Thursday, December 1, 2016

Old Bessarabia. Rank, privilege, human ownership, and repercussions

In researching the history of serfdom in Russia, and the privileges of the Boyars that entrenched in a system (now abolished) called mestnichestvo, I found this 1856 source that touches on comparison of serfs and "gypsies" in Bessarabia. Eastern Europe, Middle East, affected by pulls by the Byzantine system and the Germano-Romanic (including Poles, Hungarians and Germans), in how ranks were absorbed, administered, and whose were hereditary. See The Russian Empire, Its People, Institutions and Resources, Volume 2 by August Freiherr von Haxthausen at pp. 152 ff.  Wallachian ranks:

Wallachia:  All residents were "Tzarani" from a Wallachian word for country, or tzar. Work: as peasants, in fields, laborers, "field-watchmen", herders. Then this part: the only equivalent of serfs, in Russia tied to the land, belonging physically to the landowner, in Bessarabia, were the "gipsies". From early times they belonged to the privileged classes.

Then the source addresses subgroups of the privileged,

This is a kind of bookmark to get back to the human issue of one group driven to own another, and how to get around the customs and repercussions of servitude. The effect: even poor health for those on the lower rungs, see

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Voices for the Yenish. Arts, book: Jakob's Colors by Lindsay Hawdon; Videos

Frame anew the identities and cultures of those thrown away.

1.  Book alert.  Jakob's Colors, by Lindsay Hawdon. This is not yet in our nearly statewide library system, but apparently follows a Roma-Yenish child, mixed blood, alone in Austria, World War II. Find the recent review of Jakob's Colors at .  Information about the book and the Yenish is riveting.

Roma were excluded from reparations after WWII because, it was argued, Roma were not in the death camps for racial reasons but because of their "asocial and criminal record."  See NYT review.   See a prior post on other aspects of the Yenish, at

Click on the many videos now online.

3.  Come away with an affirmation that, as one theme score repeats with enthusiasm, it's no crime -- to exercise a culture and its traveling, to follow one's own traditions. 
  • Settled groups would add: Traveling, that is fine so long as it does no harm, and cite as did the Nazi quoted in the review, not the racial-ethnic aspects of getting rid of these movable and moving groups, but the "asocial and criminal record" of those some half-million Roma exterminated in the Holocaust.
  • Other settled ones (perhaps like my son and I who love to travel (improvised road trips), who somehow feel an affinity with the Roma and now Yenish, Travellers, would say otherwise:  It is the rigidity and intolerance of difference of others, that the settled ones foster among themselves, that is the root cause of trouble between travellers and settled, not the act of, say, travelling. Calcified borders do not solve problems.
A proud past, emerging re-pride for the future.  Is is possible for Travellers to settle and retain their identity.  Why should they have to.  This, from the small hotel where we stayed at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France, a Roma-multi cityion the Camarques. What truths lie in idealized pasts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Arts, Romanian film, Aferim!

Aferim!  Film, from the Turkish meaning Bravo! --Romania. Topic: a fictional constable and his teenager son hunt for an escaped Roma slave, set in the 19th Century in Wallachia by Radu Jude 2015.  The expression is used for mutual congratulations among the hunters as the hunt progresses. Although not based on actual persons, the plot draws on historical record.

Award so far:  something called The Silver Bear, best director award, Berlin Film Festival, February 2015.  It is in the running as Romania's entry, best foreign-language film, the Oscars.  The former executive director of Romani Criss, that I understand is the "leading Roma rights organization" (most of the sites are not in English, so a search, so where is it located? recommends it for raising awareness. See New York Times, review 9/9/2015, Arts, at C1.  She is Margareta Matache.

Aferim! is not in our area film houses, and not in the library, but I found it online (free! so it says - is that a scam?) at

Matache notes the 500 years of slavery in Romania, abolished in 1856, but it remains under rugs, no memorials, not mentioned apparently in history books, places like museums, and there are no memorials.  Mr. Jude expressed two goals for the film:  increase awareness, and highlight "second-class treatment of Roma today."  NYT.

Earlier films: 1923, Gypsy Girl in the Bedroom, lost except for some isolated stills.  Other directors: Cristian Mungiu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,  and Beyond the Hills

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Travel to Russia. Roma Resources. Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Update -- Return from Russia, see Russia Road Ways.

1. Many ethnic groups there, obviously, but difficult to get any information with the language difficulty and restrictions of a small tour -- and the bus.  Access available to Roma for us was only through taxi drivers: courteous, helpful, would set the record straight about the services available in the spotless tourist districts not given where they live.  That is also true at home.

Absolutely no way to determine ethnicity of anyone.  These photos of someone begging are just to show universality of the condition, and the humane response it sometimes gets.

 Poverty:  No way to know who we are seeing in that condition. Read Anthony Marra's Tsar of Love and Techno, for Russian poverty, span of years, also human inspiration. Review at

We were steered away from struggling areas, but saw transients, people begging, in the Metro. Again, no way to tell who they were, many appeared to be veterans, amputees.  Tourist areas are kept clear. 

Police: seen in pairs. Did not see a lone patroller.

2.  Am exploring a timeline site for Roma: go to and search for Russia or other topic-- regret the use of the name.  There is only a 2006 entry on violence in Russia, but this site has not been used much.  Find the Index at

3.  Useful search:  try Moscow Commission on Gypsies (since that was the word used in the timeline) and find several sources.  Try St. Petersburg Russia Commission on Gypsies (add that Russia to avoid going to Florida) and see an article warning tourists against gypsy cabs.  Not so.

Metro. Built by Stalin as the People's Palace. See the Russia Road Ways site

Travel to Russia. I am going to Moscow and St. Petersburg shortly, and ask for recommended Roma places, artists, culture focal points. Roma resources needed.  People, history, phonetic language assistance.

Resources so far include the European Roma Rights Centre at, and articles, University of Victoria, Holocaust, Re-Remembering Porraimos, at;  also The Roma and Russian Literature at Russia Beyond the Headlines at;


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Roma culture share in times of fracture. O.P.Joshi.

I have received some samples of the work of O.P.Joshi from India. He says, in part, "I studied Roma since 1974 and ater retirement I painted and Published cards on Roma,culture,,music, make aware people about them, wish to send samples to you. O.P.Joshi" He approved my posting these, and I have made them close to thumbnail size. I have more and enjoy them very much.  To contact him, leave a comment here and I am sure he will see it.

It brings to mind history, cultures, see handy overview at Migrations,