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Romani populations

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Romani populations

The Romani people have a number of distinct populations, the largest being the Roma and the Iberian Calé or Caló, who reached Anatolia and the Balkans about the early 12th century, from a migration out of northwestern India beginning about 600 years earlier.[2][3] They settled in present-day Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary and Slovakia, by order of volume, and Spain. From the Balkans, they migrated throughout Europe and, in the nineteenth and later centuries, to the Americas. The Romani population in the United States is estimated at more than one million.[4]

There is no official or reliable count of the Romani populations worldwide.[5] Many Romani refuse to register their ethnic identity in official censuses for fear of discrimination.[6] Others are descendants of intermarriage with local populations and no longer identify only as Romani, or not at all.

As of the early 2000s, an estimated 4 to 9 million Romani people lived in Europe and Asia Minor.[7] although some Romani organizations estimate numbers as high as 14 million.[8] Significant Romani populations are found in the Balkan peninsula, in some Central European states, in Spain, France, Russia, and Ukraine. The total number of Romani living outside Europe are primarily in the Middle East and in the Americas, and are estimated[by whom?] in total at more than two million. Some countries do not collect data by ethnicity.

The Romani people identify as distinct ethnicities based in part on territorial, cultural and dialectal differences, and self-designation. The main branches are:[9][10][11][12]

  1. Roma, concentrated in Central and Eastern Europe and Italy, they emigrated (mostly from the 19th century onwards) to the rest of Europe, as well as the Americas;
  2. Iberian Kale, mostly in Spain (see Romani people in Spain), but also in Portugal (see Romani people in Portugal), Southern France and Latin America;
  3. Finnish Kale, in Finland, emigrated also in Sweden;
  4. Welsh Kale, in Wales and the British Isles;
  5. Romanichal, in the United Kingdom, some emigrated also to the United States, Canada and Australia;
  6. Sinti, in German-speaking areas of Europe and some neighboring countries;
  7. Manush, in French-speaking areas of Europe (in French: Manouche); and
  8. Romanisæl, in Sweden and Norway.

The Romani have additional internal distinctions, with groups identified as Bashaldé; Churari; Luri; Ungaritza; Lovari (Lovara) from Hungary; Machvaya (Machavaya, Machwaya, or Macwaia) from Serbia; Romungro from Hungary and neighbouring Carpathian countries; Erlides (also Yerlii or Arli); Xoraxai (Horahane) from Greece/Turkey; Boyash (Lingurari, Ludar, Ludari, Rudari, or Zlătari) from Romanian/Moldovan miners; Ursari from Romanian/Moldovan bear-trainers; Argintari from silversmiths; Aurari from goldsmiths; Florari from florists; and Lăutari from singers.

Population by country

This is a table of Romani people by country. The list does not include the Dom people, who are often subsumed under "gypsies".

The official number of Romani people is disputed in many countries; some do not collect data by ethnicity; in others, Romani individuals may refuse to register their ethnic identity for fear of discrimination,[13] or have assimilated and do not identify exclusively as Romani. In some cases, governments consult Romani organizations for data.

