Romani people in Romania

Romani in Romania
Țigani, Gypsy
Total population
(2011 census: 621,573[1])
Romani and other languages (Romanian, Hungarian, Turkish)
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Romani people (Roma in Romani; Țigani in Romanian) in Romania, Gypsy, constitute one of the country's largest minorities. According to the 2011 census, they number 621,573 people or 3.08% of the total population, being the second-largest ethnic minority in Romania after Hungarians.[1]


The Romani people originate from the northern India,[2][3][4][5][6][7] presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan[6][7] and Punjab.[6]

The linguistic evidence has indisputably shown that roots of Romani language lie in India: the language has grammatical characteristics of Indian languages and shares with them a big part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts or daily routines.[8]

More exactly, Romani shares the basic lexicon with Hindi and Punjabi. It shares many phonetic features with Marwari, while its grammar is closest to Bengali.[9]

Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in northwestern India and migrated as a group.[3][4][10] According to a genetic study in 2012, the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of northern India, traditionally referred to collectively as the Ḍoma, are the likely ancestral populations of modern European Roma.[11]

In February 2016, during the International Roma Conference, the Indian Minister of External Affairs stated that the people of the Roma community were children of India. The conference ended with a recommendation to the Government of India to recognize the Roma community spread across 30 countries as a part of the Indian diaspora.[12]


The Romani minority in Romania by county (2011 census)
The Romani minority in Romania by county (2002 census)
Percentage of Romani minority who speak Romani language in Romania by county (2011 census)
The Romani minority in Romania by municipality (2002 census)

According to the 2002 census, 81.9% of Roma are Orthodox Christians, 6.4% Pentecostals, 3.8% Roman Catholics, 3% Reformed, 1.1% Greek Catholics, 0.9% Baptists, 0.8% Seventh-Day Adventists, while the rest belong to other religions such as (Islam and Lutheranism).[13]


Further information: Names of the Romani people

In Romani, the native language of the Romani, the word for people is pronounced [ˈroma] or [ˈʀoma] depending on dialect ([ˈrom] or [ˈʀom] in the singular). Starting from the 1990s, the word has also been officially used in the Romanian language, although it has been used by Romani activists in Romania as far back as 1933.[14][15]

There are two spellings of the word in Romanian: rom (plural romi), and rrom (plural rromi). The first spelling is preferred by the majority of Romani NGOs[16] and it is the only spelling accepted in Romanian Academy's Dicționarul explicativ al limbii române.[17] The two forms reflect the fact that for some speakers of Romani there are two rhotic (ar-like) phonemes: /r/ and /ʀ/.[18] In the government-sponsored (Courthiade) writing system /ʀ/ is spelt rr. The final i in rromi is the Romanian (not Romani) plural.

The traditional and colloquial Romanian name for Romani, is "țigani" (cognate with Serbian cigani, Hungarian cigány, Greek ατσίγγανοι (atsinganoi), French tsiganes, Portuguese ciganos, Dutch zigeuner, German Zigeuner, and Italian zingari). Depending on context, the term may be considered to be pejorative in Romania[19]

In 2009-2010, a media campaign followed by a parliamentarian initiative asked the Romanian Parliament to accept a proposal to change back the official name of country's Roma (adopted in 2000) to Țigan (Gypsy), the traditional and colloquial Romanian name for Romani, in order to avoid the possible confusion among the international community between the words Roma — which refers to the Romani ethnic minority — and Romania.[20] The Romanian government supported the move on the grounds that many countries in the European Union use a variation of the word Țigan to refer to their Gypsy populations. The Romanian upper house, Senate, rejected the proposal.[21][22]

Demographic history

Historical population
1887 200,000    
1930 262,501+31.3%
1948 53,425−79.6%
1956 104,216+95.1%
1966 64,197−38.4%
1977 227,398+254.2%
1992 401,087+76.4%
2002 535,140+33.4%
2011 621,573+16.2%

In combination with the Mongol invasion of Europe the first Romani had reached the territory of present-day Romania around the year 1241.[23] At the beginning of the 14th century, when the Mongols withdrew from Eastern Europe, the Romani who were left were taken as prisoners and slaves. According to documents signed by Prince Dan I the first captured Romani in Wallachia dates back to year 1385.

In fact, the Romani people, and the Romani language, have their origin in northern India. The presence of the Roms within the territory of present-day Romania dates back to the 14th century. The population of Roms fluctuated depending on diverse historical and political events.

