Home > Austria > Austrian Roma

The Austrian Roma

Tens of thousands of Roma live in Austria today. "Austrian Roma" refers to all Roma living on Austrian territory, regardless of their socio-political status. Conservative estimates speak of at least 25,000 although far higher numbers are often stated. The quantitative demography of stigmatised and marginalised minorities in democratic systems is fundamentally problematic because there is (thankfully) no obligation or compulsion to publicly “confess” to membership of a disadvantaged group. Therefore it can be generally assumed that the conservative estimates are at the lower end of the spectrum. In the case of the Austrian Roma the population may number around 50,000.

The Austrian Roma are by no means a homogeneous group. The situation in Austria is similar to that in many, primarily western, European countries where the Roma population is generally composed of three groups with different socio-historical backgrounds arising from the three "waves of migration" with pan-European impact. These three individual groups are in turn heterogeneous:1

  • 1st Migration/Initial Immigration: indigenous Roma population, mostly living in the respective areas since the 15th or early 16th century;
  • 2nd Migration/Vlach Migration: Vlach Roma who have spread around the world from the mid-19th century starting from Wallachia, Moldavia and adjacent areas as a result of socio-political changes such as abolition of serfdom and slavery in these countries;
  • 3rd Migration/(South-)East-West Migration: labour migrants and refugees who from the 1950s have moved from east and south-east Europe to economically more developed and socio-politically stable western Europe.

Demographic Parameters

Table 1 gives an overview of the Austrian Roma population in the light of the three pan-European migrations.

The group names used are heterogeneous: In addition to geographical names such as Burgenland Roma or Banat Roma, there are names for professions such as Kalderaš 'tinner' from the Romanian căldărar, Lovara 'horse trader' from Hungarian lo 'horse', or Bugurdži 'drillmaker', which can be traced back to Turkish Burgu 'drill'. Moreover, group names can convey status information such as Arlije from Turkish yerli 'indigenous' and Gurbet from Turkish gurbet 'strangers', which is both to be interpreted as an indication of long-term settlement and also of subsequent immigration (Gurbet are Vlach Roma). Only the ethnonym Sinti remains unclear and has only appeared at a late stage as a self-designation of the first immigrants to the German-Central European cultural space. They originally referred to themselves as Kale, the substantivised plural of the Romani adjective kalo 'black'.

Data on the Austrian Roma population
Migration Groups Emigration region Immigration period Settlement area
1 Burgenland-Roma south-east Europe
15th century Burgenland
[cities of eastern Austria]
Sinti south-east Europe
[Bohemia, Moravia and South Germany]
15th century
[~ 1900]
mainly in cities
2 Lovara, ... Hungary
~ 1900 [Burgenland]
greater Vienna
3 1956 greater Vienna
Banat Roma, Kalderaš, Gurbet, ... the former Yugoslavia
Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Vojvodina ...
from the mid‑1960s
Arlije, Bugurdži, ... the former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia ...
Other east & south-east Europe from the end of the 1980s
Data on the Austrian Roma population
Migration Groups Cultural background Religion Socio-political status Number
1 Burgenland-Roman Austrian-Hungarian Catholic autochthonous low
~ 10%
Sinti Austrian-German Christian
2 Lovara Austrian-Hungarian Catholic
3 allochthonous
Gurbet, ...
Balkan-Slavic Orthodox high
~ 90%
Other various various

The data used this and subsequent tables are based on observations, mainly by Mozes F. Heinschink, over recent decades. These are by no means empirical but rather anecdotal data based on experience – the only realistic method to make statements about stigmatised, discriminated, isolated and in part also traumatised marginalised groups.

Country of emigration and immigration period

The first immigrants into German and central European culture were – as stated above – the Sinti, whose presence is confirmed from the 15th century onwards. Continuity of settlement on what is today Austrian territory can (as of yet) only be documented from the second half of the 18th century. The high mobility of the initial immigrants is supported by the fact that in what is now northern Italy and Russia and other regions, Sinti groups are referred to as Estrexarja 'Austrians'. It can be assumed that the majority of Roma who live on Austrian territory today did not settle here until the turn of the 20th century.

