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Different Roma Tribes

/en/file/show/Bratei close up man 4block.JPG Photo: Mircea Dan Opris

Roma communities are usually comprised of between 30 and 40 families who usually specialise in the same trades, such as metal-working, agriculture and the arts. Belonging to a tribe is not strictly connected to blood ties, but to occupation and family connections.

Over the past few decades, fewer Roma identify with particular tribes. At least a third of Roma do not consider themselves as part of a particular tribe, according to a 1992 survey conducted by sociologists Elena and Cătălin Zamfir.  Click here to read the report in Romanian.

According to the Zamfirs’ survey, the biggest Roma tribal groups were: the Vătraşii (13.8% of respondents), Căldărarii (5.9%), Rudarii (4.5%), Spoitorii (3.7%), Mătăsarii (3.2%), Ursarii (2.7%), Cărămidarii (1.5%), Gaborii (1.4%) and the Florarii (1.2%).

The Roma originated from India, having migrated to Europe hundreds of years ago. Records suggest Roma immigrants began settling in Europe during the 9th to 14th centuries. The first official mention of ‘gypsies’ in modern day Romanian territory dates back to circa 1385.

Roma people were first recorded as being present in Transylvania, now part of Romania, in 1416 and in Moldova in 1428. According to tradition, tribes pass on their trade and skills from generation to generation.

“The Roma tribes represent a Europeanisation of the traditional organisation in ancient India, [now] the castes have become craftsmens’ families,” says Dr Vasile Burtea, sociology professor at the University of Bucharest.

While some tribes have almost disappeared altogether, many are no longer nomadic as the communist regime, in power until the early 1990s, curbed the Roma’s ability to travel.  Today, only a small percentage of Romania’s Roma are travelling communities.

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