Between Nationalism and Pragmatism: The Roma Movement in Interwar Romania

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Between Nationalism and Pragmatism: The Roma Movement in Interwar Romania


  • Petre Matei Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Romania


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Abstract:  In the interwar period, for the first time in their history, Romanian Roma managed to organise themselves on a modern basis, by forming Roma associations and unions, and issuing their own newspapers and programmes. In an effort to define themselves, they became politically active, claiming and negotiating rights. In my article I analyse the context of the interwar Roma movement, how Roma leaders of the time saw themselves and their movement, what programme(s) they had, and how they tried to achieve their goals. This was a serious challenge: As they were not self-sufficient, they heavily depended on support from Romanian institutions, and hence they had to act with caution in order to avoid any hostile reactions from the Romanian majority. Overall, the discourse of Roma elites in interwar Romania ranged between: 1) a national approach directed inwardly, toward the Roma, for ethnic mobilisation purposes, including calls to unite in order to acquire their rights, efforts to combat ethnic stigmatisation, discussions on ethnonyms (Gypsy vs. Roma) or on the importance of Roma in Romania and worldwide, the beginning of a national/ethnic mythology (past, origin, enslavement, heroization vs. victimization, etc.); and 2) a pragmatic approach directed outwardly, toward Romanian authorities and public opinion; rather than a national minority, Roma leaders presented the Roma as a social category with specific needs, due to their historical legacy. Of these two, throughout the interwar period, pragmatism prevailed. Special emphasis was placed on the issue of social inclusion, and on identifying specific problems and solutions (i.e., better access to education, settlement, deconstruction of prejudices, etc.).

Keywords:  Catholic Church; ethnicity; Orthodox Church; Roma; Romania

Published:   4 June 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v8i2.2808


© Petre Matei. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.