The Burgenland Roma are the group who has continuously lived on the territory of present-day Austria the longest. They migrated from central Hungary from the late 15th century and have not since left the Hungarian-Pannonian region whose western edge used to be what is today Burgenland.

The immigration of Lovara from the late 19th century as part of the second pan-European migration wave, the Vlach migration, and that of the Sinti in around 1900 can be described as internal migration: Both the Lovara as well as a large proportion of Sinti came from other areas of the former Austro-Hungarian empire; some from Hungary and Slovakia, others from Bohemia and Moravia, which are now part of the Czech Republic. Some Sinti families also came from southern Germany.

Other Lovara fled to Austria in 1956 during the Hungarian Uprising. Although they arrived in Hungary during the Vlach migration period, they are included in the third migration wave. This differentiation has begun to fade in recent decades, and is relevant only for the older members of the immigrant group from around 1900.

In the context of labour migration from the mid-1960s we find many Roma emigrating from the former Yugoslavia: Vlach-Roma, including Kalderaš, Gurbet and Banat Roma from central Serbia, Vojvodina, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia and Arlije, Bugurdži etc. from Kosovo and Macedonia, but also southern Serbia. The increase in Roma immigration from the countries of the former Eastern Bloc from the late 1980s is demographically barely covered. The same applies to refugees from the successor states of Yugoslavia, although one can assume that they have partially integrated themselves into more established groups of migrant workers due to the same or similar backgrounds.

Settlement area

The majority of immigrants to Austria from the Balkans and the Lovara now lives in the greater Vienna area. Sinti are found mainly in cities, with numbers decreasing from east to west. The Roma who immigrated from the end of the 1980s have also mostly settled the greater Vienna area. Only the vast majority of Burgenland Roma live in rural areas or small towns such as Oberwart, infamous because of the murder of four Roma in February 1995. There are two types of Burgenland Roma: those who declare themselves as Roma and those who are merely of Roma origin. The latter, who do not declare themselves as Roma, have moved from Burgenland to eastern Austrian cities, mainly the greater Vienna area from the 1950s. Today they are largely assimilated into the majority population, their origin is usually unknown which makes them only to some extent Roma – if at all.2

Cultural background

The cultural background of the groups listed in Table 1 generally depends on the culture by which each group has remained surrounded the longest. Each characterisation is based on the fact that "Roma culture" is always a contact culture – as is the majority culture. This is particularly evident in the case of the Roma since, although in some cases politically marginalised and socio-economically reduced to service niches up to this day, they depend on the majority population exactly for this reason. This in turn results in intense social and therefore also cultural contact which manifests itself in the adoption of cultural features and values ​​of the majority population, inter alia their religious beliefs. Even assimilation into the majority population may take place if socio-economic integration occurs.

The Sinti are most strongly characterised by the German culture, as they were the first Roma immigrants into this culture. Their residence in German-speaking Austria is a secondary parameter for the characterisation of their socio-cultural background labelled "Austrian-German" in Table 1.3

The first Roma immigrants into the Hungarian cultural sphere, and therefore largely influenced by it, were the Burgenland Roma. Burgenland, as mentioned above, was part of Hungary until 1921. The former proximity to German-speaking Austria, the dominant German-speaking population in what was western Hungary and the current affiliation of Burgenland to Austria all justify the characterisation of the socio-cultural background as "Austrian-Hungarian”.

The situation of the Austrian Lovara is similar: Although belonging to the Vlach Roma and thus, at least linguistically, also influenced by "Wallachian" and Romanian, they are believed to have lived in the border region between Wallachia and Transylvania/Erdély even before their migration from the northern Balkans. Transylvania/Erdély was settled by Magyars from the beginning of the second millennium and was under Austro-Hungarian rule from the 18th century.

The Lovara resident in Austria today either immigrated at the turn of the 20th century from central Hungary and what was back then Hungarian Slovakia, or as a consequence of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. One may also describe the Lovara as Hungarian Vlach Roma and apply the cultural label "Austrian-Hungarian" to them due to their long residence on Austro-Hungarian soil and, in some cases, for at least a century on what is now Austrian territory. In contrast to the Burgenland Roma, the Lovara were not the first Roma immigrants to central Hungary. Hence they are not labelled as "Romungri", which is sometimes considered pejorative. This would imply a long stay or residence, and consequently at least partial assimilation into the Hungarian majority population.

