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Boyash (or Bayash; Romanian: Băieşi, Hungarian: Beás, Slovak: Bojáš, South Slavic: Bojaši) refers to a Romani ethnic group living in Romania, southern Hungary, northeastern Croatia, western Vojvodina, Slovakia, the Balkans, but also in the Americas. Alternative names are Rudari (Ludari), Lingurari and Zlătari.
The Boyash are a branch/caste of the Roma who were held as slaves in Wallachia and Moldavia together with other Romani groups, until the latter half of the 19th century; such slavery was abolished in Romanian states in 1864.
In particular, the Boyash were forced to settle in the 14th century and work in mining (a regionalism for mine in Romanian: "baie," from Middle Age Slavonic.). Due to their close proximity with Romanian-speaking people, they lost the use of the Romani language. Some groups relearned Romani when they came in contact with other Romani-speaking Roma, after they emigrated from Romania (for example, in Ecuador).
Another name for the Boyash, Rudari, comes from the Slavic ruda ("metal", "ore"). However, a few centuries later, the mines became inefficient and the Boyash people were forced to readjust by earning their living making wood utensils (Lingurari means "spoon-makers" in Romanian; also cf. Serbian ruda, Hungarian rúd, Romanian rudă meaning "staff, rod, pole, stick"). The nickname Kashtale ("wood-workers") was also given to them by the Romani-speaking Roma and it has remained in Romani as a more general word for a Rom who does not speak Romani.
After the point at which they began to make wood tools they scattered themselves in isolated communities. The consequence of this is that nowadays they speak a distinct archaic dialect of Romanian, with borrowings from other surrounding languages.
After the liberation of the Roma from slavery (by the middle of the 19th century), many emigrated to other countries, especially Hungary and the Balkans, but also as far as the Americas, South Africa and Australia.
In 1993, about 14,000 of the 280,000 recorded Hungarian Roma were Boyash.
In Croatia, the Boyash are settled in several small communities along the Hungarian border in the regions of Međimurje, the Podravina, Slavonija and Baranja with an overflow of settlers living in the Apatin county of Vojvodina, Serbia. 2005 saw the Boyash language of Croatia published in its own alphabet for the first time in the Catholic Catechism, published by the HBK Glas Koncila in Zagreb. In 2007, the first Bible—a children's Bible—was published by OM EAST in Austria and facilitated by The Romani Bible Union.
Names in other languages
In English, the commonly accepted name for the ethnic group is Boyash, however in contemporary Bulgaria the terms Ludari and Rudari are in common use, while in Romania both terms are present in some form: Rudari and Băieşi.
For the same ethnic group in Hungary and Croatia the terms Beyash and Bayash (Bajaši) are now officially used. The ethnonym Banyash ("miner") in Serbia is known only among the group settled in Bačka region, living along the river Danube, near the border with Croatia and Hungary. This term is only sporadically understood, and not used among some other Banyash groups in the Serbian Banat region, e.g. the village of Uljma.
They are also known by many appellations based on trades; in addition to Rudari/Ludari ("miners", from Serbian and Bulgarian ruda "ore, metal") they are known as Kopanari ("cradle-makers", from Serbian and Bulgarian kopanja "wooden box"), Koritari ("trough-makers"), Lingurara ("spoon-makers", cf. Romanian lingură "spoon") and Ursari (cf. Romanian urs "bear") or Mechkara ("bear-trainers").
Education in the Romanian language is available only for the Banyash living in Romanian villages in the Serbian Banat, as well as in Hungary, in the beás subdialect of the Romanian language spoken by Boyash communities in (central and western) Hungary.
During the last few years there have been several attempts on behalf of local non-governmental organizations in East Bačka region to introduce optional classes in Romanian. According to 2004 field research data, only two such projects are still going on there: optional classes in Romanian in the village of Vajska, and kindergarten in the local Ardeal dialect in Bački Monoštor, attended by 20 pupils altogether.
- Ludari in USA
- Cf. a (.pdf) paper issued by the Hungarian ministry of education (as of May 25, 2006) containing the official schools curriculum for Boyash pupils, reading, writing and the type of tests and examinations in their language, which is based on the Romanian subdialects spoken in western Transylvania (esp. in Crişana) and Banat, containing numerous borrowings from the Hungarian language; the script is an adaptation based on Hungarian and Romanian graphems : Beás nyelv emelt szintű írásbeli vizsga, 2006 at the Wayback Machine (archived March 17, 2012).
- Kemény, István: The Structure of Hungarian Roma Groups in Light of Linguistic Changes
- Biljana Sikimić, Linguistic Research of Small Exogamic Communities: the Case of Banyash Roumanians in Serbia
- Ian Hancock. The Pariah Sydnrome
- Marushiakova et al. Identity Formation among Minorities in the Balkans: The cases of Roms, Egyptians and Ashkali in Kosovo