Country Region Population Subgroups
Afghanistan Asia 00001300013,000[14] Zargari[dubious ]
Albania Southern Europe, Balkans 8301 (0.3%) (official 2011 census)[15] Gabel (Vlax Roma)  · Jevgs  ·
Argentina Overseas 000300000300,000 Kalderash, Boyash, Kale
Australia Overseas 0000050005,000+[16] Romanichal, Boyash
Austria Central Europe 00002000020,000–50,000[17][18] Burgenland-Roma, Sinti, Lovari, Arlije from Macedonia, Kalderash from Serbia, Gurbeti from Serbia and Macedonia
Azerbaijan Asia 0000020002,000 [19] Garachi[dubious ]
Belarus Eastern Europe 00001000010,000 (census data)
or 50,000–60,000
(estimated data)[20][21]
Belgium Western Europe 00001000010,000–15,000[17] Romungro
Bosnia and Herzegovina Southern Europe, Balkans 00006000060,000 or 80,000
and 400,000 Vlax Roma[22][23][24]
Brazil Overseas 000678000678,000–1,000,000 Kale, Kalderash, Machvaya, Xoraxane, Boyash
Bulgaria Southern/Eastern Europe, Balkans 000370908370,908 (official census)
to 800,000[25]
Yerli, Gurbeti, Kalderash, Boyash, Ursari
Canada Overseas 00008000080,000[26] Kalderash, Romanichal
Chile Overseas 00001500015,000–20,000 Xoraxane
Colombia Overseas 00007900079,000[27] Kalderash
Croatia Central / Southern Europe, Balkans 0000094639,463 (census results)[28]
Estimated: 30,000-40,000[29]
Lovari, Boyash
Czech Republic Central Europe 00001300013,000[30] Romungro; Bohemian Roma
Denmark Northern Europe 0000015001,500–2,000[17]
Ecuador Overseas 0000020002,000 Kalderash
Estonia Northern Europe 000000456456[31]
Finland Northern Europe 00001000010,000+ [32][33] Kàlo
France Western Europe 000500000500,000 (official estimation)
1,200,000–1,300,000 (unofficial estimation)[34][35]
Manush, Kalderash, Lovari, Sinti
Germany Central / Western Europe 000210000210,000[36] mostly Sinti, but also Balkan Roma, Vlax Roma
Greece Southern Europe, Balkans 000200000200,000
or 300,000 [37]
Erlides, Xoraxane,
Hungary Central/Eastern Europe 000205984205,984 (census);[38]
394,000-1,000,000 (estimated)[39][40][41]
Romungro, Boyash, Lovari
Iran Asia 000760000760,000[42] Domari, Koeli, Ghorbati, Nawari
Iraq Asia 000000000? Qawliya, Kalderash, Xoraxane
Ireland Northern Europe 0000030003,000[43]
Italy Southern Europe 00009000090,000–180,000[17] + 152,000 illegal Roma in 700 camps[44] Sinti, Abruzzesi Roma, Ursari, Kalderash, Xoraxane
Kazakhstan Asia 0000070007,000 Sinti[45]
Latvia Northern Europe 0000084828,482 (2012 est.)[46] or 13,000–15,000[47] Lofitka Roma (in same Baltic Romani dialect family as Polska Roma and Ruska Roma)
Lebanon Asia 00001200012,000 Dom people
Lithuania Northern Europe 0000030003,000–4,000[17]
Luxembourg Western Europe 000000100100–150[17]
Macedonia Southern Europe, Balkans 00005387953,879 Roma and 3,843 Balkan Egyptians
to 260,000[48]
Yerli, Gurbeti, Cergari, Egyptians
Mexico Overseas 00unknownunknown Kale, Boyash, Machwaya, Lovari, Kalderash[49]
Moldova Eastern Europe 00001290012,900 (census) to 20,000–25,000[17] or
Rusurja, Ursari, Kalderash
Montenegro Southern Europe, Balkans 0000026012,601
to 20,000,[29]
additionally 8,000 registered Roma refugees from Kosovo, the entire number of IDP Kosovarian Roma in Montenegro is twice as large.[29]
Netherlands Western Europe 00003500035,000–40,000[17]
Norway Northern Europe 0000065006,500 or more[52] Norwegian and Swedish Travellers (Romanoar, Tavringer), Vlax
Peru Overseas 0000084008,400[dubious ][53] Kalderash, Calo
Poland Central/Eastern Europe 00001500015,000–60,000[54][55] Polska Roma
Portugal Southern / Western Europe 00004000040,000[17][56][57]
Romania Southern/Central/Eastern Europe 000621573621,573 (census 2011)
850,000 (estimated)[58][59][60]
Kalderash, Ursari, Lovari, Vlax, Romungro
Russia Eastern Europe 000182766182,766 (census 2002)
450,000–1,000,000 (estimated) [61][62]
Ruska Roma (descended from Polska Roma, from Poland), Kalderash (from Moldova), Servy (from Ukraine and Balkans), Ursari (from Bulgaria) Lovare, Vlax Roma (from Walachia).
Serbia Southern Europe, Balkans 000147604147,604 (census 2011)
or 400,000–800,000 (estimated) [29][63]
Ursari, Machvaya, Egyptians
Slovakia Central/Eastern Europe 00009250092,500 or 550,000[64][65][66][67][68] Romungro
Slovenia Central / Southern Europe, Balkans 0000032463,246–10,000[17][69]
South Africa Overseas 0000079007,900 Romanichal
Spain Southern / Western Europe 000600000600,000–650,000 (official estimation)[70]
600,000–800,000 [71]
or 1,500,000[72]
Gitanos, Kalderash, Boyash
Sweden Northern Europe 30000-6500030,000-65,000[73] Swedish Travellers (Tavringer), Vlax (Kalderash, Lovara), Kàlo (Finnish Roma)
Switzerland Central / Western Europe 00003000030,000–35,000[17]
Thailand Asia 00001000010,000-50,000
Turkey Asia 00003500035,000[74] to 5,000,000[75] Bosha, Yerli
Ukraine Eastern Europe 00004758747,587 (census 2001)
or 400,000 (estimated)[76]
Kelderare (Hungarian name for Kotlyary; Zakarpattia), Kotlyary (other Ukrainian regions), Ruska Roma (northern Ukraine), Servy (Serby, southern and central Ukraine, from Serbia), Lovare (central Ukraine), Kelmysh, Crymy (in Crimea), Servica Roma (in Zakarpattia from Slovakia), Ungriko Roma (in Zakarpattia from Hungary)[77][78]
United Kingdom Northern / Western Europe 00004400044,000–94,000+[79]
and additionally 200,000 recent migrants[80]
Romanichal, Welsh Kale
USA Overseas 0010000001,000,000 (Romani organizations' estimations)
Uruguay Overseas 0000020002,000–5,000

