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The Roma - The Gypsy

Updated on February 16, 2015

The Roma - a scattered people

The Romani (also Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma or Gypsies; Romani: Rromane) are an ethnic group with origins in South Asia. The Romani are widely dispersed with their largest concentrated populations in Europe, but also in the Americas and, to a lesser extent, in Northern Africa and Asia.

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Millions of Romani spread over the world

They originate from India. But by mistake some thought they came from Egypt. So they were called Gypsies. That is a name the Roma people do not want to be called by. The emigration from India likely took place in the context of the raids by Mahmud of Ghazni and these soldiers were defeated, they were moved west with their families into the Byzantine Empire. The 11th century terminus post quem is due to the Romani language showing unambiguous features of the Modern Indo-Aryan languages, precluding an emigration during the Middle Indic period.

So here I will call them Roma. Rom (plural Roma) is a noun which means married man or husband. Romani (or Romany) can be an adjective or a noun. All Romanies use the word Romani as an adjective. For this reason, the term began to be used as a noun for the entire ethnic group.

There is no official or reliable count of the Romani populations worldwide. Many Romanies refuse to register their ethnic identity in official censuses for fear of discrimination. There are an estimated 4 million Romani people in Europe and Asia Minor (as of 2002). Although some high estimates by Romani organizations give numbers as high as 14 million.

Significant Romani populations are found in the Balkan peninsula, in some Central European states, in Spain, France, Russia, and Ukraine. Several more million Romanies may live out of Europe, in particular in the Middle East and in the Americas.

Here is how the Roma emigrated

Here is how the Roma emigrated
Here is how the Roma emigrated

Where are they? These figures are often estimated.

Remember that it is very hard to have official numbers

Afghanistan 13,000

Albania Disputed: 1,300 (official) to 90,000-120,000

Algeria unknown number

Argentina 300,000 Kalderash, Boyash, Kale

Armenia unknown number Lom, Bosha

Australia 5,000+ Romnichal, Boyash

Austria 20,000-25,000

Azerbaijan ca. 2,000

Belarus 10,000 or 50,000-60,000

Belgium 10,000-15,000

Bolivia unknown number

Bosnia and Herzegovina 60,000 or 80,000

Brazil 678,000-1,000,000

Bulgaria Disputed: 370,908 (official census)

Canada 80,000

Chile 15,000 to 20,000

Colombia 79,000

Croatia Disputed: 9,463

Cuba >200

Cyprus 500-1,000

Czech Republic Disputed: 12,000

Denmark 1,500-2,000

Ecuador 2000

Egypt 234,000-1,080,000

Estonia 1,000-1,500

Finland 10,000+

France 500,000 (official estimation)

1,200,000-1,300,000 (unofficial estimation)

Germany 210,000

Greece Disputed: 200,000

Iran 110,000 [46]

Iraq 3,000,000

Republic of Ireland 8,000

Italy 90,000-180,000

Jordan 25,000

Kazakhstan 7,000

Latvia 8,205

Lebanon 12,000

Libya 33,000

Lithuania 3,000-4,000

Luxembourg 100-150

Republic of Macedonia Disputed: 53,879


Moldova 12,900

Montenegro Disputed: 2,601

Morocco unknown number

Netherlands 35,000-40,000

New Zealand 1231

Norway 6,500 or more

Palestinian territories 7,200+

Paraguay unknown number

Peru 8,400

Poland 15,000 to 50,000

Portugal 40,000-50,000

Romania Disputed:

Russia Disputed: 182,766

Serbia Disputed: 108,193

Slovakia Disputed: 92,500 or 550.000

Slovenia 3,246 - 10,000

South Africa 7,900

Spain 600,000-650,000

Sweden 15,000-20,000

Switzerland 30,000-35,000

Syria 250,000

Tajikistan unknown number

Tunisia unknown number

Turkey 700,000 to 5,000,000

Ukraine 47,587

United Kingdom 44,000-94,000+

United States of America 1 million

Uruguay 2,000-5,000

Uzbekistan unknown number

Venezuela unknown number

Literature about the Roma

The Roma people in the Holocaust

How many non-Jewish civilians were murdered during World War II?

