Ziua dezrobirii romilor / Roma emancipation day in Romania
On this day, 20 February 2023, 167 years have elapsed since the eradication of the Roma slavery in Romania! A moment now known and celebrated as “Ziua dezrobirii romilor / Roma emancipation day” and we invite you to celebrate together!
A short context
The exact moment of the establishment of slavery is not known, but the motivations, as they are understood by historians, are of an economic nature. “The peasants were not quite numerous and, above all, they were not as good artisans as the Roma people, who practiced all sorts of craftsmanship, especially blacksmiths, masonry and bricklayers. […] While most European states were banishing them beyond their borders, the two Romanian Principalities, Moldova and Wallachia forbade them to leave the territory and take them into captivity”, explains French researcher Emmanuelle Pons in the work “From bondage to assimilation”.
The life of the Roma people was harsh under their owners and abuses were not out of the ordinary. Mihail Kogalniceanu, who wrote the first thesis about the life of the Roma people in the Principalities in 1837, documented the treatment they were subjected to. “This kind of cruel torture consists in striking the soles with whips, the legs being tied to a bar that two people hold so that the beaten one cannot rest on the ground except with his head and shoulders”, wrote Kogalniceanu. That was how things were going on in the dawn of the modern age.
However, if the servant was loyal to the master, the situation changed. The boyar could issue an act of emancipation by releasing a slave. “I, the undersigned, hereby declare that Gypsy Maria, the daughter of Dumitru Kracuu and the descendant of my parents’ inherited servants, a widow of the death of her husband, because he served me with devotion and affection so that he always drew my gratitude and the gratitude of my wife: by the present act I am giving, a graduation from the bondage and authorizing her to leave where and when she will; as long as she wants to stay in my house, she will enjoy, without the slightest problem, his room and daily food, like all the other maids in this house. This will serve as an example to her son, Dinca, who, if he behaves like his mother, will be released at some point in time”, wrote, for example, the counselor Dimitrie Canta on June 8, 1849. Gradually, under the influence of the Enlightenment, some boyars began to release slaves. For example, Ion Câmpineanu was one of the boyars who freed their slaves early in 1834.
In the Romanian Principalities, the institution of slavery persisted until the middle of the nineteenth century. Gradually, restrictive measures on slavery have been taken, such as the ban on separating families when they were sold or exchanged as slaves, and the reduction of some of the rights of the masters. It was not until 1837 that the Roma people of Wallachia were liberated, who were treated as free peasants. Later, Prince Bibescu also freed the slaves from the monasteries. On January 31, 1844, the Moldavian ruler Sturdza decreed the abolition of slavery for the Roma people in all monasteries and for those working in the cities. At this point, the last Roma slaves were the ones working for the boyars.
After the Revolution of 1848, the complete abolition of the slavery institution was achieved. On December 22, 1855, Prince Grigore Alexandru Ghica decides the emancipation of all Moldovan Roma people. The anecdote says his gesture was determined by the story of a young Roma who had committed suicide because of love and helplessness because he had not been freed to marry a free girl. On February 20, 1856, Barbu Ştirbei proclaimed the same law in Wallachia. It was over. Five centuries later.