Center for Documentation and Information
on Minorities in Europe - Southeast Europe (CEDIME-SE)
MINORITIES IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE
Roma of Romania
This report was prepared in cooperation with the Ethnocultural Diversity Resource
Center (EDRC). It was researched and written by Cathy O‘Grady and Daniela
Tarnovschi, and updated by Tibor Szasz, Researchers of CEDIME-SE and EDRC. It was
edited by Panayote Dimitras, Director of CEDIME-SE and Nafsika Papanikolatos,
Coordinator of CEDIME-SE. English Language Editors of CEDIME-SE and EDRC
Caroline Law and Ioana Bianca Rusu. CEDIME-SE and EDRC would like to express
their deep appreciation to the external reviewers of this report, Gabriel Andreescu,
program director of ―National Minorities and Religious Freedom,‖ member of Romanian
Helsinki Committee, Istvan Haller, program coordinator of Liga ProEuropa, Florin
Moisa, Executive President of the Resource Center for Roma Communities, and Julius
Rostaş governmental expert at the Department for Protection of National Minorities -
National Office for Roma. CEDIME-SE and EDRC would also like to thank all persons
who generously provided information and/or documents, and/or gave interviews to their
researchers. The responsibility for the report‘s content, though, lies only with CEDIME-
SE. We welcome all comments sent to:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated November 2001
Name (in English, in the dominant language and, if different, in the minority
Roma (English), Ţigani, or sometimes Romi (Romanian), Rom (the language of the
Is there any form of recognition of the minority?
Yes. The government Department for the Protection of National Minorities has a
National Office for Roma. As a recognised national minority Roma are afforded protection under the constitution and the domestic legislation adopted with national
minorities in mind. They are also guaranteed rights under the international agreements
signed by Romania. In addition, since 1990 a significant number of Roma associations
have been formed (see Addresses).
Category(ies) (national, ethnic, linguistic or religious) ascribed by the minority
and, if different, by the state: National.
Territory they inhabit Very scattered. Communities exist countrywide.
According to the 1992 census, 409,723 (1.8 per cent). Other estimates; up to 1.8 million
(7.9 per cent). Some organisations have put the figure as high as 2,5 million (Minority
Rights Group, 1997: 240). The Research Institute for Quality of Life estimates a number
between 1,452,700 and 1,588,552 (hetero-identified) in 1998, among them there are
922,465 to 1,002,381 (self identified) (The Research Institute for Quality of Life, 2000).
Name of the language spoken by the minority (in English, in the minority and, if
different, in the dominant language).
The Romani language is spoken by approximately 60% of the population.
Is there any form of recognition of the minority’s language?
Romania signed and ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National
Minorities in 1995 in which it is stipulated that ―every person belonging to a national
minority has the right to use freely and without interference his or her minority language,
in private and in public, orally and in writing‖ (Article 10, 11 and 14). Romani is the language of instruction in some classes in an increasing number of schools.
Dominant language of the territory they inhabit.
Mainly Romanian. In some areas of Transylvania the Hungarian language is dominant
(Harghita, Covasna, and isolated areas in other counties).
Occasionally or daily use of the minority language.
Depending on the area, Romani is either used occasionally (i.e. in communities where
Roma are not a majority and do not have regular contact with other Roma) or daily (i.e.
by children in schools).
Access to education corresponding to the needs of the minority.
The institutional school system is not responding satisfactorily to the needs (see section
6) (Florin Moisa, 2000).
Orthodox (83.5 per cent), Catholic (4.7 per cent), and Protestant (4.3 per cent) depending
on the area in which they are located and the dominant religion in that area (Census from
1992, Vol. I, 1994: 784).
Is there any form of recognition of the religion(s)? All are recognized officially.
Communities having the same characteristics in other territories/countries.
Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic,
Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Finland, France, Germany,
Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Netherlands,
Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland, Turkey. Ireland and the U.K. have populations of ‗Travellers‘ (not to be
confused with ‗New-Age Travellers‘ or ‗Gypsies‘). There are also people who refer to themselves as ‗Roma‘ in the U.K.
