Identity and Language of the Roma (Gypsies) in Central and Eastern Europe

  • Elena Marushiakova
  • Vesselin Popov


The region designated as ‘Central and Eastern Europe’ in this book is inhabited by many different and sizeable groups, who are called with similar names in various countries: ‘Cyganie’ (Poland), ‘Čigonai’ (Lithuania), ‘Čigāni’ (Latvia), ‘Cigáni’ (Slovakia), ‘Cikáni’ (Czech Republic), ‘Cigányok’ (Hungary), ‘Ţigani’ (Romania, Republic of Moldova), ‘Цигани’ [Tsigani] (Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine), ‘Цыгане’ [Tsygane] (Russian Federation), ‘Тσіγγάυоі’ [Tsigani] (Greece), etc.1 Their ancestors migrated from the Indian subcontinent to Europe more than a millennium ago. In most cases, the population identifies itself as Roma2 and speaks its own Romani language, called Romani čhib or Romanes. It is divided into different dialects (Matras 2002: 5–48), which are used by various endogamous ‘Gypsy’/Roma groups and metagroups (Marushiakova and Popov 2001a: 34–41; Tcherenkov and Laederich 2004: I 237–514). The ‘Gypsy’/Roma groups are characterized, among other things, by the use of a common dialect (or acquired language where their own original language is now lost), which is an important marker of their identity. The metagroups are often made up of separate groups who have already begun to lose their group characteristics. Metagroups may also include descendants of groups who have lost the memory of their former existence, and the identity of their members now only exists on the metagroup level. The ‘Gypsy’/Roma groups are not static social and cultural units.


Mother Tongue Identity Change Democratic Movement Roma Community Evangelical Church 
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© Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elena Marushiakova
  • Vesselin Popov

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