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Roma in Greece: Wikis


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The Romani people of Greece are called Arlije/Erlides, Tsiganoi or the more derogatory term Gyftoi.

There were between 300,000 and 350,000 Roma in Greece, according to an estimate published by Greek Helsinki Monitor in 1999. The Greek Government estimates place their number between 200,000 and 300,000. The Roma minority comprise around 3% of the total Greek population.




Arrival into the Balkans

The history of Roma in Greece goes back to the 15th century. They came to Greek territories in the help of the Sultan that was ruling Greece at that time as a missionary core.Later on they became known as Turkgypsy. The name Gypsy sometimes used for the Roma people was first given to them by the Greeks, who supposed them to be Egyptian in origin. Due to their nomadic nature, they are not concentrated in a specific geographical area, but are dispersed all over the country. The majority of the Greek Roma are Orthodox Christians who speak the Romani language in addition to Greek. Most of the Roma who live in Western Thrace are Muslims and speak a dialect of the same language.[1]


(Latin Greek: Gyftomahala, Gyftika)

The Roma in Greece live scattered on the whole territory of the country, but a large concentration in the bigger cities, mainly in Athens and Thessalonica. Notable centres of Roma life in Greece are Agia Varvara which has a very successful Roma community and Ano Liosia where conditions are bad. Roma largely maintain their own customs and traditions. Although a large number of Roma has adopted a sedentary and urban way of living, there are still settlements in some areas. The nomads at the settlements often differentiate themselves from the rest of the population. They number 200,000 according to the Greek government. According to the National Commission for Human Rights that number is closer to 250,000 and according to the Greek Helsinki Watch group to 300,000.[1]

As a result of neglect by the state, among other factors, the Roma communities in Greece face several problems including high instances of child labour and abuse, low school attendance, police discrimination and drug trafficking. The most serious issue is the housing problem since many Roma in Greece still live in tents, on properties they do not own, making them subject to eviction. In the past decade these issues have received wider attention and some state funding. [1]


The majority of the Greek Roma are Orthodox Christian and have taken a Greek identity (language, names) while the Muslim Roma concentrated in Thrace have taken a Turkish identity (Tourkogeneis).

Music and dance

Roma in Greece are known for the zurna and davul duos (analogous to the shawm and drum partnership common in Roma music) and Izmir-influenced koumpaneia music. Koumpaneia has long been popular among Greek Roma and Jews (the latter being some of the most popular performers before World War II), especially in the city of Ioannina, and has recently been popularized by artists like Kostas Pavlidis and Yianni Saleas.

The Roma people are also known for their great skills in belly-dancing (Tsifteteli).

Notable Roma from Greece

See also


  1. ^ a b c Hellenic Republic: National Commission for Human Rights: The state of Roma in Greece

External links


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