Gypsies in Europe







 A nation without country.



The Romani language is of Indo-Aryan origin and has many spoken dialects, but the root language is ancient Punjabi, or Hindi. The spoken Romani language is varied, but all dialects contain some common words in use by all Roma. Based on language, Roma are divided into three populations. They are the Domari of the Middle East and Eastern Europe (the Dom), the Lomarvren of Central Europe (the Lom), and the Romani of Western Europe (the Rom). There is no universal written Romani language in use by all Roma.



The Roma cannot be said to have a "religion" of their own. They have usually adopted the faiths of the countries in which they live. Among the Roma can be found Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and Muslims. Many prefer to carry out religious rituals in their own homes or in the context of folk.

Their formal religious affiliation is often supplemented by Roma traditional beliefs:

·        the existence of Del (God)

·        the existence of beng (Satan)

bulletthe existence of bibaxt (bad luck) and of mulу (supernatural spirits or ghosts)

·        the power of good luck charms, amulets and talismans

bulletthe power of curses
bulletthe power of healing rituals

¨Marim is a state of impurity brought on a person by the violation of a purity taboo. Some Roma consider the part of a woman's body below the waist to be dirty or polluted, because it is associated with menstruation.  In many tribes, women wear long skirts, the bottoms of which must not touch a man other than her husband.

¨A pregnant woman is considered unclean. She must not give birth in the family home because it would then become impure. After birth, anything that the new mother touches is later destroyed. This quarantine continues at least until the baptism of the baby.

¨Newborns are baptized, usually in running water, when they are a few weeks old. Often, the infant is massaged with oil; this is believed to make it strong.

¨A Roma typically has three names. The first is known only by the mother; it is given at the time of birth. Its purpose is to confuse evil spirits by keeping the real name of the child from them. The second name is conferred at the time of baptism, and is the commonly used name within the tribe. A third, different name may be given when the child is re-baptized in a Christian church. It has little importance, except when dealing with non-Roma.

¨ Pre-marital sex is strongly forbidden. Marriages to outsiders are heavily discouraged. The wedding ceremony is usually simple. In some tribes, the bride and groom join hands in front of the chief or an elder and promise to be true to each other.

¨When a person dies, relatives and friends gather around and ask for forgiveness for any bad deeds that they have done to that person. They are concerned that if such grievances are not settled, then the dead person might come back as an evil spirit and cause trouble.

¨They believe that a person can be reincarnated as another human or animal. Alternately, they might appear as a mulу or "living dead", seeking revenge on anyone who harmed him during his life on earth.

¨They normally wash in running water, as in a shower. Baths are not used. Women's and men's clothes are washed separately, because of the impurities of a woman's body.

¨ They also have female healers, called drabarni or drabenhgi, who prescribe traditional healing rituals and cures.


¨Roma do not believe in fortune telling. This practice is used only to earn money from the Gadje( non-Roma).



Political System


The Roma legal system not only protects the Roma from external and internal threats, but also serves as a code that organizes Roma society. In particular, Roma law has evolved to insulate Roma from the host society.

Roma law ensures that the host country's legal systems and cultures minimally influence Roma life.

Roma law has maintained its basic form, even though older methods of punishment have given way largely to banishment or social ostracism, it must be more nearly perfect than other laws.

Each community is ruled by a chief, a man who is chosen for his age, experience, and wisdom. Some Roma tribes call this chief Rom baro, meaning " Big Man. " The chief of a Roma community is a man who inspires respect by his strength and intelligence, a man who by his own life sets an example for the other Roma. Often, the chief may be able to read and write to some extent. He settles minor disputes on the basis of his mature judgment, and his decisions are followed by other members of the community.


Depends on the country the Roma live in.

Geographical Information

Depends on the country the Roma live in.

Typical Food and drinks

A day will generally begin with very strong black coffee, heavily sweetened with sugar. Coffee is a staple of Roma existence for many tribes, and many cups may be taken in the course of a day. There is usually no lunch, and dinner is served at sunset, or, since the food is generally on the stove all afternoon, whenever anyone is hungry. The basic element of this dinner is a thick, fatty vegetable soup, or stew, with any available vegetables or greens put into it. It is usually made even more hearty by the addition of potatoes, rice, or pasta. Sometimes meat is served, generally broiled or cooked on a spit. Game, such as rabbit and game fowl, are enjoyed when possible. Garlic is a very commonly used seasoning. Some tribes sometimes serve maize cakes instead of bread. Water is the most often served during the course of a meal.

A favourite European Roma dish has traditionally been roasted hedgehog.

