Rom of Czechoslovakia - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Caste relations regulated contact Between different Rom settlements. A basic division was that between the žuže Roma ("clean" Roms who did not eat "polluted" meat) who would never visit a settlement of degeša (those who eat horse and dog meat). Žuže Roma were usually lavutara (musicians), charti (blacksmiths), or handlara (pig dealers) and they were generally wealthier than the degeša who were butakere (day laborers), brick makers, or scrapmaterial recyclers. Despite the high level of economic assimilation, social distance between Roms and gadžos is maintained and intermarriage is rare.

Political Organization. The nature of Rom-Czechoslovakian relations is discussed earlier in the section on History and Cultural Relations. Within the Rom settlements, the leader is the chibalo/vajda who serves as an intermediary with the local government officials. Despite wealth distinctions between communities, strong pressures toward equality minimize status distinctions within communities.

Conflict and Social Control. Although serious disputes might lead to fights, people try to avoid open conflict. A peacemaking formula is to say "Roma sam" ("We are Roms"), meaning, "Let us be united," "Let us not fight." Ethical principles, unwritten laws, various sanctions, and the concepts of "pativ" (honor, respect, proper behavior) and ladž (shame, dishonesty) are central forces in maintaining ethnic identity and social order in Rom communities. Rom conceptions of the ideal male and female are especially well defined. A "Pativalo Rom" is a man who shares food with others, offers shelter to a stranger (Rom), doesn't offend anyone, may be unfaithful to his wife but doesn't leave her, cares for his children, drinks but doesn't get drunk, doesn't get polluted by eating taboo foods, etc. A "Pativali Romni" is a woman who is never unfaithful to her husband, never leaves her children, is an obedient bori, can anel maro ("bring bread," i.e., procure food), is žuži (is clean, i.e., follows all the complicated rules of ritual cleanliness), etc. traditional sanctions included ladž (public shame—jeering at, spitting at, or mocking a wrongdoer) ; mariben (beatings) for women; and cutting the hair of an adulterous woman. The most severe punishment was excommunication (Vlaxi call it marime, Czech Roms call it prastapen, while Slovak Roms have no word for it).

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