USAHA WARUNG BAKSO “RSM”
Disusun Oleh :
Dhokhiy Mustofa Akbar
Di era global sekarang ini keadaan ekonomi di Indonesia memang sangat memprihatinkan sejak krisis ekonomi yang melnda bangsa Indonesia membuat banyak masyarakat yang kehilangan pekerjaan dan pengangguran.Banyak kejehatan yang terjadi dimana mana terlebih lebih di kota kota besar seperti Jakarta.banyak para pengusaha yang bangkrut kemudia gulung tikar.Banyak para remaja yang putus sekolah dan menjadi pengangguran.Sebagai warga Negara kreatif kita tidak boleh putus asaataupun pantang menyerah pada keadaan sekarang ini yang serba sulit kita harus berusaha,kreatif,inovatif dan berani mengambil suatu keputusanserta resiko untuk menciptakan lapangan pekerjaan sendiri.kita tidak harus bergantung pada orang lain. Untuk mendapatkan suatu pekerjaan kita harus berusaha semaksimal mungkin.Salah satu usaha yang dilakukan untuk mengurangi pengangguran yaitu dengan berwira usaha.Dengan kita berwira usaha kita bisa belajar mandiri dan bisa memaknai arti penting kehidupan secara tidak langsung kita sudah membantu banyak orang.
Akan tetapi, beriwarusaha saja belum cukup karena dipelukan kreativitas pada produknya, sehingga saya berpikir untuk membuat bakso yang berbahan dasar buah-buahan. Hal ini juga berguna untuk mengingatkan pada konsumen akan pentingnya makanan yang sehat, namun murah, karenanya saya namai bakso “RMS” dari kepanjangan Rancak Bana, Murah, dan Sehat.
2. LATAR BELAKANG
Usaha ini berawal dari kecintaan saya terhadap makna bakso.Setiap saya makan bakso rasanya cumc itu itu saja kemudian saya berinsiatif untuk membuka warung bakso yang berbeda dengan warung warung bakso lainnya.Setelah saya amati usahanini belum banyak dan jarang di temui di lingkungan rumah saya. Dari informasi-informasi yang saya peroleh dan menurut pandangan saya usaha ini akan mencapai kesikseasan dan maju. Dalam mendirikan usaha ini saya juga meringankan biaya-biaya yangakan saya butuhkan dan dalam usaha ini saya belum membutuhkan tenaga kerja karyawan.Untuk dapat mengatasi segala rintangan yang kami hadapi. Dalam menjalankan usaha ini membuthukan kemantapan dan keuletan dalam menjalankanya. Saya juga akan bersungguh-sungguh dalam mengelola warung ini sebaik mungkin. Begitu besarnya biaya usaha yang dibutuhkan,saya tidak akan main-main dalam usaha ini.
3 .PROSPEK USAHA
Usaha mendrikan warung bakso ini diperlukan dana kira-kira Rp.2.500.000 untuk keperluan membeli peralatan-peralatan yang diperlukan seperti:meja,kompor,tikar, peralatan makan dll.
Adapun biaya yang kami keluarkan adalah sebagai berikut:
~ Modal tetap :
1.meja panjang 3 buah+tikar Rp 250.000,00
2.alat dapur+makan Rp 400.000,00
3.kompor Rp 100.000,00
4.sewa tempat 1 th Rp 1.200.000,00 +
Jumlah Rp. 1.950.000,00
~ Modal lancar perhari :
1.Buah-buahan Rp 250.000,00
2.mie Rp 25.000,00
3.bumbu-bumbu+sayuran Rp 40.000,00
4.tepung Rp 75.000,00
5.pangsit+tahu Rp 20.000,00
6.saos,kecap+sambal Rp 20.000,00
7bahan minuman Rp 50.000,00 +
Jumlah Rp 500.000,00 +
Total modal Rp. 2.450.000,00
~ Perolehan tiap hari :
Dalam usaha ini saya magajak kakak dan orang tua saya untuk membantu mendirikan warung bakso serta hal-hal yang perlu disiapkan untuk melayani pembeli dengan baik. Kami juga menyediakan menu makanan yang lain seperti:
> Bakso Bakar/Goreng
> Sate Bakso
> Bakso Kuah
*Dengan bahan atau isian buah sesuai dengan menu yang disiapkan (tiap bulan berubah) dan ada juga yang campur (bahan buah sesaui dengan buah yang dipakai pada bulan itu)
Sarta menyediakan aneka minuman seperti:
> Es Jeruk > Es sumsum
> Es Teh > Es Buah
> Es Kopyor > Dan sebagainya…
> Es Soda
4. ESTIMASI KEUNTUNGAN
1.Jumlah rata-rata pembelian perhari adalah 15 konsumen
2.Nilai jual rata-rata 1 hari = Rp 5.000
Rp 5.000 x167 = Rp. 85.000
Rp 4.500 x17 = Rp. 76.000 +
Pendapatan kotor Rp. 161.000
Pendapatan perbulan Rp 161.000 x 30 = Rp 4.830.000
Biaya perbulan Rp 115.000 x 30 = Rp 3.450.000
Pendapatan Rp. 4.830.000
Biaya Rp. 3.450.000 -
Pendapatan bersih Rp1.380.000
Perhitungan balik modal
Total modal = Rp 1.945.000 = 1,4 tahun
Laba bersih Rp1.380.000
5.FAKTOR PENGHAMBAT DAN PENGDUKUNG
Setip usaha yang dijalankan setiap waktu pasti ada yang sukses dan ada yang belum sukses seperti halnya usaha ini ada beberapa faktor yang menurut saya sangat mendukung serta menghambat dalam menjalankannya serta mangembangkan usaha ini.Di bawah ini adalah faktor-faktor yang pendukung dan penghambat :
Faktor-faktor yang mendukung itu antara lain :
1.Lokasi ini yang mudah dicari dan Strategis
2.Usaha ini masih langka /jarang dilokasi lingkungan rumah saya ,sehingga pesaingnya masih jarang dan dengan mudah untuk mendapatkan pelanggan yang banyak.
3.harganya tidak begitu mahal dikalangan masyrakat menengah kebawah
4.Di lingkungan rumah saya banyak warga yan sibuk bekerja sehingga tidak sempat untuk memesak kemungkinan besar mereka akan jajan.
5. Mudah mendapatkan barang baku dan juga murah, selain itu beberapa buah juga tidak mudah busuk
* Selain faktor yang mendukung seperti yang disebutkan diatas ada juga faktor yang menghambat:
* Faktor-faktor tersebut adalah :
1.Keterbatasan dana yang kami miliki dalam membagi dana belanja.
2.Kadang ada bakso yang tidak laku terjual akan membuat usaha kami menjadi merugi, karean beberapa buah ada yang cepat busuk.
Solusi agar dapat memecahkan masalah dalam factor penghambat dalam usaha yang akan kami dirikan:
1.Dengan keterbatasan dana belanja kita harus berhati-hati dalam mengeluarkan uang
2.Untuk mengatasi bakso yang masih sisa kita akan membuatnya menjadi kripik bakso.
3.Dalam mengatasi ancaman bakso yang busuk karena beberapa buah tidak tahan lama, kami menerapkan sistem Just in Time pada pemasakan bakso pada kuali, dengan kata lain kami juga menyediakan sediaan bakso yang dibekukan di freezer
6. STRUKTUR ORGANISASI
7. ATISIPASI MASA DEPAN
Sebagai seorang wirausahawan saya akan menekuni usaha ini dan saya berinsiatif untuk membuat aneka bakso misalnya bakso kurcaci,Bakso gelas ,mie bakso dll. Kami akan berusaha untuk memajukan dan mengembangkan usaha ini dan menurut saya usaha warung bakso ini dapat memberikan penghasilan yang cukup untuk kebutuhan sehari-hari.Kami dan tentunya usaha ini akan menjamin masa depan kami
Menurut pandangan saya usaha ini akan berkembang dan mencapai kesuksesan.Meskipun zaman sekarang ini banyak warung makan yang mewah tetapi saya sangat optimis bahwa usaha ini akan berkembang dan memberi harapan yang sangat menjanjiakan.Saya akan berusaha dengan kemampuan yang saya miliki agar usaha ini dapat berjalan lancar untuk melaksanakan ussaha ini dengan tidak pantang menyerah dengan segala kendala dan rintangan yang mungkin terjadi setiap saat.Saya juga akan bersungguh-sungguh dalam mengelola warung ini sebaik mungkin. Begitu besarnya biaya usaha yang dibutuhkan,saya tidak akan main-main dalam usaha ini.
Peraih nobel di bidang ekonomi pada tahun 1998 Amartya Sen pernah berkata penyebab dari langgengnya kemiskinan, ketidakberdayaan, maupun keterbelakangan adalah persoalan aksesibilitas. Hal ini terlihat begitu benar jika kita mengamati fenomena betapa sulitnya masyarakat yang kurang mampu untuk mendapatkan akses terhadap modal. Hambatan untuk mendapatkan permodalan begitu banyak terutama dari bank yang mensyaratkan adanya jaminan. Terlebih lagi, jeratan tengkulak begitu membahayakan karena bunga yang sangat mencekik.
Melihat fakta demikian Muhammad Yunus berusaha mewujudkan dunia tanpa kemiskinan dengan Grameen Bank, sebuah bank yang memberikan kredit kepada masyarakat kurang mampu tanpa mensyaratkan jaminan. Cita-cita dan semangatnya begitu mulia, sehingga beliau pun mendapatkan anugerah yang luar biasa, Nobel di bidang perdamaian.
Namun, sangat disayangkan semangat ini tidak dijalankan dengan metode yang dibenarkan oleh pedoman agama. Prof. Mannan mengungkapkan fakta bahwa bunga pinjaman di Grameen Bank mencapai 86%. Tidak heran desa kebanggaan Grameen Bank sekalipun, Hillari Pally, tidak bisa membayar hutang mereka hingga 12 tahun. Imbasnya, tanah desa mereka pun harus disita. Dari sinilah ide ini lahir #jengjengjeng.
…. adalah sebuah wadah yang mempertemukan masyarakat kurang mampu untuk mendapatkan modal usaha tanpa jaminan dan sesuai dengan syariah. … memberikan kemudahan bagi masyarakat kurang mampu untuk bisa mempublikasikan pengajuan modal usaha mereka. Kami tidak bertindak sebagai perantara, hanya penyambung informasi sehingga insya Allah program kami tidak melanggar larangan agama.
Tidak hanya membantu masyarakat kurang mampu mendapatkan modal, kami juga secara intens memberikan pendampingan kepada peminjam. Sehingga usaha dari masyarakat kurang mampu dapat memiliki kompetensi yang cukup untuk bersaing dalam rangka meningkatkan kesejahteraan mereka.
Media yang digunakan adalah online. Cara kerja dari … adalah:
- Calon peminjam mendatangi …. dan mendaftar untuk menjadi peminjam. … juga akan secara aktif untuk menjemput bola dengan cara menawarkan kepada masyarakat kurang mampu yang mampu dijangkau untuk menjadi calon peminjam di …
- …. akan mengecek kondisi calon peminjam dengan survey lapangan, wawancara intensif, dan lainnya yang diperlukan dalam rangka untuk:
- mengetahui bahwa peminjam bisa dipercaya dan memiliki etos kerja yang baik
- mengurangi kemungkinan si peminjam untuk kabur tanpa membayar
- ide usaha yang akan dijalankan realistis dan dapat berkembang
- …. akan mempublish di website profile dari calon peminjam yang berisi data: Usaha yang akan dijalankan, lama usaha, jumlah pinjaman, deskripsi singkat, peminjam, dll
- 1. Pemilik modal memilih peminjam yang akan dipinjami dari website ….. Jika sudah tertarik, peminjam dan pemilik modal berinteraksi untuk menegosiasikan jumlah pinjaman yang diberikan, bagi hasil yang disepakati, jangka waktu dan berbagai akad lainnya yang diperlukan dan sesuai dengan syariah. Kedua pihak disarankan untuk melakukan pertemuan secara tatap muka.
- 2. … Pemilik modal memberikan modal usaha kepada peminjam dengan … sebagai saksinya.
- 3. … secara intens mengecek kondisi dari peminjam, rutin memotivasi mereka, dan memberikan pendampingan kepada mereka.
Ide ini sangat mudah untuk dijalankan. Instrumen yang dibutuhkan antara lain
1. Tim manajemen berisi .. orang yang memiliki fungsi:
a. web administrator,
bertugas untuk mengurus website dari … mulai dari memasukkan profile peminjam ke website, mempublikasikan program,
b. field partnert
bertugas untuk mengembangkan potensi dari peminjam dan memastikan usaha dari peminjam dapat berjalan dengan baik. Juga, bertugas untuk mencari masyarakat kurang mampu untuk menjadi peminjam di ….
c. administrasi dan humas
Usaha yang baik adalah usaha yang dapat terus berlangsung tanpa bergantung sepenuhnya pada bantuan orang lain.
… tidak memberikan jaminan bahwa setiap modal yang diberikan pasti akan memberikan hasil kepada pemilik modal. … meningkatkan kepercayaan pemilik modal dengan cara rutin mengecek kondisi mereka, memotivasi, dan memberikan pelatihan kepada peminjam.
a. Disaster risk yaitu keadaan force majeure yang dampaknya sangat besar terhadap bisnis nasabah yang dibiayai LKS.
b. Character risk (resiko karakter buruk mudharib) yaitu resiko yang terjadi pada third way out
CMAJ • FEB. 1, 2005; 172 (3) 367
© 2005 Canadian Medical Association or its licensors
Abnormal liver enzyme levels may signal liver damage
or alteration in bile flow. Liver enzyme alteration
may be either the accompanying biochemical
picture in a patient with symptoms or signs suggestive of
liver disease or an isolated, unexpected finding in a patient
who has undergone a wide range of laboratory tests for a
nonhepatic disease or for minor, vague complaints. The
latter situation is a common clinical scenario today because
of the routine incorporation of hepatic tests in automated
blood chemistry panels. Isolated alterations of biochemical
markers of liver damage in a seemingly healthy patient often
represent a challenge even for the experienced clinician
and usually set off a battery of further, costly tests1 and consultations
that may ultimately prove unnecessary. The aim
of this review is to provide physicians in general practice
with a guide to interpreting liver enzyme alterations.
The liver is a large, complex organ that is well designed
for its central role in carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.
It is the site where waste products of metabolism are
detoxified through processes such as amino acid deamination,
which produces urea. In conjunction with the spleen it
is involved in the destruction of spent red blood cells and the
reclamation of their constituents. It is responsible for synthesizing
and secreting bile and synthesizing lipoproteins and
plasma proteins, including clotting factors.2 It maintains a
stable blood glucose level by taking up and storing glucose as
glycogen (glycogenesis), breaking this down to glucose when
needed (glycogenolysis) and forming glucose from noncarbohydrate
sources such as amino acids (gluconeogenesis).
Many of these biosynthetic functions use the products of
digestion. With the exception of most lipids, absorbed food
products pass directly from the gut to the liver through the
hepatic portal vein. At the microscopic level, the primary
functional unit of the liver is the liver acinus, which is defined
by the territory supplied by each terminal branch of
the hepatic artery and hepatic portal vein. The portal tract
forms the central axis of the acinus; hepatocytes are
arranged in plates that radiate out from the portal triad.
The acinus is divided into 3 zones on the basis of the distance
from the supplying vessels: zone 3, for example, experiences
the least oxygen perfusion and houses the most mitochondria.
Bile is secreted into a network of minute bile
caniculi situated between adjacent hepatocytes.3
Liver disease is often reflected by biochemical abnormalities
of 1 of 2 different hepatic systems or of liver function
(Table 1). Although tests that measure the level of
serum liver enzymes are commonly referred to as liver
function tests, they usually reflect hepatocyte integrity or
cholestasis rather than liver function. A change in serum albumin
level or prothrombin time may be associated with a
decrease in liver functioning mass, although neither is specific
for liver disease.
In order to accurately interpret biochemical abnormalities,
it is necessary to understand how normal ranges are
established and how to apply reference ranges. The performance
characteristics (e.g., reproducibility, bias, total
error) and reference limits for the most common liver tests
have been thoroughly reviewed and guidelines established.
4,5 An abnormal level is usually defined as a value exceeding
the upper reference limit, since there is no clinical
significance to the occurrence of low levels of biochemical
markers, except for serum albumin. Because the reference
limits for each test often vary among laboratories, specific
ranges will not be provided here, in order to avoid generating
It is common practice when establishing laboratory parameters
to define the “normal” range as the mean value
within ± 2 standard deviations observed in the reference,
“normal” population. Accordingly, as many as 2.5% of normal
patients have “abnormal” aminotransferase levels.
Moreover, at least 16% of patients with chronic hepatitis C
infection and 13% of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver
disease have varying degrees of histological damage despite
showing persistently normal aminotransferase levels.6,7 This
apparent discrepancy may be explained by the fact that the
Liver enzyme alteration: a guide for clinicians
Edoardo G. Giannini, Roberto Testa, Vincenzo Savarino
ISOLATED ALTERATIONS OF BIOCHEMICAL MARKERS OF LIVER DAMAGE in
a seemingly healthy patient can present a challenge for the
clinician. In this review we provide a guide to interpreting alterations
to liver enzyme levels. The functional anatomy of the
liver and pathophysiology of liver enzyme alteration are briefly
reviewed. Using a schematic approach that classifies enzyme
alterations as predominantly hepatocellular or predominantly
cholestatic, we review abnormal enzymatic activity within the
2 subgroups, the most common causes of enzyme alteration
and suggested initial investigations.
healthy population that was recruited to establish the normal
range could have included a small subset of patients
with subclinical liver disease.
As well, aminotransferase levels vary according to age
and sex, so care must be taken to use age- and sex-appropriate
reference limits.4,5 The clinical context of patient presentation
is also important when interpreting reference
limits. Levels of both aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and
alanine aminotransferase (ALT) may increase with strenuous
exercise,4,8 and hospital admission has been observed to
induce a 5% increase in AST levels (0.4%–9.6%, 95% confidence
interval [CI]) and a 17.5% increase in ALT levels
(9.1%–21.6%, 95% CI) in healthy subjects;9 restricted
physical activity and hospital diet have been suggested as
possible explanations for these increases.
Where, when and how: a schematic approach
to liver enzyme alteration
The comprehensive evaluation of adult patients with abnormal
liver enzyme levels is a multistep process. In moving
through this process, the clinician can ask a series of
questions categorized under where, when and how (Fig. 1).
Alterations in liver enzyme levels that are encountered
in hospital centres may vary by the geographical location of
the hospital and the ethnicity of the patients. For example,
about 60% of cases of elevated hepatic AST levels in Wales
can be attributed to ischemic or toxic liver injury,10 whereas
orofecal transmittable hepatitis viruses are the major cause
(> 60%) of sporadic acute and fulminant hepatitis in the Far
East.11 The incidence of primary biliary cirrhosis ranges
from 1.9–2.2 per 100 000 in Australia to 0.34–0.42 per
100 000 in Asia,12 and the prevalence of homozygosity for
the C282Y mutation in the HFE gene can be found in
about 5 per 1000 people of northern European descent13
but 0.0001 per 100 people of African American ethnicity.14
Physicians should be aware of the local epidemiological
features of liver disease in the region where they practise in
order to identify likely causes and reduce the number of
unnecessary tests and the amount of time needed to make a
diagnosis. Inquiry about the patient’s recent travel history
is also essential.
The timing of liver enzyme abnormalities in relation to
the age of the patient, comorbid conditions and ingestion
of medications provides valuable information. For example,
the likelihood that the alteration is due to a disease that
usually manifests early in life, such as Wilson’s disease, is
higher in younger patients than in elderly ones.15 The
course of all comorbid conditions must be fully explored,
along with a detailed list of drugs being taken by the
patient and the date they were started in relation to the onset
of enzyme alterations or of signs or symptoms of disease.
Almost any medication can alter liver enzyme levels.16
Use of herbal remedies and over-the-counter preparations
is often overlooked by physicians but should be carefully
The pattern of liver enzyme alterations is often the first
piece of evidence that catches the physician’s eye. This is
because common causes of liver disease have typical patterns
(Fig. 2, Table 2); however, sometimes the details of
the pattern are not fully examined. Full assessment of enzyme
abnormalities involves careful evaluation of (1) the
predominant pattern of enzyme alteration (hepatocellular
v. cholestatic); (2) the magnitude of enzyme alteration in
Giannini et al
368 JAMC • 1er FÉVR. 2005; 172 (3)
Table 1: Key biochemical markers in hepatic systems and function
System or function Marker Site or significance Function
Liver, heart skeletal muscle,
kidney, brain, red blood cell
Catabolizes amino acids, permitting them
to enter the citric acid cycle.
Alkaline phosphatase Bone, intestine, liver, placenta Canicular enzyme that plays a role in bile
γ-Glutamyl-transpeptidase Correlated levels with alkaline
phosphatase indicate hepatobiliary
Catalyzes transfer of γ-glutamyl group
from peptides to other amino acids.
Bilirubin Elevations may indicate hepatic or
Breakdown product of hemolysis taken up
by liver cells and conjugated to watersoluble
product excreted in bile.
Serum albumin Diet or liver Liver synthesizes albumin
Prothrombin time Liver synthesizes vitamin Kdependent
Bile salts are synthesized in the liver and
necessary for vitamin K absorption
the case of aminotransferases (< 5 times, 5–10 times or > 10
times the upper reference limit, or mild, moderate or
marked); (3) the rate of change (increase or decrease over
time); and (4) the nature of the course of alteration (e.g.,
mild fluctuation v. progressive increase).
The most common alterations in enzyme levels encountered
in clinical practice can be divided into 2 major subgroups:
hepatocellular predominant and cholestatic predominant.
Although certain liver diseases may display a
mixed biochemical picture — usually elevated AST and
ALT levels with mild abnormalities of alkaline phosphatase
(ALP) and γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT) levels — the
ability to distinguish between the 2 subgroups is fundamental
to narrowing down the differential diagnosis.
Injury to the liver, whether acute or chronic, eventually
results in an increase in serum concentrations of aminotransferases.
AST and ALT are enzymes that catalyze the
transfer of α-amino groups from aspartate and alanine to
the α-keto group of ketoglutaric acid to generate oxalacetic
and pyruvic acids respectively, which are important contributors
to the citric acid cycle. Both enzymes require pyridoxal-
5’-phosphate (vitamin B6) in order to carry out this reaction,
although the effect of pyridoxal-5’-phosphate
deficiency is greater on ALT activity than on that of AST.4,18
This has clinical relevance in patients with alcoholic liver
disease, in whom pyridoxal-5’-phosphate deficiency may decrease
ALT serum activity and contribute to the increase in
the AST/ALT ratio that is observed in these patients.19,20
Both aminotransferases are highly concentrated in the
liver. AST is also diffusely represented in the heart, skeletal
muscle, kidneys, brain and red blood cells, and ALT has
low concentrations in skeletal muscle and kidney;21 an increase
in ALT serum levels is, therefore, more specific for
liver damage. In the liver, ALT is localized solely in the
cellular cytoplasm, whereas AST is both cytosolic (20% of
total activity) and mitochondrial (80% of total activity).22
Zone 3 of the hepatic acinus has a higher concentration of
AST, and damage to this zone, whether ischemic or toxic,
may result in greater alteration to AST levels. Aminotransferase
clearance is carried out within the liver by sinusoidal
cells.23 The half-life in the circulation is about 47 hours for
ALT, about 17 hours for total AST and, on average, 87
hours for mitochondrial AST.4
The magnitude of aminotransferase alteration can be
classified as “mild” (< 5 times the upper reference limit),
“moderate” (5–10 times the upper reference limit) or
“marked” (> 10 times the upper reference limit). This classification
is somewhat arbitrary, since no uniform definition
exists and various reviews of the subject use different
cut-off points.1,24,25 Marked and moderate increases are discussed
together because the clinical distinction between
them is especially grey.
Marked and moderate aminotransferase increase
Patients with a marked increase in aminotransferase levels
(> 10 times the upper reference limit) typically have
acute hepatic injury. However, data from a series of patients
with acute hepatic injury due to viral hepatitis sug-
An approach to liver enzyme alteration
CMAJ • FEB. 1, 2005; 172 (3) 369
Fig. 1: Schematic representation of an approach to liver enzyme alteration. Specific modalities of enzyme
alteration (how) and their relation with peculiar characteristics of the patient and locality (where
and when) should be thoroughly assessed before the definitive diagnostic work-up is begun.
• Patient ethnicity
• Local epidemiology
• Patient history of
Evaluating liver enzyme alteration
• Pattern of alteration
• Magnitude of aminotransferase
• Nature of alteration (e.g., mild
fluctuation, steep increase)
• Rate of alteration
Timing of enzyme alteration
in relation to patient
• Ingestion of medications
• Comorbid conditions
gest that the most sensitive and specific aminotransferase
threshold level to identify acute injury lies within the moderate
range of increase (5–10 times the upper reference
limit, at 200 IU/L for AST [sensitivity 91%, specificity
95%] and 300 IU/L for ALT [sensitivity 96%, specificity
94%]).26 Thus, the academic attribution of cause and
“severity” of acute damage on the basis of the magnitude of
enzyme elevation may sometimes be misleading, since
there can be grey areas in which a range of causes overlap
(Fig. 2). Moreover, the degree of elevation varies during
the course of injury and depends on when the enzyme levels
were tested (Fig. 3).
Despite these ambiguities, the magnitude and rate of
change of aminotransferase alteration may provide initial
Giannini et al
370 JAMC • 1er FÉVR. 2005; 172 (3)
Fig. 2: Serum aminotransferase levels in various liver diseases. Patients with acute viral or ischemic
or toxic liver injury reach the highest aminotransferase levels, but there is a broad overlap in aminotransferase
values between patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis and autoimmune hepatitis as well
as between patients with chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. Both chronic hepatitis and cirrhotic
patients may have aminotransferase levels within the reference range. The red line indicates the upper
limit of the reference range.
Aminotransferase level, IU/L
Table 2: Biochemical features of common causes of moderate to marked increase in
(value × URL)
(value × URL) Comments
Ischemic injury > 10 to > 50 < 5 AST > ALT; rapid decrease of
aminotransferase levels after initial peak
ALT/LDH ratio < 1
Presence of comorbid conditions
Toxic injury > 10 < 5 Pattern of enzyme alteration similar to that of
History suggestive of toxic injury
Acute viral hepatitis 5–10 to > 10 5–10 Slow decrease of aminotransferase levels
Presence of risk factors
Acute biliary obstruction 5–10 5–10 to > 10 Aminotransferase increase precedes
Presence of typical symptoms
Alcoholic hepatitis 5–10 5–10 to > 10 AST/ALT ratio > 2
May occur as both acute and acute-onchronic
Note: URL = upper reference limit, AST = aspartate aminotransferase, ALT = alanine aminotransferase, LDH = lactate dehydrogenase.
insight into a differential diagnosis. Very high aminotransferase
levels (> 75 times the upper reference limit) indicate
ischemic or toxic liver injury in more than 90% of cases of
acute hepatic injury, whereas they are less commonly observed
with acute viral hepatitis.4 In ischemic or toxic liver
injury, AST levels usually peak before those of ALT because
of the enzyme’s peculiar intralobular distribution.27–29
Zone 3 of the acinus is more vulnerable to both hypoxic
(hepatocytes are exposed to an already oxygen-poor milieu)
and toxic (hepatocytes are richer in microsomal enzymes)
damage. Furthermore, in ischemic injury aminotransferase
levels tend to decrease rapidly after peaking (Fig. 3). In
about 80% of patients with ischemic injury, the serum
bilirubin level is lower than 34 μmol/L, and lactate dehydrogenase
(LDH), a marker of ischemic damage, may reach
very high concentrations (ALT/LDH ratio < 1).28–30 It is
important to stress that a decrease in aminotransferase levels
alone after a marked increase does not have prognostic
meaning, since both resolution and massive hepatic necrosis
may draw a similar biochemical picture. In this setting,
patients with high bilirubin serum levels and prolonged
prothrombin time should be closely monitored for the risk
of hepatic failure.
In cases of acute viral hepatitis, aminotransferase levels
usually peak before jaundice appears and have a more
gradual decrease thereafter, and there is a greater increase
in serum bilirubin levels (Fig. 3).31 Jaundice occurs in about
70% of cases of acute hepatitis A infection, 33%–50% of
cases of acute hepatitis B infection and 20%–33% of cases
of acute hepatitis C infection.5 LDH concentration is altered
in about 50% of the patients, with values typically
only slightly above the reference limit.28,29 The entire alphabet
of viral hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E) may be responsible
for a marked increase in aminotransferase levels, although
the increase associated with hepatitis C infection
tends to be more modest than that associated with hepatitis
A or B.32 Patients with acute viral hepatitis may lack a
history of exposure to risk factors and may have nonspecific
(fatigue, arthralgias, low-grade fever) or specific
(jaundice) symptoms of liver disease; the diagnosis may be
made following routine analysis with asymptomatic hypertransaminasemia.
The presence of symptoms is more common
in patients with acute hepatitis A (70%–80% of infected
adults) or B (30%–50% of infected adults) infection
than in patients with acute hepatitis C (20% of patients)
infection.5,33 Obviously, the presence of risk factors such as
travel to areas endemic for viral hepatitis or parenteral exposure
may help identify the cause and should drive the
subsequent investigation. Patients with suspected acute viral
hepatitis should be tested for IgM antibodies to hepatitis
A and hepatitus B core virus, hepatitis B surface antigens
and hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibodies. Testing for
hepatitis D infection should be limited to patients with evidence
of hepatitis B surface antigens. If test results for
HCV antibodies are negative and there is no evidence of
acute hepatitis A or B infection, testing for HCV RNA
may be a useful strategy since a recent study has demonstrated
that, although these patients are rarely at risk of
acute liver failure, they may benefit from early antiviral
An approach to liver enzyme alteration
CMAJ • FEB. 1, 2005; 172 (3) 371
Fig. 3: Schematic representation of the rate of change of aminotransferase and bilirubin levels in a patient with acute ischemic
hepatitis (green area, yellow area respectively) and acute viral hepatitis (blue area, orange area respectively). It is important to
underscore that the pattern of enzyme alteration may vary and occasionally appear similar if a single observation point is taken
into consideration (arrows).
N x 5
N x 10
Ischemic and hypoxic acute liver damage is more likely
in patients with concomitant clinical conditions such as
sepsis or low-flow hemodynamic state.10,28,30 Careful investigation
of the patient’s pharmacologic history is essential in
order to identify medications and herbal products associated
with hepatotoxicity.16,17,35 Acetaminophen-induced hepatic
damage causes 54% and 16% of the cases of acute
liver failure in the United Kingdom and United States respectively.
36 Although ischemic damage can be suspected
on a clinical basis alone, and the patient history may suggest
drug- or toxin-induced liver damage, there are no specific
serologic tests for either condition, except in the case
of acetaminophen poisoning, in which plasma acetaminophen
levels may also represent a helpful guide to therapy.
37 Alcohol-induced acute hepatic damage represents a
distinct situation. It can be encountered in clinical practice
both as acute and as acute-on-chronic liver injury. The biochemical
picture is characteristic (e.g., GGT/ALP ratio
> 2.5; jaundice may occur in more than 60% of patients38,39).
In a landmark study by Cohen and Kaplan, the increase in
AST levels was less than 6–7 times the upper reference
value in 98% of the patients with alcoholic liver disease,
and the AST/ALT ratio was greater than 1 in 92% and
greater than 2 in 70% of the patients.19 The presence of
physical signs of chronic liver disease and the patient’s history
may help distinguish between acute and acute-onchronic
After the most common causes of acute liver injury have
been excluded, consideration should be given to minor hepatitis
viruses (e.g., Epstein–Barr virus, cytomegalovirus)
and to autoimmune, extrahepatic and congenital
causes.1,15,24,25 Autoimmune hepatitis may present with a
mild increase in aminotransferase levels or with a moderate
to marked increase in aminotransferase levels (up to
49% of patients) with jaundice.40,41,42 This diagnosis is further
discussed in the next section. Finally, as many as 25%
of the patients with AST levels greater than 10 times the
upper reference limit may have acute extrahepatic biliary
tract obstruction, which can be heralded by a peak in
aminotransferase levels (> 50 times the upper reference
value in 1%–2% of patients) that rapidly subsides once the
obstruction has been removed.5,43,44,45 The patient’s history,
presence of symptoms such as biliary pain and the ultrasound
evidence of dilated bile ducts can provide a definitive
Mild increase in aminotransferase levels
A minimal or mild increase in aminotransferase level is
the most common biochemical alteration encountered in
everyday clinical practice. In addition to considering the
when and where of the alterations, there is a series of firstline
tests that can be performed on all patients because of
their clinical relevance and the high prevalence of the diseases
screened by these tests (Fig. 4). Extrahepatic causes of
aminotransferase alteration (especially in patients with isolated
AST elevation) should be ruled out by considering
the clinical context of enzyme abnormality. Although some
reviews dealing with liver enzyme alteration suggest repeating
tests as a first measure in order to rule out laboratory
error, we do not feel that a second, normal result is enough
to exclude the presence of disease, and we recommend that
a first-line, clinically guided screening for the most prevalent
causes of chronic liver disease be started together with
repetition of the test (Fig. 4). In fact, chronic hepatitis C
infection is characterized by a pattern of aminotransferase
levels fluctuating around the upper reference value. For patients
who are taking drugs known to cause liver injury or
who have evidence of alcohol abuse, a second, confirmatory
check of aminotransferase levels after alcohol or the medication
has been stopped can be a suitable option; patients
who have evidence of alcohol abuse also need to be carefully
assessed for the risk of underlying chronic damage.
As in the case of acute damage, the pharmacologic history
of the patient is of particular importance. All
nonessential and over-the-counter medications should be
discontinued, and discontinuation of an essential medication
should be considered in a risk–benefit perspective.
The use of dedicated scales or scores may help the clinician
assess the likelihood of the hepatic drug reaction.46,47 Liver
biopsy may represent a suitable diagnostic option in particular
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common
cause of mild alteration of liver enzyme levels in the western
world, and, according to the National Health and Nutritional
Survey, point-prevalence is about 23% among
American adults.48 The biochemical picture includes mildly
raised aminotransferase levels, and GGT levels can be elevated
up to 3 times the upper reference value in nearly half
of patients in the absence of ethanol consumption.49 As with
chronic viral hepatitis, an AST/ALT ratio greater than 1,
which is observed in 61% of patients with advanced fibrosis
and 24% of patients with no or initial fibrosis, is highly
suggestive of advanced liver disease.50 Suspicion of nonalcoholic
fatty liver disease is increased by the presence of conditions
linked to the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance
(increased body mass index, diabetes, hyperlipemia,
hypertension), although the disease may occur in patients
without these associated factors.48,49 The diagnostic approach
to suspected nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is
aimed at ruling out other causes of liver disease since there
is no specific blood test for diagnosis. Distinguishing between
simple steatosis with or without minimal inflammation
and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis with fibrosis with
confidence is not possible on clinical grounds alone, and
therefore liver biopsy should be performed in order to confirm
diagnosis and assess prognosis.7,48,49,51
All patients presenting with mild increases in aminotransferase
levels should be questioned about risk factors
for hepatitis B or C infection (intravenous drug use, exposure
to nonsterile needles or sexual exposure to an infected
person). However, since these 2 diseases have a high preva-
Giannini et al
372 JAMC • 1er FÉVR. 2005; 172 (3)
lence worldwide52,53 and infected people may lack or underreport
specific risk factors for infection,54,55 testing for HCV
antibodies and hepatitis B surface antigens is advisable for
all patients presenting with a mild increase in aminotransferase
levels. If the patient tests positive for HCV antibodies,
then qualitative HCV RNA testing should follow. In
subjects who are seropositive for hepatitis B, the successive
diagnostic work-up may depend upon the clinical situation
(e.g., e-minus v. wild-type strands). It is important to emphasize
that the degree of aminotransferase alteration is a
poor guide to the severity of the disease in patients with
established chronic viral hepatitis (Fig. 2), unless an
AST/ALT ratio greater than 1 is found.56–59 An AST/ALT
ratio greater than 1 can be found in 4% of patients with
chronic hepatitis C infection and in 79% of patients who
also have liver cirrhosis.57 Among patients with cirrhosis of
viral cause, an AST/ALT ratio greater than 1.17 was found
to prognosticate 1-year survival with 87% sensitivity
(69%–96%, 95% CI) and 52% specificity (40%–64%, 95%
CI).59 Patients may benefit from ultrasound examination of
the liver in order to evaluate the presence of signs of advanced
disease or liver masses. In patients with viral hepatitis,
liver biopsy is needed to assess progression, evaluate the
need for therapy and establish a prognosis.
HFE-related hereditary hemochromatosis is a fairly
common autosomal recessive condition (homozygote frequency
1:200-1:400)13 that is characterized by pathological
deposition of iron in the liver, pancreas and heart. Serum
An approach to liver enzyme alteration
CMAJ • FEB. 1, 2005; 172 (3) 373
Fig. 4: Schematic, initial diagnostic algorithm for a patient presenting with mild aminotransferase abnormality. HCV = hepatitis
C virus, HBsAG = hepatitis B surface antigen, ANA = antinuclear antibodies, ASMA = anti-smooth body antibodies, LKM =
liver–kidney microsomes. Alcohol abuse and, to a lesser extent, drug-induced liver injury are frequently associated with mild
aminotransferase abnormality, and their causality should be ruled out on a clinical basis. In the western world, chronic viral hepatitis,
autoimmune hepatitis and hereditary hemochromatosis are the most common causes of mild aminotransferase alteration
for which specific serological tests are available. Although nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or steatohepatitis is frequently
encountered in clinical practice, it remains a diagnosis of exclusion.
– – –
Patient with mild alteration in aminotransferase levels
Consider the clinical context of enzyme abnormality History of alcohol or
medication use or both
Avoid alcohol or
medication and re-check
Middle-aged woman with
concomitant autoimmune diseases
Increased transferrin saturation
Presence of risk factors for
Test for anti-HCV and HBsAg Test for HFE mutation Test ANA, ASMA, anti-LKM
ferritin, iron and transferrin saturation index (serum
iron/total iron binding capacity) should routinely be measured
in patients with altered aminotransferase levels.60
High ferritin levels and, most importantly, a transferrin saturation
index greater than 45% are strongly suggestive of
the disease.60 The presence of diabetes, heart disease or
arthritis is also suggestive, and mutation analysis for the
HFE gene may confirm the diagnosis, especially if the
patient is of northern European descent.13 Nevertheless,
other, rarer forms of non-HFE-related hereditary hemochromatosis
are being characterized more frequently,
and liver biopsy remains a fundamental diagnostic tool in
the presence of strong clinical suspicion and a negative result
for HFE gene mutation analysis.60
The presence of a mild elevation in aminotransferase
levels in female patients with concomitant autoimmune disorders
(e.g., autoimmune thyroiditis, connective tissue diseases)
is suggestive of autoimmune hepatitis. The prevalence
of the disease is about 1:6000 to 1:7000, and as many
as 80% of patients may have hypergammaglobulinemia
even in the absence of liver cirrhosis.40,61 Patients with suspected
autoimmune hepatitis should have autoantibodies
tested (antinuclear, anti-smooth muscle and anti-liver–
kidney microsomes), although the criteria for diagnosis are
complex and include liver biopsy.40,42,61 Patients may have a
dramatic therapeutic response to corticosteroids, but the
course of the disease may be long and can fluctuate between
phases of remission and relapses that may mimic
Wilson’s disease (homozygote frequency 1:30 000–
1:300 000) should be suspected in young patients with signs
of hemolysis or concomitant psychiatric or neurologic
symptoms, and serum ceruloplasmin levels and copper metabolism
(serum and 24-hour urinary copper) should be
tested. Diagnosis in patients showing low serum ceruloplasmin
levels and increased urinary copper excretion can be
confirmed by slit-lamp examination for Kayser–Fleischer
rings, although liver biopsy with quantitative copper measurement
may be needed where no clear clinical diagnosis
Although α-1-antitripsin deficiency is not a rare disease,
affecting 1:1600–1:2800 newborns in Europe and the
United States, it is an unusual cause of aminotransferase alteration
among adults since the disease is usually identified
in childhood.62 It can be suspected in adult patients with
concomitant pulmonary disease (emphysema), although
low serum α-1-antitripsin levels and phenotype determination
provide definite diagnosis.62
Finally, it has been reported that up to 10% of patients
with unexplained hypertransaminasemia actually have
celiac disease, and minimal or mild alteration of aminotransferase
levels may be the only visible part of the
“celiac iceberg.”63 In these patients, screening by measuring
tissue transglutaminase antibodies and confirmation
and grading of the disease by small bowel biopsy are required
Presentation of liver injury with a prevalent cholestatic
pattern is less frequently encountered in clinical practice
than the pattern of hepatocellular damage. ALP and bilirubin
levels are routinely assessed, and the level of GGT is
often measured as an additional aid toward diagnosis in
particular situations because of its high sensitivity but low
ALP is an enzyme that transports metabolites across cell
membranes. Liver and bone diseases are the most common
causes of pathological elevation of ALP levels, although
ALP may originate from other tissue, such as the placenta,
kidneys or intestines, or from leukocytes.65 The third
trimester of pregnancy (placenta origin) and adolescence
(bone origin) are associated with an isolated increase in
serum ALP levels.4 Hepatic ALP is present on the surface
of bile duct epithelia. Cholestasis enhances the synthesis
and release of ALP, and accumulating bile salts increase its
release from the cell surface.66,67 ALP half-life in the circulation
is about 1 week.4 These characteristics explain why
ALP levels usually rise late in bile duct obstruction and decrease
slowly after resolution.
In some patients (e.g., pregnant women, adolescents) the
reason for increased ALP levels may be straightforward,
but in other patients it is necessary to identify the origin of
the enzyme. This task can be accomplished in 2 ways: assessment
of GGT levels or dosage of ALP isoenzymes (Fig.
5). From a practical point of view, measurement of GGT is
preferred since it relies on automated analysis rather than
on more sophisticated and expensive techniques.
The degree and rate of enzyme alteration may provide
minor and nonspecific clues to diagnosis, but the presence
of symptoms and the patient’s history, with particular emphasis
on comorbid conditions, may provide fundamental
clues (Fig. 5). Liver ultrasound may reveal the presence of
bile duct dilation, demonstrate signs of chronic liver disease
or even liver cirrhosis, and identify hepatic masses.
Drug-induced liver injury may present with a cholestatic
pattern (preferential increase in ALP or ALT/ALP ratio
< 2), although the degree of ALP alteration is variable and
may be accompanied by hyperbilirubinemia.68 Commonly
used drugs such as antihypertensives (e.g., angiotensinconverting
enzyme inhibitors) or hormones (e.g., estrogen)
may cause cholestasis and can be overlooked. Liver ultrasound
in these patients is often unremarkable.
Varying degrees of ALP alteration in patients with inflammatory
bowel disease (most commonly ulcerative colitis)
suggest the presence of primary sclerosing cholangitis,
since about 70% of these cases are associated with inflammatory
bowel disease.69 The same biochemical abnormality
observed in middle-aged women with a history of itching
and autoimmune disease raises the suspicion of
Giannini et al
374 JAMC • 1er FÉVR. 2005; 172 (3)
primary biliary cirrhosis.70 Further diagnostic work-up of
patients with suspected autoimmune cholestatic liver disease
includes testing antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies
and cholangiography for primary sclerosing cholangitis
and antimitochondria antibodies and total IgM levels for
primary biliary cirrhosis. In these diseases, ALP and GGT
levels may be slightly or markedly raised, whereas aminotransferase
levels are often minimally altered or within the
upper reference limit, unless overlapping features of autoimmune
cholestatic diseases and autoimmune hepatitis
occur.71 In patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis or
primary biliary cirrhosis, serum bilirubin levels have prognostic
meaning,72,73 and liver ultrasound may reveal an
echotexture suggestive of diffuse disease or even liver cirrhosis
ALP alteration due to common bile duct obstruction
may be heralded by a peak in aminotransferase levels, typical
symptoms and conjugated hyperbilirubinemia, especially
in the acute setting, or the ALP levels may have a
fluctuating pattern (± GGT alteration) with normal serum
bilirubin in “valve” choledocholithiasis.43,44 In these patients,
liver ultrasound may show dilated bile ducts, and endoscopic
retrograde cholangiopancreatography can be used to
remove the obstacle.
Abnormal ALP levels may also be a sign of metastatic
cancer of the liver, lymphoma or infiltrative diseases such
as sarcoidosis. In some of these situations ALP levels may
be markedly elevated and the only sign of liver involvement.
In these cases, liver ultrasound examination is extremely
important when the patient history is not suggestive
of disease, although some patients may require liver
biopsy in order to obtain a definitive diagnosis.24,25
The clinical work-up described in Fig. 5 should help to
establish a diagnosis in the majority of patients with elevated
ALP levels. The degree of elevation seems to have no
specific diagnostic relevance. Nevertheless, diagnosis may
not be evident even after thorough evaluation in asymptomatic
patients with mild increases in ALP levels. As mentioned
above, liver biopsy can provide a fundamental clue
to some unusual and unsuspected diagnoses.
An approach to liver enzyme alteration
CMAJ • FEB. 1, 2005; 172 (3) 375
Fig. 5: Suggested diagnostic algorithm for patients presenting with increased alkaline phosphatase levels. AMA = antimitochondria
antibodies, PBC = primary biliary cirrhosis, ANCA = antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies, ERCP = endoscopic retrograde
cholangiopancreatography, PSC = primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) levels above the upper reference value
Confirm origin of ALP with γ-glutamyl-transpeptidase test
Clinical setting Additional features Liver ultrasound Diagnosis
Female, other autoimmune diseases High IgM, serum cholesterol, AMA+ Signs of diffuse disease PBC
Concomitant IBD ANCA+, ERCP diagnostic Signs of diffuse disease PSC
Medications suspected Increased bilirubin and/or
Normal Cholestatic drug
Right upper quadrant pain, fever Increased bilirubin levels Dilated bile ducts Biliary
Extrahepatic malignant disease None, or those related to
Other concomitant diseases None; liver biopsy may be required Normal or signs of
GGT is an enzyme that is present in hepatocytes and
biliary epithelial cells, renal tubules, and the pancreas and
intestine. The mechanisms of alteration are similar to
those described for alkaline phosphatase. GGT is a microsomal
enzyme, and its activity can be induced by several
drugs, such as anticonvulsants and oral contraceptives.74
Elevated GGT levels can be observed in a variety of nonhepatic
diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease and renal failure, and may be present for weeks after
acute myocardial infarction. Increased serum levels observed
in alcoholic liver disease can be the result of enzyme
induction and decreased clearance. In these patients,
GGT serum levels can be markedly altered (> 10 times the
upper reference value), whereas ALP levels may be normal
or only slightly altered (GGT/ALP ratio > 2.5). The
whole spectrum of liver diseases, regardless of cause, may
be responsible for altered GGT serum levels. In particular,
GGT levels may be 2–3 times greater than the upper reference
value in more than 50% of the patients with nonalcoholic
fatty liver disease and above the upper reference
value in about 30% of patients with chronic hepatitis C infection.
75,76 Furthermore, an increase in GGT levels in patients
with chronic liver disease is associated with bile duct
damage and fibrosis.76 Thus, because of its lack of specificity
but high sensitivity for liver disease, GGT can be
useful for identifying causes of altered ALP levels, or elevated
levels, together with other biochemical abnormalities
(AST/ALT ratio > 2),19 may support the diagnosis of
alcoholic liver disease.
Bilirubin is the product of hemoglobin catabolism within
the reticuloendothelial system. Heme breakdown determines
the formation of unconjugated bilirubin, which is
then transported to the liver. In the liver, UDP-glucuronyltransferase
conjugates the water-insoluble unconjugated
bilirubin to glucuronic acid, and conjugated bilirubin
is then excreted into the bile.77,78
Unconjugated bilirubin may increase because of augmented
bilirubin production or decreased hepatic uptake
or conjugation or both (Table 3). In adults, the most
common conditions associated with unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia
are hemolysis and Gilbert’s syndrome.78
Hemolysis can be ruled out by measuring hemoglobin
serum levels, reticulocyte count, and haptoglobin levels.
Gilbert’s syndrome is determined by a variety of genetic
defects in UDP-glucuronyltransferase that affect about
5% of the population.79 In these subjects serum indirect
bilirubin usually does not exceed 68 μmol/L, and the remainder
of liver chemistry tests and liver ultrasound are
unremarkable.80 Although a series of tests has been proposed
to confirm the diagnosis, this condition is usually
diagnosed on a clinical basis alone, and the patient should
be reassured of the benign nature of this enzymatic alteration.
80 Other, less frequent causes of unconjugated hy-
Giannini et al
376 JAMC • 1er FÉVR. 2005; 172 (3)
Table 3: Causes, clinical features and biochemical abnormalities of hyperbilirubinemia
Type Cause Clinical features and biochemical abnormalities
Hemolysis Decreased hemoglobin and haptoglobin levels
Increased reticulocyte count
Gilbert’s syndrome None
Hematoma reabsorption Increased CK and LDH levels
Bile duct obstruction Preceded by marked increase in aminotransferase levels
Presence of suggestive symptoms (right upper quadrant pain,
Hepatitis (various causes) Concomitant moderate to marked increase in
Cirrhosis Aminotransferase levels may be normal or only slightly
Presence of other physical and instrumental signs of chronic
Autoimmune cholestatic diseases
Marked increase in ALP levels with normal or mildly elevated
Presence of other autoimmune diseases or associated diseases
Total parenteral nutrition Increased ALP and GGT levels
Drug toxins Concomitant increase in ALP levels
Vanishing bile duct syndrome Can be associated with drug reactions or in OLT setting
Note: CK = creatine kinase, PSC = primary sclerosing cholangitis, PBC = primary biliary cirrhosis, IBD = inflammatory bowel disease, GGT = γ-glutamyl-transpeptidase,
OLT = orthotopic liver transplantation.
perbilirubinemia include reabsorption of large hematomas
and ineffective erythropoiesis.24
In healthy people, conjugated bilirubin is virtually absent
from serum mainly because of the rapid process of bile
secretion.1 Levels increase when the liver has lost at least
half of its excretory capacity. Therefore, the presence of increased
conjugated bilirubin is usually a sign of liver disease.
Conjugated hyperbilirubinemia (usually < 34 μmol/L)
and concomitant, markedly elevated aminotransferase levels
may suggest acute viral hepatitis or toxic or ischemic
liver injury. Furthermore, this biochemical picture can be
the presenting feature of autoimmune hepatitis.40–42 On the
other hand, a purely cholestatic picture, with conjugated
hyperbilirubinemia, an increase in ALP levels and a negligible
increase in aminotransferase levels, may be present in
cholestatic drug reactions.16,68 Sometimes, the same biochemical
picture may be present in the late presentation of
previously unrecognized autoimmune cholestatic diseases
(primary biliary cirrhosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis).
In these patients, the presence of other signs of chronic
liver disease may facilitate diagnosis.62,69,70
Biliary obstruction can cause various degrees of conjugated
hyperbilirubinemia. The severity of alteration depends
upon the degree and duraction of obstruction and
the functional reserve of the liver. Biliary obstruction may
have an abrupt onset and be preceded by typical symptoms
(right upper quadrant pain, nausea) or may be silent and
progressive. With the presence or absence of concomitant
aminotransferase alteration, a liver ultrasound is essential
to identify and locate the obstacle to bile flow.
Once the causal condition of conjugated hyperbilirubinemia
has resolved, whatever the cause, bilirubin serum
levels decrease in a bimodal fashion. There is a first, rapid
decrease and then a later, slower decrease caused by the
binding of bilirubin to albumin and the formation of a
complex (δ-bilirubin) that has the same half-life as serum
Albumin and prothrombin time assessment:
Are we really testing liver function?
Determining serum albumin levels and assessing prothrombin
time are often considered “tests of liver function.”
This is mainly because hepatic synthesis of albumin
tends to decrease in end-stage liver disease, and an increase
in prothrombin time depends on the decreased synthesis
of liver-derived coagulation factors. In fact, albumin
is produced by hepatocytes, and prothrombin time depends
on the activity of clotting factors I, II, V, VII and X,
which are produced in the liver. However, neither test is
specific for liver disease, since albumin serum levels may
decrease in patients with nephrotic syndrome, malabsorption
or protein-losing enteropathy, or malnutrition, and
prothrombin time may be prolonged by warfarin treatment,
deficiency in vitamin K (which is needed to activate
clotting factors II, VII and X) and consumptive coagulopathy.
1,4,5,82 The finding of hypoalbuminemia and no other alterations
in liver tests virtually rules out the hepatic origin
of this abnormality.
However, when it is certain that the cause of their alteration
is liver disease, serum albumin levels and prothrombin
time are useful tests for monitoring liver synthetic activity.
The half-life of albumin in circulation is long (about
20 days), and the half-life of blood clotting factors is quite
short (about 1 day).4,5,82 Thus, albumin levels decrease when
cirrhosis occurs, and they have prognostic meaning in these
patients. On the contrary, patients with acute, massive hepatocellular
necrosis (acute toxic or viral hepatitis) may
have a brisk increase in prothrombin time (usually < 3 seconds)
that tends to plateau, and normal albuminemia. In
these patients, prothrombin time can be monitored in order
to assess the risk of acute liver failure. On the other
hand, prothrombin time is not useful for assessing liver
function in patients with mild aminotransferase alteration,
since prothrombin time can remain within normal limits
for long periods unless a marked decrease in liver function
occurs and patients with compensated liver cirrhosis may
have normal prothrombin time.81 Thus, it is evident from
these data that albumin and prothrombin time alteration
should be interpreted within the clinical and biochemical
context of the patient.
Obstructive jaundice may decrease the absorption of vitamin
K, and therefore increase prothrombin time. In this
situation, prothrombin time responds to parenteral administration
of vitamin K, which is ineffective when jaundice is
caused by decreased liver functioning mass. Finally, prothrombin
time values are strictly dependent upon the International
Sensitivity Index of the reagent that is used,
and this does not allow for easy standardization of results
among laboratories.4,5 Taking these limitations into account,
both serum albumin and prothrombin time can be
considered useful tools, alone or combined in clinical
scores, for evaluating liver function.83–86 Nevertheless, tests
that involve administering exogenous compounds may be
used to evaluate liver function more accurately.87
Alterations in liver enzyme levels are one of the most
common problems encountered in everyday clinical practice.
Finding the way through the multiple diagnostic
pathways can challenge even the experienced clinician.
Knowledge of the pathophysiology of liver enzymes is an
essential guide to understanding their alteration. The pattern
of enzyme abnormality, interpreted in the context of
the patient’s characteristics, can aid in directing the subsequent
diagnostic work-up. Awareness of the prevalence of
determined liver disease in specific populations and of possible
hepatic involvement during systemic illnesses or drug
therapies may help the clinician identify the cause of alterations
An approach to liver enzyme alteration
CMAJ • FEB. 1, 2005; 172 (3) 377
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13. Merryweather-Clarke AT, Pointon JJ, Shearman JD, Robson KJ. Global
prevalence of putative haemochromatosis mutations. J Med Genet 1997;34(4):
14. Barton JC, Acton RT. Inheritance of two HFE mutations in African Americans:
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15. Roberts EA, Schilsky ML. A practice guideline on Wilson disease. Hepatology
16. Lee WM. Drug-induced hepatotoxicity. N Engl J Med 2003;349(5):474-85.
17. Fogden E, Neuberger J. Alternative medicines and the liver. Liver Int 2003;23
18. Vanderlinde RE. Review of pyridoxal phosphate and the transaminases in
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20. Diehl AM, Potter J, Boitnott J, Van Duyn MA, Herlong HF, Mezey E. Relationship
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24. Pratt DS, Kaplan MM. Evaluation of abnormal liver-enzyme results in
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25. Gopal DV, Rosen HR. Abnormal findings on liver function tests. Postgrad
26. Rozen P, Korn RJ, Zimmerman HJ. Computer analysis of liver function tests
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42. Alvarez F, Berg PA, Bianchi FB, Bianchi L, Burroughs AK, Cancado EL, et
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45. Ferenci P, Caca K, Loudianos G, Mieli-Vergani G, Tanner S, Sternlieb I, et
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49. Brunt EM. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Semin Liver Dis 2004;24(1):3-20.
50. Angulo P, Keach JC, Batts KP, Lindor KD. Independent predictors of liver
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AJ. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a spectrum of clinical and pathological
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52. Lavanchy D. Hepatitis B virus epidemiology, disease burden, treatment, and
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54. Mele A, Spada E, Sagliocca L, Ragni P, Tosti ME, Gallo G, et al. Risk of parenterally
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55. Memon MI, Memon MA. Hepatitis C: An epidemiological review. J Viral
56. Williams AL, Hoofnagle JH. Ratio of serum aspartate to alanine aminotransferase
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57. Giannini E, Botta F, Fasoli A, Ceppa P, Risso D, Lantieri PB, et al. Progressive
liver functional impairment is associated with an increase in AST/ALT
ratio. Dig Dis Sci 1999;44(6):1249-53.
58. Giannini E, Risso D, Botta F, Chiarbonello B, Fasoli A, Malfatti F, et al. Validity
and clinical utility of the aspartate aminotransferase-alanine aminotransferase
ratio in assessing disease severity and prognosis in patients with hepatitis
C virus-related chronic liver disease. Arch Intern Med 2003;163(2):218-24.
59. Giannini E, Botta F, Testa E, Romagnoli P, Polegato S, Malfatti F, et al. The
1-year and 3-month prognostic utility of the AST/ALT ratio and model for
end-stage liver disease score in patients with viral liver cirrhosis. Am J Gastroenterol
60. Tavill AS. Diagnosis and management of Hemochromatosis. Hepatology 2001;
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378 JAMC • 1er FÉVR. 2005; 172 (3)
From the Gastroenterology Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, University of
Genoa, Genoa, Italy.
Competing interests: None declared.
This article has been peer reviewed.
62. Morrison ED, Kowdley KV. Genetic liver disease in adults: early recognition
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63. Abdo A, Meddings J, Swain M. Liver abnormalities in celiac disease. Clin Gastroenterol
64. Farrell RJ, Kelly CP. Diagnosis of celiac sprue. Am J Gastroenterol 2001;96
65. Fishman WH. Alkaline phosphatase isoenzymes: recent progress. Clin
66. Moss DW. Physiochemical and pathophysiological factors in the release of
membrane-bound alkaline phosphatase from cells. Clin Chim Acta 1997;257
67. Schlaeger R, Haux D, Kattermann R. Studies on the mechanism of the increase
in serum alkaline phosphatase activity in cholestasis: significance of the
hepatic bile acid concentration for the leakage of alkaline phosphatase from
rat liver. Enzyme 1982;28(1):3-13.
68. Velayudham LS, Farrell GC. Drug-induced cholestasis. Expert Opin Drug Saf
69. Ponsioen CI, Tytgat GN. Primary sclerosing cholangitis: a clinical review.
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70. Heathcote J. Update on primary biliary cirrhosis. Can J Gastroenterol 2000;14
71. Poupon R. Autoimmune overlapping syndromes. Clin Liver Dis 2003;7(4):865-78.
72. Bonnand AM, Heathcote EJ, Lindor KD, Poupon RE. Clinical significance of
serum bilirubin levels under ursodeoxycholic acid therapy in patients with primary
biliary cirrhosis. Hepatology 1999;29(1):34-43.
73. Kim WR, Therneau TM, Wiesner RH, Poterucha JJ, Benson JT, Malinchoc
M, et al. A revised natural history model for primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Mayo Clin Proc 2000;75(7):688-94.
74. Rosalki SB, Tarlow D, Rau D. Plasma gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase elevation
in patients receiving enzyme-inducing drugs. Lancet 1971;2:376-7.
75. McCullough AJ. Update on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. J Clin Gastroenterol
76. Giannini E, Botta F, Fasoli A, Romagnoli P, Mastracci L, Ceppa P, et al. Increased
levels of gammaGT suggest the presence of bile duct lesions in patients
with chronic hepatitis C: absence of influence of HCV genotype,
HCV-RNA serum levels, and HGV infection on this histological damage. Dig
Dis Sci 2001;46(3):524-9.
77. Berk PD, Noyer C. Clinical chemistry and physiology of bilirubin. Semin
Liver Dis 1994; 4(4):346-55.
78. Fevery J, Blanckaert N. What can we learn from analysis of serum bilirubin. J
79. Bosma PJ, Chowdury JR, Bakker C, Gantla S, de Boer A, Oostra BA, et al.
The genetic bases of the reduced expression of bilirubin UDP-glucuronosyltransferase
1 in Gilbert’s syndrome. N Engl J Med 1995;333(18):1171-5.
80. Thomsen HF, Hardt F, Juhl E. Diagnosis of Gilbert’s syndrome. Scand J Gastroenterol
81. Van Hootegem P, Fevery J, Blanckaert N. Serum bilirubins in hepatobiliary
disease: comparison with other liver function tests and changes in the postobstructive
period. Hepatology 1985;5(1):112-7.
82. Doumas BT, Peters T. Serum and urine albumin: a progress report on their
measurement and clinical significance. Clin Chim Acta 1997;258(1):3-20.
83. Pugh RN, Murray-Lyon IM, Dawson JL, Pietroni MC, Williams R. Transection
of the oesophagus for bleeding oesophageal varices. Br J Surg 1973;60(8):
84. Bonis PA, Tong MJ, Blatt LM, Conrad A, Griffith JL. A predictive model for
the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, liver failure, or liver transplantation
for patients presenting to clinic with chronic hepatitis C. Am J Gastroenterol
85. Kamath PS, Wiesner RH, Malinchoc M, Kremers W, Therneau TM, Kosberg
CL, et al. A model to predict survival in patients with end-stage liver disease.
86. Botta F, Giannini E, Romagnoli P, Fasoli A, Malfatti F, Chiarbonello B, et al.
MELD scoring system is useful for predicting prognosis in patients with liver
cirrhosis and is correlated with residual liver function: a European study. Gut
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Pharmacol Ther 1995;9(3):263-70.
An approach to liver enzyme alteration
CMAJ • FEB. 1, 2005; 172 (3) 379
Correspondence to: Dr. Edoardo G. Giannini, Gastroenterology
Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa,
Viale Benedetto XV, no. 6, 16132, Genoa, Italy; fax: 39 010 353
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Detak jantung terus berlantun, langkah kaki tetap terpadu
Dalam lembaran penuh warna kehidupan angan yang terpendam kan terwujud
Cita-cita yang tinggi kan tergapai dengan usaha serta keriangan dan kesungguhan
Itulah arti dari mencintai diri sendiri
Jika kita mencintai seseorang, kita akan senantiasa mendoakannya
Walaupun dia tidak berada di sisi kita
Tuhan memberikan kita dua buah kaki untuk berjalan
Dua tangan untuk memegang
Dua telinga untuk mendengar
Dan dua mata untuk melihat
Tetapi mengapa Tuhan hanya menganugerahkan sekeping hati kepada kita?
