Romani people in Serbia

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Romani people in Serbia
Total population
147,604 (2011)
Romani, Serbian, Romanian, Albanian, Hungarian
Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Sunni Islam, Roman Catholic

Romani people or Roma (Serbian: Роми, Цигани) are the third largest ethnic group in Serbia, numbering 147,604 (2.1%) according to the 2011 census. However, due to a legacy of poor birth registration, as well as a fear of discrimination when reporting their identity to the census,[1][2] this number is likely underestimated.

Another name used for the community, often with a negative connotation, is Cigani (Цигани). Several migrational waves of Romani people to Serbia are recorded from Romania, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are divided into numerous subgroups, with different, although related, Romani dialects and history. The community has produced several notable musicians. Adding to a very large indigenous Roma population in Serbia which counts among the largest in the Balkans, anywhere between 46,000[3] to 97,000[4] Roma are internally displaced from Kosovo after 1999.


Main sub-groups include "Turkish Gypsies" (Turski Cigani), "White Gypsies" (Beli Cigani), "Wallachian Gypsies" (Vlaški Cigani) and "Hungarian Gypsies" (Mađarski Cigani), as studied by scholar Tihomir Đorđević (1868–1944).[5]

  • Wallachian Roma. Migrated from Romania, through Banat.[6] They have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy and mostly speak Serbian fluently.[7] They are assumed to be the largest Romani group in the country.[7] They are related to the Turkish Roma.[6] T. Đorđević noted several sub-groups.[8]
  • Turkish Roma, also known as Arlia. Migrated from Turkey.[9] At the beginning of the 19th century the Turkish Roma lived mainly in southeastern Serbia, in what was the Sanjak of Niš.[10] The Serbian government attempted to force Orthodoxy on them after the conquest of the sanjak (1878), but without particular success.[10] They are mainly Muslims.[10] T. Đorđević noted an internal division between old settlers and new settlers, who had differing traditions, speech, family organization and occupations.[5]
    • "White Gypsies", arrived later than other Romani groups, at the end of the 19th century,[6] from Bosnia and Herzegovina.[9] Permanently settled mostly in towns.[6] Serbian-speakers.[6] Sub-group of Turkish Roma.[6] T. Đorđević noted them as living in Podrinje and Mačva, being Muslim, and that they had lost their language.[5]
  • Hungarian Roma.


Roma family in Serbia, 1905

Romani, or "gypsies", arrived in Serbia in several waves.[11] The first reference to gypsies in Serbia is found in a 1348 document, by which Serbian emperor Stefan Dušan donated some gypsy slaves to a monastery in Prizren (now in Kosovo).[12] In the 15th century, Romani migrations from Hungary are mentioned.[11]

In 1927, a Serbian-Romani humanitarian organization was founded.[13] In 1928, a Romani singing society was founded in Niš.[13] In 1932, a Romani football club was founded.[13] In 1935, a Belgrade student established the first Romani magazine, Romani Lil, and in the same year a Belgrade Romani association was founded.[13] In 1938, an educational organization of Yugoslav Romani was founded.[13]


The Romani people in Central Serbia are predominantly Eastern Orthodox but a minority of Muslim Romani exists (notably recent refugees from Kosovo), mainly in the southern Serbia. Romani people in multi-ethnic Vojvodina are integrated with other ethnic groups, especially with Serbs, Romanians and Hungarians. For this reason, depending of the group with which they are integrated, Romani are usually referred to as Serbian Romani, Romanian Romani, Hungarian Romani, etc.

The majority of Romani people are Christian and a minority are Muslim. They speak mainly Romani and Serbian. Some also speak the language of other people they have been influenced by: Romanian, Hungarian or Albanian. Đurđevdan (or Ederlezi) is a traditional feast day of Romani in Serbia. In October 2005 the first text on the grammar of the Romani language in Serbia was published by linguist Rajko Đurić, titled Gramatika e Rromane čhibaki - Граматика ромског језика.


Romani minority in Serbia (2002 census).

There are 147,604 Romani people in Serbia, but unofficial estimates put the figure up to 450,000-550,000.[14] Between 23,000-100,000 Serbian Roma are internally displaced persons from Kosovo.[3][4]

Census Population Notes
1866 24,607
1895 46,000
1921 34,919 Analysis of census (including SR Serbia and SR Macedonia).[8]
1948 52,181
1953 58,800
1961 9,826
1971 49,894
1981 110,959
1991 94,492
2002 108,193
2011 147,604


According to the 2011 Census, most Roma in Serbia are Christians (62.7%). A majority belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church (55.9%), followed by Catholics (3.3%) and various Protestant churches (2.5%). There is also a significant Muslim Roma community living in Serbia, with 24.8% of all Roma being Muslim. A large part of the Roma people did not declare their religion. [15]

Political parties[edit]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "UNICEF Serbia - Real lives - Life in a day: connecting Roma communities to health services (and more)". Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  2. ^ (, Deutsche Welle. "Roma: Discriminated in Serbia, unwanted in Germany | Germany | DW | 10.08.2015". DW.COM. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Wayback Machine". 1 January 2016. Archived from the original on 1 January 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. ^ a b Relief, UN (2010). "Roma in Serbia (excluding Kosovo) on 1st January 2009" (PDF). UN Relief. 8 (1).
  5. ^ a b c IFDT 2005, p. 21.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Vlahović 2004, p. 67.
  7. ^ a b Human Rights and Collective Identity: Serbia 2004. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. 1 January 2005. ISBN 978-86-7208-106-0.
  8. ^ a b IFDT 2005, p. 22.
  9. ^ a b Sait Balić (1989). Džanglimasko anglimasqo simpozium I Romani ćhib thaj kultura. Institut za proučavanje nacionalnih odnosa--Sarajevo. p. 53.
  10. ^ a b c Adrian Marsh; Elin Strand (22 August 2006). Gypsies and the Problem of Identities: Contextual, Constructed and Contested. Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul. p. 180. ISBN 978-91-86884-17-8.
  11. ^ a b Vlahović 2004, p. 66.
  12. ^ Djordjević , T.R. (1924). Iz Srbije Kneza Milosa. Stanovnistvo—naselja. Beograd: Geca Kon.
  13. ^ a b c d e IFDT 2005, p. 23.
  14. ^ "Wayback Machine" (PDF). 13 January 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  15. ^ Population by national affiliation and religion, Census 2011[1]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]