Kalderaš, Gurbet and Banat Roma who came to Austria as labour migrants are also counted as Vlach Roma. As suggested by the missing separating line between "Austrian-Hungarian" and "Balkan-Slavic" in Table 1, the cultural boundaries between the Vlach groups are fluid: Banat Roma originally came from a former Hungarian part of Serbia called Banat which today belongs to the autonomous province of Vojvodina. Banat’s Hungarian minority is rather large to this day, hence the Banat Roma are both influenced by the Hungarian as well as the Slavic culture. Their cultural background therefore lies between "Hungarian" and "Balkan-Slavic", with the latter being the dominant influence since the 20th century. The Kalderaš living in Austria today came from central Serbia and are, apart from the Wallachian base of all Vlach Roma, culturally labelled "Balkan-Slavic". The majority of Gurbet currently living in Vienna comes from central Serbia and is therefore also part of the "Balkan-Slavic" tradition. The same applies to the Gurbet from Croatia and for those who came from Montenegro and Vojvodina. Yet the Muslim Gurbet from southern Serbia and Bosnia are simultaneously part of the Balkan-Muslim cultural tradition, which is again indicated by the lacking separating line between "Balkan-Slavic" and "Balkan-Muslim" in Table 1. The same holds true for the Macedonian Džambas who are at least linguistically part of the Gurbet. As former residents of Yugoslavia and its predecessor states, the dominant Slavic influence, however, justifies the primary label "Balkan-Slavic" for all these groups.

Although Arlije, Bugurdži and other Muslim groups from Kosovo and Macedonia also came from parts of the former Yugoslavia, they are by no means to be primarily considered part of the "Balkan-Slavic" culture. Due to their long residence – Arlije comes, as mentioned, from Turkish yerli meaning 'local, resident' – and their presence in Ottoman territory, they as Muslims are culturally influenced by the Rumelian-Ottoman or the "Balkan-Muslim" traditions to this day. In this context it should be mentioned that there is also an Albanian element in the Balkan-Muslim cultural tradition. The Albanian majority dominates both in Kosovo and in parts of Macedonia. All Roma who have come to Austria from today's Turkey as migrant workers are part of the Ottoman-Muslim cultural tradition. These are not explicitly listed in Table 1 due to their assumed small number.

The correlation of these cultural "labels" of a socio-cultural hierarchy is discussed in more detail in section 1.2.

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 affiliation to any of the younger Christian faiths has so far played only a minor role among the Austrian Roma.

Burgenland Roma and Lovara are generally Catholic which corresponds to both their Hungarian origin and the Austrian environment as the vast majority of the population in both countries is Catholic. Among the Sinti one can find Catholics as well as Protestants which is again in line with the dominant German culture.

The religious affiliation of the immigrants from the Balkans, as well as that of the later immigrants, corresponds with the majority religion of their countries of origin. The Kalderaš who immigrated from central Serbia and also some Gurbet are Orthodox. Some Gurbet from southern Serbia and Bosnia are Muslim, as are some Arlije and other Roma from the southern Balkans and Turkey.

The religious affiliation of the Roma is the primary influence on their festival culture. In the case of the Austrian Roma its role as a dividing element is limited merely to the different calendars underlying the individual religious beliefs.

Socio-political status

A far more divisive element is the different socio-political status of each group. According to Austrian legislation, a national group is inter alia defined by a common language, a closed settlement area and the criterion of autochthony. Autochthonous groups are those who have been living on Austrian territory for generations; i.e. Burgenland Roma, Sinti and Lovara who immigrated in around 1900 and who, together with the Roma who arrived in 1956 from Hungary, account for a maximum of 10% of the 50,000 Austrian Roma quoted above.

The Lovara who fled from Hungary in 1956 are generally Austrian citizens and are classified as allochthonous in a strict interpretation of the Minorities Act. The same applies to the Kalderaš, Gurbet, Arlije etc. who arrived as migrant workers if they possess Austrian citizenship or a residence permit.

