ROMA DISCRIMINATION

Roma settlement, Slovakia

A new actor has emerged in European politics: “the threatened majorities”. They feel like minorities, they talk like minorities and they feel betrayed by their elites. European societies have started to view globalisation as an existential threat to their prosperity. A majority of people already psychologically live with the fear that they have lost control of their own social environment. While the Western European debate has been Islam-centred since the beginning of the 21st century, the Central European debate has been Roma-centred. More than 75% of the Roma community living in Europe is settled in the Danube basin and above all, in the EU accession states of 2004/07. While the fear of Islam is the incarnation of cultural fears of Western European publics, the anti-Roma sentiment in Central Europe is the embodiment of predominantly social fears of post-communist societies. …

AUSTRIAN ROMA AND SINTI

The official estimate for the Roma population in Austria is 10,000-20,000. At the 2011 census a little more than 4,000 Romani speakers with Austrian nationality were recorded and approximately 2,000 with other nationalities. Yet Roma representatives estimate 10,000 autochthonous Roma plus 25,000 – 30,000 Roma immigrants. The Roma are the only ethnic minority group which is since 1993 officially recognized throughout the Austrian territory, whereas the Slovenian, Croatian and Hungarian minority is officially recognised in some federal states only. The Roma Advisory Council was established in 1995. The “Burgenland Roma” are considered as mainly rural, whereas other Roma groups are city dwellers. The majority of autochthonous Roma live in Vienna and eastern Austria. As the religious affiliation of Roma is usually determined by that of the majority population of the respective emigration country which in turn correlates with the socio-cultural background, the “Burgenland Roma” and “Lovara”, the biggest Austrian autochthonous groups, are generally Catholic.…

ROMA MUSLIMS ON THE BALKANS PENINSULA

The first arrival of Roma Muslims on the Balkans is connected to the Ottoman invasion and the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in the region during the 14th and 15th century. Some of the Roma Muslims were directly involved in the conquest by participating in auxiliary army units or as craftsmen serving the army. At that time there was already a Roma population on the Balkans who had settled there earlier. The Ottoman Empire dominated the Balkans for five centuries and made a distinct impression on the culture and history of the region. Based on the information from the corpus of law and regulations relating to the population in the province of Rumelia, covering most of the Balkans, from 1475, it is clear that all Roma, whether Muslim or Christian, paid poll tax, only payable by non-Muslims, with some tax benefits for Roma Muslims. Approximately 66,000 “Gypsies” lived in Rumelia then, the majority (47,000) Christians. The Ottoman Empire promoted the adoption of Islam by Roma, mostly through tax benefits, but they were never accepted as “true Muslims”. The ratio between Roma Muslims and Roma Christians continually changed until the balance had radically changed in the course of the 19th century with a ratio of Christian to Muslim as 1:3 or 1:4. The establishment of ethnic-linguistic nation states on the Balkans in the 19th century radically changed the public status and the position of the “Turkish Gypsies”. As a result of this process, complex and heterogeneous communities of Muslim Roma had developed in the Balkans by the second half of the 20th century.…

ROMANI COMMUNITIES IN THE DANUBE BASIN

The ancestors of the Roma communities in Eastern Europe migrated from the Indian subcontinent to Europe over a millennium ago. The boundaries of this community are determined not by its members, but by the surrounding population that has been living alongside them for centuries. Roma have existed in “two dimensions” for some time, namely as a separate community and as an ethnic society within the respective nation state. Roma are an inhomogeneous socio-cultural unit that is hierarchically structured on different taxonomical levels. A main scientific category, which is traditionally used by the Romani studies’ scholars is the Roma group or tribe or nation or caste. …

MINORITIES IN THE DANUBE REGION AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 21st CENTURY

 

The current revived nationalism in the region clearly has consequences for minorities, bringing about tensions within and between countries. The present minority issue in the Danube basin most of all concerns the sizable Roma communities in the accession countries of 2004/2007. In the whole of the European Union an estimated 10-12 million Roma live as a transnational minority. Although the adverse situation of the Roma was addressed during the accession process, discrimination and exclusion continue to persist; the situation is sometimes even exacerbated. Many populist and nationalist politicians are hostile towards the Roma, using them as scapegoats and reproducing discriminatory practices. Above all, Roma cannot be regarded in the same manner as other national minorities because they lack a clear territorial base or connection to any nation state. They are transnational people. Clearly the parallel to the position of Jews in the region before World War II is jumping to the eye.…

THE END OF THE MULTICULTURAL STATE

Synagogue, Krakov

During the 1920s and 1930s Austrian intellectual life was still dominated by men who had grown up under the empire. Many of them deemed the Habsburg Empire a lost paradise, whose lustre brightened as time passed. In 1938 the last vestiges of cosmopolitanism perished from Vienna and much of the Danube basin as Jews were decimated, saddling their successors with a corrosive guilt. After 1938 for a long time no other forum for debate has emerged to replace what Hitler had destroyed. The demise of intellectual Vienna is a major reason why post-1945 Central and Eastern Europe has produced so few innovative thinkers.