Population of these communities in the other territories/countries of Central and
All of the following are from the World Directory of Minorities (Minority Rights Group,
1997) except where stated otherwise.
? Albania – 1989 census no figure returned. Estimated up to 100,000 (2.9 per cent)
? Bosnia-Herzegovina – Estimated pre-1992 at 100,000 (2.3 per cent) ? Bulgaria – (1992 census) 312,000 (3.7 per cent)
? Croatia – thought to be as high as 18,000 (0.37 per cent)
? Czech Republic – 33,500 (0.3 per cent). Other estimates; up to 300,000 (2.9 per
? Cyprus – 500 – 1,000 (0.07 – 0.13 per cent) ? Federation Republic of Yugoslavia – 137, 265 (1.3 per cent). Other estimates;
500,000 (4.8 per cent)
? Greece – official estimates: 160,000 – 200,000 (1.5 – 1.9 per cent); MRG-G
estimates around 350,000
? Hungary – (1990 census) 143,000 (1.3 per cent). Other estimates; 250,000 –
800,000 (2.4 – 7.8 per cent)
? Macedonia – No census figures. Other estimates 200,000 (10.3 per cent)
? Moldavia – 20,000 – 25,000.
? Poland – 15,000 (0.03 per cent)
? Slovakia – 80,600 (1.5 per cent). Other estimates; up to 350,000 (6.6 per cent)
? Slovenia – 2,293 (0.11 per cent). Unofficial estimate; 7,000 (0.35 per cent)
? Turkey – approx. 50,000 (0.08 per cent)
1. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1.1 Important historical developments
Early accounts of the existence of Roma people in mediaeval Europe are scant. It is
believed that these first Roma came to Eastern Europe from India. Over the course of
centuries they moved westward through Persia, Armenia and the Byzantine Empire
towards Europe. They were mentioned in the year 1000, when they reached the
Byzantine Empire (Timeline of Romani History, 2000). It is difficult to find consensus
on when Roma first entered Wallachia and Moldavia (the two Romanian historic
provinces). According to Jonathan Fox (Fox, 1995) it is clear that they arrived by the
11th century from what are today‘s Northwest India and Pakistan as part of a great
migration. Bogdan Petriceicu Haşdeu translated and analysed (between 1867 and 1877)
some documents from Tismana monastery‘s archives. One of these, from 1387, signed by
Mircea the Great, indicates that Gypsies had been in Wallachia for almost a century
before that. The other document, dated 1385, was in a form of a receipt for forty families
of Gypsy slaves presented as a gift (Hancock, 1999).
The issue of Roma slavery is very controversial. Jirechek, Potra and Chelcea (cited by
Hancock, 1999) have suggested not only that slavery was an inherent condition of Roma,
originating in their pariah status in the Sudra caste in India, but also that they were slaves
from the very time of their arrival in south eastern Europe, since they were brought in as
such by the conquering Tatars. Another possibility is that they were forced to sell
themselves into slavery in order to pay off debts. Soulins and Gheorghe, (cited by
Hancock, 1999), challenged this. As Gheorghe mentioned (cited by Hancock, 1999), the
first Roma who reached the Romanian principalities were free people. They found there
an economic niche favorable to the skills they brought from India or had learnt in the
Byzantine Empire: metalworking, carpentry and entertaining. Due to the depleting effects
of the Crusades in earlier centuries, the Wallachian society first encountered by the Roma
was technologically backward and agriculturally centered. However, when the peasant
economy gradually shifted to a market-oriented one, it became dependent more and more
upon the artisan skills of the Roma (Hancock citing Gheorghe, Roma Slavery, 2000).