In practice, this separation is not carried out consistently. Due to cultural similarities and the same or similar variants of Romani, it is possible to question the status of allochthony of the Lovara and the Vlach Roma from the Balkans who arrived later. Therefore, these groups are tacitly equated to autochthonous Roma by liberal government officials and also partly benefit from minority rights. This grey area between autochthonous and allochthonous is partly also where Muslim Roma who have been resident in Austria for a longer time are included.4

The situation of migrants from the former Eastern Bloc and from the former Yugoslavia in the late 1980s and 1990s is as diverse as that of the Roma who came to Austria in the past decade. Some have received Austrian citizenship as refugees, others have a permanent or merely temporary residence permit. Some have a tourist visa or use the freedom to travel within the EU, others have no official status. Many of the Roma who came to Austria in the past 25 years do not have Austrian citizenship. From the perspective of the authorities they are thus tolerated foreigners or reside in Austria illegally and therefore have no rights resulting from minority status.

Emotional Parameters

Demographic parameters are of rather minor importance for the Austrian Roma. Living together, or rather next to each other, results from the reciprocal attitudes between the individual groups. These, while based in part on demographic parameters, are primarily determined by emotional parameters. Table 2 provides an overview:

Affiliation Romanipe Self-esteem "Gadže"
Burgenland Roma Austrians Austrian RomUngri settled low (inferior) -
Sinti German-Austrian "original" "nomadic" high (superior)
Lovara Austrian
Banat Roma, Kalderaš, Gurbet, ... immigrants
Bugurdži, ...
Muslim Xoraxane settled high (neutral) Ø


With regard to affiliation, one can observe the same fault line with the Roma as with the rest of the population: There is a distinction between Austrians and non-Austrians. This distinction between native and foreign only partly corresponds to the socio-political distinction between autochthonous and allochthonous as the Lovara who came in 1956 are now also considered to be indigenous. Apart from their relatively long presence in Austria, this positive attitude most likely resulted from the former union of Austria and Hungary and the subsequent positive reception of refugees from the Hungarian Uprising against the communist regime in 1956.

Non-Austrians are generally distinguished into immigrants and foreigners based on their socio-political status. Immigrants are usually Austrian citizens, therefore "Austrian" in legal terms, or have a permanent residence permit. Foreigners living in Austria, however, have only a temporary residence permit or, as EU citizens, benefit from the associated freedom of travel and residence. For "ordinary people", non-Austrians are, independent of their socio-political status, "aliens" and the terms "Ausländer" (foreigners) and "Zuwanderer" (immigrants) are therefore usually used interchangeably to mean 'stranger'.5 In contrast to the socio-political status of "strangers", their origin is the basis of emotional differentiation. Here, beside a north-south divide regarding the attitude towards non-Austrians, there is a far more relevant west-east divide to be observed. While the north-south divide correlates with the regions' economic development, the west-east divide corresponds both to the separation into political blocks in the second half of the 20th century as well as the pejorative attitude towards the Slavic population of Europe in which the independent Albanians and Romance Romanians are often uncritically included. At the lower end of the foreigner value scale are Turks from the south-east, who are additionally stigmatised due to the prevailing Islamophobia. The outlined difference between Austrians and foreigners is also inherent in the ethnic value scale which has been established for centuries going back to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy: the Germans and to a lesser extent the Hungarians as dominant peoples are opposed by the Slavs as dominated people. Turks as members of a once threatening, competing power are strangers and opponents. Although a large proportion of at least the eastern and southern Austrian population has Slavic roots, this value scale determines the coexistence of groups of different origins and ethnicities in Austria, not only within the majority population but also among the Roma.

Roma immigrants from the former Yugoslavia are consequently seen as a foreign element within the Austrian population, despite the usually formal integration, Austrian citizenship or a permanent residence permit. This valuation also determines the self-image: The Roma who came in the 1960s as guest workers feel like strangers and are, just like non-Roma migrant workers from south-eastern Europe, seen as foreigners by both the majority population as well as the longer-established Roma. Those from the southern Balkans are often faced with the additional stigma of being "Muslim". Those Roma who arrived at the end of the 1980s are - unless they belong to one of the already long established groups or are close to them - usually considered strangers or foreigners even by immigrant groups who came to Austria in the context of labour migration from the 1960s. The established Roma who already feel indigenous often see them as economic refugees and social parasites, an opinion shared by the vast majority of the Austrian population.