Karena Tuhan telah memberikan sekeping hati lagi kepada seseorang untuk kita mencarinya
Jangan sesekali mengucapkan selamat tinggal jika kita masih mau mencoba
Jangan sesekali menyerah jika kita masih merasa sanggup
Jangan sesekali mengatakan kita tidak mencintainya lagi jika kita masih tidak dapat melupakan
Cinta datang kepada orang yang masih mempunyai harapan
Walaupun mereka telah dikecewakan
Kepada mereka yang masih percaya
Walaupun mereka telah dikhianati
Kepada mereka yang masih ingin mencintai
Walaupun mereka telah disakiti sebelumnya dan
Kepada mereka yang mempunyai keberanian dan keyakinan untuk membangun kembali kepercayaan
Jangan sampai kita menyimpan kata-kata cinta kepada orang yang tersayang
Hingga dia meninggal dunia dan akhirnya kita terpaksa mencatat kata-kata cinta itu pada pusara
Sebaiknya ucapkanlah kata-kata cinta yang tersimpan di benak kita
Sekarang selagi ada hayatnya
Mungkin Tuhan menginginkan kita bertemu dan bercinta dengan orang yang salah
Sebelum bertemu dengan orang yang tepat
Kita harus mengerti bagaimana berterima kasih atas karunia tersebut
Cinta dapat mengubah pahit menjadi manis
Debu menjadi emas
Keruh menjadi bening
Sakit menjadi sembuh
Penjara menjadi telaga
Derita menjadi nikmat
Dan kemarahan menjadi rahmat
Sungguh menyakitkan mencintai seseorang yang tidak mencintai kita
Tetapi lebih menyakitkan adalah mencintai seseorang dan kita tidak pernah memiliki keberanian untuk menyatakan cinta itu kepadanya
Seandainya kita ingin mencintai atau memiliki hati seseorang
Ibarat kata seperti memetik sekuntum mawar merah
Kadangkala kita mencium harum mawar tersebut
Tetapi adakalanya kita merasakan disaat duri mawar itu menusuk jari
Hal yang menyedihkan dalam hidup
Adalah ketika kita bertemu seseorang yang sangat berarti bagi kita
Hanya untuk menemukan bahwa pada akhirnya menjadi tidak berarti
Dan kita harus membiarkannya pergi
Kadangkala kita tidak menghargai orang yang mencintai kita sepenuh hati
Sehingga kita kehilangannya
Pada saat itu tiada guna penyesalan karena perginya tanpa berkata lagi
Cintailah seseorang itu atas dasar “siapa dia sekarang”
Dan bukan “siapa dia sebelumnya”
Kisah silam tidak perlu diungkit lagi
Sekiranya kita benar-benar mencintainya setulus hati
Hati-hati dengan cinta
Karena cinta juga dapat membuat orang sehat menjadi sakit
Orang gemuk menjadi kurus
Orang normal menjadi gila
Orang kaya menjadi miskin
Raja menjadi budak
Jika cintanya itu disambut oleh para pecinta palsu
Kemungkinan apa yang kita sayangi atau cintai
Tersimpan keburukan didalamnya
Dan kemungkinan apa yang kita benci
Tersimpan kebaikan didalamnya
Cinta kepada harta artinya bakhil
Cinta kepada perempuan artinya alam
Cinta kepada diri sendiri artinya bijaksana
Cinta kepada mati artinya hidup
Dan cinta kepada Tuhan artinya takwa
Lemparkanlah seseorang yang bahagia dalam bercinta ke dalam laut
Pasti ia akan membawa seekor ikan
Lemparkanlah pula seorang yang gagal dalam bercinta ke dalam segudang roti
Pasti ia akan mati kelaparan
Seandainya kita dapat berbicara dalam semua bahasa manusia dan alam
Tetapi tidak mempunyai perasaan cinta dan kasih
Dirimu tak ubah seperti gong yang bergaung atau sekedar cangkang yang bergemerincing
Cinta adalah keabadian dan kenangan adalah hal yang terindah
Dalam cinta yang pernah dimiliki
Siapapun pandai menghayati cinta
Tapi tak seorangpun pandai menilai cinta
Karena cinta bukanlah sesuatu wujud yang bisa dilihat oleh kasat mata
Sebaliknya cinta hanya dapat dirasakan melalui hati dan perasaan
Cinta mampu melunakkan besi, menghancurkan batu, membangkitkan yang mati dan kehidupan padanya
Serta membuat budak menjadi pemimpin
Itulah dasarnya cinta…
Cinta sebenarnya adalah membiarkan orang yang kita cintai menjadi dirinya sendiri
Dan tidak merubahnya seperti gambaran yang kita inginkan
Jika tidak, kita hanya mencintai pantulan diri kita sendiri yang kita temukan dari dalam dirinya
Kita tidak akan pernah tahu bila kita akan jatuh cinta
Namun apabila sampai saatnya itu raihlah dengan kedua tanganmu
Dan jangan biarkan dia pergi dengan sejuta rasa tanda tanya dihatinya
Cinta bukanlah kata yang murah dan lumrah
Tetapi cinta adalah anugerah Tuhan yang indah dan suci jika manusia dapat melihat dan menilai kesucian
Bercinta memang mudah
Untuk dicintai juga memang mudah
Tapi untuk dicintai oleh orang yang kita cintai itulah yang sukar diperoleh
Jika saja kehadiran cinta sekedar untuk mengecewakan
Lebih baik cinta itu tak pernah hadir
Karena cinta sesuatu yang membawa keindahan dan kebahagiaan didalamnya
Cinta itu seperti kupu-kupu
Tambah dikejar tambah lari
Tapi kalau dibiarkan terbang dia akan datang disaat kita tidak mengharapkan
Cinta dapat membuatmu bahagia
Tapi sering juga menjadi sedih
Tapi cinta baru berharga kalau diberikan kepada seseorang yang menghargainya
Jadi janganlah terburu-buru dan pilih yang terbaik
Cinta bukan bagaimana menjadi pasangan yang sempurna bagi seseorang
Tapi bagaimana menemukan seseorang yang dapat membantu menjadi dirimu sendiri
Jangan pernah bilang “I Love You” kalau kita tidak pernah peduli
Jangan pernah membicarakan perasaan yang tidak pernah ada
Jangan pernah menyentuh hidup seseorang kalau hal itu untuk menghancurkan hatinya
Jangan pernah menatap matanya kalau semua yang dilakukan kita hanya untuk berbohong
Hal paling kejam yang seseorang lakukan kepada orang lain
Adalah membiarkannya jatuh cinta
Sementara kita tidak meneriab untuk menangkapnya
Cinta bukan “ini salah kamu” tapi “maafkan aku”
Bukan “kamu dimana sih” tapi “aku disini”
Bukan “gimana sih kamu” tapi “aku ngerti ko”
Bukan “coba kamu ngga kayak gini” tapi “aku cinta kamu seperti kamu apa adanya”
Aktivitas yang paling benar bukan diukur berdasarkan berapa lama kita sudah bersama
Maupun berapa sering kita bersama
Tapi apakah selama kita bersama kita selalu saling mengisi satu sama lain dan saling membuat hidup yang berkualitas
Kesedihan dan kerinduan hanya terasa selama yang kita inginkan
Dan menyayat sedalam yang kita izinkan
Yang berat bukan bagaimana cara mengulangi kesedihan dan kerinduan itu
Tapi bagaimana cara belajar darinya
Cara jatuh cinta
Jatuh tapi jangan terhuyung-huyung
Konsisten tapi jangan memaksa
Berbagi dan jangan bersikap tidak adil
Mengerti dan cobalah untuk tidak banyak menuntut
Sedih tapi jangan pernah simpan kesedihan itu
Memang sakit melihat orang yang kita cintai sedang berbahagia dengan orang lain
Tapi lebih sakit lagi kalau orang yang kita cintai itu tidak berbahagia bersama kita
Cinta akan menyakitkan ketika kita berpisah dengan seseorang
Lebih menyakitkan apabila kita dilupakan oleh kekasih
Tapi cinta akan lebih menyakitkan lagi apabila seseorang yang kita sayangi tidak tahu apa yang sesungguhnya kita rasakan
Yang paling menyedihkan dalam hidup ini adalah menemukan seseorang dan jatuh cinta
Hanya untuk menemukan bahwa dia bukan untuk kita
Dan kita sudah menghabiskan waktu yang banyak untuk orang yang tidak pernah menghargainya
Kalau dia berkata “tidak”
Maka ia tidak akan pernah berkata “ya” setahun lagi ataupun 10 tahun lagi
Biarkan dia pergi…
Cinta adalah semangat
Cinta adalah kepercayaan
Cinta adalah energi yang tidak bisa dimusnahkan
Ia hanya bisa berubah bentuk
Cinta memang tak harus memiliki
Karena mencintai berarti memberi tak pernah kuminta
now.” Hans Bethe complained that trying to explain the advantages of
nuclear power to opponents was like “carving a cubic foot out of a lake.”
He related an incident that occurred when he spoke to a largely antinuclear
audience at a meeting in Berkeley, California. After he had presented
his position on the need for nuclear power, a woman in the audience stood
up, turned her back on him, and shouted, “Save the Earth!” The crowd
reacted, he said, with “thunderous applause.”33
In keeping with its heavy emotional content, the contest over nuclear
power featured a strong element of gamesmanship. This was evident in
competing petitions that each side publicized to show authoritative scientific
support for its position. In January 1975, a group of thirty-four
eminent American scientists, including eleven Nobel laureates, released
a statement on energy policy that had been drafted primarily by Bethe
and Lapp. Contending that the energy crisis confronted the United States
with “the most serious situation since World War II,” it maintained that
there was “no reasonable alternative to an increased use of nuclear power
to satisfy our energy needs.” The petition faulted nuclear critics for a
lack of “perspective as to the feasibility of non-nuclear power sources
and the gravity of the fuel crisis.” When Bethe and Lapp issued the statement
at a press conference attended by about a hundred reporters, Ralph
Nader countered by attending the event and handing out an appeal of
his own. It was a letter to President Ford signed by eight prominent scientists,
including five Nobel laureates, that opposed a “massive speedup
of nuclear power plant construction.” Science magazine scored this exchange
as “Nuclear Advocates 34, Opponents 8.”
A short time later, the Union of Concerned Scientists circulated yet
another petition that urged a “drastic reduction” in new construction
of reactors. Of the approximately sixteen thousand people who received
the statement from the UCS, about twenty-three hundred signed. The
UCS then delivered the petition to the White House and Congress on
August 6, 1975, the thirtieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
This initiative, in turn, prompted the American Nuclear Society,
an organization of nuclear professionals in industry, government,
and academic institutions, to launch its own drive. Eventually it secured
more than thirty-two thousand signatures on a statement that underlined
the need for both coal and nuclear power and asserted that there
were “no technical problems incapable of being solved” in the use of
As the adversaries in the nuclear debate attempted to win public favor
by citing the numbers and professional qualifications of their supporters,
THE NUCLEAR POWER DEBATE 21
THE GYPSIES/THE ROMA
IN HUNGARIAN SOCIETY
TELEKI LÁSZLÓ FOUNDATION
The translations were proofread by
The publishing of this volume was supported by
the Teleki László Institute:
Cultural Foreign Policy and National Identity Project
Copyright © Regio – Teleki László Foundation
© Gábor Várkonyi
© Gábor Bernáth, Gábor Havas, Ernõ Kállai,
Júlia Károlyi, István Kemény, András Kovács,
Vera Messing, Péter Szuhay, Imre Vajda, Balázs Wizner
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical
without prior permission in writing from the publishers.
Cover illustration by László Hajnal
ISBN 963 85774 6 0
Foreword /ERNÕ KÁLLAI/ 7
S T U D I E S
The Linguistic Groups of the Roma in Hungary
and the Beginnings of Scientific Research 13
I. Ethnographical and Cultural Anthropological Research 13
II. On Sociological Studies about the Roma 18
III. Self-Definitions of Gypsy Ethnic Groups 24
IV. Linguistic Groups and Usage
among the Hungarian Gypsies/Roma 28
The Hungarian Roma Population During
the Last Half-Century 35
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary
and the Economy 51
The School as Breakout Point 79
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
The Neglected Public
On the Media Consumption of the Hungarian Roma 107
Local and International Views on the Migration
of the Hungarian Roma 126
R E V I E W S
The Gypsies – The Roma and Scientific Research
Some thoughts about the role of Gypsy intelligentsia
in the wake of the “Who is a Gypsy?” debate 149
The Roma, Poverty and Culture 157
A Book about the Roma 161
How the Roma Make a Living 170
NOTES ON AUTHORS 178
By no means the first or the only such undertaking, the journal Regio of
the László Teleki Foundation has nevertheless taken on a significant task
by publishing the English version of the volume Gypsies/Roma in Hungarian
Society. There is an ever growing demand for a scientifically grounded
analysis of the current situation among researchers and political decision-
makers who do not speak Hungarian but who are increasingly interested
in the subject. This is certainly not accidental, but has several reasons.
Such, for example, is the fact that for several years one of the most critical
points made by the country assessment reports prepared by the EU has been
the lack of the social integration and equal opportunities of the Roma in Hungary.
Nor has the significance of the debate about the Roma leaving the village
of Zámoly for France and receiving political asylum there been confined
within the borders of the country. Just how intolerable the situation has
become is well exemplified by the fact that a few months ago the Canadian
government introduced a compulsory visa system for Hungarian citizens to
put an end to the tide of emigrants from Hungary, most of them Hungarian
Gypsies in a socially desperate situation. After such developments it would
be folly to suppose that these are merely transient problems: in effect these
are social issues with very deep roots and, left unresolved, they will lead to
increasingly severe conflicts.
It is for these reasons, too, that we would do well to understand just
who the Gypsies or the Roma are.1 At the time of the representative Gypsy
1 In keeping with the practice widespread in the field of scientific research, we use the terms
“Gypsy” and “Roma” as synonymous in the volume. Several studies, however, point out the
differences underlying the two terms. Thus, the word “Gypsy”, which has become widespread
since the 18th century and is a collective term used by majority society, is today primarily
used by Gypsies whose mother language is Hungarian and who have lost their ancient
culture. On the other hand, the term “Roma” is used by Gypsy groups who have preserved
their language and culture as well as by actors of Roma politics. They choose to use
the term “Roma” to denote themselves because of the increasingly pejorative connotations
of the word “Gypsy”.
survey of 1971 the number of Gypsies living in Hungary was 320,000 – a figure
that reached half a million by 1993. Even according to the most modest estimates
of researchers, the number of Gypsies in Hungary at the beginning of
the third millennium is between 500,000 and 600,000. We are speaking
about a population that has been living in Hungary for several centuries, scattered
in all regions and leading a wholly settled life for a long time. Today, on
the verge of Hungary’s accession to the European Union it is essential that
political leaders – and, indeed, society as a whole – face the social problem
called “the Gypsy question”. On the other hand, the same has to be done by
the present EU member countries if they wish to have a realistic picture
about the centuries-long tribulations of these people, since as yet they have
had no experience with the problems of a large number of settled Gypsies.
It is intolerable that an entire people today lead their everyday lives in utter
misery and with no hope for the future – right in the centre of Europe. Civilized
Europe has an obligation to deal with this unfortunate situation and investigate
the possibilities of resolving it. In order to put in place the appropriate
programmes, however, all decision-makers should possess scientifically
grounded knowledge about the situation of the Gypsies in Hungary.
Given our limited resources, in the present collection of studies we
only investigate a few, albeit extremely important issues. To start with, we
attempt to summarise the history and present status of Hungarian Gypsy studies
as well as to show the different approaches to the basic question of “Who
are the Gypsies?” that has generated heated debates for decades.We then provide
readings about the historical past of the Gypsies in Hungary from their
appearance in the Middle Ages right through to the present. Detailed analyses
are provided about the situation of Hungarian Gypsies, which has undergone
drastic changes since the time of political transformation in 1990, covering
the various relevant socio-political concepts and programmes of the
Hungarian governments during the last decade. A separate study has been included
about the issue of unemployment, which is the greatest among the
problems of the Roma today. In his writing István Kemény – one of the most
prominent personalities in Hungarian Gypsy studies for decades – describes
and analyses in detail all those factors that determine the position of the
Roma on the labour market. The study by the eminent sociologist, Gábor
Havas, scrutinises what is perhaps the most important element for the social
elevation of the Gypsies: education. The media research of Gábor Bernáth
and Vera Messing provides data about the media consumption habits of the
Gypsies. András Kováts, a young researcher of migration, has written
a study about the migrational tendencies and their causes among the Hungarian
Roma – the issue which has received the most public attention both at
home and abroad. The rest of the volume contains reviews of books which
present the significant results of and progress made by research during
recent years. Among these, special mention has to be made of the contribution
of Imre Vajda – a researcher who proudly accepts his Gypsy identity.
This study goes well beyond the scope of a review and puts forth a very
marked opinion about the situation of scientific research and the possible
role of a new generation of Gypsy intellectuals within it.
In this volume we shall not, obviously, solve the problems that have
been accumulating for decades and centuries. Our goal is to draw attention to
those most recent results of research which reveal the roots of the problems
and provide political decision-makers with the possibility of formulating
strategic programmes. All our propositions are based on the results of notable
experts, and we are ready to accept the fact that it is sometimes not easy
for Hungarian society and its political leaders to face the omissions and mistakes
committed during recent decades. It is, however, our firm conviction
that without open debate and solid knowledge there is no hope of changing
the extremely miserable living circumstances of the Roma.
S T U D I E S
The Linguistic Groups of the Roma
in Hungary and the Beginnings of
I. ETHNOGRAPHICAL AND CULTURAL
To date, the system of scientific classification of the Hungarian Roma population
most widely accepted was established by Kamill Erdõs as early
as 1958. However, there had been various attempts before his time that have
an effect on today’s political and public administration practice. The census
of the Gypsies in 1893 regarded the extent of vagrancy and settlement as the
main ordering principle, and accordingly distinguished wandering Gypsies,
Gypsies who dwell in one place for a longer period and permanently settled
The work of the researchers known as the first “Gypsy studies trio”,
Henrik Wlislocki, Archduke Joseph and Antal Hermann, also displayed
a certain romantic attitude. Even though all three of them applied the method
of participatory observation, they described wandering Gypsies as people
who would not tolerate social obligations are were reluctant to become part
of society; they were children of nature, albeit of not too honourable character.
Their scientific interest was directed by a kind of enlightened absolutism
and their aim was to settle wandering Gypsies. Archduke Joseph wanted to
settle a group of vagrants on his Alcsút estate, while Antal Herman, as
a chief counsellor to the Ministry of the Interior, worked on the preparation
and co-ordination of the 1916 ministry order. It appears they had little understanding
of the culture of the vagrants, did not recognise the economic pressure
behind migration, and the mistrust and suspicion directed towards their
environment. The long supplement to the entry “Gypsy” in the Pallas Encyclopedia
may be regarded as a summary of the work of the trio.
One of the first scientists to provide a description of the three major
Roma groups in Hungary was Antal Heiczinger in his 1939 study. He laid
down a valid description of the tub-making Gypsies, which is still valid.
In his Data on the Gypsy Question of the Villages his observations equally
take into account language, migration, occupation and livelihood, lifestyle,
and the relationship with the village and the peasants. Kamill Erdõs tried to
set up a classification of the groups of the Hungarian population termed as
Gypsies in his studies The Gypsies of Békés County – Gypsy dialects in Hungary
and The Hungarian Gypsies – Tribes and Clans. To date this is the most
detailed such classification and we can easily assert that it is this system that
has been codified by the fields of science dealing with the Roma. It has provided
the conceptual framework for ethnographical and anthropological studies,
and has also influenced the basic categories of later sociological studies.
“We can distinguish two main types of Gypsies in Hungary:
A) those whose mother tongue is the Gypsy language
B) those whose mother tongue is not the Gypsy language.
The first group may be subdivided into two, markedly distinct sub-groups:
A1 those who speak the so-called Carpathian Gypsy language;
A2 those who speak the so-called Romany or Vlach Gypsy language.
The second main group consists of those whose mother tongue is not the
Gypsy language. They may be divided into two categories:
B1 those whose mother tongue is Hungarian;
B2 those whose mother tongue is Romanian.
Members of group B1 (Romungro, “Rumungro”) are descendants of the
Carpathian and Vlach Gypsies who were not taught the Gypsy language by
their ancestors, possibly in the hope of easier assimilation. Today it is almost
impossible to distinguish them according to their origins.
They fall into two categories:
a) musicians (the “gentleman” group)
b) adobe makers, basket weavers, day labourers, etc. (the poor
Members of group B2 also fall into two categories:
1) Romanian Gypsies (e.g. in the townships of Elek and Méhkerék
in Békés County)
2) the tub-maker Gypsies.
Romanian Gypsies have no further sub-groups.”
In his descriptions Erdõs always clearly identified the group he was
speaking about and never applied information about one group to another.
I. Ethnographical and Cultural Anthropological Research
Once beyond the difficulties of classification, ethnographical literature
was more or less interested in the description of the Roma. In its approach
and attitude toward the question, the science of the fifties and the
sixties carried on the endeavours of the thirties. Interest was directed at two
main areas. On the one hand it was traditional trades and crafts that interested
researchers, while on the other they turned their attention to phenomena
of folklore. The positivist description, museal collection of objects and
photographic documentation of traditional or ancient trades and crafts has
obviously added a lot to our knowledge of the Roma (tub makers were
described in detail by Béla Gunda, Margit Békeffy, Tivadar Petercsák and
János Bencsik; metallurgy by Ferenc Bakó, Kamill Erdõs, Ferenc Bodgál,
Ilona Ladvenicza and Zsuzsa Bódi; but research also covered such other
crafts as adobe making, brick burning and basket weaving). These works,
however, restrict themselves to describing a craft or trade and are not embedded
into the history and actual system of relations of the community as
a whole. Therefore, such descriptions document the history of technology
much more than real socio-historical processes.
At the outset, folkloristic studies were motivated by the desire to document
ancient elements of Hungarian folk culture that had been adapted
by, and were still discernible amongst the Roma. Researchers set out with
the presupposition that the Roma have no independent ethnic culture of
their own, but, as an archaic community, they have preserved many cultural
elements that they have adapted from Hungarian dance folklore or
folk tales. Research, therefore, did not strive to describe Roma culture
itself but attempted to glean information about the archaic system of Hungarian
folk culture. Emphasising the co-existence of Roma and non-Roma
to some extent legitimised the notion that the culture of the Roma was solely
the result of adapting elements from other cultures. No doubt, we should regard
folklore as basically dependent on social class or stratum, but we also
should not forget about the ethnic knowledge generated during the course of
the formulation of group identity. The study of folklore primarily concentrated
on the collection of folk tales. Thus, for example, the series of Gypsy
Studies of the HAS Ethnographical Research Group has mainly published
such tales; however, we also have to call attention the achievements of Olga
Nagy and József Vekerdi.
An alternative approach is represented by the work of Katalin Kovalcsik
who, while collecting folklore, was interested in the given community rather
than just the afterlife of a genre. The work of Károly Bari is fundamentally different
from both trends and strives to reconstruct the once unified folkloric
knowledge of the Roma by collecting works of folklore among them.
I. Ethnographical and Cultural Anthropological Research
During the last decade, folkloristic interest has come to include the belief
sets of Roma as well as certain elements of their system of customs, such
as the subs-system related to pregnancy and birth, death and grief and the
description of curses and wows. Kamill Erdõs’s smaller studies may be
regarded as forerunners of this line of interest. As regards the concrete nature
of the descriptions, we have to distinguish the works of Melinda Rézmûves,
Gusztáv Balázs and Julianna Kalányosné László, who apply actual field experiences
to the individual communities, from the writings of György
Rostás-Farkas, Ervin Karsai and Pál Farkas who, for the most part, project
their own experiences from Vlach Gypsy circles over the entire Roma population.
It was also these authors who attempted to create a comprehensive ethnography
of the Roma people in a synthetic work of some proportion. The
value of their work has lost much due to the lack of references and the romantic
image they depict.
The history of science looks upon Kamill Erdõs, József Vekerdi and
András Hajdú as another “trio”. From the point of view of our subject matter
it was the first two who had the most definitive effect on later ethnographic
research. The similarity in their approaches is perhaps best characterised by
the fact that both of them believed that administrative decisions could force
Roma to give up their “outdated lifestyles”. While researchers even today
often cite Kamill Erdõs, József Vekerdi has become persona non grata
among romologists. In his later works, philosophising on the theory of culture,
he stated that there is no independent Roma culture and the formation of
such is made impossible precisely by the lack of tradition; furthermore, that
Roma lack “material or intellectual aspirations”.
The first significant summary work on the Roma was the volume published
in 1983, entitled Gypsies: Where they Came from, Where they are
Going and edited by László Szegõ. This book contains texts representing various
different approaches including scientific analyses as well as articles intended
to promote the elevation and integration of the Roma population. During
the last few years several authors who found it less important to treat
Roma culture as a political affair have written a book on Roma ethnography
or compiled a reader on the subject (for example Zsuzsa Bódi, Tibor Tuza,
Elemér Várnagy or Katalin Kovalcsik–Anna Csongor, but in a certain sense
we may also include here Géza Csemer’s book, Habiszti).
All in all, we may conclude that ethnographic and folklore research of the
past few decades have been primarily interested in Vlach Gypsies who were regarded
as traditional, and, for the most part, were restricted to the description of
archaic phenomena without regarding the community or the group as the starting
point of study. Interest in the trends of the present was insignificant. This is
the reason why the growing number of manuals on Roma and the ethnographic
notes of educational supplements usually tend to describe the cultural phenomena
of archaic or Vlach Gypsies rather than Gypsy culture in general.
It is perhaps the works which exhibit a socio-anthropological approach
that offer the most detailed description and analyses of the Hungarian Roma
groups. Using this approach researchers examine the culture of Roma
groups as a living culture whose primary function is to organise the community
and life, to maintain the survival of the social group and to ensure livelihood.
This culture cannot be described in itself but only in the context of its
relationship with majority society. Most significant among anthropological
studies is the work of the British Michael Stewart.
In clear opposition to the ethnographical approach, the anthropological
field studies of Michael Stewart among the Hungarian Roma during the
1980’s and the resulting publications started a new period in Roma research
and added novel information to our knowledge of the Roma. Stewart intentionally
selected a group of Vlach Gypsies because he chose to set out from
the assumption that these groups have preserved much more independent elements
in their cultural system or, we could say, tried harder to maintain traditional
values and lifestyles. In describing Vlach Gypsies he examined both
their relationship with the peasants and other Gypsy groups. Stewart draws
the primary distinction between Vlach Gypsies whose lifestyle and philosophy
is traditional and different from that of society and its codified set of values
and the Hungarian Gypsies who try to conform to the value system of
society in their lifestyles and outlook.
Gábor Fleck and Tünde Virágh have conducted anthropological studies
in Boyash Gypsy communities while Viktória Burka examined Hungarian
At this point we have to mention two works on the history of science
that could provide readers with further and more detailed information on the
subject. József Vekerdi’s work The History of Hungarian Gypsy Studies
describes and summarises a wide variety of scientific fields, while Csaba
Prónai’s volume entitled Gypsy Studies and Cultural Anthropology assesses
earlier and present-day Hungarian and international research efforts primarily
from the point of view of cultural anthropology.
I. Ethnographical and Cultural Anthropological Research
II. ON SOCIOLOGICAL STUDIES ABOUT THE ROMA
Aconstantly recurring problem related to the views on the situation of the
Gypsies is whether to regard the Gypsy question as primarily an ethnic-
national or racial question, or as a problem of social stratification,”
wrote Árpád Szakolczai in 1982. Even though the statement is rather general,
it highlights the basic problem of the sociological study of the Roma.
All such studies have to ask at the very beginning who the people to be regarded
as Gypsies are, and what the basis is for such classification. The answer
to the question may, of course, be (or appear to be) theoretically
grounded, or it may be clearly practical and only take into account the practical
aspects of research, but the question itself cannot be avoided. On the one
hand, therefore, the problem of definition is there at the outset of all sociological
studies related to the Roma, while, on the other, quite independent of the
particular subject of research and the approach applied, the results of research
may provide information for the solution of the problem of definition;
information that may be contrary to the original hypothesis. The history of
the sociological approach to the Gypsy problem in Hungary demonstrates
that it is far from easy to find a reassuring answer to the question and that the
attempts to solve the problem hitherto have not been able to entirely remove
the contradictions inherent in it.
Following the census efforts of the 18th and 19th centuries, the first comprehensive
and methodical attempt to assess the situation of the Roma, the
“Gypsy census” conducted by the Royal Hungarian Statistical Office, exhibited
a rather practical, down-to-earth approach in this matter. “Ascertaining
Gypsy origin usually does not involve too much difficulty. Public opinion,
the consciousness of the people, usually keeps a reliable record of Gypsy origin,
a marked feature of which is the set of anthropological characteristics.”
This definition – whose purpose was to determine the group of people to be
included in the census – is remarkably similar to that applied almost eight decades
later in 1971 by István Kemény’s nation-wide survey of the Roma:
“In our research we have classified as Gypsies those persons who are regarded
as such by their non-Gypsy surroundings.”
This definition does not include among the Roma those individuals
who have been fully assimilated by the majority society. The study describ-
ing the results of the 1893 census also alludes to this fact: “…despite all care
and exactitude the census has not included the people whose Gypsy origin is
unknown…”. Similarly, in all probability the 1971 census also mostly excluded
The approach that uses the opinion of majority society as a key for definition
essentially understands the Roma as a social minority, whose continued
existence is due to the discriminative attitude of the majority rather than
its own, immanent characteristics, even though it has evolved in the course
of history as an ethnic entity.
The attempts at definition that do not take into account the system of
relations with majority society and aim to find generally applicable criteria
within the immanent characteristics of Roma society usually either narrow
down the reference of the concept or generalise characteristics that only
apply to certain groups of the Roma.
László Szegõ (1970) regards as real Gypsies only those whose mother
tongue is the Gypsy language (according to the 1971 survey, the mother
tongue of only 22% of Gypsies was the Gypsy language). József Vekerdi
(1976), taking as his starting point the historical hypothesis about the
Gypsies according to which “the ancestors of the Gypsies were the Indian
Domba people, the lowest stratum of the outcast group”, derives their present
eating and dwelling habits, forms of consciousness and behaviour, etc. from
the living conditions that prevailed among them several thousands of years
ago. Then, using these elements, he attempts to build up a consistent system
whose organising principle is the so-called characteristic Gypsy lifestyle.
Dénes Csengey (1982) also speaks of “the objectively different quality
of the entire Gypsy people”, neglecting both the similarities in the lifestyles
of marginal social groups and the differences in the manner of living
prevalent among the various groups of Roma.
After the political transformation, the Minorities Act (1993) added
a new, wholly practical dimension to the problem, since it grants the individual
the exclusive and inalienable right to decide whether or not he or she
is a member of a minority. This, coupled with the relevant legislation on privacy
rights, forces sociologists, too, to rethink the problem of definition
and the procedures of sampling. János Ladányi and Iván Szelényi (1997)
took a novel stand in the disputes that have yet again become increasingly
heated. In their view, the objective definition of the Roma is impossible; science
can only examine who were regarded as Gypsies by the various
groups of society at various times – something that is determined by the
logic of the struggle for social positions. Accordingly, the term Gypsy will
denote groups of very different composition and sociological parameters,
II. On Sociological Studies about the Roma
depending on the historical period and social position we take as our frame
The results of the 1893 census provided a relatively clear picture of the
situation, socio-structural position, level of integration, inner stratification
and relationship toward majority society of the Hungarian Gypsies of the
time. The first surprising fact is that although the census was conducted to address
the case of “vagrant and semi-vagrant Gypsies”, it classified 88.5% of
them as permanently settled, while only 7.4% were “stationary for a longer
term” and no more than 3.3% were qualified as “vagrant Gypsies”. This distribution
in itself already seems to prove a hypothesis that has been supported
by the further data gleaned by the census, namely that at the end of the
19th century the vast majority of the Roma in Hungary cannot be regarded as
fully integrated into society, but their situation was not entirely marginal
either, rather, it was intermediate. The distribution of data concerning employment,
location, dwelling and schooling also support this conclusion.
Another important result of the census was that by the end of the 19th
century Roma had undergone a not overly widespread, but nevertheless significant
process of differentiation. This differentiation exhibited extreme polarities
(even at the time the Roma had a not fully assimilated – i.e. distinguishable
– “elite” who led middle class lives in the broad sense of the term),
but much more important than these were the smaller differences between
the “intermediate” groups that had a much more significant effect on the stratification
of Roma society as a whole. By the end of the 19th century Hungarian
Roma were integrated into society to a greater degree than during the decades
following World War I.
The passing of the liberal period of the Dual Monarchy also brought
about the end of statistical and sociological interest in the Gypsies. In 1893
the administrators of the census still believed that “… the Gypsy affair cannot
be settled simply with decrees of public administration, police rules or
general laws”. Amidst the increasing economic difficulties of the Horthy
era, the growing misery of rural have-nots and the urban poor and the fast
spreading of increasingly brutal forms of racial discrimination, the role of
“public administration decrees” and “police rules” increased, while the growing
intolerance of society and the authorities finally led to measures aimed at
the annihilation of the entire Roma population. Among such circumstances
little thought was given to actual facts and the scientific examination of the
problem. Following 1945 the optimism of the age that expected the speedy
resolution of all social problems, and the narrow-minded ideology opposing
all forms of social self-knowledge and banishing sociology from the sphere
of sciences, once again rendered serious sociological research impossible.
It was only at the beginning of the sixties that sociological interest
could once again turn toward the Roma. Besides the gradual “rehabilitation”
of this science, an important motivating factor of this change was that the
country had run out of non-Roma labour resources, opening up the gates of
industry to the Roma as well. This situation immediately revealed that
masses of Roma lived well below accepted social standards and that most of
them dwelled in segregated, slum-type conditions. The early research tried
to force the problem and its solution into the single dimension of “backwardness”
versus social elevation. Within this framework ethnic characteristics
and cultural traditions could only appear as factors conserving a historically
outdated state of affairs.
Another sign of interest in the Roma was the appearance of literature
analysing particular communities or settlements from a sociographical point
of view. These writings often made false generalisations on the basis of
“case studies” authenticated by personal experience, which is quite understandable,
since at the time there were no national data concerning even the
most elementary of facts.
It was this recognition that led to István Kemény’s 1971 nation-wide
survey. Kemény approached the problem from the aspect of social structure.
Ha was interested in the economic and social mechanisms that once again
created a gap between the living conditions and perspectives of the lowest
strata and the rest of society amidst the changes of the 1960s, and thus contributed
to the reproduction of poverty in Hungary. It was within this framework
that Kemény conducted the examination of the sociological problems
related to the Roma, stating that “the problem of the Gypsies is fundamentally
not an ethnic question, but a question of social strata”, and stressing the
similarities between the Gypsy and non-Gypsy poverty in the study summarising
the results of the survey. The survey managed to clear up the previously
much disputed question of linguistic distribution, the regional and settlement
characteristics of geographical position, the role of Roma in the division
of labour, the typical trends in the changes of occupation and the extent
of segregation within settlements. It explored housing conditions, the most
important indices of income and consumption levels, the level of education
and the anomalies in schooling. It was this study which enabled later researchers
to approach individual topics in possession of the most basic facts.
For a long time Hungarian sociology hardly gave any significant answers
to this “challenge”. (From the time of its launch in 1972 to the end of
the 1980s, only two Roma-related studies were published in the journal
Szociológia). Few researchers were “committed” to the subject, many of
whom had already participated in the 1971 survey as Kemény’s students.
II. On Sociological Studies about the Roma
In the debates about definition Zsolt Csalog formulated his position based on
Kemény’s concepts and wrote significant works of sociography about the
subject of the Roma, plus a comprehensive study on the situation of the
Roma in 1982, stressing the changes that had occurred since 1971. Ottília
Solt (1975) examined the living conditions and schooling situation of the
Gypsies in Budapest, Gábor Havas and László Kardos (1981) prepared comparative
studies of various types of Roma communities while Gabriella
Lengyel’s case studies (1972, 1981) depicted the conditions of individual
During the sixties and the seventies the level of integration of the
Roma population certainly increased, but this process was burdened with
contradictions and led to novel conflicts and problems. Sporadic research
endeavoured to explore these processes and their consequences. Differentiation
due to changes of occupation were analysed (János Bársony, Havas,
Kardos, Árpád Tóth) as well as the evolution of new forms of segregation
(Csalog, Bársony), the contradictions in the liquidation of slums and the evolution
of the new focal points of dwelling segregation such as “CS” projects,
small villages, and slums (György Berkovits, Csalog, Gábor Demszky,
Havas) and the malfunctions of identity and value systems (Elemér Hankiss,
Árpád Szakolczai). Opinion polls conducted among the non-Roma population
(Endre Hann, Ferenc Pártos, Miklós Tomka, 1979; István Tauber, 1982)
pointed out that public opinion was not unanimous about the Gypsy question,
yet “there is a negative image of Gypsies in the vast majority of people”.
Ágnes Diószegi’s sociographic work, Cigányút (The Gypsy Way) provides
a comprehensive description of the changes that had occurred until the
mid-eighties and their consequences.
By the second half of the 1980s the crisis of the political system had led
to the strengthening of negative tendencies in respect of the Gypsy population
as well. At this point sociological literature primarily sought to describe
the phenomena of crisis and their increasingly grave consequences. According
to the surveys conducted, Gypsies had already started to be forced out
from the labour market (Solt, Havas), and dwelling segregation gained significant
proportions especially in the “Gypsyisation” of small settlements on
the brink of extinction (Havas) and slums (János Ladányi), as had the closely
related mater of segregation in schooling (Anna Csongor). The intolerance
of majority society toward the Roma grew strongly. (According to a poll conducted
in 1988 in Borsod County, 10% of party members believed physical
extermination would be the most effective instrument in dealing with the
Gypsy question.) Literature has also documented the first attempts at the systematic
dwelling segregation of Roma (Ladányi: 1989).
After the political transformation, such negative tendencies gained
alarming force, as witnessed among others by the results of István Kemény’s
new representative study (1993–94 with Gábor Havas and Gábor Kertesi)
which show a dramatic decrease of labour market participation, an exceedingly
high unemployment and inactive ratio, strong dwelling segregation,
etc. The conclusions of Kertesi’s examinations of workplace discrimination
and the consequences of the schooling lag that had accumulated during the
previous decades are similar, as are those of the studies of János Ladányi and
Iván Szelényi about the latest trends of geographical segregation and the
related trends of discrimination, Pál Tóth’s Borsod County study on the miserable
situation of rural Roma and the studies of György Csepeli, Ferenc
Erõs and Endre Sik which document increasing anti-Roma sentiment within
public opinion in general and the various groups of the population.
At the same time, certain newer studies lay much greater emphasis on depicting
the internal stratification of Roma society, the different cultural traditions
and the consequences of the differentiation process that society has undergone.
From this point of view Michael Stewart’s work, Brothers of Song,
which was written in the eighties, had a seminal effect on Hungarian sociological
literature. Using primarily the tools of cultural anthropology, Stewart
examines the lifestyle and value system of a Hungarian horse-trading community.
Zita Réger has studied the connection between oral culture and linguistic
socialisation, and the relationship between cultural traditions, childhood
socialisation and school failures. Kemény has called attention to
Gypsy traders who have made successful careers following the political
transformation, Ladányi has compared the sociological parameters of low
and high income Roma and non-Roma, Gábor Kertesi and Gábor Kézdi
examined the family background of Roma youth who were successful at
school, while Ernõ Kállai prepared a case study about the various types of
Studies depicting the conflicts in the relationship of Roma and the institutions,
the prejudicial or discriminative attitudes of the latter and the role of
cultural differences within this framework have also been significant. The
discriminative mechanisms of the labour institutions were described by
Kertesi, Mária Neményi and György Gyukits studied the workings of these
mechanisms in health care, while Péter Szuhay examined them in the operation
of the courts using statistical data and case studies.
From the mid-eighties, in parallel with the growing number of crises phenomena,
sociology began to pay greater attention to the problems related to the
situation of the Roma, as witnessed by the increase in the number of relevant
studies and by the growing complexity of both subject mater and approaches.
II. On Sociological Studies about the Roma
III. SELF-DEFINITIONS OF GYPSY ETHNIC GROUPS
Those in Hungary, whom science classifies as Vlach Gypsies call themselves
Rom or Roma, those who are classified as Hungarian Gypsies prefer
the term “musicians”, while those called Romanian Gypsies prefer to call
It was a commonplace occurrence at the end of the eighties that intellectuals
feeling solidarity with the Gypsies started to use the term Roma to coin
all Gypsy people in general, as they felt the word “Gypsy” and the related
associations were pejorative.We have witnessed several cases when the musicians
protested against being called Roma, claiming that they were not
Roma but musician Gypsies. Nevertheless the majority of Gypsy politicians
with Hungarian as their mother tongue often – and by today generally – use
the term Roma in the names of the political and social organisations of
Gypsy people; hence such names as the Roma Parliament, the Roma Civil
Rights Foundation, the Roma Press Centre and Roma Veritas. In other cases
the name of the organisation is entirely in the Gypsy language, e.g.: Phralipe,
Amaro Drom, Lungo Drom, Romano Kher. All this shows that on the level
of “Gypsy politics” there is a demand for cultural and social integration between
the various groups, though this does not mean that that demand has
also been recognised within popular culture and on the level of everyday life.
By today the term “Roma” has gained ground in the language of the media as
well, though this is more of a euphemism and a matter of political correctness,
and the interpretations attached to the term often do nothing more than
devalue the name “Roma” itself.
The most important sociological fact that we have to record is that
among, and often within, these groups there exists a strict system of endogamy,
which means that members of one group may only marry within that
group. There are also strict barriers within the groups that define themselves
as Roms or musicians. These groups may be separated along the lines of occupation,
lifestyle, financial situation or geography as well as according to
the system of clans and kinship. Another pregnant form of social segregation
occurs when the members of two or three main groups live in different parts
of the given settlement and do not “mingle” or, if there is only a single Gypsy
slum within the settlement, then it is divided by an imaginary frontier line.
Separation of the main groups is discernible in the forms of work organisation
as well. During earlier decades members of the different groups tended
to belong to different work brigades and, if possible, asked for different
rooms in workers’ hostels. This observation may be generalised over the entire
field of social relationships (friendships, age group “ganging”, etc.). All
these facts show that while the majority of the population classifies all people
called “Gypsy” under a single concept, these people themselves express
their differences and group identities with real and symbolic instruments.
This trend is also clearly discernible in the linguistic separation among
the groups called “Gypsies”. The terminology of the Vlach Gypsies classifies
people according to the following categories. The group referred to as “us”
comprises the Roma. Opposite this group are the gadje, who can further be divided
into peasants and gentlemen (peasants, in general, are the rural population
and those hostile to us while the gentlemen are those who do not despise
us and display solidarity). An intermediate category is that of the Romungro,
those who are not Roma any more but they are not fully gadje either. Hungarian
Gypsies apply a similar classification, calling themselves musicians, calling
those who are classified by science as Vlach Gypsies the Vlach, while referring
to non-Gypsies the gadje just as the Romany Gypsies do.
A process of unification can be seen among the groups whose mother
tongue is the Gypsy language. It appears that even those groups are increasingly
using the term Lovári for themselves, whose ancestors actually belonged
to a different tribe or clan. According to the Vlach groups, a true Rom
is independent from the hierarchical system of the division of labour, is his
own master and answers to no one but himself, even though his activities
would be impossible without the system of relationships with the peasants
and the majority in general. That is, the true Roma make a living from trading
with the peasants. From this point of view the central value consists of
dealing well and successfully as this ensures independence from majority society
and its system of institutions.
Similar tendencies are apparent if we examine the ethnic group of
Gypsies whose mother tongue is Hungarian. Almost all Hungarian Gypsies
define themselves as musicians, regardless of whether they or their ancestors
have ever worked as such. For example, those who had earlier been brick
makers or day labourers or who were industrial or agricultural workers during
the previous period call themselves musicians. Those who believe themselves
to be real musicians generally reject this formula and narrow down the
definition of the group by referring to the maxim that “all musicians are Hungarian
Gypsies, but not all Hungarian Gypsies are musicians”. Real musicians
interpret life in a manner that is akin to the views of “true artists”, or,
III. Self-Definitions of Gypsy Ethnic Groups
using an earlier formula, “gentleman” (the nobility and the gentry). According
to this view of life, a musician respects others, is a lavish host, likes to
give and thereby achieves a symbolic form of superiority. Even though his
livelihood depends on the peasants or the guests, his outlook on life is not
identical to theirs. He strives to find an expression for the good life in material
objects, yet he is not a hoarder, rather he is a “liver” of life. As his livelihood
is based on a kind of service – playing music – he does not attempt to
accumulate capital the way trading and dealing Gypsies do.
For the groups of Hungarian Gypsies who define themselves as musicians
but do no actually live from playing, it was the peasant and petty bourgeois
system of values of recent decades which served as a model, even if
they did preserve the – unattainable – image of the true musician Gypsy.
Safety, the security of the workplace and the family became the meaning of
life; the goal to be achieved was the peasant or worker form of life. Those living
in slums wished to move into the villages or the cities to dwell among the
Hungarians and they detested being called Gypsies by others. Yet, however
hard they tried they could not achieve this and were constantly forced to face
the fact that society labelled them on the basis of their ethnic identity.
Today we are already aware that the attempted integration on the part
of Hungarian Gypsies was only partially successful. From the second half of
the eighties onwards very many of them – especially the semi-skilled and unskilled
workers – became unemployed and the lifestyle they previously believed
to be secure and stable came to an end. Many who had previously
achieved a peasant or petty bourgeois quality of life were once again forced
to live day to day, and certain cultural forms came to life that originate from
the culture of poverty. It is from this period onwards that – as many examples
of the life strategy of Vlach Gypsies show – dealing and trading became the
most secure forms of livelihood. Even in communities where previously the
men had worked in industry or agriculture, mediating commerce and street
peddling began to appear as possible solutions.
The Gypsy ethnic groups with different mother tongues still maintain
the practice of rivalry between themselves and try to enforce the general hierarchy
of Gypsy society. However, there is no single hierarchy accepted by
all. It is perhaps generally accepted that the Boyash groups, whose mother
tongue is Romanian, feel that both Hungarian and Romany Gypsies despise
and shun them, even though they believe that they have the largest intelligentsia
and have even established a high school in the town of Pécs, the Gandhi
High School. Vlach Gypsies, especially those who managed to achieve economic
independence and believe themselves to be rich, clearly place themselves
at the top of the hierarchy. They speak with contempt about those they
call Romungros, even the musicians, whom they refer to as the “500 forint
people”, alluding to the fact that these only make enough money with their
music to live from day to day. They look upon the Gypsies who make a living
in industry or agriculture as slaves of labour, who are not true Gypsies not
only because they do not speak the language but because they have given up
the Gypsy form of life and imitate the gadje. Certain poorer groups, however,
whose mother tongue is the Gypsy language believe that the highest
among the Gypsies are the gentlemen, the musicians – but they reserve this
term strictly for those who actually play music.
Musicians – the real ones – place themselves at the top of the hierarchy
and proudly believe that their music promotes Hungarian composed music
(which they believe to be Gypsy music actually) and elevates the image of
the country. They define themselves strictly as Hungarian citizens belonging
to the higher strata of the entire society and are “respected people” since they
conform to society’s set of values. They believe that prejudices and
misjudgements about the Gypsies are caused by Vlach Gypsies. The rich
ones have created their wealth by incorrect and criminal means, and therefore
deserve the judgement of society while the poor ones – who have only
themselves to blame for their poverty – give musicians a bad reputation with
their backward lifestyles, since society is prone to make generalisations.
They are afraid that the opinion about Vlach Gypsies will be applied to them
too, and thus defeat their endeavours to integrate.
III. Self-Definitions of Gypsy Ethnic Groups
IV. LINGUISTIC GROUPS AND USAGE
AMONG THE HUNGARIAN GYPSIES/ROMA1
Hungarian Gypsies or Roma belong to three main linguistic groups: the
Hungarian Gypsies or Romungro, who speak Hungarian and who call
themselves “musician Gypsies”; the bilingual (Hungarian and Gypsy) Vlach
Gypsies, who call themselves “Roma” or “Rom”; and the Hungarian-Romanian
bilingual Romanian Gypsies, who call themselves “Boyash”.
One third of the Gypsies registered by the census on 31 January 1893
were either fresh immigrants or the children of immigrants who arrived in
the country after 1850. Accordingly, the mother tongue of 38% was Hungarian,
30% Gypsy and 24% Romanian, while the mother tongue of the rest was
Slovak, Serbian, German, Ruthenian, Croatian or some other language.
There were significant differences between the various regions of the country
from this aspect as well. The ratio of Hungarian speakers in the region between
the Danube and the Tisza was 82%, while that of those whose mother
tongue was the Gypsy language or Serbian was 8% in each case. The mother
tongue of 72% of the Gypsies in the Trans-Danubian region was Hungarian,
11% Gypsy, 8% Romanian and 6% German. In the eastern counties of present-
day Hungary, the ratio of those whose mother tongue was Hungarian
was 89% in Békés, 94% in Hajdú, 98% in Szabolcs, 70% in Szatmár and
45% in Bihar; while those with Gypsy as their mother tongue constituted
12% in Bihar and 17% in Szatmár. The ratio of the Boyash was 29% in Bihar
and 13% in Szatmár. In the northern counties the ratio of the Romungro was
76% in Nógrád, 88% in Borsod, 75% in Abaúj and 47% in Zemplén, that of
Vlach Gypsies was 16% in Nógrád, 12% in Abaúj and 29% in Zemplén.
In these counties there were also Gypsies whose mother tongue was Slovak:
8% in Nógrád, 11% in Abaúj, 22% in Zemplén and 10% in Borsod.
In January 1983, in the area of present-day Hungary, the proportion of
Gypsies whose mother tongue was Hungarian was 79.5%, that of those
whose mother tongue was the Gypsy language was 10%, Romanian 4.5%,
while the remaining 6% had Slovak, Serbian, German, Ruthenian, Croatian
1 Re-edited and synthesised versions of studies published in The Hungarian Roma (Ed. István
or other languages as their mother tongue. Hence, there was an extremely
marked difference between the former territory of the country and the part of
it that is present-day Hungary. This difference is even greater if we compare
the Gypsy population of what is present-day Hungary to Transsylvania,
where the proportion of Gypsies whose mother tongue was the Gypsy language
was 42%, while 39% had Romanian as their mother tongue, or if we
take the angle of the rivers Tisza and Maros, where the proportion of those
whose mother tongue was Hungarian was only 5%. From this it is obvious
that in 1893 the majority of the Gypsy population of what is present-day Hungary
were the descendants of older immigrants who had arrived in the country
well before 1850 or even before the 19th century. Those, however, whose
mother tongue was not Hungarian could well have been fresh immigrants,
for example in Baranya County, where many Boyash and Vlach Gypsies
came from Southern Slav territories and the proportion of the Romungro was
53%, or in Bács-Bodrog County, where Vlach (22.5%), Serbian (38.5%) and
Boyash (4%) Gypsies arrived from the south and where the proportion of the
Romungro was 34%.
The 1971 Nation-wide Survey
By the time of the 1971 nation-wide survey the distribution of the Gypsies in
Hungary according to their mother tongues had changed. At that time 71.0%
of Gypsies had Hungarian as their mother tongue, 21.2% the Gypsy language,
7.6% Romanian and 0.2% other languages. The size of the Gypsy population
was 320,000, 224,000 of them had Hungarian as their mother
tongue, 61,000 the Gypsy language and 25,000 Romanian. Thus, in 78 years
the total size of the population of the Gypsies increased almost by five times,
within which the number of the Romungro increased by four times, the number
of Vlach Gypsies by almost nine times and the Boyash by more than
eight times. An increase of 8 or 9 (or even 4 or 5) times can only be explained
by immigration. The immigration of Boyash Gypsies to Baranya and
Somogy Counties was examined by Gábor Havas in his study The Baranya
County Tub-Making Gypsies.2 Havas is probably right in saying that a part of
the tub-maker Gypsies were resettled here by landlords from southern
estates. Most of them had moved to Hungary before 1914, but immigration
continued between the two world wars and even immediately after the end of
the SecondWorldWar. Havas also points out that immigration was followed
by a scattering of the immigrants toward the north.
IV. Linguistic Groups and Usage among the Hungarian Gypsies/Roma
2 In: Gypsy Studies (Institute of Cultural Research, Budapest. 1982) pp. 61–140.
Katalin Kovalcsik has distinguished three sub-groups within the Hungarian
Boyash.3 The Mucsán who live in the south of Baranya County are related
to the Croatians on the other side of the southern border, the Argyelán
speak the Bánát dialect, while the Ticsán came from the region of Nagyvárad
in the 1910s, reaching the region of Tiszafüred after living in Szabolcs and
Szatmár counties. On the basis of documents in the archives of Somogy and
Zala counties, László Pomogyi mentions Gypsies arriving from Croatia and
Slavonia at the beginning of the century.4
It is worthwhile noting that the Gypsies whose mother tongue was
Slovak, Ruthenian, Serbian or Croatian had disappeared or changed language
by 1971. As a result of the place of immigration, in 1971 most of the
Boyash lived in the southern parts of the Trans-Danubian region, forming
the majority of Gypsies in Baranya and Somogy counties. It was the same
border that a part of the Vlach Gypsies had crossed at the end of the 19th and
the beginning of the 20th century and, to a lesser degree, between the two
world wars. They made up one fifth of the Gypsy population of the southern
Trans-Danubian region. The Vlach Gypsies of today’s Bács, Csongrád
and Szolnok counties partly came from Serbia and the Bánát region and in
1971 accounted for 19% of the Gypsies of these three counties. The Vlach
Gypsies of Szabolcs, Szatmár, Bihar, Békés and Hajdú counties obviously
resettled from Transsylvania and Romania and, together with the earlier immigrants,
accounted for 21.6% of the Gypsy population of the region.
Before 1918 the arrival of Gypsies whose mother tongue was the Gypsy
language to what today are Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Nógrád and Heves counties
was a natural occurrence, and such immigration was not hindered between
the two world wars. László Pomogyi quotes a ministerial order from 1927:
„Masses of hitherto unknown Gypsy families have appeared in the townships
on the Czechoslovak border, moving from village to village, which is a risk to
public health and security alike. According to my intelligence the Czechoslovak
state is banishing crowds of vagrant Gypsies from its territory, throwing
them across the border at points that are weakly guarded. From there they are
scattered especially in the areas of the villages along the border.”5
At 24.1%, the proportion of Vlach Gypsies was the highest in the Budapest
region (Pest, Fejér and Komárom counties). In this region their number
was around 15,000.
3 “The Folk Music Traditions of Boyash Gypsies”. In: Gypsy Ethnographical Studies 1. Ed.
Gábor Barna. (Mikszáth Kiadó, Salgótarján, 1993) pp. 231-244.
4 László Pomogyi, The Gypsy Question and the Public Administration of Gypsies in Bourgeois
Hungary. (Osiris-Századvég, Budapest, 1995) p. 11.
5 ibid. p. 11.
Besides immigration and relocation, the life of the country as a whole
and the Gypsy population in particular had undergone other changes and transformations,
yet the differences between linguistic groups did not diminish.
One such major transformation was the process of urbanisation.
At the end of the 19th century, as well as in 1971, the proportion of urban
dwellers among Gypsies was significantly lower than among the rest of the
population, and this was especially so in the case of the Boyash. There
were marked differences among the proportion of slum dwellers among the
various linguistic groups: 65% of the Romungro, 75% of the Vlach
Gypsies and 48% of the Boyash lived in slums. Partly due to this, and
partly to other factors, the average number of people living in the same
dwelling was 6.3 among the Vlach Gypsies, 5.5 among the Romungro and
4.9 among the Boyash. Sixty % of Vlach Gypsies, 56% of the Romungro
and 40% of the Boyash lived in families with three or more children. The
number of dependent persons for 100 earners was 250 among Vlach
Gypsies, 221 among the Romungro and 191 among those whose mother
tongue was Romanian. In 1971, 33% of Gypsies whose mother tongue was
Hungarian were illiterate, while the rate of illiteracy was 54% among those
with Gypsy as their mother tongue and 57% among those whose mother
tongue was Romanian.
Before the First World War the proportion of children not going to
school was 60% among the Romungro, 90% among Vlach Gypsies and
100% among the Boyash. Between the two world wars this proportion was
successfully lowered to 40% among the Romungro and to 70% among the
other two groups. The period after the Second World War brought greater
change. The proportion of children not going to school among those who
reached school age after 1957 was 6% among the Romungro, 10% among
the Boyash and 17% among Vlach Gypsies. However, going to school was
irregular and lasted for only a few years in the case of most Gypsy children.
In 1971, 26% of Gypsy children had completed the first eight forms: this
was 30% among the Romungro, 21% among those whose mother tongue was
Romanian and7%among those whose mother tongue was the Gypsy language.
The 1993–94 Nation-wide Survey
During the 1993–94 nation-wide survey among people who were at last 15
years of age and had left school, 5.5% proclaimed their mother tongue to be
Boyash, 4.4% mentioned the Gypsy language and a further 0.6% mentioned
other languages different from Hungarian. Since the 1971 survey the proportion
of those whose mother tongue was Boyash had decreased from 7.6% to
IV. Linguistic Groups and Usage among the Hungarian Gypsies/Roma
5.5%, while that of those whose mother tongue was the Gypsy language had
decreased from 21.2% to 4.4%.
Distribution of Gypsies according to mother tongues in 1971 and 1993
Hungarian Boyash Gypsy Other Total
1971 71.0 7.6 21.2 0.2 100
1993 89.5 5.5 4.4 0.6 100
Those whose mother tongue was Boyash or the Gypsy language were
bilingual in 1971 (and had been so for a long time previously); they spoke
both their mother tongue and Hungarian.
Distribution according to languages spoken in 1993
Hungarian Boyash Gypsy Other
77.0 11.3 11.1 0.6
Among the Boyash and the Vlach Gypsies we find a kind of bilingualism
which Zita Reger has described by saying that one of the languages “is
used as the instrument of intimate, familiar communication within the
group” while the other belongs to the sphere of more “formal”, “official” discourse.
(“Generally this is the language used in education, public offices,
the workplace and in communication with members of the other linguistic
community, as well as within the group itself when the subject of conversation
is education, bureaucracy, the workplace, etc.”)6
The change of mother tongue from Boyash and the Gypsy language to
Hungarian has occurred and is going on within the framework of this bilingualism.
The elimination of the majority of Gypsy slums between 1965 and
1985 definitely contributed to the change of languages. As we have mentioned
previously, in 1971 75% of Vlach Gypsies and 48% of the Boyash
lived in slums. At the end of 1993 this proportion was 4.9% among Vlach
Gypsies and 1.1% among the Boyash. At this point we have to note that the
6 Zita Réger, “The Gypsy Language: Research and Disputes”. Workshop Studies from the
Fields of Linguistics and Related Sciences. Issue IV, August 1988. (HAS Institute of Linguistics)
7 Anna Borbély describes a similar bilingualism and a strong trend of switching languages in
her article “The Linguistic Usage of Romanians in Hungary in the Context of Changes”,
published in Regio, 3/1995. The switch of languages among the Slovaks between 1960 and
1990 was almost as rapid as among Vlach Gypsies between 1971 and 1993.
fact that in 1971 only 48% of the Boyash lived in slum areas was already the
result of a long process. At the beginning of the last century the Boyash still
lived in “forest slums” far from the villages. They started to move into the villages
between the two world wars, a process that intensified after the end of
the Second World War.8 Leaving the slums not only accelerated the change
in language by loosening communal ties, but even more by forcing daily
communication with the Hungarian majority and making the use of Hungarian
unavoidable during the entire course of the day.
Another factor that had promoted the change of languages was that already
in 1971 84% of Boyash men and 75% of Vlach men were employed
in places where they were forced to speak Hungarian. At the time a quarter,
but, by the end of the decade, a full half of the women were in a similar situation.
They had to use Hungarian to communicate with nurses, doctors and
lawyers, as well as in all official communications. However, it was probably
kindergarten and school that had the greatest effect, as in these institutions,
apart from very few exceptions, the mistresses and teachers didn’t know
a word of Gypsy or Romanian. The process of switching languages is excellently
described by Gábor Fleck and Tünde Virágh in their work The past
and Present of a Boyash Community.9 Fleck andVirágh distinguish three generations:
the 40–50 year-old grandparents, the 20–40 year-old parents, and
the children. Grandparents are characterised by „the functional separation
of Boyash and Hungarian. Boyash was used within the community and the
family, while Hungarian was only spoken when communicating with the
peasants or in official institutions like the school or the municipality.” Parents
had been unsuccessful at school because they spoke no or only a little
Hungarian. Therefore, some parents took to speaking Hungarian with their
children at home, too. Today the 25–35-year-olds usually use Hungarian
rather than Boyash with their peers. They speak Boyash with their parents
and the friends of their parents, but speak Hungarian with their children.
”Children enter institutional education at the early age of three, and kindergarten
education demands the use of Hungarian. They spend most of their
time out of school or kindergarten not within the family, but rather on the
street with their school or kindergarten friends. Hungarian is almost used
exclusively in this medium… the generation that is growing up now has only
limited command of both languages; they are dual demiglots.”
Fleck and Virágh also conscientiously mention that in the community
they have examined in Gilvánfa the view that interprets the Boyash language
as an instrument of creating a nation and political prestige is also present.
IV. Linguistic Groups and Usage among the Hungarian Gypsies/Roma
8 On the efforts to settle in villages see Pomogyi, op. cit., pp. 231–249.
9 HAS PTI Ethnoregional Research Centre. Budapest, 1999.
This concept is primarily represented by the mayor, yet his children and
grandchildren speak no Boyash. A number of young men have participated
in courses whose aim was the revival of the Boyash language, but they don’t
use Boyash in everyday communication either. Fleck and Virágh classify the
families they have examined into two main categories: those who have given
up and those who changed strategy. In the case of those who have given up
we may note “a continuous, relatively slow, intergenerational process of the
perishing of the language”. Those, however, who changed strategies, are
characterised by a conscious, intragenerational change of language. The description
and analysis of Fleck and Virágh is restricted to the Boyash community
in Gilvánfa. The extent of linguistic changes in other Boyash and
Vlach communities is different, as is the frequency of the various phenomena
and behavioural forms, and obviously there are other factors and behavioural
patterns, too. However, we can encounter similar trends, causes and effects
everywhere in the country. The factors toward the switch of mother
tongue have remained operational, while contrary factors which hinder or decelerate
change have only limited effect. The process of linguistic change,
therefore, will probably continue.
The Hungarian Roma Population
During the Last Half-Century
I. A BRIEF HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
FROM 1945 TO THE PRESENT
Before the 1944 German occupation, the majority of the some 200,000
Roma led a settled life and the various decrees about public order or epidemics
aimed at their regulation only affected those who remained vagrants.
