Bulgarian Gypsies - History and Cultural Retenons

Gypsies entered the Balkans in approximately the eleventh century from their homeland in India. They were well established in large numbers throughout the Balkans by the fourteenth century, some settling and others remaining nomadic. Initial curiosity about Gypsies by Balkan peoples and governments eventually gave way to hatred and discrimination. In the Romanian kingdom they were serfs until the nineteenth century. Nineteenth-century sources document a distinct economic niche for Gypsies while underscoring their separateness, their exoticism as a culture, and the persecution they suffered. In the twentieth century, approximately half a million European Gypsies perished at the hands of the Nazis. Bulgarian scholars emphasize that Gypsies lived in misery during the Ottoman period due to the oppressive "Turkish yoke" and the Muslim religion. They claim that since the 1944 socialist revolution, Gypsies have become "cultured, advanced, and educated," that they are equal citizens of Bulgaria, and that prejudice is gone and assimilation is occurring (Marinov 1962, 267-270; Georgieva 1966, 43-44). Western scholars, however, claim that Gypsy ethnicity is thriving and adapting in creative ways to the pressures of assimilation (Silverman 1986).

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