Romani people in Hungary

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Romani people in Hungary
Magyar cigányok
Magyarországi romák
János Donát - Portrait of János Bihari, Composer and Gipsy Virtuoso - WGA06440.jpg
Roby Lakatos.jpg
Balogh Kálmán.jpg
Total population
(315,583 (census 2011)[1]
Estimates: 450,000 to 1,000,000[2][3][4]
Regions with significant populations
Northern Hungary, Northern Great Plain, Southern Transdanubia
mainly Hungarian (91–92% in 2001)[10]
Roman Catholicism and Calvinism[11]
Part of a series on
Romani people
Flag of the Romani people

Romani people in Hungary (also known as Hungarian Roma or Romani Hungarians or Mađarski ciganin Sudžum; Hungarian: magyarországi romák or magyar cigányok) are Hungarian citizens of Romani descent. According to the 2011 census, they compose 3.16% of the total population, which alone makes them the largest minority in the country,[12] although various estimations have put the number of Romani people as high as 5–10 percent of the total population.[6][8][13]

History and language[edit]


According to genetic evidence the Romani people originated from India.[14]

The Romani people originate from the Northern India,[15][16][17][18][19][20] presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan[21][22] and Punjab.[23]

The linguistic evidence has indisputably shown that roots of Romani language lie in India: the language has grammatical characteristics of Indian languages and shares with them a big part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts or daily routines.[24]

More exactly, Romani shares the basic lexicon with Hindi and Punjabi. It shares many phonetic features with Marwari, while its grammar is closest to Bengali.[25]

Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in northwestern India and migrated as a group.[16][17][26] According to a genetic study in 2012, the ancestors of present scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of northern India, traditionally referred to collectively as the Ḍoma, are the likely ancestral populations of modern European Roma.[27]

Migration to Hungary[edit]

Main article: Romani language

The date of the arrival of the first Romani groups in Hungary cannot exactly be determined.[28][29] Sporadic references to persons named Cigan, Cygan or Chygan or to villages[29] named Zygan can be found in charters from the 13th–14th centuries.[30][31] However, persons bearing these names were not Romani, and Zygan was not inhabited by Romani people in the 14th century.[30] Accordingly, these names seem to have derived from an Old Turkic[31] word for plain hair (sÿγan), instead of referring to Romani people in Hungary.[32]

Romani orchestra in the 1890s, Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg)

Romani people first appeared in Hungary in the 14th and 15th centuries, fleeing from the conquering Turks in the Balkans[Note 1] Their presence in the territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary was first recorded in a chapter by Mircea the Old, prince of Wallachia, who held the Fogaras (Făgăraș) region in fief as vassal to the Hungarian Crown between 1390 and 1406.[33][28] The charter makes mention of 17 "tent-dwelling Gypsies" (Ciganus tentoriatos) who were held by a local boyar Costea, lord of Alsó- and Felsővist and of Alsóárpás (now Viștea de Jos, Viștea de Sus and Arpașu de Jos in Romania).[33][28] Next, the financial accounts of the town of Brassó (now Brașov in Romania) recorded a grant of food to "Lord Emaus the Egyptian" and his 120[31] followers in 1416.[28] Since Romani people were often mentioned as either "Egyptians" or "the Pharaoh's People" in this period, Lord Emaus and his people must have been Romani.[31]

In the mid-18th century, Empress Maria Theresa (1740–1780) and Emperor Joseph II (1780–1790) dealt with the Romani question by the contradictory methods of enlightened absolutism. Maria Theresa enacted a decree prohibiting the use of the name "Cigány" (Hungarian) or "Zigeuner" (German) ("Gypsy") and requiring the terms 'new peasant" and 'new Hungarian' to be used instead. She later placed restrictions on Romani marriages, and ordered children to be taken away from Romani parents to be raised in 'bourgeois or peasant' families.

Joseph II prohibited use of the Romani language in 1783. The forced assimilation essentially proved successful - in the 19th and 20th centuries the vast majority of the Romani population, who had settled hundreds of years earlier and held onto their customs and culture for a long time, gave up, even forgetting their native language.

During World War II, 28,000 Romani perished in Hungary.[34]


Romani minority in Hungary (2001 census), by locality
Romani minority in Hungary (2001 census), by county

Current demographic changes in Hungary are characterised by an aging, falling population while the number of people of Romani origin is rising and the age composition of the Romani population is much younger than that of the overall population. Counties with the highest concentration of Romani are Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg (officially 45,525 and 25,612 people in 2001, respectively),[35] but there are other regions with a traditionally high Romani population like parts of Baranya and the middle reaches of the Tisza valley.

