Soviet Union

Soviet Union
   Estimated Gypsy population in 1991: over 500,000. For a short time after the success of the 1917 Revolution, the Gypsies in the newly formed Soviet Union were given rights as an ethnic group in exchange for supporting communism. Nomadism was discouraged. In 1926, the Soviet Communist Party's Central Committee issued the decree "On Measures for Aiding the Transition of Nomadic Gypsies to a Working and Settled Way of Life." This encouraged Gypsies to adopt a settled life and accept land in each Union republic. By 1938 there were 52 Romany collective farms (kolkhozi). However, many Gypsies resisted land settlement, initiating a further settlement decree in 1928. The main factor in the resistance was caused by the change from the tradition of working in extended family groups and inexperience in farming. Large-scale workshops (arteli) were also created, such as the Natsmenbit metal workshop in Leningrad, which employed 200 people.
   In 1925 the All-Russian Union of Gypsies was formed, headed by Andrei Taranov from Siberia, with Ivan Rom-Lebedev as its secretary. It pressed for Gypsies to be classed as a nation and achieved this status the same year. The authorities later took advantage of some irregularities in the accounts of the union to dissolve it. The Romani dialect of the Haladitka was approved as a language for official use within the USSR the following year. In 1927 the influential journal Romani Zorya (Romani Dawn) published its first issue. Wall posters in Romani were seen that year, and the All-Russian Union recorded 640 members. In 1929 a popular library series began publication, Bibliotéka Vase Skoli Nabut Siklyakirde Manusenge (Library for Schools for People with Little Education). The series included Nevo dziben [New Life], edited by Aleksandr German, and Nikolai Pankov's Buti i dzinaiben [Work and Knowledge]. The Romengiro Lav (Romani Word) writer's circle in Moscow had among its members Rom-Lebedev, poet Pankov, teacher Nina Dudarova, and G. Lebedev. Cultural clubs were set up in Simferopol and elsewhere. A first reader for schools Dzidi buti [Living Things] by Pankov and Dudarova was published the following year, as was a story Baxt [Fortune] by Rom-Lebedev and Nevo Gav [New Village], an agricultural magazine edited by Alexandr Taranov. In 1930, too, four schools were opened using the Romani language.
   In 1931 the Soviet policy promoted dramas in the languages of national minorities, but the theaters were not intended to promote separatism. A specially commissioned play with a message of integration Romano Drom [Romany Way], was a success and led to the creation of the Gypsy Teatr Romen later that year.
   In the period 1928-1938, an educational program flourished, and in due course 86 Gypsy schools were opened and teacher-training colleges and courses established. There were more than 40 Romany medical students at Smolensk. Alongside these educational developments were more publications - for example, Maksim Sergievski's Grammar of Romani and his Romani-Russian dictionary written jointly with linguist Aleksei Barannikov.
   In 1931 the first issue of a second journal, Nevo Drom (New Way) appeared with a 1,000-copy run and some 28 pages in size. Publication continued through the sixth issue, in June 1932, with political, literary, children's, and chess sections. Pankov translated a treatise on agricultural problems. In 1935 Aleksandr German published a collection of short stories and plays, Ganka Chyamba, i vavre rosphenibena [Ganka Chyamba and Other Stories]. Leo Tolstoy's children's stories about animals were translated into Romani as Rosphenibena vas zivotnonenge.
   All this activity came abruptly to a halt when, in January 1938, the Central Committee of the Communist Party ordered an end to all cultural activity in Romani and 15 other minority languages. The schools were closed and a number of intellectuals, such as Averiand Voitiehovski, were executed. Others were sent to labor camps in Siberia. Only the Teatr Romen was to survive, with the Russian language playing a larger part in the performances. World War II and the Holocaust followed and not until 1970 was any further publication to appear in Romani.
   Soon after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 by Nazi Germany, the Einsatzgruppen (Task Forces) and other units set about killing Jews and Gypsies. Task Force B shot, and in some cases buried alive, 1,000 Gypsies at Rodnya near Smolensk, while Task Force D murdered more than 800 Gypsies in Simferopol in the Crimea in December 1941. Ivan Tokmakov, who had been in charge of the Communist Party's Gypsy program and who looked after the Gypsy collective farms, was executed by the Germans. Many Gypsies served in the Soviet armed forces, such as naval hero Ivan Ko-zlovski, while others joined the partisans. More than 30,000 Gypsies were murdered, representing about half of the population of the occupied territories.
   After 1945, Josef Stalin's rule became even more despotic. The remaining Romany collective farms were abandoned, forcing Gypsies to move to non-Gypsy farms. A number of Sinti Gypsies were deported to the east, as were many Tatar-speaking Gypsies from the Crimea. After Stalin's death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev, his successor, adopted policies in 1956 that aimed at finally destroying the nomadic traditions of the Romanies. In 1956 nomadism was forbidden by the law "On Reconciling Wandering Gypsies to Work." Some Gypsies resisted sedentarization by traveling around farms for seasonal labor or working as herdsmen moving from pasture to pasture.
   The Gypsy Writers Club was set up for writers in the Russian language, but writing in Romani was still discouraged. The first census after World War II registered 130,000 Gypsies in the whole of the Soviet Union (including the Asian republics), but many Gypsies put themselves down as belonging to another nationality. Under Leonid Brezhnev after 1964, some liberalization occurred in the USSR. In 1970 the first publication in Romani since 1938 appeared when Georgi Kantea published in the Moldavian SSR a collection of poems, proverbs, and tales in the Ursari dialect. Prominent Gypsy writers in the Russian language included Kantea himself, Karlis Rudje-vics in Latvia, Aleksandr Belugins (Leksa Manus) in Moscow, and Vano Romano in the Altai region. Nikolai Satkievitch published some of his own poetry and reopened Gypsy schools in Siberia.
   Romanies began to outstrip the average of population growth in the 1980s, when the census recorded 210,000 Gypsies, with 74 percent claiming Romani as their mother tongue. With the advent in 1985 of a new national leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, freedom was in the air with glasnost (openness) and perestroïka (restructuring). Gypsy culture thrived but was, until 1990, largely cut off from international contact. Then, government officials in 1990 allowed Gypsies to attend the fourth World Romany Congress near Warsaw, which heralded a growth in Soviet Romanies' participation in international Gypsy affairs.

Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . .

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