Even though traditional Gypsy crafts began to gradually fade away during
the era of the Dual Monarchy, the fast economic growth and liberalism of the
age allowed the Roma to successfully find new livelihoods. Between the two
world wars, however, the disappearance of traditional crafts accelerated and
the Roma could keep up less and less with the technical and social changes
accentuated by periods of crisis. The situation was further aggravated by
strong Roma immigration from the surrounding countries, leaving significantly
less job opportunities for an increased number of Roma. Thus the increase
in the social and cultural gap between Roma and the rest of the society
accelerated. “On the eve of liberation the situation of the Roma population
in Hungary had reached its historic worst.”1
Conditions deteriorated further in the wake of actions against the
Roma following Nazi occupation. The liberalism of the previous decades
was gradually replaced by anti-Roma sentiment in public administration and
among the gendarmerie. The ideas of “reconditioning”, “civilization” and
the establishment of some sort of forced labour camps were considered in the
interest of the “management” of the Gypsy question. Soon afterwards forced
labour brigades began to be established and after 19 March 1944, the “Gypsy
question” led to genocide. The original objective of the Nazis and the Hungarian
Arrow Cross had been the deportation of the vagrant Roma but, since
they could hardly find any such, execution of the plan actually involved the
1 István Kemény, Report on the 1971 Research on the Situation of the Hungarian Roma.
(HSA Institute of Sociology), 50p.
deportation of the entire Roma population of townships to extermination
camps. To date, history has not been able to provide a definite answer as to
the exact number of victims of this genocide. According to the research held
to be the most reliable,2 the number of victims was 5000, but the much disputed
estimate of the Committee of the Victims of Nazi Persecution speaks
of over 30,000.
From 1945 to one-party rule
For the Roma, the end of the war primarily meant survival and escape from
the threat of extermination. The period of democracy between 1945 and
1948 did much to change the relationship of the Roma to the society as
a whole. The pre-1944 authoritarian regime denied equal rights to the Roma,
while democracy proclaimed the principle of emancipation. Even though the
newly formed police force – which replaced the gendarmerie in rural areas –
soon became an instrument of political struggle, racial or ethnic discrimination
was strictly forbidden and, due to its composition, socially it tended to
take sides with the poor. Economically, however, the reallocation of land and
the carving up of large estates had an adverse effect on the Roma as it involved
a loss of job opportunities. The Roma were excluded from the redistribution
of land, even though previously they had, for the most part, sustained
themselves from agricultural labour. The reason for their exclusion was that
there was not enough land to meet all demands, and by leaving out the Roma,
more was left to distribute among the non-Roma population. The process of democratisation
affected education as well. Before the Second World War the
proportion of Roma children not entering the schooling system was 50%. This
began to decrease quickly after 1945 and by 1957 the proportion of school-age
Roma children who did not enter the schooling system was only 10%.
Politically, however, for a long period after the end of the war there was
no progress as regards the situation of the Roma: even the relevant question
hadn’t been formulated. The first and for a long time the only theoretical discussion
of the situation of the Roma was published in the theoretical journal of
the Communist Party in 1946.3 According to some authors,4 András Kálmán’s
study was no more than the expression of his personal opinion, nevertheless
after a long time he was the first to apply a comprehensive approach to the
problem. “Economic rehabilitation has to be supplemented by giving the
Roma ethnic rights.”5 According to his formulation, the “Gypsy problem” is
2 László Karsai, The Roma Question in Hungary 1919 –1945 (Cserépfalvi, undated.)
3 András Kálmán, “The Problem of the Hungarian Roma”. In: Társadalmi Szemle 1946/8–9.
4 Erna Sághy, “Roma Politics in Hungary 1945–1961”. In: Regio 1999/1.
5 András Kálmán, “The Problem of the Hungarian Roma”. In: Társadalmi Szemle 1946/8–9.
not tantamount to the problem of the Roma race or those whose mother tongue
is the Roma language, since the majority of the Roma population consist of assimilated,
urban-dwelling workers, craftsmen and merchants. The main problem
concerns those rural or “vagrant” Roma who do not have regular jobs and
income. According to his opinion the question is an ethnic one, since the
Roma actually constitute an ethnic group, albeit one that has not been granted
the rights it would deserve as such. He correctly recognised the fact that at the
time the economic situation of the Roma had reached a historic low, and that
discrimination and segregation will only be further aggravated by cultural and
educational backwardness. It is also beyond doubt that the Roma were
excluded from the redistribution of land even though after 1945, in the conditions
of a democracy which proclaimed the equality of all before the law, this
held the promise of the future for many. For a long time no movement, no
Roma intelligentsia developed which could have effectively influenced the solution
of the problems of the lives of the Roma.
Though we are aware that the analysis described above was actually not the
official party position, its influence is nevertheless apparent in the principles of the
Cultural Federation of Hungarian Roma, a short-lived organisation launched in
1957. Initiated by Mária László, the organisation’s first General Secretary, herself of
Roma origin, the Roma Federation was established on 26 October 1957 in the same
way as the other ethnic federations, under the auspices of the Ethnic Division of the
Ministry of Culture. The objectives of the organisation included the creation and
preservation of original Roma literature, music and other arts, and preservation of
the ancient language for scientific research. The organisation’s statutes however also
mentioned the creation of jobs and the development of schooling, health care and
general living conditions. The Federation also played a significant role in supporting
the Roma blacksmith small co-operatives formed in the forties. All these objectives
pointed in the direction of establishing the status of an ethnic minority – something
that the political authorities strongly opposed. Furthermore, the activities of the
organisation became increasingly engaged in the management of individual complaints,
which indicates that there was significant demand among the Roma for
some sort of interest group. The authorities did not tolerate such activities for long,
and launched a campaign against Mária László, based on her alleged Nazi past to replace
her with Sándor Ferkovics in the post of general secretary. Ferkovics, as a former
army officer, was trusted to carry out party instructions to the letter. During the
period between 1959 and 1961 preceding its dissolution, the Federation was a mere
shadow of the original, dynamic initiative. In the background, from 1960 onward
Sándor Végh, head of the Department of Ethnic Minorities was already instructed
by the party to work on the elaboration of a Marxist approach to the Roma question.
This was to become the famous, or rather infamous, Party Ruling.
The Hungarian Roma population during the last half-century
From 1961 to the time of political transformation
The 1961 ruling of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Hungarian
SocialistWorkers’ Party defined the Roma question as a social rather than an
ethnic issue. “The basis of our policy toward the Roma population is to be
the principle that, despite certain ethnic characteristics, it is not an ethnic
group. In the solution of their problems we must take into account their particular
social situation and ensure their full citizens’ rights and responsibilities,
as well as provide the necessary political, economic and cultural conditions
for exercising these. (…) Many perceive it as an ethnic question and
propose the development of the ‘Roma language’, the establishment of Roma
speaking schools, colleges, farming co-operatives, etc. Such views are not
only incorrect but dangerous as well, as they tend to conserve the segregation
of the Roma and decelerate their integration into society.”6 This obviously
amounted to attempt at assimilation in the guise of a social crisis management
exercise. Nevertheless, the ruling contains a useful summary
according to which there were 2100 Roma settlements in the country offering
barely human conditions.
In 1971, twenty-six years after the end of the Second World War, a nationwide
study of the Roma was conducted under the leadership of István
Kemény, which provided the most reliable source of data for many years to
come.7 According to the study, at the time the size of the Roma population
was 320,000. 23% of these lived in the eastern regions (Szabolcs-Szatmár,
Békés and Hajdú-Bihar counties), 20% in the northern region (Borsod-
Abaúj-Zemplén, Nógrád and Heves counties), 21% in the Trans-Danubian
region, 19% in the Budapest region (Pest, Fejér and Komárom counties) and
16% on the Great Plain (Csongrád, Bács-Kiskun and Szolnok counties).
According to settlement types: 7.7% lived in the capital, Budapest, 14% in rural
towns, and 78% in townships and villages.
At the time Hungarian was the mother tongue of 71% of the Roma,
Romany of 21% and Romanian of less than 8%. Two-thirds of Roma dwellings
were located in Roma slums. Over two-thirds of the Roma lived in
adobe, earth or mud huts. 44% of residences had no electricity.Water mains
was installed in 8%. 16% had wells on their own plots, 37% had wells within
a 100-meter area. 3% of the residences had internal, 4% had external toilets;
61% had outhouses while 32% even had no outhouses.
6 “On the Various Tasks Related to the Improvement of the Situation of the Roma”. Ruling of
the Politburo of the HSWP CC, 20 June 1961. In: Documents of the Roma question in Hungary
1422 – 1985 (hereafter: Documents) 240.p.
7 István Kemény, Report on the 1971 Research on the Situation of the Hungarian Roma.
(HSA Institute of Sociology, 1976)
39%t of the 14+ Roma population was illiterate; 26% of Roma youth
between the ages of 20 and 24 had completed elementary school, the rest
were either dropouts or (10%) had never gone to school. The nationwide
study also recorded that, as a consequence of the industrialisation process of
the 1950s and 1960s, by 1971 85% of working-age men were employed;
11% of Roma heads of families were skilled workers, 10% semi-skilled,
44% unskilled workers, 13% were physical workers in agriculture, 3% day
labourers and 6% were self-employed or family-employed, or supported
themselves from odd jobs. Employment of working-age Roma women was
30% in 1971, but rose to 50% by the beginning of the 1980s.
The programme to eliminate Roma slums was launched in 1965. As a part
of this campaign, Roma citizens who had a regular income were given
access to subsidised loans to build so called “CS” (lower comfort) houses or
purchase old peasant cottages. “CS” houses were usually built as part of projects,
adjacent to each other, while old peasant cottages were generally available
in small settlements on the brink of extinction, which led to new forms
of segregation in dwelling. Nevertheless, the dwelling and housing conditions
of the Roma improved significantly.
According to a party document from 1984,8 the strong Roma population
of 360,000 was completely settled with a permanent geographical structure.
The majority lived in or around the capital and in Borsod-Abaúj-
Zemplén and Szabolcs-Szatmár counties, mostly in villages. However, most
of them found job opportunities in industrial cities and towns and therefore
had to commute to work or live in workers’ hostels. The rate of employment
had increased further: by 1984, 53% of Roma women had permanent jobs.
Half of the active wage-earners, however, were unskilled workers; the ratio
of skilled workers was minimal compared to that within the majority population.
The process of the elimination of the slums accelerated, but the building
of the new “CS” houses led to the creation of separate settlement parts that
were inhabited exclusively by Roma people.
According to the document, some 60% of Roma children went to kindergarten,
one half of them completed elementary school, and an increasing
number learned trades or went to high school.9 The first generation of Roma
intelligentsia had begun to evolve, most of whom achieved success in artistic
fields or adult education. The segregated, special or remedial education of
children had become increasingly accepted, yet the relationship between
these special forms of education and the low educational level of the Roma
The Hungarian Roma population during the last half-century
8 The data were taken from the report discussed at the 2 October 1984 session of the Agitation
and Propaganda Committee of the HSWP CC. In.: Documents 275.p.
as compared to the majority society was not recognised. Open and covert
prejudices had not disappeared; the “soft dictatorship” merely kept them submerged.
Society blamed the Roma themselves for their bad living conditions
and slow development and the mass media further reinforced the stereotypes
of the Gypsy as skiver or criminal.
All in all, we can say that by the end of the eighties the situation of the
Roma population had changed compared to previous decades. The opportunity
to rise in social rank opened up before many, and those who could make
use of it were no longer looked upon as “real Gypsies”. The foundations for
these results, however, were very shaky. The bad quality of education and
the low skill level of the workforce acted as time bombs after the unforeseen
events of political transformation came about, and the debris buried a significant
part of the Roma population along with the results and illusions of previous
Following the political transformation (1990 – )
The spectacular social escalation that rested upon extremely uncertain foundations
collapsed like a castle of cards moments after the political transformation.
Following the privatisation of state-owned companies, redundancy first
reached those Roma workers who had been employed to perform the lowest
skill tasks, usually as unskilled workers (this involved more than one half of active
earners!). While in 1971, as we have seen, the employment level among
the working-age population was 85% (hardly lower than the 87% among the
non-Roma population), by the end of 1993 this fell to 29% (as opposed to the
64% employment rate among the non-Roma population).10 People with lower
education, who had been employed only for menial tasks during the past period,
now had no hope whatsoever of making it among the conditions of the
new labour market dictated by business rationality. This undermined the livelihood
of Roma families, and those who became unable to make repayments on
previous housing loans lost their homes one by one.
During the years following the shock of the political transformation,
the Roma population has undergone a further process of differentiation.
We have witnessed the evolution of a (still very narrow) stratum who have
been able to successfully meet the challenges of the last few years. Most of
them try to make a living as entrepreneurs, some with substantial success.
Of course this applies only in a lesser degree to those who have been forced
to become entrepreneurs – they can only provide a daily livelihood for their
10 István Kemény, “On the Hungarian Gypsy (Roma) Population”. In: Magyar Tudomány
families, but are still much better off than the majority of the Roma population.
Others have made careers as intellectuals, becoming public figures.
Asignificant number of Roma families, however, suddenly fell back to
the level prevalent several decades ago, and due to their lack of skill they
have no chance of holding jobs. Poverty-induced crime has once again
become frequent among the Roma in desperate situations, for many of
whom this is the only hope of physical survival. Furthermore, since the political
transformation has shaken their financial situation, too, the majority population
turned on the Roma with new hatred. Beside segregation in education,
employment, policing and housing, which had become commonplace
by the mid-1990s, the idea of forced resettlement appeared, coupled with attacks
and atrocities committed against Roma by organised groups. Openly
racist political forces organising marches to honour Nazi “heroes” often appeared
alongside nationally recognised political organisations, enjoying
their covert or open support. After the infamous case of the segregated matriculation
ceremony in Tiszavasvári, the plaintiffs struggling for the protection
of their human rights appeared in the right-wing media simply as the
“scabby horde”. Misinterpretation of the freedom of speech and democracy
brought to the surface the hatred that had been latent for decades.
Political awakening and the beginnings of Roma self-organisation also
gained momentum in the wake of the political transformation. Following the
long period of organisations directed from above – such as the National
Roma Council established in 1985 or the Hungarian Roma Cultural Federation
revived in 1986 – the new legislation based on the ideal of constitutionality
and proclaiming the freedom of association, speech and the press allowed
the formation of independent organisations. Three specifically Roma parties
had been formed for the 1990 elections – of which the most successful was
the Social Democratic Party of the Hungarian Roma – but none of them managed
to secure an independent mandate. However, during the first cycle of
the freely elected parliament three openly Roma MP’s (Antónia Hága,
Aladár Horváth and Tamás Péli) were able to participate in the legislation as
representatives of large, national parties. In the next two parliamentary
cycles however only one of them managed to keep his seat. Aside from
a number of superficial exceptions, the parliamentary parties did not attach
real significance to the question of the Roma and had no intention of including
Roma representatives in their campaigns.
The activities of Roma NGOs took off in a much more dynamic manner.
By the end of 1991, 96 such organisations had already been registered.
However their operation is becoming increasingly uncertain, financing is uncertain
and the awarding of programme funds is often a question of loyalty to
The Hungarian Roma population during the last half-century
the government in power. The state has set up public foundations granting
such organisations support for individual programmes. The public foundation
“For National and Ethnic Minorities in Hungary” was established in
1995 primarily to support the preservation of minority identities and cultures.
The “Public Foundation for the Hungarian Roma” was launched in
1996 to support the livelihood of the Roma population, distributing some
80–90% of its support budget to promote agricultural production.
Act LXXVII 1993, On National and Ethnic Minorities, is of historic
significance as regards the political activity and indeed the fate of the entire
Roma population. For the first time it acknowledged that this people forms
an ethnic minority and beyond individual rights grants the Roma the right of
collective self-organisation. It was this act which made it possible for these
organisations (now tending to call themselves “Roma” instead of using the
word “Gypsy”, which has become increasingly pejorative) to establish representative
bodies on both the local and the national level. In 1994 (and following
the supplementary elections of 1995) 477 local Roma self-governments
were formed. In the capital the district minority self-governments elected the
Gypsy Minority Municipal Self-Government and set up the Gypsy Minority
National Self-Government with 53 members, which latter received a onetime
funding of Ft60 million. These self-governing bodies were elected for
the second time in 1998, when the number of such local self-governments
increased significantly, elections being held successfully in 764 locations.
On the other hand, the municipal self-government could not be elected.
In the second elections for the (now called) National Gypsy Self-Government
the coalition lead by Lungo Drom won for the second time, and Flórián
Farkas was re-elected as president. However, at the start of the second cycle,
problems which could only be resolved by modifying the Act on National
and Ethnic Minorities became more apparent. The law does not guarantee
the financial basis for the operation of minority local self-governments,
thereby making them dependent on municipalities. This is especially so in
the case of the Roma as they have no motherland that could provide them
with financial and moral support, as is customary in the case of the other
national minorities in the country. The past few years have also made it clear
that, due to the alarmingly low educational level of the Roma population, the
elected local representatives and even the national politicians are, for the
most part, unable to perform their tasks and formulate long-term plans. Successive
governments have tried to produce spectacular action plans and set
up various bodies to help the Roma population and reassure the majority society
that they are “managing” the issue. These attempts, however, have not
been overly successful to date.
More hopeful are those experiments which launch new initiatives in
the field of education to enable the Roma to overcome cultural backwardness.
Among these we find various bridging and skill-training programmes
as well as the now internationally respected Gandhi High School in Pécs or
the Romaversitas Invisible College, whose purpose is the training of experts
with above-average skills. Albeit slowly, a new group of highly trained
young Roma intelligentsia is evolving, whom it will be more difficult to exclude
from decision-making in issues concerning the Roma. Another promising
sign is that scientific research has started concerning the situation of
Roma children in elementary schools and kindergartens. The results of this
will perhaps make it possible to change the practice of segregated education,
which has clearly proved to be a dead end.
To summarise the situation following the political transformation, we
can conclude that there was a tragic decline which not only halted the social
ascent of the previous decades but also destroyed many of the results
achieved. The significance of this is now recognised at the level of politics.
If we do not dispute the fact that masses of the Roma population are living at
the very lowest level and are the most despised group in society – and it
would not, in my opinion, be worthwhile to do so – then it is imperative to implement
urgent, yet well thought through and scientifically based measures
if we are to maintain the peaceful nature of the centuries old Hungarian-
Roma coexistence. This is especially important now that the case of the
Zámoly Roma has alerted the countries of the European Union to the situation
– the increasingly hopeless and unbearable conditions of the majority of
the Roma might well incite other groups to undertake such desperate acts.
The Hungarian Roma population during the last half-century
II. GOVERNMENTAL AND POLITICAL EFFORTS
DURING THE LAST DECADE
After the political transformation the first democratically elected parliament
and government immediately had to face the problems related to minorities,
which had been suppressed for decades, and the challenge of immediate action.
We can distinguish two major phases of the course of events during the
last ten years: the issue from 1990 to 1995 was the reconsideration and review
of the entire legislative and institutional background, while the first
government programmes aiming to improve the situation of the Roma population
commenced in 1995. Government action could not be further delayed
as the political transformation had shaken the economic basis of the entire
Hungarian population, and intolerance and the lack of solidarity grew among
the masses of desperate people who had become unemployed. The Roma population
became the primary target of the emerging and strengthening extreme
right and fascist organisations. Organized harassment and abuse became everyday
occurrences and, fearing unleashed emotions, political decision-makers
also recognised that the situation could not be resolved without special state
support helping the social integration of the Roma population.
Legislation and new institutions
Right in 1990 a new institution with national authority was established: the
Bureau of National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKH). Its primary task is advising
the government on ethnic policy and providing the theoretical support
for minority politics. In addition its tasks include the continuous monitoring
and analysis of the situation of minorities and liasing with minority representatives.
From the mid-1990s the Bureau has taken a decisive role in the formulation
of Roma-related short and medium-term programmes and is now
preparing a long-term strategic programme. A significant and widely acknowledged
step forward was that, as of 1998, a separate vice-president of
the Bureau is responsible for the coordination of Roma affairs. On the other
hand, the reorganisation exercise of 1998, which placed the Bureau under
the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs instead of the Prime Minister’s
Office, received much criticism. It was primarily representatives of the
Roma who felt that the Bureau had thus lost some of its weight, also noting
that it is not very fortunate that the institution dealing with Roma affairs is
ranked together with the judiciary and the prison system. Overall, however,
there is general agreement that NEKH’s activities are necessary, though
many believe it would be useful to elevate the status of the Bureau within the
state hierarchy, thereby signifying the importance of its activities.
After the political transformation, the most important element of legislation
concerning minorities which defined further progress and provided
the basis for institutional framework was Act LXXVII 1993, On the Rights
of National and Ethnic Minorities, passed with a majority of 96%. This was
an important step, since for the first time it established the legal recognition
of the Hungarian Roma as a minority. Singularly in Europe, the Act enshrines
minority rights to which both individuals and communities are entitled.
The significance of this is that it grants minorities the opportunity to establish
organisations, create minority self-governments or even achieve independent
territorial organisation (autonomy). The Act solves the question of
the criteria for belonging to a minority on the basis of the principle of
self-definition. This principle provides a sound basis for the proclamation of
identity, though its has also led to several problems during the past few years.
Suffice it to recall only the notorious “cuckoo” case, when someone became
a member of a minority self-government even though he had nothing to do
with that minority. To avoid such frauds, minority organisations have been
urging for years that the date of the elections of minority self-governments
be different from that of the “ordinary” local self-government elections, or
that membership in a minority organisation be a precondition for candidacy.
It is also important to note that the Act provided for programmes in the public
service media, recognised minority languages, the possibilities of establishing
cultural institutions, the bases of the right to tuition and education,
the right of minority representation in Parliament and the institution of an ombudsman
for minority rights.
However, we also have to mention the shortcomings of the Act. First
and foremost is the lack of sanctions. There is not much point in formulating
what constitutes forbidden conduct and stipulating parliamentary representation
if breaches against, or omission of these provisions do not entail any
legal consequences, and if such are not provided for by other laws either.
Another problem is that the Act does not ensure the financial conditions of
the successful operation of minority self-governments. Multi-channel financing
(supplementary financing from local councils, tenders) to complement
the state’s normative support is rather uncertain, making it difficult to make
long-term plans. This leads to the dependency of such bodies on local councils.
It is also important to note that the Roma have no independent country
of origin, which could extend moral and financial support. The scarcity of
finances jeopardises successful operation, especially if minority self-governments
intend to conscientiously fulfil their tasks and exercise their rights
The Hungarian Roma population during the last half-century
provided for by law. On the basis of the ongoing debate of the amendment of
the Act, we can expect positive changes. Minorities will probably achieve
parliamentary representation on the basis of an acceptable compromise, but
there has been no final agreement yet as to exactly how this will be carried
out. We have no information, however, about any efforts to regulate financing
and implement a system of sanctions.
Other important laws have also been passed which directly affect
the situation of Roma in Hungary. Such, for example, was the 1996
amendment of Act LXXIX 1993, On Public Education, which defined the
opportunities for national and local minority self-governments to establish
and operate public educational institutions. Ministry of Education order
no. 32/1997 provides for the principles of the kindergarten and school
education of national and ethnic minorities. Its primary objectives
include the definition of the principles of a system of education that fits
the children’s age characteristics and individual levels of development,
promotes the learning of minority languages and cultures, as well as the
preservation and development of cultural traditions. The order details the
possible forms of education and the criteria systems related thereto. However,
due to the complexity of the system, local councils and schools are
often unaware of the possibility of the application of these forms; the various
forms of education are often mixed up and even more often educators
ignore parental wishes and consent.
Extremely important from the point of view of the Roma population
was Act LIX 1993, On the Ombudsman for the Rights of National and
Ethnic Minorities. The task of the minority ombudsman – as laid down in
the constitution as well – is to investigate abuses of constitutional rights
and initiate general or individual measures for the remedy of such. The
events of recent years and the reports of the ombudsman indicate that the
creation of this institution was indeed necessary; its activities are indispensable
for the functioning of a constitutional state. The ombudsman,
however, has very limited potential of rectifying the abuses that come to
light. The right of proposal and initiation of measures often does not fulfil
its purpose, and the case of Roma appealing to the public is not always
effective. It would definitely be necessary to broaden the ombudsman’s
sphere of authority.
The declared purpose of government order no. 1121/1995 (XII.7) on
the Establishment of the Public Foundation for the Hungarian Roma was to
promote equal opportunities.
Medium-term action plans
Government order 1120/1995 (XII.7) was the first significant government
initiative which expressly sought a remedy for the increasingly impossible
situation of the Roma. As a first step in this direction a Co-ordination Council
for Roma Affairs was set up to harmonise the work of the ministries and
the various national institutions, to promote finding a solution to the problems
of the Roma and to support their social integration. Its declared objectives
include the elaboration of a medium and a long-term programme to promote
equal opportunities. Another, closely related government order was no.
1125/1995 (XII.12), a document which deals with the most urgent tasks concerning
the situation of Roma in Hungary. Recognising the urgent necessity
for government participation, this order prescribes the creation of action
plans in various areas for the ministries.
The first medium-term action plan, Government order no. 1093/1997
(VII.29), was based on these government orders issued in 1995 and tried to
comprehensively assess and define the tasks necessary for the social integration
of the Roma. Its first part contains the measures to be taken during 1997
and 1998. In the field of culture and education the programme declares the
necessity for the development of tuition fee and child protection support, the
elimination of segregation in education, the further development of regional
programmes for talented children (e.g. Gandhi High School and College)
and the broadening of their networks, plus the establishment of boarding
schools for talented pupils. In the field of employment the programme’s
objectives include the elimination of Roma slums, the creation of new employment
schemes and the development of existing ones, the integration
of Roma students into the vocational training system and the implementation
of farming programmes. Regional tasks include the implementation of
comprehensive crisis management programmes in areas with a high concentration
of disadvantaged groups, i.e. where Roma form a significant part of
the population. With respect to anti-discrimination measures, the programmes
attach importance to the assessment of the necessity of further legislation
and the inclusion of information about the Roma into police training.
In the field of communication, finally, the programme speaks of the necessity
for the elaboration of a PR strategy related to the development of the conditions
of the Roma. The second part of the action plan lays down the guidelines
for later measures, including support for the higher education of Roma
students, the role of minority self-governments in the struggle against unemployment,
the development of a screening and health-care network to
improve the health conditions of the Roma population, support for legal aid
The Hungarian Roma population during the last half-century
bureaus for conflict management and the necessity of a realistic image of the
Roma in public service media.
The new government elected in 1998 found it necessary to revise the
medium-term action plan. Basically the contents of government order no.
1047/1999 (V.5) reflect the objectives laid down in 1997; however, priority
is given to the tasks related to education and culture. In the field of education
therefore, presently the basic objective is the development of elementary education
(beside the promotion of regular kindergarten attendance and the
decrease of truancy), while in medium-level and higher education it is decreasing
the dropout rate (via boarding schools and scholarships). In the
field of culture, basic objectives include the development of cultural institutions
to support group cohesion, the training of experts and the creation of
technical materials. The basic objectives in the field of employment are support
for people who are long-term unemployed or unable to start their
careers, the organisation of public works schemes and the elaboration of a social
land-ownership programme. In the case of anti-discrimination aims,
greater attention has to be paid to the actual implementation of laws, while
the task of communications strategy is to explain to the majority society why
programmes for the Roma population are necessary at all.
To help the successful implementation of the medium-term action
plan, the new government also found it necessary to change the governing
body. Government order no. 1048/1999 (V.5) dissolved the Co-Ordination
Council for Roma Affairs, replacing it with the Inter-Departmental Committee
for Roma Affairs. A sign of progress is that the new forum may form
sub-committees and invite representatives of Roma NGOs with consultation
rights to its minimum four annual sessions. The ombudsman for minority
affairs and the presidents of the Public Foundation for the Hungarian
Roma, the Gandhi Public Foundation and the National Roma Parliament are
The long-term strategy programme11
Experiences of recent years made it obvious to political decision-makers that
even though the level of the present system of minority protection in Hungary
is acceptable, it is insufficient to resolve the problems of the Roma population
and there is need for additional state measures. Changes, however, can
only be implemented on the basis of a far-sighted, consistent long-term strat-
11 As we have no access to documents, we were acquainted with the programme under preparation
from a lecture held by Dr. Gabriella Varjú, vice-president of NEKH responsible for
Roma affairs (since resigned from her post) held in Budapest at the public hearing of the
Roma Expert Committee of the Council of Europe on 31 October 2000.
egy. If we examine the results of the medium-term and long-term
programmes, it is evident that even though the efforts made have been positive,
the conditions of the Roma population have not improved but have, in
fact, deteriorated. The causes for this are the age-old poor living circumstances
of the Roma and the scarcity of the country’s economic resources.
Representatives of Roma organisations and independent experts, however,
attach at least as much importance to the defects and inconsistencies of the
state’s Roma policies, as well as the fact that several – not specifically
Roma-related – legislative acts in various fields (child protection, social policy,
family tax reductions) put the Roma at a greater handicap than they were
years ago. The question of the utilisation of funds for the solution of the problems
of the Roma is much disputed as well. According to statistics, in the
year 2000 the budget reserved some Ft4.85 billion for the realisation of the
objectives of the medium-term programme and a further Ft2.2 billion for
other minority-related tasks, totalling to Ft7 billion. The problem, however,
is that these funds are distributed among the budgets of the various ministries
and there are no established procedures to supervise the actual spending – in
particular, representatives of Roma organisations have no possibility of exercising
such supervision. Such lack of transparency hinders the successful implementation
of the programme, even though it would be a basic pre-condition
for a long-term strategy.
After assessing the deficiencies and errors of the implementation of
previous programmes, the long-term strategy declares as its objective the social
and economic integration of the Roma population in Hungary, while
maintaining their identity. Other objectives include the creation of jobs and
the promotion of equal opportunities for the Roma to participate in society
and politics. The programme intends to provide guidelines for changing the
impossible situation of the Roma via a set of principles. Such principles include
social solidarity and responsibility, partnership (Roma participation),
subsidiarity and decentralisation (the local resolution of local problems), as
well as the necessity of preserving and protecting the values of Roma culture.
Further principles are the development of the legal framework against
negative discrimination, transparency and publicity, and the necessity of
a comprehensive, multi-dimensional approach to the question. To ensure the
financial basis for the implementation sustainability of the programme, the
strategy recommends a greater concentration of financial resources. An important
objective of the plan is the creation and consistent implementation of
a system of supervision and monitoring. To effectively improve the conditions
of the Roma, two sectoral priorities have been defined: improvement
of the conditions of education and employment to promote the self-sustaining
The Hungarian Roma population during the last half-century
ability of families. An interesting element is the definition of trans-sectoral,
so called horizontal priorities, such as the elimination of social and political
segregation and the promotion of Roma participation.
According to plans, the long-term strategic programme will be put to
broad public debate where all parties concerned will have their say, thereby
helping to eliminate potential errors. The opinion according to which yet
again this programme is no more than a set of generalities and principles and
contains few references appertaining to concrete methods to resolve the extremely
serious situation has already been formulated by representatives of
Roma organisations. Final acceptance of the programme will probably be
preceded by heated debates. Everyone agrees, however, that, beside the participation
of the Roma and non-Roma population, the greatest responsibility
has to be assumed by the state, and that improvement of the living conditions
of the Hungarian Roma population is only possible with strong support from
the European Union.
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary
and the Economy1
1. Occupations at the end of the 19th century
The 1893 Gypsy census, the most comprehensive registry of the Roma
population to date reports the distribution of the various occupations
some 100 years ago. The publication containing the results of the census2
contains records of 273,000 persons, or 275,000 if we also include the army,
the police and those who were under arrest, but it also mentions that because
of the ruling of the capital’s authorities, Budapest Gypsies were not recorded.
Including them, the number of Roma living in the territory of the
country at the time was 280,000.
Half of these 280,000 persons had immigrated during the 19th century,
a third of them after 1850, or were descendants of such immigrants. The
mother tongue of the majority of immigrants was Romany or Boyash3 and,
to a much lesser extent, Serbian or Croatian. Accordingly, in the Hungary of
1893, the mother tongue of 38% of Roma was Hungarian, 30% Romany and
24% Romanian, while the mother tongue of the rest was Slovak, Serbian,
Ruthenian, Croatian or other.
The situation was different in the area that is the territory of present day
Hungary, where there were 65,000 Gypsies in 1893. Most of them were descendants
of earlier immigrants. Accordingly, here the proportion of those
whose mother tongue was Hungarian was 79.5%; Romany accounted for
10% and Romanian 4.5%.
Of the 275,000 people registered, 101,000 were under the age of 16.
Of the 174,000 adults 143,000 were earners, 18,000 were dependent and
13,000 had no occupation. The last-mentioned also included those who were
1 A re-edited version of the study The Roma/Gypsies and the Invisible Economy (Edited by
István Kemény) Osiris–MTA KM. 2000.
2 Results of the Gypsy Census Conducted in Hungary on 31 January 1893. National Hungarian
Royal Statistical Office. Budapest, 1895.
3 Boyash is an archaic form of the Romanian language.
registered as making a living from begging, fortune telling, card tricks,
quackery, theft and vagrancy.
From among those who were earners, 50,506 worked in industry, 4453
in commerce, the number of musicians was 17,000, 5847 were agricultural
workers, and 64,190 day labourers. The distinction between these two categories
must surely have been artificial. Most Roma lived in or on the outskirts
of villages or far from the villages, and therefore could mainly do agricultural
work if they were day labourers, occasionally supplemented by odd
jobs around the households of the village. For such work, the peasants most
often offered remuneration in kind. Such jobs, however, could only have
been supplemental beside day labour proper, which primarily consisted of
agricultural work: the hoeing of corn, potatoes, sugar beet and vegetables,
share harvesting, sheaving, participation in threshing and treading, corn snapping,
picking carrots, pepper and tomatoes, harvesting fruit and vine, sheep
shearing, stuffing geese and plucking.
Beside agricultural wage labour, day labourers undertook any other job
they could find. “He is willing and able to do anything,” wrote Lajos Kiss 4
about the day labourer. “The day labourer’s situation is the least secure: at
best he can work two hundred days a year.”
Two hundred days a year of work was certainly only achieved by
non-Roma day labourers, the Gypsies could get much less work. In the winter
there were practically no work opportunities, just as there are none today.
Work was scarce in the spring, too. The summer and the autumn presented
the most opportunities for work; harvesting, threshing and treading in the
summer and corn snapping, carrot picking, cleansing and clamping and
vintaging in the autumn. Both Roma and non-Roma day labourers had to
earn their whole yearly income during the summers and autumns.
Of the 64,000 day labourers, 28,000 were men and 34,000 women.
A significant part of the later came from families where the man worked in
industry, so the livelihood of the family was only dependent on day labour to
a – usually smaller – degree. The day labour – and indeed, any wage earning
labour – of women was strongly limited by the large number of children.
In this respect Roma day labourers were not different from the others. “Most
who have large families,” writes Lajos Kiss5 “are constantly pregnant – if
her husband throws his hat at her, she conceives right away.” The number of
children in the families of non-Roma day labourers, agricultural wage workers
and in general, the village poor, was just as high as among the Gypsies
right up to the Second World War and even afterwards.
4 Life of the Poor Man. (Gondolat. Budapest, 1981, 189l)
The total number of agricultural earners and day labourers was 70,000,
i.e. almost 50% of the 143,000 earners working primarily or mainly in agriculture.
However, it would be a mistake to conclude that the half of the livelihood
of Roma in 1893 depended on agriculture. A mistake, because we have
seen that the income of a part of the 34,000 female day labourers was only
supplementary, and also that the large number of children limited the earning
capacity of women. Therefore, beside the distribution of the occupations of
all earners we, should also separately examine the distribution of occupations
among the men.
Of the 85,000 male earners, agricultural workers and day labourers totalled
32,000, or 38%. If we were to estimate the extent of the dependency of the
Gypsies’livelihood on agriculture, then this figure is probably closer to the truth.
We should proceed similarly in the case of industrial earners. The
50,000 industrial earners made up some 35% of the total 143,000 earners,
but the proportion is different if we only take the men. Of the total 85,000
men who were earners, 33,930 or 39.9% were industrial earners, that is the
livelihood of Roma depended somewhat less on industry than on agriculture.
In this respect the Roma were fundamentally different from the other
inhabitants of the country. At the time of the census only 5.45% of the general
population worked in industry, while the proportion of industrial earner
Roma was 18.4%. Another significant and thought provoking difference is
that in the general population there were 171 women for 1000 industrial
earner men while among the Gypsies this number was 487.
In his examination of the industrial occupations of Roma, Antal
Hermann distinguishes exclusively, primarily or mainly male occupations
from mainly or exclusively female occupations. This distinction could only
be partially implemented in the statistical tables. According to statistics, the
manufacture of rope and brushes was a mainly or almost exclusively female
occupation, meaning that rope layers, string makers, brush makers and lime
brush makers were almost always women among the Roma, (of the 4163 persons
4135 were women), and lace making, weaving, braiding, embroidery,
tobacco plant work, whitewashing, washing and plucking feathers were performed
by women exclusively (totalling 2938 persons).
According to statistics, metallurgy was primarily a male occupation.
Tinsmiths (60 persons), bell makers (41), whetters (43), tinkers (175),
coppersmiths (81) were all men, and locksmiths (217 of 221 persons) and
drill makers (370 out of 380) were also almost exclusively male. Most important,
however, were the blacksmiths, 12,749 in total. Antal Hermann writes
about them: “The largest number are the blacksmiths who make up 36.5% of
Roma men working in industry as well as 22.5% of all the blacksmiths in the
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
country (of whom 7146 were registered by the 1891 census under the heading
household and popular industries and 47,710 as regular tradesmen).
They have been performing this trade that is especially indispensable to
farmers for centuries. In the cities the blacksmiths’ guilds often quarrel
against them, but in the villages, especially in poorer areas they are near irreplaceable.
In many places they are the contracted blacksmiths of the municipality
and live in the town blacksmith hall. Much more than the 379 women
registered actually do blacksmith work, helping their husbands together
with children from and early age. Besides musicians, blacksmiths are the
most popular and likeable members of the Gypsies and they constitute the
most useful and honest element too.”
The number of Roma blacksmiths was the highest in Transylvania, followed
by the Trans-Tisza region, then the northern region of the country, and
their number was the smallest in the areas between the Danube and the Tisza
and the Trans-Danubian region. That is – as Antal Hermann had also pointed
out – the more economically backward and the poorer a region was, the
greater was the number and proportion of Roma blacksmiths there.
We may see a somewhat similar picture if we recall even earlier times.
At the time of the 1782 census, that is, when the county was much poorer and
much less developed economically than in 1893, the majority of the heads of
Roma families, and in general the men, had been blacksmiths. During this period
the number of Roma blacksmiths was almost four times that of Roma musicians.
During the 111 years between the two censuses, the number of Roma
blacksmiths did not decrease but increased. It was not their number, but their
proportion and significance that had diminished, as is apparent from the fact
that during the same 111 years the size of the Roma population increased
seven times, and the number of Roma musicians 10.5 times.
To the 13,000 blacksmiths we have to add those 1661 nail-smiths who,
as Antal Hermann remarks, “were not always consistently set apart from the
blacksmiths”. According to the census the number of women among them
was 36, though others also took part in their husbands’ work, just as in the
case of the blacksmiths. Most nail/smiths, incidentally, were registered in the
The blacksmith’s trade had been predominant among Hungarian Roma
from the end of the 15th century.6 This dominant role began to somewhat
diminish in the 18th century, and by the second half of the 19th century the process
of industrialisation had forced Roma blacksmiths and nail-smiths into
the background, especially in the more developed areas.
6 See Pál Nagy, The History of Hungarian Gypsies in the Feudal Ages. (Kaposvár, 1998), especially
On the other hand, the tin man and tinker trades probably appeared
among the Hungarian Roma in the 18th century. These were imported by
Vlach Gypsies, the Kelderash in particular. In 1893, 2077 such persons were
registered (of whom 139 were women), primarily in the angle of the rivers
Tisza and Maros, and in Transylvania. Half of them were permanently settled,
one third were wandering Gypsies and a further one sixth were “persons
with lasting residence”.7
The tub and wooden spoon makers whose mother tongue was the
Boyash language first appeared in the Trans-Danubian region in the 18th century,
but they began to immigrate in greater numbers during the 19th and 20th
centuries. At the time of the census there were altogether 5147 of them (3808
men and 1339 women). They arrived to historical Hungary from two directions:
from Croatia to Baranya, Somogy and Tolna and from the Romanian
principalities to Transylvania and the angle of the rivers Tisza and Maros,
and later on to the counties adjacent to Transylvania. Antal Hermann writes
about them: “Using primitive tools they produce primitive wooden vessels
and utensils to meet low cultural demands in forest regions, usually at the
site of wood production. Their activity is of public utility inasmuch as in
many isolated places from where it would be difficult to transport timber and
logs without a loss, they are able to sell the produce of the forest, giving fair
compensation to the owners and in general making an honest livelihood.”
During the census woodworkers were classified into two categories:
wooden spoon makers and tub makers. Antal Hermann writes the following
about members of the latter category: “Tub making favours residing in one
place. An individual team, as an earning co-operative, usually keeps working
at a suitable location until they have exhausted easily accessible materials
and fulfilled the demands of the region for their products. The best wood
and the best market for tub makers are offered by the right bank of the river
Danube.” Hermann also noted that there were no Roma woodworkers in the
forest areas of the northern region of the country. He explained this by the
fact that in these areas “the majority of the population (Slovaks and
Ruthenians) performed their own domestic woodwork”.
In this respect we have to mention the proposition of Gábor Havas: in
the course of the evolution of peasant commodity production and the formation
of a peasant bourgeois class, “amidst the circumstances of the strong
differentiation of the social division of labour, Roma increasingly specialised
in manufacturing the products and providing the services that had previously
been taken care of by self-sufficient peasant farms.”8 Havas
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
7 This category included those who because of their occupations ‘remained in the same place
for weeks, months or even years, without permanently settling there’.
includes woodwork among such trades along with the manufacture of
wicker and cane instruments.
Let us now take a look at these. In 1893 the number of mat and sack
manufacturers was 74, there were 963 basket weavers, 1036 broom makers,
767 sieve makers, the total number of those dealing with wicker was 2840
(1633 men and 1207 women).
Much more significant than wood, cane and wicker work, right behind
metallurgy came the various occupations related to construction: adobe and
mud work, firing bricks and tiles and masonry.
At the time of the census 9385 men and 6010 women, a total of 15,395
people were involved in such work.
Roma had already been involved in mud work and adobe construction
already in the 18th century, but their number and significance really increased
during the second half of the 19th century.
The half century after the 1867 Compromise was a period of growth
and construction. The growth of villages and small towns created a demand
for the work of adobe builders. (Three quarters of the population of the country
lived in settlements where construction materials were adobe bricks,
wood and cane.)
Ferenc Erdei pointed out that adobe building was just as regular and industrial
a venture as raising walls, laying cane and bricklaying,9 but “there is
no prescribed period of apprenticeship for learning the trade, nor are there
any examinations. In the same way as peasants learn agriculture, this trade
is learnt by tradition and practice.”
Adobe building is seasonal work, it can only be done from spring to autumn.
As Gábor Havas writes: “the place of residence could not present sufficient
work opportunities even during this period, forcing adobe builders to
constantly move during the season”.10
During winter months, adobe builders had to make do with what
they could save during the season. But often there wasn’t enough work
even from spring to autumn. Therefore adobe building was often supplemented
or alternated with other jobs: with agricultural wage labour from
the spring until the autumn and with various odd jobs during wintertime,
such as basket weaving or work around village households and sometimes
with playing music.
8 “Traditional Trades”. In: The Hungarian Roma. Ed. István Kemény. (Press Publica. Bp,
2000) 88 l.
9 F. Erdei, The Hungarian Peasant Society. (Franklin, Budapest, 1940) 127 l.
10 “Former Gypsy Trades”. In: Gypsy Studies. (Budapest, 1982) 163–164. l.
It was in general characteristic of Roma families to create their livelihood
from several sources and they had to adapt their income earning activities
to the opportunities that opened up.11
The exception to this rule were the Gypsy musicians, at least those who
were licensed, had secure livelihood and enjoyed respect. Antal Hermann
also writes about them in a respectful tone: “The musicians, who make up
a considerable part of the Gypsies in the country, are in all respects the most
noble, most intelligent and nationally most significant class.” We may add
to this that music offered the sole avenue of social elevation to Roma as is
repeatedly stressed by Bálint Sárosi in his excellent work.12 It was also he
who remarked that respect for skilled Roma musicians was the highest in the
middle of the 19th century.13
This, however, had not always been so. Little mention is made of the
music of the Roma before the second half of the 18th century and it had
played no significant role in their livelihood either. By the end of the 18th century,
however, the Hungarian national movement demanded modern Hungarian
and European music, and only that played on the violins of the Gypsies
was suitable to meet this demand.
At the time of the Reform Age (the first half of the 19th century), Roma
musicians were closely related to the strengthening national movement. This
was the time of the evolution of the Roma orchestra style known today.
As musicians they also took part in the independence struggle of 1848–49.
After the struggle for independence was defeated, “occasions of tearful
feasts gave rise to such feeling of solidarity between the Roma musicians and
the gentry or bourgeois communities, that brought the former wide sympathy
and – for the very best – even respect despite their subservient status.”14
In 1893, 16,784 Gypsy musicians were registered (16,638 men and 146
women), but their actual number was much higher. The census had not included
Budapest, which had the highest number of Roma musicians (three
thousand), in several rural cities (Pécs, Székesfehérvár, Szabadka) only wandering
Gypsies were registered, and the town of Gyõr only provided a general
description about the Gypsies settled in the Roma district. It is very probable
that the actual number of musicians was well in excess of twenty thousand.
Obviously, they did not form a homogeneous group. In addition to the
small group of band leaders with international reputations and the good
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
11 Cf. Gábor Havas, “Traditional Trades”. In: The Hungarian Roma. Ed. István Kemény.
(Változó világ, 31. Gyõr, 2000) 89–90 l.
12 Gypsy music… (Gondolat, 1971). Instrumental Hungarian Folk Music. (Püski, 1996)
13 ibid. p. 54.
14 ibid. pp 53–54.
many musicians who lived in comfort and security, there were many who
could only play and make money at local weddings and balls, or played only
occasionally and were forced to alternate music with physical labour.
The 4453 merchants constituted 3% of Roma earners. 1978 of them
were men, accounting for 2.3% of male earners and 2475 were women, 4.3%
of female earners. 1475 of the men were horse traders. Geographically, the
number of horse traders was the highest in the angle of the rivers Tisza and
Maros (especially in Torontál County) and in the region between the rivers
Danube and Tisza (mainly in Pest-Pilis-Solt-Kiskun County).
All in all, at the time of the 1893 census the situation of the Gypsies
was better than during previous decades or centuries. According to calculations
by economic historians, the national revenue of the country had doubled
or even trebled between 1867 and 1900, and this growth had a beneficial
effect on the livelihood of Gypsies as well. Besides the previously mentioned
examples of adobe building and bricklaying, the number of gentry,
bourgeois and peasants who could afford to invite Gypsy musicians to weddings
or celebrations was also continuously increasing.
Improving opportunities were unevenly distributed between the various
regions of the country. In the region between the Danube and the Tisza
10.6% of the 7400 male earners were growers or day labourers (as compared
to the nationwide 38%), 28% made a living in industry (as compared to the
nationwide 39.9%), 8.7% dealt with commerce (as compared to the nationwide
2.3%), 52.5% were musicians (as compared to the nationwide 19.3% or
– after the corrections detailed above are made – 23%). The ratio of blacksmiths
was also only 5% in contrast to the overall figure of 15%. We may
also mention that 23.4% of all Gypsy musicians in the country lived in the region
between the Danube and the Tisza.
In the Trans-Danubian region the proportion of male earners who were
growers or day labourers was 21.5%, industrial earners were 37%, merchants
4% and musicians 37%. The ratio of blacksmiths was 10%, higher
than in the region between the Danube and the Tisza, but still lower than the
national average. As in the region between the Danube and the Tisza, blacksmiths
switched to playing music here, too, and simultaneously switched languages
from Romany to Hungarian.15 The musicians in this region
accounted for 12.5% of the total of Roma musicians in the country.
In the region beyond the River Tisza, that is in Békés, Bihar, Hajdú,
and Szabolcs counties and half of Szatmár County, 15.6% of the total of
15 Gabriella Lengyel describes and analyses this double change in her study The Musician
Gypsies of Letenye (Zalai Tükör, 1974) Vol. II. pp. 25–41. Studies on the Social Situation
and Culture of the Gypsies. Ed. Katalin Kovalcsik (BTF-IKA-MKM 1998) pp. 115–136.
6834 male earners were growers or day labourers, 56.6% were industrial
earners, 2.9% were traders and 24.6% were musicians. In this region, the proportion
of blacksmiths was 21.2%, well over the national average, as was
the ratio of bricklayers, adobe builders and mud workers. The musicians in
the region accounted for 10% of the total of Gypsy musicians in the country.
46% of the total of Gypsy musicians living on the territory of the country
at the time dwelled in the three regions mentioned, and 51–52% lived on
the territory that is present-day Hungary.
2. Between the two world wars
Following the 1893 Roma census, the next comprehensive, though representative
rather than full survey about them was conducted in 1971. 2% of the
entire population was polled during this survey. The questionnaire contained
an item about the “primary occupations of the father”, the answers to which
provided a rough image about the distribution of the various occupations before
the Second World War.
On the basis of the answers to the 1971 questionnaire about the father’s
occupations, before the Second World War over one third of the Vlach
Gypsies had made a living from trading horse and swine, carpets and other
forms of commerce. Over a quarter lived from agricultural work, a fifth were
copper-smiths or did other metal-working jobs, and less than one fifth were
adobe builders and musicians.
Before the FirstWorldWar the Boyash, whose mother tongue was Romanian,
made a living from making tubs and other wooden vessels.
As Gábor Havas has shown,16 a large part were resettled by land owners
from Croatian Slavonian estates. The other part of the Boyash came from Romania
and moved near to Hungarian villages due not to resettlement, but out
of their own free will.
As times passed, the “estate” Boyash also moved nearer to the villages.
Both soon began to supplement forestry work with basket weaving, share
harvesting and other agricultural occupations. Between the two world wars
a third of their livelihood came from agricultural work and day labour.
As regards the Hungarian Roma, I would like to quote the 1971 survey:
“…during the previous generation over one quarter of them made a living
from agricultural work, more than one half supplemented adobe building
with playing music, while the remaining part made their living exclusively
from playing music.”17
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
16 “The Baranya County Tub Making Gypsies”. In: Gypsy Studies. Institute for Cultural Research.
(Budapest., 1982) pp. 61–440.
We have to add to this summary description that beside the ones listed
above, other occupations, too, were often mentioned in the answers to the
questionnaire, including blacksmith, digger, junk dealer, trader. It should
also be added that some of the musicians supplemented playing music with
At any rate, the majority of Hungarian Roma surveyed in 1971
recalled their ancestors as being musician Gypsies and said that their families
were musician families.
Just what was the number of Romamusicians between the two world wars?
On the basis of Miklós Markó’s book about Roma musicians,18 Bálint
Sárosi writes that in 1927 there were over 12,000 Gypsy musicians living in
Hungary.19 He adds that at least one quarter of these were unemployed and
that “the majority of village Gypsy musicians are not included in these figures,
because usually village Gypsy musicians were unemployed.”20 Furthermore,
he also states that after the First World War many musicians moved
from the detached territories to the mother country. They, of course,
increased the number of city musicians.
When interpreting this estimate we have to recall that in 1893 there
were over 20,000 Gypsy musicians living in the territory of what was Hungary
at the time, and of this 20,000 about 12,000 lived in the area that was to
be the entire territory of the country after 1920. Both before 1893 and between
the two world wars, all musicians were Romungro.
At the turn of the century there were 106,000 Romungro and 35,000 of
them were working-age men, which means that a majority of them made
a living from playing music. The proportion of musicians was even higher
among those Romungro who lived within the territory to which the country
later shrunk. (In this area the number of Romungro was 52,000, of whom
16,000 were working-age men.)
In 1927 the number of Romungro was approximately 100,000, of who
about 30,000 were working-age men. The majority were born into Gypsy musician
families and learnt to play from their childhood. To quote Sárosi once
again: “In the trade of Gypsy music, the fact that it is inherited over the generations
and that they are more willing to enter this trade than any other
despite the risky livelihood is worth more than any formal education.” 21
17 Report on the 1971 Research into the Situation of the Gypsies in Hungary.
The research was conducted by István Kemény. (Budapest, 1976) p. 54.
18 Miklós Markó, The Feasting Hungary of Old. (Budapest, 1927)
19 Bálint Sárosi, Instrumental Hungarian Folk Music. (Budapest, 1996) p. 57.
20 ibid. p. 65.
21 ibid. p. 50
Of course it would be false to conclude that there were thirty thousand
candidates for twelve or nine thousand positions. It is certain, however,
that by the end of the inter-war period the number of those who
wanted to make a living from playing music had doubled, while at the same
time the number of job opportunities had decreased. The gentry that made
use of the services of Gypsy musicians did not get any richer, on the contrary,
they were losing their wealth, and the peasants who were able to invite
Gypsy musicians to weddings were not getting any richer. The bourgeois
public, on the other hand, began to turn towards jazz and modern
dance music. The situation of the Romungro was deteriorating painfully
throughout the entire period, as there were too many of them for the activity
that was the basis of their existence. This deterioration did not affect
everyone, for the best musicians were perhaps even more famous than their
colleagues at the turn of the century. Those however, who lagged behind
found themselves in a state of misery.
The situation of the Romungro also worsened in the field of those other
activities that they undertook to supplement or replace music. In agricultural
seasonal work the labour supply had previously surpassed demand and the
situation deteriorated further in the inter-war period, with some improvement
only during the second half of the thirties. The number of representatives
of the most ancient and for centuries most important Roma trade, which
already started to perish during the 19th century, the blacksmiths, also diminished
further and were entirely forced out of the economy by the end of the
period. Nail smiths could remain in existence due to spike nails. Adobe making
was another trade that could be carried on, though supply exceeded
demand in this area, too.
The livelihood of the Boyash and Vlach Gypsies deteriorated similarly.
Their living conditions significantly worsened due to massive immigration.
Between 1893 and 1930 the number of Vlach Gypsies increased from
ten thousand to thirty thousand, that of Boyash Gypsies from 4500 to 12 000.
Even if opportunities had remained the same, this increase would still have
made their living more difficult. However, the range of opportunities did not
remain intact but became narrower. Demand for such products as tubs,
wooden vessels, baskets, brooms, mats, sacks and cauldrons was continuously
diminishing, as was the demand for tinkering, wiring or lathing. Obviously,
what was said about seasonal work in agriculture applies to the
Boyash and Vlach Gypsies as well.
The situation of all Roma, thus not only the Vlach and the Boyash
but the Romungro as well, was aggravated by the change in the country’s
prevalent political principles and the implementation of these. After 1867
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
legislation had been based on liberal principles and this led to the evolution
of a liberal system of institutions.
An example of such liberal principles which affected the Roam was the
1872 Trade Law which regulated the issuing of trade licences. The law provided
that the authorities were to issue licences within three days of application,
and if failing to do so, the applicant could perform his trade without
a licence.22 We know from László Pomogyi’s work that certain authorities
were in constant breach of this law, but we also have to be aware that even illegal
measures could not prevent or hinder the activities of the Roma in their
trade or commerce.
The conditions which became prevalent in post-1920 Hungary were entirely
different. During the first few years constitutionalism was openly ignored,
while later anti-democratic practices, especially toward certain strata
of society were maintained under the guise of various pretences. In trade and
commerce the principle of liberty was entirely replaced by that of regulation.
We can encounter alarming examples of regulation and administrative despotism
in Pomogyi’s book and the collection of documents published by Barna
Mezey in 1986.23 Trying to prevent Roma from obtaining trade licences was
a recurring phenomenon. Furthermore, as the Minister of the Interior ruled in
1931, if they did receive a licence, it had to be restricted to the county of their
residence. And: “In performing their trades they may only act alone and
may not keep apprentices; peddler Gypsies cannot take their families with
them nor use vehicular transport for their trade.” Another example among
many is the Ministry of the Interior’s 1928 order on Roma raids according to
which Gypsies “whether they are vagrant or wandering in search of labour
will be held up by the security bodies wherever they are encountered and
taken to the nearest police authority under armed escort.” This order provided
for annual Roma raids by the county police authorities, but Pogonyi reports
that in most counties such raids were held semi-annually. He has compiled
a table about the October 1940 raid in Pest County when 131 Roma
were arrested, and 9 carts and 10 hordes confiscated. (Ibid., p. 137.) Such
crude actions obviously decreased the chances of survival. Actually, however,
they were meant to demonstrate that things can be done to the Gypsies
that could not be done to others.
The attitudes and actions of ministers, secretaries of state, vice-prefects,
sheriffs and police officers had deteriorated to the outmost degree and
so had the relationship between Hungarian society and the Roma. There
22 László Pomogyi, The Gypsy Question and the Administration of Gypsies in Bourgeois Hungary.
(Budapest, 1995) p. 162.
23 The Hungarian Gypsy Question in Documents. (Budapest, 1986)
were only a couple of years left before truly anything could be done to the
Roma, including genocide.
3. The socialist era
The historical turn of 1945 brought Roma the chance of survival and escape
from annihilation. The period of limited democracy between 1945 and 1947
changed the relationship of the Roma population toward society and the
state. The pre-1944 authoritarian regime had not recognised the equal rights
of Roma and applied racial discrimination against them, while the 1944 regime
outlawed them entirely. Democracy proclaimed the principle of equality
and forbade racial or ethnic discrimination.
On the economic level, however, the Roma suffered severe losses.
To quote Zsolt Csalog: “With the disappearance of previous consumer groups
the market for traditional musicians simply ceased to exist (though it was partially
regenerated from the sixties onwards), and history swept away the remnants
of the other traditional occupations as well. This meant the destruction
of the immense historic capital of the Gypsies, which they had struggled and
suffered for… It proved to be an irresolvable contradiction that while the end
of the Second World War put and end to the threat of the physical extermination
of the Roma population and brought about proclaimed emancipation, it
did not, at the same time, provide the conditions of their livelihood.”24
The redistribution of land began in the spring of 1945, signalling the
end of the economic and political rule of the landed class, and providing poor
peasants and agricultural have-nots with land. Roma, however, were left out
of the land distribution. Most of them did not apply, but – apart from a few
rare exceptions – those who did were rejected. Land was scarce and the redistribution
did little else than transform the country of “three million paupers”
into one of two million. It was easiest to exclude the Roma, so that is what
they did – even though a majority, over one third of Roma made a living from
seasonal agricultural work.
However, due to the redistribution of land, the job opportunities
offered to them by medium and large estates were lost.
The limitations imposed on them in respect of commerce by the orders
and authorities of the previous era obviously lost their sense. In 1945 and 1946,
however, due to the looting sprees of the Soviet soldiers, trading involved great
risk and could only be performed with serious losses. It was the Germans who
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
24 Zsolt Csalog, “The Gypsy Problem in Hungary before 1980”. In: Bibó Memorial Volume.
Samizdat. Budapest, 1979. Századvég Kiadó, Budapest. European Protestant Hungarian
Free University, Bern, 1991. II.ed. pp. 282–311.
took away the horses first; what they had left behind was taken by the Soviets.
Swine were also taken away or eaten. Looting had ended by 1947, but then communist
rue had started and Roma (and non-Roma) commerce was deemed to be
harmful, dangerous and contrary to the interests of the communists and the people,
and therefore those engaging in it were persecuted.
In the fifties, however, an opposite trend started which began to bloom
during the sixties and the seventies, and lasted until the second half of the
eighties. In the Budapest industrial region, the northern region and the
Trans-Danubian region forced industrialisation first led to full employment
then to a lack of manpower, and it thus brought about a steep increase in the
employment of Roma.
By the time of the 1971 nationwide survey this process had reached
a level where three-quarters of working-age (15–59) Roma males had full
time jobs, a further 10% were independent, family members of temporarily
employed earners, and 15% were dependent.
At the time of the 1970 census, 87.7% of working-age males were active
earners in the country, while 12.3% were pensioners or dependent. The
difference between Roma and non-Roma seemed to be very small – actually,
however, it was rather substantial.
Of the working-age male population of the country 2.7% were inactive
earners, i.e. health or disability pensioners. Among Roma men, however, the
incapacity ratio was 7.3%, and most of these could not receive a health or disability
pension because they had not been in employment for long enough.
8.2% of the country’s population were students. The ratio of students
among the Gypsies was 0.5%.
The following table summarizes these differences:
Total population Roma
Active earners 87.7% 85.2%
Inactive earners and disabled 2.7% 7.3%
Students 8.2% 0.5%
Other dependents 1.4% 7.0%
Total 100% 100%
During the sixties therefore, the life of Roma families underwent immense
change: the employment ratio of males was almost 100%. The livelihood,
living standards, security and level of civilisation of Roma families
had greatly improved. This transformation made it possible for a large part
of Roma families to build “CS”– lower comfort – flats or buy old peasant cottages,
to move into the villages and towns and leave the slums. A minority of
Roma had the resources to build houses or purchase flats on their own, while
the majority took loans to finance that. Permanent employment was a precondition
of bank credit.
Full employment of Roma males prevailed in industrial regions, but
not in agricultural areas. The ratio of dependent persons was 5.5% in the
Budapest industrial district, 4.3% in the Trans-Danubian region and 3.8% in
the northern industrial region, as opposed to 10.2% on the Great Plain and
15.2% in the eastern region. The ratio of disabled was 4.5%, 5.4% and 6.8%
in the three industrial regions respectively, while it was 8% on the Plain and
10% in the eastern region.
There were much greater differences in the employment of women as
compared to men. At the time of the 1970 census, 64% of working-age
(15–54) women were active earners, 6% were pensioners and 30% were dependent.
The 1971 survey, however, showed that among Roma women, only
30% were earners and 70% dependent. The survey report identified two
major factors in the low employment rate of Roma women: the higher number
of children and the fact that the villages offered less employment opportunities
for women, especially uneducated women.
Another factor at the time of the survey was the lack of kindergartens
and nurseries. Such institutions did not exist everywhere, and even where
they did they remained closed to Roma children.
In 1971 the significant difference in income between Roma and
non-Roma was due to two major causes: the high number of children and the
low employment rate of women. As a result, Roma families had more dependents
and fewer earners. To quote a few sentences from the survey report: “The
lower the income, the higher the number of children, and the higher the number
of children, the lower the income. The decrease in the number of children
is at once a result and instrument of the social elevation of Roma families, as
some of them already show. … Family planning is nonsensical in most Roma
settlements due to the lack of nurseries and kindergartens and the shortage of
job opportunities. Family planning, however, is spreading everywhere where
Gypsies received CS flats, kindergartens and job opportunities for women.”