Nicolae Gheorghe (a Roma specialist, presently Senior Advisor on Roma and Sinti Issues
for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) argues that the slavery was
the result of the increasingly stringent measures taken by the landlords, the court and the
monasteries to prevent their Roma labor force from leaving the principalities. Roma
people had already started to leave the Romanian principalities in order to get rid of the
ever more burdensome demands upon their skills, and from the shift of their ―limited
fiscal dependency upon the Romanian princes‖ to an ―unlimited personal dependency on
the big landlords of the country, the monasteries and the boyars‖ (Hancock citing
Gheorghe, ―Roma Slavery,‖ 2000). Under slavery the treatment of the Roma was
extremely harsh. They had fewer rights than the native serfs, with landlords having the
right to sell individuals or give them away as gifts (Kenrick, 1998: 138). The Civil Code
stated that Roma arriving from abroad were the property of the state. In addition, every
Roma born was automatically classified as a slave (Liegeois, 1968: 110). The Code of
Basil the Wolf of Moldavia, dated 1654, contains references both to the treatments and
punishments that the slaves had to endure.
According to Gheorghe, the process of enslavement of the Roma by the feudal landlords
lacked any legal base. The outsider‘s status Roma had at the time surely emptied them of
the power to resist. Thus, the Roma also qualified for the Islamic world-view of the
occupying Ottomans, for whom dominated non-Muslim populations were ―fit only for
enslavement‖ (Sugar, 1964, cited by Hancock, Roma Slavery, 2000).
Throughout the Middle Ages historical upheavals dictated the treatment of the Roma,
and others, in the region. In 1503 Wallachia and Moldavia finally succumbed to the
Turks. This meant that payments had to be made to the Ottoman Empire, although both
provinces retained control over their internal affairs. Under Turkish influence social and
economic life changed, with the division of urban society into guilds representing certain
skills. Roma slavery became increasingly integrated with the turning of the peasants into
serfs. The Roma, however, were significant in the region for their skill as craftsmen, and
they began to be categorized both by who owned them and the type of work they did.
Thus, there were distinctions made between those who worked in houses (ţigani de casă)
and agricultural workers (ţigani de ogor). Similarly, those slaves owned by the crown or state were categorized according to whether their owners were nobles (sclavi domneşti),
the Court (sclavi curte), or rural landowners (sclavi gospod). The Romanian Orthodox
Church owned sclavi mănăstireşti who, in turn, were categorized as vatraşi
(households), or lăieşi (artisans). Those slaves belonging to the Crown were classified
according to their particular trade. For instance, bear trainers were known as ursari and
spoon carvers as lingurari (Crowe, 1991: 63). This latter categorization remains even
today, with the forty Roma tribes represented in Romania retaining these titles. The
position of both Roma and peasants declined so far during the ensuing decades that it was
―impossible to speak of the enslaved Gypsies without mentioning at the same time the
enslaved peasants‖ (Crowe, 1995: 109).
Laws were passed at this time to render slavery even harsher, with death becoming a not
uncommon punishment. By the end of the fifteenth century any non-Roma who got a
Roma woman pregnant and married her was forced into slavery himself. Stealing
resulted in cruel punishment and, according to a law of 1652, ―a slave who rapes a
woman shall be condemned to be burnt alive‖ (Crowe, 1995: 109-110). Legislation was
also enacted to prevent illegal slave trading. Roma slaves were valuable due to their skill
as craftsmen, and those who tried to escape faced harsh punishment (Crowe, 1991: 63).
By the 1500s, the terms ―rob‖ and ―ţigan‖ had become synonymous with ―slave,‖
although the latter was originally a neutral ethnonym applied by the Europeans to the
Roma under Hungarian rule in the province of Transylvania fared no better. During the
era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire a policy of forced assimilation was begun, which
echoed what would come later under Communism. Roma were forbidden to speak the
Romani language or to practice their traditional trades (Helsinki Watch, 1991: 10). The
punishment for those caught speaking Romani was twenty-five lashes. Traditional styles
of clothing and the practice of nomadism were also prohibited (Liegeois, 1986: 106).
