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Boyash (or Bayash; Romanian: Băeşi, Hungarian: Beás, Slovak: Bojáš, South Slavic: Bojaši) refers to a Roma ethnic group living in Romania, southern Hungary, northeastern Croatia, western Vojvodina, Slovakia, the Balkans, but also in the Americas[1] and Australia. Alternative names are Rudari (Ludari), Lingurari,ursari and Zlătari.

Contents

History

The Boyash are a branch/caste of the Roma people who were held as slaves in Wallachia and Moldavia together with other Roma castes, up until the latter half of the 19th century; such slavery was abolished in Romanian states in 1864.

In particular, the Boyash were forced to settle in the 14th century and work in mining (a regionalism for mine in Romanian: "baie," from Middle Age Slavonic."). Due to their close proximity with Romanian-speaking people, they lost the use of the Romani language. Some groups relearned Romani when they came in contact with other Romani-speaking Roma, after they emigrated from Romania (for example, in Ecuador).

Another name for the Boyash, Rudari, comes from the Slavic ruda ("metal", "ore"). However, a few centuries later, the mines became inefficient and the Boyash people were forced to readjust by earning their living making wood utensils (Lingurari means "spoon-makers" in Romanian). The nickname Kashtale ("wood-workers") was also given to them by the Romani-speaking Roma and it has remained in Romani as a more general word for a Romani person who does not speak Romani.

After the point at which they began to make wood tools they scattered themselves in isolated communities. The consequence of this is that nowadays they speak a distinct archaic dialect of Romanian (from the 15th century), with Romani and Hungarian borrowings. Their location seems unknown...

Population

After the liberation of Roma from slavery (by the middle of the 19th century), many emigrated in other countries, especially in Hungary and the Balkans, but also as far as the Americas, South Africa or Australia.

In 1993, about 14,000 of the 280,000 recorded Hungarian Roma were Boyash.

In Croatia, the Boyash are settled in several small communities along the Hungarian border in the regions of Međimurje, the Podravina, Slavonija and Baranja with an overflow of settlers living in the Apatin county of Vojvodina, Serbia. 2005 saw the Boyash language of Croatia published in its own alphabet for the first time in the Catholic Catechism, published by the HBK Glas Konica in Zagreb. In 2007, the first Bible--a children's Bible--was published by OM Books in Austria and facilitated by The Roma Bible Union.

Names in other languages

In English, the commonly accepted name for the ethnic group is Boyash, however in contemporary Bulgaria the terms Ludari and Rudari are in common use, while in Romania both terms are present in some form: Rudari and Băeşi.

For the same ethnic group in Hungary and Croatia the terms Beyash and Boyash are now officially used. The ethnonym Banyash in Serbia is known only among the group settled in Bačka region, living along the river Danube, near the border with Croatia and Hungary. This term is only sporadically understood, and not used among some other Banyash groups in the Serbian Banat region, e.g. the village of Uljma.

They are also known by many appellations based on trades; in addition to Rudari/Ludari (possibly from Bulgarian "rudar," "miner") they are known as Kopanari ("cradle-makers"), Koritari ("trough-makers"), Lingurara ("spoon-makers") and Ursara or Mechkara ("bear-trainers").

Community

The Boyash community in certain parts of Croatia have their own internal justice system. This system deals with interpersonal conflicts that arise at the village level. In many senses the system enforces the social norms and expectations of the culture but has little authority at the inter-village relational level.

Most larger villages - 300 people or more - have a village chief, called a Predsjednik, who is assisted by a group of elders. A plaintiff or person pursuing justice appeals to the Predsjednik of the village for assistance or a judgement over an issue or conflict. A Globa, or court, is called and the elders of the village interview the parties and other witnesses. A judgement is arrived at and is communicated to both the plaintiff and the defendant. The judgement is final and binding. The judgement usually involves the payment of money by the defendant to the plaintiff in the event of a verdict in the plaintiff's favour and then in the villages of North Western Croatia the purchase of several cases of beer, to be paid for by the defendant, is then ordered for distribution to the whole village.

The majority of Banyash Roma in Serbia today live in mixed communities with different South Slav groups along the rivers: Danube, Sava, Tisa and Morava, but they can also be found in some villages cohabiting with the Romanian language speaking Vlachs of Croatia and Serbia.

The estimated figure of Banyash settlements (also obtained during recent fieldwork) in central Serbia is about 140, plus 30 in Banat and 7 in Bačka region (the province of Vojvodina). However, the approximate dimensions of the Banyash population cannot be estimated (it is impossible to determine their exact number, not even with the help of most recent extensive demographic study about Roma in Serbia).

Education

Education in the Romanian language is available only for the Banyash living in Romanian villages in the Serbian Banat. During the last few years there have been several attempts on behalf of local non-governmental organizations in East Bačka region to introduce optional classes in Romanian. At the moment (2004 field research data) only two such projects are still going on: optional classes in Romanian in the village of Vajska, and kindergarten in the local Ardeal dialect in Bački Monoštor, attended by 20 pupils altogether.

Notes

References








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