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The Kalderash are a subgroup of the Romani people. They were traditionally coppersmiths and metal workers and speak a number of Romani dialects grouped together under the term Kalderash Romani, a sub-group of Vlax Romani.[1][2]

The three main confederations of Romani people in Europe, Kalderash (yellow), Sinti/Manush (blue), Gitanos (red), as well as the Dom people of the Middle East (green)

The Kalderash of the Balkans and Central Europe, in addition to the Gitanos and Manouche/Sinti, are seen as one of the three main confederations (Romani: natsiya) of Romani people in Europe by certain ethnographers. The Kalderash are recognized as the most numerous confederation of the three. Each main confederation is further split up into two or more subgroups (Romani: vitsa) based on a combination of factors such as occupation, ancestry, or territorial origin.[3][4] Although originally referring to a specific vitsa of traditional coppersmiths, the name Kalderash is now applied to several Vlax-Speaking Roma groups. Because of this, significant differences in speech and culture can be seen in Western and Eastern Kalderash populations; as evidenced in the differences between the eastern Kalderash of Russia and the western Kalderash of Serbia.[2][5] Certain scholars have suggested a connection between occupational Romani subgroups and the Caste System of India; with the Kalderash being described as an ancestral stock of the Lohar caste.[6][7]


A traditional Kalderash Roma metalsmith from Hungary in 1892

The name Kalderash (kalderash in Romani, căldărari in Romanian, kalderás in Hungarian, калдараш (kaldarash) in Bulgarian, kalderaš in Serbo-Croatian, 'котляри (Kotlyary) in Ukrainian, and кэлдэрары (kelderary) in Russian) is an occupational ethnonym which descends ultimately from the Romanian word căldăraș (coppersmith) derived from Latin caldāria, in effect describing their trade as tinkers.[2][5][8]

History and Distribution[edit]


Eight-spoked wheel flag used by the Kalderash Roma of Călărași County

The Kalderash Roma are hypothesized to originate in the territory of modern-day Romania and to have migrated to different parts of the world following the abolition of Slavery in Romania in the late 1800s in a phenomenon known as the great Kalderash migration.[9][10][11] There are estimated to be about 200,000 Căldărari still living in Romania, although the exact number is unknown.[12][13] The region of Dobruja is a major center of Kalderash settlement, as well as, Wallachia and the Romanian-Bulgarian border regions. Bilingualism of Kalderash Romani and Romanian is prevalent among the Kalderash of Romania. Traditional societal traits of the Kalderash of Romania include endogamy, cross-cousin marriage, and customary courts known as Kris in Southern Transylvania and Wallachia. As revealed by their traditional ethnonym of Căldărari, the Kalderash are associated with a tradition of artisans especially that of copper and tin smithing. The head of Kalderash communities in Romania is associated with a chief known as a Bulibasha that has varying degrees of authority based on their locality. The Kalderash of Romania are further broken down into many different subgroups(vitsi) such as the Pletoshi (Kalaydzii) and Chori (Grebenari, Pieptenari) in Northern Dobruja, as well as in Militari, Tasmanari and Zhaplesh, in Southern Dobruja. Intra-ethnic marriages have united various subgroups such as Grastari, Niculešti, Dudulani, Tasmanari, Žapleš, Lajneš, Njamcurja under a common Kalderash identity.[14]


The Kalderash are one of the 5 main Romani subgroups living in Bulgaria along with the Daskane Roma, Horahane Roma, Kalaydji, and Boyash.[15] During the 18th and especially during the 19th centuries following the abolition of Slavery in Romania, Roma from the Romanian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia entered the Bulgarian territory in an event coined by certain ethnographers as the "Kalderash Invasion." In addition, a large part of the Kalderash migrated from Romania to Bulgaria through the Austro-Hungarian Empire passing through Serbia before finally reaching Bulgaria. The Kalderash are the second largest Romani confederation in Bulgaria and are split up into 2 main subgroups: the Lovari and Kalaydji, as well as, further branches within these subgroups such as "Grebenari", "Bakarjii", "Reshetari", etc. The Kalderash of Bulgaria mostly practice Eastern Orthodox Christianity and are bilingual in Kalderash Romani and Bulgarian. The customary courts of the Bulgarian Kalderash are known as the meshere.[16][14]