In 1971, 11% of Roma heads of families were skilled workers, 10%
were semi-skilled workers, 44% unskilled workers, 15% blue-collar agricultural
workers, 3% day-labourers, while 6% were independent, family helpers
or sustained themselves from odd jobs.
The ratio of skilled workers was the highest among the Roma whose
mother tongue was Hungarian. 15% of Hungarian Roma family heads were
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
skilled workers, while this ratio was 25% in rural towns and 35% in the capital.
Among the Boyash and the Vlach Gypsies the ratio of skilled workers
The difference between the various linguistic groups was substantial in
the field of agriculture as well. 8.8% of Hungarian Roma family heads,
10.5% of Vlach family heads and 47.5% of Boyash family heads were manual
workers in agriculture. In the previous chapters we have seen that before
1945 the role of agricultural work was much greater in the lives of the Roma.
However, since the majority of Roma doing agricultural work were excluded
from the redistribution of land, their ratio in the new agricultural
co-operatives was already smaller than in pre-1945 agriculture. “During the
fifties and at the beginning of the sixties,” writes the survey report of 1971,
“their ratio in agricultural co-operatives decreased further. They abandoned
co-operatives partly because of the uncertainty of income and the new
work opportunities now open to them, but also because the non-Roma members
of co-operatives were usually hostile towards Gypsies. The work opportunities
opening up in industry not only meant a possibility of a stable income
for Roma – and non-Roma – but also a key to emancipation. They were
accepted at workplaces that had previously been closed to them.” 25
Before 1945 Gypsies performed seasonal work in agriculture or found
permanent work as shepherds and keepers. In 1971, 15% of Roma family
heads worked in agriculture, but only 5% were co-operative members. 1.5%
were growers, the rest worked as day-labourers, growers, planters, forestry
workers, shepherds, keepers and vineyard workers. 9% of permanently employed
Roma earners, while almost half of those in temporary employment,
worked in agriculture.
During the fifties and the sixties, therefore, Roma shifted from agriculture
towards industry. Agricultural work that could mainly only be done during
the summer never offered sufficient income to maintain a proper livelihood
all through the year. Extensive industrialisation now offered the possibility
of regular income, as well as the chance for Gypsies to become
respected members of industrial society.
Seasonal agricultural work, however, continued to play an important
role in the livelihood of the Roma. The most typical case was that the men
worked all year round in mines, foundries or factories, while women did day
labour or performed seasonal work in agriculture. Another frequent set-up
was that the men also participated in agricultural seasonal work, with or without
the permission of their full-time employers. During these years most
25 Report, p.54.
Roma families had two (or more) sources of livelihood, but it is also true that
Hungarian agriculture could not have done without Roma seasonal labour.
Seasonal work was not restricted to agriculture, but included all jobs
performed by the village poor. Rural seasonal work opportunities opened up
in the food industry (canned food, milling, sugar and brewing industries), in
forestry, wood processing, sawmills, building materials, road and railroad
construction and itinerant industry and commerce. Those who performed
these jobs were certainly have-nots, but they were not agricultural proletarians.
The report on the 1971 survey used the term “freely ‘moving proletarians’
” to describe them. They worked in such sectors of the economy where
the workplace often moves or changes and so does the workforce, though
usually within a small area. “This form of life, therefore, combined settlement
with a certain amount of migration and involved long periods of absence
of the family head.
“… During the Horthy era the relationship of the Gypsies and the
freely moving proletariat differed across the various villages. In certain
places a more or less homogeneous proletarian stratum was created, while
elsewhere the ‘white poor’ kept apart from the Gypsies.” 26
The forced industrialisation of the fifties and the sixties reproduced
and even made dominant the previously mentioned fatherless families,
because of the necessity to commute to work. The difference was that the
fathers usually had to travel long distances to the workplace.27
In the fifties and the sixties the dominant trend among the Roma was
that of proletarianisation. For the musicians this involved a degree of loss
of social status. According to statistics from January 1968, the number of
Roma musicians employed was 3670, but Bálint Sárosi estimates that there
were at least as many or even more Roma musicians for whom playing was
a part-time job.28
“Proletarianisation meant social decline for the traders as well.
Gypsies were forced out of horse and swine trading during the fifties,” the
1971 survey states, “ partly because the horses were slaughtered and partly
because such trade was banned. During the last few years breeding and trading
horses has revived to some extent, but only an insignificant part of Vlach
Gypsies make their living from this. Two smaller groups of former horse traders
became auto part dealers and cattle raisers, a somewhat larger group
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
26 Report, pp. 55–56. See also: István Kemény, The Machine Grew Up Together with Them.
(Budapest, 1990.) p.107. István Kemény, Sociological Writings. (Szeged, 1992) pp.
27 On commuting workers and their families, see Gábor Havas, “Strategies of Changing Occupation
in Various Gypsy Communities”. In: Gypsy Studies. (Budapest, 1982)
28 Bálint Sárosi, Gypsy Music… (Budapest, 1981) p. 225.
has switched to transportation (or deals with transportation as a side-job),
while most of them found jobs in industry. Those few old families who kept
their horses (that is legally deal with horse trading at the state company or
have maintained activities confined to the area of a single county, working as
a junk dealer or rag collector) keep tabs on each other. They keep aloof of
other groups and believe that only they are ‘Gypsies’ in the true sense of the
Certain counties strictly forbade trading while others allowed it to
some extent, but only within the county boundaries. An example are the carpet
traders who moved to Hungary from Transylvania in 1916 when the Romanian
army invaded the region. The carpet traders who called themselves
Székely Gypsies and spoke a different dialect of the Roma language settled
in Somogy, Veszprém and Zala Counties, and in Budapest. They made a living
from trading with textiles and also made rag carpets and blankets. Those
who settled in Budapest found their place in the society of the capital. Those,
however, who settled in Somogy, had their licences revoked and were moved
from their Kaposvár urban flats to barracks. In 1971 they presented the
image of a community hopelessly destined to perish.
If the possibilities of trading changed geographically, they changed
even more over time. Periods of leniency toward private economy and trading
alternated with periods of extreme hostility. This policy of loosening and
tightening the reins finally led to a situation in the eighties that was more lenient
than any previously. Gábor Havas published his examinations of the
strategies of changing occupations in Roma communities which he called
the “gathering-moving form of life”.30 As the markets for earlier Roma occupations
diminished, they were replaced by other income sources requiring
similar instruments, says Havas, such as collection of feathers and metal,
and forms of trade that could be done with a horse and cart. Collected feathers
and metal scrap were purchased by the state, while peddlers could sell
their goods to the population. This gathering-moving form of life heavily relies
on family relations. “Involving the broader system of family relationships
is indispensable to intelligence and the utilisation of current opportunities…
Such communities became veritable large family centres – usually organised
around the house of a grandfather with patriarchal authority – all
this being reflected visually, too: the somewhat better quality brick houses
were surrounded by the adobes of younger family members (children and
29 Report, pp. 60-61.
30 “Strategies of Changing Occupation in Various Gypsy Communities”. In: Gypsy Studies.
In the middle of the eighties (between 1984 and 1986) Michael Sinclair
Stewart studied the life of Vlach Gypsies living in a slum area in the town of
Gyöngyös. He concluded that Roma involved in the trading of horses or
other forms of commerce were living in increasing affluence, lived in large
houses and enjoyed prestige in the non-Roma world as well.31 In his book,
however, he did not acknowledge what was said by Gábor Havas: “Gypsies
with this lifestyle are necessarily balancing on the borders of legality and
therefore suffer much persecution.”
Following the 1971 survey, forced industrialisation continued for
somewhat more than fifteen years, not only maintaining, but actually increasing
the shortage of labour and the number of open jobs, even in regions that
were far from full employment in 1971. More job opportunities became
available to women as well; therefore Roma women also began to take jobs
that offered regular income. The ratio of earners among women approached
50% during the seventies, surpassing that during the early eighties (as opposed
to the 30% registered in 1971).
4. The period since political transformation
During the middle of the eighties the direction of the trends of change
reversed. Employment ratios began to deteriorate, slowly at first, but gradually
At the end of 1993 the employment rate for 15–59 year old men was
64% for the entire population and 29% for the Roma population. The difference
was even greater in the case of women: at the end of 1993, 66% of all
women in Hungary were employed, but the employment rate of Roma
women was only 15%.
Decrease of employment entailed a rise in the number of unemployed
or inactive people.
At the time of the 1993–94 survey Hungary had a rather high level of
registered unemployment: between October 1993 and January 1994 the average
number of registered unemployed was 640,000. This figure had been
below 100,000 before the end of 1990 and peaked at 703,000 in February
1993. The rate has slowly been decreasing since: the figure was 496,000 in
1995, 477,000 in 1996, 464,000 in 1997 and 404,000 in 1998. A decrease in
the number of registered unemployed, however, is not tantamount to a decrease
in actual unemployment. A part of unemployed people not entitled to
social security sees no point in registration.
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
31 M. S. Stewart, Brothers of Song. (Budapest, 1994)
At the end of 1993 the number of unemployed Roma was 57,000, that
is 8.9% of registered unemployed people were Roma. 37,000 of the 57,000
were men, that is 9.6% of the 386,000 registered unemployed men in the
county; 20,000 were women, that is 7.9% of the country’s 254,000 registered
At the end of 1993 the rate of registered unemployment was 12.84%
among the non-Roma population and 49.68% among the Roma. The data for
Budapest show a somewhat better picture (8.1% among the non-Roma and
31.8% among the Roma), while the rural figures are worse. The worst unemployment
rates were registered in the eastern and northern regions: 17%
among the non-Roma and 59% among the Roma population.
According to the ELAR survey of late 1993, the unemployment rate of
the non-Roma population was 11.08% according to the ILO definition, or
13.15% if we include the passive unemployed, i.e. those people who would
like to work, but have given up the hope of finding jobs. The unemployment
rate among the Roma was 37.91%, or 48.19% if we include the passive unemployed.
We are also aware that most inactive persons are de facto unemployed
– this goes not only for the Roma but for the entire population. In 1982 the
number of active earners had still been five million (5,437,000 if we include
active pensioners). By 1995 this figure had gone down to 3,700,000
(3,882,000 with active pensioners included). Of the 1.3 million difference, in
1994 632,000 were registered unemployed, 100,000 were passive unemployed
and the rest qualified as inactive.
Apart of previously active people became directly inactive during the
years, escaping from the threat of unemployment into some form of pension.
In this respect it is significant to note that the number of disability pensioners
alone rose from 500,000 to 700,000 between 1989 and 1995. Another part of
previously active earners severed all connections with the labour service and
disappeared from registration once their unemployment aid and income support
aid periods had expired.
A third part of previously active earners became inactive not directly
but following some sort of transition. Such were those who went on maternity
leave and once that was up, could or would not enter employment and so
became unemployed, and once the period of unemployment benefits was up,
they were transferred to the inactive category.
Afourth part of previously active earners became inactive by going to
work in the shadow economy after having lost their jobs. These people, of
course, are not, in fact inactive, but as they are not registered, they appear
among the unemployed in official statistics.
Let us finally mention those young people who certainly could have entered
employment in the sixties and the seventies but who today have no
hope whatsoever of finding jobs, and therefore do not register themselves
with the labour service.
These trends are even more marked in the case of the Roma, and they
started earlier. This is apparent if we examine the ratio of employed, unemployed
and inactive people across the various age groups among the Roma
and non-Roma population. Let us first take the non-Roma on the basis of the
late 1993 labour survey mentioned previously.
In the age group 30–39, the ratio of employed people was 75%, 11%
were unemployed and 14% were inactive. Employment in the 40–45 age
group was 72%, 9% were unemployed and 19% inactive. In the 55–59 age
group 9% were employed, 3% unemployed and 23% inactive.
According to the 1993–94 survey the same trend were prevalent
among the Roma, but the proportion of unemployed and inactive people was
much higher. In the 30–39 age group, 28% were employed, 30% unemployed
and 42% inactive. In the 40–54 age group 24% were employed, 20%
unemployed and 56% inactive, while in the 55–59 age group 9% were employed,
3% unemployed and 23% inactive.
The transformation between unemployment and inactivity and the dominance
of the latter is present among the younger age groups, too. In the 15–19
age group the ratio of employed people was equally 16% among Roma and
non-Roma, 5% of non-Roma and 11% of Roma were unemployed while
79% of non-Roma and 73% of Roma were inactive. The difference is, nevertheless,
fundamental. 70% of non-Roma youth were students: 55% in secondary
schools, 5% at college or university and 6% in elementary school. The proportion
of students among the Roma was only 25%, and the proportion of
those receiving middle-level education only 3.4% The true proportion of unemployment
among Roma youth between the ages of 15 and 19 was 48%:
11% were registered unemployed and a further 37% were unregistered.
At the end of 1993, 58,000 Roma were employed and 57,000 were unemployed,
while the number of inactive Roma was 151,000, that is, almost
three times as much as the number of unemployed. 56.5% of the Roma population
between 15 and 74 years of age were inactive, while the proportion
of inactive people in the non-Roma population was 44%. These proportions
were, of course, different among the men. The number of employed
men was 37,000, the same as the number of the registered unemployed,
while the number of inactive men was 55,000. That is, the inactive proportion
of men between 15 and 74 was 42%, as opposed to the 36% among the
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
Differences were much greater among women. The number of Roma
women between 15 and 74 was 136,000, of whom 95,000, that is 70%, were
inactive (21,000 were employed and 20,000 unemployed). The proportion of
inactive women among the non-Roma was 52%. When examining female inactivity,
we have to take into account that Roma have many children.
When looking for the causes we have to note the lag in education. Before
1986, completing the first eight forms could get one a job; today even vocational
(secondary) school is insufficient.. According to the Central Statistical
Office labour survey conducted in the last quarter of 1993, the rate of unemployment
among the non-Roma population was 12.84%; 2.94% among
people with college/university education, 9.91% among people with secondary
school certificates, 15.55% among those who had completed vocational
school and 17.52% among those who had only completed the first eight
years of elementary school.
The second reason concerns the place of residence of the majority of
Roma. The unemployment rate is much higher in villages than in towns, especially
in small villages. 60% of Roma live in villages, 40% in small villages.
The unemployment rate is much lower in the Trans-Danubian area and the
Budapest industrial region than in the northern, eastern and Great Plain regions
where 56% of the Roma live.
The third reason is that Roma had found work mainly in those sectors of
industry that quickly went bankrupt. As an example we could mention that in
1993 the rate of unemployment in the construction industry was almost twice
as high as the national average, while in 1971 26% of employed Roma
worked in the construction industry or on building sites. At the time their number
was 25,000, constituting 10% of all construction industry workers.
However, even these three reasons taken together cannot account for
the present rate of Roma unemployment. As a fourth reason discrimination
should be mentioned, however, the effects of this cannot be quantified.
Between 1994 and 2000 the country experienced immense economic
and social changes. A period of strong and lasting economic growth started
with 1997 and this had an effect on employment in general and the employment
of the Roma in particular. We have seen that the number of registered
unemployed had actually decreased between 1993 and 1997 (from 663,000
to 464,000), but we have also noted that this was merely a decrease in the
number of jobless people who registered with the labour centres. The decrease
in the number of active earners had continued during this period as
well, from 3,867,000 to 3,646,000. However, the number of employed people
increased during 1998 (by 51,000 to 3,698,000) and 1999 (by a further
145,000 to 3,843,000). The proportion of Gypsies within this 200,000
increase is unknown, but we may estimate it somewhere between 10,000 and
20,000. It may also be seen that the increase in the number of active earners
was steeper during 1999 than during 1998.
This trend of growth and the increase in employment will very probably
last for at least a few years. However, the unemployment rate is still very
high and we can safely assume that the employment rates of the seventies
and the eighties will not be achieved again even in the distant future.
5. The invisible economy
The situation of crisis we have described above is somewhat moderated by
the effect of the invisible economy.We have already mentioned that a part of
unemployed and inactive Roma are working in the grey and black economy,
and it is certain that invisible incomes play an important role in the livelihood
of Roma families.
Unregistered activities are present in all sectors of the economy.
We shall first mention agriculture, including forestry, hunting, fishing, angling
and food gathering. Roma usually hunt and fish without permits, therefore
such activities cannot be registered. Certain Roma families achieve relatively
significant revenues from the sale of game and fish, while others
engage in this activity merely to ensure their survival. Hunting also includes
the collection and sale of beaver-rats, hamsters and other furry animals. This
can also generate substantial income, though lower revenues are more frequent.
The gathering of snails, lobsters, molluscs and herbs can also generate
larger or smaller incomes.
At the beginning of the eighties, Gábor Havas provided a comprehensive
description of Roma food gathering that is still valid today.32 Another authentic
description of Roma gathering and collection may be found in the article
by Péter Szuhay in the book The Hungarian Roma.33 The same work describes
actual examples of food gathering and fishing in the villages of
Ároktõ and Kétegyháza.34
In the first chapter of this study we have already mentioned that at the
beginning of the century the Boyash made their living entirely from the forest,
from processing wood, and creating and selling wooden artefacts. They
began to switch to agriculture between the two world wars, though at the
time the forest still had a greater role in their livelihood than the land. After
the SecondWorldWar, half their livelihood was based on agriculture, but the
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
32 “Early Gypsy Trades”. In: Gypsy Studies. (Budapest, 1982) pp. 167–68.
33 The Gypsies in Hungary. Compiled by István Kemény. (Budapest, 1999) pp. 141–142.
forest had a smaller role to play in the other half, giving ground to mining
and industry. The forest, however, still has a role to play in ensuring the livelihood
of the Boyash as well as the Romungro and the Vlach Gypsies, at least
as regards firewood.
The study by Gábor Fleck, János Orsós and Tünde Virág35 also points
out that the forest has preserved its significance even today in the life of
those Boyash communities which had previously made their living primarily
or at least in half from woodwork. In the village of Partos during the previous
political era the majority of working age men had permanent jobs at the
nearby forestry and related enterprises. After the political transformation
almost all these jobs were terminated (only six men could maintain permanent
jobs). Since then the majority of the Boyash in Partos try to make a living
from odd jobs, most of which are related to forestry and the forest.
Some odd jobs, however, involve domestic work among the village
houses. “In general, they will dig the garden or clean the sties for food or
clothes” for a village family. This type of activity and form of livelihood had
also existed previously all over the country and is still present in most of the
villages. Agriculture still has great significance in the life of all three Roma
ethnic groups. It almost always takes the form of shorter or longer term temporary
wage labour performed for the peasants, which neither the Roma nor
the peasants register with the labour authorities. Here we should also include
the gleaning after harvests.
In addition to wage labour, Roma also engage in agricultural production
on their own. Household farming has an important role in survival and elementary
subsistence. In 1994, 56% of the households engaged in such farming.
For example, 27.5% of households produced a part of the amount of potatoes
needed by the family, while 13.5% produced the full amount. The figures
are similar for beans, onions, tomatoes and peppers. 13.3% of
households killed one pig, 14.7% killed two or more, while 15.5% raised at
least 30 chickens.
Especially among musician Gypsies, but also among the Boyash and
the Vlach Gypsies, there are some families and communities that produce
vegetables and raise animals not for households but for sale. The rate of registration
is the same as among the peasants, i.e., statistics do not cover this
form of commodity production.
We can still find Roma basket weavers, adobe builders and blacksmiths,
but their number is insignificant.
35 “Life in Bodza Street”. In: The Roma/Gypsies and the Invisible Economy. Ed. István
Kemény. (Osiris-MTAKI, 2000)
At the time of the 1971 nationwide Roma survey, 26% of employed
Roma men worked in the construction industry and road building. Even
more entered this sector during the seventies and their proportion compared
to non- Roma also increased. The construction industry collapsed during the
first half of the nineties and so these Roma lost their jobs. 1998 and 1999
brought a new period of growth in the building industry, but the level of production
is below that of the seventies. What is certain is that wherever we
find construction work we are also bound to come across Roma, and only
a few of them will be registered workers. There are also a significant number
of Roma among construction industry entrepreneurs, some of them with a nationwide
In the course of his research into Roma entrepreneurs, Ernõ Kállai interviewed
four building contractors,36 one from Miskolc, one from Tarnaörs,
one from Nagyecsed and one from Biharkeresztes. On of them is a Vlach
Roma, the other three are Romungro. They themselves are, of course, not actors
of the invisible economy, being legal small, medium and large entrepreneurs.
However, most of their employees are “black” workers, members of
the informal economy. One of them, for example, has 35 registered employees
and 150–200 sub-contractors.
As is known, Roma trade in horses, pigs, cattle, clothes, tobacco, coffee,
feathers, metal, flowers, peppers, used cars, real estate and antiques.
Kállai’s research includes florists, greengrocers, sellers of peppers,
clothes merchants, tool and electric appliance merchants, cassette traders,
shopkeepers, trade entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and antique and second-
hand car dealers.
Roma antique dealers are usually Vlach Gypsies, but the brothers
Kállai interviewed are Romungro. Nevertheless, they learned the trade from
their father who had been an unskilled worker and loader at BÁV (the state
second-hand retail network) and who slowly learnt the trade and became an
appraiser. “He could tell at first glance the period of a piece of furniture or
a painting, whether it was genuine or not and how much it was worth.
We started to learn the basics from him. We aren’t educated people, but we
have read very many books on this subject… But all this technical knowledge
isn’t enough if you want to deal with antiques. What you have to understand
is human nature. It is not the object you have to look at first when you go buying,
but the seller. If we can decide whether we are up against a swindler or
an honest man, that’s half success. Even if we are convinced that a picture is
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
36 “Roma Entrepreneurs in 1998”. In: The Roma/Gypsies and the Invisible Economy. Ed.
István Kemény. (Osiris-MTAKI, 2000)
the genuine article and we’d be making a good deal to buy it, if we don’t trust
the seller, we don’t buy.”
The T. brothers (let us refer to the antique dealers interviewed by this
name) had a shop but they sold it. They found taxes too high, but the main reason
was “it’s too conspicuous to have an antique shop.” The T. brothers
weren’t rich enough to pay for “protection” or to employ their own guards.
Ten years previously, they said in 1998, their monthly revenue was
200,000–300,000 forints which had to provide for three families and 14 people.
(One may ask, but never answer the question how much it would be now,
had they kept the shop.) In 1998 they still made a monthly 200,000–300,000
from antiques without a shop or a licence, but by then they were mainly dealing
with cars and flats. One of the brothers also confided that “there is a certain
circle” whose members have “very much money and they feel the need
for paintings and nice furniture and are willing to pay a lot”. But the purchase
of antiques is a matter of confidence with them, too. “They don’t like to
advertise who buys and keeps expensive stuff at home.”
Elza Lakatos has published a longer study about antique dealers.37
According to this, some 100–120 Roma antique dealers have joined the National
Association of Hungarian Art and Antique Dealers, but it is widely
known that in actual fact many more deal in antiques. According to Csaba
Nagy, the association’s president, the number of Roma antique dealers in the
capital alone exceeds 100. According to another, non-quantitative estimate,
most Roma who live in the districts of Zugló and Kispest make a living from
some form of antique dealing. This estimate was made by Zs. L. who was born
into a Roma antique dealer family going back several generations, learnt the
trade from his early childhood and became a successful businessman by his
twenties. A general rule is that the boys learn the trade from their fathers, just
as in musician families. Accordingly, it is very difficult to become one of the
leading dealers. “Most antique dealers try to make money in the narrow strip
that divides legality and illegality,” writes Elza Lakatos, so it is not easy the
glean facts from them. In addition to antiques, they also deal with cars, flats,
real estate, jewellery and clothes. Their fundamental value is wealth and they
believe that luck and finesse are sufficient to achieve it. However, if we read
the study with close attention, it will become clear that the most important traditional
values of Vlach Roma ideology are freedom and independence.
Ernõ Kállai also encountered a Vlach Roma dealing in cars and flats.
B. (let us call him that) had originally wanted to be a greengrocer, but, as he
said: “In Pest this is all done by established dynasties and you can’t break in
37 “They would go to the Ends of the World for a Deal”. In: The Roma/Gypsies and the Invisible
Economy. Ed. István Kemény. (Osiris-MTAKI, 2000)
among them.” So, he made a living from odd jobs and collected enough
money to purchase a council apartment. When he began to furnish it, a friend
advised him not to do so, but spend his money on refurbishing the flat rather
than furniture. Then he could sell it at profit. “And he was right..…I started
to do it by myself, knocked the plaster off the walls where it was faulty and repainted
and retiled. After renovation, I was able to sell the flat I had bought
for 200,000 forints from the municipality in a sorry state to a Roma family
moving to the capital for one million. This was when I knew that I shan’t be in
want again. I bought the next flat, renovated it and sold it at several times the
original price. Later, when I was making real profit, I bought several flats
and began to employ jobless craftsmen. All black, of course… I began to deal
with cars as a mater of chance. I went to the auto market with my brother to
buy a good car. I selected a nice red Lada and bought it. But, by the time I left
the market, I had already sold it at 50,000 forints profit. That’s when it hit
me: with cars you don’t even have to work as much as with flats.…I have no
apartments in my name other than the one I live in. And you can’t see me at
the auto markets, either. I have my men who take care of everything.”
In his study, Big City Gypsies Endre Hajnal László examines the business
activities and space usage of Vlach Gypsies living in Budapest.38
Today there are no more fixed Roma slums in the capital; “slum” Gypsies
have scattered throughout the various districts. In the country as a whole,
the ratio of Roma whose neighbours are also mostly Roma is the lowest in
Budapest.39 Most Roma live in districts VII, VIII, IX and XX. There are
hardly any Roma in districts I, II, V, XI and XII. For them the best and most
prestigious region is suburban Zugló, the area surrounded by Mexikói Street,
Queen Elizabeth Street, Öv Street and Csömöri Street, as well as the area
around Miskolci Street and Szugló Street. Somewhat less prestigious but
still very popular paces are the parts of Pesterzsébet, Kispest and
Rákosszentmihály which are nearer the city centre.
The car is an indispensable tool of dealing. Roma dealers rarely use
buses, trams or the metro. The car provides protection and safety. Friends
and brothers sit together; the environment is not hostile. Speeding in their
cars and meeting relatives in various parts of the city they use both traditional
and mobile phones to collect the information necessary for dealing:
who has gold, jewels, watches, antiques, cars, non-ferrous metal waste or
clothes to sell, and who wants to buy.
The Roma/Gypsies of Hungary and the Economy
38 “Big City Gypsies”. In: The Roma/Gypsies and the Invisible Economy. Ed. István Kemény.
39 Gábor Havas – István Kemény, “On the Hungarian Roma”. Szociológiai Szemle 1995/3. p. 15.
They are not comfortable with investments that require a lot of energy
and time, and don’t take to long-term strategies; you have to buy and sell
quickly, use your money quickly to make more money. Most don’t even have
a bank account and pay no taxes or social security. They do not purchase
equity and only accept cash for payment. According to the changes of the market
they can quickly switch from metals to antiques, flats to cars or whatever is
in demand. Making such changes is easy as they have no registered offices.
They are at home among the impoverished, struggling, helpless, alcoholic
or drug addict groups of the city, and are therefore able to buy well below
price. At the same time they have the necessary connections in the circles
with the desire and ability to purchase. They have lawyers, acquaintances
in public offices, municipalities and the police. In the afterword to his
study, Endre László Hajnal points out that during the last few years market
conditions have become more settled and would require that the Budapest
Vlach Gypsies legalise their ventures. As yet most of them have not done so.
Sooner or later, however, they will be forced to choose: either to give up their
enterprises or become legal entrepreneurs who pay taxes and social security
and have bank accounts.
There are other activities, too, that cannot be maintained for long.
In many places Vlach Gypsies still make a living from acting as loan sharks
for poor families living on aid. Another widespread practice is that people who
start subsidised house building, borrow from them and repay the debt from social
benefits. More intelligent laws, stricter supervision (today there is none)
and improvement of the activity of the banks present in the field of housing
might well eliminate this line of business or at least force it among legal limits.
Many Roma businessmen today make a living from mediating Roma
labour for odd jobs, or employ fellow Roma in such roles as sub-contractors
for minimum wages without social security and work safety. This activity
meets a very real demand on both sides and is a useful service today. It will,
unavoidably, have to be forced into a legal framework. However, elimination
of illegal activities and the legalisation of those that today occupy the
borderline between legality and crime will only be achieved when the rule of
law is established in all fields of life.
The School as Breakout Point 1
In the wake of the political transformation two contrary trends became
prevalent in the schooling of Roma children. The number of children entering
the schooling system had been decreasing since the mid-1980s, a tendency
the effects of which also became apparent in secondary schooling by
the beginning of the 1990s. Meanwhile, a system of per capita financing of
public education was introduced, which made secondary schools interested
in enrolling – and keeping – the maximum possible number of students.
These two factors increased the opportunities of children from socially disadvantaged
groups (including the Roma), who were earlier unable to compete
in the field of schooling, to enter secondary institutions, including high
schools. At the same time they somewhat decreased the previously very high
dropout rate. In many places the decrease in the number of students also
brought about a significant improvement in the conditions of teaching:
classes became smaller, leaving more time and energy for individual attention
and the treatment of special problems. The further liberalisation of educational
content allowed greater room for the development and introduction
of alternative curricula and teaching methods.
After 1990, policy makers in the field of education became much more
sensitive to the problems of small schools and altered the decades-old practice,
which, by giving sole priority to economic rationality, regarded aggressive
and ever increasing zoning as the only solution. Recognising the fact
that the smaller number of students a school has, the larger the relative costs
are, after 1990 the central budget began to allocate extra resources for the
financing of small schools. In various forms this was implemented each year,
contributing to their survival. Furthermore, at the end of the decade a number
of small schools previously closed down were reopened. The special significance
of this from the point of view of the Roma is that the proportion of
them living in villages, many of them barely subsisting small settlements, is
much higher than that of the general population.
1 Revised version of the study published in the 2000 November issue of the periodical
The effects of these factors favourable from the point of view of schooling
were somewhat reinforced by the fact that a slow shift had started in the
attitude of the Roma population toward schooling. The shock of political
transition, which affected large masses of Roma by forcing them out of the legal
employment market, made it evident to many that without achieving
a higher level of education there would be no possibility of regaining lost
footing, nor even of halting the process of marginalisation. This, of course,
was primarily recognised by those who had set out on the slow, but more or
less straightforward route of social integration during the 1970s and 1980s,
a period that was more favourable from this aspect. Learning trades, sometimes
graduating from high schools and acquiring positions in direct production
management, they were able to achieve appropriate housing conditions
and more or less managed to stabilise their incomes and lifestyles. It was due
to these factors that, following the political transformation, this group managed
to avoid the situation of helplessness characteristic of the majority of
Roma, and could – after smaller or larger setbacks – adapt to the changed conditions.
They became the beneficiaries as well as the agents of the processes
of differentiation going on within Roma society. It was primarily this stratum
from where originated the leaders in Roma minority local self-governments
and NGO’s, who were able to achieve results not only in self-promotion but
also in the representation of group interests, the formulation and implementation
of programmes aiming at the improvement of the general situation.
Undoubtedly it was this group that took the lead in promoting ambitions related
to the schooling of children. By today, however, the motivation for increasing
the level of education has become much stronger in the whole of
Roma society, too. It has appeared in the traditional communities as well,
which capitalised on the liberalisation of regulations and, building on tradition,
managed to amass significant wealth from income generated in the various
branches of commerce. These families also began endeavours to
strengthen their social positions achieved by making use of traditional values
through the schooling of their children. These examples, as well as the
bitter experiences brought about by the present situation, heightened the motivational
level of the worse-off groups of the Roma as well, especially those
who, despite their lower education and lack of trade, had achieved significant
results in the stabilisation of their lifestyles and social integration before
the political transformation and who have managed to retain some of these results
since then, despite deteriorating conditions. Clearly, there is a very big
gap between the simple realisation that today one just cannot manage without
at least secondary school matriculation and the evolution of a practice
that effectively and actively supports the schooling of children. It is no less
evident, however, that the necessary shift in attitudes has begun. According
to a poll conducted by the Institute for Education Research (OKI) during the
academic year 1999–2000,2 38.3% of fathers employed as skilled workers
and 24.5% of those employed as unskilled or semi-skilled workers wished to
see their now elementary school aged children through to at least secondary
school matriculation, and even 14.7% of unemployed fathers had similar aims.
The discrepancy between desires and reality is, of course, evident if we
recall that while on average 18.9% of parents would like their children to matriculate,
only 8.2% said that they were willing to cover the costs of schooling.
Plans after finishing school according to the occupation of the father
37.5 37.2 40.9 26.7 18.4 22.0
Trade 56.3 41.9 49.5 54.2 59.9 57.7
Employment 6.3 9.3 1.1 4.9 4.4 4.4
Doesn’t know 11.6 8.6 14.2 17.4 15.9
Total 1.1 3.1 6.6 16.1 73.1 100
N (persons) 16 43 93 225 1024 1401
OKI research, 1999–2000
This is what gives extra significance to scholarship and other
programmes aimed at supporting further studies (Public Foundation for the
Hungarian Roma, Hungarian Public Foundation for National and Ethnic Minorities,
Soros Foundation). We have to add however that the state is not
assuming sufficient responsibility in this area, therefore a lot depends on the
actual financial situation and intentions of NGOs whose strategies are changing.
(For example, the Soros Foundation is gradually reducing its scholarship
programme to support the higher studies of Roma youth and is generally
spending less on Hungarian programmes, including those aimed at furthering
The School as Breakout Point
2 Integration and Segregation in the Education of Roma Children (Institute for the Research
of Education, 1999–2000). The research was conducted with the support of the HSA Minority
Research Workshop, the Ministry of Education and the Soros Foundation under the leadership
of Gábor Havas, István Kemény and Ilona Liskó.
As a result of the joint effect of the factors mentioned above, during the
past few years the proportion of young Roma enrolling in high schools that issue
matriculation certificates, as well as higher educational institutions, has increased
significantly. It has to be acknowledged, though, that since 1993, when
the collection of separate data on Roma children was banned due to privacy considerations,
there have been no nationwide data available even about secondary
level education. However, the results of a number of studies related to the subject
and other indirect information clearly demonstrate this improvement.
According to the research conducted by OKI, in the 192 elementary
schools of the sample 13% of Roma students having completed the eight
grades were admitted to secondary schools (high schools or vocational
schools) in 1997. In 1998 this ratio was 15.8% and had further increased to
19% by 1999. Compared to the 1994 data above, these figures indicate
a steady, though extremely slow trend of improvement.
To what level they would finance the child’s education –
according to the occupation of the father
Elementary school – 8.2 1.1 3.5 4.2 4.0
Trade school 18.8 8.2 17.0 23.7 25.3 23.9
6.3 4.1 4.3 2.2 2.7 2.8
12.5 2.0 9.6 4.8 3.6 4.2
University diploma 12.5 6.1 5.3 1.3 1.7 2.2
As long as they are
18.8 16.3 9.6 11.8 18.0 16.4
As long as the
child wants to
25.0 49.0 45.7 41.7 29.0 32.8
Don’t know 6.3 6.1 7.4 11.0 15.4 13.8
Total 1.1 3.4 6.5 15.9 73.1 100
N(persons) 16 49 94 228 1050 1437
OKI research, 1999–2000
Students entering further education as a percentage
of those who completed elementary school
Type of further
1996/97 1997/98 1998/99
None 2.3 16.5 2.8 16.1 3.2 14.9
Technical school 4.4 8.6 5.4 10.4 3.2 9.4
Trade school 36.5 61.6 34.9 57.5 36.8 56.5
Vocational school 38.3 9.3 37.3 12.0 38.1 15.4
High school 18.3 3.7 19.3 3.8 18.4 3.6
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
N(persons) 167 168 176 176 177 182
OKI Research, 1999–2000
This research has, apart from a few exceptions, only included such
schools where the proportion of Roma pupils reached 25% or where their
total number exceeded 100 during the 1992–93 school year.We may, therefore,
suppose that within the part of the Roma population accessed by this
research, the children of the most segregated and most marginalised Roma
families, whose chances of further education are below average, were
over-represented. It would be worthwhile to compare these results with
those of a similar survey conducted by Delphoi Consulting in 2000, as they
used a broader criterion for the sample, including those schools where the
proportion of Roma children exceeded 8.5% in 1992. However, there
appears to be no significant difference in the proportion of pupils going on
to secondary school.
We can make an educated guess at the number of students advancing to
higher education by examining the data of the various scholarship
programmes supporting them. Recently some 400–500 young Roma have
been awarded university or college scholarships annually. At the end of the
1980s this was the number who studied at secondary schools issuing matriculation
certificates, therefore the improvement in the situation is obvious. All
this, however, means little when compared with the respective figures for the
entire population. Today 70% of those who complete eight grade elementary
schools go on to high school, and half of those receiving their matriculation
certificates continue to study in some higher institution. Thus, the divide
between Roma and non-Roma has basically remained intact.
The School as Breakout Point
The consequences are further aggravated by the fact that even this relative
improvement only affects a minority of the Roma population who have
achieved or are approaching middle-class status and embrace the corresponding
set of values. The majority suffer from the very same handicaps in schooling
today as those highlighted by surveys and studies in the seventies and the
eighties as being the main obstacles to raising the educational level.
Where do they go to school?
The continuously increasing school segregation of Roma children has especially
severe consequences. This can be well indicated by looking at the data concerning
the schools that were included in the survey sample of the Institute for Education
Research (OKI). During the survey we visited 192 schools. This is somewhat over
5% of Hungarian elementary schools, attended by 4% of non-Roma and over
24.6% of Roma children. With a few exceptions, the research included those
schools where the proportion of Roma pupils had been over 25% or where their
number had exceeded 100 in 1992, though not all such schools were included in
the sample. In the whole of the country 44% of Roma elementary school pupils
attend schools that conform to the criteria mentioned (proportion over 25% or total
number in excess of 100 in 1992). At the same time, only 6.3% of non-Roma
pupils attend such schools. This pair of figures indicates in itself just how widespread
is the school segregation of Roma children in Hungary today. The picture
becomes even clearer if we examine the trends over time, since there have been
significant changes since 1992 in this area as well. (In the construction of the sample
we had to begin with 1992 information as that was the last year when statistics
were prepared that distinguished data on Roma pupils.)
During the last ten years the numbers and proportions of pupils in the
schools examined have changed as follows:
Proportion and number of Roma children in the schools examined
Total no. of
1989 65,906 49,385 16,521 25.1
1992 59,368 41,945 17,423 29.3
1999 55,878 33,255 22,623 40.5
OKI Research, 1999–2000
The proportion of Roma within the total number of pupils has
increased very significantly (over one and a half times), while the total
number of pupils, and especially the number of non-Roma pupils has significantly
decreased. These changes cannot, however, be accounted for by national
demographic trends. Between 1989 and 1999, the number of Roma
elementary school pupils in the entire country only increased by 4.5%,
while in the schools examined this increase was 36.9%. During the same period,
the number of non-Roma pupils in the entire country decreased by
24.4%, but in the schools examined this decrease was 32.7%. The differences
between the nationwide trends and those prevalent in these schools
are even more significant if we compare the 1999 situation with the 1992
data. During this period, the number of non-Roma pupils in Hungary decreased
by 14.1%, while this decrease amounted a significantly higher
26.1% in the schools examined. Conversely, the number of Roma pupils in
the country only increased by 5.2%, while their increase in the schools of
the sample amounted to 29.8%. Roma pupils formed a majority in 31 of the
192 schools included in the 1992 sample, while today this is true for 64
schools. Accordingly, on a nationwide scale the number of such schools increased
more than twice from 61 to 126 during these seven years.
The differences between the nationwide trends and those in the schools
examined mean that while in 1989–1990 18.6% of all Roma elementary
school pupils attended the schools in the sample, 10 years later this proportion
had increased to 24.6%. While in 1992 every twelfth or thirteenth Roma
pupil attended a school with a Roma majority (7.1%), today this number is
every fifth or sixth (18.1%).
The data, therefore, clearly prove that the tendency of the school segregation
of Roma pupils has increased very significantly during the last few years.
Naturally, this process is closely related to changes in the situation
of the Roma following the period of political transformation, the marginalisation
of masses of Roma, the increasing crisis symptoms leading to
rising intolerance within the majority society and the general strengthening
of segregation mechanisms that give rise to countless forms of negative
discrimination, including ethnic discrimination every day and in every
facet of life. These are present within the regulation and implementation
of the social benefit system, on the labour market, in health care, the
selection of residence and the measures of the authorities related to dwelling
just as in schooling.
Residence and school
During the last few years, partly due to spontaneous migration, partly
because of the conscious discriminative efforts on majority society’s part,
The School as Breakout Point
the trend of the residential segregation of the Roma population has once
again gained impetus. This, for example, is a major factor in the rapid increase
of the concentration of Roma pupils in a given set of schools. The
first representative Roma survey of 1994 had already proved that despite the
elimination of the majority of old Gypsy slums earlier, by the beginning of the
nineties 60% of the Roma population were living in heavily segregated circumstances.
In part this was due to the manner of the elimination of the slums that
itself contained the seeds for the formation of new types of segregation.
A few examples from the statements taken during the survey:3
“In the old days there was a Gypsy slum area, but they demolished it.
Most of the Gypsies still live in a single block at the Szerencs end of the village.”
“The old Gypsy slum was in Árpád Street and the area surrounding it,
near the town’s outskirts in the direction of Sárospatak. This was pulled
down and today only a few families live there. Most Gypsy families are concentrated
at the other end of the settlement, near Bihari and Virág Streets.
There is a classic slum on Bihari Street, where small buildings of just a room
and a kitchen stand facing each other.”
“The area was finished at the end of the sixties when they took down
the shacks and built CS [low comfort] flats right beside them, that’s how the
narrow bend of Táncsis Street came about. Later they built some houses with
social support here, too. At the end of the seventies they opened a new street
at the other end of the village (Árpád Street) that still hasn’t been paved.
Here, too, it was almost only the Gypsies that built houses.”
“The old Gypsy slum was in the part of the settlement towards the town
of Karcag, between the railroad and the former Soviet military air base.
Elimination of the slum started at the end of the sixties; the last shack was
taken down in 1982. Most of the Gypsies in the slum area moved to the far
end of the village where CS houses were built in the same street, but during
later years Gypsies moved into the peasant cottages in the neighbouring
streets. Today only Gypsies live in Bibó Street, in Tópart Street which is parallel
with it and in the New Row, which is the extension of the former. Recently
the majority of social benefit houses were also built in this area.”
“In the sixties and the seventies there was ‘the Ditch’ about 1 km from
the village, beside the railway tracks. Some ten families lived there, 50–60
people in total. The old slum was eliminated by “C” building projects, the
3 The descriptions quoted in the study were prepared by the “field team” of the research:
Gábor Bernáth, Péter Bernáth, Péter Breitner, Viktória Burka, György Diósi, Gabriella
Janni, Zsuzsa Gyorgyevics, Ernõ Kadét, Lajos Kardos, Miklós Kóródi, Andrea Kovács,
Gábor Kresalek, Gabriella Lengyel, Iván Mándl, János Pálinkás, Péter Szuhay, Bálint
Vásárhelyi, Tünde Virágh, Balázs Wizner, Zsolt Zádori and János Zolnay. I wish to express
my gratitude for their valuable work.
new blocks of flats were built in an old, remote area of the village. The new
project is about 3 km from the village, the children commute with the bus.
They have to buy their own bus passes (Ft400/month), the school won’t pay
for them. Almost only Gypsies inhabit this new project which is actually the
old part of the village, living in old peasant cottages, social benefit and OTP
bank loan houses. There are no paved roads anywhere, though the larger
streets have gravel.”
The partial survival and the newer revival of residential segregation,
however, cannot only be accounted for by the contradictory and often hypocritical
implementation of the programme of eliminating the slums. Totally
new forms of residential segregation had evolved by the sixties and mainly
the seventies. The massive exodus of the population from the smaller villages
shaken by the forced collectivisation of agriculture already began in
the sixties. This process was further intensified by the regional policy that liquidated
local institutions and made infrastructural developments impossible.
The houses that had thus been abandoned mainly became inhabited by Roma
families from the local slum or the surrounding area, for whom even these
dwelling conditions meant an improvement compared to their former residences.
The influx and increasing presence of Roma families in turn led to
the even faster leaving of the non-Roma ones.
“According to the local notary, the decline of the village began in the
middle of the seventies. Many villagers moved to Dombóvár, Szekszárd or
even further, to Budapest or Érd. In Dunakeszi there is a whole colony of ex-villagers
from Gy. The Gypsies purchased the abandoned houses in the village.”
“‘Many moved into the towns during the sixties to avoid forced collectivisation.
This exodus and the influx of the Gypsies has been continuously
going on since then. Among this year’s 24 first graders there is only one
child who is not Roma on at least one side of the family,’ the school headmaster
said with indignation.”
“The prosperous period of the village may be seen in that it had
reached its maximum population by 1960 – the census registered 1050 inhabitants.
Since then socialist heavy industry has collapsed, the co-operatives
weakened and were later liquidated, and the population decreased dramatically.
The organisation of the co-operatives in the sixties, and later the migration
of the workforce into industry decreased the traditional peasant population.
They are mainly replaced by Gypsy families.”
From the end of the 1980s economic recession and unemployment
started a new wave of this “population switch” in the settlements concerned.
During this period, it was the urban poor – many of them Roma – who
accounted for an ever increasing part of the families moving in. They were
The School as Breakout Point
trying to hold on to the possibility of purchasing a cheap house after having
lost their jobs, fleeing from the dramatic increase of urban rents and general
existential despair. Their appearance and the fact that they created a demand
for the houses prompted even more “natives” to leave.
“The unanimous and equal social image of the Roma of Zádorfalva
has changed during the last 15 years due to the immigrants. This opinion is
professed by both the mayor and the school headmaster. They believe that
the newcomers are the cause of every evil. The decline of the Zádorfalva
peasant population and their desire to leave, which started in the sixties and
strengthened during the seventies, brought down the price of real estate.
Newly unemployed Roma families from Ózd and Kazincbarcika began to
move into these houses in the hope of creating a livelihood here.”
“Strange, but there are Roma who moved here from Ózd and Miskolc,
some 10–15 families. Others came from Nyíregyháza and Debrecen, hoping
to make a somewhat better livelihood here by farming and raising animals.
One of the women from these families said: ‘We came with two cars and a set
of cupboards, like gentlemen, but now…’. By now they have sold off the furniture
and have a single wreck of a car remaining that has no certificate of roadworthiness.
They are sinking into an ever growing state of poverty. They came
from Debrecen where the man had a cleaning company, but he got fewer and
fewer orders and had more and more overdue bills. Here they were able to buy
an adobe cottage with water and the adjoining plot of land as well.”
A necessary consequence of this process is the gradual ageing of the
remaining non-Roma population. From these settlements, it is usually the
younger element of the non-Roma population which moves away, while the
older ones tend to remain. Over time this trend increases the difference
between the age structure of the Roma and the non-Roma population, so that
the proportion of Roma among school pupils here becomes much higher
than among the entire population.
“In the near future the village could become a homogeneous Roma
settlement as the Sokac and the Swabians grow old, die out or move away.
The mayor believes this is mainly due to the building restrictions imposed
during the sixties and the seventies which induced non-Roma young people
to leave the village.”
“There are about 500 Gypsies, lately they have mainly come from
Borsod and Szabolcs counties and the nearby villages. The number of
Gypsies moving in began to increase from the beginning of the sixties. I haven’t
even seen any non-Roma young people, only the elderly who sit in the pub
and mumble curses against the Gypsies. One or two middle-aged non-Roma
men could be seen when the afternoon bus arrived from Pest; probably they
are the only remnants of the many commuters. If they were able to, younger
people moved away for good. I spoke with four women between the ages of
60 and 70 who had moved to Pest in their youth and now came for the funeral
of another woman who had stayed in Kálló. They didn’t even have any relatives
here with whom they could have stayed the night, so they took the bus
home after the funeral.”
“The local notary and the financial manager she called in told with despair
and no small amount of cynicism that in their village the minority problem
is a problem of the Hungarians, not the Roma, since by now they have become
the minority. This is partly due to the fact that 90% of children born are
Roma – last year there were only two Hungarian births – and also to the fact
that younger people leave the village if they possibly can.”
“Sixteen local peasant children attend the school while the number of
local Roma children is six times as much. This shows that though the proportion
of the peasant population within the entire populace is still 50%, these
people have grown old. After 1960 new houses were almost exclusively built
by Roma. The Hungarians buy land and build houses in Edelény and
One of the consequences of the demographic and segregational trends
we have depicted is that 30% of Roma elementary school pupils attend
schools in small villages whose population is below 1000. Here their average
proportion is over 50%, while only somewhat less than 6% of the general
Hungarian population lives in such settlements.
During the last few decades, and especially from the mid-seventies onward,
processes similar to those prevalent in small villages have also taken
place in the slum areas, former worker sections of cities and larger townships.
Either because of deteriorating conditions (underdeveloped infrastructure,
low standard flats, building restrictions and the lack of maintenance) or
due to the possibilities offered by social rise (higher education, mobility in
employment), the former tenants increasingly tended to move out and were
replaced by poor families, with an ever growing number of Roma among
them who were migrating from the wound-up slums into industry. Those
non-Roma families that still remained and were in a somewhat better position,
reacted to this with an even more intensive exodus from these districts.
“During the seventies,” recalled the headmistress, “the school was attended
by the children of the surrounding working-class families. The parents
worked in the factories of Csepel and Erzsébet, most of them as skilled
workers and only a smaller part as unskilled workers. The main objective for
the children was, of course, to learn some skilled trade or other. At the time
there were only a couple of Roma children in the school who ‘blended in’
The School as Breakout Point
with the others. They started building the project on the other side of Török
Street at the beginning of the eighties and wanted to carry on with it on this
side too. So, there was a building restriction on this area up till the end of the
eighties – you even had to apply for a permit to build a fence, but never got it,
of course, because the project was coming anyway. People started moving
out from the old, run-down houses, trying to sell or exchange their flats. Real
estate had no value. It was around this time that the Gypsies started to move
in. The first families came from Nógrád County, then from Szabolcs and
Borsod. A lot of them were illegal occupants, so there were several evictions,
too, in which they tried to involve the school as well.”
“A significant part of the Gypsy population lives in a single block in
the project around the school in May 1st Street. Due to families moving in
from the surrounding villages the proportion of the Gypsy population is continuously
increasing here. Behind the project there is a small forest, the project
itself is run-down, there are huge heaps of trash around the waste containers.”
“The ‘Jungle’, a miserable three-block workers’ unit is in the catchment
area of the school. During the last decade the ‘Jungle’ has received special
attention from the district’s social policy department and now it has its
own aid institution. The ‘Jungle’ has long since been Romafied, the families
coming to live here mainly from the eastern parts of the country.”
The newest and most tragic form of the “Romafication” of former
workers’ districts evolved when, from the middle or late eighties onwards,
the mines and factories, for whose workers these districts had been built,
were closed down. At the time these flats had been acceptable, but due to the
lack of comfort and amortization, they lost much of their value later on. The
closing down of the related industrial establishments also meant the end of local
employment opportunities offering a livelihood. Those who were able,
fled from these areas, and the usually extremely deteriorated flats that became
vacant, offered a misleading opportunity for the poorest and most miserable
families in the area to establish roots.
“There are two former slums in the settlement that were built at the
turn of the century. One of them is the Vajosbánya slum on the right side of
Nádasdi Street, the other is the so-called Low End beside the industrial
tracks. Today, the majority of the population of both areas are Gypsies; they
are the ‘immigrants’. Most of them came from Arló, but families have moved
here from Hangony and Domaháza as well.”
“The blocks of former miners’ flats are completely run-down and lack
comfort, and the tenants have no money for maintenance. The inhabitants of
these flats are mostly Gypsies, many of them illegal tenants.”
“After the exhausted mines were shut down, the majority of laid-off
miners left their flats in the district. They were replaced by the Arló
Obviously, these processes, which developed in larger townships and
cities spontaneously yet in strict keeping with the laws of social change and
which have led to a significant intensification of segregation, also have tangible
effects on the schools in the area. It is partly due to such reasons that there
has been a drastic increase in the number of Roma pupils attending certain
schools in the Pest part of the capital around the Nagykörút (the Great Boulevard),
especially in schools of the Józsefváros and Ferencváros districts.
In the twelve Budapest schools included in the sample used for OKI’s
research –primarily in the VIIth, VIIIth and IXth districts – the proportion of
Roma pupils more than doubled (from 22.7% to 49.1%) in the ten years between
1989 and 1999. During the same brief period the changes in proportion
were even greater in the provincial schools operating in former miners’
areas or other slum districts.
“The miner’s district was one of the most beautiful areas of the city of
Pécs. Buildings from the previous century – a well-kept, intact fire station,
a couple of miners’ flats and the school – as well as the public buildings (for
example the hospital) erected between the two world wars and the Széchenyi
Pit buildings bear witness to the once prosperous condition of the area. This
prosperity, incidentally, had been created by the Danube Steam Shipping
Company, providing its employees with security throughout their lives.
Thanks to the fact that mining prospered under socialism, we find sizeable
family houses and blocks of one or two-room miners’ flats beside each other.
By today the district has deteriorated and is left behind by more and more of
its former families. They say that surface mining will provide employment
until 2002, but only for far fewer workers than the earlier deep working had.
Adults who are employed, go to work in the city. Unemployment is widespread
and almost all the Gypsies are out of jobs. The change of the population
is well indicated by the fact that 25 years ago this school had about 300
pupils of whom none were Gypsies, while today 120–130 children attend the
same school, almost half of whom are of Gypsy origin.”
The effects of the spontaneous social processes and the new
segregational patterns that evolved in the wake of the programme of the elimination
of the slums further intensified – already under the Kádár regime, but
especially during the last ten years – by the strategic answers given by majority
society and the conscious measures taken by local authorities. Though
the various segregational attempts are often directed not only at the Roma
(and, let us add, mostly the poor Roma), but all other, non-Roma yet
The School as Breakout Point
backward and marginalised groups of society, nevertheless the procedures
related to them work as instruments of ethnic segregation as well.
“The slum ended in the seventies when they began to build CS flats in
Gyüre. At the time the authorities thought that the neighbouring Nagyvarsány
should be cleansed of Gypsies by relocating them to the ‘modern’
houses built in Gyüre. As a result, according to the school headmaster, there
is not a single Roma pupil in the Nagyvarsány school today.”
“In 1983 in Hajdúhadháza they eliminated one of the largest Roma
slums of the country, but in such a way, that the flats built from OTP loans
preserved the segregation and the majority of the Roma still live on the outskirts
of the settlement in heavily segregated conditions.”
“After a time the municipality allotted land and gave or built houses
for the Gypsies in Békés. Almost all of these projects have it in common that
relocation was done in the vicinity of the former slum or in contiguous
“The railroad basically cuts the town in half. The area north of the railroad
– roughly one third of the entire town area – is the Roma district. I don’t
know, and probably there are no data as to what percentage of the town’s
Roma population live here, but there is no doubt that the vast majority does.
This is also shown by the fact that when we asked twenty addresses from the
Fáy Street school, only about four weren’t in this area. The district has no special
name, everyone refers to it as ‘where the Gypsies live’”.
“Roma families started to buy houses outside of the slums from the
beginning of the eighties, but the villagers took care to restrict these purchases
to the streets neighbouring the slum. By today hardly any Hungarian
families have remained in these streets. Such caution is characteristic of the
people of Verpelét to this very day. Roma families cannot buy or build houses
on the other side of the main road.”
“The Gypsy row is called Dobó II. This name has preserved the memory
of the Roma slum demolished not so long ago. The slum existed until 1991 and,
due to its proximity to the street that was then called Dobó I, people called it
‘Dobó’. Once they had eliminated the old ‘Dobó’, they created a new street
there called Dobó, which is only inhabited by Gypsies. This is Dobó II.”
“This summer the Tarna flooded again and two houses collapsed in the
Dankó slum. Using the flood-relief aid the local council purchased two
houses with the help of the Roma minority local self-government. (That’s
when they found out that several houses that collapsed hadn’t even existed
officially, they had no owners, no deeds.) There was a house on sale in the
other half of the village, near the school. The Roma minority self-government
had already negotiated the price, but when the neighbours found out
who the new tenants were going to be, they raised the money and bought the
house themselves just to keep Gypsies from moving in there.”
“Though several Roma families live among the Hungarians in the inner
districts of Berettyóújfalu, many Roma have complained that following
protests of the neighbours, the local self-government tries to keep further
Roma families from moving there.We have met people, who bought a house
in the township, but – upon the neighbours’ request – the local council won’t
issue a permit for occupation of the building, so now they are trying to sell
their newly bought house.”
“The mine was closed down in 1992 and the majority of the inhabitants
of Farkaslyuk found themselves out of a job. Social aid miners’ flats had
been built earlier for the old miners in Ózd, and the flats they left behind
mainly became inhabited by Gypsies. The town of Ózd had already at the
time been obviously trying to move as many Gypsy families from their rented
city flats out to Farkaslyuk as it could and to try to move non-Gypsy families
into the city.”
“In my experience this phenomenon is twofold. On the one hand there
is a tendency of scattering, of diaspora, but, on the other, the trend of residential
segregation is at least as powerful. Though the basis of this latter trend is
not necessarily ethnic (what is happening is that the poor are forced into
lower comfort areas) it still has an elementary effect on the backward, miserable
groups of the Gypsy population (who may well be the majority). The
poor Gypsy areas in the town are: the Old Rókus area (near Hunyadi
Square), where the conflict is further sharpened by the fact that there are valuable
real estate properties there, so investors would like to pacify the area
and evict the some 500 illegal resident Gypsies, in which the local self-government
is their strong ally; the neglected cement blocks of the airport on the
western outskirts of the town (there are maybe 100 inhabitants there); the old
apartment blocks and small houses of Móraváros; and the mostly municipality
owned temporary flats of Cserepes Alley (about 70 families live there).”
The migration of non-Roma children
In addition to residential segregation and the drastic increase of the proportion
of the Roma population in certain settlements, areas or city districts, another
important factor in the intensification of schooling segregation is majority
society’s strong isolationism. This is supported by the fact that in Budapest
and in the county centres, where several elementary schools are within
reachable distance, the distribution of Roma children among these various
schools is extremely uneven.
The School as Breakout Point
This uneven distribution among different schools is essentially
brought about by the same mechanisms that intensify residential segregation.
In certain schools, due to the migration processes (moving out/moving
in) prevalent in the area, the proportion of Roma pupils starts to increase.
Majority families react to this by trying to enrol their children in other
schools, whereby the proportion of Roma students increases to a much
greater extent that the change in the structure of the residential population
would justify. In the Budapest schools included in the sample of OKI’s research,
the proportion of Roma pupils was already 22.7% during the
1989–1990 school year, while in the case of the schools not included in the
sample this figure was just 2.8% in the same year. In the county centres the
proportion of Roma pupils in 1989 in the schools included in the sample was
26%, while in the other schools of the same cities this figure was only 3.1%.
Therefore, even at the time, there was an eightfold difference between the
schools included in the sample and the other schools in Budapest and the
county centres. Since then, due to absolute freedom in the choice of school
and the advent of 6 and 8 grade secondary schools which brought a different
structure with them, the distribution of pupils has become even more uneven.
In the sampled schools the proportion of Roma children below the age
of 10 has increased to 49.1% in Budapest and 53.2% in the county centres.
In Budapest, for example, in one of the schools the proportion of Roma pupils
increased from 20% to 60%, and from 40% to 100% in another, while in
the same areas there are schools within visible proximity that are entirely
“Roma-free” or are attended by only a minimal number of Roma students.
In Budapest, as well as in the county centres and larger cities, those
families who do not wish to see their children attend schools where the proportion
of Roma pupils exceeds the level they find “tolerable”, are now in an
easy position since they have a wide range of choice.
Budapest, VIIIth district: “They had English as a subject as early as
the beginning of the eighties. According to the headmistress (she has been
working here since 1984), at that time this used to be a definitely elite school.
The proportion of Gypsies was 7% then. Later this figure started to slowly
rise, and began to increase drastically from 1995. Today it is almost 50%.
According to the headmistress this sets off such processes that, though they
are doing their best, the school cannot withstand: more ambitious families
take away their children. The abler students transfer to six year secondary
schools after completing their sixth grade (this year, 11 of the 13 sixth graders
have submitted their transfer applications).”
A county centre in western Hungary: “There are 349 pupils attending,
179 of them are Gypsies. Incidentally, the whole school is in mortal fear of
being written off by the city for good. Year by year they see that from the
three kindergartens in their neighbourhood, about twenty children are enrolled
to other, better schools.”
Anorthern Hungarian town: “Presently there are four state-owned and
one denominational elementary schools in the town, each with about 400 pupils.
The parents’ choice of school is influenced by the proportion of Roma
pupils. The headmaster told me that one of the parents went to each school,
and decided to enrol the child to Esze because that was where she saw the
least number of Roma pupils.”
In larger settlements, those schools that have no or have few Roma pupils,
themselves often do their best to meet social pressures for the effective
exclusion of Roma children, and thus preserve the good reputation of the
school. The following is taken from an interview with the headmistress of
one of the “Romafied” schools in a county centre on the Great Plain:
“I can sense absolutely no support from society. Even though this
would be in their own interest. I am against selection in elementary schools,
even among first graders. Yet selection already starts there, and not on the
basis of the children’s abilities.We try to pretend so, but that is not the real basis
of selection. Even though entry examinations are not allowed in elementary
schools, there can be so-called entry conversations, nobody ever goes
there to check just what these consist of. Just like anything else, this can be
done covertly too.
– Are you suggesting that Roma children are eliminated at this point?
– They can do so, if they want to. There are no consequences. Or, if
they do admit the Roma child, they treat him like all the others and give him
no help to overcome his handicap. The handicaps remain, because left alone
the child cannot overcome them. So, sooner or later the gap widens as the
other children make faster progress than he does. Over time, the child is less
and less able to meet the requirements, so before the end of term the parent is
told that the child has underachieved again and they cannot let him pass.
Then, the parent will bring the child to us. Yet, it doesn’t serve children to be
selected into the elite forms. I see it on the street, and there are more and
more such conflicts too, when a child who is used to a sheltered environment
happens to see a Roma child on the street, and you can smell his fear from
miles away. So, obviously, the other kid will pick on him. The road to integration
would be to have every kind of child attend every school, so they can see
what there really is. Because, society itself is not such that you have the elite
here, the middle there and the low-down over there. In such a small country
as this, everyone meets everyone else. I know from my own experience that if
you have experiences with Gypsies in your childhood, you won’t be hostile to
The School as Breakout Point
them. The child is not anti-Roma from birth; Roma and Hungarian children
play together and have no problem with each other, right until the moment
they ingrain into him that sonny, you have to be afraid of them.
– This is ingrained rather early on, isn’t it?