Even referring to oneself as a Roma was forbidden, and Uj Magyar (new Hungarian)
was the term adopted instead. Anti-Roma feeling was widespread, and Roma rapidly
became scapegoats for crimes ranging from petty theft to cannibalism and vampirism.
The punishment for the latter crimes was particularly brutal. In one instance, forty Roma
were put on the rack and then cut into pieces in 1782, accused of roasting and eating a
number of Hungarian peasants, a charge later proven to be false (Hancock, 1987: 51).
The beginning of the nineteenth century saw a change in attitude. Throughout Europe a
new order was emerging and new ideas were coming to the fore. Among them was the
assertion that slavery was barbaric and should be stopped. By the middle of the century
several slave owners had set an example in Romania by freeing their own slaves
(Helsinki Watch, 1991:10). In 1842 this began in Moldavia, and in 1844 the church there did the same. The Wallachian church followed suit in 1847, but the laws held firm. It did appear as though change was imminent in 1848, when a radical provisional joint leadership succeeded to the central government in Bucharest and issued a proclamation deploring the barbarism of slavery and announcing the immediate freedom of all Gypsies. This was too short-lived however, as in December 1848 the two principalities were invaded by Russians and Turks who reinstated many of the laws, and the nobles took possession of their slaves once more. The invaders chose two new individuals to serve on their council - Alexandru Ghica and Barbu Stirbei. This they did until 1855, when Grigore Ghica, Alexandru‘s cousin, and Stirbei were given control of Moldavia and Wallachia respectively. Grigore, while denouncing slavery, was slow to actually abolish it, but he eventually capitulated under pressure from his advisor and eldest daughter. On December 23, 1855, the Moldavian Assembly voted unanimously to abolish slavery within the Principality. The Wallachian Assembly did likewise on February 8 the following year (Hancock, 1987: 34-35). Complete legal freedom came in 1864. Prince Ioan Couza, ruler of the now-united principalities, reinstated the Roma as free people to the estates they had worked at. It is estimated that at the time the number of slaves was about 600,000 (Romani Culture and History, 2000).
Once slavery had been abolished many Roma left Romania for Western Europe and North America. Those who remained soon found that their situation had not improved a great deal. They were set free, but they were not given any land. This pushed them to specific occupations that maintained their condition of poverty and discrimination. They developed auxiliary occupations such as metalworking and carpeting. They also started to use low resources (with a low economical potential) such as procuring and selling empty bottles or marginal exploitation of the public (divination, begging) (Zamfir, Zamfir, 1993: 29). Having been dependent upon their ‗masters‘ for so long they had no way of supporting themselves, and many ended up returning to where they had been enslaved and offering themselves for sale once more. This is believed to have affected demographic patterns of Roma in Romania up until the Second World War (Hancock, 1987: 37).
The First World War and the peace treaties that followed increased Romania‘s minority population by over 18 per cent, from 10 per cent before the war to more than 28 per cent after it. Of these, 133,000 were Roma, comprising 0.8 per cent of the total population. In return for the acquisition of new territory Romania was obliged to commit itself to international agreements relating to human rights and it was therefore hoped that the situation of the Roma would improve. The government, however, had visions of a homogenous nation state, nationalism dictating that the minorities should, at the very least, be integrated. Industrialization began in earnest and many people found themselves crippled by the taxes levied by the government in order to achieve this. Worsening conditions dictated the need for a scapegoat, a role that Roma have played continually in Romania and elsewhere. Authorities harbored the belief that, as Roma did not possess a culture or a history that was defined in written terms, they were therefore not entitled to the same rights as other minorities in Romania (Crowe, 1991: 68-69).