Although they traditionally lived in the countryside, under general urbanization trends from the second half of the 20th century many of them moved into the cities. There is a sizable Romani minority living in Budapest (officially 12,273 people in 2001). The real number of Romani in Hungary is a disputed question. In the 2001 census 205,720 people called themselves Romani, but experts and Romani organisations estimate that there are between 450,000 and 1,000,000 Romani living in Hungary.[36][37]

During World War II, about 28,000 Romani were killed in Hungary.[34] Since then, the size of the Romani population has increased rapidly. Today every fifth or sixth newborn Hungarian child belongs to the Romani minority. Based on current demographic trends, a 2006 estimate by Central European Management Intelligence claims that the proportion of the Romani population will double by 2050.[38]

Integration problems[edit]

Young Hungarian Romani dancing

Though Roma have lived in Hungary for centuries, there are ongoing problems related to the Romani minority in Hungary, and the very subject is a heated and disputed topic in the country.

Whereas almost half of Hungarian secondary school students enroll in vocational secondary schools or comprehensive grammar schools, which provide better opportunities, only one in five Romani children do. Moreover, the drop-out rate in secondary schools is significant.[39] Slightly more than 80% of Romani children complete primary education, but only one-third continue studies into the intermediate (secondary) level. This is far lower than the more than 90% of children of non-Romani families who continue studies at an intermediate level. Less than 1% of Romani hold higher educational certificates.[40]

The separation of Romani children into segregated schools and classes is also a problem, and has been on the rise over the past 15 years. Segregated schools are partly the result of "white flight", with non-Romani parents sending their children to schools in neighbouring villages or towns when there are many Romani students in the local school, but Romani children are also frequently placed in segregated classes even within "mixed" schools.[41]

Many other Romani children are sent to classes for pupils with learning disabilities. The percentage of Romani children in special schools rose from about 25% in 1975 to 42% in 1992, with a 1997 survey showing little change; however, a National Institute for Public Education report says that "most experts agree that a good number of Roma children attending special schools are not even slightly mentally disabled".[42]

Much of the Romani population are quite poor. They are not provided with fair and equal access to educational resources, resulting in high unemployment, and the perpetual cycle of poverty that keeps them from social mobility.[43][not in citation given] Currently, around 90% of Romani children complete primary education. A study of sample schools, however, suggests that the drop-out rate among Romani is still almost twice as high as among non-Romani.[44]

Other examples[edit]

Chinese merchants in Hungary often hire Romani women to do work since they do not require high pay. No taxes or social security are present in these arrangements.[45] Intermarriage sometimes occurs with the Chinese and their Hungarian or Romani workers. These marriages do not occur with Chinese and other peoples at the same rate as with Hungarians and Romani.[46]

Violence against Romani people[edit]

Between July 2008 and August 2009, six Romani were killed and 55 injured in a string of racially motivated attacks in several rural Hungarian villages.[47] A group of four neo-Nazi men accused of committing the murders went on trial in 2011. All were found guilty in 2013 and three of them were given life sentences.[48] The trial was the subject of a film released internationally in 2014 called Judgment in Hungary.[49]

On 22 April 2011 a vigilante group called Véderő organized a training camp in the town of Gyöngyöspata. This created fear in the local Romani residents, and Aladár Horváth, leader of the Roma Civil Rights Movement, called on the Red Cross to evacuate the women and children. The Red Cross denied that it was an evacuation, stating the trip was requested by the Romani community for the Easter holidays.[50] But, according to Radio Free Europe, Red Cross said in a statement that "This is the first time the Hungarian Red Cross has organized the evacuation of Hungarian civilians threatened by paramilitary activities since the Second World War."[51] The camp was eventually folded up on 22 April, and the members of Véderő left the area. Four days later, some of the members returned to Gyöngyöspata, resulting in a fight between the local Romani and the Véderő that left four people injured.[52]

Romani violence against the ethnic majority[edit]

On October 15, 2006 Roma mob lynched an ethnic Hungarian teacher in front of his two daughters in the village of Olaszliszka.[53]

Romani political representation[edit]

In Hungary, two Romani were elected to parliament as candidates of mainstream parties in 1990, but only one in 1994 and none in 1998. Currently, after the 2010 parliamentary election, there are four Romani representatives in the National Assembly.[54]