Summarising the emotional parameter of affiliation, we can say that it results from the origin of the respective Roma group and is closely connected to the social status of the majority population of the country of emigration. The criterion of affiliation is not congruent with the socio-political status of the various Roma groups, but correlates with it: Differences in status between the groups established by the authorities correspond to those in the understanding of the majority population, as well as the internal criteria of differentiation among the Austrian Roma.6


Another emotional parameter relates to the criterion of originality and the "true Roma existence", the Romanipe. The definition of "Romanipe" is rather vague. For each group it usually means what is understood as tradition. A parameter more or less generally accepted among Austrian Roma is the dichotomy between nomadic and sedentary. Roma who have been sedentary for a long time are considered assimilated and, in the understanding of those Roma who are in their view nomadic, do not adhere to the traditional morals and customs. This attitude is to some degree influenced by the folklore and romanticised image of the Roma by the majority population, the Gadže 'non-Roma'. The romantic search for the natural, noble and the truth in the 19th century saw the "travelling lifestyle of the gypsies" – at the time the first immigrants to western Europe such as the Sinti, the Spanish Calé and British Romanichal – mystified as original and natural. The fact that this half-nomadic life- (or survival-)style in some stigmatised niche professions was in fact a forced marginalisation was and is often ignored to this day. The appearance of "alien" Vlach Roma in the second half of the 19th century has only reinforced this ethno-romantic projection and has subsequently led to the fact that it was precisely these Roma themselves who adopted and presented this image as an integral element of Romanipe to long settled Roma and Gadže 'non-Roma'.

In the Balkans, both Romanipe and the parameter "nomadic" are less important but are rather quickly adopted by Vlach migrants in western Europe. Therefore in the Austrian context it is primarily Kalderaš along with Sinti and Lovara who consider themselves as "guardians" of the Romanipe and consequently as a "true" or "original" Roma. None of these groups are nomadic today. Only the memory of a nomadic lifestyle, providing services as blacksmiths, horse traders, musicians, peddlers etc., is more strongly anchored in their collective consciousness as part of their group-specific tradition than with other Roma who also consider themselves sedentary, although some also had mobile niche professions. Tied to this "originality" derived from the "nomadic" tradition of Sinti, Lovara, Kalderaš and other Vlach groups is often a claim to independence, which manifests itself in the fact that members of these groups usually try to stay largely independent of Gadže: They prefer self-employment and consequently avoid – if somehow possible – depending on payroll.

Among Austrian Roma society, the Burgenland Roma are considered "sedentary". As mentioned above, Burgenland Roma are known pejoratively as Romungri which, besides a settled lifestyle and at least partial assimilation, also implies an extensive loss of Romanipe.

Arlije and other groups from the southern Balkans, who are generally called Xoraxane 'Muslims' by non-Muslim Roma from the Balkans, are also sedentary because they have been integrated into the Rumelian-Ottoman society over centuries. The Xoraxane themselves sometimes refer to the majority population – Turks or Albanians – as Xoraxane and to the non-Muslim Roma in general as Gadžikane Roma, with the meaning of the adjective gadžikano being reduced to 'foreign' in this case. They refer to non-sedentary, Christian Vlach Roma as Čergarja from cerha 'tent'. The fact that the term Xoraxane does not necessarily imply sedentariness is demonstrated by the example of the Muslim Gurbet who describe themselves as Xoraxane and are often referred to as such by other non-Muslim Roma too.


The self-esteem of each group is closely associated with Romanipe. Apart from the Burgenland Roma, all other groups have quite high self-esteem. Sinti and Vlach Roma – primarily Lovara and Kalderaš – feel superior to the others, including the Gadže.

