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Gypsies In The Czech Republic Essay

3266 words - 13 pages

Gypsies in the Czech Republic

The Gypsies of the former Czechoslovakia have suffered ethnic marginalization dating back to their arrival in Eastern Europe over 700 years ago. The collapse of communism in Czechoslovakia, and other Eastern Europe countries created the necessary conditions for the ethnic mobilization of the Gypsies and other minorities. During communism minorities presence in Eastern Europe was not officially recognized. The transition from the socialist system to democracy gave the Gypsies of Czechoslovakia a chance to participate in the political process, to represent their interests and end their ethnic marginilization. Though, due to historical circumstances dating back before communism this has been a tough task for the Gypsies and other minorities. The emergence of democracy and a free market economy in former Czechoslovakia has created many social problems for the Gypsies. There has been an increase of prejudice and violent attacks against the Gypsies, as well as widespread unemployment for the majority of unskilled, untrained Gypsies. The causes of the prejudice and conflicts involving Gypsies are attributed to both the social history of Eastern Europe from the interwar years as well as the nature of communist and postcommunist societies. The transition to a democratic form of government has brought about both positive and negative aspects for the Gypsies; in order to fully understand the current social position of this minority group it is imperative to analyze the history of the "Gypsy problem" in the twentieth century.
The history of the Gypsies in Eastern Europe and former Czechoslovakia has created many of the social problems this large minority face today. The Gypsies migrated to Eastern and Western Europe in the thirteenth century from northern India and Pakistan. The Gypsies attracted attention from the moment they entered into Europe because of their strange looks and lifestyle. The gypsies led a nomadic lifestyle traveling from place to place never establishing an area of permanent residence. They made a living by telling fortunes, begging, horse trading, and thieving. Their nomadic life-style was conducive to their activities because the Gypsies never established ties to the community and were gone before they had arrived. As the Gypsies continued to travel they soon began to develop a bad reputation that preceded their arrival in new areas. As the Gypsies arrived in the Czech areas within the Holy Roman Empire they were regarded as an undesirable element in society. Over the next few hundred years the Gypsies were persecuted and efforts were made to destroy the Gypsy culture in the area of former Czechoslovakia. "In the seventeenth century, many Gypsies were hanged from trees along the border to discourage others from entering the country (Crowe and Kolsti 94)." Persecution of the Gypsies ended in the eighteenth century ended when the rulers of the Hapsburg Empire tried to integrate them into the...

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