Between 2004 and 2009, Viktória Mohácsi, a Hungarian politician of Romani ethnicity, was a Member of the European Parliament, one of only a small caucus of Roma MEPs (another ethnic Romani member is Lívia Járóka). She was a member of the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), part of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. Following the 2009 election, Lívia Járóka, a member of the Fidesz, is the only Romani representative in the European Parliament.[55]

Political parties[edit]

Hungarian Romani are represented by a number of conventional political parties and organizations, including the Roma Social Coalition (an organization consisting of 19 Romani organizations), the Independent Interest Association of Roma in Hungary (a new coalition, including the Lungo Drom, the Phralipe Independent Roma organization, and the Democratic Federation of Roma in Hungary) and others. The most recent addition is the Democratic Roma Coalition, established in December 2002 by three Romani organizations in time for the 2003 local elections.

Lungo Drom demonstrating on the anniversary of the 1956 revolution - 2013

National Gypsy Minority Self-Government (NGMS)[edit]

In Budapest, the district minority self-governing bodies established the Budapest Gypsy Minority Self-Government by means of indirect elections, and founded the National Gypsy Minority Self-Government (NGMS) with 53 representatives.

Act LXXIX of 1993[edit]

An important legal regulation directly affecting the position of the Romani population in Hungary is Act LXXIX of 1993 on Public Education, which was amended in 1996 and 2003 to provide the national and local minority self-governing bodies with the opportunity of founding and maintaining educational institutions, and which defined the fight against segregation in schools as an objective.

Notable people[edit]

Hungarian Romani music group Kalyi Jag in concert in Warsaw

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yaron Matras, in Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, writes that the Romani migration from India could not have occurred until the second half of the first millennium A.C.E. – well before the Ottoman expansion.[1]