The result of this sense of superiority is a set of social values which differ from group to group. Only the position of the Burgenland Roma at the end of the respective value scale is fixed. This positioning of the Burgenland Roma is as already mentioned caused by their settled lifestyle and the – from the perspective of other Roma – related loss of Romanipe. The result of this assessment by the other groups is a feeling of inferiority among Burgenland Roma. They feel like "half-breeds," an assessment that was reinforced by their experiences during the Nazi period: On the one hand the Nazis considered the Burgenland Roma as mongrels of Roma and the "scum of the majority population" and thus as "particularly unworthy life". On the other hand, the Burgenland Roma were heavily affected by the genocide which destroyed their social structure that still has not recovered to this day. The Burgenland Roma are stigmatised in two ways: as "gypsies" by the majority population, and as "assimilated" among Roma society.

The Sinti, who were also strongly affected by the genocide, are different: They generally feel superior to all other Roma and attach great importance to a clear distinction from them. This sense of superiority is most likely related to the long presence of the Sinti in central European and German culture. The Sinti want to differentiate and distance themselves from the "new immigrants" from the east, as did the Jews who had lived in Germany and Austria for a long time and who during the interwar years distinguished themselves from the then immigrating eastern European Jews. This led to problems during the beginnings of the emancipation movement and during the course of the official recognition of the ethnic group in the late 1980s. Roma associations which also had "Sinti" as part of their name were required by the Sinti under threat of legal action to remove the designation "Sinti" from their name. Moreover, the Sinti showed little will to participate in opening up to the majority population which was associated with the emancipation movement and official recognition. The result was that in Austria, viewed from a purely legal point, Sinti are subsumed under the name "Roma". Furthermore, the Sinti are only marginally interested and involved in the ethnic group's activities. They do not have an association with similar continuity as the Roma associations.

The Vlach groups – Lovara, Kalderaš etc. – also have the self-conception of being superior to all others. High on the value scale is obviously their own group, followed by the other Vlax groups and the Sinti and Xoraxane, with the Romungri and thus the Burgenland Roma at the bottom. Even though other Vlach groups are considered relatively close and sometimes almost equal, there is no real sense of belonging together among Vlach groups, but merely a living side by side. Vienna's Romano Centro, which is possibly the only association in Europe representing several groups of Roma including Vlach groups, also only shows interaction between individuals of different groups. A balanced and equal co-operation or joint support for common activities and projects has still not been achieved.

The self-esteem of the Arlije is also high, but has hardly any discriminatory effects, as it is not connected with an obvious sense of superiority. Due to the different socio-cultural backgrounds and influences – Muslim versus non-Muslim etc. – the Arlije consider all other Roma including the Sinti Gadžikane to be Roma, by which they mean Christian Roma with other customs and traditions, who do not belong to them. Only the urban anchor as artisans, shopkeepers etc., and a certain level of education of some Arlije – usually self-awareness-raising parameters – can cause them to feel superior to the non-urban population and thus also to Roma who work in agriculture or are nomads.

Differences in the self-esteem of the individual groups reflect differences in the socio-historical background and related value systems, which still influence the way they live together.

Attitude towards Gadže

Differences in attitude among the Austrian Roma groups about the majority population, the Gadže, are also a result of divergent socio-historical developments. Cautious or indifferent acceptance or rejection of the Gadže are closely linked to the duration of residence of each group in the central European cultural sphere. While the Roma who immigrated in the second half of the 20th century from the Balkans are cautious, but relatively indifferent and in some cases even open towards the majority population, the Burgenland Roma, Lovara and Sinti, some of whom have lived in central Europe for centuries, distrust the Gadže, with some Sinti sealing themselves off from the majority population. The Lovara who immigrated in 1956 are in the "transition zone" between cautious indifference and rejection.

The current attitude of each group towards the Gadže depends primarily on their experiences with the respective majority population. While immigrants from the Balkans – although a stigmatised fringe group in their countries of origin – have been repeatedly reported to have a relatively good relationship with the majority population, the Roma who have lived in central Europe for centuries have always been discriminated against as outsiders with little or no acceptance from the majority population, apart from folk-romantic stereotypes. The nadir of discrimination and persecution was the genocide by the Nazi regime, which particularly affected the Burgenland Roma, Sinti and Lovara. Although the Roma in Serbia were also affected by the Holocaust, the Serbian majority population was, in contrast to the Austrian, only slightly, if at all, involved. The detention and deportation of Roma was not only accepted by the Austrian population, but also to some extent actively supported. Thus only several hundred of the 8,000 Roma registered in Burgenland in the 1930s survived the concentration camps. The social structure of all three groups – Sinti, Lovara and Burgenland Roma – was almost completely destroyed by the Holocaust, a watershed which continues to resonate even today and affects the relationship with the majority population. In addition, the stigmatisation and discrimination by no means ended with the Nazi regime.