Serbia and Bosnia[edit]

The Chergashe Roma are a primarily Kalderash subgroup living mostly in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.[17] During the late 19th century, large migrations of the former Kalderash slaves of Romania to the neighboring countries of Serbia and then Bosnia occurred. They speak Kalderash Romani and are mostly concentrated around Banja Luca and Sarajevo. Since the dissolution of Yugoslavia, many Serbian and Bosnian Kalderash have immigrated to the United Kingdom to escape the economic and social oppression that Balkan Roma face in their home countries.[18]

Russia and Ukraine[edit]

A Kalderash woman from a camp that stopped in Moscow, 1925

The Kalderash Roma are one of the most populous Romani groups in Russia following the Ruska Roma. The Kalderash migrated from the territory of the Romanian principalities and other parts of Southeast Europe to Russia and Ukraine between the end of the 19th and the first 30 years of the 20th century following the abolition of Slavery in Romania.[19][20] They spread throughout Ukraine and Russia migrating from Bessarabia to the north and east.[12] They soon became a relatively numerous group in Russia and their traditional occupations of tinning and cauldron making led them to initial prosperity. At the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, the state took on a policy of industrialization that aimed at bringing a settled way of life to the nomadic Kalderash Roma. This resulted in the Kalderash becoming actively involved in cooperatives and establishing their own Romani production cooperatives called artels. These industrial artels helped the Kalderash successfully adapt their traditional craft to the new economic reality of the Soviet Union. The artels lasted until the 1980s and became a vibrant part of the oral history of the Kalderash families. During the artel period, most Kalderash camps were located in Moscow, however, after the dissolution of the artels, the Kalderash migrated all over Russia and other parts of Northern Europe.[19] The Kalderash of Russia are mostly bilingual in Kalderash Romani and Russian.[21]

Romani diaspora[edit]

An elderly woman of the Kalderash Roma ethnicity in diaspora

In France, the Kalderash Roma are concentrated in the eastern suburbs of Paris. It is estimated that they have been gradually settling there since at least the 1940s. Montreuil is a town in the fringe of Paris with the largest Kalderash settlement in France. The Kalderash of Montreuil first arrived in France in 1941 following the German occupation of Paris. They still practice their traditional trade as coppersmiths and metal workers. Some Kalderash still travel around the French provinces although most are now sedentary.[22] Despite frequent contact with non-Roma throughout their daily lives and economic activity, the Kalderash have managed to keep a degree of invisibility within French society that allows them to practice their traditional culture without fear of assimilation.[23] In 2005, there was estimated to be about 8,000 Kalderash Roma living in France.[24]

The Kalderash are the largest subgroup of Romani people and comprise a majority of the urban Roma population in the United States.[25][26] The Kalderash are generally less wealthy than other Roma groups in the U.S. such as the Machwaya. However, there is considerable variability in the status of the various Kalderash subgroups (Romani: vitsi) in terms of wealth and prosperity. Certain wealthy Kalderash vitsi in the U.S. have been able to achieve a higher level of wealth and consider themselves to be cleaner than lower class Kalderash vitsi.[27] Unlike the more nationalistic Kalderash in Eastern Europe, American Kalderash are reluctant to take up any public political roles or bring attention to themselves; benefiting off of the relative invisibility they experience in the west. According to studies done on the Kalderash clans of Seattle, Kalderash Roma generally stick to traditional itinerant jobs such as automobile body repair, roofing, stove cleaning, and other short term jobs that allows them to maintain their traditional lifestyle.[28][26] The Kalderash are one of the more traditional groups of Roma and have resisted Americanization more rigorously than other Roma subgroups such as the Sinti.[29]

Kalderash Roma family in Sweden, early 20th century

The Kalderash form one of the largest Romani communities in Sweden. During the late 19th and early 20th century, many Kalderash Roma from Russia migrated to Sweden.[30] The Kalderash were the first and most numerous foreign Romani group to migrate and settle in the country.[31] The most common occupations of the Kalderash of Sweden were tinning and coppersmithing. One of the most prominent Kalderash clans of Sweden were the Taikon. Johan Taikon was a highly skilled copper and silversmith who would make elaborate metal craft at night in the makeshift workshops of the camps, primarily for use within the Swedish Roma community. He also derived part of his income from mending and tinning copper pots all over Sweden, which gave him brief and momentary access to the exclusionary Swedish society that was being shaped along the particular lines of Swedish national identity. Johan Taikon's daughter, Rosa Taikon, was the first Roma silversmith in Sweden, who pursued a formal jewellery education. Katarina Taikon, also a daughter of Johan Taikon, was a prominent Romani activist and leader in the civil rights movement.[32] The dialect of Kalderash Romani spoken in Sweden is commonly referred to as Taikon Kalderash.[33]



