Gypsies - Orientation



Identification. Gypsies of the former USSR can be divided into more than ten groups distinguished by language or dialect, culture, and way of life. Included among these are the Vlach Roma: Kelderari and Lovari; the non-Vlach Roma: Servi, Russkie (Khaladytko Roma), and Sinti (German); Krymskie Tsygane (Khorokhaia), Lorn (Armenian), and Bosha (Zakavkaz); and Liuli [Jugi] and Mazang Mugat (Central Asian). They live scattered unevenly across European Russia and Ukraine, the Caucasas, southern Siberia, and Central Asia. Groups of Kelderash, Lovari, and Sinti are the only ones who live in great numbers beyond the borders of the former USSR: these Roma have settled in almost every country of the world. Many emigrated to America from Moldavia and Russia at the end of the last century. This article concerns mostly the Roma, or western Gypsies of the former USSR.

Demography. The 1979 census enumerated 209,000 Tsygane in the former USSR. Experts in the West and in the former USSR estimate that there are two to three times that number. The undercount may be because being recorded as a "Tsygan" bears a stigma that many prefer to avoid by registering as a different nationality. At any rate, according to the 1970 census, which reported a total population of 175,335 Gypsies in the Soviet Union, there were 97,955 Gypsies in Russia, 30,091 in Ukraine (34,500 in 1979), 6,843 in Byelorussia, 5,427 in Latvia, and 1,880 in Lithuania. Turning to Central Asia, there were 11,362 in Uzbekistan and 7,775 in Kazakhstan. These figures are based on the number of people holding passports. The number of Central Asian Gypsies may be as high as 156,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. Roma speak various dialects of Romani, which is an Indic language related today most closely to modern Hindi. Some dialects of Romani are Rushi (Baltic), Sinti (European), Ungrike (Hungarian), Keldarari and Lovari (Wallachian or Vlach), and Lomari (Armenian). These are in turn influenced by borrowings from the languages of surrounding nationalities: for instance, Kelderari living in Russia borrow from Russian. Recent studies show an increase in Soviet Roma who admit to speaking Romani (59.3 percent in 1959; 74 percent in 1970). Central Asian Gypsies speak Lavzi-Mugat as well as Tajik and Uzbek. Many Moldovan Gypsies speak Romanian as their mother tongue.


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