Central and Eastern Europe

A significant proportion of the world's Romanies live in Central and Eastern Europe, often in squatter communities with very high unemployment, while only some are fully integrated in the society. However, in some cases—notably the Kalderash clan in Romania, who work as traditional coppersmiths—they have prospered. Some Romani families choose to immigrate to Western Europe now that many of the former Communist countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria have entered the European Union and free travel is permitted. During the 1970s and 1980s many Romanies from former Yugoslavia migrated to Western European countries, especially to Austria, Germany and Sweden.


Main article: Roma in Bulgaria

Romani people constitute the third largest ethnic group (after Bulgarians and Turks) in Bulgaria, they are referred to as "цигани" (tzigani) or "роми" (romi). According to the 2001 census, there were 370,908 Roma in Bulgaria, equivalent to 4.7% of the country's total population.[81] However, various estimates put that number anywhere up to 800,000.


Main article: Roma in Greece


Main article: Roma in Hungary

The number of Romani people in Hungary is disputed. In the 2011 census 315,583 people called themselves Roma.[82] Various estimations put the number of Roma people to be between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people, or 8-10% of Hungary's population.[83][84]


Main article: Roma in Romania

There is a sizable minority of Romani people in Romania, known as Ţigani in Romanian and, recently, as Rromi, of 621,573 people or 3.09% of the total population (2011 census). The Romanies are the most socially-disadvantaged minority group in Romania. There exist a variety of governmental and non-governmental programs for integration and social advancement, including the National Agency for the Roma and Romania's participation in the Decade of Roma Inclusion. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Spain participate in these programs. As an officially-recognized ethnic minority, the Romani people also have guaranteed representation in Parliament and official recognition of their language in localities where they make up more than 20% of the population.


Main article: Ruska Roma

In Russian the Romani people are referred to as tzigane. The largest ethnic group of Romani people in Russia are the Ruska Roma. They are also the largest group in Belarus. They are adherents of the Russian Orthodox faith.

They came to Russia in the 18th century from Poland, and their language includes Polish, German, and Russian words.

The Ruska Roma were nomadic horse traders and singers. They traveled during the summer and stayed in cottages of Russian peasants during the winter. They paid for their lodging with money, or with the work of their horses.