The shrine of Kali Sara

Saint Sarah, commonly known as Kali Sara among the Vlax Roma, is an important saint in the traditional religion of the Kalderash.[34][35] The traditional Kalderash Roma religion involves a syncretism of Shaktism and Christianity. Kali Sara comes from the Hindu Goddess Kali and became a saint as a way for Roma to practice their religion without fear of persecution. Many traditional Roma still pray to God through Kali Sara in the Shakta tradition. During communist times, many Balkan Kalderash were barred from attending the sacred pilgrimage of Kali Sara, known to them as santana, that occurs in Southern France each year during May. Now, the Kalderash Roma of Canada, Latin America, and the Balkans all have their own traditions on how they venerate the saint Kali Sara.[35][6]

Mam'orry is a human like mythological character that almost always appears in Kalderash folklore as an old woman. She fulfills certain character forming activities based on Romani law and society such as visiting a person in order to ask for some water. This is related to the prohibition of lack of water in a tent or at a house at night in Romani law. The absence of water, "dryness", has negative connotations in Romani culture. After having visited the house this character can also vomit out some "pulp" which usually turns to be a luck bringing blessing by Mam'orry. This "pulp" could be used as a basis for a "mascot" which brings luck and happiness to its possessor.[36]


Bistrița Monastery; considered a Holy place among Eastern Orthodox Kalderash Roma

The majority of Kalderash Roma follow Christianity, practicing the Eastern Orthodox,[37] Roman Catholic,[38] or Pentecostal[39] denominations. Historically the Kalderash have followed the majority religion of their host country such as Eastern Orthodoxy in Romania and Roman Catholicism in Hungary.[38] However, there has been a rising Pentecostal movement among Kalderash Roma of all countries since at least the 20th century.[39][40]

