Romani people in Greece

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The Romani people of Greece are called Arlije/Erlides, Tsiganoi or the more derogatory term Gyftoi (Gypsies). The number of Roma in Greece is currently estimated to be between 200,000 and 300,000 people.



According to genetic evidence the Romani people originated from India.[1]

The Romani people originate from the Northern India,[2][3][4][5][6][7] presumably from the northwestern Indian states Rajasthan[8][9] and Punjab.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in northwestern India and migrated as a group.[3][4][13] 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.[14]

Arrival into the Balkans[edit]

The history of Roma in Greece goes back to the 15th century. The name Gypsy sometimes used for the Romani people was first given to them by the Greeks, who supposed them to be Egyptian in origin. Due to their nomadic nature, they are not concentrated in a specific geographical area, but are dispersed all over the country. The majority of the Greek Roma are Orthodox Christians who speak the Romani language in addition to Greek. Most of the Roma who live in Western Thrace are Muslims and speak a dialect of the same language.[15]


(Greek: Gyftomahala, Gyftika)

The Roma in Greece live scattered on the whole territory of the country, mainly in the suburbs. Notable centres of Romani life in Greece are Agia Varvara which has a very successful Romani community and Ano Liosia where conditions are less well. However, between 1998-2002, 502 Albanian Roma children disappeared from the Greek Foundation for children Agia Varvara.[16] These cases were not investigated by the Greek authorities until the European Union forced an investigation, which only led to the recovering of 4 children. The children who were sold by the state were presumably sold to human traffickers for sexual slavery or organ harvesting, according to a report submitted by the Greek government to the European Commission. [17] [18] Roma largely maintain their own customs and traditions. Although a large number of Roma has adopted a sedentary and urban way of living, there are still settlements in some areas. The nomads at the settlements often differentiate themselves from the rest of the population. They number 200,000 according to the Greek government. According to the National Commission for Human Rights that number is closer to 250,000 and according to the Greek Helsinki Watch group to 300,000.[15]

As a result of neglect by the state, among other factors, the Romani communities in Greece face several problems including high instances of child labour and abuse, low school attendance, police discrimination and drug trafficking. The most serious issue is the housing problem since many Roma in Greece still live in tents, on properties they do not own, making them subject to eviction. In the past decade these issues have received wider attention and some state funding. [15]

On two occasions, the European Committee of Social Rights found Greece to violate the European Social Charter by its policy towards Roma in the field of housing.[19][20]


The majority of the Greek Roma are Orthodox Christian and have taken a Greek identity (language, names) while a small part of them, the Muslim Roma concentrated in Thrace have adopted Turkish identities.

Music and dance[edit]

Roma in Greece are known for the zurna and davul duos (analogous to the shawm and drum partnership common in Romani music) and Izmir-influenced koumpaneia music. Koumpaneia has long been popular among Greek Roma and Jews (the latter being some of the most popular performers before World War II).

The Romani people are also known for their great skills in belly-dancing.

Notable Roma from Greece[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rajasthan turns out to be the 'baap' of Euro gypsies, DNA India, December 2, 2012 
  2. ^ 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’
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ a b Sindya N. Bhanoo (11 December 2012). "Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Current Biology.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ [4]
  10. ^ [5]
  11. ^ 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 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ "5 Intriguing Facts About the Roma". Live Science. 
  14. ^ 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 
  15. ^ a b c Hellenic Republic: National Commission for Human Rights: The state of Roma in Greece
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ ECSR decision on the complaint no 15/2003
  20. ^ ECSR decision on the complaint no 49/2008

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