In 2013, Gilles Bourdouleix was a respectful deputy of the French National Assembly, a spokesman and founding member of the Union of Democrats and Independents, one of the leading parties in France, he said regarding the Gypsies: “Maybe Hitler didn’t kill enough of them.” Of course, these words demolished his political career, but they described the thoughts of the average European about the Romani people and arose the question:
Who are the Gypsies?
The words to call Romani people jump from country to country, but the most used are “Tzigane” and “Gypsies”. “Tzigane” is deriving from the Greek “Athinganoi” describing a widespread sect from the 9th century that the Romani professed, literally means ‘untouchable’. “Gypsies” refers to Egypt, where they came from to Europe according to the Spaniards. In their language Rom means a man respectively, Romani means people.
Due to the lack of a written language and their way of living as nomads, the Romani’s origin was mysterious for a very long period of time. A Persian legend says that Bahram V (420-438), a king of the Sasanian Empire, was concerned that the poor people in his realm have never heard beautiful music and asked the Indian King to send to him 10 000 talented musicians. Afterwards, mad on their laziness Bahram cast the Indians out from the kingdom which gave a birth of the Romani people. Surprisingly, the DNA and the language analysis of the Gypsies validate the legend, their Y chromosomes are closest to the people living in Punjab, North-West India, and their language is similar to Hindi. Another biological study examining 13 different Gypsy groups living around Europe has revealed that the first Romani people arrived in Europe 1500 years ago which fits the time described in the legend.
Nowadays, the Gypsies are around 10 million as 8 of them live in Europe, mostly in the Balkan region and Spain. Following their Indian heritage, the Romani live in clans and chiefdoms, split into casts that have more traditional aspects but they are still used.
The Gypsies have a huge number of subgroups and tribes like the Bashaldé, the Churari, the Ungaritza, the Lalleri
the Kalderash and much more, all of them speak a distinct dialect of Romani language and have unique traditions and beliefs. Their religion depends on the place they live, some are Muslims, some are Christians but some of them combine both faiths with shamanism and Hindu.
The Gypsies, over the centuries, aimed to earn their money occupying professions that could perform independently, that have consumers everywhere and do not stay on their way of living as travellers. Some of these jobs are animal trainers, fortune-tellers, metalworking, woodworking, carpentry, and horse trading. The Romani are worldwide known for their singing, dancing and musical skills, they are associated with creating flamenco in Spain and fado in Portugal.
Romani people have always been a subject of discrimination in their history. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern era, the Gypsies in Romania and Hungary were often enslaved. Many Western countries have prohibitions for the traveling people to pass their borders. During the Holocaust, Hitler targeted the Gypsies as well as Jews for extermination. An unknown number of Romani were murdered in German concentration camps, but the estimates range is between 250,000 and 1.5 million.
Nowadays, the Gipsies are still among the most discriminated minorities and the process of their integration is slow and mostly unsuccessful. One in three Roma in Europe are unemployed and 90% live below the poverty line, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights. Definitely, the
One in three Roma in Europe are unemployed and 90% live below the poverty line, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights. Definitely, the gipsies are the outcast of Europe and everybody knows at least one reason why right?