– It is. Even unintentionally they form an attitude in the child which
prevents integration. If we make the child conscious of the fact that the other
one’s skin has a different colour, then this is something he will never be able
to take out of him. He will never accept someone who is different. That other
one may be ten times better, he will never acknowledge it, not even that they
are equal. And this is what I feel to be the greatest tragedy. If it stays this way,
we won’t make progress.”
In schools that have been “hopelessly Romafied”, the teachers themselves
often give up resisting the inevitable and accept society’s negative
Budapest, a school in the VIIIth district: “It happened that the teacher
told a bright Roma sixth grader to go to another school if he wants to go to
secondary, because if they hear he came from here, he’ll never be admitted.”
However, “voting by going”, that is enrolling children in other schools,
is everyday practice even in those settlements where there is only a single
school. Thus a change of school means the child will have to go to a different
settlement, which involves extra time, energy and investment. From among
the 192 schools visited during the survey, we found clear evidence in the
case of 38 that during recent years, due to the high proportion of Roma pupils
and the related problems of educational quality, the number of non-Roma
children enrolled or transferred to schools in other school zones reached a significant
percentage of the total number of pupils. Twenty-eight of these operate
in settlements where they are the only school.We should note, that among
those who go to school in other zones we may often find the children of the
most ambitious Roma families, too, but this only goes to prove that social elevation
requires the denial of ethnic, and indeed general social solidarity.
In 1992, half the pupils of a school in a small village in Borsod County
were Roma. Today all non-Roma pupils go to school in another village with
a single exception, the child of an alcoholic father. That is, the village school
became a 100% Roma school while there are still non-Roma children living
there. Because of the school migration of the children, the per capital cost of
maintaining the school increased considerably, so the mayor wanted to close
the institution. He had to give up this plan, however, because none of the
schools in the region was willing to accept the Roma children.
Perhaps not in such an extreme manner, it is nevertheless true for many
settlements with a single school that, due to the “exodus” of the children, the
Roma/non-Roma ratios within the school age population and in the local
school are significantly different.
“Non-Gypsy parents started to take their children away during recent
years. Eight junior school students living in Nagykónyi go to school to
Tamási (the nearest town). Twelve go to 8-grade secondary school in Tamási
and two to Dabas, and even from Értény (which is a village that belongs to
the same school zone, but less accessible than Nagykónyi) 5–6 children go to
school in Tamási”
“In K. I chanced upon a very interesting type of segregation. Even
though on the questionnaire I did not mark the K. school as a segregated
Roma school, 87% of students are Roma. Their proportion is even higher in
kindergarten. These numbers are shocking, given that only 47% of the village
population are Roma. It is worthwhile taking a look at the composition
of the individual grades:
1. grade – 26 pupils; of which 25 are Roma
2. grade – 25 pupils; of which 25 are Roma
3. grade – 17 pupils; of which 17 are Roma
4. grade – 22 pupils; of which 18 are Roma
5. grade – 18 pupils; of which 16 are Roma
6. grade – 20 pupils; of which 13 are Roma
7. grade – 15 pupils; of which 12 are Roma
8. grade – 20 pupils; of which 13 are Roma
In the two auxiliary grades there are 18 pupils, 17 of them are Roma.
“This high proportion cannot be accounted for by demographic reasons
only. Those who can, take their children away, mostly to the neighbouring
villages of B. or T., or the six-grade secondary school in Heves some 20
kilometres away. According to the headmaster, the Heves six-grade secondary
school takes away all children with good abilities. In this year’s sixth
grade there are 7 Hungarians and 13 Roma: all Hungarian children are preparing
to go to Heves, but some of the Roma want to try it, too. Most children
are taken to school to B., which is 11 kilometres away. B. is a larger village
and the proportion of Roma both in the village population and among the
school pupils is below that in K. According to the headmaster, at least one
full class of children go to B. Most of them are Hungarians, but there are
some Roma among them too. This type of selection or change of schools has
only become common practice in the past 3–4 years, but now even the
teacher working in the K. school takes his child elsewhere. Recently, many
children even start kindergarten elsewhere.”
The School as Breakout Point
“Of the 123 pupils attending the school, 116 are Gypsies. There are 38 other
school-age children in the village, they go to school to the nearby V. or Gy.”
“More and more Hungarian parents enrol their children in 6 or 8-grade
secondary schools, if possible in Nyíregyháza, to keep them from being together
with minority children.”
“The differences between the two schools go back to when the former
village council members decided there won’t be any more Gypsies in N.
From that time on, the reputation of the Gy. school became worse and worse,
and when it became possible, some parents began to enrol their children in
schools other than the local one which had Roma pupils. The difference
grew further when a few years ago the school in N. became a general cultural
centre as well. According to the headmistress, the quality of the school in N.
is not a bit better – they even have older computers than in Gy., and the teachers
are no better qualified either – but there are no Gypsies there.”
Changing schools became a self-generating process in many places.
The migration of Hungarian children increases the proportion of Roma pupils
in the local school. Teachers are less and less willing to work there. This
brings down the quality of education, which in turn induces further parents
to take their children to other schools. The Roma families that are better off
and more ambitious also do the same, because they do not want to give their
children an insurmountable handicap, and so the local school becomes an ethnic
ghetto of poor Gypsies once and for all.
One of the most severe consequences of the selection between schools
and the evolution of schools where all or most pupils are Roma is that it goes
hand in hand with a strong selection of teachers. Most teachers do not wish to
work in Roma schools or ones that are in the process of “Romafication”.
They are afraid of the special pedagogical and educational programmes.
They feel such schools will not reward them with a feeling of success and
that teaching there involves a serious loss of prestige. A good many of them
are prejudiced against Roma and believe that educating Roma is a hopeless
task. OKI’s research has shown that while the decrease in the number of children
threatens teachers with unemployment in many places, there are still
many unqualified teachers working in “Romafied” schools. There is a (homogeneously
Roma) school where 4 of the 7 teachers have no qualification
other than a secondary school matriculation. Many people only go to work at
“Roma” schools as unqualified teachers, because this way it is easier for
them to be admitted to teacher training – once they receive their diplomas,
they go to another school.
A village school, where the proportion of Roma children is near 90%:
“Those children, who are A-grade pupils here, face serious learning difficulties
when going to another school. Sometimes a teacher comes to work drunk;
sometimes they just don’t go to class. This latter case was mentioned several
times: the maths lesson simply consisted of the headmaster coming in, writing
two exercises on the blackboard for the children to solve, then no teacher
came until the lesson was over. In such lessons, children listen to tape recorders
or play. Children at senior school have forgotten the multiplication table
they once used to know well. Many lessons are not held. The headmaster mentioned
that nowadays there are many lessons where the teacher has to be substituted,
but he didn’t speak about just what happens during such substitutions.
Many parents complained that there are no study groups or afternoon
lessons; day care is only available in junior school, senior students don’t
even have a study room. In my opinion, the school inspector should take
a close look at the school in K.”
A practically homogeneous Roma school in another village: “The inside
of the school is a rather sorry sight as well. There are only class photographs
on the walls, there is almost no decoration in the classrooms apart
from a few drawings on the pin-up board. Furniture is run-down, there are
no computers and few demonstrational materials. One can sense that the
school doesn’t belong to anyone, nobody cares how it looks or what happens
in there. Part of the reason for this is financial, since the village is very poor
and maintaining the school is a great burden, but the total lack of care is also
a problem. The headmaster is sixty years old, he has a primary school teacher’s
diploma. He didn’t work here between 1993 and 1996 because of personal
conflicts with the municipality, the mayor, which even led to legal action.
One of the reasons for the conflict was the financing of the school; the
other the headmaster’s excessive drinking. The school’s budget is not independent
– to such an extent that the headmaster has no idea of how much
they spend on anything. He just submits the planned budget at the beginning
of the year and that’s it. He has to ask for money for every singly pencil they
buy. While we were there, the postman brought a parcel that cost Ft400, but
he didn’t even have this sum, and said he would ask for it from the local council.
As I have mentioned, rather severe conflicts had led to this humiliating
situation. Some forms are joined: classes 1.–2., 3.–4., 5.–6. and 7.–8. Seven
teachers work there, but only four have secondary school matriculation certificates.
In senior school, Hungarian, history, geography, chemistry, German,
art, technology, physical education and maths, that is, almost all subjects
are taught without qualification. There is a qualified mistress in form
1.–2. and form 3.–4., but she has no qualification to teach the special subjects
in the latter. Because of all this, the level of education is low. The headmaster
also mentioned that they work on a minimum level, one reason for
The School as Breakout Point
which is the attitude of the families. They say that children switching to other
schools from here know nothing at all. Fluctuation is very high – when they
hear that only Roma children attend the school, many immediately withdraw
Selection within the school
In those schools, especially the ones with a large student population, where
the proportion of Roma children is high, but the school can still avoid becoming
a purely Roma institution in the long run, non-Roma families place intensive
pressure on the school’s management in order to avoid having their children
attend the same class as the Roma children, especially those who come
from bad family circumstances. The most frequent instrument of such pressure
is the threat of switching to another school either within the locality or,
if that is not possible, elsewhere. Many headmasters and teachers admit that
the reason why they were compelled to use various segregational techniques
in their schools and create parallel classes with different functions was that
the exodus of non-Roma children had begun, and if they wanted to avoid the
acceleration of this process, “they had to take measures”.
“The migration of our pupils has stopped. This has been achieved by
the co-operation of all parties concerned. There are professional developments
behind this too. Small group language teaching, higher level mathematics
groups and of course the fact that we launched smaller size classes
with different curricula.”
The procedures serving the segregation of Roma children within
school have decades-old traditions in the Hungarian schooling system.
When they feel necessary, the schools still use these traditional techniques.
Usually, the basis for segregation is not ethnicity alone, but a mixture of pure
racial discrimination and the elements of more general social selection that
are well-documented in the literature. On the one hand, this means that special
classes with special services are created to ensure the higher level of the
education of children from families with a higher social status. In exceptional
cases Roma children may be admitted to such classes when they come
from the most integrated, better-off families. On the other hand, non-Roma
children from uneducated families with low incomes and social status can
also be placed in the classes that have been created for the purpose of the segregation
of the Roma.We may add that due to the processes of migration, residential
segregation and the selection between schools, a part of schools become
institutions exclusively for the children of poor, marginalised and backward
social groups. In such schools, internal selection has little function.
Here, the proportion of Roma students is always very high, but in this respect
there is no significant difference between the individual classes.
In a significant number of schools, however, internal selection plays an
important role. We have examined in detail the extent of the differences
between the composition of the individual classes in the schools included in
the sample and established six categories of classes: homogeneously
non-Roma classes, classes where the proportion of Roma students is below
25%, those where it is between 25% and 50%, those where it is between 50%
and 75%, those where it exceeds 75%, and finally those classes that are
attended by Roma pupils exclusively.We defined extremely uneven distribution
the case of schools where there was a difference of at least three categories
between concurrent classes. (For example, while there were homogeneously
non-Roma classes, there were also others where the majority of students
were Roma.) We have class-level data from 178 schools of which 90
display such extreme conditions
We found 23 such schools where there were both homogeneously
non-Roma and homogeneously Roma classes. In a further 30 schools,
besides the homogeneously Roma classes there are others where the proportion
of Roma children is below 25%. In nine schools there were both classes
where the proportion of Roma children was in excess of 75% and others that
were attended only by non-Roma children.
It is worthwhile comparing these figures with the composition of the
entire student population of the schools. In 23 schools the total proportion of
Roma children was below 25%. Of these 23%, 10 displayed extreme differences
in the compositions of classes.
In 96 schools the proportion of Roma children was in the 25%–50%
range; of these 10 displayed extreme differences in the compositions of
classes. There were 37 schools with a 51%–75% proportion of Roma children,
in 25 of them the differences in the composition of classes may be
said to be extreme. Finally, even among the schools where over 75% of the
pupils were Roma, we found two where such extreme differences in the
composition of classes could be seen, even though this is almost physically
On the basis of the research data we have made estimates about nationwide
figures. According to these, in all the 8-grade elementary schools of the
country there are about 1230 such classes where the proportion of Roma
pupils is over 50%. These are attended by about 13,300 Roma children.
There are about 740 classes where the proportion of Roma pupils exceeds
75%, attended by about 10,300 Roma children, and about 770 homogeneously
Roma classes with some 9000 Roma children.
The School as Breakout Point
This means that somewhat over one third (32,600 from the total
93,000) of Roma pupils, who constitute 10% of the total elementary school
population of the country, attend classes with a Roma majority.
How did such polarisation evolve? Primarily by the creation and operation
of the different types of classes. As one of the headmasters rather
crudely put it: “If we don’t want to see all Hungarian pupils leave the
school, we have to accept the differences between the abilities of Hungarian
and Roma students”. It is the schools where internal segregation can
still be significant that mostly operate specialised, higher-level classes on
the one hand, and auxiliary, or other special curricula classes for lesser-ability
children on the other. The justification for the creation and maintenance
of the latter is always that the children placed in these classes cannot meet
the requirements of the normal curriculum, cannot keep up with the other
children because of socio-cultural handicaps related to family socialisation
and lack of kindergarten education, and therefore require special
pedagogical treatment and methods to overcome their disadvantage.
In practice, with a few exceptions, these classes work with much lower requirements
and pedagogical level and assume that their pupils are less
able and therefore have to know less. Thus, the difference between them
and the other children not only not decreases, but actually keeps getting
wider all through elementary school.
“Both lessons were maths. When introducing ourselves to the teacher,
we told her we were afraid we wouldn’t understand anything from the material.
We were reassured that in the ‘remedial’ classes, only the most basic topics
are taught: in the 7th grade the subject is simple equations, while 6th graders
learn the four basic arithmetical operations and percentages. The deputy
headmistress quipped in: ‘Why should we teach them anything more? They
won’t need it anyway.’”
“Actually, they are using a different teaching method, that is, they don’t
teach the children everything. As an example they said they don’t teach
Roma children Pythagoras’s Theorem, because it doesn’t matter for them.
Even if they go on to further education, they’ll only go to trade school, but
even that is rare. Such things are not needed there, so there is more time to
dwell on more basic subjects.”
The fate of a rather significant number of the schools included in the
OKI research sample has been sealed as schools for the poor, therefore the
number of both higher and “special” curriculum classes is relatively low.
In the school year 1999–2000, these schools had a total of 2722 classes
according to the following distribution:
Normal 2048 classes 75.2 %
Auxiliary 225 classes 8.3 %
Remedial 133 classes 4.9 %
Specialisation in physical education 83 classes 3.0 %
Specialisation in languages 70 classes 2.6 %
Specialisation in music 70 classes 2.6 %
Specialisation in maths 30 classes 1.1 %
Other specialisation 63 classes 2.3 %
Total 2722 classes 100%
The distribution of Roma and non-Roma students, however, still
makes it evident that the creation and maintenance of the different types of
classes serves, among other goals, the purposes of ethnic segregation.
The larger the proportion of non-Roma pupils and the smaller the proportion
of Roma pupils in a class, the more probable it is that this class provides
above average level education and extra pedagogical and educational
services either in the form of specialisation in a subject or otherwise. At the
same time, the smaller the proportion of non-Roma, and the larger the proportion
of Roma students, the more probable it is that the class will make
smaller demands on the pupils from the outset, reasoning with the lack of
necessary skills and/or abilities or insufficient family socialisation that the
school cannot correct. On the basis of the nature and content of the pedagogical
work and the level of requirements, with some simplification classes can
be divided into three categories. Classes that specialise in a subject offer and
demand more than average. In normal classes the basic requirements have to
be met. In special (remedial, auxiliary, etc.) classes the requirements are admittedly
lower, sometimes much lower than basic, and the work and attitude
of the teacher often adapts to these lowered demands. This also lends special
significance to the proportion of Roma and non-Roma pupils within these
three categories. Obviously, the specialist knowledge, dedication and commitment
of teachers can play a balancing role, but there is no denying that the
distribution between the three types of classes has a basic effect on educational
The low proportion of Roma pupils in classes specialising in special-
ability subjects is particularly noteworthy. In one of the county centre
schools there is an extremely talented Roma child who often raises the
school’s reputation by excellent results in various sports competitions. Nevertheless,
the school does not merit him with admission to a class specialised
The School as Breakout Point
The proportion of Roma students in the various types of classes:
Classes specialised in physical education 14.1 %
Classes specialised in music 16.1 %
Classes specialised in maths 16.2 %
Classes specialised in languages 17.5 %
Normal curriculum classes 45.2 %
Remedial classes 81.8 %
Auxiliary classes 84.2 %
Average proportion 0.5 %
The ethnic aspect of the selection between the classes is even clearer if we
examine the distribution of homogeneously Roma classes among the various
Classes with subject specialisation 3 classes 1.0%
Normal classes 123 classes 39.5%
Special curriculum classes 185 classes 59.5%
Of which: remedial 57 classes 18.3%
Of which: auxiliary 128 classes 41.2%
Total 311 classes 100%
If we also take into account that even the three classes with subject specialisation
are not specialised in subjects in which specialisation in Hungary
has long traditions and therefore established curricula and methodology
(maths, languages, music, physical education), we may say that homogeneously
Roma classes are practically excluded from subject specialisation.
On the other hand, in many places remedial and auxiliary classes have
been created with the express purpose of segregating Roma children. Correction
would theoretically mean that, using special skill development methods, teachers
try to lessen the socio-cultural handicaps because of which children from
poor, socially marginal families cannot keep up with the others, even at the start
of their school careers. However, in most schools maintaining remedial classes
there are no special programmes, nor do they use methods that would effectively
address the problems and palpably lessen handicaps. For the most part, the teachers
themselves are not aware of what their task should be, what instruments are
offered by the various trends of reform pedagogy, the methodological schools
that have developed solutions to these problems. They can only sense that the
achievements of Roma children are often low, so they cannot go on with the curriculum
at the necessary pace. Remedial classes are taken to be a solution because
here demands can be adapted to their abilities, which, of course, leads to
a continuously increasing lag. The effort of bringing the children up to normal
level usually means no more than doing more exercises and coaching, but without
changing those pedagogical methods that have proved to be unsuccessful.
The dead-end of remedial classes is obvious from the fact that in many schools
these exist even in the higher grades – thereby ensuring the segregation of senior
school Roma pupils as well.
The intention to segregate plays an important role in the creation of
both remedial and auxiliary classes. There is, however, an important difference.
While in the case of the former, children can go over to normal classes
in senior school, as more than 60% of them do, in the case of the latter there
is minimal chance of this.
Auxiliary classes in normal schools are mostly only maintained in
small settlements where the proportion of Roma pupils is relatively high.
(In larger settlements, children regarded as retarded are taught in separate
auxiliary schools.) Their number increased continuously from the beginning
of the sixties to the end of the eighties in parallel with the increasing schooling
of Roma children. Since then it has somewhat gone down, because the democratisation
of the country forced schools to be more cautious in applying
this method. A significant part of Roma parents have always objected if one
or more of their children had to go to an auxiliary class, but in the party-state
era they had little possibility of influencing the decisions of the school.
In recent years, however, it has become increasingly frequent that local
NGOs, minority-group self-governments or the parents themselves take action
against the practice of sending children to auxiliary classes. We could
say that social control over the decisions of schools has become tighter.
At the same time, in many places it is the pressure from the side of majority
society that forces the maintenance of the various forms of segregation, including
the maintenance of auxiliary classes. Therefore, the number of auxiliary
classes in normal schools is still significant, and the proportion of Roma
children in these classes is immeasurably higher than that of non-Roma.
Despite the fact that the conditions for redirection to auxiliary classes
have been made stricter in many places, wherever the intention of segregation
is strong, and the local powers that be make it possible, solutions will be
found. It often happens that the experts responsible for redirection are told
by the local kindergarten teacher which are the children who won’t be able to
meet the demands of normal education, and the committee bases its decisions
on these recommendations without examining the individual children.
The School as Breakout Point
Many experiences suggest that discriminative intentions are often present in
There are also several examples of schools placing Roma children in
auxiliary classes in whose cases the committee recommended otherwise.
“The teacher of the joint class said she only has a pedagogical counsellor’s
expert opinion on a few children. She believes the rest were put into this
class on the basis of the recommendation of kindergarten teachers. The four
first graders in her class are all repeating first grade, because they had almost
never attended kindergarten before coming to school.”
It happens than normal, but 100% Roma classes and auxiliary classes
appear as alternatives to each other. There is a school that had maintained normal
curriculum Roma classes for years. Then they stopped these, but soon
started auxiliary classes – once again with Roma children. Elsewhere several
Roma children were redirected to the town’s auxiliary school. The parents
protested, however, and managed to ensure that their children could study in
the normal classes of the local school, where there are no problems with
them. This calls into doubt the professionalism of the previous decision to redirect
The justification for the existence of auxiliary classes is also called
into doubt by their operative characteristics and the technical level of the
work done in them. In the schools examined, teaching two different
grades together never happened in the case of classes with subject specialisation
and was a rare exception in the case of those with normal curricula.
At the same time, joint study groups are very frequent among auxiliary
classes; sometimes the entire junior or senior school group is taught
together. In many places children going to auxiliary classes have to complete
the 7th and 8th grade in the auxiliary school of another – often far
away – settlement, because the local school cannot or will not undertake
Among teachers in auxiliary classes, the proportion of those with no
qualification is higher than average; at the same time only a very few of them
have qualifications in special pedagogy.
“What is auxiliary education in practice? The children are at school for
one or two hours a day and hardly learn anything. These children are so neglected
that they have no chance of further education. Instead of having
much more lessons than in normal education, they get much less. There is
a little girl who has only been going to the school in K. for a few weeks.
When she has no lessons in the auxiliary class, she sits in with the others to
listen to normal lessons – but she is never called out by the teacher.”
The Neglected Public 1
On the Media Consumption of the Hungarian Roma
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
During the past few years several studies have examined the image of the
Hungarian Roma in the majority media.2 The conclusion of these is
that, although the Roma appear in the media with significantly more weight
than previously, the majority of portrayals remain within the framework of
a set of massive stereotypes. At the same time, there have been no inquiries
into just how satisfied the Roma themselves are with this image, how do
they, themselves “vote” when selecting programmes, what they watch, listen
to or read most often. Another certainly important question is whether their
media consumer habits really justify the opinion that is widespread among
the decision-makers of the majority media, namely that their programmes
have no significant Roma audience.3 The purpose of this research was certainly
not to establish some kind of particular pattern of media consumption,
all the more so, since looking for relevant differences in this direction may
easily lead one into the maze of the same old stereotypes. Rather, the results
counter a number of widespread myths. For example, despite the fact that the
majority media is full of stereotypical representations, that there are almost
no Roma personalities in the various entertainment programmes on TV, notwithstanding
the total absence of Roma journalists on the editorial staff of
newspapers, and even despite the often extremely negative opinion of the
Roma themselves about this majority media, it still has a large and very active
Roma audience, and most of them are conscious in their preferences.
Then again, these results also prove a very trivial, yet often neglected truth,
namely that the Roma are not only Roma as such, but also women and men,
young and old, urban dwellers or villagers, etc., who all have different interests.
If at all, the only presupposition we relied upon during our research was
1 Arevised version of the study published in the April 2000 issue of the periodical Beszélõ.
2 Lilla Vicsek, “Image of the Gypsies in the Press”. Amaro Drom, 1996/12.; Vera Messing,
“Image of National and Ethnic Minorities in the News Reports of the Hungarian Press during
late 1996 and 1997”. Jel-Kép, 1998/4.; Gábor Bernáth–Vera Messing, “Short Cuts, always
without Sound” –Roma in the Hungarian Media. (Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities,
3 See: Bernáth–Messing, op. cit. During the course of the survey published in the book we interviewed
12 editors of the majority media, the producer of the two most popular Hungarian
TV series and two representatives of large advertising firms.
that the Hungarian Roma community is a large, active media consumer audience
that has mostly been abandoned and that is not treated according to its
true significance by either the public service or the commercial media.
The research data were collected by a supplementary questionnaire targeting
the representative Hungarian Roma sub-sample of the research on
east-central European poverty/ethnicity conducted by Iván Szelényi and
János Ladányi in 1999–2000.4 The survey was conducted between November
1999 and June 2000 in three stages. The sample consisted of 458 Roma
persons above the age of 18.5 Wherever possible, we have compared the
information collected about the Roma with the data gained about the general
population at the same time. These latter, however, had usually been
obtained with a different methodology, therefore the comparative tables indicate
major trends rather than exact differences.
Television and radio consumption
Even though the proportion of households without television is three times
as high (8%) among the Roma than the general population, those Roma
households that do have a TVset, watch television more intensively than the
general populace. (Table 1.)
Roughly two-thirds of the subjects watch the programmes of TV2 and
RTLKlub for several hours a day, while about a quarter watch M1. While the
difference between the Roma and the entire population is negligible with
respect to terrestrial broadcast TV stations (M1, RTL Klub, TV2), significant
differences exist in the case of those channels to which access is impossible or
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
4 The demographic composition of the subjects of the most recent representative Roma research
conducted by István Kemény, Gábor Havas and Gábor Kertesi, and that of the subjects
of the present poll is significantly different from several aspects. The primary reasons
for the differences are the methods of sampling and the differences in the definitions of
“Roma/Gypsy”. The sample used for the 1993 research included those people who were regarded
as Roma by the majority environment. The basic elements of research were households
selected by multi-level stratified sampling with the help of public administration, educational
and social institutions. The research conducted in 1999–2000 by Iván Szelényi and
János Ladányi used a different sampling method. During the course of this research, a large,
18,000 sample representative of the adult (18+) population were presented with a filter questionnaire
which also inquired about the subjects ethnic identity. In addition, the interviewer
also had to determine whether or not the subject was Roma. In 1999–2000 the sample used
was selected by this method. Theoretically both sampling methods are representative of the
Hungarian Roma population, however there is significant difference between the demographic
5 The age and gender distribution of the sample was somewhat different from that of the demographic
characteristics of the Roma identified by filtering the sample of 18,000. We have
corrected this by weighting data. As we could only ask a few questions about media consumption
in the questionnaire, we had no opportunity to produce data as exact as those produced
by viewer measurement or logging method.
would require substantial investment – cable, satellite dish – in the small settlements
where masses of Roma live.
Table 2. depicts the total audience of national channels. Looking at this
table we can at least make an educated guess at the daily audience of the individual
channels among the Roma and the general population, even if the difference
in measurement methods makes any further conclusions impossible.
We can notice significant differences if we examine the intensity and frequency
of watching television alongside the information on the size of the channels’
audiences. Despite the different methodologies employed, the data on the
daily audience of the individual channels suggest that members of the Roma
population watch TV very intensively. All channels have a significantly higher
daily rating among the Roma than among the general population. This means,
for example, that 40% of those who choose RTL Klub watch this channel every
day, while this ratio is 65% among the Roma. The popularity indices of the TV
channels are similar among the Roma and the general population: the two commercial
channels are the absolute leaders in very close contest with each other.
The Neglected Public
Table 1. Audience of the various TV channels among the Roma population
hours a day
hours a week
Has no TV /
MTV1 25% 27% 40% 8%
MTV2 7% 8% 75% 9%
Duna TV 3% 5% 82% 10%
TV2 61% 14% 18% 7%
RTL Klub 65% 11% 16% 8%
TV3 7% 5% 77% 11%
HBO 2% 1% 87% 10%
Spektrum 4% 6% 81% 9%
Msat 1% 1% 88% 10%
Local (municipal) cable 1% 6% 83% 10%
Foreign language broadcasts
1% 5% 84% 10%
Table 2. Total and daily reach of television channels among the Roma
and general population 6
audience 7 Daily audience8
TV2 82% 90% 61% 39%
RTL Klub 81% 89% 65% 36%
MTV1 76% 86% 25% 17%
MTV2 31% 42% 7% 2%
Duna TV 25% 43% 3% 2%
In order to increase the depth of our analysis, we have examined the intensity
of the audience of the three most popular channels using a system of
categories.11 (Table 3.)
These data also indicate that the proportion of intensive TV viewers is
very high within the Roma community. Almost one fifth of those asked spend
5–6 hours watching TV each day. A further 42% watch the programmes of at
least one of the two channels several hours a day regularly. In total, it is certain
that more than half the Roma population spends more than four hours watching
TV each day, and only a minority – one fifth – is satisfied with a daily 1–2
hours of selective viewing.12 At the same time, we cannot assume that this
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
6 The data on the entire population have been reproduced from the item entitled “TV, My One
and Only” published in the “Media” supplement of the periodical Kreatív, 8–11 April 2000.
7 The proportion of those who watch the given channel with any regularity.
8 The method of defining the daily reach of the individual channels (i.e. the proportion of
those who watched the channel on an average day) was done using a different method for the
Roma and the entire population. In the case of the general population the method used was
the filling out of a TV log and asking the question “which channels/programmes did you
watch yesterday?”, while in the case of the Roma population we included in this group those
who answered “several hours a day” to the question “which channels do you usually
9 Kreatív, “Média”, 8 April 2000. (Source: Szonda Ipsos)
10 ibid., p. 10.
11 Very intensive: watches each nationwide terrestrial channel for several hours a day; intensive:
watches two channels several hours a day; average: watches only one channel with
daily regularity and never or only occasionally watches other channels, or, conversely, those
who watch several channels, but none with daily regularity; occasional: those who watch
one or two channels a couple of times a week, non-viewers: never or only occasionally
12 In comparison: according to AGB, the only audience measurement company using technical
measuring instruments, the time spent on watching television by the general population is
between 4 and 4.5 hours on average, depending on the season. The poll conducted by the
Central Statistical Office – which was more like our survey – only determined one half of
this value, a daily 2.5 hours. Kreatív, “Média”, 10 April 2000.
high ratio of watching television is simply due to background television. The
high proportion of those who purchase programme listings magazines in contrast
with the low proportion of those who “aren’t choosy” about the
programmes indicates that the ratio of conscious viewers is rather high.
Projecting data over demographic characteristics, we find tendencies
that are similar to those prevalent in the general population. The proportion
of very intensive television viewers is higher among women,
while those who never or hardly ever watch television tend to be men.
The proportion of the members of the oldest age group is twice as high
among the most intensive consumers than within the entire sample. This
is similar in the case of the general population as well: according to AGB
data, pensioners spend six hours a day on average watching TV. At the
same time, while in the case of the general population, members of the
18–29 age group spend the least time watching television, within the
Roma population the ratio of those who watch a lot of TV is not lower in
this age group than among those who are over fifty. This is surely related
to the high level of unemployment. Villagers are strongly over-represented
among those who watch the most TV, while among those who
rarely watch television, the proportion of Budapest citizens is twice as
high (17%) than that of the inhabitants of rural towns and villages (8%
and 5% respectively).
The Neglected Public
Table 3. Intensity of TV consumption according to gender and age
Very intensive 43 57 15 16 19 6 34 17 71
Intensive 50 50 45 42 42 45 26 42 180
Average 47 53 17 23 20 25 26 21 90
Occasional 57 43 7 9 8 9 – 7 33
58 42 15 10 12 15 11 13 54
Total 50 50 139 112 86 53 38 100 428
Preferred channels and programmes
The structure of preferences for the various channels is also similar to that
among the general population. The audience of public service television is
much below that of commercial TV in both groups, though more so among
the Roma population. This also indicates that the public service media, which
one might assume would create a larger and more stable Roma audience by
providing public service information or broadcasting special Roma
programmes (as prescribed by law), is unable to make use of this possibility.
The situation is similar in the case of local television stations as well, which
are usually maintained by local authorities, partly from local tax revenues,
and which in theory, therefore, have public service duties. Their low audience
seems to prove the suspicion that the majority of local media has not lived up
to their undertaking to broadcast minority programmes, or has done so, but in
a manner that does not meet the requirements of the local Roma community.13
The answers to the question about preferred programme types that people
watch whenever possible, were once again similar among the Roma and
the general population. (Table 4.)
These data indicate that alongside entertainment programmes – shows,
soap operas, series and feature films – it is the news programmes that most attract
the Roma audience. (Among the general population the five
programmes that had the highest rating were always shows, soap operas or
feature films.14) There are two types of programmes whose popularity is not
significantly influenced by any demographic factors: feature films and crime
programmes are equally popular in all groups. At the same time, as in the
case of the entire population, soap operas are more popular among women,
while shows are primarily preferred by older or less educated people.
A higher proportion of those who watch a lot of television watch entertainment
programmes, while the non-fiction genre is more often selected by
those who watch less TV.
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
13 Undertaking this was an advantage in competing for local frequencies, and the National Radio
and Television Board also supports with concessions those broadcasters that have undertaken
to help national, ethnic or other minority objectives according to the Board’s annual
audit. NRTB could not provide information about which local companies agreed to air
specifically Roma programmes; their number is estimated at 10–15. (The Ombudsman for
Minorities started negotiations two years ago to have NRTB supervise whether these broadcasters
actually perform their undertakings, but no studies have been prepared.)
14 AGBmeasurements. See for example: Kreatív, “Média”, 8 October 2000. or http://www.agb.hu.
Table 4. Preferred television programme types among the Roma 15
News 333 80 81
157 255 38
Games 237 176 57
Shows 320 92 77
Infotainment 187 226 45
Soap operas 279 134 68
Other series (e.g. crime) 283 130 69
Feature films 283 130 69
Minority programmes 164 248 40
Magazine programmes 115 296 28
True crime 289 123 70
Sports 171 242 41
Religious programmes 83 329 20
Radio listening habits
Radio16 is less widespread among Roma households. As opposed to the 85%
of households in the general population which possess a radio set, this figure
is only 71% among Roma households.17 Radio is more popular among those
above the age of 60, and those who have higher than elementary education.
According to these data, about one third (37%) of the Roma audience listen
to no radio at all. On the other hand, one quarter of those asked mentioned
more than one radio station they frequently listen to. The majority (17%) indicated
several commercial channels, while 8% indicated both commercial and
public service channels.We can certainly say that these two groups consist of
intensive radio listeners. The rest of the sample said they only listened to one
radio station frequently: 11%mentioned public service radio, while 27% mentioned
one of the commercial stations. Radio listening habits correlate with
The Neglected Public
15 Distribution of the answers to the closed question: “Of the following programme types,
which are those that you watch whenever you can?”
16 We examined radio listening habits with open questions, asking subjects to name the radio
stations they most often listen to.
17 Source: Szonda Ipsos. We wish to express our thanks to Szonda Ipsos for the data they have
age and dwelling. Those who don’t listen to radio at all are mostly middle
aged. Similarly to the general population, public service radio is more popular
among older people, while the Roma audience of commercial stations consists
mainly of members of the younger generation and the middle aged. If at all,
those who below the age of 30 almost exclusively listen to commercial stations.
18 The audience of public service stations primarily consists of Roma
living in rural areas, usually smaller villages, while commercial stations are
more preferred among Budapest citizens.
Table 6. shows the audience figures for radio stations with nationwide
or almost nationwide broadcast among the Roma and the general population.
On the base of these data, the popularity of commercial radio stations
is by and large identical among the Roma and the general population.
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
Table 5. Radio listening habits according to major demographic
Total (N. pers.)
to the radio
32 41 42 38 29 30 38 37 37 149
Only listens to
1 5 13 17 49 4 9 14 11 43
Only listens to
62 45 33 35 14 58 45 40 44 179
Listens to both
5 9 13 10 8 7 9 9 8 34
Total (N. pers.) 131 108 79 52 35 46 173 186 100 405
18 This is also true for the entire Hungarian population: only 8% of Radio Kossuth’s audience
is below the age of 30, while almost half of the audiences of the commercial stations
Juventus and Danubius consists of this age group. Data indicate that over 40% of the audience
of the public service station, Radio Kossuth are over 60 years old.
The only significant difference is that the size of the audience of the public
service station, Radio Kossuth is less than half among the Roma than among
the general population. Only 18% of those surveyed selected public service
channels among their favourite stations (Kossuth and Petõfi were selected
more or less equally), while about half of those surveyed named a nationwide
commercial channel (46%). Despite the fact that the term public service
includes serving the needs of various minorities, these data indicate that
Hungary’s “official” radio cannot entirely fulfil this task. The audience of regional
radio stations is extremely low: only 1% of those surveyed mentioned
the regional broadcasts of public service radios, while 6% mentioned other local
stations. (All this despite the fact that a large proportion of local radio stations,
similarly to regional TV channels, also undertook to produce Roma
The consciousness of media consumption
The questionnaire also examined the level of the consciousness of media consumption
as opposed to “non-selective” background radio and TV among
the Roma audiences. This can be measured from the answers to the question
The Neglected Public
Table 6. The audience of major radio stations among the Roma
and the general population19
members of the
among the general
Kossuth (AM, FM) 12% 18% 31%
Petõfi 11% 13%
Danubius 29% 46% 29%
Sláger 23% 25%
Juventus 9% 12%
19 While in the case of the entire population the percentages show the proportion of the public
reached on an average day, in the case of the Roma public the question was not about an average
day but rather about what their favourite stations are that they listen to whenever they
can. However, we may well suppose that people do not listen to their favourite station much
less often than once a day.
as to where the subjects of the survey get information about the starting times
of the various radio and television programmes. (Table 7.)
Table 7. How do you get information about radio and TV programmes?
N (pers.) Ratio
Newspaper 177 39%
Radio and TV promos and
Simply knows when his/her
favourite programmes start
Nowhere, doesn’t choose 126 28%
Other 13 3%
According to the answers given, the majority of the Roma audience is
conscious in selecting programmes; 39% actually choose their programmes
from the newspapers. Therefore it is certainly not given that the Roma watch
TV or listen to radio regardless of what programmes are on air. In fact they
constitute an audience that could and should be addressed.
Newspaper consumer habits
During the course of a set of interviews we conducted with leaders of the editorial
staffs of the most popular papers in the majority media in 1998,20 most
editors said they did not believe their paper had a significant Roma readership.
“I don’t believe many Roma read us,” said the editor of one of the tabloids.
They mostly explained this fact with the almost general state of poverty
among the Roma population, saying they would not be able to spend on
papers (“the people who read us have higher investment desires than the
Roma”). A number of editors of the Roma press professed a similar opinion
too: the level of the consumption of printed press is low among the Roma population.
Our present research has refuted these widespread notions – more than
half of the Roma population read newspapers with some regularity.
The following table summarizes the Roma population’s printed press
consumption habits, comparing them with those of the general population.
Given however, that the figures describing the two groups are quite different
in type, comparison should only be made between the structures, but not the
rates of consumption.
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
20 Bernáth–Messing: op. cit.
Table 8. Newspaper consumption
Mentions Percentage21 Total population
Reads no papers 202 44% –
19 4% 14%
Local political dailies 76 17% 32%
Tabloid daily 30 7% 8%
20 4% 6%
75 6% 40%
or monthly paper
28 6% –
102 22% 47%
Other 63 14% –
These results show that, although printed press consumption is much
lower than among the general population, its structure is nevertheless similar,
and even if we eliminate cross-reading, 24% of the Roma public reads (daily
or less frequently, national or local) political papers,23 and almost one fifth
read dailies. While the readership of national political dailies is low compared
to the general population’s stratum which is in a similar economic position
(only Népszabadság and Magyar Hírlap were mentioned), regional (county)
political papers are very popular.24 As in the case of the general population,
the most popular publications are TV and radio programme magazines, romances
(Romana, Tiffany, Kisses and Tears, etc.), and women’s magazines
(Kiskegyed, Nõk Lapja, Meglepetés).25 Newspaper reading habits primarily
The Neglected Public
21 The section on the consumption of printed press contained an open question (“Please list the
papers you usually read”). Answers to this type of question produce lower results than in the
case of directed inquiries (e.g. “Do you read Népszabadság?”).
22 Szonda Ipsos data from 2000. (Reader Per Issue): the proportion of readers who have read
the last issue.
23 A single person can read local or national political dailies, weekly magazines, etc. The 24%
does not contain this type of multiplicity (so-called “cross-reading”).
24 Even despite the fact that these papers deal much less with local Roma communities than the
national press does, and usually depict the Roma in fewer roles. A good example of this is
that in our content analysis in 1997 we found a local newspaper where more than half the articles
concerning the Roma were about crime.
25 This is no different from the references of the general population where after programme
listings magazines, women’s magazines have the highest circulation: Kiskegyed has some
correlate with education and dwelling. The correlation with education is trivial:
those who haven’t completed elementary school read the least, while the
proportion of newspaper readers increases with the level of education. At the
same time it may well be related to problems of distribution that villagers read
the least, and Budapest citizens read the most papers. In the small settlements
where most of the Hungarian Roma live, it is difficult or virtually impossible
to purchase papers from newsagents rather than subscribe to them. A third correlation
(one that implies that a part of the Roma public gains information
almost exclusively from television) is that the proportion of those who don’t
listen to the radio is the highest among those who don’t read newspapers.
The opinions of the editors are put in doubt not only by the number of
mentions, but also by the frequency of reading. Nearly half of those surveyed
(43%) said they read all issues of the paper mentioned, a further 37% said
they read the selected paper often, and only one fifth said they rarely read the
newspaper they mentioned. The majority of regular readers also purchases
their newspapers. On fifth of newspapers are delivered by subscription, 57%
are purchased at newsagents, shops or the post office, but the proportion of
“second hand” newspapers is also rather high: almost one quarter of the
newspapers mentioned were received from someone else.
Information and intelligence
An often recurring element of the interviews conducted with Roma leaders
in 1997 was that a part of the Roma public has no access to the most basic
public service information related to schooling, aid and employment. The interviews
with the editors of Roma TV and radio programmes also showed
that in formulating their editorial principles, they had to devote a part of their
otherwise rather limited air time to conveying such information. This, however,
would just as much be the task of public service media or those
programmes in commercial media that are labelled as public service, as it is
the responsibility of majority institutions or minority self-governments.26
Experience shows that often local authorities or certain dedicated institu-
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
one and a half million readers, Nõk Lapja is read by 1.3 million people, while the readership
of the most popular political weekly, HVG is only a fraction of these figure. (Szonda Ipsos
Media Analysis, 1st half of 2000.).
26 Though no studies were conducted about the performance of majority institutions in such
matters, that of minority self-governments has been researched. The 1997 survey of minority
self-governments in Baranya County supports the general experience about the information
access of the Roma population: the relationship between most minority self-governments
the local council is rather weak, but so it is even between the national minority
self-governments and their own minority communities. Minority Self-Governments (HAS
Centre for Regional Research, Pécs, 1998).
tions (schools, doctors, labour centres) fail to fulfil this responsibility. To examine
this lack of information, we posed the question as to where the subjects
gained information about a problem that concerns masses of Roma – social
benefits and how to apply for them.27
Table 9. How did you get information about the social aid you applied for?
Newspapers 8 4
TV, radio 32 17
Acquaintances, family 59 32
An office of some kind (e.g. local council) 120 65
Some kind of social institution 30 16
These data imply that the institutions providing information most effectively
are those which are also responsible for providing the given form of
aid. Most often these are local authorities. The role of informal channels of information
is also significant: a third of those who answered the question had
got to know about social aid from acquaintances or relatives. At the same
time few respondents mentioned television and radio as their source of information
about such possibilities.
During the course of the survey we have also tried to examine the handicaps
caused by a lack of information. Eighty-four people, roughly every fifth
subject responded affirmatively when asked whether they had ever failed to
receive some form of support because they hadn’t known about it.
Opinions about the majority media
The media not only inform, but also carry and influence the image society
has of itself. There is no avoiding the question in relation to Hungarian majority
media either: does it offer such roles through which members of the
majority can look upon the Roma as integral parts of society, allowing, at
the same time, the Roma to proudly assert their identity or, on the contrary,
does it force them to hide or suppress this identity. Today not only the
Roma, but actually all minorities are missing from the entertainment
programmes of the Hungarian media. Minority personalities never or very
rarely appear in Hungarian soap-operas or talk shows.With two exceptions
The Neglected Public
27 Of the 459 subjects, 164 said they were receiving some form of social benefit at the time of
there are no Roma presenters in majority television, and they are also missing
from the columns of newspapers where “the man in the street” is given
a chance to express an opinion. The interviewees of our 1998 survey of
leaders of Roma organizations and institutions were almost unanimous in
their conviction that the Roma appear rarely in the majority media, and that
when they do it is almost always “in the context of problems”. The media
does not portray Roma people as natural actors of majority society. One of
our interviewees summarized the possible effect of this image on the Roma
as follows: [most news items in majority media are] “usually experienced
by Roma communities such that once again some scandal or piece of bad
news has been shown on TV. If they speak of them, they only mention their
negative characteristics or create a feeling of humiliation.”
Now, for the first time, we were able to get a representative image
about just what Roma think of their image in the majority media. To explore
this we used a number of questions about opinions that we had been using in
earlier research. The questionnaire contained two sets of questions: one inquired
about the interviewee’s personal opinion about certain propositions
concerning the majority media, while the other set asked whether, in the interviewee’s
opinion, the majority of Roma agree or disagree with the given
proposition. (Table 10.)
The data indicate that the Roma public is mostly dissatisfied with the
dominance of negative, conflict-oriented reports in the media. Eight people
out of 10 agree that television only shows Roma people in connection with
problems, while nine-tenths of the subjects believed (and even more assumed
that the majority of the Roma so believe) that “TV should also show
the good things in the life of the Roma”.
Interviews with the editors of Roma media also attest to the fact that
beside the strong assimilation pressure, there are prejudices and related continuous
and forceful stigmatisation of Roma identity in the majority media
or, more widely, in the majority environment. To put it a bit strongly, it is
only the stories published in the Roma media that provide the rare “oases”
where the Roma can look upon themselves with pride. The interviewees confirmed
the necessity of media personalities who could do away with stereotypes
(a RomaTVpresenter, for example), which has been emphasized by Roma organizations
for years. Three quarters of the subjects found this important.
The widespread opinion that the media does not regard the Roma as
a target audience is further strengthened by the fact that nearly two-thirds of
the subjects asked feel that the media does not pay sufficient attention to the
questions concerning the Roma. Four fifths of the subjects assume that this
sentiment is general within Roma society.
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
According to the majority of the Roma, television does not present a realistic
image about them. The 48% and 46% agreement rates, however, also
show that negative descriptions are not without influence on a part of the
Roma public. Probably those who belong to this group are more inclined to
make generalizations from, and identify with, the image presented by the media.
At the same time, the ratio of the presumed agreement of the majority of
the Roma is significantly lower in relation to these propositions: only a little
more than one third of the subjects believed such to represent the opinion of
Roma in general.
One half of those asked feel the way television depicts the Roma is offensive.
That is, one half of a group of half a million people is facing an image
presented by television that they feel to be offensive! The extent of the
The Neglected Public
Table 10. Opinions about the media image / assumptions about the opinion
of the majority of Roma
Ratio of those totally or
mostly in agreement with the
Assumed ratio of the agreement
of the Roma with the
There should be Roma TV presenters. 73% 87% +14
Radio, television and media do not pay enough
attention to the difficulties of the Roma.
62% 83% +21
TV programmes only show Roma people when
there is some problem with them.
81% 90% +9
TV programmes depict the Roma as they actually
46% 38% –8
It might be true that the Roma are poor, but TV
should not show this to the whole country.
53% 69% +16
TV should also show the good things in the life
of the Roma. 91% 96% +5
TV depicts the Roma realistically. 48% 42% –6
The manner in which TV depicts the Roma is
49% 66% +17
frequency of this opinion in the everyday conversations of Roma communities
is clearly shown by the fact that two thirds of the subjects believe that
this is the general sentiment among the Roma. On the basis of this opinion,
the humiliating nature of the image depicted by the media has even more
weight within Roma public opinion than by virtue of what the individuals
themselves experience. This is also suggested by the fact that the assumption
of the agreement of the majority was always higher in the case of very negative
opinions. This belief indicates that public opinion is even worse than the
– also depressing – personal experiences of the individuals.
Roma programmes and newspapers
The survey also contained questions about the Roma programmes of the public
service media and the Roma newspapers. Apart from a few uncertain estimates
we had no information on whether these media actually reach their target
audience or not.
According to the Media Act, the public service media has to provide
the opportunity for the production and broadcasting of the programmes of
significant national and ethnic minorities. The “only just sufficient” conditions
and “only just viewable” air-time provided by the media companies,
however, only formally guarantees the right of minority communities to
receive information and preserve their identities.
The questions in this block were open: we asked subjects whether they
know of any radio or TV programmes that are specifically addressed to the
Roma population, and, if so, then how often they watch or listen to them. Using
open questions tends to underestimate actual media consumption, since a lot
more people would answer yes if asked whether they know the programme
Roma Magazine, than would spontaneously mention this programme.
The Roma programme of Hungarian Television. Public service television
broadcasts the 25-minute programme Roma Magazine weekly; first on
Monday early afternoons on M1, then a repeat on Saturday mornings on M2.
Over one fifth (21%) of the subjects said they watched the programme more
or less regularly, and a higher proportion, almost one third, knew about the
programme. The rather unfavourable air-time of the programme is indicated
by the fact that one fifth of the latter group said they never watch the
programme. According to AGB data, in the early afternoons on average
weekdays M1 is only able to attract 13% of its rather small number of viewers,
28 that is, within the present structure the potential audience of Roma
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
28 AGB data for 2000 1st quarter. Kreatív, “Média”, 10 April 2000.
Magazine hardly exceeds one per cent of the entire population, i.e. 100,000
viewers. What’s more, the magazine is bound to be unavailable to those
working Roma in rural areas, who cannot receive M2.29 Thus, although public
service television formally fulfils its task of broadcasting a minority
programme as prescribed by law, it does not meet the requirements of serving
the actual needs of the minority group. During the past few years the editors
of the programme were unable to achieve better operating conditions or
such air-times when the programme would not be inaccessible to significant
groups of the Roma population.
The Roma programme of the Hungarian Radio. The data indicate that
the Roma programme of the public service radio, Gypsy Half-Hour, which
goes on air on Fridays at 11 a.m. is less known among the Roma public. Six
per cent of the subjects said they knew of radio programmes specifically addressing
the Roma population, while 4% attested to listening to the
programme with more or less frequency. All in all, this amounts to an audience
of some 20,000 Roma, that is 7% of the Roma who possess a radio set
or 42% of those who listen to the public service radio station, Radio
Kossuth.30 When assessing these data, we also have to bear in mind that
a large part of the Roma audience primarily or exclusively listens to commercial
stations, while Radio Kossuth is only listened two by 12% with more or
less frequency.On the basis of these data the programme Gypsy Half-Hour is
unable to effectively address young Roma people.
According to the 2000 results of Gallup Institute’s regular logged audience
research on the entire population, the size of the programme’s audience
has not changed significantly since 1998. This research puts the programme’s
audience at 195–280,000.31 This implies that only one tenth of the audience of
Gypsy Half-Hour are Roma.
The demographic structure of the audience has not changed much
either. The programme is more popular among the elderly (about 7%) and
those with lower education (around 4%). At the same time, the data show
that practically no younger people listen to the programme and the size of its
The Neglected Public
29 As for 1998 the programmes of M2 are only available via satellite dish or cable. In the villages
where the majority of Roma live, these facilities are only available to 40% of the population.
Antenna Hungária information, 2000.
30 In our 1998 study, “Short Cuts, always without Sound”, we tried to estimate the number of
Roma listeners of Gypsy Half-Hour from audience data about the entire population and their
demographic characteristics (over-representation of villagers and people with low education).
At the time we concluded that a large proportion of the programme’s audience must be
Roma, but this has been falsified by the present survey which shows that only 7–10% of the
audience can be Roma.
31 At the same time, however, we have to note that the measurement of 2.3%–3.3% runs a high
risk of error. On other weekdays Radio Kossuth’s audience in the same time frame is similarly
low, fluctuating between 2.5% and 4%.
audience is negligible within the 30–49 age group as well (around 1%).
We have to note, that the size of Gypsy Half-Hour’s audience is not outstandingly
low compared to Radio Kossuth’s other programmes. Even the most
popular programmes, such as the morning and noon news only make 9–12%,
the daily magazine, Napközben achieves 5–6%, while the audience for the
rest of the programmes is between 1% and 4%.
Roma newspapers. The familiarity with, and readership of Roma newspapers
shows an even sadder picture. Familiarity with the papers is very low:
Lungo Drom, the paper with the largest and broadest circulation (it is distributed
free of charge to the local Roma minority self-governments that operate
in a large part of settlements) was only known to 20 from the 458 people interviewed,
and only 11 attested to reading it more or less frequently. Nine people
were familiar with, and 4 were readers of the (now defunct) Phralipe.
The familiarity with and readership of the third major Roma newspaper, the
quality Amaro Drom, is similarly low.32 (Table 11.)
Table 11. Familiarity with Roma newspapers
Name of paper Knows about it Reads it
Lungo Drom 20 11
Phralipe 9 4
Amaro Drom 6 1
Kethano Drom 2 1
Cigány Hírlap 6 2
Cigányfúró 1 –
The data confirm what the editors of Roma newspapers said during our
interviews. All of them believe that the difficulties of circulation present the
greatest problem. On the basis of the circulation data provided in 1997 to the
major supporter of these publications, the Hungarian Public Foundation for
National and Ethnic Minorities, and taking the size of the Hungarian Roma
population to be half a million, Amaro Drom was purchased by 0.26% of the
Hungarian Roma, Lungo Drom by 0.3% and the now defunct Phralipe by
0.07%. The data provided by the papers are similar to the situation indicated
by the ratio of those who gave positive answers in the survey. These sorry
results are no better for the fact that the circulation and readership of the
newspapers of most other minorities are similarly low.
GÁBOR BERNÁTH – VERA MESSING
32 The first issue of the magazine of the National Gypsy Self-Government, Világunk’ (Our
World) had not yet been published at the time of assembling the questionnaire.
At the same time, the results we have gleaned with respect to the consumption
of the majority press cast doubt on the opinion professed by certain
editors, namely that Roma communities can only be addressed via the printed
press to a lesser degree. Even though it is true that the audience of television is
by far the highest, there is a significant group which regularly reads political
newspapers, albeit that the Roma papers cannot reach them either.
(The research was supported by the British Know How Fund for Hungary
and the Open Society Institute.)
The Neglected Public
Local and International Views on the
Migration of the Hungarian Roma
During recent years the migration of the Roma has often aroused the interest
of the Hungarian public. In the beginning there came the reports and
– for the first time in Hungary – survey data about those who asked for Canadian
asylum. Later it was the Zámoly Roma’s plea for asylum in France that sparked
off a wide-ranging professional, political and social debate that soon turned into
a general discourse on the situation of Hungary’s Roma population. This debate
is still going on today with constant reference to the issue of migration.
When dealing with Hungarian society and politics, experts cannot avoid
facing the situation and problems of the Roma population. Migration is only
a very small part of this extremely wide and complex field, albeit one of great
significance from several aspects. Despite the fact that the system of democratic
institutions seems to be stabilising, Hungary has, for over half a decade,
appeared in international statistics as a country that produces refugees. Such
refugees call public attention to an urgent social problem that is deteriorating
in parallel with the evolution of the market economy, namely the situation of
the Roma population. As the time of joining the European Union draws nearer,
pressure is increasing to find lasting, long-term solutions to the problems of
the Gypsies. We can only join the Union together with our fellow citizens of
Roma descent – recognition of this fact is essential not only to the political and
economic institutions but to each and every member of society.
From the mid-nineties onwards, Roma people have been continuously moving
from east-central European countries to members of the European Union
as well as to Canada and the United States with the intent of settling there.
In the vast majority of cases they apply for political asylum, arguing their
pleas with reference to the persecution and negative discrimination they
have suffered in their countries of origin. The major sources of refugees in
the region are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and
Bulgaria. A large number of Kosovo Roma are also migrating to EU
countries; however, they are fleeing from the wars and ethnic purges of the
region and their situation is significantly different from that of those who arrive
from the countries listed above.
One of the big – if not the biggest – losers of the economic and social
transformation going on in the countries of east-central Europe is the Roma
population. Poverty, the deterioration of health and demographic indices, exclusion
from the labour market and the schooling system, has had a more
marked negative effect on them than on any other group of society. The
strong discrimination that accompanies and is related to these processes on
the part of the majority population against the Roma further deteriorates
their chance of catching up. If at all, it is only to a very limited extent that
plans to improve the situation of the Roma population appear in the government
policies of these states and, lacking adequate political will and popular
support they have very little hope of success.
The fact that an increasing number of Roma hope to resolve their problems
by emigration1 is by no means unrelated to their social and economic situation,
and the discrimination directed against them. Because of their disadvantageous
position on the labour market, acquiring refugee status is the only possibility
for them to remain in the target countries. The injuries suffered in their
countries of origin are converted to social capital during migration. Even
though Roma origin and the related persecution and negative discrimination is
often sufficient for acquiring refugee status and international protection, we
have to take into account the fact that the immigration of masses of Roma may
lead to significant social tensions in certain countries, and such tensions will
have and immediate effect on diplomatic relations, too. During recent years the
temporary or permanent reinstatement of the compulsory visa system has often
been applied by EU members and overseas countries against east-central European
states. In countries that are candidates for EU membership, the migration of
the Roma is taken as one of the delaying factors of accession. This, however, does
not provide motivation to improve the situation of the Roma, but rather, it initiates
the mechanism of finding scapegoats. Those responsible for the negative image of
the country and the delay of membership can now be named, thereby further
aggravating the tension between majority society and the Roma population. The
factors that do or could actually delay membership are, of course, by no means
negligible – the extremely bad social situation of the Roma and the lack of government
efforts to improve it or the pressure of migration on EU member states
which, even though numerically not really significant, could lead to serious internal
tensions in these states, where the Roma are not welcome visitors.
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
1 For the purposes of the present study we shall use the concepts of “emigration-immigration”
in the everyday sense rather than in the strict legal sense of leaving and entering a country.
When considering EU membership, the problem of the migration of
the Roma appears in another context as well: with the liberalisation of the
labour market and the free movement of persons, large masses of east-central
European Roma may appear in the present member states of the European
Union. Impoverished, unqualified workers from the east could create
tension in the lower segments of the labour markets of the states of the
Union. Even though research forecasts about the migration of workers have
not supported this belief, we can often come across it in the views of politicians.
Similarly to other east-central European countries, Roma people have
been emigrating from Hungary for years, primarily to Canada. Even though
emigration to and in certain cases, recognition as refugees by Canada has
been going on for years, Hungarian politics and public opinion has paid relatively
little interest to the process. The turning point in the attitude toward
Roma emigration was brought about by the case of the Zámoly Roma’s plea
for political asylum in Strasbourg in July 2000. The emigration of the
Zámoly Roma and the recognition of some of them as refugees in March
2001 caused a significant upheaval in both domestic and foreign politics.
The government is extremely doubtful whether the act of emigration and the
granting of refugee status was justified and legal. Meanwhile Roma interest
groups and opposition intelligentsia greeted the decision of the French
authorities which has, in their view, highlighted the impossible situation of
the Roma in Hungary.As yet the extent to which the affair has or will have an
effect on Hungary’s accession negotiations with the Union is not clear. However,
the reaction of the government (criticism of the French authorities,
depiction of the Zámoly Roma as criminals and provocateurs, and at least the
allusion to conspiracy theories) is certainly not conductive to a timely settlement
of the dispute. The fact that the Zámoly Roma were recognised by the
French as refugees encourages other groups to apply for asylum in the member
states of the European Union. Even though fears that masses of Hungarian
Roma people will take to the road to find their livelihood in one of the
member states of the EU have proved to be unfounded, there have been, and
still are some who follow the example set by the Zámoly Roma. On the other
hand, Roma emigration to Canada has not diminished. Though lacking exact
data it is certain that in 2001 a record number of Hungary’s citizens who proclaim
themselves to be Roma applied for asylum overseas.2
2 According to spring 2001 data, over 6000 Hungarian citizens had applied for refugee status
in Canada since 1997 and over 500 were successful. (Source: ICMPD 2001; and Lee, 2000.;
Data sent by the Canadian Immigration Bureau to the Roma Press Centre and the Budapest
office of IOM; refugee statistics published by UNHCR and the author’s personal information.)
A part of the present study examines the views of important international
and Hungarian forums on the general situation and the migration of
the Hungarian Roma. In describing these views we shall refer to the official
documents of the organisations as well as interviews conducted with their representatives
during spring 2001. Following examination of the documents, we
shall briefly describe the results of an empirical survey conducted in December
2000, which examined popular attitudes toward Roma migration.
2. VIEWS OF HUNGARIAN AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS AND
POPULAR OPINION ON THE QUESTION OF ROMA MIGRATION
Even though the migration of the Roma population has influenced the domestic affairs,
foreign and minority policies of east-central European states since the
mid-nineties, the number of official positions on the matter has been very limited.
Nor have any comprehensive strategies been formulated to deal with the problem of
Roma migration. It is either treated on the level of the minority and Roma policy of
the source country, or as an element of the migration and refugee policies of the target
countries. Usually there are two aspects which are emphasised in the foreign policies
of the source countries: one is the restitution of the compulsory visa system on
the part of the target countries receiving theRomaseeking asylum, while the other is
the possible delay of EU membership due to the situation of the Roma.
Especially since the Zámoly Roma applied for asylum in France, the problem
of Roma migration has come to the forefront of public attention in Hungary.
It is most often mentioned within the framework of the discourse on domestic
policy, in connection with the government’s efforts to improve the situation,
while the question of EU membership is only secondary in this respect. Condemnation
of the Roma leaving the country is widespread both in general and as
regards the personalities of the actual emigrants. Part of the accusations raise the
question whether the act of emigration is indeed justified or could the present
government efforts effectively resolve the problems of the Roma population in
Hungary, while another part are concerned with the extent the emigrants could
influence the international assessment and international image of the country.
2.1. The position of the European Union and other inter-governmental
2.1.1. THE EUROPEAN UNION COMMISSION
The annual country reports issued by the Commission of the European Union
have been monitoring the situation of the Roma population in Hungary
since the start of accession negotiations. Accession requirements are based
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
on the Copenhagen Criteria which state that a precondition to EU membership
is that “(… candidate states maintain the stable operation of the institutions
ensuring democracy, constitutionalism, human rights and the recognition
and protection of minorities.”3 Another condition of membership is that
candidates ratify the General Agreement on the Protection of Ethnic Minorities.
Hungary did so in 1995.4
Agenda 2000, the first document to evaluate the situation of Roma in
Hungary was published by the Commission to assess the application of accession
when the series of negotiations opened.5 The report identified no major
problems in the situation and rights of minorities, nevertheless it called attention
to certain shortcomings.
Parliamentary representation of minorities (and therefore Roma) is not
granted in Hungary.6 Referring to a government report from the spring of
1997, the document asserts that Roma are victims of regular attacks and negative
discrimination, and forecasts that this situation will probably further
deteriorate over the coming years. The same report mentions that the current
Hungarian legal system does not ensure the efficient prevention of ethnic
conflicts directed against the Roma.
The Commission highlights the inequality of opportunities between the
Roma and members of majority society: the educational, employment and life
expectancy indices of the Roma population are significantly below those of
the majority.7 However, the report acknowledges the progress achieved by government
measures that have already been introduced or are planned.