Answer: While it is impossible to ascertain the exact number, the recognized figure is approximately 5,000,000. Among the groups which the Nazis and their collaborators murdered and persecuted were: Gypsies, Serbs, Polish intelligentsia, resistance fighters from all the nations, German opponents of Nazism, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, habitual criminals, and the "anti-social," e.g. beggars, vagrants, and hawkers.

It is known that perhaps 250,000 Gypsies were killed, and that proportionately they suffered losses greater than any other group of victims except Jews. The accounts here were collected, and made available on the net, from various sources.

This photo is from the death camp Belzen

The Simon Wiesenthal Center's

36 Questions About the Holocaust :

Jews and others in the Holocaust

Photo Gallery by Lars Lindqvist - from Dagens Nyheter news paper

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Dancing toThe Baseballs rockabilly version of Rihannas hit ”Umbrella”A taylor working on a new dress17 year old Roman girl dancing
Dancing toThe Baseballs rockabilly version of Rihannas hit ”Umbrella”
Dancing toThe Baseballs rockabilly version of Rihannas hit ”Umbrella”
A taylor working on a new dress
A taylor working on a new dress
17 year old Roman girl dancing
17 year old Roman girl dancing

The Roma people have a flag and an anthem - here is the text and a translation to English



Djelem, djelem, lungone dromensa

Maladilem baxtale Romensa

Djelem, djelem, lungone dromensa

Maladilem baxtale Romensa.

Ay, Romale, Ay, Chavale,

Ay, Romale, Ay, Chavale.

Ay Romale, katar tumen aven

Le tserensa baxtale dromensa

Vi-man sas u bari familiya

Tai mudardya la e kali legiya.

Aven mansa sa lumiake Roma

Kai putaile le Romane droma

Ake vryama - ushti Rom akana

Ame xutasa mishto kai kerasa.

Ay, Romale, Ay, Chavale,

Ay, Romale, Ay, Chavale.


I have travelled over long roads

I have met fortunate Roma

I have travelled far and wide

I have met lucky Roma

Oh, Romani adults, Oh Romani youth

Oh, Romani adults, Oh Romani youth

Oh, Roma, from wherever you have come

With your tents along lucky roads

I too once had a large family

But the black legion murdered them

Come with me, Roma of the world

To where the Romani roads have been opened

Now is the time - stand up, Roma,

We shall succeed where we make the effort.

Oh, Roma adults, Oh, Roma youth

Oh, Roma adults, Oh, Roma youth.


Most anthems have a story behind them. This one has too. In 1969, Zarko Jovanovic was part of a group of British and European Roma activists who were travelling around England doing civil rights work. They had been to a campsite eviction in the North of England where Romani caravans were towed from a campsite by bulldozers. One turned over and caught fire. A small Romani child hiding inside was burned to death. Zarko composed this anthem on his way back to London, in a van full of Roma activists including Grattan Puxon, Thomas Acton, Vanko Rouda, Juan de Dios Heredia and others.

The melody is based on a Serbian- Romani love song which was popularized in the film by Alexandre Petrovic called Skupliace Perja.

The anthem is sung in march tempo and the guitar chords are A minor, D minor and E major. Alternatively, it can be played with E minor, A minor and B 7th. Zarko Jovanovic passed away in Paris in the mid-1990's.

Listen to the Roma anthem

Roma and the law

Quite often there is misunderstanding and irritation between the Roma and the other people of a country. The reason is often that: The Romani have their own court to judge in cases of crimes and dishonesty, marriage issues too.

The Romanies have their own wedding ceremonies too. Bread and salt is involved and it is just as legal for them as the ceremonies of the country law.

To read about the law of the Romas is really interesting. They have a very special law for example about laundry, sleeping position, use of the bathroom.

When you do the landry you have to wash the clothes of the upper part of the body separate from the lower. You mush wash table-cloths and napkins by hand. You cannot mix men´s and women´s clothes.

You cannot use the bathroom an older person use. You have to go somewhere else.