Before 1856

Until their liberation on February 20, 1856, most Roms lived in slavery. They could not leave the property of their owners (the boyars and the orthodox monasteries). Around the year 1850, about 102,000 Romani lived in the Danubian Principalities, comprising 2.7% of the population (90,000 or 4.1% in Wallachia and 12,000 or 0.8% in Moldavia).[24]

Between 1856 and 1918

After their liberation in 1856, a significant number of Roms left Wallachia and Moldavia.

In 1886 the number of Roms was estimated at around 200,000, or 3.2% of Romania's population.[25] The 1899 census counted around 210,806 "others", of whom roughly half (or 2% of the country's population) were Romani.

In Bessarabia, annexed by the Russian Empire in 1812, the Roms were liberated in 1861. Many of them migrated to other regions of the Empire,[26] while important communities remained in Soroca, Otaci and the surroundings of Cetatea Albă, Chișinău, and Bălți.

Between 1918 and 1945

The 1918 union with Transylvania, Banat, Bukovina and Bessarabia increased the number of ethnic Romani in Romania.

The first census in interwar Romania took place in 1930; 242,656 persons (1.6%) were registered as Gypsies (ţigani).

The territory lost in 1940 caused a drop in the number of Romani, leaving a high number especially in Southern Dobruja and Northern Transylvania.

During the Second World War, the Romanian fascist government of Ion Antonescu deported 25,000 Romani to Transnistria; of these, 11,000 died.[27] In all, from the territory of present-day Romania (including Northern Transylvania), 36,000 Romani perished during that time.[28]

After 2007

The accession of Romania to the European Union in 2007 led many members of the Romani minority, the most socially disadvantaged ethnic group in Romania, to migrate en masse to various Western European countries (mostly to Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, France) hoping to find a better life. The exact number of emigrants is unknown. In 2007 Florin Cioabă, an important leader of the Romani community (also known as the "King of all Gypsies") declared in an interview that he worried that Romania may lose its Romani minority.[29] However, the next population census in 2011 showed a substantial rise in those recording Romani ethnicity.[1]

Cultural influence

Renowned Romanian Romani musicians and bands include Grigoraş Dinicu, Johnny Răducanu, Ion Voicu and Taraf de Haïdouks.

The musical genre manele, a part of Romanian pop culture, is often sung by Romani singers in Romania and has been influenced in part by Romani music, but mostly by Oriental music brought in Romania from Turkey during the 19th century. Romanian public opinion about the subject varies from support to outright condemnation.

Integration in Romanian society

Main article: Racism in Romania

A 2000 EU report about Romani said that in Romania… the continued high levels of discrimination are a serious concern.. and progress has been limited to programmes aimed at improving access to education.[30]

Various international institutions, such as the World Bank, the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), and the Open Society Institute (OSI) launched the 2005-2015 Decade for Roma Inclusion.[31] To this, followed the EU Decade of Roma Inclusion [32] to combat this and other problems.

A survey of the Pro Democraţia association in Romania revealed that 94% of the questioned persons believe that the Romanian citizenship should be revoked to the ethnic Roms who commit crimes abroad.[33]

Self-proclaimed "Romani royalty"

Main article: King of the Gypsies

The Romani community has:

Cultural and social impact

Early age marriage scandal

On September 27, 2003, Ana Maria Cioabă, the 12-year-old daughter of Florin Cioabă (the so-called "King of the Gypsies") was forced to marry Mihai Birita, a 15-year-old boy. Since both were below Romania's legal age of marriage (set at 18), no official marriage ceremony was performed. Ana Maria Cioabă fled from the wedding, but her father brought her back and she was forcibly married.[38] Particularly controversial was the fact that the groom showed the wedding guests a bloodied bed sheet to prove that the marriage had been consummated; in Romania, the age of consent is 15 years old, so sexual contact with the 12-year-old girl was illegal under Romanian law. A friend of girl's, Ms Dana Chendea, said, "She told me it was the worst thing that ever happened to her. She felt like a huge rock fell on her."[38]

Baroness Emma Nicholson, the European Parliament rapporteur for Romania, said that it was a rape and the child must be given over to foster care. Subsequently, the Romanian authorities decided that Ana-Maria Cioabă and Mihai Birita must live separately and must not have any sexual relationships until the legal age of marriage. Ana-Maria was not, however, sent to foster care.[39]

Doru-Viorel Ursu, a former Romanian Minister of the Interior (1990–1991),[40] was the godfather of the young bride.[41]

Florin Cioabă said that he believes that there should not be marriages between Romani children any more, but he argued that traditions that are hundreds of years old cannot be changed overnight.[42]

The median age at which Romani girls first marry is 19.[43]