The 1998 country report mentions that the government accepted a comprehensive
action plan in July 1997, with the aim of improving the situation
of the Roma in the following areas: education, employment, agriculture,
social affairs, health and housing. The positive element of the programme is
that it contributes to the dialogue between the Roma and the rest of society.
However, the central budget is only able to provide very limited funds for its
implementation. The country report identifies education as the most critical
problem related to the Roma, quoting in detail the report of the Ombudsman
for Minorities rejected by the government.
3 Quoted by Braham et Braham, 2000. p. 107.
4 Registered by Parliamentary order no 81/1995. (VII. 6.)
5 Commission Opinion, 1997.
6 Even though this has been declared anti-constitutional by the Constitutional Court in 1991,
the problem has still not been resolved.
7 The unemployment rate is four-five times higher than the national average and life-expectancy
some ten years shorter than in the case of the non-Roma.
According to the general assessment, Hungary conforms with the requirements
of the Copenhagen Criteria, but should nevertheless devote special
attention to improving the situation of the Roma.
According to the Commission’s 1999 report, the situation of the Roma
minority had not changed. Because of everyday prejudices and discrimination
the Commission perceives the situation of the Roma as much worse than that
of the Hungarian population in the fields of education, employment and access
to public services, as well as in the field of public health and housing. The report
calls special attention to the statement of the Ombudsman for Minorities,
according to which Roma suffer negative discrimination in the labour market.
On the positive side, the report mentions the completion of the medium-term
Roma action programme and the fact that, by doubling the number of minority
local self-governments, Roma participation in public affairs has increased.
Despite all these changes, however, the situation of the Roma has remained
very difficult. In parallel with the implementation of the medium-term action
programme, special efforts have to be taken to decrease prejudice against the
Roma and eliminate discrimination from public institutions.
According to the general assessment, the country had remained in conformity
with the Copenhagen Criteria, though the Commission stresses that
the government will have to provide adequate budgetary resources for implementation
of the medium-term Roma programme.
The country report of the year 2000 welcomes the launching of the medium-
term action programme, and especially the fact that the government
has allocated the sum of 19 million Euro for its implementation.8 However, it
also adds that we may only expect palpable results in the longer term, and
meanwhile the situation of the Roma population will remain difficult. The report
mentions the low life expectancy of the Roma, the poor educational indices
(the ratio of people with higher education is especially low among the
Roma, at a mere 0.24%) and negative discrimination which is present in all
areas of life. The report addresses in detail the problem of the unrealistically
high proportion of Roma children in auxiliary schools and welcomes the appointment
of the Ministerial Commissioner for Educational Rights, who will
hopefully deal with the matter.
According to the general assessment, Hungary has maintained its conformity
with the Copenhagen Criteria and has started the implementation of
the medium term Roma action programme in keeping with its short-term
accession partnership priorities. At the same time, the report emphasises that
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
8 This is the Ft4.8 billion (later Ft7.2 billion) sum that government officials often referred to in
their statements to the press to prove that the government is indeed doing all it can to improve
the situation of the Roma population.
the programme will have to be carried through consistently to achieve palpable
In addition to its annual country reports, the European Commission
also published a general assessment at the beginning of 20019 which addresses
the situation of the Roma population in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic,
Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. The chapter on Hungary restates the
critical remarks already known from the country reports, mentioning the racist
attacks against the Roma that the authorities do little to prevent and in
which they are at times participants themselves. The assessment also mentions
the occasional xenophobic speeches in Parliament. In the field of education,
the report refers to auxiliary schools as instruments of the segregation
of Roma. Discrimination in the field of employment with the active participation
of employment centres and the various advertising forums is also mentioned.
The report notes that nearly one third of the Hungarian Roma population
dwells in ghetto-like segregated areas, and the eviction policies of municipalities
as well as the prejudices inherent in housing policy have played
an important role in bringing about this situation. Besides sharp criticism,
the report recognises the government’s efforts in the implementation of the
medium-term Roma action programme. Despite the existence of the system
of minority local self-governments, the report states that the level of representation
of minority interests is inadequate, as is the practical implementation
of anti-discrimination measures. The document also calls attention to
the lack of a comprehensive anti-discrimination act.
As may be noted, the problem of Roma migration is not mentioned in
the country reports and other documents of the Commission. At the same
time, the reports repeatedly call attention to the difficult situation of the
Roma and urge the government to take effective measures. It would probably
be rather difficult to discuss the question of Roma refugees on the level
of the country reports: EU member states only recognise a very small proportion
of those who apply for asylum from east-central Europe as refugees, and
consider most Roma applicants as economic migrants. Acceptance or rejection
of asylum pleas, however, remains the internal affair of the member
states: a unified right of asylum is not, as yet, part of the Union’s Acquis
Communautaire. Nevertheless, the opinions of the member states about
those countries that emit refugees may well be influenced by Roma migration:
the population’s fear of immigration affects the political support concerning
delay or derogation of accession.10 At the same time it is probable
that the outstanding nature of the Roma issue will have no immediate delay-
9 See: European Commission, 2001.
10 For further details, see: Braham et Braham, 2000. pp. 102-104.
ing effect on negotiations. Despite the fact that the country has been the target
of the Commission’s criticism for years, the creators of the country reports
are well aware that the situation cannot be improved overnight and that
lacking appropriate budgetary support, the implementation of strategic
programmes is impossible. Overemphasising the problem of the Roma can
easily start the mechanism of creating scapegoats: public opinion and – as
the example of the Zámoly Roma shows – the government itself lays blame
on the Roma themselves for the criticisms against the country and the delay
2.1.2. OTHER INTER-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS
Hungary joined the Council of Europe’s General Agreement of the Protection
of Ethnic Minorities in 1995 and ratified it with a parliamentary act in 1999.12
The general agreement contains voluntary obligations regarding the protection
of minorities, including the Roma, about which the government has to regularly
report to the Council. The last such report was prepared in February
1999, with a detailed commentary from the Roma Civil Rights Foundation.13
The report and the commentary deal with the problems familiar from the documents
of the EU Commission and make no mention of Roma migration.
The European Committee against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), acting
under the auspices of the Council of Europe, published its second report
on Hungary in the summer of 1999.14 In this the situation of the Roma is addressed
under the heading “Causes for special concern”. The report identifies
such causes for special concern in two fields: one is education, the other
employment. In the opinion of the ECRI, Hungary today cannot grant equal
opportunities in education and the Roma are also being discriminated
against in the labour market. To promote the resolution of the problems, the
report proposes the more effective implementation of existing legal measures
and the creation of a comprehensive anti-discrimination act.
The Council of Europe’s Specialist Group for Roma Affairs held its
10th meeting in Budapest in autumn 2000. The group monitors the trends of
Roma migration and regularly consults with other international organisations
about the subject. During the Budapest meeting, the Group held a public
hearing about the situation of the Roma, where migration was also men-
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
11 Based on an interview with Ron Korver, an officer of the EU Commission’s Hungarian Delegation.
12 Act XXXIV 1999, on the Announcement of the Council of Europe General Agreement on
the Protection of Minorities, Strasbourg, 1 February 1995.
13 See: Hell – Horváth, 2000.
14 See: ECRI, 1999.
tioned. The president of the group “found it unacceptable that citizens of
a democratic country have to seek political asylum in other states.”15
At a meeting the European Organisation for Security and Co-operation
(EOSC) in October 2000 the participants stated that the countries which emit
the most Roma refugees are precisely those that receive the largest financial
support from the European Union. Roma organisations participating in the
meeting proposed the suspension of financing until the appropriate utilisation
of funds has been ascertained. The participants proposed a meeting
between EOSC, the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the
Roma organisations to examine the utilisation of funds and its effects on
The report published by EOSC in spring 2000 on the situation of the
Roma and Sinthi population of the member states mentions Roma migration
in one respect only: the organisation criticised the British media for the prejudicial
treatment of Roma seeking asylum from the Czech Republic and
Slovakia. In general the report remarks that such phenomena have occurred
in other target countries as well.17 Even though the report makes no mention
of Hungary in relation to Roma migration, the country – as having one of the
largest Roma populations in Europe – is often mentioned in the analyses of
educational, employment, health and housing problems, as well as in connection
with racist phenomena.
In February 2000, the UN Economic and Social Council published a report
on the situation of Roma in the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary.
18 The report is based on 1999 September data and criticises Hungary
from several aspects. Besides government sources the report makes extensive
use of data provided by NGOs as well. The document speaks of covert
institutional racism directed against the Roma which is very difficult to
prove. It mentions the case of the Zámoly Roma as an exception, when the illicit
behaviour of the local council could actually be clearly proved. In addition
to the well-known handicaps, the report emphasises negative discrimination
against Roma on the part of the police and the judiciary. Relying on the
criticism offered by NGOs, the report offers a detailed analysis of the government
efforts to improve the situation of the Roma. It proposes measures for
the government in four key areas: stronger court action against racist crimes
committed by individuals and organisations; creation of a comprehensive
anti-discrimination act; development of programmes to eliminate school seg-
15 See: Meeting Report, 2001. p.26.
16 Source: Meeting Report, 2001. pp. 3–4.
17 See: OSCE, 2000. pp. 48–49.
18 UNESCO, 2000.
regation; and the launching of programmes to help the social integration of
the Roma in rural areas.
UNHCR has also become concerned with the problem of the migration
of the central and east European Roma. Previously the organisation had been
monitoring the situation of the Kosovo Roma in the asylum proceedings in
European states, as well as in Macedonia and the former Yugoslav republics.
UNHCR has spoken against negative discrimination against the Kosovo
Roma several times, calling on local and international communities as well
as the target countries to cease persecution and negative discrimination. In a
statement issued in August 2000, UNHCR mentions the Roma fleeing from
east-central European countries beside those leaving Kosovo. “Even if only
a small number of central European Roma are granted refugee status in
other European states, their pleas for asylum often contain indications of persecution
and injustices suffered which, lacking the possibility of adequate legal
remedy, may constitute a case for the fear of prosecution as understood
by paragraph 1. of the 1951 Geneva Convention.”19
In October 2000, UNHCR published a detailed analysis of the situation
of the Roma seeking asylum.20 Though the document declares that, despite
their obviously handicapped situation, the Roma arriving from east-central
Europe should not automatically (prima facie) be granted refugee status; the
individual assessments of the pleas often show that discrimination has
reached such an extent as to be qualified as persecution or that the sum total
of the different forms of negative discrimination in the various fields of life
amounts to what may be classified as such.21
As can be seen, inter-governmental organisations are critical of the situation
of the Roma population in east-central Europe, Hungary included.
Despite the differences in wording and emphasis, the directions of such criticism
are always similar: Roma citizens suffer severe discrimination in many
areas of everyday life, in education, on the labour market, in health care and
housing, as well as from the part of the police and the judiciary. However
laudable, government efforts to date have not proved to be sufficient for the
resolution of the problem. The migration of the Roma – even though it is
a phenomenon directly related to their social situation – has not received
much emphasis in the assessments of the situation. However, it is clear that
during recent times, international organisations have paid much closer
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
19 UNHCR, 2000(a). p.3.
20 UNHCR, 2000(b).
21 Such interpretation of the justified fear of persecution is made possible by the Manual on the
application of the Geneva Convention according to paragraphs 53–54. Cf: Manual, 1998.
attention to the problem of Roma migration than previously, as the documents
examined here show: most of the studies, research reports and political
statements cited were issued in 2000. Even though some European states
and Canada are seeking to decrease Roma migration, which is viewed unfavourably
by their governments and public opinion, by altering their immigration
and refugee systems and implementing short-term projects, the significance of
the phenomenon lies more in that it calls attention to the situation of the Roma
population in EU candidate countries. The import of social problems and ethnic
conflicts may only be avoided by the comprehensive and lasting improvement
of the situation of the Roma, something that requires serious effort from both the
European Union and the governments of candidate countries.
2.2. Hungarian government institutions
The government and its institutions seem to have no single, uniform strategy
for the treatment of Roma migration. As can be seen from the press excerpts
in the Appendix, the different governments have mostly tended to keep silent
about the subject. Between 1997 and 2000 government efforts were primarily
directed at avoiding or at least delaying the introduction of a mandatory
visa system by Canada. In the light of the situation, achieving this was a considerable
success in itself, though it is unclear to just what extent it was due
to Hungarian diplomacy and what role economic lobby interests had played.
Apart from EU member states, in Europe only citizens of Hungary, Slovenia,
Norway and Switzerland are not required to have a visa to travel to Canada.
[Since the time of writing the Canadian government has introduced a visa requirement
for Hungarian citizens – Ed.] Simultaneously, the government has
implemented several measures during the past few years which indirectly influence
the assessment of Hungarian Roma seeking asylum. To mention
only the most significant such measures: a government order provided for
the implementation of the medium-range Roma action plan22, an Inter-Departmental
Committee for Gypsy Affairs has been set up to oversee the project23
and the institution of the Ministerial Commissioner for Educational
Rights was established. However symbolic they may be, government measures
aimed at the improvement of the situation of the Roma can still suggest
that the asylum pleas of the Hungarian Roma have no basis. The group of specialists
collaborating with the Canadian Immigration Bureau, which had has
22 Government order no. 1047/1999. (V.5.) On the medium-term action package for the improvement
of the living conditions and social situation of the Gypsy population.
23 Government order no. 1048/1999. (V.5.) On the Inter-Departmental Committee for Gypsy
been invited by Canada via the Hungarian government, has also strengthened
the impression that the Roma in Hungary are not the victims of persecution
in the sense defined by the Geneva Convention.24 Despite all shortcomings,
the Roma policy of Hungary is still looked upon as the best among the
candidate states, which would theoretically imply that the rate of recognition
of refugees from Hungary by EU states should be lower than in the case of its
neighbouring countries.25 In such circumstances, the Zámoly Roma’s plea
for asylum understandably came as a shock to government institutions, particularly
since the French authorities granted refugee status to several of the
Zámoly immigrants. Since, according to the official position of the government,
Roma do not suffer persecution in Hungary today, and nobody is
forced to leave the country because of his or her Roma origin, the officials
concerned are forced to try to explain away all facts that are contrary to this
position. Before the Zámoly Roma affair, it had been relatively easy to leave
the country, as public opinion showed little interest toward the Roma, and
(apart from debates around the issue of ethnic certificates) Roma civil rights
groups usually refrained from taking sides in the matter. The emigration of
the Zámoly Roma, however, radically changed the situation. The depiction
of their emigration as an act of political protest and the immense media coverage
of the case forced the government to act: it had to simultaneously provide
an explanation to satisfy public opinion, to take measures to pacify the
Roma communities intending to follow the example of the Zámoly Roma,
and it also had to take a stand in the professional-political discourse which
evolved in the wake of the matter and soon encompassed the situation of the
Roma in general. Due to the influence of the French lobby groups supportive
of the case of the Zámoly emigrants, the European Parliament, the Council
of Europe and European public opinion in general also turned towards the
case and thereby towards the situation of the Roma in Hungary. Thus, the
government had to take a stand at international forums as well.
Reviewing the press coverage of the period following June 2000, as well
as on the basis of interviews conducted with representatives of government
offices, the following strategy seems to take shape.26 In the case of Zámoly
Roma and any other groups that leave the country for good, the official message
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
24 Cf.: IRB, 1999.
25 The high proportion of the recognition of refugees in Canada as compared to Europe is, according
to experts, more a result of the difference in the application of the right of asylum
than because Hungarian pleas are more justified than those of Roma from other east-central
European countries. Cf.: ICMPD. 2001. p. 28.
26 On the press: Bognár–Sik, 2000.; Bognár–Kováts–Sik, 2000.; and Mozgó Világ 12/2000.
Interview with János Báthori, head of the National and Ethnic Minorities Bureau and Béla
Szombati, head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ European Integration Secretariat.
is one of total marginalisation and moral condemnation. In their statements to
the press, ministers, secretaries of state and senior officials depict the Roma seeking
asylum either as economic migrants consciously acting in bad faith, often as
criminals wishing to escape from justice, or as the misled and helpless victims of
forces that intend to discredit and harm the country. In the case of the Roma who
are contemplating emigration, the task is to convince them to stay at all costs.
The National Gypsy Self-Government (NGS), as a member of the Inter-Departmental
Committee for Gypsy Affairs and therefore as the only body the government
accepts as legitimate in the discourse with the Roma, takes an active part in
achieving this task. The position of the NGS on the question of Roma migration
is somewhat confusing. On the one hand they regard the fact of emigration as
clear proof of the impossible situation of the Roma population in Hungary and
declare that emigration is an understandable though unacceptable act,
emphasising that the problems of the Hungarian Gypsies have to be solved in
Hungary.On the other hand, however, the attitude of theNGStowards the actual
emigrants themselves is rather negative, and accuses the Zámoly Roma of being
simple criminals as well as declaring that emigrants to Canada are either economic
migrants or non-Roma con-artists.27 In co-operation with the minority local
self-governments, the NGS is actively involved in maintaining the discourse
with Roma communities who contemplate emigration, as well as in
finding rapid temporary solutions to their problems wherever possible. Representatives
of the NGS hoped to address the press conference related to the case
of the Zámoly Roma organised by French opposition parties to provide a view
on the situation of the Hungarian Roma population that is different from the position
of the officially invited Roma Parliament.28 However, they were not allowed
to speak at the conference.
As is apparent from the above, the government’s communication toward
the international political scene and public opinion is contradictory.
On the one hand, they attach importance to depicting the situation of the
Roma as part of the country image,29 on the other hand, however, the position
is critical towards governments that recognise Hungarian emigrants as
refugees, assuming that the relevant authorities have acted out of ignorance
or even in bad faith. In the long run this strategy could lead to a deterioration
of international relations which could very probably have a more detrimental
effect on the country’s EU membership than Roma migration itself.
27 Source: Interview with Béla Osztojkán, vice president of the NGS and the studio conversation
between Béla Osztojkán (NGS) and Antal Heizler (National and Ethnic Minorities Bureau)
in the programme “Háttér” broadcast by Radio Kossuth on 9 March 2001.
28 Their travel was financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs..
29 The Ministry of Foreign Affairs finances research projects and foreign language publications
intended to acquaint foreign public opinion with the situation of the Hungarian Roma.
2.3. International and Hungarian civil rights organisations, Roma NGOs
NGOs often make their voices heard concerning migration of east-central
European Roma. Their presence exemplifies the institutionalisation of the
process of migration. In the target countries they form a system that supports
the Roma seeking political asylum, while in the source countries they try to
create political capital from the fact of migration, usually lobbying for the improvement
of their situation, but occasionally giving active help to the organisation
of emigration. According to the position of these NGOs, the emigration
of the Roma is clearly a consequence of the discrimination and persecution
they suffer in their home countries. At the same time, international
organisations not only criticise the source countries, but often condemn the
policies of the target countries as well. Besides immigration and refugee authorities,
the local government authorities and the population of the towns accepting
refugees are often hostile to the Roma arriving from east-central Europe.
30 In a statement made in October 2000, the Budapest-based European
Roma Rights Centre31 strongly criticised the discriminative practices
directed against Roma from east-central Europe and the Balkans who apply
for refugee status. The document finds special reason for concern in the fact
that several European states do not guarantee the fair assessment of such applications.
These include the states that have introduced a mandatory visa
system against source countries because of the masses of immigrants,
thereby withdrawing the possibility of international protection even from
those emigrants whose fear of persecution is justified. NGOs have reported
from several countries that refugee authorities hand out pre-printed “template”
rejection verdicts to Roma applying for refugee status, which practice
is contrary to the spirit of the Geneva Convention. It is also problematic that
refugee applications are rejected in several countries with reference to the alternative
of internal refuge. Several states – as we have already mentioned in
the case of Canada – try to stop the immigration of Roma seeking refuge by
employing sanctions against airline and transport companies. Others –
among them Belgium, Finland and Canada – have changed their refugee
practices because of Roma immigrants. In Belgium the level of social care
that immigrants seeking refuge are entitled to has been drastically lowered.
Finland shortened procedures, while in Canada a new practice was set up: by
establishing so-called lead cases, the proportion of positive verdicts
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
30 For further details, see: Matras, 2000.
31 ERRC, 2000.
In Canada it is especially this last practice that has been heavily criticised,
and in summer 2000, as a result of an appeal, the court ordered that the
IRB conduct a new proceeding related to two so-called lead cases. Once
these verdicts was annulled and the proportion of positive decisions again
increased dramatically. Canadian civil rights organisations also severely
criticised the expert opinions lead cases were based on, as they believe that
such opinions originated from Hungarian government representatives rather
than from independent experts.32
In Hungary the two Roma NGOs that most often speak out in connection
with the situation of the Roma are the Roma Civil Rights Foundation
and the Hungarian Roma Parliament. The Roma Civil Rights Foundation
has refrained from formulating a strategy concerning Roma emigration.
Though it by no means welcomes the phenomena, it is willing to fully
acknowledge the position of those who decide to emigrate. The Foundation
looks upon emigration as a consequence of the discrimination against Roma,
and holds that those who seek asylum are seeking refuge from the atrocities
and persecution they have suffered. The Foundation does not issue certificates
of ethnic origin, but does provide those intending to emigrate with
legal aid and documents attesting to the injuries they have suffered. According
to the Foundation, it is unlikely that Roma migration will have an effect
on the country’s EU membership, nor that once Hungary becomes a member
of the Union, Roma migration towards theWest will increase significantly.33
The Hungarian Roma Parliament plays a much more active role in the
migration of the Roma. József Krasznai, the spokesman for the Zámoly Roma,
is the vice-president of this organisation. According to the organisation’s position:
“…the Roma who have fled to Strasbourg are struggling for the human
and civil rights, and equal dignity of those, too, who stayed at home.” 34 The
organisation looks upon the Zámoly Roma who left the country as heroes,
whose action started a new chapter in Hungary’s Roma politics. Despite its
supportive attitude,35 the Roma Parliament regards emigration as no more
than an instrument serving to improve the situation of the Roma, and believes
that the main tasks are the creation of an effective system for the representation
of minorities and the achievement of labour market integration.
32 For further details on the Canadian situation, see: Lee, 2000.
33 Source: Interview with Aladár Horváth, president of the Foundation.
34 Krasznai, 2000.
35 Since the beginning of emigration, the Roma Parliament has been issuing certificates of ethnic
origin on demand.
2.4. Hungarian public opinion on the situation of the Roma and Roma
Roma migration has moved to the centre of public attention, especially since
the Zámoly Roma left for France. The affair has had extremely broad press
coverage and the various opinions about the case have become part of the
domestic political discourse. Senior public officials, government representatives,
party politicians, Roma and non-Roma civil rights activists, as well as
researchers and intellectuals, have all commented on the phenomenon.
In December 2000, a TÁRKI Omnibusz public opinion poll included
a number of questions related to the matter. The poll intended to examine the
adult36 population’s opinion about the major positions apparent within the
socio-political discourse on Roma migration.37
The first such often heard position is that “Western countries should
admit the Roma who seek refuge there”. Almost half the population fully or
partially rejects this proposition. Somewhat over one quarter are in partial
agreement and partial disagreement with it, while the remaining one quarter
agrees substantially or fully.
During analysis of the results we have examined the distribution of different
opinions according to social groups.38 People who are citizens of
small townships, whose level of education and income is below average tend
to agree more with the opinion that the West should accept the Roma who
seek asylum. Agreement with the proposition is below average among those
who dwell in county centres, have completed high school and whose income
is above average.
An often heard proposition in the debate concerning Roma migration
is that “a good solution for the problems of Hungarian Gypsies would be if
they were accepted as refugees byWestern states”. Popular opinion on this is
more uniform than in the case of the previous statement: somewhat less than
one quarter both agree and disagree, while the proportion of those in agreement
and those disagreeing is almost equal among the rest.
The proportion of those who believe that emigration would be a solution
to the problem of the Hungarian Roma is above average among rural citizens,
people with lower income, old people, people who profess to belong to
the working class and those who believe their financial situation is poor or
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
36 The sample is representative of the Hungarian population over the age of 18 according to
age, gender, settlement type and education.
37 Members of the sample had to assess each proposition on a scale of five: full agreement, partial
agreement, both agree and disagree, more disagree than not and entirely disagree.
38 Within the various dimensions we examined the changes in the ratio of those who fully or
partially agree with this proposition.
very poor.39 The proportion of those who agree with this is lower than average
among citizens of the capital, people in their thirties, people who claim
to belong to the lower middle classes and people who are satisfied with their
Over half the population fully agrees with the proposition that “the majority
of the Roma applying for refugee status abroad have not been persecuted
in Hungary”, while a further one quarter is more in agreement than disagreement
with it. Less than one tenth of the people asked had an entirely different
The proportion of those who believe that the majority of Roma have
suffered no persecution in Hungary is above average among old people, people
with lower education and those who profess extreme opinions about the
actions of the government.40
If we take a look at the Roma migration of the past few years, a possible
conclusion is that “the situation of the Gypsy population in Hungary is so
bad that they are forced to seek refuge inWestern states”. The majority of the
population disagrees with this opinion: over half of those asked rejected it entirely
and a further one quarter is more against than in agreement with it.
Less than one tenth of the people asked agreed with this proposition. The proportions
of those who do not agree with the above proposition differ most
according to age groups: the conviction that the situation of the Hungarian
Gypsies does not justify their seeking asylum in the West is below average
among young people (below thirty).41
The Zámoly Roma who left for France in July 2000 have often been
accused of “having gone to Strasbourg and sought refugee status with the
conscious intention of defaming the country”. Over two-thirds of the population
accepts this opinion and agrees with the proposition. About half the rest
say they partially agree, while the remaining half fully or partially disagrees.
Acceptance of this proposition is above average among rural citizens, older
people and those who profess extreme opinions about the actions of the government.
42 Acceptance of the proposition is below average among citizens of
the capital, people with college education and people below the age of thirty.
39 Similarly to the previous proposition, we examined in the various dimensions the changes in
the ratio of those who fully or partially agree.
40 In this case we examined the proportions of those in full agreement with the proposition in
the various categories.
41 Now we examined whether the proportion of those who wholly reject this proposition
changes across the individual categories.
42 In this case we have once again examined the proportion of those who fully agree with the
proposition over the various categories.
Table 1. Opinion of the Hungarian population concerning five propositions
related to Roma migration
more than not
Western countries should
accept the Roma seeking
11.5 13.6 6.4 22.9 25.6
If Western countries were
to admit the Hungarian
Roma as refugees, that
would be a good solution
to their problem.
6.7 20.3 23.9 19.6 19.5
The majority of the
Gypsies seeking refuge in
the West were not persecuted
56.9 24.5 9.8 5.7 3.1 100
The situation of the Gypsy
population in Hungary is
so bad that they have to
seek refuge in Western
2.1 4.8 10.5 25.3 57.3 100
The Zámoly Roma went to
Strasbourg and sought
asylum because they consciously
intended to defame
41.2 22.7 18.6 10.6 6.8
One of the most frequent topics in the debate about refugee migration
is whether those seeking asylum are forced to leave their homelands because
of persecution or atrocities suffered there, or whether they are economic migrants,
striving to achieve resident status in economically more developed
countries in the hope of a better livelihood. The question why they seek asylum
in theWest is raised in connection with the Hungarian Roma, too. Only
3% of the Hungarian population believe that those who seek asylum in the
West have left the country due to persecution and negative discrimination.
The vast majority (85%) of people asked believes that the Roma take off to
theWest and seek asylum there in the hope of better living conditions. Seven
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
per cent believe both factors motivate refugees, while 5% believe the cause
of emigration is something entirely different.
As is apparent, the refugee migration of Hungarian Roma is a politically extremely
sensitive affair. Any information offered immediately becomes a political
statement; there is no agreement among the actors of politics even in
relation to the actual numbers, the successes or failures, nor as to whether the
act of emigration is justified or not, or regarding the actual fate of those intending
On the basis of the rather fragmented empirical studies that have been
conducted, it seems appropriate to draw a few conclusions that may help refine
the interpretation of the phenomena.
As regards migration of its Roma population, Hungary is neither better
nor worse off than its east-central European neighbours. The number of
Roma people leaving or intending to leave the country is increasing, despite
the efforts of government bodies. As a consequence of the operative characteristics
of migration networks, deceleration of the process in the near future
The motivation of the Roma leaving the country is extremely complex.
Simplified interpretations offered within the framework of political discourse
are clearly inadequate, and the social programmes that are based on
such will probably remain ineffective.
A significant, though slow change may only be brought about by the
drastic change in the immigration and refugee policies of the target countries.
Even in such a case, however, we have to take into account the fact that
after a period of temporary disruption, the system of migration will soon
recover and adapt to altered conditions, either by finding other target countries
or changing the manner of immigration.
The assessment of the European Union about the situation of the Hungarian
Roma is of key importance to Hungary’s membership. Even though
the Commission has not yet raised the question of Roma migration officially,
the Union is monitoring events, and too great a risk of migration might have
a detrimental effect, especially as regards the reactions of the member states.
The government’s efforts in relation to Roma migration do not appear
to be effective in the long run. Neither the extent of migration, nor the proportion
of those who are granted political asylum have decreased, while the
political discourse about the matter has led to both diplomatic and domestic
Public opinion about Roma emigration demonstrates the Hungarian population’s
prejudicial and negative attitude toward Gypsies. The majority of society
is not supportive towards the Roma; most believe that emigration is not
justified, while at the same time they would be glad to be rid of their Roma fellow
citizens. To find a long-term solution to the problem, these seem to be the
areas where serious and lasting change is most urgently needed.
1998 Regular Report from the Commission on Hungary’s Progress Towards Accession.
1999 Regular Report from the Commission on Hungary’s Progress Towards Accession.
2000 Regular Report from the Commission on Hungary’s Progress Towards Accession.
Katalin Bognár– Dorka Sik: Roma Migration in the Hungarian Press, September,
1997 – January 2000. (IOM Research Report, manuscript, 2000)
Katalin Bognár – András Kováts– Dorka Sik: Roma Migration in the Hungarian
Press, February–September, 2000. (IOM Research Report, manuscript, 2000)
Braham, Mark – Braham, Matthew: Romani Migrations and EU Enlargement. In:
Cambridge Review of International Affairs, vol. XIII/2, spring/summer 2000.
Commission Opinion on Hungary’s Application for Membership of the European Union
(Agenda 2000), 1997. http://www.mfa.gov.hu/dok/ www/ agenda.htm
ECRI – European Committee against Racism and Intolerance: Second Report on Hungary.
ECRI (2000) 5, Strasbourg, March 21, 2000.
ERRC: Protecting Romani Refugees around Europe: A Position Paper by the European
Roma Rights Centre. October 19, 2000.
European Commission Directorate-General Enlargement: The Situation of the Roma
Minority in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia:
An Overview. PL D (2001), Brussels, 28 February 2001.
István Hell – Aladár Horváth: Commentary on the Government Report. In:
Polgárjogi Füzetek, I. évfolyam 1. szám. 2000. pp. 54–61.
ICMPD (International Centre for Migration Policy Development): Current Roma migration
from the EU Candidate States. Vienna, February 2001.
IRB – Immigration and Refugee Board: Roma in Hungary: Views of Several Specialists.
Research Directorate, IRB, Ottawa, Canada, February 1999.
Manual on the Criteria for the Determination and Assessment of Refugee Status according
to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol (Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, 1979. – In translation: Menekültügyi és
Migrációs Hivatal – Menedék – Migránsokat Segítõ Egyesület, Budapest,
József Krasznai: Heroes or Traitors? In: Amaro Drom, January, 2000. p.4.
Local and International views on the Migration of the Hungarian Roma
Lee, Ronald: Post-Communism Romani Migration to Canada. In Cambridge Review
of International Affairs, vol. XIII/2, spring/summer 2000. pp. 51–70.
Matras, Yaron: Romani Migrations in the Post-Communist Era: Their Historical and
Political Significance. In.: Cambridge Review of International Affairs, vol.
XIII/2, spring/summer 2000. pp. 32–50.
Meeting Report of the Specialist Group on Roma/Gypsies (MG-S-ROM) Tenth meeting.
MG-S-ROM (2000) 20, Strasbourg, 8 January 2001.
Mozgó Világ, 2000/12. (press collection): “Spreading unjust and untrue news about
one’s homeland is not a part of patriotism. ”
OSCE – Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, High Commissioner
on National Minorities: Report on the situation of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE
Area. The Hague, 10 March 2000.
UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation: Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
E/CN.4/2000/16/Add.1. 7 February 2000.
UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Statement to the 57th
Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Thematic
Discussion on Roma. 15 August 2000(a).
UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Roma Asylum Seekers,
Refugees and Internally Displaced. Geneva, October 2000(b).
The Gypsies – the Roma
and Scientific Research
Some thoughts about the role of Gypsy intelligentsia
in the wake of the “Who is a Gypsy?” debate
In all countries where they are present, Gypsies, as a minority without
a mother nation, possess a lifestyle, cultural, social and economic characteristics
that are different from those of the majority population. The Gypsy
population’s position, political and economic weight, labour opportunities
and state of health and culture are not only far worse than those of the given
country’s majority population, but are also much below those characteristic
of the countries’ so-called national minorities. Thus, the fact that the some
7–8 million European Gypsies have no written history is also due to their peripheral
situation and exclusion from the various social systems. The documents
about them have, for the most part, preserved the opinions and value
judgements of majority societies about the Roma.
During the last 20–25 years, however, all over Europe a Roma intelligentsia
which accepts its Gypsy identity has evolved. They demand a place
for themselves and their ethnic group in political public life as well as in the
field of science. Today we are witnessing the awakening of the Roma to the
fact that they have no written history and that they now have to face the task
of creating it.
In recent decades – quantitatively – a lot has been published about us,
the Roma, in the form of articles, studies and researches. In my opinion, however,
most articles and studies about the Gypsies do not inform, but rather
provide misinformation. My opinion is similar about the so-called experts
dealing with the Gypsies: many of them write studies about the Roma without
ever having visited Gypsy dwellings or met live Gypsies, or done any
field work at all. As a consequence, they generalise from particular cases.
The danger inherent in such studies is that they are based on secondary experience,
hearsay, and inadvertently conserve or generate prejudices. This problem
is further aggravated by the fact that the media provides these experts
I believe that these contradictions and the studies and research about
the Gypsies that reflect them can only be understood by examining the relationships
of politics and scientific policy.
Thus, if we review the Gypsy policies of the past centuries, we have to
say that even though social systems have changed, Gypsy policy has remained
intact inasmuch that the Roma were only accepted at the periphery of
society – literally, in a village outskirts status – and this only if society at
large or the local leaders didn’t happen to be looking for scapegoats.
The mentality of the Gypsy policy of “existing socialism” was based
on deriving the backward situation of the Gypsies from the historical past
and claiming that centuries old problems cannot be solved overnight.
Of course, no Roma organization or politician expected this to be so – all
they wanted was to be granted the civil rights all citizens are entitled to.
Unfortunately, this mentality is still prevalent today. The central question
of the debates about the Gypsy issue is whether to treat this problem of
society as an ethnic or a social matter. Many derive this question from the politics
of equal rights and equal differences. The politics of equal rights professes
that there are no first and second-class citizens and that all people are
equally entitled to human and civil rights. However, to exercise these rights
people need appropriate – mainly intellectual – resources. On the other hand,
the objective of the politics of equal differences is to accept the unique identity
of groups or individuals. Socialism did not accept this principle and even
believed it to jeopardize the social integration of the Gypsies.
What is the situation today, a decade after political transformation?
My proposition is that it has not changed much. True, the Gypsies, just as all
national minorities, were granted cultural autonomy, but, due primarily to financial
difficulties inherent in the Minority Act, this autonomy does not really
seem to be functioning. The Minority Act does not classify the Roma as
a national minority. It declares that national minorities are those groups of
the population, which possess their own language and culture and – co-existing
with the Hungarians – have a mother nation. As opposed to these, ethnic
minorities (in Hungary, the only such being the Gypsies) are those groups
that are distinguished from the majority population by their culture or language,
but have no mother nation.
The following brief excerpt from the 1996 Roma Day in Parliament is
rather telling of how an MP belonging to the country’s political leadership
views the situation of the minorities in Hungary: “In Hungary in the field of
culture it is basically Hungarian culture that must be granted priority.We cannot
say Hungary is a multi-ethnic country. There are many nationalities living
in Hungary, but this priority, I believe, is beyond doubt.”
In view of this, the relationship between political power and social sciences
is hardly surprising. In theory, the task of politics would be to find remedies
for the “illnesses of society” as diagnosed by science. In actual fact,
however, social science has always been at the mercy of political power,
since the latter – as the primary provider and disburser of funds – is, in most
cases, only willing to allocate financial resources to such research projects
which bring proof for the hypotheses suggested by the powers that be. What
politics believes science’s task is in respect of the Roma is clear therefore: to
examine whether the Gypsies have a cultural system of their own and, if so,
is it worth preserving, or, in general, can this cultural system be made to fit
the framework of expectations and prescriptions of majority society, and, furthermore,
whether politics should, for utilitarian reasons, grant the Gypsies
autonomy. Reviewing the expert studies on the Roma written during the last
few decades we can see that this outlook, based on the expectations of politics,
is prevalent among the majority of them.
As mentioned previously, a thin stratum of Gypsy intelligentsia has
evolved, nevertheless the vast majority of works on our ethnic group have
been written by non-Gypsy experts. This I could understand – after all there
are few sociologists, jurists and economists of Gypsy origin – if these
non-Gypsy experts were at least able to reach agreement as regards the resolution
of certain aspects of the Gypsy question. Yet, there is no agreement as
to the social status of the Gypsy population, no unanimous position concerning
the assimilation or integration that is expected from the Roma population,
nor is there consensus as regards the setting of priorities in the resolution
of the problem between education, employment, health-care and housing.
The debate – sometimes overtly, covertly at other times – is going on between
non-Gypsy experts and politicians; it is they who make up the various
Setting aside the extremist view that primarily blames the Roma minority
itself for being unable to “fit into” society, we can discern three opposing
“experts groups” in the scientific debate on the Roma in Hungary today.
These are the social group, the multi-cultural group and the third group that
simply looks upon Gypsies as a group of society and not as an ethnic group at
all. Members of this third group even call to doubt the sense of the term
“Gypsy”, formulating the theory of “relative Gypsies” (an underclass).
It is partly a result of this situation that a basic dilemma of Gypsy studies
is to decide who can be classified under this term. There are some
researchers whose opinion is that the term “Gypsy”, which in Hungary has
rather pejorative connotations, has been applied by majority society to
denote this group of people from the start. Thus, in order to avoid pejorative
The Gypsies – The Roma and Scientific Research
content, they accept the terminology of Rom and Roma. Others call this ethnic
group a “socially impaired stratum”.
As regards the opinion of the ethnic group itself: those who have linguistically
assimilated with majority society mostly call themselves and
other members of the ethnic group “Gypsies”. Those not linguistically assimilated
yet only accept the ethnonym Roma, and reserve this for themselves
solely, since the group that has linguistically assimilated became Rom-
Ungro (Hungarian Gypsy), because they lost their mother tongue.
The significance of this basic question of research is well borne out by
the fact that it has led to very serious disputes between outstanding sociologists.
We can find a brief summary of this among the chapters of a recently published
volume of studies.1 The two basic standpoints can easily be discerned
from the debate that has gone on during the second half of the nineties.
The various methodological principles were formulated in the wake of
János Ladányi and Iván Szelényi posing the question “Who is a Gypsy?”.
According to the opinion of Ladányi and Szelényi there can be no scientific
answer to this question, nor to that regarding the number of Gypsies and their
ratio to the entire population: “the definition “Gypsy” can only be relative, as
it depends on which side of the arena of stratification we are looking at it.”
This also entails that Szelényi and his team also call into doubt István
Kemény’s results and estimates about the size and proportion of the Gypsy
population in Hungary which have been officially accepted. In keeping with
the basic principles of the 1893 census of the Gypsies, in their 1971 and 1991
surveys Kemény and his co-workers regarded as Gypsies those who were so
regarded by their surroundings or whose form of life differed from that of the
majority. Basically they had no alternative, since during the 40 years of the
party-state the Gypsies did not exist as an ethnic group and one could only
speak about a socially impaired group leading a Gypsy lifestyle.
The major issue in the debate among the researchers, therefore, is
whether the non-Gypsy environment is unanimous in deciding who is
a Gypsy. According to Szelényi this can only be a matter of subjective judgement
since “in the research conducted by Kemény, actually what being classified
by the environment meant was that the local authorities and the experts
of local social and educational institutions classified the families in the selected
regions as Gypsies or non-Gypsies. This selection is bound to regards
as Gypsies those families that present a problem to such institutions, while
other families that present no problems will be under-represented.” From the
1 Cigánynak születni – To be Born a Gypsy (Ed. by: Ágota Horváth, Edit Landau, Júlia Szalai)
Aktív Társadalom Alapítvány–Új Mandátum Könyvkiadó. Budapest, 2000.
above proposition of Szelényi we may infer that wealthy Gypsy families are
not qualified as Gypsies despite their racial characteristics because – to
quote Szelényi – they have integrated “normally” into society.
I do not know how one should integrate normally – and the study also
fails to provide any clues. It is a fact, however, that a prejudiced society that
merely tolerates but does not accept differences is able to identify members
of another ethnic group with great precision. Szelényi and his team believe
that self-identification provides a more objective criterion than that of classification
by the environment. The authors propose that the answer to the question
“Who is a Gypsy?” should go along the same lines as the answer to the
question “Who is Hungarian?”.
As regards ethnic self-definition and classification by the environment,
the standpoint of Péter Szuhay is identical to that of Szelényi: “For
a long time, the most frequent method of ethnic definition in Hungary has
been the identification of various groups by the majority or its power groups
and institutions, based on their own judgement. That is, identification consists
of all that is said by the non-Gypsy majority about the Gypsies, while
self-definition consists of what the Gypsies say about themselves.”
Though I do agree with Szelényi and his team in that the right of deciding
whether they belong to any given ethnic group always goes to those concerned,
I cannot support their proposition according to which the answer to the
question “Who is Hungarian?” should be similar to the response when the
question asked is “Who is Gypsy?”. This proposition fails to comply with realities
from several aspects. On the one hand – as I have indicated above – because
of the pejorative content of the “Gypsy” terminology, the truth of the answers
given to this question is doubtful. It is in this respect that Ágnes Daróczi,
a Roma politician remarked that the sense of the term Gypsy should change
first for it to be acceptable as a self-definition. On the other hand, the question
whether someone professes to belong to an ethnic or national minority is
always related to the economic and social situation and the attitude towards
aliens prevalent in the given environment or country. One should also bear in
mind that Gypsy people are mortally afraid of being recorded as such: memories
of the Holocaust, experiences of everyday atrocities and isolation creates
an urge in these people to “camouflage” themselves.
Another factor that adds to the difficulty of answering the question
“Who is Gypsy?” is the internal heterogeneity of the Gypsy population.
There are many who doubt that linguistically assimilated Gypsies should be
categorized as Gypsies at all. Yet, though 70% of Hungarian Gypsies have
been linguistically assimilated, their Gypsy consciousness is at least as
strong as that of the Vlach Gypsies who speak Romany.
The Gypsies – The Roma and Scientific Research
The sociologist Péter Radó has also formulated an opinion in his work
A Pamphlet on the Gypsies, in which he complains about the lack of open discourse
about the issue.2 The author believe free speech is limited by solidarity
and the overemotional approach to the issue and attributes the conceptual
chaos prevalent in Gypsy matters to this double limitation. This conceptual
chaos delays and obstructs the resolution of the issue. Radó’s main line of inquiry
is to explore the operating principles of the various approaches to the
Gypsy issue. He distinguishes four main types of these: the social, the human
rights, the multi-cultural and the ethnic approach: “ …the real question is
whether a new approach, encompassing the virtues, but eliminating the limitations
of these could be formulated”.
My problem with Radó’s “real” question is that I have no idea who will
decide in today’s Hungary who the Gypsies are, what their culture is like, are
they a handicapped social group or an ethnic minority or even whether the solution
of the Roma issue is assimilation or integration. While during the past
few years we have witnessed a certain degree of “merging” between the
meanings of assimilation and integration, in my interpretation integration
does not mean the submission of one’s identity, but rather the integration of
a minority into society, while maintaining and developing their customs, traditions,
language and culture. For me, integration is a kind of emancipation
rather than assimilation.
It is my conviction that among those dealing with the issue the “approaches”
mentioned by Péter Radó will not always be compatible and therefore
the integrative mode of thinking he argues for is an illusion at present.
Why? Because there will always be such “experts” of the Gypsy issue who esteem
their own work more than Radó’s approaches or, for that matter, the scientific
work conducted by István Kemény. There will always be scientists, politicians
and “Gypsy specialists” who will have the means and the opportunity to
make decisions about the Gypsy issue without asking the Roma themselves.
Of the four types distinguished by Radó, the human rights and the
multi-cultural approach became prominent following the transformation of
the political system. The ethnic approach had already been mentioned as
early as in 1957 when the Cultural Federation of the Hungarian Gypsies was
launched, but the attempt was stifled at birth and, in my opinion, the same
thing is happening today. The opponents of the recognition of the Gypsies as
an ethnic group are all those politicians and experts who believe that the
Gypsy issue is no more than a social problem. According to this view once
the Gypsies cease to be poor, the category “Gypsy” itself will automatically
2 Beszélõ: February, 1998.
cease to exist as well. Certainly, the improvement of the social situation of
the Gypsy population is one of the major issues within the Gypsy question,
but this standpoint represents a one-sided approach and ignores Roma culture
and language. In her study “The Politics of Recognition and the Gypsy
Question” Júlia Szalai also points out the fact that “after the change of political
system the transformation of an ethnic problem into one of socio-politics
hit back as a boomerang”.
Having reviewed the main views we are still not clear about the correct
approach when a historian adds a further twist to the Gordian knot of the
Gypsy issue woven by sociologists and ethnographers. In his study entitled
“Aspects of the Historical Study of the Hungarian Roma” Pál Nagy highlights
the problems and deficiencies of “naive science” and historical study.
In his study the author criticises the representatives of “naive science” –
mainly, “historians” of Gypsy origin – who, due to their lack of degrees, cannot
have credible knowledge about the Gypsies that a historian could accept.
However, Nagy states that “the creation of history” and its related false ideas
is an activity that comes equally naturally to a part of non-Gypsy researchers
as well. Sharply critical of his historian colleagues – Sándor Dömötör,
László Szabó, Miklós Tomka, Barna Mezey, István Tauber – he sides with
the Gypsy policies of the enlightened absolutism of the 18th. Century, which
forbade the use of the Gypsy language, took away Gypsy children from their
parents and had them adopted by non-Gypsies or placed in institutions, did
not allow the intermarriage of Gypsies, made Hungarian clothes compulsory,
etc. According to Pál Nagy, all these measures were taken by enlightened
monarchs in the spirit of Machiavelli, believing their task – in keeping
with the principle of force used to a good end – was to better the fate of their
subjects, even if changing their lives was against their wishes. These
endeavours were motivated no only by a desire to increase taxation, but by
philanthropy as well. Once again – at least as regards the resolution of the
Gypsy problem in Hungary – history appears to be repeating itself since, according
to an eviction act proposed by a governmentMPand accepted by Parliament,
families who are squatters or who are unable to pay for rent or utilities
can and should be evicted without a court ruling, and their children have
to be taken in by state institutions. In Hungary this affects the poorest social
stratum, i.e. the Gypsies.
Pál Nagy’s study has called my attention to yet another expectation that
had been known to me previously: “The authors dealing with the Gypsies
agree in that for some two decades an ideological process has been underway,
the aim of which is to have the Gypsy intelligentsia create a unified identity for
Hungarian Gypsies. On the other hand opinions widely diverge as to whether
The Gypsies – The Roma and Scientific Research
this process may be looked upon as one of national evolution, whether we may
speak about a single Gypsy ‘nation’, ethnicity and culture…”
On the basis of this excerpt I have to ask the following questions:
Have – or are – the Roma intelligentsia been made aware of the social
expectation as regards the creation of a single identity (and, if so, by whom)?
Just who represented the Roma intelligentsia during the last two decades?
The answer: those non-Roma experts who have “created” the unifying Roma
ideology and deliberately ignored the fact which they too were aware of,
namely that the Hungarian Gypsy population consists of three distinct
If there is to be a Roma intelligentsia which accepts its Gypsy identity,
will it be able to meet the expectation of creating a single sense of identity for
the Hungarian Vlach, Romungro and Boyash Gypsies?
I believe these are the major questions we should never lose sight of
when discussing Gypsies, the Roma, the Gypsy question and the related scientific
The Roma, Poverty and Culture
Péter Szuhay: The Culture of the Roma in Hungary:
an Ethnic Culture or the Culture of Poverty
Panoráma, Budapest, 1999, 205 pages.
We may regard this book of Péter Szuhay as one that fills a gap: it is
a work of science, based on a profound knowledge of its subject matter
and the relevant authorities, and yet it targets an audience that is much
broader than the small group of social scientists studying the Roma people.
In the preface to the book the author says that it is at once a textbook for the
layperson, a bibliography of the authorities, a reader, a picture book and
a “guide” whose “aim is to provide clues to unravelling and understanding”
a reality that is “extremely complex”.
The book’s structure reflects both the manifold nature of its aims and
the complexity of the reality. The “picture book” character is ensured by
a rich collection of images depicting the everyday life of the Roma and the
image of the Gypsy as it lives in the consciousness of the majority. The range
of these is indeed broad from the depiction of “savages” characteristic of the
late 19th century through the forced optimism of the snapshots of the fifties
and the images of socio-photography, focusing on misery and the revelation
of true facts, to the documentary photos of the nineties. The individual pictures
are not presented in chronological order but are meant to illustrate the
propositions of the text, quite independently from their original purpose and
date. And it is not only the last 40 pages of the book, entitled “Reader”, containing
excerpts of fiction and non-fiction from Roma and non-Roma
authors, which make the book a reader, but also the countless quotations
from the authorities in the previous chapters which attempt to present a wide
range of texts dealing with the Roma. In addition, the book is also a textbook
or educational work in the sense that its many real-life examples, its rich collection
of images, its easy-to-read style avoiding unnecessary technical language,
and its provocative recollections (and refutations) of widespread prejudices are
together probably able to arouse and maintain the interest of a lay audience.
The title of the work shows the complexity of the questions and realities
involved. The purpose of such a long and clumsy title is to identify the
position of the work within the framework of the scientific discourse about
the applicability of the concept of “the culture of poverty”, which goes back
to the sixties and seventies. The central question of this discourse is whether
this concept is relevant or not with respect to the culture of the Roma population
in Hungary. It is not by chance therefore, that this question crops up in
the very first chapter of the book, “Clearing up Concepts”. The two central
concepts of the work, “poor” and “Roma” cannot be defined without first examining
whether the Roma are to be understood as an ethnic group or a social
stratum. This chapter adds historical perspective to the question and reviews
the various approaches from the past centuries to today. Here, however,
we find ourselves already facing another important source of the complexity
of the situation, namely that the term “Roma” is a collective term
used by the social majority that denotes various very different groups which
do not necessarily regard themselves as forming a single community.
The second chapter enlarges on the historical overview and discusses
in some detail the last 120 years of the Roma population in Hungary, primarily
searching for the factors determining the present situation. The author reviews
the historical causes of the geographical spread of Roma groups and
attempts to sketch the mobility-differentiating trends of the present as well.
The following chapter discusses economic activities and the strategies of securing
a livelihood by first enumerating the possible avenues of activity (e.g.
collection of foodstuff, seasonal or wage labour, provision of services, production,
social care) then goes on to show in the form of case studies how
these were combined in ten actual communities (e.g. Tiszavasvár, Ároktõ,
Nagycserkesz and Sarkad).
The section entitled “The Ethnography of the Roma” reviews the classic
ethnographical categories of the systems of family relations, dwelling,
food, dress, values and holidays, adding that when dealing with a linguistically
and culturally heterogeneous Roma population we always have to take
into account the economic dimension. It is impossible to make valid generalisations
which encompass the different revenue categories. In comparison to
the previous chapter, this chapter is more strongly in favour of the validity of
the concept of “a culture of poverty”, especially in the sub-sections dealing
with dwelling and food. Even though the term “deprivation” does not appear
anywhere, it is still the most adequate summary of the descriptions of these
two sub-chapters. A similar approach is obvious in the chapter on health
care, which states that, among other matters, the Roma are reluctant to consult
physicians because when they are sick they succumb to “the self-destructive,
fateful philosophy” of “why should one be healed when one’s life is
miserable and full of deprivation anyway”.
The chapter “Case Studies – Curious Histories” offers a much more relativistic
approach. Using titles reminiscent of the tabloid press, the author
here depicts cases where the actions of the Roma people involved seem irrational
or even shocking from the majority viewpoint. If, however, readers recall
the previous chapters, they will find that these acts were, in fact, logical,
and what’s more, often represented the only humane alternative. For example,
this chapter tells us “Why József H. cut off his thumb”, “Why Mihály R.
stole the cadaver of his wife” or “Why Matild R. had her grandchildren photographed
Szuhay devotes a separate brief chapter to the photos made of the
Roma, reviewing the ideologies such pictures served throughout the various
periods. He calls attention to the ethical dimensions of taking and publishing
photos: after decades of pictures taken from various external standpoints distorted
by preconceptions, the time has come for society to see and show the
Roma for what they themselves are willing to appear to be – to show, that
they too “can be industrious and worthy, happy folk”.
The “Reader” contains a total of fifteen excerpts from, among others,
the works of Gyula Illyés, Géza Féja, Menyhért Lakatos, Béla Osztojkán,
Ágnes Diósi, Károly Bari and Michael Stewart. The bibliography at the end
of the book covers both the works cited and those recommended for further
reading, and includes over 100 writings by more than 70 authors.
Irrespective of what the field may be, whoever wishes to write about
the culture of the Roma is bound to come up against the complicated problem
of concepts and definitions. Furthermore, the issue of Roma culture is
one that not only regularly leads to heated disputes within academic circles
but also gives rise to frightfully strong emotions in society as a whole. Anyone
who intends to publish a summary work which reflects contradictory
opinions (i.e. ethnic culture versus the culture of poverty) plus a multitude of
intermediate ones is indeed attempting a tightrope act, especially if a significant
part of his target audience is made up of average people burdened with
everyday stereotypes and prejudices. The situation is further complicated by
the previously mentioned cultural and economic heterogeneity of the Roma
and the political consequences of such diversity. The reader must fully realise
the existence of such diversity without looking on it as negative, while
the author must abstain from taking sides with any of the many groups.
Hence this book represents a very difficult undertaking, one that quite
possibly could not have avoided certain errors. The attempt itself is worthy
of praise. In the entire work we may note the author’s effort to maintain a relativistic-
holistic viewpoint, evident for example in the listing of internal
ethnonyms, the scepticism about the revelatory power of public opinion
The Roma, Poverty and Culture
polls or the way the Csatka fair is described without any value judgements,
just as in the explanations attached to the “curious histories” at the end of the
book. At other points, however, the author and those cited by him are unable
to transcend their own, middle-class viewpoints. Thus, for example, in the
ethnographical chapter the author regrets the fact that many Roma communities
do not have the possibility of offering separate rooms or even daily warm
meals to children, even though the absolute importance of such factors is not
beyond doubt. He quotes without comment Péter Ambrus’s characteristically
middle-class nightmare of a world of objects that has gone berserk and
turned against us, where objects do not possess cultural connotations any
more and thereby deprive us from the basic human act of assigning a meaning
to things. Here, unfortunately, even the age-old term “sensory deprivation”
crops up, despite the fact that in the chapter on child rearing the author
tries to disprove this widespread misapprehension, even though he does not
bring up the term again.
If we recall the conceptual conflicts and difficulties of definition described
above, we may perceive the contradictions of the books as themselves
evidence of the fact that the debate is far from closed and scientific discourse
is still extremely malleable in these matters. This, by the way, is one
of the aims set by the author: the book is not trying to give answers and does
not contain “irrefutable truths”, but merely intends to highlight the complexity
of the question and provide a background for the interpretation of individual
experiences. The author has, I believe, fully achieved this objective, and
this extremely diverse book will be of great use to readers.
A Book about the Roma 1
István Kemény: The Hungarian Roma
Útmutató Kiadó, Budapest, 2000. 128 pages (Változó világ)
By conducting the first comprehensive research into the situation of Hungary’s
Roma population in 1970–72, and publishing the work that has
been definitive in both quality and approach, István Kemény has created
a school of thought – a school he has been developing ever since. His goal, as
witnessed by the book he has edited and the research he has organised, has always
been to develop a workshop of research. Members of the workshop conducting
the first Roma research included Gábor Havas, Mária Neményi and
Zsolt Csalog, who later became definitive figures of Roma studies. The now
ongoing research led by Kemény involves a new generation, and once again
it is he who is tending to raise a new generation of social scientists who will
carry on with the scientific quality and humanitarian spirit he embodies.
What makes him able to do this is that even though his stand is the same as it
was at the time of the first study, he is open to different interpretations, as the
new volume he has edited, The Hungarian Roma, clearly shows.
Kemény approached the Roma question through the study of poverty,
yet now he has undertaken to edit a book that includes works by
ethnographers, cultural anthropologists and civil rights activists. Without
any attempt at definition, the depiction of the manifold nature of the Roma
question in itself provides a new interpretation of what is meant by the terms
“Gypsy” or “Roma”. The renewal of his thinking is also witnessed by the
fact that – at least in the title – he now uses the term “Roma”. The reason for
this is certainly more than just political correctness. It is obvious that the ongoing
very intensive discourse about the Gypsy people – closely related to
the changes in social and political circumstances – gives new meaning to the
ethnic term “Gypsy” and thereby alters the conceptual framework and approach
used by researchers.
The Hungarian Roma is the 31st volume of a series entitled “Változó
Világ” (Changing World). The subject matter of this series is rather broad
ranging, from studies of the ethnic groups in Hungary to the history of sport,
1 The original of this article appeared in the Autumn 2000 issue of BUKSZ
technology, political science and economic history. Indeed, it is not the subject
matter but the manner of conveying knowledge that connects the various
volumes. The goal is to publish brief, non-specialist works which nevertheless
represent scientific quality. With due respect though, when I took this
slender, 128-page book in my hands, I found it rather difficult to imagine
how this tiny volume could provide comprehensive yet profound information
about everything that is listed in the table of contents. Why should a scientist
with significant background spend his time with publishing a work of
general knowledge, when this surely takes at least as much effort as would
the creation of a larger and more valuable serious work of science? The primary
significance of this work is that it conveys the latest results of Roma
research to the larger public, especially to teachers and the members of minority
local self-governments. Its user-friendly size and even friendlier price
certainly serve this purpose. Brevity, of course, could easily have turned into
a major drawback, since it often forces the authors to be overly general or
overly specific. This work certainly does not go into all questions related to
the subject, but it does discuss the most important areas and in doing so manages
to maintain scientific precision and – for the most part – successfully
avoids taking sides in political and professional debates. Even specialists of
the subject cannot complain for, surprisingly, the information presented in
the book goes well beyond the basics. I have to add that the volume’s size is
deceptive, since the small and very close print greatly increases the actual
length of the work.
Asimilar, but broader and more detailed work would be very welcome,
but such has not been written to date, even though the necessary scientific
background is not lacking.
Limitations of space understandably force the author to accept a number
of compromises. In part, Kemény sacrifices his usual humanely sensitive
(but by no means sentimental) approach on the altar of strict scientific objectivity,
making the tone of the book somewhat dry, as befits a manual. The scientific
style gives way only to brief passages, case studies or descriptions of
events that are more personal in tone. The exciting scientific disputes about
the interpretation of the concept of Roma, such as the famous clash between
Ladány–Szelényi and Kemény–Havas–Kertesi published in Kritika, have
been omitted, as well as the polemics about coeducation or educational segregation.
The increasingly heated disputes about Roma politics have also been
left out. This editing principle is quite understandable, since several or longer
case studies or the correct descriptions of the various sides of a dispute
would take up considerable space, not to mention the fact that the authors
had to be careful anyway to restrain themselves from openly taking sides,
especially in matters of politics. By and large they were successful in this,
which does not, of course, mean that getting to know these disputes would be
any less important for understanding the case of the Roma. Less understandable
is why – upon the express request of the publisher – there is no detailed
bibliography at the end of the chapters dealing with the various themes. Only
a list of recommended reading – less than one page – is provided at the end of
the book, and this does not even cover basic literature and the addresses of
relevant Internet pages are missing as well. The articles themselves, though,
contain references to the authorities.
Despite its size, the book fulfils the function of a summary work, that
is, it manages to broaden and at the same time narrow down our view of the
subject. It provides us with a general picture of the Roma, but also allows us
to catch a glimpse of individual characteristics. It is able to demonstrate the
fact that the term Roma denotes several distinct groups with different languages,
cultures and identities. (And, in doing so, it successfully refutes the
view, accepted even by many who are not Vlach Gypsies, that “true” Roma
culture is exclusively represented by those Vlach Gypsies who speak the
Romany language and that others with different languages and cultures can
only live up to their Gypsy identity positively if they learn the “authentic”
folklore of Vlach Gypsies.)
The articles are divided into six chapters: I. Historical Overview,
II. Linguistic Groups and Usage, III. Culture and the Press, IV. Value System
and Habits, V. Education, Labour and Law, and VI. The Research of the
Roma. In addition, a seventh chapter entitled Outstanding Personalities contains
a useful list of the past and present Roma cultural elite. This little “miscellany”
(written by Ernõ Kállai and Péter Szuhay) is partly meant to provide
information that has hitherto been lacking and partly intended to change the
stereotype of poor and uncultured Gypsies by listing 100 authentic Roma personalities
who achieved significant results in their various fields. It would
have been nice to know just how the authors decided to classify someone as
a politician, a writer a musician or an artist. The guiding principle seems to
have been that if someone did something else beside politics which was significant,
was an artist for example, then the authors preferred to place him in
this latter category. This is understandable, since in central Europe nobody is
surprised if a work of art is at the same time a statement of national or ethnic
identity and politics, or that many express their politics via art.
The lists of relevant institutions at the end of the individual articles is
very useful. (Such lists include Roma media, foundations supporting Roma
programmes, educational institutions, national and regional organisations
and legal aid bureaus.)
A Book about the Roma
The individual chapters are not restricted to the discussion of any given
period or even a segment of Roma culture, lifestyle or socio-political situation.
We cannot even say they are organised along the lines of social science.
The first chapter approaches the Roma question from a socio-historical point
of view. The second contains linguistic, socio-linguistic and anthropological
analyses. The third is mostly concerned with presenting the artistic expression
of identity in a broad sense. The chapter on Value System and Habits is
a functionalistic description of the structure of Roma culture. The exact relationship
between the articles collected under the title Education, Labour and
Law is less clear, since these cover such varied topics as schooling, traditional
Gypsy trades and crafts, the problem of Roma employment as well as
non-government organisations and the shortcomings of anti-discrimination
legal protection. However, we can understand these topics as covering the
four major elements of the social integration of the Roma, namely education,
participation in the division of labour, political and social emancipation, i.e.
the struggle for political and cultural rights, and action against discrimination.