In 1812, when Napoleon I invaded Russia, the Romani diasporas of Moscow and Saint Petersburg gave large sums of money and good horses for the Russian army. Many young Romani men took part in the war as uhlans.

At the end of the 19th century, Rusko Rom Nikolai Shishkin created a Romani theatre troupe. One of its plays was in the Romani language.

During World War II some Ruska Roma entered the army, by call-up and as volunteers. They took part in the war as soldiers, officers, infantrymen, tankmen, artillerymen, aviators, drivers, paramedical workers, and doctors. Some teenagers, old men and adult men were also partisans. Romani actors, singers, musicians, dancers (mostly women) performed for soldiers in the front line and in hospitals. A huge number of Roma, including many of the Ruska Roma, died or were murdered in territories occupied by the enemy, in battles, and in the blockade of Leningrad.

After World War II, music of the Ruska Roma became very popular. Romen Theatre, Romani singers and ensembles prospered. All Romanies living in the USSR began to perceive Ruska Roma culture as the basic Romani culture.

Western Europe


Romanies in Spain are generally known as Gitanos and tend to speak Caló which is basically Andalusian Spanish with a large number of Romani loanwords.[85] Estimates of the Spanish Gitano population range between 600,000 and 1,500,000 with the Spanish government estimating between 650,000 and 700,000.[86] Semi-nomadic Quinqui consider themselves apart from the Gitanos.


Main article: Romani people in Portugal

The Romanies in Portugal are known as Ciganos, and their presence goes back to the second half of the 15th century. Early on, due to their socio-cultural difference and nomadic style of live, the Ciganos were the object of fierce discrimination and persecution.[87]

The number of Ciganos in Portugal is difficult to estimate, since there are no official statistics about race or ethnic categories. According to data from Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance[88] there are about 40,000 to 50,000 spread all over the country.[89] According to the Portuguese branch of Amnesty International, there are about 30,000 to 50,000.[90]


Romanies are generally known in spoken French as Manouches or Tsiganes. Romanichels or Gitans are considered pejorative and Bohémiens is outdated. The French National Gendarmerie tends to refer to "MENS" ("Minorités Ethniques Non-Sédentarisées"), a neutral administrative term meaning Traveling Ethnic Minorities. The media usually refer to them as la communauté des gens du voyage ("community of traveling people"). By law, French municipalities over 5,000 inhabitants have the obligation to allocate a piece of land to Romani travellers when they arrive.[91]

Approximately 500,000 Roma live in France as part of established communities. Additionally, the French Roma rights group FNASAT reports that there are at least 12,000 Roma, primarily from Romania and Bulgaria, living in illegal urban camps throughout the country. French authorities often close down these encampments. In 2009, the government returned more than 10,000 Roma illegal immigrants to Romania and Bulgaria.[92] In the Summer of 2012, with mounting criticism of their treatment of the Roma, French key ministers met for emergency talks on the handling of an estimated 15,000 Roma living in camps across France. They proposed to lift restrictions on migrants (including Roma) from Bulgaria and Romania who were working in France.[93]


Romani in Italy are generally known as Zingari. People often use the term "Roma" (in Italian Rom), although the people prefer Romani (in Italian Romanì), which is little used. They are sometimes called "nomads," although many live in settled communities.

Northern Europe


Main article: Finnish Kale

The Kale (or Kaale) Romani of Finland are known in Finnish as mustalaiset ('blacks', cf. Romani: kalò, 'black') or romanit. Approximately 10,000 Romani live in Finland, mostly in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. In Finland, many Romani people wear their traditional dress in daily life.[94]

Norway and Sweden

Romani in Sweden were formerly known as zigenare for Roma and tattare for Scandinavian travellers. More recently the term romer has been adopted as a collective designation referring to both groups, with resande (travellers) also referring to the latter only. Approximately 120,000 Romani live in Sweden,[95] many of them descended from Finnish Kale who immigrated in the 1960s. The latter, particularly the women, often wear traditional dress.[96]

