- Estimated Gypsy population: 17,500; the census in 2000 counted 11,500. The main groups are Belarussian Roma and Haladitka. The first document referring to Gypsies on the territory of present-day Belarus dates from 1501 when Earl Alexander of Lithuania gave the Gypsies a certain autonomy under their chief Vasil, in Belarus, Lithuania, and Poland. In 1586, however, the Parliament of Lithuania-Poland issued a decree expelling all Gypsies who refused to settle down. This applied to Belarus as well. There was still some measure of self-government, as in 1778 when Jan Marcinkiewicz was appointed the chief of the Gypsies in the area around Mir, and he continued in this role until 1790. At that time there was a famous academy where bear trainers were educated at Smorjan. In 1780 the Polish king Stanislaw II authorized a non-Gypsy, Jakob Zniemarowski, to be king over the Romany people in Belarus (as well as Lithuania, Ukraine, and Poland). He continued to rule until 1795, when Belarus was annexed by the Russian Empire. From then until 1991, the history of Gypsies in Belarus followed that of Russia and the Soviet Union.During the occupation by Germany (1941-1944), half of all the Gypsies in Belarus were killed by the Einsatzgruppen and army units in concentration camps, such as Polask and Trastiniets, as well as in the woods near their homes. Others, including Admiral Kotslowski, served in the Soviet armed forces or the partisans.After the end of World War II in 1945, little cultural activity took place, though from 1987 to 1989 Valdemar Kalinin ran the folk group Belvelitko (Evening Party). The major dialect (Balt-Slavic) is similar to that of northern Russia and had been used during the 1930s for literacy purposes. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, there have been some isolated racist incidents, including a pogrom at Sit-lagorsk. Nevertheless there has been a new wave of emigration from the Baltic countries following nationalist attacks there.The Belarussian Association of Gypsies campaigns against discrimination, in particular in the fields of housing and education. Oleg Kozlovski is the chairperson of the Cultural Association of Roma. There is also a cultural group in Mogilev headed by A. Kasimirov.See also Belarussian Association of Gypsies.
Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . Donald Kenrick.