A change occurred at that time, when Roma began to organize themselves collectively (Helsinki Watch, 1991:11). Nineteen thirty-three saw the founding of the General Association in Bucharest, and in the same year a journal, Glasul Romilor (Voice of
Roma) was established and published for six years. Other newspapers followed this lead, and organizations were already being set up throughout the country. The first had been in
Calbor in 1926. A conference was held in 1934 to establish the General Union of Roma in Romania. Between 1934 and 1939 the Union worked to promote equal rights for Romanian Roma, but the growth of fascism and the eventual outbreak of the war put an end to that (Kenrick, 1998: 139).
Adolf Hitler‘s opinion of Roma is well known. In Romania, Marshall Ion Antonescu‘s pro-Nazi government was vehemently anti-minority, and especially anti-Roma. Mass deportation of Roma began, particularly of nomadic Roma who were primarily thought to be criminals. Some 25,000 Roma were thus sent to land captured from the Soviet Union (Transdniestria), in 1942. Approximately 19,000 died (Kenrick, 1998: 140). The Romanian People‘s Court set up a War Crimes Commission in the aftermath of the war. According to the Commission, 36,000 Roma died in Romania during the war, the highest number from any European country (although as a percentage of the Roma population it was far lower than in countries such as Poland and Germany) (Helsinki Watch, 1991: 13).
According to Iulius Rostaş, just before the deportation of nomadic Roma, a census was made by the Romanian Jandarmery in order to register Roma criminals. The people taken away from their homes were not only criminals, as the Romanian Government at that time implied, but normal people that did not belong to the criminals‘ category. (Rostaş, 2000).
During the Communist regime, especially in the 60‘s, nationalism became a first class ideological tool as a counteracting strategy against the Kremlin policy and a proof of its independence. From that moment on ―nobody could be a patriot or a nationalist besides within the party‖ (Pons, 1999: 27). The consolidation of national unity, of the idea of a
homogeneous Romanian society, was introduced. Under the pretext of a unique pattern of the socialist worker, the regime tried to complete the process of assimilation. The target was to gradually eliminate national differences but actually they were trying to eliminate ethnic minorities (Pons, 1999: 28).
Roma were considered to be foreign elements that had to become Romanian, their culture being considered as one of poverty and underdevelopment (Pons, 1999: 29). Because of that something had to be done in order to destroy the specific culture of Roma and their distinct pattern of living – the most important element that has made them different for
centuries. The state by eliminating any references to it from its discourses denies the specificity of the Roma community within Romanian society. According to the principles of the communist regime ―private‖ occupations had to disappear. Therefore all privately owned factories were confiscated by the state. The state also confiscated the tools and the materials used for traditional occupation of Roma (metalworking, carpentry, jewelry making), especially the gold used by Roma for jewelry. At the same time, Roma were integrated in agricultural activities by the agriculture production cooperatives. Those who were good in processing metals were recruited by the metallurgical cooperatives. Until the collapse of the communist regime, 48-50 per cent of Roma workers worked in agriculture. Trade was a prohibited activity for them. Those who had continued to practice their traditional occupations were not considered as authentic workers anymore. But the law proscribed them, considering them to be ―social parasites‖ being at a high risk to be punished (imprisoned or put forcibly to work) (Pons, 1999: 34).
Mainly after the beginning of the 60‘s the Communist regime, in order to assimilate the Roma population, pursued various policies and measures regarding Roma – such as
settling them forcibly and later ignoring their very existence. They did not have the right to represent themselves as an ethnic minority, free to promote its own cultural traditions, compared with Hungarians and Saxons. Socialism or communism destroyed many of the traditional occupations and elements of their life style, and Roma had started to get integrated into the imposed life style. For the Roma, as for all Romanian citizens, under communism jobs were provided on state farms and in factories. Even if many of these effects had been obtained by coercion, though, many families benefited with a certain economical and social security from this sedentarization and forced work integration politics. In that way they were able to have the possibility to support their families (they were force to work) and also to have a place to live (the state gave them apartments) (Pons, 1999; 34).