These are only a few things you can read about in this book.

Read about the Roma people

The stories are many and come from many parts of the world.

Rosa Taikon - silversmith

She make Romani influenced jewelry

Rosa Taikons work

Have a look at her beautiful works. here is the phone and adress to her:

Rosa Taikon, Flor 1340, 840 90 Ytterhogdal

Telefon: 0680-62023

Some Roma originated persons we know.

Charles Chaplin - actor

Yul Brynner - actor

Fairuza Balk - actress

Florijan Ajdini - actor

Dmitry Buzylyov - Russian actor

Bob Hoskins - actor

Marcia Nicole Lakatos - actress

Michael Caine - actor, father is a Romanichal from London

Soledad Miranda - Andalusian Flamenco Dancer and later Horror Film Actress from Seville, mother was Gitana.

Freddie Prinze - actor

Bajram Severdzan - Yugoslav actor

Nikolai Slichenko - Russian actor

Jill Hennessy - Canadian actress, mother gipsy

Tony Gatlif - French film maker

Jean Constantin Romanian actor

Moira Orfei actress italian

Burhan Rahim Macedonian teatre maker

Goran Navojec actor

Tracy Ullman British actress

Some about the Romani social lives

The traditional Roma place a high value on the extended family. Virginity is essential in unmarried women. Both men and women often marry young; there has been controversy in several countries over the Roma practice of child marriage. Roma law establishes that the man's family must pay a bride price to the bride's parents, but only traditional families still follow this rule.

Once married, the woman joins the husband's family where her main job is to tend to her husband's and her children's needs, and to take care of the in-laws as well. The power structure in the traditional Roma household has at its top the oldest man or grandfather, and men in general have more authority than women. As women get older, however, they gain respect and authority in the eyes of the community. Young wives begin gaining authority once they mother children.

Roma social behaviour is strictly regulated by Hindu purity laws ("marime" or "marhime"), still respected by most Roma and among Sinti groups by the older generations. This regulation affects many aspects of life, and is applied to actions, people and things: parts of the human body are considered impure: the genital organs (because they produce emissions) as well as the rest of the lower body. Fingernails and toenails must be filed with an emery board, as cutting them with a clipper is a taboo. Clothes for the lower body, as well as the clothes of menstruating women, are washed separately. Items used for eating are also washed in a different place. Childbirth is considered impure, and must occur outside the dwelling place. The mother is considered impure for forty days after giving birth. Death is considered impure, and affects the whole family of the dead, who remain impure for a period of time. However, in contrast to the practice of cremating the dead, Roma dead must be buried. Cremation and burial are both known from the time of the Rigveda, and both are widely practiced in Hinduism today (although the tendency for higher caste groups is to burn, for lower caste groups in South India to bury their dead. Some animals are also considered impure, for instance cats because they lick themselves and mix the impure outside with their pure inside.

Roma Music is alive and the muscicians are so skilled

Roma music for downloading now

This is beautiful Roma music with a circus performance

The girl up in the air is waiting for her little fellow to climb up.

All the time the music is playing and singing.

Carmen - a famous Roma girl

in the Opera Carmen by Bizet

The opera premiered at the Opéra Comique of Paris on 3 March 1875, but its opening run was denounced by the majority of critics. It was almost withdrawn after its fourth or fifth performance, and although this was avoided, ultimately having 48 performances in the first year, it did little to bolster sagging receipts at the Opéra Comique. Near the end of this run, the theatre was giving tickets away in order to stimulate attendance. Bizet died on 3 June 1875, never knowing how popular Carmen would become. In October 1875 it was produced in Vienna, to critical and popular success, which began its path to worldwide popularity. It was not staged again at the Opéra Comique until 1883.

The story is set in Seville, Spain, circa 1830, and concerns the eponymous Carmen, a beautiful Gypsy with a fiery temper. Free with her love, she woos the corporal Don José, an inexperienced soldier. Their relationship leads to his rejection of his former love, mutiny against his superior, and joining a gang of smugglers. His jealousy when she turns from him to the bullfighter Escamillo leads him to murder Carmen.