Beer, wine and other spirits are substituted for water at the meal.


Holidays and Festivals

The best known Romani religious festivals are the annual pilgrimages to Saintes Maries de la Mer on the Mediterranean coast of France and Sainte Anne de Beaupre in Quebec , Canada . In Saintes Maries de la Mer, Sara the Black is paid homage to by the Roma on the 24-26 of May. In Quebec , the Roma pay homage to Saint Anne on July 26. These annual religious festivals are also used as social gatherings for the Roma.




 The Roma are a distinct ethnic minority whose origins began on the Indian subcontinent over one thousand years ago. No one knows for certain why the original Roma began their great wandering from India to Europe and beyond, but they have dispersed worldwide,

despite persecution and oppression through the centuries.

There may have been several migrations from India .

The first was the initial dispersal from India about a thousand years ago.

 The second great migration, known as the Aresajipe, was from southwest Asia into Europe in the 14th century.

The third migration was from Europe to the America in the 19th and early 20th centuries after the abolition of Romani slavery in Europe in 1856-1864. 

The Roma were the first people of colour to immigrate in large numbers to Europe , and Europeans tended to treat them as outsiders.

Gypsy hunting and other such persecutions have occurred almost from the beginning of the Roma presence in Europe . It is believed that as much as half of the Roma in Europe were enslaved, from the 14th century until Romani slavery was abolished in the mid-19th century.

Approximately  1,500,000 Roma were murdered in the Holocaust.


In eastern Europe During the Communist era, Roma culture was suppressed by the government. Their newspapers and clubs were closed; their language was outlawed.

Nowadays discrimination against Roma in employment, education, health care, administrative and other services is observed in most societies, and hate speech against them deepens the negative anti-Roma stereotypes which are typical of European public opinion. 


Art and culture

Romani customs and traditions are as diverse as the number of Roma nations and the countries they inhabit. Generally, there remains a fine cultural thread which holds the Roma people together, no matter where they may be.

The core of Romani culture is based on a deep-rooted feeling of love for life and freedom, in which the collective aspect plays an important role. In this context, the Roma have always expressed a deep respect towards their elders, who are seen as the true bearers of the Romani identity. The spirit of non-violent behaviour also figures prominently in Romani culture.

The Roma have been known as entertainers in every country they have travelled. In eastern Europe, the Roma have been known as skilled acrobats, bear trainers, horse trainers, musicians, dancers and singers. They have owned and operated travelling carnivals and circuses. They have been prized by royalty as court musicians for their mastery of musical styles. 

Roma have contributed their own unique styles to middle eastern music, Jewish klezmer music, flamenco music and dance, jazz, and they have influenced other artists in their music and art, among them Liszt, Bizet, Brahms, Dvorák, Verdi, Rachmaninov, and Bartok.

Many well-known modern entertainers have claimed Romani ancestry, including the actor and Roma activist, Yul Brynner; the comedian, Charlie Chaplin; the actress, Rita Hayworth; the actor, Michael Caine; and the actor and director Bob Hoskins. The Gipsy Kings are perhaps the best known Roma musical entertainers in the world today.

The Romanes language has not had many important authors, primarily because of the absence of a universal standard in written Romanes. Among Roma authors are the novelist Mateo Maximoff, a Kalderash Rom, writing in French, translated by others into English and other languages. Papusza, the Romani poetess from Poland , is being "rediscovered" by new readers. Today, important Roma authors are emerging from Europe with critical acclaim, writing in Romanes.


Population and

% of foreign population /minorities

There are more than twelve million Roma located in many countries around the world. There is no way to obtain an exact number since they are not recorded on most official census counts.

Main Integration Problems


Many Roma fear that over time integration could lead to assimilation, and the eventual disappearance of  Romaniya.

Although they need and depend on contacts with their host countries as a source of their livelihood, the Roma do not want to be part of these societies in any sense that would involve compromise of their basic beliefs.

The Romani people remain the least integrated and the most persecuted people of Europe.The main Roma problems are

·        Heath

·        Occupation   

·        Criminality

·        Poverty

·        Public opinion

·        Citizenship

·        Education




Roma flag


The Romani flag was declared the national emblem  of the Romani people during the first World Romani Congress near London in 1971. The flag had already surfaced during an earlier conference in 1933, but it was not until 38 years later that the symbol was declared official.


Map of migration routes from India to Asia, Africa and Europe.


Simplified map of possible migration routes from India to Asia , Africa and Europe .


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Latest update of this page: 2005-06-28 
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