The sixth chapter describes the most significant research about the
Roma. (The inclusion of Péter Szuhay’s article about the self-definition of
Roma ethnic groups in this chapter seems to be a bit of a red herring.)
The question of schooling, especially the various experiments conducted
in this field receives little attention in the book. The problem of discrimination
would also have deserved greater emphasis, especially since the
Roma question is, for the most part, treated as a problem of discrimination
by European and international organisations. May I add here, that in my opinion
the system of legal aid institutions has been one of the very few successful
achievements related to the Roma since the time of political transformation.
The most authentic report about this could of course have come from
the author of the article Law and Legal Aid, Imre Furmann, the leader of the
first and most important legal aid organisation (NEKI), however he preferred
to concentrate on analysing the legal framework. Thus he does not really
speak about the relation between the situation of the Roma and discrimination,
and the other articles also discuss this question only tangentially. Yet,
it would have been crucial to emphasise this problem because it is evident –
and indirectly stated by the book, too – that the present social situation of the
Roma cannot be explained exclusively by reference to discrimination, as
many Hungarian and international organisations appear to believe. Furthermore,
discrimination itself is closely related to the social conflicts arising
from the situation of the Roma within society. That is, the usefulness of
programmes striving to do away with prejudices without changing the social
situation is rather questionable.
The groups of topics of the book are defined by the approaches of the researchers
rather than the subject matter itself. The form is not that of a debate:
the various interpretations of Roma existence stand side by side, complementing
each other – something that greatly contributes to the sense of
wholeness conveyed by the book despite its small size. The Roma may be
the outcasts of society, or the term can be meant as a linguistic category or
one used to denote a people with a peculiar fate, outlook on life and culture
(the way amateur or professional artists proud of their Roma origin define
themselves) or it can mean a group of cultural occupation living in symbiosis
with Hungarian culture as part of the cultural elite (the way Hungarian
Gypsy musicians interpret their identity). Last, but certainly not least, researchers
themselves can make significant contributions to both the self-image
of the Roma and the image nurtured about them by others. It is obvious,
for example, that the basic idea behind Michael Stewart’s book, The
Brothers of Song, the model of the contrary yet symbiotic cultures of the
Roma and the gadje, also serves as a point of reference for members of the
Roma cultural elite when arguing in favour of the goals of the struggle to create
Roma national culture and institutions. Or we could recall the role of the
collectors of Gypsy folk songs and dances in establishing what we and the
Roma themselves today regard as authentic Gypsy folklore.
When trying to understand the fate of the Roma it is essential that we
get to know the image non-Roma have formed about them, the criteria for
their regarding someone as a Gypsy and the appropriate strategy used to treat
the Gypsy problem. The depiction of the definition criteria used during the
more than one hundred years of Gypsy studies shows how the interpretation
of the Gypsy problem has changed over the ages, often as a result of political
It was certainly not a matter of chance that by the nineties the number
of studies aimed at exploring Roma culture had increased significantly,
clearly showing that the problem of the Gypsies that had previously been primarily
treated as a social problem has now become a problem of minority
rights. Péter Szuhay’s article on the self-definition of the Roma reflects on
this minority policy approach to culture. In exploring Roma culture and identity,
Szuhay’s approach is quite novel and provocative, opposing both the
views of ethnographical Gypsy studies and those of the protagonists of
a so-called authentic, national Gypsy culture. In Hungary, Szuhay is the only
researcher to provide a cultural anthropological analysis of the process of the
creation of national identity. According to his proposition the Roma do not
constitute a single culture or single identity, but are the sum of various
groups that are often antagonistic to each other. That is, Roma culture as the
A Book about the Roma
culture of a nation is simply the result of the efforts of a group of politicians
and intellectuals. Of course, this is in diametrical opposition to the formulation
of the Act on Minorities, which defines a minority as a native group of
people whose members “… are distinguished from the rest of the population
by their own language, culture and traditions, and who demonstrate a sense
of belonging which is directed at the preservation of these and the expression
and protection of the interests of the historically evolved community”. In the
case of both Stewart and Szuhay it is evident that even though they strive to
remain politically intact, the results of their studies can nevertheless further
or hinder political interests.
Kemény has called upon authors from various fields and different approaches
to write the articles in the volume. It is interesting in itself that he
has not restricted himself to the field of science but had the courage to collaborate
with activists of the Roma cause. The authors include Tibor Derdák
and János Orsós who are among the senior workers of the Mánfa campus for
Roma high-school children, as well as Gábor Bernáth from the Roma Press
Centre and Imre Furmann from NEKI.
I do not know whether this is just a consequence of Kemény’s natural
openness or whether he has intentionally broken the laws of scientific protocol.
What is certain is that he does not believe in the rigid distinction between
everyday and scientific thought, but keeps searching for authentic, or rather
honest and open voices that are able to maintain the criterion of objectivity.
The best example of such is Kemény himself who was always able to both explore
and support the Roma at the same time. Naturally, his socio-political attitude
determines his approach to the subject. However, stressing the notion
of “deprivation”, the lack of means necessary to achieve social elevation is
something that has once again become timely. Today there are too many who
forget or overlook the fact that the problem of the Roma is, to a large extent,
a problem of poverty and is essentially related to the structural transformation
of Hungarian society.
Unusually, at least in the case of summary works, the volume offers the
opportunity of publication to young researchers, which makes it even more
colourful. The sociologist Gábor Fleck applies the classic cultural anthropological
approach, rarely used in Hungary even though its merits are clear to
all today. Together with Tünde Virág, he did field work in a small Baranya
County village, Gilvánfa, publishing the results in the form of a diploma thesis.
In addition to Gábor Fleck and Tibor Derdák, who is still working for the
cause with great energy and extreme dedication, another article published in
the linguistic chapter was written by the young János Orsós, who is of Roma
origin himself. The road they have chosen to take is the one created by Zita
Réger. They explain bilingualism not with the low level of development of
the Gypsy language – in fact they hasten to point out that the Boyash language
is much more refined than Hungarian in many respects – but with the
fact that linguistic usage is always determined by the given social media and
the content of communication. What makes their article extremely lively is
the insertion of pieces of Gypsy dialogue and the fact that they depict language
in a cultural and social context. There is no mention of the research of
Timor Derdák and Aranka Varga here, who compared the school performance
of Roma children with different mother tongues and reached a conclusion
identical to that of B. Bernstein, namely that linguistic knowledge necessary
for school performance is actually familiarity with the culture
demanded by the school. That is, the socio-cultural backwardness with
which schools are unable or unwilling to cope is an objective impediment to
the progress of Roma children. At the same time Kemény assigns much
greater importance to the difficulties arising from the low level or lack of
knowledge of Hungarian, though he does admit that, because of what has
been said previously, Roma children whose mother tongue is Hungarian are
also at handicap. The debate is not one that can be settled easily, no wonder
the book does not go into this set of problems in detail.
The editor has yet again entrusted a young researcher, Ernõ Kállai, with
writing one of the most important studies of the book, an overview of the political
and social situation of the Roma from 1945 to the present day, encompassing
the results of the first nationwide survey of Roma led by Kemény himself.
The studies of Kállai, as a fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Minority
Research Institute, have, among others, included Roma entrepreneurs.
Another author of Roma origin is Imre Vajda who contributed the article on
Roma organisations. Even though the museum is only one of many Roma institutions
whose fate is uncertain, as there is still no Roma theatre, cultural centre
or radio [Radio C has since started broadcasting – Ed.], its case exemplifies the
rather similar Roma (cultural) policies pursued by the different governments.
It is almost inconceivable why the museum could not be established. Three
successful exhibitions have demonstrated that the necessary collection is available
and that public interest is significant. Its is also improbable that the problem
is a financial one, since the museum would be a relatively low-budget institution.
Of course, transcending the dimension of politics we can always raise
the question about the purpose of the museum: is it to be a place for the preservation
and exhibition of what is defined as authentic Gypsy culture or is it to
serve as a stage for the discourse on the interpretation of the Roma? (Péter
Szuhay has taken this latter direction as was clearly shown by the latest Roma
exhibition he organised.)
A Book about the Roma
Perhaps by chance, perhaps not, the three Roma authors of the book
represent the three major linguistic groups of Hungarian Gypsies. Orsós is
Boyash, Vajda is Vlach and Kállai is Romungro (Hungarian Gypsy). Their
presence carries an obvious message – a message to those who tend to look
down on the intellectual capacity of the Roma elite, but equally to those who
call in doubt the authenticity or good intentions of non-Roma researchers.
A very trivial fact becomes obvious: the origin of the authors is wholly irrelevant
to their authenticity or scientific quality.
Speaking of young contributors we have to mention Gábor Bernáth,
the leader of the successful Roma Press Centre. Even though the Roma press
is often criticized by Bernáth himself, it is indisputable that the Roma media
that was created out of nothing, as it were, since the time of political transformation,
and the fact that this media allows the representatives of all ideological
and cultural trends to have their say is, in fact, a success story, even if the
group of consumers of this Roma media is rather narrow. A greater problem
is that there are no professional journalists “who, with their presence, could
exert a significant influence [...] on the image of the Roma in the majority media”.
It is also strange that the journals of the organisations that are more radical
in the representation of the Roma cause, such as Phralipe or Amaro
Drom, deal much less with the social problem of Gypsies than does Lungo
Drom, the periodical of the organisation Lungo Drom, which is co-operating
with the government.We may ask whether the reason for this is that they do
not wish to dilute the Roma cause – as a case of minority rights – with the
problems of severely backward Hungarian citizens (who happen to be
Roma) or whether they do not assign definitive significance to the social
The writings of István Kemény and Péter Szuhay form the backbone of
the book. They contribute more than one third of the articles published.
While Kemény’s writings define the sociological chapters, Szuhay’s studies
are essential to the ethnographical chapters concentrating on culture. It appears
that this is the result of a conscious division of labour between the authors.
Besides István Kemény, Péter Szuhay has been the other most important
personality in the field of Roma studies, partly due to his scientific activities,
since beside his publications he has also been the initiator of great
ethnographic Gypsy exhibitions, the latest of which began to extend the concepts
of ethnographic exhibition and folk culture themselves.
The Hungarian Roma will, hopefully, soon be published in English.
As an important scientific and political question, the Roma problem has become
a European affair during recent decades, one that is closely related to
the fears of EU countries with respect to migration. This book could be an
important milestone in the process of determining whether such fears are justified
and, if so, what is there to be afraid of, what the problems are and how
to solve them. It is already apparent that joining the European Union lends
a new political context to the Roma case and that it may well become one of
the conditions of Hungary’s membership. It is important, of course, that both
the European Union and the Hungarian government have a stake in finding
a solution, but this will only be of use to the Roma if the solution of the
Gypsy problem takes into account what their problems are rather than just
what the problem with them is. Since interested parties participate in the debate
on the interpretation of the Roma question in line with their political
clout, scientists’ duties definitely include making heard the voice of masses
of uneducated and isolated people.
A Book about the Roma
How the Roma Make a Living
Roma and the Invisible Economy
(Edited by István Kemény)
OSIRIS – MTA Minority Research Workshop, Budapest, 2000. 198 pages.
Despite increased research about the Roma, there still remain several
blind spots, since the majority of studies to date have addressed only
the questions of poverty, social backwardness and segregation on the one
hand, and that of culture and, more recently, Roma politics on the other. The
obvious reason for this is that research into the Roma has been motivated by
the exploration of social problems and the search for exotic cultural phenomena.
This is closely related to the stereotypical manner of thought which has
always attributed various extremities to the Roma ethnic group. Thus, the image
of the Roma as a people with faraway origins, who are not European and
possess an alien culture, live in great poverty or squander money irresponsibly,
have no scruples, are extremely emotional, have many children, are uneducated
and unable to hold a job suggests that extremity is an ethnic characteristic
of the Roma. This is why we often (many times with the best of intentions)
present the Roma as an unemployed and severely backward group of
the population which relies on social benefits, forgetting to speak about the
social stratification of this group or the strategies they have developed to survive
the situation of unemployment.
One of the significant aspects of this book is that it shows that the vast
majority of Roma, including those who are unemployed, do not just idly wait
for social aid, but try to do everything in their power to get jobs and independently
secure their livelihood. Another important message of the book is that
it does not highlight segregation but, on the contrary, focuses on the social
integration of the Roma, depicting the everyday interdependency of the social
minority and majority. It is worth noting that there is nothing special
about the survival strategy of the Roma; the course they take is actually very
similar to that taken by members of the social majority. Their lives are not
driven by isolation and inactivity, but rather by the struggle to adapt to fast
changing and often confusing social opportunities.
From the four case studies in the book three present an insight into the
lives of Roma entrepreneurs in Budapest, while the fourth examines the various
integration strategies adopted by the Roma population of a settlement in
Baranya County. These case studies are accompanied by two theoretical
works. István Kemény’s preface summarises the historical evolution of the
position of Roma within society as a whole and on the labour market, while
Csaba Prónai’s study provides an introduction to the debate on peripatetic
The historical summary of the economic integration of the Roma set
forth in Kemény’s preface has the depth of a full-blown study. In dealing
with unemployment, he highlights the effects of the so-called hard social factors:
geographical and educational handicaps. The significance of discrimination
and ethnic segregation can only be gauged if we also take into account
the effects of other factors, and, as the study points out, Roma unemployment
is indeed closely related to these. At the same time, Kemény
emphasises that Roma unemployment cannot be accounted for solely by the
variables affecting poverty; the theoretical proof of discrimination is therefore
given. To this I would like to add that since poverty and ethnic discrimination
mutually reinforce each other, it is very hard to gauge the exact extent
of this interrelation. Discrimination segregates and conserves poverty – poor
people are more likely to experience discrimination and cannot rid themselves
of the stamps of poverty or racial prejudice. This also contributes to
the explanation of why the social integration of the Roma is so slow a process,
even though it has been on the state’s agenda for almost 250 years.
Kemény’s preface also shows that the process of modernisation in Hungary
had a contradictory effect on the integration and labour market position
of the Roma population. While they have been continuously losing the market
for their traditional services, they entered (or were forced) into agricultural
and industrial jobs which lastingly confined them to the poverty-
stricken and segregated strata of society, thereby conserving their ethnic
segregation as well. Only a very narrow stratum of Roma managed to find
new functions within the framework of Hungarian modernisation. Such, for
example, were the elite of Gypsy musicians, who secured themselves a position
of social respect as early as the 19th century and had an important role in
the architecture of national culture – a position, however, which they gradually
lost amidst the social changes of the following century.
Roma entrepreneurs, or, more precisely, those whose enterprises went
beyond the limits of simple self-employment and family employment, were
always a very narrow group within the Roma population. The previously
large artisan group was also, for the most part, made up of simple craftsmen
without guild who undertook cheap repairs and tool manufacturing work in
the villages. By today this group has virtually become extinct in Hungary.
How the Roma Make a Living
On the other hand, the group of merchant Gypsies, who operate primarily in
the trade of antiques and used cars, as well as in the low-end housing market,
has survived. Their world is examined by the works of Ernõ Kállai, László
Endre Hajnal and Elza Lakatos, which we shall examine in more detail later.
Prónai’s theoretical study (A Cultural Anthropological Approach to
the Economic Activities of Roma Communities) is loosely related to the three
closely interwoven case studies and provides an overview of the debate on
peripatetic lifestyle. The subject is very appropriate, since the case studies do
not investigate the question of the ethnic characteristic of the revenue-making
strategies described. Do the various jobs performed by Roma have a common,
general cultural characteristic? Prónai’s study, however, does not show
to what extent the concept of peripatetic community is applicable to the present
Hungarian situation. According to the formulators of the concept, constant
migration and change of trade always allow certain communities to
find and fill a gap in the services market, while maintaining their isolation,
organising work on a community basis and integrating into the majority society
only to a very limited extent, both individually and on the group level.
However, given that since the 19th century the majority of Hungarian Roma
have given up their migrant lifestyle, they do not easily fit the category of
a peripatetic group in the strict sense. The question remains, of course, just
how strict a definition we should use. Prónai’s study seems to imply that the
issue under debate is just how applicable the new category – whose formulation
has been motivated by studies of the Roma – is to describe the various
lifestyles of the different Roma groups. It might have been valuable for
Prónai to have related the arguments of the debate to the Hungarian situation,
especially as depicted in the book’s other studies.
The work of Gábor Fleck, János Orsós and Tünde Virág (Life in Bodza
Street) depicting the relationship between the Roma and non-Roma inhabitants
of a Baranya County village is also somewhat set apart from the rest of
the book. The reason for this is not only that the living conditions, social situation,
life strategies and opportunities of the Roma people described here are
very different from those of Roma entrepreneurs, even “forced entrepreneurs”
in Budapest, but the basic question set by the study is also quite different:
how a more individualistic lifestyle comes to replace the traditional lifestyle
based on close communal bonds. On the one hand, the study argues for
the widespread notion that the fundamental change of earlier, communal relationships
is an inevitable consequence of social integration. This process,
however, is not a linear one, and it often happens that individuals with
a lesser degree of social assimilation achieve faster social careers. Minority
representation and utilisation of the various forms of special support for
minorities offer the alternative of a faster mobilisation opportunity compared
to the longer-term strategy of integration. Such new political instruments
were in many cases first exploited by those who have hitherto had basically
no access to the route of integration.
The three co-authors follow the road set by Michael Stewart (Brothers
of Song) in their research methodology and also in that they emphasize the interdependency
of the Roma and non-Roma communities. The researchers
have performed extensive field work and, uniquely, even included one of
their interviewees, János Orsós, among the authors. Thus, not only did the researchers
participate in the life of the community, but one of the members of
that community – the leader of the local Roma minority local authority, the
spokesperson of the community – also became an active participant in the research
work. By virtue of this definitely interesting experiment, the “object”
of the research is allowed to reflect on the way he is perceived by the outsider
The other three case studies of the book form a close unit and depict the
world of Roma entrepreneurs, a world little has been known about until now.
There has been no previous research dedicated to the question of Roma entrepreneurs,
so it is all the more welcome that now we have not one, but three
Ernõ Kállai presents a very informative picture of the situation of
Rome entrepreneurs in Budapest and the wide scope of their enterprises,
ranging from being a so-called forced entrepreneur to the position of an affluent
building contractor. The nature of his study (Roma Entrepreneurs in
1998) is basically descriptive. Kállai’s declared aim is to go beyond mere
generalities and provide a differentiated picture of this not so well-known
group. He does indeed succeed in depicting the entrepreneurs in a lively manner,
enriching his study with many interview excerpts and, avoiding generalities,
restricting himself to the description of phenomena he has observed.
Kállai describes three major groups of Roma entrepreneurs: those who
started a venture requiring minimal capital to escape unemployment; those
who utilised the intellectual, financial and personal capital accumulated under
the socialist system to start a venture at the time of the political transformation;
and those who came from traditional entrepreneurial (trading) families.
Roma identity is obviously a basic determining factor in the enterprises
of traditional Roma families. This, however, is dealt with in more detail by
the other two studies. Kállai, on the other hand, explores the political attitudes
of the entrepreneurs and their relationship to Roma politics,
emphasising that the majority of the entrepreneurial stratum prefers to keep
itself aloof of politics. In this respect it would have been interesting to learn
How the Roma Make a Living
more about the relationship of the entrepreneurs and the Roma intelligentsia.
If Roma entrepreneurs were to significantly participate in cultural financing,
this would open up new avenues for the support of Roma culture.
Similarly to the work of Fleck, Orsós and Virág, László Endre Hajnal’s
study (Big City Roma) also uses the conceptual framework of cultural anthropology
to describe Roma entrepreneurs in Budapest. As opposed to Kállai’s
work, Hajnal’s study is markedly analytical. The extensive use of the authorities
of the field in providing explanations for the phenomena observed is definitely
a virtue; however, the text is open to criticism in that it gives no indication
of the empirical basis its many general comments rest on. Thus, Hajnal’s
endeavour to achieve conclusions that transcend the boundaries of mere description
is somewhat problematic. Furthermore, while he is striving to explore
the deeper strata of the meaning of Roma entrepreneurial attitudes, he
neglects to define the extent to which such attitudes may be called Roma in
character. It appears as if he automatically attributes ethnic content to these.
A precise definition of this ethnic content would be all the more useful, since
he depicts a rather negative picture about the operation of Roma enterprises.
Despite his intentions, Hajnal might easily reinforce readers’ false prejudices
about Roma enterprises being built on defrauding and cheating
non-Roma, and that such enterprises are founded on false pretences and bluffing
– that Roma entrepreneurs are forded to hide or at least compensate their
origins to be able to trick gadje customers.
Quite contrary to this is the more differentiated tone of Elza Lakatos’s
study (They’d Go to the End of theWorld for a Deal), which presents us with
an alternative picture. Lakatos examines a rather narrow group of Roma entrepreneurs,
the Roma antique dealers most of whom are Vlach Gypsies. She
describes a world that operates according to a set of extremely rigid rules,
where Roma traders make moderate profit with great expertise and a lot of
very hard work. Trickery plays no greater part here than in any other enterprise,
especially in those areas where the value of goods can only be set individually
and with great uncertainty. Irrespective of the ethnic origins of their
representatives, such risky businesses were always built upon the art of bargaining,
and bargaining naturally involves role playing and bluffing. This,
therefore, is not an ethnic characteristic. At the same time Lakatos emphasizes
that it very rarely happens that traders make off with a large profit on
any single deal, and for the most part their revenue is based on small margins
and a reliable business.
All in all we can agree with the proposition argued for in both studies
according to which familiar ties play a great role in the operation of businesses.
In business communications it is fundamental that the party provid-
ing information be able to trust the receiving party that he too will be allotted
a share in the profit made on the basis of the information provided. Strong
family ties and unwritten laws thus speed up the flow of information, and
this is especially significant in such areas where deals are often concluded informally.
It would appear that such characteristically Roma enterprises as
the trade of real estate, second hand goods and antiques are built on the utilisation
of such forms of relationship capital. Relatives in the countryside, for
example, are a great asset in antique trading; moreover, the benefits are mutual.
The poor relative in the country is able to make a significant amount of
money by providing information and may, if necessary, rely on a fast and simple
loan from the rich relative. Having fast access to credit is essential even
for rich entrepreneurs, for – as is often the case in this line of business – they
may have to quickly mobilise a large sum of money to close a large and unexpected
deal. In the fermenting economic and legal circumstances of the
1990s, therefore, a well-oiled system of family relations was a huge asset to
Hajnal is probably right in that a certain part of Roma enterprises targeted
the gaps presented by the malfunctions of the evolving capitalist economy,
the state institutions and the general lack of capital. We can also agree
that, as these gaps narrow, the number of opportunities for such enterprises
will decrease. However, there will always be some gaps, and in my opinion
the question is much rather how long the community system forming the
basis of these Roma enterprises will survive. The Vlach Gypsy community
of Budapest will probably change long before the black, grey or, as the book
calls it, invisible economy disappears in Hungary.
Finally it is important to note that the authors of the book – with the exception
of the author of the preface, István Kemény – all belong to the new
generation of young Roma researchers, which is yet another pioneering characteristic
of the work in addition to the novelty of its subject matter. Each
work may serve as the starting point of serious scientific debate, each has
managed to maintain an apolitical tone and broaden our knowledge of the
Roma. I was especially glad to read the study by Elza Lakatos. As far as
I know this is her first scholarly publication and one that has managed to be
simultaneously objective, interesting and intimate at the same time.
How the Roma Make a Living
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and Culture of the Gypsies)
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History of Gypsy Research in Hungary)
NOTES ON AUTHORS
GÁBOR BERNÁT (1968) is a media researcher, director of the Roma Press
GÁBOR HAVAS (1944) Ph.D. in Sociology, senior member of the Institute
for Minority Studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He has
been involved in the research of the Roma for decades. Also
participant of the 1972 national representative research. Latest
publications: A kistelepülések és a romák (In: A cigányság Magyarországon);
A cigány gyerekek iskolai szegregációja.
ERNÕ KÁLLAI (1969) is a researcher of the Institution for Minority
Studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. His field of
research: the Roma in the informal economy, history of the Roma
in Hungary, past and present of Roma musicians, Roma minority
self-governments, romapolitical programs after the political
transformation. Latest publications: A cigányság története 1945-tõl
napjainkig; Cigányság és cigányságkutatás; Roma vállalkozók 1998-
ban; The Situation of the Roma in Hungary on the Threshold of the
Third Millenium published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
JÚLIA KÁROLYI (1976) graduated from Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE),
Budapest in 2000 in English Languge and Literature and 2001 in
Russian Language and Literature. She is studying Cultural
Anthropology at ELTE, where her main focus is on Roma/Gypsy
culture. She has been involved in numerous anthropological and
sociological research projects and has been publishing reviews in the
field of Romology and Social Anthropology. Currently she is doing
fieldwork in an urban Gypsy community in the North East of
Hungary, studying socialisation, gender roles and adolescence. She
teaches English in a secondary school and works as a translater and
interpreter for an NGO. Publications: Cigány anyák és iskola;
Kultúra és közösség.
ISTVÁN KEMÉNY (1925) Ph.D. in Sociology. His main fields of research:
social stratification in Hungary (1963–1966); the poor population in
Hungary (1969–1972); the Hungarian Gypsy population (1970–1972);
the Hungarian Roma population (1993–1994); informal economy
among the Roma (1997–); integration and segregation of Roma
children in the Hungarian public education (1999–). Author of
significant books on the social stratification, the poor, the leaders
of the economy, the workers and the Roma. From January 1978 to
September 1990 researcher of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en
Sciences Social in Paris. Editor of Bibó István összegyûjtött mûvei and
co-editor of Magyar Füzetek together with Péter Kende. He has
published several studies in French, Anglo-Saxon and German
periodicals and publications.
ANDRÁS KOVÁTS (1971) is a research fellow of the Centre for International
Migration and Refugee Studies – Institute for Minority
Research at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
He also works as a program co-ordinator at Menedék–Hungarian
Association for Migrants. He is the editor and co-author of the book
Roma Migráció published in 2002.
VERA MESSING (1969) is a sociologist, media researcher.
PÉTER SZUHAY (1954) is an ethnographer, a sociologist, a head of
collection museologist at the Museum of Ethnography. His field of
interest: history of peasant ecomomy, holidays of the current village
society, cultural history and ethnic processes of the Roma in
Hungary. His main publications on the subject: A magyarországi
cigányság kultúrája: etnikus kultúra vagy a szegénység kultúrája;
Képek a magyarországi cigányság 21. századi történetébõl.
IMRE VAJDA (1949) is a sociologist who works as a researcher at the
Institute for Minority Studies at the Hungarian Academy of
Sciences. His field of interest: Roma political sphere, changes of
language and culture. He has published several articles on the
subject in Roma and non-Roma periodicals.
BALÁZS WIZNER (1972) is a sociologist, researcher of the Institution for
Sociological Studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He has
several publications on the Roma question. He is the most proud of
Palacsinta Hangja (collection of writings by Roma children).
Responsible editor: László Diószegi
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Pada jaman kemajuan teknologi sekarang ini, sebagian besar manusia dipengaruhi perilakunya oleh pesatnya perkembangan dan kecanggihan teknologi (teknologi informasi). Banyak orang terbuai dengan teknologi yang canggih, sehingga melupakan aspek-aspek lain dalam kehidupannya, seperti pentingnya membangun relasi dengan orang lain, perlunya melakukan aktivitas sosial di dalam masyarakat, pentingnya menghargai sesama lebih daripada apa yang berhasil dibuatnya, dan lain-lain.
Seringkali teknologi yang dibuat manusia untuk membantu manusia tidak lagi dikuasai oleh manusia tetapi sebaliknya manusia yang terkuasai oleh kemajuan teknologi. Manusia tidak lagi bebas menumbuhkembangkan dirinya menjadi manusia seutuhnya dengan segala aspeknya.
Keberadaan manusia pada zaman ini seringkali diukur dari “to have” (apa saja materi yang dimilikinya) dan “to do” (apa saja yang telah berhasil/tidak berhasil dilakukannya) daripada keberadaan pribadi yang bersangkutan (“to be” atau “being”nya).
Dalam pendidikan perlu ditanamkan sejak dini bahwa keberadaan seorang pribadi, jauh lebih penting dan tentu tidak persis sama dengan apa yang menjadi miliknya dan apa yang telah dilakukannya. Sebab manusia tidak sekedar pemilik kekayaan dan juga menjalankan suatu fungsi tertentu. Pendidikan yang humanis menekankan pentingnya pelestarian eksistensi manusia, dalam arti membantu manusia lebih manusiawi, lebih berbudaya, sebagai manusia yang utuh berkembang (menurut Ki Hajar Dewantara menyangkut daya cipta (kognitif), daya rasa (afektif), dan daya karsa (konatif)). Singkatnya, “educate the head, the heart, and the hand !”
Di tengah-tengah maraknya globalisasi komunikasi dan teknologi, manusia makin bersikap individualis. Mereka “gandrung teknologi”, asyik dan terpesona dengan penemuan-penemuan/barang-barang baru dalam bidang iptek yang serba canggih, sehingga cenderung melupakan kesejahteraan dirinya sendiri sebagai pribadi manusia dan semakin melupakan aspek sosialitas dirinya. Oleh karena itu, pendidikan dan pembelajaran hendaknya diperbaiki sehingga memberi keseimbangan pada aspek individualitas ke aspek sosialitas atau kehidupan kebersamaan sebagai masyarakat manusia. Pendidikan dan pembelajaran hendaknya juga dikembalikan kepada aspek-aspek kemanusiaan yang perlu ditumbuhkembangkan pada diri peserta didik.
Ki Hajar Dewantara, pendidik asli Indonesia, melihat manusia lebih pada sisi kehidupan psikologiknya. Menurutnya manusia memiliki daya jiwa yaitu cipta, karsa dan karya. Pengembangan manusia seutuhnya menuntut pengembangan semua daya secara seimbang. Pengembangan yang terlalu menitikberatkan pada satu daya saja akan menghasilkan ketidakutuhan perkembangan sebagai manusia. Beliau mengatakan bahwa pendidikan yang menekankan pada aspek intelektual belaka hanya akan menjauhkan peserta didik dari masyarakatnya. Dan ternyata pendidikan sampai sekarang ini hanya menekankan pada pengembangan daya cipta, dan kurang memperhatikan pengembangan olah rasa dan karsa. Jika berlanjut terus akan menjadikan manusia kurang humanis atau manusiawi.
Dari titik pandang sosio-anthropologis, kekhasan manusia yang membedakannya dengan makhluk lain adalah bahwa manusia itu berbudaya, sedangkan makhluk lainnya tidak berbudaya. Maka salah satu cara yang efektif untuk menjadikan manusia lebih manusiawi adalah dengan mengembangkan kebudayaannya. Persoalannya budaya dalam masyarakat itu berbeda-beda. Dalam masalah kebudayaan berlaku pepatah:”Lain ladang lain belalang, lain lubuk lain ikannya.” Manusia akan benar-benar menjadi manusia kalau ia hidup dalam budayanya sendiri. Manusia yang seutuhnya antara lain dimengerti sebagai manusia itu sendiri ditambah dengan budaya masyarakat yang melingkupinya.
Ki Hajar Dewantara sendiri dengan mengubah namanya ingin menunjukkan perubahan sikapnya dalam melaksanakan pendidikan yaitu dari satria pinandita ke pinandita satria yaitu dari pahlawan yang berwatak guru spiritual ke guru spiritual yang berjiwa ksatria, yang mempersiapkan diri dan peserta didik untuk melindungi bangsa dan negara. Bagi Ki Hajar Dewantara, para guru hendaknya menjadi pribadi yang bermutu dalam kepribadian dan kerohanian, baru kemudian menyediakan diri untuk menjadi pahlawan dan juga menyiapkan para peserta didik untuk menjadi pembela nusa dan bangsa. Dengan kata lain, yang diutamakan sebagai pendidik pertama-tama adalah fungsinya sebagai model atau figure keteladanan, baru kemudian sebagai fasilitator atau pengajar.
Oleh karena itu, nama Hajar Dewantara sendiri memiliki makna sebagai guru yang mengajarkan kebaikan, keluhuran, keutamaan. Pendidik atau Sang Hajar adalah seseorang yang memiliki kelebihan di bidang keagamaan dan keimanan, sekaligus masalah-masalah sosial kemasyarakatan. Modelnya adalah Kyai Semar (menjadi perantara antara Tuhan dan manusia, mewujudkan kehendak Tuhan di dunia ini). Sebagai pendidik yang merupakan perantara Tuhan maka guru sejati sebenarnya adalah berwatak pandita juga, yaitu mampu menyampaikan kehendak Tuhan dan membawa keselamatan.
Manusia merdeka adalah tujuan pendidikan Taman Siswa. Merdeka baik secara fisik, mental dan kerohanian. Namun kemerdekaan pribadi ini dibatasi oleh tertib damainya kehidupan bersama dan ini mendukung sikap-sikap seperti keselarasan, kekeluargaan, musyawarah, toleransi, kebersamaan, demokrasi, tanggungjawab dan disiplin. Sedangkan maksud pendirian Taman Siswa adalah membangun budayanya sendiri, jalan hidup sendiri dengan mengembangkan rasa merdeka dalam hati setiap orang melalui media pendidikan yang berlandaskan pada aspek-aspek nasional. Landasan filosofisnya adalah nasionalistik dan universalistik. Nasionalistik maksudnya adalah budaya nasional, bangsa yang merdeka dan independen baik secara politis, ekonomis, maupun spiritual. Universal artinya berdasarkan pada hukum alam (natural law), segala sesuatu merupakan perwujudan dari kehendak Tuhan. Prinsip dasarnya adalah kemerdekaan, merdeka dari segala hambatan cinta, kebahagiaan, keadilan, dan kedamaian tumbuh dalam diri (hati) manusia.
Suasana yang dibutuhkan dalam dunia pendidikan adalah suasana yang berprinsip pada kekeluargaan, kebaikan hati, empati, cintakasih dan penghargaan terhadap masing-masing anggotanya. Maka hak setiap individu hendaknya dihormati; pendidikan hendaknya membantu peserta didik untuk menjadi merdeka dan independen secara fisik, mental dan spiritual; pendidikan hendaknya tidak hanya mengembangkan aspek intelektual sebab akan memisahkan dari orang kebanyakan; pendidikan hendaknya memperkaya setiap individu tetapi perbedaan antara masing-masing pribadi harus tetap dipertimbangkan; pendidikan hendaknya memperkuat rasa percaya diri, mengembangkan hara diri; setiap orang harus hidup sederhana dan guru hendaknya rela mengorbankan kepentingan-kepentingan pribadinya demi kebahagiaan para peserta didiknya.
Peserta didik yang dihasilkan adalah peserta didik yang berkepribadian merdeka, sehat fisik, sehat mental, cerdas, menjadi anggota masyarakat yang berguna, dan bertanggungjawab atas kebahagiaan dirinya dan kesejahteraan orang lain. Metode yang yang sesuai dengan sistem pendidikan ini adalah sistem among yaitu metode pengajaran dan pendidikan yang berdasarkan pada asih, asah dan asuh (care and dedication based on love). Yang dimaksud dengan manusia merdeka adalah seseorang yang mampu berkembang secara utuh dan selaras dari segala aspek kemanusiaannya dan yang mampu menghargai dan menghormati kemanusiaan setiap orang. Oleh karena itu bagi Ki Hajar Dewantara pepatah ini sangat tepat yaitu “educate the head, the heart, and the hand”.
Guru yang efektif memiliki keunggulan dalam mengajar (fasilitator); dalam hubungan (relasi dan komunikasi) dengan peserta didik dan anggota komunitas sekolah; dan juga relasi dan komunikasinya dengan pihak lain (orang tua, komite sekolah, pihak terkait); segi administrasi sebagai guru; dan sikap profesionalitasnya. Sikap-sikap profesional itu meliputi antara lain: keinginan untuk memperbaiki diri dan keinginan untuk mengikuti perkembangan zaman. Maka penting pula membangun suatu etos kerja yang positif yaitu: menjunjung tinggi pekerjaan; menjaga harga diri dalam melaksanakan pekerjaan, dan keinginan untuk melayani masyarakat. Dalam kaitan dengan ini penting juga performance/penampilan seorang profesional: secara fisik, intelektual, relasi sosial, kepribadian, nilai-nilai dan kerohanian serta mampu menjadi motivator. Singkatnya perlu adanya peningkatan mutu kinerja yang profesional, produktif dan kolaboratif demi pemanusiaan secara utuh setiap peserta didik.
Akhirnya kita perlu menyadari bahwa tujuan pendidikan adalah memanusiakan manusia muda. Pendidikan hendaknya menghasilkan pribadi-pribadi yang lebih manusiawi, berguna dan berpengaruh di masyarakatnya, yang bertanggungjawab atas hidup sendiri dan orang lain, yang berwatak luhur dan berkeahlian. Semoga!
Makirtya ring agnya narpasiwi, nular pralampitaning Sang Wusman, ing Surakarta wedhare, Tata tri gora ratu, Ri sangkala witning winarti, Nitisastra inaran , Winarnaeng kidung, Kadi kadanging sarjawa, Limaksana sasananing kang janmadi, Adi yag kadriyana.
Wuryaning reh janma kang datanwrin, subasita yeku ingaranan, wong midha punggung yektine, tegesing midha punggung, midha bodho tan wrin ing westhi, tegesing punggung janma, sor pamilihipun, lan malih kang subasita, ing tegese silakrama kang rumiyin, kapindho basakrama.
Tegesing sila punika linggih, Tegesing krama punika basa, Basa kang becik tembunge, Kadya ta yen alungguh, Pasamuan dipun becik, wong ambekel kelawan, iya wong ambatur, wa carub awor ing lenggah, myang babasan tan sayogya awor titih, andhap luhuring janma.
Sangking panjengenganing narpati, panatane ing wadya marmanya, ywa nganti gepok sarehe, ya ing nitining ratu, lawan malih yen janma tan wrin, ing nora weruh, ing rahsa kang nem prakara, kescut pedhes asin pait legi gurih, jangkep aran sad rasa.
Kadya ta wong dereng wruh rahsaning, sedhah wohan lire wong tan anginang, yen aneng pasamuhe, pan pucat mukanipun, saking lathinira aputih, janma ingkang mangkana, ywan sira panuju, ana rasaning sastra, meneng bae nora tumor angudhoni, saking dene tan bisa.
Arsa tumut sarwa nora bangkit, mukanira kadya lenging gua, kewala melongo bae, mangkana ing tumuwuh, wruheng wisa skiki-siki, wisaning wong anembah, ing Ywang Kang Maha Gung, yen carobo ing tyasira, dedya reged kethuh amatuh mulintir, nembahe tan katrimah.
Dadya eman nir tang pangabekti, kadya ta wisaning wong adhahar, yen tan ajur panggilute, karya sangsayeng untu, myang janma tan darbe arteki, iwire pan wong malarat, ing saujaripun, tuna tan antuk serana, tanpa dadi temah wisa awakneki, denira tan katekan.
Ing karepanira tanpa dadi, kadya wisaning kang perawan, yen wus tuwa sariraneki, denya kang samya miyat, ewa ing tyasipun, tan seneng resep mulat, pun kang aran janmadika iwirireki, ya kang ngresepi manah.
Ing sarowangira sami linggih, ngecani tyasdata pinurikan, tan kaenten wacane, anduga-dugeng kalbu, netyaning wong sawiji-wiji, tan pegat jaga baya, bayanireng tanduk, wong rucah nora pinancah, bisa amumungu kawanening janmi, kasuraning ayuda.
Bisa angresi ing tyase sami, para sujana saarjeng netya, panjanmadika ambeke, amumpuni sawegung, agung paramatanireki, kadya ya ta yen wong priya, ing sayoganipun, yen pareka lawan wanudya, garwanira myang selirira upami, sinome rinasana.
S I N O M
Muwua arum ing pareman, wiyosing sabda minta sih, den amanis manohara, den alus den ngarih-arih, prihen lunturing kang sih, ywa kongsi rengat ing kalbu, yen sira lulungguhan, lan para pandhita sami, atanyaa sagung ujaring kang sastra.
Trus sagunging pangawikan, sampurnaning para bekti, yen sira amangun yuda, micara rehing jurit, sudira marih titih, widigdayaning prang pupuh, mring wanining kang bala, mandining ula upami, lan galaking singa yekti kena ilang.
Iya saking japamantra, kang anyirep ing wiseki, myang sametaning dipangga, rubuh dening angkus yekti, temah sirna kang runtik, mung krodhaning manungsa nung, kaonang ing ranangga, kakeraning mungsuh mati, iki nora mari dening japamantra.
Mari-mari wikramanya, yen wus katekan ing pati, lan nepsuning kang durjana, durcara dursila juti, sayekti nora mari, ye dening japamatreku, yen sira arsa wikan, panengeran jroning warih, lsh jsbuten tunjung kang tumanen toya.
Pira kang kacub ing toya, yekti semono jroneki, yeng pranenganing manusya, susilarja lus ing budi, awasena ta dhingin, tingkah kramaning pamuwus, ping kalih palengahan, ruruh semuni katawis, yen wong becik ayem santosa trus ing tyas.
Tajem tan rongeh liringnya, miwah alamun abukti, ririh rerh tan rekasa, tan barabah lamun angling, sih samaning aurip, momot ing driya tan keguh, pupucuking wicara, selundhupan nora apti, nora amrih karusakaning sasama.
Yeku cih naning anyata, jati kula araneki, tandhaning janma utama, ing panengran tan ngendrani, iwire tan cidreng jangji, ring antara wus tinemu, yekang aran pandhita, sastra genyang ta lirneki, tar angendhak sagung patanyan, kang prapta.
Kang susastra senembadan, nenggih sakayunireki, singungsung sabda norraga, ririh manis nawang kapti, meruhken kang pinurih, amadhangi ing tyas limut, sung sukaning asusah, ngenaki tyasing sasami, putus ing tumuwuh wruh rahsaning sastra.
Yeku wiku sastra genyang, kang wus sampurna ing pamrih, tan murih parah ing sorah, kalamung ana wong sugih, arta peni retnadi, nanging ta panggenipun, kusut busana datan, amurwat ing sawatawis, myang kalamun mangan kang datan mirasa, tan weweh maring pandhita, tan loma ing pekir miskin, wong kang mangkono punika, tan wruh celeking kang dhiri, nyana tuwuhireki, panjang nora nuli lampus, mungguih ing umur datan, ana kang bisa amasthi, mangkana ta ana manusya wus limpad.
Barang wirasaning sastra, myang sakramaning negari, lakune teka anasar, anut ing durjana juti, dadya wong kang durung wruh, kawruhe tanpa guna, kabisane tanpa kardi, ilang bae enggoning limpad ing sastra.
Ana janma wus tuwa, tur panjang umurireki, tan karem mring kabecikan, tan alul rahseng sastreki, kasudarmaning budi, nora pisan-pisan ayun,yeka janma nir ing rat, jujuluking manusyeki, pan uripe puniku datanpa karya.
Sami lawan sato kewan, nenggih kang kalal binukti, kang kocap candhaleng jagad, catru ingkang wus kawijil, dhandhang ingkang rumiyin, cendhala mungguh ing manuk, yen sato kang suku pat, gadarba aranireki, yen budi mansuya kang datan arsa, tan remen ing kebecikan, tan ngabekti ing Hyang Widi, katungkul ulah kawiryan, kunang candhala kaping tri, catur ingkang winarni, ing apawong mitra tuhu, kang wus saekaprya, ing wasana nguciwani, lali denya pawong mitra nunggal cipta.
Kang mangkono iku iya, candhala katri kawuri, kongkulan ing saprakara, prasaksat gelah ing bumu, durcara mageng juti, tengraning jun isi banyu, yen kebak nora kulak, wateke tan kocak-kacik, anteng lamun cinangkinga rehning kebek.
Ingkang lembu panengranya, yen swaranira geng yekti, kedhik puhane tan misra, wong miskin mengkono malih, keh-akeh solahneki, bawane denya mrih antuk, cukupa kang binoja, mangkana wong kurang warni, ing tegese tan gambuh rupane ala.
G A M B U H
Pupuh 01Akeh teganipun, iya amrih katona abagus, masang ulat iya katona respati, yen ana manusya lumuh, ujaring kang sastreng kono.
Sugal saujaranipun, wangkot nora anut ing pitutur, nora rereh tan sareh yen mawi kapti, kataragal barang tanduk, katir tindhake kaledhon.
Iku wong nora patut, pancen goprak kewala tan mungguh, ing ngawirya aneng pasamohan sepi, sapanen akarya rusuh, saru siriken sakeh wong.
Ing pawong mitra tuhu, away kadi Sang Singa rehipun, lan Sang Wana atut arukun ing nguni, reksa rineksa akukuh, mulya kalike balero,
Sayekti nora wurung, rinusak dening manusya gupuh, binabadan ginaganan dadya tegil, parandene alas iku, ngresula kanggonan ing wong.
Iya Sang Singa iku, mangsa nuli mangiha rahayu, pasthi enggal pinaten ing manungsyeki, parandening marang ingsun, asring pangucapen awon.
Mangkana singa gupuh, kesah saking ing panggenanipun, tilar wana memereng tepining tegil, tan antara gya kadulu, mring wong desa awawartos.
Sanank myang tangganipun, prapta sagagamane gumrubyug, singa sampun kinepung rinujak mati, pinurak ing manusya gung, rikang sapejahireng mong.
Sang wana mari sintru, ilang kumarane sonya sampun, binabadan dening wong desa sirnanting, dene wus tanpa pakewuh, babyane wus mecethot.
Tan rininga dhusun, singa wana sareng rusakipun, macan mati alas binabad tinegil, yeku alaning tumuwuh, bangkelan waon-waonan.
Rebut reh rebut unggul, palaning tan rukun nora arus, prayogane sagung aurip puniki, darbea mahasraya nung, tegese kang winiraos.
Pucungipun, den mateng denya kakaruh, pawong mitra lawan, wong utama kang linewih, kang sembada berbudi tindak raharjo.
Kaya iku, Sang Naga pantes tiniru, duk binuru marang, nenggih ri Sang Endra Paksi, dumadakan Sang Naga kapanggih lawan.
Mitranipun, Batara Sramba lingipun, heh Naga ta sira, angapa lumayu gendring, turing Naga amba punika Bathara.
Binabujung, mring sang garudha pukulun, saking jrih kalintang, tan wande kula binukti, turing Naga pan sarwi ajulalatan.
Wuwusipun, Bathara sramba sireksu, heh ta Naga iya, sira apa arsa urip, iya ingsun kang tutulung marang sira.
Aturipun, Sang Naga inggih kalankung, kawularsa gesang, nuhun pitulung sayekti ing Bathara dadya manggiha raharjo.
Angling arum, Sang Bathara sramba wau, enggal kumalunga, sira aneng jongga mami, sigra nembah Naga mulet ing Bathara.
Praptanipun, Sang Endra paksi andulu, yen Naga wus ana, Sang Bathara sarireki, dadya ilang krodanira Sang Garuda.
Ajrihipun, maring Bathara Srambeku, dadya arsa nembah, wirang mring Naga tan sipi, tan nembaha ajrih maring Sang Bathara.
Bok kasiku, keneng ila-ilanipun, dadya Sang Garudha, ngabekti saking wiyati, wusnya atur sembah Garuda gya kesah.
Mangsanipun, anentes sanaya aungsung, tiru solahira, bapa biyagnya tan nisir, le sutaning paksi pan mangkana uga.
Lamun mungguh, ing manusya tan kadyekku, rumeksaining anak, aliti mila cinagkidhang, prapeng tuwa rineksa sandhang pangannya.
Myang winuruk, tata-titining alungguh, parandene arang, tiru tingkahing sudarmi, akeh tinggal pakrtine wong atuwa.
Sutanipun, ing wiku akeh laku dur, dadaai doracana, murang raras tan prayogi, kandhang sutaning durjana ana dadya.
Pandhita Gung, utama ambek rahayu, tan tiru wong tuwa, ewuhing aurip iki, ala ayu gumelar ung dhandhanggula.
Sampun sampat neg manusya sami, barang katon sanepa sadaya, saniskara surahsane, sayogyanya sang wiku, awya esah denya mabekti, den kukuh tapabrata, nira supayantuk, pakoleih mulyakken praja, lamuin tuhu pangestuning para resi, praja anut raharja.
Yen ing janna anut tan sumisih, marang sawaling punang sastra, dadya akukuh budine, budi kang mring rahayu, bisa anarraga mrih asih, adoh karya canhala, mring wong sapraja gung, yen mungguh sang amangkurat, arta miwah kananira pan sami, sayugya danakena.
Marang wadyatantranta sakyehing, miwah sekul ulam den aumrah, palane kedhep nitine, saparentahe tinut, ajrihira pan ajrih asih, kukuh prajane karta, tekeng tepis dhusun, kawengan dana sang nata, lau mungguh ing wunudya yen alaki, olehe anak lanang.
Kang akendel nanging ayya kadi, kekendelaning singa susuta, amung sapisan kendele, mukyaning busaneku, kang linewihaken ta dening, para sujana datan, liyan sangking kampuh, yen mungguh ing papanganan, puwan sapi kang linewihaken dening, bremana resi sabrang.
Marna mangkana bremana nguni, alit mila sinusona puwan, sapi mingaka biyunge, yen ing sujana tuhu, kang linewithaken sayekti, tan iya sarining sabda, santosa rahayu, lamun muktaying wanudya, tan iyan gemuhing kang payudara kalih, ingene neg papreman.
Yen ing sastra kang mangsud linewih, tan iyan sangking werdiing pandhita, karana wus pakartine, yen sira san awiku, anggugulang ing sastra widi, sapituduhing sastra, linakyan sakayun, iyan malih winasitaa, utamaning ulih arta lamun saking, guna kaya priyangga.
Madyaning arta kalamun saking, yayah pinagkaning kang ardana, nistahaning oleih artane, kalamun saking biyung, wonten malih nisthaning oleih, yen saking anak rayat, arta asalipun, tegese saking martuwa, yektu nama nistha nisthaning pakolih, liyan malih kang utama.
Pan utama utamaning olih, pangunape sairib janmi, yen mungguh ing wanudya, kang linewih iku, wanudya kang patibrata, lan kang becik suwarnanira upami, tegese patinbrata.
Yen lakine mati amilu mati, nora mati asuduka jiwa, myang ta kuwu ing sentrane, yeka kewala lamun, lakinipun tumengkeng pati, tan karsa krama liyan, tumeka ing lampus, yeka dyah kang patibrata, sedya tumut mring delahan wong kekalih, tembe kanthena asta.
Yen ana manusya iku, negukuhi pakartine besik, ujaring sastra tinulad, mantep tan arsa rarenggi, ing tembe tanwun amanggya, kaluhuraning dumadi.
Kamulyan sagotraningpun, angerobi angungkuli, saking wong kang tanpa sastra, yan marmaing manusyekti, karena limpat ing sastra, kathah pakntuke pasthi.
Mangkana ingkang amuwus, kang mesudi ing satreki, saisining rat ounika, samuhan ri wus pinanggih, munggawing sadaleming sastra, yen wong ulah kang sayekti.
Kalamun sira arsa wruh, ing wardine pisan iki, iwih wong ngadepken pamannya, dipangga, galak geng inggil, kang misih neng wana pringga, iwire angele tan sipi.
Yen arsa putus satuhu, ing sastra kudu sireki, kangenen samektanana, tegese deneling nguni, ing wuruking gurunira, tumraen ing anla sami.
Kadi ta sang maha wiku, kang linewihaken dening, tar iyan pangabektiniramaring Hyang kang Maha Luwih, kalamun wong anom ika, inkang wibawa tur mukti.
Paribaya naya wus lurtutug saka yunireki, eman tan putus ing sastra, iwire tan limpad ing tulis, datan bisa amamaca, nadyan baguse kang warni.
Muwah keha garwanipun, sugiha ing emas picis, pepaka kulawangsanya, tur pusut sarnag gendhing, yekti wong mengkono iya, surem cahyane tan becik.
Munggeng pasarnuhan samun, nyanyengit nora prak ati, iwir sekar tepus upama, menggah warnaning abrit, nanging sepi tanpa ganda, lamun kembang nora wangi.
Tanpa karya satuhu, kadya kang upama malih, wong becik panengranira, katareng semunireki, lawan trapsilaning basa, myang titining ujar tuwin.
Prayoga sabarang tanduk, alep ing pamuwus aris, sumarambah ing akathah, wasiteng sasmita liring, yen wong ngaku tan tan umangan, wenak saben-saben ari.
Gampang ing panengranipun, yen lemu awake yekti, yen kuru punika dora, tuein wong ngaku sisirih, ngaku betah tapabrata, panengran mengkono maning.
Kalamun awake kuru, langse pasemone resik, iku yekti nora dorayen lemu awake pasthi, dora tan betah ing lapa, pengataning wong asih.
Asih pawong mitranipun, tan iyan panembramaneki pandhita panengranira, nihan wisaning kalabang, munggeng sirah unggyaneki.
Kalajengking munggeng buntut, sarpa neng siyung wiseki ingkang mandi-mandi samya, ana prenahing wiseki, mung wisaning kang durjanatan karuwan prenahneki.
Wisanya warata sagung, kebek sabadanireki, pan dadya wisa sadaya, saranduning awakneki, tanpa sela kabeh wisa, menggih wuwusan puniki.
Sektining kang lare lamun, tinunggu ing yayah bibi, pepak kulawarganira, yen mular tunulung nuli, denarih-arih ing biyang, panjeluke deturuti.
Yen iwak loh sektinipun, duk aneng sajroning warih, utameng kedhung kang jembar miwah yen toyanya wening, sektine kang manuk nyata, yen pepak laring suwiwi.
Yekti kuwat iberipun, inggal mahawan wiyati, saktining kang para raja, yen pepak wadyabala ji, lan janegken mantri mukya, catur kang samakta sami.
Kono sidaning kang ratu, sudibyo kaloking bumi, awya na maido sira, ing wuruking para resi, dumadak lara lapa, utama sira danami.
Sagunging manusa sami, away maido ing sastra, tan wun papa geng tembe, lan aja maido sira, wuruking gurunira, yekti parek patinipun, lir panjang tumibeng sela.
Pecah tan kena pinulih, mangkana ingkang upama, tegal yen ilang sukete, sayekti enggal tinilar, ing buron kang mamangan, dadya sepi kirang semu, tuwin bangawan lamun sat, tan sinaba dening paksi, paksi kang saba ing toya, yen pandhita upamane, tilar pangabektinira, nuju becik kang dina, supe ing penambahanipun, yekti doh lan pangeranya.
Kalamun pandhita pasthi, tebih lan pengeranira, manggih cilaka temahe, mangkana sang maharja, yen tan parikseng bala, kurang paramartanipun, anggung rengu aduduka.
Tan wurung tinilar nuli, mring sagunging wadyabala, yekti sepi negarane, yekti mungguh wong sugih arta, kalawan sugih garwa, yen prapta ing patinipun, karo tan ginawa pejah.
Tan milu neng kubur sami, tan kerem neng pajartan, yen mulih kang ngiringake, saprapataning wisma samya, anak rabi karuna, ing sadhela milu lampus, saking dahat ing sungkawa.
Nor lawas nuli mari, kaligane wong agesang, duk masih arjeng ngunine, away katungkul ta samya, namanggung ulah kawryan, suka-suka mangan nginum, amriha mbek kasudarman.
Dadanaa sih ing miskin, lamun darbe arta kathah, karyanen ingkang saparo, karahayon ing samangkya, de kang saparonira, ing delahan karyanipun, arjaa ring sangkan paran.
Salamet dunya lan akir, cukup sakarone kena, wong anom tuwa wekase, wong urip wasan a lina, yen mati punang arta, iya tan ginawa lampus, cedhaning awak salwirnya.
Kabeh tan kabekta mati, sirna larut tanpa guna, yen wong kang becik warnane, nanging asor kulanira, karyane mung kewala, munggwing pasamohan mungguh, resep sagung kang tumingal.
Wong becik kulonireki, utama pekik warnanya, yeku pinilih badhane, dene sang maha marendra, yen janma kang susatra, jatmika kalamun lungguh, nadyan tunggala sujana.
Tan katiwang mor ing liring, yen wong kang limpad ing sastra, angresei tyas semune, bisa mong karsaning kathah, miwah sang siniwaka, yen ana wong kang kadyeku, yeku kagungning raja.
Yen mungguh ing narapati, titi pamariksanira, maring kawula sakehe, yen arsa sih marang bala, catur prakara trapna, kang dhingin traping alungguh, ping ro ing kagunanira.
Ping tri pakaryanireki, kaping catur ing kasuran, yen ing emas upamane, nenggih pamariksanira, dhingin dinadar sela, kapindho denobong lau, tinugel kaping tinganya.
Wajibing ratu sayekti, titi pamarikseng bala, tutulanen den tulaten, supaya ja kalangkungan, barang tingkahing wadya, tan kena bosen yen ratu, padhenen lan dhahar nendra.
Sandining sang narapati, yen arsa ngadohken bala, tanapi marekake, anenggih catur prakara, iwire satunggal-tunggal, cinobeng estri karuhun, kapindho cinobeng arta.
Ping tri cinobeng kawanin, kaping sakawan kabisan, cinobeng estri pamine, anguciwani ukara, cinobeng artopama, angenesi nora lulut, cobanen karya saengga.
Angalenthar tanpa dadi, jerih cinobeng kasuran, yen wus catur pariksane, sepi tan tumamang angga, iku wong tang prayoga, yen winora denya lungguh, sinoming praja sujana.
S I N O M
Pisahen lawan wong kathah, tan panten tininggal nanging, kalamun trahing sujana, nyang wadya suatya sami, sampun binuwang nuli, antinen manawa emut, dhingin dhendhanen wada, dhendhanen arta ping kalih, lamun nora mari dhendhanen ing lara.
Yen nora linaran, iku dhendhanen ing pati, catur pamarikseng nata, pamangkune maring darih, tan kena denselaki, saujaring sastra kudu, tinut barang rehira, nihan caturing pralabio, suka duka nenggih wong utang piutang.
Duk nalikaning autang, akakan-kakan sayekti, ayayen-yayen prayoga, yen wus mangsane tinagih, mung bandha semayeki, kajuweten temah padu, crah denya paeng sanak, kadya wong karen upami, suka-suka anungku ing parisuka.
Tan wurung anemu duka, sungkawa yekti ing wuri, tegesipun nora lana, suka-sukanira nguni, iwir wanita yen lagi, sinanggaman marang kakung, sipi sukaning driya, yen wus mangsane garbini, praptaning lek dukanira tanpa ingan.
Naniging tan lawas dukanya, iwire tan kuwus ing wuri, tan ana bosene samya, kadya marta lan wiseki, yen awor nggennya nunggil, lah ambilen martanipun, buwangen punang wisa, tegese marta sakalir, kang ngenaki kang ngasrepi maring badan.
Tegesing wisa sabarang, iya ingkang nyilakani, kang manasi amring badan, iku wisa tegesneki, saengga mas anunggil, lan tinja ambilen iku, pan emase kewala, tinjane buwangen nuli, resikana kumbahen kalawan toya.
Mangkana ing pangawikan, saenggon-wanggonireki, yogya ambilen denira, ina papa kang darbeni, ya pilalanen ugi, datan ana sirikipun, mrih dadining kasidan, yen estri ayu kang warni, nora nande yen denalapa, nadyan wijil ina papa, tan ana sirike yekti, malih ingkang kawuwusa, kang abot ing jagad iki, nora na iwir arteki, duk pametira karuhun, dagang miwah layar, mrih wuwuhing arta nenggih, asru ngukih rinewang guna nastapa.
Aneng paran kang sinedya, wus antuk sabarang olih, sapraptaning wismanira, sangsaya bot pangrekseki, tansah amerem melik, deniker-iker ing padung, yen ilang punang arta, sangsaya dhat prihatin, kalingane ing wong kang sugih arta mas.
Reksanen ingkang utama, tegesipun kang prayogi, wewehna para pandhita, jakatna ing pekir miskin, tulung meing repot sami, kinarya ganjar ing wadu, yen wong sugih upama, eman kalamun amendhit, datan arsa jakat mring para pandhita.
Tan welas ing karepotan, tan loma ing pekir miskin, tan mulasareng abdinya, upama bendungan warih, binungken tan denwehi, pisan ilen-ilenipun, yekti mambeg kang toya, tan wurung bedhahe nuli, sirna larut salajere ilang, mangkana ngaurip samya, away kumed ing wong miskin, kumed ing pandhita aja, dinukan dening Ywang Widi, ing akir tan prayogi, nemu cilaka tan wurung, mungguh kang para dewa, kang linewihken pribadi, datan kadya sang Bathara Nilakantha.
Angedheni dahananya, lewih adheming kang warih, amadhangi sabuwanasor wula ujwalaneki, ya parandene kari, Bathara Guru srepipun, pan masih asrep uga, wacananing kang maharsi, lawan nenggih panase ingkang pawaka.
Ngungkuli panasing surya, parandene ana malih, ngesorken karo panasnya, Bathara Surya lan agni, masih panas angenti, duratmaka wuwusipun, laler miber saktinya, pantese amarani, nenggih sakar kang wangi-wangi gandanya.
Teka marani barah, kudhis nanah denleketi, iwir paksi bango upama, lamun miber angluwihi, angayuh ing wiyati, kadya silem mega biru, singgih papantesira, mintaa kasekten adi, mring sawarga milalu andemung lola.
Juru demung, dumadak medhun mangandhap, kulingling tumiling manglung, ngulati ing bathang mambu, tan sembada ing budaya, wasana kodhok cinucuk, mangkana juti durjana, sabecikane tyasipun.
Ngakua wus pratameng tyas, nadyan pratignyaa sampun, tar wun karya susahipun, ring sasamining agesang, yen tinula-tula ing tyas, pan amung sabda rahayu.
Lintang lan wulan punika, mangka pandan yen ing dalu, madhangi sabuwana gung, surya pandan ing rahina, yen saguning maanusyeki, kinarya pandhanging ing tyas, tarlen sastra nitipun.
Putra suputra winanarna, tegese anak kang bagus, kang abangkit sarwa putus, tur limpad ing sastra arja, ing krama alus ing tembung, punika begjane samya, kalihane bapa lan babu.
Yen suta jalu kang rongkah, kumalikih ambeg angkuh, bodho sarwa nora pecus, mung kumenthus amelinthas, aleman digung gumagus, tan weruh ing sastra tan bisa, tan purun sor dhirinipun.
Tan ayun anggugurua, mring pandhita kang wus putus, iku manusya tan patut, tuna bet wong tuwanira, tan antuk begja sajumput, tuwas kangelan kewala, tanpa ili ing tumuwuh.
Anaking sujana entar, teka liwar ngalur-alur, lali lukitaning tanduk, sastra mung kinarya rucah, amiyagah ing tumuwuh, ing pangrasane wus pasah, barang kapinteranipun.
