Romano Museum


Socialist Time

The racism of domination or internal colonization culminated, as far as the Roma are concerned, with the policy of ethnic assimilation from the period of the socialist regime, a policy of egalitarianism that was mostly proclaimed and less applied in-depth, which proposed the creation of a human new non-ethnic, cosmopolitan, amorphous from the point of view of minority cultures.

Moreover, while socialism is by definition cosmopolitan, internationalist, and may even encourage equality, at least culturally recorded majority and minorities, as happened in Tito's Yugoslavia, where minority cultures, including Romani literature, were they enjoyed a policy of development and promotion, instead Romanian socialism was of a nationalist, ethnocentric, mono-cultural type, its policy being one of cultural assimilation of national minorities, except for the Hungarian and German minorities, and of promotion, almost exclusively, of the majority Romanian national culture, of Romanian values and personalities from the past and present, as well as making heroes out of Romanian historical figures, even if they were medieval despots, who, as expected, flagrantly contravened socialist principles and values, much proclaimed egalitarians. This romantic nationalism was characterized by the concern for the reconstruction of the values of the past, the importance given to the Latin origin and national history, and the promotion of national traditions, customs, and traditions; on the social side, the ideologies of the Romanian national emancipation movements promoted the abolition of the traditional privileges of those of other ethnicities, from the states where the Romanians lived, and the equality of the Romanians everywhere, both with the cohabiting minorities (generally dominant, except the Roma, Bulgarians, Ruthenians or the Lipovians), as well as between them.

Consequently, only those national minorities that succeeded the empires - Hungarian and German - were recognized and promoted, for which Romania had signed, in 1919, the Treaty on Minorities, a political gesture that conditioned the recognition of the union with Transylvania - and which enjoyed the protection and support mother countries, the latter being, at the time, members of the socialist bloc (Hungarian People's Republic and the German Democratic Republic). 

In the wake of Stalin's renewed mistrust of nationalities that undermine the unity of the communist bloc, the Bucharest regime decided that the issue of "cohabiting nationalities should be subordinated to the priority tasks of the proletariat" (Tismăneanu Report, 2007). Now the priority is given to the Democratic Committees of the minorities: Jewish, Russian and Ukrainian, Albanian, Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, Tatar, and Turkish. Along with the German Anti-Fascist Committee and the Hungarian Autonomous Region (1952-1967), they were all organizational mechanisms created to empty the community life of minorities of substance by including it in state structures, including through the nationalization of assets. From this picture of the minorities, the lack of a Democratic Committee can also be seen in the case of the Roma. The issue of Roma best expresses the assimilating ideal of the communist regime, first on class criteria and then on ethnic criteria disguised in the phrase "working people", which could only be Romanian.

Uniformization based on social criteria and the denial of ethnic differences within Ceaușescu's "multilaterally developed socialist society" was the next step the regime took in the issue of minorities.

During the 40 years of the socialist regime, the Roma were not recognized as a national minority, their ethnic identity being systematically denied, through an assimilationist state policy, in a society where everyone was Romanian, where idea was to be Romanian, in which the Roma were honored to be assimilated to the Romanians, in which the only chance of social mobility was naturalization as an ethnic Romanian by concealing or rejecting the ethnic identity. The Roma denied their ethnic affiliation and made efforts towards total acculturation integrated into that socialist society.

The Roma, few, who did not accept this undifferentiated mimicry, were the Roma from the traditional communities, speaking the Romanian language, who, keeping their language and traditions, remained "unintegrated" and were considered deviant, retrograde, reluctant to work and school education, having a "parasitic way of life" and "backward conceptions of life" "which constitute a defiance of the rules of social coexistence". For them, the response of the socialist regime characterized the Roma in terms reminiscent of the Nazi discourse and carried out a policy of isolation and abandonment, but also of systematic sanctions by banning the practice of traditional jobs, banning nomadism and forced sedentarization, marginal integration, taking over children and interning them in children's homes and confiscating gold, the only valuable asset of the traditional Roma at that time.

The consequences of this policy of assimilation were at least two: on the one hand, the increase of individual self-esteem (representations of the self) and group (representations of my family/nation, which includes a form of gratitude, today called nostalgia for the socialist regime, but also the bitterness that the ethnic identity had to be hidden, and on the other hand, the decrease in ethnic self-esteem (the representations of the Roma ethnicity): "If there were no communists, I would have remained a blacksmith with my father. That's how I went to college. Communism was the only period in the history of the Roma when we also had a backbone!"; "Grandmother was illiterate, father went to college, I have a doctorate! That was communism! But we hid that we are Roma!"; "Gypsy, Romanian, at that time it didn't matter, we all did it better!"; "It was better for the gypsies in the time of the communists!"; "Back then we were all Romanians, only now they make us gypsies! It's just that we don't know gypsies, we don't wear long skirts!".

The non-assumption of ethnic identity, as a natural result of this policy of suppression of ethnic belonging, is manifested above all by the rejection of ethnic identity: "We are not Gypsies, we are relatives!"; "We are not gypsies, we are Romanians, we don't speak gypsy, we don't wear long skirts!"; "What are we, Gypsies? We are clean, we are honest, we speak nicely!"; "I have a job, I'm not a gypsy!"; "We are Romanians, we have our houses, we just don't stay in tents!".

The results of such a policy were marginal social integration and cultural ethnocide.

dr. Delia Grigore/ Translation: Victoria Ducu

Chamber of Secrets

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Was the majority of Roma in Romania subjected to a process of cultural assimilation during the socialist regime?