Galli-Marié was the original Carmen - here on the photo

A Romani camp according to van Gogh

Caravans Encampment of Gypsies Art Print

van Gogh, Vincent

27.5 in. x 19.75 in.

Did you like to read about the Roma - Gypsies? - Tell me

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    • profile image

      Michael Ferto 3 years ago

      I think the memorial in Germany should be done by a Rroma. Our own people could do way better. Anyway, G-d bless us....Amen

    • SmallBusinessId profile image

      SmallBusinessId 5 years ago

      Too bad many Roma aren't aware of their long, rich history!

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 6 years ago

      Thanks for the interesting lens. Good info and nice photos/videos.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      @NoYouAreNot: this word "Tzigan" is same as word Gypsi. I am from Croatia and here in my city lves a lot of "Tzigani". Here a common noun for them is Cigan (Gypsi on English) and nice noun is Rom (Romani on English)

    • profile image

      kylekartarn 6 years ago

      Excellent Lense. Squid mine at

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Loved this lens! I've always been curious about Gypsy culture. I had learned that the Romani originally came from India, and once knowing that, the similarities are pretty obvious. This lens has photos that point it out. I learned a lot, and I want to read the book on Gypsy law. We seldom see gypsies where I live, but rarely some,will pass through.Very instructional and lovely to look at lens!

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Oh, I learned a LOT on this lens! Kudos to you!

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 6 years ago from Sweden

      Roma rituals are strictly followed in other countries. Here in Scandinavia there is litterary wars going on between the Roma and origin habitants. Between the different Roma tribes there is also plain shoot outs happening over the heads of people. Shop owners are really upset about all the thefts and so on. I am so sorry.

    • NoYouAreNot profile image

      NoYouAreNot 6 years ago

      Oh, you're right about them not wanting to be called Gypsies (Ghyfti, in Greek). They feel it as derogative, sthg like calling a black person "Nigger." Here in Greece we don't use so much the name Roma - we (they too) prefer the word Tzigani.

    • NoYouAreNot profile image

      NoYouAreNot 6 years ago

      Quite informative lens. I don't believe rituals are so strictly followed nowadays; at least, that was my -restricted, I must admit- experience with Romas in Greece.

      I love this performance of the Roma national anthem "Gelem Gelem," perhaps you would consider including it as a Video Module? The url is - just go listen to it, it will give you shivers!

      Thanks for the beautiful page.

    • piedromolinero profile image

      piedromolinero 7 years ago

      An interesting lens, I learned so much more about the Roma today.

    • MyFairLadyah2 profile image

      MyFairLadyah2 7 years ago

      A very nice lens on a culture that most people know very little about. I love learning something new.

    • Bus Stop Toy Shop profile image

      Bus Stop Toy Shop 7 years ago

      Fascinating, particularly the spread of Romani people world-wide.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 7 years ago

      Very interesting. I knew little of their heritage or culture.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 7 years ago

      I enjoyed reading about them. It is not easy to get close to them, they are a closeknit society.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      I enjoyed reading about the Roma. I didn't realize they originally came from India! The cat video is really cute :-) I was wondering what was going through the cat's head during that routine.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      I have GOT the gypsy in me ... and I appreciate you pointing me to your page. Yes, I like to read EVERYTHING I can on the Roma -- gypsies! I've done a page on them too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I've featured this on my fan-club thank-you lens so - thank you!

    • mariaamoroso profile image

      irenemaria 8 years ago from Sweden

      @anonymous: Thank you for the tips. I will see if I can find it. Latcho Drom - could that be Romani?

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Have you seen the fabulous movie about gypsies from India to Spain and their music - Latcho Drom? One of my favorite movies of all time. Not one bit of dialogue, just music and fabulous cinematography.

    • GramaBarb profile image

      GramaBarb 9 years ago from Vancouver

      This is an amazing lens! I learned so much by just quickly reading it now I want to go back and read it carefully. (I liked how they sort their laundry!) This would be perfect for students. 5*

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Very interesting--thanks! Hindu purity laws? Really? Where did that come from?