The Romani in Sweden have periodically suffered discrimination at the hands of the state. For example, the state has taken children into foster care, or sterilised Romani women without their consent. Prejudice against Romanies is widespread, with most stereotypes portraying the Romani as welfare cheats, shoplifters, and con artists. For example, in 1992, Bert Karlsson, a leader of Ny Demokrati, said, "Gypsies are responsible for 90% of crime against senior citizens" in Sweden.[97] He had earlier tried to ban Romani from his Skara Sommarland theme park, as he thought they were thieves. Some shopkeepers, employers and landlords continue to discriminate against Romani.[98]

The situation is improving. Several Romani organisations promote education about Romani rights and culture in Sweden. Since 2000,

United Kingdom

Main article: Romanichal

Romani in England are generally known as Romanichals or Romani Gypsies, while their Welsh equivalent are known as Kale. They have been recorded in the UK since at least the early 16th century. Records of Romani people in Scotland date to the early 16th century. Some emigrated to the British colonies and to the United States during the centuries. They may number up to 120,000. There is also a sizable population of East European Roma, who immigrated into the UK in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and also after EU expansion in 2004.

The first recorded reference to "the Egyptians" appeared to be in 1492, during the reign of James IV, when an entry in the Book of the Lord High Treasurer records a payment "to Peter Ker of four shillings, to go to the king at Hunthall, to get letters subscribed to the 'King of Rowmais'". Two days after, a payment of twenty pounds was made at the king's command to the messenger of the 'King of Rowmais'.[100]

According to the Scottish Traveller Education Programme, an estimated 20,000 Scottish Gypsies/Travellers live in Scotland.[101] It is not known how many of this number are ethnic Romani, rather than other Travellers. The society and government recognize that there are several ethnic groups, each with different histories and cultures.

The term "gypsy" in the United Kingdom has come to mean anyone who travels with no fixed abode (regardless of ethnic group). This use has often been synonymous with "pikey" , now considered a derogatory term. In some parts of the UK, the Romani are commonly called "tinkers" because of their traditional trade as tinsmiths.

West Asia

One route taken by the medieval proto-Romani cut across Persia and Asia Minor to Europe. Numerous Romani continue to live in Asia Minor. Other Romani populations in the Middle East are the result of modern migrations from Europe. Also found in the Middle East are various groups of the Dom people, often identified as "gypsies." They likely are derived from a migration out of India several centuries earlier than that 1500 years ago of the proto-Romani.



Historians estimate that the first immigrants came between 1322 and 1400, when Cyprus was under the rule of the Lusignan (Crusader) kings. These Roma were part of a general movement from Asia Minor to Europe. Those who landed on Cyprus probably came across from the Crusader colonies on the eastern Mediterranean coast (present-day Lebanon and Israel).[102]

There is no evidence suggesting one cause for the Roma to leave mainland Asia, but historical events caused widespread upheaval and may have prompted a move to the island. In 1347 the Black Death had reached Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium; in 1390 the Turks defeated the Greek kingdom in Asia; and ten years later, the Battle of Aleppo marked the advance of the Mongols under Tamerlane.

The first surviving written record of Roma in Cyprus is from 1468. In the Chronicle of Cyprus compiled by Florio Bustron, the Cingani are said to have paid tax to the royal treasury, at that time under King James II. Later, in 1549, the French traveler Andre Theret found "les Egyptiens ou Bohemiens" in Cyprus and other Mediterranean islands. He noted their simple way of life, supported by the production of nails by the men and belts by the women, which they sold to the local population.

During the Middle Ages, Cyprus was on a regular shipping route from Bari, Italy to the Holy Land. A second immigration likely took place some time after the Turks dominated the island in 1571. Some Kalderash came in the 19th century.