The Austrian population should at least consider that the negative attitudes and distrust of the Roma towards Gadže has increased proportionally with the length of their stay in the central European cultural sphere.

Stigmatisation and discrimination affect the individual groups of Roma to different extents, yet the history of exclusion and persecution is the most obvious common ground and the most important link between the various groups – not just in Austria, but across the entire European Roma society.

Despite this connecting element, the coexistence of the Austrian Roma groups is more of a living next to one another than living together. Although there are marriages between members of different groups, there is no regular inter-group contact. Apart from sporadic meetings of a few activists, there is little inter-group contact and consequently only little solidarity. The reason for this is once again the centuries-long, persistent fringe existence: On the one hand, a discriminated against minority survives more easily in small groups; on the other hand, marginalised communities in general have no influence on political and economic power, which in turn prevents the development of larger social structures.7


Although based on insufficient empirical data – the difficulties and sometimes the impossibility of obtaining such were indicated in the introduction – this description provides a realistic image of the situation of the Austrian Roma population. The fact that, as is the rule in such descriptions, it is only a "limited" part of reality, has less to do with the primarily anecdotal data base which is "only" based on experiences, observations, generalisations etc., but rather with the fact that population groups – particularly heterogeneous, marginalised populations – are subjected to constant change. This fact is to some degree even more complicated by the fact that social changes are not really predictable. Apart from the chance that the composition of each group may well change due to the on-going east-west migration, the outlined historical, cultural and emotional parameters do have significance beyond the current situation. They enable not only the recording of the situation in Austria, but are also paradigmatic of the Roma populations of central and western European countries. These countries are all affected in the same or at least similar manner by the three waves of migration described above with a pan-European impact and have therefore also the same or similarly structured Roma populations. In this context it should be noted that the plural 'peoples' is appropriate only in the national context, as there is still one, although heterogeneous, Roma population in Europe.

1. ^ It should be mentioned that with regard to heterogeneity, there are generally no (larger) homogeneous social groups; hence heterogeneity is not a feature exclusive to Roma. Similarly, migration is not limited only to the mentioned cases. In contrast to the pan-European relevance of the aforementioned migrations, other migrations are limited only to certain regions of Europe in their impact.

2. ^ A "self-determination right of the individual" exists in the common perception of pluralistic and democratic societies which generally excludes the definition of a person as a member of an ethnic group by others. This is, at least indirectly, anchored in the Austrian National Minorities Act.

3. ^ The term "label" for the characterisation of the socio-cultural background of each group is deliberately chosen as a metaphor for the superficial categorisation of a complex content.

4. ^ The legal significance of the differentiation between allochthonous and autochthonous was made clearer by the Appendix to Article 8 of the Austrian Federal Constitutional Law which came into force in 2000: (1) The German language is, irrespective of the rights granted to the linguistic minorities by federal law, the Republic's official language. (2) The Republic (federal, provincial and municipal governments) is committed to its grown linguistic and cultural diversity, which is also expressed in the autochthonous ethnic groups. Language and culture, existence and preservation of these ethnic groups are to be respected, protected and promoted.

5. ^ The myriad of so-called "politically correct", euphemistic creations such as "Austrians with an immigrant background" can only be referred to in this context.

6. ^ This fact has quite a negative impact on the emancipation movement, as autochthonous Roma representatives use these distinctions as an argument to keep their share of public money as high as possible.

7. ^ Due to the international efforts of emancipation and the commitment of an increasing number of young, higher educated Roma and Romnija with increased self-awareness and reflective skills on the role of tradition as part of integration into a modern society, informal structures are slowly beginning to be established across group boundaries. Yet these structures can probably only contribute to formal structures if they are offered real opportunities and the necessary framework conditions in the context of supranational organisations and communities.