Vlach Gypsies of Hungary - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Rom communities are extremely egalitarian in values, despite marked economic inequalities among households. To be "proud" and appear to stand above one's fellow Rom is unacceptable and is interpreted by fellow Gypsies as a desire to leave the community and assimilate into the non-Gypsy population. Economic inequalities have developed primarily from success in manipulating the second or "black" economy, but they have not given rise to social stratification of Rom into different classes. Rom tend to look down on other groups of Gypsies.

Political Organization. In accordance with their egalitarian social philosophy and fierce individualism, Rom strongly resist any official leadership. Occasionally vajda (bosses) arise when non-Gypsy authorities conspire with a prominent Gypsy to control access to some limitable resource, but the authority of such men is always contingent on their ability to "serve up" the non-Gypsies. There are no councils among Rom, nor are there institutions for communal decision making.

Social Control. Lack of "respect" is the most common cause of informal dispute. Trickery in horse deals or other business also features prominently in conflicts. The collapse of a marriage likewise raises such disputes. In these last instances Rom may resort to the Kris, a council of Rom arbitrators who may suggest various forms of recompense. The judgment of such arbitrators is not binding and so disputes that reach a Kris can last many months until both parties accept a compromise.

Conflict. Rom are often in conflict with non-Gypsy authorities and others over rights of residence, matters of school attendance, accusations of theft, etc. In such disputes Rom are at a distinct disadvantage, given their lack of ease with Formal non-Gypsy procedures. During the last years of the Socialist period, Rom formed their own national associations, which are expected to play an increasingly prominent part in future political life in Hungary.

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