Currently, Roma in Cyprus refer to themselves as Kurbet, and their language as Kurbetcha, although most no longer speak it. Christian or Greek-speaking Roma are known as Mantides.[103]

Names of Roma in Cyprus

  • Tsignos: the official term used in Greek documents and written material. It comes from the term Cingani (used in the 1468 text), which in turn comes from the archaic word Adsincan, used in mediaeval Byzantium.
  • Yleftos: the Cypriot dialect form of mainland Greek Giftos. This is common in speech and comes from earlier Aigiptos, a reference to the earlier belief that the Romanies came from Egypt.[102]

(For additional names of Roma in Greek-speaking Cyprus, see Roma in Greece)


Main article: Roma in Turkey

Romani people in Turkey are generally known as Çingene, Çingen or Çingan, as well as Çingit (West Black Sea region), Cono (South Turkey), Roman (Izmir) [104] and Gipleri (derived from the term "Egyptian"). They have assimilated fully into the country. Since the late twentieth century, some have started to recognize and cherish their Romani background as well.[105] Blacksmithing and other handicrafts are their main occupations.


Some Eastern European Roma, for example, from Bulgaria, are known to have arrived in Israel in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Some intermarried with Jews in the post-WWII displaced persons camps or, in some cases, pretended to be Jews when Zionist representatives arrived in those camps seeking migrants to Israel. The number of ethnic Romani living in Israel is unknown, as descendants of the post-WWII generation have tended to assimilate into the Israeli majority-Jewish environment. According to several recent accounts in the Israeli press, some families preserve traditional Romani lullabies, as well as Romani expressions and curse words. They pass them on to generations born in Israel who, for the most part, are Jews and speak Hebrew. The Romani community in Israel has grown since the 1990s, as some Roma immigrated from states of the former Soviet Union.

A community anciently related to the Romani are the Dom people. Some live in Israel, the Palestinian territories and in neighboring countries.


Most Romani populations overseas were founded in the 19th century by emigration from Europe.

North America

Main article: Roma in the United States

United States

At the beginning of the 19th century, the first major Romani group, the Romanichal from Great Britain, arrived in North America, although some had also immigrated during the colonial era. They settled primarily in the United States, which was then more established than most English-speaking communities in Upper Canada. Later immigrants also settled in Canada.

The ancestors of the majority of the contemporary local Romani population in the United States, who are Eastern European Roma, started to immigrate during the second half of the century, drawn by opportunities for industrial jobs. Among these groups were the Romani-speaking peoples such as the Kalderash, Machvaya, Lovari and Churari, as well as groups who had adopted the Romanian language, such as the Boyash (Ludari). Most arrived either directly from Romania after their liberation from slavery between 1840–1850, or after a short-period in neighboring states, such as the Russia, Austria-Hungary, or Serbia. The Bashalde arrived from what is now Slovakia (then Austria-Hungary) about the same time. Many settled in the major industrial cities of the era.[106]

Immigration from Eastern Europe decreased drastically in the post-World War II era, during the years of Communist rule. It resumed in the 1990s after the fall of Communism. Romani organizations estimate that there are about one million Romani in the United States.[4]


Another 80,000 Romani live in Canada.[107]

South America

Romani groups settled the Brazilian states of Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais primarily in the late 19th century. The Machvaya came from present-day Serbia (then Austria-Hungary), the Kalderash from Romania, the Lovari from Italy, and the Horahane from Greece and Turkey.[108] Initially, the Romani in Brazil were believed to be descended from ancestors who were exiled in the colony by the Portuguese Inquisition but more has been learned about the peoples. The current population of ethnic Romani is estimated at 600,000. Most are descended from ethnic Kalderash, Macwaia, Rudari, Horahane, and Lovara.

The Romani people in Argentina number more than 300,000. They traditionally support themselves by trading used cars, and selling their jewelry, while traveling all over the country.

A sizeable population of Romani people live in Chile. As they continue their traditions and language, they are a distinct minority who are widely recognized. Many continue semi-nomadic lifestyles, traveling from city to city and living in small tented communities. A Chilean telenovela called Romane was based on the Romani. It portrayed their lifestyles, ideas and occasionally featured the Chilean-born actors speaking in the Romani language, with subtitles in Spanish.

See also


External links

  • Names of the Romani People
  • Opre Roma: Gypsies in Canada
  • Roma Rights Network - Roma Rights Map
  • Are the Roma Primitive, or Just Poor? {Plus its 10/24 NYTimes Letters to the Editor: The Rancor Against Roma in Europe]
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