A View of the Disaster and Victory from below: Serbian Roma Soldiers, 1912–1918

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

A View of the Disaster and Victory from below: Serbian Roma Soldiers, 1912–1918


  • Danilo Šarenac Institute for Contemporary History, Serbia


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Abstract:  The Kingdom of Serbia fought in three consecutive conflicts between 1912 and 1918. These events merged into a devastating experience of an all-out war, completely reshaping all aspects of contemporary life. As the first centenary of these events has recently shown, the memories of wartime still play a very prominent role in the Serbian national narrative. By 1915 around 20% of Serbian combatants belonged to some of the country’s minorities. Second class citizens on the social margins of society, the Serbian Roma constitute those whose wartime history is the least known to research and the public. However, the wartime diaries kept by Serbian soldiers are full of causal references to their Roma fellow combatants. This article provides an overview of the duties Roma soldiers played in the war, based on the perspective of Serbs who were fighting alongside them. The article tackles the general image and the position of the Roma population in the Kingdom of Serbia. In addition, the horrific challenges the war created for Serbian society are tackled from the perspective of those who were, already in peace time, in the most disadvantageous situation socially and economically. Overall, despite the unifying experience which the wartime suffering imposed on all citizens of the Kingdom, the old prejudices towards the Roma survived after 1918.

Keywords:  minorities; Roma soldiers; Serbia; warfare; World War I

Published:   4 June 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v8i2.2821


© Danilo Šarenac. 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.