Until 1956, as Trond Gilberg mentioned (cited by Pons, 1999: 37), the Roma population had the lowest rate of educated people. They were not present in the high schools and especially in the universities. After the stated assimilation policy Roma families were forced to register their children in schools. On one hand this was a good thing because in this way the children had the same opportunity as the rest of the population. Beginning with 1966 many Roma had a basic education; some of them started to attend professional schools and technical ones. However, it also had bad consequences because many of them started to deny their ethnicity, being afraid of discrimination and motivated to get higher positions in the social structure. Even if there was a high tendency of school abandonment among Roma children, the educational system ―had to‖ provide them with a graduation certificate, thus producing unskilled workers, which were not able to qualify for employment and therefore ended up being unemployed. Iuluis Rostaş argues that ―these factors have violated the equal opportunities principle in education and contributed to the consolidation of negative features: a low level of school frequency, a high level of school abandonment, a low percent completing the primary school‖ (Rostaş, 2000). Because of these, the prejudices have continued. Police raids against Roma were allegedly a common occurrence, during which jewelry and other possessions were seized, the authorities claiming that they were the proceeds of black-market dealing (Kenrick, 1998: 140).
In 1977, when the Ceauşescu‘s ‗personality cult‘ was emerging, a new assimilation program began, which was not publicly announced. Roma who continued to practice
their traditional occupations were forced by the police to go back to their work in factories or on the construction sites. There were some Roma who continued to practice their trades, especially those which were more discrete and more difficult to be checked out by the communist regime, like those of traders, white washers, bucket makers. Roma people were also the ―beneficiaries‖ of systematization politics of the territory by force. Districts where they lived were destroyed, and they had to move into new buildings that were not necessarily better but in which Roma need more time to get used living in different conditions from their way of life. They also ―benefited‖ from the deal made between Romania and the former Federal Republic of Germany. Starting with the beginning of the 80‘ the Saxon could emigrate to the Federal Republic of Germany if that state paid a tax for every man, woman and child. This deal was known under the name of ―selling the Saxon population.‖ The state also confiscated the Saxons‘ houses and it forced Roma people to live there (Pons, 1999: 36; Zamfir, Zamfir, 1993: 157).
During the last years of the Communist regime social disorganization and the economical crises stopped the process of ―modernization‖ (the state provided them with places to live, with jobs and with opportunity for the children to attend school) and assimilation of
the Roma people. This also led back to the traditional strategies (living at the edge of society in conditions of poverty and isolation) of getting used to difficult situations of living in a new context. Because many Roma lost their jobs and also the employment privileges (such as children‘s allocation, pension right or the right to have a house) some turned to illicit activities, which recycles marginalization, delinquency and poverty. It also justifies negative stereotypes about the Roma and enhances hostile attitudes by the majority population (Zamfir, Zamfir, 1993: 159).
The execution of Ceauşescu in 1989 brought new hope for Romania‘s citizens but, as in
the case of the abolition of slavery, Roma discovered that their situation did not improve very much or at all and, in many cases, became markedly worse. Roma have been the most affected by the transition to a market economy because of the lack of a qualified labor force, which leads to a high rate of unemployment within that population (see section 1.2). Those who worked in the state-owned agricultural households have no jobs anymore, since these lands have been given back to their owners, so most of them own no land though the law (Law on Land and Estate, No. 18, February, 1991 has stipulated that each family has to get a piece of land) (Pons, 1999: 50).
Romania‘s law allows them to form associations and publish newspapers, but they also became the scapegoats for the rest of the population as the country struggled with the transition to a market economy. Violence against Roma, which had not been a feature of communist Romania, became more widespread and even tolerated. It began in March 1990 when the miners were called to Bucharest to ‗defend‘ the government, after which they went to Roma neighborhoods and carried out indiscriminate attacks (Kenrick, 1998: 140). The same month saw inter-ethnic clashes in Târgu-Mureş, in the aftermath of
which a disproportionate number of Roma were arrested and tried, despite evidence that they had not even been present (see section 2.3.1.).
