- Estimated Gypsy population of Yugoslavia in 1992 (before the breakup of the republic): one million. More than 50,000 Yugoslav Gypsies had perished during the Nazi Holocaust, leaving a population of perhaps 600,000 in 1945. In 1981 a census gave the figure of 850,000 Gypsies for the whole of Yugoslavia. This showed a rise throughout the country compared to previous censuses, as Gypsies felt encouraged to declare their ethnicity. Only in Macedonia and Kosovo were there demands on them to declare themselves otherwise-as Albanians, pressured by that community. The reduced Yugoslav state after 1992 (comprising only Serbia and Montenegro) had a population of some 150,000-200,000 Gypsies.The first Gypsies appeared on the territory of modern Yugoslavia in the 14th century. After having been part of the Byzantine, Ottoman, and Habsburg Austro-Hungarian empires, Yugoslavia became an independent country in 1918. At that time, the Gypsy population was for the most part settled or seminomadic and had Catholic, Muslim, and Orthodox Christian members. Only in Montenegro was there a large nomadic population. Some cultural activity took place in Belgrade, where there was a settled community, mostly living in separate Gypsy quarters. Three issues of a bilingual magazine Romano Lil (Romani Paper), edited by Svetozar Simic, were published in 1935.In 1941 the German Army invaded Yugoslavia, which was split into separate parts. After the liberation in 1945, the Yugoslav Federation was reestablished as a republic. It is said that Marshal Tito (the Partisan leader and president of the new republic) had promised the Gypsies who fought with the Partisans that they would have their own state after the war. It was likely that this would have been carved out of Macedonia. However, this plan was dropped, probably because Tito did not wish to reduce Macedonia in size in case it became the object of territorial demands by Greece or Albania. It was the Romanies of Macedonia, however, who developed the largest Gypsy community called Shuto Orizari on the outskirts of Skopje.The economic restructuring of Yugoslavia during the 1960s also saw a wave of mass migration of many Gypsies to the West as the restrictions on emigration were eased. Predominantly from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Kosovo, the migrants moved to Germany, France, and other countries. Many took jobs in factories; others nomadized in caravans.The antagonisms among nationalities in the country intensified, which led Tito and the Yugoslav government to hold back the official recognition of Gypsies as a nationality (as opposed to the lower status of "ethnic group") across Yugoslavia. In 1971, however, Faik Abdi, the representative from Shuto Orizari in the Macedonian Parliament, was able to upgrade the status of Romanies to an officially recognized nationality in Macedonia. This allowed the use of the Romany flag and language, as well as time on radio and television. In 1981 Roma were recognized as a national minority across Yugoslavia.The press began to refer to "Roma" instead of the pejorative word Tsigani. Publications in Romani included local periodicals and a biography of Tito translated into Romani in 1978 by Shaip Jusuf. In 1981 Radio Tetovo began a half-hour program in Romani. Eighty local Romany associations also sprang up during this period, many focusing on cultural activities and calling themselves Phralipe (Brotherhood).There was still discrimination and prejudice. In 1986 Muslim Gypsies were prevented from burying their dead in a Muslim cemetery in Bosnia and officials in Slovenia tried to stop Gypsies from voting in local elections. In Kursumlija, a Gypsy woman was doused with gasoline and burned. The greatest barrier for the Gypsies remained illiteracy, as most children did not complete secondary education.Bilingual magazines have appeared sporadically in Serbia and Macedonia. The editor of one (Romano Lil), Dragomir Askovic, is also active in the radio broadcasts in Romani from Radio Belgrade. The government of the new smaller Yugoslavia-consisting of Serbia (incorporating Voivodina and Kosovo) only-has made some attempt to gain the allegiance of the Gypsies, for example, by holding a ceremonial Orthodox service with prayers in Romani that was attended by government figures.
Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . Donald Kenrick.