Notable Kalderash[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hübschmannová, Milena (2003). "Roma – Sub Ethnic Groups". Rombase. Austria: Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz[University of Graz]. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Hancock, Ian (1997). "A glossary of Romani terms" (PDF). The American Journal of Comparative Law. 45 (2). Oxford University Press: 335. doi:10.2307/840853. JSTOR 840853.
  3. ^ The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (May 6, 2021). "Kalderash: Roma Confederation". Roma. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  4. ^ Damodar P. Singhal (1982). Gypsies, Indians in Exile. India: Archana Publications/Folklore Institute (U.S.). ASIN B005KDK3IG. The genealogy of the Gypsies is highly complex, but they are divided into three principal tribal groups– the Kalderash, the Gitanos, and the Manush(also called the Sinti).
  5. ^ a b Lee, Ronald (2001). "Social organization and Rom identity". In Walter O. Weyrauch (ed.). Gypsy Law: Romani Legal Traditions and Culture. University of California Press. pp. 197–201. ISBN 9780520221864.
  6. ^ a b Roger C. Moreau (2002). The Rom: Walking in the Paths of the Gypsies. Canada: Key Porter Books. p. 108. ISBN 9781552634233.
  7. ^ Alexander Varty (July 13, 2011). "Nomadic Caravan's folklore project brings communities closer". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved August 2, 2021. The Rais cite surprising similarities between the metalworking Kalderash of Greece and Italy and their Gadia Lohar counterparts at home.
  8. ^ Romani, Vlax at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  9. ^ Thomas A. Acton (1993). "Rom Migrations and the End of Slavery: A Rejoinder to Fraser". Romani Studies. 3 (2). Edinburgh: Gypsy Lore Society: 77. ProQuest 1299023422. …we hardly find Kalderash away from Romanian-speaking territories before 1800…
  10. ^ Joss Whedon (2017). Lowery A. Woodall (III); Mary Ellen Iatropoulos (eds.). Joss Whedon and Race: Critical Essays. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. p. 132. ISBN 978-1-4766-2657-4. Here the name is Kalderash, designating several groups of Roma who migrated out of present-day Romania (then Wallachia) in the 1860s, when they were liberated after some 500 years of slavery.
  11. ^ Gabriel Troc (2005). "Gypsy reactive culture". Studia Europaea. 50 (1). Studia Universitatis Babeș-Bolyai: 57–68. CiteSeerX ISSN 2065-9563. they migrated en masse out of Romania after the abolition of slavery, phenomenon that is known as the great Kalderash migration
  12. ^ a b Maximoff, Matéo (August 22, 1998). Kalderash New Testament and Psalms/E Nevi Viasta ai O Psalmo (in Romany). Bible Society. ASIN B001R8ZXEC – via Amazon. They spread throughout Ukraine migrating from Bessarabia to the north and east. There are about two hundred thousand Caldarari living in Romania, although the exact number isn't known.
  13. ^ Petru Zoltan; Michael J. Jordan (2010). "Victims of tradition". Transitions Online (7/06). Targu Jiu. Among the most traditional of Romani groups, the Kalderash number about 200,000 in Romania, or 10 percent of a broader Romanian Romani population estimated at up to 2 million.
  14. ^ a b Constatin Marin (2014). "The Ethno-cultural Belongingness of Kalderash, Rudars, Tatars, and Turks in Romania and Bulgaria (1990-2012)". Sociologie Românească. XII (4). Bucharest: Editura Eikon: 5–27. ISSN 1220-5389.
  15. ^ Alexey Pamporov (2007). "Sold Like a Donkey? Bride-Price among the Bulgarian Roma". The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 13 (2). Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland: 471–476. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9655.2007.00437.x. JSTOR 4622960.
  16. ^ Council of Europe/European Union. "Joint Programme: Roma Women's Access to Justice-Bulgaria: Country Profile". Council of Europe. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  17. ^ Bošnjak, Branislava; Acton, Thomas (2013). "Virginity and early marriage customs in relation to children's rights among Chergashe Roma from Serbia and Bosnia". The International Journal of Human Rights. 17 (5–6). Taylor and Francis: 646–667. doi:10.1080/13642987.2013.831697. S2CID 144668895.
  18. ^ Thomas Acton (1995). "Les réfugiés Roms de Bosnie et de Serbie au Royaume-Uni". Chimères: Revue des schizoanalyses (in French). 26. Persée: 89–97. doi:10.3406/chime.1995.2031. ISSN 2111-4412.
  19. ^ a b Aleksandr V. Chernykh (2020). "The Kalderash Gypsies of Russia in Industrial Cooperation of the 1920s–1930s". Social Inclusion. 8 (2). Cogitatio Press: 358–366. doi:10.17645/si.v8i2.2765. ISSN 2183-2803.
  20. ^ Alaina Lemon (1991). "Roma (Gypsies) in the Soviet Union and the Moscow Teatr 'Romen'". Nationalities Papers. 19 (3). Cambridge University Press: 359–372. doi:10.1080/00905999108408208. S2CID 162363520.