Throughout the course of this decade the pattern of discrimination against Roma has become increasingly worse, on numerous occasions reaching the level of physical violence on the part of communities. Roma have had their houses burnt to the ground and been driven away from their villages. Some of these attacks have even resulted in the deaths of members of certain Roma communities (Szente, 1996: 9). The European Roma Rights Center conducted a fact-finding mission to Romania in 1996 and discovered that this pattern was changing and that police raids on Roma communities were gradually replacing community violence against Roma. The decrease in mob violence has left many cases as yet unresolved with non-Roma perpetrators still to be brought to justice. Unfortunately those who commit crimes against Roma are seldom if ever, made to answer for them.
1.2. Economic and demographic data
Demographic data: There has always been controversy surrounding the number of
Roma in Romania.
According to the research conducted by the Research Institute for Quality of Life in 1998 the following numbers were provided:
1930: 242,656 (1.70%)
1956: 104,216 (0.60%)
1966: 64,197 (0.37%)
1977: 227,398 (1.05%)
1992: 409,723 (1.76%)
1998: 1,452,700 – 1,588,552 hetero-identified; between 922,465 and 1,002,381
among them self-identify as belonging to the Roma minority (Research Institute for Quality of Life, 1998).
A huge discrepancy can be noticed between 104,216, the numbers registered in the 1956 Census (soon after Roma deportation to Transnistria, where 19,000 died) and those registered in 1998. This decrease has no other explanation than that of statistical manipulation (Pons, 1999: 45).
In 1977 (at the census) the figure given was 227,398, and three years later there were officially said to be 260,000 Romanian Roma. Even then, however, the real number was an estimated one million, although when the World Congress of Roma challenged the Romanian government on the subject they were told that there were no Roma at all in the country (IHF, 1989: 37-38).
The 1992 census recorded 409,723 Roma in Romania although the actual figure could have been far higher (Minority Rights Group, 1997: 242). This was an 80.2 per cent increase on the 1977 figure (Bugajski, 1995: 197). Despite this, the actual number of Romanian Roma is estimated to be over two million, which would make them the largest minority in the country (Helsinki Watch, 1994: 3). Gauging the population accurately is extremely difficult as many Roma report themselves as Romanian or Hungarian, etc. on census forms, and that happened, as Florin Moisa explained to us, because of the negative connotation associated with the ethnic identity of the Roma (Moisa, 2000). In
addition, many do not complete the forms at all due to high levels of illiteracy. Research conducted by sociologists from Bucharest University in 1993 estimated that the number of Roma still living the ‗traditional Romani life,‘ or close to this way of life, was approximately 1,010,000 or 4.6 per cent of the total population (Zamfir, 1993: 8). The current Roma population has not been accurately measured. In 1998, the Research Institute for Quality of Life initiated a project on studying, stocking and spreading information that the Roma population is confront with. An estimation of the Roma population was done for this project. It came out that there are between 1,452,700 and 1,588,552 individuals that were hetero-identified, as Roma at the national level and 63.5 per cent was self-identified. Vasile Gheţău (Ghetau, 1996: 78) in a prospective
demographic study believes that the Roma population in Romania numbers between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 persons.
Roma are present in all regions of Romania. According to the 1992 census they were most numerous in Transylvania where they made up 2.8 per cent of the population. The next highest concentration of Roma was in Crişana-Maramureş in the north of the
country where they comprised 2.6 per cent. The population of the Banat in western Romania was 2.1 per cent Roma, while Wallachia, south east of Transylvania, and Oltenia in the south were found to have 1.9 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively. The lowest concentrations of Roma were found in Moldavia in the northeast (0.8 per cent) and Dobrudja, on the Black Sea (0.7 per cent) (Abraham, 1995:60).
Looking at the urban and rural populations as a whole, in 1992 Roma comprised 1.4 per cent of the former and 2.3 per cent of the latter (Abraham, 1995: 61). It should be noted that figures from the 1992 census are quite possibly no longer accurate.