Notable people

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Inofficial: 850.000 name="Unofficial"> "Romanian 2011 census" (PDF) (in Romanian). Retrieved 2011-12-10.
  2. Hancock 2002, p. xx: ‘While a nine century removal from India has diluted Indian biological connection to the extent that for some Romanian groups, it may be hardly representative today, Sarren (1976:72) concluded that we still remain together, genetically, Asian rather than European’
  3. 1 2 Mendizabal, Isabel; et al. (6 December 2012). "Reconstructing the Population History of European Romani from Genome-wide Data". Current Biology. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
  4. 1 2 Sindya N. Bhanoo (11 December 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India". New York Times.
  5. Current Biology.
  6. 1 2 3
  7. 1 2
  8. Šebková, Hana; Žlnayová, Edita (1998), Nástin mluvnice slovenské romštiny (pro pedagogické účely) (PDF), Ústí nad Labem: Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity J. E. Purkyně v Ústí nad Labem, p. 4, ISBN 80-7044-205-0
  9. Hübschmannová, Milena (1995). "Romaňi čhib – romština: Několik základních informací o romském jazyku". Bulletin Muzea romské kultury. Brno: Muzeum romské kultury (4/1995). Zatímco romská lexika je bližší hindštině, marvárštině, pandžábštině atd., v gramatické sféře nacházíme mnoho shod s východoindickým jazykem, s bengálštinou.
  10. "5 Intriguing Facts About the Roma". Live Science.
  11. Rai, N; Chaubey, G; Tamang, R; Pathak, AK; Singh, VK; et al. (2012), "The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations", PLoS ONE, 7 (11): e48477, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048477
  12. "Can Romas be part of Indian diaspora?". 29 February 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  13. Census 2002, by religion. (PDF). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  14. Ziua Activistului Rom, retrieved 2009-01-28
  15. Roma, Sinti, Gypsies, Travellers... at Archived July 19, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. Minoritatea Roma – cea mai importanta minoritate din Europa. Retrieved on 2012-01-15. Archived May 26, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. "rom". Dicţionarul explicativ al limbii române (in Romanian). Academia Română, Institutul de Lingvistică "Iorgu Iordan", Editura Univers Enciclopedic. 1988.
  18. Matras, Yaron (2005). Romani: A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521023306.
  19. Discriminarea se invata in familie, retrieved 2009-01-28
  20. Propunere Jurnalul Naţional: "Ţigan" în loc de "rom" (Romanian)
  21. Romania's Government Moves to Rename the Roma at
  22. Romania Declines to Turn Roma Into 'Gypsies' at
  23. Achim, p.27-28
  24. Neueste Erdbeschreibung und Staatenkunde. Zweiter Band. von Dr. F.H.Ungewitter. Dresden, 1848
  25. Mayers Konversationslexikon, 1892. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  26. Ion Nistor, Istoria Basarabiei, Humanitas, Bucuresti, 1991
  27. The report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania - The Deportation of the Roma and their treatment in Transnistria November 11, 2004 (PDF), from Jewish Virtual Library
  28. Society for Threatened Peoples. (2004-02-25). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  29. Regele Cioabă se plânge la Guvern că rămâne fără supuşi – Gandul. (2007-09-10). Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  30. "The Situation of Roma in an Enlarged European Union" (PDF). European Commission. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 5, 2009.
  31. web site
  32. web site
  33. Evenimentul Zilei. April 7, 2010. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  34. "Regele Cioabă vs. Iulian impăratul". Maxim (in Romanian). Archived from the original on December 8, 2006.
  35. Recensământ 2002. Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
  36. Popan, Cosmin (June 10, 2006). "Cioabă şi oalele sparte din şatră". Cotidianul (in Romanian).
  37. "La Mânăstirea Curtea de Argeş s-au sfinţit doar podoabele specifice rromilor". Curierul Naţional (in Romanian). September 3, 2003.
  38. 1 2 "Wedding of 12-year-old gypsy princess not recognised". The Sydney Morning Herald. October 2, 2003.
  39. "Ana-Maria Cioaba şi Mihai Birita, nevoiţi să locuiască separat". Adevărul (in Romanian). October 3, 2003.
  40. "Doru-Viorel Ursu: Curriculum Vitae". Structura Parlamentului României 1992–1996 (in Romanian). Chamber of Deputies of Romania.
  41. Duca, Dan. "Cioabă face revoluţie în şatră". Cotidianul (in Romanian).
  42. RAZBOI TOTAL IN TIGANIE – Imparatul Iulian si Regele Cioaba il fac praf pe deputatul Niky Scorpion. (2008-02-13)
  43. Romii din România. (PDF) . Retrieved on 2012-01-15.
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