  1. ^ Hungarian Central Statistical Office Census Data 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  2. ^ "National Geographic". Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  3. ^ Estimates of their numbers range from 500,000 to almost a million in the country of 10 million people. RomNews Network Community, Budapest, Hungary
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Központi Statisztikai Hivatal". Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Hungary acknowledges the need for progress regarding its population of 500,000 to 1 million Roma (Gypsies)
  7. ^ Hungary would put the number of Roma in the country at 800,000-1,000,000, or up to 10% of the total population of Hungary. European Rights Roma Center
  8. ^ a b The New York City Times: Roma make up an estimated 8 to 10 percent of Hungary’s population
  9. ^ The christian science monitor: "[...] the Roma, who account for between 8 and 10 percent of Hungary's 10 million people."
  10. ^ Generality of Hungarian Roma people speak only Hungarian
  11. ^ Like local Hungarians
  12. ^ "Összefoglalás és módszertani megjegyzések" (PDF) (in Hungarian). Hungarian Central Statistical Office. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Anger grows in Hungary over anti-Roma article". The Guardian (London). 8 January 2013. 
  14. ^ Rajasthan turns out to be the 'baap' of Euro gypsies, DNA India, December 2, 2012 
  15. ^ Hancock 2002, p. xx: ‘While a nine century removal from India has diluted Indian biological connection to the extent that for some Romanian groups, it may be hardly representative today, Sarren (1976:72) concluded that we still remain together, genetically, Asian rather than European’
  16. ^ a b Mendizabal, Isabel; 21 others (6 December 2012). "Reconstructing the Population History of European Romani from Genome-wide Data". Current Biology. Retrieved 12 December 2012.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  17. ^ a b Sindya N. Bhanoo (11 December 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India". New York Times. 
  18. ^ Current Biology.
  19. ^ [2]
  20. ^ [3]
  21. ^ [4]
  22. ^ [5]
  23. ^ [6]
  24. ^ Šebková, Hana; Žlnayová, Edita (1998), Nástin mluvnice slovenské romštiny (pro pedagogické účely) (PDF), Ústí nad Labem: Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity J. E. Purkyně v Ústí nad Labem, p. 4, ISBN 80-7044-205-0 
  25. ^ Hübschmannová, Milena (1995). "Romaňi čhib – romština: Několik základních informací o romském jazyku". Bulletin Muzea romské kultury (Brno: Muzeum romské kultury) (4/1995). Zatímco romská lexika je bližší hindštině, marvárštině, pandžábštině atd., v gramatické sféře nacházíme mnoho shod s východoindickým jazykem, s bengálštinou. 
  26. ^ "5 Intriguing Facts About the Roma". Live Science. 
  27. ^ Rai, N; Chaubey, G; Tamang, R; Pathak, AK; Singh, VK; et al. (2012), "The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations", PLoS ONE 7 (11): e48477, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048477  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  28. ^ a b c d Kemény 2005, p. 1.
  29. ^ a b Fraser 1995, p. 60.
  30. ^ a b Kemény 2005, p. 2.
  31. ^ a b c d Kristó 2003, p. 245.
  32. ^ Kiss 1983, p. 147.
  33. ^ a b Achim 2004, p. 14.
  34. ^ a b "Unbekanntes Volk: Sinti und Roma. Texte zum Kennenlernen: Informationsheft fuer Jugendliche. Martha Verdorfer, 1995". Retrieved 12 September 2015.  line feed character in |title= at position 58 (help)
  35. ^ "Népszámlálás 2001 – 4. Nemzetiségi kötődés – Központi Statisztikai Hivatal". Retrieved 12 September 2015.  C1 control character in |title= at position 19 (help)
  36. ^ Kimmelman, Michael (2008-02-06). "In Hungary, Roma Get Art Show, Not a Hug". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  37. ^ The Christian Science Monitor. "Hungary's anti-Roma militia grows". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  38. ^ [7] "A CEMI kalkulációja szerint a romák száma a mai 700 ezerről 2050-re 1,2 millióra nőhet. Ezen idő alatt a nem roma népesség száma 9,5 millióról 7,6 millióra csökken. Így a romák mai mintegy 7 százalékos aránya megduplázódhat és elérheti a 14-15 százalékot."
  39. ^ Equal access to quality education for Roma, Hungary, pp. 208-209
  40. ^ "Roma tanulók sorsa a szegedi felsőoktatásban". Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  41. ^ Equal access to quality education for Roma, Hungary, pp. 187, 212-213
  42. ^ "Legislative review for the Hungarian roma education policy note". National Institute for Public Education. 2004. Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  43. ^ "Monitoring Education for Roma. A Statistical Baseline for Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe." (PDF). Open Society Institute, Education Support Program (ESP). 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  44. ^ "Equal access to quality education for Roma, Hungary" (PDF). Open Society Institute, EU Monitoring and Advocacy Program (EUMAP). 2007. pp. 206–207. Retrieved 2007-04-20. [dead link]
  45. ^ Pál Nyíri (2007). Chinese in Eastern Europe and Russia: a middleman minority in a transnational era (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 86. ISBN 0-415-44686-4. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  46. ^ Pál Nyíri (2007). Chinese in Eastern Europe and Russia: a middleman minority in a transnational era (illustrated ed.). Psychology Press. p. 130. ISBN 0-415-44686-4. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  47. ^ Verseck, Keno (July 23, 2013). "Right-Wing Terror: Hungary Silent over Roma Killing Spree". Spiegel Online (SPIEGELnet GmbH). Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  48. ^ Nolan, Daniel (July 9, 2014). "Disciplinary proceedings launched against Roma murders judge". The Budapest Beacon (Real Reporting Foundation). Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  49. ^ "Judgment in Hungary". TVO. TVO. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  50. ^ "Hungarian Roma flee homes fearing vigilante attacks". Reuters. 2011-04-22. p. 2. Retrieved 2015-04-09. 
  51. ^ Red Cross Evacuates Roma Over Far-Right Fears In Hungary Red Cross Evacuates Roma Over Far-Right Fears In Hungary
  52. ^ "Véres tömegverekedés Gyöngyöspatán" (in Hungarian). 26 April 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  53. ^ "Lányai előtt verték halálra a gázolót" (in Hungarian). 16 October 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 
  54. ^ Négy cigány képviselő lesz az új parlamentben., April 26, 2010.
  55. ^ "Járóka Lívia: fokozottan hangsúlyozni kell a nők szerepét a romaintegrációban". Retrieved 12 September 2015. 


  • Achim, Viorel (2004). The Roma in Romanian History. Central European University Press. ISBN 963-9241-84-9. 
  • Crowe, David M. (2007). A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia. PALGRAVE MACMILLAN. ISBN 978-1-4039-8009-0. 
  • Fraser, Angus (1995). The Gypsies. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-19605-6. 
  • Kemény, István (2005). "History of Roma in Hungary". In Kemény, István. Roma of Hungary (PDF). Boulder. pp. 1–69. ISBN 978-0-88033-600-0. 
  • Kiss, Lajos (1983). Földrajzi nevek etimológiai szótára [=Etymological Dictionary of Geographical Names] (in Hungarian). Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 963-05-3346-4. 
  • Kristó, Gyula (2003). Nem magyar népek a középkori Magyarországon [=Non-Hungarian Peoples in Medieval Hungary] (in Hungarian). Lucidus Kiadó. ISBN 963-9465-15-1.