURVIVORS

When the few survivors of the Holocaust returned, they had, in most cases, lost their families and belongings. Yet they were regularly accused of lying about their internment in a concentration camp and thus were refused any aid by the post-war authorities, which continued to work on the basis of the same assumptions and prejudices they had the years, and decades, before. In Germany and Austria, restitution or compensation payments were issued later, but it took until the mid-1990s for them to receive proper offers. In the socialist countries, Roma were not officially recognised as victims of the Holocaust at all. more info...

STATE POLICIES UNDER COMMUNISM

The end of the Second World War saw the emergence of what was officially called the “Socialist Bloc” over a large part of Europe, where a considerable number of European Roma lived. In line with the new communist ideology, overall social and economic changes took place in these countries, affecting the entire population, Roma included. In spite of the common ideological parameters, the policies towards “Gypsies” were not identical, there were differences, based on models from the past and on national strategies. The main aim of the policies of the states was integration into society, which in some countries reached the stage of striving towards assimilation. more info...

INSTITUTIONALISATION AND EMANCIPATION

For the most part of the 20th century, the Roma’s emancipatory activities remained largely isolated experiments. In the 1950s and 60s, a growing number of organisations originated, preparing the ground for the “Romani-Movement” of the 1970s. This decade saw the emergence of local and national Roma organisations in large numbers and of a variety of goals, and significant efforts were made towards a political representation of the Roma at an international level. Since 1989, in several Eastern European countries Roma have increasingly been represented in communal and national political bodies. more info...

1960s - today

THIRD MIGRATION AND EMANCIPATION PROCESS

The recent east-west migration of the Roma started in the course of the working migrations from South-East Europe to Western europe and intensified with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites and the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Processes that also resulted in armed conflicts, which hit Roma, multiply: as victims of war, as marginalised ethnic group, branded as “only” economic refugees in the target countries, etc.

THIRD MIGRATION

After the first appearance of Roma in Europe and the wave of emigration after slavery was abolished in Romania (“Second Migration”, around 1850), the last migratory movement of Roma from Eastern to Western Europe took place in the second half of the 20th century. This “third migration” has to be considered in connection with external factors: war, political changes and the resulting economic crises made many people leave their country of origin; in the Roma’s case, massive racism and discrimination in all areas of everyday life have to be added. more info...

Source: Factsheets on Roma History, Council of Europe, reproduced with permission