The gypsy minority in Romania: a study in marginality

Type Journal Article - Revue roumaine de géographie
Title The gypsy minority in Romania: a study in marginality
Volume 53
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Page numbers 33-56
URL roumaine_53_1/Cretan, Turnock.pdf
Among the problems of integrating the former communist countries of East Central Europe into
the EU, ethnic issues rank high, particularly in the highly fragmented Carpathian basin where ethnic
diversity has complicated the emergence of nation states: both the large Hungarian state in the context
of the Habsburg Empire (1867–1918) and the smaller post-Trianon successor states (Poulton 1991;
Kocsis 1994, 2000, 2001). This paper deals with Romania where, despite significant improvements in
the use of minority languages, the Gypsy community still encounters significant discrimination which
arises to some extent from self-exclusion as the integration of the better-educated Gypsies reinforces
the poverty of the remaining ‘core element’ who retains a traditional approach to life (including the
instinct for a nomadic lifestyle) in preference to securing their own territory as settled communities
and families interacting harmoniously with other groups (Cretan 1999). The Gypsy ‘culture of survival’ –
standing as one of Romania’s many ‘sub-histories’ – features a nation with Indian origins living in
exile in Europe where a certain freedom of cultural expression and resistance to assimilation has been
bought at the price of official attitudes, fluctuating between ambivalent toleration and oppressive
discrimination, linked with the political goal of social cohesion for either multi-national empires or
nation states alike (Fraser 1994). They have arguably paid a high price for their ‘freedom’ to be
different: a separateness maintained in diverse physical environments and historical eras (Ely 1964).

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