- The 1991 census recorded 8,000 Romanies, but the estimated Gypsy population then was 80,000. An unknown number of Bosnian Romanies sought refuge in other countries during and after the 1992-1995 war. Official estimates of the current population range between 30,000 and 60,000.Before 1428, the Gypsy population of Bosnia probably consisted of only a handful of families, but no records from that time exist. Then in the period 1428-1875, Bosnia was under the rule of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and Gypsies followed the conquerors into the area. Under Turkish rule, the Gypsies were treated as any other minority ethnic group, with some discouragement of nomadism, largely because of the difficulty of collecting taxes from nomads. In 1574 Sultan Salim II decreed that the Gypsies who worked in the Bosnian mines were to be exempted from certain taxes and had to choose a headman for each group of 50 adults.From 1875 to 1918 the country was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1918 it became part of the newly established Yugoslavia and then in 1941 was incorporated into the puppet fascist state of Croatia.In the federal state of Yugoslavia that was reestablished after 1945, the Romanies were recognized as a national minority in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were allowed to run their own organizations and use the Romani language. In 1986 the Sarajevo Conference was held, which was a landmark in the development of Romani culture for the whole of Europe. Delegates came from many countries - though not from the local community-and Romani was used by many of the speakers as well as in the final conference report.During the armed conflict in Bosnia in 1992-1995, Gypsy men were conscripted for military service by all three warring parties (Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs). Men from Zavidovici formed an all-Romany unit called Garavi Vod that fought alongside the Bosnian government forces. It is thought that some 80 Romanies were killed in the Serbian-run concentration camp at Manjaca. At least 500 were killed during the fighting in Bihac, Sarajevo, and Zvornik. There was no functioning Romany organization in Bosnia during the war period except in Sarajevo. At the end of hostilities in 1995, there were still sizable Romany populations in Tuzla, Sarajevo, and other towns, although many had fled to western Europe.Some 300-400 Gypsies are living in what was the Serbian district of Ilidza in Sarajevo, and others are in Gorica. The Gypsy population of all Sarajevo is between 1,000 and 2,000, with a high proportion of children. Some six active organizations operate in Bosnia. Braca Romi (Romani Brethren) functions locally in Sarajevo, as do other bodies in Kiseljak, Visoko, and Zenica. The German-based Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Völker helped set up the All-Bosnian Romany Union, which held its first conference in 1997. A "Council of Roma" was set up by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Bosnia.At the time of writing, several thousand Romany refugees from Bosnia are still in Germany and smaller numbers in other western countries. Some are being sent back to Bosnia, though the new constitution does not allow all the Gypsies who once lived in Bosnia to become citizens of the new federation, as they may not all be able to establish residence. A fact-finding mission under the auspices of the Council of Europe visited Bosnia in May 1996. It recommended that both parts of the Republic (Bosnia-Croatia and Republika Srpska) recognize Romanies as a nationality. The granting of equal rights to other minorities - Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats-has meant squeezing the Roma out from participation in politics at the higher levels.Many examples have been reported of police abuse and racist attacks by Bosnians and Serbs. In 2000 the Bosnian villagers of Meskovici verbally abused Roma passing along the main road on their way to their own nearby settlement and for a short time set up barricades. In 2002 a Mr. Mehic from Sapna was accused of robbery and beaten with sticks in the police station. He was then thrown out of a police car near his house, sustaining severe injuries.Several deputations visiting Tuzla and other towns found that the Romanies are at the bottom of the list for receiving humanitarian help from outside agencies. Roma returning to their hometowns and villages have found difficulty in establishing their right to live on the land they previously occupied.
Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . Donald Kenrick.