500 years of slavery

500 years of slavery

For those Roma who reached Rumania their long trek across Europe came to an abrupt end. When the Roma arrived here in the 14th century they were forced into slavery, becoming possessions of the state, monasteries or private citizens. Their owners were free to do as they wished with them, short of killing them. As slaves they were bought, sold or given away.

It took 500 years before other nations reacted to the treatment of Romani people in Rumania. Step by step, slavery was abolished in Rumania, and by about 1860 all Romani subjects were free. However, they remained fully dependent on local landowners and authorities even after their liberation. Many Roma tried once again to make a living by itinerant peddling of their skills. Others moved into the towns. Many chose to leave for Western Europe and the USA.

500 years of slavery

Slave market

Romani slaves worked in agriculture, in households and as craftsmen. Those owned by the state were freer and travelled about as artisans, gold-washers, ironmongers or bear trainers. They had to donate part of their annual incomes to the state. In Romania, the slavery of Romani was abolished at the same time as slavery in the USA.

Source: Ian F. Hancock, The pariah syndrome: an account of Gypsy slavery and persecution, Karoma Publishers, 1987. Ian F. Hancock, We Are the Romani People, Univ of Hertfordshire Press, 2002.