  21. ^ Irina Sandul (2004). "Russia: Settlement Blues". Transitions Online (9/28). Prague. ISSN 1214-1615.
  22. ^ a b Maximoff, Matéo (1961). "The Kalderash of Montreuil-Sous-Bois". Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society. Vol. 40. Edinburgh: Gypsy Lore Society. pp. 109–111. ISBN 9789354035609.
  23. ^ Patrick Williams (1982). "The invisibility of the Kalderash of Paris: some aspects of the economic activity and settlement patterns of the Kalderash Rom of the Paris suburbs". Urban Anthropology. 11 (3/4). The Institute, Inc.: 315–346. ISSN 0363-2024. JSTOR 40552980.
  24. ^ Keith Brown (2005). Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (2 ed.). Netherlands: Elsevier Science. ISBN 9780080547848. France 10,000 (population includes 8,000 Kalderash; 2,000 Lovari)
  25. ^ Marcello Truzzi (1974). Sociology for pleasure. United States: Prentice Hall. p. 365. ISBN 9780138212568.
  26. ^ a b William Kornblum, Paul Lichter (1972). "Urban Gypsies and the Culture of Poverty". Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 1 (3). SAGE journals: 239–253. doi:10.1177/089124167200100302. S2CID 144091953.
  27. ^ Anne Sutherland (1986). Gypsies: The Hidden Americans. Waveland press. p. 260. ISBN 9781478610410.
  28. ^ John Walton, Donald E. Carns (1977). Cities in Change: Studies on the Urban Condition. Allyn and Bacon. pp. 237–242. ISBN 9780205055791.
  29. ^ Marquis Who's Who (1979). Standard Education Almanac. United States: Marquis Academic Media. p. 572.
  30. ^ Claude Cahn (2010). "Lawmaking in Traditional Romani Communities and International Human Rights Law and Norms: Case Study of the Real and Potential Role of the Romani Kris". European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online. Vol. 7. The Netherlands: Brill Publishers. ISBN 978-90-04-17990-5. Similarly, the very large Kalderash community of Sweden asserts a community history of Russian origins, although the dialect has evidently Romanian influences
  31. ^ Montesino, Norma (2001). "The 'Gypsy Question' and the Gypsy expert in Sweden". Romani Studies. 11 (1). Liverpool University Press: 1–23. doi:10.3828/rs.2001.1.
  32. ^ Mahmoud Keshavarz; Christina Zetterlund (2019). "The Politics of Borders in the Emergence of Modern Swedish Craft" (PDF). The Journal of Modern Craft. 12 (1). Taylor and Francis: 13–24. doi:10.1080/17496772.2019.1568017. S2CID 164809310.
  33. ^ Hansen, Björn; de Haan, Ferdinand (2009). Modals in the Languages of Europe. Walter de Gruyter. p. 307. ISBN 978-3-11-021920-3.
  34. ^ Carliane Sandes Alves Gomes, Cássio Lopes da Cruz Novo (2020). "Blessings Lives: Queen of the Place's Multiterritorialities". Novos Olhares Sociais (in Portuguese). 3 (2). Cachoeira: Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia: 136–158. ISSN 2596-2833.
  35. ^ a b Lee, Ronald (2002). "The Romani Goddess Kali Sara". kopachi.com. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  36. ^ Kozhanov K; Chernykh A (2016). "Мифологические персонажи цыган-кэлдэраров: "мамёрры"" [Mythological Characters among the Kalderash Roma: "Mam'orry"]. Традиционная культура (in Russian). 4 (64). Russia: Center Russian Folklore: 135–146. ISSN 2410-6658.
  37. ^ "Gathering of Roma". CBS News. September 10, 2013. Retrieved August 11, 2021.
  38. ^ a b Sway, Marlene (2004). "Gypsies". In Janice L. Reiff; Ann Durkin Keating; James R. Grossman (eds.). The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 559. ISBN 0-226-31015-9. OCLC 54454572.
  39. ^ a b Cerasela Voiculescu (2016). "Romani Pentecostalism vs semilogical state apparatus of capture". European Social Integration and the Roma: Questioning Neoliberal Governmentality. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis. pp. 150–155. ISBN 9781317483762.
  40. ^ Thurfjell, David (2013). Faith and Revivalism in a Nordic Romani Community: Pentecostalism Amongst the Kaale Roma of Sweden and Finland. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 43–45. ISBN 9780857722324. Pentecostalism has continued to grow among the Swedish Kalderash
  41. ^ Mihaela Mudure (2009). "Ronald Lee: A Canadian Roma Writer". European Landmarks of Identity. 2 (5). Piteşti: Editura Universităţii din Piteşti: 306–312. ISSN 1843-1577. Lee's father was a Kalderash musician
  42. ^ Donald Kendrick (2007). Historical Dictionary of the Gypsies (Romanies). United States: Scarecrow Press (Rowman & Littlefield). p. 44. ISBN 9780810864405.
  43. ^ Hélène Lenz (2010). "De Anton Pann à Matéo Maximoff. Le genre de l'adaptation". Études Tsiganes (in French). 3 (43). FNASAT: 30–43. doi:10.3917/tsig.043.0030.
  44. ^ a b Christina Zetterlund (2019). "Beauty and Struggle: An article about the jewellery artist Rosa Taikon" (PDF). Bulletin Muzea Romské Kultury (27): 60. ISSN 1212-0707. The family were Kalderash Roma who came to Sweden from Russia through Finland

Further reading[edit]