Gypsies - Settlements



During the reign of the czars, Gypsies, in the areas where they were allowed to settle, stayed in camps at the edges of rural village communes, in some places renting rooms or houses in the towns in the winter in exchange for the use of their horses, veterinarians, and metal repair and other services. Traveling was seasonal, in kumpaniia (groups) made up of several extended families. Many Gypsies were already settled in villages of their own, however, before the 1920s, and it was often these people who responded most readily to the government's offer of land for farming. Those who resisted settlement continued to travel, which led to the 1956 decree of the Supreme Soviet, "On Reconciliation of the Vagrant Gypsies to Labor." Rural Roma in many parts of the former USSR still travel seasonally, however, as drovers, farm workers, livestock traders, and street merchants, especially in remote areas of Siberia and Central Asia.

In the big cities, choral groups were among the first to settle. Groups who moved to urban centers after the Revolution preferred to occupy an entire apartment block together rather than be dispersed. In those early years of settlement, some families preferred to carry out most work and daily activity in the courtyard rather than remain inside, separate from each other. Many still live compactly, maintaining community and family ties, language, and Romani identity.

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