 

With the Treaty of Paris of 1919, i.e. the treaties of Versailles, St. Germain, Trianon and Sèvres, the disintegration process of the whole Danube region, which during the Habsburg Empire had constituted a homogenous economic free-trade area with a well-working division of production and provision of services, was speeded up in a disastrous way. After the break-down of so many regimes, the collapse of the Russian, German, Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, the map of Central and Eastern Europe was redrawn along nationalistic lines. The main aim was the creation of ethnic-linguistic nation states according to the belief of the US President Wilson that nations had the “right to self-determination”, a belief that was easily held by those far from the ethnic and linguistic realities of the regions which were to be divided into neat nation states. The whole attempt was a disaster and triggered the national conflicts that have torn the continent apart in the 20th century. The Balkans wars of the 1990s and the Ukrainian conflict can be seen as the latest “legacies of Versailles”. …

EASTERN JEWS

Jewish cementery, Krakov

Joseph Roth, born to a Jewish family, grew up in Brody near Lemberg/Lvov/Lviv in Eastern Galicia, the eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Brody had one of the biggest Jewish populations in Europe and Jewish cultural life played an important role there. He began his studies in Lemberg and then went on to study philosophy and German literature in Vienna in 1914. In 1916 he quit university and volunteered in the Austro-Hungarian Army. The collapse of the empire had a lasting and detrimental effect on him, as on many other Jewish intellectuals. “My strongest experience was the War and the destruction of my fatherland, the only one I ever had, the dual Monarchy of Austro-Hungary.” In 1927 he wrote his famous essay “The Wandering Jews” about the minority of Eastern Jews and their plight. “The Eastern Jew does not know anything about the social injustice of the West; nothing about the reign of prejudice, that governs the paths, actions, customs and ways of life of the average Western European,….nothing of the hate which is already so strong that it is cherished like a life-giving (but life-killing) eternal fire that warms the egotism of every man and every country…. For the Eastern Jew the West means freedom, the possibility to work and to develop his talents, justice and autonomous rule of the mind. Western Europe sends engineers, automobiles, books and poems to the East. It sends propaganda soaps and hygiene, the useful and the sublime….For the Eastern Jew Germany for example is still the country of Goethe and Schiller, of the German poets, who every ambitious young Jew knows better than a swastika-loving grammar school pupil.” They started migrating from the borderlands to the Russian Empire, where “every year there is a war and every week a pogrom”. Some returned, many more continued their journey. “The Eastern Jews have nowhere a fatherland, but graves in every cemetery…. Most give to the West at least as much as the West takes from them. Some give more to the West than the West gives to them. They all have the right to live in the West who sacrifice themselves, in that they venture to the West.” …

JEWISH INTELLECTUAL BOOST IN THE HABSBURG CITIES

Palais Morpurgo, Jewish industrialists and bankers in Trieste

Any study of intellectual life in the Habsburg Empire must single out the Jews for special attention. No other ethnic group produced so many thinkers of transcendent originality, i.e. theorists like Freud, Husserl, Kelsen, Wittgenstein, Mahler, authors like Schnitzler, Kraus, Broch, Roth. In addition to these creative geniuses, a disproportionate number of productive thinkers in every field were Jewish. In some fields like psychoanalysis and Austro-Marxism, Jews constituted an overwhelming preponderance. The Jewish middle class provided a unique forum for discussion and dissemination of new ideas. Newspapers like the “Neue Freie Presse” and “Wiener Tagblatt”, Karl Kraus’ journal “Die Fackel” were mainly Jewish.…

JEWS IN THE AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN MONARCHY

Synagogue Pecs, Hungary

The first mentioning of Jews on the territory of Austria proper goes back to the “Raffelstettner Customs Regulation” which was formulated between 903 and 906. The first Jews came as travelling merchants who traded between the Carolingian Empire, where they were already mentioned in the 8th century, and the Slav territories in the East. At that time several Jewish merchants had already settled on the territory of the duchy of Bavaria, of which Austria was a part. The Jews were expelled from the duchy of Austria several times. After the battle of Mohacs 1526 and the expansion of the Habsburg Empire into the Danube basin including now Bohemia, Moravia and Hungary many Jews who lived in the kingdom of Bohemia moved to Vienna and the surrounding lands, but they fled again to Bohemia after another pogrom of Viennese Jews between 1669 and 1671 because bigger Jewish communities had already existed there in the 16th century. In Moravia the Jews were expelled from the cities already in the 15th century and mostly lived on noble estates on the countryside. Also in Hungary bigger Jewish communities were established on the estates of the Hungarian nobility after they had been driven out of the cities. But most of the Jews in the Eastern Danube basin in the 17th century lived on the territory that was still part of the Osman Empire because the more tolerant attitude of the Osmans towards Jews guaranteed them relatively more legal security.…

VIENNA, THE MELTING POT OF CENTRAL EUROPE

Crest of the Ephrussis, migrated to Vienna from Russia

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution Vienna had the largest multi-ethnic immigration of all European big cities. in 1880 65 % of the population were not born there and in 1910 the share was still 51 %. The famous Ringstrassen buildings can act as a symbol for this multi-ethnic climate. They were built by architects from different nationalities, constructed by workers and craftsmen who had immigrated to Vienna from all parts of the empire and were partly inhabited by first and second generations of immigrated industrialists of the Ringstrassen era. These architects built similar representative buildings in all the big cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and this architectural heritage can still be seen in many cities of the Danube region, restored to new splendour after 1989.…