Agungkuli ing wong kathah, langkah tan wruh sisiku, ciptane wus nora mangguh, samun isining nagara, mung pribadine ngendhukur, lacut kang mangkono iya, tuna karo kang susunu.
Marmane suteng sujana, aja katungkul gumunggung, mamemng-ameng tanpa urus, akarya susahing yayah, akarya prihatin ing biyung, tansah peteng ingkang manah, sungkawane tanpa madu.
Yogya tinilar dening parestri, lamun ana janma kang mangkana, balik yen tiru yayahe, ulah susastra putus, ing kadarman tyas amaledi, kyah wanudya tiyarsa, manungsung padha yun, myang tyasing para sujana, samya resep yen wong kang adarbe siwi, candhala murang krama.
Iwir wana kaananing kaywaking, ragas anggerit dening kanginan, temah ingobar alase, rusak wana katunu, yeku iwirning manawa nenggih, ring wong abecik away, age-age ngaku, wani digjayeng ayuda, neng ngarsaning nata lamun, durung uwis, ngasorken kang prawira.
Jangkep satus kasor kang prajurit, katawan neng madyaning ngalaga, away ngaku pandhitane, yen durung sang awiku, ngasorken satus pra resi, laan angumpulena, kang bisa wong sewu, tur ingkang padha pandhita, ingkang sewu prandene kasoran dening, wong ingkang widayaka.
Wong kang ngaku asanggup tuwin, yeku dudu golongan sujana, nora wenang gedhekake, ing wani lawan sanggup, lamun mungguh ing sujana di, yen tan tuhu ing sagah, tan kendel ing wuwus, dening sang utameng praja, menggih ujarira sang parameng kawi, ywan tekang kaliyoga.
Nora nana ingkang angluwihi, marang ing wong kang asugih arta, wong becik wong ala dene, pan wusora kacatur, kang aguna myang sang mahrsi, samyo kasor mring wong kang andaniswareku, ing mulane wong papa pan dadi sugih, ing jaman kaliyoga.
Akeh-akeh wisayaning janmi, Ratu datan jrih ing kasalahan, tan nolih mring karatone, ilang tyasing sang wiku, santosane mungguh ing widi, tan kejeng kasangsaran, ing sapurugipun, anak samya ngala-ala, maring bapa tan jrih ing tulah sarik, dyah nir tang kawirangan.
Nihan ucapen uloning guling, yen mangulon uloning anendra, eong ika panjang yuswane, yen mangalor kang ulu, ning anendra palanireki, tansah katekan arta, yen ulon mangidul, dumadak celak patinya, yen amangetan uloning wong kang aguling, sinengitan wong kathah.
Kuneng tingkahing wong asisiwi, duk sedhenge umur limang warsa, wasitanan karepekadi ngawuleng ratu, enggonira among ing siwi, yen wus sadasa warsa, pangrehireng sunu, den kadya nitih ing wadya, patingkahe amerdi pakerti becik, wruhna sastra prawira, yen wus umur nembelas warsi, den kadya sih ing apawong mitra, ririganen dudugane, taha-tahanen ing yun, pidananen ring ciptaning ling, myang sasmita tiarsa, pecuten ing semu, gitiken sireng pralambang, putra yen wus asusuta priyen uning, ing cipta lan sasmita.
Wang-wangen satingkah solahneki, bener luput sira tuduhena, ing reh ala myang arjane, wong punika ywa manut, budining wong sudra tan becik, temahan winawasa, ing para myang kayun, ayya manut budining dyah, atemah denerang-erang ing sami, kang sujana pararja.
Oleh wirang ing wong sangari, yen anurut budining wanudya, tanwun papa tinemune, yen sisip tekeng lampus, iku kawruhana sayekti, nadyan silih patuta, ing budi rahayu, yen medal saking wanudya, away age linakon budinen dhingin, wetokna salinana.
Saking ing karsane pribadi, mangkana mgling sang paramengsastra, ana dyah bener atine, yen ana gaga pingul, lawan tunjung wuwuh ing curi, kono ana wanudya, atine rahayu, kalingane ing sujana den prayitna, yen pinarak ing pawestri, ywa kena manis ujar.
Wuwuse kang wus (putus) ing ngelmi, kaprowolu wanudya lan [riya, ing kabisan myang kuwate, tuwin wiwekanipun, pan kapara astha ta malih, Dewi Drupadi majar, yen wanudya iku, tan ana tuwuk ing priya, ya marmanta den prayitno barang rehning, kang amawi wania.
Rikang janma yen arsa manggih, ing kalewihan sira lekasna, wuruking guru ywa supe, dene ta wong kang wuru amuroni dhiri pribadi, dhingin bagusing rupa, anom dhasaripun, sugih tur bisa ing karya, lawan mungguh kulane arang tumandhing, wong ingkang wus mangkana.
Limang prakara wus angenggoni, yekti wuru yen wuru wong ika, anemu papa temahe, lamun papa wong iku, temah asor apes pinanggih, ring janma ywa memada, nanacad wong iku, tan ana kang tanpa cacd, Sang Hyang Guru janggane cemeng iwir mangsi, Hyang Wisnu cacadira.
Angon bantheng Hyang Endra ta malih, cacdira netranira kathah, sagung gegelitan kabeh, pan wonten netranipun, marma away nanacad janmi, yekti datanpa guna, amaoni tuwuh, yen ana janma kang wikan, ing rahayu petunging dina kang becik, yogya sungana dana.
Pan saestu-estuning syekti, saking wasitanira kang mangka, amangih kasugihane, myang marganing anemu, ing kamukten tan liyan saking, pangucape priyangga, mulaning anemu, pawong sanak sih sinihan, myang mulaning manggih lara prihatin, myang manggih pati gesang.
Tan liyan saking sabdane pribadi, sepining muka yen ora nginang, sepining garwa tan darbe, suta sepi satuhu, myang sepining punang nagari tan ana ratunira, satemah arusuh, sepi tiga punika, pan kuciwa iya saking lewih sepi, wong kang tan darbe arta.
Tan katekan ing sabarang kapti lamun janma tan darbe arta, singgih punika sepine, marmaning tumuwuh, den nastiti tataning urip, reh ta amawi karsa, away selang surup, nampani ujaring sastra, away tungkul ing lagu miwah ing uni, titi paniti sastra
Pemukiman adalah bagian dari lingkungan hidup di luar kawasan lindung, dapatmerupakan kawasan perkotaan dan perdesaan, berfungsi sebagai lingkungan tempattinggal/hunian dan tempat kegiatan yang mendukung perikehidupan danpenghidupan.Pola pemukiman menunjukkan tempat bermukim manusia dan bertempat tinggalmenetap dan melakukan kegiatan/aktivitas sehari-harinya. Pemukiman dapatdiartikan sebagai suatu tempat (ruang) atau suatu daerah dimana penduduk terkonsentrasi dan hidup bersama menggunakan lingkungan setempat, untuk mempertahankan, melangsungkan, dan mengembangkan hidupnya. Pengertian poladan sebaran pemukiman memiliki hubungan yang sangat erat. Sebaran permukimanmembincangkan hal dimana terdapat permukiman dan atau tidak terdapatpermukiman dalam suatu wilayah, sedangkan pola pemukiman merupakan sifatsebaran, lebih banyak berkaitan dengan akibat faktor-faktor ekonomi, sejarah danfaktor budaya.Pemukiman diseluruh dunia dapat dibedakan menjadi dua yaitu pemukiman desadan kota. Setiap bentuk pemukiman memiliki pola dan bentuk masing-masing,sehingga untuk menggolongkan setiap pemukiman tersebut dibutuhkan kriteria danciri tertentu. Pemukiman kota dan desa di setiap negara baik itu negara berkembangatau negara maju juga memiliki karakteristik yang berbeda baik struktur ataumorfologinya. Walaupun jika digambarkan secara umum memiliki karakteristik yangsama, namun jika dijabarkan secara khusus setiap wilayah tidak ada yang memilikikarakteristik yang sama. Ini dipengaruhi oleh letak, kondisi geografis wilayah,budaya masyarakatnya. Termasuk Indonesia sebagai negara berkembang memilikikarakater pemukiman yang berbeda dengan negara lain. Hal ini dapat dilihat dariberagam pola pemukiman yang terdapat dari Sabang sampai Merauke.
Dari uraian latar belakang di atas, maka dapat dijabarkan rumusan masalahdalam makalah ini yaitu bagaimana proses terbentuknya pemukiman desa dan kotadilihat dari pendapat para ahli yang telah mengembangkan model-model strukturkota, pola pemukiman desa dan kota baik di negara maju dan negara berkembang.Dan bagaimana terbentuknya pemukiman desa dan kota di Indonesia dilihat darisejarah dan budaya masyarakat
Ringkasan Rural and Urban Settlements
Pemukiman dapat berupa tempat hunian, sebuah dusun, desa, dan kota.Meskipun memiliki nama yang berbeda baik secara informal atau secara hukummemiliki definisi sebagai diskrit, namun secara praktis masing-masing nama tersebutdikategorikan secara berbeda antara satu dengan yang lainnya. Sulit untuk melihatbatas garis secara jelas dalam hal ukuran atau fungsi antara kota besar dan kota kecil.
Teori Tempat Sentral (Central Place)
Teori ini memaparkan tentang persebaran dan besarnya pemukiman (hierarkipemukiman dan persebarannya). Bahwa berbagai jenis barang pada orde yang samacenderung bergabung pada pusat wilayahnya, sehingga pusat itu menjadi lokasikosentrasi (kota). Dengan kata lain terciptanya suatu kota didorong oleh paraprodusen berbagai jenis barang pada orde yang sama cenderung berlokasi pada titik sentral di wilayahnya.Walter Christaller (Jerman, 1933) mengemukakan tentang teori tempat sentral(
Theory central place
). Christaller menyusun teori ini untuk menjawab tigapertanyaan utama yaitu, apakah yang menentukan banyaknya, besarnya, danpersebaran kota? Teori ini menyangkut hierarki pemukiman dan persebarannya secarageografis.Menurut Christaller terdapat konsep yang disebut jangkaun (
) dan batasambang (
adalah jarak yang perlu ditempuh manusia untuk mendapatkan barang kebutuhan pada suatu waktu tertentu saja.
adalah jumlah minimal penduduk yang diperlukan untuk kelancaran dan keseimbangansuplai barang.Dalam teori ini diasumsikan pada wilayah datar yang luas dihuni olehsejumlah penduduk dengan kondisi yang merata. Dalam memenuhi kebutuhannya, enduduk memerlukan berbagai jenis barang dan jasa, seperti makanan, minuman,perlengkapan rumah tangga, pelayanan pendidikan, dan pelayanan kesehatan. Untuk memperoleh kebutuhan tersebut penduduk harus menempuh jarak tertentu dari rumahyang disebut range.Lima asumsi yang digunakan Christaller untuk membangun teori denganpendekatan ilmu geografi ekonomi, antara lain: (1) Karena para konsumen yangmenanggung ongkos angkutan, maka jarak ke tempat pusat yang dinyatakan dalambiaya dan waktu sangat penting, (2) karena konsumen yang menanggung ongkosangkutan, maka jangkauan (range) suatu barang ditentukan oleh jarak yangdinyatakan dalam biaya dan waktu, (3) semua konsumen dalam usaha mendapatkanbarang dan jasa yang dibutuhkan menuju ke tempat pusat yang paling dekat letaknya,(4) kota-kota berfungsi sebagai tempat sentral bagi wilayah sekitarnya. Artinya adahubungan antara besarnya tempat pusat dan besarnya (luas) wilayah pasaran,banyaknya penduduk dan tingginya pendapatan di wilayah yang bersangkutan, (5)wilayah tersebut digagaskan sebagai dataran dimana penduduknya tersebar meratadan ciri-ciri ekonomisnya sama (besar penghasilan sama).
Distribusi Penggunaan Lahan di Sekitar Pemukiman
Von Thunen mengidentifikasi tentang perbedaan lokasi dari berbagai kegiatanpertanian atas dasar perbedaan sewa lahan (pertimbangan ekonomi). Perbedaanongkos transportasi tiap komoditas pertanian dari tempat produksi kepasar terdekatmempengaruhi jenis penggunaan tanah yang ada disuatu daerah. Von Thunenberpendapat bahwa suatu pola produksi pertanian berhubungan dengan pola tata gunalahan diwilayah sekitar pusat pasar atau kota. Dalam teori ini ia mengeluarkanasumsi-asumsi sebagai berikut :
Pusat pasar atau kota semestinya berada pada titik pusat suatu wilayah yangsecara geografis bersifat homogen
Hubungan yang berbanding lurus terjadi antara biaya transportasi dengan jarak.
Biaya angkutan ditanggung oleh petani dan besarnya sebanding dengan jarak yang ditempuh.
Petani akan cenderung memilih jenis tanaman yang dapat menghasilkanmanfaat dan keuntungan yang maksimal sesuai dengan permintaan pasar.Gagasan utama yang dapat diambil dari Teori Von Thunen adalah bahwa tataguna lahan akan mempengaruhi nilai sewa suatu lahan. Area yang berada dipusatpasar atau kota akan memiliki nilai atau harga yang lebih mahal dibandingkan lahanyang berlokasi jauh dari pusat pasar. Banyaknya kegiatan yang berpusat pada kotaatau pusat pasar ini menjadikan kota memiliki nilai yang lebih ekonomis untuk mendapatkan keuntungan maksimal bagi para pelaku pertanian. Perbedaanyang disebabkan oleh faktor jarak ini menentukan nilai suatu barang, semakin jauh jarak yang ditempuh oleh para petani maka biaya transportasi yang dikeluarkan akansemakin meningkat, sehingga para petani akan memilih untuk menyewa lahan yanglebih dekat dengan pusat pasar atau kota dengan harapan bisa mendapatkan nilai atauharga barang yang lebih tinggi tanpa harus mengeluarkan biaya transportasi yangtinggi.
Perbandingan Ukuran Kota
Pemukiman cenderung membentuk hierarki. hirarki permukiman terbentuk sesuai dengan sebutan yang diberikan oleh manusia yaitu dusun, desa, kota, kota, danmetropolis. Menurut teori tempat pusat, hirarki dibentuk oleh ukuran daerahperdagangan dan jarak antara pusat-pusat pelayanan. karakteristik lain dari hirarkipermukiman dapat dilihat dengan peringkat tempat di suatu negara berdasarkanukuran populasi mereka.Di negara maju, hubungan yang muncul untuk ukuran kota adalah peringkatukuran populasi. kota terbesar sering sekitar dua kali lebih besar tempat yang palingpadat penduduknya kedua, tiga kali ukuran pusat peringkat ketiga, dan empat kalikota terbesar keempat. jenis hubungan yang disebut aturan peringkat ukuran.Kriteria ukuran tingkatan jarang berlaku pada negara berkembang, dimanakota utama umumnya lebih besar dari yang lain. Dalam hal ini, kota utama ini disebut
ota primate, yang keutamaan terjadi ketika salah satu daerah menetapkan dominasiekonomi untuk seluruh negeri.
Dalam arti umum, morfologi berhubungan dengan bentuk dan struktur. studimorfologi permukiman, oleh karena itu, menyangkut bentuk dan susunan internalatau tata letak fitur seperti jalan, bangunan, dan penggunaan lahan. Studi morfologimemeriksa distribusi spasial fitur dalam area tertutup oleh pemukiman, sebaliknya,sebuah studi pola permukiman menganggap lokasi tempat sebagai titik dalam suatuwilayah yang besar.Geografer menggunakan morfologi untuk generalisasi tentang karakter dari jenis permukiman. misalnya, beberapa bentuk desa khas telah diakui di eropa danAmerika Utara. Salah satu bentuk khas adalah desa jalanan (Strassendorf) denganrumah-rumah sejajar di kedua sisi jalan utama. dalam bentuk lain, rumah yangterletak di tengah-tengah area hijau. Desa hijau seperti (Angerdorf) yang umumletaknya di wilayah ujung utara dan timur eropa.Beberapa bentuk permukiman yang khas untuk suatu wilayah, periode sejarah,atau budaya. misalnya, alun-alun gedung pengadilan ditemukan di banyak kota-kotakecil Amerika berbeda dari
di Eropa sebelumnya. dan strip mobildengan drive-in layanan merupakan bentuk abad kedua puluh khas Amerika. Iniringkasan singkat dari konsep dalam geografi permukiman telah terkait ukuran,lokasi, fungsi, dan morfologi. beberapa dari hubungan ini dapat ditunjukkan lebihlanjut melihat berbagai jenis pemukiman.
Pada dasarnya, pemukiman dapat dibagi menjadi bentuk pedesaan dan bentuk perkotaan. Karakteristik spasial sebuah desa pertanian kecil cukup berbeda darisebuah kota metropolis, dalam menjabarkan pemukiman desa yaitu denganmenjabarkan perbedaan antara pedesaan dan perkotaan.
Seperti dijeskan pada bab 8, kegiatan ekonomi pedesaan terdiri dari, masaberburu dan pengumpul, peladang berpindah, dan petani tradisional. bentuk-bentuk tertentu dari pemukiman yang terkait dengan masing-masing jenis ekonomi, mulaidari tempat tinggal nomaden masa berburu sampai ke masyarakat pertanian menetap.1.
Pemukiman orang nomaden dan peladang berpindahPada masa berburu dan berkelompok memiliki ciri-ciri yaitu, kepadatan penduduk rendah, pemukiman yang tersebar dan jumlahnya sedikit. Lokasi pemukiman seringditempati hanya secara musiman. misalnya, nomaden dataran indians. Meskipunmasa berburu dan pengumpul tidak menghasilkan pusat-pusat kota, dalam menukarbarang (barter) telah terjadi di beberpa tempat yang mudah mereka akses.Kondisi pemukiman yang ditinggalkan oleh para peladang dapat menggambarkanlamanya waktu mereka telah meninggalkan pemukiman tersebut. Secara umum,semakin lama periode tidak ditanami, menetukan bahwa pemukiman tersebutpemukiman yang tidak menetap. Misalnya, Campa dari lereng timur hutan dariPegunungan Andes Peru memungkinkan lahan kosong yang tidak ditempati selamalebih dari 10 tahun. ini dimungkinkan karena jumlah populasi yang rendah, dengankepadatan diperkirakan satu orang per kilometer persegi teritori (Denevan 1971).Di beberapa daerah, peladang berpindah mendirikan tempat tinggal sementarayang berada dekat ladang sementara, namun mereka tetap mempertahankan desapermanen. Dalam kasus Iban, petani padi kering dalam perbukitan teh Sarawak (Malaysia Timur), ada tingkatan hierarki pemukiman mereka. Pemukiman terbesaradalah “rumah panjang”, yang merupakan bangunan tetap tunggal yang dibangunoleh seluruh penduduk dan mampu menampung sebanyak 300 orang.Peladang berpindah yang menghasilkan tanaman subsistensi tidak terlalumembutuhkan pasar, dan kota-kota bukan merupakan bagian dari pola pemukimanmereka. sebagai aktivitas ekonomi eksternal pada daerah yang diduduki olehpeladang berpindah, beberapa tempat pemasaran mungkin timbul. misalnya, peladangberpindah di lembah amazon mungkin diperdagangkan pada pasar-pasar berkembangdi sepanjang jalan yang sedang dibangun di seluruh wilayah.
Desa yang terkait dengan pertanian tradisionalPara petani tradisional pada masa ini sudah menggunakan sistem tanam yangpendek dan secara terus menerus. Semakin tinggi intensitas penggunaan lahansemakin besar kemungkinan bahwa pemukiman tersebut merupakan pemukiman didesa permanen.Di Amerika sebagian besar petani hidup pada lahan yang mereka garap danterletak berjauhan dengan tetangga yang lain. Salah satu alasan kenapa petanimenetap pada lahan yang mereka garap yakni karena masalah transportasi yang sulitpada masa itu, tidak sama pada masa modern.Beberapa faktor dapat membantu menjelaskan mengapa petani di beberapamasyarakat lebih memilih tinggal di pemukiman berkelompok. populasi pedesaan dimasa lalu tinggal secara mengelompok karena untuk masalah keamanan danpertahanan. Ketakutan merupakan faktor yang mendorong untuk pemilihan lokasiyang aman, tetapi letak juga menjadi pertimbangan. Kecuali ada pembatas yang dapatmelindungi mereka dari bahaya, maka tidak akan timbul keputusan untuk tinggalmengelompok.Alasan laian untuk tinggal berkelompok dalam masyarakat praindustri adalahadanya keuntungan dari kerjasama antara anggota kelompok. Faktor sosial adalahkekuatan penting dari berkelompok terutama di mana sumber daya lahandikendalikan secara bersama-sama. jika petani memperoleh akses ke tanah yangsubur, daerah penggembalaan umum, dan hutan dengan menjadi anggota darimasyarakat atau komunitas tersebut, maka ada keuntungan untuk tinggal dekatdengan pusit di mana keputusan dibuat.Sistem pemilikan tanah juga penting. Di desa-desa tradisional, petani adasebagian tersebar pada beberapa bidang tanah karena merupakan pembagian warisantanah antara semua ahli waris. Tinggal di pemukiman yang terletak di pusat dapatmengurangi waktu perjalanan ke beberapa tanah yang tersebar.
Urbanisasi secara besar-besaran merupakan perkembangan baru dalammasalah penduduk. Dari masa lalu sampai sekarang, jarang sekali daerah kota hanyaditinggali 10 persen dari jumlah penduduk, kecuali negara-negara kecil.Beberapa variasi pemukiman perkotaan dapat dilihat dengan mendeskripsikanbeberapa hal yaitu, (1) karakteristik kota-kota pra-industri, (2) sistem perkembanganperkotaan Amerika, dan (3) urbanisasi saat ini di negara-negara kurang berkembang.
Pada masyarakat pra industri pemukiman yang lebih dominan yaitu pedesaan,namun pemukiman perkotaan juga sudah ada masa itu. Secara morfologi kota, pusat-pusat kota pada masyarakat pra industri di dominasi oleh bangunan pemerintahan dankeagamaan. Struktur kelas pada masyarakat kota ditentukan oleh lembaga politik,agama, dan pendidikan. Meskipun ada pembagian kelas, namun penggunaan lahan dikota tercampur. Pasar terdapat di dekat gereja, dan took berjajar mengikuti jalan.Sjoberg (1960) berpendapat bahwa karakteristik ini dimiliki oleh kota-kotapra-industri apakah berada di Asia Timur, Asia Tenggara, Asia Selatan, Asia BaratDaya, Eropa, atau Amerika Tengah. Rhoads Murphey (1945) menemukan bahwaperan perdagangan di kota-kota cina berbeda dari yang di kota-kota Eropa setelahabad kedua belas. di Cina, fungsi perdagangan berada di bawah fungsi adminisrasif.kota mengendalikan daerah pedesaan sebagai lokasi untuk kegiatan komersial. Tidak seperti kota-kota Eropa, yang menjadi pusat gejolak ekonomi dan sosial sebelumRevolusi industri, fungsi dominan birokrasi kota Cina menahan diversifikasi danperubahan.
Sistem Perkembangan Kota di Amerika
Di pertengahan 1980-an, 80 persen dari penduduk AS tinggal di wilayahperkotaan. Bagaimana tempat-tempat perkotaan berkembang?Kota banyak dikembangkan karena permintaan konsumen terdekat untuk barang dan jasa, sepertiyang dijelaskan oleh Teori tempat pusat Christaller ini. Sebuah pemukiman kota
beberapa kota besar di Amerika Serikat dimulai sebagai tempat pusat grosir yangmengakses perdagangan jarak jauh.Beberapa pusat grosir pertama, yang berada di lokasi pantai, mulai denganmengumpulkan dan mengekspor bahan pokok, seperti bulu ke Eropa dan denganmengimpor dan mendistribusikan barang dari Eropa. Urutan perkembangan sistemperkotaan dibagi menjadi lima tahap berikut;Tahap 1: Eksplorasi dan pencarian. pada abad keenam belas, Inggris, Perancis, danpelaut Spanyol menjelajahi pantai Amerika Utara dan memberikaninformasi tentang sumber daya daerah.Tahap 2: Membangun pondasi Kota Pesisir. Pemukiman perkotaan dimulai setelahabad ketujuh belas jajahan yang didirikan di Amerika Utara. Beberapa jajahan, seperti Virginia, dipandang sebagai “investasi dalam perdagangan”yaitu, sebagai bagian dari sistem merkantilis. Meskipun sebagian darisumberdaya tersebut untuk pemanfaatan sendiri, namun yang memilikinilai tinggi seperti tembakau, kayu, dan bulu diekspor. Tak satu pun daritempat-tempat perkotaan pertama, yang didirikan di pantai timur, itu besar.pada tahun 1700, Boston, pusat komersial terkemuka, memiliki populasi6700. New York dan Philadelphia memiliki populasi sekitar 5000, danCharles kota memiliki 2.000 penduduk Tahap 3: Perluasan Jaringan Pemukiman dan Pengembangan Perdagangan DalamNegeri. dalam fase ketiga, pemukiman menyebar ke daratan. Karenadibutuhkan “tempat penyimpanan” untuk menghubungkan mereka dansumber daya ke Eropa, timur pantai pelabuhan mulai bertindak sebagai”engsel ekonomi” antara daerah perbatasan dan ” Ibu kota negara”.Amerika Serikat masih didominasi pedesaan pada tahun 1800 denganhanya 7 persen dari populasi yang berada di tempat-tempat perkotaan.Tahap 4: infilling dari Jaringan dan Pentingnya pertumbuhan Perdagangan Internal.dengan ekspansi yang cepat dari perbatasan pada abad kesembilan belas
dan awal kedelapan belas. Daerah-daerah perbatasan diperlukan koneksidengan pemasok perkotaan dan pasar, dan pantai timur kota, yangmengembangkan industri manufaktur, ingin mendapatkan akses ke daerahdalam. Masalah utama adalah transportasi. Jalur darat yang sulit dan mahal,terutama untuk transportasi produk besar. Trasnportation air adalah bentuk termudah dan termurah koneksi. Ketika interior mulai diselesaikan, olehkarena itu, kota yang terletak dekat dengan sungai, danau, dan kemudiansaluran navigasi.Tahap 5: Memodifikasi jaringan. Menurut model Vance, tempat sentral berfungsisebagai menjadi penting pada pusat perdagangan jarak jauh sebagai kotatambahan dikembangkan di seluruh Amerika Serikat selama fase terakhir.Dengan perluasan tempat perkotaan dan semakin pentingnya fungsilayanan mereka, lebih banyak tempat perkotaan menjadi kota besar. sistemmemuncak mencerminkan penerapan pola tempat sentral pada strukturdagang yang ada dikembangkan di distribusi dan manufaktur poin.Secara singkat bahwa perkembangan kota di Amerika dikarenakanpenggabungan lebih dari satu jenis asal dan fungsi. Satu: banyak kota yang terletak disitus diakses perdagangan jarak jauh, seperti yang dijelaskan dalam modelperdagangan. Kedua: beberapa kota muncul sebagai pusat perdagangan lokal, sepertiyang dijelaskan oleh teori tempat pusat. Tiga: Sebuah perkotaan beberapa tempatpembangunan di lokasi bahan baku yang menarik industri, seperti kota-kotamanufaktur pada coalfields di Pennsylvania barat. banyak pemukiman kota yangpaling awal berasal di pantai timur, namun, beberapa dimulai pada tepi selatan danbarat daya negara tersebut.
Kondisi urbanisasi saat ini di negara-negara berkembang
Dari 1950-1975, ketika negara-negara maju sebagai sebuah kelompok mengalamipeningkatan penduduk perkotaan dari 71 persen, ukuran penduduk kota dari negara-negara berkembang membengkak hampir 200 persen-222 persen di Afrika, 191persen di Amerika Latin, dan 179 persen di Asia. Dalam angka absolut, penduduk
perkotaan di Afrika meningkat sebesar 71 juta antara 1950 dan 1975. Pada periodeyang sama, Amerika Latin ditambah 130 juta orang penduduk perkotaan, danpenduduk perkotaan di Asia meningkat 315 juta. Salah satu hasil yang diharapkandari urbanisasi yang cepat di negara-negara kurang berkembang, dan melambatnyalaju urbanisasi di Eropa dan Amerika Utara, akan menjadi penataan ulang dalamurutan kota terbesar oleh setengah abad berikutnya. Pada tahun 1950, ketiga terbesarkota di dunia berada di Negara bersatu dan Eropa, tetapi pada tahun 2034, tidak adasepuluh kota atas diharapkan berada di kedua daerah.Urbanisasi merupakan hasil dari peningkatan secara alami dan migrasi.Peningkatan secara alami ditunjukkan di Cina selama periode ketika migrasi kedaerah perkotaan. Dari 1949-1979 sekitar dua pertiga dari pertumbuhan perkotaan inidisebabkan pertumbuhan alami. Seringkali tingginya tingkat pertumbuhan alamiadalah akibat langsung dari migrasi masuk oleh orang dewasa muda selama tahunpuncaknya reproduksi (Todaro 1980).Penyebab penting dari migrasi desa-kota adalah persepsi dari orang-orang yangingin melakukan urbanisasi, dan terkadang kenyataan bahwa kesempatan dankemajuan ekonomi dan sosial yang tersedia di kota-kota. Prospek ekonomi di daerahpedesaan di negara-negara berkembang umumnya suram. Sering kali ada kelebihantenaga kerja, terutama dalam mekanisasi sistem pertanian tradisional. Lambatnyapertumbuhan kesempatan ekonomi di daerah pedesaan, pengangguran atau setengahpengangguran ada di daerah pertanian.Di sebagian besar negara maju, orang muda beralih ke kota-kota sebagai tempatdianggap memiliki kesempatan kerja lebih banyak. Investasi baru, terutama di bidangindustri, cenderung berfokus pada kota-kota besar. produsen, baik domestik maupunmereka yang berafiliasi dengan perusahaan asing, lebih memilih untuk menanaminvestasi di daerah perkotaan di mana tenaga kerja, pasar, dan fasilitas transportasiyang terbaik dikembangkan. Jika pembangunan perkotaan seperti ini kontras dengandi daerah pedesaan yang terabaikan dari investasi, ketidakseimbangan antara peluangpedesaan dan perkotaan dapat melebar.
Struktur Internal Kota
Susunan kota pada umumnya digambarkan pada penempatan letak setiapwilayah. Beberapa wilayah yang letaknya di bagian utama dari kios eceran, di sisilain dari kota digunakan untuk tempat penyimpanan, industri, gedung pemerintahan,tempat tinggal bagi penduduk yang berpendapatan menetap, tempat tinggal untuk etnik-etnik tertentu, dan institusi publik. Usaha untuk membuat generalisasi daristruktur kota ke dalam model yang dilakukan secara keseluruhan.1.
Teori Concentric (Burgess)Burgess mengemukakan bahwa kota-kota berawal dari sebuah pusat yangkemudian meluas dari pusat itu sendiri. Yang kemudian nantinya secara luas bertahappenduduk mulai berdatangan atau menempati wilayah perluasan tersebut.Struktur kota yang demikian akan berupa beberapa zona-zona yangterkonsentrasi pada suatu pusat. Di tengah atau dipusat dari struktur kota tersebutterdapat sebuah pusat bisnis atau CBD (Central Bussines District) yang bisadikatakan merupakan zona pertama yang di dalam pusat tersebut merupakan pusatekonomi, sosial, dan kemasyarakatan.Kemudian di zona kedua yaitu transistion zone, yang berisikan industri disela-sela perumahan penduduk yang mempunyai tanah atau bangunan dari warisanmasa lampau. Namun sebagian besar daerah ini telah banyak diubah menjadikawasan perkantoran maupun kawasan pertokoan. Dan juga dikawasan ini terdapatslum atau daerah kumuh yang tidak beraturan yang biasanya ditempati oleh parapendatang atau pekerja yang berpenghasilan kurang. Dan di daerah slum ini punrawan akan terjadinya pelanggaran hukum atau kejahatan disamping adanyakemiskinan yang melanda.Kemudian berikutnya adalah zona kaum buruh kecil yang merupakan zonaketiga di dalam struktur ini. Di dalam zona ini dihuni oleh para kaum buruh kecilyang bertempat tinggal menetap di kawasan tersebut dengan jangka waktu yangrelatif lama. Zona keempat ialah middle class housing yang dihuni oleh para kaumkelas menengah. Yang pemukimannya tidak terlalu ada karena masih ada jarak diantara rumah-rumah penduduk tersebut. Dan yang terakhir di zona kelima ialah
mengkonversi kampong yang banyak berada di dataran rendah (rawa dan kebun)ke segala arah: Barat, Selatan dan Timur.
Kini, dengan statusnya sebagai “multi
function” yang mengakumulasi berbag
aifungsi tertinggi secara nasional (pusat pemerintahan, perdagangan dan jasa,bahkan kebudayaan), Jakarta telah menjema menjadi salah satu pusat pertumbuhanekonomi yang menjanjikan di kawasan Asia-Pasifik. Selain itu, perkembanganyang sangat pesat terjadi di kawasan pinggiran, dimana tidak kurang dari 7 (tujuh)kotabaru berskala besar telah terbangun di Jabodetabek sejak tahun 1980-an (Gani,2010).
• Kota Bandung sejak lama direncanakan sebagai salah satu pusat kegiatan
Pemerintah Hindia Belanda pada tahun 1930-an apabila merujuk pada keberadaanGedung Sate. Konsep yang dikembangkan awalnya adalah kota taman yang asri,sebagai unsur esensial dari sistem internal kotanya. Proses urbanisasi telah terjadisecara cepat mulai tahun 1980-an, ditandai dengan okupansi lahan-lahan diBandung Utara dan Bandung Selatan. Perubahan morfologi kota semakin tajampada awal tahun 2000-an, ditandai dengan pemekaran Kota Cimahi dan KabupatenBandung Barat, serta dibukanya akses jalan tol Cipularang pada tahun 2005 yangmemangkas jarak waktu Jakarta
Bandung secara signifikan. Bandung mengalamimetamorfosa, dari kota tempat peristirahatan para mandor perkebunan « tempoedoeloe » menjadi kota tujuan wisata (urban tourism) dengan atraksi wisatakuliner, kesejukan alami dataran tinggi, serta pusat belanja (
).Kawasan Dago, Setiabudi dan sekitarnya kini menjadi pusat kegiatan komersialutama di Kota Bandung, padahal lama sebelumnya ia direncanakan sebagai pusathunian yang tenang. Sementara itu, kawasan Bandung Utara yang sebelumnyamerupakan kawasan lindung untuk peresapan air, kini telah beralih fungsi menjadisalah satu pusat permukiman elit serta pusat kegiatan pariwisata yang dipadati olehturis domestik saat weekend.
Kota Gorontalo hingga akhir tahun 1990-an hanya merupakan ibukotaKabupaten Gorontalo dengan fasilitas sosial-ekonomi yang sangat terbatas (hotel,rumah sakit, restoran, dsb). Sejak beralih status menjadi kota otonom sekaligus
Ibukota Provinsi Gorontalo pada tahun 1999, aliran investasi yang mengalir cukupderas dipicu oleh kegiatan pemerintahan telah merubah wajah kota secarasignifikan. Pusat-pusat kegiatan komersial dan jasa (perbankan, restoran, hoteldsb) tumbuh subur. Infrastruktur sosial-ekonomi semakin membaik, khususnyayang berkaitan dengan sektor industri perikanan (pelabuhan) dan sektor pertaniantanaman pangan (industri pengolahan komoditas jagung). Wajah kota yang relatif sederhana, secara perlahan kini berubah mengikuti perkembangan zaman.Dari tiga contoh diatas, kita dapat mengamati bahwa transformasi sosial telahmengubah morfologi kota. Beberapa faktor tampaknya cukup dominan dalam prosestersebut : (1) aliran investasi yang mendorong peningkatan produktivitas kota,khususnya yang digerakkan oleh investasi swasta ; (2) keberadaan infrastruktursosial-ekonomi, seperti jalan dan pelabuhan, serta (3) peningkatan status kota otonom(ibukota provinsi). Ketiga faktor tersebut menjadi penyebab utama terjadinyaurbanisasi dan mengakselerasi alih-fungsi ruang perkotaan. Perbedaannya terletak pada titik awal terjadinya perubahan (Jakarta sejak 1960-an, Bandung sejak 1980-an,dan Gorontalo sejak 2000-an), serta kecepatan transformasi yang terjadi yang banyak ditentukan oleh peran sektor swasta.Walaupun demikian, modernisasi kota tidak serta-merta menghapuskekumuhan akibat kemiskinan perkotaan yang belum dapat teratasi sepenuhnya. Padakurun waktu tiga decade terakhir (1980
2010), jumlah penduduk miskin di kawasanperkotaan justru menunjukkan grafik yang meningkat dari 9,5 juta menjadi 11,91 juta jiwa. Hal ini berlawanan dengan jumlah penduduk miskin di kawasan perdesaan yangmenunjukkan kecenderungan menurun dari 32,8 juta (1980) menjadi 20,62 juta jiwa(2010). Secara keseluruhan, angka penduduk miskin tersebut masih sangat tinggi.Tidak kurang dari 47.000 kantong-kantong kemiskinan kini tersebar di berbagai kota di Indonesia.
KEPUTUSAN MENTERI PERTAMBANGAN DAN ENERGI
PEMANFAATAN TEKNOLOGI PENGINDERAAN JAUH DALAM PENGAWASAN DAN PEMANTAUAN
KEGIATAN PERTAMBANGAN DAN ENERGI
MENTERI PERTAMBANGAN DAN ENERGI,
Menimbang : a. bahwa kegiatan pertambangan dan energi dapat menimbulkan dampak dan perubahan yang sangat cepat terhadap wilayah dan lingkungan, sehingga perlu dilakukan upaya pengawasan dan pemantauan secara sistematis dan terus menerus;
b. bahwa sehubungan dengan hal tersebut di atas dan untuk dapat meningkatkan kinerja pengawasan dan pemantauan wilayah serta lingkungan akibat kegiatan pertambangan dan energi perlu menetapkan ketentuan pemanfaatan teknologi penginderaan jauh.
Mengingat : 1. Undang-Undang Nomor 44 prp Tahun 1960 (LN Tahun 1960 Nomor 133, TLN Nomor 2070)
2. Undang-Undang Nomor 11 Tahun 1967 (LN Tahun 1967 Nomor 22, TLN Nomor 2831)
3. Undang-Undang Nomor 8 Tahun 1971 (LN Tahun 1971 Nomor 76, TLN Nomor 2971)
4. Undang-Undang Nomor 15 Tahun 1985 (LN Tahun 1985 Nomor 74, TLN Nomor 3317)
5. Undang-Undang Nomor 23 Tahun 1997 (LN Tahun 1997 Nomor 68, TLN Nomor 3699)
6. Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 32 Tahun 1969 (LN Tahun 1969 Nomor 60, TLN Nomor
2916) sebagaimana telah diubah dengan Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 79 Tahun 1990 (LN 1992, Nomor 130, TLN Nomor 3510)
7. Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 37 Tahun 1986 (LN Tahun 1986 Nomor 53, TLN Nomor 3340)
8. Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 27 Tahun 1999 (LN Tahun 1999 Nomor 59, TLN Nomor 3838).
KEPUTUSAN MENTERI PERTAMBANGAN DAN ENERGI TENTANG PEMANFAATAN TEKNOLOGI PENGINDERAAN JAUH DALAM PENGAWASAN DAN PEMANTAUAN KEGIATAN PERTAMBANGAN DAN ENERGI
(1) Perusahaan atau perseorangan yang melakukan kegiatan usaha di bidang pertambangan dan energi wajib memanfaatkan teknologi penginderaan jauh untuk :
a. penyediaan informasi rona awal situasi wilayah pertambangan sebelum kegiatan dimulai;
b. pengawasan dan pemantauan kinerja kegiatan pertambangan dan energi;
c. pengawasan dan pemantauan kinerja pengelolaan wilayah dan lingkungan pertambangan dan energi;
d. pengawasan dan pemantauan lingkungan akibat kegiatan usaha di bidang pertambangan dan energi.
(2) Yang dimaksud dengan penginderaan jauh sebagaimana dimaksud dalam ayat (1) adalah suatu teknologi yang digunakan untuk melakukan pemantauan permukaan bumi dengan peralatan yang dapat menghasilkan data digital.
(3) Data digital sebagaimana dimaksud dalam ayat (2) merupakan response gelombang elektro-magnetik permukaan bumi pada berbagai kisaran panjang gelombang (wave length) yang dipancarkan oleh satelit pemantau bumi dan pesawat udara, yang diubah dalam bentuk atau format yang dapat dibaca dengan komputer, selanjutnya dapat diproses menjadi citra permukaan bumi untuk keperluan pemetaan dan analisis fisik muka bumi.
(4) Pelaksanaan pemantauan sebagaimana dimaksud dalam ayat (2) dapat dilakukan dengan menggunakan satelit pemantau bumi atau pesawat Udara
(1) Perusahaan atau perseorangan sebagaimana dimaksud dalam Pasal 1 ayat (1) wajib menyediakan data penginderaan jauh dan menyampaikan kepada masing-masing Direktur Jenderal Minyak dan Gas Bumi, Direktur Jenderal Pertambangan Umum, Direktur Jenderal Listrik dan Pengembangan Energi, Direktur Jenderal Geologi dan Sumberdaya Mineral;
(2) Katagori perusahaan atau perseorangan sebagaimana dimaksud dalam pasal 1 ayat (1) serta pengecualiannya diatur lebih lanjut oleh masing-masing Direktur Jenderal Minyak dan Gas Bumi, Direktur Jenderal Pertambangan Umum. Direktur Jenderal Listrik dan Pengembangan Energi, Direktur Jenderal Geologi dan Sumberdaya Mineral.
Ketentuan mengenai pemanfaatan dan penyediaan data penginderaan sebagaimana dimaksud dalam Pasal 1 dan Pasal 2 diatur lebih lanjut masing-masing Direktur Jenderal Minyak dan Gas Bumi, Direktur Jenderal Pertambangan Umum, Direktur Jenderal Listrik dan Pengembangan Energi, Direktur Jenderal Geologi dan Sumberdaya Mineral
Pelanggaran terhadap ketentuan dan keputusan Menteri ini dikenakan sanksi sesuai dengan ketentuan peraturan perundang-undangan yang berlaku.
Keputusan Menteri ini mulai berlaku pada tanggal ditetapkan.
Ditetapkan di Jakarta
pada tanggal 29 September 1999
MENTERI PERTAMBANGAN DAN ENERGI
1. Menteri Negara Lingkungan Hidup/Kepala Bappedal.
2. Menteri Dalam Negeri.
3. Menteri Pertahanan Keamanan.
4. Menteri Kehutanan dan Perkebunan.
5. Menteri Pertanian.
6. Menteri Pariwisata, Seni dan Budaya.
7. Menteri Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.
8. Menteri Pekerjaan Umum.
9. Menteri Negara Perencanaan Pembangunan Nasional/Kepala Bappenas.
10. Sekretaris Jenderal Departemen Pentambangan dan Energi.
11. Inspektur Jenderal Departemen Pentambangan dan Energi.
12. Para Direktur Jenderal di lingkungan Departemen Pertambangan dan Energi.
13. Kepala Bakosurtanal.
14. Ketua Lembaga llmu Pengetahuan indonesia.
15. Menteri Negara Riset dan Teknologi/Kepala BPPT.
16. Gubernur Kepala Daerah Tingkat I seluruh Indonesia.
17. Para Kepala Kantor Wilayah Departemen Pertambangan dan Energi.
18. Bupati KDH Tk. II/Walikotamadya seluruh Indonesia.
Pengetahuan bukan merupakan ilmu. Terdapat beberapa hal yang harus dipenuhi bagi suatu pengetahuan yang kredibel, atau memenuhi syarat-syarat ilmiah antara lain harus bersifat empiris, verivikatif, non-normatif, transmissible, general, dan explanotory. Di samping itu ilmu juga harus menekankan aspek ontologi, epistomologi, dan aksiologi. Ia harus bersifat ilmiah, sistematis, mempunyai metode, objek kajian, lokus, dan fokus tertentu Dalam kaitannya dengan pemahaman ilmu di atas, ilmu komunikasi sering mendapatkan keraguan dalam keberadaan dan keeksistensiannya sebagai ilmu di tengah kemajuan teknologi informasi saat ini.
Hal ini mungkin salah satunya disebabkan perkembangan historis komunikasi menjadi sebuah ilmu melalui tahapan dimensi waktu yang terlalu jauh (berdasarkan pemahaman catatan sejarah perkembangan ilmu komunikasi di daratan Amerika).
Perkembangan komunikasi sebagai ilmu selalu dikaitkan dengan aktifitas retorika yang terjadi di zaman Yunani kuno, sehingga menimbulkan pemahaman bagi pemikir-pemikir barat bahwa perkembangan komunikasi pada zaman itu mengalami masa kegelapan (dark ages) karena tidak berkembang di zaman Romawi kuno. Dan baru mulai dicatat perkembangannya pada masa ditemukannya mesin cetak oleh Guttenberg (1457). Sehingga masalah yang muncul adalah, rentang waktu antara perkembangan ilmu komunikasi yang awalnya dikenal retorika pada masa Yunani kuno, sampai pada pencatatan sejarah komunikasi pada masa pemikiran tokoh-tokoh pada abad 19, sangat jauh. Sehingga sejarah perkembangan ilmu komunikasi itu sendiri terputus kira-kira 1400 tahun. Padahal menurut catatan lain, sebenarnya aktifitas retorika yang dilakukan pada zaman Yunani kuno juga dilanjutkan perkembangan aktifitasnya pada zaman pertengahan (masa persebaran agama). Sehingga menimbulkan asumsi bahwa perkembangan komunikasi itu menjadi sebuah ilmu tidak pernah terputus, artinya tidak ada mata rantai sejarah yang hilang pada perkembangan komunikasi. Makalah ini ingin mengangkat zaman persebaran agama yang berlangsung antara rentang waktu tersebut (zaman pertengahan) menjadi bagian dari perkembangan ilmu komunikasi. Sehingga zaman pertengahan menjadi jembatan alur perkembangan komunikasi dari zaman yunani kuno ke zaman renaissance, modern, dan kontemporer.
Telah disinggung di atas bahwa fenomena komunikasi berkembang dan tercatat kembali pada awal ditemukannya mesin cetak oleh Gutenberg (1457). Padahal, pada abad-abad sebelumnya, aktifitas komunikasi sudah berkembang cukup pesat yang berlangsung di zaman pertengahan (persebaran agama). Mungkin masa ketika diketemukannya mesin cetak itu sendiri terjadi di zaman renaissance, dimana pemikiran-pemikiran ilmuwan telah bebas dari dogma-dogma agama. Sehingga mereka tidak menyinggung masa persebaran agama sebagai bagian dari sejarah perkembangan komunikasi itu sendiri. Rentang waktu antara tahun 500 SM (masa-masa pemikiran retorika di Yunani kuno) sampai pada penemuan mesin cetak (1457 M) merupakan abad-abad dimana terdapat proses perkembangan komunikasi yang dalam hal ini berbentuk ajaran dan keyakinan suatau agama (yang tentu pula tidak dapat dipungkiri bahwa dalam aktifitas persebaran ajaran agama, retorika dan bentuk komunikasi lainnya cenderung berperan besar dalam mengubah keyakinan seseorang). Sehingga tidak menyalahi aturan kalau makalah ini mencoba mengangkat masa penyebaran agama dan ajaran-ajaran bijak yang berlangsung antara rentang waktu tersebut dijadikan sebagai bagian dari mata rantai sejarah yang hilang dari perkembangan ilmu komunikasi itu.
Pada awalnya perkembangan komunikasi yang terjadi di zaman Romawi (sebagai perkembangan dari Yunani kuno sekitar tahun 500 SM-5 M) mengalami kendala, karena pada masa itu Romawi mengalami masa kegelapan (dark ages). Padahal, masa kegelapan yang terjadi di Eropah ini merupakan sisi lain dari masa keemasan peradaban Islam, dimana pada masa ini perkembangan ilmu pengetahuan (termasuk aktifitas komunikasi) cukup signifikan. Selain itu, perkembangan komunikasi juga sangat maju pesat di Cina yang telah dimulai pada tahun 550 SM. Memang, aktifitas komunkasi dalam bentuk retorika yang berlangsung di Cina dan Islam ini lebih menekankan pada penyebaran ajaran dan keyakinan. Berbeda di Yunani dan Romawi yang lebih bersifat politis. Salah satu ajaran yang berkembang yaitu ajaran konfusiunisme di Cina. Kong hu Cu (bagian dari konfusianisme) lahir pada sekitar 550 SM yang ajarannya telah berusia 2000 tahun. Konfusius mulai mengajarkan filsafat hidupnya ketika Cina masih terpecah-pecah. Dalam penyebarannya, komunikasi yang dilakukan sudah sangat maju setelah ditemukannya kertas oleh Ts’ai Lun (105 M). Namun, ketika dinasti Qin (215 SM-206 SM), kaisar Qin Shi Hung melarang ajaran Konfusianisme, sehingga banyak buku-buku yang dibakar. Namun, ketika masa dinasti Han (206 SM-220 M), konfusianisme mulai mencapai masa emasnya kembali. Misalnya dengan didirikannya semacam Imperial University yang meninggalkan kitab-kitab ajaran konfusianisme seperti kitab Shi Ching (kumpulan lagu-lagu), Shu Ching (dokumen-dokumen), I Ching (buku ahli ramalan), Ch’un Ch’iu (peristiwa penting), dan Li Chi (upacara-upacara). Konfusianisme ini berlangsung cukup lama sampai pada masa jatuhnya dinasti Ching (1644-1911). Hal ini mengidentifikasikan bahwa adanya proses perkembangan komunikasi yang lebih condong pada penyebaran ajaran-ajaran konfusianisme di Cina.
Aktifitas komuniksi dalam bentuk propaganda juga telah ada di zaman Isa Almasih. Isa yang pada waktu itu ingin mengajarkan ajaran Allah, mendapat tantangan dari kaum Yahudi. Isa dianggap bahaya oleh kaum Yahudi, sehingga orang-orang Yahudi berusaha memancing kemarahan pihak penguasa Romawi yang ketika itu menguasai Palestina. Akhirnya usaha ini berhasil mempengaruhi sikap politik penguasa Romawi yang pada awalnya tidak ikut campur dalam keagamaan, kini berubah haluan memerintahkan tentaranya untuk menangkap Isa dan menghukum Isa Al Masih. Namun, catatan sejarah menunjukkan bahwa sebenarnya Isa tidak mati terkutuk di tiang salib, ia berhasil diselamatkan oleh Pilatus yang telah bekerjasama dengan yusuf Aritmatea (Injil Yahya, 19:38). Setelah memperlihatkan bukti-bukti kepada muridnya bahwa beliau tidak mati di kayu salib (Injil Markus, 16:19-20), maka Al Masih memutuskan atas perintah Allah untuk meninggalkan Palestina dan menjelajahi berbagai negeri dimana berdiam suku-suku Israil yang hilang untuk melanjutkan menyampaikan risalahNya (berdakwah) (kitab Ester 3:6, 1:1, 2:6, dan II Raja-raja 15:29). Negeri terakhir dimana tempat peristirahatan beliau adalah Srinagar, India. Komunikasi dalam bentuk ajaran dakwah yang dilakukan di zaman Isa ini terbukti dengan adanya penjelasan Dalai Lama (pendeta Budhah Tibet) bahwa Isa adalah salah satu orang suci yang dihormati dalam ajaran Budhah. Hal ini berkaitan erat dengan kepercayaan Budhah yang mengatakan bahwa Baghawa Metteya (pengembara kulit putih; Isa Al Masih) pernah datang mengajarkan ajarannya di India. Juga dengan diketemukannya scroll (gulungan yang jumlahnya 84.000 gulungan) yang isinya menceritakan aktifitas penyebaran ajaran Isa di India. Bukti lain juga dengan ditemukannya kuburan Yus Asaf di Srinagar, Kashmir oleh tim Jerman Barat yang merupakan kuburan nabi Isa yang meninggal pada usia 120 tahun. (Thre Tribune, Chandigarh, 11 Mei 1984).
Komunikasi di dunia Islam pun sebenarnya telah mengalami perkembangan yang cukup signifikan. Sama seperti fenomena komunnikasi yang terjadi di zaman Isa Al Masih, komunikasi Islam pun lebih berorientasi pada sistem dakwah yang berusaha mengubah atau mempengaruhi alam pikiran seseorang untuk mengikuti syariat Islam. Peradaban umat Islam dalam kaitannya dengan perkembangan komunikasi telah mencatatkan sejarah yang cukup menakjubkan. Pada masa bani Umayah misalnya, telah ditemukannya suatu cara pengamatan astronomi pada abad 7 M, 8 abad sebelum Galileo Galilei dan Copernicus. Perhubungan antara Timur dan Barat selama perang Salib (1100-1300 M ) sangat penting untuk perkembangan komunikasi ilmu pengetahuan di Eropah. Karena pada waktu ekspansi, Arab telah mengambil alih kebudayaan Byzantium, Persia, dan Spanyol, sehingga tingkat kebudayaan Islam jauh lebih tinggi dari pada kebudayaan Eropah (Brower, 1982;41). Universitas Bagdad, Damsyik, Beirut, dan Kairo menyimpan dan memberikan warisan ilmiah dari India, Persia, Yunani, dan Byzantium, sehingga Eropah menerima warisan filsafat Yunani melalui orang Arab yang terlebih dahulu mempelajarinya. Karena bangsa Arab telah menterjemahkan karya-karya fisuf termasyur seperti Plato, Hipokrates dan Aristoteles. Sekitar abad ke-14 pada zaman dinasti Yuan (1260-1368), pengaruh Islam ditandai dengan peneliti di bidang astronomi pertama yang mendirikan observatorium, yaitu Jamal Al-Din.
Perkembangan komunikasi dalam Islam yang lebih bersifat dakwah tadi tidak lepas dari kaitannya sebagai bagian dari bentuk komunikasi, karena dalam bahasa arab, dakwah berarti seruan, panggilan, atau ajakan. Menurut Salahuddin Sanusi, yang didefinisikan oleh Al Ustadz Bahiyul Khuli dalam bukunya yang berjudul Tadzkiratud Du’at, dakwah ialah suatu komunikasi yang ditimbulkan dari interaksi antar individu maupun kelompok manusia yang bertujuan memindahkan umat dari suatu situasi yang negatif (zaman jahiliyah) ke situasi yang positif. Pada zaman nabi Muhammad SAW (570 M-632 M), penyebaran Islam berlangsung dalam waktu yang relatif singkat (8-9 M). Muhammad melakukan dakwahnya ke Mekah pada tahun 610 M. Dalam tempo 25 tahun, Muhammad beserta pengikutnya (yang disebut sebagai Muslim), mengambil alih kekuasaan di kawasan Arab, dan Islam kemudian berkembang dengan sangat pesatnya. Pada sekitar tahun 650 M, Arab, seluruh daerah timur tengah, serta Mesir dikendalikan oleh orang-orang Islam, dan pada tahun 700 M, Islam mendominasi area besar mulai dari daratan China dan India di timur sampai Afrika Utara dan Spanyol di barat. Cepatnya perkembangan Islam bisa jadi merupakan dampak dari penggunaan dakwah-dakwah yang berisi tentang ajaran-ajaran Islam, seperti; dakwah yang berisi tentang jihad fisabilillah, yaitu jaminan untuk masuk surga bagi mereka yang mati dalam usahanya untuk memperjuangkan Islam. Artinya terdapat bentuk komunikasi yang efektif sehingga dapat mempengaruhi keyakinan jutaan umat dalam waktu yang sangat singkat.
komunikasi di awali dengan adanya perintah dari Allah kepada Nabi Muhammad untuk memberikan peringatan (dalam hal ini berdakwah) kepada umnat manusia untuk percaya kepada Allah. Awalnya komunikasi itu dilakukan secara diam-diam lalu dilanjutkan secara terbuka seiring dari wahyu berikutnya yang memerintahkan Nabi untuk berdakwah secara terang-terangan (Q.S Al-Hijr;94-95).
Dalam media tulisan, sebenarnya telah dirintis oleh Rasulullah, yaitu ketika beliau mengirimkan surat yang isinya ajakan untuk memeluk Islam kepada para raja di Eropah. Sebagai contoh, nabi pernah mengirimkan surat dakwah kepada raja Hiraqla (raja di Roma Timur) yang bernama Hirakles, raja Habsyi yang bernama Najsyi, dan lain-lain. Dalam setiap suratnya, selalu dibubuhi stempel yang terbuat dari perak yang berukirkan tulisan “Muhammadurrasulullah”. Dengan contoh ini, maka Rasulullah telah merintis sistem jurnalistik dalam melakukan komunikasi Islam sebagai bentuk dakwah. Dalam perkembangannya, komunikasi telah sedemikian maju, contoh lain dalam hal diskusi yang merupakan bagian dari bentuk komunikasi kelompok. Dalam berdakwah, Rasulullah selalu melakukan komunikasi sebagai dakwah dengan metode yang tepat dan apabila dicermati akan sangat relevan dengan metode diskusi saat ini. Dalam dakwahnya, diskusi yang dilakukan pasti didasari hal-hal berikut: alasannya kuat (hujjah), tutr kata yang arif dan bijak (uslub), dan adab sopan santun yang baik. Kembali hubungannya de ngan pers sebagai bagian dari komunikasi, Islam telah merintis perkembangan komunikasi itu sendiri, sekali lagi dalam bentuk dakwah. Misalnya turun temurunnya hadits-hadits nabi dan sunnah Rasul. Sejarah telah mengungkapkan kepada kita bahwa perkembangan dan kecemerlangan ajaran Islam telah menerobos cakrawala abad dan zaman sera melewati negara-negara dan benua. Ini berkat para jurnalis-jurnalis Islam seperti Syafi’i ’(yang mazhabnya mayoritas diadaptasi umat muslim Indonesia), Malik Ahmad Hambali, Hanafi, Abu Dawud, dan sebagainya yang tulisannya dalam bidang hukum fiqih. Bidang filsafat seperti Al Kindi, Al Farabi, Ibnu Sina, Imam Ghazali, Jamaludin Al afgani, Muhammad Abduh, Muhammad Rasyid Ridla, dan lain-lain. Bidang kedokteran, Ibnu Sina telah menulis buku yang berisi aturan-aturan dalam ilmu kedokteran yang banyak diadaptasi oleh ilmuwan-ilmuwan dalam bidang kedokteran dewasa ini. Dari uraian ini, dapat dikatakan bahwa sebenarnya peradaban Islam (dalam kaitannya sebagai jembatan penghubung sejarah komunikasi) telah melanjutkan atau mewariskan komunikasi dari ajaran-ajaran Yunani yang telah disinggung di atas, untuk kemudian baru diadaptasi oleh bangsa Eropa dan seterusnya Amerika (sebagai dampak dari intellectual migration dari daratan Eropah ke utara benua Amerika pada masa Hitler).
Melihat uraian sejarah perkembangan komunikasi di zaman pertengahan di atas, timbullah satu pertanyaan, mengapa aktifitas retorika dalam kaitannya dakwah yang terjadi di zaman pertengahan tidak dijadikan bagian dari mata rantai sejarah perkembangn komunikasi oleh para pemikir-pemikir barat? Untuk menjawab pertanyaan ini, mari kita lihat fase-fase perkembangn ilmu itu sendiri dari zaman ke zaman. Ilmu berkembang, pertama kali pada masa Yunani kuno. Lalu dilanjutkan pada zaman pertengahan (yang sebenarnya adalah masa-masa persebaran agama). Telah disinggung di atas, contoh persebaran agama yang diambil adalah Islam yang memang berlangsung pada zaman pertengahan. Lalu ilmu berkembang lagi pada zaman renaissance (14-17 M), dimana kebanyakan pemikiran tokoh-tokoh pada abad ini sudah bebas dan tidak terikat lagi oleh dogma-dogma agama. Sebut saja seperti Isaac Newton dan Darwin. Zaman ini merupakan zaman peralihan dari zaman pertengahan menuju zaman modern. Ketika di zaman modern, ilmu-ilmu yang berkembang itu lebih didasari oleh pemikiran-pemikiran yang ilmiah dan empiris. Seperti Darwin yang sangat fanatik dengan teori evolusinya. Inilah yang mungkin menyebabkan banyak teori-teori komunikasi yang tidak pernah mencantumkan nama-nama besar dari cendikiawan-cendikiawan Islam (seperti Al Kindi, Al Farabi, dll) sebagai tokoh yang berjasa dalam mengembangkan komunikasi itu sendiri pada zaman pertengahan. Mungkin ini ada kaitannya dengan masa kegelapan (dark ages) yang terjadi di Eropah yang kala itu merupakan zaman keemasan peradaban Islam. Contoh peristiwa penting yaitu perang Salib yang terulang sebanyak enam kali. Hal ini tidak hanya menjadi ajang peperangan fisik, tetapi juga menyadarkan serdadu-serdadu eropah akan kemajuan negara-negara Islam yang sedemikian pesatnya. Sehingga mereka menyebarkan pengalaman-pengalaman mereka itu sekembalinya di negara masing-masing. Pada tahun1453 M, Istambul jatuh ke Turki, sehingga para pendeta atau sarjana mengungsi ke Itali atau negara-negara lain. Mereka inilah yang menjadi pionir-pionir perkembangan ilmu di Eropah. Padahal sebenarnya mereka ini mendapatkan pengetahuannya dari peradaban Islam yang telah maju lebih dulu. Mengenai perkembangan komunikasi yang lebih cenderung diklaim sebagai bagian dari perkembangan ilmu pengetahuan di Amerika dan Eropah, sebenarnya kembali pada pola pemikiran dari manfaat ilmu pengetahuan yang ditemukan. Pada dasarnya, orang Amerika dan Eropah cenderung untuk mematenkan suatu ciptaan, sedangkan pemikir-pemikir di Asia dan peradaban Timur tengah lebih cenderung kepada manfaat dari hasil temuannya itu. Padahal jelas, sejarah menceritakan secara gamblang bahwa peradaban yang sangat maju telah berlangsung lebih dulu di Cina dan Timur Tengah.
Penjelasan sejarah di atas sudah cukup membuktikan bahwa sebenarnya sejarah perkembangan komunikasi sebenarnya tidak pernah terputus. Karena pada dasarnya hubungan antara komunikasi sebagai bagian dari perkembangan peradaban manusia begitu erat. Hal ini dikarenakan aktifitas retorika sudah ada di zaman pertengahan, tetapi memang belum berbentuk ilmu. Fenomena yang lebih banyak bersifat dakwah (persebaran agama) ini baru berupa gejala-gejala sosial, dan pada masa itu belum ada suatu ilmu yang mengkhususkan fokus dan lokus kajiannya tentang komunikasi. Tetapi setidaknya hal di atas cukup memberikan argumen bahwa komunikasi merupakan fenomena yang sudah sangat lama terjadi dan baru dikaji secara utuh sebagai suatu ilmu pada abad ke-19 di daratan Amerika.
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